Asha Praver's Monthly Letter
November 2005

Dear Friends,Asha Praver photo

Immediately after he finished reading Autobiography of a Yogi, in 1948, Swami Kriyananda (then Donald Walters, 22 years old) took the next bus across the country from New York City, where he was living, to Los Angeles, California, to meet Paramhansa Yogananda.

For some reason, Swamiji thought Master would be at the Encinitas Hermitage, so he went directly there. The woman who opened the door to greet him was Sister Gyanamata, Master?s most advanced woman disciple.

When Swamiji declared to her that he had come to join the ashram, Sister put several obstacles in his way. Such as the need to wait four years until he had finished studying the printed lessons. Swamiji was dismayed at the mere prospect of a wait; he hoped to enter immediately.

In any case, Master wasn't in Encinitas that day. He was at the Hollywood Church. So Swamiji got back on the bus in the hope of seeing Master there.

At first, Swamiji says, as the bus rolled along, inwardly he railed against Sister, as a typical “little old lady” choking the life out of a religious work.

A Cloud Suddenly Lifted
“Suddenly I remembered her eyes,” Swamiji wrote in his autobiography, The Path. “Certainly there was far more to her than I realized. "Forgive me" I prayed, "for misjudging her. She was only doing her duty. But I see now that she is a great soul. Forgive me."

“A cloud seemed suddenly to lift inside me. I knew in my heart that I'd been accepted.”

And he was. A few hours later, Swamiji knelt in front of Master and was initiated by him as a monk and a disciple.

In the Festival of Light every week we read the story of the little bird, and the mission given to him by God—and to all of us—to share with all as we have received.

Alas, the little bird rebels against this mission, and seeks happiness in selfish ways. Even when happiness eludes him, only after a long time does “the tiny rebel surrender.”

Inner Victory through Faith in God
And so it is with all of us. God gives us free will, and we use it! Not always in ways that lead to our highest happiness.

I recently read a biography of Florence Nightingale. Her name is synonymous with heroic nursing. Out of nothing except enormous opposition, she established nursing as a respectable occupation for women. Many times in her life it looked as if her entire mission would fail, and this thought made her suffer intensely. But in the end, her faith in God gave her the strength to persevere.

At one particularly dark moment, “Despair alternated with passionate self-reproach.” Finally, she escaped from her self-created torment, when she realized, “If failure is God's will for me, then to rebel against it would be the worst failure of all.” Of course, in the eyes of the world, her life was a glorious triumph. But of even greater importance was her inner victory.

In the Festival of Light, before the bird can get onto the spiritual path—in the Festival that stage is called, the Quest—he must give up his own self-created ideas of how life should be, and heed the counsel of his elders. Before his surrender, the bird's life is storm-tossed. After, he finds himself “soaring joyously high above the clouds.”

So it was with Swamiji. When he surrendered his self-will and accepted Sister as an emissary from God, in that moment, he knew he was accepted.

Swamiji created the Festival of Light in 1987, during a seclusion in Assisi, Italy. He didn't write it, he said, he “received” it. When the phrase came, “A fledgling bird…..” Swamiji paused. “A fledgling bird? What does that have to do with anything?” he thought. But long experience had given him faith in God's guidance, so he went on. And the result is the story we read each week.

When Swamiji introduced the Festival, at first, others also responded as Swamiji did, and questioned the presence of that fledgling bird! But as the years passed, that little bird has taught us so many lessons. Now he is a cherished part of the Ananda family.

I am especially grateful for the continuous reminder, that, first, rebellion is inevitable, and, second, that it is futile. Wisdom will not come to us if we merely insist on having our own way. But when we sincerely Quest, then God will answer even our smallest prayer.

Joy to you,

Asha (& David)