In my early life lexicon, the term “custodian” referred only to the janitor at my elementary school. Later, in my early adult life, I read perhaps one of the greatest spiritual books ever written, The New Path by Swami Kriyananda. In Part II, Chapter 33: Original Christianity,  the author emphasizes and expounds an important message from Paramhansa Yogananda:

“The saints alone are the true custodians of religion. For they draw their understanding from the direct experience of truth and of God, and not from superficial reasoning or book learning. The true saints of one religion bow to the divinity manifested everywhere, including of course to the true saints of other religions.”

I know that I met at least one great saint in Swami Kriyananda himself. He demonstrated in countless ways, large and small, that his consciousness was elevated far beyond the average human state. He drew little attention to this however, as saints often do, and even obscured it at times. The famous French saint Joan of Arc said “If I am not, may God put me there; and if I am, may God so keep me.” Furthermore Swamiji and the saints encourage all of us, as fellow spiritual seekers, to consciously acknowledge, identify with, and develop the saintliness in ourselves and in one another. I remember one occasion Swami referred to all of us as “Saintlets”, or little saints. This has been a helpful practice to me spiritually–to look for and encourage the very best in myself and those around me.

Find peace within, for that is where your true strength lies.
–Trailanga Swami

Generally speaking, saints are rare and mystical beings in our world who manifest some higher consciousness which is innate in everyone and everything. They may take expression in the form of any gender, age, race or religion. Their saintliness may be apparent, obscure or even bewildering. Trailanga Swami was an enormous, always naked, 280-year old saint in India who British soldiers would securely imprison, until he would trans-locate from his cell to stroll on the prison rooftop. Certain religions and churches will designate a saint (or not) as if their acknowledgement is necessary to validate their status, when in fact it is the saints who are responsible for keeping the oft-misguided religions on track! 

Saints are often inconvenient, and do not necessarily care much for religious customs or norms. The A-List of saints (A for Avatars: fully liberated, enlightened divine incarnations) like Buddha, Krishna, Jesus and Yogananda came–and will always come–to re-establish completely “new religions”, commonly disturbing or dismantling the preceding norms. This upsetting of the religious apple cart is a challenging, sometimes fun, and often painful long-rhythm process of keeping humanity on track morally and spiritually on this planet. St. Francis of Assisi stripped naked in public and renounced wealth in his supreme devotion to God, living in extreme poverty while singing joyful praise of the Lord and His natural world. Soon after, he drastically improved the course of Christianity and the history of the world.

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love. –St Francis of Assisi

Of course there can never really be an old or a new religion or God. Jesus said “I have not come to abolish them [the Law or the Prophets] but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17) The saints give a fresh expression to the same truth that God is divine love, peace and joy, shining through the natural world and the virtuous qualities of men and women throughout time. When more and more people realize this, they pray and meditate, sing joyfully and live simply for God and become little saintlets on their way. To this end Paramhansa Yogananda and Swami Kriyananda have given us countless spiritual books, talks, communities, music and so much more to support the elevation of consciousness in this age. Even a fraction of sincere practice and participation in these endeavors yields wonderful results. 

One of my favorite quotes from Swami Kriyananda reduces it all so beautifully and simply: “I have found the more I think of God, and the less I think of me, the more everything somehow works out. And life becomes a song of joy when you live in this way.

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