From 1963 to 1987 Shri Swamiji travelled extensively throughout India, then Sri Lanka. From 1987 to 1991 He traveled to the U.K., U.S.A. and Italy. Everywhere He gave public programmes consisting of initiation into meditation (dhyana diksha), giving darshan in samadhi, evoking bhava samadhi (sometimes referred to as spiritual ecstasy), particularly during bhajans (kirtan, spiritual music) and distributing vibhuti and prasad as a form of blessing. He taught in silence through the power of his mere presence. He valued knowledge through direct experience far more than words. On one occasion Swamiji encapsulated His entire teaching in a simple phrase, “Do sadhana.”
Shivabalayogi Maharaj encouraged people to meditate for one hour each day. His message was often summarised with the following words:
“Know truth through meditation, then you yourself will know who you are, your religion, your purpose in life and your nature. Do not believe what others say and become a slave to religious prejudices. Meditation is your religion. Meditation is your purpose. Meditation is your path.”
Swamiji emphasised that it is not simply by closing one’s eyes that one meditates – the mind has to become quiet. On one occasion He advised Srinivasa Dikshitar (one of His close disciples who later became Shri Shivarudra Balayogi) “If you surrender mentally to your Guru through service then automatically your mind gets controlled.” Swamiji used to say that “Meditation means that a person will be sitting and closing the eyes. But sadhana can happen through dhyana (meditation), through bhakti (devotion) and through seva (service) and in so many ways when one is able to surrender to the Guru.”
The dhyana meditation technique taught by Shri Shivabalayogi (which He referred to as the Jangama Dhyana meditation technique) is as follows:
Sit, closing the eyes.
Concentrate the mind and sight in-between eyebrows.
Do not move your eyeballs or eyelids.
Keep watching there by focusing the attention.
Do not repeat any mantra or name.
Do not imagine anything.
Do not open eyes until the duration of meditation is over.
Swamiji explained that yogis use bhajans to awaken spiritual awareness and prepare students for meditation. Singing songs of devotion to God is an expression of the path of devotion (bhakti). Swamiji once said, “Yogi is love.” In the bhakti marga (devotional path), the spiritual seeker focuses their mind entirely on a particular deity or ‘Ishta’, which is their chosen object of devotion. Through this practice they lose the individual ego and gain a larger consciousness. This path is exemplified by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Mirabai and Shri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa.
“Bhava” denotes the mood of ecstasy and self-surrender which is induced by the maturing of devotion to one’s ‘Ishta.’ Addressing the understanding of true Bhava Samadhi, Shri Swamiji Himself would say,
“Everyone is in some sort of bhava of the guru because of their attachment to the guru. The mind’s attachment and devotion is the true bhava.”
Only when the bhava has fully ripened does the sadhaka (spiritual seeker) experience “bhava samadhi.” Spiritually mature sadhakas will usually not exhibit any outward signs which may be indicative of the depth of their experiences.
Shri Swamiji often used the expression ‘path of devotion’ (bhakti marga) to describe spiritual life. To some devotees He would say:
“You can win over anything with devotion. If God can be won over by devotion, rest assured that anything can be won by devotion. You have to come from devotion to practice meditation. Only then will you get Self Realisation. You should begin meditation with devotion. Chanting and bhajans are for devotion. They are the start for the spiritual path. Just like you go for the first class in primary school. It’s like that. Prayer, bhajans, homa, japa and all these things help you develop further and further on the spiritual path. Gradually they will bring you into the line of meditation.”
Giving prasadam (blessed food) was also very important for Him, and devotees often arranged for mass feedings of thousands of people. Shri Swamiji once explained the importance of mass feedings as follows:
“Look if you eat at a restaurant then it is simply food. But when the food is offered to God it becomes prasadam. During mass feedings if someone contributes even a little food to the occasion, that person’s bhava (the feelings of the mind) will be purified with this thought, ‘May my little contribution be helpful in the feeding of the poor and needy.’”