This book came to me by a miracle. My mother is 91, and enjoys reading stories to the children in her apartment building in Brooklyn. (She was a kindergarten teacher for 25 years in Harlem.) Occasionally I visit Family of Woodstock, a multiphase community center with shelves of free books, to find a children’s book for my mother. While doing so, I came upon The Sixteen Points. Because the cover is a colorful illustration of a man meditating next to a lion in a bed of lotuses, someone mistook it for a children’s book.
I have been in the Ananda Marga Society for 39 years, following the 16 Points: the essentials of spiritual life according to our guru, Shrii Shrii Anandamurti. I follow them — or rather attempt to follow them, because it’s difficult to practice the 16 points perfectly — but I don’t exactly respect them. Over time, perhaps over-influenced by constantly reading Freud, I’ve come to feel that I adopted this practice out of a neurotic need for structure. But Acarya Shraddhananda Avadhuta’s concise and rational exposition of the system surprisingly made sense.
Most of these practices did not originate with Ananda Marga. For example, here are the first eight of the Fifteen Shiilas:
Magnanimity of mind
Perpetual restraint of behavior and temper
Readiness to sacrifice everything of the individual life for the Ideology
All around self-restraint
Sweet and smiling behaviour
Setting an example by individual conduct before asking anybody to do the same
Actually, maybe the Fifteen Shiilas did originate with Ananda Marga. Certainly the 4th one, which sounds a little strange when written out, probably did. (I kept the exotic British spelling of No. 6.)
Oops, a cursory Google search suggests that yes, my guru invented these 15 guidelines. Now let’s consider the problematic No. 4. Even if you don’t exactly agree with the entire ideology of Ananda Marga, the intention to sacrifice your personal life to a Higher Good — that’s healthy. Otherwise, what are you living for? Your next shopping trip?