People are generally curious to know about a typical day in the life of a great man, sage or a saint: what kind of a discipline he followed, what he ate, how he behaved, etc. Such a curiosity is not at all uncommon, for even Arjuna was eager to know albeit in a general context about the stita-prajna or a liberated soul, as narrated in the Gita. Many devotees and Sadhakas of Gurudev Sivanandaji Maharaj also wish to know about his daily life.
Usually Gurudev would get up in the Brahma Muhurta—between 3-30 and 4-30 a.m. After completing his morning ablutions, he would do his Sadhana upto 6-30 a.m.
During summer, soon after his Sadhana, he would have some fruit juice and go for office Seva after 6-30 a.m., to the Diamond Jubilee Hall. He would begin his work after Jaya Ganesha Kirtan. He generally spent about one and a half to two hours at the office. First he would sign outgoing letters, then he would oversee the mailing of free literature to various devotees. His way of okaying a particular address or parcel was by uttering OM TAT SAT. Now it would be time for him to tackle the purely official work; signing of papers brought to him by the secretary or other heads of departments of the Ashram or dealing with official letters. Official duties disposed of, Gurudev would talk to the devotees and visitors present and give them books, each according to his level of understanding and proficiency in a particular language. This would be followed by a short Satsanga. He would ask the devotees to sing Kirtans and Bhajans or himself would hold a few minutes of discourse. By this time someone would have brought the Prasad from Visvanatha Mandir and Gurudev would distribute it. The Satsanga would conclude with a prayer, keeping in with Gurudev’s axiom, “Start the day with God, end the day with God and fill the day with God.” For Gurudev prayer seemed to be the very breath of his life. No work would he start or end without prayer. He was always immersed in God-thought. When people around him indulged in idle talk and gossip, Gurudev would utter to himself, ‘Ram, Ram, Ram’ as if it were an admonition and immediately silence would prevail.
Guru was always accompanied by his devotees from his kutir to office and back: he would traverse this distance repeating the Lord’s name. Just before he entered his kutir after office work, the devotees following him would take leave of him, saying “Sadguru Bhagavan ki Jai” to which he would respond with ‘Sishya Bhagavan ki Jai’.
Entering his kutir, Gurudev was used to take a few minutes rest before having his breakfast, consisting usually of a little upma or a couple of idlis; a few fruits or a dosa and a cup of milk. Resting again for a while, he would get down to his writing.
His lunch was more varied. Very often devotees would offer Pada Puja to Gurudev, which would be followed by a feast. On these occasions Gurudev would call all other Ashramites to partake in the feast. He would keep the feast lively with his irrepressible humour and endearing buoyancy. On days other than the feast Gurudev’s lunch would consist of two plain Chapatis, some vegetables, curds and few fruits.
After lunch, Gurudev would rest until four in the evening. Then he would come either to his writing room or to the verandah and see the incoming mail brought by one of the Ashramites assigned with that work. Going through the letters, he would give necessary instructions to the assistants for reply. When this job was over, any devotee or visitor could seek his Darshan and hold talks with him.
It was also a practice of Gurudev, in the evenings, to sit for meditation facing Mother Ganga until around six. Then, he would get ready for his evening ablutions and supper. At 6-30 he would sit for his simple supper of a plain Roti or Dosa or a little Upma, one or two vegetables and a few fruits. Soon after supper he was ready for Satsanga. Before stepping out of his Kutir he would stop at the Puja room where the Lord Muralikrishna is installed, do arati and apply vibhuti and kumkum on his forehead. (This was his practice both in the morning and evening.) Since there would be time for the start of Satsanga, he would sit for a while on the verandah talking to devotees or giving instructions to the assistants and secretaries. At 7-00 p.m. Gurudev would be at the Satsanga in front of the Diamond Jubilee Hall. He it was who would begin the Satsanga by chanting ‘OM’ three times and reciting Jaya Ganesha Kirtana. This would be followed by recitation of Sri Suktam, etc., before the daily discourse, either in English or Hindi, started. On special occasions like Guru Purnima, Gurudev used to speak for 10 to 15 minutes and conclude the Satsanga with Mahamantra Kirtan and Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra followed by arati and Prasad distribution. After partaking the holy Prasad, he would return to his Kutir by 9-00 or 9-30 p.m. Then, he would have a cup of milk and retire to bed by ten.
This multifaceted sage had a peculiarity that exemplified his giving nature: he was always followed by his assistants carrying some three to four bags, containing clothes of Gurudev, first-aid material, literature for free distribution, Tulasi Maalas and money. Whoever came to him, Ashramite, visitor or devotee, would not return empty handed; Gurudev was never happy to see someone leaving him without receiving a gift. In the early days, 1954-1957, Gurudev himself would be carrying a bag containing cashew-nuts and distribute them to all he came across. While on his way anywhere if he saw any needy person or Sadhu, Gurudev would immediately stretch out his helping hand; often it would be financial help. GIVE, GIVE, GIVE …… was his motto. No wonder he came to be known as Givananda. In giving he rejoiced; in sharing he found happiness. Even in the act of giving, he could not repress his humour; as if to make light of his munificence, he used to employ some code words with his assistants. If he said “Give Ekamadvaitam”, it meant one rupee. “Dvaitam” meant two rupees; “Pancha-Pandava”, five rupees. One Ravana meant 10 rupees and ten Ravanas, a hundred rupees.
Despite the busy schedule he maintained from morning till evening. Gurudev never appeared tired, dull, irritated or angry. His calm, composed, serene countenance infused new life and enthusiasm in any one who approached him. Even those who came to him with their difficult problems would return all the better for having met him and sought his aid that was ably given. He was not only always cheerful himself, he would dispel the gloom of others with his infectious smile and irrepressible happiness.
Glory to Gurudev!
Loka Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu!
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