Swami Kriyananda invited us over for tea one afternoon to discuss a change he had in mind for Ananda. When he asked our thoughts, I responded with some emotion, because I felt that a principle was at stake. Swamiji looked at me steadily and said, “You may be right, but when you speak so emotionally, it’s hard to accept what you’re saying.”
A little while later another person joined us, and Swamiji asked her to consider the same question. Though she came to the same conclusion that I’d expressed, her words were reflective and calm. To her, Swamiji said, “I accept your perspective as the right course to take.”
This was a very good lesson for me: True principles are powerful because they are rooted in impersonal truth. Defending them with an emotional reaction only clouds their essence and weakens their impact.
Recently I found these words from Kriyanandaji’s Living Wisely, Living Well: “If you feel impelled to defend a principle, never do so under the influence of anger. Defend your beliefs joyously! Dharmic—which is to say, righteous — causes should be defended righteously. And joyous non-attachment is the only way to mount that defense.”
One of my favorite stories about how to defend principles is from the life of one of the early Christian fathers, St. Anthony. He lived alone in the deserts of Egypt, praying and meditating in isolated caves for many years. At the same time, a religious controversy began to brew in the emerging Christian church, threatening to destroy it.
The schism centered around two opposing views of Jesus Christ. One side held that he was a divine incarnation, an enlightened being. The other averred that he was a wise teacher, but not of an exalted spiritual stature. Emotionally charged debates filled the big church in Alexandria, causing increasing confusion in the minds of Christ’s followers.
Finally, in desperation, some young monks sought out Anthony in the desert and begged him to settle the debate. Reluctantly he returned to be among men, and quietly entered the back of the church where the debate was raging. So great was his spiritual presence that one by one everyone turned to look at him and the angry voices became silent.
Though he was unaccustomed to speech, he uttered four words that changed the course of Christianity. Anthony simply said, “I have seen Him,” then quietly slipped away. The debate was over, and Christ was recognized as an incarnation of God Himself.
If you believe in something, whether a divine being or a principle, become one with it in your heart. When words are needed to defend it, you will have the inner power to uphold the truth.
Your friend in God,