Swami’s Moksha Day – with Blessings from Turtle Pond
The sacred ten-year Moksha Day anniversary commemorating Swami Kriyananda’s transition into the Light fell on April 21, less than a month ago. That day, I was given a special blessing, starring a member of the animal kingdom.
It was a perfect springtime afternoon. Rich with spiritual symbolism, the scenario seemed like an honoring of Swamiji—to all those who knew him either directly or through his writing, talks, music, photos, and communities—as our friend and guide beyond time.
While driving to the Rajarsi Business Park at Ananda Village, I noticed something in the middle of the black asphalt road. It looked suspiciously like a teenage-sized turtle. And that’s exactly what it was! Although well camouflaged by his subtly marked shell, the little guy was anything but safe there. I parked my car off the road, hopped out, and walked over to him.
I set him on a scrap of cardboard to carry him a few yards back to his home, the small pond with its scenic footbridge. Deftly, he curled his head, tail, and limbs into his shell. I spoke to him in soothing tones, stroking his hard-scaled back.
Do turtles bite, I wondered, or can I give him a gentle scratch under the chin? (Yes! They can bite, and quite aggressively when they feel threatened.) Perhaps this was his first experience with a human being, so I did my best to leave him with a good impression of our species.
A Turtle’s Message of Hope
These lyrics of Swami’s song came to mind as I walked back to my car:
All your children, Mother, call You,
Knowing not it’s You they call.
Some, through mists of their unknowing,
Bruised and hurting, when they fall,
Turn away. But who can leave You?
You, the Mother of us all!
I pondered how fifteen years had passed since the last time I’d spotted a turtle walking—if you could call it that—on the very same road. That year, my father saw his last summer before Stage IV pancreatic cancer ushered him from this world. His passing was not even remotely close to being easy. For that exact reason, it’s become one of the most transformative challenges of my life. During Dad’s last five months, I served as his full-time caregiver. At one point, I took a short recharge-break at the Village before returning to Los Angeles to help him transition to the astral world. Those precious months were the subject of my book, From Bagels to Curry:
“With this geographic break from my father, I sense our connection is now beyond time and space. Always he is with me.
“As I’m driving home from my office at Ananda Village after completing some quiet catch-up projects, what appears to be a largish stone in the middle of the road begins to move. Very slowly.
“The tortoise makes his way onto the blacktop road from nearby Turtle Pond. I bring my car to a stop on the gravel shoulder and coax him onto my clipboard to return him to the water’s edge. He looks up at me, turns away, and not once but twice from instinctive fear, urinates on my notepapers. My act of heroism may have cost me the notepad, but it probably saved his life.
“Sometime later, I stumble upon Stanza 2:58 of the Indian scriptural classic, The Bhagavad Gita: ‘When the yogi, like a tortoise withdrawing its head and limbs into its shell, is able to withdraw his energy from the objects of sense-perceptions, he becomes established in wisdom.’
“My silent prayer for my father is that he may enjoy this world . . . with inner freedom.”
Blessings from Beyond the Pond
On the beautiful sun-imbued morning of Swamiji’s passing ten years ago, the air, in stillness, seemed to hold its breath. The day was almost too-perfect. At that time, I was living seven minutes from our Ananda Italy Retreat on the outskirts of the holy city of Assisi.
At 8am, I checked emails to find a message from Lakshman, Swami’s secretary. It said, quite simply, that Swami had left his body. On that hushed morning, it felt as though the earth itself rejoiced in his freedom – with “joy in the heavens, a smile on the mountains,” to quote the lyrics of another of his songs.
These two turtle events had come full circle, the second one on the anniversary of Swamiji’s final freedom. Somehow, rescuing “the Moksha Day turtle,” thus enabling him to live out the rest of his days, seemed to carry a divine message for us all: The soul never dies—for the turtle, for my father, and most especially for Swamiji, whose founding of the Ananda communities worldwide has given thousands of souls the opportunity to live extraordinary incarnations, sincerely seeking . . . “You, the Mother of us all.”