Just at daybreak, April 20, 2015, Swamiji’s casket was carried by devotees to its final resting place beneath the newly completed Moksha Mandir. That same morning, while in seclusion at Ananda’s Meditation Retreat, I awoke from a dream of our choir singing, with so much power and joy, “Christ Is Risen,” from Swami’s Oratorio, Christ Lives. Words and melody were inspired by his pilgrimage to the Holy Sepulchre, in Jerusalem where, he writes, “more than anywhere else in the Holy Land, I felt Christ triumphant,”:
Christ is ris’n this Easter morn:
Thus our lives to joy are born!
He from death is ever free:
In his life e’en so are we!
Gone all our darkness,
In our souls Thy light we see,
Gone our delusions,
Clear now our vision:
In Thy joy we live ever free!
As I meditated on the thrilling song that was filling my being all that morning, it came home to me once again that it had been Swamiji’s ceaseless and loving self-offering that had lifted his spirit to that level of consciousness on which he could truly receive Christ within, and so experience the limitless bliss of Christ’s resurrection as his own – and, in his unending compassion, share his joy with all of us whose souls opened upward in reverence.
The devotee learns over time to separate the human perception of separation or death as a cause for grief from the soul’s knowing that such transitions can actually be doorways to self-expansion and freedom. In the mid-1970’s, when I was quite new to Ananda, Swamiji left the community for a long seclusion in India. I felt bereft – as though his physical absence would leave an unfillable void. How different my experience of his departure from his body two years ago, April 21, 2013. There was, of course, human sadness, but overwhelmingly more pervasive was the feeling of Swami’s expanding spirit, of his being with us more completely, more joyfully now that he was free of the restricting encasement of an ailing body.
In Yogananda’s telling the story of his own grief, as the boy Mukunda, at the death of his earthly mother, Master shows us the devotee’s path to joy even in the midst of anguished bereavement. Mukunda’s sorrow at the loss of his mother reaches its nadir when he feels himself separated also from his beloved Divine Mother. His suffering goes on for years, and yet never does he stop calling out to, offering himself to his Heavenly Mother: “storming the very gates of heaven, my cries at last summoned the Divine Mother. Her words brought final healing to my suppurating wounds, ‘It is I who have watched over thee, life after life, in the tenderness of many mothers! See in My gaze the two black eyes, the lost beautiful eyes, thou seekest!’”
When my own earthly mother came to Ananda to spend her last four years with me, I found in our deepening friendship a succession of experiences of the real working of Divine Mother through this one of Her many channels. No matter how her body suffered, how helpless it became, how inexorably were taken away the normal dignities of life so easily taken for granted when one is in health, through it all this courageous soul remained steadfastly “mom” – steadily giving strength; nourishing; sustaining. In the ER, paralyzed by a fall, still she kept her maternal aura around me, smiling conspiratorially, quietly chuckling, her wonderful sense of humor enveloping me in her enjoyment of the absurdity of her predicament.
Whenever I think of this bright soul, whenever my heart goes out to her in love and gratitude, I feel her spirit right here with me, just the same, only lighter, more clear, more joyful, more free. I feel that what I am experiencing is the grace of Divine Mother flowing into my soul through this human channel. And how much more so is the blessing that flows into all of us who love and serve not only our human family and friends but also those who – like Swamiji, like our Master – have transcended their humanness and merged into the Infinite Spirit, who have made themselves into channels through which we too may find “power to become the sons of God,” and so, like the boy Mukunda, may realize every devotee’s deepest longing: “Haloed in splendor,” Master writes,” the Divine Mother stood before me. Her face tenderly smiling, she was beauty itself.” So may it be – so will it be, our Master has shown us – for all of us who hold nothing back in our self-offering to the Divine.
In divine friendship,