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Report: Sri Swami Sivananda's 136th Birth Anniversary Celebrations

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Divine Life Society of South Africa celebrated the first of two of Sri Swami Sivananda's Birth Anniversary Celebrations on Sunday, 3 September 2023 at Sivananda International Cultural Centre (SICC). This coincided with the culmination of the 41-Day Recital of the Sri Hanuman Chalisa. The programme on 3 September 2023 commenced at 6am with the final 11 recitals of the Sri Hanuman Chalisa, followed by Havan, Ganga Arati, breakfast, a grand march-past of branches and Hindu organisations, and Satsang at the stadium. The actual Birth Anniversary Celebration will be held on Friday, 8 September 2023 at Sivanandashram, Reservoir Hills.

With reference to the celebration of his birthday, Sri Swami Sivananda explained: "The devotees take delight in celebrating the birthday and are uplifted and benefited. A spiritual wave is created year after year when the birthday is celebrated, and more and more people get a chance of knowing the existence of Divine Life Society and my teachings. The pious, receptive attitude prevalent on such an occasion draws forth the Grace of the Guru and God upon the devotees. The thoughts of peace, devotion, love etc., sent out by the innumerable devotees that assemble together to celebrate the birthday go a long way to promote peace, harmony and spiritual well-being in the country".

Over 500 devotees, well-wishers, donors and members of the public participated in the final recital of the sacred Sri Hanuman Chalisa, 11 times, at 6am in the Main Prayer Hall. The spiritual and divine ambience created by the Havan that ensued, was a fitting conclusion to the great Sadhana in which hundreds of devotees participated over the 41-day period. Devotees and visitors, many of whom came to SICC for the first time, then had darshan of Mother Ganga in Ganga Rani and Bhagirathi where Ganga Arati was performed.

The majestic and electric march-past by branches and Hindu organisations, totalling approximately 1000 devotees, was a fitting tribute to Sri Swami Sivananda and Pujya Swami Sahajananda for the bountiful spiritual and material gifts to us. Led by about 20 Spiritual Darlings dressed as Deities, the sight was indeed a spectacle to behold – elegant Deities, resplendent in their colourful finery, with child-like innocence, the 'deities' were the epitome of joy and bliss.

Satsang at the stadium commenced at 10am. The programme comprised Kirtans, Bhajans, readings, an audio message by Pujya Swami Sahajananda, an address by the Guest-speaker, Dr Muni Kooblal, the ever popular and enchanting Sivananda Gymnastic Drill Display, the Youth Girls' Drill Display and items by the Sivananda Technical College. Approximately 1500 devotees and visitors paid tribute to the Divine Master on this day.

Pujya Swamiji in his audio message, encouraged us to strive to higher goals. He said, "...saints are not born, they are made. Every little act goes towards the making of a saint, and every action will make us stronger. If we think big; we surrender to God not with ambition; if we think big and if we do difficult tasks, then we will be able to grow and the will-power will also grow. We find today, not only in the spiritual field, but in other fields also, people do not have a strong will-power. They give up with a little effort...".
On the need for unconditional faith in God and the Guru, Pujya Swamiji said, "...bliss and peace won't come unless the system is purified and strengthened and there is courage and faith – boundless faith is required". On Sri Gurudev's greatness Pujya Swamiji explained, "...I always like to feel that Gurudev was no one other than God himself, because God comes to the level of man and serves man, and Gurudev was like that...this is what he had written – one of the sentences I am passing on to you.... He said, 'I am ever at thy back', and the next sentence, 'I am ever ready to serve thee', and that has been my solace whenever I feel any difficulty and any overpowering problem. I reflect on that and I feel that if Gurudev is right in me, there is nothing to fear at all – what is to happen is going to happen if it's necessary for my Sadhana.... He is ever ready within us. Ever ready to serve us, but we have to turn to him within our hearts...".

Dr Muni Kooblal, Group Chief Academic Registrar of the Richfield Graduate Institute of Technology, and the founder member of Phoenix Child Welfare Society, paid rich tribute to Sri Swami Sivananda, Pujya Swami Sahajananda, and the exemplary work of Divine Life Society of South Africa in promoting Hinduism in South Africa, its role in poverty alleviation and service to the under-privileged. Excerpts from his message are recounted herewith. He said, "Swami Sivananda was a sage of supreme love and compassion. Swami Sivananda summed up his teachings as: Serve, Love, Give, Purify, Meditate, Realise. Swami Sahajananda, the most illustrious disciple of Swami Sivananda and the Spiritual Head of Divine Life Society of South Africa, ensured that these teachings find practical expression in this institution...

"The Phoenix Child Welfare and Divine Life Society of South Africa have been working closely for the past few years. Covid-19 brought us closer as organisations. We commenced with a partnership initiated by your Ashram to distribute Covid-19 health packs. Thousands of people in Phoenix, Tongaat, parts of Chatsworth, Welbedacht, Verulam and Bambayi were recipients of this invaluable aid when it was needed most.

"As the Phoenix Child Welfare, we attend to the poorest of the poor from Phoenix and neighbouring communities. We found that food was often very difficult to come by and we were prompted to start up a hydroponics tunnel and open field crop production to produce food. Divine Life Society of South Africa was with us all the way and saw this very sustainable project to fruition with us in 2022. Divine Life Society sponsored the borehole. The borehole feeds the Hydroponic tent, open field and the head office. Water is also available to the public with 2 taps on the border. By the benevolence of your Ashram, we were able to harvest over 3000 kgs of tomatoes and raised over R30 000.

"Education is the key to remove people from poverty, and the vision of Sri Swami Sivananda and Sri Swami Sahajananda to provide schools and crèches to the masses was most opportune and necessary. Gurudev says, 'Benevolence is the disposition to seek the well-being or comfort of others. It is the desire to alleviate suffering or promote happiness. It is love of mankind or kindliness of heart or charitableness'. By putting the Divine Master's teachings of kindness, benevolence and charity into practice, Divine Life Society of South Africa has directed the divine power of His holiness, Sri Swami Sivananda to the masses of the most needy. The charitable nature of the devotees who give of their time and money, is what brings down the blessings to see so many lives being touched in such a positive way.

"It is said that where the road ends, that's where you will find a Divine Life Society project. The same can be said with the countless individuals who have benefited from your work. Where their road presumably ended, that's where they were given a new dream.

"I can assure the Divine Life Society that you rank in the top few, when one asks a member of the public to mention a few leading Hindu organisations in the country. The various programmes of Divine Life Society of South Africa instil hope, loyalty and optimism to fellow Hindus who see this organisation as a great pillar of Hinduism in this country".

The ever-popular Sivananda Gymnastic Drill and Youth Girls' Displays, which were conceived and implemented by Sri Swami Sahajananda around 1997, were spectacular, mesmerising and skilfully executed. The Sivananda Gymnastic Drill Display was done to the Ram Bhajans, Ram Siyapati Ram and Bhajale Ram. Precise timing, harmony, team-spirit, mental and physical coordination, physical fitness and rhythm are cornerstones of the drill programmes. Pujya Swamiji's legacy, vision and instructions are adhered to tenaciously by instructors and participants.

Learners of the Sivananda Technical College, paid rich tribute through poetry and a talk to Sri Swami Sivananda, Pujya Swami Sahajananda and Divine Life Society of South Africa, for their material, moral and ethical guidance and support. The items presented were an excellent example of nation-building and social cohesion.

Sri N Anthanarayanan, in the preface to his book From Man to God-man says the following which gives a holistic view of the magnitude of the personality and contributions of this spiritual giant, Sri Swami Sivananda. Ananthanarayanan writes, "Swami Sivananda blasted old superstitions about God and religion. In equal measure he exploded modern fairy tales about Yoga and Yogis. By teaching and by personal example, he made it plain that there was no easy way to Moksha or liberation, no short-cut to God. The laborious, orthodox way was the only way. It was the way of service and love, of abstraction and meditation, of dispassion and discrimination.......".

Let us all therefore adopt in earnest, the Divine Master's credence, "... the way of service and love, of abstraction and meditation, of dispassion and discrimination", so that we may aspire to and possibly reach the goal of human existence – God-realisation – an apt 'birthday present' to the Master.

Last modified on Monday, 11 September 2023 12:10
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