Showing posts with label Christmas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christmas. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Angels on High: the Fall from Grace and the Soul's Rise to Freedom

In the 1947 movie, “The Bishop’s Wife,” an angel (in the form of actor, Cary Grant) comes to the family of a Protestant bishop in an answer to their prayers. 

Problem is, the angel finds himself attracted to the bishop’s wife (played by Loretta Young). After answering the couple's prayers (with a few twists), the angel departs knowing that an immortal cannot be with a mortal. This plot, mostly na├»ve and innocent by today’s standards, struck a chord with me in respect to the great themes of history related to the “Humanity’s Fall from Grace.”

Are we not taught that we, too, are angels, children of God, made in the divine image? As immortals, do we not inadvertently “fall in love” with the mortal scene and imagine happiness will come through the never-ending, ever-changing passing drama of life? Are we therefore not unlike that angel, Cary Grant? Except that we take much longer to wake up from the illusion before withdrawing and vowing, some day, “never to return.”

Like the more modern movie, “Groundhog Day,” we tend to make the same mistake over and over, year after year, lifetime after lifetime. Paramhansa Yogananda wrote that until the ever-watchful soul awakens the ego to the prospect of the “anguishing monotony” of repeated rounds of birth and death, we are not ready to begin the journey, like the prodigal son, back home to our soul’s eternal joy in God.

This seemingly circular track of life, this broken and repeating record, is the “hell” that is spoken of in scripture. Hell is not a forever place but it certainly feels like one when we are caught in the addiction to matter and to soul-stultifying ego identifications. The pathways to perdition are endlessly labyrinthine, but the way to freedom is “straight and narrow.”

Thus it is that the “Fall” is easy but the climb back is more difficult. Mired by habit and circumscribed by the hypnosis of countless lives as a spiritual “pauper” imprisoned in the cage of the human body, the royal soul needs help: first to be reminded of its royal status, and second to be given the tools and the power to rise! This help which “cometh from the Lord” comes in the form of the true guru, one who is Self-realized.

Here, now, in the season of Christmas, we celebrate the birth of one who comes to free others. But Jesus is not the only such a one, because in every age to all people, according to their heartfelt prayers for redemption, God sends such a one to help.

Christmas is not just an abstract event far away in time and space which is endowed with spiritual significance. It is a very human event. Indeed, what could be more natural than the birth of a child! 

This newborn “Christ” is, like all infants, innocent and sweet. As we humans see in newborns new hope and promise, so this divine child brings new hope and promise to our souls. But unlike the hope most newborns bring to their human parents, the birth of an avatar brings the promise of the soul's redemption and return to its spiritual home, a "kingdom not of this world.” 

But like all infants, this newborn will need protection, care, feeding and training. Thus, too, do our souls need protection, care and feeding. And this is the role of the avatar, whether in the form of Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, Yogananda or others.

The claim that Jesus is the “only” one narrows the Christmas celebration to professed Christians. This makes Christmas a merely sectarian religious holiday. But Paramhansa Yogananda explained that the term “Only begotten” refers to the divine consciousness that underlies every atom. Our souls were created to re-discover that truth of who we are. And any soul which has achieved this realization is, like Jesus and the others, a living “son of God” but none can contain the Infinite. None can be the “only” one. 

“Only” refers to the omnipresent, omniscient, and eternal consciousness of God present at the still heart of all creation. It is the “only” reality that exists in the creation that is without flux or change. It is the “only” reflection of the Infinite Spirit, who is the progenitor beyond all creation and who remains untouched by the creation of which it is an invisible part! 

When an individual soul achieves this Self-identity, he can say, as Jesus and the other immortals have said, “I and my Father are One.”

May you in-joy a blessed celebration of the living Christ within and without!

Swami Hrimananda





Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Jesus the Yogi Christ : Why Celebrate the Birth of Jesus?

Christmas is for Everyone

Perhaps You-Too have discovered You-Tube? There you can learn that Jesus didn't really die on the cross but escaped to either India (Kashmir to be exact) or, to the south of France (with Mary Magdeline, of course). You might be surprised to know that an exact reckoning determined that Jesus was born on March 2, 4 B.C. (They forgot to calculate the time?) Like the Never Ending Story of science (which blows our minds every few years or decades), who knows: maybe they are right!

But what novelists, speculators, con men, scoffers or archaeologists will never change is the fact that Jesus Christ changed world history. His message and example conquered the Roman Empire (which crucified him), and in the process changed western history (and by extension, world history). More importantly, given that such “conquest” proved a mix bag to say the least, he “conquered” the hearts of countless souls down through the centuries. Witnesses to his life and thousands of others who only heard about him have given their lives willingly and joyfully to bear witness to their faith.  

Never mind that atrocities have been committed in his name or that countless followers are glued to their unyielding and untested beliefs, for ignorance and ego can be found everywhere, and not just in religion and spirituality. Never mind the “miracles” described in the life of Jesus, though, are not the discoveries of modern science every bit a miraculous to us even today? Just because we use technology doesn’t mean we have a clue about how it works! Imagine a time traveller from, say, just two hundred years ago coming to Seattle. Has not science so opened our imaginations that we can imagine “raising” the dead? Why just consider the testimony of near-death experiencers!

Truth is more vital than facts. Truth changes lives. Facts soon get lost. Eyewitness accounts demonstrate the unreliability of our five senses, our perception, and our memory! In contrast to mere facts, what about the miracle of forgiveness? The miracle of returning love for hatred? I think of Gandhi or Martin Luther King. What about helping a neighbor in need?

The spirit of Christmas is the simple, but life-changing, recognition of our shared humanity. That tiny babe in a manger so long ago is but a symbol, for what new-born is unlovable? No matter what your beliefs about that tiny babe, the reminder and the affirmation that love can be (re)born even in spite of those who would seek to destroy it, is a truth that we resonate with on a deeper level than ego. That both common “shepherds” (i.e. ordinary people) and “kings from afar” would both come to a humble manger to bow down to this truth is a symbol more powerful than any platitude eloquently expressed.

Who among us would fail to welcome society’s celebration and a reminder of our shared humanity? Especially now in these times where “getting mine first” is elevated to a philosophy, a veritable religion. Yes, like all things, Christmas can be materialistically milked for money or mere feasting.  But this “greatest story ever told” (why the greatest? Because it’s your story and mine, too), is a truth worthy of celebrating.

How should we celebrate Christmas? With gift giving, Christmas decorations, and feasting? All of those have their place for many. Who doesn’t enjoy an exuberant show of beautiful Christmas lights? By the way, did you know that the very first time a nativity scene (a live one, by the way) was created was by St. Francis in Italy in 1223?

All outward celebrations aside, followers of Paramhansa Yogananda, author of the now famous book, “Autobiography of a Yogi participate in a tradition that he began which is to set aside a day of meditation on the “formless Christ”. By “formless Christ” he meant the universal divine consciousness, intelligent and wise, that resides in every person and, indeed, in every atom of creation. This divine Self, he taught, is the invisible intelligence and the pure and noble impulses that have their source in the Creator and Sustainer of all life. Yogananda taught that the “second coming of Christ” is an event that takes place in the human heart after first having been awakened by the “Christ” in human form (i.e., the guru) which can be designated as his “first” coming.

“Jesus” was the man’s name but “Christ” was the title bestowed upon him. “Christ” signifies that he had achieved realization of his innate divine nature. While we all possess this innate divine nature, few have sought it, and fewer have yet to “become One with the Father.” Whether this takes one lifetime or a thousand, it is for this purpose we were created. It is our destiny to achieve this oneness, but it is only by the free choice of our hearts that we begin the journey “home” to claim our royal birthright just as in the beautiful story of the Prodigal Son. (You might find it interesting to know that the title of “Christ” is etymologically connected with the word “Krishna” and carries the same significance.)

Let us, then, honor the tiny babe in a manger whose shining face is our face when we love all without condition. Let the purity of a newborn’s trust and openness be nurtured in our hearts during this holy season and in every day of our life. Love is the redeeming power of the universe and it never fails to resurface no matter how dark the days may get. 


Happy Christmas to all!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

A Christmas Story for Children of All Ages

Once upon a time, long, long ago, in a faraway land, or was it a faraway galaxy, a child was born. Not in a house like yours or mine; and certainly NOT in a hospital with a midwife or doctor. 

No, nothing like that. This child was born in a small barn; a shed, really. We call it a stable because it’s where a cow and donkey stayed on cold nights. Maybe there were a few chickens; likely, too, a goat or two. There was hay piled up all around. It wasn’t warm but then outside it was…

a cold, dark, December night. The stars shone brightly in the skies above. In the surrounding hills, shepherds watched their flocks. 

They had to guard the sheep from packs of hungry wolves. To keep warm and to keep the wolves away, the shepherds had a camp fire.

This night when the child Jesus was born was both special and yet ordinary. After all, billions of babies have born on planet Earth in the two thousand years since the birth of Jesus! When you were born it was a very special event for you; your parents; your grandparents, friends and family! Even if you were born in a hospital and not a stable for farm animals, yours was still a very special event!

What made the birth of Jesus special? What does his birth have in common with yours?

Every so often, and at different times and places on Earth, there is born a soul with very special qualities. The birth event may or may not be unusual but in these cases the child is. Do you remember your birth? No, of course you don’t. I don’t either. But these special children DO remember their birth. In fact, they know all of their past lives. Who are these children? Well, Krishna; Buddha, Jesus, Rama and many others. These are children who remember! Who KNOW that they are children of God. They are children who KNOW God.

You and I are children of God, too. But just as we don’t remember our birth, we too often think we are just “who we are” as our parents named us: John, Sally, Ramesh, Gita, Noah. We have forgotten that we have lived many lives and have been called by many different names. God, too, is called by many names. But essentially God is simply I AM. We have forgotten that our true nature is that of God’s own nature: joy! We have forgotten that we are an incarnation of joy and not just a physical body. But these special children who are born from time to time have remembered.

In the case of Jesus’ birth, the event had several distinct features we are told from the bible. In the stories written by Matthew and by Luke, the Greek physician, we hear that nearby shepherds heard and saw angels singing. The angels told the shepherds that this Christ child—a child who remembered—had just been born in that nearby stable!

And from far, far away, perhaps as far away as India, wise sages journeyed to pay homage to the child Jesus. But how did they know? There wasn’t email or internet! There weren’t even old fashioned newspapers or TV news!!!!! A wise sage is one who just knows – knows from inside. Like the child Jesus or Buddha who remembers who they were and have always been, these “three wise men” (the bible doesn’t say there were three of them; it only says there were three gifts given to the child Jesus) said they saw “His” star in the east where they lived, far away.

Well, you know how sign language works? Certain hand gestures or positions symbolize words. Bring your hand to your mouth and move your hand like your mouth is chewing and you have the sign language symbol for “I want to eat!” 

Well, the word “east” is sign language for seeing and knowing. The sun rises in the East and we awaken! One who knows and sees is called a Seer! And what did these wise sages see? A star! Not in the sky, but in their mind’s eye: right here, at the point between the eyebrows! The five-pointed white star that they saw in meditation told them in wordless words that an avatar, a true child of God, was about to be born. It told them the approximate location: near the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea in the land of Israel.

These wise men of India were summoned by the star to find and honor the birth of this avatar, Jesus. And thus it was that they journeyed a long way, perhaps as much as 2,000 miles: on camels, no less! Hmmm, or maybe they had a faster way to travel.

Who were these Wise Men? Our guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, said the three wise men were his own gurus. Their names in the incarnations of 19th and 20th century were none other than Babaji, Lahiri Mahasaya, and Swami Sri Yukteswar. It was they who came to honor the baby Jesus. This means all four of them knew each other from past lives. We don’t know where Yogananda himself was at this time and he didn’t or wouldn’t tell us.

There was another curious feature of Jesus’ birth. It is a part of the story that we also find told in regards to the birth of Lord Krishna, centuries before the birth of Jesus. Not everyone was so happy that a great king-like soul was to be born. In each case, the local king was jealous and wanted to kill the child. In each case, the child had to be taken away and hidden.

What makes this story special to us is that it isn’t just the story of Jesus’ birth. It is the story of your birth, and mine as well. For we are also children of God. And, if we want to remember that truth-- just as Jesus, Krishna, Buddha and others have--we have to give birth to that memory in the knowing and remembering silence of our hearts and minds: especially in meditation. Not just once, but every day. Meditation is the humble “stable” where our soul-nature and memory can be rediscovered, reborn.

The shepherds are the mindful, conscience-guiding guardians of the sheep of our thoughts. We build a fire of devotion in the dark night of meditation to keep away the subconscious wolves of restless thoughts, desires and fears. If we do that, angels of God will come and sing to us, instructing and encouraging us to seek this Christ-child in our hearts. The wise men and saints of the past have given us teachings that will enable us to give as gifts to our soul-child our thoughts, feelings, and actions. But King Ego will want to kill this child and, at first, we must hide our Christ consciousness in the quiet safe place of meditation and prayer until he can grow strong and come out and play openly in daily life, declaring, “I and my Father are one!”

We are each a king and queen but we think, instead, that we are commoners, subjects of the demands of earth, water, heat and air; subject to the demands of food, water, comfort and restless desires. 

But we are more than this; more than mere humans who live only a short time subjected to the frailties of age, health, and forces of luck and destiny.


Christmas reminds us that we too are a King (or Queen). This reminder is cause for celebration. And of course it needs be said that if “I am a King” then so are you! We are all that: “tat twam asi!” (Sanskrit: "Thou art That!") On this basis we are reminded to live in this world with nobility, goodness and goodwill for all.

If everyone, or even just many, truly give birth to this remembrance of the inner and universal Christ (the living presence of God in us and in all creation and AS creation itself), the human race would truly live in peace and goodwill.

May the light of Christ be born in you this Christmas and every day a Christmas!

Swami Hrimananda

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Why We Honor Jesus Christ & Christmas

Dear Friends and Members of Ananda Sangha of Seattle,

We occasionally are asked, "Why is the picture of Jesus Christ on the altar and why are the teachings of the bible emphasized at Ananda?" We celebrate the birth, life and teachings of Jesus Christ because we are inspired by the explanation and insight given to us by our preceptor, Paramhansa Yogananda. Yogananda put it this way: the soul of Jesus is the same as yours and mine. Jesus was not different "in kind," but in the degree to which he had achieved Self-realization of his soul's true nature. 

Yogananda called his life's work in the West "The Second Coming of Christ." This was not an ego-boast as it might be interpreted. Instead, Yogananda meant that he was sent from India to the West to "resurrect" the practice of meditation. This "coming" is what Yogananda called a "New Dispensation." The teaching of meditation (including and especially the advanced technique of Kriya Yoga) fulfills in objective human history the promise of Jesus to come again. Jesus' second coming, Yogananda taught, is not a human reincarnation, but in the formless presence of the universal Christ consciousness born in meditation: in the silent, still, humble manger of our hearts.

The "Christ" ("the anointed one") was fully Self-aware in Jesus but lives in all creation and in our hearts as our true Self. Elsewhere this aspect of God (in creation) might be called the Krishna Consciousness! It has been called by many names. "As many as received him, to them gave He the power to become the sons of God."(John 1:12).

That tender, heart-opening image of the tiny babe in the manger symbolizes and reminds us of the sweetness, innocence, peace, and unconditional love that lies quietly in our own hearts. It is the peace that all true hearts in creation seek. It is the kinship we feel (and wish more would feel) with all life in nature and in all races and nations. In a true metaphysical and spiritual sense, this consciousness is the salvation of humankind for, without it, we would destroy each other on the basis of our seemingly irreconcilable differences, fears, and competition. Daily meditation is the sure-fire way of life that can "resurrect" this universal divine consciousness that can gradually become our sole reality and self-identity. This state of Being is the true heaven we seek.

This is why we celebrate the birth of Jesus: not only out of gratitude for the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, but for the promise of hope for soul-awakening that this newborn child in the manger offers to us and to all the world. Christmas is for everyone. 

We have for you a recording of a Christmas message from Swami Kriyananda from 1983: Here's the link to listen to it: http://www.anandawashington.org/christmas-message-sk-1983/

Blessings to you and your family this joyful season and beyond, 

Nayaswamis Hriman and Padma


Saturday, December 9, 2017

Christmas Spirit Comes from Living in the Presence of God

Bible: (Paraphrased) "As you have tendered to the needs of others, in this way you have honored Me!"

Bhagavad Gita: (Paraphrased) "He who never loses sight of Me in all things and people, I never lose sight of he."

The week after Thanksgiving I had my annual week of seclusion. Seclusion is a personal retreat: a retreat where one is alone with God in prayer and meditation. This time I didn’t even go out for a walk or a run, though I did more chores around the Hermitage house than I have in past years: cleaning, mostly. [See Facebook: Camano Hermitage]

I eat lightly, only had a few hot meals during the week, mostly because I’m a lazy (and a lousy) cook. Accordingly, I consider a cup of coffee a hot meal.

It’s humbling to attempt to sit for 5 to 6 days in meditation. Even if I don't do this unbrokenly, it is the main activity of the entire day, interspersed with chanting and the practice of kriya yoga and other techniques. I had a particular focus for this seclusion: to deepen and prolong periods of complete stillness beyond thoughts and mental images.

The subconscious mind, however, can act like a donkey. Sometimes you can coax it along with a little discipline, a bribe, or a certain amount of force, but there can come a time when you have to ease off and give it a rest. 

At such times I did a little reading (all of it spiritual reading). Other times and to engage the body so as not to get lazy, I'd do some chores (mopping the floor, sweeping, etc.) But all together, it truly amounts to many, many hours of meditation. 

The goal of meditation is, of course, to feel the presence of God: alive, vibrant, intimate and cosmic—in whatever way and form God’s consciousness will appear; in the form of Yogananda, Jesus, or one of the others. As deep inner peace; transforming, ineffable love, or a contagious joy that one imagines will last forever!

There are about four chants that call for a repetition of the names of the masters and these I find especially helpful. I take one of these chants, name by name, one by one into silent visualizations which I then let dissipate into an expectation of their actual vibrational presence. I find this practice deeply rewarding. Thus, I alternate chanting with meditation.

Among my yoga practices, having recently teamed up with Murali Venkatrao in the Advanced Pranayam class at our local Ananda Center (Institute for Living Yoga) for our level II (500 hour) Yoga Alliance students, I gave special emphasis to some of the more aggressive pranayams to take me deeper into psychological equilibrium, inclining toward breathlessness.

To feel kinship with others in this world requires more than mere sentiment or dry philosophy; for it to be real and sustainable -- even when one is under personal attack -- it must descend from the perfect love of God.

When in the New Testament Jesus gives the parable of the "King" who explains to the "elect" that whenever they helped a person in need they were serving Him, we see right away the obvious teaching that we should help those in need. Only slightly less obvious, but I suspect not often pointed out in orthodox Christian circles is the precept that God IS each person. Our charitable act should arise because God resides in that person, not only because his material need. This is the REASON to help others, because they are, "as thyself," a child of God. ("Love thy neighbor AS thy Self.").

This famous parable offers "heavenly rewards" to those of a kind and generous nature but the parable makes it clear that the compassion of the "elect" was not expressed as an act of conscious devotion to God who resides in those whom they helped. Is it enough, spiritually speaking, to be a humanitarian, perhaps an agnostic, even an atheist? Yes--but only up to a point.

We can get good karma and the heavenly rewards of heart warming satisfaction from our good deeds. But to reunite our souls with God, our Creator, requires an act of conscious devotion (and not just one!) All of our good karma for our generosity might be used up by our response when we are attacked by others for it is an axiom that "no good deed goes unpunished" in this world of duality! Good karma can work off bad karma but until we begin to yearn to step out of duality all together and into transcendence (the oneness of God's eternal love and bliss), we just remain on the merry-go-round.

It is not humanly possible to love every person we meet because not everyone we meet is lovable in a merely human way. But when our hearts are full of the unconditional love of (for) God, we are naturally loving. We are also naturally wise in how we express that love! 

Thus a loving parent may have to discipline a child (but to do so does not require being angry); a policeman may have to apprehend a criminal (but need not be cruel); a teacher, correct a student (without dislike); and a supervisor, to lay off or let go an employee (without malice). True love IS wisdom. We mustn't forget that.

Love which results from a bleeding heart simply bleeds the heart into a dearth of feeling!

This, then, is the basis for the true Spirit of Christmas: that divine love and God's presence rests at the heart of each heart, each creature, each person, indeed, each atom of creation.

The outer light of the sun may be absent from our northern hemisphere as we descend into winter, but it can remind us that the true "light of men" resides within us and can be always found, or re-born, in the stillness of the quiet heart, especially deep in meditation.

One reason I think we instinctively honor children as part of Christmas is derived from the tender feelings that arise around devotion to the Christ child. (Did you know, however, that it was a thousand years after that event that the first nativity scene was created for the purpose of devotion? It was St. Francis of Assisi who did this for the first time in Christianity's history!)

But I think there's another reason, as well. For the fellow feeling of kindness and warmth which we call the Christmas spirit is reflected in the innocence, natural love, and openness that children express. (This is also depicted in the "softly lowing" animals who share the humble stable where Jesus is said to be born.) 

Paramhansa Yogananda often quoted these words of Jesus, "Suffer the little children to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven."

"For of such" is the warmth, the welcoming hospitality, graciousness, kindness and generosity we see expressed at Christmas. The social aspect, in spite of its commercialization, remains a valid and wonderful part of Christmas. But it's sustainable source comes from within us from our experience of the living presence of God, the Christ universal.

That aspect of Christmas giving that extends generosity to the poor and homeless is affirmed in the parable given to us of Jesus (above). But giving to those in need goes beyond the gift's material benefit and value. Did not Jesus also say "The poor ye have always with thee"? 

Giving to those in need affirms our kinship even with those whose circumstances differ so greatly from our own, or whose outer appearances do not attract us. We are all children of God and are equally deserving of the divine abundance of joy and self-respect.

We must not be hypocrites like the friends of suffering Job in the Old Testament who taunted him by assuming he must have sinned and thus deserved his troubles. We who might reject a teaching like Original Sin find ourselves, perhaps, all too easily invoking the law of (bad) karma when we or our friends are burdened with illness or misfortune. 

Whatever may be the roots of our present troubles, or those of others less fortunate seeming than us, each of us can turn the "sow's ear" of difficulties into a "silk purse" of spiritual growth if we respond with grace, faith, equanimity, and cheerfulness. Our tests exist to cleanse us and awaken our strength, courage and faith. 

Perhaps you know this story:  

A king had a male servant who, under all circumstances always said to him: “My king, do not be discouraged because everything God does is perfect, and He makes no mistakes.”
One day, they went hunting and a wild animal attacked the king. The servant managed to kill the animal but couldn’t prevent his majesty from losing a finger.
Furious and without showing any gratitude, the king said; “If God was good, I would not have been attacked and lose one finger”.
The servant replied: “Despite all these things, I can only tell you that God is good and everything He does is perfect; He is never wrong.”
Outraged by the response, the king ordered that the servant be imprisoned.
Later, the king left for another hunt and was captured by savages who used human beings as sacrifice. On the altar, the savages discovered that the king did not have one finger in place, so they released him because they considered him to “incomplete” to be offered to their gods.
On returning to his palace, the king authorized the release of his servant and told his servant: “My friend, God was really good to me. I was almost killed but for lack of a single finger, I was let go.”
“However, I have a question,” the king added. “If God is so good, why did He allow me to put you in prison?”
The servant wisely replied: “My king, if I had gone with you, I would have been sacrificed because I have no missing finger.”
While giving to charitable organizations is surely a good thing, anytime of year, consider also more personal acts of sharing. "Charity," my mother used to say, "begins at home." Consider the needs of a friend, family member, neighbor, or co-worker something he or she truly needs. Give, too, anonymously when you can. Or give to express your caring or appreciation to someone to whom you don't otherwise have an obligation or any other personal motive to do so.
One encounters beggars most everywhere in the world. Who can know if it is wise to give to this one or that. If you choose to give, do so for the awakening of the love of God in your own heart, not for any tangible need you imagine the recipient may have.
Yogananda's charity was more often in this way: more personal. So, too, Swami Kriyananda (Ananda's founder and a direct disciple of Yogananda's). 
We recently had an opportunity to give (both personal and from Ananda here in Seattle) a modest donation to a rural health clinic in northern Bangladesh. We were invited to an annual fundraiser organized by local Imam Jamal Rahman and his family for the benefit of a clinic in their ancestral village. We could see directly the practical results of our gifts and it was satisfying and meaningful.
The message that Paramhansa Yogananda was commissioned to bring to the West and to the world is that "Christ lives!" The universal Christ (or Krishna, Buddha, etc.) consciousness, which is the sole reflection within us of the Creator's bliss and consciousness, exists in all creation, and in you and me. Meditation, and especially kriya yoga (an advanced meditation technique) has come into the world and into increasing popular use to help us discover this realization for ourselves.
Thus Christmas has taken on a new meaning: a universal one and also a very practical one. It can and truly should be celebrated by everyone: of all faiths or none. It is not by legislation, reason, or philosophy that we can overcome our differences and inbred prejudices but by the Christ love of our hearts and souls.
A blessed and joyful Christmas season to all!
Nayaswami Hriman 



Friday, December 23, 2016

The True Story of Christmas

A White Christmas

As I write these words it is snowing thick, puffy flakes! While for the sake of many practical holiday matters, I hope it stays light and fluffy, for now it is a pleasure (on all levels) to behold. The shortest day of sunlight is now past and the only way is “up” towards greater Light.

At Ananda, throughout the world—even in India—we celebrate Christmas. We do so in two ways: the social form and the spiritual way of meditation. Included in my meaning of “social” are the celebrations with family and friends; gift exchanges; and, importantly, recognition and celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ as reported in the four gospels. The spiritual “way” is of course through meditation and especially in the tradition, happening even now as I type throughout the world, begun by Paramhansa Yogananda of an eight-hour, day of meditation upon the cosmic Christ universal.

But let’s view, first, the story of Christmas. We, in this new age of Dwapara Yuga (the electrical or atomic age), are very fond of facts but rather short on truth. Science has given up on finding a “theory of everything” and is content to make new discoveries, particularly ones that can be put to practical (meaning monetary) use. Facts have their place in daily life, for sure.

But truth is something lasting and of the spirit. Endless debate and research has surrounded things like, “How can a woman (mother of Jesus) become pregnant asexually?” “What about the star seen by the wise men? How is that possible, astronomically?”

For the sake of brevity and focus, I will leave aside these factual questions so dear to the historian (and, I suppose, to the doubter). The real story of Christmas involves, by contrast, its meaning to you, and me. We’ve lost the interest and habit of “story,” which is to say myth. Even the word “myth” connotes in our usage of it “that which is false.” I take issue with that but I don’t control our use of words in our language!

The story of Christmas is that “God so loved the world that He sent His ‘only-begotten’ Son.” Well, what does THIS mean? Certainly not the orthodox Christian interpretation! According to Paramhansa Yogananda and according to the Bhagavad Gita (India’s beloved ‘bible’), God sends redeemers or saviors time and time again into human history. Jesus is not the only such incarnation of divinity. Nor is he and the others mere puppets. For as the beloved disciple St. John wrote in the first chapter of his gospel, “And as many as received Him, to them gave He the power to become the sons of God.”

Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, Rama, Yogananda and many others are no different than you or me. Rather, their level of awakening, of realization of their true soul-Self, has achieved perfection in union with God. Ours is yet struggling to emerge. They come to remind us of who we are AND to transmit the power of redemption. This doesn’t come through mere words or belief systems or rituals but through actual, but spiritual, power. “To RECEIVE HIM” means to take the savior’s life, teachings, and vibration (spirit) into your thoughts, feelings, and actions until He is in You, and You in Him.

What is “only begotten,” Yogananda taught, is that this universal, cosmic Christ-spirit resides at the still center of every atom of creation. It is the pure reflection of the Father-Spirit beyond and untouched by creation. It, and it alone, is Pure.

Second to this is the Word (In the beginning was the Word…..and the Word WAS God………and the Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us). The Word is the vibratory aspect of all creation. It is secondary because its very motion and movement is the underlying foundation and structure for creation. While it, too, is pure, it is halfway, as it were, between pure Spirit and the creation which completely hides Spirit.

Hence Jesus, as a person inhabiting a human body, with a concomitant personality, is not the sole and exclusively begotten son of God, but his consciousness is united with God: “I and my Father are One.” But Christians, Hindus and others confuse the appearance, the form, with the Spirit behind the form.

This is the story—the promise of our own mortality—that allows the Christmas story to endure, and, further, why we, at Ananda, as disciples of Paramhansa Yogananda, and as practitioners of kriya yoga from India, ALSO celebrate Christmas in both its social and its spiritual aspects.

A blessed, happy, and Merry Christmas to you,

Swami Hrimananda


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Why Celebrate Christmas?

The lament surrounding the commercialization and the meaningless social, decorative and gaudy aspects of Christmas is well known and hardly worth noting. Whether sincere Christians or weary atheists, Christmas could use a strong dose of relevance and meaning these days.

Our problem is not only that it has been bowdlerized of its original spirituality, but taken as strictly a Christian holiday, it would appear to be irrelevant to most of the rest of the world.

Can both of these be changed?

A reverent study of the life of Jesus shows many endearing and inspiring qualities of his life: some divinely attributed and others humanistic. That Jesus was a great man in the best sense of the term is not, to my knowledge, ever been seriously challenged. Some skeptics may say he never lived but for someone who never lived he somehow managed to change the course of history. I think, therefore, we can strike that fantasy from our list of objections.

Have you ever simply sat down and read the four gospels of Jesus' life? Why not do a little reading each night of December and see what you come up with? You don't need to get down on your knees. Make a cup of comfort tea, sit in a comfortable chair or sofa, and read until you know it's time for bed. Put aside preconceptions, expectations, dogma and encounter the person of Jesus.

Another objection I would propose to cross off your list goes like this: why dispute that sectarianism, error, ignorance and suffering has been inflicted upon others in Jesus' name? That doesn't mean it was his fault! You can do with what you want with the miracles testified to in the New Testament, including his resurrection, but his compassion, openness, his humanity, his love for all, his tenderness, his courage........are these not the stuff of greatness? Can you not, also, see the potential in yourself for such?

"Other sheep I have that are not of this fold!" I think that includes you and I. 

Perhaps you fear the overbearing image of Jesus as a person who, like Uncle Sam, WANTS YOU! Forget that image. Just tune into who he was....ok, maybe, IS. "IS" means NOW as you encounter him reading his life story. "IS" means in the feelings of your own heart. We of the rationalist culture imagine stories, to be true and relevant, must be factually true. Consider turning this on its head: the real stories are allegories of life. These are the true "stories" of you and me. Your heart knows what is true. Trust your own calm, receptive, and higher instincts, called "intuition." 

In the gospel of John, one of his most famous sayings is "And as many as received Him to them gave He the power to become the sons of God." That is one of the most potent quotations of the entire New Testament. Consider what this really means. Yes, YOU! You are that, too. You are the Christ. All that is needed, simple but not easy, is to "receive" that Christ-hood in your own heart and find authentic ways to express it in thought, word and deed.

As you read, try to imagine yourself there: in the dusty hills of Palestine; in the crowded, noisy markets of its cities and especially of Jerusalem. Imagine the oppressive presence of the Roman occupiers; feel the arrogance and holier-than-thou attitude of the temple's priests and scribes; hear the call to action on the part of John the Baptist: the crazy man crying in the wilderness: repent! Can't you see him here, now? (No, not the televangelists! But someone deep, sincere, empathetic, sympathetic, and.....real!) Isn't that what this blog article is about: repenting, meaning reconsider our view of Christmas! Let's re-discover our true Self as sacred, reverent, and holy.)

Jesus was born a "king" but born in a manger.  Like the prince who thought himself a pauper, we are that King, too, in our souls, at least. We cannot be made manifest, or born, except in the manger of natural humility and self-offering. It is only the ego with its pride and self-preoccupation that is asked to sacrifice itself on the cross of letting go that our consciousness might expand and know true joy. "It is more blessed to give than to receive." Is this not the Christmas spirit, also?

Why? Because in giving we expand our heart's sympathy and feel the joy of that expansion. This Christmas season, share your material wealth with others in need; do so anonymously if you can; give to the spiritual work of the universal Christ in this world that the light may expand.

We cannot afford NOT to celebrate Christmas. Paramhansa Yogananda established the tradition of a day of meditation just a few days before December 25. He said we should seek in meditation the formless Christ of peace within our own hearts. With the blessings of that occasion, we can then celebrate the social aspects of Christmas with true, Christ-joy.

At Ananda in Bothell, we conduct our Christmas meditation retreat on Saturday, December 17, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. We have chanting breaks throughout the day (contact us for the schedule) and a mid-day snack and comfort break. If you want to know who Jesus IS, come and seek Him in the Temple of Silence within.

In just a few days, this Saturday, December 10, 9:30 a.m., two of our teachers offer a class on "Jesus the Yogi Christ." Explore with us Yogananda's inspired revelation of the true nature, both divine and human, of Jesus Christ. Who were the three wise men? Where did Jesus disappear to for eighteen years? 

A blessed Christmas to you,

Swami Hrimananda

Friday, December 2, 2016

The Word "God" : a Problem for You?

Imagine how many people down through history have attempted to define this simple word: God! If "He" only knew what he started when he started it all. What a pain! So many troubles, sorrows, suffering and disappointment. "What was He thinking?"

Billions of galaxies? Parallel universes? When will it all end? Infinity? What's THAT, really? Everything, I suppose, eh? And there's some's that seez there "taint nothin' at all!" As in ZERO!

My, oh my. It's enough to make you want to go have a cup of coffee and drink cup after delicious cup to forget!

My guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, wrote in such devotional terms of God as his father-mother-friend-and beloved. Yogananda's poetic collection of "prayer-demands," published as "Whispers from Eternity," are thrilling. So, too, is the mystical literature of great men and women down through the ages. What, then, are we missing?

Such an outpouring of inspiration in literature, liturgy, music, architecture and humanitarian deeds has been offered to this invisible God-person-thing that it befuddles the modern, rational and scientific mind-set. But it also challenges the rational mind to play by its own rules: objectivity and impersonal inquiry! Raving atheists are more bedfellows with raving religious fanatics than with true and impartial inquiry. 

Can we really dismiss this enormous, and beautiful, outpouring to a confused jumble of hormones, genetics, impulse to survive and reproduce? I read in National Georgraphic years ago an article -- completely serious and unselfconscious -- that explored the subject of human love purely from the point of view of being motivated by the impulse to survive. 

Just because we can't isolate God in our test tubes doesn't logically mean he doesn't exist. Maybe we just haven't found him yet. Look how much we HAVE discovered in just 50 or 100 years!

And what about human impulses towards pure love, joy and perfection. If our scientists are willing to posit the possibility of multiple universes how far off from that (unproven) hypothesis is higher consciousness? Or, an overarching Consciousness? I propose that the latter is far more rationally likely than the former when you are willing to take into account the entire spectrum of human conduct and experience, or even just the vastness and complexity of the physical cosmos itself. 

And yet, who is not stirred by the contemplation of pure love, pure joy, and perfection unimaginable? From whence comes our secret desire for perfection? From a state, perhaps, of knowing? Memory? Is there a distant past -- a golden age -- that we can no longer consciously recall or archaeologically have found evidence of (yet)? [What if the very nature of such an age precludes any evidence of its existence for the simple fact that human population, being enlightened, was relative small; climate, benign; people lived out of doors; had no need to farm or make cell phones; and so on?]

Should we just shrug our shoulders and say, "Well, it's a paradox, so either we just put it aside or we live with it without trying to understand "it."" Is life really so engaging that we don't care? Don't wonder? Wherein comes our dreams? Imagination? Speculation?

The mystery and the challenge of the God-word-concept can be ignored but for those with the courage to confront it head on, "there's gold in them thar hills!"

The 20th century will go down in history as a time when humanity decided there was no meaning to life, so why not "get mine while I can." The mantra of the first 50 years was something like: "Survival of the fittest!" So off some groups went to prove that WE are fittest: the master race; the greatest country on earth; the richest or most powerful business tycoon; the most viciously competitive company; the most popular movie star; most talented, and on and on! 

Science, moreover, during this era revealed just how insignificant the human race is in terms of the vastness of time and space, and in the what appeared to be the random, chaotic, and meaningless motions of all particles, which are supposedly the basis of all life forms. Clearly survival and procreation were the only discernible motivations and impulses worth noting. Right? Hmmmm....

But towards the second half of the 20th century and into the present, the complexity and issues of modern life began to crowd in around us, urging us to take responsibility for the impact of our lives on one another, on other life, and on the planet as a whole. At first we ignored the human footprint; then we denied that we were significant enough to make a difference. But after time and hardship, and, oh yes, the findings of science, we were (will?) to eventually come to the conclusion that we had to take responsibility for the world in which we lived. 

So maybe we were insignificant in the cosmic scheme of the universe but here and now we'd better get off our 'arse and clean up the mess we made.

A good beginning, but a mere child's step. Just more of the survival motif.

The significance of our insignificance is that our significance lies in what we are behind our physical forms and trivial personalities. At the center of our being lies our significance; our meaning; our happiness. We are allowed to call that "God" inasmuch as we share this significance, which is life itself, with all life and with every atom. It isn't ours exclusively but it is very personal to us. It is us. 

If self-aware, we experience our vital essence. The best and most consistent means of doing this is through the process, yea, the science, of meditation (and yoga). Relaxing the body; quieting the storm of restless thoughts and the personal, fleeting and all too often trivial emotions; resting in Being, in the Self. Like plastic that, as it approaches the temperature of absolute zero becomes a "super-conductive" material, we, approaching stillness, become super-conscious of our connection with all life, with Being.

In meditation, we can go from movement to stillness; from doing to being; from an insignificant wave in the great ocean of atoms and molecules to the essential consciousness and intelligence and feeling that animates and guides all things, like a drop of the great ocean of consciousness. Our definition of it is a matter of taste, but we are part of it and can experience it. Modern clinical science has proven, moreover, that it is very healthful and beneficial to do so! Our existence in time and space is as unique as our perception of Being is both personal and impersonal.

Yes, call that God. Why not? And yet, this God-thing is small; oh, but it is also large; it has form (yours, at least) and yet no form. It exists independent of our awareness of it and doesn't depend on our acknowledgement. And yet this Silence calls to us. If we express a sincere desire to "know," It will gently guide us into It's arms!

You are not the first to encounter this "God." But you are all you have. While that is true, it is also true that others have gone before you, to this "land beyond our dreams." Others have realized this power, this presence, this love in ways far greater, presumably, than yourself. Be humble, therefore. Listen more; speak less. Remember as a personality you are insignificant. Accept that in favor of the unconditional Infinity which is your true Self. Letting go of ego is, in fact, one of the preconditions for your awakening to your own, ironic, significance. 

Yes, there are those souls who come to tell us of their Beloved, who beguiles them endlessly in inner beauty, playfulness, creativity, joy and love without end. Honor these souls; seek them out; heed their counsel. The experience of this state can be actually humanly transmitted from such people to those who are "in tune" with them. Silence is a medium of exchange just as a cell phone signal, though invisible, is a medium of communication provided you have the right channel and equipment! 

This realization, called Self-realization is the pearl of great price. It is not purchased with bank notes; or beauty; or talent; or position. It is born in a manger though it be a king. It is born in a palace though it rules over no one.

God resides at the zero point of stillness, in the hidden recesses where time and space unite, at the center of all motion, beyond all definitions, all change. This zero point has no form but it has feeling. Consider this concept: consciousness cannot exist without feeling. (Try it.) It is bliss: immortal (ever-existing); self-aware (ever-conscious); ever-new (without end, self existent, self content) bliss. "Satchidanandam." One without a second. Omnipresent, yes.

Get over it: God is good; "good" is God with one more letter, for "good" and "bad" exist in this relative world while God is beyond and untouched by it, even while at the heart of it.

There is no god but God; there is no good but God; there is no thing but God. God alone, God here and now; God for ever and ever until the end of time. "Good God, man, let it (ego) go!" And, go for It with heart, mind and soul even as you realize it in every one else. Simple, yes. Easy, well, hmmmm, yes, and, no.

Christmas celebrates this "Christ" in Jesus and in you, and in all creation! A blessed and true Christ-mass celebration to you,

Swami Hrimananda

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Why We Celebrate Christmas

Tomorrow, Sunday, December 20, 2015, the Ananda Meditation Temple in Bothell, WA will host our annual Festive Family Service, replete with the pageantry of the Three Wise Men, shepherds, angels and the Holy Family! Why, then, as kriya yogis, do we celebrate Christmas when so many yoga people and New Thought types eschew traditional religious traditions?

At places like Ananda's East West Bookshop in nearby Seattle, it is common, in fact, likely even the default, that their customers don't bother with traditional the trappings of Christmas, like Christmas trees, carols, or anything of that sort. (I'm guessing, however, that EVERYONE hangs on to the gift-giving! Gee, why's that?)

Ananda's guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, enjoyed and celebrated Christmas with joy and gusto! He'd wait until midnight on Christmas Eve just to go through the halls of his headquarters at Mt. Washington in Los Angeles to happily cry "Merry Christmas!" He shopped throughout the year for little bargains that he stored in a large chest to wrap and give to his close friends and ashram residents. There could be no thought of his merely appeasing his American students. He clearly loved it even as he introduced a new custom: a day of meditation as the "spiritual" Christmas (as distinct from the social one).

In Yogananda's commentary on the life of Jesus, the New and Old Testament, he generally laid aside the temptation to criticize or make claims of tampering with the text. He tended to accept the basic testimony of the scripture and, instead, offered a deeper, sometimes symbolic, often yogic, interpretation. 

He did frequently, however, distinguish the deeper teachings of the Bible from what he humorously called "Churchianity." By this he referred to orthodox religiosity, ritual and dogmatism that encrusts and entombs the spirit behind the revelations of God-realized souls which (later) become accepted as scripture.

His approach was BOTH-AND and life affirming. He didn't take issue with Jesus' miracles nor even the resurrection, though as to Mary's virgin birth, he was largely silent. (He spoke of highly evolved souls capable of conception through non-sexual means, however.)

Yogananda was showing us how to accept traditions that affirm a positive message (like the joy and fellowship of the Christmas spirit, the celebrations, family gatherings, gift-giving to friends and strangers, etc.) while at the same time going deeper to re-affirm the universal message behind them. 

In his ministry and therefore in the work of Ananda, this affirmation includes and is enhanced by the practice of meditation. In his (and our) view, Christmas can and should be celebrated by all those who love God and truth, regardless of other outward beliefs or affiliations.

He was also showing how seeing the One in all doesn't mean we forsake any, specific spiritual path in the name of universality! Every true path expresses universal principles but we cannot achieve enlightenment on the basis of principles alone. We must commit our hearts and hands to the task of purification and selflessness. To do so alone without attuning ourselves to a specific ray of divine light that seeks to uplift us from the self-enclosure of the ego is to wander in the fogs of endless spiritual cul-de-sacs. As he put it, "Your beliefs won't save you." 

Just because people of goodwill respect all traditions and no traditions and are basically good people is NOT enough to achieve soul liberation.

Yogananda did not view Jesus as a founder of a specific religion that distinguishes itself from other religions, and considers itself superior to those religions. Instead, Yogananda taught that Jesus Christ, a true savior and avatar, is but one of many such who are sent back to earth in every age to re-affirm the central message that we are children of the one Father-Mother, Friend-God! 

He taught, further, that Jesus was not a God-made puppet (only begotten son of God) but a soul and individual like you and me. In his case and like other avatars, his soul had achieved its hard-won God-realization in some distant past life but was now "commissioned" to return again and again to help other "lost sheep."

Jesus, Yogananda taught, had received the title "Christ" (Anointed One) because his soul was united with God and with the God-presence in every atom of creation. This indwelling, immanent manifestation of God in all of creation, in every atom and every heart, is called "the Christ" (or, the Krishna). It is this universal "Christ consciousness" that is the "only-begotten" of the Father-Spirit who is otherwise "beyond" and "untouched" by His creation. Not Jesus as a man. Nor yet Krishna as a man; or Buddha, or Yogananda, etc.

Yogananda frequently quoted St. John in the gospel saying, "And as many as received Him to them gave He the power to become the sons of God." We are ALL potential sons of God, for the indwelling Christ presence lives in us as well. We need only to nurture this Christ-light with the uplifting guidance of a Christ-like savior who can help us, too, to become Self-realized.

The story of the birth of Christ, then, is a metaphor for the journey of every soul to God-realization. A wise soul is willing to journey far to find that Christ within. A wise soul follows the star in the east for the "east" is the point of enlightenment in the body: the point between the eyebrows. It is here that one focuses behind closed eyes in prayer and meditation. The Old Testament (and other scriptures) is filled with guidance to "life up your eyes......" A wise person is willing to give all that he is and possesses to the service of this Christ-light within.

Those who would help others are like shepherds tending a flock. A spiritual teacher, minister, rabbi, etc. and, indeed anyone who would help others spiritually, should be unassuming, humble and garbed in the robe of inner peace, content to live in the hills of solitude (meaning not being a worldly, egotistical person), in the nighttime of introspection, in the company of angels and guided by the stars of inner, spiritual intuition.

There's no room at the "Hotel California" of fame, wealth, pleasure and position. Instead, This infant Christ consciousness can only be born in the lowly stable of our quiet and humble heart. Even the lowly domesticated animals of our subconscious habits are pacified and transformed in the presence of this inner Christ.

The evil King Ego served by his loyal (if mindless) subconscious soldiers of ego-protective habit, will stop at nothing to kill this infant. We must flee to places and people of spiritual vibrations, if this child is to live and grow strong. 

Thus "The Greatest Story Ever Told" is the story of the birth of the Christ Consciousness in each and every one of us.

May yours be a happy, and blessed, Christmas!

Swami Hrimananda

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Preparing the Cradle of Your Heart for Christmas!

If ever in recent years has the need to purify ourselves to become more Christ-like, this is certainly it. The world we live in is so connected that who can hide, and why would they? If spiritual awakening includes a growing awareness of the totality of reality (and the hidden, divine essence of all things), then our hearts should be expanding and sharing.

Yogis and other traditions teach us to face east for meditation. Also: to meditate at dawn, noon, dusk, and midnight. And, other subtle "tricks" as well. Even if I cannot say definitively how much these tricks add to the depth of meditation I can say for sure that I need all the help I can get!

So it is with the Winter Solstice season: the annual period of outer darkness is ideal for seeking the light within, where, in fact, it can always be found. Whatever month Jesus Christ was actually born in is not the real point. The inner, Christ-light of our innate divinity is always born in the humble manager of our softened heart.

There is a universally accessible "worm-hole" of divine consciousness that descends during this darkest season. In the Bhagavad Gita Krishna says, "To the yogi, day is night while to the worldly man, night is day." What this means is that material consciousness that attaches such value to possessions, sense experiences, and ego recognition is like a smothering, dark fog to the soul. By contrast, the state of humility, devotion, and openness is anathema, like darkness, to the ego.

So when the outer light of the sun is partially obscured, the inner light of the soul can be more easily seen with the "third eye" of intuition (in meditation, at the point between the eyebrows). There the light, like a 1,000 million suns, can appear. This is the light that gives light to the outer world.

This time of year is the time for reflection and deeper meditation. The world around us does not tug as persistently upon the sleeve of our attention. (I find it interesting, however, that the world of egos has created such "buzz" and frenetic activity around Christmas in a desperate attempt to eclipse the soul's more natural inclination to go inward.)

Paramhansa Yogananda did not spurn the joyful and social aspects of Christmas. He enjoyed giving gifts, singing carols, and having a Christmas banquet. Rather than put the one thing "down," he added a day-long meditation as the true, and spiritual Christmas.

The Ananda communities throughout the world have continued this tradition. In the beginning, Yogananda (his disciples addressed him as "Master" in the way Christ's disciples did: master of himself!) held the 8-hour meditation on Christmas Eve. But this made it difficult for the disciples in his ashram to prepare the Christmas banquet (which took all night).

So Master moved the meditation day back to December 23. Some Ananda Communities continue this latter tradition; others, like Seattle, hold the Christmas meditation on the Saturday preceding Christmas Day. For 2015, for example, the Christmas Meditation takes place on December 19, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Ananda Meditation Temple in Bothell. (www.AnandaWA.org

Don't see this meditation as a standalone feature of Christmas. NOW is the time to prepare yourself to receive the blessings of the Christmas / Solstice season. Here are some tips to spiritualize your holidays:

1.  Get up a little earlier each morning to sit in prayer and meditation. The amount of time is less important than the heartfelt effort.
2.  Take time, at least once, during the day to pause, internalize, pray and be still. Jesus may have been born in a humble stable long ago, but the Christ (immanent in each atom of creation) can be born in your heart at any moment, and indeed, in every moment.
3.  At night or at the same time every day, offer prayers for peace, sending vibrations of peace to loving hearts yearning for peace and willing to be peaceful "warriors" standing up for the light in the face of darkness, crises, and troubles. The Christ light needs lightbearers to combat the darkness of our times.
4.  One day a week do a fast. Some can do a water fast; others should do a juice fast (using ground almonds for protein); others, yet can fast until lunch, eating raw or freshly cooked food for lunch; skip or repeat same for dinner. Fasting is not only extremely healthy for your body, but see it more as a deliberate act of will: an affirmation of your soul's freedom from bodily imperatives; and, finally, as an act of sacrifice to help others. Good for the body; good for the soul! [For some, simply fasting from sweets or junk or processed foods one day a week would be a victory in itself. Choose your weapon, make sure you know how to use it, and then enter the fray!]
5.  There's only a few weeks before the Christmas meditation day. Begin lengthening your meditation periods or at least do a two to three hour meditation once a week. I have a handout we use for "How to take Longer Meditations" I can send you: let me know.
6.  Your gift-giving is important but let it be from your heart. Money is not the measure of value. Goodwill is. Let your gift be something you feel good about giving and let it be not merely a thing, but a container of soul joy: heart to heart. It need not be overtly "spiritual."
7.  Let your Christmas spirit flow out in practical ways: at work; at school; in your neighborhood, church, and while shopping. Give the precious gift of your smile to all (when "safe" to do so, of course!). Good deeds, especially unseen by others, are precious to the living Christ in your heart.
8.  Visualize the infant Christ resting in the cradle, the manger, of your own softened heart. Do this anytime and all the time! Expand this to see the infant in the hearts of others.

Remember: it is not a coincidence that down through the centuries acts of kindness and devotion are received or felt by all, even those who otherwise never express or feel the same during the rest of the year. The "Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens pays silent homage to this reality. Dive deep and consciously, therefore, into the darkness of the solstice to discover the candle light of Christ within you and within all. Nurture that infant light by devotion, kindness and goodwill, and by meditation upon the inner light. It will grow and will light your life far beyond the solstice time.

May the light of Christ shine within you,

Nayaswami Hriman