On January 5, we celebrated Master’s birthday with a long meditation, followed by an Indian banquet. Afterward, Swamiji spoke. “My fellow disciple at Mount Washington, Norman Paulsen, had a vision of a great Light and all these people running toward it. A few ran directly into the Light and were absorbed into it, but almost everyone else ran for a while, then fell down. Most were stunned by the fall, and only slowly got up and started moving again. First walking, then gradually picking up the pace, until, once again, they were running toward the Light. Then most would stumble and fall, and the whole process would repeat.
“After Norman told me the dream, I asked Master, ‘Does everyone fall—repeatedly?’ ‘Yes,’ he said.
“God doesn’t mind your faults, He just wants you to love Him. Don’t put yourself down for not yet being a Christ. If you love God and love Master and try to serve them to the best of your ability, He won’t be angry with you for not doing it well enough. Don’t beat yourself up for having darkness in you. Just try to love God all the more. He doesn’t care how many faults we have. What touches Him is our love.
“More than just offering what you do to Master, feel that Master himself is doing it through you. Some people tell me that The Path has the same vibration as Autobiography of a Yogi. I am not surprised. Both books have the same author: Master. If you get rid of the worry that you are not pleasing him, but have a positive consciousness, he will be able to work through you better and better.
“Don’t bother to think, ‘I am not worthy.’ Just say ‘YES’!’ to life, to the divine life flowing through you. Make everything you do a puja—an act of worship—and soon you will be brimming over with inner joy. It doesn’t matter what we do; what matters, is the spirit with which we do it.
“This is God’s dream. Always live with one foot in Eternity. Tell yourself every morning and every evening, ‘This could be my last day.’ Eventually, everything we have done in this world will be left behind. The only thing that goes with us is how much we love: love God, love one another. The divine consciousness was born into this world through Master that we might all get out of this world and into Bliss.”
In the middle of March, Swamiji finished editing The Path. “I feel like a warrior who has just returned from fighting a long battle—a little stunned to be out of it, scarcely able to believe that so many years of struggle are finally over, grateful in the thought that my efforts may prove helpful to others, and aware that a major chapter in my own life is now closed forever.
“I didn’t dare write a single episode of Master’s life until I had meditated on it for years, to be sure I understood it completely. I have gone to a depth and have faced things in a way I wouldn’t have done otherwise. It has been a wonderful growing experience for me. I have had to meditate and feel every word before I could say it. I had been concerned about what to include, but I found Master writing through me. I was writing from attunement. I put out of my mind completely how SRF, or anyone else would receive it. Whatever Master wants, that was my only thought.”
He said, “There were two things I felt I must do in my life: start Ananda and write this book.” Now both were done. He was spiritually exhilarated—“What a profound blessing has flowed through me.” And physically exhausted—“It should have taken ten years to write this book, but it was needed now, so I did ten years of work in three.”
He needed to recover physically, so that he could meditate deeply and feel Master’s guidance for the next stage of his life. Two friends offered to pay all his expenses, so he could go wherever he wanted, for as long as he needed. He began making plans for a seven-month trip around the world. The first month would be in Europe, traveling with six others from Ananda. He would see friends, visit publishers, vacation in Switzerland, then give a few programs in Rome.
Swamiji and four of his companions would continue on to India, where he would be in seclusion for four months. A friend there had offered him a house in Kashmir. Vijay Girard and Seva would stay with Swamiji the whole time, taking care of the cooking and housework so he could be surrounded by his own vibration. After India, it was on to Australia for an international conference of yoga teachers, where Swamiji would be the keynote speaker.
The book itself was finished, but many details about its publication still had to be decided before Swamiji could leave. Several times his departure was delayed. Finally, on April 4 we left for the two-hour drive to the airport in Sacramento. I sat in the back seat with Swamiji, while Seva drove. One by one, I handed him the pictures he had selected for the book, and he dictated a caption into a small recorder. Just as we made the final turn into the airport, he finished the last caption.
A large crowd came to see him off. Swamiji embraced each one, offering words of blessing or advice. It would be the longest separation from him we had yet faced.
Swamiji arrived in Kashmir at the beginning of May. He was eager to start his seclusion, but the promised house needed some repairs. In fact, he wasn’t physically strong enough yet to take on the meditation routine he planned. Most of his vacation in Switzerland, he had spent in bed with the flu, his heartbeat erratic—skipping beats, then racing up to 140 beats a minute. In Rome, he got such bad laryngitis he couldn’t even talk to his friends, so he left earlier than planned. His voice was coming back, but it was still weak.
While they waited for the house to be ready, they were guests of his friend, Suffering Moses and his American wife, Mary. The name Suffering Moses had first been bestowed on his grandfather by English visitors who were impressed by the patient, long-suffering effort he and his artisans put into their handicrafts. They carved wooden furniture, embroidered fabrics, and made dishes, boxes, picture frames, and many other beautiful objects of painted wood and paper mache.
“Of all the shops I’ve seen in the world,” Swamiji said, “this is the only one where everything is in excellent taste. Mr. Moses himself designs and supervises the production of all that he sells. Everything is handmade. Some items take years to complete.”
Mr. Moses told Swamiji that now was the time to buy Kashmiri handicrafts. Soon the whole art would be lost. The younger generation didn’t have the patience for it; they preferred to work with machines.
The enforced interlude gave Swamiji time to consider again the building of the Retreat.
The incompetent Director had since been fired; the new Director gave us a special use permit for the Retreat, independent of the master plan. Arjuna was in charge of building; we could start anytime.
“You’ve heard my idea, which I’ve had for some twenty years,” Swamiji wrote to Arjuna. “To symbolize Master’s world-brotherhood concept, we could have a building where each bedroom is furnished according to the style of a different country. They could be named accordingly—Rumania, Italy, Bali. Guests could choose which country to ‘visit’ during their stay at Ananda.
“The idea has been mostly up in the air, with no one but me visualizing it clearly. What is needed is energy actually started in that direction. Seeing such beautiful things in Suffering Moses’ shop, and how incredibly cheap they are, I decided to buy the furnishings for the first of our international rooms.”
We had permission to rebuild the houses we lost in the fire, as long as we got permits and built them to code. Starting again from scratch, there was ongoing debate about what constituted simple living: Electricity? Indoor plumbing? Accessible by car, or only by a narrow path through the woods? Many at Ananda were still rebelling against materialism in any form. Embroidered fabrics and carved furniture were not part of the discussion.
“In India,” Swamiji said, “spiritual people are respected for living lives of utmost simplicity. In the United States, where money is so much easier to come by, if a spiritual group is too impoverished, people assume there must be something wrong with their teachings! I am not advocating luxury, just a level of refinement in our outer environment that will help people tune into the refinement of our ideas.”
Swamiji’s letter to Arjuna was six pages of detailed description of the various Retreat buildings. He suggested we build in an octagon, in the middle of the meadow, in the style of a Swiss chalet. An acre of garden in the center could be developed over the years by the guests themselves, under the supervision of a master gardener. There would be meditation shrines to each of the world religions. On the lake we could build a Kashmiri houseboat, as the setting for a small restaurant. Maybe we could build the boat ourselves, maybe we needed to bring over a Kashmiri carpenter to help us.
The international rooms would be in their own building, overlooking the lake. He suggested Japan, Bali, Italy, Rumania, Bavaria, Holland, England (Tudor style), France, Mexico, perhaps China; and, representing the United States, New England and New Mexico.
In the shared living room and dining room, we could have some elements from the various countries, tastefully combined so as not to create a hodgepodge. There would also be less expensive rooms—cabins, or dormitories—as part of the octagon. He included sketches of the whole layout, even down to a detailed picture of how an international room could be arranged, using as the example the furniture he was buying from Mr. Moses.
In Autobiography of a Yogi, Master wrote, “Brotherhood is an ideal better understood by example than precept! A small harmonious group…may inspire other ideal communities over the earth.” Swamiji suggested the name, World Brotherhood Retreat.
He bought furniture for a bedroom, a spacious living room, and a large dining room. Some pieces Mr. Moses designed especially for Swamiji. The total cost, including shipping, was $7000. Cheap for what he was getting, but more money than Swamiji had. He asked if I could raise it through loans or donations.
I was more on the rebelling against materialism side of things, and didn’t have much interest in embroidered fabrics or carved furniture. There wasn’t a single building at Ananda, or any plans to construct one, that matched what Swamiji was buying. We would have to start with the furniture and then design the Retreat around it. But I assumed Swamiji knew what he was doing, and it wasn’t hard to find people who wanted to support his vision.
On the morning of Swamiji’s birthday, May 19, we gathered in the temple for a long meditation. Where he would normally sit, we put a large photo and kept a candle burning next to it. For three hours, we meditated, chanted, and prayed for Swamiji. In the afternoon, we did service projects together.
I wrote to him afterward, “The love people expressed for you was so refined. Such deep appreciation for the kindness and inspiration you offer so selflessly, and an understanding that the relationship must go both ways. As you give to God in us, we must also give to God in you, by serving the cause you serve—Master’s work, Ananda, Self-realization for all.”
We had sent money to our friends in India to buy Swamiji a birthday present: a harmonium for his seclusion. He was deeply touched by our thoughtfulness. It hadn’t been possible, with all their travel, to carry one with them. He dedicated the new instrument to Divine Mother, by singing as the first chant, Engrossed is the bee of my mind on the blue lotus feet of my Divine Mother.
“I can’t think of a nicer birthday present,” he wrote, “than all of you getting together as you did to send me your love and blessings. If the thought behind the gift is what counts most, how especially meaningful is a gift of concentrated thought. The blessings will be felt in many subtle ways through the weeks to come. Thank you.”
Finally, on the last day of May, the seclusion house was ready. It was seven miles outside of town, at the foot of a mountain, with its own spacious garden, far enough from the neighbors to insure privacy and quiet. It had two stories, with four bedrooms and two bathrooms. A covered walkway, a few steps from Swamiji’s ground floor room, led to a separate building that had been used as a kitchen when servants were employed. Swamiji made this into his meditation room. Yards and yards of blue fabric and a small electric blue light created a perfect meditation cave.
“The blue color exerts a peaceful influence even when my eyes are closed,” Swamiji said. “The house is right next to it, but the meditation room feels entirely separate. It is completely silent—perfect.”
By the end of June, only Vijay and Seva remained with Swamiji. Sometimes Vijay had to go to town to get supplies, but otherwise Swamiji encouraged them to keep silence and meditate as much as possible. He had a hot meal every other day, which Vijay prepared. Otherwise, he mostly ate fruit. During the years of writing, he rarely took time to exercise and had gained weight. By the end of his seclusion he had lost twenty pounds. Clothes tailored when he arrived in Kashmir had to be redone before he left. Most evenings after supper, he would take a two-mile walk with Seva to the Nishat Gardens, usually in silence. He went weeks without speaking at all.
Swamiji wrote, “Some of you have asked what hours I meditate, so you can tune in to me at those times especially. Apart from 10:00 p.m. to somewhere between 2:30-4:00 a.m., there is hardly anytime that I am not meditating—up to sixteen hours a day. It has been lovely.
“There are obstacles, of course. Mosquitoes, for example.” And a pain in his back, and an injury from a fall. “But things do seem to be slowing down in the ‘tests department’—and tests or no, the work goes on. It is probably just as well we couldn’t start sooner. I had to build up my strength before I could hope to tackle a serious meditative effort. It is every bit as demanding as writing the book. At times I have had to urge myself to ‘get to work.’ But more and more it is becoming a joy.
“I have no concern about what I may ‘get’ from this seclusion. All that matters is that I center myself more deeply in the presence of God, and offer myself to Him more and more completely.”
Later he told us, “Meditating so many hours a day, I felt glowingly free. Whatever threads of attachment I felt in my heart, I cut away at them until they were severed. Then I tossed the broken threads into an inner fire, and watched them disappear in the Light. I polished my heart till it shone with joy. I was singingly happy!”
Even from his seclusion, Swamiji kept in touch through letters, and occasional telegrams. He knew his absence was difficult for many people, and he encouraged everyone to write to him. Usually, though, he answered through me, which was easier than sending individual notes. Buying and shipping the Kashmiri furniture had to be worked out. Major construction was going on at his house at Ayodhya. Most important of all was publishing The Path.
Since the previous September, when Swamiji returned from Hawaii, we had been working on the design, promotion, and distribution of the book. We considered it the sequel to Autobiography of a Yogi—the full title was The Path: Autobiography of a Western Yogi—and designed it to match the first edition of Master’s book.
SRF later criticized Swamiji for “copying Master’s design.” He responded, “How can it be wrong for a disciple to model his work on the work of his Guru? It is the duty of every disciple to continue what his Master started. Master wrote of his life with Sri Yukteswar; I am writing of my life with Master.”
We hired Michael Toms of New Dimensions Radio to design and write the promotional material, and to advise us on every aspect of marketing. He said autumn was the best time to launch the book. This meant it had to be at the printer by July 8. We had our own printing press, but it was too small for this job. The Pubble staff could do everything else, though: design, typesetting, paste-up, proof-reading, shooting negatives, and making half-tones of the photos.
After Swamiji left, we spent all of our time at Pubble working on the book. The typesetting machine produced a braille-like tape that had to be decoded and turned into printed sheets by another machine, which was four hours away in San Francisco. We operated on a shoestring and couldn’t afford a machine of our own. Normally, we mailed the tape back and forth. Now, in the rush to have the book ready in time, two women went down to the city every weekend and ran the tape. The owner was a friend and let us do this for free.
His shop was located, though, in an inhospitable part of town, so the women would take everything they needed for the weekend, then lock themselves inside the building. Late on Sunday, they would drive back to Ananda with the printed pages, to start early the next day with proofreading and pasteup.
Finally, on July 6, months of work culminated in a package not much larger than the book itself would be. We had a small altar downstairs in Pubble where we meditated. We placed the package on the altar, offering to God and Gurus the fruit of our labor, and asked Master to bless the book, that it be an instrument of his consciousness and bring many souls to God.
The printer was halfway across the country in Indiana. We wanted to have the book by Spiritual Renewal Week in August. There wasn’t enough time to ship the printed books, so three people flew to Indiana, put the books in a rented truck, then drove nonstop to Ananda. One person drove, one sat next to him, talking and singing to keep the driver awake, while the third person climbed into the back and slept on top of the book cartons. Early on Sunday morning, the last day of Spiritual Renewal Week, we got word that they were in Nevada City. By the time they arrived at Pubble, the whole staff was there to greet them.
We took the first carton, unopened, and placed it on the altar. We hadn’t been able to afford a review copy, so had printed on faith. After appropriate prayers, we opened the box and saw, for the first time, The Path: Autobiography of a Western Yogi, by Swami Kriyananda.
I wrote later, “Impossible to describe the thrill of seeing Swamiji’s years of dedication to Master manifested as his autobiography. The book glowed with an inner light.” We took cartons of books up to the Retreat. Every year on that Sunday we took a community photo. In this one, everyone is reading The Path.
Swamiji was about to leave India; it was too late to ship books to him. He was on his way to Australia, stopping on the way in Thailand and Bali. Prahlad Levin met him in Bangkok, and had the honor of presenting the book to Swamiji.
We were conscientious about every aspect of production, especially proofreading: three times through to insure it was error-free. Which it was—with one exception. In the lobby of the Bangkok hotel, Prahlad handed Swamiji a copy of The Path: Autobiography of a Western Yogi. He opened it at random to the only mistake in the book: the chapter heading didn’t match the text, and he spotted it immediately.
“Divine Mother was having fun with me,” Swamiji said. He wrote to us in gratitude for all our hard work. “It is beautiful. Just as I imagined it. Now it is up to Divine Mother.”
We printed a thousand signed and numbered presentation editions. The first went to Swamiji’s parents, the second to Jyotish, the third to Seva. From India, Swamiji wrote me, “Please send a copy to Daya Mata—regular edition. Tell her we aren’t sending a special edition as I thought it would be meaningless to her to have a numbered copy, when the contents are the same. Explain where I am, and add the message, ‘If I were there, I would inscribe the book, “In changeless, divine friendship.” Please consider it mentally so inscribed.’”
When Swamiji left Ananda on April 4, he was exhausted. When he returned on October 28, he was rested, radiant, and filled with plans for the future.
“For ten years it has been a matter of survival to focus most of our energies here in the community,” he said. “Besides writing, my work has been to build Ananda from within. Only rarely have I gone outside to lecture. In my seclusion, I felt now it is time to reach out to people. The world is hungering for what we have. To hold back would be miserly.”
Swamiji did not refer to the fire, but it was the backdrop for what he was saying. In the face of catastrophic loss, do we close in upon ourselves, or do we ask “How can I serve?” At an earlier crisis point in Ananda history, someone had suggested to Swamiji that we close the Retreat and put all our energy into building the community. He responded simply, “If we close our hearts to Divine Mother, She will close Her heart to us.” Now he said, “If we don’t reach out to help others, our own spiritual awareness will shrink.”
He had prayed, he said, for a symbol for Ananda that would express “what Ananda is and what it aspires to be.” An image came to him in meditation, its curving lines so subtle that he had to draw it dozens of times before he felt he had reproduced his superconscious vision. Afterward, he put into words what he intuitively understood when it came to him.
“The mountain peak at the bottom symbolizes the soul’s aspiration toward God; the graceful upward curve of the slopes suggests joyous, rather than merely arduous, ascension.
“The sweep upward and outward from the mountaintop, ending in the figure of a bird, symbolizes the Bird of Paradise—the human soul soaring upward toward God, and at the same time, outward in joyous circles to embrace all men in its quest for enlightenment.
“The bird itself, finally, is like an arrow, also, its shape the opposite of that of the mountain below. Thus, every upward aspiration of the soul is met by a corresponding descent of divine grace. The descending bird symbolizes also the soul that, after finding God, descends again to help other aspiring souls. As Master once said to me: ‘Lord, give me Thyself that I may give Thee to all.’ That is the highest prayer.”
Written along one of the curves were the words Joy is within you, which Swamiji suggested as Ananda’s motto. Perhaps we could even greet one another by saying, Joy to you. “The essence of everything we do is Ananda—joy. Many people will tell you they don’t want God, but no one will tell you he doesn’t want joy. God is joy.”
He suggested a new way to expand our family beyond the borders of the community: The Circle of Joy, for people everywhere who believe as we do in the ideals of “simple, spiritual living, cooperation, meditation with divine realization as the goal, and service to God through one’s fellow man. It would be a circle of divine friends who draw strength, encouragement, and inspiration from one another through their mutual love and spiritual support on the path.”
To launch this new, outward-looking energy, he proposed to go on a nationwide Joy Tour, starting early next year. He invited a dozen others, most of them singers, to travel with him. It would have been simpler to take a smaller group, but he wanted all of Ananda to think now in terms of outreach. This many people going on tour, then coming back and sharing their experience, would help change our self-definition from members of a rural community to ambassadors to the world for a new way of life.
The leader of a world-renowned rock and roll band had started coming to Ananda. When he heard of Swamiji’s plans to go on a nationwide tour, he said, “I know what it is like to travel constantly and have to perform. I’d like to make it easier for you. Can I buy you a motorhome? I know what a difference it will make.”
Swamiji accepted with gratitude. “I’ve always imagined traveling around the country in a motorhome, sharing Master’s teachings.”
He christened it Sadhu (wandering monk). Sadhu would be Swamiji’s home; the rest of the group would stay with friends in each city. To carry all the people and supplies we also got a van, which we called, Chela (disciple) because wherever Sadhu goes, Chela will follow.
In November, we had the groundbreaking ceremony for the new World Brotherhood Retreat. Swamiji turned over the first shovelful of earth.