Next week I will celebrate two important milestones. December 22 will be the fiftieth anniversary of my first Kriya Initiation. The next day will be another fiftieth anniversary: of my first eight-hour Christmas meditation. Both of these events took place in Swami Kriyananda’s little apartment in San Francisco in 1967. I had been with him for about eight months when he told me, “I think you should take Kriya initiation.”
“Do you think I’m ready?” I asked.
“Yes, I think it will be good for you. And also, you will be able to practice Kriya during the long meditation the next day.”
So that evening fifty years ago, a newborn disciple took his first Kriya breath. I have been practicing it daily all these many years. I suppose that somewhere in the Akashic records there might be a counting of all the meditations and all the Kriya breaths that have transpired since that first evening. But numbers, either of years or of breaths offered, fade away in the remembrance of a lifetime of grace that has been showered upon this humble devotee.
Over time, Swamiji’s little apartment in San Francisco has grown to hundreds of centers and communities around the world. And that handful of meditators has grown to hundreds of thousands who now draw inspiration from Ananda and our great gurus. Though there has been extraordinary growth, the enduring qualities that filled Swamiji’s apartment are with us still: devotion, meditation, Kriya Yoga, satsang, and service.
As far as I know, out of those present at that first Kriya Initiation, only I remain a devotee. A few have been taken by the angel of death; others have been blown from the path by the storms of karma. So, what does it take to get to the fifty-year mark?
First, it takes the grace of God. Paramhansa Yogananda said that fifty percent of our progress is due to God’s grace. This grace is eternally present and free for the taking; we must for our part simply be willing to let it fill our hearts and lives.
Secondly, Master said that the guru’s blessings account for another twenty-five percent. Our great line of gurus have given us not only techniques and teachings but, more importantly, their love and magnetism. Again, it is given freely. You have but to hold out your hands to receive.
The last twenty-five percent is supplied by our own efforts: by our sadhana and our service. These efforts must be applied diligently and persistently. It takes a certain amount of grit, of stubborn determination, to stay faithful to our higher aspirations. There are good days and bad, times when meditation is easy and other times when the path seems as dry as desert sands. You must learn to brush aside outer conditions: to fly when you can, but, when your tests come, to plod along undeterred.
It is immensely helpful to have the support and magnetism of gurubhais. I remember a quote by Ratan Tata, the great Indian industrialist: “If you want to walk fast, walk alone. If you want to walk far, walk with others.” The best trekking companions, those who will walk by your side to the very end, are God, Gurus, and your devotee friends.
This morning during meditation, as I remembered those long-ago events, my eyes filled with tears of gratitude. What a wonderful life we have been given.