Swami Kriyananda was the sculptor who chiseled my heart and soul. My life has been transformed by trying to live according to his example. His birthday is May 19, and it seems fitting, as a kind of birthday present, to thank him for some of the ways he changed me and countless others.
Divine Friendship. Swamiji usually signed his letters, “In divine friendship.” For him, this wasn’t just a phrase, but a living reality. He embraced everyone in an aura of acceptance. The day I met him, Easter Sunday in 1967, I arrived uninvited at his door in San Francisco along with my brother-in-law. He and a small group of friends had plans to go to Golden Gate Park for a picnic. He could easily have told us that he was busy and sent us on our way. In fact almost everyone else I’ve ever known would have done just that. But not Swamiji. He greeted us with delightful enthusiasm (another of his characteristics) and invited us in to join the group.
If, at that critical moment, he hadn’t enfolded me in his divine friendship, my life would probably have taken a completely different course—I shudder even to think of what meandering road it might have followed. Thank you, Swamiji, for inviting me into your life, and thank you for your friendship. It has been my constant support and guide, especially in times of trial.
Living Wisely. Swamiji exemplified Yogananda’s teachings of “simple living and high thinking.” I read a beautiful quote from Anandamayi Ma that captured Swamiji’s life. “To a human being, the most noble, irreproachable line of conduct should alone be acceptable. It is a matter of great rejoicing if anyone strives to mold his life upon this pattern. Only actions that kindle man’s divine nature are worthy of the name of action; all the rest are non-actions—a waste of energy.” Swamiji didn’t waste much energy.
Even in times of relaxation, his life-force moved in an upward direction. We often joined him with a small group to watch his favorite movie, Bambi. He liked it, not so much for the story, but for the lovely music, the beautiful colors, and most of all for the charming, innocent friendships among the creatures of the forest. It was, for him, a depiction of divine friendship in nature. When the movie ended and we walked home, it was always with a happier, more open heart. Thank you, Swamiji, for showing me how to uplift my heart and mind.
Leadership. Swamiji was an amazing leader and accomplished a great work for Master because of it. While there were many aspects to his leadership, they might be boiled down to two principles. 1) Don’t let leadership be an ego game. 2) The job of a leader is to bring out the highest and best in others.
In our various leadership roles over the years, Devi and I would meet regularly with Swamiji. He would listen sensitively and guide us. When Ananda started the work in Italy, that first winter was very cold and very difficult. When Swamiji visited a few months later, we told him about the many difficulties we had faced. Rather than commiserate with us he said simply, “No great work is ever started without someone’s tapasya (self-sacrifice).” Swamiji always wanted us to think about others, not our own problems. That precept—not thinking about yourself—is one of the great keys to a successful and happy life. Thank you, Swamiji, for helping me to avoid the pitfall of self-focus.
Discipleship. The very core of Swamiji’s life was his discipleship to Master, and a continual love offering to his guru. He strived to let all of his words, thoughts, feelings, and actions be guided by Yogananda. Toward the end of his life he would say, “I don’t know any longer where Yogananda ends and Kriyananda begins.” I pray that I, too, will be able to say the same when I am ready to exit the stage. Thank you, Swamiji, for your discipleship, and for the purity of your life. And thank you for taking on the task of sculpting my life and those of so many others.
In divine friendship,
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