“Master wants you to lecture in his place at the San Diego temple this weekend. . . . He also wants you to give a Kriya Yoga Initiation afterwards.” These words were delivered to Swami Kriyananda (then James Donald Walters) after he had been with his guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, for only a few months.
His reaction was both disbelief and shock. “But,” he sputtered to the monk conveying his guru’s instructions, “everyone there is expecting Master to give the lecture after his absence of over three months. Besides, I’m only twenty-two years old, I’ve never spoken in public, and I’ve only been to one Kriya Initiation myself.”
“Well,” the brother monk replied, “he wants you to go. Here’s some money for the bus. You’d better leave immediately.”
The terrified young “Walter” did take the next bus, and was an inspiring representative for his guru that day. Thus began Swami Kriyananda’s life as a spiritual teacher, one that spanned the next sixty-five years and brought Yoganandaji’s teachings to millions around the world.
Beyond its significance in Swamiji’s own life, this incident also contains a lesson for all of us. Kriyananda did what was asked of him, even though his guru’s request seemed far beyond his level of experience or self-definition at that time. By doing it, he transcended the contractive ego that draws a line in the sand and says, “This is who I am, and this is what I can do.” A better attitude for a devotee to hold is, “I’m not going to limit who I am, or what I’m really capable of.” This leaves more room for spiritual growth.
Yoganandaji didn’t carefully define what he wanted Swamiji to say at the lecture, or how he was to give the initiation, but rather empowered and guided him from within. It’s a story we’ve seen repeated many times in Ananda’s history.
Nitai, who had been a school teacher before coming to the community, once commented to Swamiji, “Many families with children are starting to move to Ananda. We really need a school here to serve them.”
“You’re right,” Kriyananda replied. “Can you start one based on Master’s principles of education?”
“But,” said Nitai with some bewilderment, “I’ve never seen these principles, and I’ve never started a school.”
“Well, read whatever you can find, and do your best,” was Swamiji’s reply.
Nitai did as he’d been asked, and for the next ten years helped create an innovative system of education reflecting Yoganandaji’s methods of training children on all levels, body, mind, and spirit. Only after the school was well established did Swami Kriyananda write his book, Education for Life. In it, he created a handbook for Ananda’s “Living Wisdom Schools,” in which he described in more detail the theory and practice upon which that school, and others that were to be founded in later years, are based.
True spiritual guides like Yoganandaji, and later, in his turn, Kriyanandaji, when assigning someone a task, don’t specify in detail what they want done, or closely direct every action. They have the wisdom to know that it is as a devotee tunes in himself to higher guidance that understanding, growth, and attunement come.
Remember this principle when you are asked by someone you respect, or by your own higher Self, to take on a challenge that seems beyond your present capacity or self-conception. If you doubt your ability to fulfill the task, believe that God can do it through you. By just trying, we can become channels for divine consciousness, and thus move toward greater self-awareness and freedom.
With joy in the doing,