Showing posts with label Arjuna. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Arjuna. Show all posts

Friday, July 12, 2019

The Scarlet Letter (Attraction) meets Krishna in the Mahabharata!

When I was a teenager, perhaps even in college by then, I recall reading the classic story, "The Scarlet Letter," by Nathaniel Hawthorne. The novel is set in the Puritan Massachusetts Bay Colony of the mid 17th century. The condemnation of the protagonist, Hester Prynne for having a child out of wedlock, and the cowardice of her lover (a local minister) to confess and defend her, represented for me (at that impressionable age) the conflict between social mores and the "way of the heart." At the conclusion of the novel, the lovers reunite, albeit temporarily and even somewhat tragically.

In my life, the timeline for my reading of this famous novel took place during the explosion of America's own "cultural revolution" of the Sixties. Many in my generation eagerly and adamantly rejected any and all social mores as old fashioned and part of the controlling establishment or so-called "Puritan ethic." Youthful passion and exuberance, to be sure! (In case you don't know, the attempt mostly failed because truth is "one and eternal.")

But recently, Murali Venkatrao graced me with an astonishingly captivating re-write of India's great epic, the Mahabharata. The book is called "The Great Golden Sacrifice of the Mahabharata" by author Maggi Lidchi-Grassi. It is written in the first person as told by Arjuna. Utterly delightful and compelling, a kind of "we were there" historical (and spiritual) "novel" wrapped in God-consciousness-vibrations!!!!!

One of the predominant themes of this world-famous epic is discerning what is righteous action ("duty" or "dharma"). Unlike the adolescent rebellion of the Sixties, the Mahabharata is concerned with the soul's journey to Self-realization.

Arjuna, Krishna's beloved disciple and hero of the epic, seeks Krishna's counsel at every crucial turn of the epic's long and twisting tale because knowing what is right action in advance of taking action is very, very difficult!

One example can be seen in the death of Dronacharya ("D"). D is the teacher, or Acharya, of the young warriors, both the Pandava brothers (think: "good guys") and the Kaurava brothers (think: "bad guys"). In the allegory of the Mahabharata ("M"), D represents the subconscious mind and its power to create and sustain one's habits. But, being a product of the subconscious mind, habit generally sides with the "bad guys" ("K") in part because the duty and function of the subconscious mind is to defend and protect the ego.

(In life, we find that good habits are generally not powerful enough to sustain us when confronted by temptation or opposing negative tendencies. In fact, good habits are both established and sustained by inspiration from the soul (aka superconscious mind). Good habits are sustained only by fresh inspirations and affirmations whereas bad habits exist as a kind of default ("fight or flight" mechanism).)

Returning to the story, D is loved by all his students who are now adult warriors opposing each other. Yet D holds the key to victory for the K's. He has taught them all the arts of war and he knows and has all the powerful weapons. The "good guys" (Pandavas: "P") know that, despite their love and respect for D, he must be killed in the war if they are to win.

It occurs to the P's that one way to dishearten D's power and will to fight is to kill his son, Ashwatthama. But that's not so easy because, like his father, he is a fierce and unbeatable warrior. On Krishna's advice, a ruse is hatched wherein D is to be informed that D's son, Ashwatthama, has been killed in the battle (presumably elsewhere in that large and chaotic battlefield).

An elephant who happens to be named "Ashwatthama" is purposely killed so that Bhima, one of the P brothers, can boast that Ashwatthama is dead! D asks Yudhishthira, "Is this true?" Yudhishthira, the incarnation of truthfulness, says "Yes!" D then sits to meditate and while meditating one of the warriors cuts off the head of D! Both a "lie" and a breach of the rules of engagement takes place. A breach of social mores?

[Interestingly, the P warrior who cuts of the head of D is Dhrishtadyumna whose name relates, allegorically, to the soul quality of the calm, inner light--slayer of the force of habit.]

The real Ashwatthama, D's son, survives the war. In the allegory, he represents the quality of attraction. The explanation given for the fact that Ashwatthama survives, even though he is one of the K's who are all eventually slain, is that when the soul emerges victorious over the ego and achieves enlightenment, this quality remains in the form of the attraction to bliss, to goodness and all that is spiritually elevating. "Attraction," you see, never dies! It is the offspring of habit because attraction is the necessary ingredient for the sustaining power of any habit, good or bad.

But after the war has ended and the P's are victorious, Arjuna, in a fit and mood of self-doubt and regret, accuses his elder brother Yudhishthira of having lied and broken the law of dharma of which he, Yudhishthira, is supposed to be the living embodiment. A heated argument ensues among the brothers and others. Once again, Krishna intervenes to remind them all that the ruse was necessary for victory (the soul over ego-bondage).

Hence the saying: "All is fair in love and war."

Thus it was that the love between Hester Prynne and the minister had to be revealed and fulfilled even though it went against social taboos (neither was married to someone else at the time--the taboo itself was the mere product of "caste consciousness").

Nonetheless, in the death of D, a "white" lie and a violation of battlefield ethics were needed to effect the desired outcome. Sometimes it is useful when one is attempting to overcome a negative habit to calmly affirm victory even though, at present, it is not entirely true (yet).

Swami Kriyananda would tell the story of how he quit smoking (when he was a young man and before he became a monk). As often as he reverted to smoking after trying to quit, he simply and calmly affirmed that he would stop smoking even though he hadn't achieved his goal quite yet.

One day, without any outward assistance or sign, his affirmation proved to be true. He never smoked from that day forward. He could not have predicted when that day would arrive but intuitively he knew that it would. Indeed, his attitude, despite setbacks, was that it was true already!

In this way, Dronacharya, the master of habit, can be defeated by calmly and repeatedly telling him that his offspring, attraction to a wrong habit, has died. By feigning disinterest in the temptation to indulge, one deflates its power over you. This can be extended even into the indulgence itself when it overtakes you: keep a part of your mind detached from identification with the act.

They say "love makes the world go 'round" and true as that it is, one can also say that it is DESIRE that makes the world go round. Desire is of the heart and its power cannot be extinguished, only re-directed. Paramhansa Yogananda taught that the desire to know (and love) God, too, must be fulfilled. Nurture right desires and you shall find ever greater happiness.

Use the power of attraction, then, wisely and whatever you do to re-direct your attention from the lower to the higher, from ego to soul, is fair and wise. Live AS IF you are already free and Self-realized for indeed such is the nature of your soul. "Tat twam asi!" ("Thou art THAT!)

Swami Hrimananda




Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Indecisive? Doubting Thomas? Bhagavad Gita Speaks to You!


The Doubter: Wisdom of the Bhagavad Gita
Chapter 4.V-40. The ignorant, the person who lacks devotion, the doubt-ridden: all these must perish. The man of vacillating temperament finds no happiness in this world or the next. For him, supreme bliss is not possible.
[Editor’s note:] There are two kinds of doubt: constructive and destructive. Constructive doubt wants to know the truth and is open to it but is yet unsure or unconvinced. Destructive doubt, by contrast, is not the kind of doubt that has no interest in pursuing the inquiry any further. 
Rather, destructive doubt is his who wants the truth but is fearful of being betrayed, made a fool, or proven wrong. Ego-protectiveness renders such a truth-seeker impotent and paralyzed. 

Here is what Swami Kriyananda writes about such a doubter in his magnum opus, Essence of the Bhagavad Gita:
“The worst case, however, is that of the confirmed doubter. He has all the intellectual equipment he needs to rise to the heights, yet his compulsion is to keep listing all the shortcomings, the drawbacks, and the mischief by which others might try to undo him. He has the devotion, and the desire to rise to the heights, yet a cynical inner voice keeps whispering in his subconscious, what will the end be treachery? lack of appreciation? opposition? ingratitude?
Paramhansa Yogananda once commented, “The doubter is the most miserable of mortals.” He was referring, not to constructive questioning, but to the nagging tendency to oppose every constructive idea, to prejudge it for no real reason at all, and to be disposed to reject everything wholesome or constructive. It can’t be right, therefore, it isn’t right! It can’t work therefore no matter what happens, it can’t really work even if it seems to be doing so. People can’t know what they’re doing, therefore, they must be wrong!
To doubt a true teacher [or teaching], especially if one is his disciple [or simply seeking] owing to arrogance or simply to a habit of mental rejection causes seething turmoil in the mind. One assumes dejectedly that whatever the guru [teaching] says must automatically be wrong: not because it has been proved wrong, nor even because one wants to disbelieve a conclusion that may simply be inconvenient, and not because one doubts the guru’s motives. . . . The doubter deeply desires something true in life, but cannot accept what he finds. A strange twist of mind rejects, not out of disinterest, but rather out of intense interest. His doubt is born of almost a fear of finding himself deluded in the end, when he wanted so much to be certain.
Were he indifferent, his condition might be better at least in the sense that he’d then be able to direct his interest elsewhere. The tragedy, for him, is that he desires his whole being yearns for the very truths which subconscious habit impels him to reject. That habit proposes no acceptable alternative. It simply shakes its head and says, No. The truths he wants so his habit tells him cannot possibly exist. The habit gives no reason. Darkly, instead, it poses the dire warning, What if . . . ?
What if all this should prove, in the end, to be chicanery? What if my guru’s [teachers’] motives be not so generous as they seem, and all he [they] really wants is somehow to squeeze others for his own benefit? Such doubts quickly develop a life of their own, and create for themselves an alternate universe: What if everything!? Ones will power becomes paralyzed; hope withers away, and becomes in time a dry twig. The sweetness of friendship is soured by suspicion.
For all the above reasons it may be justly said that the doubter is indeed the most miserable of mortals.
Finally, the man of vacillating temperament can never accomplish anything worthwhile. He will never commit himself to anything. He has no loyalties. He drifts through life as his whims waft him, settling on no truth, and forever uncertain of anything.
The determinedly ignorant person can only be left alone to his own plodding rhythms. Eventually, he will emerge from his self-woven cocoon: when he has suffered enough, and when, through suffering, he begins to care and, in the caring, to make the first, faltering attempts to develop his own latent abilities. Then he will emerge from his self-confinement.
The apathetic may at least be aware that there are clouds of unknowing to be blown away. Although they’ve imagined that life has nothing more to offer them, when their dreams of passive contentment or resignation fade, they begin to look around anxiously for viable answers.
It is the doubter, alas, who suffers the most. His thinking processes, despite his longing to be good and to do right, become paralyzed. He yearns to find something on which he can fix as his ideal, but then tells himself that, for one reason or another, that ideal cannot exist. His tragedy is that he yearns for bliss, but finds bliss denied him by a compulsion in his nature that he can’t understand. How can he overcome this self-damning tendency?
He must tell himself, There is no road back. I have no choice but to go forward, even if it means only trudging heavily, one slow step at a time. He can expiate his karma by helping others to resolve their doubts. He can concentrate on his own yearning for truth, until the very yearning pulls him out of the dense fogs of doubt into the sunlight of a faith all the more certain because it has rejected gloomy speculation as a waste of time and energy. Helping others to resolve their doubts and uncertainties becomes, for him, a way of affirming his own solution-orientation. For him at last, supreme bliss becomes the only possible solution to every problem and difficulty in life!”
[editor’s postscript] Swami Kriyananda was told by his guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, that in past lives he (Swamiji) was eaten up with doubts and that it was part of his karma to help others overcome their doubts. Thus Swamiji’s karma was to teach. As he said of himself, “I’ve probably had every doubt anyone could have so I am well placed to help others.”
Our western society, oriented as we are to the rational, reasoning mind, the consequence of which is to render intuition and heart knowledge hidden from conscious view, inclines toward skepticism and doubt particularly as to non-material statements and realities. Thus it is not uncommon for many, otherwise sincere and intelligent seekers, to remain on the sidelines of religion and spirituality, and, indeed, many other worthwhile causes, for fear of being wrong or disappointed and for lacking an inner intuitive sense of what is right for them to do.
All outward activities in a world of duality necessarily contain both good and not so good; truth and untruth. Just as each of us is a mixture of positive and negative qualities. The “Hamlet complex” (“Shall I, shan’t I?”) is easily found in a culture where comfort and material gain are constantly upheld as the summum bonum of life.
Swami Kriyananda urged us to take action (in the spirit of Krishna’s counsel in the Bhagavad Gita) saying “Doing something is better than doing nothing.” Even more useful, he explained that “action is clarifying.” While mental pondering leaves you stuck, taking some, even but tentative action, by contrast, helps you see and feel the consequences and to determine kinesthetically whether further efforts in that direction are warranted. Perfection in world of duality can never be achieved outwardly in form or in action, only in intention and consciousness.
If therefore you are, by habit, indecisive, or even temporarily so, take some tentative steps in the direction that seems best (or right in front of you). By your action, you will see and feel more clearly the results and the inner guidance as to the next step.

May the Force be with you!
Swami Hrimananda




Thursday, April 25, 2019

The Bhagavad Gita: A Timely Gem

The Bhagavad Gita: A Timely Gem

When the first translations of the Bhagavad Gita into English arrived on the shores of America in the early 19th century, visionaries such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau pounced upon its timely and timeless message. 

Thus began what historian Arnold Toynbee described as the reverse "conquest of the West" by the East. The teachings of Vedanta (and Shankhya and Yoga) began to seep into western culture and have been steadily and increasingly transforming the consciousness of millions. Words such as karma and guru and, of course, yoga are now commonplace as are concepts such as reincarnation and practices like meditation. 

[The history of this transformation is excellently summarized in the book, American Veda, by Phillip Goldberg.]

Swami Kriyananda, founder of Ananda and direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda (author of the now-famous Autobiography of a Yogi), points out that for a book to be considered a true scripture it must address the core issues facing humanity: how and why was the creation brought into being? What is the purpose of life, and especially human life? What is the cause and purpose of suffering? How can suffering be transcended and happiness be found?

He brings up other points, as well, as to what constitutes a scripture: are its precepts in line with other great scriptures and the universal values and virtues espoused by great saints of east and west? Does the scripture convey a vibration of upliftment, inspiration and light?

By all measures (and no doubt there are others), the Bhagavad Gita measures up! Among Hindus, the "Gita" as it is sometimes called is perhaps the most beloved of their many scriptures. Its name means, simply, the Song of God! It is one chapter in the world's longest and perhaps most famous epic: the Mahabharata! 

It consists of a dialogue between God and "Everyman devotee," or, more precisely, between Lord Krishna and his disciple, Arjuna. The conversation takes place on the eve of one of India's most famous historic battles (in the first millennium BC) as Krishna, Arjuna's charioteer, is asked by Arjuna to draw their chariot between the battle lines that Arjuna might survey the respective armies poised and destined to transform the dusty plain into "killing fields."

Isn't it ironic that India's most famous scripture takes place on a battlefield yet produces a culture known for non-violence? And, ironic, too, that while Jesus taught us to turn the other cheek, the civilization most influenced by his followers is known for its combative nature and its desire for conquest of the world and of nature? 

Not surprisingly, therefore, the Gita begins with the portrayal of life as a battle: a battle between our lower and higher natures. Inner and outer conflict is the nature of this world and our inner world. No one can avoid taking sides. No one can avoid suffering. Everyone is seeking happiness. Is there a way out?

Our life decisions must be guided by "what is right." But how to know "what is right?" The result of our decisions and the actions which follow have specific consequences, both in the world around us and upon our inner consciousness. In a universe ruled by the inexorable law of action and reaction, we cannot avoid the consequences but we can choose how to respond to them.

Our ticket "out" lies in our true, inner nature and the nature of creation itself: the Divine Self. Immortal, imperishable, eternal, and ever-blissful, the way out of suffering and the way to lasting happiness lies, as Jesus himself put it so succinctly, "within us."

We must develop wisdom and discernment to know how to act; how to respond and how to draw upon the power of our own higher Self. The science of right action is found in the mastery of the science of "yoga." ("Yoga" here refers not merely to physical exercises but the practices of life control that guide us to identify increasingly with the transcendent nature of our soul.) Intuition, born of meditation and right action, can guide us to freedom from all action. The secret link between the lower self (ego) and the higher Self (soul) is the breath: that which brings us into the world and that by which we leave the world.

The pathways of yoga can include or emphasize our feeling nature; our thinking and perceiving nature; and our active nature. All three portals to objective reality can be reversed to flow inward into the royal (raja) stream of "pranava" (or Spirit) in the astral spine. Entering this sacred channel through the doorways of the psychic energy centers (chakras), we can direct this life force upward to unite the lower self with the Divine Self.

One cannot achieve freedom, however, by refusing to act. We must breath; eat; exercise; care for our body; deal responsibly with our own impulses, desires and fears and respond to life's vicissitudes, including illness, old age, death, fortune and misfortune: the fate of all beings. The yoga science offers to us the right action of how to internalize our consciousness and life force to achieve enlightenment in far shorter time than it takes by merely responding to our karma as it presents itself.

Three levels of consciousness, motivation, feeling, and action are described throughout the Gita: inertia (form), activity (energy and feeling), and wisdom (calm perception). These levels, or gunas, pervade all beings and all forms of creation. The Gita classifies a wide range of actions and intentions according to the predominating guna of each. This becomes a valuable guide to those on the journey of soul awakening. 

As rain clouds disgorge their gifts of nourishment to the earth; as the sun consumes itself to sustain us; as parents sacrifice themselves to care for and raise their children; as lower forms of life are consumed by higher forms; so the great wheel of life is sustained by self-sacrifice. So, we too grow and expand our wisdom, powers, and love by self-offering to God and higher beings (as manifestations of God).

Devotion to the Supreme Lord is the highest such offering. Those who sacrifice to lower gods (such as wealth, pleasure, success), "go to those gods" but do not achieve the final state of eternal happiness. All material goals offer happiness but always break their promise.

The key to breaking the energy spiral, the cyclotron of ego, comes through the instrument of the avatar, the sat guru, the one sent to us by God to liberate us and to show us that freedom can be ours.

The end-game and end-goal of our creation is to pierce the veil of mystery that hides the Lord of creation from our view and to know that we, too, are "that!" Tat twam asi-Thou art That!"

The Gita contains counsel to every level of awakening: body, mind, and soul. Its highest teaching is to seek God alone and its greatest gift is the science of yoga, the "how-to" of the eternal truth-teachings known in India as "Sanaatan Dharma."

May the song of God flow through you!

Swami Hrimananda



Here in the Seattle area, Murali Venakatrao and I will begin a 5-week course in the essentials of the Bhagavad Gita. It takes place on Thursday evenings beginning May 9th, 7.30 to 9.30 p.m. We will record this class for those who enroll on our website but who are at a distance on planet Earth: https://www.anandawashington.org/?event=essence-of-the-bhagavad-gita-bothell&event_date=2019-05-16   Our recording will be either audio or video or both. Our text will be the landmark book by Swami Kriyananda, Essence of Self-Realization.









Sunday, June 10, 2018

Pride Goeth Before the Fall : Can We Ever Really Fail (Spiritually)?

Paramhansa Yogananda was once asked by a disciple: "Will I ever fall from the spiritual path?" Gazing compassionately at him, Yogananda answered: "How could you? Everyone is on the spiritual path!"

That was certainly a kind response and also a true one in that we can learn and grow (spiritually) from our mistakes. 

Yogananda spoke of the betrayal of Jesus by his disciple Judas. He said that inasmuch as Judas was one of the twelve disciples, he must have been spiritually advanced. In fact, Yogananda used the term "prophet" to describe Judas.

At the risk of a tangent, Yogananda stated that Judas finally achieved enlightenment in the 19th century under the guidance of a well-known guru.

The topic here is not how ordinary worldly men and women fail spiritually, for such aren't even trying to do otherwise. The Seven Deadly Sins are, more or less, positively being sought (or is it "sot"?) by most people. (slight exaggeration)

The subject, then, is with respect to those who ARE trying to grow spiritually. Arjuna asks his guru, Krishna (in the dialogue of the Bhagavad Gita), what is the fate of those who, though seeking enlightenment, yet fail to achieve the goal in a given lifetime? What is their fate? 

Are they worse off? Do they have to start over? Krishna assures Arjuna (which is to say, you and me) that no spiritual effort is lost. (Chapter 6: 37-47) Krishna reassures devotees: "I make good your deficiencies and render permanent your gains." (Chapter 9:22) We can never lose our soul's eternal perfection. Any contact with it can never be lost.

Swami Kriyananda, the founder of the worldwide work of Ananda and a direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda, wrote about Judas in his book, "Promise of Immortality." His explanation is a priceless and deep examination of the slippery slope from heaven to, uh, perdition! (Chapter 23)

Inspired by the famous verses from the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 2:61-63) that describe the step-by-step process by which one falls into error, in "Promise of Immortality" Swami Kriyananda examines the likely thought processes of Judas to show us how we are drawn progressively to the point of (apparent) no return.

(Note: there is no absolute point of no return for the perfect and eternal soul. But the dark enclosure of soul-negation can last a long time, even lifetimes.)

Coming back to pride a little later, let us turn, instead, to doubt: self-doubt. Elsewhere in the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna tells Arjuna that the doubter is the most miserable of devotees for such cannot step forward nor can go back for he simply cannot make up his mind. (Chapter 4:40)

Given our predilection for making mistakes, no wonder we doubt ourselves. Given the plethora of philosophies, lifestyles, religions, politics, cultures, no wonder we are confused. Given the abundance of fake news, no wonder we’re sceptical. Given the wide range of choices in life, no wonder we cannot choose one from the other. Given the constant distractions of life in the fast-device-lane, no wonder we cannot focus long enough to see "the forest through the trees!" 

Krishna goes on to say: “For the peaceless, how is happiness possible?” (Chapter 2:66)

Swami Kriyananda was told by Paramhansa Yogananda that doubting was his greatest challenge in past lives. With his guru's blessings, Swami overcame that obstacle and in this lifetime paid in the coin of the spiritual realm by a lifetime of teaching. Swamiji said, numerous times, that there probably wasn't one doubt that anyone could come up with that he hadn't faced at some point in the past. Thus by teaching and giving others faith, he could expiate the karma of the past. 

There are two kinds of doubt: constructive and destructive. Constructive doubt sincerely wants to know what is true and is open to truth and to taking action. So, here, then, in this article we are speaking of destructive or paralyzing doubt. 

Paralyzing doubt, too, has two faces: we doubt ourselves, OR, when we tire of that, we doubt (that is, criticize) others. But as Yogananda put it in the psychological terms of his day, "superiority or inferiority complex" are simply two sides of the same coin of egoity.

In the last year, a young man came to our yoga center and took some courses. He was so apt to measure himself with respect to others that, finding yoga and meditation challenging for his restless mind and body, he decided it was easier to find fault with others. Others must have been faking it somehow (he concluded). And so he left and retreated to a more fundamental view where mere belief was sufficient for acceptance (and "salvation," I suppose). The hard work of changing himself was simply to much for his fragile ego.

Speaking of our temptation to be critical of others, it is useful to make a distinction. There is a difference between calm, detached observation of a flaw or shortcoming in another person and your claim to superiority over them or your dislike of that person on the basis of your observation. Superiority or dislike constitutes being judgmental. Simply observing is neutral and discerning. 

Jesus put it this way: "Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves!" (Matthew 10:16). Too many people "throw out the baby (of discernment) out with the (dirty) bathwater (to avoid being judgemental)." 

By contrast, to admire the spiritual qualities of another person can inspire you to emulate those qualities and doesn't have to put that person on a false pedestal of your own creation.  The perceived spirituality of another should not be a reason to be discouraged in your own progress. Who can truly judge the heart of another; or, their karma; but God alone? If someone you once admired (spiritually) suffers a fall (in your eyes at least), be grateful for the inspiration you received by their example and simply pray for them to recover quickly from whatever spiritual test they may have failed.

Another common cause for seeming to fail spiritually is guilt. Guilt is only useful if it motivates you to make amends and to change. Like pain, guilt exists to spur us to reform and do better. Don't be like those who imagine that feeling guilty is sufficient compensation for their missteps.

The consequences of error must also be understood directionally. A slip may not be a fall if we make amends; if take action to change for the better; and, if we don't identify with our mistakes. But, be careful, because our ignorance, negativity, or ego-affirming habits open the door to influences that may increase the momentum in the direction first taken. A strong, even heroic, effort must be made to draw the grace that will lift us back up on our spiritual feet.

"Thoughts are universally and not individually rooted." Yogananda makes this profound statement in Chapter 15 of "Autobiography of a Yogi." As we express anger, for example, then we attract to ourselves the support of the preexisting and overarching consciousness of anger. We do not invent anger. It already exists in the cosmos of consciousness. Human addictive tendencies exist not merely because of individual past habits but because of their universally attractive magnetism and vibration. 

A dramatic and historical example of this brings us back to Swami Kriyananda's analysis of Judas. He writes that Judas’ betrayal of Jesus set into motion a karmic pattern that was to haunt Christianity: the betrayal of spirituality in favor of worldly power, money and position. 

The spread of Christianity into the authority-and-law-consciousness of Roman culture and its acceptance as the state religion prematurely bestowed upon the young religion the mantle of power and self-importance. 

The acceptance of these worldly powers steadily eroded the true spirit of Christ which, in time, was eclipsed in the hierarchy of "churchianity," though partly salvaged from time to time by great saints like St. Francis and St. Teresa of Avila. (Saints are the true custodians of religion! Not theologians, clerics or bishops.)

Our betrayal or fall from our own spiritual ideals can begin with pride (“which goes before a fall”). Think of some talent or knowledge that you are good at. In your association with others of like mind and your spiritual service together with them, beware of the opinion and critique that might rise as a consequence of your skills and knowledge being employed in that service. Notice with whom you share your perfidy in the quiet corners and whispered voices of conspiratorial negativity.

Judas’ pathway to his fall was his affirmation of superior insight and wisdom. He alone knew best how spread his guru's teachings. His guru, Jesus Christ, was deluded; ignorant; out of touch and could not see what benefits would accrue to his mission if he could but win over the rich and powerful priestly caste. Or so Judas must have thought. Anger then arose as Judas perceived Jesus' intransigence. And on it went until it ended in tragedy.

The downward path of critical comparing of oneself to others sows the seeds of pride, discouragement, self-doubt, and provides, in time if indulged, all the reasons for you to give up and turn away. Oh, and how many have turned away.

In the last years of Yogananda's life, how many came and went, imagining Yogananda did not meet their standards, or, alternatively, not feeling they could live up to his. Of one who left the ashram, the Master said it would take him another two hundred years to regain his current spiritual consciousness. Of another, he said that if she had stayed just twenty-four more hours that temptation would have past.

As a teacher who over decades has seen so many bright lights appear and then fade out to dullness and then disappear from whence they came, I sometimes chant Yogananda's chant that begins with the words: “Whence do they come….whither do they go?”

There's an even far more subtle betrayal amongst devotees. One that cannot be seen with the eyes. It is the story of Martha and Mary. How many Marthas in churches, ashrams, monasteries and sanghas busy themselves in service, and even in meditation and devotion but with their minds far from God. 

Even in outward ritual, prayer, and service, we can avoid the divine summons and awakening of the soul-Self, thus postponing our divine destiny. The inner Voice says, wordlessly, "I will wait. I have given you this freedom and when you seek Me for my love alone and not my gifts, then I will come."

You can meditate every day and never even think of God. Never even go beyond your own, restless thoughts. Never offer yourself wholly into the Unknown where awaits you the light and bliss of your soul: a spark of the Infinite Bliss. God is the Divine Elephant in the Cosmic Room of your Mind; yet, even devotees see him not.

Yogas chitta vritti nirodha” We must neutralize the reactive thought and emotional processes of the ego-mind by calm, inner awareness. And that we can do, like Bhishma in the epic "Mahabharata," only by the free choice of our heart.

There are two kinds of meditation: emptiness and fullness. In general, we teach fullness. It’s easier for most people. In fullness we use chants, affirmations, mantra, prayer and devotion to re-direct our natural restlessness and self-preoccupations. Stillness is not empty; it is full: full of energy, joy, and love.

The path of emptiness is “neti, neti” – not this, not that! It too is a valid path. Both emptiness and fullness are actual states of consciousness which alternate in the life of a meditator; or, from the point of view of the path of ascension, can represent steps or stages. 

Yogananda clarified that those who teach emptiness as the final state are incorrect. For while emptiness (the apparent threat of personal extinction) is the final challenge to the ego’s willingness to surrender, when we do surrender with faith, courage and energy, bliss flows into us like a relentless tsunami or a thousand suns crushed into one.

In fact, however, we should understand and approach each state for each are valid and necessary: both emptiness AND fullness. Thus, after our practice of techniques, we should empty ourselves of all thoughts and let the divine states of Superconsciousness appear like the stars that come out after sunset: at first they are dim, and then gradually, they get brighter. Then the moon appears on the horizon of our consciousness. As it rises it outshines the stars with the comforting brilliance and cooling rays of peace. If we welcome its all-embracing rays into our mind soon we too—our sense of separateness—will be eclipsed into Divine Love.

And so it also with God as personal or impersonal. Some begin their journey approaching God in personal form: perhaps as the guru, e.g. Others, the impersonal as light, peace, joy, energy, love, e.g. But God has no form and is all forms and so cannot be limited by either. Thus, as we advance spiritually our chosen form morphs into its opposite. 

Here we tell the story of Totapuri, the guru of Ramakrishna. Totapuri helped (rather dramatically) Ramakrishna go beyond the "I-Thou" relationship with Divine Mother into the formless state of samadhi.

We are destined to know God; to be free. Just as in sleep we are free from the burdens of our conscience, our karma, and our past, so too in Super-consciousness we are free. But freedom in subconscious sleep is temporary and is not life-changing. By contrast, the freedom experienced in super-consciousness grows on us gradually and, with ever deeper immersion, replaces our separate identity with that of the freedman! No longer a slave to the body and ego! We are TAT TWAM ASI. EKAM SAT! God alone.

Behind our self-doubt, our judgments of others and ourselves lies the realm of the land of the free reached only by those of  brave heart: the land beyond the duality of our dream-world of matter, thought, and emotion.

It is in our souls that we are One. It is to this affirmation that our July 14th day of celebration of East Meets West is directed. This day is a celebratory fest of like-minds and open-hearts. Outwardly we may appear different and separate but inwardly we are ONE.

The divine awaits us and haunts our soul-dreams. Let me close this overly long article with the first paragraph of this much beloved poem:

THE HOUND OF HEAVEN-1893
Francis Thompson



I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
   I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
   Of my own mind; and in the midst of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
             Up vistaed hopes I sped;
             And shot, precipitated,
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmed fears,
   From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
             But with unhurrying chase,
             And unperturb√®d pace,
     Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
             They beat—and a Voice beat
             More instant than the Feet—
     'All things betray thee, who betrayest Me'.


Joy to you,

Swami Hrimananda



Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Bhagavad Gita : The Voice of the Ancients “Calls to Us to Awaken in Him”

Once again, the following article is taken from an email to Ananda members in the Seattle-area Sangha:


Each Sunday at the weekly Service we read a stanza from the Bhagavad Gita. What is this text, this “The Song of God,” quoted by so many great people of influence?

Ralph Waldo Emerson said of the Bhagavad Gita:  "It was as if an empire spoke to us, nothing small or unworthy, but large, serene, consistent, the voice of an old intelligence which in another age and climate had pondered and thus disposed of the same questions which exercise us.”

Henry David Thoreau wrote, "In the morning I bathe my intellect in the stupendous and cosmogonal philosophy of the Bhagavad Gita in comparison with which our modern world and its literature seem puny and trivial.”

Mahatma Gandhi confessed that "When doubts haunt me, when disappointments stare me in the face, and I see not one ray of hope on the horizon, I turn to Bhagavad-Gita and find a verse to comfort me; and I immediately begin to smile in the midst of overwhelming sorrow. Those who meditate on the Gita will derive fresh joy and new meanings from it every day".

And finally, J. Robert Oppenheimer, American physicist and director of the Manhattan Project (that created the world’s first atom bomb), learned Sanskrit in 1933 and read the Bhagavad Gita in the original, citing it as one of the most influential books in his life. Upon witnessing the first nuclear test in 1945, he quoted the Gita: “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”

What is this extraordinary work of literature, allegory and divine inspiration? The “Gita” is the most beloved of the great scriptures of India. It is one chapter in the midst of the world’s longest epic, the Mahabharata (over 100,000 couplets). The Gita itself has about 700 verses arranged in 18 chapters: not very long in itself. The Mahabharata makes an allegory of an actual historic and apocalyptic battle that took place not far from what is now New Delhi sometime after the first millennia B.C.  It’s a “good guys” vs the “bad guys” story, with the good guys winning, but just barely.

The Gita itself consists of a dialogue between Lord Krishna, the charioteer and guru for Prince Arjuna (a good guy), one of the fiercest warriors of the two opposing clans. Their conversation takes place on the eve of battle.

Arrayed against his own cousins (who usurped his and his brothers’ rule of the kingdom), Arjuna asks his guru, “What virtue, what victory is there to be found in killing my own family? They are far from perfect, but I don’t seek riches or power? Why must I fight?”

And thus begins the greatest story ever told: your story, and mine. This is the story of the challenges we face, the victories and defeats we experience, and our quest for the Holy Grail of Happiness.

The greatest work ever written by Swami Kriyananda, “Essence of the Bhagavad Gita,” was inspired by the commentary on the Gita dictated by Paramhansa Yogananda in the early months of 1950 at his desert retreat in 29 Palms, CA. This book will change your life. At the completion of his dictation efforts, Paramhansa Yogananda declared to Swamiji “Millions will find God through this work. Not just thousands: millions! I have seen it. I know!”

Joy to you,

Nayaswamis Hriman and Padma


Monday, October 26, 2015

To Whom Do We Pray?

As it was commonly said during World War II, "There are no atheists in foxholes." Most pray when in need though whom exactly they address is often secondary to their desperation.

You've heard the joke about the Irishman who was late for a job interview in Dublin with Microsoft and couldn't find a parking place? He prayed, "Lord Jesus Christ and Mother Mary, help me find a parking place and I'll go to church on Sunday instead of O'Reilly's Pub." Suddenly an empty space appeared and he said, "Oh, never mind, I've got one, thanks." That reminds me of the kind of prayers I said as a child when I knew I was in trouble. I was no more faithful to my pledges than that Irishman.

A story told in India is of a disciple who was inspired by his guru's complete dependence and surrender to God for protection and sustenance in all matters. The next day this disciple is walking along a forest path and behind him he hears someone shouting, "Watch out, get out of the way, this elephant is running wild!"

Blissful (and ignorant) in the "safety" of God's omnipresent protection in all matters, the disciple ignores the shouts and continues walking. The elephant, bearing down upon him, throws him roughly into the bushes with a flick of his trunk. Bruised and battered the man returns to his guru's ashram confused and hurt. "But, my son," the guru explained, "God DID speak to you through the mahoot (elephant driver): "Get out of my way!"

We are all better at praying for (usually) minor material desires or needs than listening for God's answer or feeling the divine presence as an act of devotion. It is no coincidence that on the path of Self-realization only upon taking discipleship to Yogananda and his line of gurus is one taught the technique of "Aum" whereby, using a special mudra and arm rest, one is able (with practice and with concentration) to hear the Aum sound and other subtle sounds (of the chakras). Most of us are great talkers but poor listeners! Listening is the hallmark characteristic of one who enters onto the spiritual path consciously and with deep sincerity. Offering up our attachment to our own likes and dislikes in favor of the daily practice of asking for guidance and seeking attunement, one gradually becomes a true disciple.

But how, then, should we attune ourselves to God? How can we love someone or something that we do not yet know? In the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna, the archetypal disciple, asks his guru, Lord Krishna, "What is the best approach to God: with devotion to God in some form, or, striving to realize the Infinite beyond all form?" Mind you, now, this question appears in the text just after  Arjuna has this mind-blowing experience of "Krishna" as the Infinite Spirit! At the end of that experience, Arjuna pleads with Krishna to return to his familiar, human form! It was simply too much!

Krishna's response is appropriately personal and comforting--not just to Arjuna--but to you and I. He says that for embodied souls, the way of devotion ("I-Thou" relationship) is far easier. Rare is that soul who, striving assiduously to Self-realization by the formless path of seeking the Absolute, succeeds swiftly. Indeed to such a one, even the practice of meditation is taboo for all efforts in duality are tainted with delusion. Yogananda stated that such rare souls are already highly advanced spiritually.

How does this happen, then? To what form of God should we seek as a doorway to Infinity? Patanjali, in the Yoga Sutras, says that to one who sincerely and with intensity seeks to find God there comes to him that perfect form of God, suited to the soul's special needs, called the Ishta Devata, to lead the soul to freedom. As the adage suggests, "When the disciple is ready the guru appears." Down through the ages saints have prayed to God in every admissible form: Father, Mother, Beloved, Friend, child.......as Light, Peace, Joy, Love.......forms both personal and abstract, but always some form.

Yet, God has no form. As Jesus put it: "God is a spirit and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth." Yes, but.......God manifested creation out of Himself and therefore IS the creation even while hidden BY the creation. God is omnipresent. God is both infinite and untouched by creation and immanent within creation. As Ananda Moyi Ma put it (in the form of a koan): "It is, and it isn't." To quote Ram Gopal Muzimdar in "Autobiography of a Yogi, [God is] "all pervading, eh?" Yes but that philosophically correct point is not personally all that useful (witness the devotee and the rogue elephant).

This is one reason we each need our own wayshower; another reason is simply that "tat twam asi": you are THAT! We, each one of us, is also a potential Christ, Krishna, Buddha or Yogananda. God is very personal where we are concerned for God has manifested himself AS us but we have yet to perfect our realization of that profound and ego-shattering fact. Because "heaven is within you" (to quote Jesus Christ) we must perforce begin right where and who we are!

Just as we identify with our physical form and personality, with our race, religion, gender, nationality, age, talents, upbringing, family characteristics and much more, therefore it is more natural for us to gradually refine our self-definition and to seek to transform every lower identification to an increasingly expanded form which, at every present point along the way, is necessarily "Other."

[The other direction of our efforts can be to annihilate the ego but this contractive approach, while equally valid, is contrary and contraindicated for most of us owing to the expansive direction of consciousness innate to the age in which we live. This was the hallmark characteristic of spirituality in the former, "Kali," age wherein sincere spiritual aspirants left the world for caves, forests and monasteries in order to achieve any measure of God realization in their lives.]

There's another angle, moreover, to the need to focus our devotion on that which is "Other." And that is the need for concentration in meditation. Concentration in meditation is both a prerequisite and a result. To pray deeply, therefore, we need to have some form to concentrate on? Otherwise, the mind becomes vague if it has no notion of what it seeks to know or unite with.

Yes, it is true that we are not our self-definitions nor is God limited by the form that appeals and inspires us, but, to use an expression from India, "Use a thorn to remove a thorn." On the spiritual path, then, God as "Thou" becomes the oarsman in the boat that takes us across the river of delusion to the shore of Infinite bliss. Achieving Self-realization, we transcend all forms when "Knower, knowing, known" become One.

Our Ishta Devata is like the gravitational pull of a planet that a spaceship that uses to propel it further along in its journey deeper into space.

As God IS the creation so any form will, strictly speaking, suffice for our spiritual journey. However (and there's always a "but" in duality), praying to a sacred alligator is far less likely to uplift us into superconsciousness than praying to a true guru, saint, or avatar! As Paramhansa Yogananda once put it (wryly), "Stupid people will never [sic] find God." (Well, so long as they ARE stupid!)

A more practical point relates to our love of nature and desire for harmony in and with the natural world. Nature, in her mineral, vegetable and animal forms, contains qualities which we admire: calmness, sensitivity, beauty, grace, strength, intelligence and many more qualities. Yet nature is SUB-conscious and, while inspiring to us, not yet self-aware. A saint is awakened in God and a savior is one with God! So while nature's admirable qualities can inspire us with gratitude we cannot "find" God through a form which is not yet self-aware, what to mention God-conscious! Let our love of nature be God-quality-reminding!

In "Art and Science of Raja Yoga," by Ananda's founder, Swami Kriyananda, "It's not what we love but how purely we love." The natural emphasis upon our special form of devotion (Jesus, Krishna, Buddha, etc.) is what can create fanaticism or dogmatism. Better to focus on refining and expanding the love of God in our chosen form to include all beings, all life than to place exclusive emphasis on the uniqueness of that form. In God all are equal, whether or not the roles they play seem greater or lesser on the stage of human history.

It is helpful, therefore, to recall the story from the life of Krishna where his adopted mother, Yasoda, tries to tie up the naughty boy Krishna but finds that every piece of rope she uses is always just TOO short! We cannot define or contain in form that which is beyond form. Nor can we, in duality, "see" God (or limit God to) any one of the divine forms of the great God-realized saviors, or avatars, on earth.

Someone once asked Paramhansa Yogananda, "Where does all spiritual striving end? "It ends in endlessness," the great guru replied!

We grow in stages: we begin to admire, love, and emulate goodness and virtue. We hear God spoken of in scripture, books, and, in time, from the lips of God-fired messengers. We seek to know God for ourselves and He responds by sending to us one who knows and shows the way. We go within to "find" Him and discover "tat twam asi:" We are THAT!

Joy to you,

Swami Hrimananda

Monday, July 7, 2014

Go On Alone or "I'm with you"? Nishkam Karma!

A defining moment in my life took place on a jet airplane somewhere over Iran in June of 1976. I had travelled Europe and India for over a year by car and was returning at last to the United States. I was broke in more ways than one. Not defeated; nor sad, mind you, but perplexed over the simple fact that I did not find what I was seeking.

Oh, yes, it was an adventure, all right--driving from Germany through Yugoslavia, Greece, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and then to the Indian subcontinent: down one side of India by car and up the other, with extended stays here and there, including Sri Lanka and Nepal, just to mention two.

But it was also a spiritual quest and in this I returned empty handed: like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz and with her little dog, Toto. Not only was I not in "Kansas" anymore but I learned, as she did from the Wizard, that all I was seeking was to be found at home. "What you don't bother to seek within, you will not find without," said Swami Sri Yukteswar (in "Autobiography of a Yogi," by Paramhansa Yogananda). Or, as Mark Twain ruefully put it.....travel is a fool's paradise....wherever I went that fellow Mark Twain had to come, too (I couldn't get rid of him and his foibles).

But in the middle of the night at 30,000 feet, stretched out over several seats (in the old days when that actually could happen), I realized that what I sought I had not found on my own. There came to me by way of intuition (and not so much in words), the recognition and acceptance that my spiritual search needed to be in association with others of like mind. I realized too that I had been resisting this important reality.

It was not long after returning to my childhood home in Monterey, CA that I met my future wife, Padma. She introduced me to "Autobiography of a Yogi" and then to Ananda Village (and Swami Kriyananda). We soon moved there and the rest, as they say, "is history."

I have long thought that this revelation was done with me; I had received it, acted upon it, and life went on. But recently I have had to face the reality that this "chicken" (to quote my prior blog on being over 60 years old) had returned to the roost. It came in the form of a gift: a gift from my adult children in the form of a Vedic astrology reading! In this reading (by John "Drupada" MacDonald), I was told that, unlike my western astrology chart had told me, I was influenced by the sign Scorpio and by that of Virgo.

I have no interest in explaining these astrological terms (since it would only show my profound ignorance) but I will say that my decades long assumption that I reflected more the balanced and loving and outgoing aspects of Libra (sun sign) went up in smoke.

Ironically, the first thing I said to Drupada on our video chat (where he was to reveal to me the interpretation of my Vedic chart), was that "I had come out of my cave to speak with him." I don't know why I said those words, for I had never used them before to describe the small home office space I inhabit, but I did. He laughed and used my words to reveal my "scorpio" (hiding like a scorpion under a rock before emerging to sting someone) tendencies.

Further irony is that he says my chart indicates an upcoming period of greater public visibility while personally I feel just the opposite. Whether cave or rock, that's where I feel most comfortable at this point in my life.

I recall that as a young child I played long hours on my own. I'd play out in the sand, dirt, lawn, and gravel creating a pretend world of cars and trucks. My mother said I asked all the "big" questions which she claims she was at a loss to answer.

All my adult life I have had a consistent tendency to prefer working on my own, not wanting to involve or "bother" other people. At the same time I've realized that I (like everyone else) am largely incapable of accomplishing anything other than the trivial on my own.

Moving away from the uncomfortable subject of "me," I want to say that we humans and we as souls are not only social but we are part of the fabric of a greater consciousness and can never, never function on our own except in meaningless ways. The greatest artists, scientists, humanitarians and saints all were nurtured in a milieu that supported their unique genius.

Yet, at the same time, spiritually speaking, we face our "God" alone, just we must face death alone, no matter those who may surround us. Only we, alone and facing the seeming emptiness and darkness which lies beyond the realm of the body and the outer world, can confront the void and the infinite bliss which is God and which is our soul's true nature.

What an irony! In the world of action, which includes therefore, karma and our efforts to work out our karma and fulfill our soul's dharma to achieve freedom, we must work with other souls; other realities than our own ego. As an ego we are less than insignificant. As a soul, we are God incarnate, a spark of the Infinite flame. To the degree we live and act in attunement with the greater reality of Life which could be called God, we discover meaning and achieve fulfillment.

Our oneness with life confronts our existential aloneness in seeking God. These two realities are but sides of the same coin of the one reality. The ego must die so that the soul, which is eternal, can be reborn. The bridge might be called "nishkam karma." Nishkam karma is the way of action which leads to "inaction" (meaning: loss of personal doership, loss of ego).

We are enjoined by Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, and by great scriptures and saints everywhere, to "act without thought of self-interest." To fulfill our God-given duties as best we can, calmly, joyfully, with excellence and yet, without attachment to the consequences: this is nishkam karma.  In this action I act without thought of what I get in return, whether money, recognition, self-satisfaction....any thought of "what I want." Whether we withdraw or engage, either can be nishkam karma or just plain karma, it depends upon intention and consciousness.

I may feel like withdrawing from the field of battle but, like Arjuna in the beloved Gita, I must "bear arms" and continue the good fight, serving the Light, working out my karma and fulfilling my divine dharma to "know, love, and serve God" in this world (quote from the Catholic Baltimore Catechism). There is not necessarily, however, any contradiction in reconciling the dharma, if it is such, to be more public with the dharma, felt inwardly, to be more in the Self. This is, at least, as I view it. Indeed as my teacher, Swami Kriyananda, used to say, "Reality is both-and."

"When this "I" shall die, then shall "I" know "Who am I""  "Thy will, Lord, not my will."

Blessings,

Nayaswami Hriman

Friday, December 20, 2013

Will the Real Christ Please Come to Christmas this Year!

A door that leads to the outside also leads to the inside. A cup is said to be either half empty or half full. Both are true, but one may be more useful than the other.If you are trying to get outside the house, the fact that the door goes outside is keenly of interest to you. If you are dying of thirst, the half cup of water is earnestly appreciated.

The famous interchange in the New Testament that begins with Jesus asking his disciples, "Who do men say I am," is like that door or that cup. Most people, whether during Jesus' life or down through the centuries, see only the man Jesus, who lived in a particular time, said specific things, and lived in Palestine under Roman occupation. Others see his form, his words, and his actions as doorways to divinity itself. I would go further and say, as I have often said, that the answer to Jesus' question to his disciples is the same for him as it is for you or me. The one disciple who answered Jesus' question correctly was, as you probably know, Peter who said, "Thou art the Christ, son of the living God."

The Hindu "bible," the Bhagavad Gita, is a conversation between Lord Krishna (the Hindu equivalent of Jesus), and Arjuna (Krishna's Peter). In both scriptural conversations ("Who do men say I am?") and the Bhagavad Gita, the master (the guru: Jesus, or Krishna) reveals his divine nature as "one with the Spirit (Father)."

The incarnate form of divinity is like that door or that cup of water. As it is Christmas, we'll stick now to the subject of Jesus. Jesus, you, and I, and metaphysically speaking, every atom of creation, are what I say, tongue-in-cheek, "bi-polar." We have a dual nature. (In fact, like the Trinity, we have a triune nature, but let's hold that thought for now.)

While Christians may insist that Jesus' claim was an exclusive one, a careful and intuitive reading of the New Testament reveals this cannot be so. For example, St. John's gospel in Chapter 1 asserts that "As many as received Him gave he the power to become the sons of God." (Note "sons" is plural.) Jesus told his disciples "these things I do (miracles etc.), greater things will you do."

For the human soul to aspire to know God directly, as a Spirit -- infinite, omnipresent, omniscient, all-pervading etc. etc. -- is a tall order. How can you love or even approach something so abstract, so beyond human comprehension? By seeing God, God-consciousness, God's goodness, wisdom, love and so on incarnate in a human being we can relate more meaningfully. Nor does such a fact demean either us or God, for the very universe itself is a manifestation of God's intention, consciousness, and goodness. Yet form (whether subtle such as various forms of energy or gross such a physical objects and human bodies), the universe also cloaks that divinity.

The world, including our bodies and acquired personality traits, dutiful activities, and desires, is both a doorway into and toward the hidden divinity, and, a door that keeps us outside and apart from that divinity. Well meaning adherents or disciples of a great teacher all too often miss the point, mistaking the form of their guru (his appearance, his words, his actions) as the essence and that essence as to be distinguished from all other forms, teachers, teachings and so on. Only true and wise disciples see through the form to the divinity which animates the form and in that broad perspective recognize the divinity in other forms, other great teachers, and, indeed, in all people and all creation.

Is Jesus Christ, however, the "only" begotten son of God? Is he somehow qualitatively different than Krishna, Buddha, and others? Is Jesus Christ, or Krishna, or Buddha direct incarnations of God: God taking on human form?

God has already taken human form in you and I! And, in all creation. This has already happened, in other words. The only greater thing that can happen is for those forms to become self-aware of that divine nature, to become as Paramhansa Yogananda and others have described it, Self-realized in our divine nature. This doesn't deny or reject our form (our human form and nature); rather, it elevates and ennobles the human body and persona to true goodness and godlike qualities.

Jesus announced that "I and my Father are One!" For this alleged blasphemy he was killed by the religious authorities for whom such a claim was the ultimate threat to their privileged lives and positions. Yet he had a body and, one presumes and can sense from reading his words and considering his actions, a personality of his very own.

Thus Paramhansa Yogananda (author of Autobiography of a Yogi), whose own followers including me, believe that he was also "one with the Father," taught that when the soul, after countless incarnations, at last achieves Self-realization, the soul retains characteristically unique traits which, in order to be incarnate at all, are both necessary and part and parcel, eternally, of the soul's Being. Oneness, in other words, does not destroy or sublimate the soul into some amorphous mass consciousness. The soul can plunge into God, swimming in Infinity, but is not destroyed and may, if called upon by other souls (not yet free in God) seeking spiritual enlightenment through the vehicle of that soul and the deep bond between them, reemerge with its unique traits as yet intact. This free soul may take physical form (then becoming an "avatar") or appear in vision, or render assistance through thought-inspirations. In this way devotees have prayed to their respective gurus for many centuries after the guru's human incarnation. In so doing, they have been uplifted, taught, and received true communion with God.

Our nature, then, is divinity in form and therefore dual (or as I like put it, "bi-polar"). But it is also triune because the bridge between these two is the vibration of God from which all forms manifest. God beyond and untouched by creation (as "the Father"), vibrates His consciousness with intention, intelligence, and love in order to "boot-up" or initialize creation. All things in form are moving on the atomic, sub-atomic, chemical and electrical levels, if not in outward appearances (think rocks or minerals). The intelligence of a star, a tree, or a human is hidden because intelligence is "no thing." But the evidence of its intelligence is the form and its functions (including self-perpetuation) that clothes (even as it cloaks) that intelligence. Trees look like trees; chickens, chickens, and so on.

This vibratory energy of creation has many names. It is chanted as Aum, Amen, Amin, Hum, or Ahunavar. It is called the Holy Ghost or the Divine Mother because being holy, pure, a virgin it is the "stem cell" vibration underlying and out which all things become differentiated and take separate form.

The divine intelligence or nature that exists in creation is the only begotten and true son of God. Like a true human son, this intelligence reflects the image of its father, having the intention and attributes of divinity, at least in latent potential. Jesus was the Christ, or anointed one, because he had realized his divinity both within his form and beyond his form in the Father. We all are Christs but we, by contrast, have not yet realized that and cannot yet demonstrate mastery over life and death itself, as Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, and Yogananda demonstrated to close disciples.

Yogananda called his mission to the world the Second Coming of Christ not because he claimed to be Jesus but because the second coming takes place in the birth of the Christ child of divine consciousness in our own heart and mind and soul.

So, will the real Christ come to Christmas? That depends on you! "Tat twam asi." "Thou art That," it says in the scriptures of India. This is who we should say we are! Who am I? I am the Christ, the son of the living God! (Then behave accordingly!) Be careful, however, for he who says he is, isn't. He who says he isn't, isn't. He who knows, knows. One should not boast nor say "I am God." Rather, "God has become this form."

With the blessings of the great ones of self-mastery, we can be guided to Self-realization. Attune yourself to them. Study their lives, teachings, and actions, and make them your own. Walk like St. Francis in the footsteps of the master and He will help you to be free as He is Now.

Meditate daily, serve selflessly, endure hardship and difficulties with equanimity and cheerfulness, and watch and wait, for, "like a thief in the night, He will come!

Christmas blessings to all, and to all, a good night!

Swami Hrimananda aka Hriman