This article is a chapter from the book “Sivananda—The Perfect Master”.
Siva—A True Guide
Sri Swami Narayanananda
You may commit the most serious crime but Siva never frets or frowns at you. He says: “Never mind. These are small blunders. Who has become great without committing mistakes? These are to be rectified gradually.” You feel as if all your sins are washed away when you hear his soothing words with a smile on his face.
Siva believes in gradual evolution. The fruit that ripens in the tree itself is very sweet. It may take a long time to ripe. Siva says: “Let your evolution be gradual. But let it be perfect. There is no half measure in the spiritual path. Do things with full heart and ungrudgingly. Attend with great care even the smallest or insignificant work. Never do things slipshod. Keep up equilibrium of mind. Then alone your efforts will be crowned with sanguine success.”
From a careful observation of his daily life you can find that Siva practises Vedanta in his daily life. Some people hold the view that Vedanta cannot be practised in Vyavahara (worldly life). But Siva throws a challenge to such people. His creed is: “See the Lord in all creatures. If you are a Vaishnavite, do not hate a Saivite. If you are a Hindu, do not hate a Muslim or a Christian. Have tolerance. Be free from selfishness. Do not give third class rice to the beggar and keep table-rice for yourself. Do not ignore servants. Do not fight with the porters in the railway platforms for a few pies. Do not treat your servants harshly or give old and stale food to them. Share willingly with others all that you have—physical, mental and spiritual. If you are the head of an Ashram, do not reserve good fruits for yourself without giving them to your students. Love all equally.” These are the practical instructions that he gives to aspirants. Can you get them in any university?
Let us now peep into the daily life of Siva and how he acts in similar circumstances. In Siva’s Ashram, a Parsi, a Muslim, a Hindu, a Christian and a Sikh, a Vaishnavite or Saivite—all are welcome and receive the same treatment. Some devotees send him some fruits or sweets. He has a favourite bag. He fills it with fruits and starts a sacred pilgrimage. He visits the neighbouring houses of the locality. He gives one fruit to every child and sick person. Then he distributes them to the visitors of the Ashram. Whatever fruits are left behind, he shares with his own students and lastly takes for himself one or two. He would give to everybody whom he meets on his way. A sick man, a Sadhu, a child, a cripple—none of these go without their due share if they happen to meet him on the way.
In summer there is no adequate supply of milk at Rishikesh. Siva has great dietetic restrictions. He has to take milk, a little vegetable and bread made of Bengal gram. Milk is his only nutritious diet. Sometimes visitors come unexpectedly. He asks the kitchen in-charge to give them milk. He says: “Give him (the visitor) hot milk well mixed with sugar. If you have no milk in the kitchen take my share and give him. From tomorrow get enough milk.”
Siva prostrates to his own servant boys. He makes them sit in his leaning chair. He gives them the best fruit. He pays them amply. Servants of the Ashram look like Babus of the office. They are given plenty of clothing, best tea, milk and ghee. Whatever other inmates get, the servants also get. Whenever he moves to other places, he remunerates coolies and porters in the railway station amply. When they receive their wages they would be surprised. If they expect four annas they get a rupee from Siva.
Siva has a large heart. He can displease none. He is a cosmic friend.
Siva believes in an all-round development. He wants a harmonious combination of the intellect and heart. He says that you can nicely combine the various Yogas—Karma, Bhakti, Raja and Jnana. His is a Yoga of synthesis. He says: “Mind is so framed that it feels the monotony of a particular act. It wants varieties. Each Yoga has its own benefits. Karma Yoga or selfless service is the seed for all other Yogas. It purifies the mind more easily and efficaciously than other Yogas. Bhakti Yoga softens the heart. Raja Yoga helps concentration and Jnana Yoga takes you to the highest peak of wisdom or Paramaam Gati of the Bhagavad Gita.” This is verily true.
He further says: “Combine the different Yogas to suit your temperament. Do selfless service for a few hours daily. Spend morning and evening hours in Japa and Kirtan of the Lord’s names. Meditate regularly. When you are not inclined to do Japa, study the Gita or any other book. Then practise Asanas and Pranayama. Write your Ishta Mantra. Have contact with Mahatmas. Then sing Hari’s names if you are gloomy and depressed. Introspect. Find out your mistakes. Correct them. Keep yourself ever busy so that evil thoughts can never find an entrance in your mental factory.” This, in brief, is Siva’s Yoga.
Siva believes in dynamic activity. He says: “The fly wheel that rotates with the greatest speed in the Railway engine appears to be at standstill. Intense activity is Sattva.” He does not like people growing lazy and pretend to be highly Sattvic and virtuous. Do not mistake inertia for Sattva and the most lazy man to be Sattvic.
Many young men have approached Siva with the request that they may be initiated into the mysteries of Kaivalya. They would say: “Swamiji Maharaj, I have no attachment for the world. I hate worldly activities. I have taken shelter under you. I have no liking for the company of the worldly-minded men. I want to be alone in a cave and meditate for all the twenty-four hours and realise God in a short time.”
To him Siva says: “My dear friend, do not be deluded. These are all bubbling emotions out of disappointment in worldly life. They will not last long. Look within. Find out the various lurking impurities in the mind. You cannot bear a word of insult. You will not help your neighbour with a cup of water when he cannot walk. Selfless service will suit you. Remain with me for twelve years. Plunge in selfless service. When you purify yourself you can take to a cave life. I shall serve you nicely. I shall send you to Uttarakasi when you are fit for such a meditative life.”
See how kind Siva is. He has a very soft corner for each and every man. His thirst for improving his students is greater than their own. He is a blessing to all who are spiritually hungry. Young people go to Uttarakasi and Gangotri. They pretend to be great Tyagis and Viraktas. They throw away their clothes and remain naked. They pass off for Jivanmuktas. They neglect their health. They pass off unnoticed from this world without achieving any purpose in life. Some Sadhaks, when they come to Nivritti Marga, torture their body with intense austerity. They give up food. They eat Neem leaves. They lie in the verandah with bare body on the ground. They give up shirts and clothing in winter. They stand in the Ganga water for a long time. They inflict severe bodily pain. This Siva dislikes. He advises the middle path to the aspirants.
He says: “Take care of your health. A weak man can do no Sadhana. A sickly body is not at all suited for spiritual Sadhana. It is not suitable even for worldly success. Be guided by the rule of moderation mentioned in the Gita (VI-17): ‘Yukta-ahaaravihaarasya yuktacheshtasya karmasu; Yukta-svapnaavabodhasya yogo bhavati duhkhahaa-Yoga becomes the destroyer of pain for him who is moderate in eating and recreation, who is moderate in exertion, in actions, who is moderate in sleep and wakefulness.’ Do not be luxurious. Attend to your minimum wants. If by taking half a seer of milk and two ounces of ghee you can keep good health, do not increase the quantity to three-fourths seer or four ounces respectively due to greed. In the name of a middle path do not indulge in luxuries.”
“God has given you good health and intellect. When you fall sick you cannot do any Sadhana. If you are sick and if you require some bodily comforts and if some one offers you milk and good food, do not reject them due to false Vairagya (dispassion). God has sent you those necessaries of life to recoup your health. If you neglect your health, you will waste this precious life and miss a golden opportunity to realise God in this birth. When you are a Sadhak, you have to take care of your health. When you attain Jnana, when you develop cosmic vision, when the body idea leaves you, then you need not take care of your body. Do not pose to be some thing which you are not.”
Some aspirants are very fond of travelling from place to place and. seek a comfortable living. They say: “We wish to lead the life of ideal Paramahamsas. We have no attachment to any place. We will not be affected by Vikshepa due to attachment. God helps us in all conditions.” To them Siva says: “No doubt it is good. But a neophyte should not lead a wandering life. When you travel from place to place you cannot do regular Sadhana. You cannot get convenient places for Japa and meditation. You will have to worry yourself about your next food. Sometimes you will have to go without food. Therefore give up this wandering life when you are a Sadhak. Stick to one place and do rigorous Sadhana for 12 years. Do not cheat the people with your orange robes and a long beard. When you have realised your own Self, then you can move about and give out your experience to the worldly people. You can serve the public and at the same time test your equanimity of mind under difficult circumstances.”
Some students approach Siva with the request to help them in awakening the Kundalini. They say: “Swamiji Maharaj! We can do all Asanas, Bandhas, Mudras, Pranayama and other Kriyas. We can do Bandhatraya. We can stand on Sirshasan for 3 hours continuously. We want further lessons on awakening the Kundalini.”
To them Siva would say: “These Kriyas alone cannot make you qualified for the awakening of the Kundalini. You must first practise Yama and Niyama. You must first purify your heart by the practice of selfless service. You must live under the guidance of an able Guru who is an adept in Hatha Yoga and Raja Yoga. Your feverish enthusiasm for Siddhis and awakening the Kundalini is of no use. Do not worry yourself with these things. They will pull you down from the spiritual path. You will miss the goal if you concentrate your mind on the attainment of Siddhis alone. Kundalini will be awakened when you are pure. You need not make any effort at all.”
“Spiritual path is a razor path. Do not think that God-realisation is such a cheap commodity as to be had by simple feats of the muscles in a day or two. Darshan of Lord Krishna and awakening of the Kundalini is not so easy. If you want God-realisation you must become God. Develop divine virtues first. No doubt, Parikshit realised God in seven days, Kattvanga in a Muhurta (48 minutes) and Suka was born perfect. But they were all Adhikaris (aspirants) of the first class. They had Para Vairagya (supreme dispassion). Students who possess a dull Vairagya should undergo rigorous Sadhana till the end of life. Spiritual life needs a rare discipline, the discipline which no universities of the present day can give you. This discipline you can find in the forest universities of ancient Rishis and sages.” The eyes of the aspirants are opened to the reality. Siva’s books contain only such practical instructions. Siva guides aspirants through his inspiring letters, talks and songs.
Many Sadhaks who lead householders’ life, when they meet with some failures or disappointments, develop a sort of dull dispassion and write to him: “Poojya Swamiji! I am disgusted with the worldly life. There is no attraction for me now in this world. I have acquired great Vairagya. I am strong. No one can change my mind now. Allow me to come to you and initiate me in the Order of Sannyasa.”
To them Siva writes: “Your Vairagya is momentary. World is the best teacher. Live in the world and serve mankind. Grow by continuous untiring service. You will have to face greater difficulties in the spiritual life. You have no idea of the life of a Sadhu in these days. After a few months you will crave for those things which you have renounced. Spiritual path is no rosy path. It is also full of obstacles. Remain in the world. Do total surrender to Him. Sing His names. You will be more happy in your own station of life practising spiritual Sadhana.” The aspirants think over the problem seriously and ultimately give up the idea of coming to Rishikesh.
O Aspirants! Siva is eagerly awaiting with outstretched hands to embrace you. Once you see him or read his works, you will be entirely changed. Sadhaks go in search of Gurus and complain that they are unable to get one. But here is one who is in search of Sadhaks, who wants to elevate others, who wants to save as many people as possible from the clutches of Samsara. He lives to serve you all. He lives to make you happy. He lives to help you in the attainment of God-realisation.