By Nayaswami Narayan
April 2, 2019
After visiting Ananda, someone remarked to Swami Kriyananda about a number of inspiring souls they had met during their stay. Swamiji responded, “If you meet one or two people like that, you can say they’re special. But when you meet an entire community of people, it’s what they’re doing that makes them special.”
I’ve often thought what are people at Ananda doing? If I had to sum it up in one word, it would be: discipleship. To me Ananda Sangha is a worldwide movement — a sincere succession of disciples of the great Master, Paramhansa Yogananda.
What does it mean to be a disciple? The word can have a negative connotation in the West with a grim attitude to practice a discipline. Whereas in India one of the words for disciple is “chela” or child. You become a child of the guru. Through love, reverence, and devotion (yes, and discipline), you become accepted into the guru’s family of Self-realization.
When we start discussing the path of kriya yoga and discipleship, we often hear the question, “Do I need a living Guru?” Paramhansa Yogananda said, in fact, you need one physical touch from the guru. And yet while he was living Yogananda had Kriyananda (the then young monk “Walter”) initiate another person into kriya yoga on his behalf. That is to say, that Yogananda worked through his willing disciple, Swami Kriyananda.
There is a difference, however, between the guru of the work and the guru in the work. Swami Kriyananda wrote a very important essay (“Is Yogananda My Guru? Is Krishna? Is Jesus Christ?”) for followers of this path of Self-realization to read. There is a dogma disciples can fall into that it all ended with Yogananda and there will be no future gurus in the work. To accept this dogma, would mean no one in the future would become Self-realized. This is the opposite of what Yogananda meant by “special dispensation”. It would mean that only Yogananda is special! Of course he is, but his message was for us to realize our own latent spiritual potential.
What’s important, as Yogananda said, is to follow “the living link of the Masters.” Where does that link come alive for you? For me it comes alive through disciples that are living the truth of Self-realization.
For example, when I first met Swami Kriyananda I experienced his enthusiasm for God and his Guru. After spending a retreat weekend and meeting Swami for the first time, I remember waving goodbye to him at the airport in Rhode Island. He was around 75 years old at the time. I was used to people of that age being, well, old and playing the part well. Shuffling and playing shuffleboard! Swamiji was the complete opposite. When he waved goodbye it was with such enthusiasm. Such life! He held his hand high and waved from afar with great vigor. “This man,” I thought, “is on fire for God after all these years.” He was waking me, the “young oldie”, up to my “newly wakened memory divine.”
When an avatar comes, it is, as Yogananda said, “a special dispensation.” What does that mean? You have to tune into his consciousness to find out. Here are a few thoughts:
1) The Guru’s consciousness is infinite and can take you – through your dedication, sincerity and devotion – to the realization of your own Infinite Self.
2) An infinite number of souls can get on the bus of Self-realization. It’s not just for those “privileged few” who were direct disciples of Yogananda or who met Swami Kriyananda or another direct disciple.
3) A sincere disciple can act as a guru in the work and transmit blessings in Yogananda’s name (holy vibration) to the degree of his receptivity and realization.
How do I know these to be true? I’ve been blessed many times over through a number of divine friends that are part of Ananda. I can tell you stories of Nayswamis Jyotish and Devi. Not them, but the divine power and love of God that flowed through them. I could tell you of a time when Jyotish was speaking and a divine force almost knocked me over and I was brought into a state of uplifted consciousness. I could tell you of when Devi gave me a hair pin (for no seeming reason as I was balding at the time!) and it was Divine Mother through her in that moment saying silently, “Always have I loved thee… ever shall I love thee.” I could tell you of Nayaswami Jaya and how a cascade of calmness bathed my being while going for a walk together. I could tell you stories of Omprakash and how he invited me to sing in the Ananda choir and helped me open the door of my heart. I could tell you of the laughter I’ve shared with my friends Nishtan and Irene… I could tell you of the blessings I’ve felt from Nayaswamis Bharat and Anandi… My list of experiences and people is too long to share here. Suffice it to say, my life has been blessed by living links!
To close, there is a touching story of Brother Turyiananda that illustrates this point. Brother Turiyananda began to follow Paramhansa Yogananda’s teachings in 1953. At that time a well-known Indian saint, Swami Ramdas, visited Geneva. When Turiyananda went to the swami to ask him to be his guru, that saintly soul looked at him with a loving but penetrating gaze and said: “But don’t you have a guru?” “Oh yes,” Turiyananda replied. “But he is Yogananda; and now he is dead.” With great power the swami exclaimed: “You are dead; your guru is alive!” Deeply moved, Turiyananda left Switzerland soon afterward to devote the rest of his life to seeking and serving God in the ashrams of Paramhansa Yogananda.
All this to say, yes, you do need a living guru. Your guru is alive in the eternal now. And he also comes alive through a sincere succession of disciples who spark the joy of your soul. Don’t pass them by. Treasure them as the most precious gems they are.