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

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Joy is no "Object" : The Land Beyond Our Dreams

How odd it is that in the English language we say: "Money is no object" when we mean to say "Don't worry about the money, spend what you want or need!"
Image result for gold coins
But it is also true that money is indeed not an object, as such. Yes, you can hold in your hand a 10 rupee note or a $100 bill or a gold coin. But as an "object" these things have no intrinsic value beyond the idea and perception we have of them and which is shared with others. Money is essentially an abstraction. A mere idea. We could use sea shells or cows as money for all the difference it makes to the idea.

Well, when I say "Joy is no object" I do NOT mean that joy is a mere thought or abstraction. Rather, I mean that true joy cannot be found and held fast in any thought, emotion, object, or sense experience!

Yogis discovered long ago a secret that even our bodies do not know: we can live without or with very little breathing. Normally our bodies are designed to keep us breathing at all costs and I, for one, wouldn't argue with its design and intention.

But, as I say, long ago yogis discovered that by specific and exacting methods one could suspend the breath and not "just" remain alive but in fact enter into a blissful experience that, with regular practice, can be summoned at will even later while breathing and acting normally in daily life.

This is not merely some healthy way to get "high." Discovering that life exists more fully in a state that is transcendent of the physical body is an enormous release of self awareness from the prison of mortality itself.

Like so many things in life: it's a step by step process. Yogis tell us, moreover, that this is the reason we have been created: to discover who we really are. We are to discover that we are not the personality confined to one human form and condemned to live impermanently and all too precariously, chained by our breath and heart beat to this form.

Admittedly, the vast majority of human beings are quite eager to pursue as much pleasure and accumulation as they can get. Few are ready to embark on an inward journey towards consciousness Itself: to our Creator, Consciousness and Bliss, one and the same.

Nonetheless, the spread of yoga and meditation throughout the world heralds the awakening of an innate and intuitive desire for universality in both self-definition and in society in an increasing number of people. The history of yoga and the existence of great yogis--masters of life force--provide a continuous testimony down through the ages of what is possible.

I recall as a boy being taught that the term "Catholic" meant "universal." I found the idea thrilling though only later did I discover it wasn't quite the case for my Catholic faith as such! But all faiths more or less teach that we are children of God and in this lies the seed of the actual, inner experience, born of meditation (and cessation of breath) that we are One; we are not this body.

Therese Neumann
In a similar vein, we have modern evidence that it is possible to live without food or water. In the person and life of Therese Neumann, we have validated proof of this fact. For more see: http://www.mysticsofthechurch.com/2009/12/therese-neumann-mystic-victim-soul.html


Using the methods of yoga-meditation, bringing the breath steadily and naturally under control we approach the zone where our thoughts are stilled and, not unlike the pleasure of sleep but while remaining conscious (indeed, MORE than merely conscious: intensely aware), we experience a state of wholeness, of satisfaction, of security that is incomparable, persuasive, and pervasive like no other worldly pleasure or accomplishment can ever match. It is ours; our home; no one can take it and it depends on no outward circumstance!

Image result for the last smile
Paramhansa Yogananda - "Last Smile"
What is interesting is that daily forays into this "land beyond my dreams" begins to transform one consciousness with an all pervading sense of calmness; quiet joy; confidence (without ego); insights and love for all without thought of self.

Paramhansa Yogananda coined the phrase "land beyond my dreams" to express this state of "super" consciousness, as opposed to the dreamy state of subconsciousness. 

With proper training, focused discipline, and a pure motive linked with intense yearning, it's not difficult to achieve the beginning states. These alone are worth the effort even if going beyond them into states described down through ages (using terms like cosmic consciousness, samadhi, moksha, liberation and the like) has yet to arrive.

For the sake of description, if not for instruction, imagine your mind crystallizing into a simple but pure state of quiet, inner awareness. Your thoughts have gone to rest, like thrashing waves that have become becalmed and that have dissolved into the resting sea. It's somewhat like gazing out the window at a panoramic scene. But, instead of your gaze going out and away from yourself, it is turned inward as if upon the mind or the awareness itself as an "object" of contemplation. 

Imagine gazing inwardly at your own awareness. Consider the image of looking into a mirror when there's a mirror behind you and the images are multiplied toward infinity. This is more complex than I would actually suggest beyond the simple idea that you are looking at your own awareness which, not being a thing at all, leads you into this "land," a place of feeling which is thrilling in a deeply calm and knowing way: like coming home.

Such experiences can come upon us under any number of circumstances in life. Much poetry is written about such things, being described in an infinity of ways for it brings us to the hem of infinity itself.

But the yogis discovered how to reach this land by the daily practice of specific, often called scientific, methods of breath awareness and control. Yogananda's most famous and most advanced meditation technique is called Kriya Yoga. See Chapter 26, "Kriya Yoga," in his landmark story, "Autobiography of a Yogi." https://www.ananda.org/autobiography/#chap26 Yet most any time-tested technique that suits one will suffice for the beginning stages of meditation. 

Yogananda taught a mindfulness technique of concentration using the mantra, Hong Sau (which loosely means "I am He" or "I am Spirit" Peace" etc). Hence the technique itself is called "Hong Sau." Its essence however appears in every tradition of meditation, east or west, down through the ages. It does so for the simple reason that breath awareness is the key and the link between ordinary consciousness (of body and personality) and the higher state of awareness whose most notable outward characteristic is absence of or reduced breath. To learn Hong Sau you can go to:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PaoRRg0gxr0&t=128s

As the breath, so the mind. "Heavy breathing" is intense and passionate body or ego awareness. By contrast, deep mental concentration requires or is accompanied by quietness of breath. Thus body transcendence requires stilling the breath and heart. It's truly that simple, though the vistas of awareness that open up are Infinite! 

I'll stop now for I have accomplished my main point of inspiration and sharing.

Joy to you,

Swami Hrimananda

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Training the Monkey Mind!

Can anyone count how many random thoughts go through our minds each day? Must be a few thousand, don't you think?

How many of them can you recall? How many of them are so important you need to capture them? How many are simply responses to sense impressions? Or, are so trivial as to be almost embarrassing? Oh, and how many would BE embarrassing if you posted them? 

OK, nature more or less made our brains and nervous systems reactive, restless, and endlessly imaginative. But 99.98% of them are "Much Ado About Nothing!" Aren't they?

By contrast, when we really focus our minds, whether by necessity or by keen interest, we feel refreshed and, depending on the circumstances, even relaxed. Let me give you some examples: you get wholly absorbed in a movie; in a book, in meditation, in enjoying nature, in a stimulating conversation or lecture............the mind finds such experiences to be on the razor's edge of both stimulating and relaxing. "Calm absorption," if you will, brings satisfaction to the mind. 

But, yes, there are some people who mistake mutli-tasking, daily dramas ("he said, she said"), periodic life crises, "being busy," or riding a roller coaster of emotional intensity for being either productive or for living life to the fullest. Some even get anxious if their life is too calm and there's nothing to do! However, I think close examination of such people and such habits readily proves that restlessness is an addiction. Its long-term consequences are nervousness, fatigue, moodiness, and depression.

For those who meditate, we have to admit that easing out of the monkey mind into the watchful state is not easy! We quickly discover that watching our thoughts reveals, often to our dismay, "where our head's at." In the famous "Autobiography of a Yogi," the author, Paramhansa Yogananda, relates how his guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar, once challenged a skeptical scientist by suggesting that the scientist consider this experiment: "Watch your thoughts for a full day and wonder no more at God's absence!"

Swami Kriyananda, my teacher and the founder of Ananda's worldwide network of intentional, spiritual communities, shared this technique that he learned during the early years of Ananda's first community when the demands upon his time and his mind were especially intense with planning and managing the fledgling community. He placed a notebook at his side in his meditation room with the promise to his subconscious mind that if any important idea or thought arose, he would be sure to write it down if only the subconscious would then agree to let him meditate in peace! The trick worked. I have used this mind-trick myself with very good results. You might try it, too.

When through meditation and introspection we discover that our mental chatter and self-talk are mostly useless white noise, if not worse, then we find ourselves open to real solutions. Mindfulness techniques, whether mental, devotional or energetic, really work! And, not just while meditating!

It's like the axiom from the east: "Use a thorn to remove a thorn." Focusing the mind during daily activity on a prayer, mantra, affirmation or chant steadies the mind and allows it to be more self-aware. 

It might seem counter to logic but then logic is part of the issue, isn't it? Logic assumes that will power and intention alone should shut the chatter up. But it doesn't. 

Here are some of the things I find uplifting, calming, inspiring, and useful in my daily life:


  • As soon as I awaken, I begin mental chanting. It varies but if I sense any resistance to getting out of bed, it might be the series of 6 affirmations that go with the "superconscious living exercises" Most readers know what these are but here's one of them: "I am awake and ready!" (Said with vigor and said repeatedly!) If you want to learn these, write to me.
  • As I go about my morning ablutions I chant the Gayatri mantra. (I can send the words to you or just Google it.)
  • When I shower I recite Yogananda's poem, "Samadhi." (Ditto)
  • As I walk to the meditation room (in the Ananda Community, Lynnwood) I chant or pray.
  • Ditto for when I am driving to work to the Ananda Temple in Bothell.
  • Otherwise I follow Swami Kriyananda's counsel of mentally chanting such things as "Om guru"; "Om Babaji" or "I love you!"
  • My car has an IPOD which is almost always playing chants or talks by Swami Kriyananda or Paramhansa Yogananda.
So, am I, as a result of all of this chanting, mantra, and japa, forgetful and uncreative? Well, maybe a little forgetful, but heck, no one has ever accused me of not having new ideas on a consistent basis. (As my friend, Prem Shanti, would say to her husband, "Dear, some of your ideas are better than others!' Fair enough!) But, I am WAY happier!

The truth is--a truth that anyone can verify for himself--such a mental focus being in no small measure a devotional or uplifting one, produces far greater calmness, satisfaction, mindfulness, and creativity than all the mental worries and fussing that pass for normality (aka "monkey mind") in these times of "smart" phones, Facebook, Instagram, email, tests, and YouTube.

I suggest a trial period of one week. Plot out your attack with a variety of affirmations, chants and/or mantras. Write them down or print them out and have them always with or around you. 

As you chant (etc.) focus your awareness in the forehead (not so much with your eyes for if driving a car, you might crash, but with "feeling" that area between the eyebrows) and you'll find it easier to remember, and enjoy, your mantra (etc). Should I repeat that? (ha, ha!)

Yogananda stated this profound truth: a truth you could spend a lifetime exploring intuitively: "Thoughts are universally, not individually, rooted." As you attune your mind to what he called the superconscious sphere, you become super-conscious. Yes, it's as simple as that.

The only caveat I would add is not to forget the purpose of all this: to go beyond mental activity and into the stillness; into the divine presence. So my last suggestion is to follow the bio-rhythm of nature and of our own metabolism: apply your will, then relax and feel. See if your mantra (etc) can guide you into total and complete presence of mind. Whether minutes, hours or seconds, the technique you employ to focus your mind (and heart) will vanish into the "land beyond my dreams" (the inner silence).

Joy to you (I think),

Swami Hrimananda




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
http://www.spiritualresearchfoundation.org/spiritual-healing/world-war-3-survival-guide/ 

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:

https://dailyay.blogspot.com/

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