Here is a message that Swami sent out to his friends on September 12th, 2012, his 64th anniversary of being a disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda:
Today is my sixty-fourth birthday—spiritual, that is. September 12, 1948, I was accepted as a disciple by Paramhansa Yogananda. How well I remember that day! How well I remember the years of seeking that had brought me to him! And I thank God for all the blessings He has showered upon me in this life. There has been suffering, yes, but as the Sufi saint Rabi’a said, “He is not worthy of God who does not forget all his sufferings in contemplation of the Beloved.” I am grateful for everything; for my tests, perhaps, especially, since all of them have brought me closer to my Cosmic Beloved.
All my life has been dedicated to finding truth. I remember the time, many years ago when I was still a child. My Mother and we three boys crossed the Canadian border into the United States. The customs official asked Mother if she had anything to declare, and Mother said, “No.”
All three of us boys put our hands over our mouths in shock, and cried, “Oh, Mother!” Grimly the official demanded that she open the trunk. And there he found three little birchbark canoes—total value, certainly less than ten dollars. I think all three of us have always been incapable of telling a lie.
But when I was thirteen, my quest for truth became increasingly urgent. I didn’t want money; I didn’t want fame; I didn’t want worldly comfort. All I wanted was to know why we’ve been put on this planet; what the purpose of life is; has it a higher purpose?
I sought it through reason. Had I sought it through love, I might have come onto the spiritual path much sooner. But God, to me, was an abstraction. I therefore sought truth through science; through social systems; through the kind of inspiration I hoped would be found in artistic inspiration. But I was deeply in earnest.
I hoped through playwriting to share truth with others, but I couldn’t do so superficially. Finally I decided, “I myself don’t know truth. It would be a ridiculous presumption, then, to share my ignorance with others.” My singing teacher, and old woman in Philadelphia, had told me, “I’m living for only one thing, now: to see you become a GREAT singer!” This she had said holding both hands in the air. But success at anything was meaningless to me, without truth. If I found that truth, I wanted to share it with everyone!
After realizing that I couldn’t be a playwright (though a number of people had predicted a great future for me in that field), I started to become desperate. How was I ever to find truth?
I remember the turning point in my life. It came one evening in Charleston, S.C. I had begun to realize that the only people in this world who had really helped humanity were all spiritual figures: Jesus Christ; Buddha; and the like. Any good done by anyone else had been only bubbles in the surf. I had never seriously considered God, because I had imagined God, if He existed, to be unknowable. This evening, however, I took a long walk into the deepening darkness and asked myself very sincerely, “If there’s a God, what must He be?” He can’t be just a judge, waiting for us to err so He can clap us into prison (hell) for eternity.
After pondering the matter for some time, the thought came to me: “I am asking this question consciously. I could not have been artificially programed to ask such a question. That means I, myself, am independently conscious. God, therefore, must beconsciousness!” I realized, then, that this meant I must be a small part of that consciousness. “My job in life, then,” I realized, “must be to open myself more to that consciousness! I must, and shall, devote my whole life to trying to make myself more perfectly open to that consciousness! What He does with my life, then, is up to Him.”
I came back to my apartment that evening overwhelmed by the grandeur of this awareness. My four roommates all laughed at my seriousness, but I simply withdrew to my room. I would devote my life to seeking God!
At first, I wondered if I was not going crazy! I did not know that anyone had ever sought God before. I knew nothing of the lives of saints. But I finally concluded, “Even if I go crazy, this is the only possible path for me.” I didn’t know how to seek Him. I thought of becoming a hermit—perhaps in a Brazilian jungle.
Someone in Charleston mentioned to me the Bhagavad Gita. “What’s that?” I asked. “It’s a Hindu scripture,” he replied. And then the question, “Hindu? What’s that?” I know nothing whatever about any other spiritual traditions, and although I did know something of my own (the Christian), it was too closely associated in my mind with the ordinary life I knew most Christians lead. (It has only been since understanding the life of Jesus in its own context that I’ve come to understand that he, too, had all the answers I sought.)
I am so grateful that God heard my prayers, and led me to Yogananda, and that Yogananda accepted me as a disciple. But at that time, I must admit, I wasn’t seeking a guru. The very thought of becoming any man’s disciple was, to me—well, unthinkable! I had never met anyone that I considered wise enough to follow. But I did know I needed help; I needed guidance. I was struggling and stumbling in a desert wasteland.
And then, as I said, God led me to Yogananda. I found his autobiography in a New York book store. In fact, I found it the very day I had just put Mother on the ship to go join Dad in Egypt! This was what I had been seekiing so desperately. It was my answer! I was free. I had no obligations to anyone. I took the next bus across the country to meet Yogananda. And the day I met him, he accepted me! I think mine was the most “whirlwind” courtship he ever had!
I didn’t expect the path to God to be easy, which is fortunate because it hasn’t been! My body, for one thing, has given me trouble all my life. Still, here I am at 86, still energetically serving God. Mentally I have had my hardships, but I’m grateful for all of them. As Master said, “Living for God is martyrdom.” I am indifferent to whatever punishes my ego. Indeed, I’m grateful for it. For ego is the one thing we must overcome, if we would know God.
I am grateful also, however, for all the many true friends God has given me, in you all. You are a wealth beyond compare. Thank you. And thank you for helping me to reach this day of supreme gladness in my life.
In God’s love,