Toward the end of his life, Swami Kriyananda would often remark, “I feel so blissful, I can hardly contain it.” We had seen him maintain a joyful spirit during many difficult times: temples collapsing or burning down, car accidents, health crises. No matter what was happening around him, Swamiji demonstrated that it didn’t have the power to touch his inner Self.
Paramhansa Yogananda began his Autobiography of a Yogi with these words: “The characteristic features of Indian culture have long been a search for eternal verities and the concomitant disciple-guru relationship.” For the Master to introduce his spiritual classic in this way shows the vital importance, in fact the inescapability, of discipleship in the search for God.
A few days ago we participated in a very inspiring event. At our Ananda community near Assisi, Italy, we held a world peace conference with a Japanese organization, The World Peace Prayer Society, that promotes the Fuji Declaration, “calling for the rebirth of humanity’s sacred spirit and a new civilization in which all life is connected as one.” Devi and I were part of a panel of spiritual teachers that included a Buddhist monk, a Christian monk, the imam of Perugia, a leader from the Baha’i faith, as well as the founder of the International School of Forgiveness. As we sat together in our Temple of Light, we each spoke about how to promote peace and harmony among nations, religions, and individuals. The day ended movingly with a parade of flags and prayers for peace in every country on earth.
In the early years of Ananda Village, Kirtani was part of the team of devotees who helped to establish the organic vegetable gardens there. Now a nayaswami and director of the Ananda Community near Assisi, Italy, Kirtani shared a beautiful story with us recently during our visit there.
According to the ancient teachings of India, there is a great repeating historical cycle of four ages, called the yugas, which lasts 24,000 years. For 12,000 years the consciousness of man rises to its height, and then begins a 12,000-year descent into darkness. Our current age, Dwapara, is in the ascending half of this cycle. It started in 1700 and will last for 2,400 years. The scale of the yugas is so large that it is hard to visualize, but if we divide by 100 it will help us see the major trends. For fun, then, let’s think of a king named Dwaparian ruling this beautiful, blue island called Earth. His reign will last 24 years. With so many people feeling hopeless about current events, it is important to realize that we are only a little over three years into his rulership.
The first of three great waves of blessing for mankind began in 1861 in the Himalayas. It was then that the great avatar Babaji initiated his disciple, Lahiri Mahasaya, into the yogic science of Kriya Yoga. As he was about to return to his job and family, Lahiri pleaded to Babaji, “I pray that you permit me to communicate Kriya to all seekers, even though at first they cannot vow themselves to complete inner renunciation. The tormented men and women of the world, pursued by the threefold suffering, need special encouragement. They may never attempt the road to freedom if Kriya initiation be withheld from them.”
It was a bitterly cold winter, and the men were starving and ragged. Many of them were barefoot, and all of them without hope. The year was 1776, the low point for the Americans in the Revolutionary War against England, and General George Washington was struggling against overwhelming odds.
In 1974 I went on a trip around the world with Swami Kriyananda. Our small group started the journey by flying from San Francisco to Hawaii. While there, we had dinner at the ashram of Subramuniyaswami on the island of Kauai. The meeting between Swami Kriyananda and Subramuniyaswami was a delight to behold. They were like twin souls, both having founded spiritual works and ashrams based on the deep teachings of India.
People frequently ask us, “Why have you followed the spiritual path for your whole life?” There are many answers to that question, but a big one is: “It brings me inner freedom.” By this I mean, freedom to change negative patterns that have kept me in their clutches; freedom to respond with calmness and kindness even when others are angry or challenging; and, simply, freedom to enjoy whatever life brings.