This morning Devi and I spoke with someone who was feeling overwhelmed and a little guilty because he couldn’t keep up with all the “should do’s” on the spiritual path. I doubt if there is a devotee alive who hasn’t had these same thoughts. On the one hand, there are hundreds of techniques, habits, and attitudes that could be helpful. On the other hand, we have to face the reality of living in this world with multiple responsibilities and limited time.
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’s a delightful story about a sculptor who was renowned for his ability to create marble statues filled with life. After carving an amazingly lifelike image of an elephant, he was asked, “How were you able to make the elephant look so real?”
Recently we watched an episode of the remarkable nature documentary, “Planet Earth.” There was one breathtakingly beautiful scene of thousands of pink flamingos flying together in unison, their image perfectly reflected in the still waters of a pristine lake. The photography in the whole series is beautiful and mind-boggling, instilling a profound sense in us of the harmony and oneness in the natural world. Even the scenes of predators stalking their prey captured not cruelty, but the balance in nature in which every creature plays it part.
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.
Please bear with us for a while if we continue to gush about the new Temple of Light at Ananda Village. That the temple stands today, filled with divine light and joy, is a testimony to the omnipresence of God’s grace. Each step along the way has been filled with miracles: from the conception, to planning, interior design, fund-raising, construction, and final completion. They all testify to the power of such grace.
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.