The Sivananda Expo provided a unique glimpse into the rich history and multi-faceted activities of Divine Life Society of South Africa. The Expo prominently featured printing machines and accessories used by Pujya Swamiji, providing a tangible link to the early years of the Ashram's history and the dissemination of Sri Gurudev's teachings. The Sivananda Expo also displayed three typewriters used by Pujya Swamiji during the Ashram's early years, marking a significant milestone in the dissemination of spiritual knowledge. Various other artifacts on display showcased the growth and contributions of the Divine Life Society of South Africa over the decades. Amongst the variety of exhibits were: Homeopathy Clinic, pictures of Sivananda Ghat under construction, Sunlit Path Programme for school children, the Society's participation in the Parliament of World's Religions since 1994, awards bestowed upon Pujya Swamiji, a sample of Sivananda Wisdom Group (a senior citizen's club) programmes, Events' Brochures showcasing various events hosted by the Society, early publications demonstrating the Divine Life Society's commitment to the dissemination of spiritual literature, and pictures of a few community projects.
A Branch Cultural Programme was presented from 8.30am to 9.40am, to honour Pujya Swamiji for his sterling work and contributions to religion, Hinduism, socio-cultural programmes, inter-faith initiatives, poverty alleviation programmes and the overall growth of the community in South Africa. Items were presented by the following Branches: Stanger (dialogue and reading from Conversations with Gurudev), Verulam (Swamiji Says), Tongaat (Two-party Kirtans and Dining Room Kirtans), Shallcross (A play entitled Forbearance by Sri Swami Sivananda), Chatsworth (Enactment of two sketches entitled Moral Stories), Newlands (Reading: Some Thoughts on the Quality of Obedience by Sri Swami Sahajananda), and Reservoir Hills Sunday School (Gurudev Says). Participants' ages ranged from 4 to over 70 years of age. The finesse in presentations, Guru Bhakti and commitment of all participants were a true testimony to Pujya Swamiji's legacy.
Ganga Arati preceded Satsang which commenced at 10.10am. The Satsang programme comprised Kirtans, Bhajans, Pujya Swamiji's audio message, Sri Gurudev's Farewell Message after Pujya Swamiji was initiated into the holy order of Sannyas, on 10 April 1956, cultural items presented by the Pietermaritzburg Branch, and a recital from the Thirukurral with English translations.
The Ramayana recital by the Pietermaritzburg Branch, Naam Ramayan was a condensed version of the entire Ramayana in 108 verses and covered all 7 chapters of the epic Ramayana. Also presented by the Pietermaritzburg Branch was a poem dedicated to Pujya Swami Sahajananda entitled The Greatest Servant, wherein a parallel was drawn between Lord Hanuman following the dictates of his beloved Lord Rama, and Pujya Swami Sahajananda, following the dictates of his Guru, Sri Swami Sivananda, in carrying out the Mission of Sri Gurudev in South Africa.
An interesting and insightful rendition of verses from the Thirukurral by a senior devotee of the Kharwastan Branch and Sivananda Wisdom Group (based at the Sivananda Sunlit Path Centre, Chatsworth) also added to the potent spiritual ambience of this occasion. In the rendition, parallels were drawn between the lofty teachings of the Thirukurral and Pujya Swamiji's Guru Bhakti and dedication to Sri Gurudev in spreading the Master's teachings in South Africa.
The poignant and thought-provoking message by Sri Gurudev, when he bid farewell to Pujya Swamiji after his Sannyas initiation on 10 April 1956, paid glowing tributes to a rare saint. Excerpts from the Master's Farewell Message (Part 1) are re-counted below:
"So, we rejoice today heartily, because we have amidst us a noble personality, a spiritual personality, a Bala Yogi, a Bala Swami, Sri Swami Sahajananda. Whenever a noble function takes place, the Devas are pleased. So, we had a very good shower today, and now we have a cool atmosphere. So, we are able to celebrate the function joyously. You may ask,
"Why there is no rain of flowers?" That also there is. The Devas rain flowers.
"Swami Sahajananda is styled as the spiritual king of South Africa, Durban. He is also called the African Chota Guru. He does not want anything. He is a silent worker. He is a man of renunciation, Vairagya and meditation. He is a very good organiser. He has organised some 20 branches of the Divine Life Society in South Africa.
"There is Savikalpa Samadhi, and then comes Nirvikalpa Samadhi, and then comes Sahaja Avastha. He is established in Sahaja Avastha. He does not forget Brahman when he is working. He has got double consciousness. He is resting in his Satchidananda Swarupa, and he is utilizing his mind and Indriyas (senses) for the good of humanity. He likes Sahaja Avastha. He is in Sahaja Avastha. In the scriptures you will find that any man who attempts to practise Yoga is also a Yogi and a Yogarudha, who is established in Yoga, is also a Yogi. So, he who is attempting to be established in Sahaja Avastha is also a Sahaja Avastha Yogi.
"He is a strong pillar of the Divine Life Society. I am Swami Sahajanandaji's rupee-eater. I want money for printing paper, art paper, for hospital, etc. Sahajanandaji supplies the money. You may think that I am exaggerating. Swami Sahajananda is spiritual king of Durban, a great organiser, a great supporter, a pillar of the Divine Life Society".
Pujya Swami Sahajananda's audio message focused on the power of meditation. He said that through meditation, saints and sages are able to have a conscious death, and that a Yogi can stop his death by imposing his will. Swamiji assured devotees that there is nothing for Gurudev's disciples to fear, and that one should not succumb to fear. Pujya Swamiji said, "Gurudev's disciples have absolutely nothing to fear about. As long as you can remember him and call him, you have no fear at all, and you won't even worry who is around you at that time, because he will come and make the transition very smooth".
Referring to the glory of the Guru, Pujya Swamiji said, "...He is ever there taking care; from the time you are born, even before you are born, he's watching over you. So that is why we worship the Guru and not for nothing else. We have the great privilege, see, of calling upon him, and he'll be ever ready there and make the transition smooth".
On the importance of bringing up Spiritual Darlings (children) correctly with discipline and respect, Gurudev advised Swamiji that one must inculcate discipline in children, but in one's heart, one must "see in them God only". One must be tactful and pray to God, so that God guides one.
No doubt, Pujya Swami Sahajananda's 16th Mahasamadhi Anniversary observance, was a fitting tribute to Pujya Swamiji. Pujya Swamiji endured tremendous difficulties in steering the Society. The Society was reported to various regulatory bodies by some. He faced challenges from different sectors. He worked tirelessly in the printing presses with minimal man-power. Notwithstanding the plethora of difficulties, Pujya Swami Sahajananda stands out as a man amongst men, as a jewel amongst saints, and as a shining star in the vast cosmos of spirituality. The success of Divine Life Society of South Africa in all spheres, is attributed to this gentle-giant, this super God-man, this iconic son of South Africa.
What is our role on the road ahead in the history of this august organisation, Divine Life Society of South Africa? Perhaps we need to reflect deeply, search within, intensify our Sadhana, and translate into practical reality Sri Gurudev's and Pujya Swamiji's teachings, so as to sustain their illustrious legacies for many decades.
PUJYA SWAMI SAHAJANANDA'S 16TH MAHASAMADHI ANNIVERSARY SATSANG (SANSKRIT CALENDAR), WEDNESDAY 13 DECEMBER 2023
Pujya Swami Sahajananda's 16th Mahasamadhi Anniversary Satsang (according to the Sanskrit Calendar) was observed at Sivanandashram, Reservoir Hills on Wednesday 13 December 2023. Ganga Arati commenced at 5.30pm followed by Satsang. The Satsang Programme comprised Kirtans, Bhajans, Sri Swami Sivananda's Farewell Message (Part 2) delivered by Sri Gurudev at Pujya Swamiji's farewell after he was initiated into the holy order of Sannyas on 10 April 1956.
Gurudev paid glowing tributes to Pujya Swamiji, eulogizing his noble and virtuous qualities, his intense Guru Bhakti, his exemplary work in South Africa, his unassuming and quiet nature, and his steadfast and one-pointed focus on promoting the Master's mission and work in this country. Excerpts from the Master's speech appear below.
"He talks little. You have never seen him talking. He thinks much and does much. Such a great spiritual Yogi is he. He came some years before also and had remained here.
"He has brought out the Divine Life for Children pamphlets. He is a man of invention. In letterheads and behind the envelopes, he has printed new sayings. In letterheads also the Divine Life for Children he has brought out. He is a thinker. He has in Durban a small press for the dissemination of knowledge, and the Path to God-Realization is his magazine, running for three or four years. What more can you expect from a small boy Swami? He has done everything. He will now go with redoubled energy, charged with Himalayan vibrations and Mother Ganga's Grace, and will work like a lion, Vedanta Kesari, Yoga Kesari. All these titles a man deserves when he becomes a Yogi. When a man becomes God, any number of titles are not enough. His devotion to teacher is unique. He has a pure heart. Such a Yogi is now going from here and he will thrill the whole of Africa, and again he will come. He has the spirit of renunciation. He has given his whole property to me. Just see his noble qualities, devotion, discipline, Shanti and humility.
"When a man comes to you and says he is a Jivanmukta, you must test him. You must ask whether he has got humility, not feigned humility, but real unostentatious humility. Then he must have compassion. If you do not find these qualities in a man who says "I am a Jivanmukta", reject him as straw. These are the two cardinal, fundamental virtues of a sage. If you do not find these virtues, even if he delivers a lecture for days together on the verse Sarva Dharman Parityajya Mamekam Saranam Vraja, it is useless, empty, bullet-shots in the air. If you find humility, that is a sign of a Yogi, and he must be compassionate. His heart should melt like butter when he sees the sufferings of others. If he finds a starving man, and if he has got a tumbler of milk, he will run to him and give it to him. Of all the qualities that are enumerated in the Gita, humility and compassion are the most important. He who possesses these qualities is a Yogi of the first order. These are the test of a Jivanmukta. So, we all pray for his health, long life, peace and prosperity. Such a person is a rare jewel on this earth. He who is not free from selfishness is a burden on earth, but when he becomes selfless and works for relieving human suffering, when he has dedicated his life for the service of humanity, he is a divine being on earth. Other people live in vain; they are burdens on earth. Remove this selfishness and work for the well-being of humanity, for your neighbour. Then only is he a real man. Otherwise, though God has given promotion as a human being, he is only a horizontal being. So, try to become real men on this earth, real men, supermen, with God-intoxicated feeling always working for your neighbours. In working for other people, you elevate yourself. In praying for other people, you pray for yourself. There is only one being, one consciousness. So become absolutely selfless, courageous, bold, without attachment to this body. Timid people die a thousand times before their actual death owing to attachment to this body, which is nothing but a combination of the five elements. You are really Atman, the all-pervading immortal Soul. Then you become Atma-Samrat, King on this earth. Nature is ready to open Her secrets to you and you enjoy the divine Aishwaryas (wealth) when you become selfless. When you work for the good of others, you become Atma-Samrat. Such a king is this Swami. Glory to him. May all follow his example.
"He is a young Yogi; a Yogabhrashta (one who has fallen from a high state of Yoga). He was a Swami in his previous birth, so at such a young age his heart is full of renunciation, Vairagya and meditation, which are the key to open the chambers of the heart, the Atmic store. It is not so easy to get renunciation and Vairagya. That man lives in vain who has got no Vairagya, no renunciation, no spirit of selfless service. God has given you in this birth a little wisdom. Yoga and Vedanta are complimentary. There is no wisdom without Yoga. There is no wisdom without Bhakti. All are complementary. Vedanta without Bhakti is dry, and Bhakti without wisdom is not complete or perfect. So let us pray for the health and long life of this small Yogi full of strength. One who can transform the materialistic intellect of the whole of South Africa–what tremendous influence, what tremendous purity, what tremendous Yogic power, what tremendous meditation, his spiritual aura, selfless aura"!
Pujya Swami Sahajananda's audio message focused on the themes: 'Self-surrender' and 'Fearlessness'. Pujya Swamiji emphasized that self-surrender is an essential ingredient for spiritual success. He said, "That's the only path that can completely get rid of all the sorrows, pain and suffering once and for all. Because I have seen many devotees who have gone very deep within, but because they have not coupled their Sadhana with self-surrender, they get disturbed when they come outside. This does not invalidate the experiences they have – their contact with God, but that complete transfer is not there. For that complete transfer, we got to practise self-surrender". Pujya Swamiji's self-surrender is indicative in that he gave his heart, mind and soul to any task he undertook, even in small things, like sticking a stamp on an envelope.
Pujya Swamiji explained that the present is the best time for Sadhana, despite the obstacles and challenges that we encounter, and that all of us have to face the problems around us. One should not be afraid, and one should make the best of every situation, for everything is willed by Gurudev and God. He said, "Not a speck of dust will move without the will of God".
Pujya Swamiji concluded his message with the advice, "give what you can". To illustrate this Pujya Swamiji narrated the anecdote of the juggler who couldn't offer anything else but his juggling to Mother Mary. He was observed juggling in front of Mother Mary, much to the amusement of his counterparts. However, on one occasion, they noticed the juggler lying on the floor, and Mother Mary was fanning him. The only offering or gift of the juggler to Mother Mary was his juggling. Since that day, the monks had greater respect for him.
The lofty messages of Sri Gurudev and Pujya Swamiji, leave us with substantial food-for-thought; to contemplate upon, to assimilate and internalise, and to use as stepping stones to greater spiritual heights. May these sublime teachings espoused during this Mahasamadhi Anniversary be the springboard for our moral, emotional and spiritual growth and transformation.