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Should yogis enjoy beauty?

The old yogi had to have achieved something to have lived so long. However, I didn't feel from him the joy that inspires one to seek spiritual truths.

india Updated: Mar 25, 2004 14:16 IST

Swami Kriyananda is a direct disciple since 1948 of Paramhansa Yogananda, author of Autobiography of a Yogi. He is the founder of Ananda Sangha, and of seven Ananda communities in America and Europe. Now 78, he has moved to India to make his Guru’s teachings known in the land of his birth: to teach the liberating meditation technique of Kriya Yoga, and to establish communities where householders and renunciates alike can seek God in the company of fellow devotees.

I met an old yogi in Puri many years ago. When I say old, I should add that his age was about 132 -- older, in other words, than most people's concept of old.
He was very much a believer in total dispassion. I asked him, "Are you saying that one shouldn't even enjoy a beautiful sunset?"

"No," he replied. "Everything is maya. This world in all its aspects ought to be totally spurned.

I know that's one approach to enlightenment. I confess it doesn't appeal to me. I'd say that, as long as I see beauty in a sunset as one manifestation of God, I can't imagine Him being wholly pleased by anyone's complete rejection of His handiwork. Nor can I imagine Him spurning His own creation contemptuously. Such an approach to God seems dry, lifeless, and very unattractive.

My Guru had a very different approach to spiritual truth. He loved and enjoyed everything, but without attachment, and always as a manifestation of the Supreme Joy and Beauty. It was wonderful to see His positive attitude toward everything. For he could be very stern also, in the matter of egoic non-attachment to this world. But being with him brought me to wonder whether utter rejection of beauty and delight in God's creative manifestations isn't, itself, a kind of egotism? Isn't it judgment, in a sense, to spurn anything. I must say, I like my Guru's approach much better. He affirmed life -- said YES to it, but then gave every enjoyment back to the supreme source of all joy: Satchidanandam.

I have to say that that old yogi had to have achieved something, even to have lived so long. But whatever he had, I didn't feel from him the joy that inspires one to seek spiritual truths. I think that, along with the practice of "Neti neti" ("not this, not that"), there ought, surely, to be a companion practice: "This! This!" For God's joy is behind every thundercloud even. He is beyond all pleasure and pain, all beauty and ugliness, all happiness and sorrow. Even in our tests, we should rejoice. To find Him is to find joy, love, and beauty everywhere!

Swami Kriyananda's programme appears at 2200 hours IST on the Sadhna Channel. (For more, visitwww.anandaindia.org)