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

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

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Why We Honor Jesus Christ & Christmas

Dear Friends and Members of Ananda Sangha of Seattle,

We occasionally are asked, "Why is the picture of Jesus Christ on the altar and why are the teachings of the bible emphasized at Ananda?" We celebrate the birth, life and teachings of Jesus Christ because we are inspired by the explanation and insight given to us by our preceptor, Paramhansa Yogananda. Yogananda put it this way: the soul of Jesus is the same as yours and mine. Jesus was not different "in kind," but in the degree to which he had achieved Self-realization of his soul's true nature. 

Yogananda called his life's work in the West "The Second Coming of Christ." This was not an ego-boast as it might be interpreted. Instead, Yogananda meant that he was sent from India to the West to "resurrect" the practice of meditation. This "coming" is what Yogananda called a "New Dispensation." The teaching of meditation (including and especially the advanced technique of Kriya Yoga) fulfills in objective human history the promise of Jesus to come again. Jesus' second coming, Yogananda taught, is not a human reincarnation, but in the formless presence of the universal Christ consciousness born in meditation: in the silent, still, humble manger of our hearts.

The "Christ" ("the anointed one") was fully Self-aware in Jesus but lives in all creation and in our hearts as our true Self. Elsewhere this aspect of God (in creation) might be called the Krishna Consciousness! It has been called by many names. "As many as received him, to them gave He the power to become the sons of God."(John 1:12).

That tender, heart-opening image of the tiny babe in the manger symbolizes and reminds us of the sweetness, innocence, peace, and unconditional love that lies quietly in our own hearts. It is the peace that all true hearts in creation seek. It is the kinship we feel (and wish more would feel) with all life in nature and in all races and nations. In a true metaphysical and spiritual sense, this consciousness is the salvation of humankind for, without it, we would destroy each other on the basis of our seemingly irreconcilable differences, fears, and competition. Daily meditation is the sure-fire way of life that can "resurrect" this universal divine consciousness that can gradually become our sole reality and self-identity. This state of Being is the true heaven we seek.

This is why we celebrate the birth of Jesus: not only out of gratitude for the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, but for the promise of hope for soul-awakening that this newborn child in the manger offers to us and to all the world. Christmas is for everyone. 

We have for you a recording of a Christmas message from Swami Kriyananda from 1983: Here's the link to listen to it: http://www.anandawashington.org/christmas-message-sk-1983/

Blessings to you and your family this joyful season and beyond, 

Nayaswamis Hriman and Padma


Saturday, December 9, 2017

Christmas Spirit Comes from Living in the Presence of God

Bible: (Paraphrased) "As you have tendered to the needs of others, in this way you have honored Me!"

Bhagavad Gita: (Paraphrased) "He who never loses sight of Me in all things and people, I never lose sight of he."

The week after Thanksgiving I had my annual week of seclusion. Seclusion is a personal retreat: a retreat where one is alone with God in prayer and meditation. This time I didn’t even go out for a walk or a run, though I did more chores around the Hermitage house than I have in past years: cleaning, mostly. [See Facebook: Camano Hermitage]

I eat lightly, only had a few hot meals during the week, mostly because I’m a lazy (and a lousy) cook. Accordingly, I consider a cup of coffee a hot meal.

It’s humbling to attempt to sit for 5 to 6 days in meditation. Even if I don't do this unbrokenly, it is the main activity of the entire day, interspersed with chanting and the practice of kriya yoga and other techniques. I had a particular focus for this seclusion: to deepen and prolong periods of complete stillness beyond thoughts and mental images.

The subconscious mind, however, can act like a donkey. Sometimes you can coax it along with a little discipline, a bribe, or a certain amount of force, but there can come a time when you have to ease off and give it a rest. 

At such times I did a little reading (all of it spiritual reading). Other times and to engage the body so as not to get lazy, I'd do some chores (mopping the floor, sweeping, etc.) But all together, it truly amounts to many, many hours of meditation. 

The goal of meditation is, of course, to feel the presence of God: alive, vibrant, intimate and cosmic—in whatever way and form God’s consciousness will appear; in the form of Yogananda, Jesus, or one of the others. As deep inner peace; transforming, ineffable love, or a contagious joy that one imagines will last forever!

There are about four chants that call for a repetition of the names of the masters and these I find especially helpful. I take one of these chants, name by name, one by one into silent visualizations which I then let dissipate into an expectation of their actual vibrational presence. I find this practice deeply rewarding. Thus, I alternate chanting with meditation.

Among my yoga practices, having recently teamed up with Murali Venkatrao in the Advanced Pranayam class at our local Ananda Center (Institute for Living Yoga) for our level II (500 hour) Yoga Alliance students, I gave special emphasis to some of the more aggressive pranayams to take me deeper into psychological equilibrium, inclining toward breathlessness.

To feel kinship with others in this world requires more than mere sentiment or dry philosophy; for it to be real and sustainable -- even when one is under personal attack -- it must descend from the perfect love of God.

When in the New Testament Jesus gives the parable of the "King" who explains to the "elect" that whenever they helped a person in need they were serving Him, we see right away the obvious teaching that we should help those in need. Only slightly less obvious, but I suspect not often pointed out in orthodox Christian circles is the precept that God IS each person. Our charitable act should arise because God resides in that person, not only because his material need. This is the REASON to help others, because they are, "as thyself," a child of God. ("Love thy neighbor AS thy Self.").

This famous parable offers "heavenly rewards" to those of a kind and generous nature but the parable makes it clear that the compassion of the "elect" was not expressed as an act of conscious devotion to God who resides in those whom they helped. Is it enough, spiritually speaking, to be a humanitarian, perhaps an agnostic, even an atheist? Yes--but only up to a point.

We can get good karma and the heavenly rewards of heart warming satisfaction from our good deeds. But to reunite our souls with God, our Creator, requires an act of conscious devotion (and not just one!) All of our good karma for our generosity might be used up by our response when we are attacked by others for it is an axiom that "no good deed goes unpunished" in this world of duality! Good karma can work off bad karma but until we begin to yearn to step out of duality all together and into transcendence (the oneness of God's eternal love and bliss), we just remain on the merry-go-round.

It is not humanly possible to love every person we meet because not everyone we meet is lovable in a merely human way. But when our hearts are full of the unconditional love of (for) God, we are naturally loving. We are also naturally wise in how we express that love! 

Thus a loving parent may have to discipline a child (but to do so does not require being angry); a policeman may have to apprehend a criminal (but need not be cruel); a teacher, correct a student (without dislike); and a supervisor, to lay off or let go an employee (without malice). True love IS wisdom. We mustn't forget that.

Love which results from a bleeding heart simply bleeds the heart into a dearth of feeling!

This, then, is the basis for the true Spirit of Christmas: that divine love and God's presence rests at the heart of each heart, each creature, each person, indeed, each atom of creation.

The outer light of the sun may be absent from our northern hemisphere as we descend into winter, but it can remind us that the true "light of men" resides within us and can be always found, or re-born, in the stillness of the quiet heart, especially deep in meditation.

One reason I think we instinctively honor children as part of Christmas is derived from the tender feelings that arise around devotion to the Christ child. (Did you know, however, that it was a thousand years after that event that the first nativity scene was created for the purpose of devotion? It was St. Francis of Assisi who did this for the first time in Christianity's history!)

But I think there's another reason, as well. For the fellow feeling of kindness and warmth which we call the Christmas spirit is reflected in the innocence, natural love, and openness that children express. (This is also depicted in the "softly lowing" animals who share the humble stable where Jesus is said to be born.) 

Paramhansa Yogananda often quoted these words of Jesus, "Suffer the little children to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven."

"For of such" is the warmth, the welcoming hospitality, graciousness, kindness and generosity we see expressed at Christmas. The social aspect, in spite of its commercialization, remains a valid and wonderful part of Christmas. But it's sustainable source comes from within us from our experience of the living presence of God, the Christ universal.

That aspect of Christmas giving that extends generosity to the poor and homeless is affirmed in the parable given to us of Jesus (above). But giving to those in need goes beyond the gift's material benefit and value. Did not Jesus also say "The poor ye have always with thee"? 

Giving to those in need affirms our kinship even with those whose circumstances differ so greatly from our own, or whose outer appearances do not attract us. We are all children of God and are equally deserving of the divine abundance of joy and self-respect.

We must not be hypocrites like the friends of suffering Job in the Old Testament who taunted him by assuming he must have sinned and thus deserved his troubles. We who might reject a teaching like Original Sin find ourselves, perhaps, all too easily invoking the law of (bad) karma when we or our friends are burdened with illness or misfortune. 

Whatever may be the roots of our present troubles, or those of others less fortunate seeming than us, each of us can turn the "sow's ear" of difficulties into a "silk purse" of spiritual growth if we respond with grace, faith, equanimity, and cheerfulness. Our tests exist to cleanse us and awaken our strength, courage and faith. 

Perhaps you know this story:  

A king had a male servant who, under all circumstances always said to him: “My king, do not be discouraged because everything God does is perfect, and He makes no mistakes.”
One day, they went hunting and a wild animal attacked the king. The servant managed to kill the animal but couldn’t prevent his majesty from losing a finger.
Furious and without showing any gratitude, the king said; “If God was good, I would not have been attacked and lose one finger”.
The servant replied: “Despite all these things, I can only tell you that God is good and everything He does is perfect; He is never wrong.”
Outraged by the response, the king ordered that the servant be imprisoned.
Later, the king left for another hunt and was captured by savages who used human beings as sacrifice. On the altar, the savages discovered that the king did not have one finger in place, so they released him because they considered him to “incomplete” to be offered to their gods.
On returning to his palace, the king authorized the release of his servant and told his servant: “My friend, God was really good to me. I was almost killed but for lack of a single finger, I was let go.”
“However, I have a question,” the king added. “If God is so good, why did He allow me to put you in prison?”
The servant wisely replied: “My king, if I had gone with you, I would have been sacrificed because I have no missing finger.”
While giving to charitable organizations is surely a good thing, anytime of year, consider also more personal acts of sharing. "Charity," my mother used to say, "begins at home." Consider the needs of a friend, family member, neighbor, or co-worker something he or she truly needs. Give, too, anonymously when you can. Or give to express your caring or appreciation to someone to whom you don't otherwise have an obligation or any other personal motive to do so.
One encounters beggars most everywhere in the world. Who can know if it is wise to give to this one or that. If you choose to give, do so for the awakening of the love of God in your own heart, not for any tangible need you imagine the recipient may have.
Yogananda's charity was more often in this way: more personal. So, too, Swami Kriyananda (Ananda's founder and a direct disciple of Yogananda's). 
We recently had an opportunity to give (both personal and from Ananda here in Seattle) a modest donation to a rural health clinic in northern Bangladesh. We were invited to an annual fundraiser organized by local Imam Jamal Rahman and his family for the benefit of a clinic in their ancestral village. We could see directly the practical results of our gifts and it was satisfying and meaningful.
The message that Paramhansa Yogananda was commissioned to bring to the West and to the world is that "Christ lives!" The universal Christ (or Krishna, Buddha, etc.) consciousness, which is the sole reflection within us of the Creator's bliss and consciousness, exists in all creation, and in you and me. Meditation, and especially kriya yoga (an advanced meditation technique) has come into the world and into increasing popular use to help us discover this realization for ourselves.
Thus Christmas has taken on a new meaning: a universal one and also a very practical one. It can and truly should be celebrated by everyone: of all faiths or none. It is not by legislation, reason, or philosophy that we can overcome our differences and inbred prejudices but by the Christ love of our hearts and souls.
A blessed and joyful Christmas season to all!
Nayaswami Hriman 



Monday, November 6, 2017

Are All Religions Equal?

As if religious divisiveness were not already rife with strife, do we dare ask if all religions are equal in their spiritual stature or degree of elevation (or revelation)? And, who are we to even ask such a question?

Paramhansa Yogananda was asked this question and said simply, “No, not all religions descend from the same heights of divine vision.” (I am paraphrasing.) He would sometimes tell the story of how one religion of recent vintage, and now exceedingly popular with millions of followers, was created by its founder with the ruse of burying writings underground, waiting a few years, and then miraculously finding them.
I was once received a letter from a friend who chided me for an article I wrote around Easter time comparing the sacrifice of Jesus in his crucifixion with the concept in the Bhagavad Gita (and the Vedas) of yagya (and also tapasya): self-sacrifice. The writer wanted to know why I didn’t include examples from the teachings of the Koran.
Part of my reply to the writer included a question asked of Paramhansa Yogananda: “Why do you (Paramhansa Yogananda) emphasize the teachings of Jesus Christ and those of Krishna (rather than including other teachings)?” Yogananda’s curt reply was: “It was Babaji’s wish that I do so.” In other words, he essentially refused to elaborate.
That there is a special connection between Paramhansa Yogananda and Jesus Christ is amply demonstrated in his own story, "Autobiography of a Yogi.” But no explanation of it is given.
Let us turn now to metaphysics and to the core teachings of Sanaatan Dharma. (Sanaatan Dharma is the indigenous name for Hinduism. The term means, simply, the "Eternal Religion." Its existence pre-dates much of what is recognizable to us as Hinduism. Its origins go far back in time to the Vedas and other writings which followed the Vedas in time.)
There is the core teaching that we, “man,” are made in the image of God. We find this stated plainly in the Old Testament, for example. We are thus, as many religions and saints aver, “God’s children.” We are taught, east and west, that “God” (whoever or whatever “God” is) made the universe. But in most traditions we are not given to understand exactly how God made “something from nothing.” We are told, only, that He did so.
In the traditions of India, however, it is taught that God made the universe by becoming the universe. Put more starkly, there is NO other core or fundamental reality than God alone! God is all there is![1] The teachings further aver the core concept of the Christian trinity: God is beyond and untouched by His creation, while at the same time IS his creation, and at the same time God, as God, resides silently in the still heart of every atom of creation! Father, Mother, son!
By extension, therefore, if indeed logic can be expected to kick in here, at this point, WE are aspects of God. Could then the purpose of our creation and existence be to re-discover, to re-inherit our Oneness with the only Reality there is? To unite, in other words, what only appears to be our separate consciousness with the Infinite Consciousness?
Well, surprise, surprise: this is precisely the teaching of Sanaatan Dharma!
Thus, now let us return to our challenge question: are all religions equal (spiritually speaking)? The core teachings averred above might then be the yardstick by which this question can be answered.
I do not wish to represent the teachings of the basic main faiths but I will dip my toe into the waters. First let me add something VERY VERY important: we must distinguish between orthodox theology and the lives and teachings of the most spiritually advanced saints. For it has been said and makes sense that in every religion, time and place, there have been those individual souls who have achieved the realization described by Sanaatan Dharma. This must be so if Sanaatan Dharma be true.
Putting aside then that the true “custodians” of religion (the saints, whose testimony would surely be, upon close inspection, unanimous), we now might have our yardstick hovering over our inquiry.
Christianity and Islam speak of heaven as a place where our separateness resides eternally: strumming harps, being catered to by virgins, or praising God or whatever. Buddhism and Judaism seem unsure of the whole after-death thing. Buddhism inclines to saying “nothing” and Judaism argues about it. None of these however speak of union (or Oneness) with God. Judaism has the great mantra “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is ONE!” So far as I understand it, however, the One isn’t really one; it’s two: the Lord and me. They don’t take the mantra all the way to the goal line, in other words.
I readily admit my tongue is in my cheek and my analysis in the above paragraph is about as superficial as one could concoct but most orthodox religionists are pretty superficial when it comes to their own beliefs, aren’t they? In one religion, they don’t drink; in another, don’t smoke or dance; in another, don’t eat meat and blah blah blah! Imagine they even kill each other over these things!
It gets worse because if God is the sole Reality behind all appearances and if the goal of the soul’s existence to achieve reunion with the Oversoul, this surely must mean there exists at least one soul who has achieved this!!!!! Sanaatan Dharma says many souls have achieved this. Christianity, at least, says there’s just one: Jesus Christ.
Buddhism, Judaism, and Islam are all very conflicted about the spiritual stature of their respective founders or prophets, some of whom seem all too human (like the Roman, Greek, Hindu or other gods). The teaching of the true guru, or savior, is a teaching that essentially says that the triune God incarnates in human form even as God already IS all forms. (How else would the stated goal of creation be demonstrated?)
Even if Christianity and some Hindu believers say that God himself has incarnated, the more subtle and nuanced approach as clarified by Paramhansa Yogananda (and others) explains that Jesus, Buddha, Krishna and other true saviors are just like you and me but have in a prior lifetime achieved Oneness with God. They are sent back to human incarnation to help others. They are not divine puppets. Like each of us, they too have unique qualities and aspects. They, too, teach in the context of the times and culture in which they find themselves.
Though Christianity comes very close, only Sanaatan Dharma expresses this teaching clearly and universally (even if devout and orthodox Hindus limit this teaching to specific “avatars” as divine incarnations). When Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do men say I am?” he asked the deepest and most important question any human can ask of himself.
It is intellectually more satisfying to say Jesus or Buddha (etc.) are EITHER God or merely HUMAN! It takes a subtler consciousness (of BOTH-AND) to see that both natures dwell in us (and in all creation) and that uniting the two is our goal and ultimate destiny (even if it take millions of lifetimes owing to other choices we make).
None of this makes one religion, as such, better than another. As the saying goes, “There’s something for everyone.” We must each walk our path on our own and, by extension, honor the right and the need for others to do so. Each faith offers and emphasizes certain qualities such as compassion, self-discipline, love, joy, or wisdom. Each faith has nurtured and infused entire nations and cultures with its particular qualities.
Joy to you!
Swami Hrimananda







[1] The nature of evil and suffering is a ubiquitous and necessary question. Essential though it is, it goes beyond the scope of this article. Maybe another time, eh?