This section is from the "Advices on Spiritual Living" book, by Sri Swami Chidananda.See also A Call to Liberation.
Worshipful Immortal Atman!
Blessed Seeker after Truth,
Om Namo Narayanaya. Salutations and greetings in the name of Gurudev Sivananda. May the inspiration of Gurudev's sublime spiritual teachings impel you ever onward upon the shining path of virtue, noble character and moral perfection. Let Gurudev's call to spiritual life take you onwards towards the goal of God-Realisation. Ethical living and spiritual striving constitute the very soul of Bharatavarsha. These two indicate the very essence of Indian culture. Take these two away from your life, then life becomes essenceless, meaningless and useless. Without these two factors the Indian Nation and the Indian Culture will be dead things. Remember this and be awakened and alert. Lose not these laving principles of India's existence. Keep them alive. Help to propagate these all over India, throughout the country.
Last month I shared with you my thoughts about the great soul, Bapuji. I tried to define Mahatma Gandhiji's personal Gospel of the Good Life. This wider teachings of National awakening and progress was also touched upon in the previous letter. This month it is the Lord's wish that I say something about our country's concept of ideal womanhood. A true lady, in the view of the Indian culture, is an embodiment of virtues. Modesty and chastity are the basic qualities of the Bharatiya Nari (Indian woman). Purity of character was indeed the very life of the true Indian lady. The great ideal before the Indian woman is undoubtedly the lofty ideal of Pativrata Dharma. This meant the chaste wife's total loyalty and fidelity to her husband whom she must love, revere and serve with deep devotion, looking upon him as her visible God. Except her husband there is no man existing for her. All men in the universe she regards as her children, feeling herself to be the mother of all humanity. For, in Bharatavarsha the woman is primarily glorified as the Mother and not as the wife. Her wifehood is but the concern of only one individual in the whole world and that is her lawful wedded husband, the Patidev. To the rest of mankind she is mother. This is instinctively recognised and accepted by everyone throughout India. Go anywhere in India you will find that in all the numerous vernaculars the universal common term of addressing a woman is mother. It is Mataji or Amma or Ma or Thayi etc. all meaning mother. The Pativrata Nari (woman) is verily a Goddess on earth. She is worshipped by the celestials. Her home is a heaven on earth. Everything she touches becomes sanctified. In her Divine Life radiates. She will become a worthy mother of noble offspring. The glory of such a Pativrata is indescribable. Such Pativrata upholds the entire nation, nay the entire world at large.
The ideal woman of India is also the ideal mother of her children. She is the first educator and inspirer of the unfolding soul in young children. Her home is the nursery of the generation of tomorrow. Queen Madalasa imparted spiritual consciousness to her infant sons. The mother of Shivaji inspired him and moulded him to become the defender of Dharma and Vedic Religion. The noble Sumitra blessed her only son Laxmana and willingly sent him to the forest to follow and to serve his elder brother Sri Rama. What wonderful courage and self-sacrifice and idealism on her part. With a great example to all mother, to be ready to set aside selfish affection for the sake of duty and righteousness. This is the true love of a mother; not deluded attachment merely.
November, this time, has a unique feature. It contains an unusual emphasis on Vrata because it has three Ekadasis or Lunar days of fasting. The 1st, 16th and the 30th of November are all Ekadasis. The first and the last are very special in that the Ekadasi on the first in the very sacred Hariprabodhini Ekadasi and the last one is the famous Ekadasi i.e. Gita Jayanti. It is very interesting to consider the spiritual aspect of these disciplines like periodical fasting, vigil, silence, etc. These entail self-restraint, self-denial and renunciation. They also imply your refusal to allow some particular sense of yours to give expression to its natural propensity. It means forgoing something you like to do. In this is involved the exercise of sense-control which in turn entails exercise of your will-power. On the whole it is a process of manifesting the dominion of the spirit over the flesh. Thus it is an invaluable aid in the process of awakening and manifesting spiritual consciousness. Understood in this light, such penances become significant and valuable not merely to the devotee or a Bhakta but it becomes equally important and effectively helpful even to a Vedantin or Raj Yogi who may start their Sadhana from the higher level of the mind.
The spiritual mechanics of a Vrata lie in the power of the seekers' genuine aspiration, overcoming the sense-urges of his physical nature, the desire-urges of the mental nature and the Adhyasa springing out of the ego-principle. This assertion of its choice and preference of love of God to love of earthly things becomes at once a token of its sincerity and earnestness as well as the recognition of the all fullness and self-sufficiency of the true self as opposed to the lower nature in man. The exercise of such self-restraint and self-denial when rationally practised can ignite spiritual awakening within the seeker. Amongst numerous Vratas fasting, vigil and silence have retained a unique place of their own not merely in the field of formal religion but more especially in the spiritual life of seekers in quest of Self-realisation.
The third Ekadasi in this month is also the sacred Gita Jayanti day. This year Gita Jayanti assumes a very special significance (and importance too). Because, the Bhagavad Gita was verily life itself to Mahatma Gandhi. Bapuji regarded the Gita as a veritable Mother to him. He declared that throughout his life the Bhagavad Gita has been to him a guide, friend, adviser, unfailing help and sure solution to all problems. He who turns to the Gita never goes away empty-handed. The Srimad Bhagavad Gita was Mahatma Gandhiji's constant companion, most favourite scripture and supreme source of inspiration, light and wisdom. He drew strength, courage and comfort from the Gita. It behoves the present Government of India to initiate a campaign to bring about a nation-wide interest in studying the Gita. The All India Radio must have a daily Gita period for Sri Dinanath Dinesh to recite one whole chapter of Gita every day. The different State broadcasting programmes should also start Gita recitations on their daily programme. The Spirit of Bapuji will surely rejoice.
Now, there is a request to make when this letter reaches you I would have already departed from South Africa for Mauritius and Rhodesia, etc. There is continuous touring and engagements throughout the months of November and December. I shall be moving from country to country. As such letter correspondence would be almost impossible due to continuous engagement in different places. Hence I would request that people may refrain from writing letters to me except in such matters that may be extremely urgent, or important and absolutely indispensable. Such letters can only be few and I shall try to attend to them as best as I can.
If there is any such matter of importance which you wish to communicate, then it may be addressed to my Nairobi camp which we shall reach on 17-11-1968. Such important letters could reach me here uptill 27th November. After that I shall be getting ready to depart for West Germany. The Nairobi address is c/o Sri D.N. Sodha, J.N. Sodha & Broshers P.O. Box 2128. Nairobi, Kenya, East-Africa. It will be my endeavour to attend to any such letters depending upon its urgency. It should be appreciated that while serving Gurudev in this part of the world I have necessarily to bestow my time and attention to Lord's children here. Hence this inability to devote time to letter writing.
The country will be observing this month the holy Birthday Anniversary of the great Hindu Saint and Religious Teacher, the worshipful GURU NANAK DEV of sacred memory. Among Hindu saints revered Guru Nanak holds a unique place of spiritual importance due to the fact that he worked to remove the superstitions and defects that had grown into the religious life of India and obscured the glory of Sanatana Dharma. Nanak Dev was a Mahapurusha (a great illumined soul) who came at a turning point in the history of Hinduism to reform it by clearing up the cumbersome burden of the rigid formalities, ritualism and ceremonial worship and preach the direct and simple spiritual approach to God-realisation by declaring the Yuga-Dharma or the special Sadhana of the present age, namely the practice of the Divine Name, the Sadhana of ceaseless remembrance (Smaran), service unto all beings (Seva) and the path of good conduct. The Path to God taught by Guru Nanak Dev is the greatest boon bestowed upon all of us in this age. Nam, Smarana, Seva, Sadachara, these constitute the supreme Sadhana of this age. The essence of religion and spiritual life was thus revealed by Guru Nanak and a great wave of spirituality was generated by him which raised up Hinduism to a new high level through his advent and divine teaching. The entire Hindu world owes a deep debt of gratitude to this great messenger of God. I earnestly appeal to all my beloved Sikh brothers and sisters who revere and honour this great holy teacher to come together in a loving unity with the entire Hindu fraternity by recognising in Guru Nanak Dev the great unifying factor. The esteemed Sikh fraternity must reflect well and understand that the great Guru Nanak whom we all equally revere and love would not have dreamt of creating a barrier and a division between the children of Bharatavarsha by his life and teachings. On the contrary Nanak Dev expounded the way of love, brotherhood, service and spiritual unity. Let all sons and daughters of India respond to Guru Nanak's call to spiritual life, love, Seva and Sadachara Jivan. Sanatana Dharma and the Path of the Ten Gurus are not contrary to each other but are complimentary currents in the progressive stream of India's spiritual life. They are twin treasures that really go together to enrich the cultural heritage of our country, its people and their religion and spiritual life. The great and grand organisation that came into being to defend the ancient Dharma of the land, now let it enrich and strengthen and beautify that same Dharma and help to support it in the midst of modern ungodly trends and currents. May Guru Nanak Dev become the focal point for a coming together in love and for a greater unity of all Indians whether they be Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Muslims or Parsis, because Guru Nanak's spiritual teachings are universal and thus are acceptable to one and all the lovers of God and Man and of Dharma! May we all honour and pay homage to his sacred memory in this way upon his holy Birthday.
Worshipful Nanak Dev is a great Hindu Saint, the holy Adi-Guru of the Sikh brothers, a national teacher of India and world awakener of the modern age. Glory to Guru Nanak! Long may his spiritual teaching be practised by thousands all over India and the world. May He continue to guide Mankind upon the path of Love, Service and God-realisation. Jai Satguru Nanak Dev!
Beloved Seeker, be intent upon leading the Divine Life of Truth, Purity, and Universal Love and Compassion. Practise the Sadhanas of selfless service, devotional worship, meditation and ceaseless inquiry into the supreme Reality which is your ultimate Goal and destination-divine. The leading of the Divine Life saves you from a hundred dangers and removes all affliction and misery. Doubt not, discuss not, nor argue unnecessarily about higher spiritual matters. But be rooted in faith and practise Sadhana daily. Never forget this important point. The essential thing is faith, sincerity, and practice. God bless you with Joy, Peace and Illumination.
With best regards, Prem and Pranams,
Yours in Gurudev,
1st November 1968
Sivanandashram Letter No. LIX
Hare Rama Hara Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare;
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare.
Om Namo Narayanaya! Salutation and my loving greetings to you in the name of Gurudev Sivananda. This letter brings you my very best wishes for a Happy New Year, Bright and Joyful, and containing twelve months filled with prosperity, progress, success and much auspiciousness, blessedness and peace. May Gurudev's Grace grant you great spiritual unfoldment and divine experience bringing to you peace, bliss and illumination! To my beloved fellow-seekers in India I extend my greetings for the most auspicious holy anniversary of the sacred Makarasankranti day, the day of the Uttarayana Punyakala. May this significant, sacred day mark for them a day of enhanced spiritual aspiration, for a whole-souled dedication to the quest of God over and above all other lesser objectives and pursuits of mundane life. Gurukripa shower upon you this Makarasankranti Day!
On Wednesday, the 23rd of October, 1968, came to a close my half year's visit of South Africa. After exactly five months and 12 days stay in this progressive republic, this servant left for the islands of Mauritius at the loving invitation of revered Sri Swami Venkatesanandaji Maharaj sent through the officials of the Divine Life Society in Mauritius. This stay, tour and service of the spiritual seekers and lovers of God in this beautiful country of S. Africa has been to me a matter of deep satisfaction and spiritual consolation. The devotion, the loyalty and the sincerity of all the members of the Divine Life Society of South Africa and its various Branches is most exemplary and worthy of highest praise. Everywhere I went I met conclusive proof and repeated confirmation of it and this filled my heart with great joy. Verily, it is not without reason that Sri Gurudev cherished such a great love towards his South African devotees, right from the start until the last days of his life. Our beloved Swami Sahajanandaji is Gurudev's living miracle. The South African devotees of Sri Gurudev are a spiritual treasure that Gurudev has bestowed to this great continent. These devotees and the Divine Life Society of S. Africa indeed constitute the blessing and an asset to social life of that country. Their loving work inspired by Gurudev's ideals in the interest of the religious life of the South African Indian community has done a very great deal to restore the genuine spirit of real Hinduism to that section of people, who were fast drifting away from their spiritual moorings and being swept away into the vortex of dry materialistic living and mere pursuit of sense-satisfaction. The practice of collective Sankirtana, Japa of the Ishta Mantra, regular study of spiritual literature, conduct of weekly Satsangas, periodical Sadhana sessions, all these have now become practices familiar amongst our people, thanks to the sincere work of the Divine Life Society under the leadership of revered Sri Swami Sahajanandaji Maharaj. Swami Sahajanandaji, with the broad-heartedness, universal vision and feeling of brotherhood, all qualities so much like Gurudev's nature, has become a unifying factor to the different sections of the Hindu community. They have all come to feel at home in the Divine Life Society, no matter to what particular religious subsection they may belong to by their family tradition and lineage. Not only this; even towards the people and groups belonging to other faiths a pattern of perfect tolerance has been demonstrated which has made the Divine Life Society and the Sivanandashram of Durban a by-word for universality and fellow-feeling. Sri Swami Sahajanandaji (and through him the Sivanandashram and the Divine Life Society, Durban) has become identified with all religious institutions, movements and groups in Durban so much so that it has evoked in all these quarters similar reciprocal feelings towards Gurudev's Divine Life Work. I thus witnessed an abundance of good-will created by this practical application of Gurudev's teachings and principles.
The same noble attitude and principle is followed by the Divine Life members in all the places, they function in S. Africa, Sri Les and Pat Pearson, through their Sivananda School of Yoga and Choto Govan and his colleagues keep up this ideal of service, devotion, tolerance and universality in Johannesburg. Sri Chavda, Munsook, V. Daya, P.D. Govender, Christi Reddy and their friends all work nobly in distant Cape Town. Mr. and Mrs. Buttner and daughter and O. Gopar and family of East London and Sri Velayudha Reddy and family and their friends at Port Elizabeth similarly spread these teachings in these two important cities. Sri T.V. Lilavathy Pillay and Dr. Padeyache keep alive this light in the historical town of Kimberley. Sri S.V. Sollier and his family with the loving co-operation of Sri Pat Pillay and family and with abundant good-will of Mr. F. L. Gteen, Director of the Daily Representative carry on this noble work in the beautiful and peaceful Queenstown. The direct personal guidance of Sri Desai and Narayananda make the town of Tongast an important Centre of this Divine Life work. The Centres of Stanger, Darnell and Dalton are similar outposts that usefully cater to the religions and spiritual needs of this semi-rural and purely rural communities of the above places. Merebank and Chatsworth near Durban are progressive branches and Mr. C.N. Chetty of the former is a dynamic worker in the cause. The price of place for an outstanding feature however goes to Pietermaritzburg devotees of Sri Gurudev. They have by their wonderful effort brought into being two beautiful Ashrams in this provincial capital of Natal. Thanks to the earnest work of Sri Bridgemphan and his friends Sri A.S. Pillay and Sri Morgan Naidoo, Mother Christi, Sri Krishnan and their colleagues. All this wonderful and noble work has made my visit and tour an inspiring experience, which I shall long remember with much admiration, immense satisfaction and great joy. I also express here my grateful thanks for their gracious gesture in giving a generous purse upon the eve of my departure from Durban on 21.10.1968 at the farewell Reception at Sivanandashram. This is a noble gesture indeed. May the Lord grant them a thousand fold in return.
I must record here my keen sense of gratitude and deepest appreciation to the South African Government, and specially to its Department of Indian Affairs, for the kind attitude and very sympathetic understanding towards my visit and my spiritual work in their country amidst their people. This was most encouraging. Local Officials in the different cities I visited tended to be helpful and co-operating in providing the needful facilities for this good work. The religious tolerance of the Government is noteworthy. Its helpful attitude is praiseworthy. The kindness shown to me by officials, small and big alike, in Government Departments I remember with gratitude. My thanks to them all. May God bless them.
My eight days' visit to Mauritius and my stay at the Sivananda Yoga Ashram under the gracious personal supervision of our beloved Gurubhai, the revered Sri Swami Venkatesanandaji Maharaj, is one of my most cherished memories in this present tour. Sri Gurudev is very active upon this island through the wonderful work of Swami Venkatesanandaji Maharaj. All the officials of the Divine Life Society of Mauritius and the entire following of brother Venkatesananda Swamiji, were kindness personified to this servant of Gurudev. They showered their love upon me and looked to my every little need. Gatherings were organised all over the island to receive my humble Seva unto the children of that island-country. My grateful thanks to one and all of them. May God bless them all.
Right here I wish to express to you the wonderful joy that filled my heart last month when I received a Cablegram from the Ashram informing me about the completion of the three crore and a half of the Mahamantra Likhita Japa to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of the Akhanda Mahamantra Kirtan Yajna at Sri Gurudev's holy Ashram. My heart verily danced with joy and sang in happiness when I visualised the spiritual rejoicing that must have marked the functions at the Ashram upon that divine jubilee. Indeed Sivanandanagar must have been a veritable Vaikuntha upon that blissful day thrilling with Nama-Sankirtana. I extended my heartfelt congratulations to one and all who have participated in this great Likhita Japa Yajna and contributed towards making up the aggregate total of three and a half crore of the sacred Mahamantra. Great is the blessedness and the unique good fortune of all those, who had joined this Yajna of the Divine Name and whose Nama-Dhana will now be enshrined permanently in the Divya-Nama-Mandir. You are indeed thrice blessed!
I send you all my heartiest greetings and Best Wishes for a Joyful and Auspicious New Year. May God shower His Divine Grace upon you all in whichever part of the world you are. May he grant you a Bright, New Year full of much Blessedness. Look back briefly to assess the valuable lessons you have learnt during the past year. Enrich yourself with this knowledge. Be wise. Move into this New Year equipped with this wisdom, wakeful and alert, hopeful and resolute, confident in faith and trust. Utilise every moment of the coming year profitably and to your highest gain. This is a Divine factor. Use it with reverence. Safeguard it as the treasure that it verily is. Utilised well, it can grant you success and prosperity that can bestow unto you bliss, peace and immortality. Be fully resolved to fill your New Year with much selfless service, much spiritual Sadhana, duties faithfully done, with Japa, Kirtan, meditation and Divine experience. Here and now create Vaikuntha and Satya-Yuga by your spiritualised activities and Divine Bhava. I wish yon a glorious New Year in every way.
At this time of the commencement of the New Year I wish to state my heartfelt thanks and gratitude to the numerous people, who have sent me their loving Greetings and gracious Good Wishes for the holy Christmas and the New Year. It is most kind indeed of all of them to remember this servant at the feet of Holy Master Sivananda and thus express their affectionate goodwill through their greetings. I thank each and every one of them from the bottom of my heart. To each I hereby express my sincerest good wishes for their happiness throughout the New Year. This Year also I would pray that all of you propagate the Prayer of Sri Gurudev. Let this prayer go around the whole world, enter into every heart and be upon everyone's lips. May this prayer be given place in all newspapers and periodicals throughout the length and breadth of the country. May God bless you all with spiritual Light, Joy and Divine Peace. May the Lord inspire you to stick to the noble path of spiritual aspiration, service, Sadhana and God-realisation. May each day find you advancing higher and higher towards the glorious goal of Divine Perfection. Om Namo Bhagavate Sivanandaya! Jai Gurudev!
With my best regards, Prem and Pranams,
Yours in Sri Gurudev,