I have wanted to write about my experiences with Swami Kriyananda and the Ananda community for some time now, but so much of my 23 year association has been on an interior, spiritual level that I have hesitated to attempt to put it into words: so much is lost in the translation!
Still, the falsehoods that have been perpetrated against Swami and Ananda have been so outrageous that I must at least lift my voice in their defense, and join the chorus of voices that speaks out against the injustice.
My first years at Ananda were spent working hard with lots of other people, and spending time alone. I remember those years fondly as a time of both joyous camaraderie and deep reflection. I didnt see Swami very much except at periodic public events such as Christmas and Easter. I would sometimes, on those occasions, approach him and tell him of my appreciation for his work in making a place like Ananda possible. I was grateful that such a place could exist, and doubly grateful that I was able to live here surrounded by other people who want to FIND GOD, not just worldly security and success.
Though our interaction was minimal, I knew that Swami was tuned into my situation just as he is concerned for the welfare of everyone he knows. Once, at an evening event for the whole community that was being held at his home, I was surprised to see how intuitive his perception really is: I had very much wanted to attend even though I was ill at the time. (Not with anything contagious or obvious!) His house was packed with people, so I managed to slip in quietly and position myself invisibly in the back. Or so I thought.
Though no one else in the crowd had tuned into me, Swami saw me from across the room and immediately urged me to go home and go to bed! I had very much wanted to hear him speak, and had put out the effort to get there despite how I felt. It seemed to me that I received a blessing through my effort, that Swami recognized it, and then that we both realized I didnt need to stay any longer!
Well, as you can see, experiences are subtle sometimes! But even on an outward level, his perceptive concern and friendship was notable. This next example is more concrete: it concerns $400 in cold cash
I was working many years ago part time for a new business at Ananda that was being run by someone of, shall we say, questionable character. The people responsible for appointing him to that position were trying to help him to grow, but for those of us working for him, the situation was a real test. Once, I was asked to pick up a job at the printers with the understanding that I would pay for it and be reimbursed. When I asked to be paid back, he laughed at me, and said he wasnt legally bound in any way to reimburse me, and he didnt intend to pay me back at all!
I was also working for Swami Kriyananda at the time, and happened to mention to him sometime later that this fellow had not kept his word to me about the money. Swamis response was to quietly ask me how much I was owed. When I replied that it was $400, he got his checkbook out without another word, and paid me the full amount.
It was a gallant and kindly gesture because, although somewhat involved in this new business, he was not in control of its finances, and by paying me back he was essentially making a $400 donation to the business. Or, rather, another in a long series of donations.
I have seen him again and again through the years feed a constant flow of monetary energy into projects and businesses dedicated to helping people spiritually- as this fledgling business was.
To finish that particular story, I can say that this boss who so gleefully swindled me did not last long at Ananda, despite much effort on the part of Swami and others to lift him up. In recent years he publicly turned against Ananda, and I have found it ironic that one who was treated with such forgiveness and kindness could have the nerve to speak so disparagingly, biting the hand that fed him.
Kindness has been a hallmark of how people are treated at Ananda, and despite those who have mocked our kindness, it will continue to be one of Anandas guiding lights.
In more recent years, I have worked closely with Swami Kriyananda on many artistic projects, among them singing and putting on musical productions, creating multimedia presentations, and designing books and music albums. Though clearly the most creative person I have ever met, he is a joy to work with. Never dictatorial or overbearing, he is masterful at bringing out the best in people, somehow inspiring them to bring out their hidden potentials.
While so many people are intimidated by the creative energy they see in others and think of it as a threat, Swami rejoices in it, encouraging it to grow towards the Divine and flower. It is truly a gift.
Words cannot express my appreciation for Swami and his selflessness in creating Ananda, a monumental undertaking to which he has given so much of his energy and life blood. It stands, especially after all it has been through in recent years, as a tribute of love and self-sacrifice to his guru, Paramhansa Yogananda.
In divine friendship,