We recently held a Kriya Yoga Initiation in the boyhood home of Paramhansa Yogananda at 4 Gurpar Road in Kolkata. This site is made holy, not only by the many years that Master lived here, but also because of uniquely sacred events that took place at this spot. It was here that Babaji appeared and blessed Yoganandaji before his mission to America. Some years earlier Divine Mother had appeared in his little attic meditation room, tenderly telling him, “Always have I loved thee, ever shall I love thee.”
It was in this room that Devi and I prepared ourselves for the Initiation. During my meditation the question came spontaneously to my mind, “Master, was I with you in a previous life?” Immediately came a resounding, “Yes,” but with no details of time or place.
It takes many lifetimes to acquire the good karma to be a sincere devotee of a great guru. Last November in Bangalore, India, we had a Nadhi reading, which is similar to the Brighu reading that Swami Kriyananda has written about. We were mesmerized as the pundit translated Sanskrit words written on ancient papyrus leaves. His soft voice gave intricate details about our health, family, and mental tendencies and events of this life. Their accuracy gave credence to the many unverifiable statements about our past and future.
Without any foreknowledge of who we were, the pundit told us that we had been together in many lifetimes as disciples of three great souls: Babaji, Paramhansa Yogananda, and Swami Kriyananda. I think many of us in our Ananda family have lived with each other before. Self-realization, or even the quest for it, is not the product of a few paltry lifetimes. As our soul nature slowly deepens, we are drawn again and again to those friends who share our search, our lives entwining in intricate patterns.
Yogananda begins his beautiful poem God! God! God! with these words:
From the depths of slumber,
As I ascend the spiral stairway of wakefulness,
God! God! God!
This verse speaks of both the waking from our nightly sleep and, more importantly, the slow emerging from the slumber of lifetimes. The dreams of maya are filled with countless ego-driven dramas. But freedom comes as we slowly climb the spiral (and spinal) stairway that leads to our eternal home. We are near, very near, when our heart constantly whispers, “God! God! God!”
In Master’s light,
For many years Paramhansa Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi has been a source of inspiration and guidance for me. Not only because of the wisdom, love, and joy that radiate from every page, but also because it has repeatedly served as a living channel to answer specific questions in my life.
When I’m at a loss for the proper course of action or the right understanding in a particular situation, I hold this book, pray to Master to speak to me, open it randomly three times, and see which passage stands out on each of the pages. Although this practice hasn’t worked in all my attempts, the number of times that I’ve received very specific answers to problems is amazing.
Last week we arrived in India for a three-month stay, and have once again been enjoying the depth of devotion and spiritual vibrancy that permeate this great country. After a satsang in Delhi, a devotee came up to Jyotish and me and handed each of us a copy of the Autobiography. He explained, “I bought these two copies today to give to friends, but then I felt strongly that I should give them to you with specific pages that each of you was to read.”
Given my practice of drawing guidance from the book, how could I not accept this as coming from Master? The following passage spoke to me from the page he suggested: “Can anything small or circumscribed ever satisfy the mind of India? By a continuous living tradition, and a vital power of rejuvenescence, this land has readjusted itself through unnumbered transformations.”
I felt that my Guru was helping me tune in more deeply with his beloved country. When Yoganandaji left his body on March 7, 1952, it was during a public event at which he was reciting his beautiful poem, “My India.” The last words he spoke in this lifetime were its concluding lines:
Where Ganges, woods, Himalayan caves, and men breathe God.
I am hallowed; my body touched that sod!
Is this sacredness confined only to the soil of India? I believe that the deep spirituality here is a part of the soul nature of each one of us. Whenever we strive to allow our consciousness to soar in freedom, and stand reverentially with head bowed and heart open to God, we, too, touch that holy sod.
With love in God and Guru,
September 12 marks the anniversary of the day when, in 1948, Swami Kriyananda met Paramhansa Yogananda and became his disciple. From then on, in spite of his amazing accomplishments, Swami Kriyananda’s self-definition was simply, “I want to be known as a good disciple.”
The essence of discipleship is the effort to align our individual will with God’s will as it is expressed through the guru. When we do, miracles begin to unfold. God guides and uses us as His instruments. He will work through each of us to the extent that we are willing to be His channel.
We need a guru because our knowledge is limited. A somewhat arrogant athlete once asked a great coach why he should bother listening to him. The answer was both amusing and deep: “Because you don’t know what you don’t know.” What is valid in an unimportant area such as athletics is even truer for the most difficult of all tasks—becoming free from delusion. We can only escape the maze of ego through the guidance of someone who is already free.
Although Swami was a volcano of creativity, he was very orthodox when it concerned Master’s teachings. Once I came up with a new way to teach a basic meditation technique. When I described it to Swami his only comment was, “That wasn’t the way Master taught it.” I knew his real message was that I should get myself out of the way, attune my mind and heart to the guru, and let him flow through me.
Throughout the years of his discipleship, and especially at the beginning before he had developed his attunement and discrimination, Swamiji would always ask, “Did Master say this?” For instance, there was a discussion about whether UFOs were real, and if life existed on other planets. The issue was settled for Swamiji when he heard that Master said, “Yes, UFOs are real, and in fact there is life everywhere throughout the universe, even in the center of stars.”
The fruit of true discipleship is freedom from ego. Two statements made by Swami Kriyananda toward the end of his life impressed me very deeply. He said, “I can no longer tell where Swami Kriyananda ends and Master begins.” And also, “Sometimes I am so full of bliss, I can hardly contain it.”
This is the fruit of a life of discipleship. For truth-seekers, it is the only fruit worth harvesting.
As a child, I was fascinated by the story from the Old Testament of the Tower of Babel. If you recall, it tells of the time shortly after the creation of mankind, when everyone in the world spoke only one language. With the presumption of youth, people began to build a tower that would reach all the way up to God. Not pleased with such arrogance, God decided to stop their efforts by making all the builders speak different languages. Unable to understand one another, they had to abandon the tower, and we’ve been separated by language barriers ever since.
Jyotish and I are now visiting Ananda’s community near Assisi, Italy, where diversity of languages is a part of everyday life. People from all over the world come here to meditate and learn Master’s teachings. Right now there is a group of Russians and Ukrainians here who are training to be Ananda Meditation teachers. Translation, translation, translation takes place all the time: from Italian to English, German to Italian, English and Italian to Russian, and on and on.
But unlike the builders of the Tower of Babel, we do find ways to communicate in spite of the linguistic differences. A few days ago we had a wonderful satsang with the Russian and Ukrainian devotees. As they asked us questions in their native language, we found that we could partially understand them if we listened not just with our mind, but sensitively with our heart. (We also had the assistance of a very good translator.)
A dear friend of ours, Sahaja, who lives in the Assisi community, is the chief Italian translator of Swami Kriyananda’s books. One of the techniques she learned over the years for accurately translating Swamiji’s words is always to ask if she isn’t sure of the meaning.
When she gave Swamiji the first book that she had translated for him, he opened it randomly, read a footnote, and told her, “You’ve translated the meaning exactly the opposite of what I wrote.” Mortified she replied, “It’s the only sentence whose meaning I wasn’t sure of, and that I didn’t ask about. I thought that because it was only a footnote, it wasn’t so important.”
Listening sensitively and asking for clarification are important tools in breaking down language barriers. But the final step is to intuitively perceive the vibration behind the words that are spoken, and to trust your intuition.
As I thought about these aids to communication, I realized that these are also stages that help us to communicate with God. First we must still our minds and listen to His whispers in our soul. Next we need to ask Him to clarify if we don’t fully understand. Finally we should try intuitively to perceive His answers and trust that He really is speaking to us.
I’ve come to understand that the symbolic meaning of the Tower of Babel is that when ego awareness makes us feel separate from others, we also lose the ability to tune in to greater realities. Communicating mind to mind requires words and translations, but communicating heart to heart needs nothing more than openness and love. If we can learn to humbly listen, ask, and trust, then we can build an inner tower that will reach all the way to God.
With joy and love,
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.