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

Thursday, June 21, 2018

International Day of Yoga

June 21 : International Day of Yoga

June 21 is the day each year that the United Nations has set aside to honor the ever-expanding role of yoga practice and precepts, and to acknowledge yoga as India’s contribution to world peace and harmony.

Yoga is a veritable symbol of peace in a restless, polarized and uncertain world. And yet, while peace may be yoga’s dividend, yoga practice requires self-discipline, training, and persistence. The lesson must not be lost and is one affirmed generation after generation in American culture when it is said that “defending freedom is the price of democracy.”

India’s greatest and most beloved scripture, the Bhagavad Gita, has for its initial precept the teaching that we must take up the battle of life. Yoga, India, Mahatma Gandhi—Indian culture itself—is known as a place of ahimsa (non-violence). Yet the modern state of India was born in the midst of unspeakable communal violence.
Jesus Christ may have taught his followers to “turn the other cheek” but he also said “I bring not peace, but a sword” by which our higher nature can do battle with our lower nature.

But peace is the goal. Yet peace cannot be achieved “at any price.” Peace comes through self-conquest. Whether in politics or for inner peace, the dividend of peace begins with the desire for harmony, a willingness to accept “what is,” the strength and courage to act without dictating the results, and is buoyed upwards on the intangible but underlying knowing that the goal can be achieved.

The scripture of yoga itself is said to be the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. In this famous but pithy tome, the first stage of the upward unfoldment of human consciousness from selfishness to saintliness is that of non-violence, popularly known as ahimsa. The ever-expanding reward of the attitude of ahimsa is peace. As one accepts and embraces in one’s attitudes and actions in daily life the importance of truth-telling, moderation, self-control, introspection and non-attachment we find that an invisible aura or blanket of peace is bestowed upon us. It is not achieved however without effort: for most people, our victory is hard-won for we must overcome natural impulses towards self-centeredness and self-indulgence.

The same is said of the practice of yoga and meditation. We must learn the basic techniques for control and focus of body and mind even while using the tools of deep relaxation to achieve self-control.

And peace is just the beginning. When a war is over, the country must be rebuilt, justice served, forgiveness and reconciliation achieved. From the state of inner peace, we re-make our self-identity into one of Self-reliance AND Self-giving. No longer focused upon our little self, we cannot remain simply self-contained for habit will draw us back into self-absorption. We must raise our energy and consciousness to embrace the world as our own. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna avers that the yogi is one who “feels the pangs, sorrow and joys of all.”


Is this not the recipe for the “healing of the nations?” And, for self-healing? Let us celebrate International Day of Yoga as peace-giving, olive branch of world and inner peace.

The newly published book by Phil Goldberg, "The Life of Yogananda-the Life of the Yogi Who Became the First Modern Guru," is an apt celebration of one of the most renown exponents of yoga throughout the world. Paramhansa Yogananda's life story, "Autobiography of a Yogi," has captured the hearts and minds of millions of people since its first publication in 1946. It has made accessible, real, and inspired India's greatest contribution to the world: YOGA!

Joy and Peace!

Swami Hrimananda

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Pride Goeth Before the Fall : Can We Ever Really Fail (Spiritually)?

Paramhansa Yogananda was once asked by a disciple: "Will I ever fall from the spiritual path?" Gazing compassionately at him, Yogananda answered: "How could you? Everyone is on the spiritual path!"

That was certainly a kind response and also a true one in that we can learn and grow (spiritually) from our mistakes. 

Yogananda spoke of the betrayal of Jesus by his disciple Judas. He said that inasmuch as Judas was one of the twelve disciples, he must have been spiritually advanced. In fact, Yogananda used the term "prophet" to describe Judas.

At the risk of a tangent, Yogananda stated that Judas finally achieved enlightenment in the 19th century under the guidance of a well-known guru.

The topic here is not how ordinary worldly men and women fail spiritually, for such aren't even trying to do otherwise. The Seven Deadly Sins are, more or less, positively being sought (or is it "sot"?) by most people. (slight exaggeration)

The subject, then, is with respect to those who ARE trying to grow spiritually. Arjuna asks his guru, Krishna (in the dialogue of the Bhagavad Gita), what is the fate of those who, though seeking enlightenment, yet fail to achieve the goal in a given lifetime? What is their fate? 

Are they worse off? Do they have to start over? Krishna assures Arjuna (which is to say, you and me) that no spiritual effort is lost. (Chapter 6: 37-47) Krishna reassures devotees: "I make good your deficiencies and render permanent your gains." (Chapter 9:22) We can never lose our soul's eternal perfection. Any contact with it can never be lost.

Swami Kriyananda, the founder of the worldwide work of Ananda and a direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda, wrote about Judas in his book, "Promise of Immortality." His explanation is a priceless and deep examination of the slippery slope from heaven to, uh, perdition! (Chapter 23)

Inspired by the famous verses from the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 2:61-63) that describe the step-by-step process by which one falls into error, in "Promise of Immortality" Swami Kriyananda examines the likely thought processes of Judas to show us how we are drawn progressively to the point of (apparent) no return.

(Note: there is no absolute point of no return for the perfect and eternal soul. But the dark enclosure of soul-negation can last a long time, even lifetimes.)

Coming back to pride a little later, let us turn, instead, to doubt: self-doubt. Elsewhere in the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna tells Arjuna that the doubter is the most miserable of devotees for such cannot step forward nor can go back for he simply cannot make up his mind. (Chapter 4:40)

Given our predilection for making mistakes, no wonder we doubt ourselves. Given the plethora of philosophies, lifestyles, religions, politics, cultures, no wonder we are confused. Given the abundance of fake news, no wonder we’re sceptical. Given the wide range of choices in life, no wonder we cannot choose one from the other. Given the constant distractions of life in the fast-device-lane, no wonder we cannot focus long enough to see "the forest through the trees!" 

Krishna goes on to say: “For the peaceless, how is happiness possible?” (Chapter 2:66)

Swami Kriyananda was told by Paramhansa Yogananda that doubting was his greatest challenge in past lives. With his guru's blessings, Swami overcame that obstacle and in this lifetime paid in the coin of the spiritual realm by a lifetime of teaching. Swamiji said, numerous times, that there probably wasn't one doubt that anyone could come up with that he hadn't faced at some point in the past. Thus by teaching and giving others faith, he could expiate the karma of the past. 

There are two kinds of doubt: constructive and destructive. Constructive doubt sincerely wants to know what is true and is open to truth and to taking action. So, here, then, in this article we are speaking of destructive or paralyzing doubt. 

Paralyzing doubt, too, has two faces: we doubt ourselves, OR, when we tire of that, we doubt (that is, criticize) others. But as Yogananda put it in the psychological terms of his day, "superiority or inferiority complex" are simply two sides of the same coin of egoity.

In the last year, a young man came to our yoga center and took some courses. He was so apt to measure himself with respect to others that, finding yoga and meditation challenging for his restless mind and body, he decided it was easier to find fault with others. Others must have been faking it somehow (he concluded). And so he left and retreated to a more fundamental view where mere belief was sufficient for acceptance (and "salvation," I suppose). The hard work of changing himself was simply to much for his fragile ego.

Speaking of our temptation to be critical of others, it is useful to make a distinction. There is a difference between calm, detached observation of a flaw or shortcoming in another person and your claim to superiority over them or your dislike of that person on the basis of your observation. Superiority or dislike constitutes being judgmental. Simply observing is neutral and discerning. 

Jesus put it this way: "Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves!" (Matthew 10:16). Too many people "throw out the baby (of discernment) out with the (dirty) bathwater (to avoid being judgemental)." 

By contrast, to admire the spiritual qualities of another person can inspire you to emulate those qualities and doesn't have to put that person on a false pedestal of your own creation.  The perceived spirituality of another should not be a reason to be discouraged in your own progress. Who can truly judge the heart of another; or, their karma; but God alone? If someone you once admired (spiritually) suffers a fall (in your eyes at least), be grateful for the inspiration you received by their example and simply pray for them to recover quickly from whatever spiritual test they may have failed.

Another common cause for seeming to fail spiritually is guilt. Guilt is only useful if it motivates you to make amends and to change. Like pain, guilt exists to spur us to reform and do better. Don't be like those who imagine that feeling guilty is sufficient compensation for their missteps.

The consequences of error must also be understood directionally. A slip may not be a fall if we make amends; if take action to change for the better; and, if we don't identify with our mistakes. But, be careful, because our ignorance, negativity, or ego-affirming habits open the door to influences that may increase the momentum in the direction first taken. A strong, even heroic, effort must be made to draw the grace that will lift us back up on our spiritual feet.

"Thoughts are universally and not individually rooted." Yogananda makes this profound statement in Chapter 15 of "Autobiography of a Yogi." As we express anger, for example, then we attract to ourselves the support of the preexisting and overarching consciousness of anger. We do not invent anger. It already exists in the cosmos of consciousness. Human addictive tendencies exist not merely because of individual past habits but because of their universally attractive magnetism and vibration. 

A dramatic and historical example of this brings us back to Swami Kriyananda's analysis of Judas. He writes that Judas’ betrayal of Jesus set into motion a karmic pattern that was to haunt Christianity: the betrayal of spirituality in favor of worldly power, money and position. 

The spread of Christianity into the authority-and-law-consciousness of Roman culture and its acceptance as the state religion prematurely bestowed upon the young religion the mantle of power and self-importance. 

The acceptance of these worldly powers steadily eroded the true spirit of Christ which, in time, was eclipsed in the hierarchy of "churchianity," though partly salvaged from time to time by great saints like St. Francis and St. Teresa of Avila. (Saints are the true custodians of religion! Not theologians, clerics or bishops.)

Our betrayal or fall from our own spiritual ideals can begin with pride (“which goes before a fall”). Think of some talent or knowledge that you are good at. In your association with others of like mind and your spiritual service together with them, beware of the opinion and critique that might rise as a consequence of your skills and knowledge being employed in that service. Notice with whom you share your perfidy in the quiet corners and whispered voices of conspiratorial negativity.

Judas’ pathway to his fall was his affirmation of superior insight and wisdom. He alone knew best how spread his guru's teachings. His guru, Jesus Christ, was deluded; ignorant; out of touch and could not see what benefits would accrue to his mission if he could but win over the rich and powerful priestly caste. Or so Judas must have thought. Anger then arose as Judas perceived Jesus' intransigence. And on it went until it ended in tragedy.

The downward path of critical comparing of oneself to others sows the seeds of pride, discouragement, self-doubt, and provides, in time if indulged, all the reasons for you to give up and turn away. Oh, and how many have turned away.

In the last years of Yogananda's life, how many came and went, imagining Yogananda did not meet their standards, or, alternatively, not feeling they could live up to his. Of one who left the ashram, the Master said it would take him another two hundred years to regain his current spiritual consciousness. Of another, he said that if she had stayed just twenty-four more hours that temptation would have past.

As a teacher who over decades has seen so many bright lights appear and then fade out to dullness and then disappear from whence they came, I sometimes chant Yogananda's chant that begins with the words: “Whence do they come….whither do they go?”

There's an even far more subtle betrayal amongst devotees. One that cannot be seen with the eyes. It is the story of Martha and Mary. How many Marthas in churches, ashrams, monasteries and sanghas busy themselves in service, and even in meditation and devotion but with their minds far from God. 

Even in outward ritual, prayer, and service, we can avoid the divine summons and awakening of the soul-Self, thus postponing our divine destiny. The inner Voice says, wordlessly, "I will wait. I have given you this freedom and when you seek Me for my love alone and not my gifts, then I will come."

You can meditate every day and never even think of God. Never even go beyond your own, restless thoughts. Never offer yourself wholly into the Unknown where awaits you the light and bliss of your soul: a spark of the Infinite Bliss. God is the Divine Elephant in the Cosmic Room of your Mind; yet, even devotees see him not.

Yogas chitta vritti nirodha” We must neutralize the reactive thought and emotional processes of the ego-mind by calm, inner awareness. And that we can do, like Bhishma in the epic "Mahabharata," only by the free choice of our heart.

There are two kinds of meditation: emptiness and fullness. In general, we teach fullness. It’s easier for most people. In fullness we use chants, affirmations, mantra, prayer and devotion to re-direct our natural restlessness and self-preoccupations. Stillness is not empty; it is full: full of energy, joy, and love.

The path of emptiness is “neti, neti” – not this, not that! It too is a valid path. Both emptiness and fullness are actual states of consciousness which alternate in the life of a meditator; or, from the point of view of the path of ascension, can represent steps or stages. 

Yogananda clarified that those who teach emptiness as the final state are incorrect. For while emptiness (the apparent threat of personal extinction) is the final challenge to the ego’s willingness to surrender, when we do surrender with faith, courage and energy, bliss flows into us like a relentless tsunami or a thousand suns crushed into one.

In fact, however, we should understand and approach each state for each are valid and necessary: both emptiness AND fullness. Thus, after our practice of techniques, we should empty ourselves of all thoughts and let the divine states of Superconsciousness appear like the stars that come out after sunset: at first they are dim, and then gradually, they get brighter. Then the moon appears on the horizon of our consciousness. As it rises it outshines the stars with the comforting brilliance and cooling rays of peace. If we welcome its all-embracing rays into our mind soon we too—our sense of separateness—will be eclipsed into Divine Love.

And so it also with God as personal or impersonal. Some begin their journey approaching God in personal form: perhaps as the guru, e.g. Others, the impersonal as light, peace, joy, energy, love, e.g. But God has no form and is all forms and so cannot be limited by either. Thus, as we advance spiritually our chosen form morphs into its opposite. 

Here we tell the story of Totapuri, the guru of Ramakrishna. Totapuri helped (rather dramatically) Ramakrishna go beyond the "I-Thou" relationship with Divine Mother into the formless state of samadhi.

We are destined to know God; to be free. Just as in sleep we are free from the burdens of our conscience, our karma, and our past, so too in Super-consciousness we are free. But freedom in subconscious sleep is temporary and is not life-changing. By contrast, the freedom experienced in super-consciousness grows on us gradually and, with ever deeper immersion, replaces our separate identity with that of the freedman! No longer a slave to the body and ego! We are TAT TWAM ASI. EKAM SAT! God alone.

Behind our self-doubt, our judgments of others and ourselves lies the realm of the land of the free reached only by those of  brave heart: the land beyond the duality of our dream-world of matter, thought, and emotion.

It is in our souls that we are One. It is to this affirmation that our July 14th day of celebration of East Meets West is directed. This day is a celebratory fest of like-minds and open-hearts. Outwardly we may appear different and separate but inwardly we are ONE.

The divine awaits us and haunts our soul-dreams. Let me close this overly long article with the first paragraph of this much beloved poem:

THE HOUND OF HEAVEN-1893
Francis Thompson



I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
   I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
   Of my own mind; and in the midst of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
             Up vistaed hopes I sped;
             And shot, precipitated,
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmed fears,
   From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
             But with unhurrying chase,
             And unperturb√®d pace,
     Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
             They beat—and a Voice beat
             More instant than the Feet—
     'All things betray thee, who betrayest Me'.


Joy to you,

Swami Hrimananda



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





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