Here at Ananda in the Seattle area, we are studying the recently published book by Asha Nayaswami: "Swami Kriyananda: Lightbearer - The Life and Legacy of a Disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda.
It is an extraordinary account of the life of an extraordinary man. It is a study in discipleship in our lifetimes. It is difficult to write a post-mortem account of Spirit "dwelling amongst us" without whitewashing a human being into an icon. Fortunately, Asha Nayaswami has done an excellent job at sharing the fully human being who was called Swami Kriyananda.
In the book, which I highly recommend to everyone, not just Ananda members, Swamiji's life is shown as it was lived: transparently! In the countless gatherings ("satsangs") and in numerous letters to members, friends, and even to a few self-appointed adversaries, he was self-honest, fair to all, courageous, and insightful but never bombastic or emotional. He clung to and affirmed his soul's living reality and potential no matter what others would think of him or what others accused him of. Even if he ever disappointed himself, he rose to affirm ultimate soul victory. He also respected the right of others to be themselves, even if at his expense, and viewed each from their highest potential regardless of their current behavior or attitude.
One of the earliest statements I heard him make in a talk he gave long ago (late 1970s?) was to the effect that saints come to demolish the false notions devotees have of what it means to be spiritual. For those who are sincere but who also struggle with living the spiritual life, this was reassuring and supportive.
And he lived his life in that authentic way. For each of us, our path, our tests and victories, are unique. The delusions of Maya are innumerable but all too recognizable (at least by others!). There are, moreover, some delusions that are bigger or more deeply embedded than others.
Swamiji's lifestyle of complete openness and transparency are vividly reported in Asha's book and serve not just as the obvious and general example of discipleship but the practical and concomitant example of living authentically as a human being (on the way to becoming fully human). The two cannot be separated.
Like a great ship, whether moving its way through a storm or becalmed on a glassy sea, the polestar of Swamiji's soul-ship was Self-realization. Swamiji showed the balance between self-acceptance and Self-acceptance on a larger than life public "stage." This he did notwithstanding numerous hurdles, opposition, and challenges. That his "saving grace" flowed from his attunement to his guru (Yogananda) is, of course, the basis for his life and a core message of his life story.
While no book can ever substitute for the actual experience of another person, especially a saintly one, Asha's book is a masterpiece not just for the future of Ananda, or future disciples of Yogananda, but for anyone seeking to view authentic spirituality.
To define "authentic spirituality" is, by definition, impossible. To be "spiritual" means to live by grace; to live with faith; to seek divine attunement. By "definition," therefore, there can be NO yardstick of what, outwardly, constitutes "authentic"! In fact, the term "spiritual authenticity" is redundant for no authenticity can exist except for that which proceeds from soul guidance. Those who claim authenticity on the mere basis of expressing subconscious and ego impulses betray the very concept of authenticity.
Swamiji could play the video game, "Pong," on an Apple II Plus; he could arm or leg wrestle the "guys" or play "shoulder wars" in the pool; all in a competitive good spirit with laughter all 'round.
But he could also see your higher potential and nurture your soul, bringing tears of gratitude to your eyes. He could magnetize a network of eight or nine intentional communities around the world, write music and books and give lectures in many languages.
But these above are only outward facts. By "authentic" I will simply say that his transparency opened him up to be seen even if all too often the result was that he would be judged by the world around him. There's no point in recalling stories from the book: you should get the book and read it. His transparency challenged some whose definition of spirituality was rigid and one-dimensional. His life was a continuous effort at divine attunement and as it poured through him he answered its summons regardless of personal convenience or outward orthodoxy. (Nonetheless, he was strictly orthodox when it came to techniques taught by Yogananda and the counsel he received from his guru.)
It didn't matter if the action he took or the statement he made turned out to be, or seem to be, in error. He accepted that too, though he seemed to accept all things gratefully as part of the hidden divine hand. In a deeper sense, there were no mistakes. (This was not a denial on his part; rather, it was an affirmation of the deepest truth of the soul.)
Some devotees are not even honest with their own consciences as if one could hide one's most hidden secrets from God. Never mind those whose conscience yields easily to convenience or desire. Swamiji's example, therefore, is nothing less than extraordinary.
In addition, to his example of discipleship and the heroic service he rendered his guru to the world, and in addition to the deep gratitude I and countless others feel for his friendship, I honor the example of his courage, his inner Self-sufficiency, his transparency, and the resulting authenticity of his being fully human. Accepting that the soul is nothing less than authentic, too many spiritual seekers cannot see the forest of Spirit through the trees of religious convention.
The "romance of religion" (as Yogananda called it) is viewed by too many to be in the robes and rituals and outward piety common to all faiths. To those attracted to the trappings of religion, Yogananda counseled "Make your heart a hermitage, and your robe, your love for God."
There is a story from India of the husband of a famous woman bhakti, Mirabai. For years she had prayed for her husband's religious conversion, thinking him to be an agnostic for lack of outward religiosity. But one night, when he cried out in his sleep to God, she woke him to say that she now knew his secret. He pleaded with her to not to say it but when she did, he sat upright in meditation and left his body (for he had vowed to do so if ever his love for God were discovered).
Extreme, to be sure. But do not "judge the book (of the soul) by its cover." Some saints appear even a bit grumpy or as martinets but they have their reasons to do so. Look into their eyes for they will twinkle like stars with inner joy. Note further how others around them are spiritually transformed and uplifted.
The deeper your love for God and the stronger your attunement with the Divine Will, the safer you will be in your spontaneous and intuitive expression of the soul's innate wisdom, joy, peace or love. Ultimately there can be no difference. For Swamiji's courageous example of expressing inspiration, I am deeply grateful.
Jai Guru! Jai Swamiji!