This article by us came out on September 20 in the Times of India, the largest newspaper in the country. Another article we wrote for them a few years ago had more than a hundred thousand views and three hundred comments. It is a wonderful way to reach large numbers of readers. I thought you might enjoy reading this new one.
I had an insight in meditation a few days ago. I’m sure that these flashes must come to you also when your mind is calm and open. I was trying to deepen my concentration, and failing. This is a common hurdle for all meditators: Even Paramhansa Yogananda’s thoughts were “distributed like leaves in a storm” a few minutes before his guru gave him his first experience of cosmic consciousness. It would be time well spent to read or reread that account in Autobiography of a Yogi.
There was something missing; the life I was living was a cage. Yes, the cage was comfortable—I had a good job, earning both money and respect—but I felt constrained, earthbound. In my spare time I began to climb hills and mountains, gradually conquering the highest peaks. For a time it was satisfying, even thrilling. The vistas I saw were vast, stunning, and far more expansive than my life in the city. But no matter how far I traveled, or how high I climbed, my boots were a prisoner to gravity still.
We are at our community in Assisi, Italy, participating in a weeklong course called, “The Way of the Spiritual Warrior.” Devi and I, as well as other speakers, have drawn heavily on Paramhansa Yogananda’s explanations of the deep teachings in the Bhagavad Gita. That scripture is an allegory of the battle between our higher soul-tendencies and our lower, ego-driven worldly qualities. Each of us, impelled by the desire to reconnect to our true Self, must fight this battle, and the spiritual path gives us the tools and support that we need.
There were several hundred of us in the opening circle, holding hands and chanting. We had gathered, not only those who live at Ananda Village, but people from all over, to help prepare the Temple of Light for the hundreds who would soon be visiting. This was just the latest of innumerable voluntary workdays that I have attended over the years. Group workdays are one of the main reasons that Ananda Village has risen from the mud and dust of its early years to the place of beauty and inspiration that it is today.
Once in a rare while we are lifted high on the wings of grace. Last week was an extraordinary week filled with laughter, tears, joy, inspiration, friendship, and hope. We celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of Ananda and dedicated our new Temple of Light. For the thousand people attending it felt like we were raised out of the mundane world and into an astral heaven for a few days at least. Many people told me that their lives will never, can never, be the same after feeling God so close and tangible.
Next week Ananda will celebrate its fiftieth anniversary. We took possession of the land we now call Ananda Village on July 4, 1969. We have often remarked on the “coincidence” of July 4 also being what is generally considered to be the birthdate of the United States, the day of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Both were born from the desire to fight oppression: one against a tyrannical overseas power, and the other—Ananda—against an even more tyrannical ruler, delusion.
After she had blown out the few candles on her cake, Gloria said, “I’m glad they didn’t put all 90 on it. I’m not sure I could have managed that.”
Mother Teresa of Calcutta told this very touching story. The sisters from her order were visiting the very poor during a time of famine in Calcutta. To each home they brought some desperately needed food: a bag of rice, some lentils, and a few other bare necessities. As one sister gave the food to a mother of several starving children, to the sister's surprise the famished mother divided it in half, saying, “My neighbor’s children are also starving, and I must share this with them.”