Swami Kriyananda wrote a Christmas Letter to his brother monks in 1957, which he later included in his book Letters to Truthseekers. He felt that the advice in that letter was and is for all truthseekers, not just monks. This excerpt describes the most important element that monks, and all lovers of God, must have in their lives of meditation and activity.
From Letters to Truthseekers,
by Swami Kriyananda
Centuries ago, Saint John of the Cross said words to the effect that one act of divine love (that love which is the fruit of deep meditation) is of greater value to the Church than the combined activities of dedicated, but unmeditative, monks, priests, and nuns.
The greatest thing we have to give to the world is our spirit – our devotion. If we lack that, of what avail the letters we write, the flowers we water, the books we print?
We all want to serve God. We all want to serve the work to which He has drawn us. But let us never forget that which pleases God and Master most – our love.
Our Guru seldom praised me for my labor. But he did, sometimes, praise me for my devotion. For he was more anxious that I, and all of us, work to develop and perfect ourselves in this heavenly quality than that we do tremendous outward labor, but in forgetfulness of God.
Once, owing to some physical difficulty that I was experiencing, Master freed me for a time from most of my work. He told me to spend two days a week resting in Encinitas, and generally to take it easy. I spent my free time in thinking of God. After some weeks of this practice, I saw Master. Much to my surprise, he said, “You are doing wonderfully.”
Now, curiously perhaps, my ill health at that time was to a great extent due to the fact that I had been working so hard. Yet he hadn’t thought to praise me during that long period of (I hope!) productive work. It was only now, when I was doing nothing, that he praised me for what I was doing! Why now? Because the chief purpose of his mission was to teach us, and all men, an inner, divine productivity.
I knew Master three and a half years. That is not long, but it was long enough to hear a considerable number of his priceless discourses. Many hours he would talk with the monks on various philosophical points and on matters pertaining to the work. Often, too, when we were alone he would discuss these issues with me, personally. And if there is one point that stands out in my throng of sweet memories, it is the fact that what pleased him always, above everything else, was devotion, and a constant inward remembrance of God. Philosophical truths were, for him, only avenues to the expression of divine love. Good work without devotion might have impressed him, but it never thrilled his heart.
Ah, my brothers and sisters, would it not be wonderful if more of us were on fire with love for God? How many weep for the Divine Mother as Master wept when he was a boy? Our greatest work in life should be to express that divine yearning, that love. When we can reflect it, we shall be able to work ten times as hard, and a hundred times as effectively, as we do when we draw only on our own scanty powers.
Working in the garden one may think, “I have too many weeds to pull and flowers to water and lawns to mow to think of God.” But no! To think of God and to love Him is our first job in life. Is it not for Him that we are doing everything else? Sukdeva, the son of Vyasa, and one of the great sages of ancient India, said, “All time is wasted that is not spent in seeking God.” When we think of the Lord first, our hearts sing for joy and all our work goes easily.