Swami Kriyananda, the first all-round Dwapara Yuga leader
An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man.
Never could I read Emerson’s aphorism, oft quoted by Swami Kriyananda, without a feeling of heavy resistance rising within my heart. It may have been the result of my Dutch mindset, in which every form of determined, visionary leadership smacks of authoritarianism and, as such, is emotionally rejected. Who knows how much genius, throughout Dutch history, has ended up on the garbage heap as a consequence of this questionable national tendency?
In fact, society, as a whole, does need a form of leadership that is reined in by a system of deadlines, checks and balances, lest the temptation of power allow a potential dictator to impose the Spirit-deadening horror of tyranny on his people. Democracies, regulated by the rule of law, are still those places on earth that are most supportive (or, if you like, the least obstructive) of individual freedom, initiative, and growth.
When it comes to the spiritual regeneration of society as a whole, however, the societal structure may be too heterogeneous for any beneficially inclusive step to be made forward. Rationally devised political systems and institutions scarcely communicate with the inner man. They can at best provide the necessary space for an individual to explore deeper aspects of human nature.
Swami sometimes said that the most uplifting system of government would be a kingdom, governed by an enlightened monarch who enjoys the trust of his people. To find positive examples of this, he said, we’d need to go far back in history, to ancient India, where such systems seemed to produce (or were produced by) a happy society.
With such a system not being suited to the times we live in, Swami, in the early eighties, started his Guru’s work in Europe by attracting a relatively small group of spiritual seekers who responded well to leadership based on inspiration, guidance, and friendship. Also, he had brought some friends over from America, whom he had trained and magnetized to become leaders of their own.
“God has many beautiful things to do on earth,” he said, “and he needs willing instruments to carry them out.” And then he quoted his Guru: The instrument is blessed by what flows through it.
Thus, out of a densely heterogeneous society he attracted and magnetized individuals who shared the ideals of a Spirit-centered life based on yoga, meditation practices, service, and cooperation and who recognized themselves in Yogananda’s teachings of Kriya yoga and Self-realization. The blessings that he would share flowed through him naturally, empowered by his own creative discipleship. His will power was enormous, as I soon discovered when I first met him, in 1985.
Spiritually I had already met him, through his writings. I remember when I first opened his correspondence course, called Fourteen Steps to Perfect Joy. I was working as a night porter then, in a big hotel in the center of Amsterdam, but my mind and heart were entering the wonderful world of Spirit and Yoga. On the opening page it said: I offer these lessons at the feet of my Guru, Paramhansa Yogananda. Somehow, those first words became the foundation stone of my complete trust in him: in the consciousness of this man – human, informal, loving, creative, deeply intelligent – a window was always open to the rays of Light coming from his Guru, the inspiration of his life, who governed his checks and balances.
Sometime later, after having read many more of his books, I wrote him a letter in which I expressed my deep love for him and for the Spirit he manifested in his life. Somehow I could sense when he received it. And the unwritten answer I could feel too. It reached me through the ether. It said: Cooperate with me, in that Spirit. Love needs to be empowered through action and commitment.
That was also his message to me, the first time I met him, in Como: Cooperate with me, be a part of this work. He never pronounced this message in so many words, but he upheld their meaning determinedly in his spiritual eye.
Now here’s the interesting part, difficult to understand even for myself: although this message deeply resonated in my soul, it was not perceived as personal. On a personal level he was kind, and completely respectful of whatever I chose to do with my life. Yet somehow the courage with which he had chosen to dedicate his own life to God and Guru, inspired me to follow his example.
I proceeded slowly, step by step. After an intense training period of service and meditation at Ananda Como, I went back to Holland: to finish my studies, and to unravel some subconscious knots that kept my energy bound in the lower chakras. Some years later, I moved back to Italy and co-founded an Ananda center in Rome. I began to see Swami Kriyananda more often, through concerts in which I contributed with my violin, through satsangs, e-mails and, occasionally, a personal conversation. In 2007 I moved to Ananda Assisi.
Recently I had an opportunity to return to Villa Rombolotti, near Como, where Ananda Europe had first started. Almost forty years had passed since I first met Swami there and I had never been back. The Villa was now abandoned, but we managed to enter the gardens and to enjoy a short meditation. Time itself became like a dream to my consciousness. Then and there, Divine Mother started to make herself known to the young man I was then, and through the many ups and downs of my life, She would never abandon me.
Then and there Swami started his little, inspiration-based, visionary kingdom.
How Ananda Europe has grown now! It has become, not a kingdom, but a spiritual family whose members live in many different nations on this continent. There are no boundaries and the closeness of any individual member to the heart of this work is determined, not by ambition or by geographical limitations, but by the degree of natural, individual attunement to the central vision upheld by this leader.
Nor is Ananda Europe the lengthened shadow of one man; we can leave that aphorism in the past now. Dwapara Yuga leadership means the power to bring to a focus a particular divine vision, in which sincere spiritual seekers can recognize their own higher Self. That is what Swamiji did when he started building the work in Europe, and that is what he is still doing – even now, when he is no longer physically among us.
Come and join the celebrations for 10 years of Swamiji’s Moksha – 21-23 April 2023