Letters from Ananda members, Part 46

Joy Is The Surest Sign
Sharon Brooks

I’m a relative newcomer to Ananda, having only started taking meditation classes in May of 1998. I wasn’t here for the Bertolucci lawsuit, but I caught a fair amount of the aftermath. I particularly recall when one of the larger weekly Bay Area papers (S.F. Weekly or the Bay Guardian perhaps), did a big article about it, featuring on the front page a cartoon caricature of Swami Kriyananda surrounded by voluptuous young women.

I read the article and found it rather unsettling. I had been at Ananda for over six months at this point and was getting more deeply involved. But I still hadn’t met Swami, who was living in Italy by then, and reading all the negative things in the article gave me pause. Could they possibly be true?

Although I continued taking meditation classes and attending events, the seed of doubt planted in my mind by that article caused me to remain a bit detached. I needed to make sure I wasn’t getting into something that, while superficially appearing joyous and light, was fundamentally flawed by abuses of power or lack of integrity in the core leadership.

This went on for several weeks, and I still recall the precise moment when I realized it was all nonsense and that I could just let it go. I was in East West Bookshop, an Ananda business located on Castro Street in downtown Mountain View. It was by no means my first time there. I would drop in whenever I was in the neighborhood, just to soak up the peaceful and relaxing vibrations.

On this particular day, I wandered around until I found myself standing quietly in front of the large fountain that occupied a place of honor in the middle of the store, gradually becoming aware of the feelings of peace and calm inner joy that were filling my being. But I felt something else too—deep gratitude for the people and the organization that had created such an oasis of spirituality in the middle of busy Mountain View. And in that instant I knew that Swami Kriyananda, and the rest of Ananda’s ministers and members, couldn’t possibly be the villains they were being portrayed as, for—as Jesus said— “By their fruits ye shall know them.”

For over six months, every event I attended, every person I met, every class I took, every bit of music I heard, every piece of literature I read, and every beautiful altar I saw had brought me experience after experience of joy, inspiration, and devotion. I had felt consistently uplifted. I had realized great benefits from my meditation practices. And, best of all, I had found my guru and was experiencing the reality of divine love in ways I had never dreamed of. If these were the “fruits,” the “tree” they came from could only be as good and beautiful as they were!

I put that article out of my mind and resolved to simply accept the blessings Divine Mother was bringing to me through the channel of Ananda. After all, as a quote I once read said: “Joy is the surest sign of God’s presence.” And joy is what I continue to experience in ever greater measure here with my spiritual family of Ananda. Thank you Swamiji—Ananda wouldn’t be here to help us grow closer to God if it weren’t for your devotion to Master and your tireless efforts to further his mission in the world. I am deeply grateful

Sharon lives at Ananda Palo Alto. She is flautist, a professional musician and music teacher, and also teaches singing to the children at Ananda’s Living Wisdom School.