Swami Blessing Latha
Stories of Swami Kriyananda

Flowers along my Path: A few moments with Swamiji

This month we celebrate the anniversary of Swamiji’s meeting Master and how they touched our lives in profound and lasting ways. I would like to share with you some of my brief interactions with Swamiji and what I learned from those moments.

First Meeting

Swami Kriyananda in India in Orange RobeThe first time I saw Swamiji was at the Metropolitan Mall in Gurgaon. I felt a deep sense of love and bliss in my heart even though I had never seen or heard of Swamiji before. Amidst my shopping, I happened to look back as he passed by. I hastily asked my husband Shishir: “who is this man in the orange robe?” He recognized Swamiji from pictures he had seen. I watched Swamiji walk by and later decided to accompany my husband to the meditation classes at Ananda. This was December 2005. I have had the fortune to see Swamiji several times, mostly in large satsangs. As he walked into those gatherings, from a distance I could feel his aura of bliss and love. I felt my heart rhythm change in his presence, many a times my eyes would be moist and experienced a deep sense of peace. I have had few occasions to speak with him personally. However, I did not have anything to say to him in those moments. I just loved being in his presence enjoying his compassion and wisdom.

What are you doing now?

We moved from Gurgaon to Pune. Swamij lived in Pune those days. It was a particularly chaotic time in my life. Extensive traveling, setting up a company in Pune, settling into a new home and coping with the children’s troubles in a new school and so on. While the intention was to deepen my spiritual practice and be in Swamiji’s proximity in Pune, life interfered with my plans. My spiritual life was going through a dry phase. I was very restless and scattered.

Swamiji Blessing LathaAt a satsang at Swamiji’s home, as everyone walked up for blessings, I felt so inadequate that I tried to hide and just not go to Swamiji. I felt unworthy of his blessings. He looked at me from a distance as the queue was ending and smiled. I had no place to hide and walked up. As I came to him, I felt he said very loudly and with a deep voice – “What are you doing now?” It was as if the whole room was echoing with the question, again and again. I fumbled and mumbled. Dharamdasji, who was next to him, filled in and said to him, “Swamiji, she has picked up a job in Pune and moved here recently.” He just smiled and blessed me at the Spiritual eye, as was customary. I came out of the room and said to a friend who was behind me, he was asking me that question so loudly. My friend said to me, “No, he spoke very softly.”

So, it was only me who had heard it so loudly. It took me some years to understand what happened there that day. Swamiji imprinted that question in my consciousness, so now when I start to wander away or become sluggish in my practice, that loud echoing question comes up: “What are you doing now?” It has helped me find my way back several times like an alarm clock ringing promptly inside me in those distracted times.

Things May Not Happen When You Want it

Once we were at a potluck celebration with Swamiji in Gurgaon. Devotees had brought lovingly cooked delicacies. Our cook made kheer for the potluck, and for Swamiji I made it myself with very little sugar. I poured his kheer in a beautiful bowl and took it to the potluck. I had put all my culinary skills into the kheer and wanted an approval from Swamiji.

As dinner started, I placed myself strategically to watch his expression as he had the kheer. Sangeeta took it to him, he took the bowl from her but kept it down without eating. I waited watching him all through the evening, but he did not pick it up. Finally he left without eating the kheer. He had a lot of other dishes and complimented those who brought them. I started to feel sad and left shortly after.

As we nearly got home, I got a call from Sangeeta. “Swamiji is asking for the kheer, would you like to take it to him?” I said “I am nearly home”, regretting I had left in haste. She took the kheer to Swamiji’s home and called me again to say “Swamiji asked me to tell you he enjoyed the kheer.”

So sweet were his ways. He catered to our loving demands for his attention and yet taught us lessons in those moments. Such a childish thing to do, I often reminisced about my behavior that day. Things may not happen when you want it to, but something beautiful will happen when it is meant to be, wait for the moment.

The Antidote for Self-Pity

At his last satsang in Pune, I asked him a question – “Swamiji, how do I cope with self- pity?” It was a trait that pained me for years. He looked at me deeply and it felt as though he was loosening up a deep rooted vritti inside me. He then answered very briefly, ”serve more.” Later I understood what he meant was expand yourself to include other people’s realities by serving them. Once in a while, I still get mild attacks of self- pity. I mostly catch myself in those moments, and try to do something serviceful and I feel better instantaneously.

Be a Good Girl

Swami Kriyananda WavingOn his last trip back from India, I felt an urge to be with him more. I tried to be present whenever there was a chance. I landed a chance to see him as he checked out of Le Meridian that morning, for the last time in Pune. As he came down to the hotel lobby, Sangeeta who was with me, walked up to him and handed him some papers. I watched him from afar, as I was just there to see him one last time from a distance. He called out from the other end of the lobby, “Come here Latha”. He blessed me and said with a smile, “Be a good girl”. He then waved lovingly at everyone there and left in his car. I asked my driver to follow his car to the airport. I went to the airport and just watched him walk away helped by Shurjo and Narayani right up to the security gate as far as I could see. He turned around, smiled and left. Never to be seen in his body again.

I cried inconsolably on my way back that day and reasoned with myself, Brighu said he had more years, he will be back again. Intuitively I was feeling I may not see him again. In a few weeks, we heard he left his body in Italy.

In Gratitude

Vivid and precious are these and other memories of how he helped beginners on the path like me. He loved and blessed as many as he could reach. He showered them with blessings as a shining example of his Master and his teachings. He lives in our hearts and continues to shower us with flowers on the path and more importantly remove the thorns along the way. You need to just call out to him and he enthusiastically participates in your life. Jai Swamiji! Pronam at your lotus feet!!!

Yogananda with His Sister and Husband

What is “Spiritual Marriage”?

Spiritual marriage means union with God, Soul, and Spirit. Marriage is not a man-made law. It is God-made. Man has abused the high purpose of marriage. Marriage means unity on the physical, mental, and spiritual planes. If you attract a person by spiritual magnetism, then you will meet your soul companion. Marriage is the communion of half-souls. In God we find highest communion. Unless human love is spiritualized, it will be a canker in your soul. Unless you are spiritually-minded and your mate is the same, you can never be happy.

Spiritual marriage means to marry your soul to the eternal love of God. Without God no marriage can be successful. The purpose of marriage is to know God, to be with God together, but this has been forgotten.

Do not try to attract the opposite sex through physical desires but through soul qualities. You cannot attract a spiritual soul through animal magnetism. Too much living on the sex plane causes health and happiness to fly away. When you have formed a tremendous friendship with a person that nothing can destroy, a friendship that has no compulsion in it and that increases constantly, you have found a true mate.

Balancing Reason and Feeling

In woman, feeling is expressed uppermost and in man, reason is expressed uppermost. In the married life, they bring out the hidden feeling and reason in each other, thus becoming more perfect. Every man and woman who have tried to seek a substitute for that spiritual quality through the sex instinct, have been disappointed. Reason and feeling in man and woman should be balanced. Like the softness of flowers, and the strength of steel, they are divine qualities.

God is all the love of all the lovers who ever loved. If you learn the higher forms of meditation, you can have spiritual marriage, or that communion with God which is the most beautiful of all love. Remember, no marriage can find its true purpose without man and wife first seeking God together. In marriage, love also grows through service to each other. When a husband and wife serve each other with the eternal inspiration of God, that is spiritual marriage.

People who rise above the physical plane and continuously strengthen the love of their souls find their oneness in God. When the love of two persons burns as one flame, above the physical plane, then it has intoxicating eternal qualities. The marriage that is lived in self-control and intense spiritual preparation becomes emancipated.

Man and woman should know that within themselves is the germ of the Infinite. If you cannot find your soul companion, do not marry. If you have found God, you do not need your soul companion. It is better to remain single than to enter into a wrong marriage. Transmute matrimonial love into love divine, and bring back your consciousness from the sex plane to the plane of paradise.

You may unite your feeling and reason by giving yourself to humanity. By having a bigger family, you have the right not to have a smaller, more limited one. For all those who are unmarried and wish to remain so, their greatest duty in life is service to humanity. If you do not marry physically, you must marry spiritually; otherwise you cannot be liberated. If you have no children of your own, adopt or teach the children of some one else, live an ideal life, and instill your soul qualities in them. What you instill in the souls of children is imperishable. Anything you do that perpetuates your life is, in a sense, your child. Thus fulfill your true purpose in life.

– May 1940


Marriage as a Path to God

Nayaswami Jaya shares his wisdom about what spiritual marriage means: a pathway to transform us and bring us closer to God.

Spiritualizing Relationships

A special two-part series with Nayaswamis Jyotish & Devi, Spiritual Co-directors of Ananda Worldwide. Uplift and improve the quality of your relationships.
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The Flight to Infinity

Recently, I watched a video of a condor that was rescued and cured by biologists. In the video, they captured the moment when it is returned to freedom. You will notice how he looks at the immensity that awaits him and everyone before flying! Very beautiful!

This is exactly where all of us devotees are standing, on the edge! We have been rescued by Paramhansa Yogananda. He showed us this path and made us His disciples. He has cured our spiritual infliction by initiating us as Kriyabans. We too are standing on the edge, looking at the immensity of the flight to the known and unknown.

Flutter, we may! Step back, if we want. But we must summon courage to jump off the edge of doubt and we will fly, supported by the wings of our faith, to Cosmic Consciousness, where He is waiting for us!

This is a flight we all should take in every situation in which we doubt. A Flight of faith in Him, is the only way to face all the challenges in life. May your faith bring sunshine and rainbows to your life!

Ananda Yoga Delhi
Right Attitudes

How I Gained Blessings Through Ananda Yoga

Ananda Yoga DelhiAfter joining an all-women chakra retreat in the hills, I signed up for the first batch of Ananda Yoga Teacher Training at Ananda Delhi. I was not quite sure if I had made the right decision as my body wasn’t in the best condition: I had issues with my knees, and my body wasn’t anywhere close to being athletic. Now, four years after my training, I look back and can’t thank God enough for inspiring me to do the course. Although I had a practice of some basic asanas before, Ananda Yoga opened up new vistas for me.

The fact that there was no need to be “picture-perfect” resonated with me right away. In Ananda Yoga, I realized my baseline was my body. The preparation through stretches and warm-ups made me aware of my body: first physically and then also energetically. It helped me ease my own expectation of forcing myself into a posture.

As I began this conversation with my own body, with each passing day, I experienced changes that I never imagined – improved flexibility, great energy, feeling of upliftment. One’s body type and age were no obstacles. And there was always a variation of the asana available if the original felt challenging – and that too without diluting the benefits of the asana.

In Ananda Yoga, each asana has an accompanying affirmation, which helps deepen the experience of that posture. The focus starts from the physical part, the alignment and then expands to the energy flow and the feeling that the asana brings to us. Very holistic – I feel that is how it must have been taught in ancient times.

Surya Namaskar SequenceLet me share a particular experience – Previously, I never enjoyed Surya Namaskar, as I always felt it to be very physical in nature. I prefer something more subtle. Using the body as tool, through Ananda Yoga, I was able to bring calmness to my mind and a feeling of stillness. With that experience, now I look at Surya Namaskar in a very different light. In fact, it is now one of my favorites. I still find it physically challenging, but I am not limited by that. I can connect to the energy flow, the affirmation helps me to bring right awareness to make the practice even more enriching and fulfilling.

Now, I am one of the yoga teachers at Ananda Sangha. And I feel most happy to share the joy with others through my sessions. I feel so grateful for these blessings.

Happy Faces
How to be Happy

Acquiring Happiness

Be Happy Under All Circumstances

We can never be happy unless we are progressing and seeking satisfaction in doing so, and unless we are guarding our happiness from all the influences which destroy it. Happiness comes, not by helplessly thinking, but by living it in all the moods and actions of life. No matter what you are doing, keep the undercurrent of happiness, the secret river of joy, flowing beneath the sands of various thoughts and the rocky soils of hard trials. Learn to be secretly happy within your heart in spite of all circumstances, and say to yourself, “Happiness is my greatest Divine birthright — the buried treasure of my Soul. I have found that at last I shall secretly be rich beyond the dream of Kings.”

Do not make unhappiness a chronic habit, for it is anything but pleasant to be unhappy, while it is blessedness for yourself and others when you are happy. When it is so easy to wear a silver smile, or to pour sweet happiness through your voice, why be grouchy and scatter unhappiness around you? It is never too late to learn.

Happiness grows by what it is fed on. Learn to be happy by being happy all the time. John said, “If I get money, I shall be happy.” He became wealthy; then he said, “I shall be happy if I get rid of my acute indigestion.” His indigestion was cured, but he thought, “If I get a wife, I shall be happy.” Then bedlam started, for he married a nagging, tongue-lashing woman. He divorced this wife, and after many years married again, but the second wife was worse than the first one. Then he thought that he would be happier if he divorced his second wife, so he did, but at the age of seventy he thought, “No, I shall never be happy unless I can be youthful again.” In this way people try but never reach their goal of happiness. They are like the man who raced in anger to bite his own nose, but never could, of course.

Overcome Happiness Destroyers

Ignorant people, like animals, do not heed the lessons which accompany pain and pleasure. Most people live a life checkered with sadness and sorrow, for they do not avoid the actions which lead to suffering and do not follow the ways which lead to happiness. Then there are people who are always consciously over-sensitive to sorrow and happiness when they come. Such people are usually extremely crushed by sorrow and are overwhelmed by joy, thus losing their mental balance. There are very few people who, after burning their fingers in the fire of ignorance, learn to avoid misery-making acts.

Many people wish to be happy, and yet they never make the effort to adopt the course of action which leads to happiness. Most people keep rolling down the hill of life only mentally wishing to climb the peak of happiness. They sometimes wake up if their enthusiasm for happiness survives the crash to the bottom of suffering. Most people lack imagination and never wake up until something terrible happens to arouse them from their nightmare of folly.

Stagnant people are unhappy, and extremely ignorant people scarcely know how it feels to be either happy or unhappy. They are unfeeling, like the stones. It is better to be unhappy about your own ignorance than to die happily with it. Wherever you are, remain awake and alive with your thought, perception, and intuition, ever ready, like a good photographer, to take pictures of exemplary conduct and to ignore bad behavior. Your highest happiness lies in your being ever ready in desiring to learn and in behaving properly.

People seeking happiness must avoid the influence of bad habits which lead to evil actions, for evil actions produce misery sooner or later. Misery corrodes the body, mind, and soul like a silently burning acid, and cannot be endured long. That is why it should be strictly avoided.

Replace Bad Habits with Opposite Good Habits

Cure yourself of evil habits by cauterizing them with the opposite good habits. If you have a bad habit of telling lies, and by so doing have lost many friends, start the opposite good habit of telling the truth. It takes time to form a good habit or a bad one. It is difficult for a bad person to be good and for a good person to be bad; yet, remember that once you become good, it will be natural and easy for you to be good; likewise, if you cultivate an evil habit, you will be compelled to be evil in spite of your desire, and you have to pray, “Father, my Spirit is willing, but my flesh is weak.” That is why it is worth-while to cultivate the habit of being happy.

The man sliding down evil paths finds no resistance; but as soon as he tries to oppose his evil habits by the adoption of spiritual laws of discipline, he finds countless temptations roused to fight and foil his noble efforts.

— November 1936

Yogananda Last Smile
Health & Healing

Smile and Be Happy

Make your home a valley of smiles instead of a vale of tears. Smile now and never mind how hard it has been for you to do so. Smile now. All the time remember to SMILE NOW, and you will SMILE ALWAYS.

Some people smile most of the time, while beneath the mask of laughter they hide a sorrow- corroded heart. Such people slowly pine away beneath the shadows of meaningless smiles. There are other people who smile once in a while, and they may also be very serious at times; yet beneath the hard, beautiful outer appearance there may be gurgling a million fountains of laughing peace.

If you enjoyed good health for fifty years and then were sick for three years, unable to get healed by any method, you would probably forget about the length of time that you enjoyed good health and laughed at the idea of sickness. Now your reaction should be exactly the opposite. Just because you may have been sick for three years is no reason for thinking that you will never be well again.

Likewise, if you were happy a long time, and you have been unhappy a comparatively short time, you are apt to lose hope of ever being happy again. This is lack of imagination. The memory of a long-continued happiness should be a forceful subconscious habit to influence your conscious mind and ward off the consciousness of your present trouble.

When wealth only is lost, nothing real is lost, for if one has health and skill one can still be happy and can make more money; but if health is lost, then most happiness is also lost, and when the principle of life is lost, all happiness is lost. After bathing yourself in the Ocean of Peace in dreamland, as you awake with happiness, say, “In sleepland I found myself free from mortal worries. I was a King of Peace. Now, as I work in the daytime and carry on my diurnal battles of duties, I will no longer be defeated by insurgent worries of the kingdom of wakefulness. I am a King of Peace in sleepland, and I shall continue to be such a King in the land of wakefulness. As I come out of my Kingdom of Peace in sleepland, I shall spread that same peace in my land of wakeful dreams.”

— November 1936

Bhaduri Mahasaya the Levitating Saint
Meditation and Kriya Yoga

Kriya Yoga and My Expectations

Bhaduri Mahasaya the Levitating Saint

Bhaduri Mahasaya: the Levitating Saint

When I started to practice Kriya Yoga a couple of years ago, it was with a backdrop of the Autobiography of a Yogi and its miracles of Kriya highlighted in it: levitating, fighting tigers, materializing in two bodies, surviving without food and so on. My expectations – if not the same but on similar lines – touched the sky: I thought that my life would change dramatically, and that everything good would happen.

Did it happen? No!

What followed were periods of frustrations and disappointment, bouts of anger, highs and lows in faith… Whenever a desired outcome happened, love for the Guru would come out pouring from me; and when things didn’t turn out as I expected, the bonds of my faith were stretched to its brittle limits.

It brought out in me thoughts like: “If everything is pre- destined, then everything else is an illusion, even Guru and his help. Why then, all this effort?” What followed was a lot of confusion. However, I noticed that there was always a niggling inner voice reprimanding me whenever I missed doing kriya. So, I decided: “Let me do what I am supposed to do, irrespective of the external and internal factors, circumstances, results, moods and without any EXPECTATIONS.”

And I did just that: Meditating even when I didn’t feel like it, turning on spiritual music while going about working at home, reading the teachings, trying to understand whatever I could and putting into practice whatever clicked with me. Yet, NO MIRACULOUS changes!

Bird with Ganesh StatueI still felt like a normal householder going about enjoying normal things in life. I would still have bouts of anger, moods, etc… However, they would last for shorter periods of time, and I would come out of it with more ease as compared to previous situations. Periods of frustration somehow were not long-lasting and vanished on their own. There was in me more acceptance of people in general, less judgments of them. Many times, when something happened, introspection on myself and the situation would come into the picture.

There were suddenly small periods of silence that were enjoyable, in which there was no urge to talk and there was an absence of restlessness. I realized that something was happening in my life. And if these small, seemingly insignificant changes were not THE MAGIC, what else were they?

Then I realized: all I have to do is my bit.

Book Cover My Heart Remembers Swami Kriyananda
Stories by Devotees

The Year of “My Heart Remembers Swami Kriyananda”

Book Cover My Heart Remembers Swami KriyanandaThis year, for us, can be most aptly described as the year of “My Heart Remembers Swami Kriyananda.

When Swamiji asked me, towards the end of his life, to write a book about my time with him, it felt like a “mission impossible.” But he had planted a seed in my consciousness, and sooner or later it had to bear fruit; It was just a matter of time. I had thought it would be years before I felt qualified enough to understand even ONE lesson fully, let alone explain it to others in a book. And that too in English, a language that is not my own!

It has taken me 4 years to align myself to that request, and to feel Swami’s inner guidance to make that request a reality.

This book has had an incredible inner and outer impact in Shurjo’s and my life. To me, this process has brought Swami’s living presence back into our lives, in a way that I hadn’t felt since his passing. Words were just given to me. I could feel Swami showing me the stories that needed to be shared, guiding their very expression.

The book publishing process could be a whole story in itself. Shurjo and I have never published anything before, nor did we have the faintest idea of where to start, nor even the money to pay for it. The day after our arrival to India, in October 2017, we asked a friend for a loan, contacted a printer, and managed to print 1500 copies in less than a month!

Group Photo Mumbai With New BooksKnowing how much energy Swami put out to share and talk about every book he wrote, we knew the amount of energy it would take if we were to follow in his footsteps. Or at least, to try! Once the book was printed we felt: “Let the book be our guide.”

We travelled through India for the following five months, sharing the energy of this book as much as we could. Our ‘book tour’ took us to nine Ananda centers, spending roughly a week in each city. Our greatest joy was being able to stay with devotees in each city and spend time with them and their families. One time, we stayed in 4 different houses in one week in the same city. It was an incredible, bonding experience. All of us were part of the same one flow of “our hearts remembering Swami Kriyananda.”

Narayani and Shurjo at Devotees' House

Without a home of our own, we lived out of our 20 kg suitcases. It wasn’t easy, and at times it got really hectic, but there was a grace and joy that pervaded every aspect of it. Everywhere we went, and every person we met, felt like an extension of Swami’s hidden guidance and support. Nothing felt random, everything seemed to be orchestrated, bringing us to the right place, at the right time.

The same pattern was repeated as we took the book beyond the borders of India, to our Ananda family in Italy and the U.S. Having done the math, we realized that we visited 31 cities in less than a year! Not quite like the movie ‘Around the world in 80 days’, but almost! 🙂

As people started reading the book, testimonials from around the world began flowing in. And they continue to do so until today.

  • This book fulfilled my hearts desire to know Swami Kriyananda closely. It’s now my favorite book along with Autobiography of a Yogi and The New Path.
  • The book has filled me with so much love, hope and strength for the coming year. Inspiring and uplifting. Got transported into a new world. Became alive with the spirit of Swamiji.
  • This book is a beautiful gift to the world. Swami’s presence can be felt so strongly in this book.
  • Before reading your book, I only understood Swami Kriyananda to be a direct disciple of Yogananda and founder of Ananda. This book has helped me to understand Swamiji the way I’d never imagined.
  • This book has touched me deeply. What a great saint Swami Kriyananda was. I won’t even start with the amount of tears.    
  • For the first time I had a proper glimpse into Swamiji’s life and works. I have no words to express my admiration for him.      
  • My own connection with Yogananda and Swami are deeper now because of reading this book. Thank you!

During our last two weeks in the U.S, I did the audio recording of the book in both English and Spanish, which soon will be available for anyone interested.

Swami Kriyananda blessing Narayani

A few days ago, as this cycle of our lives comes to an end, Swamiji came into my dreams. He wanted to know how the book tour was going. I could feel his eagerness to hear about everything. As I began sharing with him, tears of joy streamed down my face. I told him how much people have enjoyed the book, and how much more they now felt close to him. He listened attentively to every word. Every now and then, with a radiant smile, he would interject: “I’m so happy! I am so happy! Tell me more!” When I finished, he placed his hand on my head. I knew it was a blessing. Just then I woke up.

When I opened my eyes, his presence could still be felt.

This dream left me with two thoughts:

Firstly, how actively involved Swamiji is in everything we do in his, or Master’s name. He is part of our team. He is the one who puts the thoughts in our minds, and then creates the right circumstances for that thought to blossom. All the while walking with us, holding our hand, until the job is done.

Secondly, his blessing wasn’t so much for what the book did for the work, for him or for Master. It was for the overcoming of fear and ego-limitations. Their blessings have nothing to do with the outward project itself, only with the inner transformation it brings about in us.

We are on the plane, as I write this blog, on our way back to India. These two thoughts are the greatest gifts I’m bringing with me to our next project in Mumbai!

Jai Guru, Jai Swamiji!

Spiritual Parenting and Education

Happiness Camp: Paramhansa Yoganandaji’s Teachings for Children

Getting up in the morning, albeit generally unwillingly, the little ones prepare for attending school. There they spend a regular tiring day, filling themselves up with the syllabus and of course on most days having fun with friends too. On reaching home they have meals, study, play and another day has ended. Off to bed they go.

But then summer vacation comes and this routine is paused for a while! It’s the most cherished time in a child’s year.

But what about their inner life? Their inner development? Are children not eligible to explore the science and art of Self Realization? That is an interesting question, because Yogananda ji has also addressed children especially as part of His great work to uplift mankind from ignorance. The approach of Ananda in introducing children to Yoga and Meditation is to engage them in enjoyable activities that will direct their energies into learning certain life skills necessary for righteous living.

Ananda Sangha Noida was blessed with an opportunity to serve Master’s work through a summer camp, which was unlike any other that children are usually enrolled into. Rather than just worrying about keeping the little ones busy, there were some parents who got attracted by this idea of bringing a positive change into their children’s behavior.
Thus began the seva. Some devotees planned the activities, some advertised the camp and some interacted with the children directly. So much effort was put out together and the fruits harvested were very sweet.

The camp was two weeks long with four classes each week. There were plenty of activities keeping the children and the serving devotees on toes the whole time. The day opened with chanting Om and Guru Vandana after which there was a yoga posture class. Mind you that yoga for children is different, at times there was so much laughter! For instance stretches were replaced with a game of posing as different animals; after the yoga class some children asked if it was also possible to pose like a donkey!

How could Superconscious Living Exercises be left out? Of course they were part of our schedule too!

Then began the enchanting choir session with children singing the melodious gems of Swami Kriyananda ji. The words not only conveyed a message but also brought about a vibrational change in all singers. They even played a game of figuring out actions for the words of the songs.

But can children meditate? They daily took some time to be silent; for the first few days they lay down, with a coin on their forehead to focus on. Gradually they became more interested about developing focus and sat calmly to observe their breath. One day they reminded the guides they had missed the meditation due to the tight schedule and so we included it that day too.

We learnt appreciating Mother Nature who gives so much love to us, her children, and realized we must give back to her also. Therefore the children made a bird feeder out of used plastic jars, gardening plates and some rope. It was a joy to hear afterwards how one child filled his feeder five times within few days only; very hungry the birds in his neighborhood must be! Waste water was used for the plants in the garden of the Center to demonstrate “reusing”.

Children are an ever hungry lot, aren’t they? And the camp would not have been a success without Satvic cooking. Every day they prepared a healthy but tasty dish or two using fruits, vegetables, curd and other such ingredients to eat together as Prashad. It was emphasized that Satvic cooking needs, most importantly, a calm cheerful consciousness while preparing the food. Not to forget mentioning that the waste from the cooking activity was put in a compost bin and waste seeds were planted; later on the compost was used in the Center garden and the seeds had sprouted.

There were so many more uplifting learning experiences that the children were offered at the camp that the list is endless. There were games like writing a vice on a dry leaf and then putting it into the compost bin, concentration games where children had to learn the harmonium with sheer power of observation without any verbal instruction and listening to stories from the book Mejda. To mark the end of the Happy Days for Children Summer Camp, the children made a presentation at the Sunday Satsang which included a role play of one of the stories from Mejda.

The devotees at Ananda Sangha Noida felt blessed, so did the participating little ones and their parents as well. Some parents have come to the Center to attend the classes and events. They saw the positive change in their children, and became interested in how they could connect to these most practical, beneficial, age-old teachings meant for all.

Spiritual Community

One United Ray

The glue that holds Ananda together is one of friendship. Our entire worldwide work has no legal cohesion. We are not one legal entity, but many. Swami Kriyananda specifically wanted the communities to be run autonomously from one another. In keeping with this individualistic expression of Ananda, especially in each country, what, apart from the teachings themselves, will unite the work on a global scale? That is perhaps the most important legacy Swami Kriyananda has left us: family-in-God.

Those of the previous generation, who came to Ananda in the early days, had but one “physical” place they called home – Ananda Village. There, they meditated together, served together, laughed together, cried together, fought together, and loved God together – just as a true family would. From there, many of them were tasked by Swamiji with starting other communities and centres. While physically separated, the bonds of love and friendship held them together. Now, many of them lead and guide our work around the world, honouring Swami’s directions, and the realities of the places they are in, but always united through that friendship. Thus, Ananda feels as ONE, no matter which community you visit.

Now coming to the realities of our present generation (and I don’t mean in terms of age alone, but those who have come to Ananda in the decades after its establishment). Our experience of Ananda is as an already established global work. Each of us reside in different communities or are connected to different centres. Most of us know one another, living on other continents as just names or titles. “Oh, he is so and so, and he works for the fundraising department in Ananda Palo Alto.” “She is so and so, and she works for the marketing team in Ananda Village.” Names and job titles don’t build family. How then are we to recreate at least some of what the previous generation experienced? How are we to build and deepen our own bonds of friendship and family with our brethren across the oceans? Well, its not rocket science – just find ways to get together and create the opportunities to serve, meditate, laugh, cry and fight together (weirdly though, there wasn’t any fighting – perhaps we did something wrong?)

With that in mind, for the last three years, several of us have been coming together in groups of 30 and more to do just that! This year 75+ of us gathered together in Portland/Laurelwood in what was the largest gathering of its kind so far. The “excuse” for this gathering was the International Day of Yoga on June 21, where Nayaswamis Jyotish and Devi were scheduled to give a public lecture on “Yoga as a bridge to Peace and Unity”. Ananda Portland had never planned anything on this scale before – 4 days of programs at different venues across the city. They needed help. Enter, us. Some of us were able to help in the planning, organising and executing of this event. None of whom actually lived in Portland, but were connecting from different communities, on different continents.

When the day itself came upon us, 10 days before the event, our group descended upon Portland. We were almost 80 of us, from all over – Italy, England, Croatia, India, Argentina, Hong Kong, Germany, and of course, all over the US. While in the community at Laurelwood, we served in the kitchen, housekeeping, maintenance and the leading of yoga and meditation. And when not in the community, we were out, in the city of Portland, increasing the awareness around the event itself. We did flash mobs of yoga, meditation and choir in different areas around the city. We walked through the streets, some 50-60 of us, chanting Master and Swami’s songs, with harmoniums, guitars and cymbals, planting their vibrations everywhere we went. If we were in a restaurant or cafe, we would spontaneously break into song, in gratitude to the staff that was serving us. Our joy was infectious! On June 21, the event was an all day, open-air festival in the middle of Portland at Pioneer Courthouse Square. We were the first ones to arrive in the morning and last to leave at night. Many of us gave talks on the different aspects of yoga, meditation, community living, renunciation, etc. What a thrilling experience it was to share these teachings, and to do it with your bothers and sisters by your side. Choir and spontaneous kirtans were sprinkled in throughout the day. The last day, of our 4-day festivity, included the unveiling of an 8-foot bronze statue of Yogananda, with arms upraised in blessing to the whole world. WOW! No words can describe the power of that ceremony.

In the days following, little by little our group dispersed, returning to their respective communities and areas of seva. But no one left the same person. Each of us was now a part of the other. In a sense, we each carried back with us 75 other people. What we may have achieved outwardly, in sharing Master and Swami, with the city of Portland, pales in comparison to what we achieved inwardly, as individuals and as a group. Ananda is stronger now than it has ever been. More united. ONE.

More such gatherings will take place in the future, and this blog is a call to all of you out there – join us!


Making Our Name a Synonym for Goodness

Apart from a burning desire to find God, a common theme that animated the lives of Paramhansa Yogananda and his disciple Swami Kriyananda was an intense zeal to serve God and spread afar the message of Self-Realization. Master and Swamiji were also united in their energetic expectation that we, as disciples, have that same zeal toward this God-ordained mission.

In his letters to Rajarsi Janakananda (James J. Lynn), his closest disciple, Master provides a fascinating reason for serving God with zeal, one I had never consciously contemplated before. Consider these excerpts1:

We must work sufficiently, extensively, qualitatively, so that our names will have a magic spell and inspiration for all those who follow us, to be inspired to expand the work which we leave behind us…

You have started a work here that will keep growing; and our names will work after our bodies are gone. Isn’t that wonderful – that we shall work impersonally, bodilessly, even after we are gone…

Vivekananda, Ramakrishna, Sister Nivedita are names now, yet are living and working with the masses wonderfully by creating hospitals, dispensaries, schools. So also Lahiri Mahasaya, Sri Yukteswarji, are living names, and Saint Lynn and I would be living names, creating hermitages for God-contact everywhere… Think after a few years how many will walk and work in Kansas City & Los Angeles & India after Lynn and Yogananda are gone!

Master, through these inspiring lines, is telling us: If we dedicate our lives to becoming strong instruments of goodness, our very names become synonymous with that goodness bestowing action, and even after our passing inspire people to seek and serve that goodness.

Master touches on this theme in his Autobiography of a Yogi, in the chapter on Luther Burbank. Burbank was a horticulturist who developed over 800 strains and varieties of plants that combined the goodness of existing species while rooting out their shortcomings. As a result of his service, the word ‘burbank’ is now a transitive verb, defined as

“To cross or graft (a plant). Hence, figuratively, to improve (anything, as a process or institution) by selecting good features and rejecting bad, or by adding good features.”

In the Autobiography, on reading this Master joyfully exclaims “Beloved Burbank, your very name is now a synonym for goodness!

Swami Kriyananda’s life too is a perfect testimonial to Master’s words. Swamiji’s very name today, five years after his passing, serves as a dulcet reminder of – and a call to – steadfast discipleship, gentle kindness, divine friendship, spiritual leadership, attuned creativity, indomitable courage, selfless service and aspiration for moksha. Just as Yogananda wrote in the letter, Swamiji today is a ‘living name’, working ‘impersonally and bodilessly’, his name ‘having a magic spell’ that inspires those who follow him to expand the Guru’s work.

It fills me with great awe to realize that if I serve God ‘sufficiently, extensively, qualitatively,’ in this lifetime, my name can serve as a reminder of goodness even after I’m gone. Isn’t it the disciple’s greatest privilege if not only his hands and feet, but also his name and memory can serve the Guru, and that too perennially?

Let us follow in the footsteps of our Guru and Swamiji, and serve His cause with enthusiasm, depth, selfless ambition and creativity. Let us acquire a ‘living name’ that will serve Him even after our bodies are long gone. And may our ‘living names’, like Luther Burbank, become a ‘synonym for goodness.’

I’ll end this blog with an excerpt from the poem “Two Names2 that Paramhansa Yogananda wrote his beloved Saint Lynn as a birthday gift:

When our body ceases,
The good we do oft closes.
But we can live in names
In peoples’ memory frames.
And continue to do useful good
To those lost on their way.

If names can thus work for us,
Let us be up and doing
that our names we leave behind us
Can continue helping those who need us.

Oh, let us now acquire through mighty deeds a name
That will live in public fancy’s frame
That long behind us our good names
can work without fleshly frames.

Devotee Selling Books
Spiritual Service - Karma Yoga

Ananda Seva – Practical Suggestions

Within our path of Kriya Yoga, we give great emphasis to balancing our lives: on the one side with the practice of meditation, deepening our inner life; on the other side, by doing service, spiritualizing our outward life. We have many teachings and materials on how to develop our inner life, but what does it mean to serve within our path? What is Ananda Seva?

Ananda Seva is to infuse our daily lives with an attitude of selfless service, or to practice, in the words of Sri Krishna, “Niskam Karma” and to practically apply that attitude in whatever we do. It means to serve in a manner that deepens our discipleship and attunement with our Guru. We want to act in such a way as to feel the Guru’s presence and being instruments for him. We act with the awareness of representing our Masters and their mission through our service.

The following points can help you deepen your understanding and practice of Ananda Seva. Read them carefully and, more importantly, implement them in your daily life so that you may experiment with them and experience how it effects you and those around you.

“Practice the Presence of God”:

  • Feel God to be within you and around you in all that you do, in every moment. Include Him in your minute-by-minute activities: washing dishes, cooking a meal, hanging the clothes, taking a walk.
  • Direct your ongoing, inner, mental conversation toward God or Guru; by knowing he is listening, your thoughts will slowly start to change. Make it a point to also listen to His response; you’re having a conversation with God or Guru.
  • Make God your companion, share all of your thoughts and impressions with Him.
  • Ask God to guide your every thought and action.
  • Pay attention and take time to listen to God’s response to your prayers.
  • Remember the saying, “God doesn’t mind your faults, only your indifference.”

With God as your companion, try to see God in all.

  • “The guest is God.” See that everyone is your guest. Try to see that “The Divine Mother is in all.”
  • Try to see God or Master as standing before you, in others.
  • See all according to their highest potential. Everybody is, in truth, a part of the Divine. By looking through their veil of ignorance, we can feel God’s presence within them and help them attune with their own higher Self.
  • Think, “How would I treat Master if he was standing here?”

Master said, “If you want to be in tune with me, serve my work.” Remember:

  • Whatever we serve, we naturally attune to; by serving the Guru’s work, we attune to the Guru.
  • We should try to convert our present activities into a way to serve God and Gurus.
  • To strive to be a perfect reflection of Master in all that you do. Ask yourself, when faced with a choice, “What would Master do?”
  • To serve Master “in His name” – in His consciousness, in His bliss, in His joy.
  • To do Master’s work is to love God and be one with Him.
  • To be creative and think, “What can I do to better express Master’s ideals?

Serve Master’s mission through Ananda Sangha. Because:

  • By helping, we help Master in a way we could not by ourselves.
  • By serving together, we generate greater magnetism to accomplish goals. Remember the story about the sticks; you can easily break one stick, but many sticks put together can’t be broken.
  • By serving with others, we gain strength in our spiritual practices.
  • By serving with others, we learn to cooperate and get along with others.
  • Serving with others increases our own will, magnetism and energy.
  • Serving with others increases enthusiasm and is joyful.

Try to engage in “God Reminding Activities”:

  • Form a habit of thinking of God and/or meditating at regular intervals during the day.
  • Practice Japa and inner prayer
  • Thank God for everything that comes to you. “Thank you God. It comes from you.
  • Dedicate every action as an offering to God. “This is for you, Lord.” Then, do it well.
  • Start activities with a prayer. Work, meetings, meals, bedtime, awakening, etc.

Try every day to do every action with an attitude of service:

  • Begin your day with meditation and a self-offering to God.
  • Carry peace forward into you activities and recall peace as often as possible.
  • Check your attitude now. Are you thinking of yourself or of others? You can keep reminders such as post-its or an alarm on your phone to keep track of your attitudes.
  • By thinking of God, we can change a routine action into an act of service.
  • Act as much as possible from a position of conscious awareness. Be mindful.
  • Keep your attention at the point between the eyebrows.
  • Mental positivity and calmness strengthens others and is also a form of service. The vibrations you share are just as important as a service as your outward activities.
  • Serve mentally with kind thoughts and words of encouragement.
  • Include others in your meditation and prayers.
  • Be an instrument of blessings. Consciously bring peace to others.
  • Realize that the instrument is blessed by that which flows through it.

Other suggestions:

  • Try a walking meditation. This practice of combining an outward and inward activity will help you to be mindful in action.
  • Service is not simply busyness. We mustn’t lose our inner peace.
  • Cultivate an impulse to think first of the welfare of others over your own.
  • True leadership is service. A true leader is aware, thinks first of the needs of others, and acts appropriately.

Giving financial support to Master’s work can lead to the highest happiness.

  • Master said: “Making money honestly and industriously to serve Thy work is the next greatest art, after the art of realizing Thee.
  • Master once wrote to a businessman who was also a disciple, “God supports your business by giving you talent and health even though you have over-used your energy. So your business should support God’s work. And if you do so His law will give you untold protection—above all communion.

The two-part Ananda Seva Discourse by Nayaswami Jaya