This past week has been a time of introspection for us. Nayaswami Seva, our dear friend of more than fifty years and one of Ananda’s founding members, passed away suddenly last Sunday of a heart attack. Though eighty-six years old, she was in good health and was still serving dynamically throughout the community.
Shortly after arriving at Ananda in 1970, Seva became a renunciate and followed that path for the rest of her days. Ever-joyful, ever-giving, ever-loving, Seva was a beautiful role model for living for God alone. As one friend put it, “She was a saint who walked among us.” Though she will be deeply missed, the example of her life and her determination to find God will be guiding lights for all of us.
Today I went to the Crystal Hermitage gardens to contemplate Seva’s passing. Hers was not an easy life, for she had many tests, but she triumphed spiritually over them all.
As I sat on a small bench gazing out at the beautiful fall colors and the calm, clear sky, the radiant red leaves of a Japanese maple tree fell silently around me. Tears began to fall silently from my eyes as well, but they were not tears of sorrow at her loss. Rather they were tears of gratitude for the gifts of divine friendship, of life, and of seeking the reality beyond life and death. As this gratitude filled my heart, I began to think of other episodes in my life that had at first seemed to be filled with loss, but turned out to be great gifts.
When the forest fire struck Ananda Village in 1976, most of us lost everything we had. Trying to move past a sense of loss, I realized that any security based on material possessions is forever unreliable. With God’s grace, I understood that a sense of security within is the only bedrock on which we can rely. This gift has remained with me ever since.
Over the years when there have been misunderstandings or disharmony with family members or friends, those experiences, too, have been transformed. Invariably as time passed, I discovered the gift of unconditional love for those involved, and a deeper soul bond grew as we worked together through past karma.
I could name many more such episodes from my life, but with Thanksgiving approaching, I invite you to give thanks for things in your own life for which you’re grateful. Think especially about those experiences that seemed difficult at first, but turned out to be blessings.
A friend of mine at Ananda Village, Erin, told me that she has a daily practice of writing in a journal that she calls her “Little Book of Gratitude.” Every day she writes down at least three things for which she’s grateful, some of which are challenges. She said that over time this practice has filled her with joy as she’s come to realize how filled with gifts life really is. Perhaps you’d like to start your own “Little Book of Gratitude” to see what you can learn from it.
Swami Kriyananda wrote a beautiful song called “The Song of the Nightingale.” In the introduction he said, “If you would hear the nightingale thrilling the air with liquid melodies, be not afraid to listen to the night.” Here are the lyrics to the first two stanzas:
Sing of joy through the night.
Teach my heart
Ev’rywhere your delight.
Sing of moonrays on the rain.
Sing that love’s not in vain.
Ev’ry grief, ev’ry wrong
Has its ending in song.
Sing of joy through the night.
Teach all men
How to spin
Clouds of gloom into light.
Without silence, what is song?
Without night, where is dawn?
Were it not for men’s woes,
Who would smile at a rose?
Nayaswami Seva was like that nightingale who learned to sing with joy in spite of every test that she faced. So, my friends, let’s remember to look for God’s hidden blessings behind “every grief” and “every wrong.” Let’s join “our nightingale” in singing a song of gratitude for each experience that comes so that we, too, can triumph and find freedom in God.
Wishing you a blessed time of Thanksgiving,
P.S. Listen to “The Song of the Nightingale” written and performed by Swami Kriyananda. You might also like to watch this slideshow honoring Nayaswami Seva’s life below or to download a picture montage of Nayaswami Seva to print for your altar click here.
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