Showing posts with label Self-realization. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Self-realization. Show all posts

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Fall Reflections

Ah, such lovely days we have in the Fall, do we not? "Fall" -- it has a less than hopeful sound, doesn't it? "The Fall of Rome" .... "the Fall of mankind"  or "Legends of the Fall"

Are we perhaps more in tune with the season wherein we were born? Perhaps. But "my" season has always been the sweet melancholy of the Fall.

In my previous article I wrote about the importance and different forms of self-acceptance. What I didn't include was the common regret "Youth is wasted on the young"....."for if I only knew then what I know now......""" Like all regrets a waste of time; too few inspire fresh efforts and iron-willed resolutions to improve.

Ah, sweet regrets! Like memories they are a inexpensive indulgence but, like all such dips into unreality, they can leave us empty and merely sad.

Fall is not sad for me because the twinge of melancholy is but a reminder that only here and now lies the pearl of great price. What I seek is not a mental image, dredged from the past and refurbished to look better than it actually was: it is a dynamic, life-giving, life-loving embrace beginning at a point of singularity (me), and extending out or in as far as I can feel until all simply vanishes and I AM remains. Fall inspires in me the best and to see in the rest only their best.

You see, normally the seasons trigger but human moods. Each of them will tend to push our minds somewhere else. The intensity of summer activity keeps us at our periphery; the ever hopeful expectations of Spring keep us looking to the future; the dark night of winter inclines us to seek merriment and fellowship to keep the darkness at bay. And, yes, Fall invokes memories and nostalgia for the past.

It just so happens that Fall fits my "mood" like an comfortable old coat. It's not for everyone. Some prefer their cup of life full, active and dynamic; others, brimming with beauty and hope; others, are deep inside themselves, their thoughts unseen like an underground river.

I will further indulge myself by commenting on the fun fact that my grandson, Jay Matlock, was born on my birthday one year ago. At that very moment I and many of my dear friends, were meditating in front of the crypt where Yogananda's body is interred at the Forest Lawn cemetery in Glendale, CA. A buzzing text message stirred me from my meditations and my joy was such that I made an instant announcement! Was little Jay saying, "I'm back?"

A Fall reflective "type" cannot but wonder what that coincidence means for the two of us in our unfolding evolution as souls. No amount of reflection has revealed to me an image, whether past or future, from the dark, limpid pool of self-reflection. Yet I continue to marvel on the simple fact of it. I wish little Jay the best and quickest route to soul awakening and freedom, guided by the masters of Self-realization and the inspiration of many gurubhais (including his soul awakened parents). What help I may be to him in this way I cannot nor likely will ever know but I offer it when and how I can.

The waters beyond my window here at the Hermitage on Camano Island are a deep, pastel blue: not a ripple disturbs their quietude. Above them, the majestic volcanic peak of Mount Baker rises serene and undisturbed by human activity. The green of summer lingers in the evergreens as the deciduous trees begin their silent transformation to fire, flame and burnished gold.

A gentle jog into a nearby forest park played the scintillating light of a fading summer sun on my shoulders and onto the ferns and greens spread around me. My all but silent footfall felt like the angel of my soul's final destiny gently urging me along the path of life to the goal. The droplets of time are fading, hurry along now, don't tarry at the beaver pond to reminisce, or at the crude wooden bench in that magic, light-filled meadow.

Quoting one of my favorite affirmations written by my teacher, Swami Kriyananda, "be strong in yourself; complete in yourself; the joy of the universe awaits discovery in your inner being."

And to conclude with the nayaswami song I wrote a week or two after my ordination: "I am strong in my Self, I am free; complete in my Self, I seek Thee; in pleasure or pain, come loss or come gain; be praised or be blamed, I remain just the same; for nothing and no one is mine; for anger nor pride have I time. I seek God alone, only Thee; in Thy love and Thy joy I am free."

Joy to you,

Swami Hrimananda

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Ananda : Who Are We?

This is an email sent to members of Ananda in Seattle, WA (USA) (today, May 20,2016)


Ananda: Who are We?

Dear Friends, Members & Students of Ananda Seattle:

Last Sunday, May 15, we officially dedicated the newly constructed Yoga Hall. We wanted to share with you that this new hall is more than a yoga “studio.” Hatha yoga is more than stretches with incredible (and increasingly proven) health benefits. More and more people recognize the mental health and well-being benefits of hatha yoga. Following this, more people are recognizing its original spiritual purpose and benefits.

Ananda’s style of Hatha Yoga is what we call “Ananda Yoga.” We won’t go into a detailed description of Ananda Yoga because in outward appearance we use many of the classic yoga poses that are practiced and taught around the world and down through the centuries. We’ve added affirmations specific to each pose to help students tune into the consciousness from which the physical poses were originally sourced and which is the spiritual essence and purpose of each pose.

We understand that Ananda is seen in various ways, some of which seem at opposites: to some, we are a specific spiritual path (kriya yoga) following the inspiration of a modern spiritual teacher (Paramhansa Yogananda). In this view we are not unlike churches or temples everywhere and in most faith traditions. Indeed, our legal name is Ananda Church of Self-Realization of Seattle! We are, in fact, recognized as a “church” by the I.R.S.

However, when Paramhansa Yogananda was asked if “Self-realization” is a new sect, he replied, “We are not a sect.” Elsewhere he explained that this work is a “new dispensation of the eternal truths” taught by masters in every tradition, and especially in India and by Jesus Christ.  Yet to any person looking in from the “outside,” we do have specific practices, precepts, rituals, and tenets that characterize churches everywhere.

What he meant was that we do not have a “sectarian” attitude and that is very much our intention, practice and affirmation. The teachings of ancient Indian, known since time immemorial as Sanaatan Dharma (the Eternal Religion), predate Hinduism and are as akin to philosophy as to religion. The core values of what we represent lies at the heart of the spiritual impulse embedded in human consciousness and which is expressed, variously, in all true faiths. Hence we see the niches in the temple sanctuary which present the symbols of the major faith traditions. Yogananda called his own temples a “Churches of All Religions.”

To many of you and the public at large, and now represented dynamically by the newly opened Yoga Hall, we are a place where yoga classes, open to everyone, are offered! In between these two extremes —yoga and church — we are a place where meditation can be learned, and where interesting classes on philosophy and spiritualizing daily life are offered. For those who are inspired to make these teachings and practices central to their personal spiritual journey, we are a “church.” To those who want to benefit from hatha yoga or who want to learn to meditate, we are a meditation and yoga center.

We are, therefore, legitimately different things to different people according to their needs and interests. Thus we “defy” easy categorization. As Yogananda said of his own life’s work, “I come to ‘dye you in the wool’ of your own Self-realization.”

A new era has begun for the work of Ananda through the use and presence of the Yoga Hall under the auspices of the Institute of Living Yoga. Here we will hold not only yoga classes but vegetarian cooking classes and everything for uplifting daily life in between the two. The two buildings, while each symbolizes one end or the other of the spectrum of health to soul, are, in fact, interchangeable: sometimes yoga will take place in the sanctuary; spiritual holiday banquets will take place in the Yoga hall; how-to-live classes will take place in the temple building. In effect, we are ONE.
Asking your blessings upon this new era of public service,

Nayaswamis Hriman and Padma McGilloway
Spiritual Directors, Ananda Seattle


This message was sent to hrimananda@gmail.com from:
Hriman & Padma | friends@anandaseattle.org | Ananda Seattle | 23305 Bothell-Everett Highway | Bothell, WA 98021
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Saturday, March 7, 2015

What is "Mahasamadhi" and Are Miracles Real?

Today, Saturday March 7, is the 63rd anniversary of the day that Paramhansa Yogananda (author of the now famous life story: "Autobiography of a Yogi") "left his body" (died) at a banquet at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles in the presence of a large gathering to honor the newly appointed ambassador to the United States from India.

The term used (Sanskrit) is "mahasamadhi" - the Great Samadhi. This describes the conscious exit from the body by a saint. Samadhi is a term that refers to the ultimate state of God consciousness, a state of oneness with God (and, by extension, all creation which is a manifestation of God's consciousness).

You may rightly ask: "Many people die consciously, so how does this differ?" Yes, it's true many people die a peaceful and otherwise conscious death and they are not necessarily considered great saints. Since we are talking in terms of consciousness it is not so easy to observe by outer signs. By definition, the act of dying entails no necessary physical movements. So, to a degree the designation of an act of "mahasamadhi" is, at least to a casual observer, a statement of belief.

Since Yogananda ("PY") lived in recent times and until the death of Ananda's founder in 2013, Swami Kriyananda ("SK"), we personally knew someone who was present at PY's death in 1952, we can take his mahasamadhi as our example. At the moment PY slipped to the floor while reciting his poem, "My India," SK had his head down writing down PY's words as he addressed the gathering at the Biltmore Hotel. SK said he knew instantly however that PY had exited his body. In SK's own autobiography, "The New Path," he describes numerous instances in the preceding days, weeks, months and even years that PY dropped hints of the nature of his exit.

Among the hints that he gave was his statement that he would go by a heart attack (stopping his heart, that is; something he demonstrated repeatedly publicly, though temporarily, of course); another was that he would leave his body while reciting his poem, "My India." And on and on like that. But these are but hints. The real essence of the appellation of mahasamadhi comes not only in the striking manner of death but more importantly in the power of his life.

I occasionally come across a student at our Ananda center who, while enjoying the practice of yoga and meditation, is resistant to the idea of miracles. Such folks object to the stories in "Autobiography of a Yogi" wherein saints materialize from nowhere, or bi-locate, cure the sick or raise the dead. And, in some way, who can argue?

SK, at age 22, had similar reservations; so did I, at age 26. For many of us, we simply put such things on a mental shelf to be dealt with later as we continued to enjoy the stories, wisdom, humor and inspiration of what surely must be one of the greatest spiritual classics of the modern era.

Now, mind you: I have no intention of convincing anyone that miracles happen. In fact, I would direct your attention to that chapter in the "Autobiography" ("AY") called "The Law of Miracles." As excellent a discourse on miracles you will not find anywhere! Bar none!

It has been well said by others wiser than me that "Either everything is a miracle, or nothing is a miracle." The one defense I would offer in favor of what we call miracles is simply that: what we call miracles are phenomenon that we simply do not yet have an explanation for! Most of what passes for our daily use in technology would be shockingly miraculous in prior centuries. And, we've only just begun to explore nature and the cosmos! I am long past fussing over how it is possible for Jesus Christ to resurrect his body from the portals of death and any other similar miracle. Whether he did so as a matter of fact, is, for me, secondary, to the possibility that it can be done.

Getting back to "mahasamadhi," did PY choose that moment or was that moment chosen for him? According to the theology of oneness that he and others in the Vedantic lineages have professed, a liberated soul who returns to human form is an "avatar." Avatara is the descent into a human body of a soul that has, as Jesus said of himself, become "one with the Father." "Self-realization" is a term now used for that state of consciousness. As God can be both infinite and infinitesimal, so God-consciousness now permanently resident in the vehicle of a unique and eternal soul can incarnate into human form. Not a puppet or a divinely-created automaton, but a soul, like you and I. In such a one, however, his consciousness is united to God's infinite consciousness. Such a soul comes to play a part on earth, like you and I, but the part he plays is not compelled by ignorance and attachment, but is guided by divine impulse even as filtered through the unique qualities and past tendencies of that soul.

Thus the question of whether PY committed an act of spiritual suicide (as someone once asked me) or whether God "took him out" is a non-question. Such a one would easily have, or be given, glimpses of his final exit and, like many people on earth, might have an inkling for the timing of it. There is no separate "ego" to decide such a thing apart from the divine mind.

As all action creates reaction ("karma"), the action of a Self-realized soul accrues to the benefit of others but nonetheless follows certain patterns appropriate to itself. In PY's life work, it was entirely fitting that he leave this world speaking, as he predicted that he would, of "my India and my America" and, in the presence of the ambassador from India! Like a great story or play, his end was as fitting and appropriate as any inspired ending should have been. In God there are no coincidences, only God "choosing to remain anonymous."

PY was a public figure a part of whose public mission was to highlight and bring together the best of east and west. He taught that soon America and India would lead the world in their respective contributions to the evolution of human consciousness: the one in the discovery of natural laws, efficiency and individual liberties, and the other in the science of mind (yoga) leading to the true freedom and happiness born of direct, personal perception of our true Self.

During his life, PY demonstrated to those close to him that could enter, at will, the state of oneness (samadhi). During the last years of his life, he was in seclusion much more than before and close disciples experienced or perceived that during such times he would be in an elevated state of consciousness and oblivious to his own body and the world around him.

Adding to that his predictions of his exit from this world, it is the custom among yogis to label the death of such a one a conscious act and the final great-samadhi (for that lifetime). With the power to unite his consciousness (confined in the physical form) with the consciousness of Infinity, such a one could enter that state and permanently (rather than temporarily) exit the body. This, at least, is one way of describing what is said to have taken place.

Of course, it can't be proved in an objective sense. It is an article of faith. Faith, however, is not the same as the more tentative hypothesis inherent in mere belief. The faith of his disciples rested in their actual experience of PY as a human being in daily life. To those close to him, PY demonstrated that he knew their every thought. That proof and impact of that accrued only to those individuals. It can be described but not proven to anyone else.

The so-called miracles of saints are only rarely demonstrated on a large public scale. But even when it does happen, those people die off soon enough and nothing is left but their testimony. Whether to one or a handful of close disciples (who witness, say, the raising of a person from death), or whether a group of diners being given full glasses of carrot juice from a small half-filled pitcher, it inevitably comes down to someone's personal experience and testimony.

God, it is said, does not win devotees by performing circus stunts. God has and is everything. We have only our love to give or withhold--for eternity if we choose.

SK suggested that we, at Ananda, use the occasion of PY's mahasamadhi to honor the life, teachings and consciousness of great saints in every tradition, east and west, past and present. Self-realized saints (we use the term "masters" -- having achieved Self-mastery) are, in effect, God incarnate. They demonstrate that we, too, are God incarnate but still mostly asleep. It is the purpose of creation that we awaken. Simply to "die and go to heaven" and to turn our backs on the creation as a sham, is not the divine intention. The creation is beautiful to the extent God who is the creation awakens to become Self-aware.

It is, therefore, in the fitness of things that souls do, in fact, by self-effort and the power of grace, achieve Self-realization while in human form. In this way, then, God speaks and teaches others and gives upliftment and hope to those who "have ears to hear and eyes to see." To honor such living examples is to honor ourselves, our souls and all souls. Too many sects have abandoned the devotion to God through the saints (especially the true masters.....many others are but saints still "in-the-making"). Thus, we take this day to pay such tribute in song, prayer, chanting and inner communion (in meditation).

Blessings to all this sacred special day!

Nayaswami Hriman















Monday, May 26, 2014

Elements of Meditation: What You Need to Know (and Do)!

I have just completed leading this year's Meditation Teacher Training at the Institute of Living Yoga (part of Ananda Sangha in Bothell, WA). Many insights flow from nearly fifty hours of in-class practice and discussion of meditation among those who meditate. So it seems fitting to offer some basic thoughts about meditation. There are so many techniques that it can be overwhelming. I will attempt to summarize the process in its own natural flow from physical, mental to spiritual or, described slightly differently, from relaxation, to focus, to expansion of consciousness.

The Goal. It's so easy to be so caught up in the details of a meditation technique and routine that we forget the goal.

1.    Physical. To relax and retreat and withdraw from physical activities and involvement with the world around us and from the constant input of the senses.
2.    Mental. To release the mind from its ceaseless self-preoccupations and sense impressions so that it can be purely Self-aware, present, and mindful.
3.    Spiritual. To achieve a state of wholeness, of Being, of completeness. In such a state we feel connected and it is natural to feel loving toward all and to experience Life as conscious Joy, Love, and Peace.

The Practice. The practice, or the Way, follows the lead of the goal and the goal is embedded in the Way.....in this "Way" the goal is not necessarily outside or beyond ourselves, nor is outside or beyond the Way, but within both.

1.    Physical. The goal, being embedded also in the body, must be stimulated and its memory reactivated. The body is sub-conscious. It operates on its own, somewhat independent level. We "use" the body and its functions for our own purposes, but it otherwise is designed to function largely on its own. Thus stopping all outer activities and jumping into our meditation asana (seat) is not normally how we begin. Instead we engage, activate, stimulate and awaken the body with some kind of mindful movements. Traditional yoga postures, Tai chi, and similar exercises are well known and highly recommended. Newer and in some ways more to the point, are the Energization Exercises such as we teach at Ananda. These were discovered and refined by our guru, Paramhansa Yogananda. You can see them demonstrated here, online at https://www.youtube.com/embed/XPNSEq1VTOM All such movements should be practiced with a meditative and mindful attitude in order to be effective.

2.    Mental But, first a word from our "sponsors":
1.    Focusing the mind inwardly and away from day to day preoccupations requires effort and purpose. It is essential to stimulate the desire for meditation, and, even more to the point, desire for the GOAL of meditation. Thus the traditional emphasis on devotion. For us to take any kind of action there has to be a need. A need implies something we don’t yet possess. This is true even if all the world’s teachings on meditation say that the goal is within us! Odd, isn’t it? This feeling of lack effectively creates an “I-Thou” relationship between the meditator and the goal of meditation. The feeling or surge of the “I” toward the “Thou” is called devotion, or perhaps the divine romance. “Thou” can be personal (guru, God, deity) or impersonal (peace, oneness, love) but, in the beginning, what we seek is necessarily “other.”

2.    It seems odd to define devotion but perhaps we could call it the internal, upward surge of the sincere seeker to achieve a state of Being transcendent of his own, separate ego awareness. There is, in other words, a directional aspect of meditation even if the goal, when realized, is already present at the heart of the complex outer matrix of our consciousness. Something of this intangible goal must already be within us, even if only dimly remembered; otherwise, we would not put out the effort to seek what we don't know. We necessarily begin with our ego awareness which is uncomfortable with its separateness (something is lacking). It seeks the full-filled state of Being. When the two becomes One, we find the One has always been, and, is here and now. But, why quibble? Meditative effort lies on the razor's edge between doing and being. It's a little like trying to remember a person's name: it's right there on "the tip of my tongue!"

3.    Intention and prayer Thus it is that, whether before our stretches or at the beginning of our sitting, we rekindle that devotion or feeling, that sense of yearning. Devotional chants, will-stimulating affirmations, a prayer, and other internal statement of intention is vital, lest we descend into the pleasant labyrinth of stream of consciousness images while meditating.

4.    Focusing the mind. So, now what? We are charged up but what do we DO? The greatest contribution Indian culture makes to humanity’s humanity is revealing how the breath affects our consciousness and vice versa. Just as with yoga postures, the position of the body can help induce a state of calmness and relaxation, so it is that controlling the breath rate and flow can do the same. But the initial stage of motivation is essential. There are innumerable breath control techniques. Using too many of them is self-defeating and the simplest is often just as good, perhaps better, than the more convoluted ones. One to three such techniques are best for daily use. At Ananda we’ll use one or two breath-control techniques to get centered, and one breath “watching” (non-control) technique to develop a steady, inward focus. In this way we go from ego control to letting go. There is a natural progression as the increasing slowness of breath rate eventually becomes so shallow that it begins to pause and momentarily cease. Rather than having the mind wait passively to enjoy the benefits of increased clarity and concentration, we also give the mind a mantra or affirmation so it too can participate. The mantra, timed with the breath, makes a powerful combination.[1]

3.    Spiritual. In the end, however, all techniques should cease as our heart, mind and consciousness rest in the Self. This can be described in an infinity of ways such as communing inwardly with peace. At first we feel and observe peace and enjoy it. By degrees and with non-effort we become peaceful and the sense of “I” diminishes. The same could be said of communing inwardly with the image or feeling of the guru’s presence; or God in one form or another.[2] Some would say this is a state of negation: stillness, perhaps. Others, expansion: communion, that is. The words are less important than the deep state of relaxation and satisfaction that steals upon us. At the end of our sitting time, we can share our spiritual blessings with healing prayers for others or in asking gently but confidently for guidance in our lives. The efficacy of these closing activities we leave to the higher Mind of Super-consciousness to work out (just as we leave behind techniques in order to receive the cleansing action of inner peace).

Which meditation technique is best? Aren’t there literally dozens and dozens of different breathing techniques and pre-sitting positions and movements? Yes, there are. But just as you don’t marry a dozen people but one, go “a-courtin’” and when you find your soul’s guide, marry and unite “happily ever after.” Once you do it will serve no good purpose to keep looking around.

The journey toward Self-realization cannot be known in advance any more than the rest of your future. It is not ours to say “It is this.” Or, “It is now finished.” We must act with faith and confidence, and also humility and receptivity. A dash of common sense and large dose of communal support, giving and receiving, are also vital, for we are not alone and we are not the first! There are those who know more than we. Be open to their guidance. Support those who support you in your spiritual journey and all will be well.

Begin the day with meditation. Carry on the day in the vibration of meditation. End the day giving it all back in meditation.

Blessings,

Swami Hrimananda!





[1] The more advanced kriya technique system works slightly differently where the kriya technique is the breath control technique and the letting go follows.
[2] To bridge from the doing into the state of being, it is often helpful to use imagery to focus the mind and heart. As the state of Being comes into focus and into our Being, we dissolve the image into Being.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Who will win the Super Bowl? God knows. Reflections on the Super Bowl Battle of Life

Super Bowl Sunday, February 2, 2014:  Seattle SeaHawks against the Denver Broncos

The Divine Incarnation: the Avatara

Today we come to contemplate the great battle of life, between the people of the sea and the people of the mountains. The people of the sea are like hawks flying high and swooping low to snatch and harass their prey, the wild and bucking broncos who are of earth and mountains. The people of the sea are swift, flexible, and wise; the people of the mountain are hard, obstinate, and tough. Who will win?
Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita taught that we must take up arms and fight the battle of the Super Bowl of life. He taught that the owner of the game sent his son, the manager, as the brains behind the whole creation and that the son’s divine mother cheerleads and inspires the quarterback, God’s own prophet, to take the team to victory.

We live in an age of individualism. It’s every person for himself. All knowledge can found and accessed by anyone willing to make the effort. Social barriers, prejudices, glass ceilings: all impediments created by socially imposed rules have been dismantled or are under attack. Hierarchy, rulership, and leadership are looked upon with suspicion and disfavor. Cultures are in varying degrees embracing, fighting, or otherwise adapting to this new wave of consciousness that, so far as we know, has never occurred on a mass scale before in human history.

The freedom to do what we like and want is assumed and what we do is presumed to be our right until proven otherwise. That’s a revolution and a half, for sure.

And it isn’t wrong. But it can be misunderstood and abused, causing harm to oneself and others. It can foster selfishness, laziness, and narrow mindedness. Freedom can also inspire one to reach for the heights of one’s potential.

In former times, the imposition of social castes and taboos forced people to live within tight constraints of action and attitude. In this confinement, unnecessary desires and impulses were suppressed or redirected into the channels of one’s narrowly defined station in life. One could go deep into dharma or suffer greatly under the lash of adharma. The image of God projected in such times and out of such attitudes is not surprisingly one of King to his subjects; one of absolute ruler whose mandates were not questioned and were eternal and fixed. Religion in such circumstances is characterized by ritual, formal prayers, highly stylized music, and rigid forms of art. It is top-down and hierarchical. God as King delegates to others a portion of his absolute authority over his subjects. This is of course the priestly class who claimed sway even over kings and princes.

This rigidity of authority is fast crumbling and is rapidly being eroded by those in every walk of life as well as religion who want to take matters in their own hands. This is generally a positive step. The democratization of religion is called “spiritual but not religious.”

What we potentially lose in this new-found freedom to think and act for ourselves is the remembrance that “truth simply is.” Like the law of gravity, its existence does not depend upon our acknowledgement. It’s not just the laws of nature that exist outside our assent, but the moral laws that guide the unfoldment of our consciousness. After the twentieth century’s experimentation with the outside boundaries of behavior, we have seen a rise in conservatism which affirms traditional values.  Unfortunately with this affirmation has come all the trappings of hierarchy and dogma. Thus a great struggle is taking place in the world today: between earth and water, between rigidity and fluidity, between social rules and individual freedom.

The age of individualism is, however, unstoppable though its dark side of violence and selfishness will always result in a reactionary step backwards whenever the dark side threatens too greatly that status quo.

So we come, then, at last to today’s subject: Does God incarnate in human form?

Such a teaching has been with humanity as far back as one can determine. It is expressed literally but also indirectly, as in when God speaks to and through his human prophets. The teaching of God’s involvement in human history and human lives has always had a place in spirituality and religion.

Some religionists will say God “Himself” incarnates in human form. One obvious example would be the Christian teaching that Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God and that God, in creating the universe, manifests Himself as One in Three: the Trinity. Another would be the dogma that great prophets like Krishna are literal incarnations of the Hindu god, Vishnu, preserver of dharma and creation.

In the other direction we have Buddha and Mohammed being described only as human messengers. But in various sects of Buddhism we see the Buddha revered every bit as much as Jesus Christ or Krishna, even if the theology can get a little murky. Buddha, unlike Jesus or Krishna, made no overt claim of divinity. The thrust of the Buddha’s teaching is to emphasize self-effort, not dependency upon grace or higher powers.

But no matter how narrow or wide the slice of dogmatic pie may be, the intercession of God, divinity or truth into the affairs of human lives and history is an undeniable tenet of the world’s major religions and most of the lesser branches of spirituality.

Here at Ananda we are in the lineage that includes Krishna, Lord Rama, and many other great prophets of India. Our lineage includes Jesus Christ and a link-up between east and west. We sit squarely in the traditional teaching that God descends into human form. Well, perhaps not exactly that way!

Paramhansa Yogananda refined the teaching of the avatara (descent of God into human form) toward a middle path. He taught that the human incarnation of divinity occurs through an individual soul who, though many lives, has achieved Self-realization. In achieving the realization that he and all creation are but manifestations of the one and sole reality, God, such a one becomes a true “son” of the Infinite Spirit of God beyond all creation. In this distinction, a Jesus Christ, Buddha or Krishna is not a divinely created puppet who is almost non-human and more like an alien but is, instead, a soul like you and I. Not different in kind but in level of soul realization and Oneness with the Father.

On a sidebar, Yogananda also explained that the entire cosmos and creation is “avatara” in the sense that God didn’t make the universe like a carpenter who goes out to obtain building materials. God became the universe by vibrating His consciousness from its eternal rest in bliss. In doing so, he became triune because Bliss remains untouched (as God the Father) by creation; the vibration itself creates the illusion of separate objects and yet is God in vibration (as the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, the Aum, the Witness and the Word), while His intelligence and consciousness which remain immanent at the still heart and center of vibration constitute His reflection in creation as the “only-begotten son.”

This sidebar relates more to the cosmogony and cosmology of creation and isn’t directly related to the avatara as the savior and guru-preceptor.

But it relates in this way: we, as souls, as are as much “God” as the avatar and as the Trinity because nothing within or without creation is ever “wholly other.” All is God: God alone is the sole substance of reality.
But as a wave cannot claim to be the ocean, but can only claim to be a part of the ocean, so too neither the savior nor you or I, or any single and separate aspect of creation, can claim to “be God.” “He who says he is God, isn’t. He who says he isn’t, isn’t. He who knows, knows.”

And yet, Jesus did claim, as does Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, that he is “one with the Father.” When chastened for boasting, Jesus retorted that he knew of what he spoke but they did not. So, yes, claims are sometimes made by the avatar. And, unfortunately, so are such claims sometimes made by those who are not Self-realized.

The history of religion is as much about frauds and wanna bees as the real thing. Such is the human drama and the inherent illusionary nature of creation. When Jesus asked his disciples “Who do men say I am,” it was Peter who declared Jesus to be the “son of God.” Jesus remarked that Peter’s gnosis came not from outside himself but was erected on the “rock” of his soul intuition. It is through intuition, ultimately, that we know God: whether in human form or in the formless state of our own soul.

God cannot be proved. “Ishwar ashidhha.” And of course this is where religion and spirituality get sticky. But are the material sciences free from constant doubt and paradox? Hardly. Ultimately the verdict lies with each and every one of us to find our path and our way to the truth.

To ignore sources of wisdom in the name of going on alone or being free from false teachings and teachers is simply not possible for truth is One (though men call it by many names). Truth is something we open ourselves to. We don’t create it to suit our personality, biases, or temperament. Truth comes to us both from outside ourselves as scripture, teachers, life experience and, yes, in the form of the Godhead in human form.

Yet its ultimate reality is as much in ourselves as in every atom and in the form of the guru-preceptor.
We need to start where we are and do so with an attitude of listening, of openness, and freedom from personal bias, likes or dislikes. To receive truth we go step by step shedding every vestige of ego attachment or self-identity. In the end we receive the pearl of great price by offering the “human sacrifice” of body and personality into soul and soul into Infinity.  This is the deeper meaning of the many and varied forms of sacrifice: harvest, animals or human. We offer all matter, all lower forms of consciousness, all materiality back into the consciousness from which all things derive.

This is not a condemnation or denial of matter or form but a recognition of the only reality that is absolute, eternal and unchanging. Ever-existing, ever-self-aware, and ever in the bliss of Spirit — this describes our true Self as unique manifestations of God.

The existence of the avatar is the promise of our own immortality in God. If such a one did not exist, how could we possibly aspire to such a realization? To acknowledge divinity in such a form is to acknowledge our own potential.

The “first-coming” of the Christ divinity is thus in the human form of the avatar. The “second-coming” is the awakening of the Christ within ourselves which is sparked and nurtured by the spiritual teachings and consciousness of the living Christ in human form. There is no “third coming” in the sense that the creation itself ever becomes Self-realized. It may be dissolved wholly or in part by the forces of nature and the divine will, but only consciousness can become Self-realized because to be realized is an awakening of consciousness, not matter as matter.

It could be said that the first descent, or avatar, is the creation itself, but this gets confusing since the creation as creation is not, as such, Self-realized.

The Super Bowl of Life then is the cosmic battle of the forces of matter which are empowered to go outward and multiply versus the Spirit’s invitation to awaken and go within to find itself and reveal itself to the inquiring Mind. In Self-realization all paradox and duality and conflict are resolved in the One. But in the creation itself, the pendulum of the opposites means we will have Super Bowls onto eternity. As water is more fluid than earth, may the hawks of the sea prevail!

May the best team win!
Nayaswami Hriman



 



Saturday, December 1, 2012

Why Celebrate Christmas?


Why Celebrate Christmas?
Who, Scrooge or worshipper alike, doesn’t bristle at the commercialization of Christmas? It is so easy and so common to want to chuck it all out the window and into the trash. On reflection, however, doesn’t that simply put the nail in the Christmas spirit’s coffin? Why invest in materialism by essentially agreeing that there’s nothing sacred about Christmas?

Instead, why not search for how to express that spirit in ways that are authentic to you? And, given the familial and communal nature of that spirit, why not share your celebration with others of like-mind?

It feels slightly silly to attempt to define the Christmas spirit, but our world is closing in on us and in America and in so many countries our lives at home, at work and in the shops and marts are shared with people of other faiths or of no faith. Not only therefore might Christians stop to consider what Christmas is all about but how can everyone find inspiration from its universal message.?

I suppose I ought to ask whether it has a universal message? Is the birth of Jesus Christ an event only of interest to Christians? Generally speaking, Christian teachings hold that Jesus Christ is the world’s only savior and belief in the redemptive power of his death on the cross and the glory of his resurrection thereafter are the hallmarks of Christian faith. But this blog article will end up being a book if I head off in earnest in that direction. So, instead, let me say that …

As a yogi and a follower of the teachings of India (especially as brought to the West in modern times by Paramhansa Yogananda), I am not alone in espousing the view that saints and saviors have come to this earth down through the ages in all faith traditions and that the greatest of these are all “sons of God” as was Jesus Christ. They come to remind us that we, too, are that, and that our lives in human bodies are given us that we too might become Self-realized in God as are the masters in every religion.

There is, however, another aspect of universality that millions recognize, even setting aside the specifics of the meaning of Jesus Christ’s incarnation on earth. The Christmas spirit is one of giving and sharing. Christmas is a celebration of the Golden Rule of life and of the kinship of life that all nations, races, people, and faiths share. That surely is worth affirming in this world of troubles, is it not?

Though I can’t give specifics, perhaps you, too, have seen movies or read stories of how during World War I and/or II, soldiers stopped fighting on Christmas Day and shared in some way across their battle lines. How many children stories exist with tales of how the humblest child or animal had a gift to offer the baby Jesus? In that little form we pay homage to the life we all share, for in that light we are One and we are children of our one, Father-Mother God.

Even atheists and agnostics can celebrate the humanity and harmony exemplified in the Golden Rule.
Candlelight symbolizes, inter alia, that at the darkest hour of life (winter solstice of the northern hemisphere) there remains this light of eternal life, like the seed buried and unseen in the winter ground but which bursts forth in the Spring. In celebrating light in its many forms (colored Christmas lights, candles and so on) we share a universal symbol of hope that the sunlight of vitality and healing will once again rise.

The spiritual interpretations of this light, of which Jesus was a human representative, include the teaching that this light is the light of the soul, as a reflection of the Infinite Light of God. This Light exists eternally behind the darkness of ignorance and materialism, and at the still center of all matter. This eternal Light is the promise of our immortality which has its Being in our souls, not in our physical bodies.

Let us therefore celebrate this Light which “shines in the darkness, though the darkness comprehended it not.” Let us celebrate our kinship with each other, with all creatures, and with all life. Let us affirm that we are children of the Infinite Light and that all distinctions of race, nation or faith are but constructs of the limits of the human intellect and but constrictions upon the natural love of the heart. “Hear O Israel, the Lord, the Lord our God, is ONE!

One week from today at the Ananda Meditation Temple in Bothell, Nayaswami Jamuna Snitkin presents a 3-hour workshop on this subject, “Why Celebrate Christmas.” Saturday, December 8, 9:30 a.m. http://www.anandawashington.org/classes/art-of-living-classes/
Look forward, too, to a series of blog articles inspired by the faiths of Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity and Self-realization on the universal theme and celebration of Light.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

THE HOLY SCIENCE - PART 4 - THE PROCEDURE

We come now to Chapter 3 - The Procedure in our overview of Swami Sri Yukteswar's (only) book, THE HOLY SCIENCE. Swami Sri Yukteswar is best known as the guru of Paramhansa Yogananda who is the author of the world famous spiritual classic, "Autobiography of a Yogi."

Sri Yukteswar's (SY) book was written at the behest of the deathless avatar, Babaji and it shows the underlying universal themes of spirituality especially as between the Christian bible and the teachings of Sanaatan Dharma (the revelations of the rishis of India). Throughout the text he proffers quotations from the Old and New Testaments in juxtaposition to the sutras that he quotes.

In Chapter 3 (this is our fourth blog article), SY gives the necessary attitudes and practices that lead to the goal (see prior blog article). In sutras 1 - 4, SY enumerates the basics: even-mindedness under all circumstances, the study and intuitive contemplation of truth, and inner communion with the Holy Spirit in the form of the AUM vibration.

In sutras 5 and 6, SY states that Aum is heard through the cultivation of the heart's natural love. (There are specific meditation techniques that can hasten and deepen one's experience of Aum.) To commune with Aum takes courage, concentration, and devotion (and self-offering: an aspect of devotion).

It is most curious that a sage of "cold, calculating" wisdom would aver that the heart's natural love is the "principal requisite" to salvation. This divine and unconditional state of consciousness removes the fluctuations of desire and emotions, including giving strength and vitality, and expelling germs and viruses! The heart's natural love allows one to achieve true understanding and, most importantly, it magnetically draws to one the Godlike company of "divine personages."

Without the heart's natural love, one cannot live in harmony with nature or with God, SY counsels. This love gives to us courage to follow the directives and counsel of the "sat" (or true) guru. We can recognize, honor, cherish, and love those who dispel our doubts and avoid those who increase our doubts.

While others seek God in images, stones, in the heavens above, or in nature below, the Yogi seeks God within his own Self. To keep company with a true guru goes beyond physical proximity. More important is to hold the guru's presence in one's heart.

Moral courage is also strengthen by observances of the do's and don'ts of spirituality (taught by Patanjali as the "yamas" and the "niyamas").

SY then launches into a discussion of "What is Natural Living?" In this analysis he examines the teeth of humans and concludes that man is a frugivor, or fruit-eating species. This is confirmed by the relationship of the length of human bowels in relation to the length of the human body (as measured from mouth to anus). Frugivor includes vegetables, nuts, and grains.

He writes then of the calming lifestyle that brings the power of sexual desire into natural balance, and which then engenders, in turn, vitality and health. He speaks of the health value and natural instinct for fresh air in our dwelling places.

SY moves then to Sutras 12-18 in which he describes the eight bondages, or meannesses, of the heart. He lists them as hatred, shame, fear, grief, condemnation, race prejudice, pride of family, and smugness. Their removal leads, he writes, to "magnanimity of heart." This allows one to move to the next stages of the 8-Fold Path (of Patanjali): asana, pranayama, and pratyahara.

Asana is that pleasant and health filled state of the body induced by good posture and that, as a result, we can feel and think clearly.

Pranayama is described in way that far transcends the usual descriptions given in raja yoga: control over death. When we can consciously rest the involuntary nerves we can stop the decay of the material body (heart, lungs etc.).

In Pratyahara, SY describes how sense fulfillment never satisfies us. We are left hungry for more. By contrast, when we withdraw our attention from the senses inward toward the Self, we satisfy the heart's natural inclinations immediately.

SY goes on to address the 3 highest stages of the 8-Fold Path which, together, are described by Patanjali as "Samyama." By this latter term, SY means "restraint" or overcoming the egoistic self and the exchange of individuality for universality. This process includes the intuition of the heart to perceive truth, the steady concentration which results in merging with the object of contemplation and the inner communion with God as the Word (or Aum). He calls the latter "baptism" and "Bhakti yoga."

Next is described the castes, or different states of consciousness, of humankind. The dark heart, or sudra (servant) class, thinks the physical world is the only reality. This state is expressed in the evolution of human consciousness in the Kali Yuga (or dark) cycle of evolution. Interestingly, SY skips now to the Kshatriya (or warrior) class as the stage in which man struggles to know the truth and in which he is caught between the higher and lower states.

Next SY describes the states of consciousness prevalent during each of the four cycles of the yugas (described in his Introduction and in an earlier blog). He says that the consciousness of the second age, Dwapara Yuga, includes an appreciation of the finer, subtler forces of creation. In the Dwapara state the heart becomes steady and devoted to the inner world of these finer forces.

In Treta Yuga, the third age, we can comprehend magnetism and the heart, or Chitta. Man is said then to belong to the Vipra, or nearly perfect, class or Treta. Lastly we reach the "great world," or Maharloka, where the heart is clean and we become "knowers of Brahma" or Brahmans in the age of Satya (truth) Yuga.

SY concludes his third chapter (The Procedure) with a description of the 3 highest spheres of consciousness and the achievement of final release, or Kaivalya.

Thus is described the universal path to freedom in God.

Don't forget: our 4-part class in the Holy Science begins Wednesday, September 7, 7:30 p.m. at the Ananda Meditation Temple Register online for a 10% discount at www.AnandaSeattle.org. We are still working on streaming that class for those at a distance. If you are interested in the latter possibility, please contact us.

Blessings,

Hriman

Monday, July 26, 2010

Narrow is the Way?

Dear Friends,

Someone dear to me remarked recently that in her opinion the Ananda Communities and Sangha groups (wherever located though with some variations) are focused upon themselves and not welcoming. This was not the first time I have heard this comment. As much as I would like this not to be the reality, I had to ask myself why this might be true, is it a problem, and what can we do about it?

Putting aside any individual expressions of narrow mindedness or parochial self-interest, we have several aspects of Ananda that are relevant to this perception. For starters, a spiritual lineage that focuses so strongly upon meditation is bound to seem a bit "inward" to newcomers for whom meditation is not a daily or deep practice and lively and entertaining church services are perhaps the norm.

For another, a work so "alternative" and new is bound to require a much larger focus upon its core work than one better established and expanding outward in its interests. Ananda has been in existence barely forty years and while there are some eight residential communities and numerous centers and small groups around the world, this is far from explosive and the road has been a rough one on every level.

Though thousands of small communities were begun during the Sixties and Seventies when Ananda first started, few remain today. The odds against survival have been great and I won't attempt to catalogue the cultural, economic, legal, and environmental challenges. Even in the intentional communities movement (which as movements go is all but insignificant, socially), Ananda's communities are orphans. First because religious and not relying upon a consensus decision making process. The presence of a single founder, a spiritual leader and Swami, who is dynamic and a leading public figure, is itself anathema to most of the communities' movement.

Second, because not defining itself in terms of farming, ecology, sustainability, or social engineering goals, Ananda is largely ignored in the communities movement. (Ironically, in these areas of activity, Ananda has had a strong and long-term interest but simply hasn't made these a point of self-definition.)

Thirdly, Ananda's essential message is one of Self-realization. This relates to the goal of "moksha" or finding Oneness with God. This is not exactly your typical Sunday church-going message of doing good and behaving. It's not one that naturally spawns support groups, activities, or spiritualized entertainment for singles, marrieds, or youth groups. The intensity and revolutionary message of Self-realization (what to mention the effort required) comes across as somewhat "off-putting" to anyone seeking only comfort or even spiritual solace. (It should be acknowledged that religion does legitimately serve the human need for healing, whether physically, emotionally, or spiritually. Ananda has a dynamic and active healing prayer work around the world.)

Ironically, however, many of the support group activities mentioned above do in fact exist. But the goal of ego-transcendence does tend to dampen the proliferation of outwardly obvious emotionally satisfying expressions of ego-comfort. Nonetheless, you will see individual kindnesses and personal support expressed in many different forms from the birthday celebrations to medical advocacy. You just have to look more deeply perhaps.

Fourthly, the teaching of the need and role of the guru is very much a challenge to many. Perhaps some take umbrage at the outward signs of devotion and respect that are naturally tendered in speech and action. I know some object to even at the presence and role of ministers, what to mention having a charismatic leader (Swami Kriyananda), and not just one guru, but FIVE masters whose images command attention the moment one walks into an Ananda home or sanctuary.

Fifthly, the practice of kriya yoga meditation is, unlike all the other yoga practices at Ananda, only given after intensive training and discipleship initiation. In our modern era of freedom of information, this time-honored spiritual test of the student's commitment and intention are often not understood or appreciated. One pledges, moreover, not to reveal the kriya technique to others without permission. Holding to one "way" tends to offend modern (especially Western) sensibilities. Loyalty, as a human trait, is much lacking in modern culture and the value of going deep and staying true (in relationship, health habits, career, etc.) is not understood or valued in the age of texting and sound-bites.

Sixth and last is that "energy" is the basis of the spiritual practices. I could explore this from numerous angles but suffice here to say that at the heart of Ananda's philosophy, practices, and, most importantly, culture is the opportunity, often extolled, to put out "high energy." Few, especially those exploring tentatively a new faith or spiritual path, are prepared for embracing this message and not reacting to the intensity of energy encountered when first meeting a group of people, experiencing the ceremonies, and participating in the activities at Ananda.

For the no-less-than cosmic broadness of scope, and the emphasis upon individual self-effort that is characteristic of Ananda's philosophy, it is ironic that some might feel that Ananda members are self-enclosed in their interests.

In the end, however, each person's path to spiritual freedom is unique and each one's need and form of spiritual support and association must needs reflect that uniqueness. More than this is the undeniably deep commitment to personal self-effort to achieve "moksha" which is modelled by our guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, and our founder, his direct disciple, Swami Kriyananda.

While room for improvement is a constant need, I cannot help but conclude that some of this unfortunately negative impression comes with the turf of what it takes to strive for Self-realization amidst a culture so committed to ego gratification. At the same time, joy and humor are in no short supply at Ananda. I sincerely hope this is no mere self-justification, but as the sands of this life's time on earth show signs of running out,  I find myself drawn more and more to remain "in the Self." I admire Swami Kriyananda's unremitting commitment to be a divine friend to so many.

In time, Ananda's message, communities, and Sangha will expand and include many others with a wider range of commitment and understanding of that message. Swami Kriyananda has frequently redefined and redirected Ananda's work to keep inspiration fresh and energy high. I have faith that Ananda will carry on this legacy far into the future.

Joy to you,

Hriman