Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Independence Day!

Dear Friends, hundreds of Ananda members are travelling to Ananda Village in northern California to welcome Swami Kriyananda (Ananda's founder) back from Europe and India. July 4 is also the anniversary date of the founding of Ananda Village in 1968.

So this is an auspicious moment to consider what is freedom and what is Ananda's relationship to it! Most readers of this article understand that from the soul's perspective freedom means freedom from untruth and ignorance. Freedom from delusion also is the doorway to the one thing we all seek: happiness (or more accurately and absolutely, we would say immortality and unalloyed, ever-new bliss - the soul's permanent and true state of Oneness with God).

The principal of duality (the existence of the opposites which, like an engine, drives the great drama of life) dictates that truth lies at the center of those opposites. But to land with pinpoint accuracy upon that center when we and everything in creation is in ceaseless flux means that this still point is not easy to find and tends to seem like a moving target. Thus it is that on the spiritual path truth cannot be expressed in precepts or examples except by imperfect analogy and with a certain taint of irony and paradox.

To return to the subject of freedom, then, we find that to achieve soul freedom appears to require entering into a kind of voluntary servitude! At least from the ego's standpoint, the spiritual life, with its daily disciplines, ego-submission to inner or outer authority, and the giving up of pleasures and comforts is like going off to jail. But that's the irony and the price of admission. To most people the need and reasons for such giving up are obvious.

The problem we have is that "we" don't want to. Or, to be perhaps more fair and reasonable, we are not sure whether the brass ring on the "other side" is worth the price of the ride! Thus to assuage modern sensibilities, much of what passes as spirituality has been quietly sanitized of the vestiges of "cross-carrying" burdens.

There is a positive side of this, lest we wax too cynical. According to Paramhansa Yogananda and his astrologically oriented guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar, planet earth is in a long and upward arc of rising consciousness. We naturally tend to be upbeat and want to look for the positive. We don't find inspiration hanging from a cross (mea culpa, mea culpa).

Indeed, even in past centuries when suffering was the summum bonum of the spiritual life, one Christian mystic proclaimed that "a sad saint is a sad saint indeed!" Or, as Swami Kriyananda wrote in the poetic and inspired Festival of Light ceremony (performed on Sunday's at Ananda temples throughout the world), "And whereas in the past suffering was the coin of our redemption, for us now the payment has been exchanged for calm acceptance and joy."

It is important in these times to emphasize that a life of moderation, simplicity, devotion to God and his saints, service to humanity, and silent inner communion with the soul brings to us a satisfaction that no outer success or pleasure can ever offer.

Nonetheless, the pearl of great price cannot be debased. Freedom is not won without sacrifice. When I read about the Revolutionary War which gave birth to America I cannot be but astonished how few people sacrificed so much and how fragile was their margin of victory. Our political and military leaders never fail to remind us that freedom must won again and again, generation after generation.

And so too our soul freedom. Ananda Communities differ from many intentional communities in what seems a glaring absence of democratic and consensus driven decision making. This is because these communities are also ashrams where individuals willingly work together, cooperate, and attune themselves to "what's trying to happen." This includes listening and tuning into the guidance offered to us through what we describe as the "ray of light brought to earth by Paramhansa Yogananda and his line of gurus as represented through Swami Kriyananda, a direct disciple."

It's not that we treat Kriyananda's guidance or that of the leaders appointed by him as infallible. But we do practice the art of discipleship to divine guidance by listening first rather than reacting first; by drawing upon inner guidance and intuition rather than mouthing mere opinion or likes and dislikes.

The path to freedom involves a "give up" and a "take up." The giving up is of inclinations and tendencies inherited or brought over, or which affirm our ego and separate identity. The take up is the taking up of listening instead of talking, of serving without thought of self, and of loving without regard to being loved.

Freedom and Independence to each of you, from Ananda,