A Treasure I Hold In My Heart
I have read with great joy and interest all the recent letters written by friends and students of Swami Kriyananda, refuting the charges and slander which have been leveled against him so brutally in recent years.
I was particularly moved and impressed by the one written by Vijay Girard, for its clarity and strength. Vijay entitled his letter “I Know This Man.” As I thought about that title a bit, I realized that I would have to title my offering a bit differently, something like: “I Don’t Think I Really Do Know This Man.”
For I must say, that after many years of being a student and friend of his, I still don’t truly know him! And yet, in a way, I DO! It’s just that I know him inwardly through my meditations, much more than outwardly. And I know him through his lessons, books, and music. And I know him through all lectures, very few of which I have missed over the years of my be associated with Ananda. And I know him from the inspiring people I serve with daily at Ananda Village, those who have known him longer than I and been with him on a regular or even daily basis. Most of all I know him from the depth of the love and friendship he has offered me, even from a distance.
I see him very seldom these days, but when I do he always greets me and looks into my eyes with a look that says to me, “I see you, Savitri, but not the ‘little you’ with all your struggles and faults. I see the Divine within you.” In that look there is a blessing that far surpasses any human love or friendship I have ever known. And that is the treasure I hold in my heart given to me so freely from a man I still don’t truly know well or could even begin to understand on every level.
Thus it is that I find it extremely difficult to refute the charges against him or try defend him. Why? Because they are so totally opposite from what I have experienced of what I do know of him. Or, perhaps it’s because the charges are so absurd as to be beyond comprehension! Swami Kriyananda and the way he lives his life seem basically too good to be true, in my opinion. I think that is why people, even those closest to him, find it difficult to explain or describe him to those who have never met him, either in person or through his works. All that said, I want to give it a try anyway, simply because of my love for him and in gratitude for all he has given me—which is essentially my whole spiritual life, without which I feel I would probably be dead by now, if not in body, certainly in spirit.
Some of the charges leveled against Swami Kriyananda and my answers to those charges:
He is a dictator, or wants people to be dependent on him.
I and just about everyone I know who has ever been around him have begged Kriyananda to tell them what to do, in either little or big decisions for their lives or for Ananda.
An example from my life: In 1980 husband, Sudarshan and I were contemplating marriage, but unsure of the rightness of this major decision. So we wrote Swami a note about it. The next time we saw him in person, we asked him what he thought about it. “Do you think we should get married, Swamiji?” He turned it right back around on us and said, “Well do you think it’s a good idea?” I wish you could have seen our faces at that moment as we mumbled and stumbled about saying: “Well, yes sir, I guess so” or something like that. Then he said, “Well, if you think it’s a good idea, then so do I.” Not exactly the answer we had looked for, but in fact a perfect answer, for it made us go more deeply within ourselves to try to find the rightness or wrong-ness of this decision (We’ve been married for 22 year—so I guess it’s “so far, so good”).
He is a womanizer or a sexual predator?
I simply cannot believe this. I know that it is just not in him to act like that. But how do I know this?
First, I am now 58 years old and not the cute little yogini I was in 1975 when I first met Kriyananda. But I was not a sexually naïve woman; and I knew very well the second any person, man or woman, looked or spoke to me or anyone else with even the tiniest flavor of a sexual come-on. I was alone with Kriyananda on several occasions in those early years. I felt absolutely and completely nothing of that sort, only a sense of impersonal kindness and love. But on the other hand I would never have considered putting out that sort of energy towards him either.
Second, I did know many of the women who accused him of all kinds of horrendous things, and I do believe plainly and simply that were manipulated into saying these things. The one I can speak about firmly and clearly is Anne Marie Bertolucci. I served as a counselor for her for a while. What she was when I counseled her and what she became after she was taken control of by those who felt themselves to be enemies of Kriyananda and Ananda were like night and day opposites.
I know (because she told me) that Kriyananda tried to help her to see what the morally right thing to do was (namely not break up the Levin marriage and family). Because she didn’t like what he told her (she told me that too), she turned on him in an incredibly vengeful way, but not until later when she found those people (or they found her) who told her what to think and feel and what exactly she could get out of initiating a lawsuit.
During the Bertolucci lawsuit I did my best to testify on behalf of Kriyananda, and to offer the truth of what I had experienced with Anne Marie. But her lawyer, the notorious Mr. Flynn, pretty much made hash of everything I had to say. It broke my heart to sit in that courtroom and hear all the lies and abuse being flung at Swamiji and Ananda, to see that justice was not going to prevail. I would gladly have given my life itself to change things, to make it all come out “right,” but that is not what God had in mind for any of us at that point.
He is greedy and attached to money?
Sorry, not so. Kriyananda grew up in a medium-wealthy home. When his parents both died, they left him a sizable inheritance. What did he do with it? Mansions, yachts, foreign trips, luxuries? He built the Crystal Hermitage, a part of which is a one-bedroom apartment, in which he has stayed in very little over the years. The rest is a beautiful community center, chapel, museum, public gardens, recording studio—all of it used and enjoyed by thousands of Ananda residents and visitors.
I think he lives very modestly for a man who could very easily live like a king if he wanted to (he has that kind of energy and power). He is completely unattached to whatever it is he “owns” and recently has done his best to get rid of anything he does “own”, even the copyrights on his books and music. Go and look at his little home in Assisi, which he technically doesn’t “own” either (he’ll probably have you over for tea, if you ask). It has a great view. It’s a sweet place. But a mansion? No, I think not.
I have seen that God gives him what he needs and nothing more or less. His friends or admirers often give him gifts, most of which he uses to help others, in an unselfish and loving way. He is 75 years old and not in the greatest health, and still he keeps writing, lecturing, giving and serving others to the very best of his abilities. His life has been one of absolute and unselfish service to God, his guru Paramhansa Yogananda, and to those who wish to grow spiritually. Can I prove his lack of greed and attachment to money? No, I can only offer what I have observed and what I admire very much in his attitude about material possessions.
Holds himself out to be the guru? Or is disloyal to Master?
My experience: I was really afraid that Kriyananda was going to be this type of person, before I met him. I knew that Paramhansa Yogananda was my guru and didn’t want another. But the very first time I ever saw Kriyananda was a very hot Saturday in July of 1975. In his lecture that day he said (this is as best as I remember it—though I certainly can’t remember his exact words): “I am not the guru here at Ananda. Paramhansa Yogananda is our guru. But I am his disciple and have been so for 27 years. If you are Yogananda’s disciple also, or are attracted to his path, then you are my brother or sister disciple. Whatever I have learned from these years of discipleship I am happy to share with you.”
Even before I heard him say these words, which satisfied me completely, I had met many people who knew Kriyananda personally and who had worked side by side with him to establish Ananda. I could see the love and respect they had for this man I hadn’t met yet, and I could feel what wonderful souls they were. So I suspected that he had to be exactly what I later found him to be—first and foremost a humble and faithful disciple of his guru. Never have I in any way been disappointed in his example or his behavior. That doesn’t mean I have accepted or understood his every word or new ideas he suggested for Ananda’s direction/future—far from it! Nor would he wish anyone to be a “Yes-Man” or “Yes-Woman.” He is, without question, a talented and natural leader, but his respect for each person’s right to make his own decisions, walk his own path, and be his own person is astonishing.
Arrogant? Not open to the ideas of others?
To this very day, Kriyananda asks many people, as he always has, to give him feedback on his writings, his decisions, his ideas, everything! I know he gets a little miffed at some people, like me, who are hesitant, shy, or simply don’t know how to do this—not knowing how to match the genius or energy of a man like this. But I watch him carefully, and I can see that he does listen carefully to everyone, a fool, a child, a world leader, whoever? He LISTENS—that doesn’t mean he always agrees, but he does listen, much better than anyone I have ever met. He examines any and all advice very thoroughly, and if there is something in it he sees is right or that needs to change his work or his direction, he’ll turn on a dime, in a minute!
Example: Many years ago when Ananda was trying to incorporate as a city, Swami suddenly saw that what we were trying to do— what in fact he had been pushing along with a great deal of energy— was, in fact, not going to turn out right for the greater benefit of our area, our neighbors, etc. That was what our neighbors had been saying all along. Much of what they said wasn’t true, but the kernel of the objection, Swamji came to see, was valid: It was too much of a violation of the all-important church/state separation. And that was it, from one minute to the next, with no warning to anyone. He said, “I see now that is not the direction we need to go in.” It was startling, to say the least, for everyone—all of us, our opponents, the local government, everyone! But it was right, he suddenly saw it, and changed gears immediately. Could this describe someone who doesn’t listen, or is not open to the ideas of others?
Egotistical or puts himself above others?
He could, if he wanted to. In my opinion he is “better” than most people in so many ways that might seem important: smarter, more talented, more energetic and magnetic, more creative, more eloquent, more charismatic, more dedicated, more optimistic, more serviceful, more forgiving of those who abuse him, an excellent leader, understanding and kind. Louse Hay called him, and I personally heard her say this when they both spoke at a conference in Dallas: “The kindest man I have ever met,” (and I assume she’s met many great people in her career). But what does “better” mean in the eyes of God? Nothing!
How many times has he said to us? (over and over and over!): “When you die, God is not going to ask you how smart, talented, energetic, creative, etc, etc, etc., you are. God will ask, ‘How much do you love me?’” And these are not just words Swami says. He lives it!
I think the main problem for some people who have had outer dealings with Kriyananda, and don’t take the time to feel his depth and love, very quickly become uncomfortable with his genius, his energy, his mental acuity—then they begin to compare themselves with him, or see themselves in the mirror of his consciousness, they see how short they fall and this makes them lash out in fear or anger. How common and how stupid to want to tear down those who are “better” than you are at anything.
I count myself among the fortunate in this world to have spent some time in the presence of such a man as Swami Kriyananda. Paramhansa Yogananda told him he would receive liberation at the close of this lifetime. Can you even begin to imagine what this means? I can’t. Yes, I know him, but then again I don’t. I think that in the end it doesn’t matter whether I do or not. I do know without question that he is my (best!) divine friend, and that is enough.
Savitri lives at Ananda Village and works in the Ministry office and at The Expanding Light Retreat.