AN UNFORGETTABLE SAINT
OF South Africa
By Santhanagopal.

I have been singularly fortunate in one respect. During the past half-century, or even more, I have had the good fortune to come across most of the spiritual personages of India. Some of them have merged with Infinity. Many are still amongst us. Some of them have built fabulous spiritual empires. Some have their headquarters outside India, with branches all over the world.

My experience with most of them has made me to realize how true is the popular saying that when one scratched any saint deep enough one can detect self-interest.

About two years ago I visited Durban in South Africa. In and around Durban lives the largest number of migrant Indians in the world. It is there that I came across a person who shattered my skepticism about spiritual leaders. Here was a person who turned out to be a saint in every sense of the term. A more selfless, self-effacing person is hard to find. I found him to be a person who brought dignity to the simple dress of sanyasi that he wore.

He is Swami Shahajananda, founder President of the Divine Life Society of South Africa and friend, philosopher, guide and guru to thousands of his disciples spread all over South Africa. I found mighty men and women, persons who wielded enormous power, influential and wealthy, among his disciples. I found them to be incredibly mixing with everyone when they participated in the various welfare and building activities, cheerfully digging, carrying loads and other forms of physical labour, without a word from the Swamiji to do so! There is hardly anything distinguishing about the person of Swamiji. He can easily merge himself with even a small crowd without being noticed. His voice is soft, just audible. When he spoke however people heard him with rapt attention. All it takes is a small frown of dissatisfaction from him to make a whole congregation to tremble in apprehension and anxiety. His habits are simple. His personal needs are minimal. Most of the time he slept among the printing machines in his press room, on the cold floor, with hardly anything to protect him. He is simplicity itself and shy to the core.

There are many who who have similar traits and attributes. What makes him different and where does the saintliness come from?

His eminence stems from and shines in brilliant incandescence, not from what he has been saying but from what he has been doing, silently, unobtrusively, always in the name of his Guru, Swami Sivananda, whom he always refers to reverentially, as My Divine Master.

Whatever he has done, it has been for the welfare of others. His devotion to his guru easily brings to mind the story of Dronacharya and the devotion of his pupil, Ekalavya. Dronacharya asked him to give him as dakshina, the thumb of his right hand. The story of Swami Shahajananda and his guru Swami Sivananda is slightly different. Swami Sahajananda’s surrender to his guru is absolute and total. He lives,


Breathes, eats, sleeps and does everything else, all in the name of his Divine Master. He has indeed surrendered to his guru his mind, body and spirit. Such guru bhakti in the 21st century is an incredible phenomenon.

Swamiji is a prolific writer. In simple layman’s language he gently spoon feeds members of his congregation. He never sermons to the learned and the scholarly. He would orient his messages, either in writing or through speech, to the person with the weakest power of comprehension. He always helps people, even those, who bite the hand that feeds. He brings to mind the story of the sage and the scorpion. A sage found a scorpion struggling for life in a puddle of water on the road. He stopped to pick it and drop it on firm ground and was promptly stung on the hand. He again tried to pick it and was stung right away. He tried many times to save it but was stung everytime he picked it up. A passer by who was watching what was happening asked the sage “ Why do you try to help it when it is stinging you everytime?” The sage replied, “ It is the nature of the scorpion to sting and it is my nature to try and save it”. He picked the creature up, was promptly stung again but managed to drop it on firm ground and walked away. Swami Sahajananda has reached a stage where he is capable of only compassion and kindness for every living organism that shares the earth with human kind.

During apartheid in South Africa, the ruling whites kept the black, immigrant Indian labour and the whites segregated. They especially kept the blacks under their boots. The Indians built for their children schools and educated them. The blacks were too poor and what is more they were discouraged from building schools. Even in such atmosphere, Swami Sahajananda built several schools for educating black children and he had to face enormous difficulties in his effort. His pioneering efforts to help people without any distinction of caste, colour, religion or race has made a tremendous impact and many others are emulating him. His heart is so large that whenever he came across anyone trying to do such good work he would immediately extend to him generous financial and other support, insisting all the while that the name of the Divine Life Society and himself should not be mentioned at all!

When Nelson Mandela became the President of South Africa, it raised hopes of the black people too much and they expected things to happen too soon. There was chaos. Many Africans of Indian origin felt insecure and migrated to other lands. Concerned over the drain of talent, Nelson Mandela chided the Indian Africans for their lack of roots and for their cowardice in deserting the land of their birth. In an nationwide radio broadcast he asked people to look at the example set up Swami Shahajananda and the Divine Life Society of South Africa who started to engage themselves in nation building activities even before the advent of democracy. Swamiji’s only motive was to help that section of the society, which needed help most.

Swamiji’s disciples adore him. They pour their affection, regard, and money in great abundance. Swamiji can easily afford to build great ashrams of opulence, grandeur and luxury, like many ashrams in India and abroad. Swamiji’s ashrams are simple and functional and absolutely clean and neat. There is never any extravagance or show. One can easily see divinity in the place and the people and in their actions, all unobtrusively guided by this incredible saint who does everything in the name of his Divine Master.
I am afraid to salute him. Because I know that he would immediately prostrate towards me.
If the rains fall, if the flowers bloom, if the birds sing, if children smile in happiness and in innocence, I know why. It is because there are persons like Swami Shahajananda living amongst us, for our own sake.


Santhanagopal
Student of Indias Ageless Heritage &
Philosophy. email;santhanam68@yahoo.com

Mumbai 400 007
India.
Phone 3634462
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Santhanagopal<br>Student of Indias Ageless Heritage &<br>Philosophy. email;santhanam68@yahoo.com <br> <br>Mumbai 400 007 <br>India. <br>Phone 3634462