To My Surprise
The first time I went to an Ananda function was an Easter lunch in 1993 or 1994 at the Mountain View Ananda community. The Ananda member who invited me mentioned that Swami Kriyananda would be there.
I was struck by the feeling of sweetness that permeated the meal and the gathering, and I was quite curious about this Swami person. Having visited other ashrams and spiritual centers, where the appearance of the guru or leader was heralded by great fanfare and commotion, I kept wondering when he was going to show up and make his grand entrance. As time passed, disappointment began to set in as it became apparent to me that obviously Swami wasn’t going to show.
Finally, between the nut loaf and the dessert, I voiced my chagrin to my friend, who laughed and said, “He’s over there!”
“Where?” I replied, scanning the green garden intensely, trying to discern a figure somehow set apart from the rest of the diners, someone to whom others were paying obeisance.
“There!” my friend replied, pointing to a table of happily eating people, among whom sat a slight, white-haired man in a pale blue suit, laughing and joking with the others around him.
“Him?!” I replied in surprise. Because of the low-key, natural way in which people were interacting with him (and he with them), Swami seemed to me more like someone’s jolly favorite uncle than an imposing spiritual presence, at whose feet people were expected to bow.
In my deepening involvement with Ananda, my experience of Swami continued to be the same. I perceive him less as an authority figure, and more as a spiritual friend. He does not stand above me (or anyone), issuing commands from on high, but rather walks beside me, holds my hand when necessary, and waits respectfully for me to discover the truth from my own inner experience, rather than expecting me to accept something just because he says it’s true.
Zhahara works at The Expanding Light Retreat at Ananda Village, near Nevada City, California.