If you want to understand the secret of attunement to the Guru, this blog is a must-read. Know how to steer away from form to the essence of a powerful and rewarding spiritual life.

I had been with Swami Kriyananda for less than a year when he asked me, along with about ten other devotees of Ananda Village, to go to Los Angeles with him for a visit. First, he asked if I could sing. I think he established that at least I didn’t have a painfully awful voice. Thus, we went to Los Angeles, ostensibly to record two albums of songs. On these albums, Swamiji sang, and the rest of us sang responsively as a chorus. These were all chants: one album was Yoganandaji’s chants, the other album was traditional Sanskrit bhajans. Swamiji also sang a couple of Bengali devotional songs.

It took us several days to record the album, through a friend of ours who had a recording studio in Hollywood. Certainly, the quality of singing was not the important thing; it was the vibration. Swamiji was helping all of us to keep our vibration high and keep it high over many, many hours of singing.

On this trip, Swamiji also had several speaking engagements. I’m reminded of one of the places at which he spoke. Those of us with him went along to this lecture. It was in Topanga Canyon, in the hall of a spiritual centre. Along the back wall of the hall were photos of several famous gurus and modern spiritual teachers.

Swamiji gave his discourse. At a certain point during his discourse, I noticed some commotion and voices at the back of the hall.

It was only after the discourse I discovered what the noise was all about. A young man came up to speak to Swamiji. He had in his hand a picture that he showed to Swamiji. It was a picture of Sathya Sai Baba. The photograph was on card stock, on heavy paper. 

During the discourse, Swamiji had said the words, “When the disciple is ready, the guru appears.” This young man shared with us that at the moment Swamiji said those words, this picture on the wall behind him fell, and landed, face-up, on his lap. For some time the man had been praying for a guru. He thought maybe it was Sathya Sai Baba, but he just didn’t know. 

These kinds of things would happen around Swamiji. Yet, throughout his life, he refused to call himself a guru and resisted that title when people gave it to him. He said this was a very deliberate move. Part of his reason was that his guru was an avatar who had come into this world already realized, with a world mission. He was a part of a line of Self-realized masters. Swamiji, therefore, didn’t want people’s attention to go to him. He wanted to direct that towards Yoganandaji and this line of avatars. 

When someone would touch his feet, Swamiji would very often symbolically place his hand at his own spiritual eye, as if to say that he was offering this person’s devotion up to Guruji, that is, to Yoganandaji. Yoganandaji himself would do something similar as if to offer this person’s devotion up to God. He didn’t accept it for himself, but he offered it to God, so that this energy didn’t stop with him, but continued to flow. 

Disciples Are Like Different Facets of a Diamond

Swamiji would also say how disciples of a great master or avatar are like facets of a diamond. The guru is the diamond and the disciples are the different facets. Each disciple has a certain experience of the guru and can reflect that experience, but each one is only part of the whole reality of the guru. Swamiji thus wanted to remind people to not offer devotion to him personally but to offer that devotion up to the larger source—up to Yoganandaji as the Satguru, the one who can bring us to God.

Using this example of facets of a diamond helps us to understand a great deal—to be able to tune in to not just the guru directly (Yoganandaji in this case), but also to tune into his disciples. 

His disciples are each a channel and representative, in a particular way, of the ray that the guru has brought down to us. We can learn different lessons from the experience of each disciple. 

My Experiences With Direct Disciples of Yogananda

I’ve met probably about fifteen of the direct disciples of Yogananda, both in India and in America. All these disciples had one thing in common and that was Guruji’s sense of humour. But that was all they had in common—their personalities were each very distinct and different. They were different facets of the diamond. Each of the experiences that they gained from the guru was unique and different. 

I’m reminded of Hare Krishna Ghosh. He was the nephew of Yoganandaji, the son of his brother, Sananda. We met Hare Krishna on several occasions in Calcutta. Swamiji invited him twice to America and I spent time with him there as well. 

Hare Krishna told us a story of when, as a 15-year-old boy, he was with Yoganandaji. For the year and a half that Guruji returned to India, 1935-36, Hare Krishna was with him in Calcutta as much as he could. 

In this story, he tells that in a big lecture hall in Calcutta, Guruji would have the whole audience press their hands together in a pranam. Then he asked the audience to separate their hands. To the people’s surprise, they couldn’t bring their hands apart! Then he chanted, ‘Aum’. Only then could people separate their hands. Guruji would do these kinds of things to awaken people’s interest. He found that simple miracles like this captured the attention of the worldly-minded individual. Then they were more open to listening to a spiritual discourse. 

Sometime after this, in a smaller group, Guruji asked Hare Krishna to join his hands together. Hare Krishna said that he was afraid! He had no idea what was going to happen. Then Guruji asked Hare Krishna to bring his hands apart. On seeing that he was able to bring his hands apart easily, people asked Guruji, “Why didn’t you stick his hands together?” Guruji very sweetly replied, “He’s my brother’s son, how could I make HIS hands stick together?”

I’m reminded also of another direct disciple that we knew, Kamala Silva, who lived for some time at Ananda Village, right at the end of her life. Guruji had encouraged her to marry another devotee, and for many years they had a meditation centre in the San Francisco area. During her stay at Ananda Village, she suffered from dementia quite seriously and couldn’t recognize people who came to her from one visit to the next. She also forgot most of the things that one usually needs to remember, to function in day-to-day life. Yet she was never discouraged by this. She was in a joyful state. 

What she did remember, very clearly, was Yoganandaji and all of her experiences with him. These memories were crystal clear in her mind, and she lived in that joy all the time. You could see that in her. From her example, we learned that what’s more important is where our heart is, and where our inner focus is, even if we don’t have a functioning mind. Nothing can take that away from us. We carry that with us from lifetime through a lifetime.

Another disciple whom I met a couple of times was Peggy Dietz. She lived with Yoganandaji in Los Angeles for some time. Along with being a devotee, she was also his driver and drove him wherever he needed to go. One day they were out in the car, and he told her that she needed to teach the Kriya Yoga technique to others. She had no particular training and neither was she a public speaker. 

Yet, Guruji asked her to teach Kriya freely wherever she went. This was quite different from the organization that Yogananda had set up, where only trained and authorized acharyas were allowed to give Kriya initiation. She was quite taken aback at his suggestion. She started thinking about what the front office of the organization would say and think about her. Guruji then asked her very simply, “Who are you following—the office, or me?” 

It had seemed at the time a spontaneous suggestion from Guruji. Yet, as she went through life, she found herself often out on her own, in different cities, and meeting many different people who were attracted to her, and ready and eager to receive Kriya. It was not practical for them to receive it in any other way. This was her particular mission—the unofficial mission that Guruji had entrusted her with.

The guru asks unique things from each disciple, because each disciple is a different facet of the diamond, and needs different things to grow. Each disciple has a role to play. 

Being Open to the Guru

If we’re attracted to Yoganandaji and are a devotee, he’s opening the door for us. The door of new opportunities for us to be channels of light in this world. It need not be in any formal way, but just to hold the Guru in our hearts, like Kamala Silva did, even when she didn’t have a mind to work with. She had a feeling in her heart to be a channel in the world, to share light, to share love, and to share the vibration of Yogananda. 

One needn’t give it any label at all. Just be a channel to spread light wherever we go. And to know that everything else, no matter how dramatic they may seem at the moment, will pass away. They are not the important things that stay with us. The touch of a great teacher, the touch of spirit, the touch of divine love in our hearts—are the important things that we can carry with us. Then we can be a channel to offer these gifts to all whom we meet.

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