Our father’s strong work ethic often kept us as children laboring with him in the garden until dark. Loving him, wanting to be with him, hoping for one of his infrequent expressions of approval, I never felt tired or unwilling carrying out his instructions.
In counterpoint to our father’s impersonal focus on completing the job, our mother would arrive with lemonade, and would insist that we all stop working long enough to enjoy it. Between them, these surrogates for Heavenly Father and Divine Mother opened a window onto our true state as children of God. They gave us worthy service to perform, guided us carefully, and nurtured us lovingly. Bathed in parental affection, our natural attitude was one of happy willingness.
An exercise in self-will
We were also encouraged to go beyond our regular chores—to find our own ways of making ourselves useful. Swami Kriyananda says it so well in “A Festival of Light”: “Ours was a holy mission. You charged us to learn great lessons from life: to be fruitful in the gifts You had given us; to expand and multiply them.”
Heading out on my own one summer day, I was taken over by the desire to build an earthen dam across the creek running through our cow pasture. My initial impulse was to help Dad on the farm, but it quickly mutated into an exercise in self-will—my project, my dam.
As fast as I shoveled dirt into the creek, just as quickly did the current wash it away. My solution: shovel faster! Eventually I managed to load on enough dirt to stop the water’s flow. I watched the water rising—first with a feeling of satisfaction, then of dismay, as the water began finding its way through. Leaks sprang up everywhere: around the sides, underneath, and over the top.
By shoveling furiously and jumping on the dam to pack the dirt, I managed to stop the leaks. The water kept rising. The leaks reappeared. The sun was setting. I could hear my mother calling me in to dinner. With a last effort, I built the dam up higher. The water climbed to the top, the leaks reappeared, and the water began to flow in rivulets until, as I watched helplessly, my day’s effort came apart and disappeared in a muddy rush downstream.
Looking back, what strikes my mind most forcefully, is not the dam washing away, or even the obvious lessons about discrimination, common sense, and attunement, but the expression of energy. Even without attunement to the Source of energy, a little boy—in his determination to finish what he had started—drew energy sufficient to keep him one-pointedly laboring, with no feeling of tiredness, for hours on end.
A rush of enthusiasm
Some years later, now a teenager and an indifferent competitor in Pony Club events, I was approached, just before a high-jump competition, by a boy my own age. The rider for entry Number 7 had panicked, the boy told me, and was too frightened to compete. The horse was thoroughly spooked, all but unmanageable. Would I ride in his place? I was not normally a courageous, or even an adventurous rider; the jump course was far above my skill level (riding a calm trail horse over simple jumps a few feet in height).
Out of nowhere came a rush of enthusiasm—partly a desire to help the fellow; partly the courage that can come when someone else is afraid; partly energy moving unbidden inside, toward the challenge. Number 7, eyes rolling, ears laid back, shivering all over, erupted from the starting point toward the first jump—a complex arrangement of irregularly spaced parallel bars, the highest over five feet from the ground. All I was able to do was hang on and try to keep Number7 aimed at the center of the jump.
When horse collided with jump, the bars flew in all directions. Number 7 and I wheeled in erratic circles while three attendants scrambled to reassemble the jump. On our second go we made it over, this time knocking down only the topmost bar, and proceeded to the second jump. The announcer’s voice came over the loudspeaker: “Thank you, number seven, you may leave the ring now.” So strong was the energy committed to seeing this ride through to the end that the announcer’s words blurred into a kind of background noise. Nothing seemed real except the flow of energy carrying us over the rest of the course.
Number 7 and I entered a kind of symbiotic partnership, drawn together into the same current. There were no more mishaps. By the end, Number 7 had stopped quivering, his breathing had become regular, and his ears had turned forward. My horrified parents rushed to console me for the embarrassment they assumed I must surely be experiencing. My own feeling was of energy and exhilaration: we’d made it! Number7 and I had both overcome our fear, had given our best, and had made it around a course far beyond our normal level of skill and confidence.
The immense power that is always available
What had happened? Somehow, a window had opened into my consciousness, and through that window had flowed energy, enthusiasm, willingness—a connection, however crude and unknowing, to the immense power always available to us as children of God.
This connection to God’s power, experienced only haphazardly in the years before coming consciously onto the path, grows naturally out of attunement. Attunement, Swami Kriyananda has often told us, stands supreme in importance for the devotee: attunement to guru’s guidance, attunement to God’s will. Self-will, self-involvement put the devotee out of tune, and so block the flow of divine energy; joyful willingness keeps the devotee in tune, and thus in touch with the energy of the Infinite.
On the 1985 pilgrimage to the Holy Land with Swami Kriyananda, we learned and practiced the songs from his oratorio, “Christ Lives,” singing each song at the physical site of the scene from Christ’s life that had inspired it. Kriyananda had meditated deeply at each site, had attuned his consciousness to Christ, and then, in joyful willingness, received and acted as a channel for the divine vibration implanted in each site by the still-living presence of Christ.
Singing these songs was a revelation. Myself not a confident singer, having no formal training, I was careful to position myself right in front of a devotee who was not only a magnificent singer but also deeply in tune with Kriyananda’s consciousness. The power flowing through this great voice would catch me up, draw me into its wake until I could feel the true intention of the song flowing through me. All I had to do was adapt the sound coming from my own voice to the great current coming from behind. The experience gave me a profound respect for what it means to sing Kriyananda’s songs. The singer is in training to become a perfect disciple, free from self-will, humbly open to allowing the music to move through his voice as a pure expression of God’s will.
The magnetism of joyful willingness
Swami Kriyananda’s spiritual magnetism generated an attitude of joyful willingness in those around him. On one occasion, those of us who had accompanied him to a Reno speaking engagement were milling about in a large auditorium preparing for the evening. Having been in Kriyananda’s aura for some hours, I found heart and mind emptying of every thought and feeling but the desire to be of service to Swami! Kriyananda, I think picking up on my state of mind, quietly spoke behind me: “Prakash, would you . . . ?” And I was off at a near-run across the auditorium; I made it half-way across before I realized I had no idea what Swami wanted me to do. I stopped, felt his amused gaze on me, turned around. There he was, smiling with joy and love: “bring me my umbrella?”
Building dams, riding horses, singing songs, fetching umbrellas: none of these has meaning except insofar as it is an expression of an inner state of uplifted consciousness. Only that act that arises from an attitude of joyful willingness has value.
An expanding joy and lightness
I was present with Kriyananda during one of his kidney stone attacks. Outwardly he was grey with pain, perspiring, on his hands and knees. As shocked as I felt at his appearance, inwardly I could feel only a calm joy—not my own, but Swami’s joy, even at such a time. Often in public talks he had told us of another crippling kidney stone attack, one that struck just hours before a Sunday service he was to give. Unwilling to ask anything of Divine Mother except to know and carry out Her will, he finally prayed in this way: “Mother, if You wish me to give this Sunday service, You’ll have to help me.” At once his excruciating pain vanished, to be replaced by a joy so overwhelming that, for sheer joy, he could barely speak.
As it happened, I was the backup speaker for that morning. Sitting in the back of a temple full to overflowing with people who were there to hear Kriyananda, I too was grey and perspiring, not knowing whether Swami would come, feeling small and inadequate. “Divine Mother,” I prayed, “You know I can’t do this alone. You’ve got to help me now.” And as I prayed, I felt a wonderful warmth and calmness spread through my heart, then an expanding joy and lightness. What had happened? Kriyananda had come. He was just walking into the temple, his whole being radiating the perfection of joyful willingness—ready equally to continue suffering the pain of a kidney stone attack or to speak to all who would hear of his beloved Divine Mother.
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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.