About This Book
The talks in this book are powerful messages to whichever group might receive them, but they are especially powerful for a Western audience. Swami Chidananda must have given the talks with the Western perspective and cultural conditioning in mind. He has been able to distil the wisdom of the East into ideas and examples that relate directly to the life experience of the Westerners who heard the talks or who might be reading them here in this book. One would feel that everything has been explained and nothing has been left out. What is more, Swamiji's great love and compassion are clearly evident in his talks, and the current of spiritual force that flows out of the talks will bring the reader to a greater understanding of the highest truths. Swamiji is an ideal person to teach the dharma in the West; he is a South Indian Brahmin who had his education in English-speaking Christian schools and who has been familiar with Western culture and religion from a very early age.
Beginning in 1959 with a tour of Europe, Canada, the United States and South America that lasted two years, Swamiji would continue to travel to the West regularly. One very significant tour occurred over a three-year period from 1968 to 1971. By that time Swamiji had an assistant who would be his constant traveling secretary- S. Nagarajan (now Swami Vimalananda). In this extended tour, Swamiji and S. Nagarajan were invited to numerous countries in Africa, many of the countries of Europe, including Belgium, France, Holland, the U.K., Germany and Italy, and then to the United State and Canada, later to South America, and finally across the Pacific to Fiji, Australia, Hong Kong, the Phillipines, Malaysia and Sri Lanka. The extensive touring continued unabated from 1971 until 1996. Swamiji visited South Africa almost every year, the U.S. approximately fifteen times and Europe almost twenty times.
In each of the places they visited, Swamiji would meet with people, hold satsangs, and give spiritual talks. S. Nagarajan would tape record each of the talks and faithfully transcribe them, and over the years he accumulated a treasure trove of transcribed talks that would eventually come to fill a very large suitcase. It is from those many wonderful spiritual discourses that the talks that make up this book have been chosen.
About The Author
Swami Chidananda was born as Sridhar Rao in Mangalore, South India in 1916, the first son of an orthodox Hindu Brahmin family. In 1938 he moved to Madras, where he later graduated from the prestigious Loyola College. During those years, devotional songs, stories from the scriptures and the teachings of the modern saints awakened in him a fiery aspiration for the spiritual life. In 1943 he came to join the Sivananda Ashram and there began his lifelong devoted relationship with Gurudev put him in charge of the medical dispensary, where his compassionate service to all, especially to lepers, earned him the affectionate title of "Dr. Raoji." In 1948 he was appointed General Secretary of the Ashram, and in 1949 he was initiated into the holy order of sannyasa. In 1959, in response to many requests, Swami Sivananda sent him to the West on a trip that would last for over two years. Succeeding Swami Sivananda as President of the Divine Life Society in 1963, his life since has been one of almost continuous travel and service throughout India and all over the world, dedicated solely to spreading Swami Sivananda's message and teachings. Even now at the age of 90, Swami Chidananda continues to be active as President of the Divine Life Society, and serves as a source of inspiration for thousands of people around the world.
From the Jacket
How precious a gift it is to be able to come into contact with a great sage, even if that contact may not be person to person. A book alone might not always match the experience of being in the direct, physical presence of a saint who is merged in God-Consciousness, but yet, the written words of such a great soul still have the capacity to guide, inspire, encourage and illumine. A sincere seeker can often recognize the power inherent in the written teachings, and he may feel that the sage is in fact present in the words that are being read.
The title of this book is especially significant considering the life of constant service that Swami Chidananda has led. The title-An Instrument of Thy Peace-comes from the first line of a very famous prayer from St. Francis of Assisi, who is pictured here below. St. Francis is noted in the Christian tradition as being the person who most embodied Christ's own exalted example, and Swami Chidananda has often been called "the St. Francis of India" because of his devotion to the welfare of all beings. A most telling parallel between St. Francis and Swami Chidananda is the complete dedication to serving the poorest of the poor, and most particularly lepers.
The first few lines of the prayer of St. Francis go as follows: Oh Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring love.
Where there is injury, let me bring pardon.
Where there is doubt, let me bring faith.
Where there is despair, let me bring hope.
Where there is discord, let me bring harmony.
Having received the command of Most Worshipful Holy Master Swami Sivananda, I traveled extensively to different countries in the Occident as well as in the Far East-Such as Fiji, Australia in its parts (Sidney, Canberra, Tamworth and Perth) and New Zealand. I have been Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore, the Philippines and lastly Sri Lanka. It has been my good fortune to see on the top of a towering hill the biggest statue of a meditative Buddha in the whole world. All this traveling was made to propagate the message of Swami Sivananda, the God-Ex-perienced Saint, Sage and God-man of our times, who established the Divine Life Society in the year 1936, much before I joined His organization in the year 1943 and surrendered myself to him.
I have seen Gurudev Swami Sivananda's good work in every part of the world inspiring people to lead a good life, an ethical life and a divine life. He did this in a brief period of twenty-seven years, i.e. from 1936 up until the year 1963. But, His words had a power; they brought a revolution in the lives of those who read them. It was the power of His God-Realization. It is this same power that has been driving me to disseminate ethical and spiritual knowledge to His disciples and the members of the Divine Life Society.
I had the good fortune of serving Swami Sivananda from 1943 until He took Mahasamadhi in the year 1963. During this long period of association of 20 years, I received many teachings, which are fresh in my mind even to this day of my life. They shall be treasured in my memory.
When Holy Master Swami Sivananda sent me to the West, my only interest was to introduce His teachings to the whole world and bring people into the light of knowledge from the groping darkness of ignorance. I saw people living their precious lives in forgetfulness. I saw that their lives were spent in pursuit of sense pleasures. The vast majority of people indulged in sense happiness and blindly rushed towards that which they found easily achieved. They derived happiness from that which was temporary and transitory. It was there one moment, and the next moment it was gone, leaving them in pain, distress and misery.
But, when the message of Holy Master was given to them, they found themselves in light and peace! They stared to understand the true meaning of life and its purpose. These messages were presented to the seekers in the form of spiritual retreats, lectures, discourses and question and answer sessions as my humble offering to Holy Master Sivananda. During this period, I spoke on various subjects, sometimes at the request of the organizers according to their given subjects, and sometimes they were given on my own.
All these talks have been recorded and transcribed by Swami Vimalananda, who traveled with me to all these places as a helpful secretary. Now, they have been compiled and are being brought our into book form under the title An Instrument of Thy Peace: Swami Chidananda in the West.
In this work, Mr. Scott Morrow and Mr. Alan Neachell extended their full cooperation in preparing this manuscript and bringing in into its present form. Sri Swami Atmaswarupananda, Sri Swami Sarvamangalananda and Ray Genghini proofread much of the manuscript and thereby helped make it ready for the Press. My heartfelt thanks to all these persons.
The study of this book will help the seekers in their spiritual journey. I pray to God Almighty and Most Worshipful Holy Master Swami Sivananda to bless this book for its success and widest circulation.
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