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! Great indeed is my good fortune to communicate with you through this letter, month by month, during this present year that is now drawing to its close. Through my monthly letter to you I have endeavoured to talk to you and express myself and share my thoughts on matters pertaining to your life, to our culture, to Sanatana Dharma and to Sri Gurudev's great spiritual message and precious spiritual teachings. This to me is sacred service to Sri Gurudev and is also to me a means of keeping personal contact with you and thus coming closer to you as a member of Divine Life fraternity, brought into being by our holy Gurudev Sri Sivanandaji Maharaj. It is a joy to me therefore to keep in touch with you, through this Sivanandashram Letter in this way.
Blessed Atman! Through these lines I seek to arouse within you a constant awareness of the spiritual purpose of your life. I seek to remind you of the great importance of upholding Dharma in your daily life. I strive earnestly to hold up before your vision the lofty goal of God-realisation and to place before you our worshipful Sri Gurudev's central teachings of selfless service, devotion to God, daily spiritual meditation and Supreme Divine Illumination. To bring the light of spiritual and moral ideals in every walk of life and into every activity of yours is the aim of this monthly letter of mine that comes to your goodself from this most holy and beautiful Ashram of Sri Gurudev Sivananda, where it is my sacred privilege to serve at his feet as his earnest servant and slave. It brings to you the voice of the Himalayas and message of the mother Ganges and it comes you with a call to Divine Life of truthfulness, purity, compassion, kindness, love and practical goodness. The Sivanandashram Letter tries to further this spiritual service of seekers and Sadhakas, which was Gurudev's central mission in life. It carries the essence of Yoga and Vedanta and Gurudev's gospel of religion in daily life and worship through service. If by doing this, I am enabled to repay even the tiniest fraction of the immeasurable deep debt of gratitude, which I owe to the sacred feet of Gurudev, I would deem myself most blessed. Thus this monthly Sivanandashram letter is to the writer the means, whereby the great Guru is served and by which you too who are Gurudev's spiritual heirs receive my service. It constitutes one of the avenues through which I render service to sacred Bharatavarsha and Bharatiya Samskriti (our mother-culture) by constantly reminding her children about their noble heritage, their serious duty and the sublime ideal which they must fulfil in their lives, individual as well as corporate. In this letter I come into your home. I sit by your side and I speak to you in person of tasks to be done, of things to be remembered, of the importance of living life spiritually and of great blessedness of human birth. I speak of the path to peace and the way to bliss and above all of the pervading presence of God and His ever-nearness to you. Beloved Self, in God and God alone can you ultimately find true happiness and real fulfilment. Apart from Him, life is a meaningless burden to those ignorant of the glorious spiritual goal. God is the greatest value, Grand Glorious REAL. All this I say to you and the Sivanandashram Letter brings you my words, as prompted by Sri Gurudev, whose servant I am. It is an expression of my love, symbol of my Seva, fulfilment of spiritual duty and means of offering homage to God.
Look back and briefly review the eleven months that have gone by. How has been the year with you? Or rather shall I ask you how have you been during this period of the year that is now drawing to close? Have you made it a year of progressive self-culture and self-conquest? How much have you gained physically, ethically and spiritually? Have you earnestly worked towards certain set goals and significant attainment? Have you striven to make life a Divine Life? Have these past eleven months seen a substantial advance in truthfulness, purity and self-control, kindness and goodness and the overcoming of anger? These are the questions before you, which you must answer at this moment. It is in the light of these true and honest answers that you can move towards the coming India, with the right understanding of yourself and right determination to utilise the days ahead properly and well, to your highest benefit and for your greatest good. This right understanding, right resolve and right action verily constitute the essence of real life.
The most valuable and the most important thing in a country and its people is the culture that they evolved. Their culture contains their distinctive sense of value, their view of life and their ideals of conduct and what they consider to be the ultimate goal to be attained by them through this life. Life in India had ever been based upon the great culture, derived from the Vedas that were the repositories of deep wisdom. The highest wisdom of this richest treasure is to be found in the later parts that are known as the Upanishads. The very essence of this Upanishadic wisdom is contained in the sublime little scripture, The Bhagavad-Gita, the Universal Gospel of all mankind. It is the direct personal teachings of God Himself in His incarnation as Lord Krishna. The supremely auspicious day, upon which this Divine Wisdom was given to man, is marked by the Gita Jayanti, which is the sacred Anniversary to all people throughout India. On the 12th of this month this auspicious Anniversary will be observed everywhere in this land by all patriotic sons and daughters of India. The Srimad Bhagavad Gita is an immortal treasure inherited by you. Peace, joy and freedom from fear will be yours if you received the teachings of Gita and imbibe its wisdom. To live in the spirit of Gita is to be master of all situations and to possess the secret of successful living. Will you be victim of life or come victorious through life? You can choose and decide what you will. The wonderful Bhagavad Gita will enable you to do this and will help you to go through life as a master and as a changeless witness of the changing scene. All things are possible to man if he will manfully exert and persevere in his efforts. Thus declares the Gita.
Absorb into your very self the wondrous message of Gita. Live, breathe and act in the spirit of its sublime gospels. Follow its practical teachings; you will obtain strength, joy and peace. It will grant you complete freedom from tension, worry and fear. It will reveal to you the secret of mental equipoise amidst all circumstances. Herein I give you a gist of Gita teachings. Listen carefully. Remember and act. Thou art immortal Soul. Thou art neither body nor mind. Thou art indestructible, imperishable Atman. Nothing can harm you. The physical body has birth and death. But it is only a covering or mere cage in which you reside while on earth. You are deathless. In your real nature thou art Immortal. Remember this. Realise this. Now become free from all weakness, fear and superstition.
Live with this radiant awareness and perform all actions in a spirit of inner detachment and desirelessness. Have neither love nor hatred. Be balanced in pleasure or pain, loss or gain, and success or failure. Be alike to good and evil persons. Neither become unduly elated nor depressed by any events, or occurrences. Such equanimity brings peace. This peace grants happiness.
Control the senses. Control the mind. Subdue desires. Persevere in this practice. Have self-reliance; be confident. Uplift thyself through determined effort. Slay all cravings. Sit alone in silence every day. Sit in a steady posture. Do not shake the body. Be relaxed. Breathe evenly. Withdraw the mind and the senses. Turn thy gaze and fix it within. Now gently concentrate and meditate. Gradually the mind will become steady like the flame of the lamp in a windless place. Meditate, Meditate, Meditate. You will come face to face with the inner Reality and attain wisdom.
Do not indulge in mere talk and philosophical gossip. Be a practical man. Do something noble in this life. Develop virtue. Live to serve others. Regard life as a sublime Yajna or self-offering meant to be glorified by dedication to the noble cause of working for the happiness of others. Such work verily becomes worship of the Supreme. Inwardly be ever united with the Divine through constant remembrance of Him. This Universe is the manifestation of the Lord. Behold Him in the glories of the Nature. See Him in all names and forms. Feel His Presence at all times. This enables you to enter into communion with Him. You will have the descent of His Grace.
Prepare thyself for this Divine descent through right conduct, right faith and purity of life. Overcome Rajas and Tamas. Fill your life with Sattva Guna. Make your life pure and Sattvic in all its details. Have knowledge of the three gunas. Learn to discriminate between the divine and the undivine, between the spiritual and unspiritual, between the holy and the unholy. Manifest in your life and conduct the divine qualities and totally renounce and cast out the undivine from thy nature. Give up totally lust, anger and greed. Surrender yourself at the feet of the Lord. Follow the sacred teachings of the Gita. Fulfil the Divine Will. You will never come to grief. Health, prosperity and victory will be thine. Cling firmly to the Lord and go thy way doing all thy duties in a spirit of detachment and joy. Blessed Self, this is indeed the call of the Gita to you. Respond to it. Crown your life with success.
I am glad to tell you that we are having three Divine Life Conferences next month (January, 1968) in Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa consecutively. The First Gujarat State Divine Life Conference is to take place on the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th January, 1968 in Baroda. The Twelfth Andhra Pradesh Divine Life Conference is fixed for 11th, 12th and 13th January, 1968 at Kovvur (West Godavary Dist.). The Twenty-first All India Divine Life Conference and the Third All-Orissa Divine Life Conference are to take place at Berhampur, (Dist. Ganjam) on 21st, 22nd, 23rd and 24th January, 1968. Divine Life Society Members and devotees in the different States mentioned above should make the best use of this opportunity and try and attend their respective Conferences.
The Cuttack D. L. S. Branch has rendered noble service in the cause of the relief of people affected by the terrible typhoon that has caused untold havoc in Orissa. Report has been received of their group of volunteers that went to the affected area and served the distressed there. This is a noble activity that is pleasing to the Lord and will confer blessings upon the selfless Sevaks.
I bow in Homage to Bhagavan Sri Dattatreya and to Lord Viswanath whom we remember and specially worship during this month. May God shower His Divine grace upon you all and grant you health, long life, prosperity and Divine Blessedness.
With regards, Prem and Om,
Yours in Sri Gurudev
1st December, 1967.
Sivanandashram Letter No. XVLIII
Radiant Immortal Atman!
Blessed Beloved Divinity!
Adorations and homage unto the supreme Universal Being! Salutations to you in the holy name of the worshipful Guru Sri Swami Sivananda. At the dawn of the New Year I send you through this letter my sincere Greetings and good wishes for your long life, health, happiness, prosperity and highest spiritual blessedness. May God shower upon you His Divine Grace, and fill all your days with joy, peace, plenty and spiritual beauty. May all obstacles be overcome, may all difficulties depart, may all problems be solved and may discord give place to harmony. May the Music of Divine Life fill your life with melody and sweetness.
Upon this solemn and auspicious anniversary of the conclusion of the old year and the commencement of the New Year, I wish to proclaim to you briefly Gurudev's Message of Divine Life now. Resolve to live a life of selflessness and service unto all beings. Worship God with devotion and develop Divine Love. Meditate upon the Supreme Being regularly each day without fail. Ever aspire to realise the eternal Reality (God), through right enquiry, discrimination and metaphysical reflection and spiritual contemplation. Strive to lead a pure life of noble good conduct and holiness in thought, word and deed. Be a doer of good action. Develop the vision of One in the spirit of Unity. Practise the Presence of the Divine and dedicate all the actions to the Divine. Life is meant to manifest the highest divine nature that is inherent within you. Utilise life towards this sublime end here and now. Start living this Divine Life today. Waste not time. Postpone not. Do not hesitate. Do not worry. Be bold and cheerful. You will have a glorious future. Strive on with fullest hope. You are bound to succeed. You will succeed, I assure you, my beloved Friend! God speed you upon this bright path to divine perfection and eternal blessedness.
Today on the threshold of the New Year I call upon all and appeal to you, and urge you to exert ceaselessly and do your best to give a positive touch and constructive turn to the prevailing atmosphere and mood of negativity, vandalism and arrogance that appear to be prevailing on all sides at the moment. Live and work to uphold the name and honour of your Motherland, of your culture. Work for love and unity. Do everything you can to save the integrity, solidarity and identity of your country and its worthy way of life. By every means strive to safeguard the ideals and values you have inherited as the food of the life and labours of numerous noble dedicated sons and daughters of our country, who had lived before us over the previous centuries.
The two great needs of humanity as a whole are being neglected everywhere and this is resulting in gloom and confusion. These vital needs are to live with the idealism and adherence to virtue. Social ills, economical ills and political ills, all result out of the degradation of the human nature and individual character through loss of faith in idealism and development of selfishness. Consequently virtue has become a casualty and unhappiness and confusion are the direct results. The law of life cannot be ignored and broken, nor its consequences escaped. The Law is that virtue and goodness ultimately lead to welfare and happiness. Misery and misfortune are the inevitable results of evil ways of living bereft of virtue. This is a fact. And when will man be wise and realise this? There is urgency to do so now. Do all that you can to practise and uphold these two great principles of idealism in life and adherence to virtue. Man must be guided by them or otherwise there is no other way outof conflict, calamity and suffering. Why court sorrow and needlessly invite sufferings upon yourself when you can behold right at hand the gateway that leads you to joy and blessedness to peace and stability? I ceaselessly pray that wisdom might prevail and mankind will invite joy and well-being through the Good Life. Blessed Atman, join me in my prayers. Let us pray ceaselessly for commonweal and universal welfare, prosperity and happiness.
Let me remind you of worshipful Gurudev's admonition, He said, Watch and pray. Pray and work. Work and wait. This then must you do to achieve any worthwhile goal before this life passes and you have to quit this stage of the eternal drama of life. Be watchful. Be prayerful. Be active and be patient. Activity without prayer will lead you to greater bondage. Prayer without watchfulness will be assailed by temptations too strong to overcome. Work without patience will lead to frustration and pessimism. Prayer when not backed up by corresponding work to express itself runs the risk of evaporating into unrealistic sentimentalism. Be watchful unto prayer. Pray and diligently labour to make the prayer to come true. Work and patiently wait upon the will of God. For to work is your duty and the part that you have to play. The bringing about of the result of work, you should leave in the hands of God.
When this letter reaches your hands I shall probably be in Baroda (Gujarat) participating in the All-Gujarat Divine Life Conference. For I shall be leaving Rishikesh this evening to commence my annual tour. On the night of the 7th, after the conclusion of the Conference, our Ashram party will leave Baroda for Andhra Pradesh via Bombay-Hyderabad to arrive at Kovvur for the 12th Andhra Pradesh Divine Life Conference, fixed for 11th to 13th January. From 14th to 18th January follows a brief tour of A. P. visiting three or four centres. We are to reach Berhampur on the night of the 19th to have last moment consultations on the next day regarding 21st All-India Divine Life Conference & the Orissa D. L. Conference, both of which commence simultaneously on January 21st and conclude on January 23rd. There is a week's tour in Orissa including a visit to sacred Jagannath Puri before departing from Balasore for Calcutta on 31st. At Calcutta our brothers Sri Rajani Mohan Chakrawarty and Sri Sivananda Neelakantan, with the generous help of Sri Raghunath Singh Aggarwal, are bringing out the Bengali Edition of the book, GOD AS MOTHER and intend to have it released on the 1st or 2nd of February. Therefore this servant with his party will sojourn briefly in the city of the Divine Mother on the first two days of the month of February. Then I am to visit the Divine Life Society Centres at Rourkela and Rajgarh (M. P.) before continuing further. The return to the Ashram will be early in the 4th week of February, to be in time for Holy Mahasivaratri, which is on 26th February. During the whole of March this servant will be at Sri Gurudev's Ashram at the Headquarters. The Chikmagalur Branch of the Divine Life Society in Mysore State has decided to conduct the 3rd All-Karnataka Divine Life Conference at Chikmagalur on 5th, 6th and 7th April. This Sevak will attend. Immediately after the Conference, there is likelihood of his having to travel to South Africa from where insistent requests have been coming for a visit. If it is the Lord's Will I shall have to go whenever the inevitable travel formalities are finalised. I suppose Gurudev will look to it as he thinks fit.
In the meanwhile chill winter has closed in upon these northern parts; there is a comparative lull in the temple of visiting devotees and seekers at this holy Ashram. Yet despite the cold there are always some earnest souls braving the winter and seeking the peace and spiritual inspiration of this Ganges bank abode of Gurudev Sivananda. The special Forest Satsanga before the Dattatreya Temple on the 16th December on holy Dattatreya Jayanti day was reminiscent of the holy function during Sri Gurudev's time. The Forest resounded with the Kirtan of the Lord's Name and the devotees partook of the Prasad squatting under the trees upon the bare earth in the jungle. Holy Christmas was solemn and inspiring and actively assisted by a number of seekers from countries abroad who happened to be present on that Great Day. The midnight worship of the great Yogi of Nazareth, the divine incarnation Jesus, was celebrated with both devotion and fervour as well as gaiety and joy so as to give the seekers from foreign lands a touch of homely spirit to this their holiest and most important festival of the year. They were made to feel that this too was their home and that they were truly in the midst of their family (Spiritual family). The 24th Pratishtha Anniversary of Lord Sri Viswanath was celebrated at the Sri Viswanath Mandir on the 31st of December. That night the Satsanga went upon beyond 12 o'clock midnight to conclude with solemn midnight meditation of the Great Night commencing in the last portion of the departing year and carried onward into the first quarter of the New Year. All the devotees arising from the meditation took leave of one another after exchanging New Year Greetings.
Beloved Friend, a New Year lies before you. Look forward and move into this period ahead with faith and hope and in charity. The past has passed on. Forgive and forget your erring friends or offenders. Enter into a new life of Divine Compassion, goodness, love and magnanimity. Now, this day, take God into your home and make Him a member in your family. Learn to live with God, in God, for God. Establish Him in your heart. Express Him through your life. Let your home radiate with the living Presence of the Divine. May thy entire family grow into a divine household. Strive to achieve this and this will be your greatest contribution to contemporary society as well as to your Bharatavarsha, your Mother Country. This indeed would constitute the really wise, sane and rational process of bringing about a true Welfare State. The goodness of man is the key to happiness of mankind. Individual character and conduct is the root of social and national welfare. Character is the greatest wealth. Sadachara is Divine. In character lies the secret of successful planning and of all during attainments. Our Culture stands for Character. I commend to you the UNIVERSAL PRAYER by Sri Gurudev as the unfailing formula for happiness, prosperity and success. Peace and progress will result from this Great Prayer. The sublime essence of all the scriptures and the teachings of all the holy saints and men of wisdom is contained in this wonderful prayer. Make it your life-breath. Beloved Friend, try earnestly to live this prayer. During this year propagate this prayer far and wide. It is of priceless worth. Each line of it is more worth than its weight in gold! I request all of you who read this, to try to get the prayer printed (in any size, big or small, and on any paper, fine or coarse) and distribute it widely and freely. Print it on one side only so that people can paste it on board or frame it. Translate it into your vernacular language. Get it published in monthly magazines or weeklies or daily papers. Introduce it in schools, clubs and groups. It is universal. It belongs to the whole world. It is above religion. If it is done on costly paper and in big size, you may fix a nominal price if you may wish. If you cannot manage to print it by yourself get together half a dozen of your friends and manage to print a thousand copies at least. Let this world-saving prayer reach every home. Make this prayer circulate throughout the universe. Teach it to your children. Recite it daily at dawn and eventide. MAKE THIS YEAR 1968 A PRAYER YEAR. Great good will come out of it. In this issue of this magazine I have got this Universal Prayer printed on a separate page elsewhere. That page is perforated. You can carefully detach the page by tearing off along the perforated line. Preserve it as a special New Year gift from Gurudev Swami Sivananda, the holy Master of the Himalayan Region. It will bless your home. It will take you towards Divine Perfection. It shows the path of Divine Life. May God bliss you. May this New Year be a glorious year for you. You have my best wishes for your long life, health, happiness, prosperity and success. I send you my love, regards and salutations in the name of God and in the name of Gurudev Sri Swami Sivananda, the light of our life. Thou art Divine. Live Divinely therefore. Abide in God and walk in Light.
Yours in Sri Gurudev,
Sivanandashram Letter No. XLIX