Showing posts with label Swami Kriyananda. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Swami Kriyananda. Show all posts

Saturday, July 15, 2017

How to Pray Effectively

A favorite Sufi poem, attributed to Hazrat Inayat Khan,
I asked for strength
And God gave me difficulties to make me strong.
I asked for wisdom
And God gave me problems to solve
I asked for prosperity
And God gave me a brain and brawn to use
I asked for courage
And God gave me dangers to overcome
I asked for love
And God gave me people to help.
I asked for favors
And God gave me opportunities
I received nothing I wanted.
I received everything I needed.
And I would add:
I asked to know God
And God taught me how to meditate!
Paramhansa Yogananda, world teacher and author of the renowned classic, Autobiography of a Yogi, composed a book, Whispers from Eternity, filled with what he called “prayer-demands!” As Jesus taught, long ago, “Pray believing!” Calm confidence in the power of prayer; the love of God; and the worthiness of oneself and one’s need are all vital aspects of prayer.
Yet most people think of God only when a material need or crises occurs. “T’aint no atheists in fox holes” they say. Such prayers, however desperate, beggar the question of one’s being a beggar, an outsider, to the loving heart and omnipresence of God. Not surprisingly, such prayers are not very effective, though I suspect, in truth more effective than perhaps they “ought” to be!
An Irishman was once late for a job interview—a job he desperately needed in order to support his family. As he circled the parking lot in his car, anxious for a parking space, he resolved upon an ancient and time-honored solution: he prayed for help! “Dear God, I know I don’t go often to Sunday mass and I drink too much, but if You can find me a parking place right away, I WILL reform!” Suddenly to his happy amazement, a car backed out and a space opened up. He cried out in joy, “Oh never mind, Lord, I found one!”
I suspect that’s how a lot of desperate prayers go: into the dustbin of forgetfulness and ingratitude. As the poem above suggests, we get what we NEED, not what we WANT. And by need, I refer less to our material needs and more to the needs of our soul to grow in wisdom, compassion, and divine love.
The highest prayer, Yogananda taught, was to know God; to have devotion and pure faith; and to serve God in all people and circumstances. After that we can also pray for our material or emotional needs, or for healing for our self or others, but always subject to that result which provides the most effective route to spiritual awakening and knowledge of God (whether for us or others).
Swami Kriyananda tells the story how he had sudden kidney stone (or gall bladder) attack on a Sunday morning when he was to give the Service. He was in agony but he refused to pray for himself. Then as the hour came closer to the time of Service, he prayed to Divine Mother, “I can’t give the Service in this condition, so if you want me to give the Service you have to do something about this pain!” Almost before the words were finished, the pain suddenly ceased. So filled with bliss was he (and not merely from the cessation of pain but from the instant consolation of such a divine response and presence), that, ironically, though he conducted the Service, he couldn’t really give much of talk!
I cannot recommend highly enough the book of prayer-demands, Whispers from Eternity. A year or two ago, our weekly study groups at Ananda Seattle studied this book together. The inspiration was so great that we, too, could hardly say or add anything to the poems we read except to enter into them in inner silence.
Let us close with this excerpt from prayer demand number 19 from the edited version published by Crystal Clarity Publishers of Whispers from Eternity:
Prayer for Expanding Love from Myself to all my Brethren
O Divine Mother, teach me to use the gift of Thy love, which I feel in my heart, to love the members of my family more than myself. Bless me, that I may love my neighbors more than my family. Expand my heart’s feelings, that I love my country more than my neighbors, and my world and all my human brethren more than my country, neighbors, family and my own self.
Lastly, teach me to love Thee more than anything else, for it is only Thy love that enables me to love everything.

 Blessings, and joy to you,

Swami Hrimananda

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Training the Monkey Mind!

Can anyone count how many random thoughts go through our minds each day? Must be a few thousand, don't you think?

How many of them can you recall? How many of them are so important you need to capture them? How many are simply responses to sense impressions? Or, are so trivial as to be almost embarrassing? Oh, and how many would BE embarrassing if you posted them? 

OK, nature more or less made our brains and nervous systems reactive, restless, and endlessly imaginative. But 99.98% of them are "Much Ado About Nothing!" Aren't they?

By contrast, when we really focus our minds, whether by necessity or by keen interest, we feel refreshed and, depending on the circumstances, even relaxed. Let me give you some examples: you get wholly absorbed in a movie; in a book, in meditation, in enjoying nature, in a stimulating conversation or lecture............the mind finds such experiences to be on the razor's edge of both stimulating and relaxing. "Calm absorption," if you will, brings satisfaction to the mind. 

But, yes, there are some people who mistake mutli-tasking, daily dramas ("he said, she said"), periodic life crises, "being busy," or riding a roller coaster of emotional intensity for being either productive or for living life to the fullest. Some even get anxious if their life is too calm and there's nothing to do! However, I think close examination of such people and such habits readily proves that restlessness is an addiction. Its long-term consequences are nervousness, fatigue, moodiness, and depression.

For those who meditate, we have to admit that easing out of the monkey mind into the watchful state is not easy! We quickly discover that watching our thoughts reveals, often to our dismay, "where our head's at." In the famous "Autobiography of a Yogi," the author, Paramhansa Yogananda, relates how his guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar, once challenged a skeptical scientist by suggesting that the scientist consider this experiment: "Watch your thoughts for a full day and wonder no more at God's absence!"

Swami Kriyananda, my teacher and the founder of Ananda's worldwide network of intentional, spiritual communities, shared this technique that he learned during the early years of Ananda's first community when the demands upon his time and his mind were especially intense with planning and managing the fledgling community. He placed a notebook at his side in his meditation room with the promise to his subconscious mind that if any important idea or thought arose, he would be sure to write it down if only the subconscious would then agree to let him meditate in peace! The trick worked. I have used this mind-trick myself with very good results. You might try it, too.

When through meditation and introspection we discover that our mental chatter and self-talk are mostly useless white noise, if not worse, then we find ourselves open to real solutions. Mindfulness techniques, whether mental, devotional or energetic, really work! And, not just while meditating!

It's like the axiom from the east: "Use a thorn to remove a thorn." Focusing the mind during daily activity on a prayer, mantra, affirmation or chant steadies the mind and allows it to be more self-aware. 

It might seem counter to logic but then logic is part of the issue, isn't it? Logic assumes that will power and intention alone should shut the chatter up. But it doesn't. 

Here are some of the things I find uplifting, calming, inspiring, and useful in my daily life:


  • As soon as I awaken, I begin mental chanting. It varies but if I sense any resistance to getting out of bed, it might be the series of 6 affirmations that go with the "superconscious living exercises" Most readers know what these are but here's one of them: "I am awake and ready!" (Said with vigor and said repeatedly!) If you want to learn these, write to me.
  • As I go about my morning ablutions I chant the Gayatri mantra. (I can send the words to you or just Google it.)
  • When I shower I recite Yogananda's poem, "Samadhi." (Ditto)
  • As I walk to the meditation room (in the Ananda Community, Lynnwood) I chant or pray.
  • Ditto for when I am driving to work to the Ananda Temple in Bothell.
  • Otherwise I follow Swami Kriyananda's counsel of mentally chanting such things as "Om guru"; "Om Babaji" or "I love you!"
  • My car has an IPOD which is almost always playing chants or talks by Swami Kriyananda or Paramhansa Yogananda.
So, am I, as a result of all of this chanting, mantra, and japa, forgetful and uncreative? Well, maybe a little forgetful, but heck, no one has ever accused me of not having new ideas on a consistent basis. (As my friend, Prem Shanti, would say to her husband, "Dear, some of your ideas are better than others!' Fair enough!) But, I am WAY happier!

The truth is--a truth that anyone can verify for himself--such a mental focus being in no small measure a devotional or uplifting one, produces far greater calmness, satisfaction, mindfulness, and creativity than all the mental worries and fussing that pass for normality (aka "monkey mind") in these times of "smart" phones, Facebook, Instagram, email, tests, and YouTube.

I suggest a trial period of one week. Plot out your attack with a variety of affirmations, chants and/or mantras. Write them down or print them out and have them always with or around you. 

As you chant (etc.) focus your awareness in the forehead (not so much with your eyes for if driving a car, you might crash, but with "feeling" that area between the eyebrows) and you'll find it easier to remember, and enjoy, your mantra (etc). Should I repeat that? (ha, ha!)

Yogananda stated this profound truth: a truth you could spend a lifetime exploring intuitively: "Thoughts are universally, not individually, rooted." As you attune your mind to what he called the superconscious sphere, you become super-conscious. Yes, it's as simple as that.

The only caveat I would add is not to forget the purpose of all this: to go beyond mental activity and into the stillness; into the divine presence. So my last suggestion is to follow the bio-rhythm of nature and of our own metabolism: apply your will, then relax and feel. See if your mantra (etc) can guide you into total and complete presence of mind. Whether minutes, hours or seconds, the technique you employ to focus your mind (and heart) will vanish into the "land beyond my dreams" (the inner silence).

Joy to you (I think),

Swami Hrimananda




Monday, May 29, 2017

Seven Stages of Meditation

I find it helpful to “look under the hood” so that I feel more comfortable and confident about what I am doing. Having created the local version (Seattle, WA) of Meditation Teacher Training, I explain to prospective students that in that course we “look under the hood” of meditation to learn the “how’s” and the “why’s” of the different practices and the stages through which we practice them. In that way, they might better understand and appreciate their practice and go deeper, and, by extension, to help others as well.
I’d like to offer to you a description of seven stages of meditation. My caveat is to acknowledge that inasmuch as we are speaking of levels of consciousness, one could say these are infinity, or, at least, infinitely more complex than a mere seven. That having been said (well, ok, “written”), see if you find this helpful:
Seven stages of meditation:
1.       SELF-AWARENESS / INTROSPECTION. The classic form of mindfulness is to simply sit quietly, usually eyes closed, and observe your thoughts. This might be in conjunction with observing or controlling your breath. In other meditation practices, the focus might supposed to be somewhere else but, in fact, the intrusion of monkey mind thoughts has the same effect (at least if the thoughts win the day). I call this phase of meditation: “Getting to know you!”[1] In this first level of meditation, it may be pleasant; it might even offer some “aha” moments; it can also be upsetting if past traumas or chronic fears arise unexpectedly. But, for my purposes, its salient characteristic is that the ego-I is self-enclosed, running somewhat if not entirely on the engine of the sub-conscious mind throwing out a random stream of consciousness or directed by the conscious mind munching on its own agenda. This type of “meditation” has its place; more than that, it demands its space. For those who have no higher intention than this space, well, mostly, that’s all there is. It is possible, however, that superconscious images or inspirations (even visions) might appear, but the chances of that are rather slim. I’ve heard that such a practice can lead to life changes but, well, never mind. No comment.
2.       CONSCIOUS QUIESCENCE.  A practice or technique that guides the meditator to quiet the monkey mind is the beginning of more traditional and time-honored meditations. By whatever technique (mantra, devotion, visualization, breath work) this state is achieved, it is refreshing, to say the least. It remains however in the realm of the ego-mind. The subconscious and conscious narrative functions may have diminished or ceased, but the ego remains King of the I. This state of conscious quiescence can be the launch pad for the higher states potentially yet to come. It is not always thus, however, as in the example of Ramakrishna gazing up at flock of geese and going into Samadhi suggests! Seriously, however, one might be chanting or praying or practicing any number of techniques and be drawn upward into a higher state without having to stop at the launch pad.
3.       ASTRAL PERCEPTIONS. In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, he states that concentration upon astral perceptions can be a helpful focal point for going into deeper states. These astral perceptions might easily appear to one’s inner sight or subtle senses as a direct consequence of the quiet mind described in #2 above. While I hesitate to insist upon the following point, it is a good place to bring it up. The psycho-physiological subtle centers known as the chakras mark (for me at least) the transition from beginning meditation techniques to advanced ones. There is a relationship between astral perceptions and the functions of the chakras. The most notable ones being color and sound, but there are subtle perceptions of taste and smell, to name just a few of the more common ones. Thus, (and again I don’t insist on this point), one could say that the stage of meditation wherein astral perceptions become common or consistent is the stage where advanced techniques are employed (or at least that the meditator is achieving a more subtle or refined level of meditative awareness). This does not mean the ego has abdicated the throne quite yet but it is coming closer. This stage has a further relationship with the sixth stage on the Eight-Fold Path (described in the Yoga Sutras) of dharana. It is where the ego is aware that “I” am experiencing or perceiving these astral phenomenons. Subtle perceptions can also be glimpses into qualities of the soul (aka "aspects of God") which can be wholly entered into as described below.
4.       SUPERCONSCIOUSNESS. If the meditator is one who is seeking inner communion with God or some aspect of God (by whatever name or form), the next stage is well plotted for us in the seventh stage of the Eight-Fold Path: dhyana. This is where the formerly “I am feeling peaceful” becomes simply PEACE. It is where, to quote Paramhansa Yogananda’s famous poem Samadhi, “Knowing, Knower, Known as One!” In this stage, impossible to describe in words with reason and intellectual integrity, one does not LOSE Self-awareness; instead, one BECOMES the object of his focus, such as peace, wisdom, energy, love, calmness, (astral) sound or light, or bliss. One feels more alive than we could possible experience in ordinary states of waking or sleeping. This experience takes place not in the physical body; not even in the astral body, but in the causal body of ideation or thought, which is the Soul. But as yet, the Soul has not broken out of its identity or connection with the physical and astral bodies even if momentarily those bodies are as if asleep.
5.       SABIKALPA SAMADHI. Here I cannot but stumble on the simple fact that I am over simplifying the entire subject so much that I almost feel guilty. There are countless steps within this step. But, anyway, let me move forward because now we come to when the Soul begins to merge step by step: first in achieving oneness with the astral cosmos on a vibratory level; then achieving oneness with the causal world of the Kutastha or Christ Consciousness level of ideation; then at last going beyond all phenomenal worlds into the Infinite Spirit whose nature is Bliss itself: ever-existing (immortal and omnipresent); ever-conscious (omniscient); and ever-new Bliss. This is experienced as a state of meditation during which the physical body (at least) is moribund, held in a state of suspended animation or trance-like (immobile). This experience is probably repeated endlessly and perhaps over more than one, even many, incarnations. One can “fall” from this state at any time by the influence of desire or past karmas. It might take incarnations before once again achieving this blessed experience.
6.       NIRBIKALPA SAMADHI with KARMA. At last, like the caged bird whose multiple but brief forays outside the cage end when the bird flies away free for good, the state of cosmic consciousness becomes  permanent. But there’s still a catch: the astral and causal bodies remain intact because the astral body contains the unresolved seeds of past karma. Being, however, “free,” and not a care in the three worlds, the now jivan mukta (“free soul”) may have no reason to worry or be in a hurry to release his baggage. He might even keep some of his connections with other souls so that he can continue to assist them in their upward path to freedom. Patanjali mentions that such a one might, by contrast, incarnate into multiple bodies to work out that big bad past karma! At this point time becomes irrelevant but there is no chance of falling, spiritually speaking.
7.       NIRBIKALPA SAMADHI WITHOUT KARMA: When the jivan mukta achieves final liberation, he (she) (what matters gender at such a point!) becomes a param mukta or a siddha. Paramhansa Yogananda stated that if such a one does reincarnate he does so without any karmic compulsion and can therefore be declared an avatar! An avatar has limitless powers to uplift other souls. His role may be that of world teacher or savior or he may be all but completely undetected for reasons of the Divine Will.
Paramhansa Yogananda counseled us to memorized his poem, Samadhi. I have said it every day for many years. I believe that it gives to me the vibration of the final stage of freedom such that I draw a bit of it into my consciousness every day. I leave it with now and bid you adieu! 
 /s/ Swami Hrimananda

                    Samadhi
Vanished the veils of light and shade,
            Lifted every vapor of sorrow,
            Sailed away all dawns of fleeting joy,
            Gone the dim sensory mirage.
            Love, hate, health, disease, life, death,
            Perished these false shadows on the screen of duality.
            Waves of laughter, scyllas of sarcasm, melancholic whirlpools,
            Melting in the vast sea of bliss.
            The storm of maya stilled
            By magic wand of intuition deep.
            The universe, forgotten dream, subconsciously lurks,
            Ready to invade my newly-wakened memory divine.
            I live without the cosmic shadow,
            But it is not, bereft of me;
            As the sea exists without the waves,
            But they breathe not without the sea.
            Dreams, wakings, states of deep turia sleep,
            Present, past, future, no more for me,
            But ever-present, all-flowing I, I, everywhere.
            Planets, stars, stardust, earth,
            Volcanic bursts of doomsday cataclysms,
            Creation’s molding furnace,
            Glaciers of silent x-rays, burning electron floods,
            Thoughts of all men, past, present, to come,
            Every blade of grass, myself, mankind,
            Each particle of universal dust,
            Anger, greed, good, bad, salvation, lust,
            I swallowed, transmuted all
            Into a vast ocean of blood of my own one Being!
            Smoldering joy, oft-puffed by meditation
            Blinding my tearful eyes,
            Burst into immortal flames of bliss,
            Consumed my tears, my frame, my all.
            Thou art I, I am Thou,
            Knowing, Knower, Known, as One!
            Tranquilled, unbroken thrill, eternally living, ever-new peace!
            Enjoyable beyond imagination of expectancy, samadhi bliss!
            Not an unconscious state
            Or mental chloroform without wilful return,
            Samadhi but extends my conscious realm
            Beyond limits of the mortal frame
            To farthest boundary of eternity
            Where I, the Cosmic Sea,
            Watch the little ego floating in Me.
            The sparrow, each grain of sand, fall not without My sight.
            All space floats like an iceberg in My mental sea.
            Colossal Container, I, of all things made.
            By deeper, longer, thirsty, guru-given meditation
            Comes this celestial samadhi.
            Mobile murmurs of atoms are heard,
            The dark earth, mountains, vales, lo! molten liquid!
            Flowing seas change into vapors of nebulae!
            Aum blows upon vapors, opening wondrously their veils,
            Oceans stand revealed, shining electrons,
            Till, at last sound of the cosmic drum,
            Vanish the grosser lights into eternal rays
            Of all-pervading bliss.
            From joy I came, for joy I live, in sacred joy I melt.
            Ocean of mind, I drink all creation’s waves.
            Four veils of solid, liquid, vapor, light,
            Lift aright.
            Myself, in everything, enters the Great Myself.
            Gone forever, fitful, flickering shadows of mortal memory.
            Spotless is my mental sky, below, ahead, and high above.
            Eternity and I, one united ray.
            A tiny bubble of laughter, I
            Am become the Sea of Mirth Itself.

Note: taken from the Crystal Clarity Publishers reprint of the original 1946 edition of "Autobiography of a Yogi"
           
           




[1] I believe that was a song in the 1992 musical, King and I (Rodgers & Hammerstein) sung by Julie Andrews.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Tribute to Swami Kriyananda

This Friday, May 19 is the anniversary of the birth of Ananda’s founder, James Donald Walters, aka Swami Kriyananda in the year 1926, in Rumania. Born to American parents who were living overseas because Swamiji’s father was a geologist for Esso assigned there to search for oil, little “Don” was destined to be a yogi. Swamiji’s autobiography, “The New Path,” chronicles his childhood in Europe, his teen and college years in America on the east coast, and his years with Paramhansa Yogananda in California. Swamiji’s early years were a search for meaning—a journey probably not unlike our own. He had the great blessing to be drawn to and to become a disciple of a God-realized guru. His efforts to find God were multiplied by the grace of God and guru.

Swami Kriyananda was destined even from a young age to be the founder of an intentional community: not just one, but, by the time of his passing in 2013, nine all together. On that day in Beverly Hills in July 1949 that Yogananda declared in a speech to some seven hundred people that this day “marked a new era” and that his words were “registered in the ether, in the Spirit of God” that “youths” would go forth in all directions to establish “colonies” of simple living and high ideals,

Swami Kriyananda was present that day in Beverly Hills and vowed to serve this ideal. Of those seven hundred, only one, Swamiji, took those words to heart. In 1968, Swamiji founded the first “world brotherhood colony:” Ananda Village near Nevada City, CA. In a lifetime of public service, Swami Kriyananda never held himself out to be a guru. His role was that of a disciple doing his best to serve Yogananda’s work and humbly hopeful that he be transformed in the process. He serves then as a role model for generations of disciples.

No other direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda has done so much or been so accessible and intensely active for an entire lifetime in public service to his Yogananda’s work. He traveled often around the world sharing his guru's teachings in talks, interviews, counseling, and wherever he went. Hundreds of pieces of music, one hundred and fifty books, chants, ceremonies, nine communities and so much more. The intangible blessings he shared were even far greater than his outward creative deeds.

Swami Kriyananda used his very good karma to race toward soul freedom. Swamiji once asked his guru, “Master, will I find God in this lifetime?” Yogananda replied, “Yes—death will be the final sacrifice.” Swamiji sometimes wondered why death would be such a sacrifice as he was never conscious of being afraid of death. Indeed, he would sometimes quip that he would welcome the respite from his life of intense activity, burdened all too often by so many obstacles and challenges!

But inasmuch as Yogananda told him that his life would be one of “intense activity, and meditation” perhaps what Yogananda meant was that God would grant him the highest Samadhi—moksha—only at the time of his transition to the astral plane.

After Swamiji’s passing, members and friends from around the world built a lovely, small-scale, eight-sided, blue-tiled “Moksha Mandir” under which Swami’s body was laid to rest. It is open to the public and is located on the grounds of the Crystal Hermitage at Ananda Village, CA. Each year, thousands of people come each year to admire the beauty of the gardens and members come to meditate and pay their respects with gratitude and love.

Beginning this year, Ananda Village will host the first annual Kriyaban Retreat weekend on or around the annual birthday of Swami Kriyananda. Thus some of us will be away this weekend. Nonetheless, this Saturday, May 20, the regularly scheduled 3-hour meditation in Bothell will be divided between meditation (6 to 7:20 p.m.) and a program (7:30 to 9 p.m.) consisting of readings, music, chanting and inspiration to honor the life and blessings of our beloved founder, Swami Kriyananda (1926-2013).

Joy to you,

Nayaswamis Hriman and Padma McGilloway



Thursday, May 11, 2017

Meditation: Is the Practice the Same as the Goal?

In the previous article the theme was to remember the "point," i.e., the purpose of meditation: to enter a state of inner peace, or joy, or love. I said this even while knowing that this isn't the "ultimate" purpose of meditation. It is, however, a realistic starting point. 

Much of the article was about remembering to focus on the interim goal of achieving inner peace and not to focus too much on its techniques and step-by-step routine. I went so far as to say that, when pressed for time, feeling inspired, or strongly resistant to your techniques and routine, it may be helpful to draw down that otherwise familiar state of inner peace and to do so without regard to your techniques or routine. 

Never let the practice of meditation eclipse the goal of meditation if that goal can be accessed without the techniques. At the same time, an intelligent and attuned meditator knows that the time-honored, guru-given techniques have the power to take one deeper when practiced as taught.

But in making those points, I ignored, for the purposes of that article, a further and deeper point. It is also perhaps too subtle a point for beginning meditators, at least. But it is one that needs to be expressed.

To start, I'd like to quote my teacher, Swami Kriyananda, from his book "Awaken to Superconsciousness." (This book is one of my favorites and it is the core text to the Meditation Teacher Training course at the Institute of Living Yoga in Bothell.) In Chapter 5, The Basic Attitudes of Yoga, he writes:

The more you seek rest as the consequence of doing, rather than in the process of doing, the more restless you will become. Peace isn’t waiting for you over the next hill. Nor is it something you construct, like a building. It must be a part of the creative process itself.

Thus it is that we err in the practice of meditation if we imagine we'll find that state of inner peace AFTER we do our techniques! Instead. we should recollect and affirm the inner peace we seek in a prayerful and reverent way AT THE BEGINNING of our meditation. As a result, we will infuse our routine and our techniques WITH that inner peace, attuning our consciousness to its ever-existing, ever-conscious, ever-new omnipresence just behind our ordinary consciousness. 

At the end of our practices as we turn deeper into the silence, going from "doing" (practicing techniques) to "being" (sitting in the silence), we will thus more consistently and more deeply find that state of inner peace blossoming like a flower at the dawn.

With this approach we demolish the false dichotomy between "doing" and "being;" between techniques and their goal. The deep lesson here is an affirmation of and in time the realization that peace is our very nature; that peace (and joy, love, etc) are ours already and always. Isn't that TRUE yoga?

As we experience the truth of this, then resistance to techniques or routine begins to dissolve, even if it is also true that there is a difference between practicing meditation and meditating! The last article posited the idea that the one leads to the other. This article takes this deeper to say that deepest truth is that the practice of "yoga" is the same thing as the goal of "yoga." Yoga means union: Oneness.

Joy to You!

Swami Hrimananda

Articles to come: the one GREAT SECRET of meditation will be revealed. And, how to make every hour of the day a meditation.



Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Easter: We Shall Overcome!

Divine Mother in her form as Mother Nature blossoms forth each springtime to give us hope, to charm us with Her beauty, and to remind us that no winter is so dark that light, joy, and love can never return.

All spring festivals and spiritual holidays, from whatever tradition, celebrate Spring's renewal of life and light from the throes of death and darkness. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is perhaps the most dramatic story of renewal in human form. It has inspired and uplifted countless devotees down through two millennia. 

Our western, rational, and "prove it to me" culture may cast doubt upon the literalness of Jesus' life, crucifixion and bodily resurrection from death but no less than Paramhansa Yogananda (no orthodox Christian fundamentalist) insisted that it was real. In a the very same culture that speaks of geologic time, space travel, quantum physics, black holes, multiple universes, and billions of galaxies why would the New Testament account be so difficult to contemplate? 

Direct disciples gave their lives in witness to it. Great saints down through these past centuries testify to the living presence and reality of the very same Jesus who conquered death itself. In Jesus' name countless saints have healed others and even raised the dead! Do not modern scientists speak of ways by which the human body might be frozen and resurrected at a later date?

Jesus' resurrection, in any case, literal or otherwise, stands for the power of love to conquer hate; light over darkness; joy over sorrow; life over death. Do we not see that no matter how much pain we humans may inflict on one another, or how much we might suffer from acts of nature and external circumstances, life returns; the power to love rises to the occasion; and, in time, joy and laughter resound. 

In a profound and unique choral piece called "Life Mantra" by Ananda's founder, Swami Kriyananda (a direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda), the words to the song include phrases such as "God is Life; God is Love; God is Joy; Life is God" and so on. This revelation, this perspective, this insight into God's presence in the world as Life itself brings the much-abused and much maligned "God" into our hearts, into everyday life. In the last sentence of Chapter 35 ("Autobiography of a Yogi," The Christlike Life of Lahiri Mahasaya) referring to the meditation technique of kriya yoga, Yogananda writes: "Through use of the Kriya key, persons who cannot bring themselves to believe in the divinity of any man will behold at last the full divinity of their own selves."

Paramhansa Yogananda declared that the second coming of Christ is the awakening of divinity in our own hearts and consciousness. (The "first coming" is the descent of divinity in human form: in the form of the guru, such as was Jesus Christ, Buddha, and many others. Their role is to re-awaken the "Christ" in human hearts.) 

The resurrection of this universal, omnipresent, omniscient and blissful Life, this "Christ" consciousness is the remembrance, or "smriti" (see Patanjali's Yoga Sutras) of it within ourselves. It flows and is transmitted by the guru to the disciple so that in time and with effort we too can say as Jesus, Krishna, Yogananda and others have said: "I and my Father are One." (John 10:30)

"To as many as received Him to them gave He power to become the sons of God." (John, 1:12)


The "good news" is declared also in the ancient scriptures of India as for example, "Tat twam asi" ("Thou art That") (Chandogya Upanishad 6.8.7 of the Sama Veda); and also: aham brahmāsmi - "I am Brahman", or "I am Divine" (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.4.10 of the Yajur Veda)

It is a mistake that some believe that Jesus' resurrection teaches us that our physical bodies will rise from graves at some time in the future. Not only is such an idea absurd and morbid, but it misses the point. The real message of Jesus' resurrection is to demonstrate that spiritual consciousness can conquer even death itself; that love conquers hate ("Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Luke 23:34). To one identified with the eternal soul, death itself is but a transition from one form encasing our soul to another (a more fluid form: the astral body). 

In short, the human spirit, which is to say the divine power behind the human spirit, has the power to overcome all difficulties, hurts, and challenges. Having faith in God, faith in the innate goodness of Life, and faith in oneself can guide us through the most difficult times.

If you, like so many, are disillusioned by current events, think of the darkness during the difficult times of, say, World War II. These things, like winter, spring, summer and fall, ebb and flow. If we remain even-minded and cheerful, centered in the Self, nothing can touch us. Live in the "truth that can make us free," which is to say, we are not this short-lived body and this ever-changing personality. 

"And the Light shineth in darkness, but the darkness comprehended it not" (John 1:5) Behind trials and troubles the Light always shines. If we turn our sights toward the Light even to death we can say, "Where is thy sting?" (1 Corinthians 15:55)

Let us then rejoice with the beauty of Spring reminding us of the eternal Beauty of the soul. Let me end quoting the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 2:22-24:

(2:22) Just as a person removes a worn-out garment and dons a new one, so the soul living in a physical body (removes and) discards it when it becomes outworn, and replaces it with a new one.
      (2:23) Weapons cannot cut the soul; fire cannot burn it; water cannot drown it; wind cannot wither it away!

      (2:24) The soul is never touched; it is immutable, all-pervading, calm, unshakable; its existence is eternal.**

A blessed and happy Easter to all,

Swami Hrimananda

** "Essence of the Bhagavad Gita," Explained by Paramhansa Yogananda, as Remembered by Swami Kriyananda

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Meditation: Full? or Empty?

Ishavashya Upanishad: “That is full, this is full, from that fullness comes this fullness and if fullness is taken away from fullness, only fullness remains.”

I'd like to take a break from politics in America and from the doom and gloom that might be derived from contemplation thereupon.

Instead, I'd like to explore the experience of true meditation: by "true" here I mean what happens when we go beyond the "doing" of techniques and attempt to enter the "being" of silence. Again, as in past articles, I am not focusing on anything absolute or cosmic.

The entrance fee to higher states of consciousness (aka "superconsciousness") is generally the necessity to become inwardly silent. This includes the cessation of subconscious images and random thoughts, memories, and sense impressions. Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras in the most profound and important aphorism (the second one of 197 or so) describes the state of yoga as "the neutralization or cessation of the reactive mental processes of likes, dislikes, memories, creative mental images and the like."

In this space, I ask: "Is the experience of silence in meditation an experience of fullness? Or, emptiness?"

I have heard my teacher, Swami Kriyananda, comment that there are two directions of awareness in meditation: expanding or dissolving. These can be further contrasted in pairs such as:


  • Offering oneself into a greater Self (God, guru, Light, etc.), or being open or receptive to receive (the same: God, guru, Light, etc.)
  • A feeling of expanding consciousness or a feeling of dissolving the sense of ego awareness (I don't say "dissolving of consciousness" as this is would take us down into subconsciousness)
  • It can be described in various ways, including, for example: devotional self-offering (expansion) or devotional receptivity (receiving). In expansion of ego-consciousness there is a concomitant dissolving of the ego self. In the dissolution of ego-self there becomes space (emptiness) to be filled.
  • Astral signs or phenomenon can appear to your insight sight or subtle senses: any one or a combination of the five astral senses (prototypes of physical senses) can be experienced; or, darkness can "appear"; light can dim into a dark light and so on.
  • Vibrant sense of space and energy can envelope you, or, perceptions of space and energy can begin to dissolve.
  • To complicate matters, what begins to expand, or what begins to dissolve can resolve into its opposite. Dissolution of ego awareness can be replaced by an expanding light, energy, sound, and so on. 
  • One can approach this space of silence with the attitude and feeling of devotion; or, energetically; or, with mental intensity, will and concentration; or, with a mixture of all three elements.
So these apparent opposites are not really opposite. 

[As an aside: At the Ananda Meditation and Yoga center in Bothell WA (USA), we have initiated a new series of meditation classes: each can be taken independently, or, as a series. Addressing the needs of the human mind and heart, we take our basic techniques that are taught in our traditional “Learn to Meditate” classes, and re-orient them towards focusing the mind (“Mind Fullness meditation”); healing the heart of grief, hurts, depression and other harmful emotions (“Peace Fullness meditation); enhancing the health, healing and vitality of the body (“Health Fullness meditation), and using meditation as prayer and devotion and to achieve Self-realization (“Soul Fullness meditation). (This article is not to describe these classes. For more information on these, go to www.AnandaWA.org.)]

Buddhism is associated, generally, with extinction of ego consciousness and the description of meditation and its goal as being emptiness: sunyata. (This term actually has several meanings or emphases.) Whatever its doctrinal associations and differences, my interest and use of the term is simply that during meditation one can intend to and/or experience the cessation of thoughts, emotions, and bodily movements as an end in itself. 

There are those teachers or branch traditions that assert that emptiness is "all there is" and is the goal. How literally that is stated, I don't know. It's not very appealing unless your down on your luck. The point is: there exists a teaching in the field of meditation that NO-THING-NESS not only exists as a state of consciousness but is the bedrock of reality and the goal of meditation and life.

In most other meditation traditions and in the meditation teachings of Ananda (based on the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda), it is happiness, or, more technically, joy (bliss) that is the goal of life and of meditation. Again, I'll stop short of attempting to define any absolute. Just speaking here casually.

Emptying the mind of ego involvement is certainly one very important channel to the fullness of joy. Into the seemingly empty space of the no-thing-ness state rushes, pours, or slowly fills the peace, joy, and unconditional love which is our own true Self and the source and underlying reality of all creation.

In "Autobiography of a Yogi," Chapter 7, the levitating saint, Master Mahasaya, asks the young Mukunda (future Yogananda): "You often go into the silence but have you developed anubhava?" Yogananda commented that the saint was reminding him to love God more than meditation. The saint went on to say: "Don't mistake the technique for the goal."

Just as science now tells us that “empty space” is anything but empty, being latent with energy, so too quietness of mind and breath will often be slowly or instantly filled with a subtle by powerful and vibrant sense of latent potentiality. As we approach infinity, "nothing is always." (You can quote me on that one.)

Seasoned meditators find that sometimes their deeper meditations alternate between emptiness and fullness. Other such meditators may, by temperament, tend dominantly toward one or the other. In general, the more one goes by the mind, the more one inclines toward emptiness. The more one goes by heart or by energy, the more towards expansion or fullness. These are very general statements, however.

In practices such as kriya yoga (which is a subset of the science of Raja Yoga), the meditator is focusing on drawing life force (prana) inward through the chakras and up the central astral spine towards the brain. This focus is obviously a positive, fullness-oriented one but an intended result of this is quieting the mind. The immediate consequence can be described as either full or empty, though not absolutely.

I do aver, as Paramhansa Yogananda taught and as my teacher (and founder of the worldwide work of Ananda), Swami Kriyananda reassured us, that contrary to some teachings, “emptiness” as “nothingness” is NOT the final statement on reality. “No wonder,” Kriyananda would sometimes quip, tongue firmly in cheek, “that teachers in that line of thinking opted for a “rain check” by offering to come back and help others!” No one wants to submit to what amounts to suicide of the Self. The deeply embedded instinct for survival may be described as a delusion as it relates to the human body or ego, but it is not so in respect to existence and consciousness itself. Consciousness is the bedrock reality: it is eternal, unchanging and ever-new Bliss, Paramhansa Yogananda declared, representing a long line of Self-realized masters going back thousands of years! Satchidanandam: God is ever-existent (Sat-immortal), ever-conscious (Chitta-omniscient), ever-new joy (Ananda).

Joy to you,

Swam Hrimananda