Showing posts with label Paramahansa Yogananda. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Paramahansa Yogananda. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Cure of Nervousness -- by Swami Yogananda

Another of the Lessons from Paramhansa Yogananda's "Yogoda Lessons": only minor edits:


“Yogoda” Course (1925): Lesson 6--Cure of Nervousness
BY SWAMI YOGANANDA
          Definition: Restless mind vibrating thru the nerves is termed nervousness.
NERVOUSNESS—ITS PSYCHOLOGICAL SYMPTOMS
(1) Impatience.
(2) Lack of discretion in action (Impulsive action from impatience).
(3) Being influenced by contagious temperament of others.
(4) Fear.
(5) Anger.
(6) Jealousy.
(7) High-strung imagination.
(8) Ceaseless brain-storm (too much jazz or rock, theatre-going, dancing).
(9) Purposeless life, exciting existence.
(10) Mind and reason enslaved by nerves.
(11) Exciting dreams.
PSYCHO-PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS
(1) Shaking of head or hand.
(2) Twitching lips.
(3) Restless fingers.
(4) Involuntary movement of body parts.
(5) Fits.
(6) Heart trouble.
(7) Stimulated vision (hallucinations).
(8) Hasty action (nerves act before mind knows).
(9) Garrulous or chatter box habits.
(10) Insomnia.
PHYSICAL METHOD OF NERVOUS CURE
(1) Do not use sour pickles or acids.
(2) Or spices.
(3) Or stimulants.
(4) Remedy indigestion.
(5) Avoid constipation by using Yogoda system [Energization Exercises].
(6) Lessen hasty action.
(7) Lessen over-work.
(8) Go to bed early.
(9) Don’t play with fingers as a matter of habit.
(10) Don’t wrinkle face.
(11) Don’t scratch with fingers.
(12) Avoid the use of onions.
(13) Regular sleep.
(14) Frequent bath.
(15) Rub hands and skin of entire body before bath.
(16) Moderation in natural impulses [sex, food, etc.].
(17) Don’t lie awake in bed—wake up and get up.
(18) Crushed juice of celery, orange juice or almond juice, and almond butter are very good.
(19) Contract body, inhale and hold absorbing emotion. Then relax, exhale, and think the nervousness has left you with your relaxation.
(20) Brisk fresh-air walks daily.
PSYCHOLOGICAL AND GENERAL MEANS OF CURE
(1) Avoid argumentation.
(2) Delay action a little after resolution.
(3) Avoid quarrelsome surroundings.
(4) Don’t remain in the same room with nervous people.
(5) Choke excitement in the bud.
(6) Avoid Jazz, rock and loud music for some time at least.
(7) Listen to violin music.
(8) Don’t frequent movies which contain exciting scenes or tragedies.
(9) Sleep alone; empty your body and mind of thought and sensations before you sleep.
(10) Fully ANALYZE what you fear, or what you are excited about. Refuse to accept sudden emotions and excitement. Find the cause of excitement and seek remedy, but do not allow anxiety to rule the mind. Refuse to be obsessed by one idea.
(11) Keep company with people superior to you in everything—of cool and sweet temperament.
(12) Don’t indulge in vulgar jokes.
(13) Practice calmness, do not talk too much.
(14) HOLD TO THE CALM AFTER-EFFECTS OF CONCENTRATION AND MEDITATION TECHNIQUE.
Organic nervousness is very rare (in which the organs of the body are affected). Most cases of nervousness are psychological, expressing through the body, and mere analysis from an M.D. or Psycho-Analyst, or through Self-introspection, affects an immediate cure.
Above all, remember, MODERATION in eating, bodily enjoyments, sex impulses, work, money-making, play and social functions, leads to happiness, health, mental efficiency. Remember money is for your happiness, and that you are not made for money regardless of your happiness.
Physical science and science of mind and life will bring unity of human beings through fellowship with Truth and Good—Sat-Sanga (Fellowship).


Thursday, February 28, 2019

5 Paths to Enlightenment

Last Sunday, I gave a talk on "God" that included a summary of Paramhansa Yogananda's summary of five core aspects of the path to enlightenment. They are not mutually exclusive and, in fact, should be seen as facets of the diamond of Self-realization.

The talk itself, in video form, can be found: 
https://www.anandawashington.org/?sermons=can-man-see-god-2

Here are the five "paths" summarized:

1. Way of the Heart - the Social way to God. By expanding our sympathies and service from ourselves and our family outward to neighbors, town, country, and the world, our ego-active tendencies are softened and eventually dissolved in divine love. To be real, we must be able to love even those who do not love us; those who criticize, blame, or hurt us in some way. Forgiveness is a given on this path. A more complete expression of this would be to include both aspects of divine love: "Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, mind, strength and soul; and, love thy neighbor AS thy Self. Love includes service, thus combining "Bhakti Yoga" with "Karma Yoga" as sympathy and compassion are not complete without action.

2. Way of the Mind - the Stoic or Ascetic way to God. Dissolution of the ego-active tendencies is a valid, indeed, virtually traditional path. It is not as suited to the consciousness of our culture at this time but it is valid, to some degree, to every devotee. This path uses a sharply focused, mindful intensity to practice what in India is called "neti, neti". (Not this, not this, I am NOT these thoughts, actions, emotions, body, etc.) A form of gyana yoga that includes the tantric practice of calmly observing oneself during all thoughts and actions, the Path of the Stoic is focused on self-discipline: disciplining the palate; the tongue, the senses, practicing austerities of one sort or another. All are mental and some have physical manifestations. With practice, the mind becomes still and enters the non-reactive state of pure observation. In its strictest form, there are no meditation practices as such. But this path, taken to its logical extreme, is arduous and eschews imagery, visualization, devotional practices, chants and all outward forms of spirituality. Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita answers Arjuna's question about this path by saying that it is better for embodied souls to seek God through the I-Thou relationship. Nonetheless, disciplining our ego active patterns and habits remains a necessary aspect of spiritual growth.

3. Way of the Yogi. Kriya yoga, whether seen in the form taught by Paramhansa Yogananda, or in the overarching view of control of life force ("pranayama") in meditation. Put another way, one could say, simply: the path of meditation. Described more fully, the yogi learns to withdraw his attention from the physical body using specific techniques in order to enter and identify with the subtle, or astral, body wherein begins the path of ascension of the soul to God through the astral and causal realms of creation. From the micro reality of the soul to the macro reality of the Oversoul. 

4. Metaphysical or Transcendental Path to God. The power of thought, imagination, and intention describes the "how" of God's creation. It also gives to us the means to return to God. Paramhansa Yogananda gave a wide variety of "metaphysical meditations" that teach us how to experience an expansion of our consciousness into the creation and beyond to God. His book with the same name is very popular. This path guides one to use the power of creative visualization to attune ourselves broadly and deeply with all creation with the goal to pass through the stages of creation and enter the Kingdom of Bliss beyond all vibration. It is a valid and powerful practice and path. It is, practically speaking, a form of meditation.

5. Way of the Disciple. It is axiomatic in the teachings of India that one needs a guru to achieve enlightenment. While recognized implicitly or explicitly in other spiritual traditions, India's ancient tradition of "Sanaatan Dharma" (the Eternal Religion) posits this as a precept. One who is blessed to attract a true (or "sat") guru (one who is fully liberated, an avatar) and who "receives" the guru's blessings fully, receives the power "to become the son of God." If our incarnate souls are, in essence, a spark of God's Infinite Bliss, then the proof of this must be the appearance in human form and in human history of some souls who can truly say, "I and my Father are One." The transmission of liberation takes place through the only medium in which liberation exists: consciousness. No mantra, no prayer, no rite or ritual can substitute or purely transmit God consciousness. Only consciousness can do this. The ego, like Moses who led "his people" (his mental citizens) to (but not into) the Promised Land (of enlightenment), cannot, itself, become enlightened. The ego must surrender the kingdom of the mind to the Infinite Bliss of God. By will power alone we cannot scale the heights of cosmic consciousness but by the grace of God incarnate.

These five "paths" are not independent and separate. During the soul's many incarnations after it begins consciously to seek liberation from delusion, it will emphasize one or more of the paths as part of the process of purification and release of karma. The five work together and perhaps align (though I have not thought deeply about this) with the five pranas (energies) of the human body. 

Therefore, respect your own, and others, natural inclinations to pursue and express different aspects and forms of these core paths and practices.

Joy to you!

Swami Hrimananda


Tuesday, December 4, 2018

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

Christmas is for Everyone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Happy Christmas to all!

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Lahiri Mahasaya of Benares: Yogavatar (1828-1895)

September 26 (today, as I write), 1895, Lahiri Mahasaya of Benares left this earth plane in a conscious exit in the presence of a group of disciples. His birth, in 1828, was on September 30! Thus we have a convenient few days to give Lahiri focused reflections.



The significance of Lahiri Mahasaya's life can be summarized to include:

  • He was the param-guru (guru of his guru) of Paramhansa Yogananda (author of the widely acclaimed AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A YOGI). Lahiri Mahasaya exercised a profound influence in the life of Yogananda.
  • It was he who was commissioned in 1861 by the incomparable Babaji to spread the practice and teachings of Kriya Yoga.
  • Though a Brahmin and a yogi, Lahiri Mahasaya was NOT a Swami; he was married; had children, and was a career accountant during British rule. He, therefore, showed how one could live IN the world even while making definite spiritual progress toward soul liberation.
  • Despite rigid caste customs at the time, Lahiri Mahasaya (LM) initiated individuals from all castes and various religions without regard to gender, status, or position.
  • He discouraged fruitless theoretical discussion of the scriptures and preferred direct, intuitive realization of their message. "Solve your problems through meditation" he counselled. 
  • LM performed civic and community service in addition to his spiritual training in kriya yoga and spirituality.
  • LM gave inspired interpretations of traditional Indian scriptures that unlocked keys to a broader and universal understanding applicable to everyone.
  • LM studied, practised and then reduced to practical simplicity and application the tangle of yogic practices so that anyone could learn their essence and make significant spiritual progress.
  • LM gave down-to-earth practical counsel to those who came to him sincerely for help.
  • LM guided individual "chelas" (disciples) with words that were "mild and healing."
  • Besides, Paramhansa Yogananda, LM initiated many saints and highly advanced disciples, and, others with influential worldly positions.
  • In the presence of many disciples, LM casually exhibited yogic powers of breathlessness, sleeplessness, cessation of pulse and heartbeat, unblinking eyes (for hours), and a profound "aura" of peace.
  • In accordance with ancient practices, he gave for the cure of various diseases a specially prepared "neem" oil.
  • LM transformed the seemingly mysterious practices of yoga into a definite scientific practice.
  • LM demonstrated to close disciples all the signature powers of a great saint and avatar, including bi-location, resurrection, healing, levitation, raising the dead and much more.
  • Paramhansa Yogananda proclaimed LM a "Yogavatar," or incarnation of Yoga.
  • Yogananda wrote of LM: "His uniqueness as a prophet lies in his practical stress on a definite method, Kriya, opening for the first time the doors of yoga freedom to all."
Lahiri Mahasaya Maharaja-ki, Jai!

Joy to you,
Swami Hrimananda

reference: Chapter 35, The Christlike Life of Lahiri Mahasaya, from AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A YOGI, by Paramhansa Yogananda.


Sunday, August 26, 2018

Who Was History's First Guru?

I had promised another "deep" topic from my vacation: Who was the world's first true guru?

If the soul needs a guru in order to achieve enlightenment, how did the first guru get enlightened?

Could an "alien" guru have come to earth and initiated someone? If so, this doesn't really answer the question; it merely moves it off to some other planet! So even if this is a possibility, it isn't really more than a sidebar to the main question.

The heart of this deep and all but useless question has two parts: 1) Is the teaching that "we each need a guru in order to achieve enlightenment" a true teaching? and 2) if so, how then did the first guru achieve enlightenment?

Since I am not here to question the teaching of whether we need a guru, I am sticking with the second question. It's not that I am afraid of the first question. Instead, my summer vacation meanderings are purposely useless and thus oriented towards the second question.

The deeper heart of such questions revolves around the role of God in human history. In the prior blog in which we discussed the "soul of dirt" I shared that Paramhansa Yogananda taught that science would never find the "missing link" between, say, monkeys and, say, humans. I opined (entirely personal speculation) that, at a minimum, Yogananda was perhaps and in effect simply affirming the view that the human body (with its potential for transcendent consciousness) could never be the mere result of a mechanical process based on biological impulses such as the law of survival or procreation.

Yogananda's actual words were more straightforward and resemble the words of Genesis in the Bible stating matter of factly that God intervened into the process. But as he uncharacteristically failed to explain any further, we are left with what seems like just another dogmatic religious statement. It is natural (well, for me, at least) to want to bridge the gap between those apes we so uncomfortably resemble and our divine soul-self. A win-win or BOTH-AND, as it were, seems required.

Certainly, the common speculation that highly evolved beings from another planet arrived on earth and did some "experimentation" is not an unreasonable one, though it simply postpones the core question off unto some other planet.

Here are some interesting tidbits from Yogananda's teachings that may hint at how the first guru came of age:


  • Humanity enters into a high age of consciousness on the basis of a cycle of ages that requires a 12,000 year half cycle to go through each of four stages. The highest stage is called "Satya yuga" and in this age humanity is said, generally speaking, to "know" God and to perceive divine realities.
  •  
  • In such an age or in the consciousness of one who has achieved the equivalent of Satya Yuga consciousness, children can be conceived in a non-sexual manner (not unlike has been demonstrated with certain animal species which, though normally reproducing in a sexual manner, have shown instances of conception without sexual means.) This is done through the will center at the point between the eyebrows, Yogananda wrote. Though Yogananda was careful to avoid a definitive statement on the conception of Jesus by a virgin, he made it clear that this was possible though not a requirement for the conception of an avatar.
  •   
  • Souls are born on different planets according to their own spiritual development.

  • There are entire planets whose inhabitants are either highly evolved (spiritually) or the opposite. He stated that when or if the inhabitants of a planet's achieved complete identification with the highest consciousness (and possibly also the lowest), that planet might be dissolved.

  • Yogananda commented that there was some truth to the UFO sightings in the late 1940's or early 1950's.

  • Yogananda's famous life story, "Autobiography of a Yogi," gives multiple instances of physical reincarnation by enlightened souls. He endorsed the teaching of Jesus' physical resurrection also.

  • Yogananda made references in his writings that indicate he perceived that deities and other astral and causal beings are assigned certain executive functions in the creation, maintenance, and dissolution of the physical cosmos or parts thereof. Some of these functionaries are souls that have evolved to earn the role of serving in these functions in such a way as to suggest the functions are separate from the souls who are responsible for the functions. He wrote about angels, fairies, goblins, demons, and various astral entities commonly ascribed to earth wisdom or scriptures.
So, cherry picking from among some of the teachings of Yogananda's as listed above, let us consider the following:

1. Perhaps an enlightened being did come from another planet.

2. Why couldn't an astral entity (angel, e.g.) simply take human form on earth, perhaps during the highest age, and conceive the human race (whether asexually or sexually)?

3. According to the Bible (Adam and Eve) and other creation tales, the first humans were in fact enlightened (though evidently not liberated and thus not free from temptation). Though the Adam and Eve story is also clearly an allegory of the soul's fall from grace (higher consciousness) and while the appearance of prophets and messiah later in the Bible represent the appearance of the guru in human history, who is to say that at the inception of the human race there wasn't, in fact, the "antidote" to delusion: a true guru?  The story of the "Fall" necessitates a journey first away from God and then, like the story of the Prodigal Son, a return to God. This takes place in the context of time and space lest there be no recognizable human story. After all, it is also an axiom that the "guru (only) appears when the disciple (the soul) is ready (with eyes to see)."

4. Just as only a few humans in history were privileged to witness the resurrection of an avatar, the Theory of Relativity is no less true just because few have ever duplicated Einstein's equation, E=mc2. Either everything is a miracle, or nothing is a miracle! Why should ignorance be the standard for truth? What we know today would seem miraculous to those born even a few hundred years ago.

5. The necessity for some form of divine intervention might also symbolize that higher consciousness is NOT a product of the subconscious mind but a "bolt of lightning" of intuition, from the superconscious mind. How could sub-conscious forces produce a superconscious form (the human body)?

So whatever the actual mechanics of the explanation for the appearance of the human body AND the appearance of an enlightened soul (avatar/master), an extra-ordinary, a suprasensory event or cause surely must be required.

From a Super-duper, not sub-gum, Duff(er),

Swami Duffananda



Monday, August 20, 2018

Reflections from Vacation: Does Dirt Have a Soul?

Paramhansa Yogananda once stated that “I remembered my incarnation as a diamond!”

What do you do with THAT? Does every grain of dirt or rock possess a soul? If our souls are “as old as God” how do we get to the human level? Did we start at some exalted level and then became dumber, rock-like, as it were?

These are, admittedly, seriously Unimportant questions. Fitting for a lazy, summer afternoon when all of the world’s problems have finally been solved while sitting on the deck enjoying the view.

Here are some things as I believe I have learned them in the context of Vedanta and the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda:

God created all things.

God created all things by becoming them and planted within them the seed of His own intention to create. And why? It is the nature of Bliss to share.

God is beyond His own creation and remains untouched by it. God is Satchidanandam: ever-existing (immortal), ever-conscious (omniscient), and ever-new bliss (omnipresent).

God’s nature is triune: FIRST: There is the “Father” Spirit who is the source of creation and yet beyond and untouched by His creation. SECOND: There is the Mother of creation, or Holy Ghost, the initial and primordial vibration of God out of which all creation is made manifest, sustained, and withdrawn. This is the “Word” or “Comforter” in whom (by deep experiential attunement) “all things are known.” As all things in creation are vibrating, so the Aum Vibration (the Divine Mother) is the underlying reality, undifferentiated, of all things and thus described as a “virgin,” meaning untouched by the specific qualities (good, bad, indifferent) subsequently manifested by each item in creation. THIRD: There is the “only begotten son of God” which is the vibrationless reflection of the Father-Spirit which resides as the indwelling divine intelligence at the still, unmoving heart of every atom of creation. By planting His “seed” (or “His vibrationless bliss & His intention to create) in the womb of the (vibrating) Mother of creation, God ensures creation’s perpetuation.

The outflowing pulsation of the Holy Ghost (the Aum vibration) into creation steadily picks up “speed and substance” as it moves through the levels of creation. It begins to acquire a sense of its separateness, enjoys that I-ness, and begins to actively pursue perpetuating itself and the creation as a separate force, being, and entity from God. It is called maya, or the satanic force. It seeks others of like mind to further draw away from God into its own orbit of increasing darkness, no longer comprehending the light which gave it initial birth.

This outflowing force is countered by the soothing sound of the in-flowing power of Aum to draw all beings back to its Source in Bliss.

We are made in the image of God. We must, therefore, possess a triune nature as well.

There are three levels of creation: FIRST is thought (causal-intentional-idea-blissful); SECOND is energy (feeling-finer electrical and atomic forces-light-astral-subtle and prototypical life force and subtle forms), and THIRD is matter (objectified creation).

The soul appears on the casual level; the ego appears on the astral level; the human body appears on the physical level as a necessary extension of the ego’s desires and attachments.

Paramhansa Yogananda described the ego as the “soul identified with the body.” This identification is temporary. The ego is a “bundle of self-definitions” and a bundle of countless impressions (vasanas), actions (karma producing vrittis), and samskaras (tendencies). Implicit in Yogananda’s definition is that ego possesses at least a modicum of awareness of itself as distinct from other selves: hence, a key attribute of ego is self-awareness.

Animals, nations, races, etc., have a mass karma which has its roots in their identification with their species and behavior and qualities of its nature.


Does dirt have a soul? If all things ARE God in manifestation then all things exist in the three-fold creation of casual, astral and physical. Thus all objects partake in the essence of God and thus can be said to have a soul at least in the sense of possessing at its heart the blissful intelligence and intention of God (beyond creation). It is that seed of intelligence that permits each object to manifest and sustain itself AS itself, so that dirt look like dirt, and chickens behave as chickens.

But: and there’s always a butt in the crowd, where’s the ego in dirt? The ego in dirt lacks self-awareness, so for all practical purposes you can say there’s no ego there. While certainly the divine causal consciousness of dirt has manifested the outer form of dirt, self-awareness is NOT manifested, though it is, by necessity and definition, latent. To quote an ancient sloka: “God sleeps in the rocks.” Still, dirt IS dirt and retains all of dirt’s manifold and wonderful attributes (which I will not bother to name). The existence of dirt suggests a rudimentary intelligence but there is no evidence an ego.

On the fungible level of dirt, minerals, gasses and the like, the innate God consciousness at their heart may be a kind of soul-force but they exhibit no sign of separate, self-awareness beyond the rudimentary intelligence that guides such forms of matter to behave in ways appropriate to their form and function.
Soul-force at this basic level can presumably merge and divide endlessly without distinction, gain or loss. All creation is, in effect, an infinite variety of divine sparks whose uniqueness relates to the form assumed.

We love nature and most animals because, inter alia, they are relatively ego-less. The ego arises with the perception of separateness which has latent within it the implicit potential for self-awareness. Thus a worm wriggles away if pricked with a pin just as simple cells and lower life forms attempt to avoid being eaten. The latency of self-awareness can evolve as the forms themselves contain an ever greater potential to express it. Some animals (dogs, horses, etc.) are more intelligent, or, put more correctly, more self-aware than others (think, e.g., chickens).

Yogananda claimed that the “missing link” would never be found because the appearance of the human form was not a mere accident or result of a mechanical or mindless evolutionary biology prompted by the impulse to survive and procreate. Instead, the human form, he insisted, resulted from an act of divine intervention. (I posit that his statement might have been a way to affirm that behind evolution is a superconscious, or divine, intention whose purpose was and is to evolve a form capable of achieving cosmic consciousness. But, so far as I am aware, he never explained this.)

To God, who is Infinite, time has little meaning. It might take “forever” to evolve the human body to be capable of perceiving God directly through intuition (in cosmic consciousness) but “what is time to Him?”

In the great drama of life from the God’s-I point of view, the purpose of the “drama of life is the fact that it is but a drama.” The creation exists as a great riddle the solution to which is to unmask the illusion of separateness and reveal the substance of creation as Ekam Sat: God alone exists. 

As a dog becomes identified to a human and to human voices, surroundings, comforts and behavior, it is not difficult to imagine that as the dog becomes increasingly self-aware and human it will attract a human body in its next life.

Thus the ego can be seen as an emerging self-awareness that identifies increasingly with its outer form and with protecting, defending and enjoying that form. Lower life forms suffer less or perhaps not at all when killed, chopped, destroyed (by nature, other animals or by humans) because they have relatively less egoic self-awareness.

Ironically, therefore, it could be said that dirt has a “greater soul” than most people because no apparent ego! But of course, having solved all the world’s problems, we might still not get this quite right, either.

I think the obvious is obvious: dirt doesn’t really have an ego (at least so far as WE are concerned). Nor does dirt seem to have the potential to realize its essential nature as a soul. It would appear that in the ordinary course of the soul’s awakening there is a long period of many incarnations in human form wherein the ego appears, plays, and, in time, decides to play no more and, instead, chooses to seek ego transcendence (freedom in the Infinite bliss of the soul).

What a story: the greatest story ever told and it’s not a dirty story, either!

Joy to you!

Swami RelaxAnanda

Next installment might be for your summer enjoyment: “If one needs a guru to become enlightened, how did the first guru get enlightenment.” [Submissions will be judged on brevity not accuracy.]

Thursday, June 7, 2018

East Meets West -- A Celebratory Fest! July 14, 2018

(Note: Ananda and its affiliate, East West Bookshop of Seattle, are hosting a festive event on July 14, 2 p.m. to 8 p.m., at nearby Bastyr University (a renowned international university for alternative healing). Let those of like-mind and open hearts affirm an alternative to today's global wave of "bi-polarism." There are other events too, see below)

One of our guest speakers on July 14 at Bastyr University is Phil Goldberg, author of the newly published book, “Life of Yogananda-the Story of the Yogi Who Became the First Modern Guru.” Phil chronicles the struggle of the young man, Swami Yogananda (aka Mukunda Lal Ghosh) to establish himself in America having arrived at age 27 in 1920. Though penniless and friendless in the land of materialism, the young swami’s innate joy and wisdom soon drew to himself the friends and support he needed to begin his work of bringing together “the best of East and West.”

Yogananda spoke of the twin contributions of America’s material efficiency and the spiritual effectiveness of yoga from India to uplift the human race from the prison of racism, nationalism, wars and exploitation. In Rudyard Kipling’s famous poem, The Ballad of East and West, he begins with the famous line “Oh East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet…..but there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth, when two strong men stand face to face tho’ they come from the ends of the earth!”

Those two “strong men” are the virtues and strengths, respectively, of East and West. Outer strength and knowledge united to inner virtue and self-control dissolve the apparent differences to form the perfect and balanced human, an incarnation of the divine Mind.

The upcoming event at Bastyr University, EAST MEETS WEST FEST, is a celebration and affirmation of humanity’s need to find the balance of inner and outer strengths and virtues. This “Fest” serves to bring together those who seek to live in this world in both inner and outer harmony.

Yoga-meditation has been brought from the darkness of secrecy and indifference into the blessed light of both inspiration and analysis. Yoga is perfectly designed to unite heart, mind and body and as such to radiate outward into the daily life of its “devotee” its harmonious blessings of calmness, creativity, efficiency, health, and joy. Yoga-meditation is by nature nonsectarian and universally accessible to all regardless of affiliation, beliefs or culture. This is because it is also by nature experiential, methodical and therefore scientific in its own way.

Our presenters represent the spectrum of east and west: Nayaswamis Jyotish and Devi represent the Self-realization teachings taught since ancient times in India by great rishis and in modern times by Paramhansa Yogananda; Imam Jamal Rahman, the Sufi teachings of mystical Islam; Reverend Michael Ingersoll, the new thought teachings of modern times, and Rabbi Ted Falcon, the mystical and meditative traditions of the Jewish faith.

Teachers of hatha and raja yoga for adults and children will present offerings in addition to our guest speakers. Phil Goldberg will share the adventure of Yogananda’s life from Phil’s latest book. Others will share insights into parenting and education, energy healing, nature awareness, and sustainable agriculture.

An artistic, inspirational, and informative demonstration of Ananda Yoga will begin the evening program at 6 p.m. in the Bastyr Chapel.

The Fest includes more, even, than Saturday’s celebration at Bastyr: 

* The night before, which is Friday, July 13, a free musical concert comprised of next generation Ananda members from its west coast communities will be held at the Ananda Meditation Temple in Bothell (7 p.m.). 

* On Sunday, our guests, Nayaswamis Jyotish and Devi, will conduct the weekly Service (10 a.m.). 

* That afternoon (Sunday), Ananda Farms invites us to lunch and “satsang” with Jyotish & Devi wherein they will share Yogananda’s ideals for sustainable, community lifestyles into the modern age. (Prepaid registration needed for the lunch.) 

* Finally, Monday night at the East West Bookshop, Phil Goldberg will give a talk and booksigning on his newest book, “The Life of Yogananda.”


Let the Fest in celebration of the Best (of East and West) begin!


Nayaswamis Hriman & Padma


Thursday, May 31, 2018

Message and Messenger: the Return of the "Spokes of the Wheel" to Ananda's work

What is the outward, public work of Ananda? Are we promoting Yogananda-ism? Or, are we about Communities? Do we represent a new paradigm of living that blends ideals with practicality? That substitutes cooperation for competition? That replaces exploitation with harmony and sustainability? That promotes simple living over acquiring ever more possessions? That encourages moderation and self-control over heedless self-indulgence?

It has been oft been repeated, indeed, stated by Paramhansa Yogananda himself, that a world spiritual teacher has a dual mission: to liberate the souls of close disciples, and, to uplift humanity at large.

We see this even in the life of Jesus. In the gospels where the disciples chide Jesus for speaking in parables, Jesus makes it clear the distinction between those who hear but don’t understand (the public at large) and those who are his own (disciples).

When Swami Kriyananda founded Ananda there were two distinct aspects to his personal ministry at that time: communities, and, hatha yoga. This was not a coincidence. Both were interests of Yogananda that Self-Realization Fellowship Inc. did not foster.

But there is another aspect to Ananda’s work that is embedded in its founder’s spiritual ‘DNA.’ He himself told audiences often that when he read the “Autobiography of a Yogi” and travelled immediately to Los Angeles by bus from New York City in 1948, he had two intentions: one, personal soul-freedom; the other, to share these teachings with others.

Swamiji often said that the twin children of his soul’s desire were offspring that were at odds: being a hermit and sharing the teachings. Sharing the teachings won, hands-down. 

Interestingly, the same is said of our guru, Paramhansa Yogananda. Yogananda wanted to flee to the Himalayas in his early life until he embraced his divine mission to serve publicly. The tension, if that’s what one calls it, co-existed uneasily in the lives of each of them.

As it should, in fact, in our lives as well. The one supports and nurtures the other. Yes, history is filled with would-be and de facto saints who lived alone. But, truth-be-told, these are outnumbered statistically with saints in, but not of, the world. But, no matter: the age in which WE live is one, we are told, where bringing “Spirit to life” is the leading spiritual impulse and dharma.

Swami Kriyananda spent his public life writing, lecturing and editing, even as his guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, instructed him. Swamiji described his work specifically in the twin terms of outreach into daily life balanced by the inner life. He wrote books, plays and music on subjects such as leadership, education, marriage, astrology, architecture, time travel, different cultures and countries of the world, and even politics. He also wrote commentaries on the great scriptures of East and West. He wrote church ceremonies for weddings, christenings, funerals, “confession,” and a glorious Sunday worship Service imbued with poetry, song, an imaginative metaphor-story, and a deep personal blessing.

Even in the last phase of his life which, perhaps we could say began with his move to India and the founding of Ananda’s work there, during which he donned the robe, mantle, and persona of the Indian swami (and what in India would be called a guru even if not a true, or sat, guru), he wrote a masterpiece course called “Material Success through Yoga Principles!”

Nonetheless, in this last phase of life he entered fully the being-ness and garb of a disciple of a great master, the avatar Paramhansa Yogananda.

For perhaps this reason, and unquestionably other reasons as well, after Swamiji’s passing in 2013, Ananda’s work worldwide has emphasized discipleship to Paramhansa Yogananda. A cursory review of the many websites worldwide would show this clearly. Nor was this a change or a new phase. The central ministry of Ananda based in California has long offered courses in the teachings towards the goal of kriya yoga (the essence of discipleship). So long as Swamiji did the spokes, the heart of Ananda was free to emphasize kriya yoga and discipleship.

During the active and public lives of both Swami Kriyananda and Paramhansa Yogananda, their topics, lessons, and teachings were for the “man on the street,” Mr. Everyman. Overcoming nervousness, becoming a success in business, choosing the right partner in marriage or business, vegetarian recipes for health, healing techniques and much more.

But during the last 50 years of Ananda, the heart of Ananda focused primarily on discipleship and kriya while Swamiji toured, lectured and wrote of “applied spirituality.” Now that Swami Kriyananda is no longer in the body, the question remains: will we offer the “spokes of the wheel” (as Swamiji called the more practical, public, how-to-live teachings) on an equal basis? Or, are we simply proponents of Yogananda-ism?

To the rescue of the public aspect of Yogananda’s work (and by extension, Ananda’s) comes the offer from highly-placed individuals in India to establish an Institute precisely for this purpose! Since 2013, I have spoken privately to friends of my concern that the spokes of the wheel will fall off the hub unless we consciously energize it. As if in answer to my personal prayer, and, far more importantly, in answer to the obvious dharma of Ananda, has come a powerful reminder and (presumably) opportunity.

Sometime around 1989, Swamiji hired a small plane from Grass Valley (a half hour away from Ananda’s original and largest community, Ananda Village) to fly to Portland, Oregon. With him, he took two couples. Padma and I were one of the couples. Our mission was to see a building in downtown Portland that could be the headquarters of Crystal Clarity, Publishers. Padma was the director of publishing and Swamiji was in the heyday of his writing the spokes of the wheel. Publishing was growing, but it was also facing silent but effective resistance from the residential community and management at Ananda Village. This was no dark and evil plot. Rather, it was the growing pains and relative interests of various parties.

Publishing was symbolic and energetically expressive of Swamiji’s public ministry. Its products had nothing to do with life at Ananda Village. Life there was always a struggle, financially and otherwise, as it was also for the outreach ministry, including publishing. 

Publishing’s need for funds and personnel sometimes ran headlong into the needs of the Village and its departments and businesses and need to cover overhead expenses.

Without ever expressing it (in my presence, at least), it seems obvious that Swamiji was purposely contemplating relocating the “spokes” ministry away from the Village and out into a city. Perfectly understandable, in fact. 

As we walked this large, old, and almost prison-like building in Portland, the two couples had to contemplate family life (with children) in this hulking edifice in downtown Portland. Thankfully for us, Swamiji decided against it. He, too, was turned off by its institutional vibration.

The point of the exercise, however, was, and remains lost on the minds of Ananda residents there; and, I should add, for good reason. Ananda Village is the spiritual origin, center, and heart of Ananda’s work. Swamiji wants its vibration to remain high and pure as much as possible. It makes perfect sense that the spokes ought to be and go “out.” But has it died on the very vine that should nurture it?

Years later, and not long before Swamiji’s passing, (2011?), a large rural facility was acquired by the members of Ananda in Portland. (Portland, again, you see!) It had been, decades before, a boarding high school run by Seventh Day Adventists. Swami Kriyananda was supportive of its acquisition. How much he said about it I don’t know beyond what I heard him say. But his emphasis each time was upon the facility’s use for what Yogananda called a “Yoga University.” He did not see it as another Ananda Village community. Yogananda himself decades ago spoke of the need for such places of public instruction and experimentation where yoga precepts and practices could be offered to “everyman.”

By whatever term one might use, and for my purposes at present, this facility (Laurelwood Academy), I believe, symbolized for Swamiji the same basic thrust that our adventure to downtown Portland represented for him: a place where the how-to-live teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda could be explored and shared. Illustrative of what seems to me to have been his obvious intention is the simple fact that at that time, Swamiji asked the Ananda College to move from Ananda Village to this new facility. Coincidence? Deja vu?

As an aside and in respect to a topic not quite in the centre of my own experience to comment upon is our thriving and successful centre in Italy: Ananda Assisi. It is my impression, or, ok, opinion, that its success has been in direct proportion to its emphasis on the universality of raja yoga. Europe is even more inclined, I feel, to be drawn to the language of academic-style instruction, and through the efforts of a few key leaders there, this has developed and matured. And, there are, of course, deeply committed and attuned disciples at the heart of this work.

Here in Seattle, I associate our success (outwardly speaking) with the concomitant success of our long-running Raja Yoga Intensive. When I took it over in 1994 it was attended by just a handful of students. But over the years I purposely emphasized its universal aspects and made no effort whether by intention or word to use the course as an integral part of training in kriya yoga (aka discipleship) even if, at the same time, the course was a prerequisite for kriya training. 

Consequently and not surprisingly only a relatively small percentage of its graduates (maybe, 15%) went on to kriya training. Among those who did, there were some who acknowledged that they would never have gone forward had their raja course experience been oriented around kriya. They needed time and practice before the resonating vibration of the path of kriya yoga emerged in their consciousness.

So here Ananda is with this invitation coming from India (of all places—where discipleship is its "mother's milk") to establish just such an institute. We are being rescued from our own impulse to promote Yogananda-ism to sharing the message (not just the messenger) in our public service.

In the Seattle area, we established the Institute of Living Yoga just after the new blue-roofed temple was built. Our initial offerings of course curricula in how-to-live areas did not at that time take hold. Instead, the teacher training courses (yoga and meditation) did. But the time is coming when we can expand our offerings. In part this is because we have matured; our acceptance and recognition in the community has expanded; and, we built a separate structure specifically for the Institute.

The disadvantage of this beautiful eight-sided, blue roof tiled dome is that it speaks the language of discipleship. Visitors enter the building, curious but cautious, wondering if they are allowed to visit, despite the fact that our simple wooden sign announces “All are Welcome.” Each visitor says the same thing: “I have been driving by here for years and wondered what this was.” It feels private. The building is set far from the street: away from the “man on the street” and away from the busy marts which surround us. This is lovely. It is right. But it speaks to the “hermit not the householder.”

By contrast, the Yoga Hall, as we call it, is close to the street. Its simple design is at once elegant and refined while yet familiar and inviting.

For those of younger or at least a newer generation drawn to Ananda’s work, a pioneering opportunity is needed. We have wondered, and, indeed, our newer members have also wondered: “What can I do? How can I contribute?” They see the founding generation of the Ananda communities as having struggled against great odds, blessed by the living presence, friendship, and guidance of Ananda’s founder in his younger, more approachable years. “But what about us?”

It is no coincidence, you see, that the “mission of the spokes” is calling to us. This part of “Master’s” great work can be theirs. Of course, newer members also need to go deep and become grounded in their discipleship lest what they share is not of this ray (of spiritual vibration sent by Yogananda and his lineage).

There should always be a dynamic tension, or play, between the outer and inner man and soul. God did not manifest this creation in order to condemn it, but to offer the opportunity to pierce its veil of maya that we might see “God alone.” We cannot achieve moksha, liberation, by fleeing from our karma or the creation (one and the same thing). 

Meditation, devotion and divine attunement are of the soul. If we go out into the world driven by egoic impulses, past habit or karma, we may achieve good karma but we, relatively speaking, only postpone our liberation. But if we deepen our attunement and act in harmony with the divine will, our public service will accelerate our liberation and be able to spiritual uplift others towards their own.

Joy to you!

Swami Hrimananda!

Saturday, May 19, 2018

"Good Morning Great Souls!" -- Happy Birthday, Swami Kriyananda (May 19 1926)


With these words, Swami Kriyananda would greet the young devotees who traveled with him on his lecture and music tours. As Devi Novak (and others) would remark, "What ME? Great Soul?" "Yes," he was saying: "YOU!"

Swamiji also is quoted saying "If you want to know me, listen to my music." And while he insisted the music of Ananda wasn't 'his' but was given to him by our guru's grace, he was nonetheless the channel: a channel prepared by the self-effort of many incarnations attuned to the "music channel" but also willing to BE a CHANNEL for divine attunement.

Today, May 19, 2018, Swami Kriyananda would have been 92 years old and his spiritual child, Ananda worldwide, is reaching towards its 50 year mark. Today, then, let us reflect with gratitude that we would not be here together devotees were it not for the life and attunement of Swami Kriyananda. 

I am not alone in speculating that had Ananda not existed I would probably not have found a means of service, attunement and discipleship through any other outward means. I do not want to imagine where I would be: not where on the planet but where in my heart and mind. And what about my countless friends here in Seattle and far, far abroad? Would we have found one another? Not likely.

If you say to yourself, "Gee, others knew Swamiji so well, but I never did." To you, I (and others like me) say to you: "As you have experienced Ananda and have gotten to know us, you have met Swami Kriyananda." A poor substitute, I agree, but a reality nonetheless for the simple reason that on Sundays many of you hear his music, listen to his readings and affirmation, and are blessed by the inspiration of the Festival of Light. 

Others see him on internet TV or are blessed by the acharyas throughout India. In Europe, at the Ananda Center near Assisi, Italy we have a dynamic community and center of leaders, residents and members whose lives are infused by Swamiji's vibration.

In America, the members of Ananda are legion yet while the heart and birth of this work is centered at Ananda Village. There a temple is being built for generations to come to honor and share Yogananda's teachings and living presence, and the legacy of Swami Kriyananda's discipleship. 

Swamiji insisted that his personality was not him just as it is not you nor I. And for those many of you who have been blessed to know, see and hear Swamiji's successors, Nayaswami Jyotish and Nayaswami Devi, you know that attunement and vibration far exceed the attributes of personality for in them one feels Swamiji's blessings and presence.

A few days ago some thirty to forty leaders (and future leaders in training) from Ananda centers and communities around the world gathered at Ananda Village to have satsang, meditation, and share current events and future plans. This work of Ananda--part of the work of Paramhansa Yogananda and the line of masters who sent him--WILL go on through those of you who now and in the future are inspired to serve, study, and support the work and one another in meditation and devotion. 

I doubt we can fully appreciate the impact of Paramhansa Yogananda on world history. It's far too early. Yogananda left this world only 66 years ago. What was the work of Jesus Christ like a mere 66 years after his resurrection?

Am I making one of those messianic claims one hears too often in religion or politics? I don't think so because our guru enjoys a reputation throughout the world unparalleled by any modern spiritual teacher. From India, yes. But Hindu? No. Not only did be make friends all over the world long before that was the norm it is today, but his teachings apply to all aspects of daily life and not just to monastics.

Many years ago, in 1960-61, Swami Kriyananda enthusiastically and energetically elicited the support of Jawalahar Nehru and his daughter Indira (Gandhi) to build a temple and ashram in Delhi based on the inclusivity principles for which India is well known. At the moment of the project's final acceptance, Swamiji's dreams were dashed by his expulsion from Yogananda's organization.

Now, like a phoenix rising, Ananda has been asked to play a key role in establishing an Institute in how-to-live principles based on the universal ideals and practical yoga techniques which are India's gift to the world.  

As if a dream, the proposed location of this institute lies upon a hill overlooking Delhi upon which will reside an iconic temple and the grounds of the future institute. 

Another, smaller but sweeter dream has also materialized: this one at Swamij's home at Ananda Village in California. Long ago, when Ananda Village was still scraping and scrapping to even exist in the forests and meadows of rural Nevada County (CA), Swamiji visioned his home at the Crystal Hermitage at Ananda Village as one alive with beauty. Last month, some 12,000 visitors came to see the tulips, flowers, scenery, and gardens of the Crystal Hermitage. Who among us could have ever foreseen this simple, sweet dream come true?

Thank you, Swamiji: we are your spiritual children and our hearts open in blessing and gratitude for the gift to us and to all of your service and attunement to our guru.

Happy Birthday, Swamiji!

     Hriman & Padma