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

Thursday, April 19, 2018

"Self-Respect" - A New Age Is Emerging!

In 1894, a relatively unknown Swami wrote a book that even today remains a mystery. It is a time capsule for a future age or a higher consciousness. 

The book's English name is the "Holy Science." The swami was none other than the guru of the world teacher, Paramhansa Yogananda. His name? Swami Sri Yukteswar! 

In the introduction to his small and abstruse tome, Sri Yukteswar re-calibrated an ancient Hindu calendar and arrived at the controversial and revolutionary conclusion that within a few years, around 1901, human consciousness on planet earth was about to enter a new era of material and spiritual awakening.

He listed a series of predictions in regard to what was to soon to unfold in the 20th century. 

Sri Yukteswar predicted 1: that the average height of humans would increase; 2: that the life span of humans would increase; and, 3: that, among other things, scientists would discover and confirm that matter is but a manifestation of electromagnetic energy based on quantum forces. Less than twenty years later, Albert Einstein's remarkable and history changing revelations confirmed Sri Yukteswar's predictions and set off and explosion of changes in lifestyle, technology, warfare, business and culture.

But most importantly, Swami Sri Yukteswar stated that humanity would begin to acquire what he termed "self-respect." This trend had already begun, albeit slowly, characterized by events such as the Protestant reform and the American revolution. We also see the beginnings of self-confidence and bold questioning in the scientific inquiry of such greats as Sir Isaac Newton and Galileo.

But it has been in the 20th century and into our newly arrived 21st century that the trend has literally exploded in the quest for racial, religious and gender equality. 

Yet it has not been easy. Great sacrifices have been made and much violence inflicted. As Mahatma Gandhi duly noted: those who have power do not give it up or share it willingly. Established attitudes and the powers of privilege and rule, energized, ironically, by the newly unfolding knowledge and consciousness, have largely resisted the rising tide of self-respect. Worse, the "powers that be" have too often exploited the rapidly unfolding knowledge and liberties for themselves. 

The road has been and will remain a bumpy one: two steps forward; one step back. In recent years we see examples of those throwing off the yoke of oppression in movements such as Black Lives Matter or MeToo

The eight intentional communities of Ananda (America, Europe and India), inspired by Paramhansa Yogananda, are examples of this age's emerging spirit of "self-respect."

When I first arrived at Ananda Village in 1977 I was struck by the naturalness, kindness, calmness and centeredness of its residents, both male and female. Absent was the usual role playing between men and women. In its place was a calm yet natural dignity, both respectful and playful, like that between siblings. 

Ananda's founder, Swami Kriyananda, was older than most of the original community's first residents but yet he too remained natural in his demeanor though he was both the community's founder and spiritual leader. He was our friend and guide. The early years of Ananda's first community were truly an adventure.

The polarization we see in society today would more readily fade away if calm confidence and self-respect infused the hearts and minds of our citizens. Self-respect is the only legitimate human attitude out of which respect flourishes naturally and confidently. It must, however, have taken sufficient root in a person to withstand the tests of misunderstandings and differences of opinion. 

For those seeking spiritual freedom in in transcendent consciousness, self-respect is neither an affirmation nor does it require a conscious choice for it flows readily from the true Self. 

The view and prediction of Swami Sri Yukteswar of an emerging higher consciousness is the basis upon which we, at Ananda and those on the path of Self-realization (as taught by Paramhansa Yogananda), feel optimistic about the future even as we are realistic about the strength and courage needed to help birth it.

Joy to you!

Swami Hrimananda

Reference: I think you will enjoy and find interesting and inspiring a new book: Physics of God by Joseph Selbie. The remarkable discoveries of the 20th century that point suspiciously to a cosmos of energy are explained in terms that even I got the drift of.


Thursday, March 29, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Easter to all!

Swami Hrimananda

Thursday, March 15, 2018

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Swami Hrimananda

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Jeff Bezos and God : "Objection Overruled"

So many people in modern culture object to the use (and the implied meaning behind) of the word "God." There are, it seems to me, several types of people who object:

1. Atheists. Those who describe themselves as atheists are those who actively deny the existence of God. For my purposes I will assume this includes any Being or Force that by any other name might still be "God." An atheist has a positive non-belief in God and in some cases an emotional rejection of the possibility of God's existence. The emotional rejection might stem from a person's experience of dogmatism or definitions of God that include condemning souls to eternal hell or as allowing injustice and suffering in the world. Or, their negative affirmation might be on intellectual grounds, perhaps on the basis that science has shown that there is no longer a "need" for God to explain material phenomenon. 

Ironically, atheists are illogical, despite their fixation on reason, science and pragmatism. They can no more disprove the existence of God with the very tools they claim disprove Him than religionists can prove the existence of God with anything other than faith (or, far worse, mere belief). Just because God can't be proved using their chosen tools of knowledge doesn't, logically, mean that God can't or doesn't exist! It just means there is no evidence acceptable to them. Just think of all the scientific laws, forces, or phenomenon that couldn't be "proved" only just centuries ago! Our non-belief had no effect upon the force of gravity, for example. 

2. Agnostics. These folks just say, "Gee, I just don't know. Maybe ....  but I've not met Him ..... " For this group there's less of a reactive objection to God and more of either indifference or a positive, intellectual doubt. Some agnostics might embrace the assumption that the question of God cannot be answered for lack of acceptable proof. Thus they are off the hook of having to grapple with such an existential or esoteric question. They can live their own life free of the angst or guilt they associate with religious beliefs! This group of people may incline (unlike the professed atheists) to be content with themselves; they are busy with their own lives and simply not interested in the question to begin with.

3. "God-Word Dislikers." Finally, there is this category (the one I wish to discuss) of "God-Word Dislikers" who might believe in a Divine Being or Force, abstract and impersonal, or personal and involved, but whose name, if that of "God," they find objectionable. Behind this objection is the basic same emotional rejection described for some atheists but in this group they leave room for a loving or at least neutral Being or Force. 

Maybe they view their god as an overarching Intelligence behind all created things. Others might prefer lesser gods (like Hindu gods, e.g. Ganesha, Shiva, or various goddesses) or angels or earth-based fairies, "devas," rather than one hierarchical, almighty, omniscient, all-pervading GOD! It might also be a male vs female objection wherein the GOD-word is impugned by male hierarchy, judgement etc. A female god (Divine Mother) or goddess, by contrast, is earth and people-centric, loving, caring and offers the bounty of the material world, enjoyment, happiness and love. The more earthy types of this genre incline dangerously close toward ego affirmation, offering humans the merely bounties of the earth and its pleasures (instead of eternal Bliss, which is said to be the nature of God and of our own Self).

It's not easy to disassociate words from their connotations. Even though I say to students in my classes, "get over it," it's not as if I don't understand their visceral objection. For me, at least, as a speaker or a writer, the G-word is simply convenient, easy-to-spell, easy-to-say hook for whatever attitude or practice I might be describing. 

Also in my view, each person can ascribe whatever attributes they wish to project onto their god. Their God may be male, female, gender-less, all pervading or simply watching over each of us: your choice. I'm not being merely cynical, but, again, in my view, practical. Until you "know God" you'll just have to find the approach or definition that works for you!

I often explain that just as you or I will never be able to telephone and speak to the President of the United States, or Jeff Bezos (founder of Amazon), so too we will never "see" or "hear" God face to face, or ear to ear with our human ego. 

But that fact doesn't mean the President of the United States doesn't exist. It just means that I don't know him in my little, egoic self. It also means he doesn't know me, except as a citizen of his country. On that basis he can say he "knows me."  Jeff Bezos would "know" me as one of his customers and that's all the counts from his point of view.

But both God and Jeff Bezos have customer service reps. 
God has a whole lot of reps (compared to Bezos). 

Some of these God-reps are self-appointed, like your average preacher, teacher, or priest. Others are indeed "His own" and have been "appointed" by God, not man: Buddha, Yogananda, Jesus Christ, Moses, Krishna, Rama and many others. These reps don't argue with one another or clash, though their messages "for their people" may vary in emphases, or culture, or time and place.

Down through history, millions (is it billions?) look up to these "high-end reps" for guidance and as examples of how to live. These reps and some of their high profile followers (aka "saints") play important roles in the lives of many. Relating to holy persons, whether alive or gone, is more than enough for most sincere devotees. Instinctively, many know that relating to the Infinite Power (aka "God") is neither particularly appealing nor practical.  Even the lesser but more accessible line of popular spiritual teachers is adequate for many. Knowing the "boss" or the "president" is simply neither an option nor is it necessary.

Still, this God-word and God-question will forever rage on. Is God personal or impersonal? Here are some thoughts on it: who can limit that which is Infinite? What's the difference anyway between Infinite and Infinitesimal? Why can't "God" be both? How could He who is Infinite NOT be both? And why can't a rep be a "son of God" (or, ok, for some of you, a daughter! Doesn't matter, really, because souls are without gender, so I am told.)

The distinction is our problem, not God's problem. Whether his reps are his "sons" or simply souls with the red phone hot line to the Almighty, it doesn't really make that much difference on the ground in the here and now.

Down through the centuries the reps were everything and God was just a faraway idea. The reps told you what He said we had to do, or, or, well, or ELSE! For those who needed the stick more than the carrot, that's what they heard.

But for those more sensitive, these reps always exhibit and express divine, unconditional love (and joy and power etc.). They attribute their "power" to God, not to themselves. They urge their followers, those with "ears to hear," to do so also. Most talked of God as intimate; as real, both personal and impersonal, depending on their own point of view and mission. But the masses generally missed the point and simply wanted what they could get from the reps: comfort, joy and a better life via divine favors. 

For the deeper souls, the imitation of these Christ-like reps is the goal. To have the joy of St. Francis even in the midst of suffering; to forgive while crucified by hate; to render aid no matter the personal risk; to love all alike; to adhere to righteousness in the face of temptation or at personal inconvenience. to heal the sick; raise the dead; forgive sins (meaning change lives of others). These divine powers, these "Gifts of the Spirit," have been demonstrated and witnessed down through the ages for those "with ears to hear and eyes to see." It's not blind faith but openness to that which might otherwise seem impossible. Faith is knowing without logical or sensory evidence. Belief is but a hypothesis.

The lives of these saints and masters bring us the "good news" that God exists and that we, being "His" children, are made in His image and are destined for immortality: not of the physical body but of the soul. Nor is it "mere" existence but "ever-existing, ever-conscious, ever-new Bliss of the soul. This is our destiny to re-discover and to realize our true Self. 

So, sure, stick with the reps if the big Guy is still beyond your ken. God is "big enough" not be upset by it. If you like his reps; if you know his reps; then, it's enough for HIM. Whether you know it or not, He knows that in knowing his reps you know HIM. The reps are a chip off the Old Block and so are you. Really.

He doesn't even mind if you dumb it down to wanting to find happiness within your Self. The last sentence of Chapter 35 of "Autobiography of a Yogi," states: "Through use of the Kriya key, persons who cannot bring themselves to believe in the divinity of any man will behold at last the full divinity of their own selves." ["Kriya key" means the practice of "kriya," an advanced meditation technique!]


Maybe our very interest in the subject has its genesis in God's hidden presence within us. Maybe that presence recognizes itself in the reps. Maybe the reps help that nascent knowledge to grow from a seed into a tree as we progress from ego to soul; from devil to angel; from sinner to saint. Just maybe, "it takes One to Know One." Just say'n.

"Goodness" (with two "zeros") is God (with one "zero") manifested in the duality of His creation. Goodness with its necessary opposite exists in this world (of duality) whereas God is transcendent Bliss itself. One without equal; One without opposite! 

In the name of Thy holy reps, 

Nayaswami Hriman

Friday, March 9, 2018

At Thy Feet - Loving Your Own - A Holy Science Indeed

My teacher, Swami Kriyananda, said that when, in his early years, a person would try to convert him to their religion and couldn't accept his choice, he would say, "Well, maybe yours is better than mine, but, even so, mine is mine, however second best."

The diversity of opinions on everything and anything, what to mention religion, is such that absent rank injustice or the need for self-defense, what can you do but do your best to use common sense, intelligence, and goodwill and, finally, to follow what seems right for you?

It doesn't matter to me what ranking, spiritually speaking, the universe would ascribe to Paramhansa Yogananda and the line of gurus who sent him to the West. Nor, also, what others might say about my teacher, Swami Kriyananda.

I know what I have gained and learned and I am grateful. I extend my gratitude to my family, my wife, my friends and to the dedication of so many with whom I share ideals of service, sadhana and devotion. 

It doesn't matter what they may think of me, or, I of them. 

So this very day, March 9, we honor the passing in 1936 of Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri of Serampore, India (near Kolkata). His passing (in Puri, India) took place while his disciple Paramhansa Yogananda was absent yet still in India for his year long visit from America.

I am slowly re-reading Swami Sri Yukteswar's one and only book, the Holy Science. I am doing this in preparation for a class series I will co-teach this Spring and Summer. I bow at his holy feet for the wisdom I can feel and but only partially glimpse in the depth of realization implied in his words. 

Though I fare better in inspiration, wisdom and understanding through the writings of his disciple, Paramhansa Yogananda, and, in turn, Yogananda's disciple, Swami Kriyananda, I yet perceive the hidden depths of wisdom contained in that true scripture. I believe that the Holy Science will only gradually become understood (i.e. "realized") as the centuries move toward the appearance of the third age (Treta Yuga) some two thousand years hence.

I stand, then, today in awe and gratitude for the inspiration offered to us through the line of teachers of Self-Realization. I also stand in gratitude for the lives of each and every person with whom I have come into contact in my life and service to this ray of divine light.

It doesn't matter how small in numbers we may be. It doesn't matter that the world is largely indifferent, or that "devotees may come and devotees may go" (to quote a chant). It doesn't matter that with some I find favor and others not; with some I am in tune and with others not. For they are all part of the drama of my own journey.

It is not realistic to say that one loves everyone as they are. But one can love everyone as they truly are: reflections of my karma and sparks of divine grace, all doing the best they can.

For this, on this day of March 9, 2018, I bow at Thy feet, accepting my own life, my own karma, my very own as my very own: a gift of Divine Mother. To quote a friend: it is all perfect! All as it should be.

At thy Feet,

Swami Hrimananda



Monday, March 5, 2018

“Maha-Samadhi” Celebration!


Each year on March 7, we celebrate the earthly passing of two 20th century spiritual giants: Paramhansa Yogananda (March 7, 1952), and his guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar (March 9, 1936). Ours is a joyful celebration (rather than mournful) because their exit from the human body was both known beforehand and was without loss of conscious awareness. 

Maha-samadhi” (The “great” or “final” Samadhi) refers to the state of consciousness of a great saint who enters the ecstatic state of soul-bliss as a part of the process of consciously leaving their physical body. This is not a decision by the ego but a form of cooperation with the divinely guided impulses of their own soul (rather than the enforced compulsions of personal karma).

Why is this a celebration? Is it only to honor their achievement? No, not at all. We celebrate this event because their conscious and bliss-guided exit represents for us “the promise of our soul’s immortality!” Many great saints of east and west have had the blessing of mahasamadhi. While a peaceful death is a blessing and a grace experienced by many good and saintly people, it is not the same as mahasamadhi.

All life partakes in the divine essence of God’s eternal bliss: the foundation of all creation. Bliss is the vibrationless essence at the heart of all change and motion. As through (especially) meditation we grow in our identification with our eternal Self, the Atman, we too will one day pass through the portals of life and death in conscious, blissful awareness. This conscious bliss is already existent within us and all creation.

May the joy of your soul light your path to inner freedom!

Swami Hrimananda

P.S. Ananda centers around the world and centers by other organizations for whom Yogananda is their guru will celebrate the the mahasamadhis of Yogananda and Sri Yukteswar this coming week on or around March 7-9. For those in Seattle area, ours is Wednesday, March 7, meditation 5.45 and program 7 p.m. www.AnandaWA.org


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Case Against Marriage! (Happy Valentine's Day!)


Did I get your attention?

Let me begin by saying my own marriage is inextricably linked to my spiritual path and whatever growth towards divine wisdom and love has unfolded in forty years of marriage is due in no small part to the love, loyalty, perseverance and divine attunement of my wife.

For this my gratitude knows no bounds. The high bar of high ideals in daily life and unconditional, divine love in marriage are, however, more than a little daunting and I make no personal claims beyond my gratitude for the opportunity to change and grow, however slowly. 

Who can deny the depth of human desire for love? Is not so much of history, drama, literature, and daily life imbued with its impulses? Deep though it be, we are taught that its depth is depthless, for it is rooted in the memory of perfect, unconditional divine love. It can never be permanently extinguished. It can only be perfected in union with God, the source of all love. 

So embedded is the human desire, that even those whose own marriage is less than successful will shed a tear or two at a wedding of the younger generation. Or gaze longingly at the beauty and charm of youth, sex, and romance.

Despite the obvious mundane-ness of marriage in daily life; despite the arguments, the gradual loss of beauty, dignity, and mutual respect; the cross over of boundaries, demands, and selfishness; it is truly astonishing that such an "institution" should remain with us. Modern culture and mores no longer insist upon formal marriage yet it persists. 

Paramhansa Yogananda used to wax a bit skeptical in the face of those who sigh longingly at the image and fantasy of forever romance. In his day (1920's and 1930's when divorce was beginning to be more common), he described American marriages as too often a marriage between "a pretty shade of lipstick and a bow tie!" (Meaning: a case of superficial attraction).

Swami Kriyananda often described marriage as an enormous "compromise of the ideal of unconditional love." "No two people could possibly be all and all for one another unless they each were impossibly dull or stupid."

"Best of friends" -- yes, ok, for sure. But today, Valentine's Day, we contemplate romance.

Marriage even by the force of nature begins with attraction, romance and sex, then moves to having children, a mortgage, bountiful troubles of innumerable kinds, and, if it survives all that, smooths over towards a wonderful friendship: and that's if it goes well. Most do not. Or, from what I keep hearing: half do not!

But as Yogananda put it, "Those who have to marry by compulsion of desire will have to experience disillusionment until someday (one assumes this requires countless lifetimes) the desire fades away."

On the long journey from desire to dharma, which is to say from subconscious compulsions to maturity, one's relationships change accordingly. Disillusionment is insufficient grounds for soul liberation. The "take-away" must be balanced by a "take-up": love for God, increasing in both intensity and purity.

Our souls are neither male nor female. Our souls are "sparks" of the Infinite Flame of unconditional love. As St. Augustine put it, "Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee."

Most people (say, what, 98%?) should marry. As St. Paul put it (somewhat crudely), "Better to marry than to burn." Why, well, just look at the unremitting parade of scandals from religious circles to Hollywood Bowl: testimony to the power of attraction and consequence of both suppression and indulgence.

When respect, moderation, and high ideals enfold a couple like a cocoon of Light at the Altar of Friendship, then they will nurture their love to grow towards the perfect love of God.

On this Valentine's Day it would be appropriate to affirm the ideal of divine love. To see in one another the Divine Presence of Father or Mother or Divine Beloved.

Divine Mother is the Cupid who instills in our hearts a "shot" of Her unconditional and eternal love. Her arrow, straight from the heart of eternity, can remind us, too, to be a straight "shooter," seeking Her love alone, even if also through those who love us and those to whom we are naturally attracted.

It is God's love that has been made manifest in the impulse for human love. When we forget that, we will suffer the inexorable law of karma, duality, and separateness.

We are compelled by the law of karma to seek to manifest and perfect human love until it becomes the perfect love of God.

We cannot achieve God's love if we cannot love and be loved by others.

Let, then, Divine Mother be our Valentine! 

"May Thy love shine forever on the sanctuary of my devotion!"

Swami Hrimananda


Monday, February 5, 2018

Unreal News : Meditation : the Laser Lens of the Truth Seeker.

Swami Kriyananda (1926-2013), founder of the worldwide network of intentional communities known as "Ananda," remarked occasionally that in the future, looking back over the last fifty years, the Ananda communities (and, in general, the intentional communities movement) would be one of the most important trends of our times.

And yet, for those of us who have been living and serving in such communities these last nearly fifty years, it is obvious that society at large is largely uninterested. 

We hear now often (2017-2018) the newly re-minted phrase, "fake news." But I remember when, perhaps twenty years ago, Swami Kriyananda casually remarked that most of the daily news is little better than gossip. At that time I was not entirely convinced. But over the years as I have listened or read more carefully I have come to realize how often his label of "gossip" is accurate. (For this purpose I would say that "gossip" can include speculation and mere opinion, as opposed to objectively verifiable facts or balanced and insightful explanations of current events.)

The truth of history includes the simple fact that the daily news isn't really history, nor are the headlines necessarily the key events of history. It is true that an event like September 11, 2001 will go down in history like 1492, 1776 or 1096 but these are markers, mostly for children to pass their exams or for historians and the public to bookmark into their mental timeline in order to demonstrate their (superficial) grasp of historical events.

Many gasp, moan and groan over the antics and worse of the sitting president of the United States, a trumpet player, if I'm not mistaken. Many have told me that they no longer pay much attention to the daily news as it is largely meaningless hot hair, oops, I mean hot air.

Taking the question of "What is true and what is important?" into a different direction, the art and science of meditation offers us a deeper insight into what is true--for us. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali offer a clinical evaluation of the stages of consciousness that unfold when our awareness is turned inward to seek the "what" and the "who" is behind our thinking and feeling. 

Mindfulness and introspection might reveal more about what we really think and feel but these, alone, do not reveal "who is thinking and feeling." We might answer that by saying "I" but who is this "I"?

If you answer again by restating that this "I" is the body, gender, age, opinions, thoughts and feelings, it may be the customary answer but it ignores the fact that each one of these things is subject to change and subject to many external influences which also change. Nowadays you can even change your gender! But certainly your body ages and your opinions and feelings change all the time, especially as the years go by. But the "I" is still "I" no matter WHAT the opinion, age, health or gender.

Most people would stop there and just say, well, that's right! "I change my opinions and that's who I AM." Well, ok, if you insist upon it, who am I to argue? However this definition of "I" doesn't really go to the heart of the "I," the undifferentiated bedrock of "I-ness". 

Who is it that peers out from behind the eyes? From behind the opinions? From behind the senses and the body? Who is this I who sleeps at night and reawakens each day refreshed and the same?

Whether for purposes of survival or because we are interested, it's perfectly understandable that we participate in the daily news; that we learn about history (whether our family, nationality, race, etc.) or the world. But all of this is vicarious: it's second or third hand or even far, far more removed. 

We can't really answer why the daily tweets of the presidential trumpet intrigue us (or not); or why we are fascinated with wars of the past; the history of art and fashion or science; romance novels; making furniture; or any number of other countless hobbies and interests. 

All we can say is that certain topics hold our interest. But if we were to introspect on our interests we might find that behind them are deeper, if all too human, impulses, emotional needs, or compulsions.

None of these offer a clue, however, to the consciousness of the "I" which, properly trained, can remain the observer of all our thoughts, emotions, and actions. Who is it that observes that "I am reading a book about Winston Churchill?" Or that "I am typing 'I am typing'?"

The irony behind the inquiry (called the art and science of meditation) to observe the Observer is that the long-term consequence of this daily habit is the gradual revelation of objective reality, not just subjective reality. 

Now what IS objective reality? Is it the trumpet in that white house? It could be if you happen to live or work there but otherwise, probably not. Objective reality is whatever you focus your perceptive powers upon, but with this caveat: the strength of your perceptive power determines the clarity of the image. 

"Strength" here includes calmness; non-attachment; lack of emotional charge. Stanza two of the Yoga Sutras tells us that to the degree that our perceptive power operates with a steady gaze devoid of superficial reactions of attraction or repulsion in relation to self-interest, our perceptions sharpen towards objectivity. And when the power of perception turns in upon itself, observing it-Self, it begins to acquire a super-human, laser-like power that, as it approaches its penultimate power, transcends time, space, matter, energy and consciousness itself. 

As an object approaching the speed of light is said to become infinite in mass, so it is said that as awareness approaches crystal clarity (transcendent of form, thought, emotion, or condition), it approaches the God-state of omniscience, omnipotence, and infinity.

"As above, so below" says the Hermetic doctrine. As our power of perception clarifies we begin to know by instant intuition that which is true and meaningful to us. It may not be ours to expound the deeper mysteries of space or the atom, or to live in a white house, but it may be ours to know what to say to a friend in need; how to best care for ourselves; to accomplish a worthwhile goal; to complete a project; to work harmoniously with other people; to feel confidence, calmness, and courage; and, at last to know God as our own, true Self.

Meditation sharpens our intuitive "I." But it must be more than merely mindfulness: that is, watching our thoughts go by. It must turn in upon it-Self. What it discovers in this journey is often described but, in truth, can only be known by I AM.

And on that note, I AM finished!

Swami Hrimananda








Thursday, January 18, 2018

Last Stage of Life : When the Chronic Chickens Come Home to Roost!

I see in myself and in others my age (over 60) the beginning stages of health issues that, when younger, would perhaps come and go but now appear to be turning chronic, or at least more difficult to ignore or to function normally when in the midst of an episode. 

I also see in myself and in others my (over 60) that we spend an increasing amount of time and money to obtain an accurate diagnosis and experimenting with a variety of treatments. 

I am referring to the wide range of illnesses broadly covered by the term inflammation and presumably linked in one way or another with auto immune responses. [This, in one simple sentence, exhausts the entire depth of my medical knowledge.] These maladies, as opposed to more straight forward medical treatments such as knee or hip replacements, corrective surgeries on toes or hands, dental implants, or even heart procedures and also unrelated to the broad spectrum of cancer treatments, are difficult to diagnose and treat. They are also great candidates for naturopathy, homeopathy, Ayurveda, herbs, acupuncture, and massage.

Naturally one should do what one can to assuage or even cure the body's troubles. But do I see much success in this realm of illnesses? Not really. I see a lot of time and money being spent, but very little actual results. 

I have read seemingly everything imaginable on skin disorders but no where and no one claims to know their cause or their cure. I've read every diet or elimination diet imaginable. But in these realms treatments run the gamut from merely symptomatic, mostly (self) experimental, hypothetical and, of course, sooner or later, one finds an old fashion out and out fraud.

As a yogi and a dogma-drenched believer in karma and reincarnation I veritably gloat and glow in the prospect of such mighty concepts as "past bad karma" that could take lifetimes to overcome!!!!!! "Ha, ha, ha: Catch 22." It's the metaphysical equivalent of "take two aspirin and call me in the morning!" Our bottom line explanation for anything we can't explain.

If I was taught only one thing by my beloved teacher, Swami Kriyananda--one mantra that I repeat under stress and under all conditions--it is this: BOTH-AND. Now repeat this: BOTH-AND. Sit down; have a candy cigarette as I explain and digress. This is deep stuff, so listen up.

"Swamiji" led a life under enormous "stress," most self-imposed (like creating for himself writing deadlines for his 150 books or pouring out 400 pieces of music; rushing to give thousands of public lectures, traveling tens of thousands car miles and millions of airplane miles---you get the idea). His physical health challenges and conditions warrant a non-fiction medical novel. Maybe his doctor and friend, Dr. Peter Van Houten will write that book someday. Maybe Swamiji never had leprosy, but that could be the only one he forgot to get. He accepted various medical treatments, procedures and surgeries but he took them all in as God's grace and will. He seemed somewhat indifferent to the plethora of medications he was instructed to take. Only with the insistent help from his staff, did he manage to take any of them.

But did these many health challenges stop him from a lifetime only one week of which would have exhausted you or me? No! And why? Oh, simple: his mantra: BOTH-AND! He could both be at death's door and, the same evening, give a lecture to hundreds. Just think what you could accomplish with that mantra! It is all God: Doer, doing, done. As he would remind us, owing to many things like health, energy and talent, he couldn't do any of those many things. But God could do all of them. He, Kriyananda, simply wasn't the Doer.

Applying now, at long last (you've been waiting, I know) this magic mantra, BOTH-AND, to our chickens who have come home to roost (no, not roast), you'll finally see where I am going with this very profound article: do what you can to alleviate your illnesses but at the same time be prepared for the fact that these are karmic tests. The real test is probably the degree of equanimity, faith, energy, and cheerfulness (and if you're REALLY GOOD: gratitude) you can bring to bear while going about your karma-imposed, God-inspired duties each day. But this is only the beginning. There's more.

Swamiji used to periodically tell the story of one "Sufi woman saint: Rabbi'a. She lay upon her deathbed, her body ill and in pain. Three disciples of hers came to console her. "He is no lover of God, after all," said one, "who is not willing to suffer for God's sake." "This smacks of egoism to me," replied the saint. Another of the disciples attempted a correction. "He is no true lover of God who is not happy to suffer for God's sake." "More than this is needed," she replied. "Then you tell us, Mother," said the third. "What should be the right attitude for a lover of God." "He is no true lover of God," she said, "who does not forget his suffering in the contemplation of the Supreme Beloved." **

(**excerpted from Swamiji's book, "A Place Called Ananda: Chapter 16, Afterthoughts")

It has been well said that a healing is not a cure. If we wish to be healed, we must try our best but leave the rest (to God). As I like to joke: we don't get out of this life, alive. Our bodies will need some excuse to die. We may not know the physical, mental or spiritual causes of our persistent illnesses but by remaining centered and even-minded, by focusing increasingly on experiencing God as the only Doer and actor in your life, the seeds of past karma will be roasted by cauterizing the Ego-principle. The details of past karma don't really matter. Here and now is the only reality: God Alone.

Joy and blessings,

Swami Hrimananda

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Did God Create the World? Or, Did God Become the World?

Did God Create the World? Or, Did God Become the World?

For Ananda members worldwide who share the weekly readings from our founder’s book, “Rays of the One Light,**” we begin each year with Vedic teachings on how the world (universe) was made. (**Written by Swami Kriyananda) 

Paramhansa Yogananda came from India to the west and spoke of God becoming the world rather than merely “making” it as if He went out procured the basic materials from somewhere or something outside Himself. From the standpoint of sheer logic, it makes somewhat more sense, that God would create from within and through his own consciousness. But how? “How can something have come out of nothing?”

If God is pure Consciousness, how can consciousness produce material objects? Well, let us pause to ask, “How do I create things?” Isn’t it something like this: an idea comes to us (from nowhere, right?). We like the idea and begin to chew on it, often enthusiastically. We think about how to bring this idea into manifestation. We think about shape, materials, color, location, even the financial funding.

Our ideas have the benefit of hardware stores and other ways of procuring the materials needed to manifest our ideas. But God didn’t have this benefit. So, let’s keep exploring.

If God is Consciousness then perhaps the ultimate reality of the universe is a virtual reality. Every night in sleep don’t we create a private universe, very real seeming to us? The only difference is that our dreams are personal to us. They vanish instantly upon waking. Maybe God is dreaming this reality show? Don’t characters in our dreams seem to behave independently of our interests? (Like monsters who chase us?) Ever see the movie, the Matrix? Ever read about scientists’ speculation about multi-verses or parallel realities? And what about the brave new world soon to appear: AI (artificial intelligence). Won’t AI call into question the very nature of consciousness?

You see we humans are exploring and expanding the possibilities of what reality is as science rapidly expands our mental horizons. In one century alone we went from maybe three galaxies to a postulated billions of galaxies.

This makes this God-fellow one mighty big dude! And that’s the point: He’s not a dude at all, at least not in the human sense, along the lines of mythological gods and goddesses, replete with bad moods and naughty deeds.

In splitting the atom and exploring distant galaxies we now routinely accept sources of energy so powerful they defy anything our senses can model. Why not just keep blowing up this energy thing until it is all but infinite? Nothing stopping us if we can imagine it!

The ancient teachings of India, and other traditions, use another explanation to extend the dream metaphor: duality. Known as “maya” or the Measurer and considered to be evil or at least duplicitous (in its impact on our personal consciousness), maya divides the world into opposites and thereby creates the illusion that cold is different than heat, and that men are different than women. By subdividing what would otherwise be perceived as a cosmic unity, we dash about trying to fix things to our liking and avoid things that we don’t like. That apple with the knowledge of good and evil may have appeared tasty but biting into it, scales fall from the eyes of Oneness into duality and all things were seen as different.

In the Book of Genesis, Chapter 2, Adam and Eve suddenly felt self-conscious about their nakedness whereas before they were not. The apple in the center of the garden, Yogananda taught, was the fruit of the tree of sex nerves. Central to the propagation and procreation of maya is sex force without which the cosmic illusion cannot continue. At puberty we bite the apple and encounter the alluring touch of sex temptation. Our childhood innocence is over and our lives begin to take their course into adulthood with more karma generated and more future lifetimes being needed.

The same maya or illusion is experienced nightly in our dreams as well, of course.  

Imagine that the characters in your dream believe that they are separate from the other characters, especially the biggest character in your dream: you! Next imagine that this fact pervades our daytime world as well. Maybe we imagine we are separate and that all the mountains, forests, planets, stars and all these things are real. 

And, being in the dream, they ARE real! It’s only when you wake up that you can say the dream is not real.

When in the dream we cannot pretend the dream isn’t real. We have to act as best we can IN the dream. Only when we awake will the dream vanish.

And what, then, constitutes, being “awake?” Is it the intellectual idea such as we are discussing? No, absolutely not! Freedom means to release our consciousness into the great consciousness of God. 

At present our consciousness is locked in the human body: in the tissues, senses, and the breath. Is there a way to unlock our consciousness?

Yes, of course: glad you asked! We must steadily re-direct our attention from the body (and ego) to the indwelling God consciousness at the heart of our own consciousness. God, in the self, is quiet and still. A reflection, in fact, of the God of Pure Bliss and Consciousness out of which this dream was manifested.

To achieve this, it can be a great help to train the breath and heart to be as still as possible. The heart pump ties the mind (consciousness) to the body and senses. But, as when we are sleeping (a state of partial relaxation of the consciousness away from the senses), we free the mind to soar beyond the human body. 

In meditation this happens intentionally and consciously whereas in sleep we are thrown into the dungeon of sub-consciousness where we have virtually no control of the dream.

Thus it is, to return to the question of “How did God create the universe,” we find that individuals with great powers of concentration can be transmitters of new and history-changing ideas and inventions. It is with their relative attunement to the creative power of God-consciousness that such people do what they do. And, so can you and me, each in our own sphere of karma and dharma.

It’s fun to create things. Even dreaming is enjoyable (usually). Writing stories, creating movies, symphonies, new inventions: creativity draws from the essence of the Blissful Spirit’s factory of creativity! Of course a good story will NEED a villain or it isn’t a very interesting and gripping story. But, let’s not move into the world of evil and suffering as that would take a book to discuss it. Maybe next time.

But now we have peeked under the mask of God’s matrix. Now, with God’s help, we can begin the Journey to Self-Realization. The great show of the universe is a dream of the Creator’s. If we re-direct our attention from our little self to the indwelling and omnipresent great Self of all, we will steadily march towards soul freedom.

Joy in Being!


Nayaswami Hriman

Saturday, December 30, 2017

We Hope for a "Happy" New Year!

Paramhansa Yogananda wrote New Year's messages during his life and I have excerpted one of them here from 1944:

       Night and day I am busy writing and editing my book on the Yogi-Christs of India, [Autobiography of a Yogi] for which I have been collecting material for twenty years. 

        Nevertheless, there is a ceaseless, invisible wisp of prayer for you all, which is being wafted upward from the vase of my heart. I am praying very deeply for Christ to visit the temple of your consciousness.

What greater prayer can I send you as my New Year's greeting than this immortal thought: "May His love shine forever on the sanctuary of your devotion, and may you be able to awaken His love in all true hearts." 


A little meditation every day is better than no meditation at all, but in order to be Christlike, much meditation is necessary. Try to give more time to your Maker, who works for you all the time, beating as life in your heart. Endeavor to meditate continuously four to six hours every Saturday night, a rule which many students have started to observe with great results. Doing this, you will feel a distinct spiritual advancement. Reserve every Saturday night–from 6 or 8 to midnight–to go after God, heart and soul, by meditating, gently chanting, practicing Kriya, and intense prayer.


I encourage you to have a longer, deeper meditation once a week. At Ananda in Bothell, WA we take Yogananda's advice above and hold a meditation on Saturday nights from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. (Always check the calendar before coming as the schedule does have some changes).

It may be tempting for some of us to feel a sense of hopelessness, even if just a mild case, given the outer circumstances on planet Earth at this time. Wars, violence, greed, and selfishness seem to have the upper hand, at least if you feel the compulsion to stay up with the headlines!

Yogananda's message above was written near the end of World War II. Twenty-five years before that was supposedly a "war to end all wars." You see, it doesn't really ever stop, does it?

Yet what good do I do for myself, what to mention for the challenges I and we face, if I embrace hopelessness? We must remind ourselves that hope, while it may spring "eternal," will forever be disappointed unless it is turned inward towards divine love; true charity; and hope for the immortality of the soul's own Self-realization in God.

Last year Ananda worldwide affirmed the message BE THE CHANGE (you seek). This is always the answer. Lahiri Mahasaya, "harbinger of (kriya) yoga in Benares," counseled us to seek solutions through kriya yoga. By this he means and includes "within you!"

Love wins when instead of feeling anger or frustration toward outward events we affirm in our hearts God's presence and the transforming power of His love. We then express that power by our forgiveness of self and of others. 

Divine Mother, through the karma of individuals, groups, and nations, USES suffering and evil to sow the seeds of their opposites. Faced with case after case of greed or selfishness exposed by daily headlines, we have the opportunity to affirm integrity and generosity in our lives. 

Let us, then, be hopeful that the apparent plethora of "bad news" is simply a wake up call to those of goodwill to act with greater intensity and integrity in our own lives. The impact of this may not make headlines but it WILL help dissipate the gloom and doom of heavy hearts that we see around us.

Let me finish now also with this quote from Yogananda:

Every time you see sad faces, shoot a buckshot of vitality-spreading smiles there. As soon as you see a sorrowful heart, shoot into it sympathetic smiles and kind words. The minute you see somebody overcome with clouds of sorrow, disperse the clouds by the heavy, continuous cannonading of your courageous smiles. 

Every time somebody’s heart of sorrow is pierced with the bullet of your smile, you have “hit the bulls eye.” Every day go on a target practice by shooting smiles into the body of sadness. Remember, you must kill sorrow at sight. Kill the blues with the blade of wisdom.

Hopeful New Year to you!

Swami Hrimananda


Thursday, December 21, 2017

A Christmas Story for Children of All Ages

Once upon a time, long, long ago, in a faraway land, or was it a faraway galaxy, a child was born. Not in a house like yours or mine; and certainly NOT in a hospital with a midwife or doctor. 

No, nothing like that. This child was born in a small barn; a shed, really. We call it a stable because it’s where a cow and donkey stayed on cold nights. Maybe there were a few chickens; likely, too, a goat or two. There was hay piled up all around. It wasn’t warm but then outside it was…

a cold, dark, December night. The stars shone brightly in the skies above. In the surrounding hills, shepherds watched their flocks. 

They had to guard the sheep from packs of hungry wolves. To keep warm and to keep the wolves away, the shepherds had a camp fire.

This night when the child Jesus was born was both special and yet ordinary. After all, billions of babies have born on planet Earth in the two thousand years since the birth of Jesus! When you were born it was a very special event for you; your parents; your grandparents, friends and family! Even if you were born in a hospital and not a stable for farm animals, yours was still a very special event!

What made the birth of Jesus special? What does his birth have in common with yours?

Every so often, and at different times and places on Earth, there is born a soul with very special qualities. The birth event may or may not be unusual but in these cases the child is. Do you remember your birth? No, of course you don’t. I don’t either. But these special children DO remember their birth. In fact, they know all of their past lives. Who are these children? Well, Krishna; Buddha, Jesus, Rama and many others. These are children who remember! Who KNOW that they are children of God. They are children who KNOW God.

You and I are children of God, too. But just as we don’t remember our birth, we too often think we are just “who we are” as our parents named us: John, Sally, Ramesh, Gita, Noah. We have forgotten that we have lived many lives and have been called by many different names. God, too, is called by many names. But essentially God is simply I AM. We have forgotten that our true nature is that of God’s own nature: joy! We have forgotten that we are an incarnation of joy and not just a physical body. But these special children who are born from time to time have remembered.

In the case of Jesus’ birth, the event had several distinct features we are told from the bible. In the stories written by Matthew and by Luke, the Greek physician, we hear that nearby shepherds heard and saw angels singing. The angels told the shepherds that this Christ child—a child who remembered—had just been born in that nearby stable!

And from far, far away, perhaps as far away as India, wise sages journeyed to pay homage to the child Jesus. But how did they know? There wasn’t email or internet! There weren’t even old fashioned newspapers or TV news!!!!! A wise sage is one who just knows – knows from inside. Like the child Jesus or Buddha who remembers who they were and have always been, these “three wise men” (the bible doesn’t say there were three of them; it only says there were three gifts given to the child Jesus) said they saw “His” star in the east where they lived, far away.

Well, you know how sign language works? Certain hand gestures or positions symbolize words. Bring your hand to your mouth and move your hand like your mouth is chewing and you have the sign language symbol for “I want to eat!” 

Well, the word “east” is sign language for seeing and knowing. The sun rises in the East and we awaken! One who knows and sees is called a Seer! And what did these wise sages see? A star! Not in the sky, but in their mind’s eye: right here, at the point between the eyebrows! The five-pointed white star that they saw in meditation told them in wordless words that an avatar, a true child of God, was about to be born. It told them the approximate location: near the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea in the land of Israel.

These wise men of India were summoned by the star to find and honor the birth of this avatar, Jesus. And thus it was that they journeyed a long way, perhaps as much as 2,000 miles: on camels, no less! Hmmm, or maybe they had a faster way to travel.

Who were these Wise Men? Our guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, said the three wise men were his own gurus. Their names in the incarnations of 19th and 20th century were none other than Babaji, Lahiri Mahasaya, and Swami Sri Yukteswar. It was they who came to honor the baby Jesus. This means all four of them knew each other from past lives. We don’t know where Yogananda himself was at this time and he didn’t or wouldn’t tell us.

There was another curious feature of Jesus’ birth. It is a part of the story that we also find told in regards to the birth of Lord Krishna, centuries before the birth of Jesus. Not everyone was so happy that a great king-like soul was to be born. In each case, the local king was jealous and wanted to kill the child. In each case, the child had to be taken away and hidden.

What makes this story special to us is that it isn’t just the story of Jesus’ birth. It is the story of your birth, and mine as well. For we are also children of God. And, if we want to remember that truth-- just as Jesus, Krishna, Buddha and others have--we have to give birth to that memory in the knowing and remembering silence of our hearts and minds: especially in meditation. Not just once, but every day. Meditation is the humble “stable” where our soul-nature and memory can be rediscovered, reborn.

The shepherds are the mindful, conscience-guiding guardians of the sheep of our thoughts. We build a fire of devotion in the dark night of meditation to keep away the subconscious wolves of restless thoughts, desires and fears. If we do that, angels of God will come and sing to us, instructing and encouraging us to seek this Christ-child in our hearts. The wise men and saints of the past have given us teachings that will enable us to give as gifts to our soul-child our thoughts, feelings, and actions. But King Ego will want to kill this child and, at first, we must hide our Christ consciousness in the quiet safe place of meditation and prayer until he can grow strong and come out and play openly in daily life, declaring, “I and my Father are one!”

We are each a king and queen but we think, instead, that we are commoners, subjects of the demands of earth, water, heat and air; subject to the demands of food, water, comfort and restless desires. 

But we are more than this; more than mere humans who live only a short time subjected to the frailties of age, health, and forces of luck and destiny.


Christmas reminds us that we too are a King (or Queen). This reminder is cause for celebration. And of course it needs be said that if “I am a King” then so are you! We are all that: “tat twam asi!” (Sanskrit: "Thou art That!") On this basis we are reminded to live in this world with nobility, goodness and goodwill for all.

If everyone, or even just many, truly give birth to this remembrance of the inner and universal Christ (the living presence of God in us and in all creation and AS creation itself), the human race would truly live in peace and goodwill.

May the light of Christ be born in you this Christmas and every day a Christmas!

Swami Hrimananda