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

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Decline and Fall of Reason : an Essay

[At once I apologize for the length of this article. I could see no way to chop it up into segments.]

At the time of the American Revolution, Reason reigned on the throne of the hearts and minds of enlightened men and women. The Declaration of Independence is, if anything, a reasonable statement of self-evident precepts. From that point until the 20th century, the western world was filled with hope that the future held unstoppable advances in education, health, prosperity and peace.

That triumph of reason was stained from the beginning, however, by the bargain made with the devil of slavery. Reason began taking more pummeling later in the nineteenth century when rapid industrialization revealed the horrors of low pay, child labor, toxic work environments and mind-numbing, heart-stifling repetitive work. The first generation of the “Captains of Industry” flaunted their immense wealth squeezed from the tight fists of their vast monopolies.

The first half of the twentieth century produced not one, but two world wars, unmasking even further reason’s dark sides showing that a self-styled master race can justify any amount of violence and evil.

It is true that the Second World War was fought to defend reason in the form of freedom yet the ugliness and violence of that war (which ended with the blinding light of the atomic age) began to blur the lines between right and wrong. Wholesale destruction of the great cities (non-military targets) of Germany and the nuclear destruction of two cities in Japan were simply the quid pro quo collateral damage of an ugly war. The Cold War which followed was largely fought in a gray mist where right and wrong vanished into the murky shadows of espionage, regime change, and cynical affirmations that “the end justifies the means.”

While the 1950’s in America saw a resurgence of optimism, dark clouds of fanaticism clustered around the political purges of Senator McCarthy and rising corporate greed fueled warnings from the likes of newscaster Edward R. Murro regarding the future loss of innocence and integrity in the news media. Ditto for the military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned us about.

The dawn of the 1960’s brought hope with a new and young president but this too was quickly marred by upheaval and turmoil in race relations and rebellious antiestablishment lifestyles. Very soon cries of despair arose over three consecutive assassinations of great leaders and anguish over the insanity and hypocrisy of the Vietnam War.

Fast forward to 2017, more or less, and what do we see? Fake news? A kind of “Battle of the Bulge” is occurring with a resurgence of prejudice, hate and suspicion of “foreigners.” On the world wide web anyone can post their craziness. Now there are more conspiracy theories than ever before. (Whatever happened to the Trilateral Commission? Out of commission?)

Whereas in former times a doctor was God and hospitals and clinics his temple, now we have to do the research and advocate for ourselves, while trying to figure out the labyrinth of insurance options and coverage. We routinely question medical and scientific studies which are too often funded by self-interest groups or tampered with by self-promoting scientists. Doctors simply give us a panoply of drugs and say, “Try this and let me know how it works!” 

We cannot trust the food we eat. We are beginning to grow our own.

Albert Einstein’s failure to find the “theory of everything” combined with theories of chaos and randomness are such that researchers either chase the almighty buck or are only interested in new but marginal breakthroughs. Quantum physics has taken science to the brink of non-matter, even to the edge of consciousness: down the rabbit hole, effectively, toppling the fortress of “either - or” reason and destroying the kingdom of matter.

Liberals are “ultra” and insist that the government owes everyone everything at no cost while the conservatives want to turn the clock back so they can protect their high caste status and their portfolios from the coming avalanche of change. All that matters is “What I want.” Or, “What I believe.” And, “What’s in it for me?”

The noble concept of a pluralistic society whose elected representatives work together to reach compromises in order to achieve a more “perfect union” is now sadly beyond our very ability to imagine it.

Only a serious threat from an enemy (military, economic, political) or a catastrophe of enormous proportions (pandemic; earthquake; gigantic and irrefutable climate change) could unite this or any other nation into concerted action.

There remains however: HOPE FOR A BETTER WORLD. Idealism is on the rise; a sense of our shared interests and kinship, whether under God or on the earth or both is small but growing. 

The popularity of yoga and meditation—veritable symbols of peace and harmony—continues unabated throughout the world. We now have an International Day of Yoga. It originated with a yogi who is the president of the largest democracy in the world (India). It is not, however, likely that sanity and enlightened reason will return to our nation or planet anytime soon.

Because, let’s face it: the god of reason has been dethroned. Frankly, it hasn’t worked very well anyway. Reason has not stemmed the tide of ignorance and prejudice. Reason has not reduced substance abuse, addiction or violence as if it were a vaccine injected by the needle of education. Reason alone, without help from religion, reveals the Golden Rule but the Golden Rule does not rule.

We of an eastern bent of mind who espouse the precept that life ebbs and flows between opposites are not in the least dismayed by these trends for we know as the Greek philosopher Heraclitus averred that Panta Rhei (all is flux). But the pendulum of opposites is never simple. If it were, then humans would see through its illusion too easily. There are also movements which we could call spirals, rising and falling which appear to make each new turn a twist and each new twist appears unique.

We are seeing a cycle that is the decline of the much vaunted and arrogantly affirmed western claim of superiority based on enlightened reason. The cycle of rational inquiry perhaps had its visible beginnings with the Renaissance, moved into the Age of Exploration and Reformation, gave birth to the Age of Enlightenment and independence, which in turn, propelled by the exponentially increasing revelations of science, birthed the industrial age and on and on.

Now, with reason cycling down into increasing disrepute, we find taking its place a rising tide of passion. Passion is crazy; intense, unpredictable; riotous; compassionate, innovative, merciful, cruel and so much more! Passion is the active manifestation of feeling. And feeling, whether mild, medium or intense, has a dark and a light side. We can call the dark side of feeling the emotions of a contractive nature and the light side the expansiveness of inclusive feeling.

By emotions I mean the contractive affirmation of selfishness or egoism as in “raw” emotions based on “fight or flight,” fear, greed, anger, prejudice, attachment (etc.) or other unexamined biases. By expansive and inclusive feeling I refer to calm certitude, unselfishness, non-attachment, and intuitive insight. Expansiveness of feeling is essentially intuitive for it sees wholeness or connection where ego-affirming emotions can see only differences. Intuition accepts (and embraces) a broader reality than only oneself, while emotions affirm the limited reality of one’s ego, opinions, desires and fears.

Expansive elation leading to connectedness with all life can found anywhere and everywhere: in nature; in being in love; in extreme sports; in tragedy or success; in space to astronauts observing our earth; in prayer and meditation; and on and on.

By contrast, negative emotions are the all too familiar emotions of polarized politics, pride and prejudice related to social status, clinging to one’s opinions, distrust and competition between nations over trade or influence, consequences of globalization, racism, abortion, gender issues, and on and on.

At the same time, we, including you, reading this article, see the gentler tsunami of rising unity, harmony, sustainability, creativity, inventiveness, kindness, humanitarian efforts, peace and harmony.

Returning to the fall of reason, we can no longer trust sources of reason. By “sources of reason” I mean facts and purveyors of facts.
Facts are supposed to be aspects of reason because objectively verifiable. But now we don’t really know what is fact and what is speculation or false. We don’t really know who to believe when the person or subject matter is unknown to us personally. Take the simple but crucial topic of climate change. Outside the scientific community of those studying the subject, we are dependent upon what we read and hear. Inside the scientific community there is no unanimity on what is a complex subject of study. Added to these reasonable difficulties are the irrational ones arising from self-interest (on both sides) and the emotions born of recalcitrant opinions (each claiming facts). The situation can be found on other issues, such as health care, welfare, gender definitions, and religion--to name just a few key topics.

The failure of religionists to practice what they preach has given rise to a growing rejection of orthodox religion in favor of being “spiritual but not religious.” Spiritual vs religious means one is oriented to one’s own personal experience (and, yes, sometimes one’s own private beliefs). The popularity of yoga and meditation are excellent examples of those seeking personal experience in preference to dogma or empty rituals.

The worldwide network of Ananda communities stands for a lifestyle that will unquestionably grow in popularity in this century because such associations give people who share their ideals or beliefs a practical way to “walk their talk” together. Communities can be residential, work-centric, issue-centric, or virtual. And yes, people with negative values can form them as well. Either way, if you can’t believe what you read and can’t trust people you don’t know, what else can you do but find others who believe as you do. I don’t say this cynically. I say this clinically! The alternative is to drown in society’s mayhem and confusion.

Looking ahead, I see a decline in centralization of power. While this decline began with a change in consciousness (the affirmation of individuality and attendant rights) as all such great shifts do, its primary symbol today is the world-wide-web. Its founding ideals are those of the United States. Here in the United States we see a shift of power from the central government to states and local governments. Paralyzed as we are at a national level, cities and states are taking positions on climate change, immigration, marijuana, and many other issues which might otherwise have been, or should be, more effectively dealt with nationally. Health care may yet join those ranks. So, too, I predict welfare and other social safety nets may go the same way. Small intentional communities are its logical and ultimate manifestation.

[As a reminder: the delicate balance between states’ rights and the power of a national government began at the birth of America! But mostly through the twentieth century power shifted to the national government with turn of the century formation of the Federal Reserve, the creation of the federal income tax, and the consequences of two world wars and the Cold War. Now it is shifting back even at the very moment when the big issues of the nation and of the world call for leadership and cooperation! Sigh!]

Splintering of large groups into smaller ones began visibly with the breakup of the Soviet Union and client states. The splintering continues throughout the world as smaller groups (ethnic, tribal, racial or religious) assert their independence, their rights, and their self-identity. They often do so violently. This will continue for a very long time, even if future wars, depressions, pandemics and catastrophes will, from time to time, give renewed, but temporary, power back to national or international governments.

The movement of consciousness in the direction of individual rights and freedom will continue even though technology provides powerful control mechanisms into the hands of centralized powers (whether governmental, private or corporate). Orson Well’s novel, 1984, had the date wrong but was an accurate prediction of future possibilities. Fortunately, technology is a two-edged sword for it has also been a key to empowering the individual through communication, education, and awareness.

In short, we are moving towards increasing disruptions and chaos. There’s no turning back. Instability is steadily rising in the United States and there’s no “reason” to foresee its abatement. Local police forces are heavily equipped and highly trained, nothing less than armed militias. Prisons, we are told, are overflowing. Can you imagine the impact of disruptions in food and fuel? Or, reductions in social security, welfare, or food stamps and other forms of entitlement? The American standard of living has nowhere to go but down as that of other nations continues to rise. We simply cannot continue to consume more than our share of natural resources nor purchase the vast majority of our goods from other countries with nothing but our over-valued currency to offer in exchange.

The advice given us by Paramhansa Yogananda (one of the great spiritual teachers of our age) is to establish a life of prayer, meditation, service to God through others, and to establish communities of like-minded friends inspired by high ideals and expressed through a simple and sustainable lifestyle. Meditation is at the heart of the inner life wherein the castle of peace can be defended and from which the unassailable joy of the soul can be shared. (For the record, Yogananda foretold difficult times but said that a time would come of several hundred years of relative peace as those who survive the turmoil vow NOT to perpetuate it.)

These solutions are God’s response and gift to those with “ears to hear” and to those with compassionate and courageous hearts. How else best to weather the woes of an age of great instability where we cannot know what is true and who is false; where, in the final analysis, nothing is real but what resides within you. From the cosmic view of the soul, these “interesting times” are wonderful opportunities for spiritual growth. Perhaps many have been, are, and will be born for this purpose and for the purpose of forming a vanguard of higher consciousness to see humanity through a difficult period of history.

There is much to be positive about, notwithstanding my catalogue of apparent pessimism above. Much depends on how quickly and extensively consciousness can shift from emotion to intuition, from “me” to “us.” Yet, at present, the weight of momentum is going in a negative direction. The passions that have been aroused run deep and run violent. And, they have found their voice in a shared, but false, legitimacy. But the long term trend in consciousness is clearly in favor of tolerance and acceptance. It’s simply a matter of how soon the battles and skirmishes can turn the tide to win the war. The more of “us” that stand tall and together, willing to make sacrifices in lifestyle and resources, in prayer and meditation, the sooner the “sun will rise in the East.”

Remember: “The only way out is IN!”

Joy to you!

Swami Hrimananda

Reading references from books by Swami Kriyananda and published by Crystal Clarity, Publishers include: Out of the Labyrinth, God is For Everyone, Hope for a Better World, & Religion in the New Age


Saturday, August 19, 2017

Does the Moon of Emotions Eclipse the Sun of Wisdom?

[We've been away three weeks plus a few days. A recap of thoughts shared with the local Ananda Community in Lynnwood, WA]
What a time this is! The eclipse mania is acting as a lightning rod for intensity and a certain amount of craziness. 

The other day during an idle moment (what was I thinking?) I posted some random thoughts on the eclipse [which honestly doesn't interest me that much (that statement in itself prompted objections)] and my Facebook posting was eclipsed by intense and critical comments from the "left" and from the "right" and everywhere in between. I found it more amusing than anything except in respect to the consciousness of those who posted.

I might as well share with you that I prefer to stay indoors for the 1.5 hours or so of the eclipse. I have both personal issues with the sun (skin and cancer) but also have read with interest some postings from the Vedic tradition (www.VedicHealing.com) that lend more support than superstitions would suggest. In general, and without denying that much of the world has been burdened by many taboos and superstitions, I would say that our own tradition of past higher ages (aka the "Yuga cycles" as affirmed by all great civilizations of the past] suggests that in the dim past there may have been more valid if rather subtle reasons behind what later became mere superstitions during the so-called dark ages (which correspond more or less to what we are pleased to call history, roughly 1000 BC to present time). In any case, and for what's worth, that's my take on it.

As a yogi I do find it interesting to contemplate what it means for the moon (symbol of ego and/or emotions) to eclipse the sun (symbol of God or soul)! That alone would give rise to the "dark side" of the eclipse's interpretation. But of course in duality there's always TWO sides: the other being, possibly, the opportunity to examine the dark or unexamined side of our own consciousness (or culture). Your choice, as always.

I read that the last time a solar eclipse crossed America (and ONLY America) was in 1776. I find that, too, rather curious. To say that we in America are in a political maelstrom is to put it mildly, though here, too, I do my best to ignore the brouhahas that seem to swirl continuously every week. I must say that our president has a way of keeping himself on the "front page." Never forget that this fellow is, like the eclipse itself, only a symbol of forces and consciousness out of which he arose. With his departure, those forces do not suddenly vanish.

And finally, given Ananda's long, long history of dire predictions, well, what can I possibly add! What is to come is to come and I for one cannot doubt that at some point we as a nation have some karma to pay. If the eclipse is to mean anything at all as to foreboding, well, there it is for the taking. [Ananda's founder, Swami Kriyananda, frequently repeated predictions by Paramhansa Yogananda regarding future wars, depressions and cataclysms to come. No prediction is ever necessarily literal. True predictions are designed to help others change. One doesn't have to be a guru to wonder about things like climate, economy, war, and the like!] 

Those of you who are Facebook devotees have seen many pictures etc of Spiritual Renewal Week at Ananda Village, CA. The groundbreaking exceeded ALL expectations both in vibration and in outward form. As the testimony of all present is far more adequate than any single expression of it, we do, in any case, add our own testimony of gratitude and upliftment. It was an historic moment for all of Ananda and I will make this prediction, at least: that it will be seen as a turning point in our history. Padma and I were privileged to be among those who turned a shovel of earth! Our daughter Gita oversaw the entire event with the help of the miracle of many hands. The program that followed the groundbreaking into the setting sun was totally astral. Swamiji and the Masters were truly present and smiling.  

Our personal time at the Camano Hermitage (https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/18078785) was much appreciated though, looking back, it was nothing less than a working vacation with phone calls, emails, maintenance of the property, and planning our talks for SRW, though we took off for two nights up the coast for our anniversary and most nights we enjoyed a movie at home. Next year and for the first time ever we think we'll take time off AFTER SRW instead, Lord willing! Padma and I both got sick at SRW: a first ever in a non stop attendance at SRW over decades! After the day long Sevaka retreat, August 5, I got dehydrated but recovered quickly. 

We had a few days in Monterey, staying at Padma's brother's (Roy) home and visiting with my brothers, sister and families and then two nights in Portland seeing the grandkids there.

There's nothing however like home and the northwest! We all have a busy week coming up. Let not our soul's joy be eclipsed by the darkness and confusion that surrounds us. We are privileged to live in "Satya Yuga" in our hearts and in our homes and places of service and devotion together.

Blessings to all, and may force of maya (delusion) never eclipse the sunshine of God's indwelling, omni-presence!

Nayaswami Hriman

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