I had an interesting conversation with Swami Kriyananda, in the last years of his life. We were talking about death. Swamiji had so many health problems in his final years that he would occasionally remark that it just wasn’t worth going on. He knew that death was nothing to fear. But he said that he sometimes would just rather not continue to carry around that old, debilitated body.
I said, “well Swamiji, you’ve done the work of fifteen incarnations. But from our point of view, this planet won’t be nearly as much fun without you.”
Swami said, very seriously, “I know. I’ve been through it.”
None of us know what it was like to have Master’s company. We know a little from those who knew him, and from being with Swamiji and feeling what it’s like when a great soul channels God’s love and wisdom and bliss.
Swami said, “Among many other things, Master was so charming. His conversation was so interesting, and he was so funny. He was so full of life.”
Swami even said once, “Master was so cute!” He said, “I don’t like to say that very often, because it sounds disrespectful.”
In fact, Master’s disciples often called him “Little Master.” It was a nickname they’d given him, and it was meant affectionately. But Swami said that it became a bit of a problem, because it tempted people to be too familiar.
Swamiji told how Master loved to tell funny stories, and how he would start a story and laugh so hard that between his laughter and his Bengali accent, they couldn’t understand a word. But he said that Master’s joy was so infectious that you found yourself laughing and laughing.
It’s very important to understand how much joy around Yogananda. It was the joy of his charming personality, and of the enjoyment felt in all life. It was his joy in living with the complete awareness of God.
The image of an avatar that we think of in the West is Christ. And because there’s such emphasis on the sorrow and suffering of his crucifixion, it came to be said that he was never known to smile, and that he walked around gravely contemplating the sins of mankind, and how he could save us.
Master’s response was that it was completely ridiculous, because nobody would have followed a teacher who went around frowning about people’s sins and never laughing.
Christ came to show us how we can escape the prison of this little human life, and find a joy that never fades.
Swami Kriyananda’s parents were very harmonious in their marriage. They were married for sixty years, and Swamiji said that in all that time he never knew them to have a disagreement, what to speak of an argument. Even in the era when they lived, when marriages were more stable, they were known for their harmony.
They were strong in themselves. Swami related how people said that Gertrude Walters had “a whim of iron.”
She was artistic, seemingly an “airhead” type, but you wouldn’t be fooled for long. She said to me, very sweetly, “at first, Ray thought that he was going to be in charge. But he learned!”
Whenever someone asked the secret of their marriage, Ray would say, “when we married, I told Gertrude, ‘I’m the man in this marriage, and I’m going to make all the important decisions.’ Since then, there haven’t been any important decisions to make.”
It was said lightly, with Ray’s dry wit. But there’s truth in his words.
It’s why the masters joke about life. There’s nothing all that important happening in this world, not even the tragedies. As the masters see our lives, the dark times are just small blips on the radar of our long journey toward freedom.
We’re alarmed by so many things. Swami gave a talk during the Gulf War, at a point when people were wondering if it might erupt into a world conflict.
Swamiji spoke of Master’s predictions of hard times to come for the planet, with wars, and suffering of a very serious kind.
He described how, in talks that Master gave during the 1940s, he would raise his fist and thunder, “you don’t know what a terrible cataclysm is coming! You must prepare yourself by going deep into the Spirit, because all that you cling to in this world, all your wealth and comfort in America, and your apparent ability to control this world around you, it’s all a myth, and it will all be destroyed. You’ll all have to face great suffering, and only the power of God will save you.”
So Swami was saying this very strongly. But then he stopped and said, “what does it really matter? We’re all going to die anyway. Who cares?”
Somebody came to Swami to try to enlist his support for a campaign against nuclear weapons. Swami expressed sympathy for the cause, naturally, because as Master put it, it isn’t good to see God’s children attack his other children.
Master said that it’s because of people’s selfishness that they have to learn through bitter experiences, including war, famine, starvation, and torture. We have to soften our hearts and understand our oneness as God’s children.
But the tragedy isn’t that we suffer and die. Dying is something that comes naturally to us all at the end of our lives. That’s not the problem. The problem is that we forget God.
The problem is that we’re born with a divine birthright, and we spend that priceless gift just messing around.
The problem is that death comes, and we’ve done nothing, and then we have to start over. We have to come back as a baby, go through all the business of diapers, and learning to feed ourselves and walk. And then we get to spend decades getting ourselves organized to the point where we can remember why we’re here. “I’m here to find God, and I’m here to serve others as His instrument.”
The masters set an example of a life of joy and freedom in God. Yogananda was born for no other reason than to show us what’s possible in our own lives. As Christ said: “I was born without sin. All of you were born with sin, but I was born without sin.”
Oh, how that teaching has been distorted! What Jesus meant is that we’re compelled to live in this world because we foolishly believe that our happiness will be found outside the kingdom of God, and that we’ll find fulfillment through the senses and by grasping at the things of this world.
That’s our sin, which is to say, our foolishness. The masters come with just one message: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God.” Because it’s the cure for our sorrows, and it’s the end of our search for happiness.
Yogananda came to show us a practical doorway through which we can escape this world of suffering and find perfect joy in God. And that doorway is Kriya Yoga.
Separate yourself from this world of suffering. Separate yourself from identification with the ever-changing, impermanent attractions that only cause you pain. Go into yourself and find what Yogananda and Christ found.
Swamiji tells how he would look into Yogananda’s eyes and see nothing there but the Infinite. We are so fortunate to have photographs of our masters. Nowadays, we can look into the eyes of those who’ve known God and attune ourselves to their great consciousness.
That’s all we’re here for. As Lahiri Mahasaya said, “The only duty that has been given to man is to listen to the inner sounds.” That is, to unite ourselves with God’s consciousness by communing with the divine sound of AUM.
Yogananda taught many things, but the key to his teachings, as he said over and over, is attunement. Attune yourself to the consciousness of the master, and become his instrument in this world.
We had a program for children this summer. It was called “Say Yes to Life.” The man who taught it wanted to teach the children to be selfless, and he devised a clever approach. He commissioned the children to be secret agents for Divine Mother.
Every week he would give them their undercover assignment of “secret service.” They were in Divine Mother’s Secret Service, and they had to serve people without letting anybody know about it. They could walk around looking like everyone else, but they were secret agents, and they had an important job to do.
It’s the personal assignment that’s been given to all of us who’ve had the good fortune to be drawn to the path of Self-Realization. We’ve signed on to be secret agents for the love and compassion and joy of our line of masters.
This is our assignment also in the war against our ego. It’s a wonderful game we play. We’re pretending to be ourselves, but we’re actually secret agents for our divine masters.
What will we do with our reality from one moment to the next? Will we let ourselves believe that the measure of who we are is what we can achieve outwardly?
Of course, we have to work hard, because it’s how we develop the will and concentration to go forward on the spiritual path and know God.
We have to work as if our life depended on it. And we have to work with the absolute understanding that the spiritual path has nothing to do with this little life of the ego. We’re acting as secret agents, giving our lives to God to do as He wants through us.
Our achievements don’t matter, but our attunement is all. We prove our attunement when we know: “I am here for just one purpose. I am here to love God, and to be His instrument of love to all.”
How did Paramhansa Yogananda live his life? He dedicated it to knowing God and to sharing God’s bliss and joy and love and wisdom with others. He set the only example we need. And it’s so simple. It’s not always easy, because we’re attracted to many things. But it’s simple.
Come back to the Master’s presence in your heart. Come back to the practice of meditation. Come back to Kriya Yoga. Come back to Whispers from Eternity – to devotion, to the simple knowledge that you are God’s own.
That’s why we were born. That’s our purpose for being in this world – to give our hearts, minds, and souls to God. That is what the Guru asks of us.
(From Asha’s talk at Sunday service, March 10, 2002.)