The Rarest Gift of God

Swami Sivananda Saraswati

22nd September 1950

Siva addressed the students of Calcutta University. The following is an extract:

You are all heirs to immortal life, eternal bliss and infinite light, power and wisdom. Your real inner nature is in fact absolute knowledge and bliss. I have come to remind you all of this glorious state.

The Creator has endowed you with the most precious gift of all, namely, this rare human body with its distinctive faculty of intelligent reasoning, discrimination and pure will. This rarest of rare things, the human birth, should be lived in a worthy manner. To live merely for the collection of a number of earthly things, a motor car, a bungalow, some silk suits and fashionable hats, ties and shoes, a wrist watch, a radio and some silver teacups, is but a low and childish ideal. These things of the dust soon vanish away like a passing dream. All objects on earth are coated with the varnish of sure destruction.

Even a person of ordinary intelligence prefers to have things that are more lasting. You are familiar with the question asked at the shop, "Is this German made or merely Japanese?" because you want to purchase that which is more durable, not that which will be spoiled quickly. How much more necessary is it then to apply this wise maxim for the more important task of living your life?

Blessed youths, dedicate your lives to enduring ideals. Live your life for lasting attainments. The idea of becoming a something or someone here upon this earth is not the sole purpose. So long as you live, you have to be engaged in some sort of activity, no doubt, but underneath it all, there must be inwardly a constant aspiration and ceaseless striving for the attainment of the great, sublime ideal of human life, i.e. the attainment of perfection.

You are born for perfection, not to live a half-life of weaknesses, defects, limitations and imperfections. Perfection is gradually attained by cultivating a pure character through the diligent practice of sadachar, right conduct. Purity of conduct and a high moral character are the real marks of a man. A man of loose character is worse than a dog or goat, for character alone raises man above the level of the beast. It is not human form alone that bestows upon us the status of a man. It is purity, moral courage and heroism that go to make up true manliness.

Such lofty virtues are visible expressions of your inner divine nature. The more you strive to manifest these great qualities, the more you become embodiments of these virtues, the more you grow in the consciousness of your essential, glorious nature. To develop purity, to practise truth, selflessness, motiveless love, generosity, sincerity, forgiving and peaceful nature, and simplicity, is not an easy thing. If you are determined to assert your manliness instead of remaining an abject slave to your senses, then these virtues will quickly come to you. Courage and determination are the first steps to any attainment.

Tarry not, friend!

Give up all selfishness and serve all with heart and soul. Give up all shyness, timidity and effeminate nature and be courageous and bold in readily embracing this high ideal of self-perfection and exerting for it. Selflessness is the greatest purifier. Courage is your real friend. Do not be afraid of criticism. Critics will come to your feet when you achieve the real glory of character and practical idealism.

Remember, yours is the duty to know that you are perfection, light, power and bliss in essence. Do not delay in fulfilling this duty. Tarry not, friend! Your college career is a wonderful training ground for preparing yourself for this high attainment. Here you have to develop the great qualities of self-control, purity, obedience, courtesy, nobility, forgiveness, friendliness, goodness, helpfulness, industry, regularity, perfect truthfulness and idealism. Take full advantage of your college days. When you step out of it you must be shining examples of ideal men.

But, above all, never forget even for a single second that all your life's activity is ultimately meant to lead you to self-perfection. It is to give you the lofty consciousness that you are beyond body and mind; that you are immortal souls without disease, decay or death. You are divinities on earth. Assert this. Feel this. Realize this. You will become blessed and will bless others. May God bestow illumination and immortality upon you all, my beloved youths! Be up and doing from this moment.

—From Sivananda's Lectures, during All-India and Ceylon Tour – 1950, Chronicler Swami Venkatesananda