Yesterday, after finishing some programs at the Ananda center in Sacramento, California, Devi and I had a few errands to run. Later, having finished our shopping, we were pulling onto the freeway entrance when we saw a family beside the road. The wife and child were sitting on a blanket, and the husband was holding a sign saying, “Our family is homeless. Can you help us?” Though we had but a moment to act, we lowered our window and gave them a small donation. But when we got home, Devi, remembering their eyes, remarked, “I wish we had given them much more,” and I, too, had the same feeling. That evening we both prayed for them during our meditation.
John Ball was a highly regarded author and a friend of Swami Kriyananda and many of us at Ananda. His most famous book, In the Heat of the Night, garnered a number of literary awards, and later was made into a movie that won four Oscars, including Best Picture in 1967. He so enjoyed Ananda Village that the setting for one of his books, Trouble for Tallon, was an Ananda-like community.
I am laptopping this from the Seattle Airport, where we’re waiting to fly back to California after a weekend of programs in Seattle. Airports are great levelers, as Devi and I know, queuing up for more than twenty-five flights each year. One sees people from all over the world: dark skin and light, baseball caps and turbans, families and friends chatting in English, Italian, Hindi, and languages we can’t even recognize. All is marvelous diversity, but while at the airport we are all just fellow passengers. And so it is also on this little planet flying through space: we are all just fellow travellers. If we can but see the unity behind the diversity, we can all be friends. We can all be family. We can all speak the same language of the heart.
Elon Musk is among a group of scientists and innovative thinkers who feel that it is likely that we live in a virtual-reality world. Their thinking goes something like this: The human race is very young in comparison to the life of the universe, and yet we have already advanced to the point where we are on the verge of creating virtual-reality worlds that can fool us into thinking and feeling that they are real. Therefore, the likelihood is that other, more advanced races, have already perfected this technology sufficiently to create a universe that seems completely real. And we are living in it. (Disclaimer: I am not endorsing this line of reasoning, only using it as a springboard for this blog.)
Running through Ananda Village in Northern California are the rutted remains of an old road. A hundred and fifty years ago, during the time of the Gold Rush, when tons of ore were taken from the land around us, Wells Fargo stagecoach drivers urged their horses up and down these hills, and Pony Express riders rushed along carrying bags of mail. Interesting as history, but in current times this old road leads nowhere.
We need more global warming. No, not the kind where the average temperature rises. I mean where the average consciousness rises. The only true cure for many of the world’s problems—war, poverty, and even rising temperatures—is for mankind’s consciousness to expand.
Today is the fourth anniversary of Swami Kriyananda’s leaving his body. Ananda Worldwide celebrates this occasion with what we call “Moksha Day,” a day dedicated to Self-realization, or spiritual freedom. We start the day with a six-hour meditation at the Moksha Mandir, where Swami Kriyananda’s body is enshrined. This is an especially beautiful time of year at Ananda Village, with Swami’s beloved gardens filled by more than fifteen thousand tulips and thousands of visitors. It’s almost as if he thought, “If people are going to gather to honor this day, let them be surrounded by beauty.”
I would like to ask you to take a moment, close your eyes, and answer this question in your own words: What is happiness?
This morning as I sat in meditation, I ignored some of the advice I am sharing here. Instead of focusing entirely on my meditation, I spent some time thinking about this blog. (Ah, how often we ignore good advice, even when it comes from ourselves!) Yet I hope some benefit will come from my well-intentioned restlessness. Anyway, here is what came to me.
As I write these words it’s March 7, the 65th anniversary of Paramhansa Yogananda’s mahasamadhi (conscious exit from the body). He left this earth in a dramatic fashion. At a banquet in Los Angeles in honor of the visiting Indian ambassador, after a short and very sweet talk, the great master recited his poem, “My India.” As he read the final lines, his body slipped to the floor, and his soul departed for higher realms. He had predicted the time of his passing and had said that he wanted to die “with his boots on” serving, as he always had, as a teacher and model to all receptive seekers. [Listen to Swami Kriyananda tell the story of Yogananda's passing.]