New domain address: http://www.Hrimananda.org!
I'd like to share thoughts on meditation and its application to daily life. On Facebook I can be found as Hriman Terry McGilloway and twitter @hriman. Your comments are welcome. Use the key word search feature to find articles you might be interested in.
A new blog now exists taking selected quotes from the "Autobiography of a Yogi" and sharing inspirations from that great work. http://dailyAY.com
Visit my new blog inspired by the Autobiography of a Yogi and find there inspiration and courage for the years to come as our world and our nation struggles against the rising tide of conflict and rebellion.
Once again, the following article is taken from an email to Ananda members in the Seattle-area Sangha:
at the weekly Service we read a stanza from the Bhagavad Gita. What is this text, this “The Song of God,” quoted by
so many great people of influence?
Emerson said of the Bhagavad Gita: "It was as
if an empire spoke to us, nothing small or unworthy, but large, serene,
consistent, the voice of an old intelligence which in another age and climate
had pondered and thus disposed of the same questions which exercise us.”
Henry David Thoreau wrote, "In the morning I bathe my intellect in the
stupendous and cosmogonal philosophy of theBhagavad Gitain comparison with which our modern
world and its literature seem puny and trivial.”
Mahatma Gandhi confessed that "When doubts haunt me, when
disappointments stare me in the face, and I see not one ray of hope on the
horizon, I turn toBhagavad-Gitaand find a verse to comfort me; and I
immediately begin to smile in the midst of overwhelming sorrow. Those who
meditate on the Gita will derive fresh joy and new meanings from it every
And finally, J. Robert Oppenheimer,
American physicist and director of the Manhattan Project (that created the
world’s first atom bomb), learned Sanskrit in 1933 and read the Bhagavad Gita in the original, citing it
as one of the most influential books in his life. Upon witnessing the first
nuclear test in 1945, he quoted the Gita: “Now
I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”
What is this extraordinary work of
literature, allegory and divine inspiration? The “Gita” is the most beloved of
the great scriptures of India. It is one chapter in the midst of the world’s
longest epic, the Mahabharata (over
100,000 couplets). The Gita itself has about 700 verses arranged in 18 chapters:
not very long in itself. The Mahabharata makes
an allegory of an actual historic and apocalyptic battle that took place not far
from what is now New Delhi sometime after the first millennia B.C. It’s a “good guys” vs the “bad guys” story,
with the good guys winning, but just barely.
The Gita itself consists of a dialogue
between Lord Krishna, the charioteer and guru for Prince Arjuna (a good guy),
one of the fiercest warriors of the two opposing clans. Their conversation
takes place on the eve of battle.
Arrayed against his own cousins (who
usurped his and his brothers’ rule of the kingdom), Arjuna asks his guru, “What
virtue, what victory is there to be found in killing my own family? They are
far from perfect, but I don’t seek riches or power? Why must I fight?”
And thus begins the greatest story ever
told: your story, and mine. This is the story of the challenges we face, the
victories and defeats we experience, and our quest for the Holy Grail of
The greatest work ever written by Swami
Kriyananda, “Essence of the Bhagavad Gita,” was inspired by the commentary on
the Gita dictated by Paramhansa Yogananda in the early months of 1950 at his
desert retreat in 29 Palms, CA. This book will change your life. At the
completion of his dictation efforts, Paramhansa Yogananda declared to Swamiji
“Millions will find God through this work. Not just thousands: millions! I have
seen it. I know!”
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.
At a class the other night that I gave on the basic precepts of yoga and Self-realization, I pointed out that no true spiritual teaching can omit addressing the question of "Who is responsible for evil; for ignorance; for suffering?" In a few days we honor the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. Each year, Ananda Seattle presents a tribute program (this year, 2016 will be the 14th year!). We combined the tribute to Dr. King with Mahatma Gandhi. We add music and audio-video clips for an inspiring program that is updated and re-scripted almost every year. An article I wrote about both of these men and what we can learn from them was kindly published by Krysta Gibson of the New Spirit Journal. You can read it online at: http://newspiritjournalonline.com/what-we-can-learn-from-mlk-and-gandhi/
Most people are practical and don't give much thought to the "big questions" like suffering, evil and ignorance. "Sufficient unto the day is the evil (the problems) thereof," said Jesus Christ! Why bother our little heads about these things -- as my mother more or less said to me when, as a child, I would pester her with questions. We all have our problems; we all die eventually. End of story. Get over it! Well, I like this kind of pragmatism too, but my little head has a mind of its own! So I snuffle around the cosmic forest like a pig looking for truffles! Whatever you may think about the theology of original sin, no spiritual teaching can be called such if it doesn't encourage us to be better people and to never give up hope ..... whether for being "saved," or "redeemed" or achieving God realization. (The end goal may be expressed variously but hope and effort spring onto us an eternal message.) And why not? You don't have to be consciously spiritual to see the value in using will power and having hope. Even if we fail, such attitudes are help build strength and character, regardless of outward success. Paramhansa Yogananda was not the first saint to say, in effect, "A saint is a sinner who never gave up!" Or, as more than one Christian saint put it, "A sad saint is a sad saint, indeed!"
But, all well and good, but can we really understand with our minds this issue of suffering? It's all academic until it's not: which means, when WE suffer (or someone close to us). Suffering and evil challenge especially the faithful in our (seemingly) nauseating cheeriness and faith in the goodness of God and the rightness of all things, including the "bad" things that happen to "good" people. Do we tell the victims of racism and to the loved ones whose child or father has been lynched or shot for no other reason than the color of his skin that "It's all for the best?" I hope to God, not! I heard Larry Kinginterview Maharishi Mahesh Yogi right after the fall of the Twin Towers in New York city on September 11, 2001. I hope I only offend a few of you, but I was aghast to hear his highness' squeaky voice explain the law of karma on T.V. at such a time of grieving. No doubt he meant well, but, egad, I can never imagine my teacher, Swami Kriyananda, nor yet the great yogi, Paramhansa Yogananda, responding with anything but compassion at such a time. Love (and compassion) is a higher law than the law! It's not as though Sri Yogi was wrong per se but his words were, in my view, at least, simply not appropriate at that time and place. His need to represent the Hindu view of life and to play the role of all wise teacher seemed to eclipse the needs of his listeners. ("Just sayin') We do need, however, to step back from the human drama if we are see the cosmic drama and have an impersonal insight into suffering, evil and ignorance. The birth, life, and death of stars and planets, and the "eat or be eaten" law of survival among animals are generally accepted by us as a part of the ups and downs of the cosmos. A tiger eats for food and because she's a tiger doing what tigers do. She's not a murderer. But why are there "bad" people anyway? And why do "good" people suffer? Selfishness, self-protectiveness, ego affirmation: these have a natural appeal in a world of struggle and uncertainty. That the golden rule is transparently a better way to live is evidently not as transparent as some of us would think. When the light of a greater awareness that includes the needs and feelings of others and of the world of nature is so dimmed that only threatening silhouette shapes of strife, competition, and opportunity can be seen, "golden rule" becomes "What's in it for me?" We are conditioned by the struggle of life to either recoil in self-defense and aggression or expand in cooperation and harmony. Either way, we are still "we." Our only option lies in which direction we choose. Materialism is that choice that puts the needs of ego (and body) first and the needs of all others second (or not at all). Spirituality is that choice which finds nourishment and protection in peace and harmony. The broader our reality the more strength and stability we have. "Love thy neighbor AS thy Self." By contrast, imagine trying to live in a world where animals and other humans compete for survival. Few would last weeks or even days. The law of conservation of energy says that energy cannot be destroyed: it only changes from one form to another. Applied to a higher reality, the world of consciousness, this offers some interesting parallels to various teachings that we humans have a soul. Our soul inhabits, for a time, a body, and then moves on to another state or body. Energy, not matter and not our body, is our more essential nature. It has no limiting form and thus shares reality with all others as equals. We cheerful and ever positive yogis (and others) drink our cheerful "spirits" from the comfort, support and wellspring of inner silence. It is easier to face death or cope with grief or suffering when our life is lived calmly from our own center where we are relatively free from the hypnosis that our body and personality is our reality. Knowing that suffering, old age and death comes to all, and finding within ourselves "the kingdom of heaven," it becomes gradually easier to experience the pleasures and pains, the successes and failures that are inevitable in life as passing stages or states of mind. But, this detachment from our ego and body DOES NOT (or should not) induce indifference or aloofness towards the sufferings of others. Else, why do Buddhists, and people everywhere, especially the saints, feel such compassion for others even as they, themselves, endure what for many would be an unthinkably self-sacrificing life? When I am less concerned about ME (and how people treat ME or view ME), I am free to be more loving, interested, and compassionate towards others. I have nothing to lose, for the I AM is not the little "i." This is, in effect, the secret of the power of Dr. King and Gandhi. You and I don't need to be bookmarked in the pages of history for our great deeds for humanity because "sufficient unto the day" are our stresses, pains, betrayals and hurts. Everyone's path to greater awareness is unique. The outer forms of our struggles and our efforts is secondary to how we handle them. In the lives of each of these men, their invisible source of courage and inspiration came from a powerful practice of prayer, faith, and meditation. Yes, they had a destiny and role to play. But they each struggled with the energy, will, confidence and endurance to fulfill their roles. Just as you and I do. Their source, their wellspring of the healing waters of peace is as available to us as it was to them. Yes, we can blame God for creating this universe and for putting into motion the necessary dualities of dark and light, positive and negative, good and evil, male and female polarities which, because always in flux, must necessarily alternate on the stage of history, life and consciousness. It is necessary in order for this "mechanism" -- the illusion of the world -- to be created and sustained: it's akin to the quick "now you see it, now you don't" hand of the cosmic magician. This magic "hand" never seems to stop moving. Panthe Re: all is flux! But for having written the play; for running the reel of the movie from the beam of light projected from the booth of eternity, God is untouched by good or evil. God is no more evil than Shakespeare for having created the villain of the play. Good and evil are the necessary characters in the drama if it is to seem real, even to (indeed, especially to) the actors. Those actors who mistake their on stage role for who they are get type cast as B grade actors. Those who play their roles with vim and vigor, always present to the reality of who they really are inside, become the greats of all time. The impulse to "play" has its source in God's "impulse" to create the dream of creation. Just as we dream unwittingly (rarely lucidly), so God's bliss instinctively projects out from its Joy the waves of creation which, endowed with an echoing impulse and innate pure joy, begins to intelligently create and reproduce....all while the seed, the germ, of divine intelligence and motivation silently hides and guides from the still heart of all motion. As forms become more self-aware, this impulse becomes increasingly personal and increasingly forgetful (in fact, even disdainful) of the invisible reality that it is, in truth, a spark of the infinite reality. Bit by bit, both in the macrocosm of satanic consciousness and in the microcosm of human consciousness, the process of separation and rebellion creates a veil and the divine light becomes progressively dimmed. But it is always there even if the darkness of evil or ignorance cannot or will not recognize it. Nothing and no one is ultimately separate from God. But it is we, individually, who must, like the prodigal son, decide to turn away from our separation to return home to the light. We do this because we have suffered the famine of separation and the pangs of the unceasing monotony of duality. Thus suffering, though inextricably embedded in the cosmos and in our separated consciousness, has a divine role also: to eventually guide us toward the transcendent state at the center of the opposites. While we can't truly appreciate the "Why" God created this universe (that has given us so many so many temptations and troubles), we can know that, apart from God's initial impulse, we have made countless decisions to "play" in the tar baby of duality. It is up to us to decide to get off the wheel of samsara (suffering). As we have lived and played for untold lifetimes, so we must accept that escape isn't going to be easy or immediate. We have to pay our dues. God descends into the human drama through those avatars (saints) who have become his "sons" (who by the self-effort of previous lives attracted His grace until they achieved soul freedom). They are His messengers and they come in every age and time to awaken souls who are ready to "come follow Me (home)." This is the great drama of life whose meaning is, simply, that it IS a drama (and nothing else). So, go ahead and blame God but don't stop there in self pity. Pick yourself up and do the needful to improve, to transcend ego, to seek the help of one who knows the "Way," and to offer help, as you can, to others. No more sniveling about your troubles. We all have troubles. Lots of people have more troubles than you. Let's get up, stand up, support one another. Act with courage and fortitude, hope and will power. No act of sincere seeking and openness to the One who is "One with All" will be unrewarded. Faith, hope and charity. Meditation is the single most direct and efficient path to the state of consciousness in which knowing is believing. Joy to you, Nayaswami Hriman
I’ve been studying the
life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer: the Lutheran theologian and pastor who opposed
Hitler and who was executed by the SS two weeks before the concentration camp
where he was interred was liberated by Allied troops.
As a young Catholic,
raised in the ‘50’s bubble of the west coast version of the “Bells of St.
Mary’s, the surging debates and trends of Protestantism were unknown to me,
though modernism in religion was. By modernism or what is sometimes referred to
as liberalism, Christianity is reinterpreted socially and generally with
little, no or minimal regard to dogma, saints, miracles or transcendental
The impact of
rationalism and the scientific method are well known to us. The 20thcentury saw the explosion of materialism even
into the sanctuaries of religion. Frank Laubach, a well known pastor in the
first half of the 20thcentury, campaigned to remind ministers to mention God and Christ
in their sermons.
I used to think this was probably an exaggeration until I began reading about
Bonhoeffer’s life. While there were (are?) many variations in the forms of
religious liberalism, it was at the heart of the famous 1966 Time
Magazinecover that asked, “Is
God Dead?” The “dead” part essentially meant, “Is God irrelevant to modern
life?” How many, even religionists of the 20thcentury, held high hopes for the unrelenting
march of scientific and economic progress? The hope was that all there could be
left to affirm were basic human virtues and Christian ethics. There surely was
no need for belief in unprovable dogmas that bore little relevance to the
vicissitudes and demands of modern, daily life! The liberals championed
progress as the solution to the ills of society and saw ethical and social
idealism as the real mission of religion for the modern age. Modernist
religion, taking its cue from scientific and social materialism, essentially
agreed with Karl Marx and atheists everywhere in saying that the most important
thing in life is food, shelter, and security, oh, and, sure, maybe beseeching
God for the good things of life. Indeed a part of this “theology” equates
material prosperity with Divine favor.
Ah, but does not the
slaughter of perhaps two hundred million people in the name of this glorious
age of reason, equality, prosperity and the greatest good for the greatest
number surely shows the lie of this philosophy? For all the knowledge and
education today, are we happier? Are we no less prone to the demons of abuse,
addiction and violence? Has reason produced the Nietzschean super race?
Bonhoeffer was an
impressive thinker and theologian who became a martyr and, in his own way, a
saintly man, given to doing the will of God at all costs. In the strictest
forms of religious liberalism during Bonhoeffer’s higher education, belief even
in God was subject to question because unprovable. That left all other
Christian “traditionalist” beliefs pretty much hanging in mid-air. Bonhoeffer
struggled against that heartless, devotionless trend that relegated God to
outward shows of socially acceptable piety and dry, empty rituals. When the
mainline German churches succumbed to Hitler’s authority and accepted Nazi
revisionist thinking, Bonhoeffer declared religion the enemy of spirituality.
He vainly attempted to persuade fellow church leaders that it was the German
church’s obligation to oppose Nazi segregation and persecution of the Jews and,
going further, to actively oppose the Nazi regime.
Another impressive fact
of his life was that Bonhoeffer had an abiding desire to go to India to meet
Mahatma Gandhi. Twice he attempted the trip and in both cases his efforts were
thwarted by either circumstances or his own conscience calling him back to
Germany. Clearly, however, he was wanting to find an alternative to the spirit
of conquest and superiority his own so-called Christian culture had forged as
heirs to Christ.
While in America, he was
put off by the American church which embraced religious liberalism uncritically
even while viciously attacking fundamentalism (which naturally paid the return
On the other hand, he
was deeply moved by his encounter with the negro churches, both their music and
the deep and heartfelt devotion he felt there. The experience changed his life.
The contrast between America’s founding ideals and the ugliness of its de facto
racism put the aristocratic Bonhoeffer firmly on the road to appreciating and,
by degrees, exploring the relationship of suffering to the integrity of one’s
Yogananda came to America in 1920 the battle between religious liberals and
fundamentals was in full swing, with the fundamentalists in retreat (at least
in the northern cities among so-called intellectuals). It was therefore in the
divine plan, answering the call of sensitive souls for God to show himself, as
it were, that such a one as Paramhansa Yogananda was sent. Krishna says in the
Bhagavad Gita “that whenever virtue declines and vice predominates, I incarnate
to combat evil.”
irreconcilable struggle between spirit and nature, between science and
religion, between belief and rationalism could not be resolved by debate nor by
the intellect. It could only be resolved by one “who has seen Him.” It reminds
me of the story of St. Anthony of the desert who helped resolve the first great
challenge in early Christianitywhen, being called out from his self-imposed
desert seclusion, declared in front of hundreds, “I have seen Him.”
Therese Neumann, a
Bavarian woman, who lived during Nazi Germany, had the wounds of Christ and ate
neither food nor water except in taking the communion host on Fridays while in
a trance reliving the crucifixion of Christ. She was examined by
medical doctors and even by one doctor who set out to prove her a fraud but who
converted to her defense. Paramhansa Yogananda met her and explained that the
purpose of her life was to be a living testimony to “I have seen him.”
Yogananda, in his visit to Germany in 1935, attempted to have an interview with
de Fuhrer in hopes of stimulating Hitler’s latent interest in eastern
philosophy—but, to no avail!
came to America to teach the “science of religion.” His mission was to show
that all men are seeking happiness and seeking to avoid suffering. By trial and
error and experiment, he encouraged Americans, whom, he said, “loved to
experiment,” to see what attitudes and lifestyle brought lasting satisfaction
and which proved empty, despite their promises. An unselfish life will bring
you lasting happiness while selfish, merely sensual, or materialistic behavior
would disappoint you, if not immediately, then soon enough.
He brought yoga and
meditation techniques to show how to be healthy, focused, creative, and
connected with one’s own superconscious mind. He urged students to put aside
“installment plan” living (by which he referred to the superstition that “If
only I had more possessions, kept up with the Joneses, a bigger bank account,
and a larger income, I’d be happy.”) “It is all right to have possessions, but
don’t let them possess you!” he counseled.
In his orations,
Paramhansa Yogananda thundered: “The time for knowing God has come.” Through
meditation, and especially kriya yoga, the most advanced technique for this
modern age, we can have a direct perception of divinity as our own Self, hidden
in the silent cave of meditation, in the bubble of joy that is our heart’s
natural love, and in the perception of God as sound or as light. The experience
of peace or joy in meditation is living proof of the existence of God within
you. By experimenting with right attitudes, as described above, he said you
could prove in yourself your connection with all life.
Returning, then, to the
debate of whether “God is dead,” Yogananda saw in the teaching of the triune
nature of God (the Trinity) a resolution for what modernists insisted was God’s
absence in the world. The concept of the Trinity has been taught in India since
ancient times. It offers a way to bridge the otherwise unconquerable chasm
between the human experience and infinity.
Yes, it’s true that God,
as transcendent and as infinite bliss, exists beyond and untouched by his
creation, even though He is its sustaining source. He accomplishes the
manifestation of the universe by becoming it. To do this, he uses a trick: an
illusion of movement in opposite directions from a point of rest which is His
center. His “son” is His reflection in creation. His reflection is the silent
and invisible intelligence and intention that rests at the heart of every atom
and in every soul, endowing even the atoms with individuality. This illusory
trick of motion, of vibration, in opposite directions is His Ghost; it is his “consort,” the
mother of creation into whose womb the seed of his reflection is sown. This
movement gives rise to the illusion of separate objects just as the spinning
blades of a fan or the spokes of wheel give the illusion of solidity. This
illusory movement is thus the mother of creation. It produces a sound, called,Aum, the Word, the Amen, the voice of God and the true and faithful
witness to God’s immanence in creation. The Word produces Light, the face of
And the “Word was made
flesh and dwelt amongst us.” Those souls, sent to return to the world, in whom
God’s reflection and vibration is fully realized are his messengers and his
sons. As St. John the Evangelist in the first chapter of his gospel wrote, “And
as many as received Him, give he the power to become the sons of God.” Jesus,
and others like him, come in every age to awaken all those in tune with him and
to him “by my Father.” Jesus is not essentially different than you or I, but
he, and others like him down through the ages, has awakened to his sonship in
Towards the end of
Jesus’ life, the bible tells us "And many walked with him no more.” For he
challenged their credulity and their intuitive attunement with him when he
said, “Eat my body and drink my blood!” In so doing, however, he spoke of the
teaching of the Trinity. His body, which is sustaining “meat” is the “Christ
consciousness,” which is to say, the only begotten reflection of the Father
which is immanent in creation. His blood, which is the vibrating Life Force
(known as “prana” in its individual form) ofAumwhich creates, sustains,
and withdraws all atoms in the creation.
To eat the flesh of
Christ is to become attuned to the divine presence within us and in silence. To
drink the blood of Christ is to attune ourselves to the cosmic divine life that
flows within us and within all. We are One in creation and One beyond creation
and One in infinite Bliss. "Christ" is a title and a code word for
divine consciousness immanent in creation.
All of the various and
sundry distinctions of race, religion, gender, social status, and nation
dissolve in the unifying light of God as the sole reality within and beyond
creation. This experience comes in deep meditation and by meditation (and
grace), God’s presence in the world can be known. This is the eternal promise
and it has come again in special dispensation with meditation and kriya yoga
into this world of disbelief.
Jesus taught, “I am the
vine and ye are the branches. He that abideth in me and I in him, the same
bringeth forth much fruit. For without me, ye can do nothing.” To become
attuned to the wisdom presence of God and to the power of God which gives us
life is to have life “more abundantly.” A further understanding of the vine and
branches is that God, which is infinity and bliss, is far to powerful to be
known directly, at least not without the enlargement of consciousness that is
the attribute of high spiritual advancement. Instead, God's presence comes
through living instruments. Not only, as explained above, in the latent state
and center of each atom, but in its Self-realized state in those living
instruments whom he sends. In sending his “son” as Jesus Christ or any of the
great masters, he sets into motion the means by which souls are to be freed:
through others! So “Me” refers both to the impersonal presence of God and also
the divine presence in the true guru.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer dedicated
his life and sacrificed his life for those who “had ears to hear” that Christ’s
teachings would become a living reality. Few are asked to make the ultimate
sacrifice that Bonhoeffer made, but, as Jesus put it, “Sufficient unto the day
is the evil (the challenges) thereof.”
Yogananda brought to the
West the means by which we can contact this living, divine reality within us,
and within all.
Joy to you,
Swami Hrimananda! (aka
“Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy,” Eric Metaxas,
Thomas Nelson Press.
“Letters by a Modern Mystic,” by Frank
 The so-called Arian heresy, which denied the divinity of
Áutobiography of a Yogi,” by Paramhansa
Yogananda, Chapter 39.
[[ERRATA]] : My apologies: I mixed two quotes from Martin Luther King in my original blog. It was violence that he described as "immoral." In a paper he wrote in 1950 he described atheism as shown below. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. described atheism as both “philosophically unsound and impractical.”
Agnosticism I can relate to, at least on the basis that an
honest (if simplistic) assessment of human realities can find no sensory evidence
of the Deity. To say, therefore, “I don’t know” is to leave open the
possibility rather than to join the ranks of dogmatists, both atheists and religionists
in hotly declaring a belief or nonbelief in a reality that neither can prove
nor disprove to the other.
My impression of at least some self-declared atheists is
that they object to the depiction of a personal and vindictive God foisted on
us by dyed-in-the-wool believers. If you can re-direct the atheist’s attention to
the beauties of nature, the vastness and awe-inspiring complexities and antiquity
of creation, the gift of human love, charity, and self-sacrifice, you will
sometimes find a closet deist who worships the Unseen Hand by another name or
form. I don’t mean to paint all atheists with the same brush, but in my
experience this depiction describes some, perhaps many — those aghast or
traumatized by the atrocities or hypocrisy of orthodox religionists.
Science may be devoid of faith or feeling but scientists are
not. Too many are the Deist reflections of Albert Einstein, for example, for
anyone to insist that the greatest scientists lack feeling, reverence or awe in
contemplation of the mysteries of life and the natural world.
Paramhansa Yogananda, renowned author of “Autobiography of a
Yogi,” came to live in the United States from India in 1920. He admired the material
progress, genius, and good works of western scientists and, as if applying
their methods to solving the riddle of human existence, asked for what purpose
are we impelled to survive? That we seek to survive is far too obvious to
question. But why? What is it we seek? And by what means do we find success and
by what means do we fail? His inquiry into the mystery of our existence
proceeded, like that of men and women of science, from observation and
measurement, not from a priori
declarations of absolute or revealed truth.
The ancient Greek sages averred that man’s highest duty is “To
know thyself.” One such sage, Protagoras, shocked his contemporaries with the
statement that “Man is the measure of all things.” In modern times the well
known Indian sage of Arunachala hill, Ramana Maharshi, advised seekers to ask, “Who
If science teaches us that the universe is both
incomprehensibly vast and yet without any known center or direction, we have
seemingly two choices for humanity: we are either nothing (and life therefore
is without meaning), or, we are, indeed, the “measure of all things.” This
latter direction has, itself, two directions: I can join with the ranks of
twentieth century existentialists in declaring that my ego is the center of the
universe and my desires and impulses are the sole measure of truth for me; or,
I can go in the direction of Jesus Christ and the Yogi-Christs of India when
Jesus declared, “The kingdom of heaven is within you.”
At this point in human history we’ve yet to find life forms
such as ourselves from other planets but given the estimate of 200 billion
galaxies, I must supposed that the odds are greater than 100% that they must
But inasmuch as that inquiry must remain, for now, only speculative, let
us turn to the human experience, then, for our inquiry.
The ancient scriptures of India admit that “God cannot be
proved.” So, let us also take from them this admission and follow Jesus’ advice
and Yogananda’s line of inquiry for the Holy Grail.
Yogananda started with the observation that what all men
seek is happiness. Pleasure, yes, too, but that is easily experienced as
fleeting and even counterproductive to lasting happiness as sensory indulgence,
unless held in check, can destroy health and happiness. Held even in check,
pleasure, moreover, is fleeting and even in its midst a reflective person feels
its unreality (because based in perception and anticipation) and its limited
span of fulfillment. Observation of human pleasure reveals that its pursuit can
be addictive and overtake the good judgment, common sense, and human values of
its votaries. Disease, harmful emotions, and premature aging await those who
fall victim to the pursuit of pleasure as the summum bonum of life’s existence.
Human happiness is usually sought and seen in human love, cherished
family ties, financial success and security, prestige, position, fame, talent,
or beauty. But these are like prostitutes: loyal to no one. Observation of the
facts easily discloses that those who achieve one or more such pinnacles of
human happiness too often find the summit to be cold, windy, desolate, dull,
fleeting or elusive. At the top there is nowhere to go but down and furiously
scrambling up the mountain sides just below you are hordes of competitors and unseen
snipers of death, disease, or betrayal lurking
in the shadows below.
None of these easily observable realities and shortcomings of
pleasure or human happiness seem to deter the billions of human beings on this
planet from seeking their elusive gains. Perhaps it is lack of wisdom, lack of
refinement of feeling, lack of the knowledge of a viable alternative or the
hypnosis of the allure of these achievements that blind mankind to our own
greater potential for true happiness.
Never mind the question of how did this all come about and
why. Never mind the fact that the created universe veritably shouts the
existence of an overarching Intelligence and Purpose and that the odds of all
of this coming into existence randomly is patently absurd, or that the question
of the existence of Consciousness belies our very inquiry into it.
Each person can experiment as scientifically as the armies
of white lab-coated technicians and their test tubes on what brings them true,
lasting and satisfying happiness and contentment. Never mind the cosmos, for
now. It seems to get along fine without us.
Mahatma Gandhi wrote: “Nonviolence is the law of our species as violence is the law of the
brute. The spirit lies dormant in the brute and he knows no law but that of
physical might. The dignity of man requires obedience to a higher law — to the
strength of the spirit.”
It is not difficult
to discover for oneself that a selfish life is shortsighted and brings
unhappiness and pain. An unselfish life, applied with common sense and balance,
brings harmony and satisfaction. Heroes show themselves willing to give their
lives that others may live free. Humanitarians, great leaders and reformers,
and saints in all lands show that the way to inner peace and contentment is to
live for high ideals and for the greatest good of all. The calm, inward gaze away
from material objects and toward the intangible but life sustaining gifts of
wisdom, compassion, creativity, selflessness, and devotion to the Creator are
proof positive against the ceaseless flux of changing customs, conquerors,
disease, war, and hatred.
Life goes on, as
Gandhi and King would often put it, and proves that death, disease, and
destruction cannot prevail.
How do these
self-discoveries relate, then, to the existence of God? Take the journey and
see for yourself.
But along the way consider those whose lives you are
following in your experiments with truth (living an unselfish life). What do
these heroes and heroines say?
If what the great
ones teach us is so obvious, why do so few take the higher path? The higher
path requires climbing the mountain and going through the brambles of habit,
upbringing, and the ego’s insistence that the body and personality must be
satisfied first lest by unselfishness they suffer. And suffer they will, if we listen
selfish life also calls to us, both from our dark past and from the sheer
magnetism and allure of its fleeting or dark satisfactions. The great scourge
of human happiness is addiction to sense satisfactions, enabled and empowered
especially by the power of wealth, possessions, and influence.
The take up of the
high road requires the give up of the easy, but descending path, toward the
jungle of survival of the fittest ego and towards the swamp of mortal death,
disease, and old age. To one whose gaze is fixed upon the greater reality and
good of all life, the mortality and frailty of the human body and insecure ego
are but universal realities that we are
challenged to “get over it.”
To paraphrase Paramhansa
Yogananda and a vision he had of Divine Mother, “Dance of life and dance of
death, know that these come from Me.” Fear not for they have no lasting reality
for Spirit to Spirit goes, unfettered by matter’s ceaseless flux from form to
energy and energy back to form.
Let us return then
to Martin Luther King, Jr. and his labeling of atheism as unsound and
impractical. I cannot claim to know his thoughts in this statement, but I
believe his thoughts derive from the loss of the polestar of higher Self
from which to guide one’s life. During his brief life (‘50’s and ‘60’s)
post-war materialism and atheism (and the power and threat of communism based
upon both), existentialism, together with amateurish interpretations of
scientific discoveries and speculations such as chaos theory and relativity, were
associated with what would be seen as the breakdown of morality and the rise of
atheism and belief in the meaninglessness of life.
Atheism as a
rejection of religious dogmas was not yet widely understood. King lived in a
time of rebellion, both positive and negative. Thus Martin Luther King, Jr.
both devout and deeply religious (in a nonsectarian way) and a deep thinker
concerned with the trends of modern culture, would describe atheism as unsound.
Atheism would be seen as impractical in contrast to how he saw his crusades for
social justice as eminently practical in their methods but as justified in the
perception of all men as children of God. That an agnostic or atheist might be
a humanist, a proponent of an enlightened self-interest, or a pragmatist taking
his cue from the scientific establishment of the interdependency of all living
things and upon what might be called traditional Stoicism (a morality based on
human values including moderation and self-sacrifice) would not have occurred
to King or his religious contemporaries. (A Stoic sees that life brings both
pleasure and pain, life and death, and taking the long view steps back from the
pursuit of false and fleeting experiences to remain calm, dignified, and
self-sacrificing, following what we might call the Golden Rule.)
It may well be that
an atheist turns to the enlightenment of reason but as there are “no atheists
in fox holes,” an atheist who holds fast and true to humanist ideals in the
face of personal suffering, conflict, betrayal, humiliation or self-sacrifice is
something much more than a mere atheist. Such virtue would not, in my opinion,
derive from atheism but from a deeper and intuitive sense of justice and
righteousness that no mere non-belief in a deity could suffice to sustain. Well,
that’s my opinion. Taking this further, then, loss of moral judgment would not
be a far step from one whose only anchor was this lack of a belief.
As studies have
shown that those with a strong and abiding faith heal from surgery or illness faster,
and cope with dying with greater aplomb, faith in God is already showing itself
(using scientific methods of observation) to be practical. Faith-based
communities, too, often show themselves effectively serving the ideals and good
of society in ways no legislation or taxation could possibly achieve.
None of this is for
the purpose of convincing a self-described atheist or agnostic to “come over to
the other side.” Such a journey is like a river that runs silent and runs deep.
But the impracticality of such a position, and its potential to lead to selfish behavior, productive of unhappiness, is surely
worthy of consideration. The words of Martin Luther King, Jr. are certainly
Nayaswami Hriman P.S. For an inspired and insightful explanation for Yogananda's "thesis" and modern thought, I direct your attention to two works by J. Donald Walters (aka Swami Kriyananda): "Out of the Labyrinth" and "Hope for a Better World." (Crystal Clarity Publishers, Nevada City, CA)
Tribute to Martin
Luther King, Jr. & Mahatma Gandhi
How to have courage, calmness &
January 21, 2013 is the thirteenth year that Ananda in
Seattle has presented a tribute to these two great men. We combine excerpts from
their talks, writings, and biographies with the music of Ananda (written by
Ananda’s founder, Swami Kriyananda). This program is free and begins at 7 p.m. at
the East West Bookshop in Seattle (www.eastwestbookshop.com).
We are planning to stream it live at www.ustream.com
(search on AnandaSeattle on or around 7 p.m., Monday night).
Most people are generally familiar with their lives. This
tribute to King and Gandhi emphasizes not so much their biographical facts or
accomplishments but the spiritual foundation for their courage and inspiration.
This aspect is often ignored or only given passing acknowledgement in community
programs, books and documentaries.
The public inauguration of President Obama takes place on
the day set aside for commemorating Martin Luther King, Jr. and the President
has announced that he will take the oath placing his left hand upon two Bibles:
one owned by Abraham Lincoln and the other owned by Martin Luther King,
Jr. This year our tribute includes a
segment of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural address, a short time before his
assassination. I would like, therefore, to include Lincoln in my thoughts here.
There are many books on Abraham Lincoln but one of
particular interest to me is Elton Trueblood’s, “Abraham Lincoln: Lessons in
Spiritual Leadership.” This book seeks
to reveal the spiritual life of a man otherwise an enigma even to his closest
associates. But it is clear from this book, and so many others, that Lincoln wrapped
his deep and personal relationship to God in a combination of humor and
humility. The courageous acts he took were not born of pride or bluster but were
weighed in the crucible of intense self-examination, painstaking attention to
their impacts upon others, the highest interests of the nation as a whole, the
framework of the U.S. Constitution, the duties of the presidency and the
highest standards of ethics and idealism. All of these facets he looked to as indicators
of God’s will. He offered up his deliberations for Divine guidance in the inner
silence of his meditations. Lincoln trembled at the prospect of his own
vulnerability to pride or ego and to the ease with which one could mistake
guidance with desire, or subconscious prejudices.
Abraham Lincoln’s life of faith was rooted in humility and
openness to a wisdom far greater than any man might hope to possess or
confidently express. But this is precisely the entry fee for intuitive, divine
guidance. The evolution of Lincoln’s decisions and policies during the Civil
War reveal, in retrospect, the unfoldment of inspiration, calmness, and courage
given to him as a divine grace and born of inner guidance. True prophets are
keenly aware of their human shortcomings and their potential for self-delusion,
more so in the glare of public acclaim or condemnation and more so on the cusp of
decisions that can affect the lives of millions and change the course of
history. Such examples, then, teach us that from caution and calmness spring
the full measure of confidence and courage if born of true, spiritual insight
Martin Luther King, Jr. was thrown into his first civil
rights campaign in Montgomery, Alabama by what could only be described as
casual circumstances, aka divine destiny. In the mix of those who responded to
the black community’s response to the arrest of Rosa Parks, people turned to
King on the spot, with no prior background or planning. King showed that inner
tentativeness and self-questioning which is like fertile soil from whence a
seed sprouts and grows to a magnificent tree. This fertile soil knows that it
must wait for the rain of divine guidance to prompt its emergence.
King, like Gandhi, held strictly to the call of divine love
even while also fighting his self-styled enemies with cunning, with courage,
and with intelligent strategic purpose. Both King and Gandhi were highly
educated, extremely intelligent and deeply compassionate. They were
unquestionably chosen by, and in time acknowledged, a higher Power to serve as
an instrument of a higher Purpose. Each accepted their role but only as it
unfolded. Often they would hesitate to act or speak if that inner guidance and
inspiration failed to materialize.
The actions of prophets always confound supporters and
enemies alike. King’s seemingly sudden interest in and opposition to the
Vietnam War, for example, caused consternation among his peers and followers
and earned the antipathy and opprobrium of the Johnson administration. Gandhi’s
efforts to reassure the Moslem people of India of their place in the rising sun
of a new Indian nation outraged Indian nationalists and ultimately was the
cause of his assassination.
At the same time
there exists the paradox that the realization by the prophet of his God-given
role and responsibility clashes with his frail humanity and causes feelings of
burdensomeness and even periods of discouragement and depression. In each of
these three men: this “melancholy” is evident in their lives. A more
ego-affirming person (image a dictator) would revel in his power and only his
subconscious would undermine his egotism in an effort to balance him out.
At the end of their lives, especially Gandhi and King, this
discouragement and loss of clarity of direction is evident. For Gandhi the
communal violence that attended India’s independence and partitioning was, to
him, a sign of the failure of his efforts. For King, the impatience of young
blacks and their increasing interest in choosing violence over nonviolence,
together with fractious in-fighting among civil rights leaders, added to
government distrust of King, and lack of progress in his selected campaigns,
caused King to doubt himself deeply. Lincoln’s agonies, by contrast, peaked during
the losses and setbacks of the civil war. But by the time he was assassinated,
he had just won reelection and General Lee had just surrendered. For the first
time he felt a quiet sense of contentment. But the work of reconstruction was,
he knew, going to be as difficult and, indeed, more complex than the war
itself. Moreover, Lincoln had a premonition of his impending death. Nor was it in
his nature to revel in victory.
Another characteristic of these three great men was the
universality of their religious faith. Of the three Lincoln kept his distance
from orthodoxy even as he was notably a man of deep and earnest faith and
prayer. King and Gandhi were more aligned with specific faiths but each had a
view of religion that we, today, would call true spirituality, unfettered by
All three men viewed their efforts in two important and
expansive ways: as benefiting their entire nation, not just the group of people
for whose rights or upon whose side they struggled; and, each saw the benefit
of their goals and victories as benefiting all peoples, far beyond their own
nation’s borders. Each of them had the vision far into the future of the
importance of their ideals and their methods.
Though each struggled against foes and self-styled enemies,
each courageously expressed respect, friendship, love, and concern for them,
whether as individuals or as a group. Lincoln was famous for bringing into his
cabinet, administration, and military leadership his competitors.
Lincoln had an abiding faith and vision in the destiny of
the United States to be an instrument of God’s will in championing a new way of
life, liberty and pursuit of freedom and happiness. Mahatma Gandhi saw his work
as an a new model for helping oppressed people find the means to effect freedom
and justice without violence. King, similarly, saw that Lincoln’s work was not
yet finished and that the well-being and destiny of the United States
necessitated that the eradication of prejudice of race be overcome. He saw in
the example of Christ, the unfailing power of love and the redemptive power of
self-sacrifice. He, too, saw the importance for the United States to serve as
an example to all nations and all peoples and understood that this required
that the nation help black Americans be “free at last.”
The lives of these three great men are inextricably linked.
King, as stated above, saw the civil rights movement as an extension of
Lincoln’s emancipation of slavery and preservation of the Union. King was
deeply inspired by the life and lessons of Mahatma Gandhi. King travelled to
India in 1959 and received a hero’s welcome and a reception worthy of a head of
state. People of color throughout the world followed King’s work eagerly. King
quipped that he thought the Indian press gave more attention to his campaigns than
did the white, American press.
King saw that Gandhi gave his beliefs the tools and means to
elevate love for one’s enemies to a broader level than one to one. Lincoln held
national days of prayer and fasting, asking the nation to acknowledge its
errors and to make penance to atone for the evils of slavery and war. Although
no writer than I know of viewed Lincoln as an advocate of non-violence in the
Gandhian sense of this, it is clear from the testimony both of Lincoln and his
biographers that he was deeply pained by the necessity to conduct an unwanted
but necessary war.
There are connections, too, to the work of Ananda and to the
life of our preceptor, Paramhansa Yogananda. In the practice of yoga, nonviolence
is one of the core precepts that comprise the foundation for meditation and
spiritual path and practice of yoga. In addition, Paramhansa Yogananda
initiated Mahatma Gandhi into Kriya Yoga and thus created and established a deep
and abiding spiritual connection between their two works. Yogananda, when a
young man and before coming to the United States in 1920, was approached by
Indian revolutionaries to lead them in their fight against the British.
Yogananda declined, saying that this was not his work but predicting that India
would find freedom through nonviolence during his lifetime. When coming to
America in 1920 and becoming a resident (and later a citizen), Yogananda faced
numerous instances of racial prejudice as a “colored” man. He spoke
passionately about the colonial exploitations of the nations of Asia and
Africa, people of color. He viewed World War II as a just war that would be the
divine means of throwing off the yoke of colonialism.
The power by which these three changed the course of history
has its roots in prayer and dedication to doing the will of God, as best as they
could perceive it and doing so with faith and humility.
Courage, calmness and confidence derive not from
ego-affirmation (for the ego is brittle and shallow, for self-involved and
easily shattered by life’s many opposing egos) but from aligning one’s self
with the Divine Will. Through prayer, meditation and right action, and by the
habit of asking and praying deeply for divine guidance, we find the still,
silent voice of God guiding us in all that we do. In this we feel divine
strength, power and wisdom but at the same time we know that it isn’t ours and
that we must “remain awake” at all times. Divine consciousness is eternally
awake, omnipresent and omnipotent. Our consciousness, then, must approach the
Infinite if we are to partake in the life and spirit of God.
This is a tall order but we begin right where we are.
Lincoln studied the Bible from an early age and read it daily. King and Gandhi were
intimately familiar with the words of their respective scriptures (Bible and
Bhagavad Gita) as guidelines for daily life and right action. But it was the
habit of meditation that brought each into the Divine Presence. This we, too,
can do each and every day.
The testimony of the scriptures of east and west affirm that
God is present and actively guiding the course of history through those who
willing offer their lives to His guidance and will. Our world is changing at an
increasingly rapid pace with dangers to life, liberty and health at every turn.
God needs willing instruments. Gandhi termed the life he offered to such people
Satyagrahis (expressing Satyagraha: dedication to Truth and Purity).
Those who are part of the worldwide work of Ananda see this
living example in the life of Swami Kriyananda. He has been a spiritual warrior,
standing calmly amidst calumny, physical suffering, opposition and seemingly
impossible obstacles. His life of dedication to the work of Paramhansa
Yogananda has earned for him a state of bliss — the grace bestowed upon those
who live for God alone.
We don’t start by wanting to be heroes in the eyes of
others. We begin, rather with humility and openness to God’s presence and
guidance, taking life step-by-step, day-by-day. Meditation, selfless service,
and fellowship with others of like mind are essential. Truth is not complex.
Let us then be Lightbearers in this world of change, danger,
confusion, chaos, and ignorance.
Today, January 16, America commemorates the life of the Rev.
Martin Luther King, Jr. 2012 marks the tenth annual tribute to Rev. King and to Mahatma
Gandhi by Ananda Sangha in Seattle & Bothell, WA. This evening's program
was cancelled due to snow, and postponed until this coming Sunday, January 22,
10 a.m. at the Ananda Meditation Temple in Bothell. Ananda Bothell website
Over ten years ago
I had the inspiration to create a tribute to Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
("MLK") and Mahatma Gandhi ("MG") using quotes from their
writings and speeches. It was deeply inspiring to me and has proven to be so to
many hundreds who have attended the tribute both here and in Mountain View, CA and
other places where it has been presented.
The text has
changed over the years, partly to keep it fresh and partly to follow new
insights. At first it was strictly limited to inspirational quotes drawn
equally from MLK and MG. In the last two years we've quoted mostly from MLK in
keeping with the national holiday and American interests and have emphasized
more of the drama of actual events in MLK's life.
however, some salient aspects of their lives that are not commonly emphasized
in most public tributes or documentaries. The most important of these is the
inner, spiritual life of each of these men. Another is the dynamic relevance
their lives, message, motives, and methods hold for the world today. In
anticipation of Sunday's presentation and owing to today's official
commemoration, I would like to share some of these salient aspects with you in
As revered as both
men are throughout the world, we find that it is not necessary to have them be
perfect or all together saintly. Their relevance to our own, personal lives
comes from the simple but life transforming fact that each aspired to
"know, love, and serve God." For each of them, their divine
attunement came through serving and giving their lives in the cause of racial,
political, and economic freedom and justice.
While the public
generally is aware of their political victories, most are only dimly aware that
each had a deep inner life of prayer from which they sought, received and
followed (to their death) divine guidance. It was not that they did not know
fear, or were unaware that their actions placed them constantly in danger of
assassination and violence. It's that the inner divine sanction they sought and
received gave them the comfort and the strength to carry on in spite of their
very human shortcomings. What a lesson for each and every one of us. We do not
need to be public servants or heroes or martyrs. Unseen by any, we can carry on
what is right if we, too, will live for God alone.
The night before
his assassination and in the face of multiple threats to his life, MLK declared
that he "had been to the mountaintop" and was not afraid of any man.
That it did not matter now, for God had shown him the "promised land."
And, while he would yearn for a long life like anyone, that was secondary for
he wanted only "to do God's will." In fact, that afternoon, alone and
on the verge of despair and despondency for the challenges that faced his work,
his life, his family, and his reputation and influence, he prayed and, I
believe, had a spiritual experience from the heights of which he spoke those
ringing words. Most hearing him then and now believe he was referring to the
promised land of desegregation. And who would argue, and why not? But prophets
of old and new and scriptures of all lands speak on many levels of meaning. And
I, and others, believe that what he was "shown" was far more than
that. What he experienced gave him the courage and faith to do what he had to
do and to give his life in doing it.
Few people know
that MLK travelled to India in 1959, after his first victory in Montgomery,
Alabama with the now famous bus boycott prompted by Rosa Parks' refusal to give
up her seat on the bus to a white passenger who had just boarded. King spoke on
All-India Radio urging India to lead the way to universal disarmament (India
subsequently did not). Dr. King and Coretta and travelling companions were
veritable celebrities in India where the bus boycott had been followed in newspapers
MLK was more than
a southern Baptist preacher. His religious views were liberal, in the most
elevated sense of the term. He was more than an eloquent black speaker from the
south. He was an intellectual who grappled with the issues of twentieth century
western culture and was well read in philosophy, scripture, and history. Had
his calling not been towards civil rights his own inclinations would have led
him to stay in the north and become a professor, writer and lecturer. In
college he felt the presence of God in nature and spent many hours alone,
out-of-doors, day and night.
MLK was a
"disciple" of Mahatma Gandhi who saw that Gandhi resolved what King
thought was the gulf between the "love thy neighbor as thy self"
teaching of Jesus with the compelling need to fight injustice. MLK said that
Jesus gave the teaching of love but Gandhi gave the method to make it
applicable to social causes. King followed Gandhi's understanding that
resistance was anything but passive. Nonviolent resistance required as much
courage, self-sacrifice, and strength as that required in battle for a
MLK like MG was
not only assassinated but both felt that their efforts had been unsuccessful:
Gandhi, due to the communal rioting that followed the great victory of
nonviolent freedom from the British, and King, in the rising militarism of
younger, up and coming civil rights leaders. MLK took considerable heat from
his anti-war stance on Vietnam. He was harassed by the FBI and Johnson
administration and hounded by rivalries among his own civil rights
Yet both men, to
the end, maintained their faith in God and in the victory of good over evil.
Both were practical idealists, eloquent speakers, gifted writers and astute
organizers and negotiators. Possessing great will power, yet they were loyal to
their own and forgiving to those who betrayed them. Both saw their religion and
their politics as applicable to all humanity and for all time. Never did either
succumb to sectarianism or nationalism.
Mahatma Gandhi was
initiated into kriya yoga by Paramhansa Yogananda during Yogananda's one and
only return visit to India in 1935-36. Yogananda, prior to leaving India for
America in 1920, was asked by revolutionaries to lead the fight against British
rule. Yogananda declined saying it was not his to do in that lifetime but that
he predicted that India would win its independence by non-violent means: and
this was before Gandhi had come onto the political scene in India and had come
into his role as leader for Indian independence.
generation black leader for justice in America, W.E.B. Du Bois, invited Gandhi
to come to America but Gandhi declined, saying it wasn't his role to do that
and India was where he was needed. Du Bois predicated, however, that it would
take another Gandhi to end segregation and uplift the American
"negroes." How right he was.
The world today,
and America especially, is in dire need of a voice of moral authority. Our
nation seems polarized between extremes and has lost the dignity, compassion,
and ideal-inspired reason to see our way clearly to the greatest good for the
greatest number. We must find a way to affirm universal values, including
spirituality, without sectarianism; to teach, model and encourage balanced,
positive, and wholesome values and behaviors without censorship,
discrimination, or coercion; to encourage self-initiative and personal
responsibility rather than entitlement and victimization. To foster a hunger
for knowledge, not mere profit, for sustainability, not indulgence, for cooperation not ruthless competition.
The law of
survival and happiness is based on one and the same principle: self-sacrifice.
Self-sacrifice means the recognition that we are more than we seem and reality
is bigger than our individual self. Self-sacrifice is the investment into a
longer rhythm of sustainability that brings a wholesome prosperity, harmony
with nature and with humanity, and lasting happiness rather than passing
pleasure. "Greater love hath no man than to lay down his life for his
friends," as the Bible says. Few are called to give their lives for the
lives of others, but all of us are called upon to become the "sons of
God," meaning to live up to our own highest potential which is far greater
than to live for the moment and for the senses and ego gratification.
As parents sacrifice
for the good of their children (health, education, safety, comfort, and
security), as soldiers sacrifice for defense of their country, as great artists
and scientists toil to share inspiration and create a better world, so too each
of us are called upon to harmonize ourselves in daily life with right diet,
exercise, cooperation, compassion, knowledge, community service and wisdom. Such requires moral vigor and personal sacrifice of the desires of the moment for a greater reward.
Both Gandhi and
King labored to instill these basic and universal values in their followers and
to their people. Each understood that no victory over injustice could take
place without the moral victory of an honorable, self-respecting,
self-sacrificing, balanced, and compassionate life.
When and by whom
do we see these values held up for honor in America -- not by words, alone --
but by example, by leaders in every field such as arts, entertainment,
religion, business, science, and politics? Look at those whose lives we are
fascinated by: celebrities whose lives of debauchery echo the lowest common denominator of humanity. Yet there are heroes here and there, and all around us. They don't necessarily shout
and conduct public polls. But we need them now just as Dr. King was no less a
prophet than those of the Old Testament, no less flawed than any one of us, but
willing to give his life to something greater than himself.
work is focused upon discipleship to the living presence and precepts of
Paramhansa Yogananda. In this respect the example of Ananda may seem irrelevant
to the world today. But it is not, for from a tiny seed a mighty oak can grow.
We do not practice "Yogananda-ism." Discipleship for Ananda members means to attune ourselves to the truths that he represented, rather than to worship a mere personality. Ananda is anything but a cult, focused inward upon itself.
It is no
coincidence that Yogananda initiated Gandhi into kriya yoga or that MLK was a
"disciple" of Gandhi. The movement towards universally shared values
such as "life, liberty, and happiness" and the equality of all souls
as children of the Infinite is no cult but a powerful tsunami closing in
towards the shoreline of modern society. The destructive aspects of this all consuming tsunami are felt only by those who stand fast in their sectarianism, racial prejudice, bigotry or other narrow-eyed identity. Kriya yoga symbolizes more than a
meditation technique. It represents the understanding that each of us must find
within our own center these universal values, our conscience, and our
happiness. Much more could be said, but I have planted enough dots along the
path for others to connect.
We celebrate the
life of Dr. King because we celebrate the precepts he represented and the
example of self-sacrifice that has been all but forgotten in the haze of modern
materialism. If America, and other countries, are to survive the challenges we
face, we must face them together with a sense of our shared values and