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copyright 1999, Grippy and Cormo

Kriya Yoga Ashram

I was sitting on the porch with Paramahamsa Hariharananda, a guru in the kriya yoga tradition, and about a dozen other visitors, plus some staff members at the Kriya Yoga Institute in Homestead, Florida. The porch borders the lovely gardens where the ashram grows many of its fresh vegetables. Everybody visiting the ashram is asked to volunteer two hours a day of work to keep the ashram running. Since they only charge $15 a night to stay in their lodging, itís not an unreasonable request. Working in the garden is a popular task.

Two visitors were running the earth-moving machine. The Florida soil isnít fertile and the ashram bought compost to put on top of the native dirt. The machine was noisy. I sat there unable to enjoy the peaceful meditation Iíd hoped for at this ashram. I looked at the staffers and the guru. They didnít seem disturbed. The noise continued. I thought perhaps the guys running the machine didnít know that Baba (thatís what the guru is called) was on the porch. Maybe theyíd like to sit with him and meditate if they knew he was there.

So, I got up walked over to them and shouted over the racket, "Baba is on the porch." They shouted back, "What did you say?" I repeated, "Baba is on the porch." One of them responded, "We know that. Baba asked us to move this dirt right here right now." I shrugged my shoulders and told them to have fun. Then I returned to my seat and tried to meditate.

Baba motioned for me to approach him. I did so. He asked, "What did you say to them?" I repeated the conversation. He seemed satisfied, so I returned to my seat. Then Baba began to lecture, barely audible over the noise of the earth-moving machines. The point of his lecture was that nobody should tell the guys running the equipment that he wanted the machines stopped Ė that wouldnít be the truth. He asked me if I understood this.

I wondered if he was reprimanding me. All I could think to say was, "I didnít say that." I didnít even think that. It never occurred to me that the noise bothered him. According to his website, he can meditate so deeply that his heart and breathing stop. One of his disciples told me that he didnít require pain killers for a root canal. He just meditated. So, I couldnít imagine a little thing like a noisy machine disturbing his calm.

Afterwards one of the other students told me, "He wasnít criticizing you." It became clear that this was a set-up. I fell into it, but not in the expected way. The other student told me that normally one of the paid staff would have gone to ask the guys to stop the machines. When they didnít go, he figured something was up. I figured the plan was probably that a new student would stretch the truth and say that Baba wants them to stop. If the guys were told Baba wanted them to stop, they would stop. Then Baba could give his lecture without trying to shout his 92-year-old voice over their noise. But if that was the case, then Baba really did want them to stop. But if heíd wanted them to stop, he could have sent one of his paid staff to ask them to stop. So maybe he didnít mind giving his lecture over the din. But then why give the lecture when it didnít apply?

Iím not so thoroughly honest that Iíve never stretched the truth or pretended to what I didnít really know. Another student told me that Baba has said that if a thousand of his students were in jail and he could get them out by lying, he wouldnít tell that lie. Truth is that important to him. That is a lesson I value. So, it wasnít a loss, and even confusion can be a teaching tool. I wonder if that was the lesson.