A human being is a part of the whole called by us “universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.
An Interview With Swami Kriyananda
At age fifteen, Ananda cooperative village is a thriving northern California community with more than 150 full-time residents — quite a feat considering that the average life expectancy of such ventures is less than 30 days. While its founder, Swami Kriyananda, credits much of Ananda’s success to the blessing of his guru, Paramahansa Yogananda — around whose vision of a “self-sustaining world brotherhood community” Ananda is built — his own strong leadership and practical know-how have been important guiding factors.
I grew up in Portland, Oregon, went to public school, and was educated to be an intellectual of the verbal kind. When I was four and a half, I had a library card. Because I could read I was thought to be a person who would follow a certain line of development having to do with verbal skills. They didn’t notice that the books I took out were picture books. I grew up, as many of us do, thinking that there are two kinds of people in the world — intellectuals and artists, or rather intellectuals, artists and women! It is difficult if you are a woman trying to find your way; it’s difficult to choose a path to follow.
The key word of the spiritual discipline I follow is “listening.” This means a special kind of listening, a listening with one’s heart. To listen in that way is central to the monastic tradition in which I stand. The very first word of the Rule of St. Benedict is “listen!” — “Ausculta!” — and all the rest of Benedictine discipline grows out of this one initial gesture of wholehearted listening, as a sunflower grows from its seed.
The first time it happened, I was in Bible School in Weldon, North Carolina on the second floor of the Methodist Church educational building, listening to Dozen Pierce say that God knew how many hairs were on everybody’s head. I wondered if He knew why my stomach hurt.