Letters of Swami Turiyananda

Translated by Swami Pavitrananda

These excerpts of Swami Turiyananda’s letters were translated by Swami Pavitrananda and edited by Henry James Forman. They were originally published in the November-December 1959 Vedanta and the West magazine.


I am so pained to learn that there is a great famine in this place. Only God knows what his will is, but you on your part should try to help the people to your utmost capacity. There shouldn’t be any slackening of your efforts.

I didn’t like your arguments—they are good for nothing. There is a saying, “Cut the coat according to the cloth,” you know. Give relief according to what you have in store. You can’t do anything else. But it is entirely up to you whether or not that relief is given with love and devotion. Your spirit of service will express itself thereby. You are not anybody’s servants that you will work as an official duty. You should act with the idea that it is your spiritual practice. Of course, your superiors who are directing the operation are bound to spend according to their receipts. What else can they do if they don’t have sufficient funds? You too should spend according to what your receive—there is no problem. Whatever you get, consider that to be God’s great store and utilize it. Therein lies the success of the work. What is the use of talking about things you have not got?

Perhaps you have read the story of a general whose son complained that he couldn’t fight his enemies because his sword was too short. The general replied, “Add a step to it.” That is very sensible advice . . . Only bad workmen quarrel with their tools . . . Those who really know how to play, play under any conditions.

The important thing is, what is your attitude? You should put your whole energy into the work, then success will come. Don’t look for mistakes others may be committing; just watch what you are doing. To the good everything is good—this is so true!

As long as you live you will have to work, for, as the Gita says, “Not a moment can one be without action.” But if you work in the right spirit, instead of work it will be yoga. “The art of work is yoga.” This means not to think of oneself as the doer but to work as an instrument in the hands of God and to offer all the fruits of action to him. If one considers one’s work as a form of worship, one will also get the purifying effect of worship and attain liberation.

Swamiji has shown you such a wonderful method of “worship through service of man.” If you don’t utilize this opportunity, you are indeed to be pitied. Well, do just as you please—but if possible don’t give up this service of man as an image of God. It will bring you nothing but good. Work with the right attitude, and see for yourself whether you will get results or not. One should act in the proper spirit, otherwise everything will be spoiled.

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Letters of Swami Turiyananda