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By an interesting coincidence, one month before Tara summoned me to New York I had already been thinking that a book was needed, one I might even write myself. This would be the first of the books Master had himself told me to write.
The idea was inspired by an article I’d just finished reading in Span , the USIS (United States Information Service) magazine in India, written by the head of the philosophy department at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). The author reported on what was, he said, a major trend in modern thinking. Many people, having been exposed to Darwinian evolution, nihilistic materialism, and the construction often placed on Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, had come to the conclusion that life is meaningless.
As I studied their reasoning as presented in the article, I saw that what I’d learned from Paramhansa Yogananda and from the ancient teachings of India utterly refuted it. What a service it would be, to combat those delusions thoughtfully-not by calling them ridiculous (which they were), but by following their own line of reasoning carefully and demonstrating in its own terms that it simply didn’t work.
This inspiration, I realize in retrospect, was God’s way of showing me where He wanted me to direct my energies. My Guru had said to me, “Your work is writing and lecturing.” I had remonstrated with him at the time, “Sir, haven’t you yourself done everything already to present the teachings?” His reply had shown a degree of shock at my obtuseness. “Don’t say that! Much more is needed.”
My dismissal from SRF didn’t set me working on that book immediately. I was too flattened out by all that had happened to me. Gradually, however, I realized that dismissal had released me to do what Master had told me to do. Indeed, if I’d remained with SRF I would never have had the freedom to do it. Even if I’d been given such freedom, the organization would never have published my writings. It had quite enough to do in getting out our Guru’s writings.
Thus-as I say, gradually-I rediscovered my true priorities. They had always been to promote the teachings: not to build the organization (which many of my fellow disciples felt I’d done well), but to go deeply into Master’s thoughts, and to inspire others with them. What I’d wanted from the beginning was to share joyfully with as many people as possible his words and ideas, for it inspired me to think how much people everywhere needed them.
Even the organizing work I’d done had been toward this end: Never had I had another one. It was, as I now believe, Tara’s reason for branding me as “insincere.” In fact, I was “insincere” to her way of thinking, for I’d considered it only a regrettable necessity to have to organize the work. Even my way of organizing had always been motivated by the need for “inspired simplicity.” Tara felt, quite rightly, that my real interest was not in the pipeline, so to speak, but in the water that flowed refreshingly through it. Indeed, I’d always imagined that all of us saw the organization as a means to that true end: spreading the teachings. Tara, however, had never shared that aim. Even in 1925, when Master acquired Mt. Washington Estates as the headquarters for his mission, Tara’s only comment (which Master often quoted wryly) had been, “Now your troubles begin!” To Tara, people were a threat to the purity of his teachings, not the very purpose for his teachings.
“What do they need new books for?” she once said to me on the phone, referring to someone who had urged her to finish editing Master’s books. “They have all the reading material they need, to find God.”
Divorce is, or should be, a two-way thing. SRF had tried to divorce me, but their action never had-has never had-either my endorsement or my support. I supported the organization because I thought Master wanted me to do so, and I shall never withdraw the love I feel for it since it is the work he himself founded. I am not anti-SRF, merely because SRF is anti-Kriyananda. I am simply an ardent champion of the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda. I support SRF in anything they do to promote his ideals and his message. The point where I withdraw from the field is that, to my mind, SRF is not itself that mission. Its purpose is to promulgate Paramhansa Yogananda’s mission as a way of serving the needs of people.
After my separation from SRF, I cast about for ways to serve Master that would not place me in competition with them. Best of all, it seemed to me, would be to find something SRF didn’t even want to do.
The book I contemplated could, I reflected, be one such service. SRF would never undertake such a labor. The book might be, for all that, a means of drawing people to God, and indirectly to Master’s teachings. It would be for those who wanted to believe but couldn’t, owing to the insidious influence of modern education. Nihilism exerts a strong influence in today’s world, and has brought widespread spiritual confusion.
The book I contemplated writing would be also for those to whom religion seems a barrier to understanding, not the guide it can and should be to higher understanding.
The immediate inspiration for this book was a dream I had, in which a group of aggressive teenage boys surrounded me arrogantly. I wasn’t apprehensive, but I do recall experiencing a deep concern for them.
As we walked up a street, talking together — they, hunching along in the self-conscious manner of many teenagers — I remarked, “Doesn’t it seem that life ought to offer us something really worth living for? Surely kindness and friendship are worth more than being considered important? And isn’t happiness something worth striving for, rather than something to reject as impossible?”
“That’s right!” they exclaimed a little sadly. “It’s what we all want.”
And I felt their own deep intrinsic worth, their sense of innocence betrayed by an upbringing that had stripped them of everything in which they might have had faith.
The problems of modern education are evident during all the four stages, but they become glaringly so during the teenage years — the third stage.
It is, as I’ve already stated, during this six-year stage that the child feels a special need to test his will power. It isn’t that he won’t test it sooner, any more than a child during its first six years, though focused on developing bodily awareness, doesn’t express its emotions. (As I remarked earlier, it is probable during those first years that he’ll seem to be expressing little else!)
A child with a naturally strong will may show willfulness in the very cradle. Yogananda used to say that it is a mistake, though one that is often committed for the parents’ convenience, to discourage willfulness. However, just as the best time for learning to control the emotions is during the second six-year stage, so also the best time for consciously developing the will power and directing it wisely is during the third stage, up to the age of eighteen.
Idealism, for example, develops naturally with only a little encouragement during the six years preceding a child’s twelfth birthday. But it tends to be an idealism more sentimental than practical. With the adolescent’s dawning instinct for expressing his will power, there comes the inclination to put idealism into practice. Such, at least, is the opportunity of adolescence. Alas, it proves all too often an opportunity either overlooked or unrecognized.
For with the onset of puberty there comes a growing preoccupation with oneself as a self — as an ego separate and distinct from other egos. The child’s developing sexual awareness forces upon him a major redefinition of his priorities — of how he sees himself, how he relates to others, and what he expects from life.
Sexual awareness tends to pull the adolescent’s energy and consciousness downward, toward spiritual “heaviness.” This directional flow, coupled with his natural self-preoccupation, is contractive in effect, resulting in deep psychological pain for the child. If, moreover, his natural mental inclination is upward, this unaccustomed downward flow brings him also into a period of spiritual confusion.
With sexual awareness also, on the other hand, there comes a sense of potential inner power, of creativity, which, if not directed into right channels, may easily be diverted into destructive ones.
Should the mind, during this third stage, be brought to repudiate the idealism it held as a younger child, it may reject ideals altogether and employ all of its creative power cynically, in acts that are deliberately negative.
How can an adolescent be encouraged to keep his early idealism? Advantage may actually be taken of the changes occurring in his body and psyche with the advent of puberty.
His awakening sense of inner power can be directed toward making his ideals practical, instead of rejecting them negatively as the figment of dreams. Early dreams must now be translated into dynamic action — refined in their definition, perhaps, but not abandoned cynically.
Adolescence needs a cause — or, better still, an abundance of causes. It needs something to do. It is like dynamite: if exploded above the ground it may only destroy; but if placed carefully underground and exploded there, it may help in the building of roads over which cars will pass later.
Adolescence, when approached and understood rightly, is a wonderful time, rich with some of life’s greatest opportunities for self-development. The important thing to understand is the youth’s need for action, and not for mere theories.
Physical discipline is important. So also is any call to good deeds without the expectation of personal reward — the greater the self-sacrifice entailed, the better, provided, of course, that the child’s welfare isn’t endangered.
Self-reliance needs to be stressed in numerous ways, including camping out in the wilderness, boy scout activities, tests of personal endurance and the like.
Other tests can be given the teenager for developing his will power. If he feels a cold coming on, for example, he might try casting it out of his body by sheer will power. (This can be done quite effectively, provided the cold is caught at an early enough stage.)
He can be encouraged to test the power of positive thinking, and to see how it affects his own life, the lives of others, and objective circumstances. A positive, strong will power has been shown to be capable of influencing objective events, and above all one’s own consciousness, for the better.
The teenager, so often pampered by worried adults, actually needs just the opposite from them: challenges! Dare him to do better than he imagines possible. But draw him forward, don’t yank him or push him. His responses must arise out of himself; they must not be imposed upon him unnaturally by ambitious grown-ups.
What is to be done about teenagers who are already going in wrong directions? It is all very well to approach adolescence as a wonderful time of life, provided we can begin working on the adolescent right from the age of twelve. But what about the great numbers of older adolescents who have already developed strongly negative behavioral patterns? Is there any hope for them?
Indeed there is, though admittedly, in this case, the task will be more difficult. All of the above guidelines will apply. Negativity must be recognized and dealt with honestly. Faith in the child’s potential, however, must be the underlying attitude; never accept his negative self-image.
The important thing is to realize that most children do want true values. Their negativity is symptomatic, usually, of disillusionment, because they’ve been deprived of faith.
Two courses of direction have the potential to transform the currently destructive atmosphere surrounding youth in society. One would be a spiritual renascence of some deep, experiential kind. This, obviously, is not something that can be produced to order. The other would be the opposite of pampering: firm, but kind, discipline.
Disciplining children without love never really works. I don’t recommend a boot camp type of training, which would only undermine the good work done during the ages of six to twelve, the feeling years. But it might help for people at least to understand the value of stern discipline, lest love be equated with feeble smiles and futile remonstrances.
In the Swiss army many years ago there was a regiment that consisted of the lowest and roughest elements of society, men who categorically refused every form of discipline. They rose in the morning whenever they felt like it; showed up for drill or not, as it pleased them; talked back to their officers, and made it abundantly clear that they had nothing but contempt for a law that made it mandatory for every adult male in Switzerland to serve his time in the army. The officers were afraid of them, and didn’t dare to enforce discipline on them.
Then a new colonel was placed over them. This man was not the type to put up with such nonsense. Impatient with their slovenly behavior, he decided that what they needed was severe discipline, not laxity. His fellow officers waited with bated breath for the inevitable-seeming shot in the back.
But this regiment somehow accepted the colonel’s no-nonsense approach. Within a few months, they became the best-disciplined group in the entire army, and the unit with the highest esprit de corps.
I don’t recommend such Spartan measures with teenagers, but as long as parents and teachers are afraid to be firm, even in much milder ways, poor discipline will be endemic in the schools, along with the many negative attitudes that result from it.
Too many adults, unfortunately, are more concerned with being loved than with loving. If they really loved, they would give the children what they really need. During adolescence, the child’s will power needs to be tested and strengthened, not merely shrugged off as a test for the grown-ups.
“What If I Fail?”
One of the most sensitive areas of adolescence is the ever-present possibility of failure. This threat is, to be sure, never far absent even from the minds of many adults. But for the adolescent, the slightest gaffe, the most trivial manifestation of gaucherie on his part, assumes nightmare dimensions, and is magnified to unforgettably ludicrous proportions in the minds of his companions.
Failure must be addressed, therefore, and not shunned as too embarrassing a topic for open discussion.
In fact, failure is actually intrinsic to the ultimate achievement of success. Anyone who never fails never, by the same token, really succeeds. For success is much more a question of achievement than of accomplishment. What is the difference? If Superman can outrun an express train, that is an accomplishment, certainly, but it isn’t an achievement, for there was nothing he needed to overcome by running so fast. We all know that if the occasion demanded it he could run twice, or even ten times, as fast. Accomplishment, without the possibility of failure, is very different from achievement in the face of great obstacles. Failure, then, is an instrument of learning. Every failure accepted, understood, then placed resolutely behind one can be an important stepping stone to higher achievement.
It is never wise, then, to say, “I’ve failed.” The courage that leads to achievement says, “I haven’t yet succeeded.” The repeated thought of failure acts as a negative affirmation; if it doesn’t actually attract failure, it creates the conditions for failure by slowly weakening the will power. But the repeated thought of success, even in the face of repeated failures, is an affirmation that must, eventually, produce the achievement one desires.
The adolescent must be helped to see that anyone who never fails has failed already, in a sense. A career unblemished by failures is a story of minimal courage, perhaps even of cowardice. It is a story of one who, having never dared, has never developed as a human being. Great success is the fruit of great daring. No matter how many times a person fails, victory is assured him if, after every defeat, he gets up and tries again. Indeed, if his courage never flags, he can squeeze victory of a sort even from crushing defeat.
As Paramhansa Yogananda used to say, of the spiritual search: “A saint is a sinner who never gave up!”
The adolescent should be taught the importance of disciplining himself, and not merely receiving discipline outwardly. He may find it helpful, for example, to fast occasionally, or to go for periods of time without some favorite food; to do things against which his desire for comfort rebels; to do things for others with the deliberate purpose of overcoming selfishness in himself.
Servicefulness is a wonderful quality, and one too little appreciated in this age of aggressive self-affirmation. There is joy in the expansive consciousness of forgetting oneself in the thought of a larger good.
Affirmations, too, some of which have been suggested already, can be an excellent tool of self-discipline and self-transformation.
A good book on behavior is Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. The title, in the present social atmosphere, may sound as if the book is about how to manipulate others, but it is in fact an invaluable guide for anyone wanting to learn how to behave sensitively toward other people. An excellent maxim of Carnegie’s is, “Act enthusiastic, and you’ll be enthusiastic!”
Lack of enthusiasm is, in fact, one of the pitfalls of adolescence. An excellent way of climbing out of this pit is to express enthusiasm vigorously in both word and action, even if one feels no enthusiasm in his heart. The greater the outward expression of will, the greater will be the flow of energy to succeed at anything one sets out to accomplish.
Young people of spiritually “light” specific gravity often find themselves at a disadvantage during their adolescent years owing to the aggressive emphasis placed on the ego by their peers. To many youngsters at that age, the ego seems all-important — a thing to be affirmed constantly, and thrust upon others as though challenging them to rival oneself in importance. Often — so it seems at that age — the greater the ego, the more powerful, magnetic, and successful the person. Hence the popularity of football heroes, and, all too frequently, the comparative obscurity of idealists.
Only later in life may the thought arise in the mind that all of us are part of a much greater reality, and that attunement with that reality is important for the accomplishment of all the really great things in life. Great scientists, for example, have never boasted to the universe, “You’ll do as I say!” They have said humbly, rather, “Help me to understand what it is you are trying to teach me.”
Friends of mine visited California some years ago. During their visit I took them to Disneyland, where, for one of the rides, we hired little boats big enough to accommodate two persons each.
Each boat had what looked like a steering wheel, but was in fact a dummy. Most of us soon discovered that no matter how we turned the wheels, the boat continued along its own course, which was determined by tracks under water.
At a certain point, my boat-partner and I saw a couple in their party pass near us by another channel. We hailed them, and the man’s wife tried to get him to call out a greeting.
“Don’t interrupt me,” he cried, tensely. “Can’t you see, if I’m not careful we’ll hit those rocks ahead of us!”
What a laugh his family all had later on, at his expense!
And how similar is the case of many people who imagine that, in all things, it is they themselves who are the doers. They fail to realize that countless things in life simply can’t be controlled, and had best be simply understood, accepted, and adjusted to.
The lesson of adolescence, ultimately, should be to strengthen not the ego, but the will, as a stepping stone towards true maturity. This stepping stone should be viewed with humility, as but one of many, by crossing all of which the adolescent will be able not only to understand, but to feel himself part of, the universal reality that surrounds him.
My Guru, thou voice of God, I found thee in response to my soul-cries. Slumbers of sorrow are gone, and I am awake in bliss. If all the gods are displeased, and yet thou art pleased, I am safe in the fortress of thy pleasure.
—From the poem “My Guru” by Paramhansa Yogananda
Great souls like Paramhansa Yogananda come to earth with the mission and the magnetism to raise the whole planet’s consciousness. They are born at a particular time and place, but their true time period is eternity. The fulfillment of their mission is often more than any of them can accomplish in the brief span of one lifetime. Thus it is left to their disciples — to those with attunement, dedication, and strength — to complete their work.
Yogananda’s mission for this age was to bring a vision for the future of spiritual rebirth and growth toward global harmony. He spoke of a time in future when India and the United States of America would unite to lead the world toward a balanced life of spiritual and practical efficiency. When Yogananda told Swami Kriyananda, “You have a great work to do,” he only hinted at the full scope of that work.
Yet Swamiji’s life of service, always inspired by inner guidance from his Guru, has virtually defined this mission. Now, after nearly sixty years of spreading his Guru’s teachings in the West, Kriyananda has returned to India. The magnitude of the work given to him by Yogananda has been fully revealed: to unite the best of India and America, thereby helping to foster a spiritual renaissance in the world.
Kriya Yoga is India’s true wealth, her greatest divine gift to all who seek God-realization. “Kriya Yoga in Action,” the central theme of Kriyananda’s life, means making every action — from founding communities and schools, to creating businesses, to teaching and lecturing, to writing books, to composing music, to taking photographs — all these, as extensions of his own inner inspiration.
When Paramhansa Yogananda told Swamiji that part of his work would be writing books, he answered the doubt his disciple expressed to him by saying, “Much more is needed.” What, exactly, was that need? What remained was to show how to apply the teachings in practical ways. In the more-than-eighty books that Kriyananda has written, he has treated his Guru’s teachings like the hub of a great wheel, its spokes radiating outward toward the practical application of Kriya Yoga in every aspect of daily life.
In Art As a Hidden Message, Kriyananda speaks of art as a vehicle for bringing a deeper purpose and vision to life. Derek Bell, a world-renowned harpist of the five-time Grammy-Award winning Irish group, The Chieftains, said in the preface to this book: “What strikes me above all about Swami Kriyananda is the all-embracing nature of his mind. This book is, I believe, the most important book of our time on this vitally important subject. May it be well received and have far-reaching success in refining the way people approach a subject so crucial to the emotional and spiritual health of society.”
In Education for Life, Swamiji offers a new model for training children and for helping them to find deep truths and moral values within themselves. Patricia Kirby, an online professor at the University of Maryland with an M.A. degree in Sociology and a B.A. degree in History, wrote: “Education for Life is the most insightful and comprehensive of the educational philosophies sprouting up today. It has similarities to classical systems of instruction like those of ancient India, Egypt, and Greece, as well as modern approaches like Montessori’s. But from ancient to modern systems of education, I find Swami Kriyananda’s Education for Life the most effective way, among all the approaches that I’ve studied, to prepare children for happy, fulfilled lives.”
In Expansive Marriage — A Way to Self-Realization, Kriyananda offers an approach to marriage that is rooted not only in personal human love, but, even more deeply, in understanding that the true purpose of human love is to expand one’s consciousness to embrace a universal love. Susan Campbell, a well-known psychologist and author of many books on relationships wrote in the preface to this book: “What our culture needs today is a new model of relationships, one that embraces both the outer institution and an inner process of self-unfoldment. The vision of expansive marriage, with its emphasis on inspiration, creativity, and shared communion, contributes significantly to this. It is my hope that this approach will help us to heal ourselves, our families, our communities, and our planet.”
In The Art of Supportive Leadership — A Practical Guide for People in Positions of Responsibility, Swamiji writes about leadership based on service to others and on concern for their highest good, not on personal power or position. The Kellogg Corporation uses this book in its Managers’ Training Workshops for thousands of their employees. A United States Army sergeant, Paul Younghaus, wrote in a review of the book, “In the military, leadership is both an art and a necessity. I highly recommend this book for military people, business people, and anyone who needs to work with others. It will enhance anyone’s efforts to lead people successfully.”
These are but a few highlights of how Swami Kriyananda’s efforts have helped to bring spiritual consciousness into people’s lives everywhere. His books have reached beyond the English-speaking world, and have at this time been translated into 27 different languages and published in 80 foreign editions.
Through all of Swamiji’s spiritual contributions to the world, perhaps we can know him best in his music. Here, one feels his consciousness as he offers his deepest feelings in humility and devotion to God. Swamiji said, “For me, composing has been one of the greatest joys of my life. Often tears of joy have flowed down my cheeks while a melody or a sequence of beautiful harmonies poured through me from the Divine Giver — like a mountain stream, effortlessly.”
His music reflects not only his devotion to God, but also his divine love and friendship for all. “I take pains while composing choral music,” Kriyananda wrote, “to make each part enjoyable to sing, rather than thinking only of the audience’s enjoyment. For me, writing music is like founding a cooperative community: Everyone needs to take part in the creative act.”
Often, while performing his music, the soloist or the choir are so uplifted while singing it that they, like Swamiji while composing it, find tears of joy streaming down their cheeks. One listener commented, “This touching music immediately captured my heart with its tenderness and passion, and brought a warm glow that expanded and left me in a deeply serene and spiritual space.” Another said, “This music took me to places that stretched from the innocence of my childhood to the mystery of my soul.” And after a performance of the Oratorio in Assisi, Italy, by a choir from America, a man came up to Swamiji afterward and said to him in French, “I don’t speak a word of English or Italian, but as I was listening to this choral music I understood everything!”
Because Kriyananda doesn’t identify with his accomplishments, it’s sometimes easy to overlook the part he himself has played in fulfilling his Guru’s mission. Swamiji recounts an interesting incident that happened in the early years of Ananda. He was walking alone one evening, enveloped in the quiet warmth of the summer night. He saw little twinkling lights of kerosene lamps shining within the simple trailers that housed some of the community members. Continuing his walk, he reflected, “Just a few years ago, darkness enveloped this forest. Now, there is light!” For a fleeting moment the idea crossed his mind, “It was I who accomplished all this.” An instant later he deliberately replaced this thought with another one: “God alone is the Doer! What joy is there in thinking of myself as doing anything?” Firmly he repudiated that initial thought, and found inner joy and freedom as he did so. The thought of personal responsibility for Ananda has never, these many years, returned to him again.
“I’ve had two desires in life,” Swamiji has said. “The first is to find God; the second is to help others to find Him.” This two-fold ambition has kept him inwardly free from all lesser attachments.
How can we understand the part he has played as a channel for his Guru in the training of others? He has often used an image from his childhood to describe his role. When he was a boy in Teleajen, Rumania, his parents bought him a new bicycle. After mastering the art of riding it himself, he began to teach all the children in the neighborhood how to ride. His technique was quite simple: first, he would run beside the child, holding on to the seat and the handlebar to prevent a loss of balance. Next, while still running alongside the bicycle to give confidence, he would release the handlebar, and then the seat. Finally, he would stop and watch, cheering the child, who happily rode off alone.
This is very much the way he has trained Ananda members in a great variety of their activities: in leadership, in spiritual teaching and counseling, in singing, writing, and most importantly, in discipleship and their inner search for God. First, he has demonstrated by his own example. Next, he has given quiet support with covert supervision. Then, finally, he has encouraged them to “go on alone.” Thus, he has given to others a sense of personal confidence in their own spiritual potential and in their ability to achieve, outwardly.
One new member said, “I always felt that I had something worthwhile to give, but no one ever wanted it until I came to Ananda and met Swamiji.” Kriyananda, who has had to endure nearly a lifetime of criticism and condemnation from others, has responded only with the desire to help each person he meets to believe in his own highest potential.
David Frawley, a well-known scholar and author of many popular books on Vedic studies and astrology, has had the opportunity to see spiritual communities and ashrams all over America and many also in India. After several visits to Ananda, Mr. Frawley was asked, “In your opinion, what are the most successful ‘new age’ communities anywhere?”
“That’s easy to answer,” he replied. “Ananda, Ananda, and Ananda! The reason for Ananda’s success is that Swami Kriyananda has trained a whole community of people to develop spiritually, and also to develop leadership abilities themselves. The work of Ananda will carry on far into the future.”
In 2003 at the age of 77, Swami Kriyananda returned to India to build the work for his guru that he had begun, but had been stopped from completing, nearly forty-five years earlier. He described his vision for the work in India in a small brochure he wrote soon after his arrival there. The brochure is called, “A Life Dream Fulfilled?” In it he wrote: “Together may we build a work that will do what so many of us longed in our hearts to accomplish all those years ago: to show people everywhere the vitally important truths my great Guru brought to the world, and how to make God real in their daily lives.”
At present, Kriyananda and a small group of Ananda members from different countries have settled in the town of Gurgaon, south of New Delhi. They hope to start Ananda communities in many places in India, and also Ananda Living Wisdom Schools. Swamiji has already published an inspiring new collection of sayings of his Guru’s, called, Conversations with Yogananda, and is completing a correspondence course, Material Success Through Yoga Principles. The hope is eventually to publish all of his books in India — not only in English, but also in Hindi, Bengali, and other Indian languages.
Currently, Kriyananda is offering daily throughout the year a television program called A Way to Awakening. It is aired twice a day during prime viewing time on two cable TV stations, Aastha and Sadhna. These shows have the potential to reach well over a hundred million viewers throughout India, and also in over one hundred countries in Southeast Asia and elsewhere. Indeed, viewers in America now can also see the Aastha program.
Recently an Indian viewer wrote to him:
“I found you by chance. One day, not too long ago while channel surfing on my TV, I suddenly saw you and my fingers froze on the remote, curious to know what a Westerner was doing in our Hindu saffron garb. I didn’t mean to stop long, and I didn’t think I would find anything meaningful. Besides I have always mistrusted so-called “God men” of all hues. Anyway, to cut a long story short, now I try never to miss your talk a single day. I find your gentleness, your lack of pomposity, your deep goodness, the twinkle in your eyes, all very sweet and quite compelling. You are like a plunge into a cool oasis in the desert of my busy life.”
When Swamiji was lecturing in 1959 in Patiala, India, a friend told him about a fascinating ancient manuscript known as the Bhrigu Samhita. Bhrigu was a noted rishi, or sage, who lived thousands of years ago in India. He wrote a text of prophecies about the lives of millions of people, many of whom are living today. Swamiji’s friend suggested that they travel to Barnala, a town some sixty miles away, where a portion of the Bhrigu Samhita was kept. “Let us see,” he said, “if there is a prediction about your life.”
To Kriyananda’s amazement, the Bhrigu pundit found a whole page about him among the loose leaves of the treatise. The page was yellowed with antiquity. Everything it said about the incidents in his life up to the present time was true: “He will be born in Rumania,” he read, “and will live in America. He will meet his guru, Yogananda, at the age of twenty-two, and will receive the spiritual name, Kriyananda.” Then the page went on to tell his future: “He will build an ashram in the city of D-, on the banks of the river Jamuna. Its fame will be glorious.” The foundations for this work are now being laid at last. It will require tremendous effort and self-sacrifice on the part of Swamiji and of all those helping to make this dream a reality.
Paramhansa Yogananda, a divine warrior for God in our age, once said, “I want to die with my boots on, speaking of my America and my India.” This he did, fulfilling his mission to his last breath. The Master also once told Swami Kriyananda, “God won’t come to you until the end of life. Death itself will be the final sacrifice you’ll have to make.” Now, in the final chapters of Swamiji’s life, he is pouring out his strength untiringly to complete all that his Guru gave him to do.
“Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe.” Yogananda quoted these words of Jesus Christ in the frontispiece of his Autobiography of a Yogi. People often expect to see the demonstration of supernatural powers and miracles as proof of a saint’s spiritual stature. It is noteworthy that every undertaking to which Swamiji has ever turned his will seems to have been achieved, often against impossible odds; and to have met with stunning success. His real “miracles,” however — ones that Swami Kriyananda has displayed throughout his years of discipleship — are his ability to live humbly and joyfully under all circumstances, to offer his life whole-heartedly to serving God and Guru above all, and to inspire in others the desire also to seek God.
The thoughts of spiritual masters are not limited to the narrow time frame of the present, but reverberate in the past and the future. Thus the words that Paramhansa Yogananda said to Swamiji a few days before his mahasamadhi are filled with the Master’s timeless blessings — for Kriyananda’s past dedication, for his years as a disciple in the present lifetime, and for the “great work” that he would fulfill magnificently far into the future.
May his Guru’s words echo always in Swami Kriyananda’s heart, and in the hearts of every true disciple: “You have pleased me very much. I want you to know that.”
Rev. Bernard, the disciple I’d seen briefly in Master’s interview room at the Hollywood church, drove Norman and me to Mt. Washington. On our way we stopped by the bus terminal to pick up my bag. My first glimpse of Mt. Washington Estates as we entered was of tall palm trees along both sides of the entrance driveway, waving gently in the slight breeze as if to extend a kindly greeting: “Welcome!” they seemed to murmur. “Welcome home!”
Norman showed me about the spacious grounds. We then went and stood quietly above the two tennis courts, which, Norman said, were now used for gentler, more yogic forms of exercise. In silence we gazed out over the city far below us.
Yes, I reflected, this was home! For how many years had I wandered: Rumania, Switzerland, England, America, and so many countries fleetingly in between. Always my feelings, if not my nationality, had stamped me, “a foreigner.” I had begun to wonder if I belonged anywhere. But now, suddenly, I knew that I did belong: right here in this ashram; here with my Guru; here, with his spiritual family! (Yes, I decided happily, all of these people here were my true family, too.) Gazing about me, I breathed deeply the peace that permeated this holy place.
Norman stood by my side, wordlessly sharing my elation. After a time we both faced the opposite direction, and looked up across an attractive lawn towards the large main building. Calmly self-contained, it seemed to suggest an almost patrician benignity.
“Master’s rooms are those on the top floor, to the right of us,” Norman said, pointing to a series of third-storey windows at the eastern end of the building. “And that,” he indicated a room that protruded outward above the main entrance, “is the sitting room, where he receives guests.
“Women disciples live on the second floor,” he continued, “and also on the third floor, to the left of Master’s apartment. In addition, there’s a sort of second-floor annex at the back, where a few nuns live. Because we’re renunciates, the men and women aren’t allowed to mix with one another, so I can’t take you up there. But come, I’ll show you around the first floor. That part is more or less public.”
He led me into a spacious lobby, simply and tastefully furnished. We passed through a door at the eastern end into three rooms that had been converted into a print shop. Proceeding towards the back of the building, we crossed over a narrow bridge that overlooked a small interior garden, and entered the main office which, this being Sunday, was empty of workers. From here, Norman explained to me, books, printed lessons, and a continuous stream of correspondence went out to yoga students around the world.
We re-entered the lobby at the western end. Here, large, sliding doors opened into a chapel, where we found two nuns seated together at an organ, one of them playing selections from Handel’s Messiah, the other one listening. They looked so relaxed and happy that I forgot the rule, for a moment, and greeted them. The dignified, yet kindly, way they acknowledged my greeting, without in the least encouraging further conversation, impressed me.
I was impressed also by the tasteful simplicity of my new home. Everything looked restful, modest, and harmonious. Leaving the chapel, I turned eagerly to Norman. “Where do the men live?”
“In the basement, most of them,” he replied laconically.
“The basement!” I stared at him incredulously. Then suddenly we were both laughing. After all, I told myself, what did it matter? If humility was a virtue, anything that encouraged it must be considered a blessing.
We went downstairs to the men’s dining room, which, Norman explained, had once served as a storeroom. Without windows, it stood at the dark end of a dim hallway. The only light in the room came from a single light bulb. In a small adjoining room all the monks showered, brushed their teeth, and washed the dishes. Meals were brought down three times daily from the main kitchen upstairs.
“Come,” said Norman, “let me show you our rooms. You’ve been assigned the one next to mine.”
We left by a basement exit and, proceeding down the front driveway, arrived at a cottage in front of and about fifty feet from the main building, set picturesquely amid spreading trees, fragrant flowers, and succulents. I was charmed by the unassuming simplicity of this little outbuilding. Here, decades earlier (Norman explained), the hotel guests had waited to take the cable car down to Marmion Way. Recently, he went on, smiling, the waiting room had been “renovated, after a manner of speaking,” and divided into sleeping quarters for two. His was the larger of the new rooms; mine was the smaller. Why, I marveled, had we, young neophytes as we were, been assigned such delightful quarters?
Understanding came moments later, as we entered the building. I tried to suppress a smile. Here, set so idyllically amid stately grounds, was a scene incongruously reminiscent of the hasty reconstruction that must have followed bombing raids during the war. Schoolboys, Norman explained, had done all the work. As I examined the consequences, I wondered whether the boys hadn’t considered the windows and the window frames separate projects altogether. At any rate, the windows hung at odd angles, as though disdaining to have anything to do with mere frames. Months later, as if to atone for their stern aloofness, they extended a friendly welcome to the winds of winter to come in and make merry.
The walls, made of plasterboard, had been cut more or less according to whim. They did manage to touch the ceiling — shyly, I thought — here and there, but the gap between them and the floor was in no place less than two inches. The resulting periphery made a lair, conveniently dark, for spiders and insects of other kinds.
It was the floor, however, that provided the pièce de résistance. It appeared to be composed of a cross between pumice and cement. This substance, I later learned, was the proud invention of Dr. Lloyd Kennell, the alternate minister at our church in San Diego. Dr. Kennell had boasted that his product would “outlast the Taj Mahal,” but in fact it was already doing its best to prove the Biblical dictum “Dust thou art.” Every footstep displaced a part of this miracle substance, which rose in little clouds to settle everywhere: on clothes, books, bedding, furniture.…
Not that the room held any furniture, except for a hard wooden bed which, Norman assured me, improved one’s posture. The small closet had no door to protect clothes against the ubiquitous dust. With Norman’s help I found an old, discarded quilt in the basement storeroom. Folded double, it made a more-or-less adequate mattress. I also located an old dresser, wobbly on its legs, but steady enough when propped into a corner. Next I found a small table, which acquitted itself adequately when leaned against the wall. For a chair, an orange crate was pressed into service. And a few days later I came upon a large, threadbare carpet in the storeroom. Though the pattern was so worn as to be barely discernible, it proved an important addition, for it helped to hold down the dust from the fast-disintegrating floor. In place of a closet door, further search through the storeroom yielded a strip of monk’s cloth, two feet wide, which I used to cover part of the opening. (Now at least I didn’t have to see the dust as it settled on my clothes!) A light bulb dangled precariously at the end of a long, rather frayed wire in the center of the room. The house had no bathroom, but there was one in the main building, which, however, was kept locked at night.
It wasn’t until a year later that I was given curtains for the windows.(1)
It no longer mystified me why the older monks preferred to live in the basement. But as for me, I didn’t mind at all. Quite the contrary, the disadvantages of my ramshackle quarters only added fuel to my soaring happiness. I was so utterly thrilled to be here, in the ashram of my Guru, that every fresh inconvenience only made me laugh the more delightedly.
I laughed often now. The pent-up agony of recent years found release in wave after fresh wave of happiness. Everything I had always longed for seemed mine now in my new way of life.
“There must be many good people here,” I remarked to Norman on my first day there.
He was astonished. “Why, they’re all good!”
It was my turn for astonishment. Could it really be, I wondered, that in this mixed bag of a world a place existed where everyone was good? Then I concluded that Norman must be right: This had to be such a place. For hadn’t everyone come here to find God? And what higher virtue could there be than the desire to commune with the very Source of all virtue?
Thrilled though I was to be at Mt. Washington, my mind importuned me with innumerable questions, many of which I inflicted day after day on my poor brother disciples. (Surely another demonstration of their goodness was the unfailing patience with which they answered me!) My heart and soul had been converted indeed, but my intellect lagged far behind. Reincarnation, karma, superconsciousness, divine ecstasy, the astral world, masters, gurus, breathing exercises, vegetarianism, health foods, sabikalpa and nirbikalpa samadhi, Christ consciousness — huff! puff! For me all these were new and overwhelming concepts; a week or two before I hadn’t even known any of them existed.
It was part of the excitement of those early days for me to dive into these strange waters and play in them joyfully. But confusion often assailed me also, and doubt — doubt not about the reason I was here, but about some puzzling point in the teachings. At such times I would sit down wherever I happened to be, and try to calm my mind. For I knew that soul-intuition, not the intellect, was the key to real understanding.
My greatest help at this time, apart from Master himself, was Rev. Bernard. Bernard was the alternate minister at our Hollywood church. He had a brilliant mind, and a clear understanding of the teachings. Fortunately for me, he seemed to enjoy answering my questions. Less fortunately, I hadn’t as many opportunities to be with him as my searching mind would have liked. I sought answers, alternatively, wherever I could find them.
One of the monks, a young man with the improbable name of Daniel Boone, was friendly, loquacious, and willing to share with me not only the teachings he had received from Master, but anything else he might have stumbled upon during years of metaphysical reading. In fact, he suffered from what Master described as “metaphysical indigestion.” I was too new on the path to realize that Boone’s seeming strength was actually his greatest weakness. But the more I pondered his answers, the more I began to suspect some of them of fallibility.
“Did Master say that?” I would challenge him. Only if he said, “Yes,” would I accept without question whatever he told me.
A more reliable, if less erudite, aid was Norman. A veritable giant, Norman had a heart almost as big as his body. It inspired me to see the intensity of his love for God. Not at all interested in the theoretical aspects of the path, he understood everything in terms of devotion. God was to him, simply, his Divine Friend. He required no intellectual explanations to clarify his perception of God’s love for him, and of his for God.
“I don’t know any of those things!” he would exclaim with a gentle smile whenever I posed him some philosophical conundrum. “I just know that I love God.” How I envied him his childlike devotion! (Even Master was touched by it.) And how I longed to be able to still my own questioning mind, which from habit demanded answers that it already knew full well were not the wisdom I craved. For I knew that love was the answer — not knowledge; not intellectual acumen. Love was the highest wisdom. More and more I struggled to progress on the fragrant pathway of devotion.
Another aid to me in those days was an older man named Jean Haupt. Jean, true to his Germanic heritage, had extraordinary will power. He was determined to find God in the shortest time possible. Whenever he wasn’t working, he meditated. One weekend his meditation lasted forty hours without a break. “It seemed more like forty minutes,” he told me with a quiet smile.
I worked on the grounds with Jean and Norman, gardening, plastering, and doing whatever odd jobs were required. Jean, though fifty-five years old and little more than half Norman’s size, could do more work than Norman and I combined. If he saw Norman struggling too long at some heavy job — one time it was carrying a refrigerator up the stairs — Jean would mutter impatiently, “Here, let me do it!” Moments later the job would be done. I was as deeply impressed by his will power, and as anxious to emulate it, as by Norman’s devotion.
The most attractive feature of my new quarters was a small basement, reached by a set of narrow steps at the far end of the room from the door. This basement had once housed the motor which pulled cable cars up the steep mountainside. It seemed ideal for a meditation room. I carted out piles of rubble that had accumulated over decades of neglect; constructed a trap door for the opening to ensure virtual silence; and soon was devoting all my free time to meditating in this, my “Himalayan cave” (as I thought of it). Over the ensuing months I put in a ceiling, painted the room a soothing dark blue, and found everything here that a young yogi could possibly desire in the way of silence, remoteness from the demands of daily life, and divine tranquillity.
My first evening at Mt. Washington, Rev. Bernard visited me in my room. “Master wants me to give you instruction in the art of meditation,” he said. He taught me an ancient yoga technique of concentration, and added some general counsel.
“When you aren’t practicing this concentration technique, try to keep your mind focused at the point between the eyebrows. This is called the Christ center, because when Christ consciousness is attained one’s awareness becomes centered here.”
“Would it help,” I asked, “to keep my mind focused there all day long as well?”
“Very much! When Master lived in his guru’s ashram he practiced keeping his mind fixed there all the time.
“And another thing,” Bernard added, “this is also the seat of the spiritual eye. The more deeply you concentrate your gaze at this point, the more you’ll become aware of a round light forming there: a blue field with a bright, golden ring around it and a silvery white, five-pointed star in the center.”
“This isn’t just a subjective experience?” I inquired. “Does everybody see it?”
“Everybody,” he assured me, “provided his mind is calm enough. It’s a universal reality, like the fact that we all have brains. Actually, the spiritual eye is the astral reflection of the medulla oblongata, at the base of the brain. I’ll tell you more about that some other time.
“For now, suffice it to say that energy enters the body through the medulla, and that by the sensitive application of will power one can actually increase this energy-inflow. The Christ center is the body’s seat of will power, and also of concentration. Notice how, whenever you concentrate deeply, or strongly will something to happen, your mind is drawn automatically to this point. You may even tend inadvertently to frown a little in the process. By concentration on the Christ center, your will power will increase. Consequently, the amount of energy flowing in through the medulla oblongata increases also. And with this greater flow, the spiritual eye forms naturally in the forehead.
“Through concentration on the spiritual eye, the consciousness gradually becomes attuned to the subtle rate of vibration of this light. At last one’s consciousness, too, takes on the quality of light. That is what Jesus meant when he said, ‘If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.’(2)It is in this purified state of awareness that ecstasy comes.”
After Bernard left me, I sat awhile practicing the techniques he had taught me. Later on I went out of doors and stood above the tennis courts again, this time gazing out over a vast carpet of twinkling lights. How lovely, in the evening, was this huge, bustling city! I reflected that those myriad lights were manifestations of the same divine light which I would someday behold in deep meditation, within myself. But electricity, I told myself, provides light only for the pathways of this world. The divine luminescence lights pathways to the Infinite.
“Lord,” I prayed, “though I stumble countless times, I will never stop seeking Thee. Lead my footsteps ever onward toward Thy infinite light!”
My way of getting them showed a slight touch of rebellion. After my several requests for them had gone unanswered, I stripped down to my undershorts one evening and, with the light on, lay face down on my bed and read Shakespeare. After a while, one of the nuns passed my window on her way to the main building from the garage, which was attached to our “outhouse” bedroom. The next day word came down to me: I would be getting my curtains.
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Matthew 6:22. Modern translators, unaware of the hidden significance of this passage, have changed the word single in the King James version to read “sound,” or “clear.” The New English Bible even changes eye to “eyes,” thus: “If your eyes are sound.” One wonders how often the scriptures have been tampered with by scholars who, though intellectually learned, are steeped in spiritual ignorance.
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© Ananda Sangha Worldwide 2013