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

Friday, June 23, 2017

Is Your Sun Shining?

The Summer Solstice is here and the sun is shining bright and warm, pouring energy upon us! Brother Sun wants us to be healthy, happy, and grateful for the many blessings that flow to us from our Father-Mother-Beloved Friend: God!

Ask yourself: "What am I radiating outward into the world? Is it happiness? Is it melancholy? Disappointment or fatigue? Love and acceptance? Am I pouring the sunshine of my soul into my work, family, my body, and into my prayers and meditations? Into my yoga practice?"

Summer is the season of outward activity. But inasmuch as the world is always busy, let us also see this outward-bound tendency in its form of getting "out" from the daily grind and being rejuvenated and refreshed by the sunshine of nature: water, sky, wind and sun! 

It continues to surprise me how many people do not think to take a break from their daily routine. Many never take a true vacation: meaning something more than a weekend or day here and a day there. For those of high ideals and energy, vacation isn't a luxury, it is a necessity, for it can provide the distance out of which comes inspiration as well as refreshment. It is a form of non-attachment (to daily duties) and non-attachment is the key to success. Vacation is as much a requirement for success as work. (It isn't, however, equal timewise! Just as hours of sleep are not equal to hours of activity!)

For meditators, there's another form of a "vacation." And, NO! This doesn't mean to stop meditating for a week or so! (Ha, ha!) Indeed, quite the opposite. Nor does this "vacation" substitute for the more traditional one of R&R. 

Devotees need to go on retreat at least once a year. Long term meditators need to take personal and private seclusion time, also once a year. Call retreat and seclusion, a "vacation" from ego and an immersion in soul rejuvenation. Retreats are generally taken with others and may or may not have a program element of learning and deepening some aspect of one's spiritual life or practices. 

Seclusion is personal and private and therefore always in silence. In both cases longer, deeper, and thirsty meditations are sought. So also is time to go deeper into spiritual inspiration from reading and study. Sometimes fasting (usually partial) is helpful as is journaling and being in nature if possible. 

It is summertime for sure. So, I hope you, too, will get out into nature for a hike; camping, boating; relaxing by a river, lake or the shining sea! Drink in the sunshine of divine energy pouring through the sun. 

Since time immemorial the sun has been a symbol of divine energy and presence in the lives of countless peoples everywhere. In our society, those who study the past often say that ancient peoples were “sun worshippers.” Isn’t that view but an assumption? Why should we make that assumption? Giving peoples of the past the benefit of intelligence, we might just as easily assume they viewed the sun as an outward manifestation of God in creation: just as St. Francis did, calling him, Brother Sun!

Paramhansa Yogananda taught that “the sun is a symbol of the spiritual eye.” One who has never had the deeper experience in meditation of the spiritual eye (at the point between the eyebrows) might assume that depictions of the spiritual eye were but symbols of the sun. But Yogananda is saying that it is quite the opposite. Indeed, the appearance of the spiritual eye in meditation in no small way resembles the after-image of the sun! The physical sun of our galaxy is a manifestation of the the divine sun at the heart of every atom.

Let us view our Brother Sun, then, as a divine emissary which in objective fact and in subtler metaphysical truth brings to us life, creativity and energy. Every time you feel His warmth and absorb His healing rays, think of our Heavenly Father who gives us life and health.

As Krishna tells us in the Bhagavad Gita:

If there should rise
Suddenly within the skies
Sunburst of a thousand suns
Flooding earth with beams undeemed-of,
Then might be that Holy One’s
Majesty and radiance dreamed of!

May you be a sunshine of joy to all,

Swami Hrimananda

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Tribute to Swami Kriyananda

This Friday, May 19 is the anniversary of the birth of Ananda’s founder, James Donald Walters, aka Swami Kriyananda in the year 1926, in Rumania. Born to American parents who were living overseas because Swamiji’s father was a geologist for Esso assigned there to search for oil, little “Don” was destined to be a yogi. Swamiji’s autobiography, “The New Path,” chronicles his childhood in Europe, his teen and college years in America on the east coast, and his years with Paramhansa Yogananda in California. Swamiji’s early years were a search for meaning—a journey probably not unlike our own. He had the great blessing to be drawn to and to become a disciple of a God-realized guru. His efforts to find God were multiplied by the grace of God and guru.

Swami Kriyananda was destined even from a young age to be the founder of an intentional community: not just one, but, by the time of his passing in 2013, nine all together. On that day in Beverly Hills in July 1949 that Yogananda declared in a speech to some seven hundred people that this day “marked a new era” and that his words were “registered in the ether, in the Spirit of God” that “youths” would go forth in all directions to establish “colonies” of simple living and high ideals,

Swami Kriyananda was present that day in Beverly Hills and vowed to serve this ideal. Of those seven hundred, only one, Swamiji, took those words to heart. In 1968, Swamiji founded the first “world brotherhood colony:” Ananda Village near Nevada City, CA. In a lifetime of public service, Swami Kriyananda never held himself out to be a guru. His role was that of a disciple doing his best to serve Yogananda’s work and humbly hopeful that he be transformed in the process. He serves then as a role model for generations of disciples.

No other direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda has done so much or been so accessible and intensely active for an entire lifetime in public service to his Yogananda’s work. He traveled often around the world sharing his guru's teachings in talks, interviews, counseling, and wherever he went. Hundreds of pieces of music, one hundred and fifty books, chants, ceremonies, nine communities and so much more. The intangible blessings he shared were even far greater than his outward creative deeds.

Swami Kriyananda used his very good karma to race toward soul freedom. Swamiji once asked his guru, “Master, will I find God in this lifetime?” Yogananda replied, “Yes—death will be the final sacrifice.” Swamiji sometimes wondered why death would be such a sacrifice as he was never conscious of being afraid of death. Indeed, he would sometimes quip that he would welcome the respite from his life of intense activity, burdened all too often by so many obstacles and challenges!

But inasmuch as Yogananda told him that his life would be one of “intense activity, and meditation” perhaps what Yogananda meant was that God would grant him the highest Samadhi—moksha—only at the time of his transition to the astral plane.

After Swamiji’s passing, members and friends from around the world built a lovely, small-scale, eight-sided, blue-tiled “Moksha Mandir” under which Swami’s body was laid to rest. It is open to the public and is located on the grounds of the Crystal Hermitage at Ananda Village, CA. Each year, thousands of people come each year to admire the beauty of the gardens and members come to meditate and pay their respects with gratitude and love.

Beginning this year, Ananda Village will host the first annual Kriyaban Retreat weekend on or around the annual birthday of Swami Kriyananda. Thus some of us will be away this weekend. Nonetheless, this Saturday, May 20, the regularly scheduled 3-hour meditation in Bothell will be divided between meditation (6 to 7:20 p.m.) and a program (7:30 to 9 p.m.) consisting of readings, music, chanting and inspiration to honor the life and blessings of our beloved founder, Swami Kriyananda (1926-2013).

Joy to you,

Nayaswamis Hriman and Padma McGilloway

Monday, March 27, 2017

A Call to Link Arms!

RAIN OF BLESSINGS - to be sent to Ananda members week of March 27:
MARCH 26 2017

A Call to Link Arms
Dear Friends,

Taking action and speaking out is in the air these days. People everywhere are asking, “What is my duty in respect to the suffering or injustices that I see around me? Even some of the recent pilgrims to India, confronted with the poorest of the poor in India, began some serious soul searching about their life choices.

After the presidential election last year, Hriman was invited (along with others in similar positions around the world) to respond to a survey from a researcher and author in Australia on the question of “What would the Bhagavad Gita say?” The book is in draft form at present but the range of views on applying the “Gita” to our times was astonishingly diverse, even polarized! It is not easy to know what is right action (dharma). Quoting the scriptures is not enough. Soul guidance is necessary. And, soul guidance is individual.

The yoga movement and the similarly aligned new thought movement have a long overdue tryst with destiny. Until recent times, one could describe our movement as peaceful but also marginal, having no united voice in society at large. That is destined to change.

It is destined to change because the voice of “oneness” is the obvious (and only) solution to the challenges faced by humanity. Imagine if even 10% of the world’s seven billion people meditated each day, seeking inner peace and higher guidance?

Ananda worldwide is about to launch an initiative which we are calling, “Be the Change!” The solution to life’s challenges and the key to health, prosperity and happiness lie within us. We may be called to be politically active; or engaged in humanitarian efforts, but if our own consciousness remains dominantly ego-active and ego-affirming, even our good intentions and efforts will be tainted. It is tempting to want to change  the world or help the stranger while yet not willing to change oneself or to help those closer to us. For most of us, our dharma is right in front us.

The Bhagavad Gita is indeed a call to arms. Primarily, however, it is an inner, personal battle, yet it is not only that, for it is in this world that we must act. To the degree we act in attunement with soul guidance, our action, that is to say, our “karma,” becomes freeing, which is to say becomes “yoga.”

Nor is our dharma always just personal. There are times in history that groups of people share a dharma. We are entering such a time. No longer should we practice yoga and meditation as a merely private physical, mental or spiritual health regimen. We are being called to “take up arms” in the struggle to share the light of divine blessings through the experience of yoga-meditation. 

For this, Paramhansa Yogananda came to the West. He came to plant the seeds of healing that are needed for the survival and the upliftment of humanity. Nor is it just he as one person. There have been and are others as well. More importantly, it is we, and millions like us, whose united efforts can “be the change” needed in the world today. To “be the change” is not a private matter. It is no longer enough to work for one’s own spiritual growth. 

For meditators who naturally prefer quiet and anonymity, it may be a personal sacrifice to take a stand, but this is a time, like the time of Bhagavad Gita, when we are called to link arms. 

Ananda is one such vehicle where your participation and contribution can make a difference. It may not be ours to know the fruit of our labors, for these we give to the only Doer, the sole Causative Agent: Divine Mother. But the blessings of our self-offering will accrue to the freedom of our souls and to that of others. 

Each Sunday in the Festival of Light we are reminded of the self-same sacrifice that the masters make for the world in returning here to help others.

Joy to you,

Nayaswamis Hriman & Padma

Friday, March 17, 2017

I've Just Returned from a Pilgrimage to India

Two days ago I returned from helping to lead a trip to India for 24 Ananda members and students, most from the Seattle area. I've been many times to India but I would say that this trip was a highlight for me. I think I may, at last, have some perspective on these trips worth sharing.

Here's a few general things that have come clear:
1.    A true pilgrimage always involves "tapasya." Tapasya can, in this case, equate to the hardship and self-sacrifice that is entailed in leaving home, comforts and routine to travel a long distance to a foreign country for the sake of spiritual purification and upliftment. As one of the pilgrims put it, "it's not what you put in the brochure!" Maybe it should be, but we didn't! (We DID talk about it, however.) You can start with the simple fact that it is expensive to take such a trip but that's only one kind of tapasya. There's the discomfort and weariness of travel; the exposure to illness, disease, and general malaise associated with bacteria of a far distant country. There's heat, humidity and coldness: and we had it all, though truthfully, the heat was no by no means extreme, nor the cold, though we were near to literally freezing in the Himalaya (there was an unseaonable snow in Ranikhet). There are unlimited opportunities for annoyances specific to travel and to traveling in groups (where's there's bound to be one or more fellow travelers who get on your nerves).
2.    There's the unrealistic expectation that you are going to go into "samadhi" (a high spiritual state) at these holy shrines or in the presence of saintly people; or, that you might have visions or deep insights into your life's drama or into universal truth. Even though, in fact, you might have such experiences, the issue is one of expectations. What then is a realistic expectation in regards to the spiritual "fruit" of pilgrimage? Let me share some thoughts a little ways further on this very important topic.
3.    The bonds of friendships that derive from sharing meaningful, adventurous and new experiences, both mundane and sublime, cannot be understated. The value of learning patience with others and acceptance of self are enduring, practical, and life-long traits.
4.    Entering into a culture that is so different than one's own is expansive to the mind and heart. The importance of, as one pilgrim put it, "getting out of the bus" (from where we look out at Indian street culture, separate and safe), is paramount to the instinctive impulse in signing on to such a trip. Immersion is what the pilgrim seeks: both material and spiritual. It is empowering to ride local transportation; to visit the homes and families of locals; to learn about their history and way of life, and, more importantly, to experience their way of life: these are also essential. As visitors this is not easy and attempts to induce this integration can be all too false (like tourists attending a luau organized by their five star hotel in Hawaii). There are risks, both to health and person. But making the effort (which takes some courage, common sense, and intuition) is important. Five our pilgrims accepted the auto rickshaw driver's invitation to his home. They were all women. On paper, at least, it was risky, perhaps foolish. But grace and intuition seems to have guided them to a genuine and heart opening experience.
5.    India is changing rapidly. New apartment buildings are rising to surround temples, ashrams, and other sacred sites. Don't put off unnecessarily your inspiration to go on pilgrimage. Our travel to and our devotion to these holy places will help them survive and thrive. The Indian people take notice of our sincere interest in preserving and honoring these holy sites. A culture that historically and instinctively honors saints and sacredness seems wonderfully unusual to us. We may be stunned when we meet an Indian professional man or woman (perhaps in fields such as medicine or technology) who, while well educated and traveled, spontaneously and naturally expresses deep devotion to the guru, deities, or shrines. Same for the rickshaw driver. Either way, we contribute not only to developing our own devotion but preserving theirs by our example and our pilgrimage.
6.    No pilgrim from western countries can avoid the intensity of encountering first hand the contrast and seeming conflict and injustice between luxury and poverty; health and disease; life and death; self-indulgence and hunger, to name a few. To return each night to one's four or five star hotel after walking the streets where trash, hardship, and poverty run amuck is a contrast guaranteed to generate tears of sorrow or guilt, anger at injustice, or worst of all, deadening indifference. 
It is our intention that dictates the consequences. If we go truly on pilgrimage, offering ourselves and any tapasya that comes, into the flames of devotion, self-sacrifice, and desire for soul-freedom (ours and others), then the results are "guaranteed" but not in any way we can or should expect. Non-attachment to the fruits of pilgrimage must be our starting point. 

Spiritual consciousness and insight come "like a thief in the night" Jesus warns us. We must be prepared but not expectant. "Two are working in a field; one is taken, the other remains." This paraphrase of another of Jesus' metaphors reminds us that our consciousness (including intention) is more important than any outward (travel) or position (role). Prayer, meditation, humility, openness, equanimity under stress or success........these reflect the ways we must approach our pilgrimage if its spiritual fruit is to be tasted.

Spiritual blessings from pilgrimage may well be experienced after, even long after, the trip itself. The power to suddenly make important changes in your personal life may be felt almost immediately. For some, time is needed for the seeds of grace planted during the pilgrimage to sprout. The joy of pilgrimage may appear like flowers in the Spring but may not even be noticed by you until you return home when the contrast with your pre-pilgimage state becomes noticeable. Meditating in Babaji’s cave may be, for some, a contemplation of discomfort rather than bliss. But the effort may produce spontaneous wisdom or joy under otherwise challenging circumstances just when you need it most.

When we travelled to the Himalayas to visit Babaji's cave on Drongiri Mountain, northeast of the hill station of Ranikhet, we were met by unseasonable and near winter conditions. Hope of even ascending the path to the cave was silently at stake, potentially crushing our highest hopes. But, all in all, our group remained cheerful and confident regardless of weather conditions. But the following morning dawned bright and sunny, even if still cold. Our climb that day, and the next day's trip back down to the plains, was met with gorgeous, sunny weather!

Every culture has its own tailor-made ways and karmic patterns which produce misery for its people. India is no exception. Once one of the richest countries in former times, centuries of foreign occupation had reduced the subcontinent to the poorest of the poor countries. A rigid class (caste) system nurtured exploitation and prejudice even as it stifled freedom, creativity and energy for far too long. 

But all of this is steadily, even rapidly, changing. One cannot but experience the vibrancy and creativity of modern India. While loss of spiritual values attends growing material prosperity everywhere, it is a necessary stage in India's recovery and in overcoming past karma. Underlying this obvious trend, a pilgrim finds the innate sweetness, kindness, devotion to saints and sacredness, and hospitality very much alive today. India's avatars and saints, nurtured by the native devotion of its people, has, as Yogananda put it in his "Autobiography of a Yogi," bulwarked India against the fates of Egypt, Rome, Greece and other past civilizations.

The pilgrims' discomfort in encountering a culture that tolerates widespread beggary is not so easily resolved or dismissed. Each pilgrim must confront his response to extreme poverty in his or her own way. While we cannot end injustice or hunger by our own individual actions, we mustn't let this reality excuse our own indifference.

Share, then, as or if you feel to do so and under whatever circumstances confront your conscience. There is no one way; no pat response. I've seen the simple act of giving a few "cents" to a beggar create an onrush of fellow beggars grasping and pawing at the hapless foreigner whose confusion and discomfort grow to the point of panic or even anger.

At a train stop, some of us, with meal plates in front us in our seats, were confronted with a little boy outside our window on the platform asking for food. We had eaten a banquet only hours before and had little need for the meal placed in front of us on the train. There was no time to jump up and try to give our meal to this boy as the train was about to lurch forward. The feeling of helplessness: both his, and our own in responding to his need, produced tears and averted eyes. This is the price of expanding our awareness of realities far from our own. It is the price of opening one's heart to the realities of others. For this we have traveled so far.

The bonds of friendship in a holy and sacred effort last far beyond the few weeks of a pilgrimage. The simple exchanges of kindness with those in India whom we encountered in our journey, too, are heart-opening. We need not measure "success" by visions or superconscious experiences but by the yardstick of the open heart. Open not merely to sentiments or personalities but to the great Giver of Life, Love, and Joy from which the transforming power of love and friendship come. To attune ourselves to that divine power as manifested especially in the lives of those great saints whose lives reflect this power so perfectly is find a channel, a life-spring, to the Source.

We, who are, in a sense, privileged, have put our karmic inheritance to good use in fulfilling the timeless inspiration to leave all, risk all, and go on pilgrimage. Pilgrimage is a metaphor of the soul’s journey back to God. Not only do the destinations offer to us priceless blessings but the very journey itself opens our hearts and minds to the greater reality which we call Life: the divine Life.

It’s good to be back and it’s a blessing to have gone!

Nayaswami Hriman

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Hope for a Better World

I was contemplating an article on meditation but put it aside because no matter how many people state that they are turning off the news, even more are agonizing about it. The sense of uncertainty, fear, and dread is too pervasive to ignore right now.

Let’s start by facing fear in the face. Maybe things won’t be as bad as we fear, but maybe they’ll be worse than we can know. So rather than be merely hopeful; or, in denial; or Pollyannaish, let’s march over to the closet door, open it and face the ghost we imagine is standing there ready to devour us.

Events such as Donald Trump’s election and inauguration are symbolic turning points, yes, but it’s not as if such spring up like mushrooms after a rain. They’ve been a long time growing. I’m not going to pretend I’m a historian or social analyst or have been an avid and educated follower of news or events. But I want to share a mixture of insights from Paramhansa Yogananda and his disciple and founder of Ananda, Swami Kriyananda, and perhaps peppered with a few of my own.

On a practical and political level, I think it is possible that President Trump will survive an eight year term of office. At first I comforted myself by saying “There’s no way that guy can make it for a second term.” Just the other day, however, I put my mind to the test by asking myself: “Who will be his opponent in the next election?” What I came up with is a decidedly weak roster of challengers from either or no political party. Besides, the incumbent always has an advantage. Notwithstanding a predictably long and loud line of protest marches to come, the keys of power and control are in his hands and unlike more balanced or honest chief executives, Trump has no moral compass to rein in his impulses.

Most commentators are likely saying that at first he will consolidate his power base with a hand-picked support team. Fair enough. All newly elected CEO’s tend to do the same. But in this case, what flows from the top is unclean and greedy.

The stock market may be rejoicing at this moment but the odds are great that they will be weeping sometime in the next two to three years.

Real and honest news reporting and analysis probably died with Walter Kronkite, or maybe a little later. But even if it didn’t, we are entering a period of time when self-promotion and self-interest has so become the norm, that whom can the general public trust? Who among the mainline news organizations doesn’t have its own self-interest and profits guiding it? Who among them isn’t being influenced from behind the scenes? We simply cannot know except what we read, hear, or view through the media.

Thus, just as many people are saying  “I’m turning off the news” and going about my life, so many more will simply find the sources of information they feel in tune with, right or wrong, accurate or false, or find the people they want to associate with, good, bad or indifferent. Some will be “deniers;” some will be earnestly seeking the truth; some won’t care; some will “just like” what they like to hear, truthful or not. The fracturing of public opinion will continue to accelerate. This is obviously a continuation of the breakdown of communication such as we have seen in the last many years in Washington D.C. and in state houses everywhere. This trend, this breakdown of “civil dialogue” and shared ideals will continue.

Public disobedience, civil or uncivil, by large groups or by individual government employees in positions of power, will rapidly accelerate. Disruptions of one kind or another, from traffic to government functioning or dishonesty, will become ever more visible and rampant.

These trends will no doubt outlast Trump because their underlying causes (fear, distrust, loss of self-respect, hopelessness, loss of income, etc.) have a long way to run. American cannot be great again by becoming isolationist. The world has gone too far in the direction of interconnectedness and America’s role in the world is far too large, for better or worse.

But one way or another, our nation, and others with us, will suffer greatly: economically, militarily, and in morale, self-respect, hope, confidence and faith in ourselves and our future.

A new way of life and attitudes have been and are unfolding but the old forms, attitudes, and power structures are fighting to retain supremacy. And, for now, they have the purse strings and the jack boots. As Mahatma Gandhi put it, “those in power do not surrender it willingly.”

We will see people of sensitive awareness, intelligence, goodwill striking out on their own in various constructive directions. Others, merely rebellious will “strike out” destructively. But some of it will include the formation of intentional communities of people of like mind. (Most of these will be high-minded, because negativity is generally not cohesive unless it is also coercive.)

9-11 showed us that this nation is not exempt from the wave of violence caused by the fault zone where east meets west in the Middle East. Values, lifestyles, attitudes of old and of new and emerging consciousness meet face to face there. The new (the West) is by no means wearing only white hats. Nor is the old (the east) only bad guys. But the long-term winner is destined to be those, East or West, who accept the humanity and equality of all people and who understand that “all lives matter.” It is not bombs or technology that will win. It is this awakening consciousness. The West has led the planet in this but for now even the West is struggling with going backwards toward tribalism. The war is with hearts and minds, not nations or cultures or religions. The human race will not survive unless the desire for peace and equality survives and wins over tribalism.

Hurricane Katrina showed Americans that we cannot depend on Big Government to save us. Big data has showed us that there is no privacy and that George Orwell’s “Big Brother” already exists.
Mikhail Gorbachev recently posted that he sees the world arming for war, even nuclear war. Swami Kriyananda, our spiritual guide and founder of Ananda, would sometimes state publicly that probably “millions would die” in coming wars, plagues, or “natural” catastrophes (or all three).

None of this sounds very encouraging, does it? And yet I AM hopeful. Indeed, more than hopeful because despite the violence and conflict that is shaping up to take place, it is necessary to usher in a new age of relative peace and harmony. Yogananda predicted that after a time great upheaval, caused in part by what he called (at the time) “international criminals,” humanity would be so sick of war and chaos that the planet would enjoy 200 years of relative peace. Unfortunately for us, he didn’t give any dates! Until recent years these predictions seemed vague to me. No longer. It is clear to me how, even step-by-step, these things could possibly take place. Yogananda predicted that during such times “no place on earth will be safe.”

Of course these can be averted. But just as the major consuming nations cannot agree on how to combat global warming, or even that there IS global warming (America perhaps being the most recalcitrant), so too humanity at large is slow to adopt new attitudes and sustainable lifestyles. If we were to turn “on a dime,” much could be averted. But, let’s face it, most people tend to make sacrifices and difficult changes only when forced or when no other choice exists. Ditto for most nations: the conflicts in the Middle East which have gone interminably are perfect examples. It’s so obvious to billions that they are fighting for no real reason but it’s not obvious to them. (Reminds me of the Irish “troubles” not many years back. No one else could really understand what the fuss was about, but for them it was non-stop killing and revenge. Look at the genocide in Rwanda.)

Millions will turn to faith, especially through meditation and with the support of other meditators and organizations like Ananda. And this, really, is, in essence, the divine relief and succor being extended through the yoga masters to the world. This is the opportunity to turn within and to do so in cooperation with others to form a phalanx of awakening consciousness which will be the real force for change. Issues like global warming, racism, exploitation, gender, religious or national discrimination will dissolve like morning fog under the sunshine when millions, nay, billions, meditate daily, seeking inner peace when none exists in the outer world.

We will not be passive, closing our eyes to shut out the world. We will close our eyes to draw on inner, divine resources of strength, courage, compassion and wisdom. With eyes wide open, we will work with others, whether in protest marches, in helping and welcoming the hurt and injured, and in developing sustainable resources and lifestyles for the time when humanity will embrace them en masse.

“There is no god, but God. No good, but God.” Tat twam asi (Thou art THAT); “Do not your scriptures say, ‘Ye are gods’?” Our divine Self is guiding open hearts and clear minds to give birth to a new understanding of reality and nature: all aspects of the divine avatara (descent) into manifestation.

March with joy; march with God! There is, as the title of one of Swami Kriyananda’s 150 books declares, “Hope for a Better World.” At Ananda in Seattle our affirmation for 2017 is: “I stand calmly amidst life’s storms. Strength and courage fill my body cells.”

Swami Hrimananda 

A friend and local Ananda member (from India) sent in this comment and link. It's not for the feint at heart but it is interesting.

Great article!! Lot of saints in India have predicted about these difficult times and peaceful time thereafter.Here is an article that gives more indepth information about these 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

May Justice Roll Down like Waters : a new era has begun

Visit my new blog inspired by the Autobiography of a Yogi and find there inspiration and courage for the years to come as our world and our nation struggles against the rising tide of conflict and rebellion.

Here's the link:

Swami Hrimananda

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Why Celebrate Christmas?

The lament surrounding the commercialization and the meaningless social, decorative and gaudy aspects of Christmas is well known and hardly worth noting. Whether sincere Christians or weary atheists, Christmas could use a strong dose of relevance and meaning these days.

Our problem is not only that it has been bowdlerized of its original spirituality, but taken as strictly a Christian holiday, it would appear to be irrelevant to most of the rest of the world.

Can both of these be changed?

A reverent study of the life of Jesus shows many endearing and inspiring qualities of his life: some divinely attributed and others humanistic. That Jesus was a great man in the best sense of the term is not, to my knowledge, ever been seriously challenged. Some skeptics may say he never lived but for someone who never lived he somehow managed to change the course of history. I think, therefore, we can strike that fantasy from our list of objections.

Have you ever simply sat down and read the four gospels of Jesus' life? Why not do a little reading each night of December and see what you come up with? You don't need to get down on your knees. Make a cup of comfort tea, sit in a comfortable chair or sofa, and read until you know it's time for bed. Put aside preconceptions, expectations, dogma and encounter the person of Jesus.

Another objection I would propose to cross off your list goes like this: why dispute that sectarianism, error, ignorance and suffering has been inflicted upon others in Jesus' name? That doesn't mean it was his fault! You can do with what you want with the miracles testified to in the New Testament, including his resurrection, but his compassion, openness, his humanity, his love for all, his tenderness, his courage........are these not the stuff of greatness? Can you not, also, see the potential in yourself for such?

"Other sheep I have that are not of this fold!" I think that includes you and I. 

Perhaps you fear the overbearing image of Jesus as a person who, like Uncle Sam, WANTS YOU! Forget that image. Just tune into who he was....ok, maybe, IS. "IS" means NOW as you encounter him reading his life story. "IS" means in the feelings of your own heart. We of the rationalist culture imagine stories, to be true and relevant, must be factually true. Consider turning this on its head: the real stories are allegories of life. These are the true "stories" of you and me. Your heart knows what is true. Trust your own calm, receptive, and higher instincts, called "intuition." 

In the gospel of John, one of his most famous sayings is "And as many as received Him to them gave He the power to become the sons of God." That is one of the most potent quotations of the entire New Testament. Consider what this really means. Yes, YOU! You are that, too. You are the Christ. All that is needed, simple but not easy, is to "receive" that Christ-hood in your own heart and find authentic ways to express it in thought, word and deed.

As you read, try to imagine yourself there: in the dusty hills of Palestine; in the crowded, noisy markets of its cities and especially of Jerusalem. Imagine the oppressive presence of the Roman occupiers; feel the arrogance and holier-than-thou attitude of the temple's priests and scribes; hear the call to action on the part of John the Baptist: the crazy man crying in the wilderness: repent! Can't you see him here, now? (No, not the televangelists! But someone deep, sincere, empathetic, sympathetic, and.....real!) Isn't that what this blog article is about: repenting, meaning reconsider our view of Christmas! Let's re-discover our true Self as sacred, reverent, and holy.)

Jesus was born a "king" but born in a manger.  Like the prince who thought himself a pauper, we are that King, too, in our souls, at least. We cannot be made manifest, or born, except in the manger of natural humility and self-offering. It is only the ego with its pride and self-preoccupation that is asked to sacrifice itself on the cross of letting go that our consciousness might expand and know true joy. "It is more blessed to give than to receive." Is this not the Christmas spirit, also?

Why? Because in giving we expand our heart's sympathy and feel the joy of that expansion. This Christmas season, share your material wealth with others in need; do so anonymously if you can; give to the spiritual work of the universal Christ in this world that the light may expand.

We cannot afford NOT to celebrate Christmas. Paramhansa Yogananda established the tradition of a day of meditation just a few days before December 25. He said we should seek in meditation the formless Christ of peace within our own hearts. With the blessings of that occasion, we can then celebrate the social aspects of Christmas with true, Christ-joy.

At Ananda in Bothell, we conduct our Christmas meditation retreat on Saturday, December 17, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. We have chanting breaks throughout the day (contact us for the schedule) and a mid-day snack and comfort break. If you want to know who Jesus IS, come and seek Him in the Temple of Silence within.

In just a few days, this Saturday, December 10, 9:30 a.m., two of our teachers offer a class on "Jesus the Yogi Christ." Explore with us Yogananda's inspired revelation of the true nature, both divine and human, of Jesus Christ. Who were the three wise men? Where did Jesus disappear to for eighteen years? 

A blessed Christmas to you,

Swami Hrimananda

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Trump trumps All!

Dear Friends,

There's no point glossing over with platitudes the material and spiritual implications of Trumps "victory". If we pray or increase our prayers, let it not be, however, in and with fear. As disciples of Paramhansa Yogananda (or disciples of truth, peace & harmony) committed to the work of Ananda (or to other, similar endeavors) whose roots lie in our own hearts, bolstered by prayer, meditation and selfless service, we are doing our part as divine soldiers under the guidance of an exalted line of masters to bring light into the world. No one ever said this would be either welcomed by others or without self-sacrifice. 

"Trumpism" is in fact happening all over the world and in countries once the most accepting and liberal nations on earth. Fear is spreading tentacles of prejudice and selfishness like a dark cloud of poisonous gas throughout the world. It has always existed, yes, but now the nations of the world are networked together, rising or falling together: the time has come to disperse its power with light and energy.

We forget that our post WW II American generations have lived in a bubble of freedom, health, security and prosperity (however relative such things necessarily always are). Most nations and people down through the ages experience generational, or bi-generational wars, famines, catastrophes or economic upheavals on a cyclical basis. I suspect our turn is fast on its way to us. Someday it will be clear but only in retrospect how we got to this place step-by-step, whether materially, politically or spiritually.

Not fear but courage and commitment is what this turn in our country's affairs should remind us to affirm. Given who we are and what we represent, then, the form of that commitment is primarily spiritual. At the moment, our material commitment has taken only limited forms such as natural farming, educating children in a balanced, holistic way, and sharing truth teachings of many traditions (through East West). But just days ago our first homeless person appeared at the Ananda Temple in Bothell, WA late Saturday night after the evening meditation. No doubt, therefore, other avenues of serving will open up by necessity and circumstance.

Our beloved Swamiji, founder of Ananda and direct disciple of Yogananda, gave his life to serve his guru. By normal standards of merit and service, he had earned a comfortable retirement many years ago. Against the dictates of his body and health, he soldiered on, as he always said he would, to the end of his life "with my boots (of service) on." All his teaching days he never failed to remind us of Paramhansa Yogananda’s predictions, notably those of a "depression far worse than the 1930's" and of (natural) calamities we cannot imagine. (And, yes, of wars to come.)

Given Trump's ideologies and vaunted policies, the former (economic troubles) is easy enough to predict, as economic isolationism will no doubt trigger wholesale disruptions in trade. But, as history has shown and Swamiji has indicated, economic troubles often lead to competition and war. As to the other (catastrophes), are we not also urging one another to be prepared? A friend sent me an article just days ago with the Washington state government's conclusions based on their massive preparedness exercise (last summer/) extending their recommendations for individual and household preparedness from 3 days to two weeks. Well, enough on that; just read the news every week from around the world!

History will view the post war significant events in American history along the lines of such things as the three assassinations in the '60's (rejection of inspired and moral leadership), the debacle of the Vietnam War and the resignation of President Nixon (revealing our greed and cynicism), September 11 (when the rest of the world's woes came to our shores), Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans (when we first learned that we are likely to be on our own in times of need), and now this: the (temporary) victory of hate over love; competition over cooperation, abuse over respect, and prejudice over acceptance. 

My note sounds ominous because words in print exaggerate the intention but, in fact, this is the almost invisible beginning of "our time." Ananda and people like us all over the world are both the present and the future. As I have been saying for the last year in my Sunday Service talks, the time to make a choice has come. Sitting comfortably on the sidelines "minding my own business" has ended. 

Just think what it was like the day Hitler was elected. All sorts of rationalizations to remain calm and hopeful were given. Yet step by step he demolished the political and legal safeguards while everyone simply watched in amazement, sitting on the sidelines, minding their own business. I doubt history will repeat itself quite so literally and America in the 21st century is not Germany in 1930 but a bully is a bully, anywhere and everywhere. 

Ironically I am hopeful. Because the time for America's purification in order to re-establish our role and moral leadership in the world, together with that of India (not politically, but spiritually and energetically) has come. The spread of small communities where simplicity of living with high ideals is destined to appear: if not in the lifetime of some of us, surely as a result of the sacrifices and efforts we make here today, and elsewhere throughout the world. 

I am hopeful because more Americans (and others) will wake up and will make choices and commitments toward service, cooperation, simplicity and high ideals. Most people don't change lifestyle until forced; when forced, they will, at first, be angry, bitter and resentful. But enough people in this great nation and elsewhere will stand up for what is good, right and just. Of that I have no doubt, As to the details, who can say?

So, yes, let us pray but let us also affirm our commitment to these ideals of cooperation, service, devotion, meditation, and attunement to the guidance of our blessed line of gurus in harmony with the greater work of Ananda worldwide.

There is nothing to fear, only an opportunity to walk our talk with greater enthusiasm and faith. Death, troubles, and illness come to all. Never mind these things for we are a soul having a human experience for the time. Divine attunement does, in fact, bring protection in ways we cannot know in advance except through faith. 

So let's not pretend that nothing will change. Everything will change. But let us remain unchanged in our hearts and in our soul's march toward Self-realization sharing of the divine blessings we have been privileged to receive.

"Yato dharma, tato jaya" - "Where there is dharma, there is victory."

May Master's light and joy shine upon us and guide our way to freedom,

Swami Hrimananda

Monday, October 24, 2016

What and Who is God? What is Spirituality?

The NEW PATH, by Swami Kriyananda
(Editor’s note: I am currently listening to the audio file of Swami Kriyananda reading his own life story, The New Path and feel to share this except. Sold by Ananda's publishing house, Crystal Clarity, you can find many of Swami's books read "on tape" by him. Listening is a thrilling and dynamic experience: one that exceeds mere reading of words on a page.)
CHAPTER 12 – Who Am I – What is God?
Civilized man prides himself on how far advanced his present state is from that of the primitive savage. We look condescendingly on his tribal way of endowing trees, wind, rain, and heavenly bodies with human personalities. Now that science has explained everything in prosaic terms, modern man considers himself wiser for having lost his sense of awe. But I’m not so sure that he deserves congratulation. It strikes me rather that, dazzled by his own technology, he has only developed a new kind of superstition, one infinitely less interesting. Too pragmatic, now, to worship, he has forgotten how to commune. Instead of relating sensitively to Nature around him, he shuts it out of his life with concrete ‘jungles,’ air conditioning, and ‘muzak’; with self-promotion and noisy entertainments. He is obsessed with problems that are real to him only because he gives them reality. He is like a violin string without the wood for a sounding board. Life, when cut off from its broader realities, becomes weak, thin, and meaningless.
Modern technology alienates us from the universe and from one another. Worst of all, it alienates us from ourselves. It directs all our energies toward the mere manipulation of things, until we ourselves assume qualities that are almost thing-like. In how many modern plays and novels are men idealized for their ability to act with the precision and unfeeling efficiency of a machine! We are taught to behave in this world like uncivilized guests, rudely consuming our host’s plenty without offering him a single word of thanks in return. Such is our approach to nature, to God, to life itself. We make ourselves petty, then imagine that the universe is petty also. We rob our own lives of meaning, then call life itself meaningless. Self-satisfied in our unknowing, we make a dogma of ignorance. And when, in ‘civilized’ smugness, we approach the question of religion, we address God Himself as though He had better watch His manners if He wants a place in our hearts.


My probing thoughts led me one by one, however, to a dead end. How much, after all, can the theater [art, music, literature, science, politics, technology] really accomplish for people, spiritually speaking? Did even Shakespeare, great as he was, effect any deep-seated changes in the lives of individuals? None, surely, at any rate compared to the changes religion has inspired. I shuddered at this comparison, for I loved Shakespeare, and found little to attract me in the churches. But the conclusion, whether I liked it or not, was inescapable: Religion, for all its fashionable mediocrity, its sham, its devotion to the things of this world, remains the most powerfully beneficial influence in the history of mankind. Not art, not music, not literature, not science, politics, conquest, or technology: The one truly uplifting power in history, always, has been religion.
How was this possible? Puzzled, I decided to probe beneath the surface and discover what deep-seated element religion contained that was vital and true.
Avoiding what I considered to be the trap of institutionalized religion, of ‘churchianity,’ I took to walking or sitting for hours together by the ocean, pondering its immensity. I watched little fingers of water as they rushed in among the rocks and pebbles on the shore. Did the vastness of God find personal expression, similarly, in our own lives?


The question returned to me with increasing urgency: What IS God?
One evening, taking a long walk into the gathering night, I deeply pondered this question. I dismissed as absurd, to start with, the popular notion of a venerable figure with flowing white beard, piercing eyes, and a terrible brow striking fear into all those who disobey Him. Science has shown us an expansive vastness comprising countless galaxies, each one blazing with innumerable stars. How could any anthropomorphic figure have been responsible for creating all that?
What, then, about fuzzy alternatives that had been proposed to suit the abstract tastes of intellectuals? A ‘Cosmic Ground of Being,’ for example: What a sterile evasion! What a non-concept! Such formulas I considered a ‘cop-out,’ for they gave one nothing to work with.
No, I thought, God has to be, if nothing else, a conscious Being. I had read alternate claims that He is a dynamic force. Well, He had to be that, too, of course. But could it be a blind force, like electricity? If so, whence came human intelligence? Materialists claim that man’s consciousness is produced by ‘a movement of energy through a pattern of nerve circuits.’ Well! But intelligence, I realized, is not central to the issue anyway. Intelligence implies reasoning, and reasoning is only one aspect of consciousness; it might almost be called a mechanical aspect, inasmuch as it is conceivable for something electronic to be devised that will do much of his reasoning for him.
Rene Descartes’ famous formula: ‘I think, therefore I am,’ is superficial, and false. One can be fully conscious without thinking at all. Consciousness obviously exists apart from ratiocination, and is a precondition for any kind of thoughtful awareness.
What about our sense of I-ness: our egos? We don’t have to ponder the question objectively. We simply know that we exist. This knowledge, I have come to understand, is intuitive. Even a newborn baby making its first cry doesn’t become self-aware because of that cry. It requires self-awareness for it to suffer! Even a worm demonstrates self-awareness: prick it with a pin, and it will try to wriggle away.
Obviously, then, consciousness is at least latent everywhere, and in everything. God Himself must be conscious, and, having created everything, must also have produced it out of consciousness: not out of His consciousness, for consciousness cannot be something He possesses: He is consciousness: Essential Consciousness.
What about self-awareness? This, too, must be inherent not only in all life, but in everything. We are not merely His creations: We manifest Him! We exist, because He exists.
To ‘cut to the chase’: all of us, as His manifestations, have the capacity to manifest Him more or less perfectly. Surely, then, what we need is to deepen our awareness of Him at the center of our being.
What a staggering concept!
I recalled the days I had spent watching the ocean surf break into long, restless fingers among the rocks and pebbles on the shore. The width of each opening, I reflected, determined the size of the flow. Similarly, if our deepest reality is God, might it not be possible for us to chip away at our granite resistance to Him, and thereby widen our channels of receptivity? And would not every aspect of His infinite consciousness flow into us, then, like the ocean, abundantly?
If this was true, then obviously our highest duty is to seek attunement with Him. And the way to do so is to develop that aspect of our nature which we can open to Him. The way to do that, obviously, is to lift our hearts up to Him, and to seek His guidance in every thought and deed. In so doing He must since we are a part of His consciousness assist us in our efforts to broaden our mental channels.
I realized, now, that true religion is no mere system of beliefs, and is a great deal more than any formalized attempt to wheedle a little pity out of the Lord by offering up pleading, propitiatory rites and prayers. If our link with Him consists in the fact that we are already a part of Him, then it is up to us to receive Him more completely, and express Him more fully. [“But as many as received him to them gave he power to become the sons of God.” John 1:12] This, then, is what true religion is all about!
What I had seen thus far of religious practices, and eschewed in disappointment, was not true religion, but the merest first, toddling steps up a stairway to infinity! One might, I reflected, devote his entire life to this true religion, and never stagnate. What a thrilling prospect!
This, then, would be my calling in life: I would seek God!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Intolerance Born of Life Experience & "Mature" Years: Future of Ananda Communities

The very first Ananda community (near Nevada City, CA) is approaching fifty years of existence. Those of us who came in their twenties are, well, do the math.......yes, in their seventies (more or less). But with the power of yoga and divine grace, we're still kicking and going strong!

Think back, my friends, to the craziness some of us brought to Ananda Village in those years. Skinny dipping, gardening in the nude, serial relationships, food and fasting fads, infatuation with passing spiritual teachers, and on and on. "Lord knows" what else our founder, friend and spiritual guide, Swami Kriyananda put up with. 

He looked through us to our souls' potential. No doubt he saw that for some they would stay a short while while others have been part of Ananda ever since. Yet I suspect many surprised him whether they left or stayed! We've all seen friends, good people, come, and go.

Are we finding, now, that we look askance at the attire (or lack of it), the chatter and the talk, the self-righteous opinions, and the goofiness of some of the young ones who arrive at our communities now? Do we see justification for our coolness in the fact that some do not stay very long? Is that fact perhaps due to our coolness toward them? 

Do we wonder to ourselves whether we should offer the "advice" that life is stern, work hard, stay in line, listen to me? Worse yet, do we actually say it? (Why, are WE bitter for having sacrificed "so much?") In so doing, are we simply manifesting the generational disconnect that has existed since time immemorial?

In case you are on the edge of your seat (still), yes I think we are repeating that same intolerance born of life experience. From whence does this sternness come? 

Still on the edge of your seat, no doubt? Let me tell you, then:

When you've seen people come with high ideals and leave discouraged, not understanding that they didn't or couldn't give it their all, or couldn't find self-acceptance, or couldn't see that their criticism and complaining was hurting them more than the issues they claimed were at can't help but want to warn new ones about how difficult the spiritual life is and how precarious is our divine attunement and right attitudes. 

It is natural to want to remind newer ones that sometimes falling off the spiritual path can cost (as Yogananda once mentioned in respect to at least one of his disciples who left the path) many lifetimes before the former spiritual zeal returns that one has left slip so nonchalantly from one's grasp.

We cannot help but see how thin a line it is between the magnetism of playing with the fire of desire versus the fire of devotion and self-offering: the same energy but a different direction.

So, sure, we have our reasons and they are good ones, too, except for one important fact: finger wagging doesn't work. It wouldn't have worked with us, either. We were fortunate that Swami Kriyananda was a wise, spiritual father. He looked toward eternity and saw the perfection of our souls.

And another thing: we don't want to see destroyed by ignorance or lack of awareness or loyalty all that we have worked for most of our lives in establishing these spiritual communities. We don't want to simply hand them over to neophytes who have yet to deepen their commitment through the fires of trials and tribulations (as we have had to do).

So, sure, we have our reasons and they are good ones, too, except for one important fact: it doesn't work! (Am I repeating myself already?)

The solution is to abandon the false perception that comes with the age of physical body and the accumulated experiences of one's present life. Dividing the community into camps of "old" and "young," "leaders" and "followers" is to put a pall of spiritual death upon the very life we all aspire to lead and to share. 

Learning from one another; openness and receptivity; serving, praying, meditating, and playing together. Creating bonds of heartfelt appreciation and respect through listening and calm sharing.

A new member has to go through the "dues paying" of listening, paying attention, learning, struggling and growing; of holding at bay his or her opinions in a state of readiness to learn from the wisdom of experience; the older member has to stay present, awake, listening, avoiding the know-it-all tendency, staying conscious and respecting the ideas and insights, questions, needs and realities of the newer member.

Swami Kriyananda left for us these guidelines for our personal and organizational lives:

  1. "People are more important than things." This is the main one that applies here. The "things" at stake are our view, as leaders and the older generation, of what constitutes spiritual attunement from outer appearances. The people part is the wisdom to give others the time to mature and grow in grace and wisdom. Not to judge others by outer appearances or by lessons yet to be learned or by lessons which are theirs, but not ours, to learn. Compassion and wisdom!
  2. "Where there is dharma, there is victory." We will only be "successful" if we honor what it is right and true, no matter at what cost to ourselves personally (well, within reason!). "What's trying to happen here" is the question Swamiji taught us to ask ourselves when change, or pressures to change, show themselves.
We need to be people-centric not form-centric. All organizations, including intentional communities, churches, and yoga centers, are subject to change in their outer forms and expressions: whether in growth or in shrinking; in material success or acceptance; or, rejection. 

All organizations -- like all organisms -- have an innate impulse to thrive and grow. There's nothing wrong with that if the intention is to serve, share, and grow spiritually in the process (rather than for money or public acceptance and acclaim).

We need to "err" (if indeed "err" it be) on the side of acceptance, tolerance, and growth. Our only measure can truly be our personal spiritual growth in the process, and, the spiritual growth of those whom we serve and accept as community residents or center members.

Swamiji would say, from time to time, "It's not the WHAT, but the HOW!" If we make a group decision that runs the risk of diluting our spiritual attunement but we do it with the intention to serve, welcome, and be open to share with others, we will likely find that Divine Mother will see to it our efforts and errors will be mitigated. As Krishna promises us, "To those in tune, I will make good your deficiencies and render permanent your (spiritual) gains."

When I think of all the craziness Swami Kriyananda tolerated, or all the risky ventures and projects that he, himself, undertook in the name of serving our guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, I am inspired and hope that those who lead this great and good work will carry on in his spirit and in his name.

Joy to you!

Swami Hrimananda