Swami Kriyananda As We Have Known Him Podcast
The serialized audiobook version of "Swami Kriyananda As We Have Known Him," by Asha Praver.
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email@example.com (Asha Praver)Author: Asha Praver
Tue, Jul 28, 2015
[Listen to Asha read this story]
Paula checked herself into the hospital because of severe bronchitis, but I think she knew the cancer had returned for the third time. The doctors tried one more procedure, but in the middle, she went into convulsions and for a few moments her heart stopped. After that, the doctor said, “There is nothing else we can do.”
She lived three more days. It was one long going-away party, with constant phone calls, a steady stream of visitors, and a crowd of friends and family camped out in her hospital room. She was much loved and would be sorely missed.
It was impossible to be sad, however, for Paula was obviously in a state of grace.
She had a little unfinished business with a few people, but by afternoon of the third day, it was all done. The transition came suddenly, in the middle of a conversation about coffee. (Paula loved coffee.) She stopped talking, gazed upward, then closed her eyes. An even deeper aura of holiness descended and we fell silent.
Paula began to murmur ecstatically, “Swamiji, Swamiji, Swamiji, Swamiji.” From then on, there was a subtle shift. Paula continued to relate to the people around her, but her attention was no longer on this world. She was focused now on the world beyond.
To one of her Ananda visitors she said, “You must listen to Swamiji. You must help him, and do everything he asks of you. You don’t know what you have in him.”
Around midnight she organized a ceremony. Nothing solemn, that wasn’t Paula’s way. She was dying the same way she lived—light-hearted, happy, almost child-like in her devotion. From Master’s book of prayers, Whispers from Eternity, she picked a few of her favorites and asked that they be read aloud. Then with her own hand she gave each person a flower. After that, she disconnected the supplemental oxygen she had been using, and lay down as if to sleep.
We all went to sleep, too, in her room, in the hallway, or in empty rooms nearby. The hospital staff let us take over the whole wing. About 4am, Paula woke up from whatever state she had been in and started waking up the others in her room.
“Please, everyone, come in here now,” she said.
Her husband sat on the bed next to her and put his arm around her, as he had often done in the last few days. Always before she welcomed his embrace. Now she said, quite impersonally, “Don’t touch me. I can still feel it.” We knew the end had come.
At her request, we began chanting AUM. After a few minutes, Paula said, “This is very hard. You have to help me.” For the next few minutes, she was silent and we continued to chant. Then with great feeling she said, “God! Christ! Guru!” Those were Paula’s last words. For the next half-hour, we kept chanting, and she kept breathing. Then her breath stopped.
Suddenly, I felt power pouring over me as if a mighty angel were passing by. I was astonished to find myself sobbing with joy.
Paula was a spiritual leader at Ananda. Among other accomplishments, she helped develop the Portland community and successfully managed two retail businesses. But she never called attention to herself and most people thought of her as just one devotee among many. So it came as a surprise at her memorial service a few days later, when Swamiji said, “I believe Paula may have been liberated. Only a person of true realization could die the way she did.”
On her last day, Paula spoke to Swamiji on the telephone. “I hope you don’t have to come back to this world,” she said. “I hope I don’t have to come back either. But if you come again, I’ll come and help you.”
Download File - 1.1 MB (Click to Play on Mobile Device) Listen To This Podcast (Streaming Audio)
Blue Moped firstname.lastname@example.org (Asha Praver)Author: Asha Praver
Tue, Jul 21, 2015[Listen to Asha read this story]
For many years, the only way to drive to Crystal Hermitage, Swamiji's home at Ananda Village, was over two miles of unpaved road, deeply rutted and littered with potholes.
For years also, Swamiji’s only car was a big blue Chevrolet, purchased for him from a government auction of used automobiles. Two cars, exactly alike, were bought at the same time—one for Swamiji to drive, and the other to provide spare parts to keep the first one running. Each cost $75. On the door of Swamiji's car could faintly be seen the words, "U.S. Air Force," put there by one of its previous owners. Naturally, the car became known as "Air Force One,” an amusing title for this ancient vehicle.
One summer, Swamiji decided it would save wear and tear on the car if he got a moped for the dirt road and used the Chevrolet only for trips outside of Ananda. Several friends warned Swamiji that dirt roads could be treacherous on a motorcycle, but Swamiji was unconcerned. When a blue moped came up for sale, Swamiji bought it.
In that season, his everyday outfit was sandals, Bermuda shorts, and a sport shirt (often a bright Hawaiian print). For some weeks he cut quite a colorful figure in his flowered shirts, sitting straight upright rather than hunched over in typical motorcyclist fashion, and waving cheerfully to passersby. He appeared always serene, driving at moderate speed and calmly smiling.
Then disaster struck.
The dirt road includes a long, steep hill, which, on a small motorcycle, must be taken at just the right speed. Too fast, and one may lose control; too slow, and one may lose traction. Swamiji had safely negotiated the hill before now, but this day something went wrong. His speed was inadequate and the moped lost traction and began to slip. Swamiji gunned the motor, but it was too late. The moped tipped over, pinning him beneath it.
The machine wasn't heavy, but the hot exhaust pipe fell right against the inside of his bare calf, burning into his skin. To get out from under it, Swamiji had to roll over on the ground, which caused the wound to become filled with dust and dirt.
Fortunately, someone was driving not far behind Swamiji and was able to pick him up and take him home. The closest medical care was twenty miles away in Nevada City, and Swamiji didn't think the injury warranted the journey. He had no telephone, but somehow the word spread. Soon people began showing up at Swamiji's door with ideas of how to treat the burn. Over the course of the next several hours he received three or four different treatments. Unfortunately, none of them helped much. The wound did not get cleaned properly, and none of the ointments and salves was appropriate. After a few days the wound became infected. Only then did Swamiji consent to go into town and have it treated medically.
It was a bad burn, and looked even worse: some six inches long and three inches across, inflamed and full of pus. The doctor assured Swamiji, however, that with a little care it would heal fine.
The following Sunday, Swamiji was holding an afternoon satsang in his home, as he often did. He sat in his usual chair in front of the big triangle window that looked out at the river valley and the forested hills beyond. He was wearing bermuda shorts and, in accordance with the doctor's orders, had his leg propped up on a footstool before him. The wound was unbandaged to let the air reach it freely, so we all got a good view of how awful it looked. About a dozen people were present.
Suddenly, a man named Ram Lila burst into the room. Ram Lila lived in San Francisco, but often visited Ananda. Before becoming a devotee he had belonged to a rough motorcycle gang called the Hell's Angels. By now he had given up most of the worst habits associated with that lifestyle, but he still looked like a "biker," and still drove a big Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
Ram Lila was powerfully built—not tall but very thick, somewhat on the lines of a Sumo wrestler, though by no means obese. His biceps were bigger than the average man's thighs. The astrological bangle that is worn by many Ananda members, made to go around the arm above the elbow, was worn by Ram Lila dangling from a string around his neck. It would have taken at least two bangles to accommodate the circumference of his upper arm. He had a black beard and thick, curly hair, which hung to his shoulders. Heavy boots and a leather vest completed his "biker" outfit.
He looked fierce, but his nature was that of a child. Swamiji had given him the name, "Ram Lila," which means, "God’s divine play."
"I laughed when the name came to me," Swamiji said. "It was so appropriate!"
Ram Lila was devoted to Swamiji in an extravagant, adoring way, like a child. He wanted Swamiji to take him on as a bodyguard. Swamiji declined because, he said, "I don't need one." Ram Lila never quite accepted that this was true, and when he was in Swamiji's company he always kept alert, "just in case."
On this day, Ram Lila came straight in and threw himself at Swamiji's feet. "I should have been killed!" he said with deep feeling. "The truck came out of nowhere. BAM!" He slammed one fist into the other open hand to show the force of the impact.
"I wasn't wearing a helmet. I went flying over the handlebars and bounced on the road. BAM! BAM! BAM!" Again he illustrated with fist to hand. "My side, my head, my shoulders, my back: I thought, 'This is it! I'm dead!' Finally I stopped. I checked everything. Man, not even a broken bone! I walked away. I should have died, and I WALKED AWAY!"
What he was describing was serious, but he told the story with such enthusiasm and drama that we were laughing with delight. Ram Lila didn't seem to mind.
"I'm so glad you didn't die, Ram Lila!" said Swamiji, and patted him lovingly on the head.
Now that he'd told his story, Ram Lila noticed for the first time that Swamiji was injured.
"What happened to you?" he asked. Perhaps Swamiji did need a bodyguard after all!
Swamiji didn't answer. "You tell him," he said to me.
"He fell off his moped," I explained. "The exhaust pipe landed on his leg and burned him."
Ram Lila was so shocked he could barely speak. He stammered out a question: "W-w-when did it happen?" I told him the day and the time of the accident.
"O my God! O my God! O my God!" he cried. "That was just before that truck slammed into me. You did it! You saved my life! I couldn't figure out why I didn’t die. Now I know." He knelt before Swamiji and began to sob.
After the accident, Swamiji never touched his moped again. A few weeks later he gave it away. Download File - 1.9 MB (Click to Play on Mobile Device) Listen To This Podcast (Streaming Audio)
Divorce email@example.com (Asha Praver)Author: Asha Praver
Tue, Jul 14, 2015[Listen to Asha read this story](Told by Hridayavasi)
I went through an extremely painful divorce. One particularly awful day coincided with a huge public event. I held myself together until late in the afternoon. Ironically, it was a compassionate look from a dear friend in the middle of a roomful of people that started me crying again.
“I’m going to take you over to Swamiji,” my friend said. Swamiji was standing just a little distance away. I made a feeble protest, which my friend simply ignored.
“Hridaya is having a terrible time today,” my friend said to Swamiji. I collapsed against his shoulder and he held me while I cried and cried. “I am so sorry,” he said. “I am so sorry.”
When I finally gained some little bit of control over myself, I stood back and looked into his eyes. Swamiji is no stranger to disappointment. God has tested him over and over again. In his eyes I could see compassion born of experience. But there was also something else. He wasn’t willing to meet me on the level of shared pain. His eyes invited me to join him on the level where human suffering is just something we offer up to God as a way of growing closer to Him. Sad as I was, I was also thrilled by that look and the promise it held.
Swamiji then blessed me by touching me on the heart and on the spiritual eye. My tears stopped completely, and from that point on I started getting better. Download File - 0.4 MB (Click to Play on Mobile Device) Listen To This Podcast (Streaming Audio)
A Fistula firstname.lastname@example.org (Asha Praver)Author: Asha Praver
Tue, Jul 07, 2015[Listen to Asha read this story](Told by an Ananda devotee)
“You have a serious medical condition called a fistula,” the doctor said to me, “The only remedy is surgery.”
I had come to Italy to visit relatives and take care of some business obligations there. As soon as I arrived, I started feeling something very painful in my lower back. Within three days, it was so bad I couldn’t walk, and I had to go to the hospital. A fistula, I found out, is an abnormal opening or connection between two internal organs, or from an internal organ to the surface of the body. Mine was inside.
“We have to operate as soon as possible,” the doctor said, “otherwise you won’t be able to stand the pain.”
I agreed, and the next day I had the surgery. The fistula, however, was so large and so deep the surgeon was unable to repair it completely.
“You’ll have to wait a few weeks until the first surgery heals,” the doctor said. “Then I’ll operate again and finish the job.”
Oddly enough, the doctor tied one end of a string to the spot where he stopped working, and left the other end dangling outside my body, so he could easily find his way back in. (Shades of Theseus in the labyrinth!) It was disconcerting to see that string hanging there.
After the surgery, I had to stay in the hospital another five days, still in great pain, which the doctor said would continue until after the second operation. Swamiji happened to be visiting Italy at the time, and he sent me a beautiful big bouquet of flowers. It caused quite a stir. In Italy, so many flowers are given only to mothers with newborns.
When I was released from the hospital, I was still gasping with pain and hardly able to move. That very day an Ananda friend called to tell me that in two days, Swamiji was coming to visit me. I couldn’t say no, but I also couldn’t imagine how I'd be able to see anyone.
The next day, I was still in excruciating pain. The day after, however, I woke up feeling quite a bit better. When I got up and started to make the bed, I was horrified to see the surgical string lying there on the sheet. It had fallen out of my body! Immediately, I went to the hospital. The doctor inspected the site of the surgery. He was strangely silent. Then he said, “I see nothing there at all. Everything looks perfect. I can’t find any sign of the fistula.” It was obvious to me, too, that something had changed, for now I had only a little bit of pain.
I was stunned by this sudden turn of events, and delighted that I would be well for Swamiji’s visit. We met at 4pm, and at his suggestion, went for a walk together. The day before, I would have been in too much pain. Now I walked easily. My wife knew about my remarkable healing, but I didn’t mention it to Swamiji, or to anyone else.
Suddenly, without warning, Swamiji stumbled and nearly fell to the ground. For no apparent reason, he suddenly had an intense pain in his hip, and, being unable to put weight on his leg, could hardly walk. Fortunately, we were not far from the home of one of my relatives, and I half-carried, half-dragged him there. Thank God I was well enough to do it!
Swamiji lay down on a bed, and for the next several hours could hardly move because of the pain. Finally, it began to lessen, and I was able to get him back to his hotel. The next day, he was fine.
I thought deeply about what had happened: my mysterious healing, and Swamiji’s sudden collapse. I believe he suffered to protect me from suffering. This is something only a saint can do. I will never forget what Swamiji did for me. Download File - 0.9 MB (Click to Play on Mobile Device) Listen To This Podcast (Streaming Audio)
Meet It at the Crest email@example.com (Asha Praver)Author: Asha Praver
Tue, Jun 30, 2015[Listen to Asha read this story]
For seven years, the man had struggled to resist an attraction to a woman in the community who was not his wife. Finally he said to Swamiji, “I am too unhappy, I can’t go on this way.”
“Let me tell your wife,” Swamiji said. “It will be easier for her that way.”
“He has done his best to overcome this,” Swamiji said to her, “but he can’t. It is something he has to live through.” She was devastated, but she took it bravely.
When the news came out that the man was leaving his wife for another woman, some people reacted judgmentally. “What about his obligation to the community?” one said to Swamiji. “This will reflect badly on all of Ananda.”
“He gave seven years to the community,” Swamiji said. “I think that is long enough. He did his best. You can’t ask more than that of anyone.”
The day after the couple separated, Swamiji asked the two women to come to his house and cook dinner together for him and a few guests, including the husband.
“Sir! Are you sure that’s a good idea?” a woman exclaimed when she heard the plan. “Don’t you remember what happened yesterday?”
“Of course I remember,” Swamiji said. “But they have to get over it sooner or later. If they wait until some future lifetime they won’t even remember why they dislike each other, and it will be much more difficult to overcome. When a wave of karma hits, raise your energy and meet it at the crest! That’s the way to make spiritual progress!”
Later, the wife described what happened that evening. “I wanted to give in to my grief and run away,” she said, “but Swamiji wouldn’t let me. He had more faith in me than I had in myself. It wasn’t easy to summon up the courage, but I did my best, and divine grace did the rest. The whole evening, I felt nothing but love for them. Even though circumstances had changed, the underlying friendship was untouched.
“Afterwards, I wasn’t always able to maintain such a high state of consciousness, but I had done it once, so I knew I could do it again. Because I followed Swamiji’s advice, I believe I saved myself years, perhaps even lifetimes, of suffering.” Download File - 0.6 MB (Click to Play on Mobile Device) Listen To This Podcast (Streaming Audio)
I Need Your Help firstname.lastname@example.org (Asha Praver)Author: Asha Praver
Tue, Jun 23, 2015[Listen to Asha read this story](Told by an Ananda devotee)
For 29 years, I was afflicted with a terrible addiction. Not merely a habit, but an addiction, something I needed every day. I tried therapy, 12-Step programs, affirmations, will power. Nothing worked.
When I got on the path, I read everything Master said about overcoming temptation and changing habits. Still the addiction was unbeatable, stronger than anything I could throw at it.
When I confided to an Ananda friend, she responded, “Have you asked Swamiji to help you?”
“I wrote to him several times,” I said.
“Just writing to him isn’t enough. What I’m asking is: Have you opened your heart to him? Have you asked him to give you the strength to overcome this? Have you prayed
I hadn’t done any of those things so I decided I would try. That night in meditation when it was time to pray, words came to me with such intensity I felt that they were praying me.
“Dear Swamiji,” I said, “I can’t do this alone. I need your help. I know you can help me.”
For the first time I understood what Jesus meant when he said, “Pray believing.” I knew
that Swamiji could help me.
A few days after I began that prayer, 29 years of addiction ended. The desire completely disappeared. In the years since then I haven’t had a single symptom, not an urge, not even a temptation.
About six months later, I greeted Swamiji after a Sunday Service and thanked him again for the help he had given me. He held my eyes with a penetrating gaze. When he spoke, I felt as if a surge of electricity came into me, bathing me with his protection and courage.
“Don’t ever give up,” Swamiji said. “Keep at it with every ounce of your being. Know that Master is blessing you.” Download File - 0.5 MB (Click to Play on Mobile Device) Listen To This Podcast (Streaming Audio)
My Name Is Gratitude email@example.com (Asha Praver)Author: Asha Praver
Tue, Jun 16, 2015[Listen to Asha read this story](Told by an Ananda devotee)
If I were to choose a spiritual name for myself, it would have to be Gratitude.
I started drinking in my early teens. Drugs came later, in the ’60s, just before I turned twenty. All my friends drank, and everything that happened after sundown involved drugs and alcohol. So we were more inclined to play loud music than to play chess. Drinkers hang out with other drinkers. It’s tidy that way, no unpleasant images in the mirror—everyone looks like you.
Whatever we were having, I consumed more of it than my friends. It always took more to get me to the edge of contentment, and the edge was as close as I could ever get. In a typical evening, I would drink a six-pack of beer, a substantial amount of hard liquor, and use whatever drugs were at hand.
I never got mean, never got in fights, never fell down, but from my early teens, I was drunk every night of my life. In those early years, I had a couple of auto accidents, but nothing after that, even though, if it was dark, driving or not, I was drunk.
I never drank during the day. In fact, I couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to be dull while it was still light. During the day, I went for stimulants, but, come nightfall, nothing could stop me from drinking. Stimulants during the day meant more alcohol to come down at night, then more stimulants the next day to push away the effects of the previous night's drinking: truly a vicious and deadly cycle. I also smoked quite a lot of marijuana, occasionally took mushrooms, and used cocaine. My friends either kept up, or they fell away. Some died, many ended up permanently damaged.
I was married in the early ’80s, but my habits didn’t change. I merely couched them now in transparent respectability, more evenings out drinking good wine, or at home drinking good scotch and premium beer. Cocaine replaced the cruder stimulants. But the truth is, I would have drunk cheap gin, if that were all I had.
My wife drank only moderately, just an occasional glass or two of wine with dinner. It is unusual for a non-drinker to marry someone who is already wedded to this habit of nightly oblivion, but then, she never knew me any other way. We didn’t discuss it. I figured it was just part of the package she had chosen. She clearly saw something in me beyond the man she married, and she knew the power of prayer.
We bought a house and built a business. At one point, though, she expressed enough concern for my overall health that I agreed to have a “routine” physical. The doctor stated unequivocally that I was on my way to an unpleasant, and perhaps lingering, death.
He said it would be dangerous for me to try to quit drinking on my own. The withdrawal symptoms would be so severe I might even have seizures. He wanted me to go straight from his office to the hospital.
To bolster his argument, he called in another patient, an ex-alcoholic, who, he said, just happened to be in the waiting room. This gentleman, in a glib and self-important voice, rambled through a fragmented assessment of my future unless I followed the good doctor’s advice. But he was so cognitively damaged it was easy for me to brush off both him and his counsel. I genuinely felt I would rather drink myself to death than wind up like him.
The meeting with the doctor was such a disaster neither my wife nor I ever mentioned it again.
In the middle of all of this, sometime in the early ’80s, we started going to Ananda classes and services. In 1986, when Swami Kriyananda announced he was leading a pilgrimage to Southern California to see Master’s shrines—Mt. Washington, Encinitas, the Lake Shrine and the crypt—we decided to go along.
The first evening in Encinitas, at the Sanderling Hotel, Swamiji held a Discipleship Initiation. I sat in the back of the room, watching people go up and kneel before him. He blessed each one by placing his finger at their spiritual eye, the point between the eyebrows. After a moment, he would remove his hand. The person would then rise, bow to Swamiji with folded hands, and return to his seat.
I just couldn’t identify with the ritual. I was strongly drawn to Master, and I had great respect for Swamiji, even though I had spoken to him only a couple of times. I wasn’t sure it was the right time for me to become a disciple, or if, in truth, Master would want me.
So I just watched, like a stone gargoyle peering down from a cathedral roof. Then, somehow, I found myself kneeling in front of Swamiji. I don’t recall why I decided to do it. In fact, I don’t remember deciding to do it at all, but there I was.
When he touched me at the spiritual eye, there was no spark of light, no uncontrollable trembling, no sound of crashing waves. As I recall, I didn’t feel anything.
But after the blessing, I stood up, bowed respectfully to Swamiji, and walked away a different person.
That was two decades ago. Since that moment I’ve had not a hint, not a longing, not a whisper of unnamed or unfulfilled desire for drugs or alcohol. I went, as they say, cold turkey on a twenty-five year habit without a single unpleasant symptom.
I rarely tell anyone with a drinking or a drug problem about my experience. I have seen how terribly difficult it is for them to quit. I want to help; I love them for their courage, but they need inspiration that is within their reach: something as close, as tangible, and as obtainable as the substances and the mental state they crave.
I do not believe it would inspire someone in the throes of the struggle with addiction, to hear that God, without even being (consciously) invited, came and lifted my burden, leaving nothing behind but gratitude. It would be too far beyond hope, leaving them feeling even more isolated and unworthy.
I often hear the statement, “I am a recovering alcoholic.” Those who use that phrase have earned the right to say it. They have fought hard, and for most of them it is a lifelong struggle.
My life, however, was changed in an instant. What I can and do say, with humility and endless gratitude, is, “I am the disciple of a Great Avatar, and the loving student of a Great Teacher who can, with his touch, channel the Master’s transforming grace.” Download File - 1.7 MB (Click to Play on Mobile Device) Listen To This Podcast (Streaming Audio)
Twice Blessed firstname.lastname@example.org (Asha Praver)Author: Asha Praver
Tue, Jun 09, 2015[Listen to Asha read this story](Told by Krishnadas)
I had an accident that caused a blow to my skull so great I started to exit from my body. I traveled down a tunnel of light and was greeted by friends and relatives who had passed away years before. I came into the presence of a “Being of Light” who enveloped me in pure unconditional love.
Thoughts of unworthiness and shame for things I had done in the past made a brief, futile effort to invade this aura of love. Faster than the thoughts could arise, they evaporated. It was more than being forgiven. The “Being of Light” communicated to me that I, too, am made of light, and in that light there is nothing to forgive.
This was 1976. No one then was talking about “Near Death Experiences,” so it wasn’t until years later that I had an explanation for what had happened to me. All I knew at the time was that my life had been changed forever.
A few hours after the experience, a voice inside my head said, “Why do you continue to live in the same way? I have given you the key to life. I have given you yoga.”
I had already been studying Hatha Yoga for about six months. From then on, I made it the center of my life. Two years later, I met Swamiji, and soon after had a private interview with him. At the end of the interview, I asked if I could touch his feet.
This was no small thing for me. My father had died ten years earlier, when I was fourteen. (He was one of those who greeted me in the tunnel of light.) Since then, I had been very headstrong and refused to take advice from anyone – until I met Swamiji. Now I wanted to bow down in front of him and put my life in his hands.
In India, touching the feet of a spiritual teacher is a common gesture of respect. Swamiji, however, has never encouraged that kind of outward show, but he must have sensed how much this meant to me, so he gave his permission. He was sitting in a chair and invited me to kneel in front of him.
Reverently I placed my hands on his feet and bent over until my forehead was almost resting on the backs of my hands. After a moment, I felt Swamiji gently lifting me by the shoulders until we were face to face. He closed his eyes and touched me at the spiritual eye. I closed my eyes to receive his blessing.
A horizon line formed before my closed eyes, illuminated from below, as if the sun were about to rise. Beams of white light streamed from the hidden sun. I was bathed in luminescence. I forgot myself. I forgot that Swamiji was blessing me. All I knew was light, peace, joy, and what I can only describe now as a state of utter “desirelessness.” In that moment, every imaginable fulfillment was mine already.
Then Swamiji removed his touch and the light went away. I looked into Swamiji’s eyes, which were now just inches from mine, and saw there a quality of impersonal, yet unconditional love that I had never seen in anyone else before.
Only later did I link the two experiences. Twice I’d been touched by the light. The first time, I had to leave my body and go into another world to experience it. The second time, the light came to me, when I was willing to bow in humility and reverence before its pure channel: Swamiji. Download File - 1.0 MB (Click to Play on Mobile Device) Listen To This Podcast (Streaming Audio)
Taming a Tamboura email@example.com (Asha Praver)Author: Asha Praver
Tue, Jun 02, 2015[Listen to Asha read this story](Told by Bhagavati)
It was the middle of a concert when Swamiji picked up the tamboura to accompany himself while he sang. A tamboura is an Indian instrument that easily goes out of tune. It was dreadfully off-pitch and no matter how much Swamiji tried, he couldn’t tune it. Finally he gave up and began to play it as it was.
I was near him on the stage and every time his fingers went across the strings I cringed at the dissonance. With his sensitive ear, I don’t know how he kept singing, but he did. Gradually, the dissonance waned. By the time Swamiji was half way through the song, the tamboura was perfectly in tune and it stayed that way for the rest of the concert.
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras
describe the practice of ahimsa
. “Non-violence” is how it is usually translated. Swamiji calls it “harmlessness” and has dedicated himself to that practice. The fruit for one who practices ahimsa
perfectly, Patanjali says, is that in his presence, no disharmony can arise. Wild animals are tamed, ferocious criminals subdued.
Some people may disagree, but I have been playing musical instruments since I was a child and I know they have personalities that respond to human consciousness. I think, in the presence of Swamiji’s ahimsa,
the tamboura simply couldn’t hold on to its disharmonious “attitude.” Swamiji’s harmonious vibrations tamed it. Download File - 0.4 MB (Click to Play on Mobile Device) Listen To This Podcast (Streaming Audio)
The Wart firstname.lastname@example.org (Asha Praver)Author: Asha Praver
Tue, May 26, 2015[Listen to Asha read this story](Told by an Ananda devotee)
For years, I had a noticeable wart on my hand. I tried all sorts of medicines, and the usual array of alternatives. But the wart stubbornly remained.
One day, I happened to be with Swami as he was walking to his car. He was a little shaky on his feet and rested his arm on my shoulder for support. I put my hand on his back to help steady him. The walk was all of two minutes, sweet, but otherwise uneventful.
The next day, I happened to glance at my hand, the hand that had touched Swamiji’s back. The wart had vanished without a trace. Download File - 0.2 MB (Click to Play on Mobile Device) Listen To This Podcast (Streaming Audio)
Electric Embrace email@example.com (Asha Praver)Author: Asha Praver
Tue, May 19, 2015[Listen to Asha read this story](Told by an Ananda devotee)
I was a newcomer and had only seen Swamiji in large public gatherings. When I heard he was returning from a trip to Europe and would spend a few days at Ananda’s San Francisco center, I drove four hours to the city to see him.
When I arrived at the ashram, I was disappointed to see that about 40 other people had gotten there before me and it wasn’t possible even to sit near Swamiji. When dinner was served, I was relegated to another room. I felt excluded, alone, and increasingly morose, certain that I’d never be able to penetrate the circle around him.
After dinner, Swamiji was heading out with a small group to see a movie. I was sitting in another room, talking with a friend. Suddenly, I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned around, and Swamiji was there.
With a deep and earnest gaze, he looked at me for what seemed like a long time. Then he opened his arms and embraced me like an old friend. A surge of electricity passed from him into me. I felt as if my body was on fire, but without the heat. Thought stopped, and I was filled with a profound sense of peace and comfort.
It was in fact just a brief embrace. Then Swamiji stepped back, smiled warmly, doffed his cap, and went on his way without speaking a word to me. For the next fifteen minutes, I was vibrating with energy as the electricity continued to move through me. I felt elevated, buoyant, light as a feather.
I had been feeling so left out, but God had heard my thoughts and sent Swamiji to show me: Don’t be fooled by appearances. We are all equally children of God and equally loved by Him. Download File - 0.0 MB (Click to Play on Mobile Device) Listen To This Podcast (Streaming Audio)
A Marriage Saved firstname.lastname@example.org (Asha Praver)Author: Asha Praver
Tue, May 12, 2015[Listen to Asha read this story](Told by an Ananda devotee)
I was with Swamiji and a big crowd of Ananda people in a very public place when I had the sudden intuition that my husband was infatuated with another woman. I turned my back to the crowd and walked away sobbing. Swamiji knew what was happening and after a few minutes he came over to where I sat crying.
He made no attempt to console me. “Remember, it is all just Divine Mother’s lila
,” he said. Lila
is a Sanskrit word meaning “the play of God.”
“I know, Swamiji. I know.” Intellectually I understood, but my heart was breaking.
Swamiji made no reply. I sensed, however, a wordless transfer of power from him to me. Suddenly I felt as if I were standing at the top of a five-story building looking down on the scene playing out before me. From that perspective I could see that my little “tragedy” was just a single thread in the vast tapestry of life. This image of looking at life from the top of a tall building is something I have used many times since whenever attachment and emotion threaten my inner peace.
That night, because of the consciousness Swamiji put into me, my husband and I were able to talk in a way I wouldn’t have believed possible. Swamiji had changed me from a child ruled by emotion into a grown-up who could talk impersonally about truth and dharma, even in a matter that concerned me deeply.
“Is it wrong to love somebody?” my husband asked me, referring to the “other woman.” Swamiji has often said sympathetically, “One can’t always control the feelings of the heart,” and I remembered that now.
“Of course not,” I said. “It is never wrong to love.”
The “other woman” was also a friend of mine, and she, too, was married. I went on, “The question, however, is not about love. It is about dharma. What is right for all of us in this situation?”
I was so grateful to Swamiji for not offering me any false reassurances. All marriages end eventually, in death, if not before. Only consciousness endures. From then on, I worked much harder at my sadhana.
Later I was even able to meet with the “other woman.” Through her tears, she assured me she had never intended to hurt anyone. Amazingly, I was able to discuss with her as calmly as I had with my husband, what might be right for all of us.
Time passed, and the situation was still unresolved. I began to grow impatient. “How long do I have to wait for him to make up his mind?” I finally asked Swamiji. “I don’t even think he respects me.”
Very seriously, Swamiji responded, “If it is true that he doesn’t respect you, you should leave him.”
Swamiji has often stated that the cornerstone of marriage is not love, as most people think. It is respect. Over the course of a lifetime, love may wax and wane. If there is respect, however, there is always a basis for cooperation and friendship. When respect is lost, it is very difficult to go on together.
Swamiji’s statement terrified me. I didn’t want the responsibility for ending the marriage. If a decision had to be made, I wanted my husband to make it. Swamiji was pushing me to face my fears.
I couldn’t think what else to do, so I just repeated to my husband what Swamiji had said.
“I don’t know how you could possibly think that I don’t respect you,” my husband said. He seemed genuinely shocked at the mere suggestion.
That was the beginning of our reconciliation. Swamiji had shown me the bottom-line condition for continuing the marriage and my husband was able to rise to the occasion. He resolved to renounce his infatuation and that opened my heart to him again. The marriage began to heal.
We are so grateful to Swamiji. Without his wise counsel I don’t think our marriage would have survived.
The whole time our marriage was in jeopardy – a period of several months – I lived in a state of awareness higher and calmer than my normal way of being. I would almost call it a state of grace. It began when I was crying and Swamiji transferred energy to me. It ended practically at the very moment it was clear our marriage would survive. I think Swamiji projected a sustaining force that I tuned into. I was able to see my life in the rhythm of eternity, rather than the passing moments of pleasure and pain.
“To all who received him,” it says in the Bible, “to them gave he power to become the Sons of God.” I had the good karma to receive for a time. After the crisis passed, I wasn’t able to do it in the same way. I am a different person, however, and a far better devotee for the experience. And it certainly whetted my appetite for the day when I can live always in that state. Download File - 0.0 MB (Click to Play on Mobile Device) Listen To This Podcast (Streaming Audio)
Light of Prayer email@example.com (Asha Praver)Author: Asha Praver
Tue, May 05, 2015[Listen to Asha read this story]
On the altar in his meditation room, Swamiji keeps a list of all those who have asked for his prayers. When he meditates, he asks God to bless these souls, and all those who have appealed to him for help.
A chronically ill man, whose name was on that list, took several treatments from a gifted psychic healer.
“Suddenly, in the middle of a session,” the healer said, “I saw a powerful white light within him. I had never encountered anything like it before. Somehow I knew it was the light of Swamiji’s prayer.”
Later it was confirmed that the time of the treatment was the same time that Swamiji was in his meditation room, meditating and praying. Download File - 0.0 MB (Click to Play on Mobile Device) Listen To This Podcast (Streaming Audio)
Touched on the Heart firstname.lastname@example.org (Asha Praver)Author: Asha Praver
Tue, Apr 28, 2015[Listen to Asha read this story](Told by Carolyn Denslow Riffle)
It was always hard for me to be on this planet. Awareness of my own imperfections, and how those imperfections hurt others, caused me to suffer intensely. I had been diagnosed as clinically depressed. It was a cyclical thing and sometimes I had to take prescription drugs for it. Because of the depression, I’ve had some pretty serious problems in my life.
I always felt I wasn’t okay, that somehow I needed to justify my existence. Before I came to Ananda for the first time, I worked for a nonprofit organization, where I thought I could really do some good in the world. The job became my purpose for being on Earth. But then one of my depressions hit. It affected the way I worked and I got laid off.
Eventually I got over the depression and off the drugs they'd given me to cure it, but I felt like I’d lost everything. I was into yoga, and had been meditating on and off for years, so I decided to take the Yoga Teacher Training Course at Ananda Village. I didn’t know much about it, but a friend had taken the course and said it was great. So I registered and sent in my money.
After that, I stumbled onto a website that described Swami Kriyananda as a terrible person. I was shocked and scared. My yoga teacher had also recommended the course, so I asked her, “What about all these stories?”
She had never met Swamiji, and didn’t know any more about him than I did, but she offered this reassurance: “Don’t worry, he lives in Italy now.”
* * *
Soon after I arrived at Ananda, I bought Yogananda’s book, Scientific Healing Affirmations,
with his picture on the cover. I put it on my nightstand where I saw it every morning and evening. I was intrigued, and wanted a better picture of him. So one afternoon, about two weeks into the program, I decided to walk over to the boutique at Crystal Hermitage and get one.
I got lost, and eventually bumped into two people I’d never met before. Although I didn’t know it at the time, one of them was Swami Kriyananda, who had just returned from Italy. He directed me to the Hermitage and I got my picture.
On my way back, just outside the Hermitage gate, I ran into him again. By now I had figured out who he was. This time, he asked me a few questions. “Where are you from? Are you enjoying Ananda?” That sort of thing. He was very kind and very gentle. Not at all like the man described on the website.
Then he asked, “Have you ever meditated in the Crystal Hermitage chapel?”
I told him, "No, I haven’t."
“I think you should,” Swamiji replied.
I said something noncommittal and started to walk away from the Hermitage.
“I really think you should meditate now,” Swamiji said. His voice was light and there was twinkle in his eye, as if to say, “It is just a suggestion; you decide.”
So, to be polite, I turned around and went back to the chapel. There was no one else in there. I sat down to meditate. After about ten minutes, I suddenly felt a finger touching my heart, inside
my body. It was palpable and I knew it was Yogananda.
At the same time, I was lifted into the light, and flooded with the knowledge that it is okay to be on this planet. It didn’t come to me in words, it was just the feeling that I don’t have to justify my existence, I don’t have to work for the organization that fired me, I don’t have to do
anything. I can just be who I am and that is enough.
In that moment, a cloud lifted from my life and it has never come back. The cycle of heavy depression ended. It was gone.
* * *
Easter was a few days later, and Swamiji gave the service. He was so inspiring it threw me for a loop! I couldn’t reconcile all the stuff I had read on the internet with Swamiji as I was experiencing him.
One thing he said really impressed me. He referred to the enormous debt Ananda had accumulated defending itself against the SRF lawsuit, which was still threatening Ananda’s future.
“In the long run, though,” Swamiji said, “it is not all that important whether or not Ananda survives. What is important is how we handle ourselves through whatever tests God sends us.”
There was so much integrity in the way he said it. He was talking about his life’s work, and he was ready to let it go rather than give up dharma.
I thought to myself, “I can’t know what happened in the past. I have to go by my own experience. I trust this man standing in front of me and I am willing to accept him as my teacher.”
Soon after, I became a disciple of Yogananda, and eventually moved to Seattle and joined the Ananda community there. When Swamiji came to visit, I told him about the healing I had received from Master in the chapel.
“If you hadn’t suggested it,” I said, “I would never have gone into the chapel to meditate. I was already walking away when I saw you.”
“I remember,” Swamiji replied. “I didn’t know what it was, but I felt something in you.”
I shudder to think what my life would be like now if I hadn’t listened to him.
“Thank you, Swamiji,” I said to him. “You were a perfect instrument of Master. It was pure grace.” Download File - 0.0 MB (Click to Play on Mobile Device) Listen To This Podcast (Streaming Audio)
Sarcoidosis email@example.com (Asha Praver)Author: Asha Praver
Tue, Apr 21, 2015[Listen to Asha read this story]
Sarcoidosis is a serious disease that causes inflammation of the body tissues. Bharat had it in his lymph system, surrounding his heart. For three years, he suffered from debilitating weakness and almost daily bouts of fever. Finally, the fever abated and his strength began to return. But his lungs had been affected, and he coughed almost constantly, sometimes for five minutes at a time.
Swamiji was recovering from open-heart surgery, but he asked Bharat and his wife Anandi to come over briefly to discuss a certain matter. Sarcoidosis is not contagious, but on the way to the Hermitage, Anandi said, “Perhaps you shouldn’t expose Swamiji to your cough. You could wait upstairs while I go down to his apartment to see him.” Bharat agreed.
When they arrived, Swamiji sent word that he wanted both of them to come down. Bharat went too, therefore, but he stood a little away from Swamiji and let Anandi do the talking.
As they were about to leave, Anandi explained, “Bharat has been coughing for six months.”
Swamiji looked at Bharat, and in a strong but matter-of-fact way said, “Bharat doesn’t have a cough.”
At that moment, the cough stopped and never returned.
“Swamiji’s blessing lifted me over the last karmic hurdle of that long illness,” Bharat said. Download File - 0.0 MB (Click to Play on Mobile Device) Listen To This Podcast (Streaming Audio)
Healing Touch firstname.lastname@example.org (Asha Praver)Author: Asha Praver
Tue, Apr 14, 2015[Listen to Asha read this story](Told by an Ananda devotee)
From childhood I carried a deep sadness. Even as a little girl, I knew it came from a past life in which I had experienced the traumatic death of a beloved spouse. It was a kind of “post traumatic stress syndrome” that spanned more than one incarnation.
Sometimes, when I was a child, the grief was more than I could bear and I would weep uncontrollably. As I grew older, and especially after I got onto the spiritual path, I made progress in resolving it, but much grief remained. I didn’t know what else to do except pray, and accept that the grief might be with me for the rest of my life. I could feel the karma as a knot of energy lodged in my spine just behind my heart.
One evening, after I had been living at Ananda Village for many years, I went with my husband to a community musical event. The concert was a birthday gift for Swamiji. As part of the program, a group played selections from his album Secrets of Love.
The music uplifted me and at the same time made me aware of my inner grief. I didn’t want any unhappiness to mar the evening for Swamiji, so I prayed to Divine Mother, “Please don’t let my sadness touch his joy.”
During the intermission, Swamiji came to where my husband and I were sitting with a group of friends. He stood between us, with one hand on my husband’s shoulder, and the other hand on my spine. His fingers were right where the karma was lodged.
I felt a tremendous pressure from his hand and enormous energy going into me. Swamiji didn’t make a point of what he was doing; the whole time he chatted casually with the others. He didn’t, however, speak to me, but let me receive his energy in silence.
A few minutes later, Swamiji took his hand away. The knot of energy was gone, and with it the sadness I had known all my life. Every once in a while since then, a shadow of it has crossed my consciousness, just enough to make me continuously grateful to Swamiji for taking that karma away. Download File - 0.0 MB (Click to Play on Mobile Device) Listen To This Podcast (Streaming Audio)
Midnight Blessing email@example.com (Asha Praver)Author: Asha Praver
Tue, Apr 07, 2015[Listen to Asha read this story](Told by Kent Baughman)
Right after Swamiji had hip replacement surgery, those of us in the community with medical training took turns staying with him in his hospital room, so someone would always be on hand to help him if he needed it.
I used to be a nurse, but then trained as a chiropractor. I was just starting my new practice and was quite nervous about it. It was around midnight of the day Swamiji had his operation—hardly the time to discuss my personal problems. But Swamiji knew what I was doing and must have sensed my anxiety, for he started talking to me about the practice.
“Think of your work as your sadhana, your way of serving Divine Mother. She is in the suffering bodies you serve. When you relieve that suffering, you are helping Her. Serve joyfully, with complete faith in what you are doing, and you will have plenty of energy.
“Don’t think of what Divine Mother can do for you. Think only of what you can do for Her. Work for God Alone. That is the way to succeed.”
Then he asked me to stand right next to his bed. He was weak and in pain from the surgery, but he lifted his hand and blessed me at the spiritual eye.
I had come to help him, but it was Swamiji who helped me. Download File - 0.0 MB (Click to Play on Mobile Device) Listen To This Podcast (Streaming Audio)
Darshan firstname.lastname@example.org (Asha Praver)Author: Asha Praver
Tue, Mar 31, 2015[Listen to Asha read this story]
The minister of the Church of Religious Science in Reno, Nevada, was a friend of Swamiji’s and invited him to address the congregation there. As a guest in someone else’s church, Swamiji was careful not to draw his listeners away from the path they were on, but urged them to follow wholeheartedly the inspiration they felt from within.
There was power in the air that night. Swamiji seemed to be speaking with the voice of the Divine, and the audience sensed it. Afterwards, almost everyone present lined up to greet him.
Usually, at such times, Swamiji is quite informal. He shakes hands with people, laughs and talks with them – often speaking, if it is an international crowd, in several languages. This evening was different. Swamiji didn't say much. He greeted people only with his eyes, standing very still, hands folded in namaskar
, which means, “The soul in me bows to the soul in you.”
I stood a little to one side, watching a scene I felt had been repeated many times before. In other bodies, in other lifetimes, these same souls had stood before the spirit that is Swamiji to receive a touch of his consciousness.
For Swamiji, it was an act of pure giving. None of these people would ever be part of Ananda. It was a different spiritual family, but in some way, Swamiji felt a responsibility to inspire them. They were souls seeking the light, and he felt he had to give them what he could.Darshan
means the blessing that comes from the sight of a saint. In India, they say “One moment in the company of a saint will be your raft over the ocean of delusion.” I don’t think many in that audience knew the word darshan
, and probably none had heard that Indian saying, but they all seemed to know that something out of the ordinary was happening, as they waited patiently and reverently for the moment when they could stand in front of Swamiji. Download File - 0.0 MB (Click to Play on Mobile Device) Listen To This Podcast (Streaming Audio)
The Bertolucci Lawsuit email@example.com (Asha Praver)Author: Asha Praver
Tue, Mar 24, 2015[Listen to Asha read this story]
A married man had an affair with an unmarried woman. At the time, they both lived at Ananda Village. His name: Danny; hers: Annemarie Bertolucci.
When Swamiji heard about the affair, he urged them to end it, and supported Danny when he made the decision to go back to his wife and daughter.
Annemarie refused to accept Danny’s decision as final. She made it clear to Swamiji that she was determined that Danny should leave his wife and marry her. “I would make a good
mother to his little girl,” she insisted. The child was not developmentally normal and needed special care.
“I will not let you stay here and destroy that family,” Swamiji told her firmly. Later, Swamiji said, “I didn’t hesitate. I knew intuitively, however, that, in thwarting her desires and abiding by dharma, I would be faced with a difficult test.”
To Annemarie he said, “You must move to another Ananda community.” She pleaded to be allowed to stay, but Swamiji was unyielding. “You must live as far away from him as possible. That will make it easier to break the attachment.” He suggested she go to Ananda Italy, or, as a second choice, to Ananda Seattle. She rejected both in favor of Ananda Palo Alto, where she had lived before. Swamiji did not dispute her choice.
“She appeared to cooperate,” Swamiji said afterwards, “but underneath I could see she was seething with rage. Not at Danny, but at me. She was certain that if I hadn’t intervened, she could have gotten him back. She once told Danny, ‘I always
get what I want.’”
* * *
It was no surprise when, a few months later, she left Ananda altogether. Her dispute with Ananda became her entr?e into SRF. She visited SRF headquarters in Los Angeles, was given lunch by Daya Mata, and met with several other members of the SRF Board of Directors. Even longtime SRF members rarely get to see Daya Mata. For a newcomer to be received so royally was, indeed, exceptional.
Soon after, she filed a lawsuit against Danny, Swamiji, and Ananda. She claimed, among other things, that she had been brainwashed, coerced, and sexually harassed. At the time, the lawsuit said, she may have thought
the relationship with Danny was consensual. Now, she alleged, nothing
she had done, in the abusive atmosphere of Ananda, had been of her own free will.
When Swamiji heard about the lawsuit, he said simply, “This is not about Danny. It is SRF trying to destroy me.”
The SRF lawsuit took twelve years to resolve. By 1994, however, when the Bertolucci lawsuit began, SRF had already lost 95% of their case. The next eight years were mostly repeated attempts on their part to get the judge’s rulings reversed. SRF took its appeals all the way up to the United States Supreme Court, which refused to hear the case.
In 1994, SRF still had one possible way, apart from reversal on appeal, to retrieve what it had lost. It was a legal concept called “tarnishment.” If SRF could prove that Swamiji and Ananda were morally corrupt, and that any association in the mind of the public between SRF and Ananda would “tarnish” SRF’s reputation, then the judge could impose restrictions on Ananda that would diminish that association.
Even though the court had dissolved SRF’s copyrights, trademarks, and publicity rights to Master’s name and teachings, through “tarnishment” they might have those exclusive rights restored. Swamiji had told us to be ready for just such an attack from SRF.
* * *
Most of us referred to “Lawsuits” in the plural—meaning Bertolucci and SRF. They were legally separate, filed in different courts—SRF’s in federal court in Sacramento, Bertolucci’s in state court near Palo Alto. Swamiji, however, never referred to them in the plural. To him, it was just “The Lawsuit,” since it was obvious to him that SRF was behind them both.
Just as Swamiji had predicted, SRF soon filed a motion in federal court, describing the Bertolucci lawsuit, and asking for relief on the basis of “tarnishment.” We countered with the charge that SRF had “unclean hands.”
“SRF can’t be permitted to both create
a scandal and then benefit
from that scandal,” our attorney argued. He had considerable evidence to back this up, starting with the way Bertolucci had been received at SRF headquarters just weeks before she filed the lawsuit.
He went on to list other convincing facts. Bertolucci’s attorney was a prominent member of SRF. (Later he became the lead attorney in SRF’s federal case as well.) A major SRF donor had been fraudulently passed off as a paralegal so as to be able to attend Swamiji’s deposition in the Bertolucci case.
Swamiji had never met the man, but when he saw him sitting there Swamiji said to our attorney, “That man is an SRF member. What is he doing here?” Bertolucci’s attorney insisted that he was a paralegal. It was impossible at the moment to disprove his claim.
Not long after the deposition, SRF transferred to that donor a large and valuable property for the sum of $1. The donor was already a client of Bertolucci’s attorney and our assumption is that he was the conduit through which SRF financed the Bertolucci case.
On the basis of this and other evidence, we demanded the right to question Daya Mata about SRF’s involvement in the Bertolucci lawsuit. SRF waged a fierce battle to prevent us from questioning her. Their efforts to do so did not, in the end, help their cause.
“Your very reluctance to allow her to be questioned tells me you have something to hide,” the judge said when he ordered Daya to submit to a deposition.
“It is not right for fellow disciples to be fighting each other in court,” Swamiji had written to Daya more than once since the SRF lawsuit began. He urged her to accept his invitation to meet together and find a way to settle the case. Always she had refused.
Now, faced with the prospect of having to answer questions about SRF’s involvement in the Bertolucci lawsuit, Daya contacted Swamiji and for the first time appeared eager to settle.
* * *
At the settlement conference, however, as a condition for even beginning the discussion, Daya demanded that we give up the right to take her deposition. Naively, we agreed.
Settlement negotiations dragged on for months. SRF expected us to cede back to them all the exclusive rights to Master and his teachings that the court had taken away. They negotiated as if it were they who had won, not we.
By the time it became clear that settlement was impossible, the window of opportunity to take Daya’s deposition had closed and could not be reopened. Later, we were forced to conclude that Daya had initiated the whole settlement process for the sole purpose of escaping the deposition.
SRF did, however, withdraw its “tarnishment” claim.
The Bertolucci lawsuit proved to be exactly what Swamiji expected: a vicious personal attack on him. The linchpin of Bertolucci’s case was the “coercive, cult-like atmosphere of Ananda.” Without that, it was just an affair between two consenting adults. An abusive cult cannot exist without an abusive cult leader
. Danny soon became an “also-ran,” almost incidental to Bertolucci’s case—at times even a sympathetic character, because he, too, was presented as a “victim” of the “abusive cult leader.”
* * *
Swamiji and Ananda were not the first spiritual group or spiritual leader to be sued by Bertolucci’s attorneys. By the time they got to us, they had perfected a method for destroying reputations and winning huge out-of-court settlements.
The first step in their system was to write the lawsuit and supporting declarations to be as lurid and shocking as possible, with an eye to how they would play in the media. The second step was to court the media like an ardent suitor.
Accusations in a lawsuit are exempt from the laws that usually govern libel. No matter how false they may later turn out to be, the accusations can be repeated and reprinted in all forms of media without fear of retribution.
Scandal sells newspapers. The same day the lawsuit was filed in court, it was also released to the media. From then on, Bertolucci’s attorneys argued the case in the press as much as they did in the courtroom.
The lawsuit was so extreme as to be almost a parody of itself. It read as if the lawyers kept a boiler-plate, anti-cult lawsuit in a file drawer and just pulled it out as needed. Perhaps it is not so far from the truth to say that they simply inserted the names “Ananda” and “Swami Kriyananda” whenever a specific reference was needed.
Human nature tends to think, “Where there is smoke there is fire.” Or, between two conflicting points of view, “The truth must lie somewhere in the middle.” Few people are discerning enough to know when they are being taken in by a daring ploy that Hitler called the “Big Lie.” This is something so outside of reality as to have no foundation in truth at all.
With this understanding of human nature, and by skillful use of the media, the reputation of a spiritual leader can be destroyed by accusation alone.
Nothing in the lawsuit reflected Ananda or Swamiji as we know them to be. It was the “Big Lie.”
At Ananda, women are in charge of half the departments. Still, in the lawsuit, the community was described as an environment “hostile to women” in which they are “second-class citizens,” forced into drudgery, mere sexual playthings for “the Swami” and his male minions.
Swamiji was described as a ruthless dictator, indifferent to the welfare of anyone but himself, obsessed with power, pleasure, and money, who routinely took advantage of vulnerable young women. According to the lawsuit, Ananda was nothing but a “sham religious organization” set up primarily to keep “the Swami’s harem stocked.”
When she filed the lawsuit, Bertolucci did not accuse Swamiji of abusing her. She alleged only that he was responsible for creating the atmosphere in which abuse could occur. To bolster that claim, the lawsuit included declarations from a few women, former residents of Ananda, now all affiliated with SRF, who claimed that in the past they had been subjected to coercive sexual advances from Swamiji.
The most recent was alleged to have occurred thirteen years before the suit was filed in 1994, the most distant was twenty-eight years earlier. None of these women were plaintiffs in the lawsuit, but these declarations proved to be the core of the campaign to destroy Swamiji’s reputation.
The third step in the method used by Bertolucci’s attorneys in their attack on spiritual groups and their leaders, is, gradually, over the course of a lawsuit to uncover more and more abuse, and thus draw into the lawsuit an ever-increasing number of plaintiffs. Eventually, the sheer magnitude of the case against the “cult” and its leader forces them to pay whatever is needed to avoid a trial and the risk of an even greater loss of money and reputation.
Four years passed from the time the Bertolucci lawsuit was filed until the trial ended. During that time, Bertolucci’s attorneys sent letters, made phone calls, held public meetings, and at one point even dropped leaflets from an airplane onto Ananda Village, all in an effort to uncover further abuse and draw more clients for their case.
These efforts were entirely unsuccessful. There was no abuse to uncover. The only ones who spoke against Swamiji at the end of the case were the same ones who were there at the beginning: a few SRF-affiliated women.
* * *
Dozens of Ananda women did come forth, however, to testify and file declarations on behalf of Swamiji.
“Women have an instinct for these things,” one woman wrote. “They can sense when a man has sexual intentions. I have worked closely with Swamiji for more than two decades. He has been a guest in my home. I have been a guest in his. I have traveled with him. I have worked alone with him late into the night. Not once, in hundreds of hours of close association, have I felt from him, or observed in his interactions with other women, even the slightest expression of sexual interest. Not even an appreciative glance or a remark with sexual overtones. Nothing. Sometimes I think he doesn’t even notice the gender of those around him.”
Another woman said, “To speak of Swamiji as ‘coercive’ is like saying the sun rises in the west. The truth is, when you are with him, you have to be careful not to express preferences that might interfere not merely with his convenience, but with his real needs. He is nothing less than heroic in his willingness to sacrifice his own well-being for the sake of others.”
“I’ve been discussing Ananda personnel issues with Swamiji since the community was founded twenty-five years ago,” a woman wrote. “I don’t even want to think about how many meetings I’ve attended. I can’t recall a single instance in which a decision was made on the basis of gender. That kind of bias just doesn’t happen at Ananda.”
* * *
In the “discovery” phase of the lawsuit, Swamiji was subjected to eighty hours
of deposition. Bertolucci’s attorneys videotaped the entire proceeding. Each day, in an attempt to unnerve Swamiji, the camera was moved a little closer to his face. Bertolucci’s attorney was deliberately lewd and insulting in the hope of embarrassing Swamiji or, better still, enraging him and capturing it all on video.
Less than a year earlier, Swamiji had had open-heart surgery. His physician, Dr. Peter Van Houten, was present for the deposition to monitor Swamiji’s condition and call a break in the proceedings whenever he felt Swamiji needed a rest.
“Bertolucci’s attorney knew about the surgery,” Dr. Peter said later. “Still, he was completely unconcerned about Swamiji’s well-being. I think he could have pushed Swamiji to the point of a heart attack if I hadn’t been there to prevent it. Even when Swamiji asked to be excused to go to the bathroom, the attorney would say, ‘Just one more question.’ Then he would go on with the deposition as if the request had never been made. If Swamiji reminded him of the need for a break, the attorney would say again, “Just one more,” until Swamiji would simply get up and leave anyway, with the attorney calling out questions even as Swamiji walked out the door.”
Later, Swamiji said, “I am so accustomed to microphones and cameras. It meant nothing to me to have the video even inches from my face. As for the attorney’s attempt to bully and insult me, I saw no reason why his rudeness should affect my inner peace.”
Hour after hour, Swamiji calmly answered all the questions they put to him.
During that time, in conversation with a few close friends, Swamiji shared some of his personal history that he had never talked about before.
“At my first meeting with Master,” Swamiji said to us, “he asked me, ‘Of the three major delusions – sex, wine, and money – which ones attract you?’ Wine and money have never been issues for me. I had no wish to get married, but I did experience sexual desires and I told him so. He made no comment.
“At the end of the interview, Master initiated me as a disciple and also as a monk. I took that for his answer and resolved to do my best. It was a struggle. Once I said to him, ‘I would commit suicide rather than fall into temptation.’
“’Why speak of suicide?’ Master replied. ‘This is not deep in you. Keep on trying your best. You will
“On another occasion I asked him to whom I might go for counseling on this issue after he was gone. I was astonished when he replied, ‘Speak of it to no one.’
“‘Not even Rajarsi?’ I asked.
“’No,’ Master replied firmly. ‘No one. You have a great work to do and no one must know.’”
* * *
Swamiji was twenty-two years old when he became a monk. For the first fourteen years, he lived within the protected environment of the SRF monastery. When he was expelled from SRF in 1962, he found himself suddenly, at the age of thirty-six, all on his own.
Most monks and nuns who, for whatever reason, find themselves suddenly no longer in the monastery, have usually gotten married shortly thereafter. Swamiji was determined to remain a monk, even without a monastery to support him.
In India, a solitary swami is a common sight and people relating to him understand his position. In America, there is no such tradition. Many women still considered him “fair game.” Some even found him more attractive because of his commitment to be a monk.
Swamiji maintains a certain detachment from his own feelings. That detachment, however, does not diminish the depth and sensitivity of those feelings. Only a few, even of his closest friends, have been able to appreciate how deeply he has been hurt by the way SRF has treated him. All these years he has not had the company of even one fellow monk. Instead, he has been vilified and relentlessly persecuted by fellow disciples, some of whom were, at one time, his closest friends.
It was only natural that Swamiji would long, as most people do, for a small haven of emotional intimacy as a bulwark against so much hurt and betrayal, especially when that comfort was freely offered.
“When I took my vows as a monk, and then a few years later, as a swami,” he later wrote, “it was not a declaration, ‘I am free!’ Rather, it was an affirmation, ‘I will do my utmost to become completely free in this life.’”
Swamiji struggled valiantly against a lingering desire for human love and intimacy. Mostly he succeeded. A few times he did not. Always it was consensual. It is not in Swamiji’s nature to impose his will on anyone.
Mentally, however, he himself never gave his full consent, but acted always in obedience to Swami Sri Yukteswar’s advice quoted in Autobiography of a Yogi:
“Even when the flesh is weak, the mind should be constantly resistant.”
“A slip is not a fall,” Swamiji often says to encourage a person to cling to his aspirations even if, for a time, he fails to live up to them. Master said, “A saint is a sinner who never gave up.”
When Swamiji started the community a few years after he was expelled from SRF, he had no choice but to mix freely with both men and women. If he had remained aloofly protective of his monastic vocation, Ananda would have failed.
“I made the decision to risk even my own salvation,” Swamiji said, “in order to do the work Master had given me to do.”
Later he wrote, “I could see no alternative but to go on, hoping for the best, clinging with faith to Master’s power, believing that he would take me eventually out of delusion. To me personally, the risk was agonizing. Meanwhile, I never pretended to myself or to anyone else that it was not
a delusion, or that it might be in some way justifiable. I always saw, and spoke of it, as a fault. At last, as it happened, I discovered that Master’s blessings had been with me always.”
* * *
During the time of the depositions, in that conversation with his close friends, Swamiji went on to say, “Bertolucci’s lawyers tried to make it seem like sex was something I reveled in. That is not true. It was always something from which I wanted to be freed.
“There was no point, though, in running away from it or doing all those other extreme things people do in an effort to kill the impulse within them. Quite simply, I’d tried that and had found it didn’t work. I realized I just had to live through it, maintaining as much mental detachment as I could.
“To maintain detachment in this way is a form of Tantra yoga. Many people think Tantra is about enjoying
your desires. That is entirely wrong. The teaching of Tantra is to withdraw
the feelings, by an act of will, from sensory enjoyment, not to indulge them.
“The follower of Tantra trains himself to keep the thought, ‘Even in the midst of enjoyment, I myself am not the enjoyer.’ The goal of this practice is eventual inner freedom. By maintaining mental detachment even while experiencing apparent ‘fulfillment,’ one gradually comes to see that desire itself is a delusion.
“Tantra can be dangerous, however, and the masters do not recommend it. I would not have chosen even this one practice for myself if my situation had not forced it upon me.
“It complicated things for me that Master had told me not to talk about it. Of course I would follow his guidance, there was no question about that. If he hadn’t guided me that way, however, I would have talked about it easily. I have done my best and I am proud of the life I have lived. Sexual desire is, after self-preservation, the most powerful instinct there is. It is nothing to be ashamed of.”
* * *
Bertolucci’s lawyers offered to settle, but Swamiji refused even to consider it. “It would,” he said, “be tantamount to admitting an untruth – a whole series of untruths, in fact.”
The Bertolucci trial turned out to be a travesty of justice. The judge was biased against us from the start. He told Bertolucci’s attorneys what arguments to make and what motions to file so he could rule in their favor. He put Ananda’s spiritual practices on trial. He issued a ruling that prohibited us from offering any
defense against the fulcrum issue in the case: the allegation that Swamiji was a “sexual predator.”
When it came time for the women who had filed declarations against Swamiji to testify against him, they knew in advance
that we’d been prohibited from cross-examining them. They could perjure themselves without fear of exposure. Some of their testimony contradicted what they had said in their own declarations and depositions, but there was no way we could bring even this fact to the attention of the jury.
The jury was never informed
about the prohibition imposed on us by the judge. They observed, without any explanation, that we offered no defense. They drew the obvious conclusion that we had no defense to offer, and considered the issue proved.
* * *
The attorney we worked with from the beginning to the end of the SRF lawsuit is a brilliant lawyer, an honorable man, and has become a dear friend. But he is not a litigator. So we had to hire another attorney to work with him for the trial.
Swamiji was in Europe when this litigator was hired. He was a well-known defense attorney, who, we found out later, specialized in defending guilty criminals. His contribution to justice was to be sure that the criminals, although guilty, received a fair trial.
When Swamiji came back to California a month or two later, they met for the first time. The litigator had apparently decided he needed to make it clear from the start who was the boss. He treated Swamiji as if he were a guilty criminal who needed to be bullied into telling the truth.
Afterwards, Swamiji said, “He is the wrong
attorney for us.” It wasn’t personal. It was just obvious to Swamiji that such a man could never tune in to him or to Ananda and therefore would have no idea how to defend us.
Swamiji’s remark was met by a hailstorm of reasons why we had to keep working with that lawyer.
“We’ve paid him a big retainer.”
“He’s done a lot of work already to prepare for the trial.”
“He has a reputation for winning.”
“We don’t have time to bring someone else up to speed.”
Again Swamiji stated emphatically, “He is the wrong attorney for us.” When the hailstorm began again, Swamiji made no further effort to persuade us.
* * *
Throughout all life’s challenges, Swamiji’s first thought has always been, not, “How to win?” or “How to succeed?” but, “How to maintain the right spiritual attitude required by the highest principles of dharma.”
Even in a matter of such importance, if we were not receptive, it was contrary to dharma for Swamiji to impose
his will on us.
“I knew this attorney would be a disaster for us in exactly the way he proved to be,” Swamiji said later. “When I couldn’t get you to listen, however, I accepted it as God’s will.”
The irony is that the man was hired to defend Swamiji against the charge, among others, of being a dictator. Even though the consequences for Swamiji personally were enormous, he let us go forward as we preferred and let God to determine the outcome.
So we went to trial represented by an attorney who didn’t believe in our cause, who believed still less in Swamiji, who never understood the case, and who refused all our helpful suggestions. As a result, insofar as he was allowed to present a defense at all—given the judge’s prohibition—his defense was so weak that in many ways it strengthened the case against us.
We continued to affirm victory right up to the end, but it was no surprise when the jury ruled in favor of Bertolucci. Afterward, we consulted with several attorneys about filing an appeal.
“Even without considering all the other improprieties in the way the judge conducted the case,” one attorney assured us, “the prohibition against your presenting a defense to the key issues is enough in itself to guarantee
that the verdict would be overturned on appeal. That verdict has the shelf-life of an apple
To our dismay, however, we found out that even if one wins an appeal, all he gets is the right to a new trial, sometimes even in front of the same judge. The first trial had lasted three months, cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars, and for the entire time, thanks to Bertolucci’s attorneys, and our own lawyer’s refusal even to let us talk to the press, we were raked over the coals by the media.
No thank you, we decided. We’d had quite enough of this so-called “justice.”
“Where there is dharma there is victory.” What does it matter how we are judged in the courts of man? All that matters is how we stand in the eyes of God.
Even in the worst hours of the trial, Swamiji said later, “I felt inwardly free. My constant prayer was, ‘Divine Mother, they can take everything away from me, but they can never take away from me my only treasure: my love for You.”
Bertolucci’s attorneys very nearly succeeded in taking from Swamiji the copyrights to all his books and music, the fruit of a lifetime of work. Only by putting Ananda for a time under the protection of the bankruptcy court were we able to prevent that from happening.
In the end, the trial proved to be a great blessing for Swamiji. “Since then,” Swamiji said, “I have not felt the faintest stirring of attraction toward human love.”
* * *
It seems an inescapable conclusion that those women who helped Swamiji in achieving his ultimate victory also reaped for themselves, in time, some of the good karma of that victory.
Speaking to a group of friends, all of whom happened to be married couples, Swamiji said, “I don’t mean to hurt your feelings, but Master told me something that I didn’t understand at the time, but I do understand now. He was speaking of the attraction between the sexes. ‘Once you have overcome that desire’ Master said, ‘you will see it is the greatest delusion.’”
Persecution has been the lot of many great souls throughout history. St. Teresa of Avila was called before the Inquisition. St. John of the Cross was cast into prison. One of John’s persecutors was even there at his deathbed interviewing the nuns who nursed him in the hope of finding evidence of misconduct to use against the saint.
In his Christmas message to the community the year of the Bertolucci trial, Swamiji wrote, “We have so much to be grateful for. I wouldn’t trade anything God has given us this year for some imaginary ‘better deal.’ Spiritual growth comes as much through divine tests as through overt blessings – so much so that I’m inclined to say, ‘What tests?’
“What we want from life is to grow closer to God. Nothing else – absolutely nothing
else – matters. Speaking for myself, and I think for all of you, my love for Him is deeper than ever. So also is my faith.” Download File - 0.0 MB (Click to Play on Mobile Device) Listen To This Podcast (Streaming Audio)
A Cheerful Patient firstname.lastname@example.org (Asha Praver)Author: Asha Praver
Tue, Mar 17, 2015[Listen to Asha read this story]
When he moved to India in November 2003, the transition was hard on Swamiji’s body. He took several bad falls, had a near-fatal case of pneumonia, persistent dehydration, and several episodes of congestive heart failure. His friends were deeply concerned, but Swamiji accepted it all cheerfully.
Once, when he was recovering in the hospital, a swami from Rishikesh visited. “I am so sorry to find you unwell,” the swami said sympathetically.
“Don’t worry about me,” Swamiji replied with a smile, “this is just tapasya
to help get my Guru’s work going in India.” Download File - 0.0 MB (Click to Play on Mobile Device) Listen To This Podcast (Streaming Audio)
Quick Change email@example.com (Asha Praver)Author: Asha Praver
Tue, Mar 10, 2015
It was Swamiji’s idea to incorporate Ananda Village as a California city. As a municipality, we would have control over our own land use, planning, and zoning. This would get us out from under the county approval process, which had proved to be cumbersome, expensive, and gave our neighbors too much influence over internal community affairs.
Many of our neighbors had come to the area to drop out of society. It was almost a principle with them to oppose all
organized groups and strong leaders. Many objected, also on principle, to the population density and some of the land use inherent in having a community. We were not indifferent to their needs, but most of their opposition was not based on anything we had done, or planned to do, but on the fear of what we might
do if they did not keep a close watch on us.
In fact, the community is quite self-contained. Most of what happens within the borders of Ananda has no actual impact on those who live nearby. Filing for incorporation was like filing a declaration of independence. Even if we didn’t succeed, we felt it was time to stand up to our neighbors and at least bring the controversy out into the open.
Incorporation proved to be a long and complicated process. After a year and a half of hard work, it culminated in a series of public hearings, then a vote by a seven-member council called LAFCO, the Local Agency Formation Committee. Each hearing drew more people, went on longer, and was more contentious than the one before.
Before the public hearings started, the members of LAFCO seemed to favor our application. We didn’t look like a city, we looked like a farm, but we met the legal requirements for a municipality, and that was all that mattered.
LAFCO was forbidden by law to decide our application on the basis of religion. Even to discuss religion in relation to the incorporation, or to let the subject come into a public hearing, was a violation of our rights. The fact that “Ananda City” would be both a spiritual community and a municipality was like a shadow lurking in the background that could never be brought into the light of day.
The LAFCO members visited the community, met Swamiji, and also met many of the residents. They liked what they saw and for a time it looked like our effort would succeed.
The opposition of our neighbors, however, was our undoing. They were determined, well organized, and came out in droves for the public hearings. We were largely unsuccessful in getting anyone outside of Ananda to speak in favor of incorporation. Gradually the LAFCO members began to side with what appeared to be the majority view: to deny our application.
At the end of the final hearing—which lasted seven hours and was attended by 800 people—only one LAFCO member voted in favor of our application. In that hearing, though, and in several leading up to it, LAFCO allowed extensive testimony from our neighbors about Ananda’s religion and how it would affect the municipality. We protested repeatedly, but to no avail.
* * *
The incorporation effort attracted statewide media attention. After LAFCO voted down the application, I and another Ananda spokesperson vowed in front of the TV cameras to get the decision reversed on appeal, because testimony about religion had been allowed in.
Later, another television crew came to the Village to interview Swamiji. I met them at the community and rode in their car the three miles up the dirt road to Swamiji’s house.
The entire time they plied me with questions about what we planned to do now. I was emphatic that this was just a temporary setback. Our rights had been violated. The process was compromised. This is America. We have not yet begun to fight.
In previous incarnations, no doubt I have been part of more than one revolution, probably including the American Revolution, so this kind of rhetoric comes naturally to me.
When we arrived at Swamiji’s house, he said to the television crew, “I don’t know how much time you were planning to give me, but if you let me have a full five minutes to read a statement I have prepared, I have a special scoop for you.”
I turned to a friend who was there when we arrived and asked him, “What
is Swamiji talking about?”
My friend paled, then said, “You don’t know?” He refused to say anything more. The filming was just about to start and I couldn’t ask Swamiji myself.
A few minutes later, in front of the camera, Swamiji started reading the first page of his prepared statement. Immediately I saw that he was speaking of the project in the past
tense. That was the scoop. It was over. We weren’t going on.
According to the law, Swamiji explained, LAFCO had acted improperly when they let religion come into the debate. But the fact is religion is
the central question. Separation of church and state is one of America’s most cherished principles. Even if “Ananda City” conducted itself in an honorable way—which we have every reason to believe it would, Swamiji hastened to add—to allow Ananda to incorporate would set a bad precedent. LAFCO made the right decision
The moment Swamiji finished speaking the crew turned the camera on me. I had to improvise on the spot all the reasons why I agreed completely with what Swamiji had just said. Of course, I was contradicting everything I had said off-camera just a few minutes earlier, but these crews interview a lot of politicians and it didn’t seem to bother them.
I then took the television crew back to the community, talking all the way about the wisdom of the Founding Fathers and how much we support the basic premises of American life. As soon as they left, I made a beeline back to Swamiji’s house.
“Why didn’t you tell me what you were going to do?” I asked him. I described the scene in the car, how I gave the crew one story on the way over and another story on the way back. “Fortunately, I think fast on my feet.” By this point, we were both laughing. The situation was so ludicrous.
“I’m sorry, Asha,” Swamiji said. “It was a surprise to me, too. When I sat to meditate this morning it just came to me that it was not right for us to go on. It was already too late to reach you.” There were almost no phones at Ananda in those days. Swamiji didn’t have a phone, and neither did I.
“Why didn’t that revelation come to me?” I asked Swamiji. “I’m
the one who has been working on the project all this time.”
“Probably because you didn’t ask,” he said.
“No,” I said honestly, “I didn’t. I just went on as if the guidance for today would be the same as the guidance for yesterday. A serious oversight on my part.”
“Yes,” Swamiji said. “It is not wise to presume. You have to be open, and continuously ask Master, ‘What do you want me to do?’”
“I only want to do God’s will,” I said to Swamiji, entirely reconciled now to what had happened. “I threw myself into this project because you asked me to do it and I felt it was right. If you feel it is God’s will that we stop, that’s fine with me.”
Then I added, “I don’t mind losing. I have to admit, however, that our neighbors have been so unkind, in fact at times so downright nasty, that I don’t like the idea that they have won
“It is not a matter of likes and dislikes,” Swamiji said. “It doesn’t matter if we lose face, or even if people think we were foolish for having tried in the first place, or for having vowed to go on and then pulling back so suddenly. The only thing that matters is truth.”
“Ahh…. Yes,” I said with a smile, “Where there is dharma there is victory.” Then jokingly I added, “Dharma has served us well so far. No point in changing horses in midstream!”
“Even though we didn’t become a city,” Swamiji said, “I think in the long run our neighbors will respect us more for standing up to them. That’s how they operate and we have to show them we are not pushovers. We can also play their game.”
After that, our neighbors still spoke against most of our proposals, but some of them had been so appalled by things that had been said in the heat of the moment at public hearings that they resolved not to let emotion take over like that again.
Swamiji paused for a moment during our talk, then went on. “Working on this has also been good for you,” he said. “At the beginning, when you spoke in public, you were inclined to tell your listeners what they wanted to hear, rather than tuning in to what needed to be said. Having to stand up to all that opposition at the public hearings has lessened this tendency in you. Now you will be a better minister. That’s the main reason I asked you to do it.”
* * *
Because the incorporation had been such a public event, Swamiji wanted to inform the whole county of Ananda’s decision and the reasoning behind. What he’d written was too long to be printed as a “Letter to the Editor,” so Swamiji bought advertising space in the local paper and printed the following statement:
April 16, 1982
A representative group of us at Ananda met yesterday and decided to go to court over the decision of the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) to deny our petition to be granted incorporation status as a municipality. Next week this matter would be taken to the entire community for discussion and final decision. Our legal counsel feels we have a good chance of winning.
The issue, from our own point of view, is clear-cut: We want the freedom to develop, according to law and to the broader interests of Nevada County, but without the restrictions of bureaucratic red tape, and without the all-too-frequent, basically emotional opposition of our neighbors. Our (to us) perfectly reasonable wish has aroused unprecedented, and unprecedentedly emotional, opposition. Ananda has been vilified; my own character publicly slandered. I have repeatedly expressed my desire to work for harmony, and for the general good of all, including the good of our neighbors as much as our own. The press, instead of quoting these statements, has tried to fan the controversy by quoting people who would make me out to be another Hitler, or Jim Jones.
For myself, I am interested in the truth. Lies, whether public or private, are still lies and simply don’t claim my respect. I have consistently affirmed that only two arguments could persuade me not to proceed with our efforts to incorporate: One, that incorporation would not give us the one thing we want from it: greater freedom; and two, that incorporation would actually (as opposed to theoretically) hurt our neighbors. During the LAFCO hearings, no one in the opposition addressed these two issues in such a way as to convince me of the justice of their cause.
Rather, they expressed fears which, our legal counsel assured us, were groundless. They said we might, if incorporated, annex their property. Legal counsel told us they would have plenty of recourse in the event of our wanting to, a thing we would never be interested in doing anyway. They said that as a religious community we would be in conflict with the church-state separation guaranteed by the United States constitution. But the legal decision from Sacramento on this issue was that to deny us on these grounds would be to deny our rights as U.S. citizens. County counsel advised the LAFCO members to reject testimony against our bid on these grounds as invalid. Part of our suit against the county would certainly be based on the evident fact that religion was in fact admitted as a major part of the testimony, and could not but have influenced the final decision against us.
I have always said that truth is my guide—not opinion; not likes or dislikes; but truth. I am not interested in winning, or in saving face. In the present issue, I am only interested in the rights and wrongs of it. I feel that within the limited context of what Ananda’s needs are, and of our contribution, past and future, to Nevada County we were right.
However, last evening, after the meeting at which we decided to appeal, I sat down and read reports on this issue in the national press. As a result I have come to appreciate the problem in the broader context of America as a whole. And I have come to feel that the church-state issue, despite the official pronouncement on the matter from Sacramento, is at the heart of the matter. At stake is not the question of whether I would abuse my power as leader of this religious community. I have never done so. Nor is the issue whether I might do so. I think those who know me are quite certain that I would not. The real issue, however, is whether I could abuse this power. And there we have to say, There are no guarantees that human nature will not express any of its hidden potentials, whether for good or for evil.
Our constitution was written with a clear eye to history, and to the evils that have occurred in the past when any group of people whose interests drew them together for one reason allowed those interests to dictate their decisions in other matters. One of the saddest periods in the history of Christianity was, in my opinion, when Christian teachings became widely enough accepted to become mixed up with national policy.
If, for example, Minneapolis were to become a wholly Christian city, and St. Paul (its sister city) a wholly Jewish one, to the extent that their definition as legal entities became rooted in their respective religious beliefs, I can see the possibility of persecution, perhaps decades down the road.
As long as Ananda was a local issue, our bid for corporate status revolved around land use, self-government, etc. I believe strongly, moreover, and said so at the last LAFCO hearing, that what Ananda stands for in a sociological sense—namely, cooperative effort at a time when our nation is becoming all-too-fragmented—needs to be encouraged, not discouraged.
This very fragmentation, however, that I see taking place on a national level might also be strengthened if religious groups like ours were permitted the status of legal entities. I foresee a time of great stress for this country, when groups will be pitted against one another in an ideological struggle. At such a time, I feel, religion will need to speak out on religious, not political, grounds if it is to be effective for the truth.
In the broader context of America’s history and future directions, I think the LAFCO decision not to grant us corporate status was a wise one. This does not mean I think we were wrong, for what we wanted was valid. This does not mean I think LAFCO’s reasons were necessarily right. But it does mean I think there were higher forces at work here, and that the truths that our neighbors intuited were valid, and a valid reason for concern.
I shall make my recommendation to our Ananda community that we drop the issue.
Sincerely, Download File - 0.0 MB (Click to Play on Mobile Device) Listen To This Podcast (Streaming Audio)
(J. Donald Walters)
A Choice firstname.lastname@example.org (Asha Praver)Author: Asha Praver
Tue, Mar 03, 2015[Listen to Asha read this story](Told by an Ananda devotee)
“Maybe this book will be the one that finally convinces SRF that we need to work together,” Swamiji said. He was referring to his work-in-progress in February 1990, The Essence of Self-Realization,
a collection of sayings by Master.
When Swamiji speaks of “SRF” in this way, I know he means the handful of direct disciples who lead the organization, the ones with whom he lived and worked closely when he was part of SRF, the very ones who later expelled him and have maintained toward him ever since an attitude of unrelieved hostility.
Despite this separation, Swamiji maintains a positive attitude toward them. They are his gurubhais
– his brothers and sisters in the Guru’s family. To respond with hostility, Swamiji feels, would be to betray not only his friendship for them, but also his relationship as a disciple to his Guru.
“I have a peculiar ‘quirk’ to my nature,” Swamiji says. “The way I feel about others has never been influenced by the way they treat me. Once I give my loyalty, I never take it back. I may alter my behavior
in response to what others do, but not my friendship.
“As Master said, if you reach out your hand to someone and he keeps knocking it away, after a while you just put your hand in your pocket. That doesn’t mean, however, you have closed your heart.”
I know all this about Swamiji, so when he speaks in this optimistic way about SRF, I usually keep my doubts to myself. This time, however, I felt he had to be more realistic.
"I think the effect of this book on SRF will be to make matters worse,” I said to him. “The more inspiring the book, the more unhappy they will be with you.”
Very quietly, and very
seriously, Swamiji answered me. “I simply can’t afford to think that way.” Simple words, but spoken with such conviction. Clearly, the discussion was ended.
I was taken aback, embarrassed to realize that I’d been wrong to think him naive. His positive attitude is not based on present realities, but on his hope for the future. Swamiji has the same commitment to helping SRF that he has to helping Ananda.
to love,” Swamiji has often said.
That day, I caught a glimpse of the will power, faith, and patient endurance it has taken for Swamiji to hold firmly to that decision. Download File - 0.0 MB (Click to Play on Mobile Device) Listen To This Podcast (Streaming Audio)
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