A Matter of Dharma

[Listen to Asha read this story]

The department Jessie* was running was located at Ananda Village in California. Swamiji was living thousands of miles away in Assisi, Italy. Jessie often talked on the phone to Swamiji about what he was doing, but he misled Swamiji and withheld key information. So it was months before Swamiji understood from others what was really going on.

Jessie was energetic, creative, and dedicated, but he gave too much importance to his own ambitions. He had long wanted a position of influence. Swamiji knew Jessie’s shortcomings, but nonetheless felt he deserved a chance.

Unfortunately, the little influence he had went to Jessie’s head. Gradually the department drifted off course. It was becoming just a vehicle for Jessie’s pet projects, no longer serving the needs of Ananda. He didn’t use money rightly. It wasn’t fair to those who worked in the department to have their dedicated efforts so misdirected.

“I would rather lose all of Ananda,” Swamiji said, “than do something that is contrary to dharma.”

Just hours after he found out what was going on, Swamiji called Jessie and told him to close down the whole department that very day. This was no small disappointment to Swamiji. He had spent years and a great deal of money developing that aspect of Ananda.

As for Jessie, Swamiji’s only desire was to help him.

“We need to talk face-to-face. Why don’t you come to Italy for awhile? I’ll pay for half your ticket and Ananda will pay for the rest,” Swamiji told Jessie in that same conversation.

“A leader has to be willing to do whatever is necessary to help people,” Swamiji explained later. “Certainly I was disappointed in how Jessie had behaved, but the point now was to lift him out of that, not drive him further down. Sternness would not have helped; kindness might. It was as simple as that.”
Sometimes, however, even Swamiji’s best efforts do not succeed.

“I didn’t bring you here to scold you,” Swamiji reassured Jessie when he arrived in Italy, “I brought you here to help you.”

Still, Swamiji couldn’t go along with all the things Jessie wanted. When he expressed an opinion different from what Jessie declared to be true, Jessie decided Swamiji was no longer his friend. Later he described his trip to Italy as having been “called on the carpet.” Jessie stayed only a week. Then he left Italy and, soon after, left Ananda.

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