Lottery tickets – Swami Sivananda

LOTTERY TICKETS: The following letter came to the Master from a religious mendicant: “I beg to introduce myself as a humble ascetic, practising meditation for the deliverance of suffering humanity and to knit mankind together into one bond of love. I am intending to establish a college of Sanatana Dharma, in which religious teachers will be trained to work for the salvation of humanity. As the country is blessed in having you as a benefactor and saviour, I am writing this letter for help and sympathy.

“The said religious college will cost ten lakhs of rupees for maintaining the teachers. So I approach you in the great hope that you will condescend to give me some financial help with which to start the college and maintain twenty to thirty teachers to begin with. You being a great spiritual personality command universal respect and can easily contribute the required amount for this great cause by getting public donations realised through your disciples.

“Kindly also give me the necessary instructions to carry out this great work. You can easily influence the business community and thus render valuable service to this noble cause. Kindly also send two educated Sannyasins who can work for this institution. I implore you with all devotion to give me the necessary encouragement and help.

“I am an ordinary Sadhu who wishes to serve suffering humanity. I have already established my Ashram in a little village, where I am imparting religious instructions to the masses.

“Truly speaking, Swamiji, I have moved heaven and earth for funds but without success so far. Whenever I ask any rich man for money, he says, ‘First let me see the work of your college.’ How this college is to be established without money never strikes the ignorant people for a moment. In every society and in every home the spirit of self-sacrifice is absent. All are bent upon hoarding money. So I implore you to give me a donation of at least Rs. 500 to start with. I know that many rich men will come forward to help this institution once it is established.

“Swamiji, if you want me to call on you at Rishikesh for giving me this help, I can personally come and pay you my respects. Kindly also give me some introductory letters to rich business merchants of religious disposition. I will approach them with your letters for big donations.

“As a last hope I have decided to run a lottery. Tickets are being sold at Rs. 1 each It is proposed to fix the first prize at Rs. 5,000. People will be tempted by this large amount and many tickets will be purchased. I am sending you two books of 100 tickets each. You can collect the money from some of your disciples later on. Kindly send me Rs. 200 by the next post, being the cost of the tickets, to meet the Ashram’s urgent expenses. I depend on you in a variety of ways.

“Now I hope you will kindly condescend to give me the necessary instructions as to how I should proceed to carry out this work. Even in religious activities money comes first. Rs. 500 is nothing for a great Mahatma like you. You are universally revered and so you can easily get someone to donate this trifle. I am depending upon your mercy.”

The Master replied as follows: “I have received many such letters from several Sadhus I have no time to reply to all of them, but since this is the third letter from you, I have decided to write a few lines.

“I am glad to note your achievements, principles and high ambitions. They are laudable indeed! I wish you all success. O Swamiji! do not aspire for Gurudom, comforts and name and fame if you desire to start an institution. Generally, those who start Ashrams are humble in the beginning and do some service, but once they become rich and well established, they do not care to serve the public any more and become arrogant and autocratic. Beware of these temptations and work as a meek servant always.

“I do not know any rich business merchants. I have no disciples. Some aspirants who want spiritual instructions consider me as their Guru, that is all. I do not have any money. I am not running an Ashram here. For the welfare of humanity I am doing service in my own humble way through my powerful, pure thought-vibrations and sincere prayers. I work through all Ashrams, Mutts and institutions; so I am not in a position to help you financially.

“The words of the public: ‘First let me see the work of your college’, are quite correct. If you do public service in a pure, selfless spirit, if the public see these divine, virtuous qualities and true spirit of renunciation in you, if they become convinced of your spiritual attainments, and if they realise that you are fit to run such a big institution, then they themselves will give voluntary contributions and help in every way. Even if you hide yourself in the caves of the Himalayas, if you are the proper man, they will request you to come and manage such a college by providing all the necessary requirements. You need not move heaven and earth for getting anything. You need not start a lottery or try your luck with sweepstakes or competitions. It is shameful for Sadhus even to think of such schemes!

“These days aspirants do not look to their spiritual progress. They shave their head, wear the coloured cloth, remain in Rishikesh or Hardwar for some time and then pass for great Yogis. Thereafter they begin to collect money to start Ashrams for a comfortable living.

“There are enough Ashrams and Mutts in India but sincere selfless workers are rare. Before starting an Ashram one should lead an exemplary life. One’s very presence should give peace, power and bliss to all. Only then can the institution be run successfully and the public derive some spiritual benefit from it.

“When starting an Ashram the mottoes, ambitions and aims are no doubt charming, grand and attractive, but as soon as a little money and fame come, the ideals are usually forgotten. The spirit of selfless service dwindles away, giving place to selfish motives. The founders wish to lead a comfortable and easy life with some disciples and followers. Even if they are able to run the Ashram beautifully, after their death their disciples are not able to manage it in the same spirit. It either becomes an abode of quarrel or a business venture.

“The Ashram head and the inmates thereof should lead a life of dispassion and absolute renunciation, like the late Baba Kalikambliwala of Rishikesh. Even though he had an Ashram feeding hundreds of Sadhus and Sannyasins, even though he became famous, he continued to carry water on his head and lived by getting alms from outside. So his glory is handed down to posterity. An Ashram run by such people stands as a centre of perennial peace, bliss and joy. It attracts everyone and does spiritual good to millions of people. The world is always in need of such Ashrams.

“Ashram life is a bondage. The founders are foolishly wasting their time and energy and utilising their intelligence in wrong directions. They worry continually about getting more money to support the inmates and workers. They have to please so many people and do many things against their own conscience. They have to tell lies and prepare concocted, false statements. They are at the mercy of the public. If they have to spend all their time like this, when will they find the opportunity of engaging in spiritual practices?

“After starting an Ashram they have to look for selfless workers. Equal vision is unknown in every Ashram. One Ashram tries to pull down another. Dissensions and splits, suits in law courts, skirmishes, hand to hand fights and scandal-mongering prevail everywhere. There is neither peace nor harmony in the management of Ashrams. India still abounds in profound stupidity and any man can have his own Ashram and followers. Such Yogic charlatans, daylight dupes and posing Gurus are infectious parasites, a burden on society and a menace to the country. They are like vultures that prey upon the resources of the ignorant and credulous public. Present-day Ashrams are fighting centres that disturb the peace of the world.

“Analyse your motives, whether you sincerely want to serve humanity or whether you are merely starting the college for leading a comfortable life in your old age and for name and fame. Leave off the slavish, begging mentality. Destroy desires ruthlessly and completely.

“Why do you grow a beard, pose as a Yogi and cheat the public? Why do you run after rich business merchants for the sake of a few rupees? God has given you youth, energy and intelligence. Why do you use it in the wrong channels? Open your eyes. Do not forget the goal of life. Try to realise God by practising spiritual Sadhana. If He thinks that you are fit to serve humanity, He Himself will arrange everything for you. If you are willing to serve humanity, get some useful medicines and distribute them among the poor, sick people, seeing God in them. Relieve the troubles of others. Do not expect anything for the services you render. Give education to all the poor boys of your village. Maintain yourself by getting alms from four or five houses. Live in seclusion. Concentrate. Meditate. Study the Upanishads, Gita and Brahma Sutras daily. Destroy all vicious and cunning qualities.

“If you do not know the way to your own salvation and do not work for it, how can you bring salvation to the rest of humanity? Destroy the habit of building castles in the air. It is an enemy of peace. It is the greatest obstacle to one’s meditation. These days, starting Ashrams has become a regular profession. Pitiable indeed!

“Dear Swamiji, selfless service unto humanity must be done according to your ability and capacity. You need not go out of the way to earn money for rendering such public service. The service that you do according to your capacity, with the right mental attitude and in the right spirit, will give you purification of the heart and eventually lead to God-realisation.

“May the Sadhus and Sannyasins keep up the prestige and reputation of our glorious spiritual country, which has God-realisation and service as the goal!”

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