[You can ask your own question here.]
I feel drawn to Yogananda’s teachings and I want to thank you for sharing them so lucidly in your sermons. My question involves some tension that my interest in and involvement with Ananda has introduced between my long-term boyfriend and I. He was raised Catholic, and although no longer observant, he still views other beliefs with a strong dose of skepticism and maybe even sinfulness. Because these teachings are new to me, I have trouble articulating them as well as I would like so it is hard to explain to him why I am so excited about it. Although he does not outright object to my interest in Ananda and wants me to be happy, I can’t help but feel that he thinks of it as silliness that I will (hopefully) grow out of. I want to deepen my spiritual life and my involvement with Ananda, but I love him and intend to spend my life with him. How can I strengthen both relationships without compromising either of them?
Thank you for any advice you could offer.
Your question is “How can I strengthen both relationships...?” but the first question is “Can you strengthen both...?”
You speak of him as your “long-term boyfriend”? How many life changes have you been through together? What is the basis of your compatibility? Do you share core values? Apparently spirituality is not one you share.
Has your interest in Ananda revealed to you for the first time his narrow mindedness about spiritual matters, or have you always known it but it didn’t matter until now?
Whether it will matter in the long haul, depends on how spiritually intent you are, and how persistent he is in his skepticism. Right now, spirituality happens only away from home. He knows about it, but it isn’t right in his face. What will happen if you want to start meditating? If every morning and night, you want to sit before an altar and commune with God? How will your boyfriend feel about that? And if he doesn’t like it, will you do it anyway?
So much is unknown. None of us can predict the future.
So what I suggest is that you adhere to a principle that is followed at Ananda and has served us well, both individually, and as a community. “Where there is dharma there is victory.” Dharma means “right action,” or more exactly, “that action which leads to greater awareness,” especially awareness of the divine within. “Victory” means the triumph of light over darkness, of happiness over sorrow.
In other words, fulfillment comes when you adhere to high principles. Yes, loving your boyfriend is also a high principle, but if it comes to a choice, loving God is higher. If in the name of loving your boyfriend you give up loving God, you are not likely to find the fulfillment you seek in either relationship. Jesus put it simply, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you.”
But I get ahead of myself. But then, so are you, because you can see the road ahead. And if your interest in a spiritual life doesn’t prove to be mere “silliness” as your boyfriend hopes, and something you will “grow out” of, what then? You have a right to be concerned.
Oops, we are doing it again, getting ahead of ourselves.
If you love your boyfriend and he is a good man, give him a chance to expand his consciousness, too, and, even if he doesn’t embrace Ananda himself, he may be so pleased by how happy it makes you, that he will accept your interest in it. In the meantime, “Where there is dharma there is victory.” The only way to bring about a positive future is do your dharma now.
As for explaining Ananda to him, I would suggest you not try too hard. Self-realization is quite subtle, and at the beginning is as much about feeling as concepts. In the face of his skepticism I suspect the clarity of feeling evaporates and the words don’t reflect much of what you mean to say. Even people who have been on the path for years have trouble explaining it to an unreceptive person.
Be light-hearted about your inability to explain. Be the first to say, “Wow, that doesn’t sound very sensible, does it? I guess I don’t have that concept clear yet.” And if he makes objections or points out obvious contradictions in what you are saying, don’t be defensive. Say, “That’s a good point. I’ll keep it in mind.” Don’t declare a commitment to Ananda beyond what is sincere. Say, “It is really interesting and helping me now. I’ll take it a step at a time and see where it leads.”
I have one more thing to say, that I am a little hesitant to bring up, but I feel the need to warn you. You may already have heard me refer to the fact that for more than a decade starting in 1990 Ananda was involved in a huge and complicated lawsuit, two actually, but they were really the same event. We were sued; we didn’t take action against anyone else. In the end, as you can see, we emerged unscathed. In fact, happy, strong, flourishing.
But in the course of those lawsuits Ananda and Swami Kriyananda and various others of us were vilified, often “under penalty of perjury.” Many of those accusations still float around on the internet. If your boyfriend becomes really concerned about what you are doing, he is likely to find them and present them to you as “proof” that Ananda is not a good idea.
Just because something is on the internet, of course, does not mean it is true! We have posted a full refutation, but if this comes up between you and your boyfriend, you may find it helpful to talk to some of the people at Ananda who lived through all of that and can help you sort it out.
Sorry to have to bring that up. But if he becomes concerned about you, it is so likely that this will happen that I thought I should warn you.
In the meantime, let us pray that all of these concerns are baseless, and that you will in fact be able to “strengthen both relationships without compromising either of them.”
[Questions and answers from other Ananda ministers worldwide can be found on the Ask the Experts page of Ananda.org.]