There’s an elm tree that sits in the middle of our community. It’s like the Guru Tree of the community. It’s enormous, and you can walk around for a long time and look up and realize that you’re still under the same tree. It’s touching to go and see where the tree begins, and how far it goes outward from that strong point of origin. But not a single extended leaf, no matter how beautiful it is, can claim to be separate from that source.
Standing on the balcony of our home, I feel as if I’m wrapped among the leaves of another large tree that grows there. So I have a close relationship with the leaves at the top of the tree. But when I go downstairs and see the base of the tree, I realize that the big trunk is where all of the tree comes from.
It’s a wonderful spiritual image.
Is the leaf any more itself because it says “Look at me – I’m a leaf!” Well, how did you get to be a leaf? How did it occur to you to be a leaf? Could you be a leaf if there was no tree? And how much more powerful is the tree because of its great trunk and deep roots? If it wasn’t for the roots, the tiny leaf wouldn’t exist.
In America, we have a wonderful attitude of “I can do it.” Paramhansa Yogananda loved that spirit. He said he loved teaching in America, because Americans don’t realize how hard it is to realize God. When he began teaching Americans, he told them, “You can realize God.” And the American people said, “Sure! We can do it!”
When Yogananda was teaching Swami Kriyananda about Kriya Yoga, he explained that there’s a certain coolness you feel in your throat when you’re doing the Kriya technique correctly. And Swamiji immediately suggested, “What if I use a little peppermint oil, and then it would make my throat feel even cooler?”
Yogananda laughed and laughed. He said, “You Americans – you just can’t help yourselves!”
“If there’s a way to do it, I’m going to figure it out!” There’s tremendous power in that attitude. America as a whole is a very cooperative country, because we’re used to working together. It’s part of our heritage, because we had to build a country practically from nothing, and we had to band together because there was no other way to do it.
But nonetheless, we prize our individuality. And, in fact, that sense of individuality is a tremendous asset on the spiritual path.
I talked recently with a young man in his twenties. I was urging him to take a more daring attitude toward his life. He was twenty-three, and he said he was concerned that if he was too adventurous, he would fall behind in his retirement account.
I said, “That’s your retirement – right?” I said, “First you might want to have a life!”
Where is the spirit? Where is the spirit of adventure? Where is the idea that I can live from my origin, and that it will give me the strength to separate myself from the herd and become what I am intended to be.
Nowadays, we see how one profession after another is being wiped out. David and I had a very sweet relationship with a family who owned a film developing business. When the digital camera revolution came along – pffft! – the business was vaporized overnight. My heart went out to them, because it’s very hard. People have their little world, and they think they’ll live in it forever. But if you’re not living in the power of who you truly are, you’re vulnerable.
The more you get in touch with that power that exists in the depth of your own being, the more you realize that we are not separate.
We are not the origin of our ideas. Swami Kriyananda was the most creative, productive person imaginable. He died three months ago, on April 21. And yet he finished writing his last book just one month earlier, in mid-March. It’s called Love Perfected, Life Divine. He took a novel that was written a hundred years ago, about the connection between a man and a woman who were, in fact, soul mates, and he rewrote it. Although the novel had a great plot, the author didn’t understand the spiritual principles as well as he did. So he took her plot and rewrote it with a master’s understanding.
Now, writing that book was completely outside the norm of anything he had done before. It was totally different. For one thing, it’s fiction, and it’s a romantic story – practically the last thing you would imagine coming from him. Because he was not sentimental.
He once sat with a group of us at the dinner table. We were all happily married, and he looked at us and said, “Oh – once that delusion is gone, you can’t understand why it ever attracted you!” Meaning the desire for a mate. And he just shook his head.
He said, “I know – I know. You’re all here, and you’re all married. But you’ll see.”
And then what happens? He writes his last book, and it’s about human love. Yet it’s about human love as a pathway to divine love.
Here he was, eighty-seven years old, a month away from exiting the body and going into the infinite, and still he was finding new realities.
He would sometimes give us a long list of the things he had accomplished in his life. And you needed to understand why he did it, or else you might be tempted to think, “What a boastful man!” But what he was really telling us was, “Surrender to the Divine, and it can do marvelous things through you.”
This was the nature of his relationship with his Guru. He was twenty-two years old when he first read Autobiography of a Yogi, in 1948. He felt Yogananda’s vibration in the book, and he immediately set off across the country by bus, five days and nights. When he got to Yogananda, the first words he said were, “I want to be your disciple.”
Swamiji said that he never dreamed he would say such a thing to any person. But when he saw someone who he felt truly understood the nature of reality, he didn’t hesitate for a moment. And from that day to his last breath, it was the way he lived: “I am a disciple.”
As a disciple, he constantly said, “Master, guide me!” So he would give us these lists of his accomplishments, and he would say, “The secret of it all, you see, is that I haven’t done any of it!” He said, “I’ve put my consciousness at the spiritual eye, and I’ve asked God and Guru, and it was just there.”
In his last years, he wrote so fast. We would joke that he was writing faster than we could read, because we could barely keep up with the pages he was churning out. We would stop and sleep, and the next day we would get up and there would be a new pile of pages waiting for us.
When he wrote his Bhagavad Gita interpretations, he produced ten pages of deep commentary every day. We would go to sleep, and the next morning we would wake up and there would be another stack of pages. (The link is to Swami Kriyananda’s Gita videos.)
He would come out and say, “Have you read it yet?” And we would barely have our coffee in our hands and be wiping the sleep from our eyes. But it was effortless for him. Literally effortless, because the divine energy is always flowing. Life is always flowing. The elm tree is always drawing power.
The trees and other forms of creation have much to teach us. We can learn to be as effortless as they are, in their relationship with that divine power.
The natural world lives in harmony with itself. It’s only when we reach the human stage that our egos get involved, crying, “What about me?”
Divine Mother played a trick on me the other day. A friend was talking about something positive that happened in her life. It was a small thing, but oh my, this wave of energy came from somewhere, and it said, “She’s happy, but what about me?”
It was like a poison gas. I suddenly felt all this anguish for myself. “What about me? No one ever thinks about me.” It took lots of energy and hard thinking to get out of it. Later, once I was free of that feeling, I thought, “Oh, my gosh, people must live like that all the time.” In this terrible sense of separation and lack, which is a complete delusion.
It’s literally impossible, ever for a second to be separated from our source. To be different than the Divine. To be out of the bliss that is our true nature. But, oh, how easily we forget.
And then, the more we build our little barricades, the more we desire to make even more little barricades. Because once you start the cycle of thinking “What about me?” – you know, it’s never satisfied, and so it never ends.
When I was twenty-one, I had a great disappointment. I was terribly upset, and then one day I realized that what I had hoped would happen was no longer possible, because the people involved had changed and moved on. There had been a certain harmonious energy, and then the individuals who had created the harmony were different.
I thought: “If I’m weeping for the loss of something that no longer exists in heaven or earth, I can start crying now and never stop.” There would be no end to those tears. And I’m a practical person, so I stopped crying.
But, you see, once you start walking down the road of the Great Lie and the Great Delusion that “I can do it by myself,” then you’re like the leaf trying to be the mighty tree. But just think how insecure that is!
And those poor little leaves, the ones outside my window – it’s spring now, and they’re so bright and green, and they think they’ll be there forever. But we know what will happen. Soon it will be just the branches, and all there will be is the Source.
One of the men in our Ananda community, Nayaswami Ananta, is in charge of the farming operation at Ananda Village. Ananta has gray hair, and he was speaking to a group of young people, and sort of cynically saying, “Enjoy those young bodies now, while they’re still working so well!”
But if we live in the origin, what difference does it make? Because the point of origin of our selves is the Guru’s power. It’s the divine power that created us and sustains us.
And do we really need it? Do we truly need a Guru? Well, it depends how happy you want to be. It depends how much you want to weep.
I was recently with some people who had suffered a great setback in their lives. A lifetime of hard work hadn’t turned out as they hoped. And I thought of a phrase from the Festival of light that we celebrate at Ananda: “the soul’s long journey away from its home in God.”
Later in the ceremony, it speaks of the return:
Thus, a new ray of light was sent to earth
through the great masters of this path.
Greater can no love be than this:
From a life of infinite joy and freedom in God
willingly to embrace limitation, pain, and death
for the salvation of mankind.
Such, ever, has been the sacrifice
of the great masters for the world.
Here, then, is the fourth and last stage
of the soul’s long journey through time and space: The Redemption.
Lord, we offer up the little light that is in us
into Thy blazing light of Infinity.
Grant us the grace to know Thee.
And make us ever-increasingly
pure channels of Thy love to all.
How long is the journey? How arduous, and how many tears will we shed? It’s much more in our hands to decide than we realize. There are waves of consciousness on which we can ride – in and out, over and over. Or we can stand at our point of origin, where the Divine intersects with ourselves, and that point of bliss will be ours.