The Bertolucci trial started in November 1997 and went on until the end of February 1998, with a few weeks off for Christmas. “It is a grim situation,” Swamiji said at the beginning, “but why be touched by it? We aren’t in this world very long, and when we leave, good and bad are all forgotten. What we are left with is our karma and our relationship with God. I want to burn off my karma and strengthen my relationship with God. To the extent that this is my karma, I’m glad of it. But I think something much bigger is happening here.”
From the start, the judge was so biased against us, he seemed more like Bertolucci’s lawyer than the presiding magistrate. X courted publicity; almost every day there was an article in the paper about the cult and its swami. T wouldn’t let us to talk to the press; to him only the courtroom mattered. He was responsible for our defense and we didn’t feel we could disregard him, so every story was completely one-sided.
There were no charges of sexual misconduct against Swamiji, but the declarations of the women were central to Bertolucci’s case, proving, X declared, an ongoing “pattern and practice of abuse.” It was essential to our defense to prove the declarations false.
Four years earlier, when the Bertolucci lawsuit was filed, for a brief time we hired a private investigator to look for a link to SRF. Our instructions were clear: Do nothing illegal. Trash is considered abandoned when it is on public property, like the street or sidewalk. Anyone who wants it can take it. If it is behind a locked gate, however, even if it is inside a garbage can, it is still private property. To take it from there is theft.
A zealous investigator reached through a locked gate outside the office of X to retrieve a bag of trash. When the bag was given to us, we didn’t understand what had happened. Even though some papers in the trash referred to our case, the contents were worthless: everything there we already knew.
The repercussions, however, were enormous. The investigator had been observed, and eventually the theft was traced to us. “Stealing documents from my office!” X shouted dramatically in court.
The judge felt the unfair advantage to Ananda had to be balanced. His sanction was unprecedented: We could not offer any defense to the accusations against Swamiji. His accusers could not be cross-examined. They could say whatever they wanted; their lies would not be exposed—and they knew it before they testified.
Furthermore, Swamiji could say nothing in his own defense, nor could anyone else speak on his behalf. Worst of all, the jury would not be told that we had been sanctioned. They would observe, without explanation, that we offered no defense, and would naturally conclude that we had no none.
Even Bertolucci’s lawyers were astounded. To take away a person’s right to defend himself is indisputable grounds for reversal on appeal; but that was small comfort in the moment.
T proved to be exactly as Swamiji predicted. “Our trial lawyer, above all, should know, appreciate, and respect who we are,” he wrote to Jon and Naidhruva, “and project that attitude to the jury. I don’t think T has the foggiest idea how to show us in our true light, what to speak of our best light. He hasn’t tuned in to the very people he is supposed to defend. My ways, and ours by extension, are so foreign to him that he can’t imagine allowing us to defend ourselves in the way we know it should be done. We’ve always come out on top simply by being ourselves. T is trying to change that.”
We did our best to persuade T to another course, but to no avail. X ranted and raved; theatrics, not reason, ruled the day. The judge did little to curb his excesses. Swamiji suspected the judge had been bribed; Jon said that the judge wanted a promotion. A high profile case, with outrageous allegations that ended in defeat for the cult and its swami, could win it for him. And it did. Shortly after the trial, he was promoted to a higher court.
“The law of averages says that at least some things will go in your favor,” Swamiji said. “When everything goes against you, you know Divine Mother is behind it.”
When an attorney friend heard that X was leading the case against us, he said, “I had to litigate against that man a few years ago. It was not an important case; no principles were involved, just money. I was amazed at the lies he told, even about things that didn’t matter, that could easily be uncovered. He feels being a lawyer gives him license to say whatever he wants to say. He is a dangerous man, a true fanatic. Sometimes it happens in the police force, too. Men choose a profession for the wrong reasons.”
Swamiji said, “People of low consciousness tell lies because they enjoy the confusion it causes, and the feeling of power it gives them.” When he heard that X was a member of SRF, Swamiji said, “Whatever interest he may have in the spiritual path, it is not for devotion. What he wants is power.”
In the end, three jurors voted for us, six voted against. (There are nine jurors in a civil trial.) The verdict would certainly be overturned on appeal, but all you get from that is a new trial—in front of the same judge. It would mean months more of negative publicity, and tens of thousands of dollars in expenses—money we didn’t have. To let the verdict stand meant having a permanent blot on our reputation. Still, we decided it was better to wipe the dust of the courtroom off our feet and go on with our lives.
Months earlier X had shouted angrily at one of the legal team members, “Tell your Mr. Walters that I will destroy him!” True to his word, just after the verdict, but before the trial ended, he served us with another lawsuit: the same allegations from a different angle.
Swamiji went back to Italy as soon as he was free to go, which was while the jury was still deliberating. The verdict came on a Friday morning; immediately after, everyone from the Village left for home. Early on Sunday morning, Swamiji called me. The verdict was so outrageously wrong, he said, that all of Ananda should be standing outside the courthouse before it opens on Monday morning, protesting this miscarriage of justice. He suggested that we close the schools and bring the children, close our businesses and ask our customers to come, call our friends and have them fly in from all over the country.
Usually I can find a way to see things from Swamiji’s point of view and support whatever he wants us to do. But this was so daring, and I was so exhausted. He felt my hesitancy and immediately his tone changed. “It was just an idea,” he said, and hung up.
It broke my heart. At least I had to try. I knew the first question would be, “What do the lawyers think?” There was no point in asking T, so I called Jon. “If Swami wants you to do it, it is not my place to say no. As your lawyer, though, I have certain concerns.” The verdict was in, but there were still a few critical issues to be decided, all relating to the penalty phase, when damages would be awarded. Judge and jury would no doubt see the demonstration, or hear about it, and it was unlikely to work in our favor.
I spent another hour on the phone, talking to the legal team. Given Jon’s concerns, the short time we had to plan the demonstration, and our sheer exhaustion, the idea never had a chance.
A karmic test has a point of maximum intensity, which gradually wanes as time passes. Even the most intense grief eventually becomes only the background for more immediate concerns. When a test comes, most people just hang on until the impact has diminished to the point where it no longer affects them so deeply. We may think we have passed a test, when in fact, we have only outlasted it.
If, instead, in the moment, one raises his energy to meet the karma at the crest of the wave, the spiritual gain is enormous. What may otherwise take lifetimes can be done in one burst of energy. The lingering karma of the Bertolucci lawsuit has been a weight on Ananda ever since the trial; the internet keeps it alive. Swamiji wanted us to meet the karma at the crest. Naturally, I wonder: What would have happened if we had been able to do that?
At the end of February, Swamiji wrote A Personal Statement After the Trial, which went to the whole mailing list. “For some reason, I seem to be a person who awakens strong feelings in people: antipathy in some, friendship in others. I understand the friendship, because that is what I myself project from my heart toward everyone I meet. I don’t understand the antipathy, because hatred is something I’ve never felt.
“Even after this lawsuit, which has been monstrously unfair to me and even more so to Ananda, I don’t hate my detractors. Nor am I angry with them. They have acted in keeping with their natures; I and Ananda have acted in keeping with ours. God has used both of us for the fulfillment of His will. If the jury has decided unjustly, as we believe, I cannot call God, therefore, unjust. His plans are long range. Sometimes a temporary setback is necessary for the achievement of some greater victory.
“Whatever happens, I accept it patiently as His will. That, perhaps, was why I seemed uninvolved emotionally during the trial. I wasn’t brainwashed! I simply don’t ask or want anything but God’s will.
“This doesn’t mean I am passive. Nor am I unconcerned. If any of my accusers was really hurt by me, that is a sin for which I myself will pay and want to pay, that I may cleanse my soul of this stain. I know I have always tried sincerely never to hurt anyone. If, instead, I really did hurt someone, then the greatest compensation I can offer them is not shame (which they demand of me), but my continued love and friendship, even despite their dedication to my destruction. If I can win them with that, I will be grateful to God, for no good is accomplished without His blessings, and no sin is ever cleansed without His love.”
In a letter to the colony leaders, he wrote, “I think you must have sensed from me how fragile I am right now in my heart’s feelings. I am stunned to realize that everything I went through thirty-six years ago, with certain fortunate exceptions, is happening again. What it means, it’s too soon to tell. But that was the major tragedy of my life. It would, I think, be strange if I didn’t have a certain clutching sense of deja vu, and if I only affirmed a positive attitude without deeply asking myself what Master really wants of me.
“Could Master be displeased with me? I can’t imagine it. Could he want me to decide I’ve completed that work now, and should leave it entirely to others? I asked Babaji that question for eight hours, while traveling on a train to Lugano. At the end, suddenly I knew that was not what God wanted of me.”
Swamiji did decide, however, formally to resign from the few positions he still held within Ananda and to give up the small salaries he had been receiving from the Village and Ananda Assisi.
“I will live by what God gives me, or simply not live,” he wrote. “This is how I have always tried to live my life, and God has always taken care of me. For the first twelve years of Ananda, I refused any salary. I only accepted when I understood that Ananda needed, for its own maturation, to take reciprocal care of its founder.
“You have made it clear by your letters that you still consider me your spiritual teacher. It is not my intention to resign from that role. I look upon it as one of service to you all. You are free to accept me in it, or not, as you yourselves choose.”
Many were alarmed at the thought that Swamiji was leaving us, so I wrote a letter to help people understand what this change meant. “Be assured, this mere shedding of position and title in no way changes our relationship with Swamiji. He will be our spiritual director if we choose inwardly to make him so. Corporate title or monastic vows have never, in themselves, created this relationship. Swamiji does not lead Ananda by virtue of his position. Rather his position has resulted from the inspiration we have felt from him.
“The structure you see now developed only gradually. In the early years, there was very little form around Swamiji’s leadership. It was a matter of direct experience and then free choice based on that experience. This decision by Swamiji will perhaps take us back to the simple freedom of those days.
“Organization has always been the bane of true spirituality. Perhaps in other ways, too, Swamiji’s action will inspire Ananda as a whole to simplify and attune to who and what we really are.”
In the midst of the Bertolucci trial, Swamiji said to me, “I’m taking this for the whole yoga movement. One fighter like me is created from the broken backs of all those who didn’t stand up and fight.” The energy builds, he said, until the law of karma demands a response.
He wrote to Yoga Journal: “Three or four years ago, I observed the yoga movement in America being maliciously attacked—either to destroy it, or to bring it into line with American ways of thinking. I feared that, given this atmosphere of callous and ungrateful condemnation, the present generation of yoga teachers—most of whom come from India—would be replaced by wordy and intellectual students of psychology to whom yoga is only a science for overcoming physical problems or emotional disturbances, and by whom also traditional attitudes of devotion and reverence for spiritual ideals are scoffed at, or simply avoided.
“I felt that if something were not done to correct this trend, yoga in America would become separated from its roots. The result would be the infliction of severe if not permanent damage to its development as a pure teaching. I told friends of mine at the time, ‘Since everyone else seems to have chosen to hide out, I at least want to stand up and be counted.’”
Speaking then of the trial, Swamiji said, “I had expected to be allowed to stand up for the things in which I deeply believe. Instead, I was not permitted to speak at all, and my very attempts to do so were jeered at.
“Evidently what was needed was not vindication, as I expected, but a karmic sacrifice. Such being the case, I am sincerely grateful for the way things turned out. Human blood has had sometimes to be spilled in history, as if to fertilize the fields of human consciousness. If blood needed to be spilled to get this great teaching of yoga accepted in its highest form in America, I am thrilled that my offer was accepted, allowing that spilt blood to be my own.”
The whole Bertolucci lawsuit hinged on the fact that Swamiji still had, as he put it, “a lingering desire for human love and comfort.” In the deposition, when he decied to answer the questions about his sexual relations, he said, “Yes. Rarely. But it did happen. Never abusive. Always consensual.”
That was enough to set the wolves howling at the door. “See—he admits it!” In all the noise, people lost track of exactly what he had admitted. Especially with X leading the charge—sounding the bugle and beating the drum! Every accusation after that was assumed to be true. If Swamiji had been completely innocent, the whole thing would have played out differently.
For the sake of the whole yoga movement, Swamiji had to stand with the accused—at that time, almost every spiritual teacher in America—and not flinch; and not be shamed into accepting the myth that unless a teacher is perfect, he has nothing to give.
“In this world,” Swamiji said, “no one can be perfect. Yes, there are better and worse choices, but there are no absolutes on this plane of consciousness. That’s why the belief that Daya Mata is infallible creates so much confusion. I didn’t love Master because he was perfect. I loved him because he inspired me. You feel inspiration in your heart, and everything follows from that. Those devotees who go by the heart’s recognition are a different category from those who come for other reasons.
“How can you even decide whether a master is perfect or not? You don’t always know what he is trying to accomplish. How can you evaluate his action when you don’t know his intention?”
The SRF leaders hold themselves aloof, even from their own members. Swamiji lived among us. He was not an institutional myth; he was our friend. Ananda people are very intuitive; we pick up each others’ thoughts even at great distances. Even for people who aren’t so finely attuned to each other—who don’t meditate as we do—if one among them is compelled by sexual energy, others feel it. Men who have the same impulse, recognize a kindred spirit; women pick up the vibe. With Swamiji, there was none of that.
Still, sexual relations happen in private. So those who wanted to doubt, could.
The Bertolucci trial was the making of us as devotees. When the world is calling you a fool, and saying everything that you think is true is actually a lie, you have to go deep inside to find out what you really believe—and why. Persecution turns ordinary devotees into saints. That is why God allows it to happen.
Except for self-preservation, sexual desire is mankind’s strongest impulse. Naturally, it takes a long time to overcome. Master told Swamiji, “This desire isn’t deep in you; you will overcome it.” And he did.
Still, given Swamiji’s extraordinary self-control, which he demonstrated in countless ways, the whole thing puzzled me. Finally, it occurred to me that what he said after the posthumous message from Tara about “saving the karma”—in that case, disloyalty—until it “could serve some useful purpose,” could be the explanation for this, too.
Swamiji asked Master, “Will I find God in this life?” Master said, “Yes. But don’t think about it. After many lifetimes, everything has balanced out now.”
Master also told him, “God won’t come to you till the end of life. Death itself is the final sacrifice you will have to make.”
Swamiji said to me, “I am not aware of being Self-realized, although Master told me that I am, but it is not being revealed to me yet.”
Readings from Brighu and Agastya—ancient books of prophecy Swamiji encountered in India—speak of no future incarnations for him: at the end of this lifetime, Swamiji would have moksha (complete freedom) just as Master said.
When he received the Brighu reading, Swamiji asked the pundit, “Do you have readings like this very often?” referring to the promise of moksha. The pundit replied, “Only you, and one yogi who came from the Himalayas after he had a vision of Brighu, who told him to come to me and get a reading.”
In The Essence of the Bhagavad Gita, Swamiji carefully explained the gradations of spiritual freedom. To have moksha at the end of an incarnation means you came into that lifetime as a jivan mukta (one who lives in a body but is liberated from maya). A jivan mukta has dissolved his ego, so no new karma can be created; but there is still lingering karma from the past. At any time, though, the jivan mukta can dissolve that karma. But sometimes, Master said, he chooses not to, because it gives him a way to keep coming back to help others.
Once when I was talking to Swamiji on the phone, he was feeling dispirited and said, “After I die, I’m never coming back.” Then he added, “Except to help all of you.”
“That’s the only reason you came this time, isn’t it?” I said.
Simply, quietly, he replied, “Yes; that’s right.”
The way Swamiji talked about the karma with Tara Mata implies that he was in control of when it would be dissolved, the way a jivan mukta would be. In The Essence of the Bhagavad Gita, Swamiji explained to jivan muktas how to dissolve in meditation whatever lingering karma they may have. When I read that section, I said to him, “This won’t apply to very many people.”
“Yes,” Swamiji said, “but those to whom it does apply will find it very useful.”
I think he “saved the karma” of his “lingering desire for human love and comfort” for this incarnation “when it would serve some useful purpose.” Swamiji was usually forthcoming when I asked him to explain himself to me. He knew my interest was not frivolous; I write and speak about him all the time. I was going to ask him about this, and I think he would have answered. But the insight came just before he left his body, so I never had the chance.
This year was Ananda’s 30th birthday, and Swamiji’s 50th anniversary of discipleship. The theme for the Annual Appeal was Faith, Courage, Love: 30 Years of Living for God.
In the opening letter, Jyotish and Devi wrote, “We celebrate our 30th anniversary, not for something completed or perfected, but to honor the continuing evolution of a way of life Master called ‘the social pattern for the new age.’ Our individual and collective efforts are ‘works in progress.’ We are on a journey, and our pure aspiration is the polestar guiding us toward the goal.
“Those of you who have walked the road with us know it has not all been a pleasant stroll down rose-strewn paths. There have been tests and trials demanding faith, courage, and love. But with every test has come also the strength from God to overcome and the undaunted determination to stand firm in our faith. Now we can say, ‘Let word go out to friend and foe alike: Nothing can diminish our love for God or our commitment to serve Him through Ananda. These first thirty years are only the beginning.’”
The brochure highlights some of the achievements of the past year: a full Ananda Course of Self-Realization, a growing internet ministry, more Kriya Initiations, training programs for meditation group leaders, traveling teachers offering hundreds of programs in America and Europe. There were now thirty-three editions of Swamiji’s books, published outside the United States, in twenty languages, including Bulgarian, Indonesian, Chinese, and Hebrew.
In India, we continued to support Master’s family. In Australia, an Ananda work had just begun. In Assisi, the new Temple of Light, and Swamiji in residence there, had brought the work in Europe to a whole new level. In America, Seattle expanded its church facilities, Portland started a school for children, Sacramento developed meditation gardens, and Palo Alto’s temple and school continued to flourish. In Nigeria, a few brave devotees persevered, in spite of tremendous political turmoil, to run a study group, teaching center, and school for children.
On New Year’s Day in Assisi, Swamiji said to the community, “When we put principles first in our life, everything goes as it should, and there can be no failure. As the Bhagavad Gita says, ‘Oh, Arjuna, know this for a certainty: My devotee is never lost.’ We are not weak, in our true selves; we are not even human: we are angels, mere points of light. We are children of the Infinite Lord, and one day we will reach complete freedom.”
In 1962, Swamiji started writing what he thought was the first chapter of a book about the unity of all religions: how the discoveries of science support, rather than undermine, spiritual belief. The subject proved too vast for a single chapter and became a book in itself: Crises in Modern Thought. Now, Swamiji started writing the book he had intended to write then.
“There are two aspects to the spiritual life,” he explained during a Sunday service in Assisi. “One is the Way of Belief, which is how most people understand religion—symbols, rituals, ceremonies. Adherents of different religions may tolerate, even respect one another; but in the Way of Belief, there can never be unity.
“The other aspect of the spiritual life is the Way of Awakening—the inner experience of God. Here is where all religions come together. No matter what the outward beliefs, the Way of Awakening is the same for everyone. The energy always rises up the spine and expands outward through the spiritual eye, to merge into AUM. This is what Master meant when he said, ‘Self-realization will unite all religions.’”
Swamiji called the book The Hindu Way of Awakening. “In 1962, I didn’t intend to start with Hinduism,” he said, “but that’s the inspiration that came to me now. This book is the fruit of fifty years of meditation, and perhaps one of the most important I’ll ever write.” For months he poured himself into it, doing almost nothing else.
Speaking of one chapter, he said, “At least three times now I’ve come back to it with the thought, ‘It’s finished. All it needs is a few light touches,’ only to find myself having to slash and add incredibly. What began as thirteen pages has become twenty-two. It is a great chapter—or will be, if I can ever get it finished!
“I tend to block out the memory of past struggles in writing other books, but it seems to me this one has taken more out of me than any other. Sometimes my heart has felt at the very brink of total exhaustion.”
When he finally finished in April, he said, “I feel it is my best book so far, and for now, I have nothing more to write. After such a long period of intense creativity,” referring to the many projects before this one, “I find myself in a mood suddenly to do nothing at all!”
He wrote a letter called Song of Gratitude, and sent it to Ananda everywhere. “I think that, had I not faced these major tests—the heart operation, with its aftermath; the accusations; the slander in the media; the strain of the trial, the disaster of a total miscarriage of justice—I would never have been able to do the work I have done these past years. Even the physical discomfort I’ve had since the heart operation has been partly responsible for all this work—perhaps in compensation for it. Without these tests, my work would have come less from a superconscious level and more from my rational mind.
“Ananda too, and you all, would not have risen to the heights of grace that I see you’ve achieved. These tests were necessary for all of us, really, for they gave us the strength and the inspiration we needed to rise to the level God wanted of us in our service and devotion to Him.”
In Assisi, Swamiji was well out of the fray, and we were glad of it. For on the home front, X was still wreaking havoc. The first Bertolucci lawsuit was over, but X had us embroiled in a second one—same issues in another form. We had won a change of venue to Nevada City, which was more convenient for us. We were well known, and well respected there, but when the local paper printed a scathing editorial by X, we realized how easily he could turn the whole town against us with his rants about “dangerous cults and their diabolical leaders.”
Damages in the Bertolucci lawsuit totaled almost half a million dollars. We made numerous offers to pay it over a relatively short period of time; all were contemptuously refused. Legal awards go to the front of the line. As an extremely hostile creditor, Bertolucci could take all the money we had, making it impossible to honor our obligations to anyone else—people we had been doing business with for years, and all those who had supported Ananda through the litigation.
X threatened to file more lawsuits, not only against Ananda and Swamiji, but naming many of us, individually, as defendants. In 1990 we were naive—but not anymore. There was only one thing that could stop him: to put Ananda into Chapter 11 reorganization, better known as bankruptcy. Chapter 11 stops litigation, and protects you from hostile creditors. It was our only choice.
While Swamiji was celebrating his 50th anniversary in Assisi, we were filing papers for Chapter 11. “Even the Masters face what all of us must face,” he had said in a satsang on New Year’s Day. “They don’t live in a separate world. At one point, when his organization was on the verge of bankruptcy, Master prayed to Divine Mother. She responded, ‘I am thy stocks and bonds. What more dost thou need than that thou hast Me? Dance of life and dance of death: Know that these come from Me, and as such, rejoice!’”
Swamiji felt that spiritually Ananda was weathering the test of the lawsuits beautifully. He was concerned, though, that “financial pressure may cause a permanent shift in values.” He saw an increasing emphasis on projects that would bring immediate financial return, rather than those whose benefits were harder to chart—like supporting the musicians and other projects related to his creative work.
“At my birthday this year,” Swamiji said, “a significant number—perhaps even a majority—told me that what first drew them to Ananda was the music. Many said it is the music that holds them still.” He was concerned that the present need for income would set Ananda “on a long-term direction of materialism that would lead to a loss of its early creative and spiritual impulse.”
Swamiji had personally supported many aspects of art and music at Ananda. Most of his salary, and whatever he earned from teaching outside, went into an account called “Special Projects” to support creative work at the Village. Now he had relinquished his salary and moved to Italy. When a group of friends, mostly singers and musicians, came to visit, he talked to them about how they might be able to support themselves.
“Divine Mother has never given us a wealthy patron,” Swamiji said. “We’ve had to do it on our own. I wrote the Secrets books, for example, because I knew they would sell. That income could support books that are more central to our work, but that don’t sell many copies.
“I didn’t look at it, though, as just a practical necessity. I wrote the Secrets books with all sincerity, so they are good books. Many people prefer a short saying they can remember, over a big book they will never read! Knowing the strain you are under now, I asked Divine Mother, ‘What can we do?’”
The idea that came was to develop classes that use the music as a way to teach the Art of Living. He had often said that Ananda’s music contains the whole path of Self-realization—not as techniques, but as vibration. He laid out the essentials of what he had in mind, hoping they could attune themselves to the inspiration and develop it from there.
One of the songs on The Mystic Harp is called Deirdre’s Sorrows. It is based on an Irish legend of a woman whose beauty caused her nothing but heartache. In the end, betrayed and abandoned, she commits suicide—a rather Irish story! Melody, lyrics, and orchestration combine to make a powerful piece of music.
“You would think it would be a real downer!” Swamiji said. “But it doesn’t feel like that, because of the consciousness with which I wrote it. We feel the pain of her experience—it doesn’t help to suppress or deny our emotions—but we feel it from the perspective of superconsciousness. From God’s point of view, it is just one episode in the soul’s long journey; karma that can now be released into the Infinite. Deirdre’s story is tragic, but the feeling of the music is liberation from that tragedy, not being forever defined by it. This is a life skill everyone needs.”
He spoke about John Anderson, My Jo, the song he wrote based on Robert Burns’ poem about an elderly couple, after a lifetime together, now facing their impending death. “There was already a well-known melody for the poem,” Swamiji said, “Fortunately, I didn’t know that, or I might not have written mine. The message of that melody is, ‘It’s a dog-eat-dog world and the goal is the grave!’” By contrast, the feeling of Swamiji’s melody is “Love is eternal; death, the joyful culmination of a life well-lived.”
These are just two examples among many he gave. “You can explain these attitudes in words, but the music gives an experience that words can’t convey,” Swamiji said. “Most people are not singers or musicians; some don’t even listen to music. Used this way, though, the music is not an end in itself; it is a means for self-understanding. Everyone wants to find happiness and avoid pain. This could be a wholly new, creative way to show how this music is not peripheral to life, it is central to the Art of Living.”
Another issue of grave concern to Swamiji was the habit we had developed of “Let’s ask the lawyers.” It had become so ingrained, he said, that their input was beginning to define how we presented Ananda to the world. Before the lawsuit years, we thought only of sincerely and joyously being ourselves, with courage and faith in God. Now we had begun to think like lawyers: damage control, risk management, legal exposure. If we continued down that path, Swamiji said, it would change Ananda forever.
In hours of conversation with community leaders when they came to visit him in Assisi, Swamiji talked about the present and future of Ananda. In December, he wrote Ananda’s Directions, the fruit of months of meditation on the meaning of recent events for him, personally, and for Ananda.
“My growing preoccupation has been that legal and other mundane issues might affect Ananda’s long-term development. Our top priority, I know we all feel, is our spiritual life, and our attunement with Master’s ray of divine grace. But circumstances have forced us to perform a balancing act between the spiritual life and more mundane concerns.
“Our priorities, as I’m sure we all agree, are: first, our inner relationship with God and Guru; second, our service to them; third, the friendship we have with one another; fourth, our need to meet dharmically the tests life has given us; and fifth, that we bear always in mind Master’s advice to me, ‘You must be practical in your idealism.’ Practicality is important for us, but I’ve seen again and again that faith is the most practical thing of all.
“Though forced to perform a juggling act for now, we will come through unbeaten if we maintain our centeredness. And though tried by fire, we will come through unscathed if we never lose sight of our priorities in the order I’ve listed them.”
Then he goes on to his main point: his role in Ananda. He takes the reader carefully through his reasoning process before presenting his conclusions.
“What we really need to do at this time is to stress forcefully our commitment to Master and to our line of Gurus. Unfortunately, our self-styled enemies have the same commitment. A battle based on the question of whose commitment was the more genuine could only leave both sides looking ridiculous. The real issue here is Kriyananda himself. Is he, or is he not, genuinely serving Master’s mission?
“Daya Mata’s statement to me in 1985, ‘It isn’t the good people of Ananda I have anything against; it’s Kriyananda,’ has been, more or less, the attitude of many others also. It has been the line taken by those who would like to separate Ananda from Kriyananda.
“Daya Mata is very dear to me personally. Many of you know that. We have been like brother and sister. Nevertheless, we do differ in certain fundamental ways on how best to spread Master’s teachings.
“I don’t think she is much interested in the implications of his teachings for humanity as a whole, or for history, or for Dwapara Yuga, or for the resolution of religious debates that have raged in East and West for centuries. She recognizes the role of others in serving his work only to the extent that their service may be of help in her own role. This attitude prevails, also, among those who serve the work under her guidance. Indeed, I may be the only direct disciple who feels deep concern for the broader aspects of Master’s mission.
“SRF members view Daya Mata as Master’s sole representative. She was raised a Mormon, and that is how Mormons today view their living prophet. In SRF’s eyes, consequently—and not surprisingly—I’m an outsider. Yet it would be unreasonable, I think, in light of what little I’ve accomplished in Master’s name, to describe me as that, or even as ‘just another disciple.’
“I have always under-emphasized my own role in creating Ananda, both from personal predilection and because I wanted people to understand that the blessings that made Ananda possible came from our Guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, and never from Kriyananda. For all that, it was Kriyananda through whom they came, and I venture to say that Master himself would not welcome a decision to follow him alone, ignoring the channel he sent you.
“It is vitally important at Ananda that other energies not be allowed to intrude themselves, as if to bypass Kriyananda and go straight to our Gurus for guidance and inspiration. I myself have left America and come to Italy partly to give you all more freedom to bring this issue to a conclusion in your own minds. It would be a repudiation of my own responsibility, however, not to share with you my understanding in this matter.
“Yes, you can go straight to Master, or to any other master in our line of Gurus. Try it, please, if you like. See if they will accept you. Others have done so, however, and I have yet to see one of them flourish. But you are always free to go where you like, and to follow whom you like.
“Maybe I am not worthy of the trust that was reposed in me. Maybe my only qualification has been a willingness to place my life on the line in service to my Guru. Whatever the case, Ananda has come into existence not merely because of any slight talents I possess as a leader, organizer, and writer, but because I’ve tried to the best of my ability to serve as a channel of my Guru’s grace. I wouldn’t have achieved any success at all, had my attempt been motivated by mere presumption.
“The creation of Ananda, the books and music I’ve written, and above all the spirit that Master has inspired in others through me and in the many truly fine teachers Ananda has produced, could not have been accomplished by just anyone.
“The lawsuits against us have empowered Ananda. It is time, now, for us to seize the reins and reject the thought that has been proposed by others, that Ananda merely happened by fluke or good luck, and in spite of, not with the help of, Kriyananda.
“I think that if Ananda, at this time in its history, were to remain silent on the subject of my contribution to Master’s work, its future direction could well be downhill. To separate Ananda from Kriyananda would result in major changes to Ananda itself, reducing it to the level of a merely interesting sociological experiment.
“When I came to Master I was already deeply convinced of the universal need for his message. I also felt deeply people’s general need for the solace of spiritual truth. What I realized gradually, as I tuned in to him, was that his spiritual power was an essential ingredient of that message. What Master brought to the West was a power and blessing that flowed entirely through him. In a sense, his life was his mission.
“What I have done in serving him has been to disseminate that power to as many of you as would receive it. It is up to us, now, to interpret his life and mission for millions.”