Late in December Ananda’s Living Wisdom School let out for Christmas vacation. The magic of Christ-love was everywhere: colorful lights in windows, on trees; warm fires indoors; a growing sense of universal family. The next day would be the annual eight-hour meditation, all of us gathered in honor of the tradition started by our Master in the early days at Mt. Washington. This evening before the meditation, a group of us met to send out healing prayers from Swamiji’s apartment: for the world, for individuals in illness or crisis. One prayer—for our school—struck especially close to our hearts. There had been a break-in just before, and extensive vandalism. We chanted AUM for everyone affected: for those on the receiving end, of course—parents, students, teachers—and then, with a spontaneous overflow of concern and love, also for those who had acted out their unhappy delusion.

The following day, people of good will streamed in to help: teachers, all the junior high and high school students still at Ananda, the girls in Spirit Warriors (a girls group ranging from ages 8 through 14 which gets together weekly to have fun, serve, learn yogic principles and create deep friendships), parents, community members. A door had been pried open with a screwdriver. Statues representing the great faiths of the world had become projectiles hurled at light fixtures. The fine powder from fire extinguishers coated the walls and hung suspended in the air. Glue had been poured on computer keyboards, and on a guitar, with dozens of small objects, including the glue pot, stuck to the body and neck.

Everyone who came to help was at first stunned at the damage. Especially the younger students were deeply hurt, sometimes confused, sometimes angry. How could anyone do such a thing? Then cookies arrived—and thermoses full of hot chocolate. Outside one good-hearted soul blew his conch in the four directions, to clear the energy. Within minutes a scene of dismay and hurt had metamorphosed into a joyful workday. The students began to see the absurd humor of the mess—creative uses for glue; guitar as found art sculpture; statues as missiles—and soon were entirely focused on their own creativity, directed to finding the best ways to clean up and rebuild. Specialty tools arrived and were put to precision work picking glue from keyboards. A young man who builds guitars was able to restore the one covered with glued-on junk.

In only an hour what had seemed such a depressing and hopeless mess was gone. The school sparkled. Spirits were high. The dismal scene had become a spontaneous Ananda day of shared service—even the messiest tasks became fun. Anger and dark thoughts gave way to the joy of the human spirit rising above vicissitude.

Master has taught us well: You can’t drive out the darkness with a stick; only light will avail. One teacher, seeing the wreckage, felt at first stabbed in the heart, as though a darkness had entered her home and defiled it. Turning to Master in meditation, her mother’s heart opened to the vandals as boys in trouble, suffering, needing help. “Divine Mother,” she prayed, “bless these poor unhappy boys; help them to come out of the darkness, into the light.” Her spirits rose with her prayers, rose still more seeing the shining face of her fellow teacher as he described the transformation of the building and of everyone who had come to help—and rose higher yet in the days ahead as donations poured in to replace the irreparable, and a steady stream of kind and supportive messages and offers of whatever help was needed. “Divine Mother sees it all,” she thought, “and is lifting us all in Her loving arms.” Of all the sacred images and statues used as ammunition, those of Divine Mother were untouched—Her love, Her compassion and forgiveness shone steadily throughout: strong, bright, eternal. The teacher who had headed up the cleaning saw the experience as simply a more-than-usually-dramatic opportunity for the students to learn life lessons. And learn they did! Their cheerful transcendence of initial emotional reactions will stand as a pivotal inner victory: how to remain even-minded and cheerful in adversity; how to stand strong and unshaken when blows come; how to respond to life’s challenges in a dharmic way, calmly, with understanding, humor, and compassion. This teacher saw the vandals simply as boys needing direction. Into the ether he planted a thought-prayer to their souls for a way forward: restitution through service; the freedom that comes from helping others, making things better, being channels for light.

The great Tibetan yogi Milarepa, set upon by bandits and beaten severely, prayed the whole time for those striking him—his only concern to free them from the consequences of their violence. Christ-love, so strong at this time of year, was the bright sun over which this little cloud of darkness passed. “Thou hast taught us,” Yoganandaji prayed to Christ, “not to increase their fevered blows of hatred with the bludgeons of revenge. Thine undying sympathy has inspired us to heal our brothers, suffering in their delirium of anger, with the soothing salve of divine forgiveness.”

In divine friendship,

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