White Umbrella

We were returning from a visit to the ashram of another spiritual teacher. The size of the crowd and the reverential ceremony surrounding the teacher there far exceeded anything we had at Ananda.

“If you would just let us follow you around with a white umbrella,” I said to Swamiji with a smile, “we could really get this show on the road!” In India, as a gesture of respect, the guru is sometimes accompanied by a devotee whose sole responsibility is to shelter him from the sun with an umbrella.

Swamiji knew I was joking, but he answered seriously. 

“I have always thought I could do more for people as a simple, unaffected friend than in any other role.”

Swamiji wasn’t diminishing the importance of his role in our lives; he was explaining how he carries it out.  “Master told me I would do more than teach. He said that I would be spiritually responsible for others. Most of you at Ananda have a link with me, and through me you are linked to Master.” 

But when a devotee put too much emphasis on Swamiji’s role, he said, “I may be the one you come to for guidance, and perhaps for inspiration, but the power is God's and Guru's alone. Don’t stop here [meaning himself]. Go all the way to God.” 

Swamiji does not allow his picture to be placed on the altar in any of the Ananda temples. “Master is an avatar. We all look to him.” 

Once Swamiji paid a rare visit to a small Ananda center. The devotees there, not knowing any better, had respectfully placed his photo on the altar. When Swamiji saw it he walked over and took it down. “This doesn’t belong here,” he said quietly.

“There are plenty of teachers. What is needed now are examples of how to be a true disciple.”

Swami Kriyananda on stage with a photo of Yogananda

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