Today marks my fifty-sixth anniversary of meeting Swami Kriyananda in 1967. I knocked on his apartment door in San Francisco soon after reading Autobiography of a Yogi, and he welcomed me not only into his home, but also into his life. While the lessons I’ve learned along the way are too many to list, I’d like to share some of the most significant ones with you.
People are more important than things: After we introduced ourselves he said, “I’m working on a project. Would you like to help?” He needed assistance with a mailing and, naturally, I agreed. Over the years, I’ve often joked that I didn’t realize the project would still be going on more than a half-century later. However, I eventually realized that the project was never about the mailing, or even about helping with Ananda. The real project was me. Swamiji’s primary work was not writing, or lecturing, or building communities. It was the more difficult and subtle task of guiding me and countless others on the journey of self-transformation. The projects were just the wheel on which we honed our consciousness.
Say YES to Life: This was the title of Swamiji’s first album, and a major theme of his life. His ability to say “yes” was infectious and magical. I remember the day that he persuaded a small group of us to rent a forty-four-room mansion for an ashram in an upscale San Francisco neighborhood. As he described the possibilities, people gradually shifted from a state of shock at the mere idea, to grudging acceptance, and finally to an eager discussion of each room’s use. The prototype of city communities was born that day. Swami understood that acting with enthusiasm allows the power of the universe to amplify our self-effort.
Joy is the solution, not the reward: A common mistake is to fixate on the goal, believing that happiness is the prize for achievement. Swamiji, however, taught us to work with joy, to enjoy the journey, not just the destination. Otherwise we become parched travelers trudging through a barren desert, thirsting for an oasis. Swamiji’s solution: carry a canteen filled with liquid joy along the way.
Divine friendship is God’s love in action: Swamiji rarely criticized anyone. Instead he showered us with kindness and support, helping us to overcome our limitations. He set the bar high enough to challenge us, but never so high that we couldn’t reach it. Paramhansa Yogananda said, “If you do one one-hundredth of what I ask, you will get there.”
The goal of life is to dissolve the ego: Swami reminded us that life is a quest for the Infinite. Attunement, service to the guru, and self-offering are ways of achieving this goal. He often said, “When I die, I want to be known simply as a good disciple.”
The end of the journey for you and me is that there is no you and me. In that vein, I’d like to share this lovely and appropriate poem by Khalil Gibran:
It is said that before entering the sea a river trembles with fear.
She looks back at the path she has traveled,
rom the peaks of the mountains,
the long winding road crossing forests and villages.
And in front of her,
she sees an ocean so vast,
that to enter there
seems nothing more than to disappear forever.
But there is no other way.
The river can not go back.
Nobody can go back.
To go back is impossible in existence.
The river needs to take the risk
of entering the ocean
because only then will fear disappear,
because that’s where the river will know
it’s not about disappearing into the ocean,
but of becoming the ocean.
As I reflect on my long, winding road, I am infinitely grateful that I had Swami Kriyananda walking by my side. And he is still there, ever guiding me to the ocean of Spirit.
You might also enjoy Jyotish’s related story, Life Is a Pilgrimage.
Listen to Jyotish as he reads the blog, then expands on it, often adding special behind-the-inspiration stories and answers to common spiritual questions. Subscribe to the podcast or download the audio recording by right-clicking here. Or listen to it here (8:25):