Thursday, June 25, 2020

What is the Spiritual Fate of One Who Commits Suicide?

I recently responded to this inquiry from a person in India:

Does God sympathize with people who have suffered a lot in their life including those who commit suicide ? Recently an actor Sushant Singh Rajput in India committed suicide. Logically suicide victim should get more sympathy as his/her life is quite bad and hence he/she takes this drastic step.​  [[p.s. see addendum]]

Dear Friend,

The act of suicide surely generates sympathy and sadness. For the gift of human life is the most precious gift of all for with the human body the soul has the potential to achieve the fullness of the divine promise of immortality.

"God is no tyrant" Paramhansa Yogananda has said. Someone once asked Yogananda-ji what would be the fate of one of the world's greatest villains (Hitler, Stalin--I forget now which). The questioner expected to hear that the punishment would be extreme but this was not the response. (Nations, too, have karma and no one individual is responsible for the karma of groups or species.) Yet karma has its consequences and the law of karma is exacting just as are the laws of nature in the material world.

To take one's own life is a greater tragedy, spiritually speaking, than murder. In murder one at least values one's own life, though not the life of another. In suicide, life itself is rejected. While in truth, life can never die because consciousness is the essence of all life and all matter, the suicide does not affirm that reality but seeks oblivion instead. Fortunately, though in seeking self-annihilation, the suicide ultimately must fail. 

It is not that God is merciless but the gift of life and the gift of the use of free will is such that God will not interfere with our karma until such time as we reach out to seek His grace. Then the power of the Infinite, drawn by our love, can no longer resist for God is Love itself. 

So what, then, happens to this unfortunate jiva (soul)? Yogananda-ji was indeed asked this question. In the afterlife (the astral world), the suicide who, by his act, has chosen to cut off his connection with life (with family, with all other realities), will likely feel isolated, surrounded, as it were, in a fog of grey emptiness. And here, I must digress in order to offer some perspective.

No suicide takes place under identical circumstances. Suicide can take place while a person is deranged on drugs, alcohol or suffering from mental illness. Or, suicide can be a ritual exercise owing to disgrace or failure. Suicide can be a reaction to betrayal, misfortune, or love lost. Thus there are varying degrees of conscious intention, semi-rational behaviour or intention, to the act of suicide. [see addendum at the end] 

Thus in the afterlife state, the length of time and the depth of loneliness may vary considerably depending on the consciousness of the jiva himself. The suicide may in fact harbour great love for his friends, family, and this earth but feel he has failed and is no longer worthy to live. My point is that the underlying impulse to value life and goodness may arise within that jiva sooner or later, depending on how and why he committed suicide in the first place. 

Yogananda said that sometimes a baby who is stillborn, or dies in the womb, or dies at an early age might be the soul of a former suicide whose desire to live must be re-awakened by being thwarted (even repeatedly) until the desire to live becomes strong again. This is the action of the law of karma. A suicide is reborn for the simple reason that he has many other unfulfilled desires, notwithstanding that his act of suicide will, itself (karmically), require him to re-discover the gift of life.

So I cannot say from the statements of Yogananda (or Swami Kriyananda, a direct disciple and founder of Ananda worldwide) that a particular ray of mercy or compassion is sent to the soul of one who has committed suicide but I know for a fact that there is no sense that divine punishment is meted out. The law of karma is, however, as I said earlier, exacting. 

I can say THIS, however, and it is of vital importance: prayers for the departed, and especially one who has committed suicide, can hasten that soul's reawakening to the beauty and value of life. All great spiritual traditions encourage prayers for those who have left this earth. Why is that?

Because in the astral after death state, the typical decedent soul is generally not very conscious and not, therefore, able to help himself (except to the degree of his spiritual attainment). Remaining in human form, we who have a heart connection and feeling for one who has past on can offer love, peace, and blessings to one who has left us. It is, therefore, we who become a channel to express God's mercy and compassion! It is our heart connection that is the residue of karma that acts to forgive and uplift that soul who, for a time, is no longer able to do so for himself.

We can also pray to enlightened Beings to join us in our prayers: a sat guru, angels, and deities. 

May the divine Light shine within you!

Swami Hrimananda

Addendum: Assisted suicide or refusal of life-saving medical procedures are individual choices that are not a rejection of life but, in fact, the opposite: an affirmation of the gift and quality of life. While a saint or devotee might choose to accept whatever suffering comes as redemptive, this, too, is a choice. I cannot reliably draw from Yogananda's teachings or specifically recall comments by Swami Kriyananda (though Swamiji did comment on these two situations), but common sense and reason applied to the law of karma would surely admit of the distinction in intention. There are those who would condemn assisted suicide and I know there are legal and social issues with it but in principle it can be wholesome, conscious, and uplifting. In the Jain tradition, there are saints and others who simply stopped eating in order to hasten their demise when they felt intuitively it was their "time to go." Only by self-identification with the human body can one insist that this is morally wrong. Identification with the soul or the Infinite Spirit suggests these choices are secondary though, arguably, containing an attachment and aversion to suffering (and thus some identification with the body).



Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Will There be a Revolution in the United States?


Will There be a Revolution in the United States?

I recently fielded the following question by email:
I remember reading that Paramahansaji said that there would be a revolution. My intuition tells me that these riots are what he was referring to. Does your intuition tell you the same? God bless.

My response:
​Dear Friend,

You may indeed be correct. What I've been saying to friends here is that we should expect increasing levels of social unrest: perhaps triggered unexpectedly and suddenly by events that may, or may not, seem to justify the response. And why is that?

While I don't think there ever really was a homogenous thing called "an American" (white, Anglo-saxon, WASP society), we can certainly see by direct experience supported by statistics that our nation has steadily become more diverse in every way imaginable. After all, this is America's destiny as the melting pot of the world leading the way into future centuries wherein all races and nations commingle.

This diversity is messy because we lack a shared experience or shared values. Polarization and conflict seem to steadily increase. Just when, at last, our nation elected a president of color in 2008, that person (Barack Obama) was besieged by waves of disdain and hatred and his efforts to govern were largely thwarted by opposition, especially to him as a person. 

In time, we may emerge a culture of unity in diversity and maybe even, to paraphrase Mahatma Gandhi's wry reply ("What do you think of western civilization?" He replied, "I think it would be a good idea."), a new civilization but only after great upheavals that could require not just years but decades. The more intense the upheaval and shared suffering, the quicker we'll get through it.

But for now, the various "tribes" of color, religion, political persuasion, inclusive, exclusive, and ethnicity are squared off preparing for battle. Mobilizing haltingly but without leadership are the "blessed peacemakers." Confused as to whether to be angry, or, for some, even violent, yet in support of harmony and respect, we can see that social unrest is going to be messy. There doesn't appear to be an awareness of the importance of self-discipline in striving to first become the “inner change” that Gandhi required of his followers. I wonder if anyone in the anti-racist movement is studying the specific tactics of non-violent protest that were honed by Gandhi and King?

Martin Luther King, Jr. once stated that blacks in America, having suffered in the way that they have, are uniquely positioned for future leadership because suffering can be the basis for moral courage, compassion and wisdom. I pray that this be so for it seems true to me and Lord knows, this country needs what Coretta King once described as a leader with "moral authority" such as Dr. King possessed. 

So, yes, I do feel we are on a track wherein the early stages of a revolution are being seen. While Yogananda's comments were in the context of a revolution by the people against the tyranny of their government, and while that certainly will be part of it, I also would like to believe, based on other statements of his and general expectations as well, that the real revolution will take place by a change (awakening) in consciousness (meaning sympathy, compassion, and "love thy neighbor as thy Self").

Generally speaking, political revolutions based only on conflict and desire for supremacy result in "the more things change, the more things stay the same." Let us hope that whatever revolution Yogananda may have intuited is more than this kind of revolution. 

Let us, therefore, deepen our commitment to the path of Self-realization wherein our consciousness is purified and uplifted towards ego transcendence and the willingness to endure unearned hardship and persecution for the sake of the divine plan of spiritual awakening. Band with others of like-mind to stand up and be counted. Serve the oppressed as your circumstances and dharma suggest. Speak up for what is right, good, and God!

May the Light of Truth be your guide!

Swami Hrimananda


Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Racism & Violence: A Statement


Acts of Violence & Racism: How Should We Respond?

The members, staff, students and friends of Ananda share in the sadness and righteous outrage of yet another racially motivated murder. How can we not, both as people and as an organization that seeks to represent universal spiritual values, wonder “How long must this continue?” Our very teachings aver that we are all children of God and that behind the appearance of our separateness lays the one divine heart. The teaching of ancient India is that “We are THAT”— Tat twam asi — the Infinite Spirit made manifest. How then can racial distinctions be other than superficial?

Society’s awareness of and intolerance of such acts of violence is growing. As with the original movement of “Black Lives Matter” or the “Me Too” movement, the outrage felt by sensitive souls reflects a growing compassion even as it expresses moral outrage. There is reason for cautious optimism that attitudes and behavior are changing; they MUST change.

How, then, to respond? Anger does not quell anger. “Eye for an eye” leaves us all blind. Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. died defending the principle of non-violence, non-hatred, and non-anger responses to prejudice and violence as expressions of our oneness in God’s love. Their unearned sacrifices bestowed great blessings on humanity.

We express our heartfelt compassion—our hearts ache for those abused and mistreated—and we stand by them in solidarity as the world cries out ENOUGH, let's all work together to put this old hatred and distrust behind us.

It is important, however, not to be drawn into fear or anger or any other form of negativity by the delusive power of mass consciousness. Those who wish to express their righteous indignation should do what they feel to do but when we lose our own equilibrium, our own inner peace, then we too have been infected by the virus of negativity. The best thing most of us can do is to direct our sympathy, compassion and prayers towards those who need it the most.

The stress of isolation, fear and suffering from the pandemic, and hardship and fear surrounding our economic future are already enough to trigger emotions out of proportion. Remaining, therefore, calm and even-minded is vital at this time. This is something each of us can do to help.

Lasting change in human behavior comes from an awakening of consciousness: seeing life through the eyes of another; seeing in others, our very Self. Meditation, yoga, and spiritual community are Ananda’s focus and these are by no means an insignificant contribution to positive change.

Those great spiritual teachers who have inspired the worldwide work of Ananda demonstrated in their own lives the courage to accept all who were sincere, regardless of their social status, often enduring the taunts of their society. The true races of humanity are based not on color, status or culture but in consciousness. So let us strive to uplift our own and others’ consciousness in compassion, service, and devotion.

additional thoughts beyond the statement above:

What can I do? Simple: be the change you seek! What is needed to combat racism is more than legislation, education, and other important opportunities. It is a change of heart; a change of consciousness. Ananda's worldwide effort to establish intentional spiritual communities that bring together all of who are sincere in their commitment to live by high ideals and to live cooperatively, harmoniously, and sustainably is perhaps the most important contribution to serving by example as well as precept.

Meditation offers the single most universal, nonsectarian daily practice that can change the world for the better. And it doesn't take 100%. 1% to 10% would do it.

Nonetheless, be prepared for increased unrest worldwide; increased risks for many challenging things from weather to war to depression. Thus the need for communities, virtual or residential, of high-minded, self-sacrificing Warriors of Light. 

You cannot do it by yourself. Post on Facebook or carry a sign on a corner if you like but BE the PEACE that is within you and SHARE with all even when you are in difficult straights. This is not your world. We are here but briefly. Let's make it better by being better. Beyond that it will continue in its own way just as it did before you arrived and as it will after you leave. 

We need perspective; we need inner peace; we need joy in our hearts. Pray, meditate, serve. Lastly, resist mass consciousness by staying centered in your Self. What is yours to do will be revealed minute by minute.

Blessings to you!

Swami Hrimananda

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Is This Pandemic the Beginning of "Hard Times?"

Question we received:

Hi, It feels relevant to the global times we are living in now to ask: do you at Ananda believe that this virus will soon lead to the 'Global Depression' that will be 'worse than in the 1930s' as Yogananda said? I know its hard to give an 'official answer' to a question like that but I’d rather hear your opinion since I want to be prepared for the worst (yet with a positive mindset). 

Dear Friend,

I wrote an article on this subject a while back: search on Predictions in the search bar of this blog. www.Hrimananda.org....you'll see several (Nov 2019 and March 21 2020)

For all of the fifty-plus years that Ananda has existed, Swami Kriyananda warned us of impending financial collapse based on statements made by Paramhansa Yogananda before his passing in 1952. Though there have been times and financial crises during my life when it seemed imminent, Yogananda's predictions have yet to manifest.

The current situation seems to me, and some of us, as a far more volatile mix of circumstances and thus far more likely to be the "big one."

So, with a tentativeness born of experience, I say YES! Yogananda's stern warnings about a depression far greater than that of the 1930s, during which the dollar will be all but worthless and the American economy brought to its knees, seems more likely now than any time during my 69 years of life in this body.

I recall being slightly amazed that the Federal Reserve's quantitative easing policy actually worked to lift the economy from the "Great Recession" of 2008. It already seemed our national debt and trade deficit was beyond recovery, but, then, it worked! It's difficult, however, to imagine lightning striking twice in the same spot. 

Add to our economy the connections you allude to in your note, connections with other countries such as China, and it seems ominous, to say the least.

Yogananda said that the result in America would be that we would be half as wealthy but twice as spiritual! Simple living; sustainability; compassion; calmness; cooperation; prayer and meditation. More living by these principles would be worth it all.

Yet, like the pandemic, suffering is a part of any cleansing or large scale change. Change always has an element of destructiveness. Yet, also like the pandemic, some will be untouched while others perish. Such is the great drama of life.

"The drama of life has for its lesson that it is but that: a drama." (Yogananda) We must play our parts and follow the script from the Divine Playwright so that when our part is done, we remain free as sparks of the Infinite Light. Our "job" is to live in joy and to share that joy, for this is our true nature.

Joy and blessings to you!

Nayaswami Hriman
Seattle WA USA
    

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Ending a Friendship that Doesn't Work

[Dear friends, I am sometimes asked to respond to questions that are sent to www.Ananda.org, operated by Ananda Village in California. Some of the questions are of general interest. In sharing one of them here on this blog I have erased all traces of identification.]

In the decades of being a member of Ananda and living in an Ananda (residential) community, I find that it is not uncommon that a person who takes up the spiritual path in earnest finds that a particular long-standing friendship no longer serves that person's newly adopted spiritual goals and lifestyle. The question therefore often arises "What to do about these friendships?" Do I end the relationship? We've been friends for years. What about loyalty?"

In the case below the question was more specific because the long-standing friend had a long-standing habit of verbal abuse toward the new devotee and the devotee was finding that being treated this way was increasingly intolerable. So the question that came to us was "What to do about the friendship?" And for those who would say, simply, tell the so-called friend to take a hike, the devotee was wanting to be sensitive while also firm and wondered whether there was no longer a point to even continue the friendship.

Dear Friend, 

Let's approach this from several points of view. Yes, of course, it's hurtful to be treated that way. But it's also hurtful to your friend's soul, her own self-respect, to behave in that way. Wouldn't a friend would want to help that person and, in time, wouldn't a true friend actually appreciate that help?

On the one hand, your friendship may no longer serve you spiritually speaking but on the other hand, you have been friends and loyalty is an important and valid aspect of friendship. So, let's explore together some possibilities.

Without wanting to shift the blame from her to you, let me at least point out that unintentionally your ongoing acceptance of her treatment of you is, in its own way, enabling her. I say this not to blame you but to set the stage for what follows:

So let's shift this around in the direction of a possible WIN-WIN. I don't get the sense that you no longer want her friendship; rather, it seems that you no longer can tolerate her abuse. But maybe there's a way, that a positive outcome can take place for both of you. 

For starters, what I may suggest can only be done successfully with calmness and a certain degree of non-attachment to the outcome, ok? If you are willing to experiment for a time, consider these suggestions:

1. Abuser-abusee takes two. If the abusee (egads, is THAT a word?) is not even aware of the abuse (e.g. sarcasm), the abuse may be "wrong" but it is one-sided and the abusee feels "no pain." What I am saying is that the push-you, pull-me back and forth of verbal abuse takes, in some measure, two people. One to abuse; the other to feel abused. So, what if as an experiment, and before making a decision to leave the friendship, you tried for a while simply remaining calm when verbally attacked; look calmly into her eyes without reaction. Imagine your face and eyes and entire being are a full-length mirror. In the mirror of your calm, reflective consciousness, your friend may, after some time and practice, begin to see herself (as you do--behaving inappropriately).  

2. This experiment presupposes that you both are truly friends and do, in fact, care for one another. If there's no psychic or spiritual connection (like being robbed by a random burglar), then this won't work. It's important that you not stare her down or "look daggers" when you do this. You can even smile just a little, almost sadly, as you reflect back and observe her abusive behavior. You know that little thing we do when we cock the head just slightly to one side with a questioning look on our face? Like a clinician examining a specimen?

3. What this is doing is it's you pulling out of the game. "You have the right to remain silent!" After a while, the abuser may look, well, bemused. By ending whatever little part you've played, you create a space, a vacuum that can sometimes allow the abuser the psychic space to stop the unconscious habit. You might even both have a good laugh. Hopefully, given enough time and practice, your friend will dial down her aggressive tone. 

4. This experiment doesn't preclude or doesn't require that you never address the issue or discuss your feelings. I don't know either of you but there may be other times (not often in the moment of the abuse), where you can say, "Jean, there's something I'd like to talk to you about. We've been friends for a long time and I'd like to keep it that way. But I find that your habit of talking to me sarcastically or critically is increasingly intolerable. So whaddya say you dial this stuff back? Maybe it's just old habit you got from childhood but real friends don't do that. Hmm?"

5. Now maybe, just maybe, what you are really saying to us is that the friendship is over and that it has no spiritual value, and the verbal abuse is just one symptom of that observation. From where I sit, I cannot "see" that one way or another. So if THAT'S really what you are saying, then let me offer some suggestions about going in THAT direction:

6. I'd begin by bringing into my prayers and meditations gratitude for the friendship and appreciation for my friend's finer qualities; even spiritual qualities. I'd also pray for guidance in choosing your words or circumstances or the timing of ending or withdrawing from the friendship. You don't want to leave the friendship on a negative note if you can help it.

7. I might suggest you consider reducing or ending regular contact from the point of view that you just need to take a break. This is not unlike a friend who has died. A deceased friend is no longer physically present but they still live in your memory and in your heart. Thus don't see it as a rejection, worse yet a condemnation or judgment. In fact, since it's not good for her to behave this way, by ceasing contact you do her a favor! By taking a "break" you release the internal tension around rejection or ending a friendship.

Remind yourself that we are ALL children of God. We just have unique paths to take and all the "time in the world" to take it. Think: "We will meet again for we are friends eternally in our one Father-Mother, Beloved-Friend, God."

7.5 In offering prayers for your friend, hold her image in your mind's eye (spiritual eye) surrounded by joy and light, with the Divine Image of God, guru, or Divine Mother behind her AS her.

8. Outwardly, rather than make an abrupt break which will surely cause hurt feelings, I would suggest you see how to ease out by fewer and fewer contacts. It would be best if you not feel compelled to resort to made-up excuses or "white lies." Ask Divine Mother to show you or give you the natural and right opportunities. 

9. On a positive note do not underestimate the power of the following: A shift of your energy and interests can make all the difference. Spend more time getting involved with people whose consciousness and behavior support your spiritual aspirations. Taking meditation or yoga classes (online, these days, I suppose). Ananda has a "Virtual Community" online. Re-direct your own creative initiative and energies (and time) in the directions you wish to go. This changes the vibration of your consciousness and your aura and even your friend may find, subtly, that she's no calling or contacting you as often. (It's like having a divine virus!) Be sure you are reading spiritual books or watching videos from Ananda on YouTube. CHANGE YOUR CONSCIOUSNESS --- CHANGE YOUR FRIENDS!!!!

In fact, you can do BOTH of these things: experiment with not reacting to your friend's abusive words, AND, re-directing your own energies. The obvious incompatibility of vibration and consciousness will subtly guide each of you in new and different directions. Patience, perhaps, maybe all that is needed.

I sincerely hope that this will work because your intention seems sincere and not vengeful. 

Blessings and may the divine Light show you the way through this! [end of response]

Maybe there are others who might find some useful tips in the above response. Paramhansa Yogananda stated that much of our spiritual progress is determined by the company we keep. Friendship, or fellowship, is far more important and supportive of our ideals than even our own self-efforts in the privacy of our "sheltering at home." Hence the plethora of online spiritual offerings! We are not an "island" (though some of us live on an island, ha, ha). But like an island, we are all connected below the surface of our differences. 

Blessings and joy to you!

Swami Hrimananda





Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Virus Induced Game Changers: Trends in Process

Swami Kriyananda, founder of the worldwide communities movement of Ananda, and a direct disciple of the great yogi, Paramhansa Yogananda (whose life story, "Autobiography of a Yogi," is now a spiritual classic and a modern scripture) often expounded on the Hindu calendar and its segments (called "Yugas") of rising and falling consciousness.

The source of his comments can be found in the Introduction to the book "Holy Science" written by Swami Sri Yukteswar (guru of Yogananda) at the behest of the now-famous Mahavatar, Babaji.

Swami Kriyananda's insights into the unfoldment of human consciousness were expressed in innumerable recorded talks, essays, and books--too numerous to reference. Ananda members, Byasa (David) Steinmetz and co-author Purushottama (Joseph) Selbie, authored an excellent book -- "The Yugas"-- on this subject.

I do not, therefore, want to repeat the groundwork offered to us by the drastic re-calibration of the Hindu calendar offered to the world by Sri Yukteswar in a mere few paragraphs in the introduction to his abstruse tome. If you want an orientation to human history that turns the modern narrative on its head, well, you'll enjoy "The Yugas."

Swamiji, however, would often peer into the future seeking insights to changes and trends in world culture. The one book I can reference in this regard is "Religion in the New Age." (It is a collection of essays on many subjects.)

There are several trends that I want to share that Swamiji spoke of:


  1. "Small is Beautiful." In this age, which I call the Age of the Individual, an egalitarian age, knowledge is increasingly being offered to everyone. The former hierarchy of education and concomitant power is being "flattened" and the accessibility of information via the world wide web is both symbolic and practically speaking an excellent illustration of this trend. "Think global; act local" is a bumper sticker that also expresses this trend. In America, it is my "theory" (and I'm sticking with it, ha, ha) is that Hurricane Katrina first introduced American society to the need to fend for oneself, whether individually or in local groups. I recall in the early 2000's being in Beverly Hills, CA on Rodeo Drive (the absolute epitome of wealth and celebrity status) seeing banners put up by the city government urging its citizens to focus on disaster preparedness! The failure of the large public utility, Pacific Gas & Electric in California has given those residents a huge incentive to produce energy locally. I could go on and on. Big is out. The federal government in America is paralyzed with divisiveness. States, counties, and cities are dealing with global issues like climate change, plus innumerable other issues, not least of which at this time, is the Coronavirus COVID-19. During the sheltering-at-home phase, seed companies are out of stock as millions are planting gardens. This trend is easy enough of observation. Ironically, the big issues facing our planet require cooperation on national and international scales even as large-scale entities, including corporations, are less and less the trendsetters and leaders of society. The lesson, however, must not be lost rather than only regretted: we (you and me) have to BE THE CHANGE WE SEEK! It's THAT simple.
  2. A movement away from cities. Since the beginning of the so-called Industrial Revolution, millions of people have migrated from agricultural life to the urban (and later, suburban) life. This trend is not wholly finished in some countries. But the trend that may be only just beginning is a rebound of the post World War II movement to the suburbs. Unfortunately, suburban life simply paved over natural habitat and copied urban life but with a nice green lawn, perhaps a swimming pool, and a few planted trees. But that trend and impulse still exist: a desire to live more in harmony with nature; it is deeper than conscious recognition that cities are toxic by their very nature. Toxic not just in terms of water and air but even by their artificially restless intensity. Sheltering at home has connected millions with the simplicity of home life; cooking real food; reading a book; reaching out to friends, neighbors, and family; having time for thoughtful reflection; prayer and meditation. A calm life is a real life. While young people, restless and adventurous, eager to live at the edge of their senses and taking risks (because believing they are invincible) may yet always tend toward urban environments, the far larger population is, or will be, gradually, drawn to natural living.
  3. Both of the above trends flow easily and naturally into acceptance of conscious, intentional communities of like-minded, ideal-driven people banding together. This banding or tribal trend (I don't care for the world "tribal" it makes me feel like I want to go beat on a drum and grunt rhythmically) can take place virtually, in service projects, in politics, in religion, education, and of course most naturally, residentially. Yogananda is deemed by Ananda members worldwide to be the "patron saint" of communities. In the 1940's he enthusiastically experimented with a community that included not just monastics but householders. It was premature but even after he disbanded it he continued to the end of his life to wax enthusiastic about its future prospects. He predicted that someday communities would "spread like wildfire." We haven't seen this, for sure, but the two trends mentioned above flow, as I said above, easily into the channel of the communities movement. However, I will admit that these last two trends (away from the cities and the rise of intentional communities) are still very nascent though any number of events could accelerate their unfoldment (like a pandemic!).
The ecological movement, perhaps more than any single trend, might be said to have begun the awakening awareness of the natural world and our interdependence upon it. Admittedly, this is perhaps a superficial statement but it works well enough for me and my life experience (being a baby boomer). In combination with a separate awakening toward what we used to innocently call "Eastern philosophy" the concept of our interdependence has filtered deeply into human consciousness. Science, our real religion (as a culture), says "it is so" and this is enough for us.

The percentage of souls in human form whose hearts awaken and seek the Divine Presence hidden behind the multitudinous forms of matter will, for a long time to come, remain small. But just as God in the Old Testament was willing to spare Sodom and Gomorrah if ten righteous souls could be found, so too this small percentage will always have an outsized impact on society at large. More so, however, in an age of awakening consciousness (as Swami Sri Yukteswar described these times). 

Even while yoga and meditation encircle the globe, those who practice these for the purposes of seeking enlightenment will remain, even among this already-select group, a relatively small number. But, again, their influence is profound. We who are followers of Yogananda, especially Ananda members, have been taught by Swami Kriyananda to view the influence of Yogananda and his teachings to be representative of and instrumental to the awakening trends of consciousness on planet Earth at this time. This is not a claim of pride or exclusivity but derives from the history of the lineage of Self-realization as Yogananda revealed it. 

A new form of spirituality is desperately needed in the world today. Faith traditions have ossified into rigid dogmas and rituals. They, despite their profession of the primacy of God's love and the example of their own saints, are forces for divisiveness rather than harmony. India's long tradition of tolerance and universality is uniquely suited to bring together the "best of East and West" (quoting Yogananda-ji). 

Swami Kriyananda included in his insights as to future trends Yogananda's prediction that "Self-realization" would become the religion of the future. Unlike other disciples of Yogananda, Swamiji had no false expectation of a new Catholic church. Rather, he explained that even mainline faiths would, in time, come to see that the most important feature of their faith was one's personal relationship and experience of God and that meditation offers the most effective form of achieving that. This follows the trend into the Age of the Individual. Spiritually this translates into Self-realization as the spiritual expression of the age.

Perhaps more cynically, even institutions (perhaps especially institutions) have an impulse toward survival. In the facing of a trend of decreasing numbers of adherents, one can be sure that each faith will "miraculously" re-discover their own prayer and meditation traditions and will, seeing the "light" of the trend of meditation amongst their followers, announce a new revelation! But, why not. It is true, after all.

So, while you are sheltering at home with little to do but read a long essay like this, I hope you've enjoyed the prospect of "hope for a better world." (Title of one of Swamiji's books!).


Joys to you,

Swami Hrimananda
sheltering on Camano Island WA

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Easter at Home! Reason to Celebrate?

Celebrating Easter at Home!


Well, this IS a first, isn’t it? Millions of people celebrate Easter worldwide but this year our celebrations will take place at home. For Jesus’ disciples that first Easter Sunday was a little bit like ours this Sunday. They were sequestered indoors, hiding out just like us. Though the gospel accounts of that Sunday are divided as to whether Jesus appeared to the disciples on that day let’s just say that he did. If so, we could say that the day for them “ended well!”

And so it can for us, too. The inability to celebrate in customary ways offers us an opportunity to look more deeply at what Easter represents to us—in our lives right now—under the virus cloud. This year we won’t be distracted by Easter bunnies, socializing, festive Spring outfits and sumptuous banqueting.

Easter is a celebration of victory. It is a celebration of life, of soul-immortality. Isn’t that worth being reminded of right now as our bodies are in hiding from this world-wide pandemic-virus? Even Spring, which while cyclical, returns each year reminds us that “this (winter) too will pass.”

Yet, I admit that the first Easter took place a long, long time ago. It has worn its celebratory robes well but they are worn nonetheless. There’s a mountain of tradition that keeps it going but the momentum behind a religious holiday celebrated worldwide by millions all too easily descends to the valley of the mundane: I mean, after all, chocolate bunnies? Money stuffed in plastic eggs? Hot cross buns? How droll!

There must be more to it than that. Of course, there IS! Most readers of this article are students or disciples of Paramhansa Yogananda (author of "Autobiography of a Yogi"). In Yogananda’s famous life story there are several accounts of persons being raised from the dead and saints appearing in physical form after death.  

While past generations took this to be a celebration of the deathlessness of the ego and physical body, it is easier for us, now, to see it for its more subtle meaning: consciousness survives the death of form. Death imposes no finality to the soul. To quote Yogananda, “Man is a soul and has a body (temporarily).”

I’d say that THIS truth is both worth celebrating AND is TIMELY given the threat to our bodies in this worldwide pandemic. You see that’s the interesting aspect of the great spiritual teachers: their message is not so much different as it is a reminder of basic truths. The emphasis each one has may appear to be different, seen from different angles of time and culture, but their “view” of the mountain top is the same: we are children of God; we are immortal; we are made in the divine image of the Creator. Put another way, in winter the mountain top has a mantle of pure white snow; in summer, green, lush trees; in spring, flowers; in fall, a riot of colorful leaves. But it is always, in every season, still the top of the mountain.

Just as our past slips into the darkness of the subconscious mind and just as the future is veiled from us, why should we get confused if our immortal Self is at least equally hidden from our rather distracted gaze.

To quote from Chapter 12 of "Autobiography of a Yogi": A noted chemist once crossed swords with Sri Yukteswar. The visitor would not admit the existence of God since science has devised no means of detecting Him.
              “So you have inexplicably failed to isolate the Supreme Power in your test tubes!” Master’s gaze was stern. “I recommend an unheard-of experiment. Examine your thoughts unremittingly for twenty-four hours. Then wonder no longer at God’s absence.”

Jesus’ crucifixion symbolizes the cost of this “pearl of great price.” It is the dissolution of the ego: our soul’s misidentification with the body and its fawning, obsequious attendant, the personality. To examine one’s thoughts uncritically is the advice of “Self-inquiry” given to all of us by the great saints and sages of East and West. “Know thy Self.”

We do not know the Self, the immortal Atman (soul), for the simple reason we haven’t bothered to look. We are busy with day to day life and, right now, we are laying low to avoid the pandemic.  

Another experiment to try is to count how many times in one period of time (minutes to hours) we say or think “I.” We constantly refer to “I” but we don’t know who “I” is. If you “stare” at this “I” (meaning if you silently observe “I”) you find “I” has no name, no form, no nuttin’! There are no attributes to this guy “I.” God replied to Moses when Moses asked who the voice in the burning bush was: “I AM who I AM.”

Jesus’ last days of his life were extremely dramatic but not all great saints, saviours, or avatars model for us such a dramatic pathway to I AM. Each has a song to sing and so do we. But to peel away the layers of our attachment and the burden of our past actions and identifications is every bit as arduous a task as Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. In our lives, we are generally not ready for anything quite so challenging as that. For us, Jesus said comfortingly: “Sufficient unto the day is the evil (the challenges) thereof.” We have, witness our virus challenge, our own, tests, trials, and crucifixions. Even as this pandemic is worldwide, our response to it and its impact upon our health is individual. Customized karma: just for me!

So, let’s turn to what we can learn from the Easter story? For starters, Jesus was willing to go through what he had to do. It’s not that he a danced a jig at the prospect (of his crucifixion) but after saying “I don’t mind if I don’t have to go through this” he quickly surrendered to the will of the Father. So it’s ok if we have doubts, fears, reservations about doing what we have to do or what will happen. But, in the end, if we say YES TO (OUR) LIFE then we will have access to the power of grace to do what we must do.

Next, he forgave his torturers in the midst of his body’s agonies. While Yogananda taught that Jesus’ suffering was primarily for the ignorance and future karma of his antagonists, the Bible does say that Jesus cried out from the cross to his guru (Elias) “Why hast Thou forsaken me?” If nothing else can be understood from this, Jesus must have at least endured an experience of psychic separation from God before expiring on the cross. It would seem to me that such separation was at least, and likely far more, painful than his wounds.

Why is that? Because a true saviour, an avatar, is not identified with the physical body and can transcend its sensory messages at will. I suspect Jesus accepted the body’s agonies as part of his willing sacrifice and acceptance of the karma of his disciples. It makes no point to say that he had a choice because “I and my Father are One” suggests that what was experienced was what was given to him, so to speak. [This is not rational; it is intuitive. It simply IS.]

Our founder, Swami Kriyananda, had a lifetime of inspired service in musical composition, writing, and counsel. Yet he encountered tremendous opposition from those whom he loved and respected. Despite the hurt, he never descended to hate and always affirmed love and forgiveness.

Jesus’ resurrection that followed the crucifixion was not some extra-credit bonus that he got for his efforts. It was the necessary, even logical, consequence of his acceptance of the crucifixion. Because his physical body was tortured and killed it was at least logical that his victory would express itself by a resurrected body. For us, then, our victories will be carved from our own karma. (Jesus did not have personal karma. As a true son of God, he took on the karma of others.)

It is an error on the part of some believers to take from his resurrection the belief that our bodies will someday be resurrected from graves at the “second coming of Christ.” It is an error, too, to imagine that for all eternity we sit in heaven in our bodies praising God but otherwise retaining our egos, our separation from God. Christian mystics experienced mystical union or marriage of their soul with the great Light of God. Their testimony, not that of theologians, shows us that this is the true and perfect union that is our destiny.

Easter then is a dramatic reminder of the “truth that shall make us free.” We are NOT these bodies and egos. Let us, in contemplating the story of Easter, affirm the truth that is represented by that story. If our celebration takes the form of silent, inner communion—seeking the formless, eternal Christ-like Self within—Jesus’ life and sacrifice will be honored in the best way possible. No amount of Easter eggs or chocolate bunnies can ever replace this eternal yet ever timely message.

If for the sake of young children the eggs and bunnies must be present, perhaps you could also have story time and share with them the “greatest story ever told.” It is also your story, theirs, and mine. It is the story of how the soul returns to the heaven of God-consciousness by attunement to the Divine Will. While the body may succumb to a virus our Spirit can remain, hands-outstretched in gratitude, devotion, and joy.

May this Easter be the most glorious of all,

Nayaswami Hriman




Saturday, March 28, 2020

There are ONLY Opportunities! Why I am Optimistic

When tests in life come (as they must because they are portals to our own growth), put out the energy needed to deal with them creatively and with a positive attitude and you'll be victorious. Victorious isn't the same as winning. This virus might kill you; the crashing economy might bankrupt your business; your lifestyle may change forever, but if you "fight the good fight" you get to keep the victory (the satisfaction, insights, and knowledge) of having done your best, regardless of the result on the outer surface of life's ever-changing drama. 

I know there is suffering and death happening with the pandemic that is afflicting humanity right now. I don't want to be glib in the face of tragedy but statistics suggest to us that the overwhelming majority of humans will not die and relatively few will require hospitalization. 

The real "disease" is the fear; paralysis of will, despondency and even boredom. Grief one cannot help when a loved one suffers or dies.

I find it both amazing and inspiring to hear about all the creative ways people and businesses are responding appropriately to help others and to serve their customers. Curbside pick-ups, drive-throughs, and delivery options have been catapulted into daily life. Gardens are being planted around the world to grow real food for life. People are reaching out to check on and help one another. 

Medical protocols and technologies are rapidly changing and emerging to respond to the overwhelming needs in this worldwide challenge. Health care providers and many others are rising heroically to the challenges they face. 

I read an article attributed to Bill Gates (but not verified by me) but which, no matter who wrote it, made valuable and inspiring insights into the results of this pandemic. Regardless of the authorship, some of the simple and obvious points, paraphrased or rephrased, but well worth thinking more deeply about include:

  • The virus doesn't exempt the high and mighty from its wrath.
  • What we do affects one another. 
  • Borders and passports have no authority here.
  • Our health and life are precious to us all.
  • We need to consume food that is healthy and not contaminated with chemicals.
  • To live, we need air and water that is not contaminated. 
  • Life is short and uncertain. We should re-examine our life's priorities to nurture our heart's finer feelings, not just our heads, bodies, and wallets.
  • Helping others brings us greater satisfaction than seeking status and wealth. 
  • We are being forced to stay at home because we have neglected to create happy homes where children are loved and cared for with wisdom.
  • A strong ego is necessary for survival and success but it must be held in check, taking into account the realities and needs of others and the world we live in.
  • We have the free will to cooperate and help one another or to be selfish.
  • Patience comes when we see the larger picture of time and cycles, knowing that "this too will pass." Suffering and deprivation will pass too. To panic is lose our reason and to succumb to "fight or flight."
  • We have the opportunity for a new beginning or to bemoan an end. We can be creative and find new ways to live; to live more simply; to live sustainably on this earth; to live with respect and cooperation with others; and so much more.
  • We are sick because our earth is sick. Our earth is sick because we have made it sick by greed and neglect.
  • Life's ultimate purpose is a spiritual one: to raise our energy and consciousness beyond the limited self to include others and the Creator of Life.
There are so many innate benefits to what we are experiencing they are too numerous to list. Yes, it takes a global pandemic to get large numbers of people to change their habits and lifestyles. Yes, much wealth in the form of ones and zeroes will vanish. But if that's what it takes, then it must be good. 

Yoga practice is one of the many beneficiaries of the times. It's true that yoga studios are closed but with more time and with a desire to remain healthy and fit while having to remain "sheltered in place," online yoga practice has been catapulted into center stage. Same can be said (to a lesser degree) about the daily practice of meditation. As it used to be said in the last so-called "world war," "There are no atheists in foxholes." Prayer is spreading as fast as the virus.

While there is much to decry about substituting online learning and sharing for in-person education and relationships, nonetheless there's no going back as it relates to the willingness of people to learn in this new way. It opens the door to so much more for so many.

I am positive and optimistic about the coronavirus pandemic's impact on human consciousness. In the meantime, I do my best to stay healthy and positive, to reach out, to share what I am able to share, and to appreciate people, nature, and life ever more deeply. 

But my greatest joy and appreciation go to the living presence of God in the form of my guru and lineage, and to my teacher who watches over his large family from his omnipresent blissful consciousness above.

Joy to you,
Swami Hrimananda










Saturday, March 21, 2020

Are Yogananda's Predictions of Challenging Times About to Begin?

This question surfaced in a recent email from an Ananda member. While the occupation of making predictions is one to be avoided, it is impossible not to ask this question (for those of us who are familiar with Yogananda's warnings given publicly during the last few years of his life (which ended March 1952).

Many of you (readers) know well these warnings because Ananda's founder, Swami Kriyananda, repeated them often.....all the way to his passing in 2013.

So, yes, of course it's a good question. On the other hand, the thought of our being yet another "doom and gloom cult" is distasteful to me and to you, too, I am sure.

Interestingly, Jesus Christ predicted pretty much all the same things, or so he was quoted in the New Testament. Thus it is that such predictions can be viewed from the inner side of the soul's personal journey, or (or is it AND/OR) from the outer side of history. Surely warfare, violence and pestilence have never ended in the history of humanity! So predictions of doom and gloom are always BOUND to come true at some point.

Nonetheless, Yogananda, the guru and spiritual teacher for many of us and an inspiration for millions, and, Swami Kriyananda, Ananda's founder and inspiration and guide (and friend), have shared these warnings.

So, for what it's worth, my two cents is YES. We are on the brink of an immense change in history. 70 years since the last so-called "World War" is probably a record stretch of relative peace: punctuated as most of the people in the world know all too well with endless series of rebellions, conflicts, ethnic cleansings, and mini-wars (and a few lesser mini-pandemic threats).

Why bother to make note of the belief by millions (of us) that humanity needs to wake up to the unsustainability of our rapacious, unconscious lifestyle?

To humor my odd sense of humor: here's what my personal crystal ball is showing me. (You can take this to the bank....more bad humor, sorry.) An economic downturn, aka depression, the like of which history has never seen. The impact of this is too immense to even bother to quantify. It makes the COVID-19 virus seem small by comparison.

From the collapse of the wealth of nations and people will come war, disease and the usual panoply of humanity's griefs. I'm not going to repeat the details of what Swami Kriyananda shared of Yogananda's warnings as it is not important right now for you and me. What is important is to "see" that life is not returning to normal.

Now, it's true, as it is in every disaster (natural or man-made), there are some who will in fact not only prosper (economically) but who will rise to the occasion with courage, enthusiasm, creativity and inspiration. For these, it will be the "time of their life!" There will also be scoundrels. Gun sales, I have read, are up. Lawlessness is certain to increase. We have already seen an increase in burglaries.

So what it means for you personally is impossible to predict. It could, in fact, mean little or nothing at all. But you'd be foolish to make that assumption. The karma that is unfolding is, like a world war, bigger than an individual and will engulf millions if not billions.

Most of my readers probably meditate, pray, and serve. Most of you are followers of Yogananda and likely members of Ananda worldwide. So we already know that "the only way OUT is IN." Inner strength; devotion; care for others; meditation; prayer....we acknowledge that death and disease (as Lord Buddha came to see) is a common lot of all beings. Why fuss over it beyond taking care of the body temple "for God-realization."

So these reflections do not have for their purpose a call to action, per se. Rather, let us adjust the glasses through which we see the world and see what is, I believe and many others as well, a world in partial dissolution and partial recombination. Yogananda, through his guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar, sees our planet in an upward arc of awakening though we are yet in a relatively materialistic age: an age of buy and sell; what's in for me; but also awakening to our interconnectedness.

So unlike some doom and gloom sales pitches, this is NOT the end of the world. It's the inevitable trauma from the breakup of an old-world structure and the emergence of a new world consciousness. After difficult times, Yogananda predicted there would be 200 years of world peace (because we'd be sick of warfare!)

But lest you, like many of us in the 1960's, imagine life is going to suddenly be wonderful: forget it! The rich will always govern and, to quote Jesus Christ, "the poor you have always with you." It is the expansion of awareness of global consciousness that is the requisite emergent change. This awareness can be plundered for personal gain or offered on the altar of global good.

In time, that is to say, in the centuries to come, the rigidity and fixity and prejudice of religion, nationality, race, caste and gender will steadily dissolve into acceptance of differences as manifestations of a shared and beneficent reality. the differences don't need to change. It's attachment and fixed identification with them that will soften.

Harmony with Mother Earth and all creatures will eventually surface as an accepted goal by at least a majority.

In the meantime, however, there is a "war' to fight: fear vs courage, for example; selfishness (hoarding) vs sharing; faith vs hopelessness; God realization vs Ego affirmation. It is an inner battle, not an outer one. Paramhansa Yogananda thundered: "The time for knowing God has COME!" (Through meditation and kriya yoga). THIS is the spiritual purpose for individuals all the time, but especially now for us as a whole.

For those of us who are active, participating and committed members of Ananda worldwide: We were born for this and trained for this by Swami Kriyananda.

"The only way OUT is IN!"

Joy is within you.

Swami Hrimananda
Seattle WA

Monday, March 16, 2020

"Even a Little of this Practice Will Save You from Fear and Suffering" - a Simple Meditation

The title above is a paraphrase of Verse 40, Chapter 2 of the Bhagavad Gita. If ever fear and suffering were a worldwide epidemic it would be now in the midst of this pandemic! And if ever there was a simple practice that could bring calmness and confidence to millions, this is a good time to share it.

There is so much being communicated about this crisis that it would futile for me to add to the burden of so much rapidly changing information, advice, and speculation.

Without denying the suffering, fear, economic losses and isolation being experienced around the world, I want to focus on the "silver lining" in this virus-infested cloud called COVID-19.

Millions are home from work with their families. They may be playing with their children; reading a book; gardening; spending time with loved ones. Admittedly, some are without family and are home alone. But all are potentially reaching out via the phone or social media; some are greeting neighbours (from a safe distance). Millions are concerned for others. Many are focusing on staying healthy through exercise and diet. What a great time to think more deeply about what is important in life: friendships, health, positive attitudes and spiritual connection.

I hope that some of these positive attitudes, experiences, and behaviours will outlast the pandemic.

But what was Lord Krishna referring to in the above-quoted stanza from the famous dialogue which is the literary format of the beloved "Gita?" He was referring to the practice of meditation and the attitudes and wisdom from which meditation arises. Meditation is an impossibly ancient practice. But now's not the time for discussing the history and evolution of meditation.

Most readers of my blog already practice meditation. So it would seem that I am "preaching to the choir." But with so much being shared worldwide among friends, why not share the practice of meditation?

First a simple meditation. Then, some links to more complete meditation routines. There are hundreds of meditation apps, maybe more even. But when one is new to something on what basis does one choose if not on the basis of the recommendation of a friend? And isn't friendship, caring, and connection the theme of our present circumstances? So, let's meditate! Here we go:

Sit upright but in a relaxed and alert natural posture: chest up slightly; head level; shoulders relaxed; palms upward on the thighs. Open or close your eyes as you feel. (As you internalize it will be natural for most people to close their eyes.)

Take a few long, slow but enjoyable breaths. Let the "stomach" (actually, the diaphragm) expand out as you inhale slowly. As the inhalation progresses you will feel your rib cage expand outward to the sides. Then, finally, as you complete the inhalation, the upper chest may rise just a little. Don't force it, however. Like the strokes of the brush of an artist, your controlled breathing should feel "right" not forced.

You may pause briefly at the top of the inhalation but it is not necessary. Exhale with a controlled release. The exhalation can be slightly longer (if you were timing it) than the inhalation. You can pause or not pause after the end of the exhalation but just continue this controlled breathing for at least three to five breaths.

Usually, three to five breaths will trigger a sense of increasing calmness, but if not, continue for a while and learn to anticipate a sense of peace and quiet satisfaction coming over you. Then cease your controlled breathing, and sit quietly. Relax not just your body but your mind. Since the mind is happier if we give it a focus, let that focus be on your natural (no longer controlled) breathing. Observation of the breath is a time-honoured and universally effective practice. Your observation can be in the chest (lungs etc.) or in the flow of inhalation and exhalation in the natural channels of the nose.

If your mind needs a bit more to chew on, create a word formula or a personal affirmation. “I am peaceful; I am calm; I am confident”.....etc. etc. Don't TRY to concentrate. Relax into interested attentiveness to your meditation practice. It's the same attentiveness you might apply to watch a movie, read a book, engage in a sport or exercise, or cook--anything, in short, that you WANT to do!

At the end of your time (it's not length of time; it's QUALITY of calm focus and resulting peacefulness), ask your intuitive self a question that might be on your mind. Ask in positive, not negative terms. In your calm state, be open to a variety of answers, even one that your mind might otherwise reject. Feel calm and be open to “hear” what is the right action or attitude to take in that situation. If nothing appears, then pose alternative solutions to your intuitive mind.

Or, at the end just bring to your mind the image or name of a loved one, friend, neighbour, or co-worker who could use a little "peace of your mind" for their health or daily life. Send that "peace" to that person without any consideration of desired results. It's a peace gesture, in other words. And right now, who doesn’t need a piece of “peace!”


You see: it's THAT simple.

Here are some links to other guided meditations:


In your smartphone's Play Store search on Ananda Meditation App to download and a wide selection of meditations and much more!

Share, then, a "little of this practice" with friends and family!

Joy to you,

Nayaswami Hriman








Monday, February 17, 2020

Valentine's Day: How Important is Love on the Spiritual Path?

[I've been away for over a month from regular postings and yesterday's Sunday Service was focused primarily on my trip to India. The topics, expressed below, did not get the "full Monty" so I offer thoughts on the subject below.]

Each year around Valentine's Day the service reading at the Ananda centers worldwide has had the topic title of "The Law is Perfected in Love."

It would be easy to conclude that love, according to the reading ("Rays of the One Light," Week 7, by Swami Kriyananda), is all that is necessary to achieve perfection (happiness, bliss, nirvana or samadhi).

However, even the title of the reading isn't saying that. In fact, the title is simply reminding devotees and seekers that the "way" is not the "goal." Your faith, your religion, your yoga, your beliefs, and your righteous way of life are but steppingstones to perfection in God. (Be ye therefore perfect as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. Matt 5:48) Do not mistake the path for the goal! 

But is the reading saying, never mind the "way?" Never mind the discipline; the self-offering; the effort? No, it isn't saying that.

No more is the reading saying that than is the emotion of love the only reality in human relationships. Effort, intention, and "work" is needed to achieve success in all worthy endeavours: health, relationships, career, art, and the spiritual path.  

Even Valentine's Day (which occurs each year around the time of this reading) isn't attempting to say romantic love is the definition of marriage. (It's simply acknowledging one aspect of marriage.)

Someone asked me the other day: "How can I love God more?" In responding I was fortunate to recall Swami Kriyananda's counsel on this: "pray to God that you feel devotion; that you feel God's love." I believe he went on to explain that it is difficult to love "someone" you haven't met yet. It is difficult to love an abstraction contained in a nondescript three-letter word ("God"). To feel God's love is the gift of grace, not merely effort.

When he, Swami Kriyananda, prayed to Yogananda that he could feel Yogananda's love for him, Yogananda (who intuitively "heard" Kriyananda's silent prayer) responded saying, "How can the little cup hold the whole ocean?" One must expand the cup of one's consciousness toward infinity if one is to know the infinite love of God. 

It is easier, however, to feel love itself: love without an object and without any conditions as to who, what, when, where or how. As God is the source of unconditional love, praying to feel love is to experience even a little bit of God: the Source of love. 

Swamiji also shared with us that Paramhansa Yogananda suggested that most of us approach God through joy, rather than as love. Why? Because most people's experience of love is tainted with the all too confusing (painful, pleasurable, attached, and mixed)  human love experience. How often have I seen a newcomer's heart open to divine love only find it difficult to remain on such a high plane and thus "fall" into attachment to the nearest soul clothed in the form of the opposite sex! (Reminds me of the delightful Shakespeare play, "A Midsummer's Night Dream.")

Even apart from romantic love, however, devotees who go more by emotions are sometimes far too personal (just as those who revel in ideas are sometimes insensitive to the feelings of others). And such devotees are inclined to "love" only those who "love" them. Beyond their "mutual admiration society," duality can throw a bucket of cold indifference towards outsiders.

We, humans, you see, are more likely to know what unconditioned joy is than unconditional love!

Think of an aspiring musician: unless born with it like Mozart, even the best musicians are likely to have spent years learning and practising. Their love for their art draws them through the "law of practising" into the inner experience of the joy and love of music. Without their love of music, their playing would presumably be colourless, lacking in feeling. But without the hard daily work of practice, they could not soar high on the wings of inspiration. As I often say in classes and talks, "truth is a BOTH-AND affair."

Love is higher than the law for the simple reason that the experience of satisfaction, success or oneness is the REASON behind the willingness to "pay your dues" through effort and self-discipline. To achieve the union, perfection, and joy of love which unites lover, loving and beloved is what propels the artist, devotee, the lover, or the humanitarian to sacrifice all for the "pearl of great price!" 

At the conclusion of the reading described above, Swami Kriyananda quotes Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita saying, in effect, "love God alone and let go of all else." Poetic, romantic, even, but be careful not to rely one-dimensionally upon a convenient interpretation. 

A story illustrates the point: Krishna once counselled the devotee, Draupadi, to practice yoga. Her response, however, was "How can I practice yoga when my mind is fixed upon you?" Krishna, it is said, only smiled. 

Until you, too, can be fixed upon God alone in every thought, feeling, and action, then you should not be so quick to dispense with the "rites and writ duties" of the "Way" of right action and right attitude.

Swami Kriyananda also offered this useful thought, drawn from his own experience of encountering those who, to say the least, didn't love him: "I choose to love because I am happier loving than hating."

When, through prayer, meditation, and self-giving we feel loving, it does not require a conscious act to love anyone: friend or self-styled critic alike. It is, rather, a natural extension of your own consciousness. When you are blessed to have this experience, distil from it the joy of loving so that the alternative of focusing on loving doesn't draw you into attachment to those to whom you express that loving feeling. Instead, feel the joy of that state of the soul.

Joy to you!

Swami Hrimananda