Now that I have reached the age of 50, I have friends and co-workers who are decades younger than I. When they fail to agree with my point of view, it is tempting to brush them off with convenient phrases like youth and inexperience.
Then I reflect: when I first came to Ananda, Swami Kriyananda was 45; I was 24. For years I worked closely with him, often on a daily basis.
Young and inexperienced described me perfectly — also forceful, articulate, opinionated. I was no fool, but I was far less wise than I thought myself to be. As I look back on those years, I am profoundly embarrassed by how many excellent ideas and positive directions Swamiji proposed and I thwarted.
How is that possible? you may well ask. I didnt have a position of leadership in the community. I was a cook, a secretary, sometimes a project manager. Swamiji was the founder and spiritual director of all of Ananda.
People are more important than things. This is the truth Swamiji lives by. If he couldnt win me to his cause, he preferred to put aside the project rather than put aside the person — in this case me. He saw the insecurity behind my bravado. To disregard me would have thwarted the most important project of all: my progress toward Self-realization. Patiently he supported, valued, and loved me in a way I never dreamed possible — then and for all the 30 years I have known him.
Now that I am in the same age relationship to others that Swamiji has always been to me, I appreciate even more what he has given me and want to pass that gift on to others.
In gratitude, recently, I thanked him. Even though I was so young and inexperienced, I said, you never once referred to my age.
I never noticed, he replied simply.
It took me a moment to appreciate what he was saying. Then I recalled a conversation wed had at the dinner table many years before. The subject was a couple who had left Ananda and were getting divorced. I mentioned, with amazement, that even after several years of marriage, she apparently didnt know the color of his eyes. Incredible, I said. Everyone at the table agreed with me. But Swamiji looked a little puzzled.
But I never know what color peoples’ eyes are, he said. Even someone Ive worked with for years, like Seva, Id have to look to know. I dont look at peoples’ eyes, I look through them. Then he turned to Seva who happened to be sitting next to him. Oh, I see, he said, they are brown.
Suddenly the old saying, the eyes are the window of the soul, took on a deeper and more profound meaning for all of us sitting there.
Remembering that earlier conversation, I understood what Swamiji was saying about the ageless way he always related to me. It takes mental affirmation for me to have the right attitude. For Swamiji, it is just the way he sees the world.
This story is typical of my experiences with Swami Kriyananda. Not only does it speak of the great respect and consideration he has always shown me and others, but also it reminds me I can never be quite sure Ive figured him out! So often, just when I think Ive got it, God moves me another baby-step toward Self-realization and then a whole new dimension of Swamiji is revealed — and a whole new understanding of myself comes with it.
What an adventure in Self-awakening it is to be the friend of this wonderful man.
April 17, 299 Dwapara