Sitting on the balcony high above the stage for a recent Ananda school concert, my attention was divided between the joyful energy of the student performers and the swirling activities of the children who were not performing. At the front of the balcony stood a protective railing, thin cables stretched between upright steel poles that proved irresistible to the young ones, who clustered along the cables.
Just when one child’s upward momentum would bring him too close to danger, the gentle hand of a teacher, watching quietly from the background, would reach out and draw the little adventurer down and back from the balcony’s edge.
So it is with each soul, moving through life, seeking, falling down, getting up again—and all the time, just out of sight, Divine Love is watching, ready to reach down to pull the wayward child back from the precipice, and always keeping that child bathed in heavenly light. Just as the school children could not yet see the love that protected them, so was I, as a young man infatuated with romance and personal fulfillment, oblivious to God’s surrounding grace.
A golden glow all around
One summer day, the beautiful lady trainer of a local horse stable, unknowing object of my adolescent adulation, sent me to lead a horse suffering with a high fever back for his antibiotic injection. My fifteen-year-old mind thought perhaps to win praise from the adored one by riding to the stable without bridle or saddle.
All went well until, spooked by a quail whirring out of the shrubbery, the horse lurched to one side, and I, caught unaware, went off the other side. The horse kicked out at my body moving past on the edge of his field of vision, and one shod hoof connected solidly with my head in midair.
Lying on the ground, I drifted in and out of consciousness. I was aware of a golden glow all around—no pain, and no fear—and inside the soft aura, my sister, a shy thirteen year old, ripping off her shirt and using it to staunch the blood pouring out from the skull fracture.
The world of drag racing
A few years later, having moved from trying to impress lovely horse trainers to trying to impress other teenagers by driving my mother’s station wagon at reckless speeds, I was tearing along the wrong lane of a two-lane highway, the speedometer at 100 mph, in the other lane a car full of equally lunatic young people.
Suddenly I became aware of headlights looming toward me so fast that there was not time enough to maneuver safely into the right lane. I hit the brakes. The car racing me shot ahead. I cut the wheel sharply to the right, went into a two-wheel skid sideways off the highway. Again, a golden light enveloped me and there was no fear, only a feeling of deep quiet and detachment. My foot was mechanically (and futilely) pumping the brake pedal as the car seemed to float off a steep embankment, sideways down the slope, only to connect at a perfect balance point with the guy wire for a power pole.
The station wagon expended all its forward momentum spinning around the guy wire, finally coming to rest right side up and the engine still running. Into the aura of the golden glow, on the shoulder of the highway above, came an enormous biker on his Harley-Davidson, smiling happily, booming out directions on how to maneuver the station wagon back up onto the highway. My young friend and I drove home at speeds never exceeding 25mph; nor were there any further forays into the world of drag racing.
A night filled with sirens and flashing lights
A decade later, in the same year that Swami Kriyananda founded Ananda, I was still missing the point. After five years of graduate school, now on probation for my participation in the drug culture of the sixties, I had shifted from college professor to construction worker, each payday marked by a visit, together with two co-workers, to the liquor store.
One Friday evening we were out in my construction partner Henry’s pride and joy, a bright red 1957 Chevrolet. I was sitting alone on the front passenger seat while Joe and Henry were inside buying yet more liquor. The engine was idling. My foggy brain wondered why the engine was running when I was not behind the wheel. I drifted over, grasped the steering wheel, found the accelerator; and drove off into the night. I drove for hours, thoroughly lost, only gradually realizing what I had done. Finally, I began to recognize road signs and landmarks. Ahead of me was a small town, with a single red light. As I pulled to a stop, I felt a deep stillness within, and a lovely, golden light enveloping the scene.
Into my peaceful state burst an angry roar just behind—it was Joe’s car. My driver side door flew open. Joe and Henry unceremoniously hauled me out onto the pavement, their curses and imprecations flying about. I think I managed something like “Whaa….”
The night filled with sirens and flashing lights—two sheriff’s vehicles had arrived. The deputies seized both my friends, threw them up against the side of Joe’s car, frisked them, handcuffed them, and hauled them away to the jail which, I observed from my seat on the pavement, was right across the street, and was in fact the very jail into which I had only recently been booked myself for my drug offense.
I looked around. The street was now deserted.The red Chevrolet was still there, still idling peacefully. I pulled myself up from the pavement, climbed into Henry’s car, made a U-turn and parked in the jail parking lot, right next to Joe’s car. Still moving in a glowing aura, I made my way across the street to a bar, was kindly given money for a phone call, was quietly spirited away by a friend, and was even completely forgiven by my construction friends when we all showed up for work the following Monday.
The accumulated toxins of wrong living
My consciousness shifted profoundly from that night. The drug haze of the sixties lost its appeal. Yoga came into my life and began its work of washing away the accumulated toxins of wrong living. Meditation came, brought to me one day by a young couple who, as they came toward me, seemed to be emerging from the light, and pointing the way to go into the light.
Autobiography of a Yogi came, its light so strong that I was drawn right to it in the darkened corridors of a public library. And there was also Swami Kriyananda’s book, The Road Ahead, its back cover speaking of Paramhansa Yogananda and of a community dedicated to the Master’s path and teachings. Within a few days I was on the road, hitchhiking, desperate to reach the magical place where Paramhansa Yogananda’s path could become a living reality.
Riding across the Midwest I became quite ill, unable to eat, all but blind with a week-long migraine. The open lands were parched with drought, the crops stunted and wilted. Let out in Boulder, Colorado, I was unable to do more than make my way to a city park, there to find a shady area to lie down and wait it out.
Now again I relaxed inwardly and, once again, became aware of a beautiful glow all around, and peace within. Into the aura came a young couple. They helped me up and took me home, where they had me lie down on a couch and drink a smoothie. The girl placed her hand on my forehead. At once the pain of the past week vanished, and I could see clearly again. “Where did you learn to do that?” I asked. So sweetly she replied, “Yogananda.”
The Guru’s protecting, healing blessing
If, as seems so transparently evident now, the lovely aura of light that had come so many times in my life, was from the Divine, the Guru’s protecting, healing blessing on his disciple, though lost in ignorance, then what could I do but bow gratefully and open my heart in love and devotion to the Divine Compassion.
Yogananda had wrapped my bleeding head with my sister’s shirt, had stopped and righted my runaway vehicle, had made me invisible outside the jailhouse, had brought me to yoga, to meditation, to his autobiography, to Swami Kriyananda’s book, and now opened my eyes to see his loving presence smiling through these good young people.
When I finally completed my journey to Ananda, I was one day putting shingles on a dome at the Meditation Retreat. Swami Kriyananda, whom I had never seen until that moment, walked by, looked up, and smiled with such kindness, and with recognition. All around was the glowing light, so bright now that I felt I would melt into it. In this way did the Guru welcome me home, not to the end of the journey, but to its new beginning, and to the awakening in my heart of his child’s beginning steps into the great ocean of Cosmic Love. Kriyananda loved to quote St. John Vianney: “If you only knew how much God loved you, you would die for joy.”