Interview with Goswami Kriyananda Part 3
What was your childhood like?
My father died when we were a few years old, my mother was left during the depression with three sons. Basically from that particular standpoint, she felt her son's should have a father, so she married a man to give us a father. She felts that was important, for sons to have a father. He turned out to be a wonderful step-father, a very good and highly evolved soul. But unfortunately, shortly after she married him, a week later, there were eight or ten children that came in from two previous marriages that he had had. And so the family grew to be 11 plus a mother and a father in one short week. During the depression time, between my two brothers and I, plus the eight or nine step-siblings, it was a pretty tough time growing up.
I was sociologically in the middle and the attention goes to the older or younger children. The middle children seem to get lost. In my case, I found it to be a blessing because it gave me time to think and reflect and have a small universe of my own to examine.
I do remember once praying as a very young child and asking God, “Why this added insanity?” because there was quite a bit of insanity. Why all this family? And it became obvious, many decades later, I was being trained or conditioned not to be selfish emotionally, that the world needs to be fed-those above you and those below you-so as a middle child, you sort of emotionally learn to either become very bitter in life or to accept this.
Secondly, it gave me a wonderful opportunity to examine what I call a small microcosm. And as the children above me were growing up, particularly the women.
It gave me the opportunity to see the insanity of growing out of or growing into puberty. The insanity of those years or decades where a woman was supposed to be married by 16. By 17, the probability of getting married was very slight and by 18, she was serious trouble. By 19, the probability of being a spinster for the rest of her life was highly likely. So there was a lot of panicking of these women, as they tried to get the man to kiss them, and then say, “Well you kissed me, you’ve got to marry me.” The honor in those days, that’s the way it went. So anyway, it gave me great opportunity to see insanity at work.
What brought you to the spiritual path?
As an extremely young child, living in a very depressed, poor area; I didn’t seem to suffer because I was lost in my curiosity of the world. And everywhere I looked, people were telling me by their words and actions, the anguish, pain, suffering, death, dying, disease, all of this and I found it very difficult to accept the Christian concept that God is good or the God concept that God is good when there is all this suffering going on.
And so I tried, in my own childish mind, to find a reason for the suffering other than to say the devil is testing us. But God created the devil and God was the first force, and so the search was to try and find an answer to why people suffer. And obviously I did the search, it became obvious that it wasn’t caused by the devil testing people, and it wasn’t caused by God being indifferent or jealous or angry or punishmental or judgmental, but rather due to our own actions. We stick our hand in the fire, the fire burns us, not because the fire is bad, but because it is the nature of the fire. We needed to come to an understanding of the nature of life and the nature of OUR life.
As a young child raised in Christianity, that pain and that suffering, was either God’s wrath or our sin. I guess the questions I asked offended or upset them. They cut me off and said in effect God doesn’t want us to know or man is incapable of knowing. So I wandered over to the Catholic church and talked to a priest. He was really nice and gave me all sorts of nice answers and that pleased me. I thought “Aha! This is the true religion.” I kept pressing the questions. As I pressed further and further, I realized the set of answers he had was a set of standard answers that did not really address the philosophical problem. As I pressed, he became rather upset and said, “Well, you understand man can’t grasp the magnitude of God,” and he went back into what I call fundamental Christianity again, even though they were Catholics.
That disturbed me. In that process one of the things I did discover, thanks to Napoleon Bonaparte and Benjamin Franklin, was the public library. I started reading books on religion, thinking maybe in there would be some answers. There really weren’t, but it gave me a rather diverse view of religions. The thing that disturbed me as a young child was that everybody believed differently, and yet they all, in a sense, were from one sourcebook. There are so many subjects or different opinions.
I would say by karma I ran across a book on yoga-the only one in the library-that made one simple statement. That statement was that the value of yoga allows one to experience, and through that experience, to know one’s self. And that really, after all the frustration of everybody having different answers and not answers, it disturbed me and at the same time gave me hope.
That drove me rather deeply into mysticism. I think the problem was that there wasn’t too much at that time. Nothing on Sufism at all. Esoteric Buddhism. Just this book on yoga. So I was primarily driven in that direction because it was the only sourcebook I had. I started practicing some of the basic techniques.
What was the book?
It wasn’t a well printed book. It was cheap paper and bad printing and you recognized it immediately as being from India.
As a young child I was very introverted. Introverted people think a great deal. They feel a great deal and are very sensitive to slight changes. And that led me to be more aware of people’s emotions and how to understand them.
Again, it linked two ways with yoga and mysticism. One is mysticism is always saying dissolve-not suppress-dissolve your emotions. A great deal of pain comes from our emotions and emotional attachment. The second factor that is related
I used to ask people, do you dream, do you dream in color, do your dream in dimensions? Do you see faces, do you see the things over in the corner, do you feel this vibration, do you smell this odor? And they never did. So I thought maybe there was something wrong with me.
Once I realized there were certain types of people, that I was not alone, there were other types of people like me, called mystics. Trying to understand that a great deal of pain in the world was not caused by God, but really caused by bad attitude, by being blind, by being greedy, by being heavily blinded attached to something-”my wife, my house, my car”-was really the source. So that drove me deeper and deeper into searching for peace and quiet, which I think I found at a fairly young age, and I realized at that particular point that I really was a teacher, I wanted to be a teacher to try to help remove their pain.
If I can jump forward, it was decades later that I recognized that people didn’t want to get out of their pain. They enjoyed their pain. “Look how great I am, see how I am suffering.” And it came back really to “See how God has suffered. If I suffer, I am like God.” Secondly, I realized a decade or two later that really people didn’t want to put in any effort. They were waiting for God to save them. They were waiting for someone else to help them. They did not want to do it themselves.