The Example of Swami Kriyananda
Some years ago, we were having lunch with Swami Kriyananda at Earth Song Café, the health food store and restaurant in Nevada City which Ananda then owned. He said, “The Ananda people working here are doing a good job. They’re being very friendly to people, but they’re not being divine friends.”
When we asked him what he meant by that, he said, “They’re relating from personality to personality, and divine friendship is relating from one soul to another soul.”
“I see you as light”
Divine friendship is one of the most important things that Swami Kriyananda has expressed in his life, and also modeled for us spiritually. In the early 1970s, a few of us went with him to Reno, Nevada and stayed overnight. When he greeted us the next morning he said, “Hello all you great souls!” That was his usual way of greeting us.
But it was deeper than mere words. He held the vision of us as souls, as God in human form, to help us grow into the understanding that we are not egos, bodies, or personalities but souls, part of God.
That’s how Paramhansa Yogananda related to the devotees around him. He said, “I don’t see you as bodies and personalities. I see you as light. You have no idea how beautiful you are.” It was not that they were a special group. Yogananda related that way to everyone, and Swami Kriyananda was sensitive enough to perceive it and pass it on.
A great flow of divinity
Kriyananda has always related primarily to the divine presence in the world. And he has had the spiritual depth to be able tune into the powerful flow of divinity coming through many great saints—Paramhansa Yogananda, Ananda Moyi Ma, Sri Rama Yogi, and others.
When Kriyananda first met Ananda Moyi Ma in 1958, very quickly a strong bond formed between them. But it was not what we would think of as a close personal relationship. Often, he didn’t relate to her outwardly at all. He would just meditate in her presence and feel the vibration. When they did speak, it was through a translator.
Some of the devotees in Ananda Moyi Ma’s ashram had been with her for thirty or forty years, yet she was quoted as saying: “Many bees have come to this flower, but few have sipped the nectar the way Swami Kriyananda has.” Kriyananda was able to tune into the great flow of divinity coming through her. He related to her not on a personality level, but soul to soul.
Three radically different personalities
Several of us were with Swami Kriyananda at Ananda Moyi Ma’s ashram in Hardwar in 1974 for a period of three days. On each of those days, Ananda Moyi exhibited a very different outer personality.
The first night we saw her, she was very distant, as if she were somewhere out in the galaxies. When people went up to greet her, with one or two exceptions, she didn’t relate to them at all.
The next day we had a private interview with her, and those of us who were with Swami Kriyananda with asked questions through a translator. She answered our questions and was very kindly, but she also conveyed the sense that we weren’t quite “getting it,” that we were a bit “off.” A statement she would often make was: “I’m like a drum and as you beat me, so I will sound.” In the outwardness of our questions, we didn’t have the drum strokes right.
The third day we saw her, there was a much larger gathering and she was laughing and giggling like a teenager. At one point, she laughingly threw a garland of marigolds at Swamiji and it landed right around his neck.
Here was an example of the outer personality shifting radically three times in three days. What remained constant, however, was the powerful flow of love, joy, and grace coming through her. Kriyananda related mainly to that flow of divinity because that, not the personality, was the essence.
Holding the vision
He relates mainly to the Divine in us. That’s why it’s called “divine friendship.” People have blossomed spiritually at Ananda in part because Kriyananda has held very strongly the vision of us as souls, not as egos or personalities. When a person thinks of God as residing in others, he invites God to bless those people inwardly. This thought also increases the likelihood of his recognizing the divine presence within himself.
We, too, need to hold that vision for each other. And yes, we can laugh and joke and have our human relationships, but that should be the sub-theme. For devotees, the primary theme should be the relationship of my soul to your soul. Holding on to that vision allows Yogananda’s magnetism to flow through us.
“I want to be your disciple.”
In 1999, Kriyananda wrote a paper about the mission of Ananda, in which he said, “When I met Master, my first words to him were, “I want to be your disciple.” He went on to say:
Any statement of purpose Ananda makes must be understood in the light of that thought: “I want to be your disciple.” For whatever Ananda is derives not from me, but only through me from Paramhansa Yogananda and his teachings.
Of all the things that Kriyananda has modeled for us, the most important is what a life of discipleship looks like. The core of that discipleship is deep, deep attunement to the Divine as it flows through Yogananda, and complete openness to be used however God and Guru want to use him.
Yogananda told Kriyananda that his life would be one of intense activity and meditation. In thinking about that “intense activity,” we tend to look at the form—at the 400 songs, the ninety books, the communities he’s started, the thousands of lectures, the hundreds of TV programs.
But that isn’t the essence of it. The essence of it is the complete no-holds-barred self-offering to be used as a channel by God and Guru. It was not from personal desire that Kriyananda founded communities and did these various things. He did them because his Guru asked that of him. If Yogananda had told Kriyananda to go to the Himalayas, he would be in the Himalayas. He will do whatever is asked of him, even if it means great hardship to himself.
A total self-offering
Who at the age of 80 picks up and moves to India to start a new work? We were with him in Assisi, Italy when he was packing up to move to India. He threw a couple of items of clothing in a suitcase, along with his swami shawl, and that was all. He was just like a little kid going off into the woods with a little bandana on a pole.
If it were possible legally, he would own absolutely nothing. He would not have a house, a car, or even a bank account. He’s free from that kind of concern or fear. His life is completely offered into the hands of Divine Mother, and whatever She gives him is fine, and whatever She doesn’t give him is fine.
Even if he’s having trouble physically, he’ll do his best to give a talk. And then, because of that willingness, after not being able to get out of a chair, he is able to stand up for an hour and a half and deliver a powerful talk. It is his complete openness to the flow of God’s grace and energy through Yogananda that allows him to do this.
No longer any boundaries
And he’s becoming freer and freer. When taken far enough, the fruit of a life of discipleship is the release from ego—there are no longer any boundaries between you, the Guru, and God.
Recently Kriyananda said he can no longer tell where he stops and Yogananda begins. He relates to himself as an extension of Yogananda.
Not that attunement with the Guru somehow melts who you are; it empowers who you truly are. Yogananda is empowering the divine essence within Swami Kriyananda to be more fully God in that form.
Excerpted from an October 10, 2007 talk at Ananda Village.
Jyotish and Devi Novak are Acharyas (spiritual directors) for Ananda Sangha Worldwide. Jyotish is also Acharya for the Ananda Sevaka Order, worldwide.
Other Clarity articles by Jyotish and Devi Novak are listed under “Nayaswamis Jyotish and Devi.”
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