(Photo: H. H. Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj, founder of the Divine Life Society.)

Sri Swami Sivanandaji was a great spiritual giant. India had four great spiritual giants at one time. These saints represent the four different Yogas. Papa Ramdas of South India represented the path of Bhakti Yoga. He was a great devotee of Lord Rama. Papa Ramdas would say, “It’s all Rama’s will.” He would tell anyone who approached him, “Whatever you say or do, you are Rama. Without Rama you cannot do anything, you cannot say anything.” He was a pure example of total surrender.

Sri Ramana Maharshi, of Thiruvanamalai, was the great sage of Jnana Yoga. His constant practice was to question, “Who am I?” That’s what he would always say, “Question yourself; who are you?” Sri Aurobindo of Pondicherry was the great Raja Yogi. All the way to the north, there was Sri Swami Sivanandaji, a Poorna Yogi. You can see all the various Yogas in him.

It is impossible to put Swami Sivanandaji in one bottle, in one category. Sometimes you will see him as a great Jnana Yogi. Another time he is the embodiment of total bhakti [devotion] with a surrendering attitude. Another time, he is an example of Raja Yoga—practicing asana, pranayama, concentration, meditation. And, yet another time, you will see him so innocent, playing with the children. He will be just like a baby, as if he knew nothing. So that is why I say it’s very hard to define him.  He was non-definable.

That is what Thaimanavar Swamigal and other seers said about these types of saintly beings. You cannot fathom them. You cannot even imagine who they are. And with all that, we seem to think that we have known them. Nobody has really known Swami Sivanandaji completely other than himself. We all see the different aspects according to our coloring. But he is all and above. That is Swami Sivanandaji’s prayer, “Grant us an understanding heart, equal vision.” That is our aim in spiritual life.

If anybody wants to show something of their greatness, they would pick up an ordinary thing and make it great. And that’s what Sivanandaji did. He picked me up; a person who never read much, who never even thought much, who was just an empty vessel. I’m not ashamed to say that. Often I have said that. I never read, I never write, I never think. Why should I? When somebody is going to do everything through me, I don’t have to worry.

(Photo: Swami Satchidananda standing beside his Guru, Sri Swami Sivanandaji, early 1950s.)

Because I knew a little Tamil, Gurudev used to ask me to read his Tamil letters and answer them. Because I happened to be a Tamil man, probably that was the reason he permitted me to go to Sri Lanka [where many Tamils live]. Swami Satchidananda Mataji asked for me and Swami Sivanandaji was glad to send me out. But before going I told him, “Swamiji, you are going to bring a bad name for yourself by sending me. Because when I go there they will come to know what kind of disciples you have. Don’t get a bad name in sending me. I refuse to go.”

But he insisted, “Okay, Mataji is insisting.  She wants you. Go!” I said, “Then it is your responsibility, Swamiji. You are asking me to go, I go. So, you take care of everything.” He assured me, “Okay, don’t worry about all that. Just go.” Still, I had a doubt, “Are you sure, Swamiji?” But there was no doubt. “I am sure. I’ll take care of it; go.”

It is on that word that I went to Sri Lanka. From that minute on, I could say I never had any problem. I never worried about what to do, where to go, what to talk, what not to talk. Every minute he took care of that. If you want to know his greatness, just look at me. This kind of good-for-nothing fellow could be used for something to happen. He is great in that. He makes the lame to walk, makes the mute to become eloquent. You know, before I went, he gave me a title also: “Yogiraj.” Imagine. I was laughing at it.

Swami Sivanandaji has done many miracles, many miracles. Sitting in that small kutir [cottage] in Rishikesh, not going out anywhere, he conquered the entire globe. Now probably he is conquering other planets also. It’s impossible to fathom his greatness. Even to be able to call ourselves devotees and disciples and followers of him, that itself makes us lucky people.

We don’t have to do anything. He will take care of everything. He will perform miracles in our life. Complete surrender at his feet. Lose ourselves unto his feet. We don’t have to learn much, do much. All we should do is to surrender ourselves, surrender our little ego. Total surrender. True devotees would do that. Others cling to their egos. And as long as that “I, me, mine,”—the ego—is there, it is our responsibility. They can’t help us much.  That’s what. Great Mahatmas are ready to take care of us and to work through us if we can only surrender our ego and say, “I am Thine. All is Thine. Thy Will be done.”

By Sri Swami Satchidananda