Swami Kriyananda often said that each technique on the path of Kriya Yoga helps us to commune with an aspect of the Divine. The Energization Exercises help us attune to the Power aspect of God. Hong-Sau brings an experience of God as Peace. The Aum technique introduces us to God as Cosmic Vibration and Kriya Yoga helps us commune with God as Bliss.
Paramhansa Yogananda once told Swami, “The spine is the trunk of the ‘tree of life.’ God’s joy is the ‘sap’ flowing through the trunk of the tree.” Kriya Yoga centers our consciousness in the spine, and there we can bathe in this flow of Joy. In that joy come the answers to all dilemmas of life, the strength to convert challenges into opportunities, and the imperturbability that allows us to “stand unshaken amidst the crash of breaking worlds.” Most importantly, we gain the ability to live always with a sense of joyful ease and good humor.
Many years ago, I had a charming experience of these twin qualities that come in time to bless all Kriya Yogis.
A Snake in My Room!
I was in my little room in the monastery in Pune, India. The time was around midnight. And the “charming experience” began with me realizing suddenly that in my room was a common krait – the most poisonous snake in India!
Whenever Swami Kriyananda found himself in an embarrassing or difficult situation, he’d think, Once I get out of this situation, what a great story this will make! Thinking along those same lines, I carefully “moved” the snake out of my room. I then set out to share the “story” with my friends and colleagues, even though it was nearly midnight.
Here’s the email I wrote them:
Subject Line: Surprise Visitor!
Dec 11, 2015, 11:57pm
I had finished the day, done some bedtime reading, and was thinking of going to sleep when my gaze fell on the floor and I saw that I had a visitor— His Poisonousness, Shri Krait. I had ignored rustling sounds in the room during my night’s meditation and had been about my room barefoot with no lights on. Wikipedia says:
Kraits are nocturnal, so seldom encounter humans during daylight hours; incidents occur mainly at night. Frequently, little or no pain occurs from a krait bite, and this can provide false reassurance to the victim… If bitten by a krait while sleeping, a victim may not realize he has been bitten, as the bite feels like that of an ant or mosquito. The victim may die without waking up.
Luckily, kraits, though India’s most poisonous snakes are quite mild-tempered. So, I guess, all is well that ends (or in this case, survives) well!
Let me share the responses I received from some of my Kriya Yogi friends. You’ll recognize many of the writers, and each of their charming emails contains a lesson.
Nayaswami Jaya: Sagar, Next time you don’t show up for morning meditation, should we worry?
At that time, I was being extremely irregular at the morning group meditations. My absence hadn’t gone unnoticed!
Asha Nayaswami: So happy he is “mild-tempered.” Master is watching out for you.
Yogis prize “mild-tempers” no matter where the quality is found – including snakes!
Nayaswami Dhyana: Wow! Glad you’re still with us. Still lots to do!
This is still true – Ananda India needs all hands on the deck!
Nayaswami Devarshi (re: ‘The victim may die without waking up.’): I think the vast majority of people in the world die without waking up!
Yogis teach that the goal of life is to awaken from this dream delusion. Only he who has pierced the veil of maya is deemed to have “woken up.” All else are considered to be fast asleep.)
Amit: Awesome! Hope you treated him well.
A reminder to always think of others first, which is indeed a hallmark of Amit’s nature.
Nayaswami Devi: It would be terrible to be kraited away. Perhaps you should put a night light in your bathroom.
Sound practical advice!
Joy is the Hallmark of Yogananda’s Spiritual Path
The predominant quality that Swami Kriyananda felt in Paramhansa Yogananda’s presence was Joy. Swami called Yogananda a Bliss-Avatar: A perfect expression of the Divine in the form of ever-new Joy.
All of these responses – full of good humor, wisdom, and centeredness, reminded me once more that joy and good humor are the hallmarks of Yogananda’s spiritual path. Yogananda often said, “All of Krishna’s soldiers were like Krishna.” In attuning to Yogananda, perhaps we take on his quality of Joy.
Joy and good humor were Swami Kriyananda’s defining qualities too. He wrote that:
A good sense of humor is an effective means of keeping a sense of perspective through the trials and difficulties of life. By not taking things too seriously, one develops non-attachment.
Swami was once questioned particularly aggressively by a lawyer for an entire day as part of a lawsuit against him and Ananda. Someone later asked Swami how he was feeling. Swami’s answer, with the accent and attitude of a suave super-hero, was “Stirred, but not shaken,” —a delightful wordplay on how James Bond (Swami used to read James Bond as a kid) always ordered his martini: “Shaken, not stirred.” And Swami’s quip, after having his second hip replacement surgery (the hip had been so worn out and excruciatingly painful that he could barely walk), had been: “Hip, Hip, Hooray!”
Did you know that joy was a key characteristic of Yogananda’s own guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar? We think of Sri Yukteswar as only stoic and stern. Yogananda saw him very differently:
My guru’s ready wit and rollicking laugh enlivened every discussion. Often grave, Master was never gloomy. “To seek the Lord, one need not disfigure his face,” he would remark. “Remember that finding God will mean the funeral of all sorrows.”
I have noticed that this same joy is a defining characteristic of all those who are a part of Ananda. After all, the translation of the Sanskrit word Ananda is Joy. At Ananda, a deep commitment to the spiritual path commingles naturally with a simple, joyful and good-humored approach to life and all its vicissitudes.
Living from Joy Can Bring Light into a Turbulent World
In recent times, I have been asked more than once, “Isn’t it wrong to be joyful when there is so much suffering all around?”
Here is Paramhansa Yogananda’s answer from “Watching the Cosmic Motion Picture of Life,” Whispers from Eternity:
Sympathetic higher beings derive great inspiration from helping “earthlings” to uncover their own inner joy. If such high beings wept with us and identified with our sorrows, they would not be able to uplift anyone. Indeed, we ourselves, when we grieve too deeply with others in their sorrows, only increase those sorrows.
Compassion is a loftier feeling than sympathy. Compassion is like being able to swim strongly enough to save someone from drowning. Pity may mean jumping into the water and drowning with him! The only way to diminish others’ grief is to apply to them the potent salve of our own inner calmness and joy. Those who can do so most effectively for both themselves and others are advanced beings whose inner happiness has become unshakable.
From these lines, I have come to understand that the spiritual path consists of living every day in deep joy so that we may share that joy with others. In turbulent times, it is all the more important for each one of us to deepen our realization, our meditation, and our inner communion with God. As Yogananda said, “One moon gives more light than all the stars.”
When we find that our joy and sense of good humor are unfazed by difficult situations or increasing turmoil, and yet we can relate with an increasing empathy to those who are suffering, we can know with certainty that we are progressing swiftly on the spiritual path.
Kriya Yogis Are Like Shining Jewels
Yogananda often admonished his students to become “spiritual alcoholics.” It is impossible for a good alcoholic to miss his daily visit to the tavern. No matter what, he keeps his cup filled and remains inebriated night and day.
The wine of divine joy is stored in the tavern of the spine. Through daily Kriya practice, we too can daily visit that tavern, drink abundantly of that wine, and remain inebriated by that joy night and day. That soul-joy is the salve that can help others who are suffering. One can, with spiritual advancement, consciously transfer that joy to others who are receptive. That joy brings in its wake the solutions to all of life’s problems and an intuitive understanding of how best to help others.
Perhaps that is why Yogananda concludes his Autobiography of a Yogi by highly extolling the practice, as well as the practitioners of Kriya Yoga:
The blessed role of Kriya Yoga in East and West has hardly more than just begun. May all men come to know that there exists a definite, scientific technique of Self-realization for the overcoming of all human misery!
In sending loving thought vibrations to the thousands of Kriya Yogis scattered like shining jewels over the earth, I often think gratefully, Lord, Thou hast given this monk a large family!
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