“Have you read my Essence of the Bhagavad Gita?” In 2007 I met Swami Kriyananda for the first time in India. It was the final day of an intense, two-week pilgrimage to many of the country’s holy sites — made so, in part, by our line of yoga masters.
Part of the pilgrimage was based in Gurgaon, where Swamiji was living. We were celebrating the first International Kriyaban Retreat and there were hundreds of pilgrims converging from all over the world. It was a thrilling time, with a palpable spiritual buzz in the air.
Swami was having major health concerns at the time and after each public talk, he was brought away quickly in order to rest and recuperate before the mobs of devotees could detain him. The main reason I had traveled to India was to meet him in person. I had written him a letter a year prior to the pilgrimage, introducing myself and thanking him for all the work he had done on behalf of his guru, Paramhansa Yogananda. His books had brought Master to life for me and for so many other truth-seekers.
On the final day of our pilgrimage, I knew I needed to be a little bold if I was going to meet Swamiji. Our pilgrimage-guides, Krishnadas and Mantradevi, were going over to bring Swami to the mall to get new hearing aids. Next thing I knew, I was hopping on their rickshaw heading to Swami’s home, called Ten by Eight.
I was asked to wait in the foyer, while the others went in to see if Swamiji was feeling up to meeting a visitor. I heard him, very jovially, say “Well, of course, send her in!”
I remember it like it was yesterday — coming through the door to what seemed like the longest dining room on the planet, with Swami at the far end. As soon as I came through the entryway, I felt waves of love hit me so powerfully that I thought I might be blown right back out of the room! All I could do was stand there looking toward him. Swami very sweetly motioned me to come closer… then, again, closer. He reached out his hand and shook mine. I was at a loss for words. Needless to say, I was a bit in awe of the great soul in front of me — a feeling that has never gone away.
Krishnadas broke the silence for me: “This is Alli (before I received my spiritual name), she came all the way to India to meet you for the first time, Sir.” Swami looked at me somewhat puzzled and said, “But I’ve met you before. You sent me a letter from Georgia.” I was blown away that he remembered a little one-page letter sent a year prior.
Swami could tell I was nervous and kindly started making conversation:
“So, have you read my Essence of the Bhagavad Gita?”
“No, Sir, I haven’t had a chance to read it yet.”
“Oh, well then, have you read Hope for a Better World?”
“Nooo, not yet, Swamiji.”
At this point, I was praying for him to pick one of the five books of either his or Yogananda’s that I had read. Now, mind you, I’ve never been an avid reader, so for me to have read Autobiography of a Yogi, The New Path, Conversations with Yogananda, the Essence of Self-Realization, and one other, I thought I was doing really well!
“…have you read Out of the Labyrinth?”
Darn! That wasn’t one of them.
“No, Swami, I’m sorry, I haven’t.”
“That’s ok,” he said sweetly, “why don’t you just tell me what books of mine you have read.”
“Well, I’ve read Money Magnetism.” It was the first book of Swamiji’s I had read and it remains very special to me to this day.
“Really? That is probably my least favorite book!”
He laughed and so did I.
Now, I’m so grateful that a big part of my job is to read Swami Kriyananda’s books. I sometimes hear him saying in my head, “Have you read ____?” And I find that it is perhaps a book of his that has fallen out of print or needs attention in some way. I still have many more of his books to read but I’m getting there.
So, now I’d love to ask you, dear reader — What books of Swami Kriyananda’s and Paramhansa Yogananda’s have you read? Feel free to share in the comments section below or just reflect with gratitude in your heart.