Showing posts with label Autobiography of a Yogi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Autobiography of a Yogi. Show all posts

Friday, November 3, 2017

Is "Spiritual but not Religious" Really "Spiritual"?

I have read several reports over the last many years about the growing number of Americans who consider themselves “spiritual but not religious.” Those of us on the inner path of meditation are certainly among some of those.

Paramhansa Yogananda predicted that “Self-realization would become the religion of the future.” By this he meant, according to Ananda’s founder, Swami Kriyananda (a direct disciple of Yogananda), that in the future people in all religions would come to an intuitive understanding that the true purpose of religion is to help us evolve spiritually by having a direct, personal perception and relationship with God or one’s own Higher Self.

But notice that Yogananda’s statement used the term “religion” of the future.

Among the millions who see themselves as “spiritual but not religious” are, I would guess, many who have rejected orthodox religions. There many reasons for this rejection: reasons which my readers no doubt do not require to be enumerated. Yogananda employed the term, tongue-in-cheek, “Churchianity” to describe the orthodox sects of Christianity (and, by extension, all orthodox faiths). By this less-than-flattering term, Yogananda referred to the institutional weightiness of organized religion which tends to suffocate individual spirituality.

Indeed, in Yogananda’s teachings he claims that his coming to the West began with a communication between Jesus Christ (not in the physical human body) and Babaji (the peerless, deathless master in human form). In this dialogue between these two great masters, one of the east, the other of the west, Jesus bemoaned the loss of (in so many words) “spirituality” among his followers. He said “good works” (serving the poor, having institutions of learning, healing, and the like) were aplenty. So, too, rites and rituals. But direct, intuitive, inner communion (vs ritual, sacramental communion) had fallen by the wayside in Christianity at large.

Let's consider now this appellation: "spiritual but not religious." It's key feature is the rejection or non-involvement with organized religion. But other key is "spiritual." But what does it mean when I say (of myself), "I'm spiritual"? 

It could mean that I'm a nice person. I pet dogs, kiss babies, and help elderly folks cross the street. I pay my taxes. I believe in God or something equivalent. It might even mean I pray or meditate. I respect (or not) all faiths or at least see them as means to the same end. (BTW: is the term "organized religion" an oxymoron?)

But I wonder how many of the millions who place themselves in this category really live a life of daily prayer and meditation, self-sacrifice or ego transcendence in the name of enlightenment or other divine goal, or service to humanity as an act of devotion. It's true that few religionists do any of these things, either! 

What I've described is more what most people might imagine the life of a monk or nun might be like and how few of these there are in the world (even among monks and nuns!). And I think that's my point. 

At least a religionist participates, however wanly, in his faith and commits himself to serving its cause, attending its religious services, and giving in monetary support. By contrast, being only spiritual but not religious might mean one does nothing at all! Maybe he sips a latte on Sunday morning while reading the proverbial (digital) newspaper on the deck in the sunshine!  

What I’ve encountered in some of these people, moreover, is an attitude of judgment of religion and intellectual pride surrounding their view that all these religions are either useless or all point to the same thing (and who needs them, therefore, anyway!).

The fact that many of us feel religion has abdicated its true calling by becoming partisan, sectarian and promoting divisiveness rather than peace and harmony is wholly and truly understandable.

Nonetheless, an objective reading of history will also disclose that religion has also been a force for unity, harmony, respect, rule of law, and peace at key moments during human history. No other human activity or impulse has this power. Legislation, imposed by police force, is insufficient. Reason has limited power to change behavior. High ideals and spiritual consciousness as exhibited not by prelates and popes but by saints HAS this power.

St. Francis is one, of many, examples. “Rebuild my church” the painting of Jesus on the cross, coming alive, commanded St. Francis. He, Francis, mistakenly thought the broken down church building needed repairs. In time he was to see that his role was to re-infuse Christendom with the true spirit of Christ. At the height of his life’s work, tens of thousands of people called themselves his disciples and adopted a truly spiritual way of life of prayer, sacrifice, service and love for all. St. Francis had all the reasons in the world to condemn popery and clerical abuses of his time. Instead, through love, self-sacrifice and example, he worked to change their consciousness.

In the now famous and extremely popular modern spiritual classic, "Autobiography of a Yogi," by Paramhansa Yogananda, his guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar, challenged Yogananda’s aversion to religious organizations in this brief interchange (the result of which has blessed and inspired millions):

“Why are you averse to organizational work?” (Sri Yukteswar)
          Master’s question startled me a bit. It is true that my private conviction at the time was that organizations were “hornets’ nests.”
          “It is a thankless task, sir,” I answered. “No matter what the leader does or does not, he is criticized.”
          “Do you want the whole divine channa (milk curd) for yourself alone?” My guru’s retort was accompanied by a stern glance. “Could you or anyone else achieve God-contact through yoga if a line of generous-hearted masters had not been willing to convey their knowledge to others?” He added, “God is the Honey, organizations are the hives; both are necessary. Any form is useless, of course, without the spirit, but why should you not start busy hives full of the spiritual nectar?”
          His counsel moved me deeply. Although I made no outward reply, an adamant resolution arose in my breast: I would share with my fellows, so far as lay in my power, the unshackling truths I had learned at my guru’s feet. “Lord,” I prayed, “may Thy Love shine forever on the sanctuary of my devotion, and may I be able to awaken that Love in other hearts.”[1]

How often in my life of teaching meditation have I seen students come and go. Having taken a class(es) in meditation they turn away, whether receiving what they sought or in disappointment, not realizing that on their own they will very likely never establish the habit of meditation in daily life. "OK," you might object, "but maybe the Self-realization path (which includes Kriya Yoga) isn’t their way." But who can say that for sure.

I don't think that Yogananda’s prediction of Self-realization as the religion of the future can be so summarily dismissed. My teacher, friend, and founder of Ananda, Swami Kriyananda expressed Yogananda’s prediction by saying that he felt Yogananda was the “guru of this age."

Let me digress to explore what Swami Kriyananda might have meant by “guru of this age.” Certainly it is subject to interpretation but it makes no sense to me to see the term “guru” as being literal in respect to the human race at large. I think it means that Yogananda’s presentation of meditation and yoga philosophy was suited to this new age. He taught in our language and in our country (and to our scientific culture). It was not a mere transportation of old ideas and language (that of India) into a culture unfamiliar with it. Yogananda gave us a spiritual view of life and a way of life that is not based on narrow-eyed sectarianism, or, indeed any 'ism.
  
Yogananda spoke on subjects of marriage and child-raising, success and career, politics and history, economics and trade and not just theology and religion. He gave deep insights into our Judaeo-Christian culture and theology, and, to a lesser degree, that of other faiths. Nor did he abandon devotion and worship as if to please agnostics, atheists or die-hard materialists. He described his work and teachings as a “new dispensation” of eternal values and truths. The term “dispensation” implies that restrictions of the past have been loosed for a fresh new start on the path to the “truth that shall make us free.”

He brought answers to the spiritual needs and questions of the modern era and consciousness. We NEED inner peace in this fragmented society. We NEED advanced but relatively simple techniques of meditation like Kriya Yoga. In fact, we don’t need GURUDOM in the traditional outer forms that we see still prevalent today [where the teacher, living a life of luxury, is the center of attention by adoring millions]. Yogananda left this world at the relatively young age of 59 and left no viable successor gurus!

In fact, he said he was “the last of this line (of gurus). He left us his life-affirming counsel in all walks of life and he gave to us, on behalf of the lineage which sent him, Kriya Yoga. Organizations like Ananda are merely “delivery vehicles.”)

Religion is not going to go away. I once heard the Dalai Lama remark that the world doesn’t need more temples. Yes, I agree with him if he means enormous and expensive temples which are paeans to “churchianity”. But what we DO need is the support of one another to turn the tide of materialism, exploitation, racism and violence in a new direction towards cooperation, peace, and harmony.

“Religion,” Swami Kriyananda, and I’m sure others, have said “is organized spirituality.” Organization is the particular genius of the West. The science of consciousness is the gift of the East. We need both. A new and grass roots spiritual force must rise. And, it won’t be any one organization, like a super Catholic church. It will be many groups of like-minded souls who can acknowledge and cooperate with one another and who can be an example of “how-to-live” in a new age.

Let us then be “spiritual AND religious!”

Joy to you (and you, and you …. )


Swami Hrimananda

[1] Chapter 27, "Founding of a Yoga School at Ranchi"

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Be the Change : Be a Kriya Emissary!

There is a surge of inspiration worldwide among millions of meditators to find ways to become visible and to offer the “meditation solution” to a world in desperate need of change. 

Ananda, the worldwide network of communities and centers based on the practice of kriya yoga meditation, has initiated a campaign called, BE THE CHANGE: I Meditate. At the website, https://www.meditationpledge.com/ meditators around the world have an opportunity to pledge their meditation hours as an affirmation of their personal commitment to meditation as the solution to affecting a shift in worldwide consciousness towards peace, harmony, and cooperation.

The term “kriya” has always intrigued me for the simple reason that its literal meaning is simply (more or less): action. In Chapter 26 of the "Autobiography of a Yogi," Paramhansa Yogananda interprets the term as “union (yoga) with the Infinite through a certain rite or action.” Very generic is his explanation, in other words.

Swami Kriyananda may have been the first swami ever to take the spiritual name “kriyananda.” At the time, as I understand it, his intention related to the practice of kriya yoga. But inasmuch as Paramhansa Yogananda described Swamiji’s life as one of “service, and (he paused), meditation,” Swamiji also opined that his name has a double meaning: not just action as kriya yoga meditation but action as in service!

Why is it that Babaji and/or Lahiri Mahasaya used this singular, generic term (kriya) to describe the technique that they have given to the world? In our times every teacher goes out of his/her way to brand his own form of meditation or yoga with a trademarkable term! Were they simply ignorant of the benefits of trademarks and branding? (I can’t answer that for them, of course.) 

The term they chose is generic because creation at large and the human body specifically are generic. The way to enlightenment and to liberation is universal and not dependent upon belief or religious affiliation. The soul’s awakening gradually withdraws identification from the three bodies (physical, astral, causal) step by step going in reverse order and enter the kingdom of God through the channel(s) through which we came. The technique which they called “kriya” does precisely this. 

There are innumerable variations in terms of describing and practicing the technique itself. Thus it is that Yogananda claims that “St. Paul knew kriya, or a technique very similar to it…….” It’s the channel and the process that is universal. The details of the technique are important both as to the effectiveness which results by practicing the technique correctly to energize these channels AND as to the grace and power that comes through the guru and the instructions given by the guru.

Thus I come to my main thesis: as “kriya” refers to action, it is time for kriyabans (practitioners of kriya) to take action, to become Kriya Emissaries. I don’t mean we should rush out and teach the technique itself on the street corners. Meditation itself is “kriya” when understood in its broadest context. Ananda’s BE THE CHANGE initiative and campaign is the first level of our taking action. Sign up and pledge your meditation. Let’s achieve those million hours of meditation and help shift consciousness at a time in history when it is desperately needed.

But I would also hope that individuals, two by two (preferably), could with the support and guidance of their spiritual teacher, organization, or like-minded friends, go for a weekend; a week; a month; or more, and travel locally, regionally or internationally to share the BE THE CHANGE message and the practice of meditation. 

As most of my readers are likely affiliated with Ananda, this message can and should include sharing information on how and why the practice of kriya yoga can powerfully aid in this shift of consciousness. Paramhansa Yogananda wrote in "Autobiography of a Yogi" that the kriya technique is destined to spread around the world so that “all…may come to know that there is a definite, scientific technique of self-realization for the overcoming of all human misery.” Later in the "Autobiography of a Yogi," he writes, “Through use of the Kriya key, persons who cannot bring themselves to believe in the divinity of any man will behold at last the full divinity of their own selves.”

Whether we leave our town or city or not, we CAN be Kriya Emissaries. Sharing with others that we meditate need not be an imposition upon others. It can be done subtly: a picture at our desk; a book on a table; a suggestion to a friend. For others, taking a meditation teacher training course will not only help your meditation practice but it will empower you with confidence to share simple techniques with friends, family, children, or more formally in classes at work, fitness center, church, or other public venue.

“The only way out is IN!” The solution to humanity’s pressing issues today is a shift in consciousness. Leadership is needed but consciousness is by definition individual. This is the age of Self-realization which has come, as Yogananda put it, “to unite” all sincere seekers (not under the umbrella of any single organization or creed but under the shining stars of Superconsciousness!). Let us vow to ourselves, as Yogananda did when his guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar challenged his resistance to public service, “to share with my fellows, so far as lay in my power, the unshackling truths I had learned at my guru’s feet.”

Joy to you,


Swami Hrimananda

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Meditation: Are You Missing the Point?

I had an interesting discussion with a friend the other day. The topic we discussed is one that is very common among meditators but while there are lots of opinions, there is very little consensus. Here are some of the ways it is approached:

1. I have very little time. Should I spend my time practicing my technique(s) or should I simply sit in meditation?

2. I struggle with following the prescribed meditation routine that I have been taught. Practicing the routine can require more concentration than I have or want to give, or, I find them tedious and uninspiring.

3. I am faithful to my daily meditation routine but I don't feel I am making any progress or at least don't feel very much inspiration. 

4. I have very little time to devote to meditation; I have many responsibilities; but I feel guilty about not fulfilling my pledge to meditate, including completing the practices I have committed to.

No matter how it’s stated, the basic issue is how to find inspiration from one's meditation.

Before I comment more usefully on this subject, let me remind us that meditation which is practiced "because I have to," or, "in the expectation of results" is already bound to be unsatisfying.

Why is this? This is because the very nature of inner peace is unconditional. It is devoid of compulsion or expectation.

I have lived in the ashram-like communities of Ananda most of my adult life. In meditating frequently, often daily, with others (often the same people day in and out), and, having taught meditation for many years, I understand how easy it is to mistake the practice of techniques for the goal of meditation.

There is a dialogue in AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A YOGI between the young Mukunda (Yogananda's name as a boy) and a saint he would frequently visit. The saint says to Mukunda: "You often go into the silence, but have you developed anubhava? He was reminding me,” Yogananda wrote, “to love God more than meditation. Do not mistake the technique for the goal."

Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras warns us (tongue in cheek, no doubt) against "missing the point."

We live in a technology and technique oriented culture. As one who teaches the family of meditation techniques that includes Kriya Yoga as taught by Paramhansa Yogananda, I see students come seeking to learn these techniques.

Too often a student imagines that the techniques themselves hold the promised reward of enlightenment. Because we tell them that belief is secondary to experience, they assume the experience of meditation born of the techniques of meditation will bring them what they seek.

Again, frequent articles based on scientific studies encourages the expectation that meditation is a panacea for all sorts of physical and mental maladies. Few stop to consider that even the most healthy, well-balanced, active, peace-loving, compassionate and creative individual may be very far from enlightened or unendingly blissful. Happy, well, yes but how dependable is human happiness in the face of Buddha’s threefold suffering: illness, aging, and death? (What to mention a veritable plethora of potential human woes around every corner!)

I would be a fool to attempt to define enlightenment but for the purposes of points I wish to make, let us posit the thesis that the purpose of meditation is to experience perfect stillness, Oneness or a state of ego transcendence. Obviously, then, perfect health (physical and mental) is none of these states.

Between the psycho-physiological benefits of meditation and a state of perfect stillness or ego transcendence lie recognizable and identifiable experiences in meditation. Most experienced meditators, for example, know what is inner peace, joy, love, or expanded awareness.

Therefore, for my purposes let's call these states the "goal" of meditation techniques and routines. Making it even simpler, let's say for the purposes of this article that INNER PEACE in meditation is my goal.

Therefore it must be the case that the technique(s) or routines of meditation that I practice are SECONDARY to my goal. They may of course help to achieve my goal. But are they ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY?

At first, when we learn to meditate, the routine and technique ARE substantially necessary and certainly useful to achieve consistent results with meditation. A person too lazy or lacking energy or intelligence, or one who cannot or refuses to learn the science of meditation, cannot thereby fault his "tools."

But with dedicated practice, the meditator learns to summon (mostly) at will the state of inner peace. To be clear, I am NOT saying that one should expect to be able to abandon meditation techniques or routines. A true technique (especially "guru-given") can take one to ever deeper states of meditation which are, in fact, “endless” because Oneness equates to Infinity and there’s no end to Infinity!!!! "Those too perfect for this world, adorn some other" the dry-witted Swami Sri Yukteswar (guru of Yogananda) once remarked.

What I AM saying, is that when pressed for time, or when internal resistance to the discipline of technique surfaces strongly, the meditator who can should simply enter at will the happy state of inner peace which is, in fact, our true goal. Of course, if he cannot do this, then it would be best to reach back into his tool kit of affirmations, prayer, chanting, mantra, or pranayama to kick start the energy needed to lift off (up).

My real point is that many meditators MISS the point and get bogged down in their own unhappy resistance to routine, or to the pressure of limited time, when, if they were more aware, could simply sit and realize they can enter into INNER PEACE at will! Or, if they are already feeling that deep peace even as they begin to sit, but believe they have to go through their routine first before being rewarded by inner peace, they should consider going with the flow of peace first.

If time allows and that peace wanes, then, by all means, go back to your routine to once again prime the pump!

The purpose of learning the techniques of one's profession, craft or art, is to go beyond them into the art of it. As a raft is left behind once one reaches the opposite shore, so are meditation techniques put aside when higher states appear.

Don't fool yourself in imagining that one or two blissful meditations means you can throw out your kriya beads. Nor should you imagine that feeling inner peace is the end game of true meditation. (Infinity, remember?) While meditation is both a science and an art, the science leads to the art (and not the other way around). 

But real meditators struggle to find time for meditation. Real meditators struggle with guilt over not being able to practice the way they "should." Real meditators can sometimes get into a rut, practicing the same routine every day until it becomes stale.

Let us not, therefore, "miss the point" of meditation.

Joy and blessings,

Swami Hrimananda

Postscript: In another article I will share thoughts on making every moment of the active day a meditation; and, perhaps another article on specific ideas on how to keep your meditation routine fresh and inspired! A deeper aspect of this apparent dichotomy between technique and the goal is the integration of the two when “being” enters the “doing” and “doing” becomes “being.” This little phrase comes to me at this moment: “No-thing is the way to where Fullness comes to stay.”




Monday, December 12, 2016

A New Blog Has Been Born: Autobiography of a Yogi

Today I have written the first article taking the very first paragraph of the much beloved and 21st century scripture, AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A YOGI.

This blog has its own address:   dailyAY.com

The first article is entitled: Concomitant : Making Truth Personal.

Joy!

Swami Hrimananda

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Autobiography of a Yogi : A Life Changing & World Changing Classic

Some 70 years ago -- December 1, 1946, a new scripture for a new and atomic age was born: AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A YOGI. How many millions have read this book? Difficult to say but millions of copies have been sold and this classic story likes to travel! But let others attest to the facts of its sales and readership. 

[For your own free digital audiobook copy, go to www.GoYogananda.com BEFORE December 1st.]

I join those countless souls around the world whose lives have been changed for the better by this now famous and beloved classic of spiritual literature. It is also a scripture, for during this worldwide celebration of its publication you will read countless stories of men and women who, in times of need, simply open its pages at random for inspiration and guidance. I am, in fact, one of them.

Its author, Paramhansa (Swami) Yogananda, born in India in 1893, was only 53 years old when he wrote it. Having arrived in 1920 to the shores of America, he returned to India only once, in no small part to gather the material needed to write this book. Otherwise he came to America to stay. The completion of his autobiography was to mark the beginning of the last few years of his life. (He left this earth in 1952, only six years later.)

The "AY" as many of its devotees lovingly refer to it, seamlessly blends charming and inspiring stories with deep, spiritual teachings drawn from ancient India and offered with the immediacy of a flash of revelation. 

My own personal search for truth took me to India in 1975-76. I traveled the length and breadth of India "In search of Secret India" (the book that inspired me, by Paul Brunton). Alas, like Dorothy and Toto (her little dog) in the famous movie, "The Wizard of Oz," I did not find what I sought there, in India, but, instead, the "AY" was handed to me upon my return home to the U.S. Years later I was forced to conclude that "when the disciple is ready, the guru appears" applied to me as well! Naturally I don't for one moment regret that life changing adventure to India.

How many readers have commented on the perspicacity of that great work. I say, "perspicacity," because I include the frequency with which unfamiliar, even obscure words are employed amongst its pages. Even apart from its spiritual subject matter, the AY is a marvelous work of literature which will remain in the annals of literature for centuries to come. It deserves to be read, whenever possible, in its "native" language: English.

Its first sentence encapsulates its intention in these memorable words, at once both personal and cosmic: 

"The characteristic features of Indian culture have long been a search for ultimate verities and the concomitant disciple-guru relationship."

As Genesis of the Old Testament begins Chapter 1 with cosmology and descends with lighting speed to the personal story of Adam and Eve (meaning your story and mind) in Chapter 2, so also does the AY rotate between the precepts of India's universal and ancient revelations, Sanaatan Dharma (the eternal truth revelation) and their application to the individual lives of Mukunda Lal Ghosh (later Paramhansa Yogananda), his family, friends, and spiritual teachers.

I too laughed one moment and cried tears of joy or sadness the next. I too could NOT put the story down. Even the footnotes wear the robe of wisdom, connecting the dots between modern science and the hoary Vedas.

The reader is carried to India, to the feet of its timeless tradition and through the veils of its otherwise impenetrable mysteries. Having just returned from India myself in 1976, from its villages, cities, temples, plains, seas, and mountains which I visited on the eve of its explosion into the 21st century, I embraced this book and its author as my very own and have never looked back: not once. 

Like millions of its readers I closed its pages wondering "What on earth do I do now? How will I ever be the same again? Will I forget and revert to striving to fulfill the American dream (and thus falling back to sleep, spiritually)? Never!" came the silent reply.

With my introduction to the AV in 1976 came two other life-changing gifts: my future wife, and her introduction of me to Swami Kriyananda and to the Ananda Village community near Nevada City, CA which he founded. I was blessed with an immediate pathway for my inspiration. 

Swami Kriyananda (1926 to 2013) was a direct disciple of Yogananda's. He came to Yogananda less than two years after the publication of the AY. After reading it, he immediately took a bus from New York City to Los Angeles! This pattern of "read and act" has been repeated so often by readers of the AY that it is all but a "standard issue" discipleship tale! 

I recognize, however, that for countless readers of the AY no immediate pathway for action seems evident. In fact, the most common refrain I hear from students coming to Ananda goes something like this: when asked if they'd ever heard or read the AY, the stock reply is, "Oh, yeah, I read it twenty years ago......" I no longer ask the obvious question, "Well, what happened?" because life's compelling needs, desires, and activities take over in most cases. Thus I count my blessings with those who, like me, found an immediate pathway for our inspiration.

Strangely enough, Paramhansa Yogananda's compelling life story hides from most readers his own spiritual greatness. He appears on the stage of his story as mere seeker, blessed with opportunities to meet modern saints and sages of India. The "story behind the story" is that the saints he met recognized him, the boy Mukunda, to be a great saint. 

As the world teacher he became, Yogananda brings reconciliation and understanding to the core issues that have long separated the religious traditions that we have inherited. And yet, in the AY and in his public teachings, his insights are so natural and so self-evident that few grasp the revolutionary insights he has offered to the world. 

Some of those issues include monotheism vs. polytheism; monism vs. dualism; God as personal or impersonal; the dual nature of Jesus Christ and of other world teachers and avatars; is an avatar a special creation, indeed, God "himself," or a fully God-realized soul like you and I? 

Does heaven and hell really exist? Do we go there for an eternity or? Is our soul absolutely and forever separate from God? Or, does the ego get obliterated in cosmic consciousness? Is the creation an illusion and a mere dream and, if so, therefore are we not responsible for our actions? What is free will? 

Does reincarnation exist and, if so, is it arbitrary and whimsical? Did Jesus believe in reincarnation? Has creation always existed or did it have a beginning? He even answered the question of "What comes first, the chicken or the egg (A: the chicken). 

In the AY Yogananda demonstrates by example the true nature of the disciple-guru relationship as one of divine friendship, not one of master and obedient slave. It is one in which both guru and disciple help one another and fulfill the divinely guided destiny of one another. 

He also explains the inner workings of so-called miraculous powers and their relationship to the findings of modern science. Death is shown for what it is: a change, merely, and an opportunity for most to simply rest before continuing the adventure of Self-awakening. 

Yogananda affirmed the life, teachings, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He shows that other avatars have demonstrated similar power of life and death. 

The AY is truly and clearly a scripture for a new age and a new consciousness. It will remain so for centuries to come, though the impact of its revelations has only begun, its influence will continue to grow exponentially. The AY is the herald of the world-changing meditation technique of Kriya Yoga. Kriya Yoga is spreading throughout the planet and will steadily become available for sincere seekers of every race and nation, and every faith tradition as well. 

Jai Guru!

In joy and with deep gratitude at Thy feet,

Swami Hrimananda







Monday, October 31, 2016

"Autobiography of a Yogi" Trumps Politics

On December 1 this year (2016), the beloved and world renowned classic, “Autobiography of a Yogi,” by Paramhansa Yogananda, will celebrate the 70th anniversary of its first publication. Crystal Clarity Publishers is offering a free online digital copy on that day, Thursday, December 1. To sign up for your free copy go to https://www.ananda.org/free-ay-reminder.

No one really knows how many millions have read this modern scripture but we know it has changed the lives of many thousands. I am one of those people! There’s an expression I hear every week that goes like this: “Truth is one and eternal.” "Eternal" also means timely, as well as timeless. Timeless truths are as fresh and applicable today as thousands of years ago ....  or thousands of years to come.

2016 is probably the strangest election campaign for president that America has experienced in, well, who knows how many decades, perhaps well over a century. Crass, insulting, a blatant disregard of truth and facts….the list of bottom-feeding characteristics goes on and on. A sad state of affairs that, to those of us who seek to find the cup of life half-full, gives rise to the hope that the sorry experience will be a wake-up call to the majority of Americans who are of goodwill, compassion, high ideals and wisdom.

Paramhansa Yogananda, author of the “A.Y.” (as the “Autobiography” is often and lovingly referred to), came to America to live in 1920. As a person of color, he experienced prejudice and discrimination. But ever ebullient, upbeat, energetic, and accepting of all, he won friends wherever he went. He predicted that the time was coming when America and India would “lead the world.” By this he meant that America and India would come to symbolize and epitomize the twin ideals of material efficiency and nonsectarian spirituality. He said that meditation would someday become the unifying practice and ideal of all religions, regardless of dogma, ritual and tradition.

Yogananda came to see that just as science has taught us to experiment and to achieve useful results, so too those of high ideals and spiritual goals would seek to experiment and find practical ways to achieve states of spiritual consciousness rather than just theorize about them, embrace mere belief, or practice only rituals or good deeds. Direct, intuitive experience of God or one the divine states such as peace, love, or joy would someday, he predicted, become the goal of religionists in the future.

The 2016 presidential campaign starkly symbolizes the contrast between “materialism” (as a false "religion") and “consciousness” (as the essence of reality). Materialism pretends to be practical in its “earthiness.” It upholds for its devotees the "supreme" value of possessions, prestige, wealth, pleasure and superiority. It disdains those it deems inferior whether in intelligence, status, race or gender. Donald Trump, a proponent of this false religion, is more in tune with the likes of Vladimir Putin than with Pope Francis or Mother Teresa, what to say, Paramhansa Yogananda! Trump symbolizes a corollary version of ISIS: dogmatic, racist, disdainful of higher values, rude, and generally ignorant of more refined values.

"Consciousness" values intention, the golden rule, and divine states of transcendence. It is expressed by kindness, cooperation, and moderation; by sensitivity to the realities of others, as well as fearlessness in the defense of the defenseless and righteousness in the struggle for justice.

We see in the teachings of India, as demonstrated in India’s classic and epic tale, the “Mahabharata,” and in that chapter of the Mahabharata that constitutes India’s most beloved scripture, the Bhagavad Gita, the very same struggle, indeed a war, between higher values and materialistic (ego-affirming) ones. The message of Lord Krishna in that great scripture is a call to “arms.” We must, he teaches, fight the “battle of life.” We must raise our consciousness above the petty demands of the ego with its countless cousins in the form of myriad personal desires. 

The history of America, too, contrasts grasping for natural and human resources in pursuit of power and wealth versus the high ideals of freedom and justice upon which our nation was founded.

This election will soon be a faded and jaded memory but the struggle between light and dark continues. The “A.Y.” however will stand tall and long in the history of the centuries to come as a beacon of light from the east. Praising the practicality of the West while teaching the scientific methods of God realization from the East, Paramhansa Yogananda symbolizes the best of east and west in what humanity must aspire to become if we are to survive our long history of tribalism, genocide, warfare, and prejudice.

In his life story, Yogananda visits both saints of east and west, and, scientists of east and west. He renders unto each of them the honor and respect for their accomplishments and for the example each offers of how to live nobly and productively in the modern world.

The “A.Y.” offers to humanity hope for a better world even as it paints its charming stories in colors drawn from the waning years of what is now, for us, a bygone era. Yogananda and those whose lives he upholds for us are as ambassadors from a gentler and nobler race. These men and women of science and of Spirit model for us a lifestyle and values, which, while timeless, are urgently timely for the survival, prosperity, and happiness of humanity in the ages to come.

To participate in the celebration of the “A.Y.’s” 70th anniversary visit https://www.ananda.org/free-ay-reminder

Joy to you,
Swami Hrimananda




Wednesday, May 25, 2016

What is Kriya Yoga?


Padma and I (and others) just returned from a four-day retreat at Ananda Village whose theme was the art and science of kriya yoga. Kriya Yoga is the central practice of the meditation teachings brought from India to the West by Paramhansa Yogananda and which are at the heart of the spirituality of Ananda worldwide. This article was sent to Ananda members in the Seattle area.

Kriya Yoga is an advanced form of meditation known and recognized throughout the world. It was re-introduced to the world in 1861 to a humble Hindu accountant, Shyama Charan Lahiri (aka Lahiri Mahasaya) by the mysterious Himalayan saint known only as “Babaji” who gave “Lahiri” permission to initiate any sincere seeker of any faith whether monk or householder.

Through the traditional transmission from teacher to student-disciple-teacher, the spread of Kriya Yoga was destined to encircle the globe. It is well suited to the modern age where the emphasis is upon personal experience over belief. Paramhansa Yogananda’s now famous life story, Autobiography of a Yogi, put Kriya Yoga on the world map of popular meditation techniques.

Both by tradition and by intention, Kriya Yoga (KY) has been given only to those who have received preparation and training using various preparatory meditation techniques. Traditional yoga training includes a healthy diet, right attitude and moderation in sense faculties, study of spiritual teachings, and physical exercises in addition to a spectrum of meditation and purification practices such as yoga postures and breath control.

The basic purpose of this training is both to test the aspirant’s sincerity AND to prepare the body, nervous system, and the mind for deeper and more advanced meditation practices and experiences. With the popularity of meditation ever growing, most people naturally seek physical and mental benefits. For this purpose, mindfulness techniques (such as the Hong Sau - "Watching the Breath" - technique taught by Yogananda) are more than adequate. Kriya Yoga is for those seeking enlightenment (using any number of other possible words or terminology).

The other prerequisite intended by the reintroduction of KY into popular use is the recognition ­— part in gratitude and part as a transmission of actual spiritual awakening — of the need for a God-realized guru or preceptor. Such a person is no mere ordinary spiritual teacher; nor is the intended transmission thwarted by the guru’s no longer being in living, human form. Any technique given as initiation, including the Kriya technique, functions as much as a “channel” for the transmission of higher consciousness as it does a technique of meditation. Without the former, the latter is only partly effective. As we are “Spirit” and not merely a body with a personality, so the spiritual freedom we seek cannot come through merely material means or psychological efforts alone.

The true Goal of advanced meditation practices transcends ego, personality, body and matter: it “lives” in a realm without second, without form, and in unconditional consciousness. Such a state is therefore its source and being beyond ordinary perception must be channeled and received bit-by-bit just as a computer or a cell phone conversation carries information bit-by-bit. The technique is to the goal as a cell phone is to the substance of a conversation. The cell phone alone cannot substitute for the conversation even as the cell phone makes the conversation possible.

But as the guru or preceptor is a transmitting station, a sub-station and transformer, for the ultimate Goal, we must recognize that the preceptor, too, has no substantive personality. Our “discipleship” is not to a person but to an “instrument” (a rather “conscious” cell phone tower, if you will) sending us transmissions from Infinity. In this somewhat limited sense, then, the technique itself can become our guide and guru because it allows the transmission of higher consciousness to reach us. As Yogananda said of himself in the role of guru, “God is the guru. I killed Yogananda long ago.” Just as we can no more pick up our cell phone and call the President of the United States, so we must call the switchboard and talk to one of God's reps! Eventually, by building a relationship of trust with those who have His ear, we’ll get through to “the top.”

Yogananda, as the guru, is no longer present in a human form. Far too much is made these days by prospective and otherwise sincere devotees of the fear or doubt surrounding a discipleship relationship with him since it must needs be an inner relationship alone. Recognizing that through kriya yoga practice one can consciously draw on the spiritual power of Yogananda’s omnipresent consciousness is hardly a threat, except perhaps to the obstructive, no-saying donkey we call the ego!

Nor does such a relationship prohibit the recognition of other God-realized channels, for in God consciousness, there are no distinctions and no competition for loyalty. Whether world teacher or unknown, a free-soul is no more, or no less, free in God.

Given, however, that few devotees, even among the most committed, can spend more than an hour or two each day in the practice of kriya yoga, it must be recognized that the company of other (and especially more advanced) devotees is one of the most important ways of drawing on that spiritual transmission. This outward “transmission” is necessary so long as we are “outward” in our consciousness and self-definitions. Serving the outward work of the guru’s transmission with fellow devotees is easily one of the most important ways to advance spiritually and transcend ego consciousness. It doesn’t necessarily mean being a teacher: there are many ways to serve, each according to what is best spiritually for him. If one’s life circumstances permits such association but one balks at this opportunity, one would do well to question his spiritual readiness.

A wonderful description of Kriya Yoga can be found in Chapter 26 of “Autobiography of a Yogi.” The book can be read online for free at www.Ananda.org. You can also watch several video presentations by Padma and I on our own website: www.AnandaWA.org/kriya-yoga/ .

Sincerely and with unceasing blessings,

Nayaswamis Hriman and Padma

Monday, February 22, 2016

TAMING THE MONKEY MIND – PART 1 – “Name that Monkey!”


Last Fall (2015), I held a one-night class on the subject of “Taming the Monkey Mind.” Suffice to say, one class was far too little time to work with the meditator’s (seemingly) greatest obstacle. At the time I promised (something of a sop, I’m afraid) to write a few blog articles to make up for the woeful lack of time. As it has been many months, they may have thought I forgot, but I have not.

Where does one begin? Well, it wouldn’t hurt to be introduced to that monkey. We find quickly that he’s not just one; he’s a whole family of monkeys. They inhabit our brain and are in constant motion. 

Practical, playful, even mischievous, at times. Our first acknowledgement we must make is for the debt we owe to the monkey brain family for keeping us alive. Of the family tree identified by Charles Darwin, this family of monkeys is highly trained at protecting us from threats, both seen and unseen, and helping us to develop many useful skills.

It is axiomatic in metaphysics and Yoga-Samkhya-Vedanta philosophy that the source of all matter is consciousness. Chapter 1 of Swami Kriyananda’s excellent book on the subject of meditation, Awaken to Superconsciousness, dedicates its first chapter to this precept (much to the dismay of its unsuspecting readers—for it is intellectual and abstruse). Similarly the thrust of the entire and vast body of Indian thought is that it is our soul’s destiny to transcend the delusion of material existence to contemplate and to become one with this ever-present, eternal, and omniscient reality (Consciousness). Our destiny it is because our brain and nervous system have evolved over eons of time for this very purpose. Slugs and snails, indeed, monkeys themselves, are not fully hard-wired to transcend the brain-body-nervous system!

While we are thus (seemingly hopelessly) body-sense-ego bound, we also, as yet and simultaneously, transcendent.  While that which binds us (brain, nervous system, senses) is as yet and simultaneously that which can free us. We are, thusly, existentially conflicted. We have two directions, seemingly, to pursue: the one, at once familiar and the other seemingly foreign and distant.

Even at the expense of reason (which tells us our life is short and our fate uncertain), we can pursue —intensely or lazily — whatever life in the body offers us, complete with its joys, sorrows, pleasures, pain and predestined demise into oblivion. Our monkey-ness keeps us so busy that most people don’t even consider there’s a choice in the matter. For those upon whom nature showers its gifts, most slumber in the forgetfulness of the moment, unheedful, ignorant or indifferent to the vast majority of others who are not so benighted.

The other path is towards transcendence. This is the path of Buddha, Jesus, and the prophets and masters down through ages. The panacea of lasting happiness and freedom from suffering, whether in heaven beyond, or in our hearts here and now, is the path of Light. In our age a new dispensation has been given to all people, regardless of status, race or nation, who seek the path of transcendence. It is the practice of meditation. Never mind that at first, millions will use meditation for its physical and psychological benefits, as if to only improve their circumstances during their predestined and brief sojourn in their human body. This is the stage of awakening such as one sees in the life of Jesus when crowds sought him for his healing powers alone.

Once a taste of monkey-less-ness is achieved, the monkey-less-MIND exercises a magnetic call to “Be still and know that I AM God.” (Psalm 46:10).

Samkhya darshana (philosophy) identifies four aspects of the monkey mind: its functional ability and purpose to interact with the body and senses; its ability to make rational or intuitive conclusions and connections (whether in the abstract and conceptual or in relation to the senses); its tendency to identify personally with either strata of mental activity; and, lastly, its embrace or rejection.

In the first, it is valuable to know that fire can burn your hand; that there’s a difference between a rope and snake; that spoiled food looks and tastes a certain way. In the second, our intelligence, whether merely logical or inspired from unseen heights, equips us with great power, good, bad or neither. In the third, we are able to identify mental activity (thoughts, emotions, actions) in its relationship to “Me.” This allows for selectivity, prioritizing and ownership or detachment. This me-function is closely related, then, to our emotional life for herein lies our tendency to identify with and desire, or reject in repulsion, the circumstances, people, or ideas that engage our daily life.

To list these characteristics, then, they are: manas, buddhi, ahamkara, and chitta. Transcending each of these aspects takes specialized tools of meditation. (We’ll come to these much later.)

These four aspects of our ego-mind can play out unseen by us in their subconscious functions, consciously, or superconsciously. It is the superconscious mind that is closest to the transcendent mind. The subconscious mind is but a domestic servant whether programmed by pre or post-natal tendencies. It holds the key to the function of habits; it serves to protect the ego by looking for threats even in the nuances of the words of other people; it reacts by instinct according to “fight or flight;” and, lastly, it is, by itself, passive and generally uncreative. It can be re-trained by the conscious intention and efforts of the conscious mind, guided by the innate and intuitive wisdom of the superconscious mind.

The conscious mind, being awake and aware of the world around us, sees mostly foes everywhere; or, at least obstacles and problems to overcome but it is too often seeing the world through subconscious filters of which it is, well, unconscious! It tends to be cautious, analytical and even wary. The conscious mind can also be insensitive to others or to more subtle signals and realities, as it is so focused on only what is right in front of it and related to "Me."

That which first filters the transcendent mind is the superconscious mind. Being in touch with a larger reality and not yet gated by subconscious filters and past actions, it sends us, to the degree we draw from it, answers, solutions, new ideas, and inspirations. It is filtered at least to this degree: Einstein didn’t hear symphonies in his head nor did Beethoven see a beam of light shooting through space. We receive the guidance apropos to our needs.

I’ll end this part with the link between body-mind-spirit: the breath. The “Holy Ghost” (or ghast, breath) signals the appearance of life in the new born and the disappearance of life at death. In between it acts as a direct link and reflector of the state of consciousness on which we sit at every moment. “The ancient yogis discovered that the secret of cosmic consciousness is intimately linked with breath mastery. This is India’s unique and deathless contribution to the world’s treasury of knowledge.[1]




[1] “Autobiography of a Yogi,” by Paramhansa Yogananda, 1946 edition, Chapter 26: The Science of Kriya Yoga.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Can God Be Proved? A New Dispensation

I believe that in the Shankhya scriptures of India it is said that "God cannot be proved." (Ishwar ashiddha"). People argue about this all the time.

Many simply believe in God and call it good. This is, in part, because our rational and scientifically committed culture does not "believe in" intuition, except for the inexplicable but not easily replicated phenomenon known as the "hunch." This is all too frequently dismissed as just another of those things about women that men can't rationally account for. Thus "believers" are forced to build a firewall between belief and proof; between spirit and nature; between divine and the human experience.

Standing with awe before nature, human life, drama, history and yes, even science, we touch upon the feeling of something greater than ourselves; something that underlies all things. Albert Einstein's life long pursuit of a unified theory of everything echoes this intuitive feeling often triggered by the experience of awe. This is one example (of many) of intuition. We just KNOW that IT is there, here, and everywhere. It can be felt, touched but not seen or possessed. But, not proved!

Paramhansa Yogananda describes in Chapter 14 (An Experience of Cosmic Consciousness) of his life story, "Autobiography of a Yogi," a doorway into this supra-sensory realm of intuition. It is, unsurprisingly, through meditation that this experience can be replicated by anyone willing to pay the price of admission: sincere and sustained effort using specific methods of meditation.

Some many months after having this mind-blowing experience of infinity, Yogananda (PY) took a problem to his guru (who had bestowed upon him that experience). "I want to know, sir -- when shall I find God?" Swami Sri Yuktewar, perhaps smiling, responded, "You have found Him." "O no, sir, I don't think so!"After a brief exchange, in which an incredulous Sri Yukteswar was certain his disciple did not expect to find a man on a throne, he explained:

"Ever-new Joy is God. He is inexhaustible; as you continue your meditations during the years, He will beguile you with an infinite ingenuity." Later, he continues, "After the mind has been cleared by Kriya Yoga of sensory obstacles, meditation furnishes a two-fold proof of God. Ever-new joy is evidence of His existence, convincing to our very atoms. Also, in meditation one finds His instant guidance, His adequate response to every difficulty."  (Autobiography of a Yogi, 1946 edition)

PY effectively introduced, as he put it, a "new dispensation." Truth is one and eternal but its manifold expressions change according to the needs of receptive souls. So the new part is to offer truthseekers to put aside mere belief and rancorous theological debates in return for the direct perception of God in meditation. It is in the universal and nonsectarian experiences of inner peace, joy, and unconditional love (to name three of eight aspects) that God can be experienced.

As a measurable bonus, pleasing to scientists, testing has proven innumerable physical and mental benefits to meditation. These are the "added unto you" of Jesus' famous counsel to "Seek the kingdom of heaven (which is within you) first, and all these things (health, intelligence, creativity, happiness) will be added unto you."

Sticking a bit with Jesus Christ, since "sufficient unto the day" are the needs thereof, the meditator need not focus unduly with the cosmic consciousness experience described by PY and the goal of the soul's journey toward Self-realization. For the "infinite (and beguiling) ingenuity of God is sufficient unto the daily meditation practice to push us along our journey to that end which, were it to be bestowed prematurely, would "fry our brains!" as intimated elsewhere in PY's autobiography.

Thus is released for millions the tension between the rational mind and the intuitive soul. This is the new dispensation and the glad tidings, the good news that PY has brought to the world. Satisfaction, convincing to our very atoms and to our thirsty hearts, and lasting, bestowed without condition of belief or affiliation, can heal the wounds of divisive sectarianism and the war between science and religion, atheists and believers.

Blessings to you,

Swami Hrimananda

Monday, September 14, 2015

Breath Mastery: India's contribution to the world's treasury of knowledge

Paramhansa Yogananda, in his now classic life story, “Autobiography of a Yogi,” wrote that “breath mastery” is “India’s unique and deathless contribution to the world’s treasury of knowledge.”

What “knowledge” perchance was he referring to? Knowledge of the Self.  “Know thyself.” (Gnothi Seauton, inscribed in the forecourt at the Temple of Apollo in Delphi, Greece.) Or as Shakespeare said in the words of Polonius:  to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.

Since ancient times and from the wise in every tradition comes this counsel to turn within, to introspect, to become self aware and know the Self.

Yet, so far as I know, only the yogic tradition gives us the “how” of gnosis, of going within. That, formerly secret, knowledge is the science of breath and mind: the science of yoga that is spreading rapidly throughout the world. For yoga is far more than physical movements or static bodily positions, no matter how beneficial they may be. Far too long has the word “yoga” represented only the physical branch of yoga (called “hatha yoga”).

It is no coincidence that our first breath signals our birth and our last, our death. Only the most unthinking would limit the experience of life to the simple act of breathing. As Jesus put it (John 10:11), “I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly.”

This breath, this life is abundant when we have health and happiness. But life is rarely, if ever, a static experience. Joys alternate with sorrows. So if abundance is measured in things, pleasure, human love, material security, fame or name, few will have it if but fleetingly, while those who bask in these are haunted by the shadow of loss ever ready to darken their door.

Breath, taken as the most elemental aspect of being alive, functions like a river. For daily life appears to flow only in one direction: out through the senses into the world around. This direction reverses only during sleep. Following the life-breath inward to its source would seem, therefore, beyond our conscious control.

But just as a boat with a motor can travel upstream towards the river’s headwaters, so too, can we, if we are trained in the science of breath and mind. The legend of the Fountain of Youth has its origins in the all-but-lost knowledge of this science. The Fountain of Youth, like the Garden of Eden, has no earthly location. It is, as Jesus put it, “within you.” Every night in sleep we are refreshed and baptized, at least partially, in the river of life. But sleep returns us to neutral. It is not life changing.

Long ago, the yogis discovered the methods, the means and the science of breath mastery. They discovered how to slow the breath and heart rate so that the river becomes languid and we can “row” upstream. By analyzing the experience and the psychophysiological attributes of the state of sleep, the yogis devised methods by which to enter progressively deeper states of conscious sleep. Conscious, yes: indeed super-conscious; but this state is akin to “sleep” only in mimicking the brain’s methods of turning off the five “sense telephones” (as Yogananda put it) and slowing the heart and breath.

In sleep, we enter the dream state which is as real to us (while dreaming) as the activities of the day. While the reality of the dream state is as easily dismissed as the stars at night are by the sunrise, reflection upon the dream state reveals to us how our reactions, using the brain and nervous system as instruments, create our reality during the day. The introspective mind gradually realizes that all sensory input is interpreted and filtered by the senses and by the attitude, memory, and health of the mind. With poor eyesight we easily mistake one thing, or person, for another. We thus “create our own reality” largely by our expectations, emotional filters, and past memory experiences. I don’t mean to espouse solipsism. Rather, I am saying that our experience of life is largely, as it relates to what is important to us, a matter of our mental and reactive processes.

The yogis discovered the intimate relationship between inhalation and positive reactions and exhalation and negating responses. By slowing the breathing process we gain control over the reactive process, detaching life experiences from our unconscious reaction. We thus gain control over our life. We become more conscious; more alive; clearer; wiser, happier because no longer a helpless reactionary. We grow in detachment while intensifying our inner awareness of a silently flowing river of calmness, contentment and confidence.

The science of breath mastery allows the meditator to enter a state of conscious sleep. By calming and monitoring the breath and heart rate, one can turn off the senses (as we do in sleep) while yet remaining conscious. This is what scientists observe in meditators when the alpha brain waves coincide with the theta waves: conscious awareness paired with sleep-like relaxation.

The meditator can observe the mental processes that otherwise produce the dream state. I am not referring here to lucid dreaming (which can be interesting and useful to a limited degree), because meditation has other goals, such as to transcend the body and sense and memory bound mental processes of the brain. An experienced meditator focuses the mind one-pointedly in order to eventually strip the mind and its mental processes of all self-created images.

Ironically, or so it might seem, most meditation methods use the mind to focus on a single image or object in order to hold at bay, or pacify, the habit-induced onslaught of subconscious images. There’s a saying in India: “Use a thorn to remove a thorn.” When this finally occurs, the image or object of meditation can be released. The meditator then resides in a state of awareness devoid of objects.

[Images or objects of meditation vary widely but for the sake of clarity can include focusing on a mantra, the flow of breath, energy in the body, especially certain channels and places (chakras, e.g.), the feeling of peace and related states, the image of one’s deity or guru, or various subtle phenomenon experienced in meditation such as sounds or images of light.]

The science of meditation encompasses a large knowledge base of techniques and instructions on how to use the breath to achieve what has been called, somewhat incorrectly, “altered states” of consciousness. “Incorrectly,” I aver, because the actual experience of true meditation is so elemental and so refreshing that anyone who has “been there” with any consistency says that it is our natural state. All else is just details and the busy-ness of daily life. It is like finding the pure headwaters of the river of life that, as it runs to the sea of outward activity, becomes polluted by the debris of involvement, limitation, and identification! It is like bathing in pure water or being “born again.”

So life altering are the higher states of meditation that healing and health consequences are inescapable. In fact, different yoga teachers and traditions are resurrecting the health benefits of breath control techniques (traditionally called “pranayams”). The field of yoga therapy, for example, though still focused primarily on physical postures, is one sign of the application of yoga science to healing. Use of pranayams for various health cures is also being rediscovered and subjected to field tests.

A blog like this is not the place for a long string of health references but they can be easily found. I just typed in this question in my search engine: Can pranayams help the body? I got 394,000 results!

But when our purpose for meditation is towards higher states of being, we find steadily that the importance of technique wanes in relation to motivation and will power. In fact, in any given meditation sitting, we are taught to leave a portion of our sitting time for inner silence after techniques. Real meditation begins only as techniques dissolve into the sought after higher states.

[Don’t be fooled, as some meditation seekers fool themselves, in thinking, “Therefore, forget the techniques.” That might work once in a blue moon but such dilettantes rarely stay in the game very long.]

Techniques function much like the motorboat that takes us upstream; or, the training needed by an astronaut before lift off. Once we are in space, well fine, that’s when the training pays off. Once we bathe in the pure headwaters of the river of life, we don’t need the motorboat (we can float back down the river without it!)

People sometimes ask why kriya initiation requires almost a year of training and, when given, requires a pledge of silence, an agreement not to reveal the technique to anyone without prior permission!  The reasons for this are, in part, because it takes training and development to get used to the rarified oxygen-less atmosphere of inner stillness. The brain and nervous system require refinement. Like climbing Mt Everest without oxygen, we have to get used to the thin atmosphere where thoughts subside, the body is left behind, and the emotions have vanished like clouds beneath the intense summer sun.

You may think you want all this but your entire body, nervous system, and reptile brain and ego want nothing to do with being asked to step aside. So far as they are concerned, they are being dismissed and dissolved into nothingness. Who in their right “mind,” would accede to this without a fight! “The soul loves to meditate; but the ego hates to meditate.” So counseled Paramhansa Yogananda.

One needs not only to get used to meditation but also to demonstrate by will power and motivation the necessary “right stuff” to stick with it long enough to get results. Otherwise it’s “pearls before swine.” Not calling anyone here a pig, but what would diamonds be if they were ten cents each? They wouldn’t be diamonds. It takes will power to learn the science of yoga and to go deep into the Self.

If given too soon and one gives up in frustration, rebellion or restlessness, the seed of rejection and doubt is sown. It can take more than one lifetime before that vasana, impression, or vritti, karma, weakens sufficiently so that one’s interest and desire to try again might be re-awakened. One doesn’t give a child a gun or a hammer.

But that’s kriya yoga: an advanced pranayama given to us by masters of the yoga science for dedicated seekers of Self-realization. Only when by sincere self-effort one seeks the “pearl of great price” and knows the obstacles ahead does one accept the pure and grace-bestowing guidance of an enlightened One.

But for most new meditators, there are many pranayams and meditation techniques well suited to stress reduction, health and healing. You can use breath techniques to warm or cool the nervous system; to help you sleep; to still the mind and, as the internet search suggests, heal, help or cure lots of ailments.

Technique, therefore, is a good starting point. Motivation relative to our needs and wisdom is the fuel of our pranayama rocket. With self-effort we can accomplish much. With grace, we leave the “we” behind lest our victories revert and yield, in time, to the grinding wheel of samsara (duality).

Start where you are. Learn to breathe consciously, deeply. Try to be conscious of your breathing throughout the day as well as in meditation. Detective stories say “Follow the money.” Sages say “follow the breath.”

Namaste,


Swami Hrimananda