A while ago it came to me to write about how I came to my spiritual (literal and figurative) home—Ananda Village—in the woods of northern California. Meanwhile, I was occasionally struggling with the “why” question. Why was I led here? What’s my purpose here?
By that time I had come to experience and recognize the feeling of being divinely guided, rather than deciding on my own. And I had no doubt that the recent shifts in my life were led by a greater reality than my own little head and environment. Still, perhaps by past habit, there remained a nagging question “why.”
So I thought I’d let the topic of “how” for a later blog, and now share with you how I eventually received my “why” answer.
You see, up to this point in my life, I’ve been used to knowing why I am doing what I am doing. I came to the U.S. with my family to have a better future. I went to undergraduate school to get a job. I got a job to have experience. I went to graduate school to become an expert at something. I went to academic research to make my mark in the field, to contribute to human knowledge and get credit for it!
And now that I was led to Ananda, my heart calmly said: “Rest. You are in your guru’s hands now,” while my mind at times murmured: “Wow. What are you going to do here? Maybe you’re going to make it big here! Perhaps you’ll play a big part in something!” (Well, actually the root of those thoughts also rests at the heart center: the center for personal whirlpools of expectations, agendas, likes, and dislikes.)
Alas, the spiritual path doesn’t quite work that way. Foremostly, it asks us to surrender, even of the desire to know the “what”, “why”, “how”, “when”, “where”, etc. I wasn’t used to that!
In fact, behind all those pondering about the “whys,” lies “ego”-centeredness: of the idea that I am separate from others, as a body and mind. I want to know my role in whatever whole I’m part of, because I like to feel distinguished. But the spiritual path is quite about the opposite direction: to set free of all ego.
Eight months passed since the day I moved into Ananda Village, in complete faith of divine guidance, and occasional nagging curiosity of “what am I doing here, again?”
One recent day, an answer came in the form of a thought suddenly put in my mind. The reason I was given was unexpected and deceivingly simple. It didn’t have the grandeur that I might have hoped. But it was one of those things that when you hear it, you know, beyond all doubt, and indifferent to any expectations you might have, that it is the truth.
It said: “You came here because you had no one, where you were living, to look up to.”
That’s it? I thought about it for a moment. But, it was right!
For a couple of years, I had reached a point in my life where I had no one to look up to. Here at Ananda Village, there are tens and tens of souls whom I look up to!
When I was a young kid, I grew up looking up to my young uncle as the model of a perfect being. Few years passed and I began to pick up cracks in that perfection. It was devastating for me to experience my castle of perfection tumble down in front of my eyes.
More recently, in my career, I came to work with one of the pioneers of computer science. Our little group working with him were practically his “disciples.” There was so much respect for his stature and contributions to this field. He has started reading books from the age of five and never has stopped. He is an expert in many fields: mathematics, computer science, biology, history, education, psychology, and so on and so forth. At the same time he is kind and a delight to spend time with—a great human being.
But again, as I was tipping my toes in the fresh waters of the spiritual path, I began to perceive things I could not hold onto. Traces of ego began to surface. I began to notice more and more that having “knowledge” doesn’t necessarily imply possessing “wisdom.”
In my uncle, my parents, my friends, my boss and career “guru”, and many other relationships, for every great impressive quality, I began to perceive an equal disappointing tendency. Each individual, looked through a thin lens focusing on one aspect of things, might be admirable, but no one seems to shine brightly under the whole range of existence.
The experience is disheartening. It gives one the sad affirmation: “That’s life. Get used to it. Give up those lofty ideals.”
When I reflect on this now, it is clear why things are how they are. Those who are mostly dwelling in “worldly” consciousness, and that is the wide majority, emanate qualities which would also match the nature of this dualistic world. The positive and negative always show up hand in hand, in equal portions.
So I guess I had reached a point in my life’s journey where I needed better examples and affirmations surrounding me. First I came in contact with those great souls at the Ananda center in Los Angeles, and then was led to the mother-center, here at Ananda Village.
Here at Ananda, it is everyone’s daily practice to center their awareness at those higher realms of existence. In those strata, the disappointing negating hands of dualistic world maya have no reign. Many tens of these souls have been doing this for 40-50 years. Because they’ve aspired to release the ego limitations and to become centered in God at all times, they emanate Godly perfection in every aspect of their being and what they do, from mundane worldly stuff to the divine. There is no being impressed today with something and getting turned off tomorrow with another. It is inspiration, all the time. (Of course, everyone here is aspiring to this and reflects this to varying degrees. But sincerity and aspiration is alive in everyone.)
I am surrounded here by many many souls, which simply uplift me by “osmosis” and vibration alone. Who needs words?
For that I am forever thankful to my beloved Swamiji, who gave me and countless others this immortal gift of the world brotherhood colonies—spiritual communities of “plain living and high thinking.”
My Master, Yogananda, says that the purpose of life is “to become educated and entertained.” I suppose the answer I received had more to do with the first part, to get my next level “education” here at Ananda. Though, anyone having the experience of visiting here, knows that we get plenty of “entertainment” as well!