Learning from the Saints

An Introduction by Swami Vasudevananda

Throughout the ages, and even into our present time, India has been known for her sages, siddhas, and saints—great souls who lived in the constant awareness of God's presence within themselves and all around them.

During one period in particular, beginning in the seventh century and continuing well into the seventeenth, there was an amazing proliferation of such enlightened beings. Beginning in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, the presence of saints gave rise to a wave of devotion to God that grew in magnitude as it spread northward throughout the entire country.

These saints came from all levels of society and many different walks of life. They had, however, one thing in common—their loving service to God, whom they recognized in the heart of every being.

Speaking of the saints in one of her poems, Gurumayi says,

They have only one goal, one purpose:
to fill this entire universe with love for God.
They have but one vocation:
to sing His glory.1

One of the ways many of these saints of India glorified the Lord was through the inspired verses of their poems and songs. Throughout the rest of this year, you will have the opportunity on this website to immerse yourself in reading, listening to, studying, and sometimes even singing the poetry and songs that poured forth from the awakened hearts of the saints. Keeping the good company of these poet-saints is one way that you can study and experience Gurumayi's Message for this year.

Gurumayi's Message for 2018 is Satsang.

As you keep the company of the saints, learning about their lives, imbibing their wisdom, and seeing the world through their eyes, you will be opening yourself to the experience of satsang—being in the company of the Truth.

Who Are these Saints?

Some of the saints you'll be meeting were renowned spiritual teachers, such as Adi Shankaracarya, the eighth–century master of Advaita Vedanta, and Shri Abhinavagupta, who in the tenth century elucidated the philosophy of Kashmir Shaivism. You'll experience the company of Guru Nanak, founder of the Sikh tradition, and the great Sufi master Hazrat Nizamuddin. Though they were from different spiritual traditions, each of these masters shared the experience that God pervades the world and that all human beings are God's children.

Some of the saints taught in Sanskrit, while others—such as Goswami Tulsidas, Jnaneshvar Maharaj, and Eknath Maharaj—broke with tradition, translating great Indian epics and scriptures into the vernacular of the common people. In this way, they made sacred knowledge accessible to all whose hearts longed to experience it.

Others—like the shopkeeper Tukaram Maharaj, the housemaid Janabai, the tailor Namdev, and the weaver Kabir—used everyday language and imagery to describe sublime mystical experiences and truths in their songs. Even uneducated villagers and farmers could learn and sing these bhajans and abhangas and, thereby, invoke the direct experience of God's presence as they went about their lives, doing their work and caring for their families.

The Poet-Saints and the Siddha Yoga Path

The poems and songs of the poet-saints of India have always held a special place in the teachings of the Siddha Yoga Gurus. When Baba Muktananda was a young monk, wandering throughout India in search of the great being who would reveal the Truth to him, he returned again and again to the state of Maharashtra, drawn in part by the songs of the poet-saints who had lived there over the centuries.

Later, through his books and the talks and satsangs he gave as he traveled throughout the world, Baba Muktananda made the sacred Siddha Yoga teachings available to people in all walks of life, in ways they could easily grasp—as the poet-saints had done. Very often, in the middle of a talk, Baba would illustrate a point by breaking joyfully into one of the songs of the saints.

Gurumayi, speaking about the poet-saints in A Sweet Surprise 2018, expressed her high regard for these great souls, who inspired the practice of satsang throughout India. Gurumayi's love and appreciation for these saints has long been demonstrated by the way she has made their poems and songs available through her teaching events and recorded CDs. With Gurumayi's guidance and encouragement, many Siddha Yoga musicians have learned to sing the hymns and songs of the saints.

During the summer of the year 2000, children and young adults in Shree Muktananda Ashram enacted stories of the lives of seven beloved saints of India. For this series of dramatic performances, called The Golden Tales, Gurumayi set to music, arranged, and sang with the children devotional songs of such saints as Tulsidas, Mirabai, Surdas, and Kabir. These songs have been preserved on the CD, Sounds of the Heart.

Today, Gurumayi makes the songs and teachings of the poet-saints available to Siddha Yogis and seekers throughout the world. Furthermore, both Gurumayi and Baba continued the tradition of expressing sacred and subtle teachings through the medium of poetry. Gurumayi's books, Pulsation of Love, The Magic of the Heart, and Smile, Smile, Smile! are all composed in poetic form, as is Baba's book, Mukteshwari.

Learning through the Company of the Saints

Each of the poet-saints you will meet on this website is an enlightened being, established in the experience of the highest Truth. Through the effects of being in their good company, great numbers of people have come to recognize God's abiding presence within their own lives. The poems and songs these saints created continue to resonate with their wisdom, their vision, and the state of oneness in which they lived.

As you read the words of these saints and listen to their songs, I invite you to hold the understanding that you are in the presence of sacred knowledge. Even the simplest bhajan or abhanga is suffused with its author's direct experience of the Truth. Open yourself to receive what these great souls are conveying to you, and give yourself time to notice the effects of doing so. Reflect on how the wisdom of the saints applies to your own life and sadhana. Record in your journal what you learn and experience.

It is often said that we become like the company we keep. May satsang with the saints support you to recognize the Truth that exists in every moment within your own being and all around you.

 

1Swami Chidvilasananda, The Magic of the Heart (South Fallsburg, NY: SYDA Foundation, 1996) p 207.

About Swami Vasudevananda

teacher photo Copyright SYDA Foundation

Swami Vasudevananda has been following the Siddha Yoga path for more than forty years. In 1980 he took monastic vows to become a Siddha Yoga Swami. Throughout the decades, Swami ji has been widely appreciated as a thoughtful and compassionate teacher, and a wise and inspiring mentor of other teachers, writers, and speakers.

He is the author and co-author, respectively, of two year-long courses in the Siddha Yoga Home Study CourseThe Power of Siddha Yoga Meditation and The Power of Siddha Yoga: Path of the Heart. In 2015 and 2016 he was the teacher overseeing the series of Siddha Yoga Meditation Sessions via Live Audio Stream on the Siddha Yoga path website.

Swami ji is also author of the book Darshan: The Presence Within. He continues to share his deep understanding of the Siddha Yoga teachings in his role as an educational content developer for the SYDA Foundation.

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