On Sunday, Mom invited me over to Ananda to to see Swami Kriyananda. It was the last talk he was giving in America on this trip before going back to India. He was a direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda over 50 years ago, is probably as close to enlightenment or self-realization as anyone alive, and he also founded Ananda communities around the world, so it's like having a living saint come to visit. I've been immensely inspired by him just from reading Asha's book, which is a lovely collection of short stories and memories about him from all sorts of Ananda-affiliated people, so I was very glad to get to see him.
Swamiji is inspiring because he represents so intensely the qualities I want to find and develop in myself. No matter what situation he's in, he just absolutely exudes complete love and joy with every particle of his being. It doesn't matter that he's in his 80s, with his health and body falling apart; he just carries on joyfully letting God work through him and loving everyone around him. If you meet him for the first time and only spend 10 seconds with him, he can still make you feel like the most important, beloved person in the world. It's the most beautiful and powerful kind of personality I can think of.
The talk was gentle in presentation yet intense in content. Many things I believe in and want to strive for, and many that seem frighteningly unattainable. But after the talk was when we had the opportunity to actually greet Swami individually, and that, I think, would make the day worthwhile all on its own. For an hour, people queued up to each get their own few seconds in front of him, to introduce themselves, look into his eyes, and feel his touch as he blessed them. I have to admit that I was kind of nervous and self-conscious going up there for the first time, and I almost missed it through my own distraction, but the feeling was still intense. I don't know what to call it. It wasn't any one of the extreme, specific emotions I've been experiencing recently, but more like pure, and nameless, emotion. I moved to the side and cried quietly for a while, not because I was explicitly sad, but because it was the only way to gently let the feeling move through me. I watched the river of people continue to flow blissfully along in front of him, and the baby whose crying turned to giggles when Swami touched his head.
As the stream turned to a trickle and the end of the line came near, I spent a little while screwing up my courage, then added myself back into the queue. When I was back in front of Swamiji again, I admitted that I'd been through already, but this time wanted to ask for a blessing for someone far away. He very graciously said yes, of course, and as he put his hand on me, I spoke the name of the person with whom I wanted to share this experience. I don't know if I was more conscious this time around, or if I was trying more deliberately to channel the energy, or if it was just from going through a second time, but the nameless mystery emotion was even more powerful than before. It was a while before I was able to come back and focus enough to drive myself home.
If you're interested, the Ananda website has and audio recording of this talk (with video probably coming too), as well as many others. It's not the same as being there, but it's good stuff regardless. I also recommend Swami's reading of a P. G. Wodehouse story.