April 21, 2014 marks the one-year anniversary of Swami Kriyananda leaving his body. Someone asked us recently what this period has been like, both for Ananda and for us personally. The question gave me pause to reflect on what we’ve experienced in these twelve months since his passing.
The legacy Swamiji left behind has both outer and inner aspects. The outer one was expressed in his spiritual leadership, now reflected in the vibrant, expansive growth of Ananda. In the past year, Jyotish and I have had the opportunity to visit virtually all of our communities—in Assisi, India, Mexico, and throughout the United States. Everywhere we’ve seen a growing spirit of dedication to our Guru and commitment to serving others as reflected in many new creative projects.
But there is also an inner aspect of Swamiji’s legacy: his spiritual magnetism. We’ve spoken with many people over the past year, some of whom never met Swamiji, who’ve had dreams of him filled with blessings. Others have told us they’ve felt his loving presence more strongly in their lives now than when he was still in the body.
We recently heard the story of a woman who had met Swamiji only a few times, but had a very strong premonition that he would pass on April 21. A few days after his passing, she had a medical crisis due to an earlier surgery and was in extreme pain for many hours. At one point as she sat in the emergency room in intense suffering, she thought to try to meditate. As soon as she did, Swamiji’s face appeared to her smiling, and the pain immediately went away. There are many such stories to be told.
For us personally, this year has been like the ripening of divine friendship, a deepening appreciation for his constant concern for our spiritual welfare. Our relationship with him has become paradoxically both more impersonal and personal: more impersonal in that I can feel his love for all of us was never on a human level, and more personal for his continuing effort to help each of us through the tangle of our individual karma to find our freedom in God.
A few weeks ago we were giving Sunday Service at our community in Sacramento. On the wall at the back of the church were two large photos—one of Master and one of Swamiji. As I looked at Swamiji’s photo, a beam of light from a window fell on his face, illuminating it. Then the beam moved on and shone brilliantly on the white wall next to his photo. The thought came to me, ”That’s what you’ve become now, Swamiji—pure light.”
It also seemed that Master was voicing the words of one of Swamiji’s songs: “This is my son, in whom I am well pleased. Naught of himself remains, naught but the true light.” That light is with us now and always, and especially when we reach out for it.
May we all be one in that light someday,
- Meditate. “Beloved God, since no earthly engagement is possible without using the powers borrowed from Thee, I will renounce everything that interferes with my engagement to meditate on Thee in daily awakened silence.” [*]
- Push yourself a little. If you do too much you risk burnout. But doing too little puts you at risk of tracing endless circles on the dreaded “Plateau of Mediocrity.” Once a week meditate for twice as long as usual.
- Deeper is more important than longer. Deeper means keeping your concentration at the Kutastha or spiritual eye with the mind absorbed in God or one of His qualities. “By deeper, longer, thirsty, guru-given meditation comes this celestial samadhi.”
- Deeper and longer is better than either alone. Strive for both. “Meditate longer, with greater intensity, for otherwise the mind will only nibble and no realization will come.”
- Techniques are vital. Do them daily with deep attention. But remember, techniques are the pathway, not the goal. Self-realization is the goal. Bliss is the goal.
- Use your own, God-given, free will. You can’t rely on anyone, including the guru, to meditate for you. Yogananda said to pray, “I will reason, I will will, I will act, but guide Thou my reason, will, and activity to the right path in everything.”
- Ask God and Guru to help. Rely on their love and divine friendship. Meditate in God, not to Him.
- Attend group meditations. Group magnetism is helpful, especially in the beginning. If you are not near a group, consider joining Ananda’s Virtual Community.
- Chanting is half the battle. When chanting inwardly try to feel the vibration behind the words.
- Enjoy yourself. The bricks of self-discipline are held together by the mortar of enjoyment.
Towards deeper, longer meditations,
[*] All quotes (in italics) are by Paramhansa Yogananda.
Watching the sunset on the Pacific Ocean is one of the most beautiful sights in the world. Recently while in Pacific Grove, California, we enjoyed this experience — seeing the sun change its color from golden to pink to orange before slipping below the horizon. Gazing out at the ocean, I remembered another sunset I’d witnessed some years before — one that left a deep impression on me.
It was at Master’s Retreat Center in Encinitas, California, where I’d been taking seclusion for a week. One evening before returning to my room to meditate, I went out for a walk along the bluffs overlooking the ocean. The scene was as beautiful as anything I’d seen during my stay. The light of the sun was almost gone, but the ocean and sky were still bathed in soft hues of blue, rose, and lavender.
I become entranced by the scene before me: it seemed as though Divine Mother was revealing Herself in beautiful evening attire through this sunset. The misty sky was Her shawl of translucent chiffon in shades of silver and rose, and the sea was Her gown in shimmering turquoise and blue satin. Time seemed to stop as I quietly absorbed the beauty of Divine Mother’s presence before me.
Then a bit of movement on the sea caught my eye: two tiny specks were moving toward the shore. I watched with curiosity as the specks grew larger and finally became visible as two surfers riding the last waves of the day before nightfall. Without realizing what I was doing, my attention shifted from the scene of ethereal beauty to the little surfers. Would they be able to ride that big wave to shore? Which one of them would arrive first?
Then suddenly I stopped and laughed. “This is what it must be like when we’re enjoying the astral world, then suddenly get caught up in a little drama on earth and reincarnate,” I thought. We look down from the heights and see people we’ve known before and think, “Oh, she would make a nice mother, and he’d be a good big brother.” Before we know what’s happening, we find ourselves caught in the confines of another incarnation.
In the few moments that I had watched the surfers, the radiance of the sunset passed, and Divine Mother’s lovely gown was gone. As I walked back to my room to meditate, I was both amused and a little sobered by the experience. “Please,” I prayed to God, “keep me engrossed in Divine Mother’s beauty, so that I won’t get caught in the drama of one more incarnation.” This is the deeper message the sunset always carries for me.
With joy in God,
Devi and I are taking a short break in Pacific Grove, California, overlooking Monterey Bay with its rugged and dramatic coastline. In addition to the beauty of the ocean, there is an amazing variety of sea life: flocks of cormorants and seagulls, seals sunning themselves, and sea otters somehow endlessly entertaining doing nothing more than floating on their backs. Further out there are whales.
There is a timeless quality to the sea. The sea life and tides, the waves and rocks, the vistas and sunsets have changed little for millions of years. And yet, every day, every hour is different and fresh. This is one of the primal qualities of the Divine: unchanging but ever-new.
The elements—earth, water, fire, air, and ether—seem more revealed here. According to her mood, the sea either caresses or crushes the solid rocks. The sun fires the water, and everything is touched and tossed by the wind. At sunset even the invisible ether seems tangible. The sea lives inside of us—our blood a miniature ocean nourishing every cell—and the five elements are in our very marrow, expressed in the chakras. This resonance of outer and inner worlds draws people to the sea. Our morning walks or runs are joined by dozens of others, young and old.
Today, we visited the world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. Along with hundreds of varieties of fish, they have a large display of jellyfish. These seem to be creatures from an alien planet, floating and pulsing in otherworldly rhythms. Their glowing patterns, produced by internal luminescence, seem more suited to a science fiction spaceship than to a living creature. How infinitely creative is Divine Mother!
Paramhansa Yogananda loved the sea. In her book, The Flawless Mirror, Kamala Silva reminisces about how Master would vacation at their home near Santa Barbara and swim twice a day in the surf. He would stroll or meditate so often on the bluffs at Encinitas Hermitage that the surfers named it “Swami’s Beach.” He suggested that we, too, meditate on the horizon line where the sky meets the sea, because it helps us attune to the superconscious state, which lies between the conscious and subconscious minds.
Divine Mother shows Her love for us by filling our world with beauty and tiny miracles, but too often we walk through the day oblivious to its loveliness, our heads filled with projects and problems. It is good, once in a while, to visit the sea. It reawakens our wonder and our gratitude.
Everyday a miracle is happening all around us. Because it’s so humble and simple, we hardly even notice it, yet without it we couldn’t survive: the miracle of healing. I don’t mean the dramatic examples of divine intervention like Jesus restoring sight to the blind man, or Lahiri Mahasaya bringing Sri Yukteswar’s friend back from the dead.
I’m talking about what happens on a very mundane level when we cut our finger. This starts a process so complex and amazing that it could only be directed by an intelligent life force. When we cut ourselves, first we feel pain, and blood begins flowing to the wound. Then the blood vessels constrict, and platelets accumulate to form a clot.
Next swelling begins at the cut as blood vessels dilate, and white cells flow to the wound to prevent infection. A second kind of white blood cell then moves in bringing proteins to build new cells that repair the damaged tissue. Finally the cells remodel into new skin and blood vessels that strengthen over time. Later we may look at the faint scar on our finger and think, “Oh, I must have cut myself,” but miss the fact that a miracle has happened.
There are other kinds of healing miracles that go unnoticed in our daily lives. A friend of ours has recently been going through a painful divorce. Just like the cut on our finger, first she experienced pain in her wounded heart and the tears flowed, but a divine healing process beyond her conscious awareness had also begun. We watched as she moved from trauma to acceptance, and her heart began to heal. Then slowly she began to rebuild and remodel her life to reclaim her strength and wholeness. Someday I hope she’ll look back on these events as a faint memory.
Whether we’re grieving over the loss of a loved one, or trying to rebuild trust and cooperation in a group that’s lost its ability to work together, the same healing process is constantly taking place. What makes this possible? An all-pervading intelligent life force is always working to bring everything into wholeness and harmony.
Yoganandaji talks about “faith in the power of omnipresent good.” This “omnipresent good” has always been and will continue to be directing the healing process in every aspect of our lives. May we see each day as the miracle that it is.
With joy in God,