What Is True Integrity?
by Swami Kriyananda

December 2016

Although spirituality is often identified with religiosity, they differ in several important ways. Spirituality is conscious aspiration, and is therefore individual. It demands not only personal involvement but serious personal effort. Its ideals challenge the integrity of all who aspire to the truth. True spirituality requires integrity.

Integrity means never being willing to engage in a wrongful act.

Willingness to engage even occasionally in a wrong act will lead, in the end, to either failure or a complete loss of one’s sense of self-worth. I’d say that the worst failure of all will be the loss of your own integrity. Money in the bank is trivial by comparison.

Let nothing tempt you ever to compromise an ideal. Morality is not a question of convention. The Ten Commandments are engraved in human nature on tablets of light. The true reason why theft, violence, murder, and other crimes are wrong is that they first hurt the perpetrator himself, condemning him to ever deeper dungeon levels in the rock fortress of his egotism.

Integrity means to seek truth within yourself.

Of all the songs I’ve written my favorite is “Walk Like a Man,” primarily because of its message: to go on alone. In fact, not until a person has the integrity to seek truth within himself, and not in agreement with majority opinion, is he truly a free enough agent to work in intelligent cooperation with others, as opposed to a sort of mindless, lockstep togetherness.

Integrity was what my father showed during a visit to America, when I was nine. We went to a circus in Michigan. Outside, we paid the price of admission. Once we went inside, the management tried to make us pay again for the privilege of seats. Everyone there meekly paid the extra price. My father, however, refused this insult to his integrity. He, and all of us, stood throughout the performance.

Every day you may find yourself having to choose between a right and a wrong action, to make a statement in some way connected with truth, or to act in accordance with your highest ideals, even though doing these things makes you unpopular. Mentally imagine yourself with the moral force to stand up against injustice. Imagine yourself in many different situations also, taking a stand — not angrily, but firmly — against injustice of all kinds. Only with such mental vigor can you achieve true success.

Integrity means to be always sincere.

Integrity means to be always sincere. I remember seeing a woman at a party flashing a charming smile at someone. I could see her when she turned away. That smile became in an instant a contemptuous scowl. The other woman could not see that scowl, but I could, and the memory has lingered all my life. Such insincerity is the very opposite of what I mean by referring to its opposite, sincerity.

Integrity means never to put your needs ahead of others’.

After my separation from Self-Realization Fellowship in 1962, I supported myself primarily through the income I received by teaching yoga and meditation classes. My principle, always, when I gave classes and somebody came and said he couldn’t afford them, was to say, “Take them anyway.” I never put my need ahead of their need. Sometimes I might say, “Perhaps you could make cookies for people to eat between the hatha yoga and the raja yoga classes.”

Not insisting on payment for classes was not for the sake of those taking the classes; it was for my own integrity. The attitude of the true devotee is not to think, “What am I going to receive?” but, “What can I give?” I would let anyone take the classes even if he said he couldn’t afford to pay anything. Interestingly, somehow, in every instance in which I allowed someone to take the class series free of charge, I learned later that he could have paid for the classes easily. Even so, I never changed my practice of not insisting on payment.

Integrity means to respond with gratitude when tested.

Many years ago, certain people tried to undermine me by false accusations. Reflecting on Sri Yukteswar’s counsel always “to render grateful service,” it seemed to me that the only way to preserve my integrity was to respond with gratitude — if not to them, then to life itself, for helping me to grow spiritually no matter how people had treated me.

I made up my mind, indeed, to respond not only with gratitude, but with love. Since then, my firm adherence to Sri Yukteswar’s teaching has brought me peace of mind, and a steady increase of inner joy. Moreover, I have been able to accomplish all that my Guru told me to do.

Integrity means never to surrender your will to anyone.

Twice when I was a child, bullies much larger and stronger than I attacked and beat me. Both times I won against them by refusing to admit defeat. I never surrendered my will to them and afterwards, they always avoided me.

There may be times when others accuse you falsely of betrayal or of other wrongful acts, but it is to yourself you must remain true. Never surrender your will to anyone. Let people say about you what they will, but always remain strong in yourself. If you can preserve your will unbroken, you will always, in the end, come out victorious.

Integrity means to be unfailingly true to others.

When my parents died, they left me a fair amount of money. I reflected that my father had never given any money to Ananda. I didn’t want his soul to be uneasy if I gave my inheritance to the community. However, I would not have been at ease had I kept the money for myself. I therefore settled on a compromise: I would spend the money for a house for myself that would also be the spiritual center of the whole community.

We built a beautiful main building, chapel, reception center, and two gardens, but before my home could be started we ran out of money. The community said to me, “Since you have built all this for us, we will build your home for you.” And so it happened that my downstairs apartment, where I live, was given to me as a gift by the community. I hope, and in fact believe, that my compromise satisfied my father also.

Integrity means to be loyal to your chosen path.

Always be loyal to your chosen path. Many of the great world teachers have made statements which, to the beginner’s understanding, appear conflicting, but which are not at all contradictory when you are able to go into them more deeply. These teachers are all saying basically the same thing, but because they put it in different ways, their teachings seem, to our limited understanding, to be different. This is part of the realm of relativity — that you cannot say anything without excluding some other things that are perhaps equally true.

For the spiritual seeker, integrity requires that you follow one spiritual path, and one guru. Otherwise you have your feet in two boats, and you can easily fall in the middle and drown, which would mean abandoning the spiritual path. I’ve seen this happen to devotees who read too much of different spiritual teachings.

Integrity requires an expansive outlook.

A person whose ego is unhealthy is preoccupied with himself: with his complexes, problems, and worries. He concentrates on how others treat him, not on what he can do for them. His contractiveness robs him of his native ability to enjoy life, and becomes ultimately a prison from which he can imagine no escape. Few of us live wholly in either of these modes of consciousness. Sometimes, and in certain ways, we are expansive, but at other times, and in other ways, we are also contractive.

Contractiveness tempts the mind with suggestions that, if we will only withdraw mentally into ourselves and hide from the world, we shall escape the trials and circumstances that threaten us. Unfortunately for those who succumb to this temptation, withdrawal and self-enclosure afford false security. Any attempt to banish the “barbarians” into outer darkness only makes our problems loom all the larger and more menacing, as we ourselves grow ever smaller.

I remember a fellow disciple who, after a year of doing Kriya, became deeply depressed when he discovered he had been doing something wrong in his practice. We should be ready, even on the very last day of our lives, to see some fundamental way in which we might be able to change right now and be free. We must have the courage and integrity to be able to reexamine ourselves — even our most cherished or calmly assumed convictions — at any point, and ask, “What is true?” Not: “What do I think is true?” but what really is true.

Integrity means, above all else, self-integration.

Integrity implies much more than honesty and truthfulness. It involves the full integration of your whole being with your higher aspirations and beliefs. Integrity thus includes fearlessness, kindness (in consequence of fearlessness), inner relaxation, and cheerful acceptance of whatever comes.

Inner wholeness implies outer harmony. A person of integrity will not only be completely honest and truthful, he will be faithful to the principle of really caring for the well-being of others. He will be true above all to himself.

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Learn to Love Heroically
by Nayaswamis Jyotish and Devi

December 2016

Some years ago Swami Kriyananda shared with us a dream he’d had about impending world disasters. The message he received was that our answer to what lies ahead should be to “love heroically.” We should try to act as expansively and selflessly as we can, and resist the pull to think of our own needs first. In hundreds of little ways throughout the day, we should choose selflessness and kindness over self-interest and narrow-mindedness.

Even more than that, we must resist the temptation to contract our hearts, and must find within ourselves a deeper capacity to love unconditionally, with acceptance and without judgment. This is what the lives of all great spiritual teachers demonstrate for us.

As truth seekers, we need to become beacons of strength and hope, always keeping in mind that it is only from God that everything comes, and that anything we do is possible only because of His power flowing through us. As Jesus put it, “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit, for without me ye can do nothing.”

Our strength comes from attunement.

It’s our attunement that gives us the faith to go forward in life with energy and commitment even if things seem to be crumbling all around us. We say to ourselves, “God’s in charge. Everything will work out.” Many times we have been involved in projects that seemed destined for disaster, but because we were doing it for God, He was always there helping us, catching us when we faltered. He was doing it through us and making it all happen.

No matter what happens, what suffering we go through, the guru’s grace is ever with us like a subterranean stream, nurturing the garden of our life, watering our roots so that we are always protected and guided. This doesn’t mean that bad things no longer happen. Bad things do happen, but through the grace of the guru we find the strength to rise above them and to understand them in the right way.

To “abide in the guru” is to tune in with his consciousness so that you are no longer a prisoner of your mind, always asking, “Well, should I do this? What about this? What might happen if my husband or my child gets sick or she dies?”—or whatever it might be. Instead you say, “Guruji, let me feel your power flowing through me no matter what happens, and let every decision I make, every thought I have, reflect your consciousness.”

The details take care of themselves.

Swami Kriyananda said toward the end of his life, “I used to pray that every one of my thoughts and every one of my actions would be in tune with Master. Eventually I came to realize that even this wasn’t enough. I wanted there not to be any part of me — thoughts, feelings, actions, ideas, breath — that wasn’t his.”

We knew Swami Kriyananda for many years: when he first founded Ananda; when he was a dynamic world lecturer and a prolific writer; during the years he founded Ananda colonies and centers throughout the world; and at the end of his life when there was nothing left but his bliss and deep love for God. And it was beautiful to behold a life so well lived in God.

The vine comes from God and manifest in this world in the form of the guru to guide the individual disciples and devotees, to answer their questions. Our challenge as devotees is more and more to feel and express in our lives that divine vibration. We will, of course, make mistakes along the way, but the mistakes in life are small. The important thing is remembering God, and when we do that to the best of our ability, the details take care of themselves.

An epic battle of light and darkness

A few years ago, when a number of us from Ananda were on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, we visited many places associated with Judaism and Christianity. It was a time of political unrest in that part of the world, and there was tension in the air. Israeli military jets were flying over our heads, and quite low. Our guide took us to a place in the desert which, according to Revelations in the New Testament, is where the last great battle on earth will begin. Today this place is a crumbling ruin, but archaeologists have found seven ancient civilizations buried below the sands, one under the other.

We stood amidst these ruins in the middle of the Sinai desert, holding hands, and we could feel great spiritual power emanating from that area. Then we chanted AUM for world peace. As we chanted, I [Devi] could perceive in my mind’s eye two great astral beings — one of light, the other of darkness, and they were in a struggle. One was trying to overpower the other, but it seemed they were balanced in strength. I felt, as we chanted AUM, that our sincere desire for the light to prevail strengthened the being of light.

Be a conscious channel of God’s light.

Often a person may think, “What good can I do? What good can my prayers do?” There are forces at play in this world that are much greater than we know. We are not insignificant little beings. Paramhansa Yogananda would say to his disciples, “I see you all as beings of light.” We all need to claim our inherent ability to be channels of the light. If we consciously put out that light, we can shift the balance in the current struggle between light and darkness. This is one of the reasons why we, as devotees, are living in this particular time. There may be worse times ahead, but we will also live to see better times.

We are all part of the tree of God’s consciousness, but we must consciously choose to be part of that wonderful tree of life that is now spreading its branches. Even if we’re the frailest little leaf at the end of one of those branches, let us share the hope and faith in our hearts. Let God’s light come in our meditation. Let it come in our prayers. Let it come through everything we do: planting a garden, cooking a meal, going to work. There’s nothing to which we cannot bring the light of God once we understand our own capacity to be channels of His love and light into this world.

Swami Kriyananda was a remarkable example of how to do this. He gave hundreds of talks all over the world in different languages, but he never felt he was the doer. He would say, “It’s all Master. Master is the only thing that’s coming through me.” Whenever someone gave him a long-winded laudatory introduction, he would say he felt like a little mouse running out on the stage when everyone was looking for a great lion. Deep humility was the secret of Kriyananda’s greatness: It’s why God could come through him. He never felt he was the doer in anything, whether in the music he composed, the books he wrote, or the communities he founded.

Give more dynamic focus to your meditation.

As global citizens we need to move into the future as positively as possible to help establish stability in these changing times. America was the first nation to be founded on higher principles of equality and human rights, and we need to uphold these ideals.

As devotees, we have a further responsibility. We must give our full strength to keeping our consciousness uplifted, holding God’s presence in our hearts and minds, and helping others to do the same. Our primary individual responsibility is to keep our consciousness attuned to God and Gurus by deepening our meditations and serving more expansively.

Make it a point to practice the techniques of our line of gurus with increased dedication and fervor. Add a longer meditation to your sadhana each week. The attunement with higher consciousness that comes through deep meditation will give you the strength, wisdom, and calmness to deal appropriately with whatever may come. Through this deepened attunement you will become a clearer channel for higher consciousness in all your activities. Be especially aware of expressing God and Guru in all your words and actions.

Deepen your connection with other devotees.

It’s important also to seek out and associate with like-minded people who like you are striving to live in the light. Avoid negative discussions or arguments about whose opinions are right or wrong. This will only keep you enmeshed in delusion.

If there is no Ananda center close by, then join our Virtual Community online. Doing so will lend tremendous support to your efforts to keep your consciousness rooted in peace, love, and joy.

Cling to what is real and eternal.

The affairs of this world, even of a great nation like America, are in the final analysis fleeting shadows on the screen of time. The only real, lasting things are God’s peace, joy, and love. When moments of uncertainty, fear, or discouragement pull at you, remember to look past the shadows to the Divine Light constantly illuminating everything.

God is calling us now to build our individual spiritual power. Let us grasp this opportunity with energy and enthusiasm, and understand that it is the dharma we chose for this incarnation.

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Nayaswamis Jyotish and Devi are Spiritual Directors of Ananda Sangha Worldwide. Swami Kriyananda, in his Last Will, Testament, and Legacy, named Nayaswami Jyotish as his “spiritual successor.”

Malala: An Example of Boundless Courage
by Nayaswami Prakash

December 2016

On October 9, 2012, while traveling with other young girls in a makeshift school bus, fifteen-year-old Malala Yousafzai was singled out by a Taliban gunman sent to kill her in retaliation for her public work on behalf of education for girls. Shot in the face at point-blank range, she subsequently passed through a horrific healing process, her life often despaired of.

When Malala finally recovered, she at once gave all credit to God, and to the prayers sent by people the world over. Inspired by her courageous stand for freedom of education and of religion in the face of now all too real threats of violence by the Taliban in her native Swat Valley, Pakistan, people everywhere saw in her a beacon of light in dark and turbulent times, a symbol of hope for a way forward to peace and brotherhood.

Early lessons about cheating and lying

At the end of the twentieth century, Malala Yousafzai was born to devout Muslim parents. She grew up with deep devotion to God, profound respect for the life of virtue, and an unquenchable desire to help others. Her memoir, I Am Malala, is the autobiography of a saint in the making, a soul one feels surely has come into this life to carry out a work for God in service to humanity.

Her father is himself a dedicated educator, founder of schools, champion of the right of all people to receive an education. He is also profoundly dharmic, committed to behaving righteously under all circumstances, no matter the cost. Father and daughter are fellow warriors in the battle for universal education — each strengthening and inspiring the other.

Malala’s essential nobility of character shines through in early life lessons. Caught for taking a friend’s toy, then lying about the theft, Malala, only seven years old, faces her shame head on: “Since that day I have never lied or stolen. Not a single lie nor a single penny, not even the coins my father leaves around the house, which we’re allowed to buy snacks with. I also stopped wearing jewelry because I asked myself, ‘What are these baubles which tempt me? Why should I lose my character for a few metal trinkets?’ But I still feel guilty, and to this day I say I’m sorry to God in my prayers.”

Wisdom from Gandhi and Lincoln

From Malala’s wonderful father, true to his educational ideal, came not judgment but the consolation of wisdom from Mahatma Gandhi: “Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.” It is at this critical point in Malala’s moral unfoldment that her father tells her of Abraham Lincoln’s beautiful letter to his son’s teacher: “Teach him, if you can, the wonder of books. . . . But also give him quiet time to ponder the eternal mystery of birds in the sky, bees in the sun, and flowers on a green hillside. Teach him it is far more honorable to fail than to cheat.”

Her father introduced Malala also to a great soul from her own Pashtun heritage, Khan Abdul Ghaffer Khan, a man revered as the Frontier Gandhi. This courageous soul introduced a philosophy of non-violence into a culture whose ancient code called for revenge for every insult.

Thus compassionately grounded in moral virtue — especially truthfulness and non-violence — Malala grew up emulating her father’s goodness and her mother’s endless service to those suffering or in need, looking to great heroes of righteousness for her models, and loving God with all her heart. Shocked at the sight of a young girl her own age, forced by destitution to be breadwinner to her family, her skin covered in sores, sorting trash from the stinking communal dump, Malala inwardly swore she would help such needy children. Together with her mother, she pleaded with her father to open his school to everyone, those who could not pay as well as those who could.

To God she wrote a letter: “Dear God, I know You see everything, but there are so many things that maybe, sometimes, things get missed, particularly now with the bombing in Afghanistan. But I don’t think You would be happy if You saw the children on my road living on a rubbish dump. God, give me strength and courage and make me perfect because I want to make this world perfect. Malala.”

The coming of the Taliban

Disaster upon disaster descended on the Swat Valley during Malala’s short life. First came the horrendous earthquake of October 2005, devastating Kashmir and northern Pakistan, killing or maiming 200,000, leveling whole villages, destroying roads and bridges as well as basic infrastructure. Malala’s family stayed put, determined to trust God and do all in their power to help those who had suffered even more than they themselves.

In the wake of the earthquake came the Taliban, thundering from their pulpits that the sinful ways of women were the cause of the disaster, a warning from God that only the rigid imposition of Islamic law could save them. The ensuing years saw increasing violence: against children playing games forbidden by the Taliban, against women not dressed according to the Taliban code, and against anyone not bowing to Taliban absolute authority in all matters, sacred and mundane. Malala was always with her father, learning from him, supporting him in his efforts to maintain freedom of religion and freedom of education, and to restore peace to the valley.

It was during the Taliban occupation that Malala felt inwardly to speak out publicly, through the news media, on behalf of all those terrorized and intimidated by the Taliban: “In my heart was the belief that God would protect me. If I am speaking for my rights, for the rights of girls, I am not doing anything wrong. It’s my duty to do so . . . I prayed to God every night to give me strength.”

Malala’s external world, as she gave herself more and more to her divine service, was a constant horror of bloodshed: violence perpetrated against any who opposed the Taliban, or did not adhere strictly to their standards. All girls’ schools were ordered closed. Even those closed were often destroyed. In the midst of this carnage, Malala, now twelve years old, was giving weekly BBC radio interviews about her life under Taliban rule.

That same year, 2009, war erupted. The Pakistani army entered the Swat Valley to fight the Taliban in open conflict. Two million Swatis were forced into exile, their homes left to the mercy of war. Returned the next year to their often heavily damaged homes and broken former lives, the Swatis had barely begun to rebuild when, in July 2010, the month of Malala’s thirteenth birthday, disaster struck again. The rains came and continued relentlessly. Massive mudslides overwhelmed the valley, thousands drowned, entire villages were swept away, millions lost their homes, their schools, their means of livelihood.

The Taliban threaten Malala.

Malala threw herself with even greater intensity into her mission for peace and education. It was at this time that serious threats against Malala and against her father began coming from the now underground Taliban. Malala stood firm, even when her father suggested they keep a low profile. “How can we do that?” Malala shot back. “You were the one who said that if we believe in something greater than our lives, then our voices will only multiply even if we are dead. We can’t disown our campaign!”

Malala’s prayer life intensified. She would pray to God in this way: “Bless us. First our father and family, then our street, then our whole mohalla, then all Swat.” Then her prayer would expand further: “No, all Muslims.” And further still: “No, not just Muslims; bless all human beings.”

Then came the shooting, and an unconscious Malala hovering between life and death as she was airlifted by helicopter. Father and mother poured their heart’s energy, their grief and shock, not into bitterness and recrimination, but into continuous prayer, prayer that expanded immeasurably to become a worldwide outpouring from souls touched by Malala’s courage and example.

Even the doctors, the whole medical team, turned to God for His intercession, His guidance. Every step of the way, Malala’s parents buoyed their spirits with guiding stories from the Quran: especially the story of Yunus who, like Jonah, was swallowed by a whale and who, while inside the whale, continuously recited the Quranic verse that gives the faithful reassurance that, if one keeps faith, there will be a way out of even the worst danger, the most insoluble problem.

“I had no thoughts of revenge.”

Returned to consciousness a week after the shooting, in a hospital in Birmingham, England, Malala’s first thought—“Thank God I’m not dead”—quickly gave way to gratitude that God had blessed her with a new life. Once she had grasped what had happened, that the Taliban had carried through with their threat, her only regret was “that I hadn’t had a chance to speak to them before they shot me.” Malala goes on, “I didn’t even think a single bad thought about the man who shot me — I had no thoughts of revenge.”

Malala gave all credit for her survival to the prayers of her enormous family of well-wishers. Especially was she grateful to the children of slain Pakistani leader Benazir Bhutto, who had sent her shawls that had been their mother’s. One of these shawls had on it a single black hair — a blessing from one great soul who had been killed trying to help and uplift Pakistan to another great soul, this young girl who had survived to carry on the work so dear to them both.

Over and over, before the shooting and during her long recovery, Malala prayed to God, “I want to help people and please help me to do that.” She goes on, “I know God stopped me from going to the grave. . . . People prayed to God to spare me, and I was spared for a reason — to use my life for helping people.”

On her sixteenth birthday, July 12, 2013, Malala spoke before the United Nations. Wearing one of Benazir Bhutto’s white shawls, she reached out to all people living in poverty, in fear of terrorism, to those denied education, praying to infuse them with the courage to stand up: “Let us pick up our books and our pens. They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen can change the world.” Elsewhere she writes, “Islam says every girl and every boy should go to school. In the Quran it is written, God wants us to have knowledge.”

I Am Malala closes with her beautiful credo: “I love my God. I thank my Allah. I talk to Him all day. . . . Peace in every home, every street, every village, every country — this is my dream. . . . To see each and every human being with a smile of happiness is my wish.”

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Sidebar: Inspired Not to Cheat

A young friend wrote of her experience with Malala’s book. She was seated at a table with a study group for a physics class, preparing for an upcoming test, one in a series that had so far proved almost impossibly difficult. Many at her table had found ways to cheat and offered to share with her their “wrong doing” (as she described it). Into her mind came Malala’s childhood lesson from her father, and Abraham Lincoln’s admonition that it is “far more honorable to fail than to cheat.” With quiet resolution she declined the offer and, through concentrated study and hard work, managed an “A” in the course.

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I Am Malala is available through bookstores and online.

Nayaswami Prakash, a long-time member of Ananda, currently serves at Ananda Village doing forestry and landscaping work. He also edits books and articles by Ananda members, writes regularly for Clarity Magazine, and writes the monthly “Thank You, God” tithing letter.