NOTE: you might also enjoy this:
Today, January 5, is the birthday of Paramhansa Yogananda. This has always been significant to me because he has been my divine Guru since age 22. So, his birthday also marks a renewed spiritual birth in me, and in my family.
It is also very significant for me because January 5th falls well within the “Twelve Days of Christmas”. This is because the first day of Christmas is either counted from Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
Here is a quote from an interesting article on the twelfth day of Christmas:
The Oxford English Dictionary says it falls on 6 January – although it then goes on to say that ‘strictly’ it’s the evening of 5 January which was ‘formerly’ the twelfth and last day of Christmas.
As a child, our family put up very few Christmas decorations before December 24th. We would put up a wreath on the door, and a few other things perhaps, but on the 24th the home became a wonderful flurry of Christmas activity. The tree came in with the wonderful scent of balsam fir filling the home. My father and the four children decorated the tree mostly, while Mom made Christmas cookies in the kitchen. She had made a few batches before Christmas Eve – but we would only be allowed one or two, and they had then been saved for Christmas Day and beyond.
I have very positive memories of Christmas coming in with such a gust into our home. Why? Because we had prepared inwardly, all through Advent, which is counted by the four Sundays preceding Christmas. Each Advent we would have the advent wreath on the dining room table, 4 candles surrounded by greens. The candles were lit each night (week one had one candle, week #2 had 2 candles, and so on. ) There were some stories, prayers and sometimes the song, O Come of Come Emanuel.
Each of us made a personal promise to Jesus, something we would do during the advent season to bring us closer to Christ. Some years I made the commitment to walk to daily Mass on my own every day during advent, even though I was only a school age child. Mass was at 6 AM and this was December in New Hampshire, but luckily the church was only a few blocks away and those were safer times, for the most part! Daily Mass is much more inward than Sunday Mass. People came dressed in their regular clothes for the day, and I knew they were there simply because they loved God. No “Sunday finest” required or expected. Some were dressed as mechanics or similar jobs, and I was dressed in my school clothes.
It was very peaceful and quiet, and in those moments I felt closer to God and Christ. When I found the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda as a young woman, and learned to meditate every morning and evening – I found that same quiet closeness to God that I had felt as a child at daily Mass.
That inward preparation for Christmas throughout Advent made the approach of Christ’s birth very real to my heart. By Christmas Eve, even though I was very excited about the tree and Santa and presents, I was equally moved, but in an inner way, to set up the family crèche. It had a place of honor in the living room, taking up a beautiful cherry table in the living room. I remember sitting up late at night on Christmas eve, watching the glow of the logs in the fireplace and feeling the inner approach of Christmas…
The Three Wise Men
We kept the tree up all through Christmas – until January 5th – that evening we took down the tree, but left up the manger scene – and we moved the wise men closer to the Christ child. On January 6th – Epiphany, we were given one more gift, and we went to Mass. Even if it was a school day, these things happened. Then at night we finally took down the manger.
All of this increased in meaning for me when I realized that through all of my young life, during Epiphany, I had been unknowingly honoring my line of gurus.
Less than a month after I met Yogananda and was accepted by him as a disciple, he invited me to join him at his desert retreat at Twenty-Nine Palms, California. There, he dictated a few lessons for his yoga correspondence course. One evening, to my amazement, he included the following information: ‘The three wise men who came to honor the Christ Child after his birth were the line of gurus who later sent me to the West: Babaji, Lahiri Mahasaya, and Swami Sri Yukteswar.’
Nayaswami Kriyananda, in Chapter Eight of:
Epiphany is traditionally celebrated on January 6th – the day after Paramhansa Yogananda’s birthday. I later learned that in some parts of Spain and other cultures, Epiphany is a very big holiday – complete with celebratory parades, etc. It is nice to know our line of gurus has been being honored all of these centuries, albeit a bit incognito!
It also touched my heart with deep meaning that Paramhansa Yogananda often referred to his mission as “The Second Coming of Christ.” This inspired me to continue these traditions with my own children, adding in the fresh inspiration of Paramhansa Yogananda.
‘The work he sent to the West through Master is helping people to commune inwardly with God,’ continued Bernard. ‘Jesus, too, through people’s practice of meditation, is becoming a living reality for them, a being with whom they can commune, rather than merely read about in the Bible. This was what Jesus meant when he said that he would come again. Master often speaks of this work as the Second Coming of Christ, for it teaches people how to fulfill the true promise of Jesus’ not to return again outwardly, but in the souls of those who loved him and communed with him.’
May these things inspire your devotional life with your own family, in your own way. I had wanted to write about this earlier in the season, as a form of preparation for Christmas, but unfortunately I was sick during much of December. God comes in mysterious ways…But, I decided to at least write it now in honor of the twelve days of Christmas, and Yogananda’s birthday and the Three Wise Men. These ideas are timeless – so they are now available for families in years to come. Perhaps you can use it today and tomorrow…
Gospel of St. Matthew, Chapter 2, Verses 1 and 2, and Verses 9-11:“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
“Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him….
“And, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.
“When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
“And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.”
The wise men in the Biblical story are described as seeing the star in the East. They saw it there not only when they were in the East, but also after they had arrived in Palestine. “The star, which they saw in the East,” says the Bible, “went before them.” Yet they were traveling westward!
The Hebrew word for east, as we saw last week, is Kedem, “that which lies before.” In several places in the Bible, this word is used in reference to the forehead. The “star in the east,” then, was a star that the wise men saw in their foreheads…
Parallel Passages, with Commentary, from the Bible and the Bhagavad Gita, by Swami Kriyananda (J. Donald Walters)
This Light in the forehead is also known as the spiritual eye. May the Light of Christ be within you, and shine all around your family, now and always!
Finding God in the Heart of Your Family
By Mary Kretzmann
I am still in the process of writing my book, Finding God in the Heart of Your Family. It’s a work of love, and a serious topic. But there are so many endearing and amusing things that kids say and do, that I wanted to have a space for that, too, especially if these things create a window into the soul nature of the child.
Here are a few stories…I may add a few more in the future.
One day, when Krishnabai was age 2, I made some chocolate chip cookies, one of my specialties, and they were cooling on our little table in the kitchen. Right then, a new member of the community stopped by for a friendly chat. We all sat at that table and had tea, and we each had a cookie. Now, Krishnabai was young, but she already knew that normally I had a policy of “just one cookie.”
As we sat there talking, Krishnabai was eyeing the remaining cookies, silently. I knew she was contemplating how to ask for another one; I was half-expecting a 2 year-old whine, and I was at the ready. However, she then said in a cheerful voice, as though just “one of the girls” making a proposal for the good of the group, “I have an idea, why don’t we all have just one more!”
I was amused at her adroitness at such a young age, and so I laughed and said okay. Such “community spirit” could not go unheeded.
One day Krishnabai, then age 8, was in the kitchen, and out of the blue, put this classic question to Peter, age 4, “Peter, what do you want to be when you grow-up?”
He quickly, and matter-of-faculty replied, “A sailboat.”
“Peter, you can’t be a sailboat!”
Taking in her sage advice, he replied, “Okay, then a suitcase.”
She laughed and gave up on any further questions.
(After that, we all assumed he would enjoy traveling, and as a young adult he has enjoyed traveling to Mexico, Costa Rica, India, England, Italy, and around much of the US. Many of these trips were Ananda related, either with the Ananda School, or to visit Ananda Communities and the surrounding areas.)
My husband, Tim, and I went on a beautiful pilgrimage to the Holy Land and to Assisi in the mid-80’s. It was deeply meaningful, but it was also hard for me to leave the children for the 3+ weeks, because Peter was not quite 4 years old, and Krishnabai was age 8. I knew she would be okay, but I was concerned about Peter. I’ll discuss the deeper aspects of pilgrimage in another chapter…but this is the space for mostly lighter fare.
When we were just returned from the pilgrimage, I was sitting with Peter on my lap, showing him a beautiful book that had many pictures of Assisi. He was already familiar with St. Francis, and had sometimes seen statues of him in Ananda homes or gardens. But, when he saw a painting of St. Francis in the book, he asked, “Oh, is this before he was a statue?”
I was amused, but also impressed because there is a sort of unspoken hierarchy involved; only the “greater saints” of any religion are honored by having a statue made in their remembrance.
Again, as we were sitting there looking at the book about Assisi, Peter said something very offhandedly, and matter-of-factly, as though pointing out pictures in a photo album, “Oh, I’ve been there before, but it wasn’t inside that big building, and it didn’t have the big painting on the front of it.”
He said it so naturally and positively. That would place the memory in the same century as St. Francis; he had over 5000 folowers by the end of his life, so it is entirely possible that a devotee child born at Ananda was present there. Also, it wound be a powerful memory that could rise to the surface by seeing a photo of the real life place now. The place holds those vibrations, and photos capture some of that, and it communicates to the inner soul. And finally, Paramhansa Yogananda says that the things we do or feel in the first six years of life can give us strong clues regarding our past lives. http://www.bellaumbria.net/Assisi/porziuncola_eng.htm
When Krishnabai was about age 9, my friend Kasandra, and I took our kids up to Portland, OR so our girls could attend a Suzuki Music Institute. Think a one-week summer school for kid musicians. It was held on a pretty college campus, and we would walk from one event to the next. Kasandra’s daughter, Joia , was age 6 at the time.
Kasandra and I were walking along engrossed in our conversation, when we noticed that for some time Joia had been playing some sort of game as we walked along. She would run three big steps, and then jump forward. And then, again, repeat that process over and over. She was a very active child so it took a while for us to notice it as unusual even for her. After a while longer of this, Kasandra asked, curiously, “Joia, what are you doing?”
“See that big circle of light? I am trying to jump through it.”
Well, no we couldn’t actually see it, but we realized what she must have been seeing. It was an aspect of the spiritual eye. Normally, if one is blessed to see it, it may appear at the point between the eyebrows as a circle of golden light, and within it is a field of blue, and then a perfect 5 pointed white star. Sometimes children may see it after their bedtime prayers, for instance, especially if it was a loving experience. Sometimes this can seen in the “cold light of day” and may appear “life size.” We realized that as Joia moved forward, so did the light. It was much as if she had been trying to jump on her own shadow. We were glad to know that her inner joy was manifesting that light!
Our daughter, Krishnabai often baby-sat a lovely little girl named Hannah, who was age 4 at the time of this story. Hannah was normally a very calm and cheerful child, and her eyes portrayed some depth beyond her young years. However, on this day, Hannah was very sad because she had just been told that her parents were getting a divorce. She was very quiet, and withdrawn. It was sad to see.
Krishnabai brought her to our home, and our youngest, David, was in the living room. He was age 2, so I didn’t think he grasp much of what was going on. However, he soon started getting his toys, and standing in front of Hannah, started doing goofy things. She was still sad, but it did divert her attention a bit. (Of course, 2 year olds can try to be the center of attention, but this had a different feel to it. He seemed to be on a mission to cheer her up.) Finally he got his little plastic mini-Hot Wheels tricycle, and flipped it over right in front of Hannah, and started pedaling the wheels upside down. It was a very comical site, like he was a little clown. It worked. Hannah started giggling and even laughing a little. The little cloud had lifted. David looked calmly happy…as though he had accomplished his mission.
The event struck me for several reasons. First, nothing had been said to David to try to make Hannah laugh; actually, we had simply been sitting there, rather quietly. Also, Hannah was not crying; she was simply very sad, so it was not glaringly obvious, outwardly. So David must have felt her sadness intuitively. And finally, we didn’t know how to cheer her up – but he did! We had been feeling the enormity of how her life was changing – but David, not bogged down with that, simply got down to the business of making her smile again.
For many years now, Tim has gone down to the Ananda Village center on Sunday afternoons and played basketball with community members. He enjoys the game, and it was also a great way to be active with his own sons, and to encourage it in other father and sons. (Girls were always welcome, and some did participate, but it became a solid Sunday tradition with many of the guys, even those without kids.)
So David started going along at a young age, and he would practice shots at another basket while the older guys played a real game. David would also count each practice shot, sometimes doing anywhere from 60-90 shots per session. This had been going on for months; David kept trying and yet had never made a basket. This was such a solid Sunday tradition, that of course they were also there on Easter Sunday, when David was age 6, and Tim had told the story of Easter at Sunday Service. Finally after about 60 tries, David hollered out, “Dad! Dad! Miracles really DO happen on Easter! I just got a basket!”
A couple of months later, David decided that the NBA was the perfect career: it was a fun game and, he pointed out, “Those guys make a LOT of money.”
There now remained that pesky little matter of actually getting into the NBA someday. Little did I know, but he was already working on it. One warm day I walked outside and saw David sitting on the ground in the sunshine, with his legs stretched out in front of him. His shorts were pushed up to the top of his thighs to give his skin maximum exposure to the sun. His eyes were closed and he looked very concentrated. I finally asked him, “David, what are you doing?”
He looked up. “See this? (Pointing to a dark brown mole at the top of his leg); I’m going to turn all of my skin this color so I can get in the NBA.”
I laughed and said, “David – some white guys make the NBA – look at Larry Byrd.”
He saw my point, and then channeled his energy again into practicing his shots.
Later that year, once the cool, rainy weather had begun, Tim was driving David to school each day. (Now – being from New Hampshire, I called that “coddling,” but Tim, from Philadelphia, called it “bonding.” He won.) Along the way they would drive by our good friend, Ric Morehouse, who was in charge of the Ananda water system at the time. He maintained the pipelines and the wells, etc. And Ric is the dad of David’s classmate, Christian. For some reason, he had to work on a troubling section of the pipe for several weeks. He hand dug the hole so as not to break the pipe. And then he kept digging, and digging…Tim and David silently watched this progress each morning as they drove by. Finally, after several weeks, Ric was nearly chest deep in a very wide and substantial hole, the size, one might say, of a small cubicle office. It was a drizzly day, and David’s heart expanded in sympathy, saying, “Wow. My daddy has a shop. But Christian’s daddy only has a hole.”
Recently, a dear little 5-year-old girl named Anjali, was visiting the home of my daughter, Krishnabai. (Anjali is the daughter of Krishnabai’s childhood friend, Tamara, also from Ananda.) Anjali asked her sweetly, “Did you know that animals pray?”
Krishnabai didn’t know quite where this was going so she simply said, “Oh?”
And Anjali continued, “Yes, eagles pray…and other animals pray…”
Krishnabai didn’t want to be the one to burst that sweet little bubble, so she smiled and said again, “Oh!”
Somewhere Anjali had overhead the term of eagles preying on something, and made this sweet assumption. I love these little moments, not just for their innocence, but also for a glimpse into the child’s world.
Last summer, in 2008, the son of an Ananda member died in a tragic accident. He was in his mid-20’s, and his name was Janaka. Hundreds of people gathered at the Lotus Lake out door temple for his astral ascension ceremony. Hridaya, Janaka’s mother, spoke very powerfully that day; the spirit of God moved through her, inspiring all present. Tamara was there, and had Anjali (then age 4) on her lap. Anjali was looking up, and then drew in her breath quickly, and said, “God is right in front of me!”
Tamara, listening to the ceremony, patted Anjali, said, “I know honey…” to quiet her.
Once they got home, Tamara asked Anjali, “What did God look like?”
Anjali said, “Yogananda.”
Tamara then asked her if saw anyone else there, and Anjali said, “Babaji.”
Tamara hadn’t known that Anjali knew the names and faces of the Gurus that well, so she brought her upstairs to the family altar, and asked her again, “Who did you see today?”
Anjali confidently pointed to the pictures of Yogananda and Babaji. Tamara then showed Anjali a picture of Janaka and asked her if she saw him, too, and Anjali said, “No.”
This story was an inspiration to the whole community. We could feel the presence of the Masters there, but a sensitive child could see them.
“And they brought young children to Him, that He should touch them: and His disciples rebuked those that brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.” Mark 10:13-14
I’d love to have this list of stories grow, through the comment section. Do you have a story? Please feel free to share it here with others.