Thursday, May 24, 2018 | Last Update : 12:10 AM IST
This book is about Sri Sivabala Yogi, born as Sathyaraju Allaka on January 24, 1935, in a small village of Adivarapupeta in Andhra Pradesh.
Former Army Chief late Gen. Bipin Joshi used to say that India is a land marked by the tapasya of many saints and spiritually elevated beings. Tapasya translated in English as “penance”, really means much more in the context of Hinduism as it is a way of life based on austerity, minimalism, distance from materialism and meditation. Whenever General Joshi mentioned this, he implied that our enemies do not realise what they are up against.
This book is about Sri Sivabala Yogi, born as Sathyaraju Allaka on January 24, 1935, in a small village of Adivarapupeta in Andhra Pradesh. His father, Bheemanna, was a poor weaver who died before Sathyaraju was three. Raised by his mother, Parvatamma, and maternal grandfather, Goli Satham, they were among the poorest in the village. Sathyaraju was by nature extremely determined, honest and found untruthfulness and injustice particularly difficult to tolerate. On August 7, 1949, when he was 14 years of age, Sathyaraju experienced Samadhi (enlightenment) while sitting on the bank of the Godavari irrigation canal just outside the village.
The author, an Indian Army officer, who prefers to be known by his pen-name, Gurprasad, had spiritual leanings from his young days. Though he read a number of books on the teachings of many saints and sages, his quest for divine knowledge fructified only when he was initiated in the discipline of meditation by Sri Sivabala Yogi in April 1977. Over the next few years Sri Sivabala revealed to Gurprasad the divine knowledge, which he has presented in a question-answer form in the book, This format helps in understanding the acts and terminologies to any beginner aspiring to become spiritual and even aims to convince the person to become spiritual.
What stands out about Sri Sivabala Yogi is his insistence on sustained sadhana (spiritual practice). To those who he gave deeksha (initiation), involving the process of initiating a devotee into spiritual life, he neither recommended any rites or rituals, nor the need to join any sect or attend camps. He only stressed on daily practice of mediation — the act or effort of concentration and controlling the mind.
Having interacted with and interviewed many soldiers on their battle experiences related to close encounters with death, constantly facing the risk of death or disability, fear in the battlefield and how it is overcome, what motivates them to acts of tremendous bravery, determination, how they deal with or treat the enemy captured by them etc, this writer found some significant facts emerging. These were that most of very brave/courageous/valiant and as such, real life heroes, are basically simple/modest persons, large-hearted, generous to others’ faults or weaknesses, with good sportsman’s spirit and mainly, having survived against many odds in the battle when many of their comrades did not, they are quite close to spiritualism or have quite a potential in them to become spiritual.
Gurprasad is one of the several Army officers who became full-fledged devotees of Sri Sivabala Yogi. Two more known names are late Lt. Gen. Hanut Singh, deeply spiritual and highly revered as a very sharp military mind on armoured warfare and Lt. Gen. Ajai Singh, former Governor, Assam. While all these three are from the tank regiment, Poona Horse, nick-named by Pakistan army as Fakhr –e-Hind (pride of India), many other armed forces officers became Sri Sivabala Yogi’s devotees or at least attended his discourses at his ashrams in some of parts of India.
Chapter 1 of the book is a preliminary introduction to this work and the need for it. The central theme of these teachings is a control of mind and the use of one’s intelligence to earn divine grace as the way to achieve control of mind. This chapter also lays out how best to study this work and the following chapters.
Chapter 2 outlines what a spiritual journey entails and how one embarks upon such a journey, stressing the importance of a guru (spiritual mentor). Issues pertaining to the method of practice, including place, posture, timing, diet, sleep, etc. are all covered.
It advises readers to contemplate on the teachings in the book and imbibe their meaning i.e. make these as a part of one’s mental being. The next step is to act on the conviction and practice the teachings. It lays out the attributes that help calm the mind and guide how to cultivate desirable attributes so that one’s practice of a spiritual path can fructify.
Chapter 3 discusses the nature of reality, and elaborates on maya (ignorance, or the power of illusion used by the Lord) and its effect and endeavors to explain a broad knowledge of the genesis of creation.
Also dwelt upon are leela (divine play), an individual’s place in the divine scheme of things and the functioning of the individual mind and its control in great detail. What is mind? How does it function? What is implied by control of mind? How is it disciplined and purified? Why is it so difficult? What is the kind of effort and the guru’s grace? All this and much more, including the role of intelligence and will power in controlling the mind have been highlighted.
Chapter 4 provides detailed information about the five basic paths available to spiritual aspirants — the path of service, the path love and devotion, the path of yoga, the path of knowledge and the path of Silence — and how they help in controlling the mind. Also delved into are samadhi and tapas.
Chapter 5, the longest of all, is on the life of Sri Sivabala Yogi and is indeed fascinating. Readers are encouraged to read this first and then the other chapters. In today’s world, where many charlatans have succeeded in fooling not just the gullible masses but even the wise and well read, this book is recommended as a wake-up call. It is a very heavy reading, but worth the effort.
The writer, a retired Army officer, is a defence and security analyst based in New Delhi