“When others project disharmony toward you, send them in return, from your heart, rays of kindness and harmony. The more consciously you send those thoughts out in blessing, the more others will change. In time they, too, will project only harmony.”
Kriyananda’s counsel points the way forward for one of the great challenges in any devotee’s spiritual life—how to respond to negativity, especially when the dark energy seems to have made you its particular target. The high path to overcoming inharmony is not to be trod without effort; there will be setbacks, reversals, even falls. But the journey can be carried through to its blissful conclusion.
Relax away from the turbulence
One way of overcoming—I think of it as the way of the turtle—is to relax away from the turbulence on the water’s surface, to dive deep into the stillness of the lake itself. Returning to the surface, one may well find the little tempest blown over and the water again calm and unruffled.
Thirty years ago I shared an office with a fellow devotee, a friend of many years. My friend was intensely interested in and eager to share his enthusiasm for the (still relatively new) world of computers. Repeatedly he tried to draw me into his own delight with these technological marvels. Then, as now, I preferred pen and paper, and simply could not summon up more than a polite grunt at his proselytizing exuberance.
One day, just before noon, he lost all patience with my, as he perceived it, intransigence, and began to upbraid me with increasing intensity until he was actually yelling at me. Stunned and at a loss how to respond, I began inwardly praying to my Guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, for help. At once I felt an overwhelming desire to meditate. Somehow I managed to say, “I can’t talk now. It’s noon, and I’m going to meditate.”
Just outside the office room was a wooden deck overlooking a canyon leading down to the Yuba River, a subdued roar sounding in the distance. The torrent of words followed me onto the deck, and continued after I had sat to meditate.
Never seek to justify or defend yourself.
I had no wish, or inner compulsion, to argue; nor had I any idea what to do to restore harmony. The impasse drove me inward to find a place of harmony deeper than the vituperative attack on my character swirling around and above me.
Continuing to pray, I found myself drawn into a deep, inner stillness and silence. The angry voice receded into a distant murmur, then disappeared. An hour passed. Coming out of meditation I looked around—all quiet in the office.
Looking within at my way of responding, I could see lessons ahead—openness to new ideas and ways of doing things; placing other’s feelings above my own habit patterns; above all, learning to project a force field of harmony and good will strong enough to transmute misunderstanding into a deeper level of friendship.
This particular friendship did indeed survive, and came in time to be marked by mutual respect, appreciation, and open-hearted support each for the other. Describing seekers deeply committed to the spiritual path, Kriyananda writes that they, “never seek to justify or defend themselves, but accept all judgment by others dispassionately, as experiences given them by God for their own highest good.”
“Show me how to respond for the best.”
Quite recently the Divine Playwright thrust a farcical but wonderfully instructive and encouraging scenario into my workday. Grading a back country road and adjacent parking area with a tractor, I was covered with dust, which also billowed about the work in progress, making me almost invisible behind grimy dust mask, goggles, bandanna, and metal helmet. Dimly I perceived a low-slung sports car approaching in a purposeful manner. I could feel righteous indignation and a great many words of complaint and reproof building within the driver.
The door opened. Out stepped someone who had formerly lived in the community, then moved nearby. I knew her well as a person whose intelligent and articulate mind focused readily on what she perceived as unfairness and mistreatment. Her acrimonious relationship with her neighbors had turned her own immediate neighborhood into a hotbed of contention over borders and rights of way.
Here she came, clearly intending to take me to task. I could feel her thoughts pushing toward me—her right of way; drainage ditches so deep that her sports car scraped bottom. Inwardly I prayed to Yogananda, “Show me how to respond for the best.” At once my apprehension gave way to a feeling of affection for someone I now perceived as a dear old friend, but tortured by resentment and bitterness.
A glimpse of the right attitude
Behind my grubby dust mask a huge, happy smile formed on my face. My head began nodding in friendly fashion, like a good-natured puppy wagging its tail, hoping to make friends with a new playmate. The roar of the tractor engine and my earplugs had already reduced her tirade to a quiet muttering.
Without my volition, my right foot gradually increased its pressure on the accelerator. The noise of the tractor engine kept intensifying until, although my friend’s arms continued to wave expressively and her mouth to work, her voice no longer reached my hearing. At the same time, I could see her face gradually relax, her eyes soften, and her mouth form something close to a smile. My foot pressure lessened just in time to hear her final words: “Thank you!” She climbed back into her Porsche and drove peacefully away. I felt I’d made a new friend.
What had happened? Somehow, by Yogananda’s grace, all that roaring and swirling dust had precisely countered and balanced her negative energy, neutralized it, and, at least for the moment, freed up the hurt little girl inside to at least try to smile. Harmony was restored. Perhaps my experience was Yogananda’s way of giving me a glimpse of the right attitude toward the roiling confusion of the human scene.
The way of a true yogi
Swami Kriyananda himself, in dedicating his life to spreading the light of Yogananda’s teachings, came under attack again and again. Always he responded in the highest way, the way of a true yogi.
More than thirty years ago, I was present in Kriyananda’s dome when a couple came to see him. I could feel a dark cloud enter with them. Graciously Kriyananda escorted them to the screened-off part of the dome that then served as his office. I could not hear the actual words spoken, but could all too clearly feel their vibration—malice, cruelty, arrogance. I was deeply shocked. It was inconceivable to me that anyone could direct such dark energy toward such a great soul.
The one-sided tirade went on for an hour. When the couple reappeared, my impression of the man was of someone swollen with a kind of self-congratulatory egotism. The wife followed admiringly, as though proud of her man for his brave stand. Behind them came Kriyananda, perfectly calm, showing his maligners out with old world grace and courtesy, as though they had honored him with their visit.
As Kriyananda walked past me, he spoke to the couple with complete kindness, thanking them for coming, wishing them well. At the same time, he turned toward me a gaze of fathomless tenderness, compassion, and love. His whole concern was for my suffering, so evident in the shock written on my face. Never will I forget his utterly selfless kindness. Because true renunciates, Kriyananda writes, “are always happy in themselves, they are impervious to insults, outer suffering, failure, defeat, or disaster. They strive to live the ideal that Paramhansa Yogananda voiced when he said, ‘you should be able to stand unshaken amidst the crash of breaking worlds.’”
“Make me an instrument of Thy peace.”
Whatever success I have had in responding well to negative energy has come by turning in sincere prayer to Yogananda, feeling his guidance, and following it—the way of the turtle, the way of the friendly puppy, or the way of the true yogi, Kriyananda’s way—letting the outer world play out its dramas while himself remaining perfectly centered in the Self, allowing only the divine harmony and compassion to flow through.
Into my mind come the words of St. Francis, who Paramhansa Yogananda called his patron saint: “Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace, Where there is hatred, let me sow love….”
Nayaswami Prakash is a long-time member of Ananda. He currently serves at Ananda Village doing forestry and landscaping work. Before moving to Ananda Village in 1974, he taught English and Literature at North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina.