from Swami Kriyananda
If I had joined a Christian monastery, it would have been an easier choice for my parents to accept. My mother was a devout Episcopalian. My father didn’t share her faith, but he respected her devotion, and at times even accompanied her to church. But my destiny lay elsewhere, on ground unfamiliar to them, with an Indian guru, in the Hindu-Yoga tradition.
I was only twenty-two years old, not yet fully fledged. My parents had been supportive, but concerned, as they watched me seek in vain for my path in life. I had dropped out of college to be a playwright, then dropped writing to search for Truth.
My father was a geologist for Esso, and in the summer of 1948, his company sent him to Egypt to look for oil. My mother stayed back to close up our house. In September, I put her on a ship to go and join him.
That very day, I went to a bookstore in uptown New York City, where I found Autobiography of a Yogi, by Paramhansa Yogananda. I read it straight through, scarcely taking time to eat or sleep. I had found my Guru and took the next bus from New York to Los Angeles to become his disciple.
Most of a lifetime later, the wisdom of that decision is self-evident. From my parents’ perspective, when eventually they found out, it seemed hasty at best, and at worst, lunatic.
I was strong-minded, but respectful of my parents, and as much as possible, an obedient son. My will was set to become Yogananda’s disciple, but could it have been undermined by my parents’ disapproval? Fortunately, it was never put to the test. God took them out of the picture altogether.
By the time I saw them again two years had passed. The hope that impelled me to move so quickly had matured into a certainty that nothing could shake.
Fourteen years later, my parents’ presence, rather than their absence, played an equally important role in my spiritual life.
Three and a half years after I became his disciple, Paramhansa Yogananda passed away. His immediate successor died three years later and the leadership of his organization came into the hands of a group of nuns. The women found my creativity impossible to deal with. (“Why doesn’t he just wait to be told what to do?” they asked one another.)
I, by contrast, was bewildered by what seemed to me their lack of imagination in carrying out the mission our Guru had left in their hands. Finally, in July 1962, I was summoned to a meeting with them in New York City, the same place where I first found Autobiography of a Yogi and my life path was set.
The purpose of the meeting was to dismiss me from the organization to which I had given my life. I had no thought of leaving, so for me it was an intensely painful meeting. “Take any job that comes along,” was the only advice they gave me. That I had pledged my life to serving my Guru meant nothing to them.
I knew no one in New York; for the last four years I had been serving our work in India. Their hope was to strand me three thousand miles from our headquarters in Los Angeles.
God, however, had plans for me.
When I needed for my parents to be far away, God took them to Egypt. When I needed them close by, amazingly, the very day I was dismissed they arrived in New York City from Europe. They had a home now in California and were planning to drive across the country in a car they had brought with them on the ship. Naturally, they welcomed me as a passenger, and happily allowed me to live with them until I was able to feel my Guru guiding me in my continued service to him.