Sri Goswami Kriyananda, my great teacher, has left his body. I am left with the powerful teachings he shared with me, and so many others, and I find myself trying to deepen my understanding of them.
I am continuing on this path of conscious awakening. At times, especially lately, it feels so intense, like I’m embracing something and opening to an energy that I am not sure I am ready to receive. It is overwhelming. There is also a fear that it won’t last; that it will slip away somehow and I won’t remember what it is like to feel so fully connected to life.
I return to the teachings for guidance. I return to the teachings to fan the flame of wisdom within me. I am confident it is there, in practice, in asana (posture), meditation, svadyaya (self-study) and jnana yoga (literally the yoga of wisdom, the practice of studying spiritual texts). The connection is so clear, but never clearer than when I am teaching.
There are moments when I am teaching that I am aware of a powerful transmission of knowledge flowing through me. It is almost a feeling of being out of body, but at the same time so vibrantly aware and alive. People talk about falling in love again after they’ve been married for a long time. This is the experience I have had with my teacher a few times in these short seven years, but now that he has moved on from this plane I am returning to the beginning, to learn, again, to understand better and to deepen my awareness. His emphasis on the power of teaching resonates with me deeply and confirms my dharma. I was told that when asked what his disciples could do to honor his transition he simply said, teach.
It was, in essence, love at first sight. First read, actually. I read The Spiritual Science of Kriya Yoga in my 200-hour Hatha Yoga Teacher Training and the words spoke directly to my heart. The teachings were so clear and spoke truths I knew on a very deep level, but had never had the words to explain.
It was many years before I met Kriyananda. I had many dreams about him, and his teacher, Sri Shelliji, in the months leading up to meeting him. From the time I met him it took me about a year to ask him to initiate me as a disciple. I am sure now that I didn't understand what I was asking, what the path I was choosing was for, or why, but it was crystal clear that was what I wanted to do and I never once had any doubt. That came later.
I had heard and read stories of Gurus denying student requests to become a disciple, or putting certain parameters like, ask me again when the moon is in Scorpio opposing Jupiter, or something like that. I had also learned about a variety of initiation rituals involving mantra, spiritual prostration and all other types of traditional and non-traditional rituals.
Because I asked meekly, and somewhat unclearly (I mean, where does one learn the proper way to ask someone to officially be your teacher?), he made a joke, deflecting my hesitation. I am a relatively quick learner, so I boldly and directly asked him my question without hesitation. And he said yes. I know now that I will always treasure that moment. As I write this it brings tears of wonderment and awe at the simple lesson inherent in that profound moment. I believed, and still do, that he could truly see me, which has allowed me to see myself in a way I never could have imagined.
The actual initiation was simple and private with one other person being initiated. He put a mala around my neck, gave it a little tug and said, follow me, spiritually. They say when you align with a teacher it speeds up your karma and that they absorb some of your challenging karma.
Everything fell apart in the year that followed. I had felt so clear and so sure, yoga had opened my mind and now the teachings started to feel constrictive and dogmatic. The majority of this process was internal – my belief system crumbled before me and I was left with the agony of complete and total loss of faith. It was certainly a rehashing of my early disillusion with the Catholic religion. I had to take a step back from many things, including my teacher and I withdrew from the Seminary program (this is a topic for another time).
Coming back to the teachings and asking him again to be my Guru was truly a defining moment. I had fallen in love again. This time was not as easy and innocent as the first, but I had affirmed the connection on all the levels of my being and I was ready to take responsibility for it. Part of my resistance was feeling that the discipline of the practice limited my freedom. I was unable to conform to any particular system, and I still am. But, this is not what Kriyananda taught. This is not what any of the great teachers are saying, and that is why I went back.
Many people forget, or perhaps were never told, that Guru in Sanskrit means dispeller of darkness, and it is a process that reveals to you your own light. I honor my teacher because he fanned the flames of awareness within me, and I honor him by living the Dharma.
It is not enough to say, Guru is great, or God is great, and perform ritual at certain times – the ritual is in every breath, in every moment. You honor the Guru by embodying the teachings. It is how we treat other people externally, but perhaps more importantly, internally. If I do not or cannot see all beings as Divine Love then I cannot see myself that way. I can hear him chuckle and say, especially the ones that really irk you, with a little twinkle in his eyes.
Photo: Marc-Henri Auffeve
Learn more about Sri Goswami Kriyananda and his teachings here: http://yogakriya.org/