By Swami Kriyananda
[In the early 1960’s], Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, then Prime Minister of India, gave his personal blessing on a project I had presented to him. It was to develop a piece of land in the green belt area near Birla Mandir. That he gave this venture his blessing was nothing short of a miracle. Many hundreds of others had tried to get land there, and all of them had been refused.
I and numerous friends in New Delhi were going to build a park-like center for interreligious cooperation and harmony. The picture shown above is of a painting that I made in 1961 to help promote that project. That brochure was never published, for, to the amazement of us all, the end result of our glowing hopes and expectations was, for us, a disaster.
I was the Vice President, at that time, of Yogoda Satsanga Society of India and Self-Realization Fellowship in America. My fellow Board members, instead of being wonderstruck and delighted by this news, as we’d expected, were outraged by it.Swami Kriyananda about forty years ago.
In retrospect, I realize they must have been frightened off by something they’d find difficult to keep under their own careful supervision and control. At any rate, and whatever their actual reasons, they opposed the project vehemently, stating their opposition in a long letter filled with anger and accusations. Even though I accepted their verdict uncomplainingly, and said I would go along with it, it wasn’t long before they dismissed me—not simply requesting my resignation, but actually “throwing me out on my ear” (as the expression is in America), with insults and the dire warning never again to dare try in any way to serve my great Guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, on pain of severe retribution.
You can read about that auspicious event in a recent book of mine, A Place Called Ananda. It is freely available over the internet. I call what happened “auspicious” not in sarcasm, but for a deeper reason. Indeed, everything God gives us is auspicious, if we will only wait long enough, with faith, for the final outcome.
The results of that episode—so tragic for me at first, personally—were, as you will read in that book, most fortunate. I ended up being free to continue serving my Guru according to my own inner guidance. I founded several communities called “Ananda”: six of them in America, and one more in Italy. At present, some 1000 people live in those communities, with many more people coming all the time. Thousands more are associated with Ananda in many countries. In addition, I have written 79 books, composed over 400 pieces of music, and written the lyrics for about 250 songs. (The rest of the music I’ve composed is for instruments.) I have lectured extensively in America and Europe. All this I have done because the one thing that I, as a loyal disciple of my Gurudeva, could never do was sit back, as I’d been ordered to do, and do nothing to serve him!
Always, in America and Europe, I waited for guidance from my Master as to whether he still wanted me to work also in India. I didn’t want to create trouble for anyone, but at the same time I could not forget that he had often hinted to me that it was his will that I spread his work there.
Over the years, many Indians have written to me pleading with me to return and resume the work I began so many years ago.Swami Kriyananda serving a box of sweets to his Guruji, meant as a gift for Ambassador Binay R. Sen. Seen above with Paramhansa Yogananda is Mrs. Sen.
Let me ask you at this point, friends, to put yourselves in my place. Many of you who are reading this letter weren’t even born when those things happened, which so drastically changed my life. Those of you who were not only in your present bodies but were old enough to join me in trying to develop that wonderful New Delhi project may now be too old to care much about the things of this world. I do hope and pray that your devotion to God and Gurus, at least, is still vibrantly alive.
Those of you who did work with me then were, I know, deeply hurt by what happened. It affected all of us. For those of you for whom, being younger, this story seems like “ancient history,” I ask you to cast your minds back in imagination and visualize what it meant to those of us who were involved: our great hopes and expectations for something beautiful and inspiring, something that would bring hope and joy to countless thousands. If you have carried your visualization so far, I ask you please also to picture the pain of our almost unbearable disappointment; the sorrow of seeing a good—and, yes, a holy—offering to God destroyed beyond repair, destroyed contemptuously, and with sneers for our noble motives.
I was simply not able to write to those dear friends who had given their hearts to cooperating in this worthy cause. My own suffering was too deep—too deep even for bitterness, too deep for anger, too deep for anything but prayers for guidance, which I uttered every minute for years in deep anguish. It seemed to me, then, that everything for which I longed in life—Guru seva, moksha, the chance to serve others with love in my Gurudeva’s name—had been stripped away, not for any reason that I could rationally accept, but in a way that I knew was brutally unjust.
Since then, for more than forty years, I have had to bear my own gurubhais’ continued condemnation, persecution, and unceasing effort to destroy me and everything in which I most deeply believe. Yes, destroy is the only word to describe what was attempted through lawsuits and slander. Indeed, it is a word one of their lawyers actually used to proclaim his intentions. How could I think of bringing you into that suffering? The best I could hope for was, by my continued silence, at least to spare you some of that pain. Thus, you would not be tempted to turn away from goodness, and kindness, and faith, and divine love.
For I did have to face that temptation. It was as if my own brothers and sisters actually wanted me to lose faith—faith in myself, in my discipleship, even in God. I resolved from the beginning, however, never to let bitterness enter my heart. Instead, I determined that there was only one course I could follow: love.
Would others have had the strength to make such a resolution, had they known the facts? I wasn’t sure, and didn’t want to submit them to that test. For those of you who knew me then, I can say simply that my determination to live for divine love and joy was successful. I based my resolution on the knowledge that, if ever I allowed myself to grow bitter I myself would only be the loser, twice over! I have continued to love those who hurt me, as I had always done.
Yet, on my conscience, I had no choice but to continue to serve my Guru and to carry on as he himself had instructed me personally to do. I never faltered in this purpose. The testing has continued to this day, and so also have the anger and the contempt. I will never falter. And I am glad to say that, for me, the fruits have been not bitterness, but joy.
My reply to people who pleaded with me to return to India was always, “If my Guru shows me that he wants me to work there, I will gladly return. Indeed India is, spiritually, my own country too. I will not work there, however, for any reason of personal vindication. Until my Gurudeva makes it clear to me that it is his will that I work there, I cannot accede to the wishes of anyone else. Guruji knows that my life is dedicated purely to him, to the quest for God, and to serving the mission God sent through him to mankind.”
My life has borne much good, wholesome fruit. My many years of tapasya have not been in vain. For that fact, I am blissful and deeply grateful.
Lately I was finishing my 79th book. As it neared completion, I suddenly realized that with this book, my life’s work was finished! I am in my 78th year. What else is there left for me to do?
India? Yes, India! With the completion of that book, my life has taken a surprising turn—not toward retirement and rest (well earned, I hope!), but toward even greater service. It appears that the colossal disappointment that I, and so many hundreds of others, endured all those years ago over that Delhi Project may be turned to joy after all even on this material earth plane. Great saints, including Neem Karoli Baba, had predicted that what I was attempting at that time would, as he put it, “come up.” That prediction appears now to be on the verge of fulfillment after all. For I feel clearly the guidance of my Guru to return to India, and once more to put my hand to the plow.
Am I too old? And will I, at my present advanced age, be able to accomplish anything practical? Will I even be able to survive in that difficult climate? Nothing matters to me except that I serve my Guru as he wants me to. This little person is not important. Whatever good I can do, however, is important, and does matter!
Moreover, I still have lots of energy, as well as many friends, much younger than I, who want to work with me. I am also fortunate in having become somewhat known in India, through twenty of my books that have been published here. I have even retained some knowledge of Hindi and Bengali, which I used to speak—though never well! It is true that most of the Indians I’ve met speak good English, but it can’t hurt that I am still able to speak at least a little bit of your native tongues also. I may even be able to learn them better, now. I would like to be able to lecture in Hindi, if you all are generous enough to forgive my atrocious mistakes! (As for Bengali, I have long considered it the sweetest language in the world.)
As to my health and ability to survive the climate, as well as any other strain I may face, truthfully, I don’t care. Even persecution, if it must continue, is (as we say in America) “the name of the game.” I’ve told friends of mine, “I sprinkle persecution on my cereal for breakfast!” I’ll continue to serve my Guru as long as God gives me the strength to do so.
I, and a group of friends from several countries, have decided to settle south of New Delhi. We invite you to join us for satsangs and even, if possible, to live with us. Together, may we build a work that will do what so many longed in our hearts to accomplish all those years ago: to show people everywhere the vitally important truths my great Guru brought to the world, and how to make God real in people’s daily lives.
A book I finished for Gurudev just a few months ago—the book before this last one—has now been published. Its name is, God Is for Everyone. God is indeed for all—whether they be worldly or spiritually minded, whether they be Eastern or Western, and whether they be Hindus, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, or Muslims. People need to climb out of the pit of sectarian rivalry into which the world has been slipping, and to understand that the goal of all human seeking is the bliss of man’s own being: Satchidanandam.
I hope to have the joy of seeing you during the months to come. May God bless you all forever, and fill you with His unconditional love and kindness, and His eternal bliss. He ever loves you. And, in His consciousness, so also do I love you.
In divine friendship,
About Swami Kriyananda
Swami Kriyananda was one of the few living disciples of the great Indian master, Paramhansa Yogananda before he left his body in April, 2013. Swamiji met his guru in 1948 in Los Angeles, California, and has traveled throughout the world spreading his teachings and creating spiritual communities. He has came to India to help establish a new kind of spiritual center for people of all faiths and religions who are seeking God.