The Light of Inner Freedom

Photo: Grateful thanks to Eugene Golovesov on Unsplash

Among the many innovations that Swami Kriyananda brought into this world, he said that he wanted to introduce a new kind of creativity, where instead of thinking that we’re creating something solely by our own powers, we will attune ourselves to an energetic pattern that’s already there, of whatever we’re wanting to manifest. So we’ll put ourselves in tune with the astral form of it and allow it to express through us.

I was listening to the audio version of the last book that Swamiji wrote, which oddly enough was a novel. Actually, he rewrote a novel that was a bestseller more than a hundred years ago, called The Life Everlasting. The author, Marie Corelli (1855-1924), was a spiritually inclined woman who, at the height of her popularity, was England’s best-selling and most highly paid author.

Our Ananda friends Rammurti and Sita ran a huge used bookstore on Castro Street for many years, and whenever Swami was in town he liked to go there, because he was a bookworm, as he put it. But he said that it was a little depressing for an author to see all those books just sitting there, thousands and thousands of them. And also, that all the authors who were once so popular, like Marie Corelli, were now completely unknown.

At any rate, he picked up the book and rewrote it with the title Love Perfected, Life Divine.

The theme of the novel is soul mates, and the beautiful story of the soul’s everlasting longing for perfect love.

Swami said to me, “Master said that all desires have to be fulfilled before God-realization will come. Including, he said, the longing in the human heart to be loved.”

Swamiji said that Master meant not only that the desire to be loved by God had to be fulfilled, but also the desire to be loved by one other person.

Swami said, “That longing is so deep in the human heart, it’s impossible to imagine that God would have put that desire in our hearts if He didn’t intend to fulfill it.”

Marie Corelli’s original book told the very romantic story of a man named Santoris and a heroine who is unnamed, and how they meet, and the novel is about the perfection that she must achieve in order to match Sartoris before they can be together.

They’ve been through many lives together, and they’ve botched the relationship every time. They’ve loved each other, or they’ve hated and even killed each other. And Santoris eventually recognizes that the problem isn’t between them, it’s within each of them. So he withdraws for many lifetimes and goes on a spiritual quest to master himself.

And then he finds her again, but before she can be with him, she must do the same. And the story tells how she goes to the House of Alcezion and she has lots of adventures as she struggles to achieve her own self-mastery.

I recorded the audiobook more or less on a whim. I was in India, and we had the use of a recording studio, and I just really wanted to read the book. And when you read aloud, especially for publication, you have to say every word very clearly and carefully, and you have to hear the meaning of each word very consciously. It was particularly true of that book, because it’s the very dramatic and deeply meaningful story of how the woman has to face every one of her fears.

The reason is twofold – the first is that every desire must be fulfilled, because it’s our desires that cause us to be agitated and unable to be still. And even if you aren’t actually grasping for the object of your desire, some part of you will be oscillating because you don’t have what you want. And before we can come into the absolute oneness of God, we have to stop those oscillations.

Patanjali says that we achieve yoga, or union with the infinite, by “neutralizing the restless whirlpools of emotional feeling,” or chitta as it’s called in Sanskrit. And it’s only when we’re able to stop those reactive emotional feelings that divine union takes place. It’s not that it’s so terribly complicated to achieve inner union with the Divine; we just have to stop resisting it, and of course it isn’t easy.

Fear is the mother of all desires, because it’s fear that causes us to be trapped by our desires. We’re afraid of this, so we desire its opposite, and we’re constantly vibrating with these movements of feeling that prevent us from being inwardly still.

So the heroine of the story goes through the process of resolving every one of her fears. And I won’t give the plot away, but she passes through a series of internal tests that are meant to challenge her to find out how much courage she has. They’re forcing her to face some very difficult questions: How much trust do you have? How much faith do you have? How much confidence do you have in your own perception of reality? And they’re pushing her to the absolute limit.

The story ends happily, because she does eventually achieve her goal, and her story is the drama of the life that we, too, are living.

The last time I talked with Swamiji, he was essentially giving me a list of all the things I had to do after he was gone. And among them he said, “Society is more influenced by novels than by any other form.” So he suggested that I write a novel, which I’m quite willing to do.

But the drama of the life that we’re living is so utterly different than we imagine it is. And if you don’t quit on the spiritual path, that’s really the only criterion for success.

And, really, you can’t quit. You can go sit on a bench for a while, but you can never get out of the game. You simply can’t, because it’s what we are meant for, and sooner or later we’re going to have to join the battle. And if you don’t quit, then all of the words that you’ve heard about spiritual things eventually make sense.

There’s a statement in the Bhagavad Gita that we’ve all heard: “What is day to the worldly man is night to the yogi, and what is night to the worldly man is day to the yogi.”

Before we can begin to understand that the goal and purpose of life is spiritual, we’re going around thinking that all of these other things are what we really need to be doing. But once we understand the true purpose of our life, what we think we should be doing is the complete opposite.

And what makes it even more confusing is that in this day and age we don’t get to drop out, as they were able to do in earlier times when they felt a call to join a monastery. I don’t know if it was actually easier in those times, but I don’t think there are ever any easy shortcuts.

You may have read the life of St. Francis and St. Clare, and how Francis walked away from the world. Francis was the son of one of the wealthiest men in Assisi, so he was extremely privileged as a young man, and he was very popular. He was the rising young man about the town of Assisi, and the leader of a happy band of young friends, and his father was so proud of him that he gave him everything he wanted. And then Francis had an inner awakening and realized that those things weren’t what he was born for, because he was born to realize God.

So he repudiated everything that his family stood for, and he simply walked away. But he didn’t go very far, which made matters even worse for his poor father. He just went out into the woods and became an impoverished troubadour for God.

Reading the story today, it’s so obvious that he was doing the right thing. But it wasn’t obvious at the time. Because he would come back into town, and this is where we can see that the story is about real people. And whereas he had been wealthy and privileged, now he’s coming back barefoot into the town, dressed in rags, and he’s going to the town center and telling everyone to do likewise. He’s telling them that what they’re doing isn’t going to make them happy, and his poor father has to see him making a public spectacle of himself.

I haven’t raised children, but I know that parents are heavily invested in their hopes that their children won’t be an absolute embarrassment to them, as Francis was. And his father never really got over it. But there he was, and then a lot of the other young people in his generation were lost because of Francis, and lots of the noble families lost their children to this pazzo, this crazy person.

And then Clare also ran away from home and went into the convent, and when her brothers tried to drag her away she held onto the railing and suddenly was miraculously too heavy for them to move her. And then she cut off her long blonde hair, which women simply didn’t do in those times, and it made her entirely unsuitable to marry. So that’s how she saved herself and became a nun.

In that time, once you’d given yourself to God, nobody would quite have the nerve to try to take you back. And a great deal was required of you, because it was a rough life, living out there in the mountains in those cold caves, or having the big iron monastery doors clang shut behind you and never coming out again.

And is it any tougher here in Silicon Valley? I’m not sure. We have more food, but sooner or later we have to face every one of our fears, and we have to surrender our every desire, and we have to recognize that what we thought was day was actually night, and what we thought was night was day.

Now, every so often somebody who knows the beginning, middle, and end of the story will drop in on us to show us the way. Usually they’re born to devout parents, and they grow up with great zeal for the end of the story.

What happens to most of us when we’re born is that we get thrown over the wall from the astral plane into this world, and most of us immediately turn our backs to the wall and start runing toward all the bright and shiny things over here on this side.

I remember watching Leah Mahoney’s birth, and how, when she was less than five minutes old, she reached up and grabbed her daddy’s finger – and, of course, his heart. And I was thinking, “Oh, my God, look at that. She’s reaching out for something immediately.” Leah grew up to be a very fine person, with wonderful parents, but as soon as we come into this world we turn our backs and start running toward the reflected light.

If you shine a light on something, it will reflect some of the light, and because we’re tricked into thinking that it’s the source of the light we don’t realize that the source is shining over here inside us. And then the master comes into this world with us, and he turns and looks at the wall and he starts knocking it down, and he turns his back to everything that we’re chasing.

And after a while it begins to dawn on us, “What is he doing?” And then a radiance comes out of him, and we feel it – “Ah! There’s a source in him, and not just a reflection.”

Yogananda and the masters have been coming for a very long time, and whenever they come they bring their little crew with them, and we are part of their crew.

I was reading the life of Sri Ramakrishna, and there’s not a lot that’s terribly Western and rational about it. It’s perfectly sensible, but it’s way out of the box from our rational perspective. For example, it tells how young Indian men would come to him and he would tell them, “You are that sage, and you’re that other one.” They were his team, because the master plants the power, and then somebody has to do the hard work of developing it.

Swami Kriyananda has walked with Yogananda for many lifetimes in a similar way, where Master will come and set up something new, and Swamiji will say, “Let’s express it more fully in the world.”

We can relate to Master’s life, but none of us had the karma to walk with him. Perhaps in other lives we did, but the guide that we’ve walked with this time is the one whom Master asked to knit it all together after he had gone, and who was able to see what the potential is for us in this life, at this time, in this incarnation, and with our individual karma.

To return to Love Perfected, Life Divine, we have the story of this man and woman, and it’s at the same time both a divinely romantic story and a humanly romantic story. And at the end of Marie Corelli’s original book, when they finally get together, they sail around on his yacht for the rest of their lives.

Swami said, “That sounds more like hell than heaven to me.” And in his book they get on the yacht and they sail around the world helping people.

But the story is motivated by the great universal desire for love and joy. And because it’s told in terms of a romance we’re all able to relate to it, because we all have those feelings in one form or another. And whether those feelings come out as a search for human partnership, or love for our pets or our garden, or whatever it might be, there is the constant longing inside us to give love and to have it be given back to us.

And what we begin to understand when we see these great souls moving through their lives, including Swami Kriyananda, is that there is no shortcut, even when an exalted soul takes on a human form.

They enter the same prison that we do, and they’re subject to the same ups and downs. They willingly go into the prison, even though they haven’t committed any crimes, whereas we’ve broken the law, in the sense that we have lots of karma, whereas their karma is very small. But they willingly go into the prison where they have to face the same rough guards and the same crummy food and the same hard beds and the same icky people, and the same fine, noble people as we do. And what they demonstrate for us, and what Swami Kriyananda’s life demonstrated, is what it looks like not to quit.

I’ve been singing the same tune for a long time in this life, but when I was younger I used to think that there were lots of other issues in my life that were very important. I used to think that the decisions I made actually mattered – where I lived, who I lived with, what my position was, and whether I had children. It all seemed so critically important, but I’ve realized that it was all just a means to an end. Because those things are important at their own level – they’re wonderfully important, because they are our vrittis – the energy of the desires that are oscillating inside us. And so they’re vibrating, and their energy is sucking us into this or that relationship, and into this autoimmune disease, into this financial catastrophe, and into this success. And now I’m thinking that I’m doing pretty well, and now I’m falling and I’m feeling humiliated. And so it goes on and on.

But what’s day to the worldly man is night to the yogi. And the only question that matters is, are we turning around and digging through the wall? And if I need to raise a family along the way, or I need to go bankrupt, or I need to be ill, or I need to be world-famous, the point is that we just need to keep chipping away at the wall.

Swami used a phrase that I’ve often repeated, and that I’m finally beginning to understand. He said, “I never identify with Swami Kriyananda. He is an event for which I am responsible.” And it’s become clear to me that it’s a wonderful way of looking at where we’re standing.

Master said that if you were trapped on a desert island with only a few phrases to meditate on, one of them should be, “We make a grave mistake when we think that everything that happens to us concerns us personally.”

I was twenty when I first heard that saying, and I thought it was the wackiest thing I’d ever heard. Because there was no piece of me that could figure out how to relate to it. Of course it concerns me personally! How could it not?

I would sometimes suggest to Swamiji that he not teach these things, because nobody could understand them. And he was so gracious. He didn’t say “What a moron!” – he just respected me and then he ignored me.

But it’s a matter of where your center is. And it’s almost a physical thing, where you can visualize yourself backing up from your own reality and perceiving the world as it’s happening, but it’s way out there at the fullest extension of your reach. And the important question is whether you’re living over here or over there.

There’s a giant elm tree in our community that has served me as an excellent teacher. The trunk is massive, and you can put your tiny human body against it and imagine that you’re pushing it. But it doesn’t even know you’re there, except in the most amused and impersonal way, because of your petty presumption. But the tree is equally present at its farthest extension, where it’s making a tiny leaf, because the tiny leaf could not exist without it.

When Helen gave our service reading and I realized that the topic for the week was “Income,” I thought, “This is Swami’s birthday – and we’re going to talk about income?” But it was a brilliant choice for the ideas that I’ve ended up talking about. Because money is inert, and it’s only our energy that makes it valuable. And the little leaf, far out at the end of the tree branch, is inert but for the tree.

So we are responsible for our experiences because our vrittis are agitated and they’re taking our consciousness outward into so many things. And we have to sort it all out.

We have to face every one of our fears and desires and resolve them, because otherwise we’ll just get to keep them. And, really, nobody has to punish us, because we simply get to keep our fears and desires, and if we don’t resolve them this time around we’ll have to face them again. And if you aren’t enjoying it now, you’re not going to enjoy it any more the next time.

But we have these powerhouses who come to help us, and Swami Kriyananda is the one who has been the most dynamic, certainly, to my life and to many of your lives, and he was a force that never, ever stopped.

And through it all, he was turning his back to the world of duality and making big holes in the wall into the real world of Spirit, by writing books, composing music, starting communities, traveling here and there, going through litigation in Master’s name, and weathering tremendous disappointments and health challenges. And it was all because he always had his back to delusion and his face turned toward the Spirit, and he never put down the hammer and chisel.

When these great souls come and begin presenting the eternal truths in a new way, like sculptors carving a big block of untouched marble, we have to try to understand, “What is trying to happen?”

SRF has a phrase that they use in defense of their claim that they are the sole authorized representatives of Master’s work in the world. They say that Master “left a blueprint in the ether” for how he meant his work to unfold.

But Swamiji said something interesting about that claim. First of all, you can’t have something material in the ether, so it’s not a physical thing, and SRF was never able to present any physical evidence that Master had actually written it down.

Rather, Swami said, the “blueprint” is a vibration of attunement. He said, “Master moved through his life responding to opportunities as they presented themselves. He did not have a plan.”

Which is exactly how Swami moved through the world. When he went to Australia, he brought back opals, and we were going to sell them to raise money to build the retreat. He went to Sweden where he saw some prefab houses that he thought were charming, so we were going to bring them over. Or maybe we could start a One Faith Federation. Because, why not?

He met an Italian group of charismatic Catholics, and all of a sudden we had an opportunity to get in touch with the Catholic Church, and so he tried to feel whether it was in harmony with the energetic vibration of Master’s consciousness.

And if it was, he would follow it, and if it wasn’t, he would step away. Because you don’t always know what’s going to work out. We didn’t make a lot of money from the opals, and we don’t have a One Faith Federation. And when Michael Gornick and Dharmadas were given the job of investigating the Swedish houses, they called the people in Sweden to try to figure out what we would be buying. They finally got a Swedish man on the phone, and when they asked him what the houses were made of, he pulled out a dictionary and said, “Particle board.” And Dharmadas said, “We aren’t importing particle board all the way from Sweden.” So he refused to do it, not realizing that what Swami had wanted was innovative architecture and a unified looked for the community.

Swamiji wanted us to think outside the box, and ten years later Dharmadas said to me, “I didn’t have any idea what Swami was doing. I just thought, I’m not buying particle board all the way from Sweden.”

But Swami saw an opportunity, and it matched the right vibration, and that’s what we are doing, too. Because there’s a blueprint in the ether for each of us according to our karma, and it is not a fixed plan – it’s an energy. And the external details – how we’re raising our children, and whether we’re going bankrupt or we’re getting rich or we’re dying – these aren’t the things that really matter. What matters is whether we’re holding on to the right vibration, and that we’re taking every opportunity to move with it, regardless of pleasure or pain, success or failure, humiliation or adoration. Because those things don’t ultimately matter, compared to the overriding issue of our inner attunement.

This life is an event for which I’m responsible, and I’m standing back here in my center, in my spine, and I’m reaching out like the elm tree and I’m making whatever leaves are needed. And then what happens is that my life begins to look very different.

Toward the end of Swamiji’s life, he said, “So many people become bitter at the end of their life.” He said, “What is there to be bitter about? Can’t they see it’s all bliss?”

No, Sir, they can’t, and no Sir, neither can I, much of the time. But, ah! I’m beginning to get it. I’m beginning to get that Swamiji and Master and the great ones are always there, and they are pulsing forth a great vibration of divine power and attunement.

A woman sat meditating in the Moksha Mandir where Swami’s body is interred, and she wrote to me a little sheepishly and said, “I’m writing you because Swami whispered a message in my ear.” And she said, “I’ve only just taken Kriya, and how could such a thing happen to me?”

How could it not happen, if you were listening with sincerity and you were sitting in the Moksha Mandir?

The most extraordinary thing is that our relationship with the masters is also personal. The love perfected and the life divine that we long to have with one human being who’ll understand us, we can start looking to have it with God. And it actually works the other way around, too, where if we listen to the Divine, our heart’s every longing will be fulfilled.

Master said, “I am as much in all of you as I am in myself.” He said, “I know every single thought that you are thinking.” And Swami said, essentially, “So do I.” And he proved it on many occasions.

If we want to listen to our fears and our habits and desires, that’s what we will hear. But if we don’t want to hear them, and we want to listen to the whispers from eternity, it’s very simple – we only need to ask.

We don’t even have to ask terribly well. My favorite prayer is what I call the “Piglet Prayer,” from the Winnie the Pooh stories. Piglet and Pooh are lost in the fog, and Piglet begins to lose courage, which he does quite easily. So Piglet sits on the ground and puts his head on his arm, and he manages to squeak out, “Help! Help! Help!” And of course they’re just ten feet from their friends, but they’re hidden in the fog.

The Piglet Prayer works really well. And our prayers don’t have to be any more complicated than that, because Divine Mother and the masters are always hovering, and they’re just waiting for the slightest sign of interest on our part. And then they will flood us with their wisdom, bliss, joy, love, and fulfillment.

God bless you.

(From Asha’s talk during Sunday service at Ananda Sangha in Palo Alto, California on May 20, 2018.)

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