I first met Swami Kriyananda shortly after I came to Ananda Village in California, in 1969. As I watched him from a distance, I found myself in awe of him—of his spiritual wisdom, his inspiration as a teacher, and the fact that he was a direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda. I also labored under the thought that everyone around him needed to be highly capable, and able to carry out efficiently anything that he asked them to do.
For both of these reasons, I felt awkward around him. Though I had graduated from college with honors, I had very little practical experience in the world, and spiritually I was barely a beginner.
One day the person who brought Swamiji his mail every afternoon needed to go elsewhere, and asked me if I could bring it over. I asked myself, “How hard could this be?” and agreed to do it.
When I got to his home, Swamiji was at his typewriter absorbed in writing a new book. I quietly placed his mail on a table by the door, and was about to slip out, when he looked up and asked, “Could you please make me a cup of coffee before you go?” Well, I was not a coffee drinker and had no idea about how to make coffee, but rather than look totally inept, I said, “Sure.”
I knew that making coffee had something to do with boiling water, so I went into the kitchen, put some water in a pot, turned on the burner, and waited for something to happen. After some time Swamiji was probably wondering what had become of his coffee, and came into the kitchen to see what was happening. This is what he saw: 1) a pot of water on the stove with most of the water boiled away, and 2) a very embarrassed young person standing helplessly in the middle of the kitchen.
Looking quizzical, he gently asked me, “Don’t you know how to make coffee?” Feeling like a child who didn’t know the words on the spelling test, I admitted, “No, Swamiji.” I expected him to say understandingly, “Don’t you think you might be better off living elsewhere?”
Instead, to my surprise, he threw his head back, burst into hearty laughter, and came over and gave me a hug filled with kindness and reassurance. Then he proceeded to show me how to make coffee.
Though Swamiji actually drank very little coffee, on different occasions over the years he would ask me to make him some, as though reminding me of that first shared experience. But he often added, “Oh, I’m making it with a different method now.” Sometimes it was with a frozen coffee concentrate, or a cloth filter, or an espresso machine, but he always kept us on our toes. In this way we couldn’t settle into complacency or become overly self-assured.
The spiritual lessons I learned from making coffee for Swamiji were many. God loves us most when we come to Him like little children. He is not impressed with our accomplishments or judgmental about our shortcomings, but rejoices when He sees our openness of heart.