Even with the new book, Cities of Light, the original Cooperative Communities was still important for our 20th anniversary. Swamiji did some editing, mostly to bring it up to date, changing the title to Intentional Communities. He also worked on his poetic allegory, For What Was Man Made? which he now called The Land of Golden Sunshine. He started at the beginning of the scripture commentaries, doing more careful editing than was possible in the rush to get them to the ministers. Then he went back to Crises in Modern Thought, the book he started writing just after he was expelled from SRF.
He was a better writer now, and after years of teaching could see more effective ways of building a bridge between modern philosophy and ancient, spiritual truth. The Indian teachings, with their emphasis on experience, more closely matched the scientific method than did Western philosophy, which dealt only with theories. For this second edition of Crises he added the subtitle, Solutions to the Problems of Meaninglessness.
After four months of solitary writing, Swamiji was ready for a break. At the end of February, he went to Italy to see Rosanna, and to give a few weekend retreats at Ananda’s newly acquired center Il Refugio (The Refuge), an old hotel just outside of Assisi. Il Refugio was a fixer-upper, so a crew of carpenters from America had gone there to help.
“Assisi is the most powerful place in the West for contemplative and mystical life,” Swamiji said. “Having our center there will help Ananda everywhere focus more on the inner life.”
When Master called the communities he wanted to start, World Brotherhood Colonies, more was implied than just bringing together people of different nationalities. In 1920, when Master left India for America, his Guru, Sri Yukteswar, advised him, “Forget you were born a Hindu, and don’t be an American. Take the best of them both. Be your true self, a child of God. Seek and incorporate into your being the best qualities of all your brothers, scattered over the earth in various races.”
Swamiji said, “India is ancient; Europe has had centuries to develop. By contrast, America is in early childhood. Of necessity, it has concentrated more on getting things done than on figuring out what it all means. Spiritual life requires both kinds of energy, active and contemplative. Ananda has America’s pioneering spirit which will be nicely rounded out by the more inward energy of India and Assisi.”
In the early years, we rarely left our forest hermitage. Now, Ananda devotees were becoming citizens of the world, with a corresponding expansion in our understanding of Master’s mission. For many years, Swamiji was the lone torchbearer. Now more of us carried at least a candle’s worth of the same light that guided him.
In America, JAPA was having some success showing the Oratorio in churches all over the country, about sixty programs in a year. People were deeply moved by the experience; but there was no sign of the hoped-for Movement of Inner Communion. In Assisi, we had good relationships with a few of the priests; they allowed us to give concerts in their churches, including the Oratorio. The official position of the Catholic Church, though, was less cordial.
In literature promoting our Retreat, we spoke in glowing terms of the spiritual vibrations of Assisi, home of Saint Francis and Saint Clare. When a Catholic journal saw our brochure, the editors wrote an article about Ananda, denouncing us for using the blessings left by their saints. Rather than hide from the bad publicity, Swamiji arranged to meet the Bishop of Assisi. Afterward, he spoke to the Ananda leaders there, and later to the community at the Village.
“Because of their devotion to the saints, and understanding of the mystical side of religion,” Swamiji said, “we feel more in tune with the Catholics than we do with the Protestants. We assume the appreciation is mutual. It is not. In Autobiography of a Yogi, Master said that when he visited Therese Neumann, he went into a superconscious state and shared her visions of Jesus. A Catholic journal, reviewing that chapter, scornfully declared, ‘As if a Hindu yogi could have a true Catholic vision!’
“It is good to have some contact with the Catholic churches, especially through the Oratorio, but we can’t expect them to look for ways to endorse what we have. They won’t. They’ll look for a way either to absorb it—or to denounce it.
“That article about Ananda dismissed us as a ‘fly-by-night’ sect with a ‘man-made philosophy.’ When the Bishop pressed me on that point, it put me in a difficult position. Much ‘new age’ teaching is man-made. We don’t belong with them. I had no choice, then, but to align myself with Hinduism—a tradition even more ancient than Christianity. I explained that Hinduism was a name imposed from the outside by foreigners. The true teaching is Sanaatan Dharma, the Eternal Religion—which is why we can express aspects of different religions and still not dilute our basic teachings.
“The Bishop simply couldn’t relate to that. I had to give up trying to explain Ananda that way. But because of what I said, one of our members in Assisi put on a program as a ‘representative of Sanaatan Dharma.’ But that doesn’t work either. That’s a whole tradition in itself. They speak Sanskrit, do puja [ritual worship], refer to Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, and all the other gods and goddesses. We have nothing in common with them.
“What we have is a new expression. There is no other way to explain it.
“Theosophy tried to bring all religions together. They took a piece from here and a piece from there, but in the end, it had no power. Everything was diluted. It is different when God sends a Self-realized master whose mission is to show the unity of all religions. That has power.
“We are like the Christians after the Crucifixion. What we have is new. The disciples considered themselves Jews. Jesus himself said, ‘I come to fulfill the law and the prophets. I come for the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ But the Jews rejected the message. ‘This isn’t Judaism!’ At the beginning, it wasn’t the Christians who persecuted the Jews—it was the other way around!
“The Bishop read A Festival of Light and that told him all he needed to know. The Catholics call combining different religious teachings syncretism, and it is widely condemned. That’s how they see us. The subtlety of what we are doing is lost on them.
“In the end, the Bishop and I agreed that the quarrel is not with one another. It is atheism we need to combat. He said to me, ’You can go one way, and we’ll go the other, and we can honor each other’s way as long as we don’t try to bring them together in a false union.’ I was pleased that we came to that much of an agreement. The Bishop is a good man. I would like to spend more time with him, but I don’t think it is going to happen.”
To the people in Ananda Assisi, Swamiji said, “Stay out of his way. Let him forget about us.” Someone, though, sent the Bishop some of our music. “They were trying to show him what nice people we are. That was naive. You can’t charm the Catholic Church into supporting you!
“We have to create a whole new expression and it will take centuries to do that. It doesn’t matter. The worst disaster that befell Christianity was when Constantine was converted and as a result, the whole country converted. Mass conversion is no conversion. It has to be from the heart. ‘Out of a thousand, one seeks God.’ It is that one we have to reach.
“This doesn’t mean we have to protect the teachings from the thousands! We have to open it up for all who are seeking. But there is no reason to force it upon them.
“It has been a serious quest of mine for a long time to see if we could have a dialogue with the churches. I didn’t have much faith in the possibility, but how could I know unless I tried? I felt we owed it to our mission to see if the churches could be our audience. Now I can say with personal conviction, our audience is not those who are in the churches. It is those who have left it—or never entered.”
After a month, Swamiji returned to the Village—without Rosanna. She had been gone so long, people began to wonder if she was ever coming back. She was dearly loved and greatly missed. “It is a dilemma,” Swamiji said at a community satsang. “Rosanna seems very happy in the work they have built in Sorrento. Many new things are happening and they feel the need for her presence.
“The obvious question is: ‘What does this mean for our life together?’ The answer is: ‘I don’t know.’ For both of us, God comes first. I wouldn’t move to Sorrento just because I’m married to Rosanna. Nor would I ask her to leave her work and come here, just because she is married to me.
“She loves all of you deeply. Spiritually, I think she was doing well here, but it was hard for her, not knowing the language, and with so much unresolved in Sorrento.
“I have to be honest with you. I would like to say that past difficulties with PEKI are resolved, and we are on the same wavelength now. But the truth is I feel less in tune with what they are doing than I did before. I’m not putting them down. But being there, I felt strongly that their work is not mine. I want to do Master’s work. For many reasons, including the marriage, my hope in going there was to bridge the gap between us. Instead, I became more aware of just how wide it is.
“Rosanna is convinced it will all work out. I don’t know how, but that’s why we pray to God—because we don’t have answers ourselves. So that is where I have to leave it—unresolved. It is not a matter of what I want, or what Rosanna wants. All that matters is what God wants. Please pray that we receive clarity.”
Swamiji seldom referred to the pain in his hips, but sometimes it took all his concentration and will power to walk, or even to stand. Now that we had reached our 20th anniversary, and it was clear that Ananda was firmly established, he decided to have hip replacement surgery.
“Why did you wait so long?” I asked.
“I had so many obstacles to overcome in the early years,” he said. “I never thought of the pain in my hips as separate from the rest of the tapasya required to start Ananda. It was just one more thing to deal with, so I did. For all those years, I had to carry Ananda. Now Ananda can carry itself.”
Both hips needed to be replaced, but he thought it would be easier to do them one at a time. The first surgery was in June. Rosanna came back from Italy to be with him, planning to stay through the anniversary celebration in July.
Afterward, the surgeon remarked, “I’ve never seen such deterioration. A full two inches of bone had worn away. You should have been in a wheelchair—or bedridden. I don’t know how you were able to walk.”
In the hospital, Swamiji greeted his visitors, “Hello, fellow athletes!” and proudly wore a t-shirt someone gave him, printed with the motto, “Watch my smoke!”
The first year of our anniversary celebration was a great success. Jyotish, Devi, and other community leaders had taken a Cities of Light tour to all our centers and many of our meditation groups. As founding members, they talked about the great adventure of building Ananda, illustrating their story with a slide show of “Then and Now.” They did over fifty television and radio interviews; dozens of newspapers and magazines printed stories about Ananda. The local Board of Supervisors declared June 26-July 2 “Ananda Village Week.” They urged “all residents and citizens of Nevada County to acknowledge the success of Ananda and its positive influence on our community.”
Ananda devotees converged from around the country for the July 4th weekend. The celebration started with a parade. In the lead was a huge Ananda flag, carried like a banner with the oldest member on one side, and one of the youngest on the other. A few weeks earlier, Swamiji had written a new song, Many Hands Make a Miracle, which immediately became Ananda’s theme song.
Even though we thought of ourselves as an American community, in fact, Master’s world brotherhood ideal was alive and well at Ananda Village. At the end of the parade were sixteen guests and residents, each from a different country, carrying the national flag of their birthplace.
As each group passed the reviewing stand where Swamiji and Rosanna were seated, they pronamed in gratitude. Yes, it took many hands to make the miracle; but without Swamiji’s hands guiding ours, it never would have happened.
At the end of July, Swamiji left with Rosanna for Italy. He planned to stay in Assisi for four months. Seeing our concern at such a long absence, he said, “I’ve always seen my role as helping you create community, rather than doing it for you. Everything here is going beautifully. You are all making good decisions, in tune with the ray of light the masters have sent. Italy is where my energy is needed. My being at the Retreat there, as the only direct disciple of Master teaching in Europe, will bring hundreds of people to Ananda. Already we have seen that.
“The best service I can offer you is to draw closer to God. My being in Assisi will bring more inner, mystical power to all our lives. I ask for your prayers. You always have mine.”
Rosanna planned to spend some time in Sorrento, but mostly she would be with Swamiji in Assisi. He hoped it would be easier for her to feel at home at Ananda in her own language and country.
Ever since his meeting with Daya Mata in September 1985, Swamiji had been meditating deeply on his relationship to her and to SRF. In early December, he sent her a long letter:
“I think the time has come for me to be completely sincere with you. Until now I have written humbly, almost as a petitioner, because I thought it my place to hold such an attitude before you. Now, however, I think I should be more forthright.
“Until our recent meeting, I had always believed in your inner support. But when you repeated charges against me, then refused to accept my answers, I began to understand, and realized gradually more and more clearly over the next year or so: you actually wanted reasons to justify a negative judgment of me.
“I don’t know how I can have been so naive as not to have really faced this thought sooner. Now, however, that I know it is so, I don’t feel hurt anymore, because I no longer live with the false expectation of better treatment. I find this awareness actually freeing. The only ones I need to please, and want to please, are God and Master. Neither you nor anyone can come between them and me.
“I have maintained before you, in the name of humility, a submissive attitude, almost a supplicating one. This has been a false attitude born not of my own deepest feelings, but of the fear of justifying Tara’s accusation that I had insulted you and that I am insulting by nature. In fact, I allowed too many of her ridiculous assertions to weigh on my mind. It is, after all, no easy thing for anyone of integrity to live with the thought that whatever his own personal views on a matter, everyone with whom he has felt previously in harmony and for whom he has always held the deepest respect, holds an opinion diametrically opposed to his own.”
Swamiji then spent several pages going over events in India and what happened with Tara Mata at the time of his expulsion and in the years afterward. This time, firmly, with fact and example, he refuted Tara’s accusations. He also took Daya Mata to task for her unwillingness to stand by her word.
“What could the other Board members have thought from your lack of comment, except that the whole Delhi project was my private, harebrained, and darkly motivated scheme from the start, rather than something that had been agreed to by you, and pursued by me in India on the strength of your agreement?”
He then goes on to explain from another perspective his own change in attitude. “I have always believed that truth must come out in the end. Lately, however, a new insight has come to me on this point. It is this: that for the truth to come out, people’s opinions needn’t change. It is the karmic law, rather, that will force its own compensation.
“Frankly, it seems to me that Ananda owes its success to no small extent to the shakti SRF has been doling out to us by its false judgments and self-righteousness over the years. This may seem a very bold statement, but I must say the facts tend to support it.
“I always knew Tara and I were bound to clash someday, when she realized how eager I was to spread the work instead of trying, as she was bent on doing, to protect it from pollution at the hands of an insignificant public. I never imagined she’d win, however, because to me it was too obvious that Master had come to the West in order to spread his message, and not to protect it from contamination. The very vitality of his teachings was, I considered, their sufficient protection.
“I think SRF has paid very heavily for Tara’s actions. My sudden disappearance put the fear of God in everyone. Since then, there has been a growing fear of criticism, a spirit of suspicion and judgment that has replaced people’s former confidence that they would always be treated with compassion and kindness. SRF seems to have lost much of the former spirit of generosity, charity, and joy that I knew when I lived there—the spirit with which you yourself shone so brightly when we first went to India.
“It takes two to make a divorce. I have never accepted my dismissal. Without my acceptance I don’t believe anyone can make it stand before God and Guru. As for Tara’s charge of treachery, your problem with me has always been quite the opposite. Try as you will, you haven’t been able to get rid of me!
“This point is important to me, because of all I’ve done since leaving SRF. I’ve never worked in a spirit of rivalry. I’ve simply proceeded steadily along the lines of my own life’s dedication. I’m serving Master as wholeheartedly as before. Nothing has changed.
“You have never accepted as true certain things that Master said to me. Does this mean that I must accept your judgment over his own actual words? You may choose to disbelieve me, but in that case I reply, simply, that whatever is true will demonstrate its truth in time, and in its own way. Truth cannot be swept under a carpet. Nor can it be denied on the strength of mere human opinion.
“I have no alternative but to follow Master’s guidance as I feel it in my own heart. I may have failed sometimes to perceive it correctly. I may not always have been able to live up to it. But through every storm of life, he has been my polestar. My life is Master’s, and so also will be my death; it’s as simple as that.”
Swamiji shared his letter with some of the core Ananda leaders; the relationship with SRF concerned us all. He had written, “I accept that I must have been a difficult person to supervise.” I asked why he said that.
“They always thought I was too much to handle!” Swamiji said. “On my conscience I had to do the best for Master’s work. So I kept coming up with ideas—which they knocked flat. When Tara kicked me out, she declared, ‘Thank God we won’t have to listen to any more of your projects!’ The project in New Delhi was not a sudden bomb; it was more like their final excuse.”
After much speculation about how Daya Mata and SRF might respond, Swamiji said, “In a situation like this, when you come hat in hand, begging to be understood, people are likely to treat you like dirt. But when you say, ‘I don’t care,’ people sit up and take notice. If anything could cause her to listen, this might. If it doesn’t? Well, I haven’t written for how she will respond. I felt I had to be honest. In the past I didn’t write like this for fear of imperiling my standing with them. I’ve realized that was a mistake. I should tell the truth as I see it.
“Tara had real spiritual power. She threatened to destroy the organization if Daya didn’t go along with her. Daya’s first priority always was to keep the peace. The problem with that attitude in a leader is that often, then, the negative voice wins. To appease Tara she sacrificed me.”
It is the widely held belief within SRF that Daya Mata is Self-realized. Swamiji said, “When you are Self-realized, you feel yourself in everyone. If Daya were, she would understand me better than she does.”
The time in Assisi with Swamiji reminded Rosanna of how much she loved Ananda. When he came back to the Village in December, she came with him.
“Looking back over these two decades of Ananda,” Swamiji said, “naturally we feel grateful to God for the many lives that have been uplifted through the work we are doing. We have accomplished a great deal.
“But even if we were to build an enormous empire and erect huge monuments, before long — measured by Eternity — all our outward accomplishments would eventually become dust. The very molecules that make up the hand I use, and call my own, may have been part of some distant galaxy in an earlier universe. And after my body returns to dust, these same molecules will find their way, who knows where?
“We have much to be grateful for in this wonderful community that God has given us, but community is not our reality. There is only one reality: God, and our relationship with Him. Life itself is just a dream. Ananda is the means to a far greater end.
“The purpose of man’s life on earth is not what he does, but who he is, and what he becomes through the work he does.
“When you look around Ananda, you see so many happy, even saintly people. In the world, if you see a person like that, you think, “What an exceptional individual!” When you see a whole community of such individuals, though, as you do here, you realize it has to be what they are doing together.
“It isn’t as though the people who come to Ananda arrive as saints, or automatically become saintly just by living here. Each brings with him his own nature — faith, doubt, devotion or lack of it. Each applies the same principles on whatever level his aspiration can reach.
“Those who think ‘First I have to take care of myself, then I can take care of others,’ never seem to find what they are seeking, and before long decide that Ananda is not for them.
“Whereas those who think first of serving God, and serving God in others, become self-fulfilled and happy.
“In the ‘laboratory’ of Ananda we have seen the same experiment repeated over and over, with the same results. After twenty years we can confidently declare: This way of life works.”