Death of beloved swami

2007-12-11 00:00

The spiritual head of the Divine Life Society of South Africa for the past 58 years, Sri Swami Sahajananda (82), died yesterday morning after a short illness.

A hallmark of Sahajananda’s leadership was an emphasis on service to the sick and the poor. In his time the Divine Life Society completed over 300 projects, many in remote rural areas, including the building of schools, old age homes, clinics, peace and skills training centres, hydroponic gardens and spiritual centres.

Tributes poured in yesterday, including a message from Premier S’bu Ndebele, who said: “Swamiji’s unassuming nature, humility, dynamic but silent leadership style and his unwavering commitment and contribution to the poor and needy, irrespective of race, colour or creed, will always be remembered”.

Swami Sahajananda was the recipient of over 40 awards, including the Martin Luther King Jnr Peace Award from the United States and the prestigious Pravasi Bharatiya Samman award from India.

Spokesman for the Divine Life Society, Pradeep Ramlall, said Swamiji shied away from publicity for his work, believing service must be given selflessly. He finally consented to accept them on behalf of his Master, Swami Sivananda, saying it was he who had founded the society, and guided it with meticulous care.

Ramlall said the spiritual leader led a very austere life. “He used to get up at 3.30 am to start his prayers and meditation. “

He was also involved in the printing and publication of thousands of books on Hinduism and associated topics, as well as books on peace of mind and moral regeneration. “From 1949 to date, Swamiji personally typeset all these books for more than 50 years.”

He led the organisation in feeding more than 3 000 school pupils daily since 1974; building ashrams in South Africa; building baptismal centres for the Shembe Church, and giving financial assistance to over 40 temples in this country and numerous institutions in India.

Swami Sahajananda was born in Estcourt on July 10, 1925, the seventh of nine children in the Srinivasan Naidoo family. He became a teacher and it was while in his first year of teaching at a school in his hometown Estcourt that he came across a book on the practice of karma yoga by Swami Sivananda. This was the start of his spiritual journey that saw him spend time in India before he became the head of the Divine Life Society of South Africa.

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