If SRF ever softened its opposition and accepted Ananda as a legitimate branch of Master’s work, Swamiji was concerned that we might be overwhelmed by new members who would come for the lifestyle, but whose first loyalty was to SRF. Not knowing, perhaps not even respecting Ananda’s way of discipleship, they might try to make Ananda over to be more like SRF. If their numbers were sufficient, it could be disastrous.
To protect against this, or any other serious aberration in Ananda’s development, the community occupied the land, but did not own it. Title was held by a separate corporation called the Yoga Fellowship. One could become a member of the community after only one year of residency. The requirements to join the Fellowship were stricter: five years of residency, plus the approval of the other members. Gradually, the Yoga Fellowship became a kind of senior council for Swamiji. The annual members’ meeting in January was a time when he would introduce and discuss possible new directions.
This year, the main agenda item was to make a final decision about establishing within Ananda a formal religious order. The impetus first came from the IRS — the Internal Revenue Service. Changes to the tax code that would be very costly for us could be mitigated if we formed a religious order. We wouldn’t do it just for the money; there were many good spiritual reasons, too. Last year we agreed to investigate; this year, we would decide.
“To call ourselves a religious order,” Swamiji said, “is not a radical change from the life we are already living. Self-realization is progressive, and it naturally follows that some will be more advanced than others along the path we are all following. Ananda has to be organized, to some extent, along hierarchical lines rather than strictly democratic.
“Not everyone will want to join the order. Not everyone will qualify. But having a religious order within the community will allow the community side to flourish, while still keeping the ashram side strong. Concentric circles generally act as an incentive, rather than a discouragement, to greater commitment.
“At the beginning, most of those who joined the community were young, with little experience in the world. Now that life here is more comfortable, we are attracting older people who have had some worldly success, and therefore have confidence in themselves and their abilities. They have much to offer, but it won’t help them, or the community, if they think, ‘I have as much right as anyone to say what Ananda should be.’ The presence of a religious order will help them be better disciples.”
The traditional vows for a monastic order are poverty, celibacy, and obedience. Ours would be a householder order for Dwapara Yuga. More appropriate vows, Swamiji suggested, would be simplicity, moderation, and cooperation. There was a lot of room in these vows for personal interpretation, so we asked Swamiji to explain them more specifically. “No real understanding comes from defining things too exactly. In fact, too carefully worded a definition often hampers understanding.
“Furthermore, when people know they are being judged according to precise criteria, they may lose their spontaneity, even act insincerely in order to be accepted. Far better to talk in terms of directions, vibrations, and attunement. This allows people to define things from their own experience, and to keep redefining as they themselves grow. To be too exact from the start will hurt our cause rather than helping it.” He then elaborated on the vows to this extent:
“Simplicity: Everything I own belongs to God. It comes from the heart, to exchange the I-mine attitude of the world for the Thou-Thine attitude of the devotee. You may still have stewardship, but if you are living for God, it is without attachment.
“Moderation: Everything I do, I do with, and for, God. Sharing everything with God—pleasure and pain—naturally leads to moderation, even if you don’t start out that way. When God is your partner, you are less inclined to chase madly after sense pleasures!
“Cooperation: To live in attunement with one’s higher nature. There is a natural spillover, then, to cooperation on the human level, and with the ideals and principles of the community.”
As for special dress or other outward signs of membership, Swamiji said, “There are good reasons spiritually to set yourselves apart, but for a householder order in this day and age, I think it better not to. It could discourage rather than inspire others. Master wanted us to be natural.”
Friends of God was the name Swamiji had given to our monastic order. He thought it ideal also for this one. “In time, the monastic side will come into focus as its own entity, but for now, better to have everyone together. We need to show that you can live for God even if you are married and raising children. If the monastics were defined separately now, and seen as the ‘real’ devotees, it would weaken the order.”
Not everyone was in favor of formalizing the life we now enjoyed. In many ways, it was the lack of organization that made it so delightful. Discussion then shifted to all the reasons why a religious order might be a bad idea:
Even if we start with the right spirit, these things take on a life of their own. Rules proliferate, definitions become dogmas, position in the hierarchy becomes the measure of the man. Why risk it? We are fine as we are. We can’t let the IRS push us around!
Swamiji agreed that these were valid concerns. “Formalizing the order would keep the community from going toward worldliness, but it could also lead to limitations we don’t intend. Nothing can be fixed forever. We must be careful, then, always to be open to new directions, to go back to our first principles and apply them creatively.”
A few years earlier, Swamiji had had to intervene in the membership process to insist that someone be accepted whom others wanted to reject. “She didn’t fit the norm,” he said, “and some thought to accept her was to compromise our principles. I said, ‘Compassion is the highest principle. She is different, but she is very sincere.’”
In accepting her, some felt we were setting the “wrong precedent.” Swamiji said, “If what we do now is later misunderstood, we can correct it then. Setting a precedent of compassion is the right choice. It keeps foremost what Ananda really stands for.”
As if to illustrate the point of how an order might want to set rules and hold people to them, someone then asked, “What do we do if people stray from the principles of the order?”
“There will always be those, usually older members,” Swamiji said, “who lose their vocation, but don’t dare to move on. They are a bad example to newcomers and a test for everyone. But it is a test newcomers need to hone their discrimination, and leaders need to hone their intuition.
“Compassion should be the basis for every decision; but not compassion for one person at the expense of the whole order. Some negativity is so strong we have to be more severe. But if we can absorb their energy and have hope that they will change for the better, we should wait and see. We should be lenient if possible. This is our family, our spiritual flesh and blood.”
In the end, weighing the pros and cons, we saw more benefit in establishing a formal Ananda religious order, and decided to go ahead.
Before the expansion, Swamiji’s home had been his private residence. Visitors came only when invited. Now it was almost a public venue. The only private space Swamiji had was his downstairs bedroom and his office. But to get from one to the other, or to the kitchen to get a cup of tea, he had to pass through the living room and walk half the length of the house. On the way, he often met community residents or guests who were there for other reasons. It would have been rude not to pause for a few minutes to greet them, which sometimes led to spiritual questions, even impromptu counseling sessions. This was great for the visitors, but not so good for Swamiji, who needed time and uninterrupted solitude to write.
In February, we called a community meeting to which Swamiji was not invited. He had spent all his inheritance building for us; it was up to us, now, to build for him. I spoke from experience about how unsuitable his present room was, but no one needed to be convinced. Just as we had accepted the need to provide Swamiji a salary, it was right and proper that we provide a suitable home for him. We committed ourselves to raise the money, so that when Swamiji left for Europe in March, we could build an office and apartment for him.
When we told Swamiji our plan, he was grateful, above all, for our sake. It was our dharma to give back to him, and he was pleased that we understood. He helped design a separate wing—a one bedroom apartment with an office down the hall. It would be built on the same level as the downstairs room, but away from the overhanging porch. The rooms would be bright and airy, with an expansive view of the canyon.
Because of the steep slope of the hill, the roof of the apartment was at ground level with the garden. This provided so much insulation, that even when there were crowds of people in the house and garden, the apartment felt as if it had been set down alone in the woods.
When Swamiji was a young monk at Mount Washington, Master gave him the job of answering letters from those taking the SRF lessons. In The Path, he describes a conversation he had with his Guru:
“What letters we are getting from Germany,” Swamiji said. “Such sincerity and devotion! Letter after letter pleads for Kriya Yoga initiation.”
“They have been hurt”, Master replied with quiet sympathy, “that’s why. All those wars and troubles! Kriya is what they need, not bombs.”
Master paused, then added, “Maybe I will send you there someday.”
“I thought you had other plans for me, Sir.” He knew Master wanted to send him to India. “But of course I’ll go wherever you send me. I’m familiar with Europe, certainly, having grown up there.”
Master replied, “There is a great work to be done there.”
For many years, Swamiji had been the public face of Ananda. Now several teachers were traveling and lecturing, a group of singers was touring, and at the Retreat, a capable staff ran most of the programs. “In America, I am not the defining factor,” Swamiji said. “In Europe, it is different. When I am at the villa in Italy, crowds come to see me. Once they experience Ananda, they come back on their own; but the first visit is often because I am there. Europe has to be a priority now.”
In order to raise money to support Centro della Gioia and to give them something to do during that first long cold winter, Jyotish and Devi had arranged a pilgrimage tour of Italy. It was a great success, spiritually and financially, and added a new department to JAPA: pilgrimages to holy places around the world.
By the time Swamiji arrived in Italy at the end of March, the weather had warmed and the villa was filled with guests. Rosanna had visited Ananda Village earlier in the year; now she came to be with Swamiji at Lake Como.
One of the many ideas Swamiji had proposed, but which was never accepted at the Village, was to build in a unified way. Similarity of architecture and materials could turn a mere collection of buildings into a charming village. In Europe and other countries where he had traveled, Swamiji had seen many examples of what could be done, even with relatively inexpensive materials. By contrast, most of the early members of Ananda had never been out of the country and didn’t understand what Swamiji had in mind. The American commitment to “my home, my castle” proved stronger than his idea of a unified village.
Even after the fire, when we had a chance to build a second time, Swamiji was unable to persuade people to his vision. But the community was far from finished. So in May, when he visited Sweden and saw there some prefabricated houses—“Not at all utilitarian, as such things are in America,” he said, “but charming, inside and out”—he suggested we import them as a quick, economical way to solve the housing shortage and perhaps create a more unified look. One of the men Swamiji asked to consider the Swedish houses admitted later that he looked at the project only in terms of dollars and cents. When it didn’t add up, he recommended against it. It wasn’t until twenty years later that he realized Swamiji had a subtler intention: to get us to think more creatively about building Ananda.
Swamiji led by inspiration, not by edict. Only in matters of dharma would he intervene against the judgment of others. Swedish houses were a matter of taste, not principle. Later, when Swamiji saw there was no hope for the architectural cohesion he had wanted for the Village, he said simply, “All we can do now is plant trees.”
Sometime in the spring, Swamiji went with Rosanna to visit an Italian saint called Natuzza. Later he wrote about it in a letter sent to the Ananda family worldwide. “Natuzza is now in her sixties, and has been noted most of her life for the miracles that have surrounded her: miracles such as appearing physically in two places at once and healing people of supposedly incurable ailments. She has never admitted responsibility for any of the miracles associated with her. ‘Jesus did it,’ she will say, or ‘The angel took me there to help that person.’”
The day before they saw Natuzza, a woman had come with her daughter, a deaf mute. “Lifting the little girl to her lap, Natuzza exclaimed, ‘Poor dear! Jesus can’t want you to remain in this condition.’ She stroked the child lovingly for a few moments, and then, in a perfectly natural manner, said to her, ‘Now, run and tell your mother,’ who was waiting in the next room, ‘to come here and see me.’” The child, who was born deaf, and had never spoken a word, jumped off Natuzza’s lap, ran to the next room and called her mother. She was completely healed.
The saint sees one hundred people a day—fifty in the morning, fifty in the afternoon. Still, it is hard to get an appointment. But because she is a friend of Rosanna’s family, a meeting was arranged. Rather than having to wait in line, theirs was the first appointment of the day, a courtesy extended to Swamiji as a foreigner and Rosanna as a family friend. When they arrived at the house, Swamiji said, “We sensed a holy peace thrilling the air, which intensified when we went inside and met Natuzza.
“After greeting Rosanna, whom she hadn’t seen in several years, her attention then focused on me. ‘You are contented in yourself, and I see that you have no problems.’ With a smile she added, ‘Why have you come?’
“Her attention then expanded to include the two of us. ‘You are spiritually good for each other,’ she said. ‘The angel says you may marry.’
“This was hardly what we were expecting! Hastily, we both raised a host of objections.
“Natuzza was unimpressed. ‘You can help each other to find God,’ she replied. ‘It isn’t as though being together would harm either of you in your commitment to Him. Rather, I see it as helping you both.’ She continued, ‘Whether or not you marry is your responsibility; I am not telling you what to do. But I see you married.’ Then she repeated several times, ‘Become saints together.’
“I may say at this point that Natuzza’s counsel, though unexpected, was not alarmingly so. Rosanna and I had known each other now for well over three years. From the start, we have shared a deep spiritual bond.
“A life of withdrawal is simply not the life to which God has called us. For myself, not only did He close every door to the reclusive life I long sought; at every step of the way I have found myself both called and inspired to reach out to people where they were, and in the light of their understanding, to inspire them to the spiritual life.
“In this context, marriage is consistent with what I have tried to do. The friendship with Rosanna had grown to the point where the thought of marriage had indeed occurred to both of us. But we thought this meant we must decide henceforth to go our separate ways. Now, after much meditation, marriage seems right to us, both for ourselves and for others.”
The decision was particularly difficult for Rosanna. PEKI had turned away from Swamiji; her dharma, she felt, was to be with him. To marry Swamiji meant further separation from people and a way of life she loved. Courageously she embraced it as the will of God.
In mid-June, Swamiji returned to Ananda Village, bringing Jyotish and Devi with him. Italy for them had been just a temporary assignment; the Village was better for their son. Swamiji was delighted with his new office and apartment; the timing was perfect. It would have been impossible to make a home with Rosanna in the downstairs room. She would come in July, her family in August, for a wedding in late September. In the meantime, Swamiji set up the new apartment in a way he thought would be pleasing to her.
With all the expansion, Swamiji’s house hardly described it. He meditated and came up with the name Crystal Hermitage.
Once again he took on a busy schedule of classes, concerts, and community parties in the garden. To provide more programs for JAPA, he began to sort through the thousands of slides he had taken over the years, writing music and narration to make some of them into shows. One was the life of Saint Francis of Assisi. Another he called Different Worlds: pictures of people from many countries, of widely varying consciousness, from extreme worldliness, to pure devotion to God. Their faces alone told the story.
In the early years, when Swamiji gave a class, he would bring his guitar and play whatever songs we requested. Sometimes a whole evening would be just him singing and playing. Now he hardly ever sang. When someone asked him why, he explained that the best way to get others into the act was to stand aside and let them do it. “Now I don’t feel much like singing. I wonder if I’ll ever sing again?” The next day, “I woke up with a strong desire to sing, and the certainty that my voice would be the best it has ever been.”
Part of the expansion had been to improve the recording studio at Crystal Hermitage, so he was able to walk just a few steps to the studio and test his inspiration. “That very morning I started recording, even writing new songs.” Over the next few weeks, he made six albums, each with a different theme. Songs of Gladness was for children. Soul Songs expressed divine longing, including a few traditional songs from India. Awake in Thy Light was mostly chants. Memories and Say “YES” to Life! were what he called “Philosophy in Song.” Songs of Shakespeare was another mood entirely. Swamiji could accompany himself on the guitar, but preferred to concentrate on singing, so asked a skilled guitarist to play for him.
When he ran out of songs, but was still in a musical mood, he did an album of whistling, accompanied by Jeannie Tschantz on the zither. It was free form, improvising together as they went along. He called it Rainbows and Waterfalls. It amused Swamiji, that of all his albums, this proved the most popular.
To help promote the new recordings, Swamiji set up a series of concerts in the Bay Area. He traveled with a few other singers for occasional harmony, but mostly he sang alone with an accompanist, either guitar or piano. These concerts were also recorded. JAPA now had a whole catalog of new products.
When Swamiji introduced the Superconscious Living system in 1979, he saw it as an ideal way to bring Eastern teachings to the West. We still taught courses in SCL, but it didn’t have the central role Swamiji intended. He invited the staff of the World Brotherhood Retreat to meet with him and discuss the issue.
“We have a lot to give. In some ways, too much. People find it hard to bring what we offer to a clear focus. We need to package our teachings in a way people can more easily understand. Yoga is becoming better known in the West, but it is still seen as foreign to our culture. Superconscious Living is, in some ways, the English term for yoga.
“But even those in the yoga movement don’t understand the term properly. They think superconsciousness comes suddenly, a gift through shaktipat—the guru’s touch. They think of it as a goal, rather than a process. They don’t understand that we ourselves activate superconsciousness by applying its insights to every aspect of our lives. It is not wandering in a barren desert until you accidentally stumble upon an oasis; it is making the desert bloom around you.
“Superconscious Living includes all of yoga—meditation, chakras, discipleship—and much more: child raising, education, marriage, business, attunement with nature. It also works with the subconscious, showing us how to face and overcome fears and negative habits. The Superconscious Living system is everything we have learned in the laboratory of Ananda life.
“People coming to the Retreat could apprentice in various areas of the community, to learn our way of doing things. We could make a workbook, like the Course in Miracles so many people study. It would help not only our guest programs, but Ananda itself, if we focused everything around Superconscious Living. It could be our unique banner.”
For several years after that, the Retreat tried to focus their programs in the way Swamiji suggested. But the vision never took hold; and gradually even the Superconscious Living courses fell by the wayside, waiting, perhaps, for a more auspicious time.
In his letter about Natuzza, mailed in July when Rosanna arrived at the Village, Swamiji wrote a summary of the past few years: founding a center in Europe, writing and recording music, making programs from his slides, building Crystal Hermitage, the Joy Singers and many teachers going on tour.
“The Oratorio has been performed in over a hundred churches. My hope is that its message will spark a movement of inner communion—not directed from Ananda but arising spontaneously within the churches themselves.”
Then he explained more of the impersonal reason for his upcoming marriage to Rosanna. “For almost forty years now I’ve participated in the spiritual scene here in the West. Throughout this time it has been brought home to me with increasing clarity that the way to serve God through mankind at this stage of our civilization’s development is not to hold up examples of world repudiation, but rather positive, spiritual examples of world affirmation.
“Despite the gloomiest forebodings heard often these days for the future of mankind, very few people seem to want to drop out. Most, indeed—at least among those seeking higher values—seem anxious to do everything possible to set matters right again on this planet. What they respond to are teachings that show them how to bring spiritual values to the world they live in, and not examples of spiritual seekers who abandon the world for their own salvation.
“A monastery of the traditional type broadcasts the message: ‘Life is a dream. Leave this world and all that pertains to it, and merge into God.’ The truest possible message, indeed.
“But in a society so out of tune with God as ours is today, you leave the vast majority of people behind you unaffected or despondent, if you offer them as an example of what the successful devotee should be doing, a path of complete renunciation.
“If the issue were simply one of sincerity, those devotees would be right, certainly, who stressed—more sternly, perhaps, now than ever—the monastic ideal. I myself am very much in tune with the thought of abandoning this dream of delusion and seeking God alone; and of inviting only those to join me who really want God.
“But we are living in what bears all the signs of an age of ascending spiritual awareness, not one of steadily diminishing aspiration. People everywhere want higher values. They want a more spiritual way of life. I see an eagerness in people the world over to live closer to truth, and to God.
“How can this sincere aspiration be ignored, even in the name of personal salvation? Are we not all brothers and sisters in God? With people everywhere longing for deeper insight into the meaning of their lives, can we in charity insist on leaping a chasm that might, with a little patience, be bridged?
“Today, vast numbers might be brought to the spiritual path, provided that spirituality be presented in a way that they can relate to their present values and that isn’t merely a reproach to their values.
“This new kind of monasticism—what God has helped us to create at Ananda—is, I believe, the pattern of living that, by its example and by the practical solutions that it offers to many of the problems besetting society today, will prove the salvation of our civilization—salvation from the spreading cancer of meaninglessness, self-aggrandizement, and cynicism.
“Spiritual communities, where people band together in a freer spirit of dedication, can bring to a focus and ignite in hearts everywhere a resolution to live again in true sincerity for God.”
A year earlier, Swamiji had heard that Daya Mata wanted to meet with him. It was not an official invitation, but the message came through a reliable source. It took Swamiji six months to respond. In January, he finally wrote, “What held me back was the thought that discussion between us ought to be based on actual knowledge on your part, of Ananda. I appreciate it would be difficult for you to come, but perhaps others could come on your behalf.”
Now, in July, when he hadn’t heard from her, he wrote again. “I have a beautiful house, a large pool, a really lovely garden, all of which you’d enjoy and I’d enjoy sharing with you. This is a suggestion merely. I have no intention of insisting. Whenever Master wants us to get together, he will inspire you accordingly.”
Then in August, “Is it really your intention never to answer my letters? There’s so much to talk about, so many matters to clarify. If either of us dies before this karma is resolved, it will very probably result in a permanent split in Master’s work. Do you really want history to record this disunity between disciples of a Premavatar (incarnation of divine love) who said, ‘When I am gone, only love can take my place?’”
He told Daya Mata about his wedding in September, and that Rosanna’s family would arrive in August. Since this was their first trip to America, he was taking them to Southern California to see Master’s shrines and also the places tourists enjoy: Hollywood and Disneyland. Since he would be there anyway, it would be a good time for them to meet.
A few days later, Sister Janaki called to arrange a meeting at Mount Washington. It was Spiritual Renewal Week at Ananda. Swamiji wrote to Daya Mata, “When I announced to five hundred people here that you wanted to see me, everyone burst into cheers and applause. People were more than enthusiastic: they were thrilled.”
The meeting was set for September 11, thirty-seven years, almost to the day, after Swamiji met Master and came to live at Mount Washington; twenty-four years since Swamiji had met privately with Daya Mata there. The whole community gathered to pray and meditate during the hours they were together.
“In some ways, I am closer to Daya Mata than anyone else in the world,” Swamiji said to the community afterward, when telling us about the meeting. “It is difficult to express how much it would mean to me to have unity. We are all one family in Master, but there is a great difference in the way we look at the teachings and at Master himself. It was a good start, but we have a long way to go.” He described some of the conversation between them.
“Since it was I who initiated the meeting, Daya said, ‘What do you want to talk about?’
“I responded, ‘How we can have more harmony.’
“‘It’s a big world,’ she said. ‘big enough for everybody.’
“‘Yes, room even for people like Idi Amin [the brutal dictator of Uganda], but I’m talking about more than just sharing the same planet. I’d like to see some kind of cooperation, if we can manage it.’
“She pointed out the differences between the way SRF follows Master and the way we do. I responded, the longer we stay apart, the greater those differences will become, and the wider the distance between us. The more we work together, the more likely we can resolve the differences. There are very few compromises that I wouldn’t make in the name of unity. Unity is the most important thing of all.
“I spoke of putting Ananda, not under the organization of SRF, but directly under her, as the president. She was surprised. ‘You mean you would submit to this office? That is very generous of you.’”
A ripple of concern went through the room at the thought of being subject to Daya Mata’s authority, so Swamiji quickly added, “Since this involves all of us, let me make clear to you what I am thinking. Generous or not generous isn’t the point. We are here to do God’s will. It would be wrong for us to submit even to the president of SRF if it meant sacrificing that which is basic to our ability to serve Master in the way we feel called to do. We understand certain things that SRF doesn’t. We live aspects of the teachings they haven’t been called to live. We couldn’t sacrifice that.
“However, given harmony, I think much could be worked out. I wanted to start the meeting with an affirmation of harmony, rather than one of suspicion and caution. I have no intention of sacrificing what we have. I wouldn’t submit to an impossible situation. Some sacrifices are trivial; others are not. We would have to decide.
“When you get married, for example, you have to give up many things for the sake of something more worthwhile that you’ve chosen and are now committed to do. Every compromise is not necessarily a compromise of ideals. Daya and I tried our best not to get into negative things, but there is a huge backlog that had to be considered, so it wasn’t possible completely.
“After all these years, and the pain I’ve endured, to go back into their headquarters at Mount Washington… it was joyful to be where I had been with Master, but also emotionally charged, and in a certain way terrifying!” Swamiji put a humorous twist on the word terrifying, and the community joined in sympathetic laughter.
“Still, I felt completely calm. Your prayers helped me. Every time Daya would bring up one of the things she was concerned about, I was able to respond in a pleasant, even humorous way. Many of Daya’s criticisms of Ananda were based on what she had been told by people who have left here and gone to SRF. I pointed out that such people are not a reliable source. One on whom she especially relies for information was asked to leave Ananda after twelve years of refusing to cooperate with the basic requirements of living here.
“Very few people have the strength of character to leave something without justifying their departure by putting the other down, especially if they were asked to leave. It is a natural human weakness. If we listened only to those who have left SRF, I told her, we would have a very negative picture of your work.
“Former Ananda residents tell her that I attack SRF. She asked, ‘Why don’t you just keep silence?’ I told her, as I have before, that I am on the front lines. Many people who come to Ananda know of SRF’s condemnation of me. Their questions are sincere. They are drawn to Ananda and want to know what they are getting into. Her inability to understand why I can’t just keep silence was one, among many things, that highlighted the difference between us.
“At Mount Washington, you see all these monks and nuns dressed in different colors, each indicating his or her exact place in the hierarchal structure. It means nothing to others, and everything to them. Such a closed system has its own power, and its own beauty. But there is a big world out there, and lots of other ways of seeing things.
“When I told her, ‘We know that Master is the power behind Ananda,’ she didn’t know how to respond. It was totally outside her way of thinking, so she said nothing. After a brief silence, she changed the subject.
“One of the things I learned in India was how people could disagree with you without calling you wrong. A diamond has many facets. One may reflect orange, another blue. Blue does not betray the diamond merely because it isn’t orange. The teachings of Master have many facets. SRF is inclined to say, ‘This is what Master said. If you are in tune, you’ll accept it. If not, go your own way.’ By contrast, I am always thinking, ‘How can I help people see that Master’s teachings apply to life as they already understand it?’ I approach the teachings from their point of view, not my own.
“Daya raised a philosophical point of difference that I could see churches going to war over. It was an important distinction, but I thought, ‘Why make a dogma or an abstract truth, even a central one, more important than the fact that we all love God and want to serve him together?’ How we understand spiritual truth matters on a certain level, but not more than love, charity, humility, harmony.
“There are many basic assumptions between us and SRF that are incompatible. If somehow, though, we can set those aside and meet on a heart level, gradually those assumptions won’t seem so important. Many devotees in SRF want harmony with Ananda. We made a good start, but it was difficult. Hard things had to be said and I was the one who had to say them. Going forward now, you all can help.
“We have to keep an attitude of friendship toward SRF. At the same time, there have been problems in the past when people from here talk to them about unity. SRF has interpreted that to mean that to be closer to SRF you are willing to distance yourself from Kriyananda, even to separate Ananda from me. Because of that, we’ve had to be less eager about reaching out to them.
“We want harmony with SRF, but we don’t need their reassurance. We know what we are doing is worthwhile and that Master is with us.
“I told Daya, ‘There are certain things I believe to be right. I would like to persuade you that they are right. Nevertheless, the important thing is that we are one family. If we can work together in any way, it would be right to resolve this in our lifetime.’”
In 1948, Master initiated Swamiji as a brahmachari—the novice vow of a monk. In 1955, Daya Mata initiated him into sannyas—the final vow that made him a swami. Now, at the end of their meeting, Daya Mata absolved Swamiji of that vow, clearing the way for his marriage.
Master had written a marriage vow which was used for Ananda weddings. Couples often included the Indian tradition of circling a fire seven times, representing the seven chakras and the soul’s journey up the spine to Self-realization. There was always music, but the ceremony wasn’t well defined. For his marriage to Rosanna, Swamiji wrote an entirely new ceremony, with songs specific to the occasion, and several new rituals—invoking the power of the elements: earth, air, fire, water; asking the blessings of nature and the devas; an exchange of roses; two vows, the first to God, the second to one another. Rosanna was close to her father, so Swamiji included a father’s blessing for his daughter. She loved children, so he gave the children’s choir a part.
The ceremony lasted over an hour and gave clarity and definition to the sacrament of marriage in way we hadn’t had before. The wedding was held in the garden of the Crystal Hermitage; seven hundred people came. Jyotish presided. Astrologically, the auspicious moment for the vows was sunset, so the ceremony began in twilight and ended in candlelight.
Suffering Moses had offered them a month-long stay on a houseboat on Dal Lake in Kashmir. After India, they went to Jerusalem to lead a pilgrimage in the Holy Land. All fifty pilgrims had learned the Oratorio songs. At each of the sites, they sang with such devotion that other tourists sat in reverent silence listening to the music.
Most of the group continued on with Swamiji and Rosanna for another week of pilgrimage in Assisi. The villa was going to be sold so we needed to find a new home. “People come to Lake Como for vacation,” Swamiji said. “They come to Assisi for God. It is the spiritual heart of Italy.” They looked at several pieces of property, but none proved suitable. The direction, though, was set: Centro della Gioia would move to Assisi.
Swamiji and Rosanna returned to the Village in time for Christmas. After the banquet, as was his custom, Swamiji spoke. “The spirit of Ananda is always the same, but the manifestation is fluid. I thought Ananda would be a hermitage: the real work, meditation, everything else secondary. But it didn’t happen that way. Among other reasons, God didn’t send hermits! Ours is not the traditional monastery. Master’s teaching is to bring God into every avenue of life.
“The ideal for hundreds of years of Kali Yuga has been to leave the world behind and go to the Himalayas to meditate. In fact, Master said, only a handful of those who renounce in this way are able to live a truly spiritual life. Merely to stop acting does not automatically bring you to a higher state of consciousness. Many give up work, but aren’t able to replace it with meditation. They become physically lazy, then mentally lazy, and soon spiritually lazy, living on handouts from others.
“You have to be intensely active for God, before you can reach the actionless state. First you have to convert all your energy to high energy, to work not only for God, but in God.
“Devotion is the core of our life and service. I would like to see everyone here meditate three hours a day. Then, in every department, begin the day with prayer. Hold hands, pray, sing, then work with His joy. Try to see your co-workers and those you serve as your friends in God.
“The life we have here is more challenging than a monastery where the rule has been set for hundreds of years. That life is like a streetcar going down a track. Everyone knows his place. The rules keep you from falling too low, but they can also keep you from rising too high. Too often people slowly lose their dedication and it all averages out at mediocre.
“That rule-bound life is from Kali Yuga. Now we are entering Dwapara. We are the pathfinders. Master has given us golden keys, but we have to turn that gold into the jewelry of everyday life. What has been challenging for us will be natural for those who come after, like breathing.
“Dwapara Yuga is still a materialistic age, but at a higher octave, because we know matter is energy. We still have to work, but work as service. Energy and service bring inner and outer life together. At times, though, we have gotten so caught up in our work that we have lost sight of our purpose. We are not here to create a perfect society; we are here to find God. There is no perfection outside of God.
“We have all been attracted to our work in Italy because of the heart quality that is so natural to Italians. America, too, has a lot of heart. Our national temperament is a blend of energy, love, and kindness. We are the only country in history who, after defeating an enemy that attacked us in the first place, then helped that country get back on its feet. America was founded for spiritual ideals, but, oddly, we tend to be ashamed of our heart, anxious not to seem foolish or sentimental. Italians are not the least concerned! Nothing holds them back! Let us bring into this community more of their devotion and joyful singing to God.
“We are spearheading a new kind of music—the message of Dwapara translated into sound. I’d love to see our music integrated into everyday life at Ananda—to sing spontaneously, even at work, with everyone involved.
“Virtually every major development in the West started in Italy, whether music, art, literature, politics, or religion. That is the positive side of all the emotion you find there. When it is calm and directed upward, it becomes intuition, creative achievement, and the kind of self-giving love that takes you to God. America is very open to that way of being—creativity, intuition, devotion. Italy can benefit from our ways, too, but that seems less important now than what we have to gain from them.
“We are pioneering the way to find God in life as it is today. Not ‘far from the madding crowd’, as monasteries have traditionally been; but living in families, raising children, supporting ourselves with ordinary work. Think not of what we can get, but what we can give. Ask to be God’s channel and you will be amazed how He will work with you and through you.
“Everyone in the world wants the same thing: love and joy. Give that to others—from God. Nothing else you can give is more precious. Love others soul to soul, God to God. Let us all live the coming year in that consciousness.”