Swami Sivananda respected all religions, saints and sages. Every person - irrespective of his religion or country - was received by Swamiji with the same warmth and love. He advocated: "Mankind is one family. All beings are children of the one Divine. He believed that the fundamental principles of all religions are the same, and all saints teach us and lead us to the same Truth". 'Adapt, adjust and accommodate' was the motto which he practised to perfection in his thought, speech and action. He accepted all that was good from all sources and propounded the basic Truth of all religions in his philosophy, but jettisoned the redundant ceremonies and paraphernalia. He gives the quintessence of all religions in a very simple, apt and appealing manner. He says:
"There is only one religion - the religion of love, the religion of unity and oneness". He used to sing:
UNIVERSAL RELIGIOUS TEACHINGS
The essentials of all religions are the same:
Serve, love, give, purify, meditate, realise;
Be good, do good, be kind, be compassionate;
Enquire 'who am I' know the Self and be free.
Love all, serve all, serve the Lord in all.
Speak the truth, be pure, be humble,
Concentrate, meditate, attain Self-realisation.
These are the essentials of all religions.
Customs, conventions, ceremonies are non-essentials.
Do not fight over petty non-essentials.
Be tolerant, be catholic, have a broad outlook.
Respect all Prophets, all Saints, all Messengers.
All Saints speak the same language.
Even as Swamiji tried to integrate the basic tenets of all religions, so also he integrated various Paths of Yoga and called this 'Yoga of Synthesis'. Like Buddha, he chose the path of moderation. His main admonition is:
"Serve, Love, Give, Purify, Meditate, Realise; Be good, Do good, Be kind, Be compassionate."
The terms 'Serve, Love, Meditate, Realise' denote the four main Paths of Yoga, namely Karma Yoga (Yoga of Action), Bhakti Yoga (Yoga of Devotion), Raja Yoga (Yoga of Meditation) and Jnana Yoga (Yoga of Knowledge). That is, he advocated synthesis of all the Paths of Yoga on the rock-foundation of purity which is to be develop through broad-mindedness and generosity reflected through charity which is symbolised here by the word give. As a practical philosopher, Swamiji instructed everyone - irrespective of his spiritual level - to be good and to do good to others. "Real happiness", he says, "is in making others happy." His vision of Jnana Yoga was in seeing the Lord in every being and serving all the living creatures as if it is worship of the Lord. He was open-minded and did not impose on any aspirant a rigid sadhana programme. Swamiji believed that each sadhaka requires a different amalgam of spiritual practices, and that the sadhaka himself should find out a suitable mode by properly blending different Paths of Yoga, in accordance with his aptitude and temperament while keeping one Path as the main Path.
Swamiji has given a very significant view of Yoga. He says: "Yoga is not a religion, but an aid to the practice of the basic truths in all religions. God dwells in all. Yoga is union with God, union with all. Yoga is for all and is universal. It is not a sectarian affair but a way to God. To live in God, to commune with God is Yoga. Yoga is life in God, life in perfection, peace, lasting happiness and eternal Bliss. Yoga shows you the way, unites you with God. You can turn out efficient work within a short span of time and have success in every walk of life."
His explanation of the main paths of Yoga is very explicit and apt. He says: "To behold the one Self in all is Jnana Yoga. To love the Self in all is Bhakti Yoga. To serve the Self in all is Karma Yoga. Karma Yoga is suitable for a man of active temperament, Bhakti Yoga for a man of devotional temperament, Raja Yoga for a man of mystical temperament, and Jnana Yoga for a man of rational and philosophical temperament."
He used to suggest Karma Yoga and Bhakti Yoga sadhana to beginners, and only after proper purification, and control of mind and senses, he was initiating the sadhakas into meditation and Jnana Yoga sadhana. We present here an article 'Serve, Love, Meditate, Realise' by Swamiji for better understanding of his philosophy.
SERVE, LOVE, MEDITATE, REALISE
I have only one message and only one common subject: and that is: "Serve, Love, Give, Purify, Meditate and Realise. Be Good Do Good". Reflect deeply on these wonderful words, which reveal the secret of harmony, peace, joy, success and Bliss. Remember that the salt of life is selfless service, the bread of life is universal love; the water of life is purity. Hence serve, love and be pure. The fragrance of life is generosity; the sweetness of life is devotion; the pivot of life is meditation. The goal of human life is Self-realisation. Therefore be devoted and generous. Meditate and realize the Self.
Man is a triune being: Action, emotion and intelligence are the three horses that are linked to this body-chariot. They should work in perfect harmony or unison. Then only the chariot will run smoothly. There must be integral development. You must have the head of Sankara, the heart of Buddha, and the hand of Janaka. The Yoga of Synthesis alone will develop the head, heart and hand, and lead one to perfection. To become harmoniously balanced in all directions is the ideal of religion and of Yoga. This can be achieved by the practice of the Yoga of Synthesis.
Man is a strange complex mixture of will, feeling and thought. He is a triune being. He is like a tricycle or a three-wheeled chariot. He wills to possess the objects of his desires. He has emotion and so he feels. He has reason and so he thinks and ratiocinates. In some the emotional element may preponderate, while in some others the rational element may be dominating. Just as will, feelings and thought are not distinct and separate; so also, work, devotion and knowledge are not exclusive of one another. He must, therefore, develop his heart, intellect and hand. Then alone can he attain perfection. Many aspirants have lopsided development. They will not possess an integral, all-round development; so long they will continue to neglect the other aspects of their personality. One-sided development is not commendable. Religion and Yoga must educate and develop the whole man - his heart, intellect and hand - then only he will attain integral development.
THE THREE DEFECTS
If you want to see your face clearly in a mirror, you must remove the dirt in the mirror, keep it steady, and remove the covering also. You can see your face clearly in the water of a lake only if the turbidity (impurity) is removed, if the water that is rendered still, and if the (avarana of) moss that is lying on the surface is removed. Even so is the case with Self-realization.
In the mind there are three defects, viz., mala or impurity, vikshepa or tossing, and avarana or veil. The impurities of the mind should be removed by the practice of Karma Yoga, by selfless service. The tossing of the mind should be removed by worship or upasana, by japa and devotion. The veil should be torn down by the practice of Jnana Yoga, i.e., by study of Vedantic literature, enquiry, self-analysis, service to the Guru, and deep meditation. Only then Self-realization is possible.
THE FOUR MAIN PATHS
To behold the one Self in all beings is Jnana, wisdom; to love the Self is Bhakti, devotion; to serve the Self is Karma, action. Yoga of synthesis is best suited for this age. Take the help of Karma, Bhakti, Yoga and Vedanta to achieve the summum bonum of life. All round perfection should be your aim. Practice of Karma Yoga, singing Hari's names, vedantic vichar (enquiry) - all these take you to the highest goal. They do not contradict each other. They, on the other hand, act as help or sahakaris in the attainment of God-realization.
Emotions are generally considered as a hindrance in perfect Realization. But only certain emotions are of a binding nature while, certain others will liberate the jiva (individual soul) from bondage. The conception of God and love for God rouses the purest of emotions.
How does love for God give us Liberation from samsara (round of births and deaths)? Man is an egoistic entity. His only enemy is the ego. He feels that he is entirely different from other things of the world. He is convinced that he is sharply marked off from the universe by his physical body. He is sure that he is only the body even though he may try to separate the 'I' from the notion of the body. Bhakti Yoga is a method to kill the sense of separateness or egoism. It annihilates the modification of the mind and fills the individual with universal Consciousness.
The karmayogi attains wisdom and devotion when his actions are wholly selfless. Karma Yoga gives chitta suddhi. It purifies the heart and prepares the mind for the knowledge (jnana-uday). This Sadhana demands constant practice, steadfastness, patience, perseverance and endurance. A trained Karma Yogi or a sannyasin works for the loksangraha or uplift of humanity with akarta (non-doer) and sakshi (witness) bhava (attitude), without attachment or idea of agency and the strong nischaya or determination that the world is unreal and that the world is nothing but Atman or Brahman.
Love towards the objects of earthly pleasure is binding chains, which hurl down the jiva to many cycles of birth and death. The dissipated rays of the mind take interest in countless objects of the universe. The mind that is centered in one point of space at all times can do and undo things with supernatural force. It is the concentrated ray of the sun passing through a lens that burns things focused through it, and not the rays that are scattered here and there. Mind has to be concentrated on one substance, controlling the mind through one-pointedness of it. Love for God of unselfish origin is a ladder to final Emancipation.
When the jnanayogi attains wisdom, he is endowed with devotion and selfless activity. Karma Yoga is for him a spontaneous expression of his spiritual nature, as he sees the one Self in all. When the devotee attains perfection in devotion, he is possessed of wisdom and activity. For him also, Karma Yoga is a spontaneous expression of his divine nature, as he beholds the one Lord everywhere.
Practice of combined Karma and Jnana Yoga in the world is far more difficult than the practice of pure Jnana Yoga in a cave of Himalayan retreats. To keep up meditation while performing actions is a different kind of difficult sadhana. The yogi who keeps up meditation while performing actions is a powerful yogi indeed.
INTEGRATE THE PATHS
The three paths are, in fact, one in which the three different temperaments emphasize one or the other of its inseparable constituents. Yoga supplies the method by which the Self can be seen, loved and served.
Hence everyone should have one Yoga as the basic Yoga and combine other Yogas. You can combine Nishkama (selfless) Karma Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Raja Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Sankirtan Yoga, etc., with Jnana Yoga as the basis. This is my Yoga of Synthesis, which will ensure rapid spiritual progress.
A little practice of Hatha Yoga (asanas and pranayamas) will give you good health. Raja Yoga will steady your mind. upasana and Karma Yoga will purify your heart and prepare you for the practice of vedanta. sankirtan will relax your mind and inspire you. Meditation will take you to liberation. Such a Yogi has all-round development. The Yoga of Synthesis will help you to attain God-realization quickly. Upanishads, Gita and all other scriptures speak of this Yoga. Therefore, O mokshapriya (one whom Liberation is dear), practise this unique Yoga of Synthesis and attain Self-realization quickly.
Here is my little song of the Yoga of Synthesis, for your daily practice:
Eat a little, drink a little,
Talk a little, sleep a little,
Mix a little, move a little,
Serve a little, rest a little
Work a little, relax a little,
Study a little, worship a little,
Do Asanas a little, Pranayamas a little,
Reflect a little, Meditate a little,
Do Japa a little, do Kirtan a little,
Write Mantra a little, have Satsanga a little.
Serve, Love, Give, Purify, Meditate, Realize.
Be Good, Do good; Be kind, Be compassionate.
Enquire 'Who am I?' Know the Self and be Free.
Swami Sivananda (Gurudev) has authored more than 300 books. You may wonder how his teachings and his message to mankind can be given briefly! But do you know the driving force and spirit behind his writings? He had an inborn passion to help others. And he has written these books not to show his erudition, but only to help as many people as possible, in as many ways as possible. He was receiving many letters daily. His eagerness to help others forced him to reply in most inspiring and encouraging words, on the very same day!
Being a very successful medical practitioner, he fully knew the importance of positive thinking and positive approach to life. He used to say: "An evil man is a saint of the future. Transmute evil into good through vichara or reflection. Out of evil often comes good." He saw no evil anywhere, in any one. His forceful, animating message used to bring even the most disheartened man out of his despondency, and would make him strive with vigour and zeal. Even if you are reading his message umpteenth time, it will have the same powerful positive impact.
One reason for this, according to a noted writer Sri Jhingam D.N., is: "Swami Sivananda's preaching are all backed by his personal experience of practical sadhana." Swami Chidananda, the foremost disciple of Swami Sivananda has also made a similar observation: "Gurudev (Swami Sivananda) taught us by both being and doing. He made himself an embodiment of, a personification of, what he wanted us to be." Swami Sivananda practised the most severe tapas (penance) and very intense sadhana in various paths of Yoga. He always shared all that he had with others. And in that spirit of sharing, he put his personal experiences and lessons in his writings with the intention of guiding the aspirants, of showing them the right path, and of cautioning them against the pitfalls of the sadhana path.
Swami Sivananda teaches us that God is within us, and whatever we see, hear, touch or feel is also manifestation of God only. He saw only God in all existence. Swamiji does not ask you to give up your home, wealth and relations, and to run away into a cave or jungle. On the contrary, he assures us that it is possible to attain divinity while living in our present surroundings and discharging all our duties and obligations.
He was a gunagrahin (one who saw only merits of others and appreciated them). He saw only good in every person, every event. He appreciated and accepted all that was good from different religions and faiths, from the lives and teachings of saints of East as well as West, and even from most insignificant men. The mankind for him was one family only. He loved followers of other religions, as much as he loved his own disciples. This broad outlook, this universal love was the hallmark of his writings. He addressed the reader directly with the love, concern and interest of the Guru.
Swami Sivananda has brought out the inner significance of Vedanta and Upanishads in his writings. These highly scholarly books are a treat for the philosophers and advanced students. But on the other hand, he has written good many books to help neophytes and the common man in easy-to-understand language. His main aim in writing most of the books was to help as many people as possible by sharing his experiences. .In all such books, he directly addresses the reader and gives him relevant practical hints, as if the guru is directly teaching the disciple in person. This gives a sort of personal touch to the reader, and enhances the appeal of his teachings.
Swami Hridayananda says, "The greatest attraction of his teachings is that whatever he teaches can easily be translated into practice." Swami Sivanandaji's life was a source of inspiration to all men who came in his personal contact and even to those who studied his life through biographies. Whatever was the path of the aspirant, he found that Swamiji had perfected that path. Swamiji was a role model for various paths of Yoga. Such immensely inspiring life of Swami Sivananda made his teachings equally inspiring. As such, his teachings have always remained a source of inspiration to millions of his disciples and readers.