Showing posts with label Easter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Easter. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Easter at Home! Reason to Celebrate?

Celebrating Easter at Home!


Well, this IS a first, isn’t it? Millions of people celebrate Easter worldwide but this year our celebrations will take place at home. For Jesus’ disciples that first Easter Sunday was a little bit like ours this Sunday. They were sequestered indoors, hiding out just like us. Though the gospel accounts of that Sunday are divided as to whether Jesus appeared to the disciples on that day let’s just say that he did. If so, we could say that the day for them “ended well!”

And so it can for us, too. The inability to celebrate in customary ways offers us an opportunity to look more deeply at what Easter represents to us—in our lives right now—under the virus cloud. This year we won’t be distracted by Easter bunnies, socializing, festive Spring outfits and sumptuous banqueting.

Easter is a celebration of victory. It is a celebration of life, of soul-immortality. Isn’t that worth being reminded of right now as our bodies are in hiding from this world-wide pandemic-virus? Even Spring, which while cyclical, returns each year reminds us that “this (winter) too will pass.”

Yet, I admit that the first Easter took place a long, long time ago. It has worn its celebratory robes well but they are worn nonetheless. There’s a mountain of tradition that keeps it going but the momentum behind a religious holiday celebrated worldwide by millions all too easily descends to the valley of the mundane: I mean, after all, chocolate bunnies? Money stuffed in plastic eggs? Hot cross buns? How droll!

There must be more to it than that. Of course, there IS! Most readers of this article are students or disciples of Paramhansa Yogananda (author of "Autobiography of a Yogi"). In Yogananda’s famous life story there are several accounts of persons being raised from the dead and saints appearing in physical form after death.  

While past generations took this to be a celebration of the deathlessness of the ego and physical body, it is easier for us, now, to see it for its more subtle meaning: consciousness survives the death of form. Death imposes no finality to the soul. To quote Yogananda, “Man is a soul and has a body (temporarily).”

I’d say that THIS truth is both worth celebrating AND is TIMELY given the threat to our bodies in this worldwide pandemic. You see that’s the interesting aspect of the great spiritual teachers: their message is not so much different as it is a reminder of basic truths. The emphasis each one has may appear to be different, seen from different angles of time and culture, but their “view” of the mountain top is the same: we are children of God; we are immortal; we are made in the divine image of the Creator. Put another way, in winter the mountain top has a mantle of pure white snow; in summer, green, lush trees; in spring, flowers; in fall, a riot of colorful leaves. But it is always, in every season, still the top of the mountain.

Just as our past slips into the darkness of the subconscious mind and just as the future is veiled from us, why should we get confused if our immortal Self is at least equally hidden from our rather distracted gaze.

To quote from Chapter 12 of "Autobiography of a Yogi": A noted chemist once crossed swords with Sri Yukteswar. The visitor would not admit the existence of God since science has devised no means of detecting Him.
              “So you have inexplicably failed to isolate the Supreme Power in your test tubes!” Master’s gaze was stern. “I recommend an unheard-of experiment. Examine your thoughts unremittingly for twenty-four hours. Then wonder no longer at God’s absence.”

Jesus’ crucifixion symbolizes the cost of this “pearl of great price.” It is the dissolution of the ego: our soul’s misidentification with the body and its fawning, obsequious attendant, the personality. To examine one’s thoughts uncritically is the advice of “Self-inquiry” given to all of us by the great saints and sages of East and West. “Know thy Self.”

We do not know the Self, the immortal Atman (soul), for the simple reason we haven’t bothered to look. We are busy with day to day life and, right now, we are laying low to avoid the pandemic.  

Another experiment to try is to count how many times in one period of time (minutes to hours) we say or think “I.” We constantly refer to “I” but we don’t know who “I” is. If you “stare” at this “I” (meaning if you silently observe “I”) you find “I” has no name, no form, no nuttin’! There are no attributes to this guy “I.” God replied to Moses when Moses asked who the voice in the burning bush was: “I AM who I AM.”

Jesus’ last days of his life were extremely dramatic but not all great saints, saviours, or avatars model for us such a dramatic pathway to I AM. Each has a song to sing and so do we. But to peel away the layers of our attachment and the burden of our past actions and identifications is every bit as arduous a task as Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. In our lives, we are generally not ready for anything quite so challenging as that. For us, Jesus said comfortingly: “Sufficient unto the day is the evil (the challenges) thereof.” We have, witness our virus challenge, our own, tests, trials, and crucifixions. Even as this pandemic is worldwide, our response to it and its impact upon our health is individual. Customized karma: just for me!

So, let’s turn to what we can learn from the Easter story? For starters, Jesus was willing to go through what he had to do. It’s not that he a danced a jig at the prospect (of his crucifixion) but after saying “I don’t mind if I don’t have to go through this” he quickly surrendered to the will of the Father. So it’s ok if we have doubts, fears, reservations about doing what we have to do or what will happen. But, in the end, if we say YES TO (OUR) LIFE then we will have access to the power of grace to do what we must do.

Next, he forgave his torturers in the midst of his body’s agonies. While Yogananda taught that Jesus’ suffering was primarily for the ignorance and future karma of his antagonists, the Bible does say that Jesus cried out from the cross to his guru (Elias) “Why hast Thou forsaken me?” If nothing else can be understood from this, Jesus must have at least endured an experience of psychic separation from God before expiring on the cross. It would seem to me that such separation was at least, and likely far more, painful than his wounds.

Why is that? Because a true saviour, an avatar, is not identified with the physical body and can transcend its sensory messages at will. I suspect Jesus accepted the body’s agonies as part of his willing sacrifice and acceptance of the karma of his disciples. It makes no point to say that he had a choice because “I and my Father are One” suggests that what was experienced was what was given to him, so to speak. [This is not rational; it is intuitive. It simply IS.]

Our founder, Swami Kriyananda, had a lifetime of inspired service in musical composition, writing, and counsel. Yet he encountered tremendous opposition from those whom he loved and respected. Despite the hurt, he never descended to hate and always affirmed love and forgiveness.

Jesus’ resurrection that followed the crucifixion was not some extra-credit bonus that he got for his efforts. It was the necessary, even logical, consequence of his acceptance of the crucifixion. Because his physical body was tortured and killed it was at least logical that his victory would express itself by a resurrected body. For us, then, our victories will be carved from our own karma. (Jesus did not have personal karma. As a true son of God, he took on the karma of others.)

It is an error on the part of some believers to take from his resurrection the belief that our bodies will someday be resurrected from graves at the “second coming of Christ.” It is an error, too, to imagine that for all eternity we sit in heaven in our bodies praising God but otherwise retaining our egos, our separation from God. Christian mystics experienced mystical union or marriage of their soul with the great Light of God. Their testimony, not that of theologians, shows us that this is the true and perfect union that is our destiny.

Easter then is a dramatic reminder of the “truth that shall make us free.” We are NOT these bodies and egos. Let us, in contemplating the story of Easter, affirm the truth that is represented by that story. If our celebration takes the form of silent, inner communion—seeking the formless, eternal Christ-like Self within—Jesus’ life and sacrifice will be honored in the best way possible. No amount of Easter eggs or chocolate bunnies can ever replace this eternal yet ever timely message.

If for the sake of young children the eggs and bunnies must be present, perhaps you could also have story time and share with them the “greatest story ever told.” It is also your story, theirs, and mine. It is the story of how the soul returns to the heaven of God-consciousness by attunement to the Divine Will. While the body may succumb to a virus our Spirit can remain, hands-outstretched in gratitude, devotion, and joy.

May this Easter be the most glorious of all,

Nayaswami Hriman




Friday, April 12, 2019

What is the Deeper Meaning of Easter?

Why Celebrate Easter?

The feast of Easter is observed primarily with images of bunnies, chocolate goodies, beautiful flowers, colorful new clothes, and for millions, a once-a-year visit to a church service. Few contemplate seriously the meaning of Easter beyond its outward observance. So let us step back and take a few minutes to consider the meaning of Easter to our own lives.

For starters, let us acknowledge that Easter is inextricably linked to the tragedy of the crucifixion. This is the way of the world where light alternates with darkness. But it’s deeper than that because, for one thing, the crucifixion was not a tragedy except in a very human sense, and for another, the resurrection of Jesus Christ has far more significance to us personally than its simple (if dramatic) narrative would suggest.

Jesus’ resurrection represented a victory: a victory over physical death; a victory over those who condemned him to death; a victory over those who accused him of blasphemy for affirming his own divine nature; a victory over those who doubted or scorned his legitimacy as a spiritual teacher.

But that victory could not have been a reality were it not for his crucifixion. It is not necessary to believe the story of Jesus’ resurrection to distil meaning from it. By contrast, it is not as difficult to accept the reality of Jesus’ crucifixion! But let’s see them as symbols for realities in our own, personal lives.

The ever-present and timeless message of these dramatic events is that the “death” of selfishness and egoity is the price of the soul’s resurrection. Egoity and selfishness we are familiar with, but the existence and nature of the soul is elusive to our day-to-day conscious awareness. For most people, the soul is only experienced in peak moments of transcendent joy, unconditional love, or the intensity of sacred experiences. Few people seek ego transcendence as a means to achieve soul-realization because few have awakened to the truth that the soul is the source of finding lasting happiness.

This message is the eternal “religion” and it is the core message of the movement known as Self-realization. Meditation is the means to this end. Stilling the natural tumult of our senses and mind reveals the eternal, changeless, blissful light of our soul.

Jesus accepted the divine will in accepting the yoke of crucifixion. Prior to his capture by his self-styled enemies, he briefly prayed that this yoke might be lifted. The answer to his prayer could not be granted and he accepted it without resistance. This models for us our response to the yoke of our karma, the suffering that comes inevitably in living life in a human body. Suffering can be physical, mental, emotional or spiritual but we have no need to define suffering. Pleasure and happiness can also find expression in these ways and, however transient, should also be accepted calmly. Only spiritual “happiness” requires no opposite in order to exist because it is our very nature.

This has nothing to do with whether we should seek abatement of suffering or the righting of wrongs. It is our ego-instinct to deny or repulse (or, for pleasure or happiness, our instinct to grasp) that creates the pendulum of unceasing action and reaction which is called karma. By calm acceptance and by neutralizing the reactive process through daily meditation, we achieve the freedom from all suffering and the state of true joy. This neutralizing process is enhanced by devotion and selflessness. Whatever proper action is dictated by the experience of sorrow or happiness is a separate matter and is not precluded by the fact of our acceptance.

The meaning of Easter is also embodied in the acknowledgement of Jesus Christ as a true “son of God.” Not the ONLY son of God, but an avatar: a descent into human form of a perfected soul sent back to transmit to truth seekers the hope, promise and power of transcendence. Other souls, too, such as Buddha, Krishna, Moses, and Yogananda, to name but a few, have come and will return again and again to guide entire families of souls toward the Light.

Jesus’ narrative is a dramatic one for he came at a time in human history where only an extreme example could awaken sleeping souls to their own highest potential as “sons of God.” As stated in the first chapter of the gospel of John: “And as many as received Him to them gave He the power to become the sons of God.”

The Easter celebration thus holds a two-fold message for all humankind: the way to lasting happiness lies in overcoming egoity in order to achieve Self-realization; and, that wayshowers such as Jesus the Christ show us the way to live in this world; they stand poised to transmit the power of soul consciousness to those who “receive them.” We cannot achieve the “pearl of great price” by our efforts alone. More is needed to break the cyclotron of ego magnetism with its sheaths of karma which bind us.

Easter reflects the universal promise of immortality which is our soul’s true nature. Let us then celebrate this message as it has been embodied in the dramatic events of Jesus’ last days on earth.

[For more inspiration on this subject drawn from the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda and his disciple, Swami Kriyananda, I highly recommend the book, "Promise of Immortality." Written by Swami Kriyananda, it can be found at an East West Bookshop near you or at www.CrystalClarity.com. At Ananda near Seattle, we have a day-long retreat on Saturday, April 20, and a celebratory Easter Service on Sunday, April 21. www.AnandaWashington.org]  

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Easter Thoughts 2018 - Resurrect Hope, Joy, and the Promise of Immortality

Boy, oh boy, can humanity use a resurrection of high ideals, integrity, compassion and, yes, even reason! Better than reason is the intuitive knowing that "We are One!"

We are told that this isn't going to happen, at least not permanently. Why? Because this world can only perpetuate itself based on the ebb and flow of opposites: war and peace, love and hate, hot and cold, friend and foe, health and sickness, life and death.

We're stuck with it but does that mean we sink into abject passivity? Absolutely not. We must fight the good fight. Why? Well, do you think you'd be happier "sinking into passivity?" If so, why not just get it over with and you-know-what (end your misery).

Obviously this solution is not desirable for in its direction there is no happiness to be found. Besides, not only does "hope Spring eternal" but "love makes the world go 'round."

Gandhi was not the first to notice that even in the midst of hate, disease, and war, love and peace persist. If not, as he pointed out, humanity would have perished long ago. 

Besides, how do we feel when "Spring flowers give way to May showers!" Not only are we in the Pacific northwest inured to rain (as a near constant) but everywhere rain has its gentle (and admittedly also destructive) and refreshing aspects.

Easter and its costume of Spring flowers (ok, in the northern hemisphere) sends a powerful message to our heart's natural love that "night is followed by day." It cannot be otherwise. 

But the message of unending rounds of hope and despair, light and darkness is not especially a reassuring one. Were it not for a deeper truth of which the outer is but a reminder, it would be as much cause for despair as for hope. There is a deeper message because our deeper nature yearns for stability, for eternity, for an end to the "wheel of samsara."

The resurrection of the body of Jesus Christ, however remote the event seems to our daily lives, is a dramatic statement that there is an end game to life. It is NOT however the end game of more duality, as in the perverse teaching of eternal damnation vs eternal salvation. [Note: reports also exist of the physical resurrection of the bodies of other great saints. Yogananda's own guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar, e.g., appeared to him in physical form months after his body was buried in the sands of Puri, India.]

As there is only One God, there is only ONE ending. "Hear O Israel, the Lord, the Lord our God is ONE! In Sanskrit, "Tat twam asi!" (Thou art That: the eternal Brahma.)

But given time, which to our experience seems to made of eternity itself, it is we who choose to leave the stream of mortality, life and death to enter the eternal Oneness of God's bliss. This Bliss is our home from which we were created and to which we are destined to return. 

It is no fanciful decision or act, like swiping one's credit card to make a purchase. The hypnosis of the "entrenched vitality of our mortal delusion" (Swami Kriyananda's description of the Kundalini, see his landmark text, "Art & Science of Raja Yoga, Chapter 12) is deeply embedded in the duality of countless lives, long before even achieving the human level. 

Enter the guru! Those who have gone before us, Christ-like masters of life and death (Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, Yogananda and others), reincarnate to be way-showers. Not just appealing to our intellect but to our hearts. And not just offering flowery appeals to our higher nature, but transmitting spiritual power: the same power that can demonstrate resurrection of the dead. As the beloved disciple of Jesus wrote, "As many as received Him to them gave He power to become the sons of God."

Because time has no absolute reality, the fact of this being a process requiring many lifetimes is not the bar or hurdle that it might appear to be to our human experience. Infinity or Oneness exists side by side, indeed at the heart of duality: at the heart of perpetual motion is perpetual peace (without motion). This is the value and purpose of daily meditation: to enter the portals of the temple of peace which is our own nature, cohabiting the body temple.

Easter, then, is a celebration. It is not only a Christian holiday. It is a universal celebration and affirmation, a promise of immortality, without which life grinds us unto death.

At any moment of every day, you can stop, look up, quiet your mind and your heart, and peer through the veil of duality into the priceless peace of Eternity. Meditate on the lives and the eyes of the great masters: harbingers of God's promise of immortal bliss.

Conquer by self-effort and discipline your weakness and attachments; your sensuality and egoism. Throw off the rags of spiritual poverty and put on the robes of your royal Soul. Imagine you are as old as God. You are the immortal Atman, the Soul-Self.

Happy Easter to all!

Swami Hrimananda

Thursday, March 15, 2018

An oratorio: Christ Lives in the Holy Land, and in You & Me!


An oratorio: Christ Lives in the Holy Land, and in You & Me!

Every second year the choirs and musicians of Ananda Portland and Ananda Seattle combine alternatingly at each other’s temple/sanctuaries to perform Swami Kriyananda’s acclaimed oratorio inspired by the life of Jesus Christ. How can we understand the inspiration behind this powerful tribute in song? 

How can we understand the seemingly prominent role Jesus Christ has at Ananda throughout the world? What makes the music of this oratorio so like a deep meditation?

A sensitive reading of Paramhansa Yogananda’s "Autobiography of a Yogi" hints at his spiritual connection with Jesus. He makes reference to Jesus at least sixteen times and even reveals that John the Baptist was Elijah and thus Jesus’ guru from a past life. He states that Jesus taught kriya yoga or “a similar technique” to his close disciples. Further, he stated publicly that the three Wise Men were none other than Babaji, Lahiri Mahasaya and Sri Yukteswar (where does this revelation place him, Yogananda?)

When, during the writing of his commentaries on the Bible, Yogananda prayed to Jesus to ask that his words be in tune with Jesus’ teachings, he received a vision of Jesus who gave his blessings and corroboration.

Jesus proclaimed to the crowds that he came “not to destroy the law and prophets” but to fulfill them. To “fulfill” must surely mean to carry on their message and vibration. (While it might also mean to “complete” this interpretation is not absolute.) Paramhansa Yogananda’s obvious connection to Jesus suggests the same on his part in relation to Jesus. More than this, he gave the title “Second Coming of Christ” to his own ministry! (If that didn’t get him crucified, I don’t know what would have!) I don’t think it could be clearer than that.

I have had guests and new students occasionally object or at least express surprise how they felt the Ananda Sunday Service, or some of our events and classes are Christian in feeling. All of this is understandable given the deeper connections described above. I’ve had one reader in the public challenge an article I wrote in respect to Jesus’ atonement of sins on the cross for failing to quote similar examples from other faiths. Neither I, nor other Ananda representatives, are particularly required to hand select passages from every faith when sharing Yogananda’s teachings. But drawing upon the life and teachings of Jesus Christ is specifically appropriate.

In his book, “Conversations with Yogananda, Swami Kriyananda quotes Yogananda answering this question (“Why do you emphasize the teachings of Jesus Christ.”) by replying only, “It was Babaji’s wish that I do so.” [Pretty cagey, I’d say! I suspect the paucity of his reply was related more to the questioner than to the question. That’s my opinion, anyway!]

We do know that Babaji commissioned Swami Sri Yukteswar to write a book showing the underlying unity in Jesus’ teachings and those of India’s rishis. Just read that book, Holy Science, and you’ll see!

Returning now to Swamiji’s oratorio, Christ Lives, we can more easily understand how the masters worked through Swamiji to create a Handel-esque musical work that proclaims a new understanding (Yogananda called it a “New Dispensation”) of Jesus’ teachings. It is, in its own way, a “fulfillment.”

I won’t be so bold as to attempt to describe this oratorio in musical terms. The point of this article is to entice you to come and hear it for yourself! Music isn’t my language, particularly.

In the libretto (words to the songs) you’ll find repeated references to “light,” “joy,” and “peace.” Extending the universal and deeply metaphysical theme of the gospel of St. John (“In the beginning was the Word…..the light of men”), the oratorio guides us to understand Jesus as not the ONLY begotten son of God but a soul, like you and me, who has achieved Oneness with the Light of God. The “Light of Christ” is the indwelling divinity in every atom; in every heart and soul. With this light, Jesus had become wholly identified.

The song “In the Spirit” describes the great vision of St. John in the last book of the New Testament as an ecstatic experience. John was “caught up in ecstasy.” Yogananda dedicated an entire lesson to interpreting the so-called Apocaplyse in metaphysical and Vedantic terms.

From the Old Testament’s frequent commands to “look up” the oratorio describes King David in terms of meditation and the looking up through the point between the eyebrows: the doorway to the divine light. At least four songs dwell upon the feminine nature of God both in general and in the form of Mary, the mother of Jesus. John the Baptist is described as living in solitude and seclusion and achieving his wisdom and faith through the inner life of prayer and meditation.

The temptation of Jesus by the devil in the desert is perhaps one of the most poignant and beautiful songs. A foursome—Jesus, Satan, and two devotee witnesses—sing of the opposing pulls, one divine, the other satanic, upon Jesus’ soul and of Jesus’ rejection of the satanic force. This not only gives recognition (Yogananda proclaimed: “I add my testimony to that of all before me that Satan exists.”) to the power of maya but to its power to become personal both within us and objectively. It also models to us how to deal with maya’s power: seek the love of God!

Another aspect is the very personal relationship Jesus had to his disciples. In song, their life together, wandering the countryside of Judea, is shown to be a celebration, a joyful troupe of disciples with their guru. Rejected is the “man of sorrows” who could never have inspired large crowds. This personal touch is also reflected in songs that speak of the poignant uplifting of souls such as Mary Magdalene, caught in sin and of her rejoicing when freed by his love.

Even the miracle of turning water into wine (the first story after his ministry began) shows Jesus’ care and concern, and love, for all. 
Rather than have the wedding couple be embarrassed by running out, Jesus quietly “refills” the jugs with wine!

Another of the many deeply inspired and musically moving pieces is “Living Water.” This is the story of the woman of Samaria whom Jesus meets at the well. Yogananda explained that this woman was a fallen disciple from a past life. Jesus’ detour into Samaria was intended to find her. The bond of guru and disciple is eternal.

In what is normally considered a triumphal day—Palm Sunday—the music reveals the darker undertone of rejection that is soon to befall the heralded “King of the Jews.”

In the songs of this oratorio, Jesus is depicted in both his overarching divine nature and his very personal, human nature. The juxtaposition of these two has for its message: “Tat twam asi!” “Thou ART THAT!” His nature is our nature. As John the Beloved proclaims in his gospel: “To as many as received Him to them gave He the power to become the sons of God.”

“You Remain Our Friend” is a song sung every Sunday. For that reason members might no longer appreciate the power of its message: both personal and universal. We reject the Christ in the form of the guru and in the abstract, indwelling form of light by our daily busy-ness, indifference, and material desires and fears. While we may yet be fickle, God remains forever our Friend.

But in the end, Jesus is transfixed into pure Light and in the company of his eternal guru, Elijah, and the great prophet Moses. Resurrected is his soul as master of life and death. This is the promise of immortality given us by the saints and masters in every religion. This truth is one and eternal. We need only realize our oneness with it in our deathless Self within!

May the Light of Christ, the Infinite Consciousness, be with you!

Swami Hrimananda

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

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Easter : Who was Jesus? Who am I?

The grand story of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is ripe with spiritual lessons for all times and for everyone. I would like to share some thoughts that, while lacking in interesting history, or great moral lessons, or deep philosophical or Vedantic insights, are more personal to daily life and applicable to most, if not all of us.

Let me start by saying that in my many years of studying and sharing the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda on the subject of the Bible, including the life and teachings of Jesus, I have found the story of Jesus' conversation with his close disciples asking them the question, "Who do men say I am" to be among the most fascinating and fruitful of contemplation.

I have long and often stated that the question of "Who is Jesus Christ?" is nothing less than the question "Who am I?" One of the first modern Indian gurus whose teachings captivated me (before I even had heard of Yogananda) was Ramana Maharshi who was famous for teaching the technique of self-inquiry: "Who am I?" We all know the counsel inscribed on the temple in Delphi, Greece, "Know Thyself!"

In my sixty-five years of life I have come gradually to see that the greatest challenge to happiness faced by most sincere and intelligent people, including devotees, is self-doubt. Comparing oneself to other like-minded, sincere, energetic, creative, talented and intelligent people is far more often a cause of discouragement than it is for inspiration or gratitude.

Yogananda said that inferiority complex is simply the opposite of superiority complex. Each is a side of the coin of ego. He defined "ego" as the "Soul (mis)identified with the body." So while I will focus more on self-doubt than braggadocio, understand that the latter is simply a smokescreen for the former (and vice versa).

Dwelling on what others (may) think of you, or what perhaps someone has said to you (in criticism), or how you were snubbed or ignored occupies far too great amount of time and angst to prove productive or useful introspectively. Such musings rarely prompt positive changes in one's life. Instead it is like nursing a wound or favoring an injured limb. It becomes a habit. We all know someone who takes this tact to the point of becoming paranoid but far from reaching that stage of delusion, most of us surely find nothing redeeming from the exercise.

On the other hand, just as physical pain is there to warn us to stop doing something injurious, so guilt exists to prod us to make changes in our life. How often, however, I have observed that those who dwell habitually on guilt fail to make any changes because they imagine that by dwelling morosely upon their guilt they have exorcised their need for further recompense.

Jesus' resurrection showed his power over death itself. Spiritual or psychological paralysis, if not spiritual death, can occur by our habitual indulgence in self-doubt, unworthiness, and temptation to give up.

Yet is "self=love" the answer? Should we actively bolster our self-esteem by self-praise or boasting? Obviously not. Yet it is true that we can't really and truly love another person (what to mention love God), until we love ourselves. By "love ourselves" I mean until we have some degree of self-acceptance and contentment (including inner strength and calm confidence or faith), our self-doubt will eat like a cancer on any balanced attempt to love another. I say 'balanced' in contrast to co-dependent love.

I have seen self-doubt gnaw at a devotee's faith until the devotee leaves the spiritual path all together.

The solution to what I call our "existential" unhappiness is, as always, "God alone." Let me explain.

First: by "existential" I mean, by way of example, a person who seemingly has everything that most people would desire but is not happy. You don't know why, but there it is. This person might even be clinically depressed. In any case, definitely unsatisfied: but for no obvious reason(s). This can be a general state of affairs or related to a specific aspect, talent, or gift that he has. Take a successful artist or businessman. Such has the makings of what most others in his field would want for themselves. Yet, even in his success, he remains discontent; unsure of himself; unhappy.

The saints and masters are the only ones who show us how to find true happiness. Success in no other human endeavor consistently yields the Holy Grail of human happiness.

"Naughty or good, Divine Mother, I am yours!" Paramhansa Yogananda once wrote. When we see ourselves, our combination of successes and failures, talents and shortcomings, as a tiny piece of the great cosmic wheel of life and all things that we do as our efforts to seek the Holy Grail, we can better forgive and accept ourselves as "doing the best we can."

We should try, indeed, to do the best we can. We have to be sincere in that. But having done so, we "offer it up" as my dear, now departed, mother would counsel her children long ago. Living in the presence of divinity in human form (our form; the guru's form; the form of all others), we find it easier to resurrect our soul's memory from the intensity of the marketplace of buyers and sellers, flatterers, sycophants, and self=styled enemies.

Swami Kriyananda, founder of the worldwide work of Ananda, and direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda, was my teacher, too. In his counsels and in his writings, e.g., the book "Sadhu Beware," he speaks about dealing with the inevitable (or merely perceived) criticism that everyone receives. ("No good deed goes unpunished" is a modern saying.) Among other things, he counseled to ask oneself if the criticism is deserved. If so, try to change yourself for the better. If it is not, then let it go; forget it. Most people are wrong most of the time, anyway.

Swami Sri Yukteswar counseled his disciple Paramhansa Yogananda to say, "Maybe you're right." And, then leave at that so far as one's response to criticism goes.

Meditation is the most efficient and fastest way to resurrect our identification with our eternal, changeless and ever perfect soul and to gradually dissolve our identification with the body and personality. For in this world of praise one day and blame another there is no end to the cycle. After all, they crucified Jesus Christ, didn't they; and he was blameless! So you and I, far from blameless or perfect, are naturally ripe candidates for censure.

"I am a child of eternity. I am ageless; I am deathless. I am the changeless Spirit at the heart of all change."

Be thou then, too, the resurrected Christ consciousness of your soul. Even-minded and happy should be our guide and our banner of victory over the death-infected ego.

Happy Easter!

Swami Hrimananda



Friday, March 25, 2016

Good Friday, March 25, 2016 : Redemptive Value of Unearned Suffering

Throughout history, humanity and its spiritual (and political) leaders have recognized the value of group acts of fasting, mortification, purification and forgiveness. Even in America, since revolutionary times, Presidents have called for such acts in times of war or other need.

In India, since ancient times, the redemptive power of purification through acts of discipline and mortification are recognized and widely accepted. Known as yagya, such acts historically acquired a complex ritualistic form in addition to personal acts of prayer, meditation, and purification through fasting and other means.

Both Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. acknowledged the need and redemptive power of accepting suffering, in effect, taking on karma, for its transformative power not only upon oneself but upon others: indeed, others who deem themselves even your enemies.

We express this principle in our own and more positive way in today's culture. We speak in terms of an investment, like borrowing money to go to college or investing in a new but promising venture. But money, though abstract, is traceable in its cause and effect, whereas the good karma of purification is far, far more subtle. Sticking to a healthy diet; the benefits of regular exercise; the long-term value of conscious and respectful relationships: these are simple but accepted examples of the value of delayed gratification for personal benefit. But in these common examples the beneficiary is principally oneself and the benefit is primarily material in nature.

Today is Good Friday, the day we commemorate the suffering and death of Jesus Christ on the cross. The sacrifice Jesus submitted to by his death on the cross fits well into this precept of the power of unearned suffering which has been universally recognized by humanity since ancient times. It is not clear how the transference of karma actually operates. In his famous life story, Autobiography of a Yogi, Paramhansa Yogananda describes (at various places in the book) the power of a saint to take on karma. He himself did so in the latter years of his life for the benefit of his disciples.

For us, it is generally disadvised to pray to take on another's karma. Not only is the technique not revealed except to those more highly advanced, but the sanction to take on karma must come from God. Nonetheless, we commonly pray for the well being, health and healing of others and, to varying degrees, believe in the efficacy of prayer. (Don't go looking for trouble: "sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof" is how Jesus put it.)

So while we may not know the details of the transference, we intuitively hold fast to its potential and its value. Obviously, Jesus' suffering did not change world history to the degree that all sinning suddenly stopped or that the effects of all sin have been erased. Just as obviously, therefore, Jesus' dying "for our sins" must be understood in a more specific and defined sense.

It takes a subtler consciousness to intuit the connection between souls; the power of thought and intention; and the channels that can be created by the laser-like direction of life force energy. In general, modern minds are neither subtle, nor focused, nor convinced therefore of their own power. We deem our thoughts, for example, to be private and without impact upon others. In a higher age, long into the future, humanity more generally will acquire these latent mental powers. Most of us, do, however, experience these connections from time to time though we might not make special note of the incident(s).

Tales from ancient India are filled with examples of how a person goes off to the Himalayas to meditate for twelve or more years in order to acquire the power (called a "boon") granted by a divine source (a deity or saint) to accomplish some worthy (or even unworthy) goal.

Imagine if the people of a nation, such as America, or India or any nation, came together in prayer, fasting, and other forms of self-sacrifice for the benefit and welfare of some noble goal or in asking forgiveness for its own errors! Unfortunately in today's consciousness only lip service would be paid to such a call and not likely would sufficient numbers gather sincerely to do so.

Our leaders have forgotten this principle in their efforts to win elections and secure the power for their own agendas. Gone seems to be the understanding of compromise, when each side gives up something they hold dear in order that a greater good can be achieved.

The glory and triumph of the resurrection of Jesus is inextricably linked to his sacrifice on the cross. Even professed Christians tend to miss the connection, viewing his resurrection, as is common, as simply a miracle or grace of God. To advance spiritually and to help others spiritually requires sacrifice. This is known as tapasya in Sanskrit and in the tradition of India and the practice of yoga. Energy begets energy and energy directed towards a goal generates magnetism to enlist a greater power which is the ultimate key to success.

As we celebrate Easter, then, let us not forget that life asks of us self-offering into a higher purpose than ego gratification. This is the universal law of life (one form offering itself into another) from which comes the sunshine (the sun burning its fuel up), the rain (the clouds dispense their water), and perpetuation of life itself. Soldiers sacrifice their lives for their country; parents sacrifice for their children; inventors sacrifice to create new and useful products; devotees pray for others; the masters come into the world, voluntarily taking on the suffering inherent in human life, to uplift souls who are ready and receptive. On and on the eternal wheel of birth, life, and death.

We were not born for our own gratification but to offer ourselves, like Jesus, onto the cross of dharma, for the good of our soul and for the good of others. My dearly departed mother counseled her children at times of pain or discomfort, to "offer it up." This is the hidden message of Easter: the light from the East comes to those who offer themselves up for a greater good: the bliss of the universal Christ consciousness that resides at the heart of every atom.

Happy Easter and blessings to you,

Nayaswami Hriman







Friday, April 3, 2015

Good Friday Reflection: Did Jesus Die for Our Sins?

(I interrupt the 3-part "What If I were President" series for today's inspiration, Good Friday, 2015)

Did Jesus Die for Our Sins?

This question is among those that challenge established dogma: not just in religion, but in science, art, culture and business, we find little " 'ism's" or cliches that get repeated down through generations (or even centuries) that gradually lose touch with their original or deeper meaning, if indeed, they ever had such!

An example of an absurdity that springs to mind is the response-question "How could Jesus have died for my sins two thousand years before I committed them?" (Please don't attempt to answer that with another absurdity!)

Yet even in this seemingly absurd but oft-quoted dogma there lies a mustard seed of truth: great saints of the stature of Jesus Christ are said to take on the "karma" (translate: "sins") of their close disciples. Just as a rich parent can pay off the debts of his wayward (but presumably repentant) son, so a great saint can take some of the burden of a disciples' karma, or so it is taught in the yoga tradition. 

Now, a paradox here, too, is that it is the "good karma" of a disciple to have this burden lifted! Good karma means the disciple has put out effort of the type that would have this result!!!!

St. John, the beloved disciple, wrote in Chapter 1 of his gospel a famous statement oft quoted by Paramhansa Yogananda (author of "Autobiography of a Yogi"): "As many as received Him, to them gave He the power to become the sons of God, even those that believe on His name!"

Whatever the meaning behind becoming a "son of God" may be, it is clear that a powerful grace or blessing attends one who "receives" the guru. By "receive" must be meant to be open to the teachings, the guidance, and the vibration and consciousness of the guru, and, where and however appropriate, to serve the guru's work.

Do you see, now, how each of these phrases is fraught with deeper meaning even if the words are simple: "die for our sins"....."take on the karma"........"receive Him".........simple words but not necessarily obvious meanings.

Let's take this further in what seems the direction of absurdity: can I "receive" my Lord and Savior (i.e. guru, whether Jesus Christ, Buddha, Lord Krishna, Yogananda, etc.) AFTER the time in which he (or she) lived?

What does it mean "lived?" Mystics down through ages report the living presence of great saints and masters long after their passing. Some are reported to have resurrected their former bodies, whether in vision or in flesh! 

Christians pay reverence and worship to Jesus Christ two thousand years after his life on earth. They have no problem praying to Jesus today; nor does a devout Hindu to Lord Krishna, etc. etc.

So, we must conclude that, to them, YES: I can still "receive Him"and thus I can still be a recipient of divine grace through my attunement: by following in His footsteps and teachings.

Have you noticed "the catch-22" yet? To be "saved" (whatever that means) you must "receive Him." The phrase "even those that believe on His name" certainly suggests a fairly easy pathway to salvation. Is there, then, a "free lunch" here? Are the loaves and fishes of grace miraculously multiplied and distributed?

What about the law of karma? Whew! Are YOU as confused as I? (Gee, I hope not!)

Let me digress (just for a 'minute'): Paramhansa Yogananda taught that true baptism takes place when our consciousness is uplifted into God consciousness. This isn't the only form of "baptism," but for my purposes it is the essence of what he taught on baptism. In "yogi" terms this is translated to say that when we enter a state of superconsciousness (a feat achieved not only with devotion and right action but specially enhanced by the science of advanced meditation techniques, such as kriya yoga), we experience a kind of temporary baptism. Repeated dunkings into the River (or Tree) of Life in the astral spine gradually deepens and renders increasingly lasting (and eventually permanent) our attunement with God.

As God comes to earth through the human vehicles of souls like Jesus Christ who are sent and who have become God-realized ("one with the Father"), it is God, then, who gives to us the teachings and now, in this age, the science of yoga by which we can accelerate our path to freedom in God.

Thus to "receive Him" is really meant to be uplifted into and toward God-consciousness. Our effort, it has well and often been said, is met by an even greater effort by God to reach and uplift us. Yogananda gave this mathematical formula of 25% our effort; 25% the effort of the guru on our behalf; and 50% the grace of God. And yet, even having belief (hopefully leading to true faith) in the living God in human form ("in His name") brings some grace...according to St. John.....it is, potentially at least, a beginning.

The point here, and in every tradition, no matter how differently or vaguely expressed, is that we are "not saved by effort alone" but by grace. But both are needed. But as the power of God required to manifest this universe is far, far greater than our own, and as we did not create ourselves, so too our effort can never be but a portion of the total energy required to free us (from our past karma; our "sins").

Now, back to our subject:

Did Jesus DIE for our sins? He certainly didn't "deserve" to do so!!! If he hadn't "died for our sins," would He be powerless to uplift us, then, or now? What, then, is the connection between His crucifixion and our "resurrection?" Why didn't Buddha die for our sins?

He was not crucified BECAUSE we sinned. Jesus' death on the cross serves as a dramatic act and symbol of how we should meet the tests of our life: as He did......with forgiveness and equanimity and faith in God....."into your hands I commend my Spirit." His dramatic death and subsequent resurrection illustrate the power He possesses to help free those who “receive” Him. It was not necessary to be illustrated so dramatically but it was the divine will so that, in subsequent centuries, millions might believe “in His name.”

The night before his death, he prayed, briefly, that the bitter cup of his death be taken, but he immediately affirmed "Thy will be done." By this he showed us he was not a God-made puppet, but flesh and blood. When he called out from the cross, "Elias, why have you forsaken me," he showed that he, too, could, however temporarily, experience the separateness from God that is our own, deepest existential form of suffering.

Neither his prayer for relief nor his cry of loss of God-contact suggest that he was any less than a God-realized soul. Rather, it shows that those great ones who have achieved Self-realization sacrifice, to a degree, their hard-won God-bliss by taking on human form. By this act, they too feel the pangs of human life even as they are, nonetheless, free from past karma compelling their incarnation. This is, as it were, Part 1, of their gift to those with ears to hear and eyes to see.

Jesus died on the cross that we might know how to carry our cross and how to overcome our past bad karma--our sins. In that sense, YES, he died to show us the way to be free. But Part 2 is our effort for he, like other avatars (saviors), has the power to lift us if we will but “receive” them into our hearts, minds, daily action and souls.

Part 3 is the transforming baptism of grace that lifts and purifies us. When it does we look back and realize that, while essential, our effort was but a small part of the power of redemption.

A blessed Easter to all,

Nayaswami Hriman

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Spring: a Grand Child is Born!

Last Sunday, March 22, practically on the Spring Equinox, my son's wife gave birth to their first child, aptly named, Calla Lily! As a grandparent one participates in the rite of Spring whereby new life appears as one's own life is gradually ebbing away from the halcyon days of summer. I suppose I could wax sentimental about living on through one's offspring, but that's not really my thought today.

I would rather see in Spring the resurrection of our hopes and dreams beyond their usual material forms of health, happiness, success, love, and family. All of those are fine, of course, but they cannot last, assuming they appear at all in one human life. In the unpublished writings of Paramhansa Yogananda he describes hope as the precursor to faith. Hope is rooted in the divine memory of our soul's undying happiness.

While it is true that most humans find "hope springs eternal" (or, at regular intervals, at least) in the direction of the more common material desires, this universal human "hope impulse" is rooted in something deeper and more true. Whatever may be its aspiration--material or spiritual--hope can lead to the intuitive faith that things can get better or that one will be fine, no matter.

To hold a newborn is to hold a being of Light, unfettered, for the time, by earthly bonds of not-yet-established ties and attachments. The newborn is not only light in weight but light in consciousness. Clearly one see that "wheels are turning" but these wheels are not the usual and anxious verbal thoughts of self. It is the experience of light descending and groping to make contact with earth and the five senses. A window view onto infinity and through heaven itself is vouchsafed to any and all who partake of the "darshan" (blessing of beholding) of a newborn.

Yet, as I have said often, how can any parent NOT believe in reincarnation. As I held Calla Lily I could sense a bundle of traits and attitudes at the ready. I won't say I can articulate or identify those traits, nor would I want to if I could (for her sake). Yet, across her face would float doubt, questions, curiosity, and even concern---all nonverbal, of course.

As she would sometimes become active, kicking her little legs and flaying her arms, one could sense the need to get this "thing" (the little immobile, uncoordinated body) moving and functioning. In her case, she seems very well put together, everything in working order, so to speak. I would guess her persona is strong in whatever direction it will express itself.

Calla Lily has been reborn on earth for a fresh start. Whatever her past, it is past. Her parents have every means and desire to give her the best they can and naturally a grandparent hopes this will be true and that the little one will seize the opportunity "growing," as the Bible said of Jesus, "and waxing strong."

When hope dies, our spirit dies, and the body follows our spirit's lead toward the coffin of hopelessness. It is right, therefore, that "hope Springs eternal." It is natural for one of years to perhaps weary of the human parade of false hopes and constant change: birth, youth, adulthood, old age and death. Yet one can just as well rejoice in the colorful parade as turn aside with a yawn. A life led in peace finds acceptance and rightness knowing that, as poetically offered to us in the Old Testament (Ecclesiastes), "to everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven!"

Tomorrow, one week from little Calla Lily's birth, we come to Palm Sunday. Who is this Son of Man who walks the streets with us and whom we hail "King of the Jews?" The hope that springs eternal is far too often misplaced. As the people of Jesus' time generally failed to understand who Jesus was, so we generally fail to recognize our true, soul nature. We see in little Calla Lily but a babe. (One time Paramhansa Yogananda was handed an infant to hold and bless. Later, he confessed he almost dropped the child for he saw in its eyes the consciousness of a murderer!).

Just as we cannot see in the seed the future tree, nor in the infant. the latent adult, so we do not see in ourselves our latent soul-nobility. We are princes thinking we are paupers. Who is this son, this daughter, this child? The miracle of birth and life is the "avatara:" the descent of divinity into human form. Imagine if we had eyes to see in one another that divinity, even if yet latent. Our world, our planet, our lives would be transformed.

Life goes on and emerges ever-new and does so in spite of tragedy, wars, death, and catastrophe. As family traits, both physical and psychological, continue with variations and also re-appear, sometimes skipping generations, we see hints of immortality and hints of continuity and reincarnation.

Imagine if we had the Self-assurance born on the knowledge we are immortal and that death cannot touch us. Whew!

Only Peter, the "rock," answered Jesus' inquiry to his disciples regarding "Who do men say I am." Peter, looking Jesus square in the eye, pronounced for all time "Thou art the Christ, the son of the living God." You and I may seem a long way from that state, but it's not as far as we might imagine for we are looking for ourselves in all the wrong places. In our latent memory-mirror of perfection, we judge our present self as wanting and thus we tend to identify with our shortcomings. These, being all too close, are seen disproportionate to our true Self.

Jesus' resurrection is the victory over death, not merely resurrection of a frail human body, but the resurrection of soul-memory over its confinement in the coffin of ego. By loving when others hated him, Jesus' soul was victorious. By doing what was asked of him in spite of its "unpleasantness," his soul "waxed strong." Is not his example obvious? The literal story of Jesus' resurrection is so beyond our own life experience that we dismiss it as a myth, irrelevant, or a one-time "miraculous" (otherwise inexplicable) event. But its lesson is present with us now.

While Paramhansa Yogananda related to this story as literally true and while he testified that his own guru was similarly resurrected, it matters not to us. In time our ability to see the truth of these things will come. But we can take from the life of Jesus and all the greatest saints, the "good news" that we are far more than these frail short-lived bodies. But we must work to transcend their influence which throws a veil (called "maya") over the eyes of our soul. We must not be so attached to the Easter eggs of pleasure or the pretty flowers of health, beauty, success and recognition. The path of the soul is universal. It doesn't really differ from faith to faith all that much. Meditation is the quickest way to contact our soul's indwelling spirit.

Rejoice then in the rebirth signified by Spring, by new life, by Calla Lily, and by the victory of Jesus' resurrection from death. As in the Indian scriptures, rejoice for "Tat twam asi" (Thou art that! Thou art Spirit).

Happy Easter,

Nayaswami Hriman












Friday, April 18, 2014

Death & Resurrection, & Reincarnation; Did Jesus have a guru? Reflections on Discipleship

The new life of Spring teaches us that life persists even in the midst of apparent death. In the winter, many animals drop from sight, and plants and trees appear as if dead. Yet, come Spring, they return. While a strict materialist would likely refuse to draw any conclusion beyond the biologically observable obvious, the rest of us, not so confined to our own mental processes or limited by a self-imposed incarceration, find in this annual cycle, profit for speculation and "hope that springs eternal."

Biologically, there is no death, only recycling of materials. Psychologically, in human lives, we say "the fruit falls close to the tree." This is a reference to the easily observable and frequent phenomenon that our human offspring bear a notable resemblance in form, attitude and action to ourselves. Whether cycles of success or cycles of abuse, the patterns of living tend to repeat, if not strictly or literally, at least cyclically.

However life evolves, it persists, even when destruction and death are cataclysmic, though the latter is infrequent, fortunately. Looking more deeply, it is fair to ask whether the two are related: is the death of one the necessary prerequisite for the birth of the other?

Imagine if humans simply never died. This earth would be a big, big mess, wouldn't it? If Michelangelo still lived today, how would that impact the creativity and optimism of new and struggling artists? Extended families would be like unto small countries. I don't think it would be "pretty." Extend this to all biological forms and well, gee, need I say more? Have I then, not answered the question in the affirmative and satisfactorily?

To achieve success in business, in marriage, in health, in spiritual growth, someone has "to die." Some sacrifice has to be made. Someone gets "crucified." It is the "way." To make one choice means to turn away from a plethora of other possibilities. It cannot be helped and it is necessary.

The crucifixion of Jesus was necessary for his resurrection just as it is for you and I in ordinary life choices. It was not necessary for his spiritual benefit, but for ours: for the example he gave to us. The spiritual path is too narrow for the ego and the soul to walk it together, hand in hand. Yet this is what most religionists and spiritual seekers invariably do. We want it all. Millions practice meditation and read eastern teachings and find great inspiration but few want to have a guru or even understand what that really means.

A case can made (and my guru, Paramhansa Yogananda taught that it is so) that Jesus had a guru: Elijah (Elias in the Greek). It was to Elias that he called out from the cross. It was Elias that he saw on Mt. Tabor in the transfiguration (along with Moses). It's deeper than that. John the Baptist is the reincarnation of Elias (Elijah). It's the in Bible itself. [Read Micah, 5:2; Kings 1 19:9-15; Malachi 4:5-6 and the New Testament story of the the conception and birth of John the Baptist in Luke 1:15-17.] Jesus tacitly acknowledged Elias' reincarnation as John in Matt 11:13-15 and again in 17:10-11. Read and decide for yourself!

The one downside is that when John was asked whether he was Elias, he denied it [Luke 1:21]. Remember, however, that a few verses later [26-27] he said he was unworthy even to tie Jesus sandals! Whether as John, his former life and role as Elijah and guru to Jesus' [Elisha] was veiled from his consciousness or whether he was being purposely humble to support Jesus' dramatic role in history, and thereby evasive, cannot be known from the text itself but his denial stands in sharp contrast to Jesus' own words.

On the one hand millions, perhaps billions, profess to follow the teachings of one of the world teacher teachers (Jesus, Moses, Mohammet, Krishna, Buddha, etc.) , but do so half-heartedly, while many millions of others refuse to do so. One way or the other the teachings and life example of such great and history-changing prophets are crucified whether by indifference, ignorance, or misuse. In part, this is why world teachers must come again and again and into different cultures, according to the needs of the people and their ability to "hear."

Yogananda put it this way: "Jesus was crucified once, but his teachings have been crucified daily ever since."

One of the few books Yogananda recommended was "The Imitation of Christ" by Thomas a Kempis. Yogananda said this book is not just the imitation of Christ, "it is Christ."

Instead, the masses prefer sports heroes, politicians, actors, musicians, singers, and fashion celebrities. Such is the general consciousness of our times. Reason alone, and only a little would suffice, suggests that one who seeks spiritual truths and consciousness should seek it from those who have demonstrated they have it!

Jesus' disciples called him "Master" as Yogananda's disciples did. Not because the guru is the master of his disciples but because the guru has achieved self-mastery, even power over objective nature, demonstrated from time to time in the operation of so-called miraculous powers.

Jesus' life was not to show how great he was but how great we could be if we, too, would "follow Me." It saddens me to see so many sincere students of meditation and yoga philosophy dismiss the disciple-guru relationship as irrelevant to and unwanted in their lives. Their meditation practices, however sincere, would bear fruit more quickly were their hearts open to God in human form. How can we profess to be innately, even potentially, divine if we cannot receive divinity more completely in any human form? In describing the role of Jesus, the first Chapter of John declares "As many as received him gave he the power to become the sons of God." We are not different in kind from Jesus, only in the degree of our Self-realization.

As John the Baptist put it for himself and for each of us, "He (Jesus) must increase but I (John) must decrease." The surrender and death of ego are the price for the resurrection of our soul. God takes human form through the souls of those who are "one with the Father." As Krishna put it in the Bhagavad Gita, O Bharata, whenever virtue declines and vice predominates, I incarnate on earth. Taking visible form, I come to destroy evil and re-establish virtue.

Thus the eternal law of death and rebirth find expression in the soul's discarding the cocoon of ignorance and ego to emerge as the butterfly of the soul. The midwife of this rebirth is God in the form of guru who comes to instruct and to transmit the spiritual power to uplift us from the confinement (darkness) of ego consciousness. "Guru" means "dispeller of darkness."

It is through hardship, effort, trial and tribulation that the soul emerges and takes the helm of the ship of its own destiny. No less than any of the best professional or artistic mentors, the guru wants nothing for himself and has everything to give. As in John 10:10: "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."

As we celebrate Easter, the promise of redemption and resurrection, and the life of Jesus Christ (and all the masters who sacrifice in returning to human form), let us also willingly carry the cross of ego transcendence and of our own karmic burdens. Let us do so with joy because we know the path leads to freedom. In taking on our soul's task we don't have to wait for a future reward, because in right action we receive the joy of the soul. The so-called crown of thorns is what the ego wears but the same crown, to the soul, is the symbol of its self-mastery and its royalty as a child of God.

Study the lives of the masters and following one whose footsteps resonate with your own, attune your heart, mind and actions to the "imitation of (the universal, omnipresent and immanent) Christ (in human form)." Imitation means service to the guru's work; study of the guru's teachings; fellowship with one's "gurubhais,", and meditation & prayer according to the guru's way. To marry one person is not to hate all others. Loyalty is the path to success in all endeavors and freedom for the soul. No longer must we shout, "My way, or the highway." To each his own, for all true paths lead to the One and we need (and can) only walk one.

Lastly, in contemplating the first anniversary of my teacher's passing (Swami Kriyananda, April 21, 2013), I would add that few souls will have the privilege to meet and follow a living Christ-like guru. It might take many lifetimes of sincere spiritual seeking to gain that blessing. Thus for most of us, the more readily available spiritual teachers must suffice. In this, I and thousands hold as an honor and a great blessing to have known and "followed" (i.e. served with) Swami Kriyananda, founder of Ananda and direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda. In India, members of Ananda put together a tribute of gratitude to "Swamiji" and you might find inspiration in viewing it:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9kuoKj640hs

A blessed and happy Easter!

Nayaswami Hriman