Swami Kriyananda’s birthday was May 19—he would have been 90 this year. Often on his birthday a rainbow would appear, sometimes in a nearly clear sky, as if the heavens themselves wanted to celebrate his birth.
“Let’s clean up these beds,” our enthusiastic team leader said as we surveyed the badly neglected herb garden at The Expanding Light Retreat. The lavender, rosemary, and oregano were choked with weeds and dead leaves. Many of the plants looked lifeless or had gone to seed—a sorry sight for people who love gardens.
Years ago I read a short story about an American mountain climber. While gathering supplies in a market in India, he comes across a yogi with matted hair and a long beard, wearing nothing but a simple dhoti. The yogi politely asks the American what he is doing in India. The mountain climber curtly tells this “oddity” to mind his own business. After a rude and arrogant exchange, the American proudly says he is going to climb Mount Everest. The story goes on to describe the long, tedious days of trekking with a caravan of porters to arrive at the mountain and finally to carry supplies to base camp. Then comes the difficult and dangerous ascent to the top, pushing the very boundaries of human will and endurance. What a shock, upon arriving at the peak, to discover this same yogi calmly sitting there in lotus posture. The American stammers, “How did you get here?” The yogi replies, “The question is, ‘How did you get here?’ Surely you didn’t walk, did you?”
The energy in Swami Kriyananda’s Moksha Mandir, where his physical body now resides, was vibrant with the tangible presence of his love and joy. It was April 21, 2016, the third anniversary of Swamiji’s passing, and residents of Ananda Village were honoring him with our annual observance of a six-hour meditation.
Paramhansa Yogananda said, “I once met a very successful and wealthy man, who said to me, ‘I’m disgustingly healthy, and disgustingly wealthy.’ ‘However,’ I replied, ‘you are not “disgustingly happy,” are you?’ He admitted he was not. Soon afterward, he became a student of this path.”
There is a story about a rich man who consulted a psychic to find out who he’d be in his next life. Planning to make out his will, he wanted to know about his future incarnation so that he could leave all his wealth to himself.
The goal of the spiritual path is to shift one’s self-definition from the ego to the soul. The soul is our true nature, and is aware of its unity with God. But our soul nature is usually hidden from us by the ego.
A friend shared with me a delightful remark she’d heard recently. She was reading the Bhagavad Gita when another devotee walked by and commented, “That’s a really good book. It’s a mystery, you know, but I’ll tell you how it ends: God did it!”
Ananda started as a retreat rather than a community. It was 1969, and the first few residents had moved to what we now call the “Meditation Retreat.” Among them were Swami Kriyananda and I. And Sisi.
This evening we’ll begin our journey back from India to the United States after an intense five weeks of travel and sharing with devotees here. Every spiritual seeker needs to come to India at least once in their lifetime, for it’s here that enlightened sages perceived the soul’s path back to union with God. This awareness lies beneath the surface of every aspect of life.