Snapshots from a Journey
Swami Kriyananda has said that, like all great world teachers, Yogananda’s mission has both quantitative and qualitative aspects. It is quantitative because the power of his consciousness has the ability to uplift and bless many people throughout the world–even those who may never know of him. But it is also qualitative, directed toward those deep, sincere disciples who truly want to find God. For such disciples, even though they may not have known him while he was in the body, Yogananda guides their lives personally, helping them to work through every obstacle and limitation that stands in the way of their liberation.
As I look back over the thirty years that I’ve spent at Ananda (Master’s ashram created by Swamiji), I can see that this same quantitative and qualitative process has been happening through Kriyananda as well. His life has been one of constant service to his guru through thousands of people the world over, by writing books and music, correspondence, counseling, creating communities, and lecturing. I have personally met people all over America and Europe whose lives have been touched and changed through his books, music, and talks.
But there is also a smaller group of seekers who came to Kriyananda for deeper training. Whether through our spoken words or not, we have asked him to guide our lives in the path of discipleship to Master, to leave no stone unturned until we awaken to our divine potential. This task he has taken on–humbly, quietly, but with full dedication and commitment to each of us.
Since I made my own inner commitment to dedicate my life to Master, many years ago, I have always known on some level that Swamiji’s commitment to help me in this process has matched my own. And the miracle is that as my commitment deepens, so does his for me. As I am ready to go deeper in meditation or to work on subtler aspects of my ego, he shows me how to take the next step.
It’s very hard to describe this process, because it’s quite subjective and takes place on inner levels. But since Swamiji’s birthday is approaching as I write this, I thought that as a present to him I would at least try to capture some of this experience. It’s a little like showing your friends snapshots from a beautiful journey you’ve made–the snapshots are nice but so onedimensional that they fall desperately short of the real experiences.
As I sort through the snapshots of my memories of Kriyananda, two particular images seem to dominate. The first is his silent, loving approval whenever I’ve made a deeper spiritual effort, and the second is the unconditional love, acceptance, and nonjudgment he always expresses toward others. I can see that he was guiding us in what Jesus said were the two greatest commandments: to love the Lord with all our hearts, minds, souls, and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves.
I remember a time when I had been at Ananda for only a few years. I was blessed with a period of deeper than usual meditations. To put this in context, for most people, these periods of spiritual intensity come and go over years, and are interspersed with times of just slogging through. Anyway, on this particular morning, I was feeling very inward and joyful. I began walking up a little forest path from the small trailer where I was living at the Seclusion Retreat, and as I approached the main complex of buildings, I noticed that Kriyananda was talking with a group of people who were standing about 200 yards from me. Though his back was facing me, he abruptly turned, left the group, and walked quickly to me. He looked at me with great kindness and support, and smiled radiantly, as though to say, “I’m proud of the effort you’re making.” He made some simple statements about what a nice day it was, but behind his words I knew that he was blessing me.
A few years later, I was taking a day of silence and seclusion. I’d had a long meditation in the morning and was feeling very joyful. I was taking a quiet walk in silence at the Seclusion Retreat, and Swamiji happened to be driving up there for a meeting. I saw him as he was arriving, and this time he didn’t walk over to me or say anything, but he just stood where he was and smiled at me. The light that was shining in his eyes seemed to fill his face, then his whole body. I remember that he was wearing a very pretty skyblue pullover sweater, and the light coming from him, particularly in the area of his heart, seemed to radiate outward in a circle of beautiful blue light. I was so moved by the light encircling him that I foolishly blurted out, “Oh, Swamiji, what a beautiful sweater that is!” He gently laughed, and then the light faded away. Again, the image that remains in my mind is of my divine friend sharing his blessings with me as I did what I could to move forward on the path.
I’ve learned so much about loving others from him–about never giving up on anybody, but always trying to help them. The images flood my mind, but I’ll share a few. A number of years ago, one of our members had the position of managing the meditation retreat. Although this person was dedicated and talented, he had a tendency to moodiness and not putting out enough energy to break through problems when the going got tough. Days before our biggest event of the year–called Spiritual Renewal Week–he quit and walked off the job. Everybody was frantically running around trying to pull the pieces together, while at the same time we were angry at the fellow who had quit.
I was on the Retreat staff at the time, and I went to tell Swamiji what had happened. I said, “Everyone is mad at him for leaving us in the lurch, and nobody wants to work with him anymore.” Swamiji looked at me deeply and quietly replied, “Well, if no one wants to work with him anymore, I guess I’ll have to hire him,” which he did.
The man worked on Swamiji’s staff for ten years before moving on to other things, and he was probably the person who contributed the most. Because Swamiji had believed in him when everyone else was turning their backs, this man was able to bring out his best.
Another time, there was a man who had been living at Ananda for a number of years who was a chronic complainer. He never had the right job or enough recognition. We tried to give him what we thought would make him happy, but it seemed that nobody could ever do enough. Finally, he complained to Swamiji, who later asked us what was going on with the situation. In exasperation, we said that we were tired of trying to work with him, when nothing we offered was ever satisfactory.
Again, Swamiji looked at us deeply, but this time a little sternly. He said, “If you’re too tired to work with him, then you’re not doing your job right.” He didn’t say this man’s attitudes were right, but he was saying we needed to dig deeper within to find the right understanding to work with this person with consideration and kindness. That, he was telling us, was what our job was really about.
The last image I want to share is one so trivial that I’ve hesitated whether to add it or not. But because it had such a lasting effect on me, I decided to include it. We had taken Swamiji to the dentist, and while we waited for him, I was looking at a fashion magazine. There was a picture of a model wearing an attractive business suit, and I thought, “That would be a nice suit for a working woman.” But then I realized that the model never “went to work”–all she did was wear the suit. I suppose in the back of my mind I was thinking what a trivial life she must lead.
When Swamiji came out from his appointment, he was in a lighthearted mood, and I shared with him what I’d been thinking. Much to my surprise, he stopped and considered my superficial musings. Then he said, quietly but clearly, “Maybe you wouldn’t want to model clothes for a living, but someone has to do it so that people can sell them.” Picking up on the threads of judgment in my mind, he was trying to show me the importance of accepting all people and activities as part of God’s plan. Nothing is more or less important in God’s eyes.
Do these little images fit together into any larger picture that conveys to you of the effect that Swami Kriyananda has had on my life? I hope so.
The image that I look at now as I sit at my computer is a picture of Swamiji as a young monk, handing a gift to his guru. Perhaps it’s the most important picture of all, for through it I hear the whispers of Swamiji’s heart saying, “I will serve you, my Guru, with all that I am, and in your name, I will serve them.” This I believe is the essence of Kriyananda, and can provide the understanding that transforms all the separate snapshots into a living reality.
Devi is a founding member. She lives at the Village where she works with her husband, Jyotish, in guiding the spiritual direction of Ananda.