Asha Praver's Monthly Letter
December 2006

Dear Friends,Asha Praver photo

A woman at Ananda simply couldn’t get along with one of her co-workers. It was the man’s self-centered nature that made the relationship so difficult. She wrote to Swamiji, assuming he would scold the man for his wrong attitude. Swamiji’s response startled her.

“He just wants to be your friend,” Swamiji replied.

“Well, he has an odd way of showing it!” she thought to herself. But she knew what Swamiji was asking of her. “Why think about the faults of others?” he was saying. “Your first responsibility is to your own consciousness.”

Many times Swamiji has said, “I choose to love.” For one simple reason, “I am happier when I love,” he says.

The woman, however, didn’t feel equal to the challenge. With admirable self-honesty she wrote to Swamiji, “I don’t want to love that much.”

A child at Ananda was troubled by a bully at school. The child was philosophically inclined, so when his father said, “That bully just wants to be your friend,” the son listened carefully. After a moment of inner reflection, however, he said, “I don’t want to be that good.”

This is the question we all face: “How much of ourselves are we willing to give up for the sake of others?”

Or, to ask the same question in another way, “How much of our ego are we willing to give up for the sake of our own happiness?”

“The spiritual pathway to is too narrow for the ego and God to walk it together,” Master has explained. To make space for God, we have to relinquish the ego.

One time when I was having a misunderstanding with a friend, Swamiji scolded me for my wrong attitude. I started to explain how my friend, too, had behaved badly, but I could see that Swamiji was not interested, so I reverted into silence. But inwardly I rebelled.

Not because I thought Swamiji was wrong. I had behaved badly. I deserved to be scolded. Silently I introspected until I reached the heart of my delusion. It was quite simple. “I don’t want to be that good. I don’t want always to have to give to others, I want others to give to me.” Even worse, I had to admit, “And when they don’t give to me, I want them to be scolded.”

Such an attitude is so common; few would even question it. If one is struggling to acquire a sense of self-worth, it might even be right to encourage that kind of self-promotion, at least until one had established a healthy relationship with one’s ego.

But if God is your goal, every shred of selfishness must be relinquished. It would be folly for me to claim to have purged myself of the delusion that gripped me that day. But at least in that moment, I repudiated it.

The secret of success on the spiritual path is to see that to give up selfish desire is not a sacrifice, it is the doorway to the bliss we are all seeking.

This is not a truth one can grasp only with logic. Experience and divine grace are needed. In the Festival of Light every week, in the allegory about the bird, we trace the progression of this understanding.

The bird is God’s child, endowed by the Creator with a Holy Mission: To acquire goodness and to share it with all. But the little bird, “in flight for the first time,” becomes intoxicated with what it perceives to be its own power. Alas, the little bird abandons its mission.

Rhetorically, the bird asks, “What else is wisdom if not to keep what is mine for myself?” This is the second stage of the “soul’s long journey away from it’s home in God.” It is called “The Revolt.” We, like that little bird, imagine that we can make up our own “Laws of Happiness,” and that the universe will conform to our will.

Even though “repeatedly, the little bird lost everything it had,” for a long time it clung to the delusion that self-gratification is the key to happiness. Finally its suffering was too great.

It was still far from wisdom, but at least now it had entered the third stage of its journey, which is called “The Quest.” Whereas before the bird insisted that it had all the answers, now it saw there was more for it to learn, and that others could teach it.

Every year on Christmas Eve we do a special reading of the Festival, emphasizing those parts that are about the avatar—the incarnation on Earth of a Self-realized Master. At this time of year, this refers to Jesus, the Christ.

When we, like that little bird, have suffered enough and are ready to give up the egoic idea that “I have all the answers myself,” God takes the form of a Guru and shows us the way to bliss.

As we say in the Festival, “Ever and again through Your awakened sons, the answer comes.”

The mere presence of a divine incarnation, however, in human form, or, after the incarnation is done, as an eternal vibration in the ether, is not enough in itself to liberate one from ego. These incarnations have come again and again, and still, many souls cling to delusion.

As the Bible says, and we repeat each week in the Festival, “As many as received him, to them gave he the power to become the sons of God.” Which is to say, to become a Christ, as Jesus was.

This is our divine destiny. And whether the journey is long or short depends only on our willingness to open ourselves to God’s transforming power.

In the coming weeks of the Christmas season, keep ever in the forefront of your mind and heart that simple promise: “As many as received him...”

At Christmastime, Master said, a special grace descends to Earth. The veil of delusion thins. Great spiritual progress can be made by those who seize the moment and give themselves whole-heartedly to God within.

The Ananda celebration follows a pattern first established by Master himself. It is a beautiful balance between experiencing God within and enjoying His presence in others.

Master urged his devotees not to fritter away the blessings of Christmas in superficial celebration. Go deep into the presence of God and you will emerge in the New Year transformed.

May God, Christ, and Gurus bless you in this Holy Season.

Asha & David