(From Cities of Light, by Swami Kriyananda
Crystal Clarity in Business
The principles of spiritual living reveal that an enterprise is profitable not only if it earns money, but if it repays those running it with inner happiness, expanded sympathies, and a sense of usefulness and service to a higher cause.
In each of the Ananda businesses, these principles are conscientiously followed.
In an Ananda clinic, for example, the doctors and nurses begin each day with prayers for their patients. While treating the patients, they try to channel God’s healing energy to them, and not only to give medical treatment and advice.
Ananda’s many privately owned businesses bear testimony to the blessings of a life dedicated to God.
Crystal Clarity in Relationships
In human relationships, it is surprising how seldom people really try to communicate. They may talk at one another, or if they listen at all, they may talk to one another. But how few people take the trouble to talk with people – to communicate with them openly, appreciatively, and sincerely.
Cities of Light such as Ananda offer the marvelous opportunity of a life surrounded by people with whom one can share, and not merely coexist.
In one’s association with other people, spiritual clarity means seeking always to include their realities in one’s own.
In Ananda’s early days, few of the new members understood the value of genuine sharing, simply because they had little experience of it in their lives.
Some of them felt justified in thrusting their own desires at everyone – in pursuing their private needs first, and insisting that they needed to seek their own security first.
Others took the opposite direction. They listened respectfully to others’ needs, made the welfare of all their priority, and saw the security of the entire community as their best guarantee of personal security.
It soon became obvious that those who drifted toward the first stance were never happy; instead, they found more and more cause for complaint. It seemed that they never managed to fulfill even their simplest desires. It was as though every goal receded before their reach.
Such people either changed, usually under the inspiration of beneficial examples, or they left.
The other group of members were always happy. They seemed in unaccountable ways to have everything they wanted or needed. Security was never a problem, because they didn’t seek it, and because it sought them unasked. The more Ananda prospered, the more they automatically prospered.
Over time, everyone in the community came to understand, the personal fulfillment that comes from living in cooperation and harmony.
They came to see their relationships, finally, as channels for the expression of a larger reality with which they were seeking to attune their lives.
Relationships in a community that is dedicated to the ideal of living for God and in God are divine friendships in which each member seeks communion with God not only in his meditations, but also through his friends. He loses the worldly habit of “hobnobbing” in mutually belittling familiarity. Rather, having felt God’s presence in the silence within, he sees all things, and all people everywhere, as opportunities for communing with that Presence without.
Crystal Clarity in Government
With leadership of the wrong kind, even the most worthwhile endeavors can become diverted into wrong paths.
Without leadership of any kind, however, even the best of projects rarely gets beyond the merest beginnings.
Leadership, more than any other aspect of life in a City of Light, needs to hold crystal clarity as its central reality.
First, and most important, leadership in a City of Light should be inclusive. It should not be a one-man show. Least of all can it succeed if it is dictatorial. Crystal clarity in this respect is perhaps best defined as supportive leadership.
Ideally, a community needs, on the one hand, a spiritual director and a spiritual directorate; and on the other hands, a general manager, or group of managers, elected by the community, to manage the more outward aspects of community life.
The concern of the spiritual directorate should be not only the spiritual life of the community, but the rightness, spiritually speaking, of any major decision.
Here is an example of this kind of interaction between the spiritual directorate and the managing body.
The managing group at Ananda wanted to deny a member certain demands of his which they considered unreasonable. Ananda’s spiritual director, Sri Kriyananda, addressed the issue thus: “Reasonableness and unreasonableness aren’t always the issue when working with people. Their capacity to be reasonable isn’t always reliable. It seems to me that what we must do here is practice compassion.”
“But it’s a matter of principle,” argued a spokesperson for the managerial side.
“If you were ill,” replied Sri Kriyananda, “wouldn’t you want to feel you had the community’s support? This person is ill. It’s just that his illness isn’t physical, since it affects his mental clarity. Isn’t compassion, then, a higher principle? If this were really a matter of setting a precedent, the case would be different. But this case stands pretty much alone.”
Thus, the demands were accepted, though with debatable results. (The member left the communityCa direction in which he was headed anyway.) But at least the community leadership affirmed, and clarified in the process, the importance of basing every decision on spiritual values.
Crystal Clarity in Marriage
A sad aspect of marriage in modern times, and particularly of marriage in America, is the high incidence of divorce. It betokens a breakdown of fundamental valuesCof commitment, for example, to the feelings and well being of others; of loyalty to others, and to an ideal; of the recognition that difficulty in the fulfillment of one’s duty never constitutes a valid reason for abandoning that duty; of the understanding that to live rightly is a long range proposition, and should not be influenced by short term “solutions” that offer merely a way out.
The whole idea of marriage for reasons as ephemeral as sexual attraction has generally proved to be a disaster. Any children, moreover, born to couples that are forever torn between passion and disharmony are likely only to fan the flames of their disharmony.
The meaning of marriage needs to be explored in depth. The chemistry of attraction between two people needs to be better understood. The very education of young people in the realities of sex needs to take place in a higher contextCfrom above, so to speak: from a level of high ideals, even of divine love, rather than from below, with the emphasis placed wholly on the animal aspects of procreation.
People nowadays are often heard to ask, “Why should one get married? If two people love each other, why shouldn’t they simply live together? What difference does a piece of paper make?”
The simple answer is that, when a marriage is sincerely entered into before God, with a ceremony performed in a spirit of blessing by a priest or a minister, there is a grace that can be felt almost tangibly in the air. This sense of blessing can carry a couple through many crises in the years to come, crises which, in less spiritually based marriages, would cause an irreparable rift.
An important step has been taken at Ananda with the creation of a wedding ceremony that invites the couple to approach their marriage in full awareness that they are participating in a reality much greater than their own.
Crystal Clarity in Education
The predicament of marriage in modern society underscores an even greater problem: the education that we give our young. We teach children how to solve problems in mathematics, but give them nothing to help them solve the problems in their personal lives. We flood them with a tide of factual information, then tell them, as we send them out the door with their diplomas, “It’s up to you now to figure out what it all means.”
Moral values, nowadays, seem as though they lacked the stirring immediacy of scientific research.
Someone, however, needs to think through the deeper implications of what our children are being taught. If teachers can’t take the time to do so, then others must be found who are freer to take the plunge.
For if we as a society don’t pause and take stock of the kind of world we want our children to grow up in, and what we hope they’ll try to do about it, we may find all our best intentions crumbling, along with civilization itself, like a wall made of sand and rock, but no cement.
Here again, then, lies a natural focus for the energies of Cities of Light. For the whole purpose of such communities cannot but be to focus the creative energies of their members in a search for new solutions to old problems. Clearly, if the members of an intentional community marry and raise families, they will want also to develop schools for their children. Equally obviously, one of the priorities of such communities will be to develop schools that explore ways of teaching moral and spiritual values along with French, physics, and algebra.
It is time now for mankind to turn the scientific method upon the important issue of man, and of those moral and spiritual values which can serve him in his search for inner fulfillment.
And it is time also to pursue this investigation in the schools, as part of the process of education.
It is time to approach materialism itself from a fresh point of view. Paramhansa Yogananda offered an amazingly simple answer to materialists who claimed that consciousness exists only as an aspect of inanimate matter. Traditional dogma has no answer to this claim; it has always said that matter is inert. Yogananda, however, replied, “No, what this means is that matter, too, is conscious, however dimly so.”
Yogananda also gave this simple suggestion on the subject of values: that the effect of moral values on human nature be tested, as if in the laboratory, by observing their actual effects on people. He suggested that communities be seen as opportunities for conducting such observationsCas, indeed, we have had ample opportunity to do at Ananda.
He also suggested that moral education in the schools be approached in the same way. This is the approach we take in our schools at Ananda. We have found that it works wonderfully.
Teachers and parents may complain that if too much time is spent in teaching children these things, they’ll get left behind in the race to acquire that information which will fit them to compete in the job market after they leave school. Let us look at the question this way: Two people decide to learn to ski. One of them, impatient to master the slopes, goes straight to the steepest of them and sets off downhill. Falling constantly, he covers a lot of ground, but most of it on his back, sides, and stomach.
The other beginner decides he must first learn to master the movements of his own body. Carefully, he learns first how to turn, how to snowplow, how to stop.
Of these two skiers, which is the more likely to be the first to master the slopes?
The better that children can be taught to concentrate, to increase their awareness, and to channel negative emotions into constructive outlets, the more effectively they’ll be able to handle all the factual information they’re taught in school also.
There is also another important dimension that needs to be introduced into the schools. Children are made to study the composition of the atom. The most important question of all, however–essential, in fact, because it touches everyone at the very core of his being–is this: “How can one find happiness?” Schools, Yogananda said, should above all be treated as laboratories for the solving of this most basic of human questions.
Cities of Light, because they are dedicated to finding a better way of living, are the natural soil in which to conduct such experiments. They can prove to be–and have already proved to be–among the most exciting and rewarding aspects of living in such communities.