Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj, the great sage of Himalayas. We felt so fortunate to be with him, to watch him, to play with him, and to experience what Divine play means. He himself was the book of knowledge. In his own very life, whatever he did, whatever he saw, he brought out the essential truth. He taught through his words and actions, however simple they were. And his words were very simple like that of a child. Even though he never went out of India other than to the little island of Sri Lanka, he was known all over the world. Everywhere around the world people came to know of him. His words spread out all over. He taught without teaching. He spoke without speaking. That is the greatness of Swami Sivananda. Though he is no longer functioning through a body, it seems that he is functioning through many hundreds and thousands of bodies.

His teachings were very, very simple: Learn to serve everybody with your body and mind. Love everybody. Give all that you can. Keep yourself pure. And when there is no opportunity to serve, then love, forgive, sit and meditate a little. If you ask him, “What should we meditate upon?” He will answer, “Ask yourself, ‘Am I ready to serve when I get the next opportunity?’ Meditate upon that.” Yes. Meditate on the next opportunity to serve. Serve, serve, serve, serve. Just by doing that you realize. You don’t have to worry about realization. It comes to you.

So these were his words. “Serve, love, give, purify, meditate, realize.” He, of course, talked a lot about Yoga. In a way, the world became aware of the Yoga practices, the asanas and pranayama, because of Sivananda. I can boldly say that. If it were not for Sivananda, the world would not even know the beauty of Yoga. He talked about the highest Yoga. And what is that? “Adapt, adjust, accommodate. Bear insult, bear injury; that is the highest form of Yoga.”

The highest form of Yoga is to learn how to adapt yourself in society. Just because you became a vegetarian, you need not make faces if others around you eat meat. You need not say, “I am a vegetarian!” Adaptability. Or, if you don’t get a comfortable bed to sleep in, or a nice, comfortable long pillow, then adjust. Adjust yourself to the bed and don’t look for the bed to adjust to you.

Let people feel comfortable with you. Don’t pose as a big figure, letting it be known that you are right and they are all sinners. You should feel at home with others and others should feel at home with you. Swim like a fish even in turbulent waters.

The most difficult part of Yoga is to bear insult. Even if somebody looks at you and says, “What kind of yogi are you? You are a rogue! You run around the world cheating people, exploiting them.” Accept it as great advice. Immediately learn to forget that insult. Bear insult, bear injury and do not retaliate. Instead, retaliate with love. What did Jesus say? If somebody gives you a nice slap on one cheek? Turn the other cheek.

There was another great saint in South India. His name is Thiruvalluvar. He goes even one step further. He says that if somebody slaps you on one cheek, immediately hold his hand, take a little butter and smear it. Say, “Ohh, your hand must be hurt. You know my cheek is very hard. Oh I’m sorry, it has pained your hand.” Put a little oil on it and gently rub it. Yes, because if you show the other cheek he has to hit you again and it will be paining again. That is what you call the Supreme Yoga.

Where is the greatness in standing on your head? Even a leech stands on its head. Any gymnastic person can do these things; in the circus we see plenty of bending like a pretzel. Anybody can just sit and meditate for hours and hours. Even a rock meditates. I am not criticizing those practices. They are all right. They have their benefit. But don’t just think, “Oh, because I am doing all these things I am big yogi. I can chant nice chants for half hour, one hour, two hours. I can sing melodiously.” Well, probably you are no better than a cuckoo bird or a nightingale. You can practice a long jump. A tiger can jump longer than you. And you can say, “Oh, I’m a big yogi; I can get buried under the ground for several days.” Your bedbugs do that. What is great in that? These are not the aims of Yoga.

The aim of Yoga is to be at ease anywhere and everywhere. Even if you are thrown into hell, you should feel yourself to be in heaven. And not only that, because of your presence in the hell, other people in hell should feel that it is heaven. Yes, it’s not just enough for you to feel it as a heaven. Make the very life itself a divine life. That’s why Sivanandaji called his organization the Divine Life Society. He said that it doesn’t matter what you do, where you are, make it divine. And what is divine? Just be happy, peaceful and useful.

By Sri Swami Satchidananda