One evening, for a “movie night,” the Ananda Village monks watched Into Great Silence, a documentary film about a very strict French Catholic monastery. The monks live in complete silence, praying long hours in their cells, coming together only for meals and formal worship. Over time one monk seems to be sinking deeper into dementia. His monastic brothers treat him with exquisite courtesy and respect, always in silence, helping him through doorways and into bed, nursing him in the later stages of his condition, and finally laying him to rest. Kindness, compassion, respect for the soul, divine friendship — these same qualities, so beautifully expressed in the documentary, shine also, rays of the great light of Yoganandaji and our beloved Swamiji, through the brothers in Ananda’s fledgling monastery.
One of our older monks came first to Ananda Village in its first year, 1969, and has been a steady presence in the monastery’s latest incarnation. A true lover of God, full of joy and good humor, completely sincere in his human friendships as in his discipleship, this good soul, like the brother in the French Catholic monastery, has been gradually losing his memory, his judgment, more and more experiencing confusion as basic mental functions slip away into the fog. The simplest tasks — walking across a room — sometimes seem impossibly complex. And so it must have been during a recent evening meditation at the monastery. Partway into the meditation, against a background of deep stillness, several of the monks heard the sound of running water. Our brother was relieving himself on his meditation blanket and pad.
No one reacted. The meditation continued to the end — perfectly peaceful and still. Once the meditation had ended and the older monk departed with his caregiver for the evening, one of the younger monks quietly gathered up the soiled materials, laundered them, and replaced them where our brother sits. There was no judgment — simply a service needing to be performed, a soul needing to be honored in its innate divinity, a life in God to continue on its blissful way to the final freedom.
In the early 1970s Swamiji made a pilgrimage to Assisi, there to walk where Saint Francis walked, and to meditate and pray in the inner presence of this great soul, whom Master called his “patron saint.” Reflecting on his experience, Swamiji wrote these words: “Feeling the divine sweetness of Saint Francis, I wondered: How is it possible for anyone to be so utterly sweet? Then the answer came: by never judging anyone; by being from one’s heart a brother or a sister to all, by complete humility — but above all, by never judging.”
And out of such sweetness of soul comes the power to bless others with God’s love and joy. Two of Ananda’s monks led a meditation for those taking the Living Discipleship month-long program at Ananda’s Meditation Retreat. Twenty bright souls were there, shining with the light of weeks of intensive sadhana and inner communion. Entering the temple one was at once drawn into a great river of joyful yearning flowing toward the large photograph of Yoganandaji in front of the altar. Devotion filled the temple, flowing through each one present, pouring into the ocean of Divine Love that was Master.
The monks leading sat unobtrusively to the side, like tributary streams adding their loving energy to the all-encompassing current of devotion — and doing so with that true humility that touches and awakens the divine love latent within each one — serving with such purity that what was awakened flowed only to Master in that most precious yearning to give to the Divine, to offer oneself to the Divine, to leave behind everything not of God and merge perfectly in the holy Presence.
Yoganandaji describes Master Mahasaya as a “blissful devotee”—his purity of soul born of freedom from judgment: “Without a breath of censure or criticism, he surveyed the world with eyes long familiar with the Primal Purity.” With no obscuring darkness or ego-motivation, this beautiful soul was to the boy Mukunda a direct conduit to Divine Mother. Nothing blocked his constant communion with the Mother, and this communion he could share with young Mukunda’s thirsty soul.
In Master Mahasaya’s life, in that of Saint Francis, in the lives of Swamiji and our own Master, lies that most precious hope for every spiritual seeker: that the bliss of communion with the Divine Mother is available to all, that our part is to be free of judgment, to be compassionate and humble, to open ourselves in childlike simplicity for our soul’s innate yearning to draw together in sacred union our own orphaned spirits with the all-embracing Spirit of the Divine Mercy.
In divine friendship,
For Ananda’s “Thank You, God” Tithing