This section is from the "Advices on Spiritual Living" book, by Sri Swami Chidananda.See also A Call to Liberation.
Beloved Immortal Atman!
Blessed Seeker after Truth!
Om Namo Narayanaya! Loving salutations and greetings in the holy name of Gurudev Sivananda. May the spirit of his Divine Life Message he rekindled in your heart with new freshness and vigour at this moment, when the season of Spring is in its peak point and will soon lead on to the Summer. All life is quickened, newly activated in the vernal season and I pray that a perennial spring season may reign within your heart and may keep ever-fresh flowers of moral loftiness and spirituality there in.
With the advance of spring and the eve of Summer a challenge faces you in great urgency today. Rains have failed in number of areas in our country. People are facing desperate situations of thirst and starvation. Those of you who are fortunate and safe must stir yourself and see what you can do to help your brothers and sisters of the drought-stricken areas. Give up the mentality of thinking that this is the problem of Government and as long as you have paid your taxes dutifully your responsibility ends. This is not quite so simple. As a civic entity your duty might have ended with the paying of the taxes. But as a moral and spiritual entity your duty now stands squarely before you. It calls you. Yours is a moral responsibility and a religious duty before the gaze of God Himself. Religion means active compassion. Devotion means service. Love means sacrifice. Spirituality means feeling the sufferings of others and entering into their experience and struggling to relieve them by all possible means accessible to you. Spirituality without compassion and active service to those in distress is a spurious spirituality which will take you nowhere. Rush to the aid of those in distress. Think of ways and means of how best you and your friends, associates and relatives can join together and give urgent and immediate help to those in travail now. God is to be worshipped equally in this manner too. Let your Bhakti and love for God manifest itself in service to the living God that is before you suffering in the garb of starving men and children and cattle.
The vision of Adi Sankaracharya and sublime compassion of the great Lord Buddha claim your serious attention at this hour. If you call yourselves Indians, if you recognise your heritage in the lives and examples and lofty teachings of these two unique persons, if they are still enshrined in your heart and if you remember them both upon the eve of their sacred Birth Anniversary, then behold, see the one as man manifest in all living beings, in the starving, in the diseased, in the poverty stricken, in the suffering and the sorrowing people in endangered areas, where drought, famine and epidemics afflict countless of your brothers and sisters. See Shiva in Jiva as the great Vivekananda Swamiji put it and worshipfully offer your compassion as your Maha-Aradhana to this Divinity Manifest as man. Set aside for a while your comfortable religion of early morning bath and your temple Pradakshina and Gayatri and Gita Parayana and take up the worship of the living God at this time of need. Let your religion be the religion of service. This is the moment, when your religion is on trial and you are being tested upon the touchstone of the actual realities of life. Know now what your religion means when it comes face to face with life and its pains. You cannot escape this issue that confronts you. You cannot and should not hide your head under the sand. Demonstrate in the laboratory and testing ground of dynamic life what your religion has done to you and what it has made out of you. If your religion has not made you selfless, sympathetic, serviceful and sacrificing then bundle it up and throw it into the sea. It is not religion. It is delusion. Start a new and begin to become truly religious. Behold the presence of God in all and worship Him through ceaseless service in dedicated spirit. Trample down your selfishness. There is no greater disease than selfishness O Seeker! Cleanse thyself of this disease and become beloved of God. Religion must be living and it must enter into your daily life. And it must regulate your relations with the rest of your fellowmen. Otherwise it is at best lop-sided and little understood, and it defeats its own purpose and will avail you nothing.
Let the Atma-drishti, the Atma-Bhava of Adi Shankara lighten up your approach to life. Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma, Sarvam Brahma-Mayam, declare the voice of the spiritual Idealism that is your life-breath. This vision must be translated into action if your cultural Idealism, your spiritual concepts and religion must become a living force for progress and achievement for you. Awake then and LIVE YOUR RELIGION and SPIRITUALITY. Divorce not your religion from your daily life. Do not divide God and man apart. Religion and life, God and man, they constitute a mystical unity and whole. Recognise and apply this. Practise this awareness. You cannot love God and neglect man. You cannot worship God and ignore suffering humanity. Love and worship God. Befriend and serve thy fellow beings. This is religion. This is what Buddha and Sankara would have you do. It is not only necessary to Be Good but it is even more necessary to DO GOOD whenever and wherever life demands it of you. It does so now!
The religion that does not manifest in dynamic daily practice, that does not enter into the very fabric of your character and nature (Svabhava and Achara) and does not infill every little thought and act of yours, that religion will die. It will not live because it is not a living, throbbing reality to you. It becomes as a burden of dead bones. Religion is life.
Make it a purely subjective process and keep it away from your active daily life in the midst of your fellow-men, - by this isolation of your inner from the challenges of your outer living, by this divorce from reality, it loses all vitality and will stagnate. There will be no growth, no progress or development and no attainment. It becomes static and sterile. It becomes as a fossil - pretty but pretty useless. You will just be religious person with no religion in you. Religion means nearness to God. Religion means awareness of God's Presence not only as a theological fact but also as an indwelling Reality in all forms of life around you. Religious life is more than bath and Puja and Parayana, more than visiting temples, performing ceremonies and going on pilgrimage or even mere Japa and Sadhana only. Religious life implies, must imply for you a life of responsiveness to this inescapable fact of God's Presence in everything everywhere around you. It implies your active recognition of this fact that God is here. He is right here in these men and things I am dealing with, I am living amidst and working together in partnership with. It means this recognition and the natural result of it, namely the coming into your life of a heightened sensitivity to the essential divine quality of all things and beings, a reverence towards this Universal manifestation (Virat or Vishvaroopa) of the Supreme Spirit and a feeling that all human life and activity is a process of spiritual communion with the Supreme Being immanent in His creation. Thus you enter into relationship with your God through your life and work. You draw nearer to Him day by day. You approach your goal with each fresh dawn and each new sunset. This is the technique of constant spiritual progress and continuous spiritual unfoldment. It is the secret of true Religion. It is Religion-man's nearness to God and God's Presence in man.
This spirit is vitally necessary for you. For then alone it will be a living force in you to combat the downward pull of the lower nature in you. This power alone can oppose and overcome the assailing unspiritual factors in life with which you will have to continuously contend. Again and again you will have to invoke this higher Shakti in your earnest Sadhana to annihilate the baser Rajasic and Tamasic elements of the lower nature that persist and tend to prevail in your life. Again and again you should determinedly destroy and overcome this opposition within you and establish the rule of pure Sattva and the Daivi-sampatti in your nature. This is the process unfolded in the life of the divine Parashurama Avatara that we recall this month by observing the anniversary of Parashurama Jayanti. In this process the unregenerate gross undivine aspect will contrive to entrench itself behind unassailable conditions of persistence by numerous devices, as the demonical Hiranyakashipu did of yore. It is then that even in Yoga and in Sadhana Life dynamic Rajas has to be added on to your essential basis of pure Sattva - refer the emergence of the Man-Lion, the great Narasimha Avatara that ultimately put down Hiranyakashipu.
Power of will, spiritual determination and a pervasive opposition to the undivine in all its aspects and all its details becomes the form of this overcoming. Hence the need for your spirit of religion to interpenetrate into every phase and activity of your day-to-day life. Then it becomes the upholder and support of your moral and ethical nature which is the very foundation of the supreme spiritual Illumination. Religion and moral-ethical life are interdependent and mutually indispensable, the one to the other. Remember, Reflect, Meditate and LIVE this truth, this law. Then you will realise the Divine Reality that is behind this law. May God bless you! May you understand the essence and the secret of Religion, Sadhana and Realization and attain the Highest Blessedness and Bliss in this very life! My prayerful Good wishes ever abide with you Beloved Seeker of God!
With regards and love,
Yours in Sri Gurudev
1st May 1967.
Sivanandashram Letter No. XLI