Spiritual Ministration


Shri Shri Shri Shivabalayogi Maharaj Life & Spiritual Ministration
Mission and Upadesa *


*  [The term ‘Upadesa’ means spiritual guidance or spiritual instructions given by a Guru.]

Sri Swamiji’s Mission

When Sri Swamiji completed the full twelve years of his Yuga Tapas, Shiva and Parvati came to give him darshan and to bestow on him their blessings.  On that occasion, Shankara Bhagvan outlined to Sri Swamiji the mission for which he had been sent to this world.  All this has been recounted in some detail, in Chapter 4.  From then on, Sri Swamiji has been devoting his time and energies to faithfully carrying out the directions of his Divine Guru.

In order to fulfill the mission given to him by Shankara Bhagvan, Sri Swamiji ministers to the spiritual and material needs of the people in the following four principle ways :—

(a)    Darshan.

(b)    Giving consecrated vibhuti for curing of mental and physical ailments, and for amelioration of mental worries.

(c)    Kirtan and Bhava Samadhi.

(d)    Dhyana Diksha.

Parvatamma with SwamijiDarshan:  At his Ashram at Bangalore, and wherever he is camping during his many tours in India and abroad, Sri Swamiji gives darshan at fixed timings every day, usually in the evenings.  If there is adequate seating place available for all the people then those who have come for darshan are permitted to sit in his presence.  If, as is the usual case, the crowds are large and seating space is limited, then people are asked to file past the place where he is seated for darshan.  Though Sri Swamiji appears on these occasions to be seated quietly, apparently absorbed in himself, he is keenly observant of all that is going on around him.  Each and every individual who comes for his darshan receives his Grace and Blessing, albeit silently.  And whether the person concerned realises it or not at that time, the silent benediction that he receives during darshan sets in motion a subtle and intangible force, which exercises a profound influence on the mind of the devotee and this, in time to come, brings about a total change in his mental outlook.  Some of the benefits that accrue as a result of Sri Swamiji’s darshan and blessings are freedom from worries and attainment of peace of mind; elimination of bad or undesirable habits and attachments attainment of mental poise; development of bhakti and a yearning for following the spiritual path.

Though it is hard to believe that mere darshan can achieve all this, there are hundreds who are willing to testify to the efficacy of Sri Swamiji’s darshan and the far reaching benefits that his blessings have conferred on them and their families.  In this context it would be pertinent to quote Sri Ramana Maharshi’s words on this subject:  “What do you think of a man who listens to a sermon for an hour and goes away without having been impressed by it so as to change his way of life?  Compare him with another who sits in a Holy Presence and goes away after some time with his outlook on life totally changed.  Which is better; to preach loudly without effect or to sit silently, sending out inner Spiritual Force?”  It is this inner Spiritual Force, which is radiating from Sri Swamiji all the time, which changes the entire outlook of a person and diverts his mind along spiritual channels.  It is also a fact that those who have once had Sri Swamiji’s darshan are so charmed by his Divine Personality, that they come again and again to repeat the experience, and to savour the peace of His Presence.

Dispensing Consecratcd Vibhuti:  Worldly life is full of misery and the large majority of those who come for Sri Swamiji’s darshan have some tale of woe or suffering to relate.  And they all come with the hope that Sri Swamiji, by his blessings, will ameliorate their suffering. In this they are not disappointed.  Sri Swamiji listens patiently to each individual’s complaint or petition; he then instructs an attendant to give the person some Vibhuti (holy ash) which has been blessed earlier by Sri Swamiji, along with directions on how that Vibhuti is to be used.

In the treatment of physical and mental ailments, use of the Vibhuti in accordance with the directions given by Sri Swamiji has effected miraculous cures and thousands of people have been benefitted by this.  There are also innumerable cases on record where patients who had not responded earlier to normal treatment, and whose disease had been pronounced incurable by medical practitioners, have been fully restored to health by the use of the Vibhuti given by Sri Swamiji.  As the Sri Sri Sri Sivabalayogi Maharaj Trust proposes to bring out a separate book containing the recorded experience of devotees in this regard, no specific cases are being cited as examples.  Such instances are in any case too numerous to be included in a single chapter.

Apart from physical and mental ailments, devotees approach Sri Swamiji with all manner of personal problems and seek his advice and blessings.  Sri Swamiji rarely, if ever, advises such a person to follow a particular course or not to follow a particular course; he tells the individual to make up his own mind as to the course he wishes to follow and then blesses him by giving him sacred Vibhuti which, if used as directed, will help him to overcome his problems.

KirtanKirtan and Bhava Samadhi:  Wherever Sri Swamiji gives darshan, kirtan is also held.  Because of the powerful spiritual vibrations emanating from Sri Swamiji, a large number of people participating in the kirtan go into Bhava Samadhi.  This happens even when Sri Swamiji is not present at that particular place.  As this is a unique feature of Sri Swamiji’s spiritual ministration, it merits more detailed explanation and hence it is being dealt with separately, in a subsequent chapter.

Dhyana:  Sri Swamiji’s primary mission is to set people on the path of Dhyana Yoga.  The other three aspects of his mission mentioned above can, in fact, be considered preliminary steps meant to prepare people for following the path of dhyana by purifying their minds, and by relieving them of their ailments and mental worries.  It is a measure of the earnestness with which Sri Swamiji pursues this mission that he has, to date (May ‘77), initiated two million people into Dhyana Yoga, in India and abroad.  As this is the principal aspect of his spiritual ministration, a separate chapter has been devoted to Sri Swamiji’s teachings on the technique and practice of dhyana.

Spiritual Ministration: Some Unique Features

There are some unique features about Sri Swamiji’s spiritual ministration which require special mention, and for those not familiar with these aspects, some elaboration and explanation; these unique aspects are covered in the paragraphs that follow.

The Guru Shishya Relationship:  From what we know by personal observation, and from what we hear of and read from the scriptures, it becomes evident that the great Gurus of yore were very selective in choosing their disciples; it was only after a long period of testing and after close personal observation of the aspiring disciple by the Guru, that an aspirant was given initiation and accepted as a disciple.  Considering all this, it is indeed very remarkable that Sri Swamiji gives diksha to all and sundry who come to him for initiation, often to thousands of people at a time.  When questioned about this, Sri Swamiji explains that he grants initiation to all-comers because these are the directions given to him by his own Guru, Sri Shankara Bhagvan.  Elucidating further Sri Swamiji says the initial initiation is given in ‘Mitra Bhava’ (attitude of a friend).  Thereafter, to those sadhakas who take earnestly to the practice of dhyana after receiving this initial diskha, and who approach him for further guidance and grace, Sri Swamiji imparts grace in ‘Guru Bhava’ (attitude of a Guru) and then guides them in their further progress.

Again, there are many sadhakas who are eager to take diksha from Sri Swamiji, but are hesitant to do so because they have already been initiated earlier by a different Guru.  For the benefit of such as these, Sri Swamiji has explained that:

(a)    If the former Guru is no longer available to guide the disciple, or, the Guru has taught all he knows and the disciple wishes to progress still further, there is no bar to his accepting another Guru and taking initiation from him.

(b)    Even for those who wish to continue under the guidance of their present Guru, taking initiation from Sri Swamiji is no bar because, as explained earlier, the initial initiation is given by him in ‘Mitra Bhava’ and hence this need not affect the relationship with or allegiance to their present Guru;  at the same time, they can derive immense benefit and help in the practice of their sadhana from the spiritual power received by them from Sri Swamiji as a result of the initiation.

Rules of Conduct:  In most forms of sadhana, an essential pre-requisite to serious spiritual practice is cultivating the rules and principles of good conduct, the ‘Yamas’ and ‘Niyamas’ as they are called.  As opposed to that, Sri Swamiji does not lay down or insist upon any specific rules of conduct by the regular practices of dhyana all undesirable habits will be automatically eliminated and the sadhaka, motivated by an inner compulsion, will soon start following virtuous practices.

Effect of Spiritual Power:  The manner in which the spiritual power imparted by Sri Swamiji acts in the furtherance of a sadhaka’s dhyana practice has been detailed in the chapter on dhyana.  The other unique benefits conferred by this spiritual power are:

(a)    During the early stages of the practice of dhyana, a sadhaka is usually afflicted by a dryness of mind because of lack of adequate incentive, and by despair caused by lack of any apparent signs of progress.  Therefore, in order to motivate the sadhaka and spur him on to further efforts, Sri Swamiji vouchsafes divine visions and other spiritual experiences to a sadhaka during dhyana.

(b)    Normally, only very advanced sadhakas can undertake and successfully practice the ‘Nirgun Upasana’ (worship of the Attributeless Absolute);  others can only hope to scale these heights by gradual and suitably staged spiritual practices, which are in turn are dictated by the spiritual maturity of their minds at the commencement of the practice.  However by the Grace of Sri Swamiji, manifesting through the spiritual power imparted by him, a sadhaka following the Dhyana Yoga taught by Shri Swamiji is able to directly undertake the Nirgun Upasana without having to go through the preliminary disciplines.

Bhava Leela: This is, perhaps, the most unique feature of Sri Swamiji’s spiritual ministration.  As it constitutes a subject by itself, a separate chapter has been devoted to explain the Bhava Lcela of Sri Swamiji.

Mass FeedingMass Feeding

‘Anna Daan’, i.e. the gift of food, has been extolled in our country from time immemorial and has become a part of our heritage.  The giving of food to a needy person has been lauded as the greatest of charities and it has been enjoined upon house-holders never to turn a hungry man away from their door.  This is of course understandable as far as house-holders are concerned, but it is interesting to note that most of the great saints appear to derive great pleasure and satisfaction from feeding others, whether they be their devotees and disciples, or simply poor people in need of a hearty meal.

In the case of Sri Swamiji, feeding of devotees and the poor has always occupied a special place in his scheme of spiritual ministration.  As has already been recounted, mass feeding of people has become a regular feature of Sri Swamiji’s Ashram from the very early days of his Tapas.  This practice still continues.  Every year on Sri Swamiji’s Birthday (24th January), on the Maha Shiva Ratri Day and on the Anniversary of the Commencement of Tapas (7th August), devotees and the poor are fed in their thousands at all the Ashrams run by the Sri Sri Sri Shivabalayogi Maharaj Trust;  no one who comes to the Ashrams on these days is allowed to leave without partaking of the ‘prasad’ (consecrated food).  That apart, wherever Sri Swamiji goes, he takes great pleasure in feeding the devotees.  Explaining this particular fondness of his, Sri Swamiji says that on account of prolonged Tapas, intense internal heat is generated in a Yogi’s body; by feeding people, this heat is neutralized to some considerable extent, as a result of which the Yogi experiences great peace and satisfaction.  It would appear from this statement that just as the fire of hunger in an individual is appeased by his taking food, the consuming fire of Tapas in a Yogi is appeased by the food offering consumed by him through the innumerable mouths of his devotees and the poor, for the Yogi looks upon all creation as only a manifestation of his own Atma (Self).

‘Mowna Upadesa’ (Silent Instruction)

A large majority of those who visit sadhus, go there not only for their darshan, but also to gain enlightenment by listening to their ‘Pravachan’ (spiritual talks or lectures).  The sadhus also, by and large, cater to this public hankering by giving talks and discourses.  Therefore, devotees who come for Sri Swamiji’s darshan, and who are not yet familiar with his methods, are somewhat non-plussed to find that Sri Swamiji gives no spiritual discourses.  People are allowed to have his darshan and may, thereafter, participate in the ‘Kirtan’ (devotional singing) if they so feel like it. Those who are further interested and seek spiritual guidance, are instructed to come at the time of the regular dhyana classes and to take initiation into dhyana;  however, there are no lectures or discourses.  This is often a source of disappointment to those who have come with the hope of being treated to a religious discourse, and the less discerning among them at times complain that Sri Swamiji only sits silently and gives no instructions.  Those who complain thus are obviously ignorant of the nature of spiritual instruction and hence this aspect needs some elucidation.

According to our scriptures, ‘Mowna’ or silence is considered to be the best and most potent form of ‘Upadesa’ (instructions).  This is exemplified in the story of ‘Dakshinamurti’* in which it is told how Bhagvan Shankara appeared as a youthful Guru, in the form of Dakshinamurti, to grant peace to the Four Maharishis — Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanat Kumar and Sanat Sujata, and how he revealed to them the Truth through ‘Mowna Updesa’.

*  [Meaning ‘The Southward Facing’: this is one of the names of Siva.]

Again, when Sri Ramana Maharshi was once asked why he did not go about preaching the Truth to the people at large, he replied, “How do you know I am not doing so?  Does preaching consist in mounting a platform and haranguing the people around?  Preaching implies communication of knowledge, and that is best done through silence.  What do you think of a man who listens to a sermon for an hour and goes away without having been impressed by it so as to change his life?  Compare him with another who sits in a Holy Presence and goes away after some time with his outlook on life totally changed.  Which is better;  to preach loudly without effect or to sit silently, sending out inner Spiritual Force?  Again, how does speech arise?  There is Pure Knowledge whence arises the ego, which in turn gives rise to thought;  and thought leads to the spoken word.  So the spoken word is the great-grandson of the original Source, which is silence.  If the spoken word can produce effect, judge for yourself how much more powerful must be the preaching through silence.”

So, in the tradition of the great Gurus of yore, Sri Swamiji also employs the power of Mowna Upadesa to carry out an inner transformation of those who turn to him for guidance.  This is not to say that Sri Swamiji is averse to giving spiritual instruction of any sort; if a sadhaka or disciple has some genuine problems in his sadhana and approaches Sri Swamiji for a solution of these problems, he receives simple and practical instructions which helps him to overcome his problems.  However, this is mainly in the sphere of practical guidance;  Sri Swamiji does not encourage theoretical discussions, particularly if such discussions are indulged in merely as a philosophical exercise and not for the purpose of clearing up any genuine doubts that a sadhaka may have about the spiritual path.  If he deigns to give any instructions, these will usually be practical guidclines, meant to help a sadhaka in the purposeful conduct of his sadhana.  Otherwise, Sri Swamiji’s answer to most problems will be simply:  “Do more and more dhyana.”  Indeed, this is normally the best and only remedy because, as a sadhaka will himself realise, all problems get automatically resolved when a sadhaka learns to surrender his all to the Guru and devotes himself increasingly to the practice of dhyana.

The Yoga Vasistha Ramayana

As Sri Swamiji attained the highest Realisation without any previous instruction or grounding in religious philosophy, he attaches little or no importance to theory in the instruction and training of his disciples.  However, those who continue to importune him to give some ‘Upadesa’, or who wish to know his views on spiritual theory, are referred by him to the ‘Yoga Vasistha Ramayana’:  “Read the Yoga Vasistha”, he says, “Swamiji’s philosophy is fully expounded in that Scripture.”  So, for those who want to know more about this Scripture, a few introductory words on the ‘Yoga Vasistha’ are given below.

Sri Rama, after obtaining permission from his father King Dasaratha, proceeded on a long pilgrimage during which he visited all the holy pilgrimage centres of India, as also the Ashrams of the Great Rishis of his time.  Returning from this pilgrimage, Sri Rama was seized by an overwhelming spirit of ‘Vairagya’ (renunciation or detachment from mundane affairs).  King Dasaratha was sorely troubled to see Sri Rama in this condition and so he requested the ‘Kula Guru’ (Family Guru) of the Raghus, Vasistha, to give suitable instruction to Sri Rama.  The ‘Upadesa’ (instruction) given by Sage Vasistha on that occasion to Sri Rama, over a period of several days, has been enshrined in the ‘Yoga Vasistha Ramayana’.  It is to this day considered the finest exposition of ‘Advaita Vedanta’ in the whole vast history of Indian religious literature; the abstruse truths of the Advaita Philosophy have been explained at length and in great detail with the help of a wealth of stories and anecdotes.

An uncommon feature of the ‘Yoga Vasistha Ramayana’ is that when giving his Upadesa, Vasistha Mahamuni was in communion with the Infinite and hence all his utterances have to this day the power of a ‘mantra’, and can infuse enlightenment in a sadhaka of matured mind who reads or listens to this dialogue;  in fact, towards the closing stages, the Sage tells Sri Rama in a state of rapture that it was not Vasistha who was speaking to him but that it was the Atma of Sri Rama which was instructing him through the Sage.

The Yoga Vasistha is divided into six ‘prakaranas’ (sections): a brief survey of each of these prakaranas is given in the succeeding paragraphs.

Vairagya Prakarana’ (Section on Renunciation):  This section opens with a description of the mental state of Sri Rama on his return from pilgrimage.  Sri Rama is summoned by Dasaratha, in the presence of the Sages Vasistha and Vishwamitra.  When Sri Rama arrives, Sage Vasistha asks him to explain the reasons for his melancholy state of mind and his indifference towards all worldly affairs.  On being thus asked, Sri Rama lays bare the thoughts and reflections that have been troubling his mind and which give him no peace.  In fact, his words and attitude of mind reveal the awakening of a burning ‘vairagya’ (dispassion).  However, Sri Rama has serious doubts about the soundness of the conclusions he has reached.  He, therefore, solicits his Guru to instruct him and thereby dispel the gloom of his heart.  As Vasistha Mahamuni begins his Upadesa, all the legendary Sidhs and Maharishis descend to Dasaratha’s court to listen to this heavenly dialogue.

Mumukshu Prakarana’; (Section on the ‘Mumukshu’; a ‘Mumukshu’ is an aspirant who longs for liberation).  This section deals with the preparatory disciplines that a sadhaka must undertake, and the moral and mental qualities that he must cultivate, in order to qualify for the spiritual path.  According to the Yoga Vasistha, ‘Shanti’ (quiescence and peace of mind), ‘Santosha’ (contentment), ‘Satsanga’ (association with realised stages) and ‘Vichara’ (enquiry into the nature of the Atma) are the four sentinels who guard the gates to ‘Moksha’ (Liberation).  The attitude that one is hampered by destiny in not being able to follow the spiritual path is severely condemned and the sadhaka is urged to rely on ‘purushkara’ (personal exertion) for progress on the spiritual path.  The sadhaka should not shun action, but should learn to be indifferent to the fruits of action; he should not be affected by the pleasures and the pains which are an inevitable accompaniment of action.  The sadhaka is advised to keep holy company and to study the ‘shastras’ (scriptures), particularly those dealing with ‘Atman Vidya’ (Self Knowledge).

Utpatti Prakarna’: (Section on Origin or Creation).  This section deals with the origin and nature of the ‘Jagat’ (Universe).  According to the Yoga Vasistha, this universe with its multitudinous objects, its concepts of time and space, and its varied laws, is only a creation of one’s own mind.  Just as the mind creates a world in the dream state, so also it creates an imaginary world in the waking slate; the only difference between the dream state and the waking state is that dreams are short and the waking state is relatively longer.  Time and space are only ideas of the mind; through the power of the mind a ‘Kalpa’ (age) may pass as a moment, or a moment in time in the waking state may be experienced as years in the dream state; the same is applicable to the concept of space.  All these facts are illustrated by a number of interesting and revealing stories.

Sthiti Prakarna’: (Section on Firm Abidance).  This section discusses the place of the jiva (individual soul) in the scheme of creation.  Vasishla points out that the jiva is no other than the ‘Ahamkara’ (‘I’ thought or ego sense). This ‘Ahamkara’ is the chief impediment to ‘Atman Sthiti’ (firm abidance in one’s True Self); it is because of ‘Ahamkara’ that human beings fail to recognise themselves as they really are and, as a consequence, suffer misery.  It is only when the ‘Ahamkara’ is extinguished that a sadhaka attains ‘Atman sthiti’.  The body and the senses are inert; it is the reflected light of the Atman (‘Chidabhasa’) that gives life to the body and makes the senses perform their functions.  It is further pointed out that the objects perceived by the senses are also not different from the Atman;  in fact, the perceiver and the objects perceived both originate from the Atman and hence are identical.  When a sadhaka gains firm comprehension of this Truth, he then realises that nothing exists apart from his own Atman or Self; this Atman is then realised as the originator of this universe and its enjoyer as well.  When this knowledge becomes firm, the sadhaka is freed from the duality of happiness and sorrow.  ‘Bhramacharya’ (contenence), ‘Abhyas’ (constant practice) and ‘Vairagya’ (dispassion or desirelessness) have been stated to be the means for attaining this knowledge, which in turn leads to ‘Alman Sthiti’ (firm abidance in the Self).

Upashanti Prakarna’: (Section on attainment of Quiescence)  The Sthiti Prakarana sets out the goal;  the Upashanti Prakarana gives instruction on the ways and means for attaining that goal.  As pointed out, the chief impediment to realisation is the false identification of the Atman with the body (dehatmabodha); this false identification is because of ‘Ahamkara’ or the ego sense.  This section gives practical guidance for the elimination of this ‘Ahamkara’ and a number of methods and Yogic processes are described for this purpose.  The chief of these are ‘Vichara’ (enquiry into the True nature of the Self), ‘Samadarsana’ (seeing all creation with an equal eye as varied manifestations of the one Brahman), considering oneself in all conditions of life and at all times as ‘Chit’ or Pure Consciousness, and performing one’s allotted duties in life without any attachment.  When, as a result of these practices, a sadhaka becomes perfectly ‘Asanga’ (i.e. not attached in any way to the fruits of one’s actions), all attachments, aversions and fear disappear and he becomes qualified for attaining the samadhi stage.

Nirvana Prakarna’: (Section on Liberation).  This section is divided into two subsections, viz. Purva Bhaga and Uttara Bhaga.

The Purva Bhaga explains that the Atman is the true ‘Swarupa’ (form) of the Jiva.  The sadhaka is instructed to give up all ideas of diversity, and to still the movement of the mind.  Having thus rendered the mind quiescent, he should persist in remaining absorbed in the Atman in the form of ‘Chit’ or Pure consciousness.  As a result of this practice, a stage comes when the sadhaka perceives the identity of this own Atman with Brahman.  He sees the manifest universe as non-different from Brahman and perceives that like the subtle tree that lies embedded in the seed, this whole universe in the form of created and uncreated beings lies in subtle, seed form in his own heart.  This sub-section also incorporates the highly instructive teachings that Maheshwara (Shiva) imparted to Sage Vasistha.  At this stage of the discourse, Sri Rama becomes absorbed in deep dhyana.

In the Uttara Bhaga, Sage Vasistha explains that true vairagya is achieved only by the awakening of’ ‘Atman Gyan’ (Self Knowledge), as a result of which, there is an automatic cessation of all actions and their fruit; the sadhaka no longer identifies himself with the body, nor seeks enjoyment in worldly objects.  It is only when he realizes his own identity with the ‘Param-Atman’ (Supreme Self) and remains firmly established in this knowledge, that he attains Param Nirvana’ (Supreme Liberation).  The Sage also narrates his own experiences of samadhi thus:  “In this state the sense of separate identity is lost; he knows himself as one with ‘Chidakasa’ (Pure Consciousness) and with the attainment of this knowledge, everything else becomes known to him; he sees himself as existing everywhere and in all places and hence he feels no need for locomotion as he has nowhere to go to; though devoid of the sense organs, he can see everything with his ‘Gyana Netra’ (me eye of wisdom) and he thus perceives that the innumerable universes of myriad names and forms exist within the ‘Chidakasa’ as his own body.”

As the discourse nears its end, Sri Rama’s doubts and mental agitations are all gone; and when Vasistha Mahamuni starts discoursing on ‘Nirvana’, Sri Rama and those in the assembly who had been regularly listening to this ‘Updesa’ are all lifted to a blissful plane of consciousness.

Sri Rama, freed from the distressing thoughts that had been weighing upon his mind, is at this stage absorbed in samadhi and has no more questions to ask.  And as the Great Sage concludes his discourse, Sri Rama exclaims in rapturous joy:  “Ah! I have attained the most wonderful stale of Nirvana, which is the end and the purpose of life.  I am always in ‘Swarupa’, but in the extremely peaceful myself there is nothing that is now covetable to me.”  Vasistha then goes on to explain that having attained the state of Nirvana, Rishis are endowed with ‘Sahaj Samadhi’ (natural state of samadhi) which allows them to mix with people and to perform their allotted duties in life, without in any way affecting their samadhi state; that Brahma, Vishnu and Maheswara are likewise carrying out their respective functions and that it now behooves Sri Rama to remain firmly established in Brahman always and to joyfully carry out his work and duties in the true spirit of a ‘Jivan Mukta’.

As stated earlier, these are only distilled remarks, designed to introduce the sadhaka to this great scripture.  Those who wish to know more about the profound teachings embodied in this Scripture, particularly with a view to gaining a better understanding of Sri Swamiji’s Teachings, would do well to make a more detailed study of the ‘Yoga Vasistha.’



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