We have occasionally written about the devastating forest fire of 1976, which destroyed our home along with most of the other houses at Ananda Village. We awoke that morning to a normal day with its usual routine, but within a few chaotic hours we had lost our home, our possessions, and our security. How can we look back through the telescope of time and view this as one of the best days of our life? Well, let me explain.
People usually try to find their solutions by changing their circumstances: Perhaps a big insurance settlement would have given us back our security. Or, in today’s world, maybe a vaccine will cure our sickness; or economic stimulus, or a new political regime will fix our problems. But Swami Kriyananda’s response to Ananda’s crisis gives us a different approach, one that truly offers hope for a better world.
He knew that for lasting solutions, we needed to reach beyond ourselves: to expand our hearts and to serve others. Almost as soon as the ashes had settled and the smoke had cleared, Swamiji began to talk about going on a nationwide tour. The more practical-minded residents wondered, How could a lecture tour possibly help us rebuild our houses or replant our forests? Moreover, they reasoned, it was certain to lose money, which we desperately needed for new homes. Well, those critics were right on a “practical” level, but so wrong on deeper levels.
Swami bought a motor home, and with a small group of singer/helpers began to crisscross the country with the “Joy Tours.” He lectured in most of America’s major cities just as his guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, had done nearly a half-century earlier. The major theme during that tour was that learning to live in joy is the solution to problems, and that only by uplifting our consciousness can we realize our dreams.
Now, a half-century later, we find ourselves needing solutions to another crisis: the chaos of the pandemic and the resulting economic and political disruption. This time we need to rebuild not just one community, but the whole world. The answer, my friends, is the one Swamiji showed us—the one that has worked since the beginning of time. A better future comes when we expand and elevate our consciousness. Our hopes for a better world will be realized only as we ourselves become more realized.
Each day I have been reading and meditating on a different prayer-demand from Paramhansa Yogananda’s Whispers from Eternity. Today, I read the perfect answer to the problems that plague the world, his Prayer for expanding Love from myself to all my brethren. It begins with these immortal words:
O Divine Mother, teach me to use the gift of Thy love, which I feel in my heart, to love the members of my family more than myself. Bless me, that I may love my neighbors more than my family. Expand my heart’s feelings, that I may love my country more than my neighbors, and my world and all my human brethren more than my country, neighbors, family, and my own self.
Lastly, teach me to love Thee more than anything else, for it is only Thy love that enables me to love everything. Without Thee, I could not love anything or anybody.
Yes, we should do everything we can to improve this world on a practical level. But lasting solutions come only from expanding the aura of our love and by living in joy.
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