Click here to listen to Days with Swami Sivananda if you do not see the player above. The podcast length is 15:19 minutes.
What was it like to spend time with a spiritual giant like Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh? In today’s podcast Abbot George shares some of his experiences with Sivanandaji when he visited him shortly before his passing in 1963.
You will hear the following:
- What is was like just being near Swami Sivananda,
- How Sivanandaji ended his satsangs,
- The invitation to a meal of “just plain boiled rice,”
- The self-righteous devotee and “aren’t eggs a vegetable?”,
- And an incident of healing by Swami Sivananda, recounted below.
I am healed by Swami Sivananda
“Sivananda possessed all the yoga powers, including healing the sick and even raising the dead or preventing a predestined death. I do not exaggerate in the least when I tell you that he was a god walking the earth. In him I saw every virtue developed to the maximum degree.
“There is a great deal of irresponsibility in the teaching of hatha yoga. Worthy teachers are not easy to find although I have come across many who, when I would try to tell them of the risks, always shrugged me off with the assurance that they did the ‘easy and gentle’ asanas. There was no use for me to tell them that if they could not see the subtle bodies of their students and the effects of the postures on them they should not teach any asanas at all. Incorrect hatha yoga practice can lead to serious illness far in the future. For example, two sadhus with severe asthma once visited a well-known yogi’s ashram. When they told the yogi of their trouble, he asked them: ‘Did you not practice intense hatha yoga twenty-five years ago in Kanya Kumari?’ They were amazed. Yes. They had. ‘And that has caused your present illness,’ he told them. ‘Your practice was faulty.’ Now to my story.
“Steven was a great enthusiast for hatha yoga, fond of standing on his head, so he wanted to take the classes offered at Sivanandashram. Considering that immediately the monk-teacher told us that he could himself no longer do hatha yoga due to falling while trying to get into a complex posture, we should have backed off. In America I had met a hatha yoga teacher with the same limitation, and he too kept on teaching others what had harmed him. But Steven wanted to get on his head, so while he did so the damaged hatha yogi tried to do the same for me. The result was that after sleeping in the afternoon that day when I awoke every nerve in my body seemed to be taut and painful. When I got out of bed I found I could not stand upright, that the abdominal muscles were in some kind of spasm that prevented it. It was misery beyond description. Even all my teeth hurt.
“When Steven went to the evening satsang I stayed behind, sure that I could not possibly scramble down the steep hillside by the Kailash Kutirs. (There were no cement steps.) But when I knew the satsang had started I asked myself: ‘How can you be up here when Sivananda is down there right now bestowing blessing on all present? Better to die trying to get there, for if that is your last thought you will surely go to a higher level in the other world.’ So I tried it out. It was terrible, and I kept sliding down in the loose dirt. Yet I eventually made it and came staggering, all bent over, into the satsang. There was Sivananda, and I was sure that I could not bow down to him. But I found I could, though just barely. And I even got up, too. As I was heaving up he spoke to Swami Devananda who took out of the magic bag half of a laddu that must have been as big as a softball and handed it to me.
“ ‘If anything can kill me, this is it,’ I thought as I took the laddu and shuffled over to sit beside Steven. (By the way, Sivananda’s strategy about getting rid of the parasites by no longer lecturing but joking and having fun had worked. In the morning satsangs we had only about twenty and about forty in the evenings, despite the large number of residents in that ashram.) Well, it might be time to die, so I ate that laddu. If you don’t know what a laddu is, I can define it in one word: sugar. White sugar. Pure poison.
“So I ate the poison to find that Sivananda had turned it into amrita which instantly cured me. I had not expected it, but I was not surprised. He was the master of life and death, I already knew. Later Swami Sivananda told me to never practice hatha yoga, that walking was the best exercise for me. Hurrah.”