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 in the name of Gurudev and my greetings and good wishes to one and all of you.
This letter is being mailed to Rishikesh from the Sivanandashram at Durban, (South Africa). I despatch this with a special pleasure and eagerness. Because, I am now out of India and this letter provides me a valuable means of speaking my thoughts to you all, even though separated by thousands of miles from you, and a far distance away physically. I thank Gurudev for this facility provided through this medium.
This present letter I have commenced on board the ship CAMBODGE, on which I travelled from Bombay to South Africa. Since departure from the Bombay Harbour on Thursday the 2nd May, the voyage has been smooth on a calm sea under a clear sky and in bright sunny weather. The atmosphere being restful, the body has had an opportunity to relax and get a little rest without pressure of any programmes and engagements.
Prior to embarking on the voyage, the last two weeks in India were very busy ones; 24th of April was the busiest date at the Ashram. There were many leave-taking programmes including a special Satsanga in the forenoon in front of Gurudev's sacred Samadhisthana immediately after conclusion of Paduka Puja, offered to Gurudev. During that Satsanga I had the privilege of making revered and beloved Sri Swami Krishnanandaji Maharaj occupy my seat and declaring to the assembled gathering that they should all regard him as the Head of the Institution and that they would receive from him the same Bhava and the Seva as I have been trying to manifest towards them all. Sri Swami Krishnanandaji Maharaj also addressed the audience and gave them a brief account of the circumstances that have led to my undertaking this present visit to South Africa and what it meant in terms of Sri Gurudev's Spiritual Mission and His Institution, the Divine Life Society. During this talk he touched upon the unique work of the South African Divine Life Society and the excellent progress it had made since its inception in 1951 and revered Sri Swami Sahajanandaji Maharaj, who now guides the work from the Headquarters of Durban.
Taking leave of all Gurubandhus at the Ashram on 24th April, I arrived at Delhi the next morning for a full day's programme before leaving for Hyderabad the same night. The Delhi programme included a devout worship offered to Gurudev's Paduka (as it was Thursday) by Sri C. R. Sud and all his family at their residence, DIVYA DHAM at Bengali Market. The Swami Sivananda Cultural Association had arranged a send-off function at the nice auditorium of Pubjab National Bank on Parliament Street. At Hyderabad I had a full day programme with a similar send-off function in the evening, organised on behalf of all the Divine Life Society branches of Andhra Pradesh. Many delegates had come from the different DLS. Centres including delegates from two Centres outside Andhra Pradesh, namely from Khurda Road and Bellary. The Kovvur Divine Life Society Branch had prepared a special address for the occasion in addition to the address prepared by the Hyderabad Divine Life Society.
Bombay Divine Life Society branches arranged a number of programmes on the last two days I was in India, i.e. 30th April and last of May. Here also there was one main send-off function arranged on the forenoon of the 1st May at the Kannada Educational Society High School at Wadala. I wish to express here my deepest gratitude for the immense good-will and affection which these Gurubandhus have showered upon me on the eve of my departure.
Just before coming to Bombay for the abovementioned programmes I had the unique privilege of visiting His Holiness Sri Swami Muktanandaji Maharaj, at his Sri Gurudev Ashram, Ganeshpuri, and spending 3 days in his holy company. He is a well-known spiritual leader and disciple of the great Siddhapurusha, the worshipful Sri Nityanand Bhagavan. This visit is a fulfillment of a promise, made to the most revered Sri Muktananda Babaji Maharaj, when this servant had the joyous privilege of meeting him last time in February at Delhi. It proved to be a rewarding spiritual retreat, when I had the opportunity of visiting the sacred Samadhisthana of Nityananda Bhagavan as also of partaking of the Satsanga of revered Swami Muktanandaji Maharaj. The Ashram is beautifully kept up and very systematically conducted under the personal directions of revered Swami Muktanandaji Maharaj. The are many cottages, a fine Guest House and spacious Satsanga Hall called Turiya Mandir. Daily programme is very punctually carried out in an organised manner. Hari Nam Sankirtan, Gita-Patha and Vishnusahasranama-Patha are daily done by all Satsangas. Sri Swami Maharaj is generous-hearted and very charitable in nature. The beautiful garden gives joy to the eyes. Swamiji is an excellent organiser. Diamond Jubilee Anniversary of his Birthday was approaching at that time and those at the Ashram and all his devotees were busy in preparing for this important and special event. After taking the saint's blessings, I came to Bombay on the 29th night.
During the brief stay at Bombay I had the joy of visiting Sri Natvarlal G. Parikh, the great devotee of Sadguru Sri Swami Ramadas Maharaj (beloved Papaji) of Ananda Ashram. Sri Swami Ramadas Maharaj had graced Sri Natvarlalji's residence upon various occasions by staying with him while visiting Bombay. Sri Natvarlal Parikh has preserved with great reverence the chair, upon which Pujay Papaji used to sit, while staying with him. He also played for us the tape-recordings of the chanting of the holy Ram Mantra by Pujya Papaji himself as well as Pujya Mataji and other devotees.
The departure day, 2nd May, was especially auspicious and holy as it was both a Thursday as well as the holy Anniversary of Jagadguru Adi Sankaracharya's sacred Birthday or the Sankara Jayanti. Therefore, at the Harbour before going on board the vessel I was prompted to observe this holy Anniversary. Accordingly, we put up Gurudev's sacred Padukas upon a seat and with Swami Devanandaji's help duly conducted at the harbour itself Guru Paduka Puja with Archana, Arati etc. The holy Prasad was then distributed to all those who were present. Invoking the grace of Sri Dattatreya Bhagavan, of Adi Shankara Bhagavat Pada and of Sri Gurudev upon all the devotees present, I prayed to the Lord to confer upon everyone long life, health, spiritual progress, illumination and supreme spiritual blessedness. The Embarkation Hall resounded with the loud Sankirtan of the Lord's Name and the holy Chant of Maha Mantra and Maha-Mrityunjaya Mantra. After going on board the ship, we had a period of meditation and silent prayer in the specious lounge until all visitors were requested to leave. They all then got down from the ship and stood in a group on the pier and commenced to sing the Names of the Lord until the ship started to move away from the harbour soon after midday.
A number of devotees had travelled all the way to Bombay to participate in the farewell programmes and to give this servant a personal send-off at the harbour on the sailing day. The were Mr. & Mrs. Sud, Mr. & Mrs. A.D. Sharma, Sri K. M. Massand and Sri A. Sundaramji from Delhi, Sri U. V. Swadia from Baroda, Sri Sreyas Kumar Shah sent by his father Sri Suryakant B. Shah on behalf of Ahmedabad D.L.S., Sri Dr. Sivananda-Adhwaryooji Maharaj from Virnagar, Gujarat Divine Life Centre, and Sri Pranalalbhai Maharaj and his entire family from Rajkot. From Hyderabad D.L.S. Sri T. Venugopala Reddyji had come similarly to give personal send-off, from Poona N.V. Viswanathan (the brother of Sri N.V. Karthikeyanji of Hq.) had come with his revered mother. I wish to say how very much I appreciate this very kind gesture on the part of all these above-mentioned devotees, in having taken so much trouble in order to be graciously present to see me off. My many thanks also to the various kind devotees, who presented me with gifts of personal utility on the eve of my departure. Among them I must mention Sri Atmaram Nagarkarji Maharaj of Poona (father of Sri D. Nagarkarji of Sivanandashram) who had sent a Thermos Flask and a set of stainless steel vessels for my daily use specially monogrammed with my name in Hindi. I am grateful to him for his thoughtfulness and to others too, who gave their kind presents
In this connection I should not fail to mention the excellent gifts of free literature printed and presented to me by certain good friends for free distribution during this tour. The literature lovingly offered is firstly by Mr. Manchandani of Nilam Printing Press, Lajpat Nagar, New Delhi and Sri M.M. Massand, D.L.S. Lody Colony with the help of Sri A.D. Sharmaji, 74 Rabindra Nagar, New Delhi, 1000 copies of the booklet Key to World-Peace and Happiness' containing teachings from the main great Religions of the World, compiled by Gurudev Swami Sivananda (culled from a former similar booklet printed by Sri Gamadas of Sri Vidya Press, Kumbakonam, Madras State under the title Unity of Religions), the Universal Prayer with border, 20,000 copies of book marks, Divine Life for Children and art cards containing spiritual teachings on one side and the prayer on the other. Secondly, by Dr. Sivananda-Adhwaryoo big sized framable copies of Universal Prayer in Gujarati version and English version separately, with beautiful border and the Divine Life motto Serve, Love, etc. 1000 copies. Thirdly by Sri Raviraj Bhalla of Janta Press, Connaught Place, New Delhi similar framable Universal Prayer on large sized card and some small sized cards containing an inspiring paragraph of spiritual sentences. I am very specially grateful to the gracious persons responsible for the above-mentioned gifts. God bless them. Besides these, the Ashram press has also kindly contributed its item to this free literature in the form of an art card with a spiritual message on one side and the Universal Prayer on the other. Sri Swami Dayanandaji and Sri Narasimhuluji of the Y. V. F. A. Press were kind enough to expedite this work and get it ready in time before the departure date.
While writing this on board the ship, it is 4 p.m. and the sea is clam and there is a brilliant sunshine outside. Letters from South Africa to India seem to take about 8 days in reaching Rishikesh even when sent by Air Mail. Thus, this is likely to reach Sivanandashram in the later part of May for being sent to press with the Divine Life matter for its current June issue.
At this point, in the middle of the present year 1968, I would wish to urge you all once again to remember two important Yajnas being undertaken by Sivanandashram. These have been announced earlier in the Jan. and Feb. '68 issues of this journal to which I draw your attention again now. They are (a) Jnana Yajna Project and the (b) Maha-Mantra-Koti-Likhit Japa Yajna. The former will be found in the outer cover of the January issue. It is a special Yajna instituted last year (September 1967) under the auspices of the 80th Birthday Anniversary of Sadgurudev. The reprint of 5000 copies each of the two important books Practice of Yoga and Conquest of Mind is the objective. These two are invaluable major works of Sri Gurudev Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj of inestimable value to all the Sadhakas on the path of Yoga. The latter Yajna, namely, the Maha-Mantra-Koti-Likhit Japa Yajna is under the holy auspices of the Akhanda Maha Mantra Kirtan that has been going on since 1943 December. The writing of 3½ crore times Maha-mantra is the Yajna and its purpose is universal welfare, peace and progress of mankind towards a life of Dharma, unity and spiritual fellowship. Wonderful response from numerous quarters has been forthcoming towards this Likhit Japa Yajna. I would suggest that all devotees throughout India and abroad should join together and contribute and construct a special room to be termed Divya-Nama-Mandir wherein all the holy Likhit Japa received will be carefully preserved and reverently worshipped as Chaitanya Shakti of Satchidananda Parabrahman. I have not thought of the details of the design but this idea to befittingly enshrine the sacred Name has occurred to my mind and this I have placed before you for your active consideration and early action. Big contributions are not necessary. If a great number of people take part in this work even a small contribution of 50 paisas per person or one rupee per head will enable the construction of a suitable Nama Mandir. If the campaign is not extended to a great number of people but if it is confined to a limited number only then there arises the need for comparatively bigger contributions. However that be, it would be in the fitness of things if this construction is completed as early as possible, to be declared open on the auspices of this sacred Silver Jubilee. Otherwise the Likhit Japa received from numerous quarters is likely to be placed in different places due to want of a central place. It is my earnest desire that the sincere and devout efforts of countless seekers and Sadhakas do not go in vain. That should be befittingly perpetuated in the form of permanent collection of this most sacred Nama Yajna.
To all readers I would like to mention here that our Ashram (D.L.S. Hq.) has agreed to actively coordinate with the efforts of the Tehri-Garhwal District Leprosy Relief Association in its work of reorganising the Brahmapuri Leper Colony and putting it upon a stable financial basis. We have decided to co-operate in this work upon the special request of the above association, which is facing difficulty in carrying on its work. I therefore request all those who have a special interest in helping the cause of our brothers afflicted with this disease to make special contribution towards this work. They may be sent to Sivanandashram, Rishikesh in the name of the Divine Life Society P.O. Shivanandanagar, Dt. Tehri-Garhwal, (U.P.), with separate covering letter to specify the purpose of this remittance. In case you send your contribution by M. O., then please do not mix up, specifically earmark for this purpose alone. List of the contributions received each month will be published in the Divine Life Magazine of the subsequent month. This is a noble cause and all must help.
In this connection I must certainly acknowledge with deepest gratitude the very loving contributions graciously being given by the kind-hearted mother Mrs Banoo Ruttonjee, Sri Dinshaw Paowalla, Mr. & Mrs. B.N. Kaul and a couple of others, towards relief of the lepers in the locality.
Before I conclude, I must tell you of the blessed moment when the ship drew alongside the pier at Port Natal (Durban Harbour) and I had the Darshan of the worshipful Sri Swami Sahajanandaji, Gurudev's favourite spiritual child and spiritual representative in South Africa and all the most blessed souls assembled at the quay side to receive this servant. After going through the formalities of Immigration, Sri Swami Sahajanandaji personally came up into my cabin before I came down from the ship. We were meeting after 4 years and my joy was great. We sat for a couple of minutes of brief Satsanga offering our prayers to Sri Gurudev and to the Almighty Lord. We then went down to the assembled devotees patiently waiting since forenoon for the ship's arrival. There was joyous exchange of greetings, feelingful welcoming and devoted offering of beautiful carnations wreathed into Malas. We then had a little Kirtan and prayer right there on the pier and were soon speeding towards the Ashram in a car brought by devotees, with all our luggage following in the Divine Life Society-van. Half an hour's drive through the city brought us to its outskirts to the area known as the Reservoir whereupon a breeze-swept hillock stands the Sivanandashram. Down in the valley beside the Ashram flows the Umgeni river, our local Ganga here. It is wonderful to be at Sri Gurudev's Ashram in this land 6000 miles away from Sivanandanagar. I felt like arriving at home. After sitting out for a while with devotees, who were awaiting there, I rested for a little while and proceeded to the spacious Prayer Hall for an evening Satsanga, when I conveyed to all assembled devotees the affectionate good wishes and greetings of all my Gurubandhus of Sivananda Ashram, Rishikesh. Thus at last I was amidst these wonderful, devoted and dedicated children of Gurudev in this far-off land. I do not yet know what programmes await me here but you will know all about it in next month's South African letter.
The season of Satsangs and holy Yatra had already commenced at Rishikesh and nearby even before this servant had left Gurudev's abode. Now they must be in full swing in all the important institutions like Gita Bhavan, Paramarthaniketan, Swarg-ashram etc. This is the period when you can see the dynamic spirituality that actively fills this blessed area of the sacred Uttarakhand. Kirtans and Bhajans, prayers and spiritual practices, devotional gathering and discourses, reflection and meditation go on apace from morning till evening. Countless aspirants come from distant parts to renew themselves spiritually and to nourish their inner self with the nectar to be obtained in the blessed Satsangas that specially abound here during this period. The real inner India and the undying soul of Bharatvarsha is glimpsed here and you come face to face with a living culture that has braved many a storm and withstood the vicissitudes of time. As this letter reaches your hand many a thousands of your brethren of Bharata would be high up in the Himalayas rejoicing in the thrilling Darshan of Lord Badrinarayan and Kedarnath Shiva, in their remote shrines situated in the region of the snow-clad peaks of the Himalayas. Blessed seekers! wherever you are, may your life be rich with such Satsanga and Darshan. May your life be filled with worship, devotion and spirituality and ever be blessed with the awareness of Divine Presence. May your body mind and personality be a veritable holy Uttarakhand filled with purity, spirituality and God's Presence. May your inner self ever be seeking to be united with Divine Reality.With regards, Prem and Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya,
Yours in Sri Gurudev
Sivanandashram Letter Nos. LIV & LV
Worshipful Immortal Atman!
Beloved Seeker after Truth,
Om Namo Narayanaya. Salutations to you all in the holy name of Sri Gurudev Sivananda, to whose feet we have offered our heart's adoration and devout worship upon the holy day of Gurupurnima and the sacred Anniversary of his attaining to the Eternal. May the light of his teachings ever illumine life's path for you and may his sublime spiritual message of Divine Life inspire you to walk the noble way of truth and purity, of love and goodness and of service, worship, meditation and God-realisation. May Guru Kripa ever abide with you.
Last month I failed to communicate with you through this monthly letter and for this, you must pardon me. The matter for July Sivanandashram Letter got delayed in the post. Through the letter I had wanted to inform you that though away in South Africa I would yet participate in the holy worship of both the sacred days by conducting them here at the Sivanandashram, Durban. I am happy to inform you now that the Gurupurnima day was befittingly observed here with a full day programme of early morning prayer and meditation at 5.30 a.m. (it being mid-winter here now), forenoon Satsanga with Guru Padukapuja at midday, afternoon Sadhana hour at 3.30 p.m. when we read the Brahma Sutra Bhashya and a glorious night Satsanga with Kirtan, Bhajan, discourses, music etc, from 6.00 p.m. to 10.00 p.m. which concluded with a showing of movie film taken at Headquarters Sivanandashram, bringing Gurudev's glorious Darshan to the huge audience on that blessed day, and surprisingly enough the movie included a scene of Padapuja actually being offered by a batch of devotees to Gurudev in his Kutir. Thus was Gurupurnima.
My stay and tour of visits to Divine Life Branch Centres in different places in this country have been verily a revealing experience to me. I have been inspired to behold the depth of devotion people here have for Gurudev and the boundless faith they have in him. I marvel at the phenomenon and wonder at the way in which Sri Gurudev living in a small under-ground-cellar like room by the Ganges's Side in remote Rishikesh has yet reached out through his Satsankalpa and his lofty labours into this distant land and brought the light of Divine Life into countless homes here, inspiring people towards Dharma, Yoga and Bhagawad Bhakti. Their Guru Bhakti is exemplary and I feel humble before the living quality of the faith of these devotees in Gurudev, his holy name and his unfailing grace. It is thus that the spiritual mission is progressing across the ocean in such a far distant land through the miracle of dedicated work by the South African disciples of Sri Gurudev. My adorations to these noble souls, who have spread the light of Divine Life and Sanatana Dharma and Yoga in this land. Long may the light of Gurudev's spiritual gospel continue to shine in this land and throughout the rest of the world, too.
It is gratifying to note from some of the correspondence received from India that quite a number of D.L.S. Branches in India have taken the observance of Gurudev's sacred Mahasamadhi Aradhana in a very befitting manner with suitable religious programmes. In doing this some of them have remembered to place the necessary emphasis upon Gurudev's Jnana Yagna mission and thus have arranged to bring out very useful and valuable publications. Among such I may mention the Pattamadai and Rasipuram Branches and Bangalore and Mysore Branches.
At the time when you receive this letter you will all be looking forward to a month full of very auspicious and inspiring celebrations of different kinds. Already you would have finished observing the important Birthday Anniversary of Sant Tulasidas who blessed India with his immortal work, the holy Ramacharitamanas. The many-sided ideal of Lord Rama's exemplary personality has been brought close to the vast masses of common people by this boon conferred upon India by Sant Tulasidas. Lord Rama is enshrined in countless thousand of hearts today due to Sant Tulasidas. He has made the Ramayana a living force in a great part of India and thus endeared himself to the laymen, who know no Sanskrit. Sant Tulasidas is a benefactor of the nation.
An important religious Anniversary falls on the 8th. It is the Upakarma Day when millions in the nation will rededicate themselves to the sacred Gayatri Mantra. It is a day for the renewal of the sacred thread and for Gayatri Japa in a special way. Brahmacharins and Grihasthas alike are reminded of the vow of triple self-control. They resolve anew to turn towards the light and worship wisdom in their quest for illumination. On the 15th, while the entire nation will celebrate the advent of Lord Krishna, our beloved members in Maharashtra will observe in addition a similar anniversary i.e. the Jayanti of Sant Shri Jnaneshwar Maharaj, the bestower of the immortal work Jnaneshwari Gita. The last day of the month is Sri Radhashtami dear to the lovers of Sri Krishna and the Vaishnava devotees following the path of Prema Bhakti. Blessed Mother Radha shines as supreme embodiment of total self-effacement in an all-absorbing love of the Lord. Fervent hearts will thrill with inspiring and intense devotion MA RADHE. The holy village of Barsana will be turned into heaven upon this blessed day. I shall leave you all to this wonderful month of August by bidding you Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya.
May you be steeped in the pure bliss of the Lord's Name and of Divine Krishna Prema. May you ever abide in the peace and light of the Lord's Divine presence.
With kind regards, Prem and Om,
Yours in Sri Gurudev
1st August, 1968
Sivanandashram Letter No. LVI