Showing posts with label Bhagavad Gita. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bhagavad Gita. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Easter: We Shall Overcome!

Divine Mother in her form as Mother Nature blossoms forth each springtime to give us hope, to charm us with Her beauty, and to remind us that no winter is so dark that light, joy, and love can never return.

All spring festivals and spiritual holidays, from whatever tradition, celebrate Spring's renewal of life and light from the throes of death and darkness. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is perhaps the most dramatic story of renewal in human form. It has inspired and uplifted countless devotees down through two millennia. 

Our western, rational, and "prove it to me" culture may cast doubt upon the literalness of Jesus' life, crucifixion and bodily resurrection from death but no less than Paramhansa Yogananda (no orthodox Christian fundamentalist) insisted that it was real. In a the very same culture that speaks of geologic time, space travel, quantum physics, black holes, multiple universes, and billions of galaxies why would the New Testament account be so difficult to contemplate? 

Direct disciples gave their lives in witness to it. Great saints down through these past centuries testify to the living presence and reality of the very same Jesus who conquered death itself. In Jesus' name countless saints have healed others and even raised the dead! Do not modern scientists speak of ways by which the human body might be frozen and resurrected at a later date?

Jesus' resurrection, in any case, literal or otherwise, stands for the power of love to conquer hate; light over darkness; joy over sorrow; life over death. Do we not see that no matter how much pain we humans may inflict on one another, or how much we might suffer from acts of nature and external circumstances, life returns; the power to love rises to the occasion; and, in time, joy and laughter resound. 

In a profound and unique choral piece called "Life Mantra" by Ananda's founder, Swami Kriyananda (a direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda), the words to the song include phrases such as "God is Life; God is Love; God is Joy; Life is God" and so on. This revelation, this perspective, this insight into God's presence in the world as Life itself brings the much-abused and much maligned "God" into our hearts, into everyday life. In the last sentence of Chapter 35 ("Autobiography of a Yogi," The Christlike Life of Lahiri Mahasaya) referring to the meditation technique of kriya yoga, Yogananda 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."

Paramhansa Yogananda declared that the second coming of Christ is the awakening of divinity in our own hearts and consciousness. (The "first coming" is the descent of divinity in human form: in the form of the guru, such as was Jesus Christ, Buddha, and many others. Their role is to re-awaken the "Christ" in human hearts.) 

The resurrection of this universal, omnipresent, omniscient and blissful Life, this "Christ" consciousness is the remembrance, or "smriti" (see Patanjali's Yoga Sutras) of it within ourselves. It flows and is transmitted by the guru to the disciple so that in time and with effort we too can say as Jesus, Krishna, Yogananda and others have said: "I and my Father are One." (John 10:30)

"To as many as received Him to them gave He power to become the sons of God." (John, 1:12)


The "good news" is declared also in the ancient scriptures of India as for example, "Tat twam asi" ("Thou art That") (Chandogya Upanishad 6.8.7 of the Sama Veda); and also: aham brahmāsmi - "I am Brahman", or "I am Divine" (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.4.10 of the Yajur Veda)

It is a mistake that some believe that Jesus' resurrection teaches us that our physical bodies will rise from graves at some time in the future. Not only is such an idea absurd and morbid, but it misses the point. The real message of Jesus' resurrection is to demonstrate that spiritual consciousness can conquer even death itself; that love conquers hate ("Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Luke 23:34). To one identified with the eternal soul, death itself is but a transition from one form encasing our soul to another (a more fluid form: the astral body). 

In short, the human spirit, which is to say the divine power behind the human spirit, has the power to overcome all difficulties, hurts, and challenges. Having faith in God, faith in the innate goodness of Life, and faith in oneself can guide us through the most difficult times.

If you, like so many, are disillusioned by current events, think of the darkness during the difficult times of, say, World War II. These things, like winter, spring, summer and fall, ebb and flow. If we remain even-minded and cheerful, centered in the Self, nothing can touch us. Live in the "truth that can make us free," which is to say, we are not this short-lived body and this ever-changing personality. 

"And the Light shineth in darkness, but the darkness comprehended it not" (John 1:5) Behind trials and troubles the Light always shines. If we turn our sights toward the Light even to death we can say, "Where is thy sting?" (1 Corinthians 15:55)

Let us then rejoice with the beauty of Spring reminding us of the eternal Beauty of the soul. Let me end quoting the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 2:22-24:

(2:22) Just as a person removes a worn-out garment and dons a new one, so the soul living in a physical body (removes and) discards it when it becomes outworn, and replaces it with a new one.
      (2:23) Weapons cannot cut the soul; fire cannot burn it; water cannot drown it; wind cannot wither it away!

      (2:24) The soul is never touched; it is immutable, all-pervading, calm, unshakable; its existence is eternal.**

A blessed and happy Easter to all,

Swami Hrimananda

** "Essence of the Bhagavad Gita," Explained by Paramhansa Yogananda, as Remembered by Swami Kriyananda

Monday, March 27, 2017

A Call to Link Arms!

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

A Call to Link Arms
Dear Friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joy to you,

Nayaswamis Hriman & Padma



Saturday, July 30, 2016

Can Yoga Trump Politics?

Well, it seems America has safely got past both political parties' conventions. What a time we live in! The voices of America are at fevered pitch, shouting irrational imprecations from all sides. It seems the Western world is having a spasm of liberal regrets; our egalitarian principles strained under the dark clouds of fear, envy, violence, and hatred as if uninvited "guests" are attempting to crash the gates of a formerly decorous and homogeneous "party." The civil niceties of public debate, once secure in white shirts and club ties, have abandoned themselves to the jostling rainbow crowd! (ok, a slight exaggeration: democracy has always been messy, noisy, and rancorous!) Globalism, once the great "white hope" of liberalism (free trade, freer movement of peoples) is now under attack for it is seen to benefit the few at the expense of the many and at the cost of legitimate national interests.

A yogi is committed to the summons of Patanjali (of the "Yoga Sutras") to seek the calm center within: where likes and dislikes, opinions and emotions, subside into the bliss beneath all seeming.

On the left, the yogi finds "ira" (the upward moving channel in the astral spine--associated with inhalation) which can be expressed outwardly, as the power of love and compassion; on the right, the "pingala" channel (downward moving away from outward involvement--cause of the exhalation), expressing non-attachment and acceptance of the law of karma! Mercy and justice: two sides of a coin. 

What's a yogi to do?

Paramhansa Yogananda aligned himself with the (political) party of Abraham Lincoln! He declined to express his thoughts, except as "concerned," regarding FDR: the father of social security, progenitor of how government can help people in need, and, in later decades, manifested as Welfare entitlements; more recently, Obamacare! Yogananda put it this way (as many have also): while it's fine and good to feed someone hungry, it is better to give him a job and better yet an education.

Jesus Christ, too, actually said these words: "The poor ye shall have always...." Yet the Bhagavad Gita avers that the yogi feels "the pangs of sorrow and joy of all men." When Jesus Christ stated that "those who have, more will be given; to those with little, what they have will be taken away" one might think his words were a plank in the Republican platform! In all fairness, yet apropos in any case, is Paramhansa Yogananda's explanation for Jesus' strange sounding words: those who put out energy will receive energy back in spades; those who do not, will lose what little they have. Or, as one hears so often with a twang and a smile, "Da Lord helps dems who helps demselves!"  And Jesus also said that as often as we feed the poor, clothe the naked, visit those in prison, etc. we do it to Him!

How, ever, can a yogi reconcile these seemingly opposite principles and precepts?

Life would be unbearable if we did not believe in and understand the law of karma: cause and effect. If one cannot believe that he can improve his life, he will sink into despair. Spiritually as well as materially, one must put out the effort and the energy to lift ourselves. Even if, in the end, and in response to our efforts, help comes from "above" (whether divine or governmental), no one can put us through school against our will; no one can make us healthy against our will; no one can do an excellent job except ourselves. The cycle of initiative creates a magnetism that draws a universal and supportive response--from whatever source(s). This is the basis for yoga (and meditation) itself. [Dogmatic Christians sometimes excoriate yoga practice as being presumptuous citing St. Paul, "Not by works alone...but by grace." Common sense and experience show us, however, that by our efforts we can attract success: material AND spiritual!]

And thus we find (yet again and again), how the truth lies, often hidden, in the middle. The art of compromise is the art of life itself. Mercy and justice must, like Queen and King, rule together the kingdom of the body politic.

The party lines of both parties have their own, internal justifications, even as they possess their own delusive, unexamined biases or agendas. On just a few of the issues being shouted consider such pairs of opposites as:

America, as any other country, must have control over who enters it. Yet we benefit from the influx of other peoples. At the same time, and given the chaos and hatred in the world, we surely have a right to exclude those who intend or would do us harm.

In the past two centuries, successful groups of immigrants have integrated into the culture of America by learning our common language and respecting and integrating some of our (better) customs even as they honor and preserve their own.

Other industrialized countries surely by now, a half century after the last world war, and decades after the so-called "fall" of communism, ought to contribute to the cost of their own defense (assuming they do not, for I don't really know the facts.)

America's many adventures into places like Vietnam, central America, Afghanistan, and the Middle East have been less than successful and too often self-serving, peppered with the all-too-often corruption of values that war provides opportunities for. Even if you believe that we "meant well," violence begets violence and should be employed sparingly and with mercy. That we have ignited a push back, and even hatred, in playing the "Great Game," is hardly surprising.

Examples of what I view as our past mistakes (owing perhaps to our hubris, naivete, or hidden, self-serving motives) include: while it was our duty to track down Osama Bin Laden, did we really have to take on the Taliban (we still haven't won that war); Saddam Hussein! What a tragedy that under the guise of "weapons of mass destruction" we convinced ourselves (as a nation and our entire Congress) to go after the guy. Countless, endless and continuing suffering has been the result. Never mind the billions or trillions of dollars of added national debt. Was this adventure to finish what the (then) president's father didn't? Was it to secure oil that subsequent years have shown we don't actually need?

Vietnam, as with Iraq, Afghanistan and other adventures, had for its failing that the locals didn't want our "help" (destroying their country and their people). In most cases, in fact, they haven't "deserved" being rescued, having their own scores to settle with each other. Yes, it's hard to watch others suffer under corrupt regimes, I agree.

Communism fell for three reasons: one, the West had the strength to confront it on its own terms, making war a poor choice for both sides; two, our very prosperity and freedom (our ideals) are in tune with righteousness and with the age in which we live and thus proved far too magnetic; and three, it was based on false (and godless) precepts. If we had applied these principles to contain and confront the injustices of Saddam, Bin Laden, Ho Chi Minh and others, while yet offering an attractive alternative to their suffering peoples (providing aid, refuge, education etc.) we would have won the only thing worth winning: people's hearts and minds.

Of course we must defend ourselves from those who hate and who attack us, yet have we examined honestly the reasons we are so hated? On the other hand, do not the peoples of other nations vote with their feet in wanting to come here, even if they, like ourselves, take issue with the political or military past actions or policies of our country?

And yes, Hillary, we should be hopeful and positive! Our nation and its ideals give to us strength in righteousness, prosperity in our creative energies, and joy in our freedoms. "Greatest nation on earth" is rather boastful for my tastes, but the influence of America, for better or worse, upon the rest of the world is undeniable. The lure of success and freedom is irresistible. These are our strengths. We should live them here at home, first; their example is, and has always been, the beacon of light and hope to others. But they, like we, must earn their freedom by their own self-effort.

I prefer compassion over the strict justice of karma but I question how much and how long western societies can offer extensive and liberal safety nets and entitlements in the face of the energy, creativity, and ambitions of other nations who are "coming up" and who, as a result, are equalizing prosperity around the world. Our standard of living is, so I am told and so it seems to me, declining as that of other nations is rising. It all has to balance out (to zero). Do entitlements help people or do they force a resented dependency upon them?

I'm certainly in favor of the idealistic society that enjoys prosperity and health for all but the question here is the issue of "idealistic." How productive must an economy be to afford the "ideal" safety nets? Even if it were to be achieved, would the result itself prove to be "idealistic?"

You see, in the final analysis, it is not governments that create a prosperous, secure, and healthy society, but individuals: their hard work; creativity; initiative and ability to work together for the common good. Government acts as a moderator and fulcrum that provides protection, justice, and balances the seemingly opposing interests of people or groups of people with shared interests. (Think the classic capital vs labor!)

If a nation becomes so materially successful that it can offer the perks of universal health care and guaranteed minimum income, well, fine but these things, like personal health, are never guaranteed and must never eclipse self-effort and personal responsibility for one's life. 

And, they have their own cost. Becoming dependent on government largess and the promises of politicians is a recipe (long-term) for revolution: for passivity breeds resentment and there is no joy in it beyond going to sleep or enjoying an uneasy comfort. By contrast, initiative, even in the face of hardship or disadvantages, may take courage and commitment, but in putting out energy for self-improvement we experience confidence, satisfaction and joy. I remember an Ananda T-shirt years ago with the slogan: "Energy and Joy go Hand in Hand."

As a yogi for whom the lessons of India's beloved scripture, the Bhagavad Gita, is taken to heart one of its initial precepts is that we must fight the "battle of life." Sublimating our lower, passive nature into an upward flow of energy towards Self-realization: this is the hue and cry of Krishna to those waking up to life's realities. It's message does not include pretending we can attack everyone else's injustices around the world using brute force.

Returning now, for a moment, to the current elections, we yogis do not separate the "energy," the intention, or the consciousness of the individuals who seek to represent us from their stated aims. The message cannot be separated from the messenger. The extent to which "the end justifies the means" is forever humanity's dilemma. Voting for character (nobility, compassion, universality, acceptance, intelligence and goodwill) should be the ideal yardstick by which we weigh our minuscule role as voters. Both Republican and Democrat ideals are, in principle, true and worthwhile: each holding the other in check. I'd rather have a president with intelligence, goodwill and integrity, regardless of political affiliation because in our country effective power (I prefer "influence") is subject to checks and balances and requires compromise. 

Life, being by its nature "dual," a mixture of good and evil vying constantly for supremacy, demands that we remain ever awake to do what is right and just, as well as merciful. Would that prosperous nations place more emphasis on helping other lesser fortunate nations even as we protect ourselves from their destructive tendencies. A new "Marshall Plan" would do this ravaged planet some good and there would be work aplenty: from healing nature to healing wounds and educating minds, there is no lack of positive outlets for humanity's creative energies. It is not hunger or ill health that is life's scourge so much as lack of a creative and productive outlets for one's energies. I think of the millions of under employed and unemployed youth worldwide and despair for the lack of opportunities to engage their imagination, creativity and commitment. And yet, there is SO much to be done: reinventing agriculture; enlightened self-interest for business; holistic education; educated and self-care driven health care, nothing less than a revolution in both life style and consciousness awaits the awakening of our courage and wisdom.

Whether donkey or elephant, we must share this nation and this planet and so let's look for the positive and the truth in one another's firmly held precepts even as we commit ourselves to living our ideals. Personalities are but stand ins for the consciousness that animates them.

Joy to you,

Swami Hrimananda


Saturday, July 16, 2016

Bhagavad Gita : "A New Scripture Has Been Born!"

These were the words exclaimed by Paramhansa Yogananda in 1950 (PY) to his disciple whom he called "Walter" (later, Swami Kriyananda "SK") when he, PY, completed his commentaries on the Bhagavad Gita. PY declared "a new scripture has been born. Millions will find God through this book. Not just thousands. Millions. I know. I have seen it." ("The New Path," Chapter 31, the Bhagavad Gita).

At Ananda in Bothell, WA, we just completed an eight week course on PY's commentaries. The text we used is that written by SK in 2004. PY's commentaries, though he announced they would be published later in 1952 (he died in March, 1952), were not, in fact, published for fifty years. When they were published, they bore little relationship to the powerful and inspired commentaries he dictated decades ago.

Consequently, at age 78, SK felt the inspiration to share his memory of that great scripture by writing his own version. The result (out of nearly 150 books he wrote in one lifetime) is clearly his magnum opus. For exhaustive esoteric details, replete with ample scholarly footnotes, you can later turn to the two-volume version put out by his organization but for inspiration, practical personal guidance, and depth combined, SK's work, Essence of the Bhagavad Gita, is unsurpassed.

In our 8-week course we only covered the first 7 chapters of "the Gita" but these are more than sufficient to convey the breadth and depth of that great work and PY's commentaries as given to us by SK. Anyone inspired by the highest aspirations of meditation and resonant with the teachings of India will find a lifelong guide in this "new scripture" for a new age.

Among the themes expressed in the Gita and the insights of PY for our times, we find:

  1. Why is life a struggle?
  2. With what intentions and attitudes should we work towards spiritual awakening and freedom?
  3. Have we lived before?
  4. If this world is a "dream," is it best simply to "drop out" of this world?
  5. If we must act, how must we act?
  6. How did the Infinite Spirit create this great drama? And, why?
  7. What is the best path? Is knowledge enough? 
  8. Is God personal, or impersonal? How can one best worship or "find" God?
  9. What is yoga? Is it physical, mental or spiritual (only)?
  10. What are the stages of creation?
  11. What qualities reflect higher awareness? Which are delusive?
  12. Where does one focus in meditation?
  13. What is kundalini and how is kundalini awakened?
  14. What are the chakras, the energy centers in the body?
  15. What is the significance of the mantra, AUM?
  16. Can one hear AUM in meditation? How?
  17. What is kriya yoga and why does PY say it is the "airplane route?"
  18. What are the stages of awakening?
  19. Guidance regarding preparing for death
  20. Do we ascend by self-effort alone? Grace? Or?
  21. Is satan real?
  22. The stages of creation from idea, to energy, to form.
  23. What are the qualities of consciousness and matter? How do they manifest?
  24. Does heaven exist? Is hell real? Is it eternal?
  25. Are there really angels? Demons? "Ghosts"?
  26. Does possession really occur?
These are just some of themes. The book, Essence of Self-Realization, can be purchased in softbound form and even "on tape" (read by SK).  Visit the publisher's website: https://www.crystalclarity.com/product.php?code=BEBPB ; for the "on tape" CD visit 

For a YouTube series of short videos by Swami Kriyananda on the Bhagavad Gita go to:

The videos and audio recordings of our 8-week class will be released in the near future. Contact friends@anandaseattle.org or call our office and center at 425 806 3700.

Blessings to all in sharing this "new" scripture for a new age,

Nayaswami Hriman



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


Friday, May 6, 2016

Divine Mother's Day!

Sunday, May 8 we celebrate "Mother's Day." It may interest you to research the history of Mother's Day. It is interesting though it is not my subject today.

Somewhere in Bhagavad Gita, Krishna laments the consequence to society when gender roles and energies are out of balance. Well there's good news and there's bad news and both are based in the same reality: gender roles on this planet ARE out of balance, but the good news is that society is heading in the direction of balance and equality.

Imagine if you were to step away from this earth and see the hot spots and troubles we face on this planet in an entirely new light. Conflicts in our homes, offices, schools, battlefields, cities.....anywhere where arguments, violence, disagreements and fighting take place ...... and ..... then ....   Imagine these conflicts as reflecting an imbalance of male and female energies. I won't take the risk to attempt to define the positive and negative aspects of each gender. We know it when we experience it. Just take any conflict anywhere and see if you can't view the conflict as having its roots in a gender imbalance (one way or the other).

Just some of the ways today's conflicts can be viewed in gender terms:

  • Hierarchical political and leadership models being replaced by more cooperative approaches
  • Warfare as a solution being mitigated by efforts to dialogue, respect, and appreciate differences 
  • Movement toward social, economic, and legal equality between men and women
  • Religion vs spirituality (the latter being viewed as universal)
  • Sustainable utilization of natural resources 
  • Holistic approach to health and healing
  • Each of the above has multiple applications: e.g.: in sports, science, military, earnings
Not all expressions of the rising equality are equally positive or beneficial but nothing can stop this up-thrust of energy for it comes as if from the womb of earth itself. Though I prefer to see the image as a descent of divine grace and light upon the planet, I'd have to admit that thus far it's a mixture of earth, water, and fire! But it IS increasing.

At the Ananda communities, centers and groups, we honor the Indian tradition of approaching God in the feminine form (though not exclusively). Paramhansa Yogananda worshiped the goddess Kali of his Bengali heritage. "The mother," he said, "is closer to the children than the father." But these archetypal roles are changing, too. Nowadays, hardly a nod is given to that father who plays the role of "mom" while mother goes off to work.

However, it must also be pointed out that the highest view of gender roles is to transcend them altogether. This trend, too, in society can be seen: the trend toward gender neutral. One notable characteristic of the Ananda Communities (there are nine throughout the world) is the natural way men and women relate to one another without pretense or competition.

Let's, then, celebrate Mother's Day not only to honor our own mothers but to honor the Divine Mother who has descended to earth in many forms (both male and female) to invite us to live together with respect, harmony, and cooperation.

Happy Mother's Day!

Nayaswami Hriman


Thursday, April 28, 2016

For Wisdom, too, We Hunger! The Battle of Life

Paraphrasing in the title above the words of Paramhansa Yogananda in "Autobiography of a Yogi," we are reminded that all the material success, pleasure, security and popularity in the world can never bring us lasting contentment and true happiness.

Long ago, in the mists of pre-history, on the eve of a great battle between the forces of light and darkness on the Gangetic plain of northern India, a warrior in his chariot, driven by his friend and mentor, pulled up to a stop between the lines of opposing warriors: thousands of warriors, war horses and elephants in armor, death dealing weapons, their sharp edged steel glinting in the sun, mighty chariots bedecked in regal symbols and flags of certain victory, all arrayed for the dreadful moment that was soon to begin.

Troubled by the sight of his own kith and kin against whom he must fight and the thousands he would send to their doom, this warrior, the famous archer, Arjuna, slumped in his chariot in despair for the ugliness, violence, and seeming uselessness of the pending slaughter.

"Why must life be such a struggle?" he, speaking for you and I, echoing humanity's ageless paradox, asked his guide and guru, the avatar and prince, Lord Krishna. Life is so unfair: sunny, today; stormy, tomorrow. Bright and promising in our youth; burdensome and complex in middle age; bitter tasting with regrets and ills in old age.

"I'm not greedy and don't need that much from life," he said. "Can't we just live in peace with one another?" "Can't we just talk this through?" But no, the Dark One is selfish and wants it all. He doesn't like you; he doesn't trust you; he wants you to disappear.

Oh think how easily the competition and rivalry among siblings, nations, the haves and have nots, and competitors could be settled to mutual benefit if we could just learn to get along! Can't the leaders of political parties and factions just sit down and work out compromises in the name of serving the citizens of the nation they are pledged to defend, protect and serve?

Why can't the Golden Rule hold sway over the hearts of all? I pray my way and you pray yours but we both pray our own way each and every day. So why are we not friends? Can we please the Lord of Life with our prayers at odds? Surely not!

Paramhansa Yogananda wrote: "The drama of life has for its lesson the fact that it is but a drama." It is not the destiny of this planet and its incarnate humanity to achieve ever-lasting peace. Who can persuasively say why this must be. But it has ever been so since dawn of time. He who rests comfortably on the laurels of his life may find his bed soon wreathed in the flames of destruction.

Life, earth, water, fire and air vie ceaselessly in endless ever-changing forms. Change is the constant of incarnate life.

The simple pleasures and goals of life all too often betray their true nature by overtaking our, at first innocent, enjoyment and modest intentions with ever increasingly obsessive indulgence and desire. The pleasure of drink becomes the horror of hangover and grows to a compulsive addiction; the pleasure of sex turns dark with selfishness, moods, fights and betrayal. The joy of romance may lead to family life, with its bills, screaming children, and fighting parents. The goal of financial success and security yields but ceaseless struggles to get ahead, the fruit of which is mounting debt and endless responsibilities eclipsing all hope of a balanced and stress-free life. Years of saving for retirement may bring early death from cancer. Such are in the insecurities inherent in material life.

Always the fly lands in the soup; the ants invade the picnic; the neighbor is a schmuck. Famine, war, plague and depression visit our lands with unpredictable predictability.

Yes: there are many moments of peace and enjoyment. But just as much, most people live for the future, always hopeful that things will be better. Self-reflection, however, and only a little is needed, prods us to stay focused and centered, for "you never know!" (My favorite saying!)

"The only way out is IN" it has been said. Not in an escape FROM reality but an escape TO reality. The center pole around which life swirls is our own self-awareness. When things are too good to be true, the "I" of the knowing Self knows this to be so. When things are bad beyond belief, the "I" knows this too "will pass." Only the Self endures all. You were you as a child; a teen; a young adult; and so, on to old age and to your deathbed. The great movie of your life is for your, and for others', entertainment. Have you enjoyed it (yet)?

We receive respite in sleep but no relief from the troubles that spring upon us by day. To those dogmatists of orthodox Hinduism who claim that bathing in the Ganges will forgive sins, the rishis, knowers of the Self, say that one's sins hide in the trees on the banks and jump on you when you come out of the Ganges! "There's no getting out of it, alive!" I like to say.

Is this all too pessimistic? Perhaps. But likely those content with life have either achieved the wisdom of which I speak, or simply haven't suffered in the way that millions, indeed billions, of others on this planet have or living in right now, today. Good karma, for now, but even now you are using up your storehouse of it.

When the soul awakens "to the anguishing monotony" of endless rounds of rebirth, then it cries out in rebellion for a way to freedom.

Imagine yourself gazing out at a glorious panorama: perhaps the Grand Canyon, a sunset at the Pacific Ocean in Hawaii or Big Sur, California! You gaze out, soon lost contemplation and enjoyment (meaning all thoughts have ceased), and suddenly the conscious enjoyment of the scene simply vanishes and there's nothing left but "I." Like staring out a window, daydreaming at first, but soon the daydream vanishes and you are simply "self" aware. No thoughts intrude, no object in the field of vision (or touch, taste, smell or hearing) is being studied......just "I, I, I, everywhere."

This is what it is like to return to your core; to your consciousness; to your spirit. It is not an end in itself; in fact, it's only a beginning. With practice, we call this meditation. Various techniques, especially using thought or focusing on the breath, exist to make this experience a regular and consistent foray into the land of Self-awareness.

As this experience deepens, our awareness of "I" grows beyond I and enters the field of being that encompasses past, present, future, all space and beyond. For many, indeed, most, this state of consciousness is approached in a devotional way. We seek the deep connection that we give a name, and even in image or symbol: God, Divine Mother, a deity, or our guru. Since "infinity" is a pretty large thing (being no-thing at all), there's no end to how it can approached or described, but, like good art and good food, we know it when we see or taste it!

To win the battle of life we need the right weapons; we need to be on the side of the good guys; and, we need to know what we are fighting for. Our most powerful weapon is the mind; it activates right attitude and right action. (To develop the power of the mind we have the tool of meditation.) The good guys are those seek harmony with all life and especially those souls who have achieved the goal. The goal is lasting happiness, unbroken by the vicissitudes, the ups and downs, and simple facts of material life.

Be not afraid, O Arjuna: take up the battle of life and be victorious!

Joy to you,

Swami Hrimananda


Saturday, February 14, 2015

Love: Fifty Shades of Red

It has been well said that "love makes the world go round." More accurate to say, attraction, and its corollary, repulsion, makes the world go round: and literally, at that. Right now, outside my window, two squirrels are playing on the tree, playmates, I suppose.

Today is the day Americans call Valentine's Day: a celebration of romantic love. Our language, and I think many other languages, also, use this word love but it has many shades of red and ultimately describes the attraction one feels towards something or someone else. The shades of red are virtually limitless in human relations. Some might say "pure" love is but platonic (not physical) and exists, assuming it is mutual, only in the heart and mind of the lovers. That sounds wonderful from a spiritual perspective but I can think of adolescent love being platonic but very, very unreal and but a fantasy. So, even here, at the more extreme edge of this amazing thing called human love, we find shades of red. Love is not love that doesn't draw fire: meaning that doesn't draw two people closer together in meaningful relationship, whether constructive or otherwise.

In the metaphysical terms that are part and parcel of my daily life as a meditator and a nondualist (a Vedantan), love is dual. We can speak of Bliss as the nature of God and the essence of pure consciousness but we cannot speak of love in terms of Oneness: only You-ness!

And yet the power of love, when reciprocated, draws the two in the direction of becoming One! Thus, love seeks fulfillment in the bliss of the union of two into one! Our wedding rings are a circle because the circle suggests infinity and oneness.

It is only in our relationship with the One, that is to say, God, that this impulse finds fulfillment. Lord Krishna, in the Bhagavad Gita, when asked whether we should relate to God as absolute and nondual or whether we should love God in the I-Thou form, replied that for embodied souls (that's you and me), the I-Thou relationship is more helpful and practical. "Arduous," Krishna warns, is the way to the absolute. Our very separateness from God who is all Love and all that is ("I AM that I AM") means that our starting point necessitates a movement and distance. And yet, it is also true that in God we are One and Eternal and have always been so. As Jesus said of himself, "Before Abraham was, I AM."

On the human level, however, there's an intrinsic limit: an unscalable wall. Drawn as we are to another person, we can never become one with another human because it's our very differences, our separateness, that generates the attraction even as it necessarily and simultaneously prevents our union. Our desire to be united has the darker potential of smothering one another! We humans, you see, are trapped in this thing called love. It is one of life's greatest paradoxes.

Human love, to exist and be maintained and appreciated, must operate in a precarious and fragile magnetic zone. Think of the earth and the sun. Each are held in their respective orbits by the opposite forces of gravity and the centrifugal force of their respective orbits.

As an experiment, try holding two strong magnets apart (the one positive, the other negative) at just the exact distance needed to feel the attraction but prevent their crashing together. Human love will always be one or more steps short of satisfaction because we must keep the beloved at arms length in order to see and appreciate her! Just as the atomic structure of our bodies prevents them from merging, so to the electromagnetic forces of our psyche do the same. Strange, isn't it?

Those, who like Icarus, fly too close to the sun of human love, will crash and burn. When couples seek, through lust or friendship, to come and remain too close, strange distortions occur, like the gravitational force of a black hole that bends light rays into itself, absorbing the light. Dominance, submission, loss of respect, boredom, moodiness, or the familiarity that breeds only contempt: these are the fruit of being too much attached to one another. (The same is true for friends, parents, or children.)

Two people simply cannot literally become one. The very power to become attracted to another has its roots in the power which creates and maintains our separateness. Thus on a level of magnetism, when we attempt to merge, there are sparks: heat and light, and a mixture of both, much like the effect of a "short circuit."

Sometimes it is difficult even to know the difference between pleasure and pain. (Like scratching a mosquito bite.) No two people can be everything needed to another. No two people could live solely in isolation with each other, locked in perpetual love. It simply cannot and does not happen, though this doesn't prevent endless numbers of couples from trying.

It is not only for the protection of children and perpetuation of the human species that societies put boundaries around this thing called love. It is a force which is powerful but which must be subject to restraints, lest it turn destructive. The just released movie, "Fifty Shades of Grey" demonstrates by its popularity that eroticism has a primal power to attract. But like an rogue wave in the wide expanse of the ocean of human consciousness, its power must dissipate. As it does, it drowns those who try to stay on top of it hoping that the excitement and stimulation will not cease. And, when it does, we are not thereby returned to our self so easily. We are stained, lessened by our intense but false effort to lose ourselves in the outward experience. Even the story line, itself, is but a fiction. Such activities can only end in boredom and self-loathing, if not violence or exploitation.

A person desperate for human love tends to magnetically repulse potential worthy suitors because human love, being so constrained by its own terms, can only thrive to the extent each person is strong in himself (herself). One who desires to be worshiped is one who desires to dominate. One who desires to worship another is one destined to be dominated. Both will lose self-respect and will ultimately suffer. The best marriage is between two persons who, while they share an affinity and appreciate and respect one another, are centered in themselves. Better yet: centered in love for God.

Human love, therefore, can help us to become strong if we honor its paradoxical constraints: holding our heart's magnetic attraction close, but not too close, to its desired object. To do so takes creative commitment and mindfulness. A few of the qualities of true human love include mutual respect and mutual service; self-giving; forgiving; caring; wisdom; calmness; and, appreciation.No wonder there are so few truly blessed partnerships!

In the Ananda communities (nine, worldwide), couples have the opportunity to place their human love in relation to divine love and divine service to others. By emphasizing our souls and not just gender differences and personalities, we find our natural love becomes expansive. We can grow beyond the self-limiting boundaries of "us four and no more." We have friends of like-mind who share our ideals and way of life.

This new model reflects the emerging trend of spirituality in this new age. Ego transcendence becomes a tool that re-directs our attention toward the bliss of soul-consciousness. It reduces the competition between the sexes which is born of the emphasis upon our differences. We focus, instead, on cooperation, simplicity and moderation so that our higher nature can emerge and be made manifest. Thus can be found a satisfaction and harmony in relationship that is not commonly found.

Yogananda's param-guru, Lahiri Mahasaya, by living in the world as a householder with children and a career, established the model of an ideal life in the world but not 'of' the world. He demonstrated how we might find freedom in God through meditation (kriya yoga) while fulfilling our natural, human responsibilities without attachment or ego-identification.

Our hearts, born of and reflecting the infinite love of God, can never be fully satisfied by the oscillating magnetism of even faithful and true human love. Worse than this is the fact that such friendships are relatively rare. So how much less satisfying therefore are the more fickle, insecure, and co-dependent relationships that pass for human love on the broad expanse of human lives?

This does not mean our relationships have no spiritual value, however. Just as Krishna prescribes the I-Thou relationship to God, so too the divine purpose of human love is to help us refine our love to become steady, true, and harmonious. Those who do not bother or care to love others in a self-giving way, cannot attract the love of God, Paramhansa Yogananda warned. Human love is a stepping stone to perfect, divine love.

The fastest way to purify and clarify our heart's natural love is to follow the two great commandments of the Bible (Old and New Testaments): love God with heart, mind, soul and strength and love others as your very Self. Put in another way, don't think that you have to get it just right in human love before you can even think about loving God. That doesn't work because the attractions of human love are infinite. And, while we have infinity to find God, who would wisely want an infinity of disappointment, disillusionment and suffering? Only a fool!

If we must, therefore, celebrate Valentine's Day, let us celebrate it as a reminder that human love offers to us of the perfect love of God. Let us see in our partner, whether real, merely desired or viewed at a distance, the living presence of God as Divine Mother or the Heavenly Father. God comes to us in the human forms of one another. The human qualities which we find so compellingly attractive, such as strength, wisdom, beauty, and kindness, and which we see or imagine in others, are there to remind us that all goodness comes from God-ness. ("Go-od-ness" is dual; God-ness is One.) As Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita, (to paraphrase), all admirable traits are rays of God's Light reflected in the consciousness of human beings.

So every time a handsome or beautiful face strikes your fancy, or you are tempted to admire another person for their wisdom, talent, or gentleness, train your mind to think of God as the Doer behind all appearances. Mentally bow to God in that form. Never think that any trait of attractiveness is unique to that one person.

Furthermore, any such trait to which you are attracted should be a trait that you begin to develop within yourself. Perhaps you need to be more beauty-oriented in your life: not for vanity's sake, but perhaps you can more consciously combine pleasing colors in your wardrobe, in your home and your surroundings. Beauty derives from harmony. Think, harmony in thought, feelings, actions and surroundings.

Perhaps you need to develop your strength: physical or mental; or, wisdom by study and association with the wise; or, kindness in thought and (random) acts; or, gentleness in your words and empathy. It is in ourselves, which is to say, in our souls, that these traits, though appearing to our view outwardly, are calling us to develop in ourselves.

The purpose of the attraction between men and women, finally, has for its purpose the soul's call to become One within ourselves: to bring wisdom and love, reason and feeling, into harmony, united in self-giving, in devotion, and in seeking God alone.

"May Thy love shine forever, on the sanctuary of my devotion" (a prayer by Paramhansa Yogananda, author of "Autobiography of a Yogi" and the preceptor of the kriya yoga work of Ananda worldwide.)

Blessings,

Swami Hrimananda! ("Joy through devotion")

Monday, November 3, 2014

Doing Good: Is there a Downer Side?

Warning: this article will be more personal than some......, My kids, when they were kids (long ago), when I would warn them of dire things to come in the world we live, they would say, "Oh Dad, you're such a Downer!" Gita, especially, who's very upbeat and positive was particularly annoyed by what she called "Downer Dad." Well, I hope I'm not really that way but at a meeting yesterday, when our meeting worked out ok and I declaimed: "Gosh, I really thought that was going to be mess," someone in the group piped up, "Pessimist!" Well, so, there you have it! Downer Dad!

Living in a spiritual community as I have most of my adult life and teaching mediation and yogic philosophy as I do, and being a disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda as I am, you'd expect that I would reflect the upbeat, positive, life-affirming, joyful qualities that Yogananda, and my teacher (founder of Ananda), Swami Kriyananda, and, indeed as Ananda members worldwide do. And, yes I do.

Early in my life, as a college student of the 60's studying comparative religions in "smoke-filled" rooms, I was attracted, at first, to the dour existentialists and the stone-faced Buddhists. But, at such a young age, with a life before me, it wasn't fitting or even easy to continually wear the forlorn long face of the stoics. The shoe simply did not fit, future "Downer Dad" notwithstanding.

It wasn't long, then before I turned, to India: to its color, its chaos, its cacophony, to its exuberant embrace of life. My heart needed something more than "chop wood, carry water." But, at first, I was suspicious of all this joy. Isn't joy, I asked, merely the opposite of sadness? In affirming joy, would I not condemn myself to its dual?

In time, and after encountering Yogananda's now famous story, "Autobiography of a Yogi," and becoming a student of Swami Kriyananda (a direct disciple of Yogananda) and experiencing the infectious joy each, and so many other Ananda members, exuded, I gradually relaxed into the understanding and the actual experience of joy as a non-dual state of consciousness! "Joy is Within You," is the slogan of Ananda!

But even this nearly insufferable up-beat-ness (:-) could not so easily erase episodes of that existential dread or anxiety born of ego consciousness. My "Yes, but........." would always, has always, tempered my view of things lest on wings of hope I fly too close to the sun that I have not yet fully realized.

Well, getting back to my intention, and, in fact, as Yogananda and Kriyananda have also taught, virtue is not sufficient to find God. Virtue is a stepping stone. Is not the energetic enforcer of the law more likely, in a former life, a criminal now making good his past misdeeds? Virtue results from the use of will power applied by the ego toward goodness. This effort is right and true and just.

But how many churches and humanitarian organizations are infested by do-gooders? Oh, yes, without them the good deeds wouldn't happen: I know THAT! Why, then, do I say "infested." Because what comes with good deeds and their doers is just that: the doers! The sense of doership: the "I" principle is, for most, inextricably tied up with the doing of good. Admittedly, it's a step up from evil and from indifference or selfishness. But doing good deeds are, for most people, still born of ego. Nonetheless, good deeds are necessary to expunge one's past bad karma.

But good deeds do not necessarily derive from superconsciousness. In fact, their own, innate "evil" is the reinforcement of ego. "I am doing good." The pitfall that awaits do-gooders is judgement of their fellows. If I am working hard, I will hardly fail to notice that you are a slacker. If I am meditating three hours a day, I will certainly be sure to notice that rest of the devotees around me are NOT! Thus it is, that a judgmental attitude rises up among do-gooders. The habit of being judgmental is what "infests" religion and humanitarian efforts, and, in fact, every group of human activity.

A true devotee knows that his highest duty is to realize that God, not ego, is the Doer. We strive to be mindful of the divine presence within. The light of wisdom that radiates from this inner awareness shows us the divine light in all other beings, creatures and circumstances. Whereas many a do-gooder meddles in everyone else's business, mentally, verbally, or otherwise....in the name of doing good......a true devotee remains centered within. Krishna states in the Bhagavad Gita that to "do" someone else's dharma is to fail, even when doing one's own dharma is difficult, unpleasant or we are not yet successful. Uplifting our consciousness is our sole duty in life.

When our consciousness is uplifted, the good we do comes naturally and without expectation or judgment. It is a gift of the soul. It is guided by wisdom and by love.

Shifting the subject, then, and at the risk of seeming in self-defense, someone commented recently that many who work with me and for whom I am supposed to give guidance have experienced my "directness." Our subject was how to be a supportive leader. The question was whether being supportive always meant being "nice" and talking things out in a reasonable and understanding manner. Who would question the value of that? The laudable trend of conflict resolution through respectful interchange and the seeking of mutual understanding for differing points of view is essential. This is wonderful and an invaluable tool in group dynamics.

But among true devotees, bent upon achieving God-realization through superconsciousness, and living by intuitive, inner guidance, we sometimes act in ways that, to the ego, may be abrupt or unwelcome. A self-defensive insistence upon respect can also be, for the devotee, a smokescreen for ego protection. Many a spiritual teacher, enlightened or not, wisely or unwisely, have been known to give a psychic blow to the student's ego. In today's psychological, ego protective culture, the seemingly harsh training given by gurus in former times would be labelled abuse! (And, no doubt, it must have been in some instances.)

My teacher sometimes took advantage of (what turned out later to be) inaccurate accusations against a student to upbraid or correct a student without making any effort to hear other points of view. Unfair? Yes, apparently! An opportunity to develop ego-detachment and dissolve ego-defensive impulses? Absolutely! I've witnessed fellow students receiving such a corrective from him and, yet, whether immediately or upon reflection, expressing gratitude for having learned an important lesson from one whom they viewed as their best friend. I'm not describing wimps but people of will power and intelligence. (A "wimp" wouldn't attract a valuable lesson so directly nor would handle it so wisely.) Such instances were testimonies to the greatness of each of them.

Any such correction to another ought to be arising from a calm, inner detachment free from likes or dislikes. A perfect world, this is not. A perfect opportunity, it might be: for both! To rephrase Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, "One cannot achieve spiritual victory be refraining from action." This may seem self-justification and it might seem risky behavior, spiritually. I agree. In my own life, if I have dispensed it, it has been infrequent and it has always been sincere. More often, my emotions have not been involved, but sometimes they have been, but always under some degree of self-control and awareness. Almost always the circumstances arose that allowed me to say something that has waited for a long time to be said. Perfect? Wise? Effective? Well, sometimes, at least!

(Is this not, in fact, the duty and obligation of parents, and not just supervisors and leaders? A parent is often compelled to correct a child under circumstances where his or her own emotions are involved. The correction will be increasingly effective as those emotions are dissolved by wisdom and a foundation of love and deep respect. But sometimes, whether towards a child or an adult, "tough love" demands a display of urgency and intensity .... though best rendered with self-control and conscious intention.)

The downer side is that most people will long remember words of censure from another. The ego holds tightly its hurts. There have been times I had to be willing to sacrifice the goodwill of a person, perhaps lifelong, by rendering a correction to him that circumstances demanded. Or, to risk the support of others by taking a strong position. But leadership is not a popularity contest: whether in the spiritual or material realm. Making errors in judgment should be assumed but responsibility too often demands timely action and gives not the luxury of inaction. The spiritual path is not for sissies. As it is, and for all of us, on the spiritual path or not, the world dishes out plenty of censure, hard knocks and more. That isn't the issue. It is always a question of our response to life: faith, hope and charity; or, self-justification, revenge, and anger?

Do good; be good; but reach upward beyond goodness. The ego's progressive steps from unawareness, indifference, and evil, and finally to good can only be ultimately resolved in God alone; in Oneness; in superconsciousness. This is why and how meditation can powerfully accelerate our freedom in God. Kriya Yoga and similar advanced techniques can more rapidly dissolve the knots of doership inherent in both good and evil.

In prayer, meditation and right action, strip away the bark of ego, that the Tree of Life might grow taller and ever more beautiful. If we give to God our failures, He will take them. To those who come to God with love and self-offering, He promises that "I will make good your deficiencies and render permanent your gains" (words of Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita.)

Blessings,

Swami Hrimananda





Thursday, September 11, 2014

"Bad Karma" - Another Word for "Sin"? What is "Karma?"

In the Book of Job (in the Old Testament of Jewish and Christian faiths), Satan comes to God and wants to make a bet! (Yes, really!) Satan says, "God, I see your faithful servant Job down there on earth. But I bet you that if you let me take away his wealth, his health, his reputation, and his loved ones, Job will lose faith in You. You wanna bet? Hmm, hmmm, hmmmm?"

So, as you can imagine, God couldn't turn down this one from the old buster, the devil his-self! So He, the Almighty, says, "Satan, you're ON!" So, sure enough, poor old Job, innocent as a lamb, loses his health, his wealth, and his loved ones. Then his so-called friends come to him and say: "Job, old boy, what great sins did YOU commit to deserve this obvious displeasure of Jehovah?"

Poor old Job protests his innocence. Despite all his suffering he holds on to his faith in God's wisdom and goodness. God, in the end, therefore wins the bet with Satan. Whew!

All of Chapter 9 of the gospel of St. John describes a curious incident in which Jesus comes upon a man "blind since birth." Jesus is asked by his usual taunters, "Who sinned, this man, or his parents?" Now, mind you, the poor fellow was blind SINCE BIRTH. So if it was he, he must have sinner in a past life! While Jesus here has a perfect opportunity to endorse reincarnation, Jesus ducks the issue and says, "Neither has sinned!" Jesus explains that this man was born blind for the glory of God! What!!!! You kidding? Lucky guy, eh? Jesus then heals the man of his blindness. The story that follows is very touching and poignant but not needed for this article.

So what do we have here? Let's pause for "station identification."

Old Age'ers (fundamentalists) might tend to think that misfortune heaped upon a good Christian is a sign of God's disfavor. Some Christians, to turn this around, think that material success, health, wealth, position, and a loving family are a sign of one's virtue and one's finding favor in the good Lord's eyes. New Age'ers might tend to view a fellow meta-physician's troubles as a sure sign of some past bad karma. Neither view is necessarily correct.

The law of karma, it is said, is exacting. Paramhansa Yogananda (author of the famous "Autobiography of a Yogi") said the metaphysical law of karma finds expression in Newton's third law of motion: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. In Vedanta and metaphysics, this is the law of duality as well as part of the law of karma. St. Paul wrote, famously, of the law of karma saying "Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap." (Galatians 6:7).

So look at what we have: by the law of karma one would naturally think that Job and the man born blind since birth must have done something to have earned their suffering. But by Jesus' explanation and by the story of Job, there appears to be a third option: a divine source. I call this the "Third Rail."

Think of karma as a pendulum: good and bad karma. (Never mind, for now, which is which. For the moment just think that "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." Or, to quote from Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, "What is day to the yogi is night to the worldly man; what is night to the yogi, is day to the worldly man.") In the centerpoint of the pendulum lies, however momentarily, a rest point: a point from which the pendulum begins, and ends, its motion. This point we call God.

According to the dogma of man's free will, we understand that God has given us the power to choose good or evil. ("To eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.") This is like pushing the pendulum for the first time. It begins with the appearance of material and ego-active desires, likes, and dislikes. In this we abandon the God's eye view of Oneness: seeing God in all and, as a result, seeing "through" the illusion that the senses, matter, and ego have any intrinsic reality and attraction (or repulsion). 

Once the pendulum swings into motion, the interplay of good and bad karma, action and reaction, will keep the pendulum moving essentially forever until, suspicious and wary, worn and torn, we decide not "to play" the "Great Game" of ego.

When the prodigal son of Jesus' story in the new testament decided to return to his father's home, he had a long way to go on his journey. But his decision to return is the starting point. It says (and not just once) in Revelations (3:12), "Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out." This "pillar" is like the shaft and center point of our pendulum.


It is then by our choice that we begin to slow the pendulum and with sustained effort and divine grace that pendulum will come to rest in God, in our own center. God will not step into our lives as He has in Job's or that of the man born blind since birth until we invite Him into our lives.

This "third rail" of divine neutrality is God's invisible hand giving to the devotee what seems like troubles and suffering but which, if the soul will "overcome" the test with faith in God, with wisdom and equanimity, it will be the means by which the soul will not have to "go no more out" in repeated reincarnations to continue to work out its karma (whether good or bad). 

The threads of past action (karma) are subtle. The question of karma vs. grace may be somewhat a false dichotomy. Think about Job, or that blind man. Nothing in their respective stories suggests that they are souls already freed from karma ("saints," you might say). That means that they certainly have karma to overcome. Thus the fact that they each encounter troubles can logically, at least, be attributed to such karma. 

Where God's grace (the "Third Rail") enters is the timing and nature of those troubles: testing their faith and equanimity at time and in a proportion they can digest. By passing their tests with the flying colors of faith and equanimity, they have become free of some of their past karma. You see: BOTH-AND. Both-And is the nature of Infinity (while EITHER-OR is the product of the play of duality and the limited view of the intellect using logic and reason). Nonetheless, there is an element of divine intervention. It is the "good" karma of reaching upward to God: we make one step in His direction and He takes two in ours. "Faith is the most practical thing of all." I once heard my teacher, Swami Kriyananda say that when I was still quite new and it puzzled me to no end. I think, now, I understand it much better.

The worldly person will usually attribute blame to God, or to life, or to others for his troubles. He is miserable or angry when trials come and seeks however he can to get away from trouble and find pleasure and happiness. So, for this soul, the pendulum continues on and on and on until it seems like an eternity of hell.

When troubles come to you, as in every life they must, "what comes of itself, let it come" and stand tall "amidst the crash of breaking worlds" with faith, hope, and charity (even-mindedness). When success, pleasure and human happiness arrive on our doorstep, accept them gratefully but also with equanimity, for all "things must pass." This is the way we must face our tests and our successes if we are to neutralize our karma. In this way we convert what might seem to be our "bad" karma into the "good" karma of soul wisdom and eventually freedom in God. 

Krysta Gibson, editor and publisher of the New Spirit Journal, wrote an article (that inspired this one) and I thought you might enjoy reading it too: http://bit.ly/ZieeAa


Meditate on a great pillar, a shaft of light, as the symbol of the inner spine. This is, in part, the meaning of the Hindu "lingam" (a stone pillar....too often, but incorrectly, likened to a phallic symbol). This "pillar" is our own center, our subtle spine, to which if we withdraw mentally and with good posture gives us psychic protection, spiritual fortitude and insights.

Om namoh Shivaya!

Swami Hrimananda