There is a story of a woman with two pots. Each morning she fetched water from a well and carried it to her small hut. One of the pots was new and whole, but the other was old, worn, and cracked. A day came when the old pot began to weep, feeling like a failure in even the simple task of carrying water. The new pot, on the other hand, was proud and scornful. The woman knelt and whispered to them, “Come with me. I wish to show you something.”
She brought them along their daily path and bade them each to look carefully. The side on which she had carried the cracked pot was lined with happy little flowers, but the other side was barren. She said to the pot that was feeling inadequate, “Each morning you share a little of your water, and, because of your gift, these flowers flourish and have become beautiful.” To the prideful pot she said, “You hoard all that I give to you for yourself, and therefore nothing grows where you have been.”
The ego is ever limited and cracked, and all truth seekers feel at times inadequate. How could we not? Neither he who feels pride nor he who feels inadequate can ever be truly happy—these emotions arise when we think of ourselves. The richest person on earth, or the most powerful, or most intelligent, remains unfulfilled unless he has learned to give. Those who shove others aside in the race for success find, in time, that they have been running backward in the quest for God. Only when we give of ourselves do we open the space for the Divine to express through us. Jesus said, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
Krishna, in these immortal lines from the Bhagavad Gita, shows the way:
Cling thou to Me!
Clasp Me with heart and mind! so shalt thou dwell
Surely with Me on high. But if thy thought
Droops from such height; if thou be’st weak to set
Body and soul upon Me constantly,
Despair not! give Me lower service! seek
To reach Me, worshipping with steadfast will;
And, if thou canst not worship steadfastly,
Work for Me, toil in works pleasing to Me!
For he that laboureth right for love of Me
Shall finally attain! But, if in this
Thy faint heart fails, bring Me thy failure!
All of us are pilgrims on a journey to the Divine. Let us share what we have been given with those especially who are lame or heavily burdened. As you give, look not for rewards. The less we notice our own good deeds, the more will they be blessed by God.
Love, kindness, and self-forgetfulness: These are the qualities that will create beauty wherever you have passed.
A few years ago Swami Kriyananda asked us if we could spend more time in India to help with Ananda’s work there. We replied, “Yes, Swamiji. During the past year we’ve been training others in many of our responsibilities. Now we can be gone, and everything will continue to run smoothly.”
Swamiji smiled and said, “Good. We should all live our lives in such a way that we are ready to leave this world at a moment’s notice.”
His words brought to mind a very powerful and poignant experience in my life. It took place on June 28, 1976—eleven days after the birth of our son. As I adjusted to the new responsibilities of motherhood, our home had become a bit neglected. On the morning of June 28, we had a scheduled checkup for our son. I decided it would be nice to tidy up before I left.
When it came time to leave, I realized that I hadn’t yet attended to the meditation room. Not wanting to leave our sacred objects there in a dusty space, I quickly put them all in a box and placed it by the entry of the room.
I remember standing at the door of our home before I left, happy at how sparkling everything looked, and smiling at all our beautiful houseplants. That was the last time I ever saw any of it again.
Before I returned home a forest fire struck our community, burning our home to the ground along with twenty-two of the twenty-three other houses. Jyotish had stayed in the community that day, and although he tried to save our home from the fire, the only thing he was able to rescue was the box of holy items from our altar.
I’ve been forever grateful for my last loving farewell to our home and belongings. From that experience I realized that I should treasure each moment as a unique opportunity that may never come again. Here are other thoughts I took away that might be helpful to you:
- Do your best in all things, so that you can live in freedom without misgivings or regrets.
- Remember to let your dear ones know that you love them. Life is unpredictable, and we never know when the present moment will be our last opportunity to tell them.
- Most importantly, live so that if God suddenly calls you home, you can say goodbye to this world and reply, “I am ready, Lord. Let’s begin this journey together.”
With joy in God,
In a previous letter, Devi has beautifully covered the subject of universal love: expanding our love to everyone and everything until it becomes unconditional. I would like to address another aspect of love: how to deepen our devotion. Devotion is love turned toward God, or, more commonly, toward one of His awakened saints.
Usually we give our love to those who are close to us: family, friends, and coworkers. But with devotion, we also turn our love inward toward God. This change from outward emotions to inward devotion is what makes the difference between an Italian opera and an Italian saint.
God, of course, knows that impersonal love is difficult—after all, He created this drama in the first place. He knows that loving the saints, His awakened sons and daughters, is the first step in devotion. Initially, the spiritual masters accept, even encourage, personal love. But, as the devotee deepens, they may become more aloof, teaching us to turn our devotion past their form to God within them and everyone. Swami Kriyananda once helped us break our attachment by telling us, “No one is special to me. I’m not even special to myself.”
Here are three things I have found that help me deepen my devotion:
- Thinking of my guru as often as possible during the day. He is my closest friend. I try to talk to him and include him when facing problems and decisions. This practice is not difficult: The challenge, I find, is simply one of remembering to do it.(Ah, forgetfulness, the great enemy!) I try also to remember that it is not Yogananda I love, but God who has manifested Himself in that perfect life.
- Taking one devotional chant or prayer and repeating it over and over, going into the heart of it. Staying with one chant allows it to work its way into my subconscious mind, until I can wake in the middle of the night with the chant repeating itself on its own. I also try to bring it into the superconscious, by going beyond the chant’s words to its very soul. Lately I have taken up a Bengali chant loved by Master, “Kole tule ne Ma Kali.” The English words are:
Receive me on Thy lap, O Mother! Cast me not at death’s door.
Receive me on Thy lap, O Mother! Cast me not at delusion’s door.
- Giving my love and devotion is essential, but so also is feeling Divine Mother’s love and devotion in return. In his Energization Exercises, Yogananda taught us to “Tense with will, then relax and feel.” The same principle applies here: Offer devotion with deep intensity, but then relax and feel God’s love in your heart.
You may well have other ways of deepening your devotion. It would be nice to share with others what has worked for you.
We heard an inspiring story about a revered Tibetan lama whom the Chinese Communists had held in prison for many years. Eventually the lama was released and later met with the Dalai Lama, who asked him, “It must have been difficult to be a prisoner for all those years. Were you ever afraid?”
“Yes,” the lama replied. “There were times when it was very dangerous.”
“Do you mean you were afraid that the guards would kill you?”
“Oh, no,” he explained. “It was dangerous because sometimes I came very close to losing my compassion for them.”
Saints and saviors of all traditions have echoed these words. Paramhansa Yogananda said of Jesus Christ, “O Thou Great Lover of all error-torn brothers, an unseen monument of the mightiest miracle of love was established in every heart when the magic of Thy voice uttered: ‘Forgive them, for they know not what they do.’”
What is the source of this unconditional love that can forgive even those who attempt to destroy us? Such love flows from a spring of divine consciousness within each of us. A calm, interiorized mind and devotion to God help us tap into the source. Once we find it, we realize that love is much more than a response to others who are pleasing to us. It is a limitless capacity that flows through us to everyone, but isn’t confined or defined by our personal feelings.
In 2009 Swami Kriyananda had a deep inspiration one night while staying at a hotel in Florence, Italy. Awakening at 3:00 a.m., he wrote these words on a small paper coaster in his room:
The more bliss I feel in myself, the more I find everyone around me utterly lovable. How vastly varied are the ways of approaching that same bliss! Every being on earth has his own, unique way of seeking it! No one can be stereotyped! And the stereotyped beliefs of religion are perhaps the worst. Everyone on earth approaches God in his own special way, though perhaps his way be, at present, very lumpy and bumpy indeed.
When we discover this wellspring of love within, we can unite in Spirit with other “explorers” of higher consciousness. The many little streams of our separate existences can merge to form mighty rivers that wash away the dark pools of conflict and hatred, and eventually flood our planet with an Ocean of Divine Love.
Towards the One,
A number of well-known Indian yogis visited Ananda during the 1970s. One of these great souls was Swami Chidananda, the head of Sivananda’s ashram after the master passed.
During his visit an important exchange took place in our large garden. It was the type of simple, but profound, lesson we so often miss if we aren’t paying attention. God sometimes gives us important teachings in seemingly unimportant ways.
During Swami Chidananda’s tour, he noticed a small rusty can between two rows of plants. “What is that for?” he asked.
The gardener replied, “We use that to water the baby plants after we have transplanted them.”
He then said, “If you use it, you should paint it and keep it in a special place. If it is left rusty and abandoned, it will attract lower astral entities.”
I doubt that any of us had ever considered that the things in our environment might attract astral beings, be they angels, devas, or low spirits. Yogananda said, “Astral beings are not ordinarily visible on earth, unless we know how to perceive the astral world through the spiritual eye.” He also said, “Environment is stronger than will power.”
The different worlds—causal, astral, and physical—are kept separate not by distance, but by different rates of vibration, much as television programs appear on different channels. Swami Kriyananda surrounded himself with flowers, crystals, and beautiful objects. It wasn’t only for the loveliness of the things themselves but, more importantly, for their high vibrations. Similarly, over the years, we’ve made Ananda Village beautiful, a place where land, trees, and animals are loved and appreciated.
A friend and her remarkable daughter visited Ananda recently. The girl, who is six years old, related this dream she had while visiting: She was swimming in a lake at Ananda, when suddenly many fairies came to her. Their leader, the one with bright golden skin and long, yellow hair, said, “The world is changing, and it’s hard to find places where we are welcome. We are happy here, but can you help us find other places?”
Here is a question we should all ask: “What kind of physical and mental environment are we creating?” Is it one full of high vibrations and spiritual beauty—the kind that draws fairies and devas? Or is it a place of rusty cans, negative emotions, and lackluster spiritual vibrations supportive to lower astral entities?
Let us join together to create the points of light this world so desperately needs.
In God’s light,