“One moment in the company of a saint can be your raft over the ocean of delusion.” This statement from the Indian scriptures is often quoted, but not always fully understood. The deeper meaning is to seek the company of saints not only on an outer level, but more importantly, on an inner one.
There’s a true story about a devotee from Switzerland who had read Autobiography of a Yogi shortly after Master left his body. Deeply inspired though he was by the book, he still sought a living spiritual guide to instruct him.
One evening he saw that a revered saint from India, Swami Ramdas, was speaking in a nearby city. Eagerly the man went to the lecture, hoping that Ramdas would prove to be the guru he was seeking. After the satsang he approached the swami and said, “Sir, I want to be your disciple.”
Being a true saint, Ramdas could see the seeker’s path to God, and he replied, “I am not your guru. Yogananda is your guru.”
“But,” the man protested, “Yogananda’s dead.”
“No,” Ramdas said emphatically, “Yogananda is alive. It is you who are dead.” Fortunately for him, this man followed Ramdas’s advice and became a dedicated disciple of Yogananda; his life was one of high spiritual attainment.
How do we keep the inner company of saints, so that they can help us cross the ocean of delusion?
First, try to keep your thoughts and feelings ever focused on the guru: his eyes, his face, his words, his voice, his vibration. Try to align your thoughts and actions with him.
Inwardly chant to the guru, or to another aspect of God, throughout the day. One of my favorite chants by Yoganandaji is “Deliver Us from Delusion.” It begins with these lines: “Think ye in thy heart, lotus feet of thy guru, If you want to cross the ocean of delusion.” Chanting these words silently will awaken devotion in your heart, and draw a divine response.
Share your daily experiences with your guru. You might think to him, “Oh, how beautifully the sunlight is playing on the leaves,” or, “I’m sorry that I spoke harshly to that person. Please help me to do better.”
Look for ways to serve as his channel to help others. Even a kind smile to a downcast-looking stranger can bring the guru’s presence near.
Finally, feel your guru’s presence daily in meditation. When the mind is still and the heart is calm, call to him repeatedly, “Reveal Thyself.” Be keenly aware of the response you feel, and hold onto that feeling throughout the day.
The saints tell us that they are always present just behind our thoughts and feelings. I’ll share something beautiful that happened to me recently in this regard. When Swami Kriyananda was in residence at Ananda Village, in the late afternoon he would often invite Jyotish and me to his home to have a cup of tea with him and walk around the Crystal Hermitage garden.
Along the path that we usually took, there were many wild strawberry plants. Swamiji loved the little strawberries, because they reminded him of the wild berries that he and his brothers as little boys would pick in the forests of Romania, where he grew up.
Jyotish, or others who were present, would walk beside Swamiji, while I would run ahead to collect the bright-red berries for his enjoyment. It became a game with us, and he would eat each little fruit with exaggerated delight. After Swamiji’s passing in 2013, I noticed with some sadness that the strawberry plants no longer bore any fruit.
A few weeks ago we had a community workday at Ananda Village. My job that morning was to weed and clean up the flower beds at the Crystal Hermitage gardens. As I worked, I kept thinking about Swamiji, recalling many beautiful memories of time spent there in his company.
After several hours of weeding and pulling up dead plants, I glanced up. At the far end of the area where I’d been working, I spied two small wild strawberry plants I’d never seen before, and . . . they were covered with bright-red strawberries!
As I picked the berries and silently offered them to Swamiji before eating them, I could feel his smile in my heart. In such moments the saints help us to cross the ocean of delusion and touch down on the eternal shores of divine love and joy where they dwell.