Divine Life Society of Australia in Sydney hosts a tribute to Swami Chidananda – Ocean of Compassion
The Divine Life Society of Australia recently presented a drama entitled Ocean of Compassion on the life of Swami Chidananda (1916 –2008), its past president and one of the greatest Indian saints of the 20th century.
The production, commemorating his birth centenary year, was presented at Marana Auditorium in Hurstville, with over 300 audience and 100 participants, including many young members of the community.
A unique personality, Swami Chidananda brought humble offerings to the world, showing a compassion that flowed through his teachings that have reached many. Conveying the essence of Hinduism and yoga through his teachings was the main purpose of this production.
Shlokas were chanted as the curtain went up, setting the mood beautifully. A Bharatanatyam dancer acted as sutradhar (narrator), conveying the ideas with charm.
The first part of the drama emphasised Swami Chidananda’s belief, ‘Give, give, give, is the only way’. It traced his early life and the influence of his guru Swami Sivananda Saraswati, who chose a medical career and went to Malaysia to help treat poor labourers.
In his childhood, Swami Chidananda, known as Sridhara, was influenced by Lord Rama and Gandhiji. After losing his mother at the age of 10, he developed a keen interest in spirituality, and by 16, had become known as a compassionate person who would willingly lend a helping hand to anyone who needed it.
On Guru Purnima Day in 1949, Sridhara was initiated into the holy order of sannyas and became Swami Chidananda Sarawasti.
The second half of the drama depicted how as Swami Sivananda’s deputy, Swami Chidananda demonstrated his absolute oneness with all living beings, be they plants, insects, animals or humans. People with every type of affliction – lepers, the physically challenged, vision impaired, those intoxicated by drugs, distressed by miseries, the seekers for peace, were all nurtured by him and given new a lease on life.
Swamiji’s unique way of living his ideal of oneness extended to understanding all religions. He interacted reverentially with other saints and heads of all religions including His Holiness Pope Paul VI, Dalai Lama, Anandamayi Ma and other such spiritual masters.
A colourful ‘puppet’ show, with children acting as puppets, conveyed the single pointed dedication that Swami Chidananda had towards his Guru.
Swami Chidananda had always lived Guru Swami Sivananda’s words, “God first, the world next and yourself last” and believed that “giving is the only way.”
The finale was a culmination in pure joy when the devotees walked with the torch of love that lit up the hearts of all those present, filling them with the light of absolute bliss. The final scene with Swami Chidananda and Swami Sivananda standing together with the character Truth, surrounded by the disciples holding the torch of light, brought tears to the eyes of many.
Director Ambika Gibikote-Tadipatri told Indian Link later, “Having worked out the goal of the production, and considering the time and resources available, I was able to figure out the capabilities and feasibility of commitment of each of the sixty plus participants, most of whom were non-professionals. The beauty of this collection of participants, including the very youngest five year old, was that they felt the drama was their very own.”
Vijay Gokarn from DLS Sydney said, “Director Ambika’s depth of understanding for the subject matter and interweaving the storyline into the tapestry of drama, directing it to final perfection, was a miracle to watch. We would like to acknowledge Prasad, whose unbelievable tenacity and perseverance resulted in those stunningly wonderful props, such as the huge train to portray the Rishikesh train station, ably supported by the humble Sankar Ramiah and Srini.”
The show was proudly produced by Ananya Samarpana Performing Arts. It was worthwhile watching the little kids particularly, for whom a great story opened up allowing them to be inspired by and stay connected to their roots.