The remarkable stories of those whose lives have been changed by Swami Kriyananda are now available in this newly published “biography of consciousness” by Asha Praver. Compiled from interviews of students, friends, and relatives, and notes of her own 35-year friendship with Kriyananda, Asha presents an unforgettable portrait of Kriyananda’s, unconditional love, humility, courage, compassion, and total devotion to God and Guru.
She explains in the introduction how the contributors to the book are identified:
Some names are included; others have preferred to appear in the book only as “an Ananda devotee.” When there is no other attribution, the first person accounts are my own experiences. I have also described the experiences of others as I observed them, or learned about them from Swamiji himself. [ed. Swami Kriyananda]
Sarcoidosis is a serious disease that causes inflammation of the body tissues. Bharat had it in his lymph system, surrounding his heart. For three years, he suffered from debilitating weakness and almost daily bouts of fever. Finally, the fever abated and his strength began to return. But his lungs had been affected, and he coughed almost constantly, sometimes for five minutes at a time.
Swamiji was recovering from open-heart surgery, but he asked Bharat and his wife Anandi to come over briefly to discuss a certain matter. Sarcoidosis is not contagious, but on the way to the Hermitage, Anandi said, “Perhaps you shouldn’t expose Swamiji to your cough. You could wait upstairs while I go down to his apartment to see him.” Bharat agreed.
When they arrived, Swamiji sent word that he wanted both of them to come down. Bharat went too, therefore, but he stood a little away from Swamiji and let Anandi do the talking.
As they were about to leave, Anandi explained, “Bharat has been coughing for six months.”
Swamiji looked at Bharat, and in a strong but matter-of-fact way said, “Bharat doesn’t have a cough.”
At that moment, the cough stopped and never returned.
“Swamiji’s blessing lifted me over the last karmic hurdle of that long illness,” Bharat said.
Grace Under Pressure
(Told by an Ananda devotee)
I had been at Ananda only a few months, and was helping out in the Retreat kitchen, chopping vegetables. Usually we listened to chants, but this time we had the radio on because Swamiji was being interviewed on a Sacramento station.
The interviewer was quite unpleasant. So rude and aggressive! I began to feel quite upset. Then I realized: Swamiji is not upset. No matter how the interviewer treated him, Swamiji responded in the same thoughtful, kind, and gracious manner.
And gradually, the whole tone of the interview changed. By the end, the radio man was completely won over. Now he was cordial and respectful! If I hadn’t heard the whole show, I wouldn’t have believed it was the same person. It won me, too. I was new at Ananda, and still making up my mind. Swamiji’s kindness and grace under pressure made a deep impression on me. “That’s the kind of person I want to be.” Soon after, I made the decision to commit my life to this path.
Oh, Never Mind
My mouth sometimes gets ahead of my mind and ill-considered words get me into trouble. After I had been at Ananda for a few years, I came up with what I thought was a brilliant plan to make myself slow down. Whenever I realized I was talking without thinking, I would stop immediately—in the middle of a sentence, even in the middle of a word. “Oh, never mind,” I would say, putting my hand over my mouth.
I was working for Swamiji as his secretary. Every afternoon I would go to his house to deliver the mail. Several others would usually be there, too. We would have tea with Swamiji, give him the news of the day, and talk about many things. In keeping with my new plan, I would sometimes stop what I was saying with an, “Oh, never mind.”
This went on for several weeks. One afternoon, Swamiji began to speak to me very seriously.
“I was meditating this afternoon,” he said, “and Babaji came to me. He had a message for you.”
I had never heard Swamiji say anything like this before. I could hardly breathe.
“Babaji told me to tell you,” Swamiji paused, then lifted his hand; just before covering his mouth he said, “Oh, never mind.”
I began to laugh and so did Swamiji.
“You did that very well!” I said. “My heart is pounding.” Then I asked, ”Is it that annoying?”
“Yes,” Swamiji said. “Please stop.”
If he had told me I was behaving like an idiot, I would have been so embarrassed it would have taken me weeks to recover. But through humor, he knew he could reach me. Of course, I never did it again.
I Bless You
A devotee was about to make an important decision, and spoke with Swamiji about it. After the meeting, Swamiji said, “He asked for my advice, but what he wanted was my approval. I can’t approve, because what he plans won’t bring him happiness. He wants to do the right thing, but he doesn’t have the strength to renounce his desires in this matter. If I asked him to do so, it would just put him in an impossible position, and how would that help him?
“I have to be sincere, however, so when he asked me to bless his decision, I said, ‘I bless you. You always have my blessings.’ That didn’t mean I blessed his decision! Still, I felt I couldn’t speak more plainly at the time. I felt I had to leave it to his own intuition.”
Later, the man told his friends, “Swamiji approves of my decision, he gave me his blessing.”
When Swamiji heard this, he did nothing to correct the misunderstanding. “I wanted to spare him needless suffering,” Swamiji said, “but I see he is going to have to live through it.”
(Told by Kent Baughman)
Right after Swamiji had hip replacement surgery, those of us in the community with medical training took turns staying with him in his hospital room, so someone would always be on hand to help him if he needed it.
I used to be a nurse, but then trained as a chiropractor. I was just starting my new practice and was quite nervous about it. It was around midnight of the day Swamiji had his operation—hardly the time to discuss my personal problems. But Swamiji knew what I was doing and must have sensed my anxiety, for he started talking to me about the practice.
“Think of your work as your sadhana, your way of serving Divine Mother. She is in the suffering bodies you serve. When you relieve that suffering, you are helping Her. Serve joyfully, with complete faith in what you are doing, and you will have plenty of energy.
“Don’t think of what Divine Mother can do for you. Think only of what you can do for Her. Work for God Alone. That is the way to succeed.”
Then he asked me to stand right next to his bed. He was weak and in pain from the surgery, but he lifted his hand and blessed me at the spiritual eye.
I had come to help him, but it was Swamiji who helped me.
(Told by an Ananda devotee)
I was with my husband at a party at Crystal Hermitage. Swamiji came over to where we were standing, greeted my husband, asked about some of the things he was doing, then stood and chatted with him for a few minutes longer.
He didn’t, however, say a single word to me; he didn’t even glance in my direction. When he finished the conversation with my husband, Swamiji turned his back on me completely and started talking to someone else as if I didn’t even exist.
Usually Swamiji is warm and gracious, not only to me, but to everyone. I was deeply hurt and tried to think what I might have done to displease him, but I couldn’t think of anything. Fortunately, that was the only time Swamiji treated me this way.
Not long afterwards, I had an argument with my husband. It was nothing important, just a difference of opinion. I was so annoyed, however, that he wouldn’t go along with me, I turned my back and refused to speak to him. This was not the first time I had frozen him out in this way.
This time, however, when I turned my back on my husband, I remembered Swamiji turning his back on me. Suddenly it was obvious why Swamiji had done that. He picked that behavior right out of me! My husband is far too kind ever to respond in such a hurtful way. Swamiji had to show me what it felt like.
Immediately I turned to my husband and said, “Dearest, please forgive me. I’ll never treat you that way again.”
Let Him Take It
The money belonged to Ananda, but the man had access to it. It was more than $10,000, a lot of money by any measure, but especially in the early years of Ananda when every dollar had to do the work of ten!
The temptation proved too great, and the man wrote a letter explaining why he needed the money and why he felt justified in taking it. He was an old friend, so it was up to Swamiji to decide what to do.
“If he takes the money,” Swamiji said, “don’t interfere, just let him have it. There is no point in trying to explain to him why he shouldn’t. He has it all worked out in his own mind and he wouldn’t understand.
“Maybe later he’ll see what he has done and return it to us. But whatever happens, I refuse to let money get in the way of my friendship with him. Many people choose money over friendship. I place friendship higher than money.
“This whole world is consciousness. If our consciousness is right, everything else will follow. We don’t have to be concerned. Where there is dharma, there is victory. If the money is meant to be ours, it will find its way to us by some other route.”