This significant day is commemorated annually, not for the aggrandizement of Swamiji's spiritual achievement, for that is not the way of true saints. We commemorate this day as a reminder to each of us of how, we too, can earn such spiritual merit; a reminder that the sincere call and efforts of a pure devotee will not go unrewarded. Pujya Swamiji reminded us that Grace, once earned has to be stabilised and it takes great effort to guard it so that it does not recede. In subsequent discourses, Pujya Swamiji shared other insights about this profoundly significant event, each of which are beacons of light and wisdom to every spiritual aspirant. A few of the lessons associated with this Descent of Divine Grace are summarised here for our benefit, so that we may reflect and rededicate ourselves to the Divine Life mission.
Firstly, we need to considerthe importance of faith. At the Yoga Camp on 15 March 1983, Pujya Swamiji said, "Basically our entire spiritual life boils down to a question of only one word, and that is faith. If that is not there, a million years of reading and studying and meditation is not going to help us at all. It is faith and devotion and obedience; they are the keynotes." We have emerged from the pandemic, which was probably one of the most exacting spiritual tests of this lifetime. Gurudev wrote, in the deeply significant anecdote about the meeting of Cholera with Death, that only half of the victims of the cholera epidemic had succumbed from the cholera bacteria. The remaining 50% of deaths were caused by fear. Such is the power of fear! Faith and fear cannot co-exist. The descent of Grace is the manifestation of the power of faith. In the aftermath of the pandemic, Swamiji's devotion to the lotus feet of the Guru is a timely reminder of the importance of banishing fear and focusing attention on growing our faith in the Divine.
Pujya Swamiji said, "You'll find at every step, God is taking care of you, protecting you, guiding you. You can go through whatever trials you have very safely...Gurudev himself wanted to demonstrate that there is a great power called the Guru's Grace and that Grace can work marvels and that is what I have seen in my life."
Secondly, how does one earn Grace while fulfilling the duties of a householder? Pujya Swamiji shares his guidance, "If you do your duty properly, whether it is your family dutyor your duty in the Ashram, you don't have to ask God for anything." This will entail following rules and guidelines such as road rules, adhering to what is expected of you at your place of study or work, and also obeying all the rules and guidelines in place at the Ashram. Swamiji described the importance of performing every duty with total dedication to the Guru or the Divine. Even though he had at that stage only printed about 30 books, he stated that "in those 30 books went every drop of my blood, every fibre of my being."
Thirdly, Gurudev has placed service as the first rung on the spiritual ladder of Divine Life. Pujya Swamiji, "When I first found Gurudev and he rescued me from that life, to a life of Sadhana, I made one resolution and I said that in this birth, I will try to serve him with all my heart and soul in repayment. A Guru is likea father to us, he is more than a father. You don't have to ask him for anything. But we have to make ourselves worthy of that Grace and that Grace can work marvels. All that you have to do is to do your duty faithfully; then marvellous things can come to us. It will come by itself. Now I am not referring to our external success, but it is very difficult to change your nature. What is important in our life is the transformation." Pujya Swamiji's seva to Gurudev, the socially underprivileged and to spiritual aspirants is unparalleled in our country, and should serve as our aspiration and inspiration.
Fourthly,Gurudev has written that the manifestation of Grace is in direct proportion to the degree of self-surrender. Surrenderand self-effort are mystically interlinked. Pujya Swamiji described how no amount of vows and resolutions helped him to overcome some of his cardinal defects. When he gave up every effort and felt helpless, Gurudev's Divine Grace manifested. And he woke up one morning with the distinct feeling that he was a changed being, that some great power of Gurudev had descended upon him and was effecting the transformation.
Finally, it is necessary to remember the importance of gratitude. When Swamiji realised the transformation that had been effected by Gurudev's Grace, tears of gratitude began pouring for several weeks. Even though he felt unworthy of such Grace, he marvelled to note with what precision and perfection Gurudev's power was working. Gurudev knows what to give and when to give.
Let us remember that the Divine Master's Grace was earned by Pujya Swamiji over many previous lifetimes and years of Sadhana in this present birth. He said: "I can remember that it took 23 years for the first light to dawn—23 years when the band around my chest loosened a little bit and I could breathe a little bit freely. Another 6 years went by when the breathing became freer; another three years when I felt that I was fairly free."
We are blessed that we have the footsteps of spiritual Masters and giants such as Sri Swami Sivananda and Sri Swami Sahajananda to follow in our lifetime. True commemoration of this great Day of Descent of Divine Grace of Pujya Swamiji requires that we choose faith over fear, to surrender to the Divine, to be grateful for every breath we have been blessed with and continue to be blessed with, to be grateful for the fruit of our Guru's spiritual practices, to perform every worldly duty as Sadhana, and to selflessly serve all from the heart and soul.
On the 27th of March 2020, unprecedented in the history of Divine Life Society of South Africa, we were forced to close our doors to the public by a decree of Govt. From a spiritual perspective, the reasons for the Coronavirus pandemic unfolding the way it did is transcendental not within our limited view. Devotees of Divine Life Society, however,were able to draw on the strength, coping skills, and every resource bestowed upon us by our spiritual Master to tide us over this bumpy ride, and emerge victorious.
We were forced to adapt and adjust. Many devotees continued the Divine work in the Name of Sri Gurudev at a robust pace. We humbly acknowledge the sacrifices made by our Ghat volunteers, volunteers and workers in the Press, our Projects Committee, and devotees and Branch committee members who were involved with the grocery hamper distribution and other important tasks for the upkeep of our Ashram. We offer our deep gratitude to all who made great sacrifices in serving Sri Gurudev over the past two years.
As is customary at special Satsangs, we take this opportunity to update Satsangees on the progress made in the various service activities of the Society. It is all the Grace of the Master and Pujya Swamiji. Kindly permit us therefore, to elaborate on this:
1. The online Satsangs were initiated to give spiritual sustenance to all. We currently have 4410 subscribers to our You Tube channel, and 1320 WhatsApp followers. From the onset of our online Satsangs, we have had in excess of 388 280 views, which included the USA and India; 40% of these views were from India. We have a separate WhatsApp group for devotees in Melbourne, Australia for online Satsangs.
2. As we could not hold Satsang programmes, we adapted our Hindu Dharma Campaigns to assist temple organisations with infrastructure requests. Our infrastructure Projects for the underprivileged and impoverished communities in KZN completed to date number 636, of which 52 were completed during the lockdown period alone. Of these, 10 were assistance to Temple organisations. This work is ongoing.
3. Since the start of lockdown, we have distributed over 13 500 grocery hampers to needy families. Other opportunities to serve also presented themselves in the form of relief to the child welfare and animal welfare organisations like the SPCA and CROW。
4. Our Sivananda Ghat has been opened throughout the pandemic, providing the necessary support to bereaved families and loved ones. Pujya Swamiji had predicted that the Ghat will work shifts and this came true during the peak of the pandemic when devotees worked from the morning till late at night doing ash disposals.
Our reading for this evening, taken mainly from Guidance in Daily Life,complemented the theme of self-transformation mentioned by Pujya Swamiji above. In "Conversations with Gurudev", Pujya Swamiji raises an important question:
Pujya Swamiji: Gurudev, when we ask for material things you fulfil our wishes quickly, even without thinking, like Lord Siva. But when we ask for spiritual transformation, you are very hard on us, Gurudev. Again, like Lord Siva sitting with His closed eyes on the Himalayas, you seem to ignore us.
Gurudev:This is because spiritual treasures are valuable and more lasting. They are not like things that perish.
On this most auspicious day we thank you Pujya Swamiji, for your supreme sacrifice and dedication. Every cell of your sacred body, every drop of your pure blood was consecrated towards moulding us and preparing us to tread the path of God-realisation.
In the audio message, Pujya Swamiji gives us sound advice regarding the problems we are currently experiencing, clarifying at the same time, the question that he asked the Master above. "We in the Divine Life Society should not have any fear of the future. If we have trust in Gurudev, the problem will be solved completely. But you will have to have that trust, that knowledge from inside. You will have to be courageous. So, I ask all of you, in these troubled times, to have complete faith─know that Gurudev is right next to you and you could call upon him. You don't have to take a telephone and call for someone else first. You can call him first who dwells in your heart and he will respond. He might not respond in the way that you want, but he will respond. And, we should open our hearts to him without any fear, without any reservation. He knows all our mistakes; we cannot hide anything. It is a long, long path to Samadhi, a long, long path to God-consciousness. One drop of that bliss is enough to shake everything in us. So, that bliss cannot be given to us without long preparation, long trials and long tests. We have to make ourselves worthy of it. So, we should not begrudge the training we have to undergo."
As the world is experiencing wars, the pandemic, natural disasters and a host of other calamities and problems, we owe an eternal debt of gratitude to Sri Gurudev and Pujya Swamiji for their ongoing guidance and protective presence in our lives. In our prayers this evening, let us pray for world peace, and the well-being of souls who had to leave the earth plane. Let us offer our heartfelt gratitude to Sri Gurudev and Pujya Swamiji that we are able to attend Satsang once more. Let us rededicate our lives, bodies, minds and souls to Sri Gurudev and Pujya Swamiji, and the Divine Mission in this country. It is the least we can do to repay part of our debt of gratitude to them for their unfailing Grace and protection.