Recently I received an email laced with unfair criticism, and my first reaction was to get defensive. I could feel my mind speeding up, getting ready to argue. Then I had a flash of insight and remembrance: You can’t fight darkness with more darkness. I decided instead to neutralize negativity with gratitude. I thought about this person and recalled several things about him for which I was grateful. Within minutes my happiness level began to climb. I realized then that gratitude brings happiness.
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 hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” This second sentence of the Declaration of Independence has been called “one of the best-known sentences in the English language.”
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.
“I first met Swami Kriyananda when he began teaching classes in San Francisco in the late 1960s,” David told me during one of the rare conversations we had together. An introverted, quiet man, David seldom spoke, but he needed no words to convey his deep, transparent devotion to God.
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.”
The faces of the young couple were radiant as we led them in their wedding ceremony in the chapel at Crystal Hermitage. The late-afternoon light illuminated the chapel’s stained-glass windows, but the light shining from within the bride and groom was more luminous than the sunlight.
I would like to ask you to take a moment, close your eyes, and answer this question in your own words: What is happiness?
Have you ever been awestruck by a great work of art or a scene of natural beauty? The power of Michelangelo’s “David”; the mystery of Leonardo’s “Mona Lisa”; the perfection in architecture of the Taj Mahal; or the cosmic grandeur of the Aurora Borealis: I’ve looked at all of these, and felt deeply uplifted.
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.