Coming to Ananda
In 2008, when Swami Kriyananda published his book The New Path, there was a promotional event in Los Angeles. I lived in Ventura, a beach city nearby and planned to attend. I had a major interest in Ananda and was eager to connect with some of the people living there. After the event, I felt deeply moved by the presence of Swamiji and stayed to meditate for a while. When I opened my eyes there was a man standing next to me who I recognized from an online Ananda Sunday Service. It was Nayaswami Bharat.
Nayaswami Bharat was very friendly and I shared my great interest in living at Ananda with him. I also explained very carefully to him some of the concerns that kept me from moving forward. One of my concerns was that I was a raw vegan. This meant that I had a 100% raw plant-based food diet. I felt that this might prove to be an obstacle to living at Ananda. I had found great benefit in my meditation practice from such a diet along with the great energy and vitality it provided for me. Paramhansa Yogananda recommended a diet rich in raw foods several times in his teachings on proper eating. However, convinced that this was the only way for me to be truly healthy, I was focusing a tremendous amount of energy on what I ate — often in an unbalanced, fanatical way.
At this time, I also worked in a vegan restaurant. I knew I would have to quit that job in order to come to Ananda. This raised more questions for me. What would I do for work at Ananda? Would the Ananda community accept my strange ways? Are there any other raw vegans there? The rest of the world certainly appeared to think of me as a peculiar and sometimes irritating character with all of my “do’s and don’ts.” So, as I voiced these concerns to Nayaswami Bharat, he looked at me with joy and without a trace of judgment. “I think you should just come to Ananda and attune with the energy there. You’ll find that getting into the energy flow will answer your questions better than anything.”
How true his statement has become as I have lived my life at Ananda! It has been 11 years now. I live in the community with my wife and five-year-old son. I am no longer a raw vegan, although I often implement my raw vegan cuisine and experience into our daily menu planning. I enjoy cooking now and often serve in the community in that way. I also felt called 6 or 7 years ago to study Vedic Astrology. It is one of the main avenues of support I now have for my family.
Getting into the Flow
I read a statement recently by Nayaswami Jyotish in one of his A Touch of Light letters:
The first step to accomplishing anything, be it doing a project or overcoming a mood, is to get the energy flowing.
What a simple solution! And it works! When I spoke with Nayaswami Bharat in Los Angeles, neither of us knew how I would come to live at Ananda and find my dharma. I was trying to plan it out in a mental, linear way. As it turned out, I was blocking my best course of action with attachments. I think this is a very common occurrence for many people! Nayaswami Bharat encouraged me to trust the flow of energy. He did not know the answer in its entirety but he knew that God knew the full answer. Our attachments serve only to blind us to the more expansive and fulfilling ways that God has planned and worked out for each of us.
This was one of the most helpful and liberating lessons I received in coming to Ananda. I learned so much more about willingness. What exactly is willingness? Why is it important for devotees to say yes to life, as Swami Kriyananda often emphasized?
Our willingness is our ability to do what is needed, even when we would rather not! We can learn to adopt an attitude of joy and faith, understanding that God would not create a challenging situation for us if there were not some hidden blessing to be discovered there. He does not ask for the love and trust of His human children merely to satisfy Himself. Loving and trusting in God and His will for us in this world makes us instruments for His healing and unifying power.
This is important because willingness grows our faith. The liberating power of faith is obscured by our doubts and resistance to His will in our lives. Swami Kriyananda said, “Faith is my armor.” Faith is the constant assurance that nothing is out of order, that God is in charge. When we act virtuously and follow our dharma in all that God sends to us, we can be assured of spiritual victory.
I Go Forth in Perfect Faith…
“I go forth in perfect faith in the power of omnipresent Good to bring to me what I need at the time I need it.”
In this affirmation, we find perhaps the most receptive attitude for the devotee. Faith lies in trusting that although we cannot see the path ahead, God has arranged it masterfully to bring us what we need at the time we need it. It is interesting that often what we need is very different from what we want! If, however, we say ‘yes’ and get the energy flowing, there is a good chance we will come to see that His was a much better plan for us than the one we had in mind! The fruit of this practice is a steadily growing spiritual maturity from self-reliance to Self-reliance.
God’s plan for each of us in the challenges we face is to deepen our perception of Him, our only true and lasting fulfillment. Yogananda shares an experience of getting into the flow of grace while living under the strict tutelage of his guru, Sri Yukteswar:
When I had abandoned underlying resentment, I found a marked decrease in my chastisement… In time I demolished every wall of rationalization and subconscious reservation behind which the human personality generally shields itself. The reward was an effortless harmony with my guru.
Trusting in the ultimate divine order of things — seeing all as God-ordained, helps us to relax mentally and also go deeper in our meditations. It is much harder to reach a blissful and still place within when we do not release our worries and concerns into His hands.
Keeping the Faith
When things seem especially unfair, it is the yogi’s job to gaze calmly beyond the inconvenient facts of the situation with the attitude, “God is in charge. He has orchestrated all of this… What do you have in mind for me, God?” We can be reassured that there are more than a million miracles that God could manifest and He has chosen this current scenario because this is the one He knows is right for us.
Nayaswami Devi instructs us to, “Never doubt that God loves you. He’s designed every detail of our lives to awaken us from this dream of delusion.” Yogananda tells us that, “God is all the love of all the lovers who have ever loved… and only love can make you one with Him.” Loving God in meditation is the way to a greater realization of His bliss within!
Ever-new Joy is God. He is inexhaustible; as you continue your meditations during the years, He will beguile you with an infinite ingenuity… Ever-new joy is evidence of His existence, convincing to our very atoms. Also, in meditation one finds His instant guidance, His adequate response to every difficulty.
—Swami Sri Yukteswar
Master may well be describing our own paths here too. It is our underlying resentments toward what life brings, our rationalizations during trying circumstances and the subconscious reservations we may have about our given duties — or perhaps, to our meditation practice — that hinders us. When our self-offering and willingness are made pure, the walls of resistance finally crumble. At that point, we too will know the effortless harmony of being in the flow of energy and grace. The techniques of Kriya Yoga, as taught by Paramhansa Yogananda, and the guidance of a true guru are our greatest aids in this divine fulfillment.
It was faith and trust that Nayaswami Bharat was speaking to me about when he said, “Just come to Ananda and get into the flow there.” I humbly assume he has experienced that deep, abiding faith and trust in God and Guru from his many years of dedicated discipleship. He knew what was the best response when faced with perplexing questions like mine.
Learn to trust the flow of energy in your own life and aspirations. Say YES to your life and the challenges that will come — and you will see that God is always up to something so much greater than you would have imagined!