BRO. MOKSHANANDA (May 3, 1927-January 13, 1982)
excerpts… BROTHER ANANDAMOY led the service. “Let me reminisce a little about Brother Mokshananda: as a monk, as a minister of Self-Realization Fellowship, and as an exemplary disciple of our guru, Paramahansa Yogananda.
MOKSHANANDA was 24 years old when he entered the Self-Realization ashram on March 3, 1952, just 4 days before Paramahansa Yogananda’s mahasamadhi. His name then was Leland Standing…..
I remember very well the day Mokshananda came into the ashram, because I was assigned to welcome him. I watched him walking slowly toward the Administration Building, then up the steps to the entrance. His whole body, all his gestures, his eyes, his face, expressed the one thought: “I have come to dedicate my life to God, to Guru, to Their work.” And he did say: “I have come to stay.” After he had signed the entrance papers and put his things away in his room, he changed straight away into his work clothes and said, “I am ready to work.” That spirit of service remained a dominant characteristic in his nature to his last days.
Hard work was not new to Mokshananda. He told us later that he had grown up on a farm. Before he went to school in the morning, there were chores to do, such as feeding the cows and milking the cows. When he returned home from school, there were more farm chores to be done before he could start his homework.
So we put him right to work. I particularly appreciated that because he was assigned to help me, and I was working alone, remodeling a building to provide office space for the monks. I showed him how to mix the plaster; we had no machine, but did it by hand, with a hoe in a mortar tub. He mixed the plaster and carried it in, and I put it on the walls.
While working, he heard another monk call from the outside: “Master is going out!” So I said, “Come let’s go; let’s hurry.” We ran to the side entrance of the Administration Building, where Master’s car was ready. Guruji was standing there. Though Mokshananda came from a strict Quaker background, and had probably never knelt before anyone, he humbly knelt before his Guru. Master very kindly, and respectfully, welcomed Mokshananda into the ashram. It was a very touching picture–I can still see it as if it has happened just this morning. Gently patting the new monk’s head in blessing, Master said to him, “Loyalty is the highest law.” Guruji often said this, but usually it was to impress on us the importance of that truth. But when he said it then to Mokshananda, it was different. It was like an approval. I had the very strong impression that he was praising him; the very strong impression that the Guru was welcoming an old disciple from the past, one who had always been totally loyal.
Much later, Mokshananda told us that just as he had been getting ready to enter the ashram, his father suffered a broken leg. It happened at a time when crops should be planted on the family farm, so it was only logical to his father to ask Mokshananda, who knew all the work, to help out for a month or two. But Mokshananda had written that he was coming on March 3. He later told us, “I felt that the Guru had called me. I had given my word, and I had to keep my word, and I came.” It was not an easy decision to make in that situation. But this gives us a glimpse of the kind of person that he was–one of utter integrity and truthfulness. Above all, he had that discrimination which puts God and Guru above self, above family, above everything else. We find this law in the scriptures: God first. “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”
Daya Mataji with Swami Shyamananda, head of YSS
Bro. Bhavananda (left rear), l-r Bros. Dharmananda, Mokshananda, Turiyananda, Achalananda, Anandamoy, Premamoy
Mokshananda did not do construction work for long, because with his college education he was able to give much-needed help in the office. He started in the Correspondence Department. Later on, he was put in charge of our Center Department, and was also given the duty to teach, to give services in the temples, starting out at our Long Beach Temple.* Through the years, he served in almost all our temples. In addition, he traveled widely, spreading Paramahansa Yogananda’s teachings through classes and Kriya Yoga initiations. Over the years, he visited Self-Realization centers and meditation groups in Europe, Mexico, South America, New Zealand, and Australia. He made a short trip to visit the SRF/YSS ashrams in India, his Guru’s homeland. He also made ten center tours to cities throughout the United States and Canada.
After he had been for many years in charge of the Center Department, he was appointed co-administrator of the Encinitas Ashram Center. Several years later, he became minister-in-charge of our Phoenix Temple. And after several years there, he was transferred to become minister-in-charge of the Lake Shrine. During that time he also served as administrator of our Cherry Valley Ashram Center. When he became ill, he was brought back to the Mother Center.
External experiences—illness, suffering, trials—in themselves have no value, because they are a part of the passing dream of maya. What is important is our attitude: what we make of them, how we grow through them. When I returned from India in May last year and saw Mokshananda, he said to me, “This is it.” I tried to encourage him and said, “No, no, you’ll be all right.” “No,” he answered, “I don’t think so. This is my final illness.” But through his deep attunement and faith in the Guru, he did not see the negative aspect—illness—he saw the blessings that were uncountable.
Mokshananda had many divine qualities, such as obedience to the Guru, dedication to God and Guru and to Their work, will power, humbleness, and above all, loyalty. But every once in a while he said to us, “What I am lacking is devotion.” His whole life was an act of devotion, but he never felt that he loved God enough. It was very sweet to see, during his illness, a wonderful enfoldment taking place within him. We saw that quality of love, of devotion, blossoming more and more. That’s what he meant when he wrote to Daya Mata of the blessing of “the healing of the heart” that freed him from the concern that he might not be a worthy disciple of God and Guru.
Let me read to you now extracts from that personal letter to Daya Mataji which he wrote after he had been ill for several months. It shows the spiritual beauty of the soul that was Brother Mokshananda.
Beloved Daya Ma,
Again and again I bow to you, to Master, to the Great Ones for the blessings you have given me the past few months. I will never be able to start to thank you for those blessings and your unceasing love. Forgive me for this long letter. There is so much I want to say. The blessings of these weeks are uncountable. I can only begin to list them. They have rained upon me.
The peace from the beginning. The fearlessness and lack of concern about the possibility of soon losing the body. The healing of the heart, of the inner feeling…that has put me at rest. Whatever happens, all is well if I love God and Guru. The feeling that Master is with me–then, now, and always. The tremendous upliftment that came from devotees’ prayers, their dozens of letters and greetings, their flowers and messages. The unceasing kindness and care of the monks. The continuous strength throughout the illness.
But above all, divine experiences from Master beyond all expectation. Again and again I bow to him. These have been weeks of spiritual riches. I know there will be “dry” periods. In this world, life’s joys are balanced by sorrows. But my days will never be the same again–so many, many blessings!
Throughout the illness I have not been able to pray for healing for the body. I was not and am not afraid for the body to go. It will have to go sometime–five days from now, five thousand days from now. Who knows?
I confess an attitude when I said to Master inwardly: “Let me go now, Master, if you want.” Perhaps that was a form of spiritual laziness. Anyhow, since he is keeping me around, I will do the best I can to recover so that I can love him more, and serve him better.
Before the illness, you asked me: “What do you want to do in life?” Dear Daya Ma, I want to love God and Guru more and more. I want to seek God deeply through Kriya Yoga and deep meditation. I want to start loving and serving others more perfectly. I want to overcome all selfishness, and to balance intellectuality with love and true devotion. I want to be a true disciple in everything, to serve Master wherever and however he wants me to serve him.
Master is the world guru for this age; he is the “Christ” of the atomic era. He is the instrument of salvation for millions throughout the world; he will pilot millions of souls home to God.
Dear Daya Ma, please see me only when you are free to do so. There is no hurry. So many blessing–things are going better and better.
With a flow of reverence and gratitude and devotion,
You see, as his body was fading away, still he could say, “things are going better and better,” because he was ever more centered in the thought and the love of God and Guru.
On Christmas morning we took him up in his wheelchair for the last time to pray in Master’s room. Then we took him to the room where Guruji used to receive members and guests. Daya Mata met him in the hall and they conversed for a few minutes; then Mataji invited him into the reception room where some of the other directors were waiting to greet him. I wish I could convey to you the feeling of that meeting. The presence of Master was so powerful–the whole room was filled with tremendous love. It was a deeply moving experience–utterly overwhelming–not only for Mokshananda, but for all who were there. I thought, “This is the crowning experience of a life of service, of loyalty, of dedication.” Tears of joy and gratitude streamed down Mokshananda’s face, and with the humility so characteristic of him, he said to Daya Mataji, “I wish I had something to offer you.” Almost as one voice, Daya Ma and the other directors assured him, “You have already given everything.”
After that, his health deteriorated rapidly, and he passed away last Wednesday morning. The passing was, as one of the monks who were present expressed it, “as if a mother were holding a little baby in her arms as she slowly, tenderly, gently puts it down on the pillow.” That is how the mortal life left that body and went into the higher realm….. We had no doubt that Master had taken him across. Afterwards, the monks came one by one to pray and pay their respects to a beloved brother disciple. I looked at a large picture of Master that was next to Mokshananda’s bed. I felt such unspeakable joy expressed in Master’s eyes and face, as if to say, “He is with me–all is well.”
The following tribute came from a member of SRF’s Phoenix temple, where Mokshanandaji served as minister for five years.
“My heart is full with thoughts about our beloved Brother Mokshananda….I have learned more from him than from any other soul. It was not only from his talks and instructions, so full of wisdom and inspiration, but most of all he demonstrated that he had made Sri Yukteswar’s counsel his own: Learn to behave. His behavior was perfect in every way; he never became folksy or familiar with the devotees, rather he emanated dignity and steadiness, but behind these you always felt his great kindness and warmth. Some of the devotees here called him “our gentle giant”….Brother hardly ever talked about himself; there was no ego in his consciousness. Quietly he turned the attention away from himself–He was grateful for any act of kindness as long as it was directed toward Master or to support his work.
I can hardly think of any good quality that was not evident in our dear Brother Mokshananda’s life. Unassuming, quiet, utterly reliable, punctual to the second, always pushing himself but never others unless they volunteered–his life was a perfect example of what one can become who totally surrenders himself to the guidance of our blessed Guru. I will take inspiration from having known him as long as I live, and will be ever grateful for having learned from him what a perfect SRF monk, minister, and devotee should be.”
excerpts from “Brother Mokshananda in Memoriam,” Self-Realization Magazine, Spring 1982,