Sadhana — Is it Necessary?

Question 1: Someone I know says that there is not much importance in Sadhana and that it is enough to have faith in one’s Guru.

Mata Amritanandamayi: “Son, a person who has faith in (the Guru) will perform sadhana as (the Guru) instructs. Such a person will live without erring even a little bit. Will your disease be cured if you only believe the doctor but do not take the medicine? Not only that, faith will gain strength and steadiness only if sadhana brings experience. Otherwise, faith will slip into irresoluteness. You cannot progress without sadhana. Can’t you see even jivanmuktas (those who have achieved liberation while tenanting the body) doing meditation and japa (repetitions of the mantra) to set an example? No progress will accrue to him who simply sits saying faith will save me without doing anything. Unquestioning obedience is what is meant by faith and devotion. Whatever the Guru says, one should unconditionally obey.  Do not ask any questions. Do not doubt the Guru. One should unconditionally obey the Guru whatever he says, whether it is doing service to the Guru, service to society, Japa, Dhyana or anything else.” (pgs. 82-83, Awaken, Children! Vol. 3).

Question 2: I do sadhana but I feel empty. Why is this so?

Mata Amritanandamayi: “We do some kind of spiritual practice, and then, dissipate the acquired spiritual energy by indulging in worldly affairs.” (pg. 71, Awaken, Children! Vol. 1)

Mata Amritanandamayi: “Whatever spiritual power is gained through meditation and other spiritual practices gets dissipated through indulgence.” (pg. 123, Awaken, Children! Vol. 1)

Question 3: How do we find the time to do sadhana? We are all too busy with work and family.

Mata Amritanandamayi: “Out of 24 hours, allow 22 hours for worldly affairs. Think of Him for at least two hours. Japa should also be done for some time while sitting in solitude. It should be performed whenever you have the time, even at work. (pg. 84, Awaken, Children! Vol. 1)

Question 4: Is it all right if one chants mantras even without knowing the meaning ?

Mata Amritanandamayi: “…if you chant your mantra without knowing its meaning, it has its own powers. Even then, it is better if it is chanted with faith and love. Concentration is also necessary.” (pg. 97, Awaken, Children! Vol. 1)

Mata Amritanandamayi: “…although God’s Name has a power of its own, when we chant it with bhava or concentration, it becomes more powerful.” (pg. 117, Awaken, Children! Vol. 1)

Question 5: Is it necessary to do sadhana everyday? Is it wrong or even harmful to stop sadhana for a day or two?

Mata Amritanandamayi: “Do not do sadhana with the intention of making it known to others or to please them. We don’t stop brushing our teeth, taking a shower or eating food because those are necessities. In the same way, we should remember that sadhana is also necessary for us every day. We will stink of we do not take a bath and brush our teeth. It will be troublesome for others also.  We should understand that refraining from doing sadhana is at least as harmful as this. Sadhana should become a part of our life.” (pgs. 122-123, Awaken, Children! Vol. 1).

Question 6: What is the best place to do sadhana?

Mata Amritanandamayi: “Sadhana should be done in the presence of a Perfect Master or in an ashram”. (pg. 135, Awaken, Children! Vol. 1).

Question 7: I got a mantra from you; isn’t it enough that I have been accepted as your disciple?

Mata Amritanandamayi: “Concentrate on your sadhana…. Mother gave a mantra to everyone. Do not be puffed up because of that and think, ‘I am mother’s disciple.’ Do not feel proud thinking, ‘I have the ticket’ after getting onto a bus or train. If you do not show the ticket when the ticket collector comes, he will immediately make you get off. He will let you alight at your destination only if you use your ticket for the proper place and in the proper way. Otherwise, you will have to get off before your destination.” (pg. 219, Awaken, Children! Vol. 1)

You may also be interested in the following articles:

Who Is Qualified to Help Others?

Swami Amritageetananda Puri: “A man at a bus stop tried to jump onto a moving bus. A passenger standing on the footboard of the bus tried to pull him onto the bus but was not strong enough, and both fell out onto the road! Similarly, there are many (like them). Those who have learnt the scriptures and have done little tapas (=austerities) try to help others, but unfortunately a time passes, they lose sight of their goal and run after name and fame… Soon, they fall from the path.” (pg. 8, Matruvani, July 2013, Vol. 24, No. 11)

Is There a Need for a Human Guru?

Question: What is this Guru?

Bhagavan Sri Ramanamaharishi: From the standpoint of the path of Knowledge, it is the supreme state of the Self. It is different from the ego which you call yourself.

Question: Can’t one approach God without the Grace of (a human) Guru?

Bhagavan Sri Ramanamaharishi: The ego is the individuality and is not the same as the Lord at all. When it approaches the Lord with sincere devotion, He graciously assumes name and form and takes it to Himself. Therefore, they say that the Guru is none other than the Lord. He is a human embodiment of Divine Grace.

Question: But there are some who seem to have had no human Guru at all?

Bhagavan Sri Ramanamaharishi: True. In the case of certain great souls, God reveals Himself as the light of the Light from within.

Question: Some people report that (you) deny the need of a Guru. Others say the reverse. What have you to say about this?

Bhagavan Sri Ramanamaharishi: I have never said that there is no need for a Guru.

Question: Okay, is there a need for a human Guru?

Bhagavan Sri Ramanamaharishi: What is a Guru? Guru is God or the Self. First a man prays to God to fulfil his desires, then, a time comes when he does not preay for the fulfilment of a desire but for God Himself. So, God appears to him in some form or other, human or non-human, to guide him as a Guru in answer to his prayer.

Question: what are the characteristics of a Guru by which one can recognise him?

Bhagavan Sri Ramanamaharishi: The Guru is one who at all times abides in the profound depths of the Self. He never sees any difference between himself and others and is quite free from the idea that he is the Enlightened or the liberated One, while those around him are in bondage or the darkness of ignorance. His self-possession can never be shaken under any circumstances and he is never perturbed.

Source: pgs. 94, 95, 96, 97, The teachings of Ramana Maharshi

Question: Who is capable of giving me the Divine wisdom, that which gives me Self-realisation?

Swami Sivananda: Divine wisdom, according to Sri Krishna, should be sought at the feet of a liberated Guru, one who has realised the Truth.

Question: How should one approach such a Guru?

Swami Sivananda: The aspirant should approach such a sage in a spirit of humility and devotion. God Himself manifests in the heart of the Guru and instructs the disciple. Having understood the Truth from the Guru by direct intuitive experience the aspirant is no longer deluded by ignorance.(Summary of Gita’s Fourth Discourse)

Question: Can’t I study the scriptures like the Gita on my own and understand what God wants me to understand? Do I need a Guru even for that?

Swami Sivananda: “…without the help of a Guru, you will not be able to understand the proper meaning of the verses of the Gita. You will be like the man who brought a horse to one who asked for saindava while taking food. The word saindava means salt as well as horse!” (pg. 9, Bhagavad Gita [Divine Life soceity, South African Edition]

Question: Is there any reference in the scriptures that say the greatness of the truly enlightened Guru?

If (God) becomes angry, the Guru can save (the individual who has been the subject of God’s anger), but when the Guru gets angry (with an individual), even (God) cannot save him. So, the Guru should be served with the utmost care.” [pg. 727, Canto 7, Chap. 36, verse 26, Srimad Devi Bhagavatam]   

Sri Gyanamata

Sri Gyanamata was born on July 4, 1869. On July 12, 1925 (at the age of fifty six) she met Paramahansa Yogananda. Recognizing the spiritual receptivity Gyanamata had attained through her efforts in past lives, the Guru was able, at that first meeting, to give her the direct experience of God as the great Amen, or Aum, the creative cosmic vibration.

On July 20, 1932, (at the age of sixty-three) Pramahansa Yogananda initiated her into the venerable Swami Order, giving her the monastic name and title, ‘Gyanamata’—Mother of Wisdom.

Sri Gyanamata’s motto,”God Alone,’ hung in her room throughout her years in the ashram; each year, on the anniversary of her taking the final vows of dedication to God, she would inscribe the date on the back of this sign as a renewal of those vows.

On November 17, 1951 (at the age of eighty-two) she left the body in the highest state of samadhi.When Gyanamata was experiencing severe physical suffering Paramahansa Yogananda wrote to her:
Do not wish to throw away before your time comes what He has given you. Remember what Draupadi prayed to Krishna, ‘Lord, I care not what pain or test of punishment you give me, but do not test me with forgetfulness of Thy love.’ And this is what I pray for you — that you ever remember and love God, and forget the body. Draw closer to the Divine Mother, even if She beats you with pain.
As befits your name, keep your gyana, wisdom’s light ever burning during the darkness of this test.
Physically, Gyanamata suffered greatly, and through her suffering came great strength. “There is no spirituality without heroism,” she wrote. “If I could too soon be released from the furnace of suffering, and admitted into the Temple of Bliss, my character would lack the necessary admixture of steel, which is the product of endurance, and also the means of climbing the heights that tower above me.” Perhaps more than anything else, Gyanamata’s superhuman endurance proved her complete mastery over this world and its trials. After her passing, Paramahansa Yogananda stated that God had told him: 
“Twenty years of suffering never took away her love from Me, and that is what I prize in her life.”

The reader may wonder why such a saintly individual had to go through the prolonged suffering that Gyanamata did. Paramahansa Yogananda explained: “Her suffering was because of the sins of many others who became saintly through her life. There was not a sin of her own I could find. I want you to know that. Such is the mystery of God.”

That Gyanamata was able and willing to serve others through her own suffering shows the spiritual greatness she had attained. “The metaphysical method of physical transfer of disease is known to highly advanced yogis,” Paramahansa Yogananda wrote. “A strong man may assist a weak one by helping the latter to carry a heavy load; a spiritual superman is able to minimize the physical and mental troubles of his disciples by assuming a part of their karmic burdens. Just as a rich man relinquishes some money when he pays off a large debt for his prodigal son, who is thus saved from the dire consequences of his folly, so a master willingly sacrifices a portion of his bodily wealth to lighten the misery of disciples.”


Swami Haridhos Giri

Swami Haridhos Giri (Guruji) was born in the sacred month of Margali under the auspicious star of Utharattathi. He was born in the sacred land of Arunsala Sheishtram. Bhagavan Rawana Maharishi says that for one who wants to go into sainthood, one has to go through several stages. But one who is born in this sacred Sheistram is a born saint. He needs no other qualifications to enter sainthood. He was named Hari, true to his spreading the Hari ­Namasankirthan cult.His father, Sri Nott Annaji Rao, was an ardent Bhagavatha and a devotee of Swami Gnanananda Giri. His mother was very pious soul. They belonged to a royal heritage but the princely life with wealth and pleasure had no charm for Guruji in his younger days. He too, like so may great saints, lived an ordinary life of a human being in this mundane world but his urge was taking him away from all these pleasures and pain-ridden life. Even while he was youth he was attracted to Namasankirthanam, the inspiration emanating from his father. Every Bhajan held in any part of the town he happened to live in, found him with eager eyes and throbbing enthusiasm. He gradually experienced in his own self a desire overflowing in his heart to take up this as his walk of life. Thus, the seed for a change in him was sown early in his teens.

In 1954, One day when Guruji was sitting on top of a hill enjoying the nature around him, Guruji saw a small fire about 200 yards away, he asked some of his workers at the tea plantation, where Guruji was working at that time to check it out. The workers went down the hill to check and told Guruji that they could not see any fire around that area. For one week Guruji saw that fire. Then one night Guruji heard a knocking at his door, as Guruji opened the door, Guruji again saw the fire there and suddenly it disappeared and His Master appeared before him. The Master told Guruji that his place is not here and that Guruji is for the world.

The next day Guruji told his boss about the fire and the appearance of His Master. His boss said that it is only an illusion and gave him 15 days leave. Guruji went back to Madras see his father Sri Nott Annaji Rao, who took him to see a saint in a temple outside the city. When Guruji saw him again, Guruji burst out crying. He was the Master that appeared from the fire. The Master told Guruji’s father that Guruji is the reincarnation of love and affec­tion and he wanted to adopt him as his son. Guruji was then sent to a cave in the Himalayas to do penance. For three years and half years he mediated without water and food. Then the vision of His Master appeared before him asking Guruji to come back to his Master. In six months, Guruji walked from the Himalayas to Madras.

Guruji entire personality became aware at once that his innate urge could thus be fulfilled at the lotus feet of his Master, the light of Thapovanam, Sri Gnanananda Giri Swamigal. Guruji became the favourite Chela of Swami Gnanananda Giri the moment Guruji touched Thapovanam. Spontaneous was the surrender too. The dawn of a Guru-Shisya­Bhave life thus started.

Swami Gnanananda decided the very moment that Guruji must be to the world people. Swami Gnanananda also decided that the Knowledge and Happiness should be spread around the world and the only disciple who can spread this knowledge is Guruji.

After many trials and tests on this selected Chela, Swami Gnanananda Giri appointed Swami Haridhos Giri (Guruji) and told him to spread and sing in the praise of the Lord ­known as Nama Sankirthanam, as the only pathway to salvation. Swami Gnanananda Giri gave Guruji His Paduka, blessed him with the hidden treasures of our great scriptures and commanded him to undertake a life of renunciation and the mission of spreading the great cult of Namasankirthanam with a musical discourses on saints and sages who had tread this soil in a similar manner.

Guruji together with Namaji formed the Gnanananda Namasankirthana Mandali, Madras in 1959. At the beginning they had only six members, Swami Gnanananda inaugurated the function. Guruji preaches the truth, Guruji preaches happiness, Guruji preaches spiritualism through mediation, penance, yoga, praying and singing. “But to attain the happiness, the wish you desire, you must have a staunch belief in me, and what you are doing. Without belief, nothing will work” said Guruji.

Guruji then toured the world over to spread the Gospel of Swami Gnanananda Giri. Guruji wanted the cult of Namasankirthanam as a world movement, and it needs its own visual means of recognition and also when fraternity meets to bring about a sense of friendship, mutual trust and special greetings to be exchanged.

The Namasankirthanam movement piloted by Swami Haridhos Giri adopted the sign of two fingers “V”. The two fingers represent symbolically “Radhe Krishna” .Guruji also emphasized the need for a permanent establishment to propagate Namasankirthanam. It was the command of His Master, Guruji chose Dakshina Halasyam (Thennagur Village) as the abode for spreading the knowledge of Sanathana Dharma through the medium of N amasankirthanam.

To say a few words of our experiences with Guruji is only to say superficially what we know about him. His mind and thought, day and night is his Lord. A shining example of his devotion to the Lord is perceivable when we sit before our Guruji to hear his Bhajans. It is stupendous; it flows from the heart of the Lord to the mind of the people.

One who has heard about Guruji would expect to see Him in beards and with matted locks; his body smeared with sandal paste and Thulasi Mala around his neck, and clothed in Ochre – coloured robes. But no, as he is fond of saying, he is just an ordinary devotee irrevocably yoked to his Master and dedicated to service of his fellowmen. His endeavor is to see that humanity raises its level for the betterment of mankind. When atheism is rearing its head, Guruji is spreading the belief is God, a lofty spiritual knowledge combines with a child’s heart in his communion with those who seek him and those he seeks out. Often he quotes that his mission is to see that every soul in this earth sings the praise of the “Lord” and the Great Souls with devotion, thus getting out of the egoistic lives.

With undaunted courage and a free heart, he pours forth from various platforms the greatest necessity for today’s men – to cast away their thirst and greed for enjoyment and self-satisfaction in this pain ridden mundane life and to join the select few great men of the past in realizing the goal through the easiest means – the Namasankirthanam. Thousands remain pinned to their seats to hear his mellifluous music accompanied by his brilliant eloquence on spiritual lives of yore. In order to propagate this ideal, under command of his Master, He parts of the world, like in Canada, London, Japan, U.S.A., Zambia, Sri Lanka, Australia, Malaysia and Singapore to serve the masses in variation spiritual and material avenues thus establishing a common ground for them to elevate themselves to higher realms of life.

He attained Jala samadhi at Koteswar, its around 3 km north of Rudraprayag/Himalayas in the year 1994. There is a Hindu temple dedicated to Koteswar Mahadev in Koteswar. Namananda Giri , Principal Disciple of Haridhos Giri built Bhajan Platform in memory of Swami Haridhos Giri and dedicated to him.

With a great inspiration springing fourth by the constant communication with his Master, he has embarked on the great path of spiritual renaissance envisaged by his Guru. May all his devotees and yearning souls pray and get Guruji’s blessing.


Guru Paduka Puja by Swami Haridhos Giri

If you have faith in the Guru’s Holy feet, If you have deep feeling for the Guru’s Holy feet, If you imbibe the state of the Guru, Then you don’t have to look for God, God will come looking for you
– Bhakta Tukaram
“The Guru’s Holy feet are worshipped or revered because all the Guru’s Shakti dwells in the Holy feet. If you did research into this, you would find that the vibrations of the inner self constantly flow out through the Holy feet. The nerves that come from the Sahasrara reach right down to the Holy feet. The Holy feet serve as the support for the whole body. This is the reason the Holy feet are given so much importance. More Shakthi flows form the Holy feet than any other part of the body, the glory of the Guru’s Holy feet for the Guru’s sandals is great. Kularnava Tantra says: “Remember the Guru’s sandals, they provide protection against great diseases, great disturbances, great evils, great fears, great calamities, and great sins,”
The feet of Guru is no ordinary feet. Gurupaddangre Paadodakam Ganga. All holy waters, including Mother Ganga, live in the Guru’s Holy feet. This is what you should think in your heart when worshipping the Guru. All holy waters, all Devathei, or angels, and all sacred hills abide in the Guru’s Holy feet. One should have firm Sankalpa (intention, deter­mination) to behold all Gods in guru’s Holy feet. The Trimurthis – Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva – live in Guru’s Holy feet. These three Divine Forms symbolize the removal of the three qualities of nature that keeps the soul in bondage. The three qualities are tamas (sense of ego), rajas (passion, desire) and sattva (goodness and purity) when these three qualities are removed, then the soul becomes free or sanyaasi. In this state, one renounces desire and becomes like a stone – not senseless, but chinmaya (full of light). So, after Guru Patha Puja, it is to surrender the three qualities to the Divine Trinity. This is the significance of self surrender to the Holy feet.
Guru’s Holy feet.
For the sake of His disciples, the formless Guru takes the form in Padukas. Guru lives in Padukas. A devotee should pray “Oh my Guru, wherever my mind goes, may your form be there. Wherever my head bows in salutation, may your Holy feet be there.” The Guru continuously tests the devotees. It is very dangerous for the devotees to look on the Guru as an ordinary man. The devotee must think that the Guru is higher than Shiva, Vishnu or Brahma. If one thinks that the Guru is the physical form and activities, then it becomes very easy for doubts to infiltrate the citadel of devotion, and after a while, to completely overcome it. Nothing the Guru says or does is ordinary; there is always a higher reason.
Manduka Upanishad says: “The Guru’s Holy feet are like the foundation on which a building stands. The Guru’s Holy feet are the two elements in the mantra So’Ham which means ‘I am that.’ The statement ‘I am that’ (So’Ham) is packed with richness and significant meaning. The two syllables, Ham and Sa, have a number of esoteric meanings. ‘Ham’ is Shiva, the all pervading supreme reality, the absolute Being. He is the Lord or God, the support and the foundation of all things, sentient and insentient. In the form of pure consciousnesses, He permeates all creatures and dwells in them as their own innermost self. The Scriptures call this experience as Purusha, the eternal witness. ‘Sa’ is Shakti, the energy of Shiva. She is the divine Cosmic power that creates and maintains the countless galaxies and worlds. She is the consort of Shiva, the active aspect of the formless, the attribute-less Absolute. She is the joyous divine energy that unfolds the universe, assuming the billions of shapes and forms that we see around. Shiva is the experiencer and Shakti is the experienced – objective universe. She is referred also as Prakriti or the force of nature. She is the energy that powers our mind and that enables us to walk, talk, eat meals, and perform our work.
The Guru Geeta also says that the Guru’s Holy feet have two different luster – one is white and other is red – representing Shiva and Shakti. Shiva is associated with the white color, and Shakti, the divine energy with the red color. In these Holy feet of Guru, Shiva and Shakti live as one and through them the disciple realizes the unity. He sees Shiva and Shakti as red and white lights shining through the Guru’s Holy feet. The Guru’s Holy feet should be worshiped everyday, for by their means one easily realizes the immanent and transcendent aspect of Shiva (form and formlessness aspects). Their luster radiates in the upper spaces of Sahasrara Chakra.
Within this FULL MOON in the sahasrara, we find ‘pots of nectar’ also referred to as ‘nectar of the Moon.’ This pot of the nectar has the shape of a delicate crescent moon and is downward turned. From here the nectar flows down through the Sushumna Nadi. This nectar is more intoxicating than honey could ever be. The sound (inner Nada heard in meditation) will make you taste a divine elixir. It is sweeter than the sweetest. Every drop is worth millions. By taking it you get rid of all sickness. There will be no more suffering, no more want, no more feeling of ‘I and mine.’
The Lalita Sahasrahama says: “Salutations to Her (Shakti) who sends stream of nectar from the transcendent moon in the Sahasrara.” The Shiva Samhita says: ‘The Sahasrara is the thousand petaled lotus in the Brahmananda. In its center is the region of the moon and a triangle which continuously showers nectar. This moon nectar, which grants immortality, flows in continuous stream…”
The Paduka Panchaka also mentions that the Guru’s Holy feet are cool like the nectar of the moon. In other words, just as the moonbeams cool us of after the heat of the day, in the same way devotion to the Holy feet of the Guru extinguishes the fire of sorrow and suffering and gives us peace.
The Paduka Panchaka says: “I adore the two lotus Holy feet of the Guru in my head. The jeweled foot stool on which they rest removes all sin. The Guru’s Holy feet are pinkish-red like young leaves. The toe nails resemble the full moon shining in all its glory. The Guru’s Holy feet are radiant with the beautiful luster of lotuses in a lake of nectar.” When the Guru Gita speaks of the water of the Guru’s Holy feet, it is referring to this lake of nectar. There are number of verses that explore this image.
The Guru Gita says: “the water of the Guru’s Holy feet has the power to dry up the mire of one’s sins, to ignite the light of knowledge, and to take one smoothly across the ocean of this world.”
“To obtain knowledge and detachment, sip the water of Guru’s Holy feet, which destroys ignorance and ends karmas, the cause of rebirth. Muktananda says it is not the water of Guru’s physical Holy feet that will make you immortal; it is only the nectar flowing in the Guru’s abode situated in the Sahasrara that will make you immortal, and that nectar can be received by the grace of the Guru.
In the course of meditation, when the mind becomes stabilized in the Sahasrara, this nectar begins to flow. Only after drinking this nectar can you be said to have drunk the water of the Guru’s Holy feet. It is not the water of the Guru’s physical Holy feet that matters. The true Holy feet of the Guru lie in the sahasrara; it is the nectar flowing from them that gives immortality.
Source: Extracted from the Swami Haridhos Giri Seva Samajam Opening Day Souvenir Booklet (

Why Celebrate the Birthdays of Mahatmas?

If the Soul is immortal, why does Swamiji celebrate his birthday which belongs to the body?Swami Sivananda: “I do not celebrate my birthday. It is the devotees who do it. Celebration of such birthdays is equal to worship of Para Brahman. Worship of the Guru is worship of Para Brahman. The devotees take delight in celebrating the birthday, and they are benefited, uplifted. 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 the Divine Life Society and my teachings. The celebrations of the birthday is an annual reminder to the aspirants of the purpose of their life. It is a fillip to their Sadhana. 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, love, devotion, 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 land.

“It is not without purpose that the Hindus celebrate the birthdays of religious leaders, saints and sages, such as Buddha Jayanti, Sankara Jayanti, Mahavira Jayanti, etc. The Hindu calendar is spotted with many such Jayantis and other holy days, so that the observance of these Jayantis and holy days may give the needed spiritual impetus to people and they may strive with increased zeal for the attainment of the purpose of life, viz., God-realization. The more we have of such special, holy days, the more we have the chance of being inspired to intensify our spiritual progress.” (pg. 44, May I Answer That?)

Swami Krishnananda: “The incarnations of God are supposed to come with a power of divinity, whereas the sages and saints are supposed to go with the power of divinity. As the one comes with Divine force, the other goes with that Divine force. This is why we lay much importance on the birthdays of Incarnations and the Mahasamadhi days of Siddhas and Masters. Such a holy occasion we observe every year on the Punyatithi Aradhana Mahotsava of revered Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj.” (Chap. 9, Spiritual Import of Religious Festivals: Message given on the 3rd of August, 1972, the Ninth Punyatithi-Aradhana of H.H. Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj)

Mata Amirtanandamayi: “…When we celebrate the birthdays of great souls like Christ, Krishna…, there is one prayer that we should never forget to recite, ‘Please bless us to realize the eternal ‘I’ in me.’ This prayer should be part and parcel of our spiritual life. Amma doesn’t want Her children to forget this prayer when they celebrate (them).” (24 December 2007 — Amritapuri:

Mata Amirtanandamayi: “Mother is happy to see her children happy, and happily undertaking service activities on the occasion of Her birthday. Mother gets no speacial joy beyond that from these celebrations. She has agreed to all these only to see the happiness of Her children. Children, what makes Amma truly happy is seeing you love one another and being compassionate to others. Amma is happier to see you clean a nearby dirty sewer than to see you wash Her feet and worship them… What makes Mother truly happy is when Her children consider Her birthday as the day for wiping the tears of those who are suffering.” (Birthday Message [1990], pg. 11, Lead Us to Light, Vol.2)

Guru Purnima

Maharshi Vyasa


Sri Swami Sivananda

In ancient days, our forefathers, the Rishis of Aryavartha, went to the forest to do Tapasya during the four months following Vyasa Purnima—a particular and important day in the Hindu calendar. On this memorable day, Vyasa, an incarnation of the Lord Himself, began to write his Brahma Sutras. Our ancient Rishis did this Tapasya in caves and forests. But times have changed and such facilities are not common nowadays although Grihasthas and Rajas are not wanting who are able and willing to place at the disposal of the members of the fourth Ashrama such help and facilities as they can afford. The forests and caves have given place to the rooms of Sadhus in their own Gurudwaras and Mutts. One has of necessity to suit himself to time and place; and change of place and situation should not be allowed to make such a difference in our mental attitudes. Chaturmas begins from the Vyasa Purnima Day when, according to our Shastras, we are expected to worship Vyasa and the Brahmavidya Gurus and begin the study of the Brahma Sutras and other ancient books on ‘wisdom’.

Our mythology speaks of many Vyasas; and it is said that there had been twenty-eight Vyasas before the present Vyasa—Krishna Dvaipayana—took his birth at the end of Dvapara Yuga. Krishna Dvaipayana was born of Parasara Rishi through the Matsyakanya—Satyavathi Devi—under some peculiar and wonderful circumstances. Parasara was a great Jnani and one of the supreme authorities on astrology and his book Parasara Hora is still a textbook on astrology. He has also written a Smriti known as Parasara Smriti which is held in such high esteem that it is quoted by our present-day writers on sociology and ethics. Parasara came to know that a child, conceived at a particular Ghatika or moment of time, would be born as the greatest man of the age, nay, as an Amsa of Lord Vishnu Himself.

On that day, Parasara was travelling in a boat and he spoke to the boatman about the nearing of that auspicious time. The boatman had a daughter who was of age and awaiting marriage. He was impressed with the sanctity and greatness of the Rishi and offered his daughter in marriage to Parasara. Our Vyasa was born of this union and his birth is said to be due to the blessing of Lord Siva Himself who blessed the union of a sage with a Jnani of the highest order, although of a low caste.

At a very tender age Vyasa gave out to his parents the secret of his life that he should go to the forest and do Akhanda Tapas. His mother at first did not agree, but later gave permission on one important condition that he should appear before her whenever she wished for his presence. This itself shows how far-sighted the parents and the son were. Puranas say that Vyasa took initiation at the hands of his twenty-first Guru, sage Vasudeva. He studied the Shastras under sages Sanaka and Sanandana and others. He arranged the Vedas for the good of mankind and wrote the Brahma Sutras for the quick and easy understanding of the Srutis; he also wrote the Mahabharata to enable women, Sudras and other people of lesser intellect to understand the highest knowledge in the easiest way.

Vyasa wrote the eighteen Puranas and established the system of teaching them through Upakhyanas or discourses. In this way, he established the three paths, viz., Karma, Upasana and Jnana. To him is also attributed the fact that he continued the line of his mother and that Dhritarashtra, Pandu and Vidura were his progeny. Vyasa’s last work was the Bhagavata which he undertook at the instigation of Devarshi Narada who once came to him and advised him to write it as, without it, his goal in life would not be reached.

Vyasa is considered by all Hindus as a Chiranjivi, one who is still living and roaming throughout the world for the well-being of his devotees. It is said that he appears to the true and the faithful and that Jagadguru Sankaracharya had his Darshan in the house of sage Mandana Misra and that he appeared to many others as well. Thus, in short, Vyasa lives for the welfare of the world. Let us pray for his blessings on us all and on the whole world.

Everybody knows that there are six important systems of thought developed by our ancients known as the Shad Darshanas or the six orthodox schools of philosophy, viz., Sankhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaiseshika, Purva Mimamsa and Uttara Mimamsa or Vedanta. Each system has a different shade of opinion. Later, these thoughts became unwieldy, and to regulate them, the Sutras came into existence. Treatises were written in short aphorisms, called “Sutras” in Sanskrit, meaning clues for memory or aids to long discussions on every topic. In the Padma Purana, the definition of a Sutra is given. It says that a Sutra should be concise and unambiguous; but the brevity was carried to such an extent that the Sutra has become unintelligible and particularly so in the Brahma Sutras. Today we find the same Sutra being interpreted in a dozen ways.

The Brahma Sutras written by Vyasa or Badarayana—for that was the name which he possessed in addition—are also known as Vedanta Sutras as they deal with Vedanta only. They are divided into four chapters, each chapter being subdivided again into four sections. It is interesting to note that they begin and end with Sutras which read together mean “the inquiry into the real nature of Brahman has no return”, meaning that “going by that way one reaches Immortality and no more returns to the world”. About the authorship of these Sutras, tradition attributes it to Vyasa.

Sankaracharya, in his Bhashya, refers to Vyasa as the author of the Gita and the Mahabharata, and to Badarayana as the author of the Brahma Sutras. His followers—Vachaspathi, Anandagiri and others—identify the two as one and the same person, while Ramanuja and others attribute the authorship of all three to Vyasa himself. The oldest commentary on the Brahma Sutras is by Sankaracharya; he was later followed by Ramanuja, Vallabha, Nimbarka, Madhva and others who established their own schools of thought.

All the five Acharyas mostly agree on two points, viz., (i) that Brahman is the cause of this world and (ii) that knowledge of Brahman leads to final emancipation. But they differ amongst themselves on the nature of this Brahman, the relation between the individual soul and the Supreme Soul, and the condition of the soul in the state of release. According to some, Bhakti and not Jnana, as interpreted by Sankara, is the chief means of attaining liberation.

Vyasa’s life is a unique example of one born for the dissemination of spiritual knowledge. His writings inspire us and the whole world even to this day. May we all live in the spirit of his writings!
(pgs. 3-6, Lives of Saint)

Siksha Gurus and Diksha Gurus

Man has a twofold duty here on earth-to preserve his life, and to realise his Self. To preserve his life, he has to learn to work for his daily bread. To realise his Self, he has to serve, love, and meditate. The Guru who teaches him the knowledge of worldly arts is the Siksha Guru. The Guru who shows him the path of Realisation is the Diksha Guru. Siksha Gurus can be many—as many as the things he wishes to learn. The Diksha Guru can be only one—the one who leads him to Moksha.(pg. 155, Bliss Divine)

If Swami Sivananda considered everyone and every experience as his Guru, he had a special veneration for his Siksha Guru and his Diksha Guru. On enquiring about the progress of the music class in the Ashram, he once told the students, “You should all greet your music teacher with folded palms and ‘Om Namo Narayanaya’. You should revere the Guru who teaches you the art. Only then will the learning be fruitful.”

The students were a little apologetic, “Yes, Swamiji, we are all doing that though we sometimes forget.”
“No, no, you should never omit this,” said the Master, and added thoughtfully, “See, I had Swami Viswanandaji’s company only for a few hours, yet I remember him daily in my Stotras in the morning. I include the name of Swami Vishnudevananda also, as it was he who performed the Vraja Homa for me. It is very necessary, only then will the spark of intense desire for liberation burn brightly in us.

And Swami Sivananda relapsed into memory of his boyhood days. “Once, I learnt fencing from an untouchable,” he recalled. “It lasted only for a few days. He was an untouchable, yet I used to greet him with coconut and betel leaves. Guru is Guru, to whatever caste or creed he belongs.” (pgs. 203-204, From Man to God-Man)

mantra-guru ara jata siksa-guru-gana
tanhara carana-age kariye vandana [Chaitanya Caritamrta 1.1.25]

I first offer my respectful obeisances at the lotus feet of my initiating spiritual master and all my instructing spiritual masters.

The meaning of the above is I offer pranam to my Guru who initiated me, and I also the same pranam to my other siksha Gurus. It should be noted that the diksha Guru is but one, whereas siksha Gurus can be many, and even innumerable.

“The Guru is Spirit” by Sri Swami Atmaswarupananda

During his sadhana days in Swarg Ashram, Gurudev carried his sadhana to extreme levels. Afterwards, when he came to this side, he wouldn’t allow his own disciples to do some of the things that he did; for example, standing in the Ganga for long hours doing japa. Indeed, he recommended a balanced and integral yoga. He also said to eat a little, sleep a little, meditate a little.

And yet at the end of his Twenty Important Spiritual Instructions, which he tells us will lead us to moksha, he warns us that we must not give leniency to our mind. And Pujya Swami Chidanandaji, who can be very lenient with others, never gives leniency to himself, which indicates to us that a certain extremism is required for our spiritual life.

The scriptures tell us that if we practice absolute truth for 12 years that we will realise God. But this is a practice of truth that can only be considered to be extreme. It not only means absolute truthfulness with others in our daily life, but ruthless truthfulness within. And above all, it ultimately means the practice of Truth itself, abiding in the Truth. In addition, they tell us that if we will practise any other virtue equally strictly that that will also lead us to realisation.

However, even if we can keep our energy and determination at such a high level, the path and the goal of the spiritual life are so subtle that it is very easy to deceive ourselves and stray from the path. This is why we need a guru. But what if a guru is not available to give us this very subtle and fine guidance? Then we need to practise a basic truth that scriptures and the gurus try to impress upon us.

The guru is not his body. The guru is the Universal Spirit. And that Universal Spirit is omnipresent. It is present within us and without us. That Universal Spirit is capable of leading us and fine tuning us, not just through one body, but through any body It chooses to use, through any insight It chooses to give us, through any spiritual experience It decides to grant us—through any spiritual practice, through any passage in the scripture, through any casual remark from a friend. And, indeed, this knowledge in itself and the practice of this knowledge is a sadhana: “Practice the presence of God, seeing God in all, and that in itself can lead to you liberation,” Swamiji has said.

So while our spiritual life should be balanced and integral, we must not give leniency to our mind. We require a certain extremism. But above all, we require the constant guidance of the Spirit. Lord Krishna says, “If you want to cross this samsara, you must take refuge in Me alone.” In other words, for our sadhana, we must be constantly seeking His guidance—knowing that it is always available if we have the humility to accept it through whatever channel it comes.

Early Morning Meditation Talk given in the Sacred Samadhi Hall of Gurudev Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj, Sivananda Ashram, Rishikesh