“Would any of you like to join me on a camping trip to Mt. Shasta?” With his characteristic enthusiasm and joy, Swami Kriyananda extended this invitation to a small group of us one morning. Swamiji had been asked to give a talk in nearby Shasta City and decided to combine this with a short vacation.
Mt. Shasta is a beautiful mountain in Northern California that majestically rises to 14,000 feet above the surrounding plains. Standing alone, Shasta is yet surrounded by many legends—stories of ascended masters living on, or even inside, the mountain. (Paramhansa Yogananda’s comment was, “There are no masters living there.” Then he added, intriguingly, “There have been colonists. However, no masters.”)
We all accepted Swamiji’s invitation, and Mt. Shasta’s reputation for mystery didn’t fail us. One morning as we were hiking up a trail leading to the summit, we noticed a few monarch butterflies floating down on the air currents. (We later learned that monarchs lay their eggs on the vegetation of Mt. Shasta. The annual emerging of the butterflies from their chrysalises coincided that year with the day of our hike.)
At first we were delighted to see these beautiful creatures floating around us, but as their numbers began to grow, our delight turned to dismay. We found it increasingly difficult to move through their dense clouds without damaging them.
Swamiji was in the lead, and as I looked ahead to see what we should do, I saw something remarkable: He was projecting an aura of light around him and our group, enabling us to walk forward as the thousands of butterflies parted around us. It was an unforgettable experience—one in stark contrast to another hike a few years later.
This time we were in San Francisco, where Swamiji was giving a series of classes during the summer of 1979. Upon the completion of his programs, he decided to celebrate with dinner and a movie, and invited those of us who had been helping to join him. As we left the theatre at the end of the film, a disturbing scene awaited us: It was late Saturday night, we were in a part of San Francisco filled with crime, and our cars were parked many blocks away.
Again Swamiji took the lead, but this time not through beautiful butterflies, but through drug sellers and suffering. With the same spiritual energy, he created an aura of light around us that simultaneously seemed to part the darkness and protect us. We arrived at the cars without incident. It was another experience that remains vivid in my memory.
As you move through life, you will sometimes find yourself in unexpected and bewildering situations. Whether surrounded by beauty and wonder, or by darkness and fear, consciously enfold yourself in God’s light.
And remember these words of Paramhansa Yogananda: “Teach me to feel that I am enveloped always in the aureole of Thine all-protecting omnipresence: in birth, in sorrow, in joy, in activity, in meditation, in ignorance, in trials, in death, and in final emancipation.”