What are we who seek God to do when darkness comes into our own lives, or into the lives of those we love—when we feel helpless in the face of human suffering: our own, or another’s? In A Renunciate Order for the New Age, Swamiji points the way with clarity and compassion: “The old renunciate order tended easily toward judgmental attitudes—of others, and (in some ways even worse) excessive judgment of oneself. The new renunciate order concentrates supportively on everyone’s soul-potential; it sees all beings as striving, each in his own way, toward union with bliss. This feeling, as it expands outward from one’s heart center, beholds that same center of blessing everywhere, in everything, and in everyone.”
Recently we came together as a community to perform Swamiji’s Astral Ascension Ceremony for the soul of a longtime friend who, a few days before, had taken his own life. We had known him many decades—a beautiful nature, endlessly kind and compassionate, infectiously smiling in face of every adversity, seeking always to help and serve others, deeply devoted to God and Guru. And yet a point had come when he felt he could not go on.
There was at first a feeling in me of shock at the manner of his passing, then of quiet sadness. Soon, though, these responses gave way to a bright image from an earlier time. I was myself sunk in gloom over some (now forgotten) inner turmoil when I became aware of my friend walking quietly past, smiling with such a depth of good will that somehow peace again reigned in my heart. “Here is the truth of his being,” I thought. And with that thought came the soul’s knowing: “Look through the darkness to the light in that soul; pray, add your own light to his; give him up to God.”
Gathered together in the temple with our friend’s spiritual family, I felt a pervasive divine love, an utter absence of judgment, the power of an army of souls pouring a united stream of light through the veil separating life from death. Into my mind came Master’s wonderful description of Master Mahasaya, the “blissful devotee”: “not a breath of censure.” We had come together for only one purpose—to give this soul to God, from whence he came. God had given him to us, to share the path for a time; now we were to return God’s child into His keeping.
We listened to Swamiji’s words, here addressed to our friend’s soul, as one day they would be addressed to our own:
Our desire is not to hold you back, but only to tell you: Friend, we are yours; our love and support are ever yours, and our prayers for your highest happiness. We shall meet again! Once more we shall laugh together, rejoice together, and share in the joy of seeking Him! . . .
And what of us, Friend, who love you and would be remembered by you? Behold us as threads of light in the tapestry of your life—threads which, through the magnet of soul-friendship, will appear ever and again, woven with increasing beauty as our hearts expand together in God’s love.
After the service the community, one by one, greeted and blessed—and received blessings from—our friend’s close family. There was a feeling of lightness about them, souls purified by suffering, and even more by self-giving love. There was a feeling also of an open channel between this world and the next, that our shared love for one gone before had somehow bridged the great divide, and left us all uplifted and close to the Divine Benevolence watching over every human drama.
As we chanted “Aum” for this good soul, I felt inwardly Divine Mother’s enveloping presence, cradling Her little one in Her arms, comforting, healing, lifting him up. Anyone who has been on the receiving end of divine healing prayers, of gurubhais lovingly changing “Aum” for his soul freedom, has had a taste of what the departed soul must feel in his new home in the astral world, as he receives the loving blessings sent by devoted friends.
The transition from life to death is a tremendous opportunity for spiritual service. Any traumatic experience—not only death but divorce, imprisonment, physical or mental illness—opens a door, a chink in the armor of egoism, and through that door can flow great light, a power of spiritual support that can transform what in human terms would be a tragedy into a burst of energy in a new and positive direction, a new adventure, a glorious opportunity to grow closer to God. In the divine play, the one sending blessings and the one receiving are together uplifted, dancing together in the joy of life’s true purpose fulfilled.
In divine friendship,