Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi delivered the first Swami Sivananda Memorial Lecture at the Durban headquarters of the Consulate General of India last week.

The event marked the 50th Maha Samadhi (anniversary) of Swami Sivananda. It was hosted by Ishwar Ramlutchman the president of the Sivananda World Peace Foundation and the Consulate General of India This is an edited version of Buthelezi’s speech

NAMASKAR.

It is a privilege to speak to you about the legacy and teachings of Swami Sivananda and its blessings on South Africa.

His disciple, the late Swami Sahajananda, was a young teacher in Estcourt in the 1940s when Swami Sivananda’s book Practice of Karmic Yoga caught his eye at the Vedic Bookshop in Durban.

My connection to Swami Sivananda began with my links with Swami Sahajananda.

I had been privileged to know Swami Sahajananda as a friend, mentor and advisor for more than 30 years. Through him I came to know the teachings and the character of Sri Swami Sivananda.

Swami Sahajananda who passed on in December 2007 was the spiritual head of the Divine Life Society in South Africa.

I am a Christian and a Zulu far from what one would expect when picturing a follower of Swamiji and was asked to deliver this lecture based on my understanding of his teachings.

I have considered his teachings against my own faith and have discovered that some ideas are universal to those who seek harmony within themselves and their community.

Swami Sivananda epitomized the philosophy of selfless service. Often leaders, in every faith, are canonized after their death. But there are few praises I could give to Swami Sivananda that he does not exceedingly deserve. He did not lord it over his followers, but spoke simply and expressed a desire to help anyone in need. Indeed, some of his greatest teachings are expressed in simple language such as ‘Be good, do good’.

When Swami Sahajananda sought to be trained Swami Sivananda at the ashram in Rishikesh, India, Swamiji gave him a simple instruction “Learn to type and to make tea”

Leslie Jacobs, a director at the Indian Cultural Centre, said Swami Sivananda’s teachings and actions had embodied the true spirit of ubuntu.

She said Swami Sivananda’s values represent our guiding principles and our broadest motivations.

“Those values which earned Swami Sivananda global respect influences the attitudes we hold and how we act in both action and thought. People are affected by a wide range of influences, past experiences. cultural and social norms and the money at our disposal. Our values represent a strong guiding force. They shape our attitudes and behaviour during our lifetime. A human being is not a mere body but a set of values,’’.

According to Jacobs culture is not simply an add on or an ornament.

“It is made up of traditions, beliefs and ways of life from the most spiritual to the most material. It gives us meaning. Human beings are creators of culture and at the same time culture is what makes us human. Fundamental elements of culture includes religuious beliefs and symbolic expression. We must value religious identity. We must also play our part in inter faith dialogues. As the world is becoming more and more global we should not think that there is only one right way of living. We need to co-exist in harmony with other cultures,’’ said Jacobs.

She said culture has vast connotations,

“Culture forms an integral part of the ethnic backgrounds of communities. Cultural values are important. It brings people from around the globe together. It has the power to create harmony, special friendships and bonds. The foundation of people depends on their cultural values. South Africa is deeply engrained in the Indian psyche. The relations between India and South Africa is deep rooted in history. It covers virtually all fields of human endevour,’’.

Jacobs ended her speech with the words of a famous poet. ‘I am an African not because I was born an African but because Africa is in me’.

LOCAL businessman and philantrophist, Ishwar Ramlutchman, said the words of wisdom of Swami Sivananda and Swami Sahajananda had had a tremendous impact on his life.

“On this auspicious occasion I pay tribute to my beloved Masters. I salute Swami Sivananda and Swami Sahajananda for their love, guidance and the great impact they have had on my life. We pray during this occassion, we open our hearts to do good not only in thought but in action as well. We pray that all our weaknesses and ignorance are purged. Let us be true devotees. Let the teachings espoused by Swami Sivananda and Swami Sahajananda our beacons of light. My Masters served mankind and the poor with humility and feelings which won them worldwide acclaim,’’ said Ramlutchman.

He said Swami Sivananda’s teachings and actions had inspired him greatly.

“His teachings demonstrate the universality of all the world’s religions and that they can promote peace and harmony in our country. To commemorate the 50th Maha Samadhi of Swami Sivananda, the Sivananda World Peace Foundation has published a souvenir brochure. Let this brochure do wonders for those who want to lead a Divine Life, and who want to follow in the footsteps of Swami Sivananda,’’.

Ramlutchman, the president of the Sivananda World Peace Foundation, said the attendance of representatives of the Shembe, Muslim, Christian and Hindu faiths at the memorial lecture, showed that religions had an important role in shaping peace in our country.

“This event was organised to honour Swami Sivananda. Swami Sivananda during his lifetime said time and again that the teachings of the world’s major religions had important roles to make the globe a better place for everyone including the poor. The attendance by the various religious faiths shows that all religions can co-exist with each other and continue with the initiatives for lasting peace in South Africa,’’ said Ramlutchman.