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

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Easter: We Shall Overcome!

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

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

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

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

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

In a profound and unique choral piece called "Life Mantra" by Ananda's founder, Swami Kriyananda (a direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda), the words to the song include phrases such as "God is Life; God is Love; God is Joy; Life is God" and so on. This revelation, this perspective, this insight into God's presence in the world as Life itself brings the much-abused and much maligned "God" into our hearts, into everyday life. In the last sentence of Chapter 35 ("Autobiography of a Yogi," The Christlike Life of Lahiri Mahasaya) referring to the meditation technique of kriya yoga, Yogananda writes: "Through use of the Kriya key, persons who cannot bring themselves to believe in the divinity of any man will behold at last the full divinity of their own selves."

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A blessed and happy Easter to all,

Swami Hrimananda

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

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





Saturday, April 12, 2014

Why does God permit Suffering? Why did He create this mess?

A friend wrote:

Dear Hriman, I was cruising along in the Bhagavad Gita until a day or so ago. As soon as I came to a certain part I suddenly was stopped dead in my tracks. "Legend has it that when God first manifested the universe He made it perfect. Men and women, realizing the need for living in perfection, sat in meditation and soon merged back into Brahman. One or more similar attempts were made, all of them with the same result. God then decided, 'I must impose delusion on people. They must struggle, advance by trial and error, and discover that kind of action, and that attitude toward it, which will lead them to bliss and freedom'. Thus it is that we find ourselves in this 'pickle'".

I don't know about you, but this doesn't make sense to me. Is this "impose delusion" strategy the Bhagavad Gita's version of the temptation of Eve? It seems like a queer way for a Creator to act. So maybe this is all just a story and does not pretend to describe what really happened? 

But it did bring up to me a question I've never stopped to think about. Why should we love God? by whatever name you want to use for It. We didn't ask to be created. In a sense we are in this world at the behest of Something else entirely. And 'frankly my dear' this isn't such a great place! So am I supposed to love a God that put me and the rest of us here? Why? There's still no reason for us being at all. All the answers of all the religions and spiritual "classics" haven't yet come up with one that satisfies me in some simple way.

So I'm stuck at present. Not only with the Bhagavad Gita and Sanaatan  Dharma, but also with Christianity. Anyway, since my quandry came out of reading the B.G., and you encouraged me to read it, I figured I might as well ask you for your viewpoint.

Here are some thoughts I shared:

Yogananda often encountered this (doesn't anyone who thinks more deeply about wonder, "Why?") and on at least one recording says "I often fight with Divine Mother. You made this mess. You must free us!"

But he, as others before him, also said "When you achieve salvation, you will know, and you will not regret one bit of the journey, saying "What a great show it was." Yogananda also taught that "The drama of life has for its lesson that it is but a drama."

Stuck in duality, in suffering, separateness, and death, we cry out and say, "Why?" It seems all wrong somehow. God may be in bliss, but we aren't and He made us all, so isn't He responsible for it?

Religion doesn't exist to rob us of inspiration and the strength to overcome negativity, sadness, and despair. Religion doesn't exist to teach us that God is evil, or doesn't care about us, or doesn't feel our pain.

It has been said that God created the universe that He might know and love Himself through many; that He might play the game of hide n seek in the divine romance of duality. Swami Kriyananda writes that "it is the nature of Bliss to want to express and share itself."

Imagine you are immensely creative: perhaps like Shakespeare. You possess a love of life. Though perfectly happy in yourself, you are brimming with joy and ideas. So, like the mighty Bard, you set pen to paper to write the greatest story ever told. To make the story believable and interesting, exciting and inspiring, you need a hero and villain; you need tragedy and comedy. No one would bother to participate in a play that was all sweetness and light: way too dull.

As the playwright you are not evil for having created a believable evil villain to bring conflict and tension into the plot. Nor are you necessarily the swashbuckling handsome hero for the fact that you can write for him good lines and heroic deeds. You are untouched by the drama, for it, after all, is just a drama.

Now good actors know that they just play their parts, following the script even as they enhance it with their skill. Despite public adulation and attention, they remain are just themselves and are not fooled by appearances and plays which for them is simply their job, even if they can also enjoy because they do it well and skillfully. 

If they are but B grade actors, they begin to think of themselves as those roles and in time find themselves typecast, coming again and again to the theater to play those kinds of parts until they grow out of them.

In creating the universe God had to BECOME it. There can be nothing created that is separate from God, for God alone IS: I AM. Yet, God is untouched by the universe He created, while yet immanent in it, while yet the very essence of it: in short, the Trinity. God the Father beyond and untouched by creation; God the son, the innate and immanent intelligence, silent and still at the heart of all motion and in the center of all atoms and hearts; and, God the Holy Ghost, the invisible motion whose rotations and movements spin off all objects and thoughts.

Thus the creation is endowed with the same desireless impulse to create, share, and expand with infinite variety while yet remaining in Himself as the Creator. Armed also with the intelligence to perpetuate that existence, there comes a point in the outgoing power of the Holy Ghost that the emerging separateness gradually becomes "satanic," meaning self-aware, self-affirming and rebellious, seeking to be One unto itself, seeking knowledge and power, and seeking happiness on and as its own in the forms and activities of creation, rather than in communion with the Creator. 

As God is immortal, eternal, Self-aware and blissful in Himself, and as we are but sparks of that Infinity consciousness so we, though deluded to imagine our fulfillment in but His echo (the creation), naturally have the impulse to perpetuate ourselves, self-aware and happy. But in turning our backs on Infinity we grow small and in time as the wheel of birth, life and death, pleasure and pain turns ceaselessly and crushes our hopes repeatedly, we cry out for release from bondage. 

Until such time, however, most souls wouldn't have it any other way. With the endless variety show of creation, it takes countless incarnations before we grow weary of the toys of creation. Like the baby who eventually tires of the new toys his mother drops into his crib to keep him busy while she performs the housework of creation, the baby at last wails and cries for the mother to come pick him up and put him on her lap. 

God remains silent until we, like the prodigal son, rise up from our prison of suffering and want, and begin the long journey home, willing to serve our Father, even as his hired hands. When He sees that we are coming, He will run out to embrace us as His own Son. 

From another angle, then, and returning to your comment about the story of God making his maya more powerful, it might as well have been us choosing to play in the dream of creation rather than come home "before dark." For are we not "like gods?"  ("Do not your scriptures say, 'Ye are gods?'")

No explanation can satisfy the intellect. Only the heart can find satisfaction in opening up to God's love. We can't really love someone we don't know. But we can pray to receive that love that we might return that love in joy and true happiness.  "Thou art the living Christ," said only Peter (of the disciples) when Jesus asked his disciples, "Who do men say I am." Only the heart knows the truth that "can set us free."

No man has revealed to us our birthright as children of Light, but our souls remember that we are not pauper but a prince. And so, in the long history of time, we begin to awaken. Great souls, living Christ-like saviors, walk the earth in every age to bring to humanity the good news of God's eternal promise of our immortality. The touch of God "made flesh" quickens our souls, lighting the lamp of divine love in our hearts.

The intellect can only walk us in the general direction but like Moses, it cannot enter the promised land of divine bliss. The ego (incl. intellect) must at last surrender. To slay the serpent of maya we must enter the desert of inner solitude, stripped and bleached of human desires and passions by the inner sun of wisdom. 

There we can lift this serpent of delusion upon the staff of the straight spine seated in meditation, in silent, inner communion. There, beyond the duality of intellect and the pull of the senses, there in the humble manger of the open heart, the Christ is born. In time, with self-effort and the blessings of grace, this universal, indwelling and eternal Christ will be resurrected.

Blessings,

Hriman


Saturday, April 7, 2012

A New Tomorrow Dawns Today! Easter 2012


Today, Easter Sunday, 2012, we honor and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ and his relevance to our lives. As Easter and springtime signal a renewal of life and hope, so too we stand in the midst of the dawn of a new age, a new tomorrow.

Paramhansa Yogananda unhesitatingly affirmed the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He boldly claimed to have had many visions of Jesus Christ. In his autobiography he spoke of the resurrection of his own guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar who appeared to him in the flesh in a hotel room in Bombay some three months after his guru’s body was buried in the sands of Puri, on the eastern coast of India.

He came from the east as, in fact, did Jesus Christ, not “to destroy, but to fulfill the law and the prophets.” But he faced the dawn and spoke to the future of humanity of hope for a better world. That hope, which was vibrant in the first years of twentieth century was soon shattered by the "war to end all wars," which heralded only more and greater and unceasing  conflict ever since. That century saw two world wars and the deaths of untold millions of people, combatants and civilians alike amidst the appearance of a new and terrible weapon of death: the nuclear bomb. And yet in the hearts of millions, hope remains, progress is being made.

Jesus Christ, by contrast, was born amidst the dark age of ignorance, known as the Age of Kali. He spoke therefore only in parables. His disciples expressed their frustration but in time were instructed privately in matters direct and esoteric. The deeper teachings of Jesus were hidden from public view. His journey to the east as a young man was erased from the accounts of his life. His references to reincarnation were purposefully oblique because the consciousness of humanity could not see beyond the reality of physical form. In the centuries that followed his life humanity was to see the destruction of civilization and knowledge as it was known in his time. His teachings alone, though hopelessly crucified daily by ignorant self-styled representatives of it, to the extent embodied in the lives of his true disciples, were nonetheless the only light of civilization for centuries to come. Hope for a better world would await the future coming of another “son of God” for an age with “ears to hear.”

But the new age would not dawn peacefully because the institutions and consciousness of Kali Yuga are far from surrendering their claims willingly. During Yogananda’s life, the British empire which once ruled the waves (and Yogananda’s homeland of India) and upon which the sun never set was destroyed. Yogananda taught that the divine purpose behind that empire was to unite the world in preparation for the new age and to introduce the principle of rule of law, individual liberties, and even the English language as the future “lingua franca” of the world. This new era of consciousness, which we call the Age of Dwapara (meaning “second age”) was born, however inauspiciously, at the beginning of the twentieth century.

The pace of change ever since has been both exhilarating and frightening: both hopeful and fearful. Almost immediately at the dawn of the twentieth century came a lightning bolt of scientific (and philosophic) discovery: Einstein’s declaration that all matter is a form of energy. Thus Dwapara Yuga is an age of energy awareness and energy consciousness.

Thus we have seen in our lifetimes:
  1. 1.      an explosion in the search for and consumption of energy resources to power a whole new way of life and civilization; this is matched with a crises and concern for sustaining cheap energy resources and mitigating or eliminating the negative impact of our energy consumption;
  2. 2.      we see a rising and urgent interest in alternative medicine and energy healing as holistic illnesses surface in tandem with our awareness of our body as energy; we have become aware that health is the product of the quantity and quality of our energy;
  3. 3.      the vitality and cleanliness of food, water and air is of urgent concern; the need for locally based and sustainable food sources is spawning an entire new industry and inspiring a new generation of Dwapara pioneers;
  4. 4.      energy consciousness in society, business, and politics translates into the pressing need for cooperation rather than competition and exploitation on a global as well as local scale;
  5. 5.      in religion, strident sectarianism threatens the very foundation, source and value to humanity that religion should offer; the need to see the underlying harmony and unity among all faith traditions is as vital a concern as any environmental or political issue; the nonsectarian practice of meditation is steadily replacing dogmatic attachment to outward forms and beliefs into the expansive and joyful direct perception of one's higher Self, the Self of All.
  6. 6.      in behavior, morals and ethics, all is fair and all is game in the frenetic whirlpools of dissolving traditions and cultures; the expansion of consciousness of Dwapara Yuga is destroying the rigid boundaries of Kali Yuga; at first there seems unleashed not only freedom but license and licentiousness; the self-centeredness that seems to be emerging in Dwapara will be balanced by an expansion of self-awareness  and sympathies for the greater good of  all. 
  7. 7.   personal freedom of Dwapara will unleash the energy of self-initiative, creativity, and individual conscience. These will gradually overtake the power and dependence upon the centralized authority of tribe, culture, government or religion.

Fear of the rapid pace and consequences of change and the direction of civilization has halted the otherwise necessary and natural expansion of sympathies that Dwapara Yuga invites. In every country in the world, during the last ten or twenty years, two steps backward toward authoritarianism and violence is evident.

But the march of Dwapara continues. The internet, whose freedom and openness is under assault, nonetheless is spreading awareness like the light of dawn to all nations and all people. Nothing can stop the halt of progress through education and greater awareness of ourselves, our neighbors, our planet and our universe that is streaming toward us like a flood.

Hope for a Better World comes to us to with the rays of light from the new dawn of Dwapara. But Dwapara is an age of rapid change and unceasing instability. Its vitality can threaten destruction but those souls of goodwill can harness Dwapara's rising power for good by going within, to the calm and wise center of intuition. 

Individual liberties and freedoms are the outer form and leading edge of Dwapara. But its invisible inner counsel reminds us that true freedom is not doing merely what we want, but having the wisdom and courage to do what is right. No outward ruler or authority can contain the energy of Dwapara. Only individual conscience can do that now. Only conscience can stem the tide of misuse of personal, economic, military, or political power.

Thus it is that the overarching Intelligence of the One from whom the many have come has sent its sons, its children to be wayshowers: Jesus Christ said it even in the midst of Kali Yuga: the kingdom of heaven is within you! Jesus, in cooperation and communion with the rishis of India, and in attunement with the divine will, has sent to the West and to the world the sacred keys of awakening through yoga-union: the science of meditation and the technique of kriya yoga.

Kriya yoga is the energy medicine of the soul. As we learn to awaken and unite with the subtle but powerfully intelligent currents of energy and consciousness that create and sustain the human body, we are baptized in the river of life that brings to us the intuition, wisdom, vitality, and creativity with which to flow and adapt to the outward currents of Dwapara Yuga. 

Finding the unalloyed happiness of the soul within, we can shine and share the light of wisdom upon the earth as it is reborn into Dwapara Yuga. Ours is not only the privilege, not only the opportunity, but the obligation, for while the victory of Dwapara is assured, the extent of suffering which is resulting from the clash of consciousness between old forms and new energy can only be mitigated by soldiers of peace and messengers of mercy.

May this Easter resurrect in your heart the commitment to simple living and high ideals, of living in harmony and cooperation and in dedicated service to the flow of divine grace that can guide the boundless energies of a new age. Seek divine contact through the scientific techniques of meditation and express the divine will, wisdom, and love through selfless service to all. Be the hope for a better world that you seek for yourself, your family and for all.

A blessed Easter to you,

Nayaswami Hriman

[If you enjoyed this article, you will find more insights and wisdom for a new age in Swami Kriyananda's collection of essays, "Religion in the Age." See http://www.crystalclarity.com/product.php?code=BRINA Available at Ananda in Bothell, WA or at your local East West Bookshop.

Monday, April 2, 2012

God: personal or impersonal?

This week is “Holy Week” in the Christian calendar. Coincident as both Easter and Passover is to the beginning of Spring, these religious celebrations express the Spring themes of hope and renewal.

My topic today would seem unrelated to Holy Week but the renewal promised by the great saints and scriptures, and echoed by Mother Nature in springtime, is a renewal of and in the Spirit. The question of whether to approach God as Spirit (impersonal) or as incarnate (personal) is raised in every tradition, every generation, every faith and in every soul seeking inner communion and inner renewal.

Great debates have raged through the millennia on this issue: some sects espousing the impersonal, others the personal. Swami Kriyananda, direct disciple of the renowned yogi, Paramhansa Yogananda (author of “Autobiography of a Yogi”), and my teacher (and founder of the worldwide network of Ananda communities) has taught that “infinity includes infinitesimal.”

“Why, then,” he is effectively saying, “should there a conflict?” God is the essence of everything and everybody! Armed with the expansive vista given to us by science and confronted with the narrowness of view of sectarian faiths, many educated people reject all religion and specifically any expression of devotion towards a person, alive or otherwise. Who can blame them?  “Idolatry,” Swami Kriyananda writes in his classic text, “Art and Science of Raja Yoga,” “is the bane of religion.”

And then there are those who worship God in the form of their “guru,” such as Jesus Christ, Krishna, Buddha, Rama and so many others. Such devotees may scoff at those pretentious enough to imagine they can approach the Infinite Spirit on their own terms, which is to say, from the insignificant soap box of the human ego. There are those who reject any form and insist that God is Spirit and no representation whatsoever can be made.

We humans all too often mistake the form for the spirit behind the form. We are hypnotized by our reaction to what we feel is the attractiveness (or repulsiveness) of external objects, including mental constructs such as theology or philosophy. We miss the point, in other words. We also cling desperately to our own ideas of what is right. Our insistence betrays only our uncertainty, however.

To the woman at the well in Samaria, Jesus taught that “God is Spirit and seeketh those to worship Him in spirit and in truth.” To worship God in spirit is to commune with the divine Presence in inner silence. To worship God in truth is to seek true wisdom and to walk the path of righteousness (dharma) in daily life.

Try these experiments in prayer and meditation  for yourself. First: sit in meditation and visualize the image of one of the great saints or masters, such as Jesus Christ, Buddha, Yogananda, or any other. For as long as you can calmly concentrate and while dismissing as often as necessary passing thoughts, hold that image behind closed eyes. As you do so feel that your heart is open. You may wish to visualize your heart as an open lotus, rose, or an upturned chalice. The fragrance of the flowers waft upward in adoration, or, in the latter image, let the crystal clear waters of peace flowing from the “master” fill your cup. When you feel complete, then sit still, in the silence and absorb the after-effects of your visualization.

As a second experiment, visualize a golden light behind closed eyes. See that light entering the brain and flowing down into the body and then encircling the body in a halo or sphere of Light. Rest in the gentle but vibrant healing balm of that Light. Now, expand that Light outward in all directions: to your home, your family, your neighbors, your city, country and encircling the earth, bathing all life in the peace-light of your heart. Now send this Light out into the universe and feel this Light is the great Light of God, your Father. Mentally affirm, “I and my Father are One!” When finished sit in the silence and just BE STILL and KNOW that I AM.

You can combine both of these starting from the personal and moving to the impersonal. St. John the evangelist describes Jesus as that Light that cometh into the world, that lighteth every man, and which is God and has created all things since the beginning of time. “Before Abraham was, I AM.” Paramhansa Yogananda taught that Jesus as a person wasn’t a divine creation so much as Jesus, the unique soul, had become wholly identified with the Father-Spirit. The difference between a Jesus Christ and most people isn’t one of kind, but of degree. We need only to come to the same Self-realization that the great masters have achieved through the combination of self-effort and divine grace.

Think, then, of yourself as a spark of that great Light. There is no conflict between you and the great Light of God. So long as we hold the candlelight of our own ego close to our eyes we do not notice the great Light that surrounds us. It’s a matter of attention and direction of our focus. God has descended into flesh to become the creation, and to become YOU. But as the wave cannot call itself the entire ocean, so we must shift our attention from the particular form Spirit has taken (in ourselves, others, and in the creation) to the formless, nameless overarching Spirit which is found in the vibrationless sphere of inner silence. This doesn’t happen in a day, but as Krishna promises in the “Bhagavad Gita,” “Even a little practice (of this) will free you.....”

A blessed and holy celebration of the great Light that rises in the East(er).

Nayaswami Hriman