Fresh Water for Dirty Drains
This period lives in my memory as one of the spiritual highlights of my life. The joy and inner freedom I’d experienced during my seclusion in the Himalayas lingered with me still. Nothing, I realized, was important except loving God. If I could bring people onto the path, that was gratifying; it was what I myself wanted outwardly more than anything else. But this dream of life would last only a few years. What counted most was that I felt convinced, in my heart, that God alone mattered.
I had built a bonfire, mentally. Constantly I offered into that fire every lingering attachment, every latent desire.
Ananda Moyi Ma said to me at this time, “Tomar bhab khub sundor” (your spiritual attitude is most beautiful). God gives us such periods from time to time, to encourage and reassure us. Much work yet remained for me, however, before I could claim this sense of soul-freedom for my constant companion.
Some time later I said something to Ananda Moyi Ma about the love I was feeling in my heart. She cautioned me quietly, “Intense feeling in the heart can flow downward in the spine as well as upward.” She was telling me, I felt, to make a conscious effort to direct my heart’s energies up toward the spiritual eye. I didn’t find this such an easy practice at that time, however. I was basking too blissfully in the heart’s inner freedom.
Back in Calcutta, I was faced more painfully than ever with the dilemma of institutionalism versus my concern for people’s hunger for truth. While on tour I had understood that the way really to spread Master’s work was to inspire people with his teachings and example. If I’d had a harmonious team of co-workers, as I have today at Ananda, I am certain that we’d have been able to serve the needs of countless thousands, and that Master’s name would by now be loved and revered throughout India. Instead, he remains little known. (One thing that pains me is that, in anthologies of Twentieth-Century Indian saints, I have yet to see Yogananda’s name even mentioned.)
I had no such team to work with. Binay-da was friendly, but not much interested in my approach to spreading Master’s work. In this respect, he was more American than Indian. What mattered to him was a strong organization.
I didn’t, and still do not, want to argue against that idea. He himself kept saying, “Instead of presenting ourselves with black-and-white alternatives, of either … or, why don’t we think in terms of both … and?” I agreed. Yet apart from Binay, and realizing also that what he really wanted was to lure me away from my ideas, not to embrace them himself, I felt a psychic morass surrounding our work as it existed then. To me it seemed that, if we proceeded in his direction, a quarter of a century would pass before the work even began to accomplish anything noteworthy. There was too much deadwood, too much sleepy energy, too much commitment to doing things as they had always been done, too much resistance to new ideas.
On my tour, many young people had expressed to me a desire to join our ashram. The energy I knew they’d encounter in Dakshineswar and in Ranchi, however, would be spiritually deadening to them. I couldn’t in good conscience urge them to come there.
Kashipati, a young man in Main Vinaynagar, said to me with tears in his eyes, “I read Autobiography of a Yogi a few years ago. I was so inspired that I went straight to Yogoda Math in Dakshineswar and joined the ashram as a monk. But gradually I became so disillusioned with the absence of spiritual inspiration there that for a while I even thought seriously about committing suicide. This was the one path I had found that I felt I could have faith in. And then this, too, proved a complete disappointment. It is only your coming that has reawakened my faith in spirituality, and in Master’s path.”
I told Binay-da this story, and said to him, “You see? We just can’t ask people to come here until we’re in a position to give them the help they need.”
“Doesn’t matter, Brother,” he replied dismissingly. “Let them come. When they leave, others will come.”
His was a businessman’s approach to the situation. But surely it could never be that of a devotee.
What occurred to me as the best possible solution was one to which I have resorted successfully again and again in my life: Don’t waste time transforming old energy, but concentrate on developing a positive vortex of new energy. Once the positive vortex grows strong enough, it will either absorb the old, transforming it automatically, or cause it to dissipate for lack of cohesion. This was how I had succeeded in organizing the monks. It was how I succeeded, later, in building Ananda despite much internal dissension during our early years. It is how Master taught us to work on ourselves: Do what you can do; don’t worry about the obstacles that are beyond your strength. I was convinced this method would work well for us in India.
I had been well received in northern India. In Bengal, however, especially in our own organization, the old ways were so entrenched that I wondered what, apart from dynamite, could ever dislodge them. I pleaded with Binay, Why not build an ashram in New Delhi? We could welcome applicants to a new way of life that we’d be able to develop from scratch, following Master’s ideals. New Delhi, I reminded him, was presently the heart of India. Everything flowed from that heart. The country looked to New Delhi for guidance in everything. A spiritual work established there would become known throughout India almost over-night. A good ashram there would become a model for ashrams everywhere.
“Just think,” I enthused, “of all the young people who graduate from college and want new ways of doing things, new ways of looking at life. That’s exactly what Master’s teachings can offer them.
”I don’t mean to starve our work here in Calcutta and in Ranchi,“ I continued. ”It can be left to continue as it is. You and I could visit here regularly, and give them whatever encouragement they would accept. But you could live at the Delhi ashram, too. Together we could establish a strong work there. I would travel around India, drawing people to our work. I am sure the work itself will then flourish.
“And then,” I concluded triumphantly, “perhaps in five years, when we have a strong, well-trained group of devotees in New Delhi, we could bring twenty or twenty-five of them back here. It would take that many to turn this local energy around effectively. Their fresh energy would act like buckets of fresh, clean water to wash out the clogged drains and enable them to function again.”
Dubey didn’t want to quash my enthusiasm, but I don’t think he shared my vision. I’m still convinced it would have worked. His mind, however, was on more immediate problems.
First, there was his own uncertainty about this path. Did he really want to participate in our work? Often he voiced his doubts to me on that score.
Second, he was on familiar ground where he lived.
A true Taurean, moreover, he was more comfortable working with the known, however difficult, than launching into the unknown. There was no certainty that we would even be able to get land in New Delhi. He himself had not experienced my success there.
As for money, he conceded that we could raise a fair amount. He had already suggested that we sell the Baranagar property, from which we might realize some five or more hundred thousand rupees. Indira Devi, moreover, the Maharajmata of Cooch Behar, had told me she wanted to contribute 400,000 rupees to our work. She had become friendly to us while Daya Mata was still in India, and continued to invite me to her home occasionally for lunch. So-there was the money we’d need for the project. Binay didn’t close the door. For him, nevertheless, Delhi was only one of several irons in the fire, all of them waiting to be sorted out by the patient alchemist, time.
Master, meanwhile, had plans for me that I could not have imagined at the time. In retrospect, it looks as though he planned to use on me the same tactics I myself had found helpful: Don’t try to change the old energy; instead, create a new energy vortex.