(Part 18 in our ongoing series, Swami Kriyananda on Art & the Artist.)
In July, the community in Assisi faced a crisis of self-definition. People were coming from all over Europe, many with their own agendas, often more sociological than spiritual. Even the Ananda leaders weren’t clear about how to balance the competing demands of retreat, ashram, and community. They needed Swamiji to help set the right course, so he came to Assisi for three weeks.
“Call yourself a community of devotees,” he said. “The true center of the community is our spiritual lives. From there we engage in outward activities, with a shifting focus as needed. Right now it is the retreat and the music.”
Swamiji sang with the choir for a concert in Assisi, translated English lyrics into Italian, wrote introductions to the songs, and notes for the concert program in both languages. Then with all the singers, he recorded three albums.
“Seventeen of us were crammed into a very small space with Swamiji,” one of the choir members said. “It was over a hundred degrees inside; we were all dripping with sweat. But the vibration was so clear, the energy so strong and joyful, that we recorded twenty-seven songs in one afternoon. Some were in English, some in Italian, some in both languages. Most of them we did in one take!”
In a credo for the music, Swamiji wrote, “The World Brotherhood Choir is dedicated to bringing people, through the inspiration of music, to a deeper awareness of God’s presence within themselves. We embrace those of all faiths, and of no faith, and even those who deny God altogether. For we believe that His love reaches out equally to all His human children, and we pray that He will make us, each according to his own ability, instruments of that love.
“We believe in practice over theory; in experience over blind belief. We recognize the right of everyone to define truth as he will, and we aspire only, through our music, humbly to touch the hearts of those who hear us, that we and they may be inspired to love ever more perfectly.”
In between recording and writing, Swamiji met with the residents, gave classes, satsangs, and two Kriya Initiations. On very short notice, a hundred guests came from all over Europe to see him. He returned to Ananda Village in time for the comparative quiet of Spiritual Renewal Week. Often Swamiji’s only pause between the final flurry of activity in one community, and the beginning of a demanding schedule in the next, was the airplane flight in between! (Swami Kriyananda: Lightbearer, 1989, pp. 280-281)