Worshipful homage to the Absolute Being, the eternal and infinite Reality that is here and now. Precisely because of Its infinitude—encompassing all things, pervading and present everywhere—and because of Its eternal nature— existing at all times—It is here, now, the unseen Reality behind the ever-changing scene, this world-play, this show. Worshipful homage to that Divine Reality. May Its divine grace be upon you all!

Loving adorations to revered and beloved Holy Master Gurudev Swami Sivanandaji who dwells within us as the light of his wisdom teachings, who dwells within our minds and intellects as the grasp of spiritual truths which he has laid bare for our benefit, who lives in our hearts as ideals of life and the living of life through his inspiring, uplifting, elevating, transforming teachings. May his choicest blessings be upon you all!

Today is the day when our friend, gifted to us by God, the old year, graciously steps aside giving place to the entry of its successor, the New Year. It is the day when the old year tells us, “It has been nice being with you. Goodbye now, God speed you into the New Year.”

The old year has been good to us, and, therefore, we may also ask, “How have we been towards it?” Because as Holy Master used to say, “This is a day for stocktaking.” It is a day for casting a bird’s eye view in retrospect, a day for asking how each month of the year has been—the plus and minus, wisdom and folly, correctness and error. It is this process that can help us to grow as good individuals in human society.

Our endeavour should be that we are a plus point, an additional enriching contribution to our contemporary social scene: “By the fact of my being in society today, what do I bring to society? Am I a factor that due to my good nature as an individual—soft-spoken, friendly, kindly, smiling, helpful—I put everyone at ease, make everyone feel happy? Am I ready to do a little good turn and to bear with the foibles and plus and minus points of others—with great grace, charity and a charitable disposition—because I know that God made them so?”

All people are not alike; they cannot help being what they are. Thus understand human foibles—not merely in a psychological way through the intellect, but in a gracious, cultured, spiritual way. If you try to approach and understand people in a psychological way, you will only gain knowledge about others; but that knowledge is not necessarily accompanied by the spiritual qualities of sympathy, tolerance, understanding, friendliness, helpfulness: “This is an erring brother or sister; I am prone to such error myself.” If you thus make your assessment in a psycho-spiritual way—psychologically accompanied by a spiritual bhava, spiritual attitude—then it is a totally different thing.

Thus making yourself an asset to your contemporary scene, you yourself, individually, go onwards in trying to make yourself an ideal human being which is one of the indispensable sadhanas of the spiritual life. We may progress in concentration and meditation, in japa, in prayerfulness, God-remembrance and devotion, in the depth of our philosophical understanding, but we must also see clearly that simultaneously with these positive and progressive things happening to us, that our continuous human culture must accompany them, keep pace with them, must also move forward into a greater and greater state of perfection, wholeness and idealism. We cannot afford to forget that, as we evolve in our spiritual dimension, we have to also simultaneously evolve upon our human dimension.

Spirituality must make us into good persons. Spirituality must make us ideal human individuals. Spirituality must help to make us benefactors of our own society. Spirituality must make us a centre of blessedness to others, a centre of help to others, a centre of harmony, a centre of everything that contributes to human welfare—individually and collectively.

I suppose that this is what the great teacher of the Middle East meant when He answered the question, “What is the greatest of all commandments?” He said, “You know what the greatest of all commandments is—a total giving of yourself in absolute love and devotion to the Divine, a total giving of yourself in dedication to the Divine.” But the most important part came at the end, as the conclusion. He added a rider: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”

To each human individual, himself or herself is the most important person in the world. Each one lives with this axiomatic assumption of which they are not even aware, because it is not arrived at through any purposeful, conscious process. It is just there. Prakriti has made it that way—all other things are around one and one is the centre. And this axiomatic feeling modifies and conditions all things for that person—everything that the person does, sees, relates oneself to. It modifies everything, the whole of a person’s life in all its details. Therefore, it is said: “You know this is so. You are most important to yourself. More than anyone else, you are very considerate of yourself. The importance of yourself to yourself is prime. Therefore, even so, let it be towards your neighbour.”

Who is your neighbour with whom you should have this special kind of attitude, behaviour, relationship? The answer is the whole world. Any person, at any given point in time at any place is your neighbour. And to generalise, everyone in this world, living in your own times, is your neighbour.

Therefore, to love your neighbour as yourself means to love all, to love everyone, to love every human individual whether in India or Japan or America or Australia or Argentina, anywhere. Anyone who is residing on planet Earth the same time as you are is your neighbour. Distance counts for nothing. Time and space have no relevance. Proximity in space has no relevance to spiritual neighbourhood, spiritual kinship, spiritual fraternity.

The spiritual vision knows something even one step further. There is not even an other to be your neighbour. It sees that your neighbour is no other than your own Self. Therefore, feel yourself in all beings that exist and behave towards them as you would behave towards yourself—giving special preference, forgiving little things, tolerating foibles—the little twists and turns—not minding them, forgiving them. Have a non-differential attitude towards all as though they are no other than yourself.

Such a being, who is thus able to transform oneself into all others and to regard others in the same light as one regards oneself, who, in all conditions, treats others in the same manner as one treats oneself, such a person qualifies for immortality and liberation according to the great world teacher, Lord Krishna.

Thus, simultaneously with your concentration and meditation, with your advancing knowledge of Vedanta, with your progressive devotion and prayer, with your selfless activities, a constant, unceasing, progressive evolution of your human individual nature has to accompany and keep pace with it. You should never feel that it is something different—I need not bother about it. This is not the right attitude; human evolution should accompany spirituality.

It is that evolution of your human individual nature that makes for successful, fruitful and effective spirituality, for it is a great support of your spiritual progress, of your yoga life. Progressing ever into being an ideal human individual—kind, compassionate, tolerant, good, just and fair, a principled being, a good neighbour, a friend of all, one who identifies with all—such a person you must be. This is part of Yoga. This is part of Vedanta. This is part of spiritual life. This is part of sadhana.

Therefore, if your spiritual life and sadhana should be complete and whole, then see clearly the need to make your own personal life and personality things of beauty. You should make your own personal life and personality undergo a progressively evolutionary process, keeping pace with your Yoga, Vedanta, sadhana, meditation techniques and your spiritual life as a whole.

This is the teachings of great ones. “If you cannot love your brother whom you have seen, how can you love God whom you have never seen?” You cannot be selective in your forgiveness, in your kindness, in your tolerance. You cannot be selective. The best way to exercise these virtues is to choose the worst stinker; then it becomes very easy to become a good friend, brother and neighbour to those who are less so. If you can extend this charitable nature to an impossible person, then you will know that it is possible to extend it towards everyone, because you have tested yourself with the worst one and found it possible.

May God bless you! May you commence your stocktaking and prepare yourself to say goodbye to the old year and do all that is needful to make a perfect entry into the New Year. Be grateful for all that has helped you to reach where you are at this point in time, and in light of your knowledge of the past year, make your entry into the New Year a foresighted and creative one.