Showing posts with label Ananda. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ananda. Show all posts

Thursday, June 21, 2018

International Day of Yoga

June 21 : International Day of Yoga

June 21 is the day each year that the United Nations has set aside to honor the ever-expanding role of yoga practice and precepts, and to acknowledge yoga as India’s contribution to world peace and harmony.

Yoga is a veritable symbol of peace in a restless, polarized and uncertain world. And yet, while peace may be yoga’s dividend, yoga practice requires self-discipline, training, and persistence. The lesson must not be lost and is one affirmed generation after generation in American culture when it is said that “defending freedom is the price of democracy.”

India’s greatest and most beloved scripture, the Bhagavad Gita, has for its initial precept the teaching that we must take up the battle of life. Yoga, India, Mahatma Gandhi—Indian culture itself—is known as a place of ahimsa (non-violence). Yet the modern state of India was born in the midst of unspeakable communal violence.
Jesus Christ may have taught his followers to “turn the other cheek” but he also said “I bring not peace, but a sword” by which our higher nature can do battle with our lower nature.

But peace is the goal. Yet peace cannot be achieved “at any price.” Peace comes through self-conquest. Whether in politics or for inner peace, the dividend of peace begins with the desire for harmony, a willingness to accept “what is,” the strength and courage to act without dictating the results, and is buoyed upwards on the intangible but underlying knowing that the goal can be achieved.

The scripture of yoga itself is said to be the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. In this famous but pithy tome, the first stage of the upward unfoldment of human consciousness from selfishness to saintliness is that of non-violence, popularly known as ahimsa. The ever-expanding reward of the attitude of ahimsa is peace. As one accepts and embraces in one’s attitudes and actions in daily life the importance of truth-telling, moderation, self-control, introspection and non-attachment we find that an invisible aura or blanket of peace is bestowed upon us. It is not achieved however without effort: for most people, our victory is hard-won for we must overcome natural impulses towards self-centeredness and self-indulgence.

The same is said of the practice of yoga and meditation. We must learn the basic techniques for control and focus of body and mind even while using the tools of deep relaxation to achieve self-control.

And peace is just the beginning. When a war is over, the country must be rebuilt, justice served, forgiveness and reconciliation achieved. From the state of inner peace, we re-make our self-identity into one of Self-reliance AND Self-giving. No longer focused upon our little self, we cannot remain simply self-contained for habit will draw us back into self-absorption. We must raise our energy and consciousness to embrace the world as our own. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna avers that the yogi is one who “feels the pangs, sorrow and joys of all.”


Is this not the recipe for the “healing of the nations?” And, for self-healing? Let us celebrate International Day of Yoga as peace-giving, olive branch of world and inner peace.

The newly published book by Phil Goldberg, "The Life of Yogananda-the Life of the Yogi Who Became the First Modern Guru," is an apt celebration of one of the most renown exponents of yoga throughout the world. Paramhansa Yogananda's life story, "Autobiography of a Yogi," has captured the hearts and minds of millions of people since its first publication in 1946. It has made accessible, real, and inspired India's greatest contribution to the world: YOGA!

Joy and Peace!

Swami Hrimananda

Thursday, June 7, 2018

East Meets West -- A Celebratory Fest! July 14, 2018

(Note: Ananda and its affiliate, East West Bookshop of Seattle, are hosting a festive event on July 14, 2 p.m. to 8 p.m., at nearby Bastyr University (a renowned international university for alternative healing). Let those of like-mind and open hearts affirm an alternative to today's global wave of "bi-polarism." There are other events too, see below)

One of our guest speakers on July 14 at Bastyr University is Phil Goldberg, author of the newly published book, “Life of Yogananda-the Story of the Yogi Who Became the First Modern Guru.” Phil chronicles the struggle of the young man, Swami Yogananda (aka Mukunda Lal Ghosh) to establish himself in America having arrived at age 27 in 1920. Though penniless and friendless in the land of materialism, the young swami’s innate joy and wisdom soon drew to himself the friends and support he needed to begin his work of bringing together “the best of East and West.”

Yogananda spoke of the twin contributions of America’s material efficiency and the spiritual effectiveness of yoga from India to uplift the human race from the prison of racism, nationalism, wars and exploitation. In Rudyard Kipling’s famous poem, The Ballad of East and West, he begins with the famous line “Oh East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet…..but there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth, when two strong men stand face to face tho’ they come from the ends of the earth!”

Those two “strong men” are the virtues and strengths, respectively, of East and West. Outer strength and knowledge united to inner virtue and self-control dissolve the apparent differences to form the perfect and balanced human, an incarnation of the divine Mind.

The upcoming event at Bastyr University, EAST MEETS WEST FEST, is a celebration and affirmation of humanity’s need to find the balance of inner and outer strengths and virtues. This “Fest” serves to bring together those who seek to live in this world in both inner and outer harmony.

Yoga-meditation has been brought from the darkness of secrecy and indifference into the blessed light of both inspiration and analysis. Yoga is perfectly designed to unite heart, mind and body and as such to radiate outward into the daily life of its “devotee” its harmonious blessings of calmness, creativity, efficiency, health, and joy. Yoga-meditation is by nature nonsectarian and universally accessible to all regardless of affiliation, beliefs or culture. This is because it is also by nature experiential, methodical and therefore scientific in its own way.

Our presenters represent the spectrum of east and west: Nayaswamis Jyotish and Devi represent the Self-realization teachings taught since ancient times in India by great rishis and in modern times by Paramhansa Yogananda; Imam Jamal Rahman, the Sufi teachings of mystical Islam; Reverend Michael Ingersoll, the new thought teachings of modern times, and Rabbi Ted Falcon, the mystical and meditative traditions of the Jewish faith.

Teachers of hatha and raja yoga for adults and children will present offerings in addition to our guest speakers. Phil Goldberg will share the adventure of Yogananda’s life from Phil’s latest book. Others will share insights into parenting and education, energy healing, nature awareness, and sustainable agriculture.

An artistic, inspirational, and informative demonstration of Ananda Yoga will begin the evening program at 6 p.m. in the Bastyr Chapel.

The Fest includes more, even, than Saturday’s celebration at Bastyr: 

* The night before, which is Friday, July 13, a free musical concert comprised of next generation Ananda members from its west coast communities will be held at the Ananda Meditation Temple in Bothell (7 p.m.). 

* On Sunday, our guests, Nayaswamis Jyotish and Devi, will conduct the weekly Service (10 a.m.). 

* That afternoon (Sunday), Ananda Farms invites us to lunch and “satsang” with Jyotish & Devi wherein they will share Yogananda’s ideals for sustainable, community lifestyles into the modern age. (Prepaid registration needed for the lunch.) 

* Finally, Monday night at the East West Bookshop, Phil Goldberg will give a talk and booksigning on his newest book, “The Life of Yogananda.”


Let the Fest in celebration of the Best (of East and West) begin!


Nayaswamis Hriman & Padma


Thursday, May 31, 2018

Message and Messenger: the Return of the "Spokes of the Wheel" to Ananda's work

What is the outward, public work of Ananda? Are we promoting Yogananda-ism? Or, are we about Communities? Do we represent a new paradigm of living that blends ideals with practicality? That substitutes cooperation for competition? That replaces exploitation with harmony and sustainability? That promotes simple living over acquiring ever more possessions? That encourages moderation and self-control over heedless self-indulgence?

It has been oft been repeated, indeed, stated by Paramhansa Yogananda himself, that a world spiritual teacher has a dual mission: to liberate the souls of close disciples, and, to uplift humanity at large.

We see this even in the life of Jesus. In the gospels where the disciples chide Jesus for speaking in parables, Jesus makes it clear the distinction between those who hear but don’t understand (the public at large) and those who are his own (disciples).

When Swami Kriyananda founded Ananda there were two distinct aspects to his personal ministry at that time: communities, and, hatha yoga. This was not a coincidence. Both were interests of Yogananda that Self-Realization Fellowship Inc. did not foster.

But there is another aspect to Ananda’s work that is embedded in its founder’s spiritual ‘DNA.’ He himself told audiences often that when he read the “Autobiography of a Yogi” and travelled immediately to Los Angeles by bus from New York City in 1948, he had two intentions: one, personal soul-freedom; the other, to share these teachings with others.

Swamiji often said that the twin children of his soul’s desire were offspring that were at odds: being a hermit and sharing the teachings. Sharing the teachings won, hands-down. 

Interestingly, the same is said of our guru, Paramhansa Yogananda. Yogananda wanted to flee to the Himalayas in his early life until he embraced his divine mission to serve publicly. The tension, if that’s what one calls it, co-existed uneasily in the lives of each of them.

As it should, in fact, in our lives as well. The one supports and nurtures the other. Yes, history is filled with would-be and de facto saints who lived alone. But, truth-be-told, these are outnumbered statistically with saints in, but not of, the world. But, no matter: the age in which WE live is one, we are told, where bringing “Spirit to life” is the leading spiritual impulse and dharma.

Swami Kriyananda spent his public life writing, lecturing and editing, even as his guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, instructed him. Swamiji described his work specifically in the twin terms of outreach into daily life balanced by the inner life. He wrote books, plays and music on subjects such as leadership, education, marriage, astrology, architecture, time travel, different cultures and countries of the world, and even politics. He also wrote commentaries on the great scriptures of East and West. He wrote church ceremonies for weddings, christenings, funerals, “confession,” and a glorious Sunday worship Service imbued with poetry, song, an imaginative metaphor-story, and a deep personal blessing.

Even in the last phase of his life which, perhaps we could say began with his move to India and the founding of Ananda’s work there, during which he donned the robe, mantle, and persona of the Indian swami (and what in India would be called a guru even if not a true, or sat, guru), he wrote a masterpiece course called “Material Success through Yoga Principles!”

Nonetheless, in this last phase of life he entered fully the being-ness and garb of a disciple of a great master, the avatar Paramhansa Yogananda.

For perhaps this reason, and unquestionably other reasons as well, after Swamiji’s passing in 2013, Ananda’s work worldwide has emphasized discipleship to Paramhansa Yogananda. A cursory review of the many websites worldwide would show this clearly. Nor was this a change or a new phase. The central ministry of Ananda based in California has long offered courses in the teachings towards the goal of kriya yoga (the essence of discipleship). So long as Swamiji did the spokes, the heart of Ananda was free to emphasize kriya yoga and discipleship.

During the active and public lives of both Swami Kriyananda and Paramhansa Yogananda, their topics, lessons, and teachings were for the “man on the street,” Mr. Everyman. Overcoming nervousness, becoming a success in business, choosing the right partner in marriage or business, vegetarian recipes for health, healing techniques and much more.

But during the last 50 years of Ananda, the heart of Ananda focused primarily on discipleship and kriya while Swamiji toured, lectured and wrote of “applied spirituality.” Now that Swami Kriyananda is no longer in the body, the question remains: will we offer the “spokes of the wheel” (as Swamiji called the more practical, public, how-to-live teachings) on an equal basis? Or, are we simply proponents of Yogananda-ism?

To the rescue of the public aspect of Yogananda’s work (and by extension, Ananda’s) comes the offer from highly-placed individuals in India to establish an Institute precisely for this purpose! Since 2013, I have spoken privately to friends of my concern that the spokes of the wheel will fall off the hub unless we consciously energize it. As if in answer to my personal prayer, and, far more importantly, in answer to the obvious dharma of Ananda, has come a powerful reminder and (presumably) opportunity.

Sometime around 1989, Swamiji hired a small plane from Grass Valley (a half hour away from Ananda’s original and largest community, Ananda Village) to fly to Portland, Oregon. With him, he took two couples. Padma and I were one of the couples. Our mission was to see a building in downtown Portland that could be the headquarters of Crystal Clarity, Publishers. Padma was the director of publishing and Swamiji was in the heyday of his writing the spokes of the wheel. Publishing was growing, but it was also facing silent but effective resistance from the residential community and management at Ananda Village. This was no dark and evil plot. Rather, it was the growing pains and relative interests of various parties.

Publishing was symbolic and energetically expressive of Swamiji’s public ministry. Its products had nothing to do with life at Ananda Village. Life there was always a struggle, financially and otherwise, as it was also for the outreach ministry, including publishing. 

Publishing’s need for funds and personnel sometimes ran headlong into the needs of the Village and its departments and businesses and need to cover overhead expenses.

Without ever expressing it (in my presence, at least), it seems obvious that Swamiji was purposely contemplating relocating the “spokes” ministry away from the Village and out into a city. Perfectly understandable, in fact. 

As we walked this large, old, and almost prison-like building in Portland, the two couples had to contemplate family life (with children) in this hulking edifice in downtown Portland. Thankfully for us, Swamiji decided against it. He, too, was turned off by its institutional vibration.

The point of the exercise, however, was, and remains lost on the minds of Ananda residents there; and, I should add, for good reason. Ananda Village is the spiritual origin, center, and heart of Ananda’s work. Swamiji wants its vibration to remain high and pure as much as possible. It makes perfect sense that the spokes ought to be and go “out.” But has it died on the very vine that should nurture it?

Years later, and not long before Swamiji’s passing, (2011?), a large rural facility was acquired by the members of Ananda in Portland. (Portland, again, you see!) It had been, decades before, a boarding high school run by Seventh Day Adventists. Swami Kriyananda was supportive of its acquisition. How much he said about it I don’t know beyond what I heard him say. But his emphasis each time was upon the facility’s use for what Yogananda called a “Yoga University.” He did not see it as another Ananda Village community. Yogananda himself decades ago spoke of the need for such places of public instruction and experimentation where yoga precepts and practices could be offered to “everyman.”

By whatever term one might use, and for my purposes at present, this facility (Laurelwood Academy), I believe, symbolized for Swamiji the same basic thrust that our adventure to downtown Portland represented for him: a place where the how-to-live teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda could be explored and shared. Illustrative of what seems to me to have been his obvious intention is the simple fact that at that time, Swamiji asked the Ananda College to move from Ananda Village to this new facility. Coincidence? Deja vu?

As an aside and in respect to a topic not quite in the centre of my own experience to comment upon is our thriving and successful centre in Italy: Ananda Assisi. It is my impression, or, ok, opinion, that its success has been in direct proportion to its emphasis on the universality of raja yoga. Europe is even more inclined, I feel, to be drawn to the language of academic-style instruction, and through the efforts of a few key leaders there, this has developed and matured. And, there are, of course, deeply committed and attuned disciples at the heart of this work.

Here in Seattle, I associate our success (outwardly speaking) with the concomitant success of our long-running Raja Yoga Intensive. When I took it over in 1994 it was attended by just a handful of students. But over the years I purposely emphasized its universal aspects and made no effort whether by intention or word to use the course as an integral part of training in kriya yoga (aka discipleship) even if, at the same time, the course was a prerequisite for kriya training. 

Consequently and not surprisingly only a relatively small percentage of its graduates (maybe, 15%) went on to kriya training. Among those who did, there were some who acknowledged that they would never have gone forward had their raja course experience been oriented around kriya. They needed time and practice before the resonating vibration of the path of kriya yoga emerged in their consciousness.

So here Ananda is with this invitation coming from India (of all places—where discipleship is its "mother's milk") to establish just such an institute. We are being rescued from our own impulse to promote Yogananda-ism to sharing the message (not just the messenger) in our public service.

In the Seattle area, we established the Institute of Living Yoga just after the new blue-roofed temple was built. Our initial offerings of course curricula in how-to-live areas did not at that time take hold. Instead, the teacher training courses (yoga and meditation) did. But the time is coming when we can expand our offerings. In part this is because we have matured; our acceptance and recognition in the community has expanded; and, we built a separate structure specifically for the Institute.

The disadvantage of this beautiful eight-sided, blue roof tiled dome is that it speaks the language of discipleship. Visitors enter the building, curious but cautious, wondering if they are allowed to visit, despite the fact that our simple wooden sign announces “All are Welcome.” Each visitor says the same thing: “I have been driving by here for years and wondered what this was.” It feels private. The building is set far from the street: away from the “man on the street” and away from the busy marts which surround us. This is lovely. It is right. But it speaks to the “hermit not the householder.”

By contrast, the Yoga Hall, as we call it, is close to the street. Its simple design is at once elegant and refined while yet familiar and inviting.

For those of younger or at least a newer generation drawn to Ananda’s work, a pioneering opportunity is needed. We have wondered, and, indeed, our newer members have also wondered: “What can I do? How can I contribute?” They see the founding generation of the Ananda communities as having struggled against great odds, blessed by the living presence, friendship, and guidance of Ananda’s founder in his younger, more approachable years. “But what about us?”

It is no coincidence, you see, that the “mission of the spokes” is calling to us. This part of “Master’s” great work can be theirs. Of course, newer members also need to go deep and become grounded in their discipleship lest what they share is not of this ray (of spiritual vibration sent by Yogananda and his lineage).

There should always be a dynamic tension, or play, between the outer and inner man and soul. God did not manifest this creation in order to condemn it, but to offer the opportunity to pierce its veil of maya that we might see “God alone.” We cannot achieve moksha, liberation, by fleeing from our karma or the creation (one and the same thing). 

Meditation, devotion and divine attunement are of the soul. If we go out into the world driven by egoic impulses, past habit or karma, we may achieve good karma but we, relatively speaking, only postpone our liberation. But if we deepen our attunement and act in harmony with the divine will, our public service will accelerate our liberation and be able to spiritual uplift others towards their own.

Joy to you!

Swami Hrimananda!

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

"It is more blessed to give" - Stories of Faith & Finances

In June 1976, a forest fire swept through the rustic Ananda World Brotherhood Village near Nevada City, CA and destroyed virtually all the modest homes of its residents. The fire was caused by a faulty spark arrestor on a County operated vehicle. After the fire, Swami Kriyananda (founder of the community) wrote to the County Supervisors informing them that Ananda would not sue the County (even though neighbours did and they received reimbursed damages).

Prior to the fire, the community was in a process of working with the County to upgrade its buildings and infrastructure to be in conformance with county building and other codes. But after the fire, with all the homes now gone, it meant that there were no longer any existing homes that could be “grandfathered” in even though they were non-conforming. All new construction would have to be up to code. This was a second one-two punch but one that couldn’t be avoided.

These circumstances forced the young community to put out even more energy and while the result in future years was to be a more beautiful and functional community, at the time it wasn’t easy.

When I arrived a year or so after that fire, in 1977, there were “no homes and fewer jobs!” About 40 of Ananda’s members moved to town temporarily. Padma and I rented a small cabin (in a rundown former motel) on the edge of nearby Nevada City. For employment, Padma and I started an accounting practice which we also saw as a benefit to the community and the businesses it would need to create to generate income for rebuilding.

In that wake of the fire, Ananda Community established several new businesses in Nevada City and Grass Valley (“twin” cities): a health food store and cafĂ©; a commercial print shop; and, a clothing and gift store.

It took a few years for homes to be built at the Village community thirty minutes from town. There were so many of us in town that the Village Council at Ananda Community felt to establish a seat on the council to represent the contingency of members living “in town.”

One day we were notified that a few of our members had organized a meeting at the Ananda Meditation Retreat to discuss new directions around our relationship to money. It was a 45-minute drive from Nevada City to the Retreat. The last three miles are on deeply rutted dirt and gravel road. We traversed this each Sunday to attend the weekly Service.

I don’t recall the month or year of this meeting, but my best guess is somewhere between 1979 and 1981. One of the organizers, Shivani Lucki, had evidently read a book or two on the practice and principles behind tithing. This was a new concept to most of us and as community residents (those who worked for community departments or businesses) earned perhaps $150 per month, the thought of donating from these earnings was, shall we say, a novel idea.

Nonetheless, the spirit and enthusiasm carried the evening and with faith and enthusiasm, the community’s residents pledged to experiment with tithing as a form of spiritual practice (sadhana).

Looking back some years later, it is clear that it was from this day forward that slowly, steadily and increasingly, financial resources began to flow. And that was not all; attunement began to flow more abundantly as well. Mind you, Divine Mother never gave us more than we (as individuals or the community) needed at any given moment (and often at the very last possible moment!) but, nonetheless, houses were built; jobs were created and sustained; the school for children was expanded; and, eventually, the retreat  center moved from its rustic roots six miles away to a parcel of land adjacent to the community, occupying a newly built facility.

The tithing experiment was so inspiring for individuals that we decided that to ask the various branch departments of the community to tithe from their revenues back to the “General Fund” which provided overhead services and support for ministerial outreach. Even though these departmental tithes were more akin to a kind of administration fee, the spirit was one of tithing.
There was another challenge to the spirit of community residents that took place after the fire. Some residents wanted to re-direct funds from resident member dues away from subsidizing the costs of operating a year-round retreat and use them instead for rebuilding. The idea was to close the retreat during the slower winter months.

On the surface, this proposal appeared to be practical but in reality, Swami Kriyananda, our founder and spiritual guide, countered our material pragmatism with energetic and spiritual pragmatism. The solution to challenges, he explained, was to put out more energy, not less. We should serve the public more, not less and in all cases at all times keep our doors open to serve the public!

His solution, then, was to initiate a nationwide lecture tour which he themed “`The Joy Tour.” In this, he intended to share the principles and practices of “Saying ‘Yes’ to life” with energy and joy as the only way to find true and lasting happiness! And, to top it off, he wanted to bring upwards a dozen community residents on the tour with him to assist and sing the music.
For this, we would need money—lots of it (by our standards) for travel, lodging, meals, hall rentals and advertising! A national tour with a dozen people is no small financial commitment.

Not having any such funds, we borrowed it. Never mind that we didn’t have a clue how we would ever repay it. The lesson was all about energy, joy, and service in the effort to share the teachings we were trying to live. And, the rest, as we say, is history. The tour touched people’s hearts and one-by-one, individuals travelled west to join the community. True, it wasn’t a stampede and yes, it took a few years but the community grew and the loan was eventually repaid.

What did we learn through these experiences? Well, here are just a few suggestions that you might find helpful in your life too.
  • ·        If you need money, understand that “money is energy.” Put out the energy to find a job. Paramhansa Yogananda gave this counsel to the public during the 1930’s Great Depression: “If I needed a job,” he thundered, “I would turn the world upside down to find one.”

  • ·         So long as you’re still job hunting, don’t be idle: put out the energy to help and serve others: even if as a volunteer.

  • ·         If your income is less than you feel you need, be generous! Don’t wait until you “win the lottery!” Share a percentage of whatever you earn with others. While any worthwhile charity, cause or individual counts, those of us who are seeking Self-realization should consider giving back to the source of our inspiration in order to share the spiritual blessings we have received.

  • ·         In the life and teachings of Yogananda, and in the history Ananda, we have never simply been given in advance the resources required. We had to serve first in order to attract what was needed into our lives both personally and as in our service to God and gurus. Yogananda started numerous small businesses to set the example of “how-to-live.” Ananda, too, has been blessed with the necessity to make our ideals practical in daily life by starting numerous businesses and service organizations as an integral part of practicing and sharing our ideals. The reasons for this may be many but one of them is that for Dwapara Yuga the inspiration is to bring “Spirit to work” (into daily life).

  • ·         A life of faith and devotion necessarily invites us to go beyond our material comfort zone. We must avoid presumption but we cannot avoid living with faith if we are a true devotee. Faith requires we stretch ourselves.

  • ·         We recommend the practice of tithing a percentage of your gross income (before expenses). You can start with a small percentage but not too small! (10% is customary but only a suggestion.) Experiment. Give yourself (and Divine Mother) a window of opportunity such as a few months, for example, to test your faith and resolve. Don’t look for financial gain as a consequence of your giving; nor yet, recognition. Your “gain” will be a hundredfold but not necessarily in-kind but in-spirit: calmness, inspiration, creativity, joy, and devotion. At the same time, and use as a prescription as needed if your faith ever falters: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all these things (your material needs, included) will be added unto you.” Divine Mother will never let you down, though She will remember from time to time to test you.

  • ·         Swami Kriyananda lived entirely by faith. He never saved for rainy days. He lived entirely on what Divine Mother offered. When, so long ago, he heard about the community’s experiment in tithing, he chuckled (hearing of the 10% idea): “It’s ALL God’s!” he was reported to have said (though he very much approved of our experiment).

These tests were precious lessons which have changed our lives and opened our hearts to being guided by faith and guidance. We pray that sharing these stories will inspire you, too, to live ever more by faith and joy.

Joy to you!

Friday, May 25, 2018

How Do We Know We Know?

Dear Friends, this excerpt is from the book by Swami Kriyananda, Intuition for Starters, from the first chapter, “What is Intuition & Where Does it Come from?

“When we look at the world around us, we find a celebration of life in the universe – shining through the stars, singing through the birds, laughing through children, and dancing with the wind in the trees. With all this beauty and diversity surrounding us, we sometimes yearn to feel more a part of it all. We want to sing in harmony with the “music of the spheres.” What happens all too often, alas, is merely that we add discord by adhering adamantly to our own ego-generated notes.
We’ve all seen groups of little children singing. There’s usually one child who has no idea of the melody being sung, but he or she wants so desperately to be a part of the activity, that he sings enthusiastically whatever notes he likes, adding charm, if not harmony, to the music. Perhaps less innocently than that child, we intrude our private wishes saying, “I want the world to be this way,” or, “Come on, everybody, let’s do it my way.” In consequence, the world is full of disharmony, and we hear the cacophony on all sides.
How may we tune into the greater symphony of life? A friend of mine, when confronted with any new situation, approaches the problem this way: He asks, “What is trying to happen here?” How often do we insist, instead, on changing reality to meet our own desires? In the process, we lose sight of the overall purpose. We struggle to make sense of life segment by segment instead of as an overall flow. Viewing everything fragmentarily, like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, no coherent picture emerges, no path, and no direction to guide our understanding.
There is a way for us to find that path, however – to feel a part of that greater reality, and therefore to know what is right for us as individuals. That way involves opening ourselves and becoming receptive to higher potentials of consciousness within ourselves and thereby of living in harmony with the world around us. It involves developing our own inner sense of intuitive guidance.
Intuition is the innate ability in everyone to perceive truth directly – not by reason, logic, or analysis, but by a simple knowing from within. That is the very meaning of the word “intuition”: to know, or understand from within – from one’s own self, and from the heart of whatever one is trying to understand. Intuition is the inner ability to see behind the outer forms of things to their inner essence…….”
Note: Meditation is the single most effective means through which to develop our intuitive faculty, our 6th Sense! This is especially true in the last part of meditation when we end techniques and sit still in the silence in order to attune our consciousness to superconsciousness.
You can obtain your copy of Intuition for Starters at the East West Bookshop nearest you or any Ananda Center or directly from the publisher at https://www.crystalclarity.com/shop/books/intuition-for-starters/




Saturday, May 19, 2018

"Good Morning Great Souls!" -- Happy Birthday, Swami Kriyananda (May 19 1926)


With these words, Swami Kriyananda would greet the young devotees who traveled with him on his lecture and music tours. As Devi Novak (and others) would remark, "What ME? Great Soul?" "Yes," he was saying: "YOU!"

Swamiji also is quoted saying "If you want to know me, listen to my music." And while he insisted the music of Ananda wasn't 'his' but was given to him by our guru's grace, he was nonetheless the channel: a channel prepared by the self-effort of many incarnations attuned to the "music channel" but also willing to BE a CHANNEL for divine attunement.

Today, May 19, 2018, Swami Kriyananda would have been 92 years old and his spiritual child, Ananda worldwide, is reaching towards its 50 year mark. Today, then, let us reflect with gratitude that we would not be here together devotees were it not for the life and attunement of Swami Kriyananda. 

I am not alone in speculating that had Ananda not existed I would probably not have found a means of service, attunement and discipleship through any other outward means. I do not want to imagine where I would be: not where on the planet but where in my heart and mind. And what about my countless friends here in Seattle and far, far abroad? Would we have found one another? Not likely.

If you say to yourself, "Gee, others knew Swamiji so well, but I never did." To you, I (and others like me) say to you: "As you have experienced Ananda and have gotten to know us, you have met Swami Kriyananda." A poor substitute, I agree, but a reality nonetheless for the simple reason that on Sundays many of you hear his music, listen to his readings and affirmation, and are blessed by the inspiration of the Festival of Light. 

Others see him on internet TV or are blessed by the acharyas throughout India. In Europe, at the Ananda Center near Assisi, Italy we have a dynamic community and center of leaders, residents and members whose lives are infused by Swamiji's vibration.

In America, the members of Ananda are legion yet while the heart and birth of this work is centered at Ananda Village. There a temple is being built for generations to come to honor and share Yogananda's teachings and living presence, and the legacy of Swami Kriyananda's discipleship. 

Swamiji insisted that his personality was not him just as it is not you nor I. And for those many of you who have been blessed to know, see and hear Swamiji's successors, Nayaswami Jyotish and Nayaswami Devi, you know that attunement and vibration far exceed the attributes of personality for in them one feels Swamiji's blessings and presence.

A few days ago some thirty to forty leaders (and future leaders in training) from Ananda centers and communities around the world gathered at Ananda Village to have satsang, meditation, and share current events and future plans. This work of Ananda--part of the work of Paramhansa Yogananda and the line of masters who sent him--WILL go on through those of you who now and in the future are inspired to serve, study, and support the work and one another in meditation and devotion. 

I doubt we can fully appreciate the impact of Paramhansa Yogananda on world history. It's far too early. Yogananda left this world only 66 years ago. What was the work of Jesus Christ like a mere 66 years after his resurrection?

Am I making one of those messianic claims one hears too often in religion or politics? I don't think so because our guru enjoys a reputation throughout the world unparalleled by any modern spiritual teacher. From India, yes. But Hindu? No. Not only did be make friends all over the world long before that was the norm it is today, but his teachings apply to all aspects of daily life and not just to monastics.

Many years ago, in 1960-61, Swami Kriyananda enthusiastically and energetically elicited the support of Jawalahar Nehru and his daughter Indira (Gandhi) to build a temple and ashram in Delhi based on the inclusivity principles for which India is well known. At the moment of the project's final acceptance, Swamiji's dreams were dashed by his expulsion from Yogananda's organization.

Now, like a phoenix rising, Ananda has been asked to play a key role in establishing an Institute in how-to-live principles based on the universal ideals and practical yoga techniques which are India's gift to the world.  

As if a dream, the proposed location of this institute lies upon a hill overlooking Delhi upon which will reside an iconic temple and the grounds of the future institute. 

Another, smaller but sweeter dream has also materialized: this one at Swamij's home at Ananda Village in California. Long ago, when Ananda Village was still scraping and scrapping to even exist in the forests and meadows of rural Nevada County (CA), Swamiji visioned his home at the Crystal Hermitage at Ananda Village as one alive with beauty. Last month, some 12,000 visitors came to see the tulips, flowers, scenery, and gardens of the Crystal Hermitage. Who among us could have ever foreseen this simple, sweet dream come true?

Thank you, Swamiji: we are your spiritual children and our hearts open in blessing and gratitude for the gift to us and to all of your service and attunement to our guru.

Happy Birthday, Swamiji!

     Hriman & Padma





Thursday, March 29, 2018

Easter Thoughts 2018 - Resurrect Hope, Joy, and the Promise of Immortality

Boy, oh boy, can humanity use a resurrection of high ideals, integrity, compassion and, yes, even reason! Better than reason is the intuitive knowing that "We are One!"

We are told that this isn't going to happen, at least not permanently. Why? Because this world can only perpetuate itself based on the ebb and flow of opposites: war and peace, love and hate, hot and cold, friend and foe, health and sickness, life and death.

We're stuck with it but does that mean we sink into abject passivity? Absolutely not. We must fight the good fight. Why? Well, do you think you'd be happier "sinking into passivity?" If so, why not just get it over with and you-know-what (end your misery).

Obviously this solution is not desirable for in its direction there is no happiness to be found. Besides, not only does "hope Spring eternal" but "love makes the world go 'round."

Gandhi was not the first to notice that even in the midst of hate, disease, and war, love and peace persist. If not, as he pointed out, humanity would have perished long ago. 

Besides, how do we feel when "Spring flowers give way to May showers!" Not only are we in the Pacific northwest inured to rain (as a near constant) but everywhere rain has its gentle (and admittedly also destructive) and refreshing aspects.

Easter and its costume of Spring flowers (ok, in the northern hemisphere) sends a powerful message to our heart's natural love that "night is followed by day." It cannot be otherwise. 

But the message of unending rounds of hope and despair, light and darkness is not especially a reassuring one. Were it not for a deeper truth of which the outer is but a reminder, it would be as much cause for despair as for hope. There is a deeper message because our deeper nature yearns for stability, for eternity, for an end to the "wheel of samsara."

The resurrection of the body of Jesus Christ, however remote the event seems to our daily lives, is a dramatic statement that there is an end game to life. It is NOT however the end game of more duality, as in the perverse teaching of eternal damnation vs eternal salvation. [Note: reports also exist of the physical resurrection of the bodies of other great saints. Yogananda's own guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar, e.g., appeared to him in physical form months after his body was buried in the sands of Puri, India.]

As there is only One God, there is only ONE ending. "Hear O Israel, the Lord, the Lord our God is ONE! In Sanskrit, "Tat twam asi!" (Thou art That: the eternal Brahma.)

But given time, which to our experience seems to made of eternity itself, it is we who choose to leave the stream of mortality, life and death to enter the eternal Oneness of God's bliss. This Bliss is our home from which we were created and to which we are destined to return. 

It is no fanciful decision or act, like swiping one's credit card to make a purchase. The hypnosis of the "entrenched vitality of our mortal delusion" (Swami Kriyananda's description of the Kundalini, see his landmark text, "Art & Science of Raja Yoga, Chapter 12) is deeply embedded in the duality of countless lives, long before even achieving the human level. 

Enter the guru! Those who have gone before us, Christ-like masters of life and death (Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, Yogananda and others), reincarnate to be way-showers. Not just appealing to our intellect but to our hearts. And not just offering flowery appeals to our higher nature, but transmitting spiritual power: the same power that can demonstrate resurrection of the dead. As the beloved disciple of Jesus wrote, "As many as received Him to them gave He power to become the sons of God."

Because time has no absolute reality, the fact of this being a process requiring many lifetimes is not the bar or hurdle that it might appear to be to our human experience. Infinity or Oneness exists side by side, indeed at the heart of duality: at the heart of perpetual motion is perpetual peace (without motion). This is the value and purpose of daily meditation: to enter the portals of the temple of peace which is our own nature, cohabiting the body temple.

Easter, then, is a celebration. It is not only a Christian holiday. It is a universal celebration and affirmation, a promise of immortality, without which life grinds us unto death.

At any moment of every day, you can stop, look up, quiet your mind and your heart, and peer through the veil of duality into the priceless peace of Eternity. Meditate on the lives and the eyes of the great masters: harbingers of God's promise of immortal bliss.

Conquer by self-effort and discipline your weakness and attachments; your sensuality and egoism. Throw off the rags of spiritual poverty and put on the robes of your royal Soul. Imagine you are as old as God. You are the immortal Atman, the Soul-Self.

Happy Easter to all!

Swami Hrimananda

Monday, March 5, 2018

“Maha-Samadhi” Celebration!


Each year on March 7, we celebrate the earthly passing of two 20th century spiritual giants: Paramhansa Yogananda (March 7, 1952), and his guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar (March 9, 1936). Ours is a joyful celebration (rather than mournful) because their exit from the human body was both known beforehand and was without loss of conscious awareness. 

Maha-samadhi” (The “great” or “final” Samadhi) refers to the state of consciousness of a great saint who enters the ecstatic state of soul-bliss as a part of the process of consciously leaving their physical body. This is not a decision by the ego but a form of cooperation with the divinely guided impulses of their own soul (rather than the enforced compulsions of personal karma).

Why is this a celebration? Is it only to honor their achievement? No, not at all. We celebrate this event because their conscious and bliss-guided exit represents for us “the promise of our soul’s immortality!” Many great saints of east and west have had the blessing of mahasamadhi. While a peaceful death is a blessing and a grace experienced by many good and saintly people, it is not the same as mahasamadhi.

All life partakes in the divine essence of God’s eternal bliss: the foundation of all creation. Bliss is the vibrationless essence at the heart of all change and motion. As through (especially) meditation we grow in our identification with our eternal Self, the Atman, we too will one day pass through the portals of life and death in conscious, blissful awareness. This conscious bliss is already existent within us and all creation.

May the joy of your soul light your path to inner freedom!

Swami Hrimananda

P.S. Ananda centers around the world and centers by other organizations for whom Yogananda is their guru will celebrate the the mahasamadhis of Yogananda and Sri Yukteswar this coming week on or around March 7-9. For those in Seattle area, ours is Wednesday, March 7, meditation 5.45 and program 7 p.m. www.AnandaWA.org


Monday, February 5, 2018

Unreal News : Meditation : the Laser Lens of the Truth Seeker.

Swami Kriyananda (1926-2013), founder of the worldwide network of intentional communities known as "Ananda," remarked occasionally that in the future, looking back over the last fifty years, the Ananda communities (and, in general, the intentional communities movement) would be one of the most important trends of our times.

And yet, for those of us who have been living and serving in such communities these last nearly fifty years, it is obvious that society at large is largely uninterested. 

We hear now often (2017-2018) the newly re-minted phrase, "fake news." But I remember when, perhaps twenty years ago, Swami Kriyananda casually remarked that most of the daily news is little better than gossip. At that time I was not entirely convinced. But over the years as I have listened or read more carefully I have come to realize how often his label of "gossip" is accurate. (For this purpose I would say that "gossip" can include speculation and mere opinion, as opposed to objectively verifiable facts or balanced and insightful explanations of current events.)

The truth of history includes the simple fact that the daily news isn't really history, nor are the headlines necessarily the key events of history. It is true that an event like September 11, 2001 will go down in history like 1492, 1776 or 1096 but these are markers, mostly for children to pass their exams or for historians and the public to bookmark into their mental timeline in order to demonstrate their (superficial) grasp of historical events.

Many gasp, moan and groan over the antics and worse of the sitting president of the United States, a trumpet player, if I'm not mistaken. Many have told me that they no longer pay much attention to the daily news as it is largely meaningless hot hair, oops, I mean hot air.

Taking the question of "What is true and what is important?" into a different direction, the art and science of meditation offers us a deeper insight into what is true--for us. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali offer a clinical evaluation of the stages of consciousness that unfold when our awareness is turned inward to seek the "what" and the "who" is behind our thinking and feeling. 

Mindfulness and introspection might reveal more about what we really think and feel but these, alone, do not reveal "who is thinking and feeling." We might answer that by saying "I" but who is this "I"?

If you answer again by restating that this "I" is the body, gender, age, opinions, thoughts and feelings, it may be the customary answer but it ignores the fact that each one of these things is subject to change and subject to many external influences which also change. Nowadays you can even change your gender! But certainly your body ages and your opinions and feelings change all the time, especially as the years go by. But the "I" is still "I" no matter WHAT the opinion, age, health or gender.

Most people would stop there and just say, well, that's right! "I change my opinions and that's who I AM." Well, ok, if you insist upon it, who am I to argue? However this definition of "I" doesn't really go to the heart of the "I," the undifferentiated bedrock of "I-ness". 

Who is it that peers out from behind the eyes? From behind the opinions? From behind the senses and the body? Who is this I who sleeps at night and reawakens each day refreshed and the same?

Whether for purposes of survival or because we are interested, it's perfectly understandable that we participate in the daily news; that we learn about history (whether our family, nationality, race, etc.) or the world. But all of this is vicarious: it's second or third hand or even far, far more removed. 

We can't really answer why the daily tweets of the presidential trumpet intrigue us (or not); or why we are fascinated with wars of the past; the history of art and fashion or science; romance novels; making furniture; or any number of other countless hobbies and interests. 

All we can say is that certain topics hold our interest. But if we were to introspect on our interests we might find that behind them are deeper, if all too human, impulses, emotional needs, or compulsions.

None of these offer a clue, however, to the consciousness of the "I" which, properly trained, can remain the observer of all our thoughts, emotions, and actions. Who is it that observes that "I am reading a book about Winston Churchill?" Or that "I am typing 'I am typing'?"

The irony behind the inquiry (called the art and science of meditation) to observe the Observer is that the long-term consequence of this daily habit is the gradual revelation of objective reality, not just subjective reality. 

Now what IS objective reality? Is it the trumpet in that white house? It could be if you happen to live or work there but otherwise, probably not. Objective reality is whatever you focus your perceptive powers upon, but with this caveat: the strength of your perceptive power determines the clarity of the image. 

"Strength" here includes calmness; non-attachment; lack of emotional charge. Stanza two of the Yoga Sutras tells us that to the degree that our perceptive power operates with a steady gaze devoid of superficial reactions of attraction or repulsion in relation to self-interest, our perceptions sharpen towards objectivity. And when the power of perception turns in upon itself, observing it-Self, it begins to acquire a super-human, laser-like power that, as it approaches its penultimate power, transcends time, space, matter, energy and consciousness itself. 

As an object approaching the speed of light is said to become infinite in mass, so it is said that as awareness approaches crystal clarity (transcendent of form, thought, emotion, or condition), it approaches the God-state of omniscience, omnipotence, and infinity.

"As above, so below" says the Hermetic doctrine. As our power of perception clarifies we begin to know by instant intuition that which is true and meaningful to us. It may not be ours to expound the deeper mysteries of space or the atom, or to live in a white house, but it may be ours to know what to say to a friend in need; how to best care for ourselves; to accomplish a worthwhile goal; to complete a project; to work harmoniously with other people; to feel confidence, calmness, and courage; and, at last to know God as our own, true Self.

Meditation sharpens our intuitive "I." But it must be more than merely mindfulness: that is, watching our thoughts go by. It must turn in upon it-Self. What it discovers in this journey is often described but, in truth, can only be known by I AM.

And on that note, I AM finished!

Swami Hrimananda








Sunday, January 14, 2018

Did God Create the World? Or, Did God Become the World?

Did God Create the World? Or, Did God Become the World?

For Ananda members worldwide who share the weekly readings from our founder’s book, “Rays of the One Light,**” we begin each year with Vedic teachings on how the world (universe) was made. (**Written by Swami Kriyananda) 

Paramhansa Yogananda came from India to the west and spoke of God becoming the world rather than merely “making” it as if He went out procured the basic materials from somewhere or something outside Himself. From the standpoint of sheer logic, it makes somewhat more sense, that God would create from within and through his own consciousness. But how? “How can something have come out of nothing?”

If God is pure Consciousness, how can consciousness produce material objects? Well, let us pause to ask, “How do I create things?” Isn’t it something like this: an idea comes to us (from nowhere, right?). We like the idea and begin to chew on it, often enthusiastically. We think about how to bring this idea into manifestation. We think about shape, materials, color, location, even the financial funding.

Our ideas have the benefit of hardware stores and other ways of procuring the materials needed to manifest our ideas. But God didn’t have this benefit. So, let’s keep exploring.

If God is Consciousness then perhaps the ultimate reality of the universe is a virtual reality. Every night in sleep don’t we create a private universe, very real seeming to us? The only difference is that our dreams are personal to us. They vanish instantly upon waking. Maybe God is dreaming this reality show? Don’t characters in our dreams seem to behave independently of our interests? (Like monsters who chase us?) Ever see the movie, the Matrix? Ever read about scientists’ speculation about multi-verses or parallel realities? And what about the brave new world soon to appear: AI (artificial intelligence). Won’t AI call into question the very nature of consciousness?

You see we humans are exploring and expanding the possibilities of what reality is as science rapidly expands our mental horizons. In one century alone we went from maybe three galaxies to a postulated billions of galaxies.

This makes this God-fellow one mighty big dude! And that’s the point: He’s not a dude at all, at least not in the human sense, along the lines of mythological gods and goddesses, replete with bad moods and naughty deeds.

In splitting the atom and exploring distant galaxies we now routinely accept sources of energy so powerful they defy anything our senses can model. Why not just keep blowing up this energy thing until it is all but infinite? Nothing stopping us if we can imagine it!

The ancient teachings of India, and other traditions, use another explanation to extend the dream metaphor: duality. Known as “maya” or the Measurer and considered to be evil or at least duplicitous (in its impact on our personal consciousness), maya divides the world into opposites and thereby creates the illusion that cold is different than heat, and that men are different than women. By subdividing what would otherwise be perceived as a cosmic unity, we dash about trying to fix things to our liking and avoid things that we don’t like. That apple with the knowledge of good and evil may have appeared tasty but biting into it, scales fall from the eyes of Oneness into duality and all things were seen as different.

In the Book of Genesis, Chapter 2, Adam and Eve suddenly felt self-conscious about their nakedness whereas before they were not. The apple in the center of the garden, Yogananda taught, was the fruit of the tree of sex nerves. Central to the propagation and procreation of maya is sex force without which the cosmic illusion cannot continue. At puberty we bite the apple and encounter the alluring touch of sex temptation. Our childhood innocence is over and our lives begin to take their course into adulthood with more karma generated and more future lifetimes being needed.

The same maya or illusion is experienced nightly in our dreams as well, of course.  

Imagine that the characters in your dream believe that they are separate from the other characters, especially the biggest character in your dream: you! Next imagine that this fact pervades our daytime world as well. Maybe we imagine we are separate and that all the mountains, forests, planets, stars and all these things are real. 

And, being in the dream, they ARE real! It’s only when you wake up that you can say the dream is not real.

When in the dream we cannot pretend the dream isn’t real. We have to act as best we can IN the dream. Only when we awake will the dream vanish.

And what, then, constitutes, being “awake?” Is it the intellectual idea such as we are discussing? No, absolutely not! Freedom means to release our consciousness into the great consciousness of God. 

At present our consciousness is locked in the human body: in the tissues, senses, and the breath. Is there a way to unlock our consciousness?

Yes, of course: glad you asked! We must steadily re-direct our attention from the body (and ego) to the indwelling God consciousness at the heart of our own consciousness. God, in the self, is quiet and still. A reflection, in fact, of the God of Pure Bliss and Consciousness out of which this dream was manifested.

To achieve this, it can be a great help to train the breath and heart to be as still as possible. The heart pump ties the mind (consciousness) to the body and senses. But, as when we are sleeping (a state of partial relaxation of the consciousness away from the senses), we free the mind to soar beyond the human body. 

In meditation this happens intentionally and consciously whereas in sleep we are thrown into the dungeon of sub-consciousness where we have virtually no control of the dream.

Thus it is, to return to the question of “How did God create the universe,” we find that individuals with great powers of concentration can be transmitters of new and history-changing ideas and inventions. It is with their relative attunement to the creative power of God-consciousness that such people do what they do. And, so can you and me, each in our own sphere of karma and dharma.

It’s fun to create things. Even dreaming is enjoyable (usually). Writing stories, creating movies, symphonies, new inventions: creativity draws from the essence of the Blissful Spirit’s factory of creativity! Of course a good story will NEED a villain or it isn’t a very interesting and gripping story. But, let’s not move into the world of evil and suffering as that would take a book to discuss it. Maybe next time.

But now we have peeked under the mask of God’s matrix. Now, with God’s help, we can begin the Journey to Self-Realization. The great show of the universe is a dream of the Creator’s. If we re-direct our attention from our little self to the indwelling and omnipresent great Self of all, we will steadily march towards soul freedom.

Joy in Being!


Nayaswami Hriman