On April 21, 2013, the strident ringing of the telephone in the middle of the night abruptly awakened us from sleep. Groping in the dark, we picked up the receiver and heard the shaking voice of a friend in Assisi, Italy. She gave us the news that we’d known would come one day, but always hoped would be in the distant future: Swami Kriyananda had left his body.
He would have celebrated his eighty-seventh birthday in less than a month, and had been in poor physical health for some time, so the news was not entirely unexpected. Still, for those who felt close to him, it was a shock.
He had been the spiritual teacher for many of us for most of our adult life. Probably we shared the same reaction: He had been there to guide us through our karmic tests and to show us the next steps in our life. How would we carry on without his wisdom, guidance, and love?
Yet as time moves on, and we honor the sixth anniversary of his passing, I’m beginning to see our relationship in a deeper, more expansive way. A true spiritual teacher like Swamiji is much more than even his wisdom, his guidance, or love.
Because he spent his entire life attuning to his guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, what he really was for us was not the man, Swami Kriyananda, but a channel for formless, eternal divine consciousness. This consciousness is at the heart of all life, all creation, and will continue to guide us until we attain union with God.
I’d like to share with you some of the life lessons I learned from Swamiji; perhaps they include lessons that you, too, have learned from the Divine Life that guides us all.
Even when you are taking your first small, unsure steps on the spiritual path, the true teacher sees your soul potential and cheers you on. No one who sincerely tries is ever belittled or rejected, but rather encouraged in his efforts.
Each person’s karma is unique and complex. Subtly, the teacher gives each one a custom-designed lesson plan to show us the way out of the maze of our karma.
We are given the chance to fail repeatedly in our efforts to learn our lessons. Without judgment or criticism, the divine guide patiently works with us no matter how slow we are in getting the point.
The true teacher is a role model for how to live in the world. Through his example, we are shown how to deal with the situations and challenges that confront us: how to overcome obstacles, how always to be gracious with others, how to serve joyfully, to name a few.
Over time the divine guide will step back to allow us to guide and train others. Slowly as we grow in spiritual confidence and strength, we must learn to stand on our own two feet and draw from the wisdom we’ve gained within ourselves. We can then use the role model of our teacher to help others.
Finally, the true teacher will drop his physical body, so that we can realize that his consciousness was never bound to his form. When this happens, we can feel him with us as often as we think of him. The same attitudes of respect, humble reverence, and joyful love that we felt toward the teacher while he was physically present can now be extended to everyone and everything. When we feel the presence of God everywhere, then we realize that this Divine Life has always been, and will continue to be, our guide towards freedom.
As Paramhansa Yogananda wrote: “In the stillness of my soul I humbly bow before Thine omnipresence, knowing that Thou art ever leading me onward and upward on the path of Self-realization.”
With deep gratitude to our Eternal Guide,