Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Pride or Prejudice? Two Souls, Four Lives!

Few people ever meet a person of greatness. Fewer could even define what that is. Fewer, still, in this culture of "I'm as good as anyone else" would appreciate greatness if they bumped into it.

Yet history and culture consistently uphold and recognize greatness in every field of human activity: great artists, leaders, saints and scientists. It's just safer once they are dead and gone to pronounce someone to be "great."

Millions have read the classic story, "Autobiography of a Yogi." Many are the admirers and disciples of this truly great soul, Paramhansa Yogananda. In the recently published book by Catherine Kairavi, "Two Souls, Four Lives" she chronicles and compares the lives of William the Conqueror and Paramhansa Yogananda, and, William's youngest son, Henry I, and his reincarnation as Swami Kriyananda (a direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda). (Yogananda announced publicly that in a prior life he was William!)

I highly recommend this fascinating tale of two souls. It has many levels of truth and wisdom to plumb but the one I choose to highlight is how "greatness" may seem like pride to those unfamiliar with greatness. Thus many people feel a disdain or prejudice towards those who appear to assume such roles.

In this story, Henry I ends up waiting many years and later having to combat his two elder brothers (both literally and otherwise) before at last inheriting the kingdom of England and Normandy established by his father, William the "Conqueror." Some historians were disdainful of Henry I because his character seemed difficult to interpret. His calmness and lack of obvious signs of kingly ambition were suspect as though to assume that all rulers were motivated only by petty ambitions.

It is Henry's greatness that was so misunderstood and his high mindedness, calmness, fairness miscast as manipulative or ruthless. (Much the same treatment was given to his father William I.)

So it has continued for Swami Kriyananda in this lifetime that the public role that he feels he must assume and feels so natural toward is assumed to be based on ego motivation.

My point is not to revisit that issue directly but to invite all of us to understand what "greatness" is so that we, too, each in our own, often unseen ways, might aspire to it.

Greatness is to act without desire for the results or for recognition of our action. To act compassionately and selflessly for the simple joy of self-giving as its own reward. To act with greatness of Self rather than affirmation of ego-self. This is greatnesss.

Spiritually this is to offer, each day, our actions into the Divine Will. The prayer of peace usually ascribed to St. Francis has in fact been found to have been written by William the Conqueror and would be a fitting prayer for each of us in every day. "Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace......"

As Jesus promised devotees both "heaven" and persecution, you can be sure your lack of ego-driven motives will be similarly misconstrued. "No good deed goes unpunished" is the cliche that seems to fit the facts.

For now, however, I invite and encourage you to read "Two Souls, Four Lives." For those of you who are also reading "Rescuing Yogananda" you will soon recognize that one book (Two Souls) is, in a sense, the foundation for the second (Rescuing).