About the Author:
Born on the 8th September, 1887, in the illustrious family of Saga Appayya Diskhita and several other renowned saints and savants, Sri Swami Sivananda had a natural flair for a life devoted to the study and practice of Vedanta. Added to this was an inborn eagerness to serve all and an innate feeling of unity with all mankind. His passion for service drew him to the medical career; and soon he gravitated to where he thought that his service was most needed. Malaya claimed him. He had earlier been editing a Health Journal and wrote extensively on health problems. He discovered that people needed right knowledge most of all; dissemination of that knowledge he espoused as his own mission. It was divine dispensation and the blessing of God upon mankind that the doctor of body and mind renounced his career and took to a life of renunciation to qualify himself for ministering to the soul of man. He settled down at Rishikesh in 1924, practiced intense austerities and shone as a great Yogi, Saint, Sage and Jivanmukta. In 1932 he started the Sivanandashram. In 1936 was born The Divine Life Society. In 1948 the Yoga-Vedanta Forest Academy was organized. Dissemination of spiritual knowledge and training of people in Yoga and Vedanta were their aim and object. In 1950 he undertook a lightning tour of India and Ceylon. In 1953 he convened a 'World Parliament Reliogions'. He is the author of over 300 volumes and has disciples all over the world, belonging to all nationalities, religions and creeds. To read his works is to drink at the fountain of Wisdom Supreme. On 14th July, 1963 he entered Mahasamadhi.
THE HINDUS are a profoundly religious people. Their goal of life is Self-realisation or the attainment of God-consciousness. A religion of some kind they must have-a religion which will stir the depths of the heart and give room for the exercise of faith, devotion and love.
All Hindu festivals have a deep spiritual import or high religious significance. All great Hindu festivals have religious, social and hygienic elements in them. In every festivals there is bathing in the morning before sunrise in the river or tank or well. Every individual will have to do some Japa, prayer, Kirtan, recitation of Sanskrit verses and meditation.
Man gets tired on account of hard work or monotonous actions. He wants some change or variety. He wants relaxation. He wants something to cheer him up. These festivals make him cheerful and happy, and give him rest and peace.
In this book Gurudev has explained the significance and the philosophy of many of our fasts and festivals. In two aspects of these observances, he has always allowed the greatest freedom: (1) in the determination of the dates of the festival, which, as he has explained on page 53, very, and (2) in the traditional ways of celebrating them. For instance, in South India during the Durga Puja they have the Kolu when various idols and toys are arranged in colourful gallaries before which, every evening, girls sit and sting. Again, in some places there is fire-walking without the Kavadi (see page 109), held in honour of Draupadi Amman who was born of fire; or in Ceylon, according to Yogi Satchidananda of Ceylon, in honour of Kannaki Amman. Gurudev never disturbs anyone's good beliefs and customs.
The way in which the most important festivals are observed at the Sivananda Ashram, Rishikesh, in India is also given in this volume. If we have no precedent, we cant as well as adopt that. On the particular day, it would be even enough to read the chapter relating to that day, to remind ourselves of the spirit of the occasion.
Gurudev observes in his Ashram not only the festivals of the Hindus but those of the Christians and the Muslims, too: an example for us to copy. In his eyes, there are no distinction. The New Year's Day according to the English calendar has the same significance to him as the Tamil or the Telugu New Year's Day. Hence, when he talks of the Telugu New Year's Day in this book, it can well be read Tamil New Year's Day or Gujarati New Year's Day.
---THE DIVINE LIFE SOCIETY
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