When I visited Ananda Assisi last year, I befriended a young Italian man named Anthony. He never met Swami Kriyananda in person as Swamiji had left the body before Anthony visited Ananda Assisi.
He did however have a heart-to-heart meeting with Swamiji’s spirit. During his stay at Ananda Assisi, he meditated in Swami’s bedroom shrine. Swami left the body in the bedroom of his home just outside the Ananda Assisi retreat. As part of their retreat, visitors have the opportunity to meditate in the Moksha Kutir.
After his meditation I asked him, “What did you experience?”
I’ll never forget his simple response:
“The sweetness of a saint.”
It’s interesting that Anthony used the word sweetness because Lahiri Mahasaya said of kriya yoga, “Let the fragrance of the Kriya flower be wafted naturally, without any display.” Anthony smelled the fragrant Kriya flower of Kriyananda!
Anthony’s story reminds me of a time I was serving at Crystal Clarity, Ananda’s publishing arm. Swami had finished writing “The Essence of the Bhagavad Gita” and I was bringing over some copies for him to sign at his home. When I arrived, he was about to have lunch with his cousin. Swamiji introduced me to her saying simply, “This is my friend, Phil.”
I was rooted to the spot and couldn’t speak for a moment or two. “He considers me his friend?!”, I thought to myself. He is my friend. My divine friend!
Isn’t that what the guru is? He is our divine friend.
Swami Kriyananda has become for me (and many others like Anthony who never met him, and yet have met him) a guru in the work of Self-Realization. Yogananda said towards the end of his life that he was the last in his line of gurus. Am I contradicting myself?
In an important essay, “Is Yogananda my Guru, Is Krishna, Is Jesus Christ?”, Swami Kriyananda clarifies the difference between the gurus of the work versus gurus in the work.
Here is a small excerpt:
At the first Kriya Yoga initiation I attended (in 1948), Master announced, ‘Of those here today, there will be a few siddhas (fully liberated souls), and quite a few jivan muktas.’ The conclusion is inescapable: Based on his own statements, there will simply have to be true gurus, whether officially recognized as such or not, among the large numbers of his spiritual descendants.
How did Swami become one of Yogananda’s spiritual descendants?
The answer is simple: He made a complete self-offering to his guru. Master (Paramhansa Yogananda) once told Swami Kriyananda, “God won’t come to you until the end of life. Death itself will be the final sacrifice you’ll have to make.” Of course, he prepared for the offering through many little ones.
On another occasion Yogananda said to him, “Your life will be one of intense activity and meditation.” Later in his life, Swami would laugh at how his guru placed the word “activity” first!
Swami so embraced service to his guru, that letting go of that “intense activity,” which had become his greatest joy, may have been “the final sacrifice.” I don’t know. I have my suspicions because Swami’s life (whether in service or meditation) became one unbroken thrill of God. I’m reminded of a line from the Nayaswami Vow:
“I am free in Thy joy, and will rejoice forever in Thy blissful presence.”
How did you do it, Swami?
A-ha! Death was your final sacrifice. I shall practice now with you and “die daily in Christ!” through service and kriya yoga.
May we all be free in Thy Joy, Lord!