Equal in God

[Listen to Asha read this story]

(Told by an Ananda devotee)

I was at the library looking through the section of spiritual books when I first saw Autobiography of a Yogi. I felt a connection to Master’s picture on the cover so I picked up the book and held it in my hand for a moment. But instead of checking it out, I put it back on the shelf. Next, I picked up Swamiji’s book, The Path. When I saw his picture, I knew I had to take this book home.

Reading The Path made a deep impression on me, but I was just coming out of a decade of drug and alcohol addiction and was still in the throes of a serious eating disorder. The timing wasn’t right and it was ten years before I actually met Swamiji.

By the time I was introduced to him in Assisi, Italy, I really wanted what Ananda had to offer. Even though I had been clean and sober for a number of years, I still identified myself as an addict and the eating disorder had me in its grip. I was filled with shame.

I desperately wanted to show Swamiji that I was a spiritual person so that he would want me to live at Ananda, but I was terrified that he would see right through me. And he did, but not in the way I feared.

It wasn’t anything he said, it was just the way he looked at me. It was more than just the complete absence of judgment. It was hope—hope for a future that was free from the addictions that had made my life a living hell. Swamiji could see what I was up against, and wordlessly communicated to me that my present condition was just temporary. The spiritual freedom he had, I could have, too. In fact, would have. It was my destiny as much as his.

Meeting Swamiji was the turning point. It gave me the courage to move to Ananda, and not long after, to give up the eating disorder.

The first time Swamiji came to visit the community where I was living, I somehow ended up being part of a small gathering with him in the living room of the house where he was staying. I was the only newcomer. Everyone else there had been at Ananda for at least a decade. I wondered how I ever got to be in that room.

When Swamiji began to speak, he included me in the conversation in the most natural way, as if I, too, was one of his oldest friends, and as much a part of Ananda as anyone else. He asked my point of view, and listened respectfully to my answers. It wasn’t that he made me feel special. In some ways, it was just the opposite. He made me feel equal. I felt anyone could have been there and he would have treated that person, too, in the same respectful way.

A couple of years later, I was having a hard time. The “honeymoon” was over. Now I had to face life, day after day, without any of the addictive “props” I had used for so long. It was my birthday and I felt so lonely, I didn’t know how I would be able to go on.

Swamiji happened to be visiting again and had bought a little present for me. When he handed me the present, he looked into my eyes and said, “Never forget where your home is.” When he said “home,” I knew he meant more than the place called Ananda. He meant, “Home is Master. Home is God.”

It was another turning point. I’ve had hard days since then, but never again have I fallen so low.

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