This section is from the "Advices on Spiritual Living" book, by Sri Swami Chidananda.See also A Call to Liberation.
Blessed Seeker After Truth!
Om Namo Narayanaya! Loving Namaskars.
Salutations and greeting to you in the holy name of Sri Gurudev Sivananda. May God bless you!
This letter is being written to you from Utkala- Pradesha (Orissa), the territory sanctified by blessed Lord Jagannatha, who presides over this part of Bharatavarsha from the sacred city of Puri. May the Divine Grace of Sri Jagannath Bhagawan ever be upon you all. This time I shall take you along with me quickly over a tour of A.P. and Orissa, where as you know this servant of Gurudev has travelled to attend two Divine Life Conferences, namely, the 10th Andhra Pradesh and the 2nd All-Orissa Divine Life Conference. Our party and myself left for Delhi on the morning of the 25th December, 1966 reaching there in the evening. We could not leave as usual by train the previous night because the 24th was the important annual day of holy Christmas observance and so I had to participate in the Ashram until midnight in this celebration of joy and adoration. It was a wonderful occasion. Upon reaching Delhi the next day I had the happy good fortune of meeting and paying my homage to His Holiness the Jagadguru Sankaracharya Swamiji Maharaj of Sringeri Peetha, the renowned Southern monastic seat established by the great Adi-Sankaracharya. His Holiness is most gracious, highly enlightened and benevolent monk combining within himself high erudition, renunciation and holiness with an unassuming simplicity, affability and charming manners, at once dignified as well as friendly. He was pleased to receive me with kindness, made enquiries about Gurudev's Ashram and its activity and received with keen interest and frank appreciation a packet of Gurudev's spiritual books that I offered to him. Outside, under a special pandal, a large gathering had assembled for a lecture meeting and eagerly awaiting His Holiness' appearance. So, after talking to me for sometime, he rose up to go to the meeting inviting me to come along and participate. The holy Swamiji desired that I should also address the gathering briefly and as I had to catch the evening Grand Trunk Express he asked me to speak first listening appreciatingly and with affectionate approval to the words of this servant at Gurudev's feet.
I took leave of H.H. Sri Jagadguru immediately and proceeded to go to revered mother Sitabai's place where supper had been arranged for the entire party. After an excellent supper, light and nutritious, we drove to the New Delhi station. I missed Sri S. Sundaram of Amexco this time as he was laid up with flu'. He very kindly looks after most of my travel arrangements these days ever since God brought us together in 1959 when I was preparing to visit the United States and Canada on Gurudev's Mission.
At the Station a good number of friends, all Gurudev's Delhi devotes, had turned up to see us off. The entire Dr. Munjal household was there as also Mr Sud, Mr. Massand, brother C. K. Harchandani, with his unfailing supply of Horlicks, mother Laxmiji, and a number of others. There was Kirtan, Japa, Om Chanting etc., until the train moved off. We reached the historic city of Bhopal next morning.
26th and 27th, there were programmes of Satsang and lectures at Bhopal arranged by that city's Divine Life Society Branch. Revered Mata Gurupremanandji with her devotees had come from her Ashram at Indore and participated in all the Satsangas. Sri G.B. Chandwani arranged programmes nicely and revered K.C. Reddyji Maharaj very graciously extended his hospitality to me with my party and looked after us with great kindness and love. He and his good wife are an ideal couple. Early morning on the 28th we journeyed to Kothapalam, the venue of the 10th Andhra Pradesh D.L. Conference.
Reaching there on the 29th, myself with two other Sadhus, one the revered Avadhutendra Swami, a great Sankirtana Bhakta of Andhra Pradesh and the other the 80-year old Hatha Yogi Pujya Swami Atmanandaji, were all taken in procession in a vehicle decked with beautiful floral decoration in artistic design. There was great enthusiasm and chanting of God's Name by the people. After a days rest on the 30th the Conference was inaugurated on Saturday on 31st before a vast assembly of several thousand people assembled in a very huge pandal specially erected for this Conference gathering. The three days of programme was veritable spiritual feast, thrilling, inspiring and elevating. This Conference, the efforts of Sri T. Venugopala Reddyji and his entire family was a unique event memorable for the fact that it was held in a small village more than 15 miles distance from the nearest railway station and yet the sessions were packed with vast crowds participating for hours on end. A beautiful Souvenir has been published by the Conference and a wonderful feature was the printing of ten thousand copies of a hundred-paged book of Gurudev's teachings for free distribution for every one who attended the Conference. This was through the generous munificence of mother Anusuya Deviji of Maripada who donated a sum of Rs. 3000/- towards this Jnana Yajna.
The Yoga Museum and photographic exhibition in this Conference were very successful, interesting features. All praise to the dedicated and devoted efforts of Sri Venugopala Reddy, brother Srinivasa Reddy, their father Narasimha Reddy and their associates and volunteers. On the 3rd January, we had the pleasure of visiting the ideal educational Centre and Harijan's Seva Institution of the well-known philanthropist and social worker Sri Gopalakrishna Reddy at Vakadu. We also went up and offered our worship to Lord Bhimeshwar Mahadev at the hill-top temple near Vidianagar, the college campus created by the same Gopalakrishna Reddy Gaur.
The next day on 4th January, we journeyed to the famous holy Shrine of Tirupati and worshipped Lord Venkateshwara in his abode amidst the seven hills. The temple authorities had very kindly provided facilities for Darshan and worship in this wonderful shrine. On the day we arrived we did some spirited Sankirtan in the Kalyan Mandapam within the temple. The next day they had arranged for a talk to the students at the Venkateshwara University. It was a very well attended lecture that was listened to with rapt attention. A number of Gurudev's books were presented to the College Library. On Friday 6th January, we journeyed down to Viyasashram, the well known hermitage of the famous Sage, the late Sri Malayal Swamiji Maharaj at Yerpedu, where I was extremely happy to meet once again Sri Swami Vimalnandji, the present head of the Ashram, the beloved disciple and successor of late Holiness. The Sadhus as well as all the students of the two Vidyalayas very much enjoyed the movie films showing scene of our previous visit to the Ashram in the same month last year.
I must say here that throughout this present tour in every place beginning from Bhopal at the very start, the movie film showing had been a huge success. It is some thing thrilling and wonderful for the people in these distant Southern parts to be able to have the colourful and breathtakingly beautiful views of the majestic Ganges, holy Rishikesh, the Himalayan mountains and the Sivanandashram. What is more, thousands who had not had the good fortune of Darshan of Sri Gurudev Swami Sivanandaji get the rare blessedness of gazing at his majestic form and getting a glimpse of his Ashram's life as he went about attending to various tasks and special celebrations. Everywhere people were fascinated and asked for more.
Next we drove to Gudur for an evening lecture and from there reached Manbolu for two days halt with a very well attended Satsang for the general public. On Sunday the 8th, we went over to Nelore for a public lecture there and a Satsang the next morning at the well known Annadana Samaja. Thence, we journeyed to the famous hill-top shrine of Lord Mallikarjuna Mahadev at Srisailam. Our party conducted two Satsangas here, one at the Suryasimhasana Matha and the other at the main temple before Lord Shiva's sanctum. Here as elsewhere I was required to give my talk in the Telugu language. I was glad that grammarians or school examiners were not present, otherwise they might have been shocked at my language. But, nevertheless, my vocabulary seems to be quite sufficient for effectively conveying Gurudev's message of Divine Life and Yoga Vedanta to the Telugu speaking people of Andhra Pradesh.
11th evening found us at Guntur after a drive of about 145 miles from Srisailam. We had to break for lunch enroute at Vinukoada where arrangements had been made at the local Dak Bungalow. This place is believed to be the spot associated with that episode in the Ramayana when Lord Rama first heard the news about Sita's forced abduction by Ravana through the dying Jatayu. Hence, the significant name Vinukonda in Telugu (Vinu meaning to hear, and Konda meaning a hill), that is, the hill where Sri Rama first heard about Sita's fate. The traditional Sanskrit name for this place is Sruta-Giri. Quite a crowded Satsang developed here very soon after our arrival at the Dak Bungalow at midday. Now for Guntur.
One of the high-lights of my over night's stay at this place is our visit to the famous Sri Rama Nama Kshetra in this city. This is indeed a very unique institution, nay, hallowed place of pilgrimage glorifying the Divine Name of Rama. Sri Gurudev Sivanandaji had a special place in his soft heart for this very holy institution which he admired greatly. Sri Sita Rama Nama Sankirtana Sangham was the parent institution, out of which this unique Sri Rama Nama kshetra developed as a devout memorial to the Rama Bhakta Sri Ragam Pichchiah Das by his two loving sons Sri Ragam Anjaneyulu and Sri Ragam Venkateshwaralu. Countless crores of Sri Rama Nama are being written and also chanted by devotees all over the country through the living inspiration of this unique Kshetra dedicated to the Divine Name. The present Director of this place expressed his great gratitude to Gurudev Sivanandaji for his continued encouragement to their sacred work through all the bygone years. The Guntur public meeting was well attended and message earnestly received.
Leaving Guntur on the 12th, we arrived at the Rajahmundry in chill cloudy and drizzling weather after passing the long Godavari Anicut (Dam). It was a tedious drive. When we finally arrived it was raining steadily. My health had a set back here due to constant travels. Until here all our travel was by car ever since our arrival at Kothapalam on 29th December. At Rajahmundry our host was the revered Sri Swami Karunyanandji Maharaj, founder of the Gautami Jivakarunya Sangham. It was wonderful to meet him because he happens to be an old associate of Gurudev during the latter's early Rishikesh days. This Swamiji was with Gurudev from 1927 to 1933 when he left Rishikesh and came and founded this humanitarian institution in his home province. The Swamiji related to me many interesting events and experiences with Gurudev at Swargashram and Muni-ki-Reti. I wish I could tell more of that here but I am obliged to reserve it for some other occasion, due to lack of space.
Sri Swami Karunyanandji is personification of selflessness in the spirit of service. We also visited the well know Ashram of Her Holiness Sadhu Mataji, one of the earliest disciple of H. H. Malayala Swamiji. She was one of the foremost Sannyasins of Andhra Pradesh. From Rajahmundry we drove on to Shanti Ashram near the Totapalli Hills for the Darshan of H.H. Sri Swami Omkarji Maharaj. Arriving after dark at night, we were received by the children of the orphanage who sang Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare,' the Mahamantra in the tune of Gurudev. Swami Omkar received us very graciously and to be with him was an experience of Divine Peace and holy inspiration. He read out to us from his Cosmic Flashes and In the Hours of Silence'! We heard his peace prayer repeated by his devoted disciple Sri Jnaneshwari Devi and it was most stirring experience. 14th was the day of perfect peace at Shanti Ashram which is the veritable abode of Shanti indeed. Revered Swami Omkarji graciously presented me and others with a number of his books. We went over the extensive estate covering two hundred acres of his Ashram and were very glad to see different departments like hotel, the school, the printing press, the shrine of prayer, Kailas Giri, the sites for Vedantins, lady Sadhaks etc. We also saw the new Rama Tirtha Institute of Peace taking shape in one part of the estate. During that evening gathering I met the venerable Swami Ramananda Tirtha, who is taking up the work of this new Institute of Peace.
The Ashram was preparing for the Golden Jubilee Celebrations of Shanti Ashram as well as Sri Swamiji's 72nd Birthday and the happy inauguration of the proposed Rama Tirtha Institute of Peace at the hands of Sri Jayaprakash Narayan on 21st January. The children of the orphanage gave us a preview enactment of the nice little drama they had got up, called the Golden Garland (Svarnamala), specially for the occasion of the Golden Jubilee. We all enjoyed. Sri Swamiji gave his beautiful message and so too did revered Swami Ramananda Tirtha. Early next morning, we departed reluctantly from Shanti Ashram after bidding farewell to Swamiji and others carrying his loving invitation to visit him again. We next drove to the sea side city of Visakhapattnam or Waltair about 90 miles from Shanti Ashram. Here too we were lodged at Shanti Ashram at sea side where Swami Omkar lived for many years and performed penance. I was put up in a cottage previously occupied by the late sister Sushila Devi of loving memory, who was the presiding angel of the Shanti Ashram in her earlier days and who had nobly dedicated herself to the Mission of Peace.
One public meeting was the sole engagement in this city and Swami Karunyanandaji Maharaj who had provided his motor car from Rajahmundry onwards saw us off at the Railway Station the next morning on our way to Berhampur. I wish to mention two thing here. One was that from 4th January onwards Sri T. Venugopala Reddy of Kothapalam had put his car at our disposal for all our travels upto the 12th January when we left Guntur for Rajahmundry. This was very gracious of him and the second matter was the wonderful help given to us throughout these tours by our beloved S. Vijayarangam Guru of Hyderabad, who had made the most thorough arrangements down to the minutest detail for this entire tour right up to our departure from Andhra Pradesh for Orissa on the 16th January. But for him this well conducted and systematic tour covering practically almost the whole of Andhra Pradesh would have been impossible. God bless him.
Visakhapattnam was actually our last camp in A. P. But at the 11th hour we were made to visit two more places on our way out of Andhra Pradesh into Orissa for inaugurating two branches of the Divine Life Society, at Palasa and Sompeta. Therefore. I had to detrain at these two places in A.P. and inaugurated the D.L. Branches and thus arrived late at night at Berhampur where one batch of our party had reached in advance, directly from Waltair.
After three day's halt at Berhampur and some Satsang programmes including the inauguration of the Annual Cultural week at the local Khallikote College, I drove over to Cuttack, with my Orissa host Sri S.C. Debo, Retd. Principal of the Govt. Art College, visiting the Chatrapur and Rambha D.L. Branches on the way to attend the 2nd All-Orissa D.L. Conference.
With regards, Prem and Om,
Sivanandashram Letter No. XXXVIII