We were once talking with Swami Kriyananda about the best form of government. “Enlightened monarchy with a philosopher king is the highest expression,” he said. “But it’s only possible in a more advanced age in which mass consciousness is higher than it is today.”
For me Swamiji was a true philosopher king. As we celebrated the anniversary of his birthday on May 19, many devotees shared stories of how he had uplifted their life.
I remember sitting around a campfire one evening in a forest glade at the Meditation Retreat, listening to him play his guitar and sing some of his beautiful songs. As I gazed up at the stars, I was transported to a realm of nobility and divine consciousness that I knew was my real soul home.
For me that evening, and for everyone he met, Swamiji was ennobling, wise, compassionate—a man of dignity, vision, and inspiration. Even though we were the merest of spiritual beginners when the first generation of Ananda members came in the late 1960s, he made each of us feel our deep inner worth.
Swamiji gave me my spiritual name, “Devi,” in an unexpected way that also challenged me to live up to my highest potential.I was having lunch with a friend at a restaurant in Nevada City, California, when Swamiji walked in and came over. “I’m going to give you the name ‘Devi,’” he said. “It means ‘Divine Mother,’ and you’d better live up to it.” Through all the many years since then, I have felt him inwardly guiding me in how best to “live up to it.”
His dignity and nobility were always balanced. Once we were walking with Swamiji in a shopping mall in Sacramento, California, and he began telling us about a letter he’d received. Its author had praised Swamiji as a leader, a spiritual teacher, and a writer. Kriyananda said to us, “I could see that he felt he would never be able to accomplish such things himself. He needs to understand that I’ve just been doing this longer than the rest of you. All of you can do what I’ve done.”
Throughout his life this “philosopher king” expressed tremendous generosity of spirit. Anyone who came to him for spiritual training—everyone he met, in fact—was welcomed into his kingdom of joy. The countless dinners, social gatherings, P. G. Wodehouse readings, and informal teas that he hosted for devotees around the world were his way of making everyone feel included in his divine friendship.
But this generous, welcoming, noble consciousness didn’t end when Swamiji left his body in 2013. Play, or even better, sing his music. Read his books. Listen to his talks. Meditate on his words. Even now he is inviting each sincere devotee to enter his kingdom.
And what is his kingdom? It is the joy-filled realm of God-consciousness, which he attained through discipleship to his guru, Paramhansa Yogananda. It is timeless and eternal, yet reachable at any moment by anyone whose heart and mind are open to God's all-transforming love.