Worshipful Immortal Atman!
Beloved Seeker after Truth,

Om Namo Narayanaya! Loving salutations in the name of Sri Gurudev and Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of our Nation who dedicated his entire life to an attempt to re-establish the ethical ideal in the life of the people of our country. The period from 2nd October, 1968 to 2nd October 1969 is verily a hallowed 12 months, for it will constitute the Gandhi Year. It is a blessed year marking the centenary of this truly Great Soul's advent upon earth. To me this Gandhi-year really signifies a Rama-Nama Year as well as a year of Truth speaking, Promise-Keeping, Self-Searching, Fasting and Praying and Selflessly Serving. To me all these mean Gandhiji. He also means to me unfailing daily prayer, deep love for India, an identification with villagers and their villages. He also means self-control, moderation, rejection of chemical drugs and trust in Nature. To follow these ideals that he embodied and practised in his life is the most essential and indispensable part of this Centenary celebrations. May God inspire each son and daughter of Svatantra Bharatavarsha to turn to Gandhiji as a guiding Light in the path of the nation's onward march. Enough has India suffered by rejecting the Gandhian way of life. Let the country's main task in the observation of this Gandhi Year be a restoration of the Gandhian way to its right and proper place in the life of the nation which seems to revere Gandhiji but does not heed his golden teachings. Here is now an opportunity to set right this error and accept the Wisdom Light of his teachings back in to people's daily life. This is the nation's chance now.

Sri Gurudev Swami Sivanandaji had great admiration for Mahatma Gandhiji. He held him in high veneration and concurred with his ethical teachings. Gurudev considered Bapuji as the foremost exponent of Nishkamya Karma Yoga in this age. Referring to him Sri Gurudev has written, “Study the autobiography of Mahatma Gandhiji. He did not differentiate between menial service and dignified work. Scavengering of the latrine was the highest Yoga for him. This was the highest worship for him. He himself had cleaned the latrines. He had annihilated this illusory little ‘I' through service of various sorts.

“Many highly educated persons joined his Ashram for learning Yoga under him. They thought that Gandhiji would teach them Yoga in some mysterious manner in a private room, and would give lessons in the science of Pranayama, meditation, abstraction, awakening of the Kundalini, etc. They were disappointed when they were asked to clean the latrine first, and left immediately. Gandhiji himself did the repairing of his shoes. He himself used to grind flour and would take upon his shoulders the grinding work of others also, when they were unable to do their allotted portion of work for the day. When an educated person, a newcomer, felt shy to do grinding work, Gandhiji himself would do this work in front of him, and then the man would do the work himself from the next day, willingly.”

Sri Gurudev regularly sent each and everyone of his books to Gandhiji, whenever it was printed. The Divine Life Magazine and Gandhiji's Harijan Magazine were in exchange. Towards the closing period of his life, Pujya Bapuji had a desire to spend sometime in silence and seclusion quietly in Uttarakashi. His well-known secretary, beloved Sri Mahadev Desai, came to Uttarakashi to personally inspect the place and fix up a suitable hamlet for Gandhiji. Sri Jugal Kishore Birlaji undertook to provide facilities and accommodation, in the Himalayas. Sri Mahadev Desai came to Sivananda-Ashram to consult and get advice from Sri Gurudev in this connection. Pujya Gurudev endorsed this idea and heartily recommended that Gandhiji should certainly avail himself of such Ekanta. But, alas, his work among people so claimed him that he was never able to fulfil this inner urge for silence and seclusion.

In the year 1946, this servant had the unique blessedness of having a private meeting with Bapuji when I went as an emissary of Gurudev taking with me a set of his books as a present to Gandhiji and conveying his greetings, love and good wishes. It was in New Delhi in the summer of the year 1946 and I was a junior Brahmachari of the Ashram and in my 29th year. Gandhiji was then putting up at the Bhangi Colony at the northern end of Reading Road (now Mandir Marg) where it met the Panchkuye Road. At 2.30 p.m. on a torrid June day, I went into his presence inside a thatched mud-hut, where he was resting on a long wooden plank, with a moist towel round his head. I salutated him placing my forehead at his feet. Bapuji made kind enquiries about Gurudev and remarked that he was receiving all valuable books by Swamiji. When I presented the bundle of books, he had the bundle untied and took up and glanced through each one of the eight or ten books I had taken with me. He knew of the work of the Divine Life Society and voiced his warm appreciation. I sought his blessings for my spiritual life. Bapuji replied that I was already blessed that I had the good fortune of the guidance of a holy saint like Swami Sivanandaji. And he added, “May the Almighty grant you His Grace in your quest.” While departing I asked him for a message to Gurudev. He replied, “What message can I give? Swamiji's message of spiritual living is inspiring thousands all over the world. We need such good work, Please convey to him my Pranam.” While saying this Gandhiji brought his palms together in Namaskar. I took leave giving place to other visitors waiting outside. That was the last time I saw him. During the week before this interview I attended Bapuji's evening prayer meeting on two days. Bapuji was a Karma Yogin, a devotee of stupendous faith and a saintly man whose depth of humility has left an indelible impression upon this servant. Gurudev beamed with affection and joy when I narrated about this meeting with Mahatma Gandhiji and about what I felt in his presence. Subsequently, Bapuji did send a brief message to Sri Gurudev.

I read regularly all Bapuji's writings appearing in the Harijan. I also read ‘the Unseen Power' compiled by Sri Jeg Pravesh Chandra, “Gita the Mother”, “Self-restraint vs. Self-indulgence” and such other books of Gandhian teachings. The little book of prayers and Bhajans, the “Ashram Bhajanavali” has ever been a favourite book of mine. In the December of 1947 I was physically ill during the Autumn material season. Sri Gurudev sent me and Gurubhai Sri Swami Visveswaranandaji Maharaj to Nagpur in Central India for medical treatment under a pious doctor-devotee, Sri B.A. Vaidya. He had his clinic at Dhantoli and was a highly respected honorary physician in the well-known Mayo Hospital of Nagpur. He got me admitted there for treatment and while at Hospital, the sudden shocking news of Bapuji's passing away reached us there on the hospital radio. The entire hospital staff was stunned. I remembered they had a prayer meeting to which I was called though I was a patient there.

You will note that between the Divine Life Society's cardinal principles and Gandhiji's own ethical principles there is a complete identity. Both Gurudev and Bapuji insisted upon Satyam-Ahimsa-Brahmacharya as the indispensable basis of the Good Life and the very essence of Sadachara. They gave to character the highest place in human values. Moral principles and ethical conduct came first in the teachings of both of these great sons of modern India. Thus Ahimsa, Satyam, Brahmacharya and prayer, selfless service and practice of the Divine Name constitute the identical fundamentals of both Gandhism and Divine Life. These also comprise the very basis of Gandhiji's and Gurudev's personal life. May God give unto all the children of Bharatvarsha the inner strength and aspiration to practise these great precepts and live a life according to these principles. May the sublime memory of Gandhiji's life and teachings inspire you to grow into an ideal person and fulfil the sublime pattern of the Good Life. Glory be to Mahatma Gandhi. May you all join whole-heartedly and work earnestly to celebrate this Gandhi Year in a worthy, dynamic and effective manner. I wish you every success in this immediate noble task which is the duty and the privilege of every Indian.

There is a unique significance in the occurrence of the holy Vijayadashami day (Dassera) on 1st October, just one day before the 2nd October which inaugurates this Gandhi Centenary year. The Divine Mother's victory over demons or Asuras is not to be regarded merely as a long bygone event in some remote mythological age in the forgotten past. If, year after year this annual Vijayadasami day just means the memory of some fossil event of the distant past, the observance would be meaningless and quite devoid of a currently dynamic content. This is not so. It has a vital implication for today, and for here and now, to us. This day is meant as a day of dynamic reassertion of our firm faith in the power and ability of the higher forces in man to overcome and subdue the baser instincts and urges of the lower self in human nature. This day is meant to provide scope repeatedly for man and the world to correct themselves and recover their lost ground and forge ahead in their progress towards idealism. It is a day of hope, of renewed self-confidence and fresh efforts to establish the rule of righteousness in your heart. Let the significance of the close association of Vijayadasami and Gandhi Jayanti this year be well recognised. Conquest of evil must be followed with the practice of good. May the Indian nation as a whole enter into a glorious new day of moral awakening and ethical progress under this sublime auspices of Mahatma Gandhiji's Shatabda Samvatsar or Centenary Year. May the muck and darkness of untruth and impurity in private and public life, in individual and collective life, now vanish and give place to the good life of truth, purity, nobility and morality. Thus, may you all people of good-will join hands from the Himalayas to Kanya Kumari, from Assam to Punjab in heralding the advent of the real Divali. Prepare thus for the coming Festival of Lights and worship of the Divine Mother Mahalaxmi, the Goddess of auspiciousness and blessedness. May She Shower Her Grace upon you all.

You are surely contributing Mantra writing to the Mahamantra Yajna on 3rd December. I urge you all to contribute the maximum possible quota of Likhita Japa towards this spiritual undertaking. Ever since I made known this Japa Yajna project to the devotees in South Africa more and more people have commenced the Mantra writing. During my ten days' stay in Johannesburg in August, the devotees there already put a quota of 80,000 Mantras before I left them. They will be sending the Japa Sankhya direct to the Ashram in the 3rd week of November. I call upon you and all your family and friends to vigorously carry on this great Likhit-Japa Yajna. There is a special reason for my saying it. Different Yugas have their distinct Sadhanas for attaining God. Thus what used to be attained through penance, ceremonial worship and meditation in the previous Yugas is now attainable in this present age through the practice of the Divine Name. Nama-Sadhana is Yuga Dharma in the spiritual field in Kali Yuga. In the various forms of Nama Sadhana like Japa, Kirtan, etc. Likhit-Japa has a very important place. It effectively brings the concentration of mind by binding down the practitioner's total attention in this unique integrated process of the Mantras to the accompaniment of audible repetition of the same. Practise it and experience it for yourself. You will see the amazing effects it has of arresting the wondering mind and giving you peace and concentration.

Move onward. Time does not stop. Life hurries by. You must be active in spiritual life as the minutes and hours fly past, as days and months flow by and as the years roll on. You must progress onwards and ascend higher and higher towards the pinnacle of Divine Perfection. Attain this glorious destiny. You are born for it. May your days be filled with Light. With calm resolution, with bright hopefulness and with cheerful boldness proceed without pause upon the blissful path of spiritual life. In joy move forward, in joy carry on Sadhana. Attain supreme Joy.

Before I conclude let us offer salutations to the noble Bali Chakravarti, who is a supreme example of the highest and the ultimate Sadhana of Nava Vidha Bhakti, namely Atmanivedana. Bali Chakravarti's greatness called forth the advent of the Lord as the Divine Vamanavatara. In this form the Lord accepted the supreme self-offering of the great king Bali Chakravarti. On the 22nd of this month numerous devout people worship king Bali of hallowed memory. We also salute the illustrious sage Yajnavalkya; this month ends with the birth anniversary of this greatest Jnani of the Upanishadic era. I shall now leave you to look forward to the solemn six-day worship of Kartikeya Bhagavan during the period of the annual Skanda Shashthi Puja. May the blessings of the resplendent Siva-Kumara, who is Wisdom and Divine Power personified, bestow upon you fullest success in spiritual life and grant you bliss, peace and immortality. I pray for the welfare, prosperity and happiness of all beings in the entire universe. Om Sri Sharavanabhavaya Namah.

With regards, Prem and Om,

Yours in Sri Gurudev,
Swami Chidananda
1st October, 1963

Sivanandashram Letter No. LVIII