One can tell much about a person by observing the effect he has on other people. This is certainly true of the extraordinarily positive effect that Swami Kriyananda has on the lives of others. Dozens of people consider him to be their best friend. Over the 30 years that I have known him, I think his ability to give and attract unconditional friendship stands out most strongly for me.
I have seen numerous times when he was the only one willing to extend a hand to someone who had finally exasperated everyone else. By standing by them during their times of difficulty he quietly transformed their lives. But, to me, the most beautiful manifestation of divine friendship was the love he was given by God-realized souls.
Kriyananda’s relationship with Master — his devotion and discipleship — has been one of the forming influences in my life. He has made Yogananda a dynamic living reality in his own life and, by extension, in mine and in the lives of many Ananda members. The many stories I’ve heard and read about the interplay between guru and disciple have been one of the magnets holding me steadfast to the path. Yet, I never had the blessing to be present when Master and Kriyananda were together. I was, however, there during a time when he was with the great woman saint, Anandamoy Ma, and saw the immense love and delight these two great souls had for each other.
It was in India during the spring of 1974. A group of four of us from Ananda (Nalini, Shraddha, Swami, and I) had gone to Haridwar, in part to see the Kumbha Mela, but more specifically to see Ma. There were two occasions when we were all with her. The first was with just the four of us, Ma, and an elderly Indian swami who was serving as a translator.
There was a deep and beautiful love that flowed between Swami and Ma, somewhat like a mother and son, but in many ways much closer. I have been with Kriyananda and his mother on many occasions, but his relationship with Anandamoy Ma was even more intimate. There was not only the added spiritual dimension of two great lovers of God, but also an intuitive connection between their minds. There were worlds of meaning in the simple glances they exchanged. When they laughed together it went far beyond mere merriment and into the realms of divine joy. Seeing them together gave me my first real experience of what it must have been like to have been enfolded in Master’s infinite love.
At this small gathering the three of us asked a number of questions of Ma, which she answered kindly, but didn’t expand on her answers. To many of our questions she advised us to simply “Ask your guru.” It took me quite a long time to realize that she was referring to Kriyananda, since I have always considered Yogananda to be my guru. But Ma was totally natural in suggesting that we treat Swamiji as a divine channel and go to him with our spiritual questions.
The interview lasted about a half-hour and ended with her blessing a large pile of beads, pictures, and other items that we had brought with us from people at Ananda. As she held her hands over them, she said, “Why do you ask that this body bless these things? Don’t you see that God’s blessings are always flowing down?”
The next day, there was a larger gathering for satsang with Ma. The four of us were seated in the front row of a group of 20 or 30 people in a small courtyard. That day Ma was in a wonderful childlike mood, laughing and playing. She took a flower garland that had been placed around her neck and tossed it, lasso style, right around Swami’s neck who was about 15 feet away. She then had one of her disciples bring out some yellow handkerchiefs containing prasad and threw one to each of the other three of us from Ananda.
I have read a letter that erroneously talked about her chastising Swami (for founding Ananda) at this satsang. This simply did not happen. She was warm, joyful, and childlike during the whole time and related to Swami in an extraordinarily sweet and kind way.
The two days that we spent in the company of Ma are among my most precious memories. The grace to be able to draw the love of great saints like Ma and Master is a blessing that flows through Swami to all who know him. Over the three decades that I’ve been with him, I’ve seen a gradual transformation of Kriyananda into an ever-purer channel of love and friendship. It is as if he is becoming a living example of Master’s saying: “When I am gone, only love can take my place.”