A close scrutiny of Swami Sivananda's teachings should
convince an intelligent person that they are born of Swamiji's direct experience. Religion is not
found in text-books and its true spirit cannot be imbibed from teachers, however learned - though
all these help us understand religion. Swami Sivananda used to say that life is a great school and
pain is a great teacher. He himself was always quick to learn in that school. Once learnt the
lesson was never forgotten. His life had its fountain source in these experiences - physical,
social and spiritual.
To give one illustration: As a young doctor he had travelled to
Malaya, his orthodox brahmin upbringing imposed severe restrictions on his eating habits so that he
starved during the voyage; he had wandered into a city (his destination) and was near collapse when
he reached a temple and found 'suitable' food. Out of this experience emerged his later 'flexible
orthodoxy, his understanding of others in similar straits, and most important of all, his eagerness
to rush to the aid of anyone in distress.
Have we not been in similar situations? Do we learn? Do these
experiences touch our hearts, melt our hearts? For only if they do is the spirit of religion
awakened in us to become the living motive-force of our daily lives.
Alas, sometimes the perverted intellect invents distorted logic which
hardens our hearts. We 'learn' from our sorrow that we should be more selfish and more vicious. We
feel, "If only I am more aggressive and demand and get what I want, I shall never suffer." And the
welfare of others is seen to be a threat to our own!
This indeed is the distinction between the divine and the
diabolical-. their paths are different and hence their very outlook on life is entirely different.
This fact reveals a vicious circle. The same experiences in life make the divine more divine and
the vicious even more vicious. How is this downward trend of the vicious to be arrested? For that
surely is what every intelligent person wishes and every saint works for. The ideal is not realised
in a day. No ideal is. Sincere application is the best we can hope for, and even that is rare in
(Published in "Insights & inspirations" by Swami Venkatesananda,
Chiltern Yoga Trust, Australia)