Showing posts with label Mahatma Gandhi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mahatma Gandhi. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Tribute to Mahatma Gandhi and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.



Monday, January 21, 7.30 p.m. Free – East West Bookshop, Seattle
[https://www.anandawashington.org/featured-events/]
This even will be LIVE on Facebook

To many of us, it seems that the principles upon which our country was founded are in short supply these days. What can we do about it? Unless, like Mahatma Gandhi or Dr King, you plan to start a national movement for peace justice and equality, you can at least stand up and be counted! And next Monday night you have an opportunity to do just that!

Next Monday night we honor the lives of M.K. Gandhi and Dr M.L. King in a public tribute that would be just the kind of occasion where people like you and I can come together. The tribute includes music, audio and video tracks, and readings from their speeches and writings.

Paramhansa Yogananda stated that America and India represent the twin ideals of material and spiritual harmony (and their concomitant social ideals, justice and equality) so needed in our rapidly changing and growing world. He did not mean that India and America have perfected these ideals. Instead, he meant that India and America have the karma to lead the way in demonstrating the importance of these ideals for the benefit, indeed survival, of all nations.

For this was our nation founded; for this was born the likes of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Abraham Lincoln. For this, Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. King lived and died. Dr King said that one who had nothing for which he was willing to die was not fit to live. An extreme statement, no doubt, and obviously not the karmic destiny for most individuals. 

But certainly, next Monday night is an occasion for us but to be together. You will be energized and inspired by the experience. As the years go by, fewer and fewer people have lived through the turbulent years of the civil rights movement in America. The message of Gandhi and King is, more than ever, relevant to the challenges of our times. Come and show your support for social change through nonviolent means and inspired by universal, spiritual ideals.

Blessings to you,

Nayaswamis Hriman and Padma

Ananda Washington

P.S. Anyone wishing a copy of our script, please write to us at friends@anandaWA.org

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Ego: the Last Temptation! The Dark Night of the Soul

Some of you may wonder why I would write about something so distant from our own state of consciousness and the pressing needs of our daily life? 

And you would do right to ask this question. But as someone wise once put it, "If you don't know where you're going, anywhere will get you there."

Or to quote the old Hermetic doctrine: "As above, so below."

We can learn much from the lives of those who have gone before us on the spiritual path and achieved soul liberation. 

In exploring this subject, please permit me a certain randomness befitting of reflections that are necessarily intuitive or, at worst, speculative.

I've mentioned this before, but I've always found it curious that both Mahatma Gandhi and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. considered themselves a failure just about the time each was assassinated. (Though Rev. King seemed to have had a deep spiritual experience the afternoon of his last speech (before his assassination), in general he was disheartened about his life's work.)

Paramhansa Yogananda told Swami Kriyananda in answer to Swamiji's question to his guru, "When will I find God?" that "You will find God in this lifetime but death will be your final sacrifice."

Success in any endeavor, whether material, scientific, inventive, artistic, or spiritual, requires effort and self-sacrifice. (Never mind those born with the proverbial "silver spoon." Such cases have nothing practical to offer us by way of example.) For "the pearl of great price" is not to be purchased cheaply. 

Christianity may have had a corner on the market of institutional organization and succession, but India has cornered the "market" on building a "database" of the unfoldment of the soul's inner life. 

The yogic traditions have evolved a veritable science which details changes in consciousness and their manifestations as the soul progresses towards "moksha" (freedom). 

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is among the most renown and most clinical of such chronicles but by no means the only one. Countless stories from the lives of great saints form a body of knowledge illustrating the stages of awakening. 

The Bhagavad Gita depicts the "Everyman devotee" as losing heart early on in the spiritual journey, especially when encountering the army of habits, attitudes, and past actions which stand between him and "heaven." The beloved scripture of the Gita assures us that no spiritual effort is ever lost and should one fail to achieve freedom in one life, the next life will afford the opportunity to continue the journey.

Among the key ingredients of the climb up "Mount Carmel" (or, if you prefer, Mt. Meru) is faith and courage. Also essential is devotion. The fact that the devotee's devotion, faith, and/or courage fails him or her with cyclical frequency is the story of the soul: the "Greatest Story on Earth." The need for a guide to take us up the mountain of karma is a prerequisite that we see in the lives of those who conquered the peak of liberation.

Yoga describes this upward journey through the unfoldment of certain soul qualities and through their outward manifestation in certain gifts or powers. This article doesn't intend to explore these but a simplified description for illustration purposes might be useful.

We must first be convinced that false, deceptive or hurtful attitudes and actions must be released. We must learn the importance of truth-telling, contentment, non-violence, moderation and the like.

This leads us to being centered within our selves: self-contained, as it were. It's like preparing to climb Mt. Everest: we must decide to go and to let go of all other activities; we must gather our supplies and our strength for the climb. Our commitment must be unshakeable and we must have training for the rigors ahead. Our intention must be one-pointed and courageously heart-felt and pure of any other motives and distractions.

Once the climb begins in earnest and as we ascend our mind's focus becomes narrow: narrow in the sense of what a climber experiences from one moment to the next; one hand-hold, one toe-hold, one ice axe arrest; one cable hold to the next. The world around us recedes as our mind focuses on the present moment with great intensity. Far below us in the plains lie the busy-ness of the world but here, on the steep slopes of ice, snow and wind, there is only our next step. 

Death by cold, avalanche, starvation, or fall lurk around us every inch of the way. We increasingly rely upon our mountain guide for the way is narrow and steep. 

The spiritual path, as most truthseekers experience it, is a battle that takes place back down on the plains, long before our arduous ascent up the mountain. The gathering of supplies and training has to do with releasing false and hurtful habits and adopting new and spiritually healthy ones. 

Using the symbol of the cross, with its vertical and horizontal planes, these first stages deal mostly with the horizontal. Arms outstretched, we draw in and away from identification with and attachment to the world of the senses and the world of desires and fears which are centered around the ego and body.

But the climb up the mountain deals with the vertical plane of the cross. The preparations for and training for the ascent is crucial. Unprepared we might never make it. Hence, most of us are dealing with the horizontal: our relationship with the world around us.

Suffice to say, how often on the horizontal plane does our courage and faith fail us, even if momentarily. Preparing for the vertical ascent is itself a great victory (and a necessary one). The failures, discouragements, and doubts are, in themselves, mini-versions of the dark night of the soul (even if nowhere near the "last temptation").

Do you recall the temptation of Christ in the New Testament? Thus had Jesus conquered and cauterized all human attachments and, in the desert wilderness of inner silence was poised or at least "fit" to ascend to the Father, Satan ("Maya" or the Conscious Delusive Force) appears to test him. The horizontal plane had been withdrawn inward and only the vertical remained.

Satan then tempts Jesus to use his dominion over all nature (the power indicative of conquering the horizontal plane of earthly attachments) to bring him food (after his 40-day fast); to exercise earthly and material powers (e.g. as a conqueror or emperor). 

This is the last test: the test of ego and the test of power over all creation. Buddha faced the same test under the bodhi tree: Maya also appeared to him to test him. Buddha, too, responded exactly as Jesus did: "Mara (Maya), Mara, I have conquered thee (or, "Get thee behind me Satan").

In the science of yoga, the negative pole of the sixth chakra is the seat of ego-consciousness in the body. It is located at the medulla oblongata at the base of the brain (seat of our lower brain functions, the so-called "reptile" or "fight or flight" functions). 

In the rising power of Kundalini ("the entrenched vitality of our mortal delusion" - Swami Kriyananda, "Art and Science of Raja Yoga), it has one last test: to offer itself into the Divine Light. In the soul's journey, the ego slowly and in fits and starts intuits the goal of life as transcendence from both the horizontal plane of creation AND the vertical plane of separate existence. 

As step by step, the ego invites the hidden and locked Kundalini power to uncoil, together they win victories on both the horizontal plane and the vertical plane. At first, as mentioned above, the horizontal plane is the primary focus. But at each step the soul force of divine grace is what vitalizes the ego's will and intention to victory. 

As the horizontal "plains" far below in the lower psychic centers of the chakras fall away, the soul increasingly focuses on ascending the vertical plane. Here too there are many knots to be untied in the invisible world of consciousness. Far more subtle and spiritually dangerous are the distractions and temptations which lie in the upper centers (chakras).

"Pride goeth before the fall." While pride associated with worldly wealth, power or pleasures is continually under assault from other egos and the forces of duality in the world, spiritual power emanates from within and cannot so easily be taken from us. India's spiritual wealth is filled with stories of the temptations of pride from spiritual power.

But when the ego is stripped and made clean of all attributes, self-definitions and attachments, what remains is pure consciousness and consciousness is its own vitalizing reward. Many saints remain in an I-Thou relationship with God for even lifetimes.

In the life of Paramhansa Ramakrishna, it was his guru, Totapuri, who with great force broke the spell of Ramakrishna's love affair with Goddess Kali so that Ramakrishna could enter cosmic consciousness in the state of samadhi.

As the great master, Moses, led his "people" to the Promised Land but could not, himself, enter into it, so too the ego can lead the "people" of its own self-definitions but must die before the Promised Land can be entered. 

So, too, the great warrior, Bhishma, on the battlefield of Kurukshetra (in the epic of the Mahabharata) had the boon to die only when he willingly surrendered. For he also symbolized the ego.

The stories from the lives of saints continue in this vein to state that the final sacrifice the soul is asked to make is to surrender its separate identity (the ego) into the great Light of God.

Paramhansa Yogananda's most advanced disciple, whom he named Rajarsi Janakananda, faced the darkness before entering final liberation. After years of spiritual consolations afforded him by visions and visitations by his guru and great saints and many other deep inner experiences, there, at last, came a time when only darkness appeared within. 

He had to face this darkness. The darkness that faces the soul is the seemingly real possibility of extinction, of complete annihilation of one's existence. With no guiding, welcoming light, nor the smiling countenance of his guru, neither reason nor logic, nor books on the subject could assure him that the darkness was not real; at this moment, one's "rod and staff" are solely faith and courage. 

We can write or talk about this all day but, just as when most humans face the very real possibility of physical death, there's no play acting left, so too the soul must confront its own extinction in order to pass the last test of its life. 

St. Anthony of the Desert faced this after decades of prayer and solitude in the Egyptian desert. When the tomb which was his home began to crack and crumble, he cried out to his guru, Jesus. 

After Anthony had passed this final test, Jesus appeared to him. Anthony asked Jesus, "Where have you been all these years?" Jesus smiled reassuringly, "Anthony, I have always been with you!" But we, like Anthony, are not permitted to know that until we have passed the final test of darkness. And why is this? Because only in complete oneness is our realization safe from doubts. 

We have no choice in life but to someday face the death of our human body. But we can postpone forever facing the dark night of the soul. "I will wait," says God. But our destiny is to conquer Maya and so shall we conquer, for time itself is but an illusion. But so long as we measure time, why wait? 

When the great Buddha encountered the three-fold sufferings of human life (illness, old age and death), he vowed to conquer them. And so must we. When our soul tires of repeated rounds of rebirth on the wheel of samsara, it too will cry out to Divine Mother for help. Why wait?

The little darknesses of our daily or weekly crises of faith and courage are "baby steps" which can prepare us for the big step. Whether it be lifetimes or this life, let us remain "awake and ready" for we can never know the hour or the place, for "He comes like a thief in the night!"

The realm of Infinity is beyond light or dark. It is the realm of eternal bliss which is God. When we conquer Mara, we will view our past lives of joy and sorrow as but a great novel with a victorious ending!

Joy to you,

Swami Hrimananda


Thursday, March 29, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Easter to all!

Swami Hrimananda

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

May Justice Roll Down like Waters : a new era has begun

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.

Here's the link:

https://dailyay.blogspot.com/

Swami Hrimananda

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Bhagavad Gita : The Voice of the Ancients “Calls to Us to Awaken in Him”

Once again, the following article is taken from an email to Ananda members in the Seattle-area Sangha:


Each Sunday at the weekly Service we read a stanza from the Bhagavad Gita. What is this text, this “The Song of God,” quoted by so many great people of influence?

Ralph Waldo Emerson said of the Bhagavad Gita:  "It was as if an empire spoke to us, nothing small or unworthy, but large, serene, consistent, the voice of an old intelligence which in another age and climate had pondered and thus disposed of the same questions which exercise us.”

Henry David Thoreau wrote, "In the morning I bathe my intellect in the stupendous and cosmogonal philosophy of the Bhagavad Gita in comparison with which our modern world and its literature seem puny and trivial.”

Mahatma Gandhi confessed that "When doubts haunt me, when disappointments stare me in the face, and I see not one ray of hope on the horizon, I turn to Bhagavad-Gita and find a verse to comfort me; and I immediately begin to smile in the midst of overwhelming sorrow. Those who meditate on the Gita will derive fresh joy and new meanings from it every day".

And finally, J. Robert Oppenheimer, American physicist and director of the Manhattan Project (that created the world’s first atom bomb), learned Sanskrit in 1933 and read the Bhagavad Gita in the original, citing it as one of the most influential books in his life. Upon witnessing the first nuclear test in 1945, he quoted the Gita: “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”

What is this extraordinary work of literature, allegory and divine inspiration? The “Gita” is the most beloved of the great scriptures of India. It is one chapter in the midst of the world’s longest epic, the Mahabharata (over 100,000 couplets). The Gita itself has about 700 verses arranged in 18 chapters: not very long in itself. The Mahabharata makes an allegory of an actual historic and apocalyptic battle that took place not far from what is now New Delhi sometime after the first millennia B.C.  It’s a “good guys” vs the “bad guys” story, with the good guys winning, but just barely.

The Gita itself consists of a dialogue between Lord Krishna, the charioteer and guru for Prince Arjuna (a good guy), one of the fiercest warriors of the two opposing clans. Their conversation takes place on the eve of battle.

Arrayed against his own cousins (who usurped his and his brothers’ rule of the kingdom), Arjuna asks his guru, “What virtue, what victory is there to be found in killing my own family? They are far from perfect, but I don’t seek riches or power? Why must I fight?”

And thus begins the greatest story ever told: your story, and mine. This is the story of the challenges we face, the victories and defeats we experience, and our quest for the Holy Grail of Happiness.

The greatest work ever written by Swami Kriyananda, “Essence of the Bhagavad Gita,” was inspired by the commentary on the Gita dictated by Paramhansa Yogananda in the early months of 1950 at his desert retreat in 29 Palms, CA. This book will change your life. At the completion of his dictation efforts, Paramhansa Yogananda declared to Swamiji “Millions will find God through this work. Not just thousands: millions! I have seen it. I know!”

Joy to you,

Nayaswamis Hriman and Padma


Friday, 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







Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Devil Made Me Do It? Someone's gotta be blamed!

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 King interview 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


Monday, July 8, 2013

Is God Dead? Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

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.[1]

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 realities.

The impact of rationalism and the scientific method are well known to us. The 20th century saw the explosion of materialism even into the sanctuaries of religion. Frank Laubach, a well known pastor in the first half of the 20th century, campaigned to remind ministers to mention God and Christ in their sermons.[2] 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 Magazine cover that asked, “Is God Dead?” The “dead” part essentially meant, “Is God irrelevant to modern life?” How many, even religionists of the 20th century, 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 compliment).

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 spiritual search.

When Paramhansa 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.”

The seemingly 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 Christianity[3] when, 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.[4] 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!

Paramhansa Yogananda 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;[5] 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 God.

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 God.

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) of Aum which 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 Hriman)





[1] “Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy,” Eric Metaxas, Thomas Nelson Press.
[2] “Letters by a Modern Mystic,” by Frank C. Laubach.
[3] The so-called Arian heresy, which denied the divinity of Jesus Christ.
[4] √Āutobiography of a Yogi,” by Paramhansa Yogananda, Chapter 39.
[5][5] Old English: his spirit, soul or breath.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Is Atheism Practical? Unsound?

Is Atheism Practical? Unsound?

[[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 am I?”

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 exist. 

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 to them.

Moreover, the 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 worth pondering.

Blessings,

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)