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.

The example of her life and her determination to find God will be guiding lights for all of us.

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:

Nightingale! Nightingale!
   Sing of joy through the night.
Teach my heart
To impart
   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.

Nightingale! Nightingale!
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,

Nayaswami Devi

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.

Listen to the weekly commentary for this blog, with 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 (4:15):

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32 Comments

  1. Such a beautiful story. My wife passed away two weeks ago and I have been searching through our current home of 38 years for gracious momentos of our being. On September 25th we celebrated her 78th birthday. On oct 4th we celebrated our 54th anniversary. Ten years back we had a stay in a hospital where she had stage 4 renal failure. Upon recollection of all this I realize GOD (Paramahansa Yogananda) had extended her stay on earth another 10 years. I have followed Paramahansa Yogananda for the past 40+ years. Then Kriyananda then you and your husband. Your blog brings me great peace and love. Thank you doesn’t even describe the feelings I get when I read your articles.
    With Great Love
    Vincent Cruz

    1. Dear Vincent

      What a moving response to Deva’s article. Thank you so much for sharing your story. To think that you celebrated your 54th anniversary! That is such a blessing. And a devotee for 40 years – I can feel the light and faith shining through your words at a time when many would be beside themselves with grief. You are a beautiful example and shining light amongst us all. Thank you and may your path be blessed with Masters grace evermore. I too feel such joy in reading those articles – being online seems to make no difference vs in the physical presence – we are so fortunate to have found our Guru in this life time and to be in the ever open arms of our soul family Ananda.
      Blessings and Joy
      Victoria

  2. By reading,I felt spiritual joy.My heart felt gratitude to Ananda Monks.I bow before all of you.Namaste

  3. Thank you Devi. Even people who never met Devi now feel enheartened and supported by her presence: through her earthly passing she has become a sister for each one of us.

  4. Dear Jyotish and Devi

    Such a glorious friend was our Seva! I can still hear her kind words ringing in my ears.

    But there is a vision of dear Swamiji greeting and welcoming her to the heavenly realms, in a sun filled flower bursting spring meadow.

    And her joy to see him.

    Thank you for your words Devi. I am currently with Tom Taylor’s sister, Anna Louisa, in Nepal.

    The Indian goverment temporarily suspended all touist visas….you may know of this already? We are awaiting a reinstatement of our visas.

    Anna Louisa had a fall and is awaiting surgery, for a broken bone in her hip.
    So your words on facing challenges joyfully, really resonated. More for me….Anna Louisa lives by that truth.

    My gratitude for Ananda and Swami Kriyananda has never left me. I recall our last meeting, when Jamey and Darlene Potter invited me to a luncheon with him at the Ananda restaurant next to New Renaissance Bookshop in Portland.

    Someone once comented that Ananda is more a state of mind that never leaves us, no matter where we travel. I am living proof of that statement.

    Until we meet again dear ones!

    Veena (Therese) Paulson.

  5. ‘Think especially about those experiences that seemed difficult at first, but turned out to be blessings.’

    Such a beautiful article – thank you so much. I took the essence of it on an early morning walk, here in Devon in UK. As far as I could see, in every direction, were green fields, autumns trees and rolling hills. My spirit soared. I remembered to think especially about the experiences that had caused me much angst in the past. The immediate memory was a very recent one, where I had agonised over whether to face my fears and go to London by train to a family friends funeral. There would be a large Irish wake afterwards and a long evening ahead in close quarters inside. With the threat of covid cases rising heavily, but much more was my anxiety over being in a crowd again with long hours where people were drinking. With the help of a trusted friend within Ananda, I decided to go. Perhaps I could just go to the funeral and not the wake? It may not seem a big thing, but my heart was pounding as I got on that train.
    Suffice to say, the funeral was nothing like I expected. It was beautiful and the family were very grateful to have the few people who came, attend. The wake was outside in a marquee with open sides and the occasion was a glorious celebration. The train was pretty much empty both ways and I crossed London with ease with generous and kind Uber drivers.
    Crossing the field, I asked myself the question – ‘through this test, what did I gain? What did I learn?’
    3 words came to mind immediately. Courage, confidence and connection. As clear as a bell those words resounded in my mind.
    Coming back into the house for a cup of tea after the walk, I was looking for an empty journal to begin a gratitude journal. I found what I thought was an empty one but discovered that I had begun it on an odd page in April this year. What I read was heart opening. I quote directly from it:

    April 1st ‘21
    Dear God
    Please forgive me for my falty thinking. I feel the pain now of not taking up the test and challenge of going to Sally’s funeral (in Kent – via London – which I had forgotten about on my walk this morning). My ego is involved and I need to continually learn this painful lesson of a deep lack of courage and self absorption in my fears. . AND TRUST. …… what actions /ways do I learn to trust in this lifetime now? ‘

    I was so bowled over by that reminder. I had not gone to the funeral through very similar fears – and God / Master had taken me by the hand and guided me through this lesson. To find that journal entry so immediately after the recognition of having gained courage and confidence through the test, was a gift from God and Master on this day!

    May your trials and tests in whatever shape or form, however simple or hard, reveal the silver lining of blessings always.
    Victoria

  6. With all my heart joining the sangha in prayers and in gratitude for her live and example. I had the privilige to meet her in Ananda and was struck by her openess and servitude.
    Thank you for your thoughts on behalf of her!
    In God and Guru, Nayaswami Jikaidevi

  7. Dear Deviji,
    Thank you for your heart felt tribute to Sevaji. She truly was “The Mother of Ananda”. Like Sister Gyanamataji in SRF, Sevaji was a shrining light that Swamiji and Master tested throughout her life, but she overcame victoriously all her tests with joy and freedom in God. I loved and respected her dearly. When my second wife, Tyagi Dikshini Koos-Smith passed of mastastisized brain cancer on January 23rd of this year, I was blessed to move back to Ananda Village on February 1st and I called Seva first thing to thank her for her prayers and support during this most difficult time in my life. She said so kindly and sweetly to me, “Ram, just open your heart and find ways to serve in the community and everything will be alright!” This year has been full of Divine testing personally by God Christ and Guru, in order to work out my karma more quickly. I must say it has not been an easy time for me, but the joy of service and divine friendship with you, Jyotish, Seva and many others, has been my raft over the ocean of delusion and grief that I am overcoming this year! Thank you again for your spiritual support in writing these blogs! They are filled with great inspiration and advice for everyone’s journey.
    Om Joy, Ram

  8. A beautiful story dear Devi ji. Have been reading about Seva ji in various blogs/PPT. Your blogs are always a great inspiration.

    Heartfelt thanks.

  9. Your blogs are a true inspiration for me.The song of the Nightangle a beautiful song with deep meaning of life.
    My heartfelt gratitude.

  10. Dear Devi-
    Thank you for sharing your friendship with Seva with all of us. Hearing about her life and seeing all the lovely photos is joyful inspiration for the journey!
    Many Blessings,
    Sushila P.

  11. I love you dear sister Seva💙 flying 🤗singing 🎶 free 🌠in the sky of God’s heart and mine too 💫your little sister bhajana💛

  12. Nayaswami Devi, this blog is especially beautiful! Wonderful tribute and wonderful insight for anyone facing the death of a beloved friend or family member. ❤️

  13. Thank you for this lovely blog tribute to Sevaji. I regarded her as one of our great walking saints among us in the Ananda world who shared Light so freely. She blessed my life so richly, especially when we were able to work closely together in Crystal Clarity for a couple of years. Now I see how rich those years truly were – I got the opportunity to know Seva so much more!

    The reason I wanted to leave a note here was that you mentioned the leaves falling when sitting at the Hermitage gardens after Seva’s passing, and they brought tears to your eyes. I was struck by this comment because of my own experience with leaves and Seva.

    I was walking on the dirt road that crosses over Badrinath Way, a route that Seva and I would meet up and walk together sometimes. It was Tuesday, the day after Seva’s Astral Ascension. The day was sunny and calm with no wind. Suddenly the tall trees began to gently shake and the beautiful leaves began to fall like a golden waterfall. They made a shimmering sound as they fell, the sound of a delicate wind chime. I stopped in my tracks and watched the event! I also marveled at how there was no wind and no reason why these leaves should cascade down together all at this moment as I passed. Suddenly, while the golden leaves were still dancing in the light of the leaf-waterfall and the stillness of the air, I had an immediate inspiration and said out loud, “WELL, HELLO SEVA!!!” I really felt her right there with me – sharing the beauty and inspiration of this magnificent life and community that we have had the joy to share for decades. I felt so blessed by her presence.

    Thank you for the inspiration today through your blog!

    1. Ooops, autofill put me in as Suzanne Betts instead of Sitabai, but you get it! Hugs!

  14. Dear Deviji thank you for your nice blog.The inner security within is the bedrock we rely upon-very well said.

  15. Her very dear physical form is removed and so much more is left behind. Her Soul is on wings. Thank you for your reflections Devi. 🙏🌹🌟

  16. Thank very much Devi.
    😍🙋‍♀️❤🙏

  17. Thank very much for this inspirational vlog.
    Joy to you all

  18. Thankyou Nayaswami Devi
    That was so beautiful- and uplifting.
    Seva looked radiant and smiling in her pictures – at home now with Paramhansaji and Swami Kriyanandaji.
    With love and blessings Mariananda.

  19. I am sure, late Ms. Nayaswami Seva’s soul must be dancing with the creator of the universe. I don’t know much about her or ananda.org but often refreshed by the fresh air of your output via youtube. God bless each one of you. Let your output breath continue to be bigger, longer and quicker. My love to Mr. Jyotish and late Ms. Nayaswami.

  20. Thankyou Deviji, touched with joy for these words and for this great soul that went to God. Aum

  21. Dear Nayaswami Devi Ji,

    Thank you for this inspiring blog.
    We are so thankful to Seva ji for her service that helped set up Ananda for us.
    Enjoyed these lines and an important message “singing a song of gratitude for each experience that comes so that we, too, can triumph and find freedom in God”

    Joy,
    Prem

  22. Gratitude for you Devi . Thank
    You for your words of grace love and wisdom .Blessings and joy to you always ❤️❤️🙏🏽🙏🏽

  23. Dear Sir /Mam.,

    I am Senthilkumar, last few days before i lost my mother she was died, what i feel she was living GOD, that much love caring and faithfull affection with my mother,She doesn’t think about her always think about childrens, her empty space i am not accept her she is died,, till now she was speaking and walking along with me,,, sir i madly miss my mother, kindly give me a positive and kidnlfull adivice or message my heart needs, because my heart is more painfull i never accept her death..,, kindly give a word sir…..,

  24. Dear Senthilkumar,

    When my mother passed I, too, grieved for a long time. Then one day in meditation, I heard her voice say, ” I’m here. You don’t need to grieve anymore.” after that I was at peace. Your mother’s love is still with you. Try to still your heart, and you will feel it.

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