The Bertolucci Case: Its Meaning
A talk by Swami Kriyananda at a Community Meeting at Ananda Village
Transcribed from the recording, with minor editing for clarity
We stand at a very important point in the development of Master’s work. Is this work of Master’s going to be institutionalized? Is perfection in this work going to be identified and defined by the position somebody holds in an organization? Are people going to have their own clarity of understanding suppressed, so that they don’t dare speak out for fear that somebody who has been in the work longer, somebody who was with Master all those years, will disapprove? Are people going to go against what their own conscience tells them has to be the truth? Or are they going to believe that the name and the meaning of Master’s work is Self-Realization—not Self-Realization Fellowship Church, Inc.—Self-realization. If it is Self-realization, than everyone, in accordance with his conscience, has to make up his own mind as to what he can and cannot accept.
Unconditional obedience—when is it appropriate?
I did that with Master when I gave him my unconditional obedience. I gave him that because I knew what he said was true. I found that it was always true. In SRF now, I don’t see that what they are doing is true. I could not give unconditional obedience to what I see there now. Master said to give unconditional obedience to an enlightened guru is good, because it’s liberating. But to give unconditional obedience to anyone less is not good, because it takes away your freedom. It weakens your will power.
When somebody tells you to do something because it is what he personally wants, or what the organization needs it, but doesn’t take into account your own evolution, then to be obedient to that kind of leader is going to weaken, not strengthen, your will power. Yes, it’s always good to be humble, it’s always good to be receptive, it is always good to listen. But finally, your own conscience has to tell you what to do.
That’s why at the beginning of the meeting last Sunday, I said, I know there has been a lot of talk about obedience to the spiritual director, cooperation with the spiritual director—all these things which are right and proper in any religious organization. Then I said, I want you to put that thought completely aside tonight. Don’t accept anything that I’m telling you, just because I’m the one telling you. Feel in your own heart whether it resonates with your own truth, and act accordingly. I would not want you to act differently. I want you to feel convinced to your own deepest depth that this is right—this, and anything else that I say this evening.
A new definition of Master’s work—not SRF, not Ananda
What I’m talking about is this way of looking at Master’s work. We – Ananda – are following Master’s work to the best of our ability. But Ananda is not the definition of Master’s work. SRF is following Master’s work, I hope to the best of their ability, but SRF does not define it either. Master’s work is a teaching, it is not an institution. Somebody who has never even heard of SRF or Ananda may be more in tune with it than anyone of us here who are consciously following his work. There may be somebody on the mailing list, whom none of us have ever heard of, who is more advanced than anybody in this room, including me. Who’s to know? That’s between them and God.
In the Catholic Church, there have been many people who were saints who weren’t in monasteries or in the priesthood. It’s a question of whom God chooses to enlighten. He may choose to enlighten some beggar who would elicit from everyone else nothing but contempt. God may show the greatness of that soul, because He can see what you and I cannot see.
So we are not talking of organizations. We should not on any account place ourselves proudly above SRF, saying that we know, and they don’t. That’s not at all what I mean. What I do mean, and I mean it very strongly, is that we’ve got to see that Master’s work is something for the world. It’s universal. It doesn’t depend on who you are outwardly, or what you’ve formally dedicated yourself to. It doesn’t depend on what books you’ve read, what position you hold, nothing of that sort. If you are in tune with Master’s ray, you will be his child. That’s why I said, if Ananda fails in its mission, if somehow we don’t fulfill Master’s dreams of us, he’ll find somebody else. It might be somebody who has never heard of Master but, nevertheless, is in tune with his ideals.
That is what we’re talking about. I see the ideals of Self-realization being manifested in other spiritual works. I see it being manifested in people who are not consciously on this spiritual path. I see them everywhere. I also see the opposite everywhere, people acting contrary to the ideals of Self-realization—there is much more of that.
And I see some people in this community who have lived here for years, who don’t particularly show any of the spirit of Self-realization. It’s a soft berth for them, that is what I see. It doesn’t depend on who you are or where you are. Nothing matters except your own dedication to these ideals.
What does God want? Reason and intuition
I think the first thing that God has shown me through this situation is that God and Master want us to define ourselves as we are in our service to Him, without any reference to SRF. It is either/or. It is a schism. I hate to say that. It hurts me more deeply than you can imagine. But I see no choice. Therefore I will take that choice. There is no other.
I’ve come to that conclusion not only through intuition, but also through reason. It’s not enough just to say that we feel Master’s blessings and his joy even in the midst of this attack on us, even in the depositions, therefore what we are doing must be what he wants. Intuition itself is never wrong, but we can kid ourselves. So we have also to use reason. What I do when I’m trying very seriously to understand God’s will, Master’s will, is I start with intuition, then I use my reason. Then I see if my intuition supports my reason. Reason can also be wrong, in fact much more easily wrong than intuition. But the two together are a fairly unbeatable combination.
I’ve looked at this whole thing. On the one hand, look at the good that we’re doing. The lives of thousands of people have been changed. Look at the people living here at Ananda Village and in our colonies whose lives have been changed for the better in ways that, many years ago, you all would never have believed possible. Look at the many people who’ve been inspired.
Who speaks against us?
Okay, you can go on and on with that. So enough. Let’s look at the other side. Who is speaking for the other side? It turns out to be people who are totally negative, people who have done nothing in their lives to help anyone that we know about. One of them is Don Price. It’s his number the Internet [Ananda Awareness Network] tells you to call. The other is Anne-Marie. When she told me to my face that she was determined to marry Danny, to take Danny away from his wife, I said “This is not right and I won’t allow it. ” She said, “But I would make a good mother to Elisa!” Since then she’s been making one false charge after another. The charges she made against me, the charges she made against Danny, the charges she made against Padma, the charges she made against Devi, the charges she made against Vidura, the charges she made against a whole slew of us – none of it is true.
Would I behave differently now, if I were in the same position talking to her again? Absolutely not! I knew I was courting great difficulties when I said that to her. But I would not flinch, because this is what we have to do.
That’s one side of it. SRF is digging up lots of untruths, misstatements, false representations, and lies. If Master wants to use SRF for our destruction, which is at least conceivable, he couldn’t be doing it through trying to get them to lie. He couldn’t do it by inspiring them to behave adharmically. This is an outrage. It’s not possible. The people on Bertolucci’s legal team are not gentlemen by any stretch of the imagination. In their arguments, in the way they present them, they are whipping up all this agitation against us and gloating in the thought that we may actually be destroyed now. This cannot be dharmic.
So reason also tells me—with so much good on one side, and so much evil, or simply nothing on the other side—it doesn’t make sense that these people are right and we are wrong. It doesn’t make sense. And to come back to intuition again, to feel the strength that we’ve been gaining through this process—this has been to me a clinching argument that this line we are following is the right one. I feel it strongly.
Some women have accused me
Now, that’s not the whole of it. There are other things that I feel from this. You all know about all those women who wrote declarations against me. I couldn’t bring myself to read them. I heard some of the names and I didn’t even recognize all of them. But I heard some of these things, and I was wondering, “How do I respond to this?” I finally read them—oddly enough on my anniversary September 12 [1948, discipleship initiation by Yogananda] Unfortunately, that was the day that I was going into town to face this battery of velociraptors [Bertolucci’s lawyers]. I read them and was appalled. Most of them were distortions of truth or pure fabrication.
But I was so sad for several reasons. One is that Kimberly Moore, who’s the main one in this thing, was a woman whom I deeply loved. I have to say it, I still love her. I felt that I gained great good from her, from Parmeshwari [Kimberly]. I said to her when I was with her, “Nothing you do or don’t do, say or don’t say, could affect or touch what I have gained from our association.” The gain has been permanent. I still feel it. So it was a deep hurt for me that this person who is a friend of my soul—yet in her mind is an enemy of my soul—could act in this way. It was hard to talk that day. It was hard to answer their questions. But I did. I have to say that the charges were not true. And yet, there was truth.
That’s what I want to address next. If I have hurt anyone, I am deeply sorry. I will do whatever I can to amend. But I want to tell you one thing. When I met Master, he said to me, “Of the three delusions, sex, wine and money, which one of any do you feel you’ve been caught in?” I said, “Sex.” And he said, “I saw that the moment you entered the room.” In other words, he had been testing my veracity, my truthfulness. Then he told me, “I give you my unconditional love. Will you give me yours?” And he gave me my monastic vows.
What about my vows?
SRF has been making a big thing of these vows, that I took them and, they say, didn’t keep them. Here’s a very interesting thing I remember. Mrinalini’s brother Bill was very dear to Master. Bill’s two sisters, Marsha and Myrna [Mrinalini] Brown came into a room and saw Master weeping. They said, “Master, what is the matter?” Master said, “Bill is going to leave this path. Let’s pray for him.” Several times after that, Master had Bill take the vows of a monk, knowing that he would break those vows. Was Master trying to help Bill incur bad karma? That can’t be what he was doing. Yet he had Bill take a vow he knew he would break. What Master was doing was trying to help Bill affirm within himself the direction Master wanted him to take. Master hoped the affirmation would help Bill break in the right direction and then he wouldn’t leave. But it didn’t work. Bill did leave. Master failed in what you’d have to call a noble attempt.
I remember saying to Master once, “I would rather die than succumb to sexual temptation.” This was a good thing to say. “Death before dishonor.” Throughout history gurus have often supported their disciples this choice. But Master said reprovingly, “Why do you say that? Just do your best.”
It has always been a deep source of anguish to me that I could not uproot from my mind a desire for a romantic contact or sexual contact with a woman. I worked on it as hard as I could. When I took my brotherhood vows it was with the inner affirmation that I would do my best. Whenever I went to Kriya and drank the Babaji drink, that was my one wish for many, many years, “Free me from this desire.” I took the brotherhood vow with the understanding that I would be protected by the monastic order. When the order threw me out, I was thrown to the wolves.
What could I do? I was thinking in my own mind, “Should I say I’m no longer a Swami? Should I give up?'” I didn’t want to give up. This is what I believed in. I believed in renunciation, I believed in my renunciation. I believed in my absolute dedication to God. Besides which, being a Swami means many other things than just being celibate. It means teaching. It means representing a tradition. It means declaring to God above all that you live just for Him and want nothing—no possessions, nothing. That is how I’ve always lived. That is me. And yet it was not easy. It was not easy. Especially after being thrown out of SRF, I felt this deep longing for some kind of affection that would reassure my heart. It was never given to me. It was never given to me in such a way that I could say, “Yes, this is right for me.” Always my heart rejected it, saying, “No, that’s not what I want. I want Divine Mother’s love.”
It is between me and God
So I had to struggle against myself. I want you to know I have no desire to unburden myself before you. I will not feel better for having done so. I just feel it is my duty to you. But my vows are not your business. They are my business. I haven’t done it to impress anybody. I’ve done it as a declaration of love and dedication to God. It is between me and God.
Master told us many times, “Don’t tell your faults to other people. Because when they get angry with you they will use them against you.” Don’t tell your faults or failings or shortcomings to others because they will be thrown back at you as affirmations of weakness. To overcome, you must constantly affirm your strength. Master said, “As long as you don’t give in, there’s always the possibility that you will win in this life. And if not, then in future lives. But the moment you say, ‘I give up,’ you are lost, at least for this incarnation.” I held to that belief. I said, “I will not give up no matter what happens in my life.” I have gone that way with all the strength of which I was capable.
Have I slipped? Yes, I have. I’m not at all ashamed for having done so. I was terribly ashamed then. I remember one night in a class in Sacramento. There was a young woman in the class and suddenly I felt a strong sexual desire. We had an ashram then in Sacramento. This was 1969. I just didn’t want to go back to the ashram, so I took a motel room. I wept all night with shame and remorse, praying to God to free me. In the morning I was exhausted, and in no way uplifted. I realized that’s not the way to go. The way to go is to keep trying. To fight until you’re killed in battle, but don’t ever, ever, give up. It has been my struggle. It isn’t one I’ve cared to share with you, because I haven’t looked to you as people who will help me through it. If you could, I would have come to you, but you couldn’t.
I have treated myself as I have treated you
I have always looked to you for your strengths, not your shortcomings. I have always looked for your virtues, not your faults, your strengths, not your weaknesses. I haven’t talk or emphasized or affirmed those weaknesses, even when I have known them.
One of you, possibly present in this room—I don’t have my glasses on, can’t tell all that clearly but many years ago,
We have a strong rule here, as you know, against drinking. One of our two rules—no drugs, no alcohol. One of you—possibly present in this room, perhaps one of the people who have been here for many years—came into my house dead drunk, absolutely staggeringly drunk. I just treated him with respect, embraced him, and let him go. A few minutes later, I heard a thrashing about in the bushes. He was so drunk he couldn’t find the path. I never said a word to him. I knew that he was just expressing a little rebellion. We all do. I have. You have. What big thing is it?
I’ve tried to ride with your strengths, the goodness that I see in you. I think that’s one of the main secrets of Ananda’s greatness today—the goodness that I see in all of you. As Master did, so have I done: I have looked for the good and the God in you, not the devil and not the ego. I have given you faith in your own goodness. I think if I’ve done nothing else in life, that action has been right. And I apply it to myself.
So I am not ashamed. I am extremely proud of my life. As far as I know, every monk and nun that has left the SRF monastery, has gotten married, usually within weeks of leaving. I did not. And when finally I met Parmeshwari [Kimberly], I felt that this was right. I wrote a letter to the Yoga Journal, telling them about this change. I felt it was right to marry her. She made a mockery of it in her declaration. She talked about all these people who went down to Half Moon Bay for the ceremony. There were two people on an empty beach: she and I. It was between us and God. No one else. She made a mockery of it. We exchanged two stones that were deeply important to us—aquamarines, which we both happened to love deeply. We exchanged these. I threw mine into the Ganges ten years ago. I offered it back to God.
Following the example of Lahiri Mahasaya
I felt that this was the right thing to do. I felt it because my life isn’t just for me. It’s for others, it’s for Ananda. I realized that the trouble at Ananda was that people were not able to think of the householder life as anything but becoming a second-class yogi. The feeling was that the only way to be really dedicated was to be a single person and a renunciate. The householders were embarrassed about being householders. Parents were ashamed, if you can believe it, of having children. They felt it really put them outside the pale. I kept saying, “No it’s not so. Look at Lahiri Mahasaya, look at all these married saints.” But they couldn’t get it through their heads. I thought, “I’ve never been able to get anything across at Ananda until I did it first.” With that thought in mind, I performed this spiritual wedding. Later, with Rosanna, I went through a formal wedding, for the same purpose. It turned Ananda around.
Householders today are the most spiritually dedicated among our members. Look at all those who are most dedicated. In every case, virtually, they are married and many of them have children. So I know that I did a good thing.
But even in marriage with Rosanna, I tried to follow the principle of Lahiri Mahasaya, as I have tried steadfastly to do all these years. Always in my mind to try to be withdrawn, to watch myself, to feel that this is not who I am. Even with Rosanna, that’s how I lived. I found that gradually my mind was pulling more and more into myself, where I can say—and have been able to say for some time—I feel very strong. Temptation means nothing to me now.
But I have wondered, “What does this mean for us on another level?” Most of these attacks have been against me, calling me a sexual pervert, degenerate, and all sorts of incredible words. You all know me. You know that I’m not like that. If I have ever slipped, hardly any of you have even known it. Not because I’m a hypocrite, not because I hide anything, but because it isn’t my consciousness. It isn’t what I put out. I’m not interested in you women as women. I’m interested in you as devotees of God, as sisters on the path. This is the truth.
Now I feel so strong in myself, and I was asking, “Divine Mother, if you wanted to destroy us on this ground, why didn’t you do it years earlier when I was really in doubt of myself? That was the time to do it. Why now, when I feel strong as a lion?” I think I have the answer, but I’m not sure. I’ve had to think more about it to be sure of the inspiration. It’s just been a couple of days. I need to have seclusion. But I think this is what Divine Mother wants. The reason I got into the whole householder thing for us is that it looks to me that that is what God wants of us. All over the world, the monasteries are decimated. Some of the largest monasteries, that used to have hundreds of monks and nuns, are now reduced to maybe six or seven old men or women in their seventies or eighties. There’s just nothing there now. They’re just shells. In India, it’s the same thing as in Europe, as in America.
And the Madonna—when she told the child visionaries how to comport themselves after they grow up—she used to tell them to enter monasteries. But for the past few decades, she’s been telling them to marry and have children. The world needs examples of spiritual householders. Now we have a spiritual householder order at Ananda. And we have a big of a tug of war right now between people who don’t want to grow more spiritually. They want it to be more of a village, less of an ashram. We have the householders right there in a position to rise or to be sucked back into the worldly definition of what it means to be a householder—sitting there in your easy chair watching television with a six-pack.
Some interviewer in Chicago a few years ago—last year in fact—was challenging me on the whole subject of affirmations. He said people are unreal in their affirmations. They don’t want to face reality. They want to say they are something they know they are not. I said, “I can imagine a good cartoon.” I described this man with a big beer belly, with a six-pack, sitting in his easy chair, smoking a cigar, watching TV. The caption underneath says, “I am one with the universe.” Even he laughed. Of course you have to make your affirmations real. They have to be in line with what you are aspiring to become, or at least hope to aspire to become. To make an absurd statement that has no relationship to your own actual realities is, of course, ridiculous.
A new understanding of renunciation
What we need right now is an affirmation to help us to rise. I don’t feel at all that I’ve ever left my dedication as a swami. I feel at least the thought, and increasingly it seems, the guidance, to take that name again. We need to set that example. Otherwise, in a sense, you can say, “What am I? Fish or fowl? I’m neither.” I had to let Rosanna divorce me because she bought a house in Carmel. It would have been partly in my name if we were married. If anybody placed a lien on my property—I don’t own real property—but it would place a lien on her house. I said, “That’s not fair. I wouldn’t want that to happen.” Earlier I had said to her, “It doesn’t matter if you divorce me or not. I doesn’t change how I feel toward you.” But then, after all this happened, I said, “You’d better divorce me.” So she did. But it doesn’t make me feel any different in my heart.
I know what I want on every level. There’s no hole that I can see where I could be sucked out of myself now. So that’s the direction that we need to go. Not just me, but gradually, more and more of us raising our consciousness and becoming monks, nuns, swamis—whatever. Not swamis in the traditional way. Somehow I haven’t felt comfortable with that. It’s born of an old age. It’s born of an old tradition. Truth is eternal. There’s no difference between truth then and truth now, but the way the rules are made, the way truth is applied, does change. It seems to me that in this Dwapara Yuga, in this Ananda community, in this country, in this day and age, we need to think less in terms of what we don’t do, and more in terms of what we do do. The thought of being wrapped in a shawl of self-completeness, of being centered in yourself—that, I think, is the essence of it. Add to that the yamas and the niyamas, pranayama, asanas, pratyahara, all the eight-fold path, the ashtanga yoga of Patanjali—this is our dedication.