Asha Praver's Monthly Letter
December 2005

Dear Friends,Asha Praver photo

One of Swamiji’s fellow disciples during the years he lived with Master was a big man named Norman. “My giant,” Master called him.

With such a big body, Norman naturally thought in terms of solving problems with physical force. Unfortunately, most spiritual tests happen on a more subtle level. Once when Norman was struggling with moods and other mental temptations, he said in exasperation, “If I could just get my hands on it!”

It was a sentiment we can all understand. One reason the spiritual life is so challenging is that the battle takes place on the field of consciousness. Even physical suffering, sometimes, is easier to endure than the experience of keeping company with our own wrong attitudes.

Richard Wurbrand, a great Christian mystic, spent years in solitary confinement. He was a Rumanian Jew who converted to Christianity, and was imprisoned first by the Nazis because of his Jewish heritage, then later by the Communists, because of his Christian faith. During his years of imprisonment, he underwent many physical deprivations.

But at the end of it all, he defined hell, as “Sitting alone in a room with nothing but your regrets.” Consciousness defines everything. Eventually, that realization is what brings us to the spiritual path.

After many lifetimes, we finally learn that no external experience will bring lasting fulfillment. To have that, we must change our consciousness.

A few months ago, Swamiji published a small book called Sadhu Beware! In India, Swamiji has started a traditional monastic order, and he wrote this book to be a guideline for those who follow that way of life. A sadhu is a monk.

But as Swamiji writes in the first chapter, “All who join Ananda do so in order to seek and serve God. They should already understand, moreover, their need to transcend ego-consciousness by doing God’s will rather than their own. Whether or not they embrace formal renunciation, the gratification they are taught to seek is not of the ego: It is in God.

“Thus, within Ananda Sangha the contrasts between those who embrace formal renunciation and those who do not are less distinct. For this reason, they need to be spelled out with extra care. For this reason also, much—and perhaps most—of what follows will be useful to all the members of Ananda Sangha.”

A few chapter titles give you an idea of what the book covers, Techniques of Ego-Transcendence, Humility, How to Be a Temptation Detective, Poverty vs. Simplicity. This is a genuine “how-to” manual. The chapter on Ego-Transcendence, for example, includes 33 specific points to watch out for in yourself.

The title of the book, Sadhu Beware! is from a story told by Ramakrishna, a great Indian Master who lived in the late 1800s.
One day a young monk told Ramakrishna that he was meditating with a young woman.

“Sadhu beware!” the Master said.

“Oh, I will be all right,” the young man replied. But after some time, he left his monastic calling and ran away with the woman.

If you are seeking to live a monastic life, this is a specific warning about avoiding situations in which attractions will arise. But only a small handful of the people who read this book aspire to a formal monastic life.

So the statement, “Sadhu beware!” within Ananda has come to mean any effort by the ego to rationalize, and thus hold onto, its delusion. This book is not about developing a healthy balanced ego; it is about escaping from ego altogether, into our true home in God.

A child transferred into the first grade class of Ananda’s Living Wisdom School. After a few days, her mother asked her, “How do you like your new school? Is it different from where you were before?”

“At my old school,” the child said, “the teacher talked about being kind to each other. But at Living Wisdom School, they really mean it!”

In a sense, this is what makes Ananda different from most other “new age” teachings. Many paths give lip service to the idea of transcending the ego. But Master really means it!

It is not that he is a harsh and unforgiving guru! Far from it. Master, and his disciple Swamiji, who has been given responsibility for guiding Ananda, act only out of love.

But as Swamiji explains it, if you see your child playing in a pool of mud, why would you just tidy up the puddle? A loving mother will take her child out of the mud altogether.

This is what Swamiji is offering us in Sadhu Beware! Step by step to escape from the mud-puddle of delusion, to purify our hearts so that we may see God.

Sadhu Beware! is available at the Sangha. Its few short pages are a lifetime of study.

In Master,
Asha (& David)