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.

With joy,
Nayaswami Devi

17 Comments

  1. how sweet it is. Swamiji was showing to us how to live according to Master’s teachings in every single thing he did. thank you for sharing this, I can feel Swamiji’s hug and laugh!
    vinaya from Ananda Assisi

  2. Excellent. God has many ways to lead one to a GURU.

  3. Dear Nayaswami Devi,
    Thank you for the article. How good it is to read and keep reminding ourselves that don’t laugh at other mistakes and if they aren’t sure on how to do it, please teach them.
    We feel as we were there with Swamiji when you made coffee as we read this :)
    Thanks
    Prem

  4. Dear Devi,
    Thanks so much for sharing this cute little moment full of depth!
    Though I’m reading you letters every week and there are always touching, this one especially cause it described so much how I feel so often in the Ananda world! Humilitated by the greatness of all these souls and spiritual “experts”! Thanks for giving a sweet and joyful perspective on that. Oh Swamiji! :D
    With Light and Love from Assisi,
    Ruby

  5. Oh my! Sooo heartwarming . After 5 years at Ananda I still feel like a little child. Your story reminds me that Divine Love is Everything I need. I am still in awe of the spiritual giants around me and feel akward sometimes. Thank you so much for the reminder that it’s about Love and Joy :-)

  6. Hello Devi,
    Thanks so much for sharing this wonderful memory and insight.
    I could see his smile and yours while reading this story. What an example
    for us to keep lightness in our hearts and words, compassion for
    the humanness within us all. Swamiji continues to be an inspiration
    and source of learning as do you all.
    I will also use this as a reminder to be vigilant against “complacency”
    and being overly self-assured. Amazing story. Thanks again!
    ~~~Peace, Josette

  7. If we could all remember to give that hug when someone doesn’t know how to do something, the world would be a better place. Love to you.

    1. That is one of the sweetest stories I’ve ever heard about Swamiji! It shows his own goodness and kindness and ability to teach, but it also reflects our beloved Guru’s consciousness. I could feel Master’s vibration in that scenario. Thank you for that lovely breath of fresh air into my day.

  8. Dear Devi,
    Thanks for sharing this touching story. You have just helped me resolve a complex situation. Thanks for being a beautiful channel of Swami Ji!
    Love,
    Kamini

  9. Wonderful.
    I was only going to post that one word, but I just read Kamini saying this helped resolve a complex situation. Yes, I believe the simplist story can often do that.
    Some of my own most treasured moments were with Swamiji. What’s interesting here is…I enjoyed Devi’s story as if it had happened to me.
    Love,
    John

  10. Beautiful, Devi. I laughed and felt warmth toward you both, and toward the greater things that came from that happening. Jai Guru!

  11. Beautiful, delightful, – reassuring! You once commented in a Sunday service how Americans tend to feel this need to ‘perform’ and that the quality of one’s ‘performance’ is often how we evaluate our self-worth. This coffee story of yours reminds of when Master shot a toy gun with a solider and parachute into the air in the presence of a young J. Donald Waters quoting, “Suffer little children unto me, for such is the kingdom of God.”
    God bless all the little children of this earth~

  12. Dear Devi ji,
    That was a wonderful story. It spoke to my heart in two ways, First as one who not always wants to admit that I don’t know how to do something for it seems an endless amount of reasons , I could readily have been standing in your shoes and second I am really glad to know that Swami ji liked to drink coffee. I often feel that I should forego the coffee for tea for also an endless amount of reasons and it just feels nice to know it is ok to indulge myself to it now and again. We are all much the same and that is heart warming. Nice.

  13. Dear Devi,
    Thank you for sharing this story for I had a similar experience. One of the very few times I had spoken with Swami is the time he came into our restaurant in Grass Valley. You, Devi were with him and I silently thank you for bringing him there to bless the restaurant with his presence. He came to the counter and I was so excited to see him in my workplace. He asked for a cup of coffee. I knew we didn’t have any for we don’t sell coffee. I stalled with a few other words of exchange and he asked again for coffee. I had to tell him we didn’t have any. He left shortly after and I felt bad I had nothing to offer him.
    Here is the part that I am now remembering. After he left a customer came up to me and asked who was that man? It turns out she had just started the SRF lessons and we were about to talk about meditation the next few times she came into Uptown Burrito. Just a side note, later that year I was able to serve Swami his coffee at the Indian Banquet.

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