Toward the end of his life, many of Paramhansa Yogananda’s disciples went through difficult tests. At one point, Swami Kriyananda asked the master why so many were enduring such difficult trials, and why some were packing their bags and leaving the ashram.
Yogananda replied that it needn’t happen, if the disciples would stay in tune.
There was an advanced soul who lived in the ashram. She was a respected disciple of the master, yet she hardly ever meditated. Yogananda stated that she would be liberated, yet Swamiji said that he knew for a fact that she never meditated more than a half hour at a time.
She just wasn’t a meditator, but she got there by her attunement with him – that’s how Yogananda described it. Years earlier, when she mentioned to him that she couldn’t meditate, he told her, “Well, then, just make an effort to be in tune.”
I’m not in any way suggesting that we don’t have to meditate. But I am saying that attunement with the guru, who is the instrument of God, is everything.
In Swami Kriyananda’s writings, we find that he often touches on how the world operates by subtle magnetism, to a much greater extent than we may realize – even more, in fact, than it operates by mechanical forces alone.
Our spiritual development comes by magnetism – we grow spiritually attuning ourselves inwardly to the guru’s spiritual power. Even our successes and failures in the outer world come by magnetism.
Science now knows that the world is composed of energy. And if the world is primarily energy, it seems logical that the shortest path to success should include applying the right kind of energy, and then the universe will re-order itself to help us accomplish our worthwhile goals.
In my book, Swami Kriyananda – As We Have Known Him, there’s a story of a man who took a substantial sum of money from Ananda. He didn’t think of it as a theft, because he felt he was taking it for a good reason.
And then, of course, there was the issue of what we should do about it. And Swamiji’s calm response was: “Most people put money before friendship. I put friendship before money.”
Then he added, “If the money is meant to be ours, it will find us through some other pathway.”
I loved his reply. If we keep our consciousness right, the right things will come to us. But if we warp our consciousness to put money ahead of friendship, for example, it will never work out.
Swamiji didn’t feel that trying to get the money back would be helpful to that person spiritually – it would be more spiritually helpful to let him follow his delusion and experience the results.
I tend to be an enthusiastic person, very positive by nature, but I remember Swami saying to me once, “You’re just so negative sometimes.”
I was really quite shocked, because I had never thought of myself as a negative person. I’m very upbeat, I’m enthusiastic, and I’m always ready to say, “Let’s do it!” I almost always say yes, and I love change – let’s make things happen!
And then Swamiji said: “Because you’re so factual.”
As if to say: “What a trivial thing to be!”
He said, “In your attempt to always make sure your facts are right, you often simply kill the energy.”
A positive energy is building, and I want to make sure everyone understands the facts correctly. And I may get the facts right, but the net effect of trotting out all the facts, putting them in a long list and dwelling on them, is that it kills whatever positive energy was building, and now the energy doesn’t have a chance.
Swamiji told us, many years ago, “I used to talk about what I saw for the future of Ananda. But I saw that instead of inspiring people, it frightened them. So I don’t talk about it much anymore.”
His energy was always directed toward finding ways to move forward in a positive direction. But the facts of how it would all work out, and how it would be paid for, were often left unstated, because he knew that the most important thing was to set the right flow of energy in motion.
And, of course, there are always people who like to remain grounded in the facts, and who’ll say, “Well, you know, sometimes Swami says so-and-so and it happens, but sometimes it doesn’t.”
You can counter anything positive by trotting out a pile of facts. But those of us who worked with Swami had to deal with the reality of the facts being less important to him than the energy.
And it was tricky. Because you can’t be silly and impractical. Swamiji didn’t want us to be nutty, imagining that if we just put out energy, everything would work beautifully. It has to be a special kind of energy – not merely a mass of raw energy, but energy that has divine guidance behind it.
Swamiji was always very practical. Someone who wasn’t practical could never have created Ananda – the nine spiritual communities, the many businesses, the 150 books and 400 musical compositions. He was far more practical than most. And yet he was careful, even while he working with magnetism, to create a positive energy-flow that was in tune with God’s will.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done things in my life, where I’ve thought afterwards, “What was I thinking?”
I remember a project that I was put in charge of, where I made some wrong decisions at the start and dragged many people down a long, arduous path that ended in a fizzle, with nothing to show for all the energy we’d put out.
When I realized the mistakes I’d made, Swami said to me, “Yes, whenever your ego gets involved, you make terrible decisions.” And thinking of all the really dumb things I’ve done, I can see that it’s true.
Now, there are innocent mistakes, where we seem compelled to do crazy things. Whenever I did something that I very sincerely thought was a good idea, but it turned out to be not such a good idea after all, there was a kind of impersonal feeling about it, as if it needed to happen because of my karma. But there were occasions where there was ego, pride, self-importance, and a lack of receptivity. And once you start down that road, that’s when you make the worst kinds of decisions.
There’s another story in Swami Kriyananda – As We Have Known Him, of a time when I was upset with Swamiji, or rather, not with him, but in his presence.
I had a big project to do, and I didn’t feel up to it. It was about writing, which has been the great trial of my life. I’ve overcome it, but the mother of all my fears at the time was writing about Swamiji. And so to a very large extent it’s what I’ve had to do in this life. But I had a writing project that I really didn’t feel I could do, and I was in an absolute state about it, and I was crying and very upset.
I went to Swamiji’s and found a woman there who’d been talking to him, and she was sobbing about some tragic romantic thing that had happened in her life, and she was so sad and he was so comforting to her, and just so sweet and sympathetic.
And when it was my turn, I played the same story. My “issue” was completely different, but I was crying, very upset and waiting to be comforted. And I suddenly realized that not only was he not comforting me, but he had walked away and was standing at a chest of drawers and fiddling with something.
It was in the days when we didn’t have electricity. And when our flashlight batteries would grow dim you would take the batteries out and pile them somewhere, but you wouldn’t throw them away in case you could still get a little more use out of them. And Swami had opened the drawer and was testing which batteries were good, and which he ought to throw away. It’s the kind of job you do when you’re ill and unable to work. But it’s not something you would do when there’s a guest in your living room.
He was sorting through his batteries, and I was having the biggest crisis of my life. And I was stunned.
Finally I said, “Well, I guess I’ll go now.”
He said, “Goodbye.”
It was completely off-the-wall. And I was so annoyed and bewildered. He wasn’t unkind, and he was usually not bizarre. But it seemed so bizarre, and it kind of got my dander up, and I went home with that increased energy and managed somehow to focus it on the writing project.
A few days later, he said, “That was an important karmic moment. There was nothing I could do to help you. You had to do it yourself.”
I said, “Why didn’t you tell me?”
He said, “I didn’t think it would help. I thought it would just make you more frightened.” And he was right.
Now, the point is that sometimes sympathy isn’t helpful. If a person is feeling weak and you sympathize with him, it may make him feel, “Oh, yes, this really is a bad situation, isn’t it?” And he may be tempted to wallow in self-pity.
Sometimes you can’t even be sympathetic with yourself. You can’t deny what you’re feeling, but you don’t necessarily want to put energy into that side. And, again, it’s because it’s about magnetism, and if it’s an attitude that will take your magnetism down, you don’t want to go there.
Now, the thing is that this has absolutely soul-transforming implications for the guru-disciple relationship. Because no matter how much the ego tries to say, “I can take care of this by myself,” the fact is, you simply can’t.
You just can’t. Because there’s far too much chaos going on in your mind. As Swamiji said, the mind, the very vehicle by which we try to sort it all out, is confused by what it’s trying to sort out.
It’s like trying to climb a mountain without being able to see the path. When you climb a mountain, there may be many trails that lead to the top. But if you’ve never been to the top, you can’t know which paths will take you there. And then the guru comes along and shines a light in the right direction. We stand in his company, and with our own self-effort we cooperate with his energy. We make ourselves ready through disciplined, persistent spiritual effort. And that’s what our meditation is for.
By our meditation, by our practice of Kriya Yoga, by learning to concentrate, by expanding our awareness, by focusing our energy internally, by raising our energy, by concentration on the spiritual eye, and by service – all of these things help bring the chaos of the mind to a focus, and bring ourselves into attunement with the guru’s ray, so that we will find ourselves in the presence of his magnetism which will shine a light before us on our path.