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

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Is This Pandemic the Beginning of "Hard Times?"

Question we received:

Hi, It feels relevant to the global times we are living in now to ask: do you at Ananda believe that this virus will soon lead to the 'Global Depression' that will be 'worse than in the 1930s' as Yogananda said? I know its hard to give an 'official answer' to a question like that but I’d rather hear your opinion since I want to be prepared for the worst (yet with a positive mindset). 

Dear Friend,

I wrote an article on this subject a while back: search on Predictions in the search bar of this blog. www.Hrimananda.org....you'll see several (Nov 2019 and March 21 2020)

For all of the fifty-plus years that Ananda has existed, Swami Kriyananda warned us of impending financial collapse based on statements made by Paramhansa Yogananda before his passing in 1952. Though there have been times and financial crises during my life when it seemed imminent, Yogananda's predictions have yet to manifest.

The current situation seems to me, and some of us, as a far more volatile mix of circumstances and thus far more likely to be the "big one."

So, with a tentativeness born of experience, I say YES! Yogananda's stern warnings about a depression far greater than that of the 1930s, during which the dollar will be all but worthless and the American economy brought to its knees, seems more likely now than any time during my 69 years of life in this body.

I recall being slightly amazed that the Federal Reserve's quantitative easing policy actually worked to lift the economy from the "Great Recession" of 2008. It already seemed our national debt and trade deficit was beyond recovery, but, then, it worked! It's difficult, however, to imagine lightning striking twice in the same spot. 

Add to our economy the connections you allude to in your note, connections with other countries such as China, and it seems ominous, to say the least.

Yogananda said that the result in America would be that we would be half as wealthy but twice as spiritual! Simple living; sustainability; compassion; calmness; cooperation; prayer and meditation. More living by these principles would be worth it all.

Yet, like the pandemic, suffering is a part of any cleansing or large scale change. Change always has an element of destructiveness. Yet, also like the pandemic, some will be untouched while others perish. Such is the great drama of life.

"The drama of life has for its lesson that it is but that: a drama." (Yogananda) We must play our parts and follow the script from the Divine Playwright so that when our part is done, we remain free as sparks of the Infinite Light. Our "job" is to live in joy and to share that joy, for this is our true nature.

Joy and blessings to you!

Nayaswami Hriman
Seattle WA USA
    

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Are Yogananda's Predictions of Challenging Times About to Begin?

This question surfaced in a recent email from an Ananda member. While the occupation of making predictions is one to be avoided, it is impossible not to ask this question (for those of us who are familiar with Yogananda's warnings given publicly during the last few years of his life (which ended March 1952).

Many of you (readers) know well these warnings because Ananda's founder, Swami Kriyananda, repeated them often.....all the way to his passing in 2013.

So, yes, of course it's a good question. On the other hand, the thought of our being yet another "doom and gloom cult" is distasteful to me and to you, too, I am sure.

Interestingly, Jesus Christ predicted pretty much all the same things, or so he was quoted in the New Testament. Thus it is that such predictions can be viewed from the inner side of the soul's personal journey, or (or is it AND/OR) from the outer side of history. Surely warfare, violence and pestilence have never ended in the history of humanity! So predictions of doom and gloom are always BOUND to come true at some point.

Nonetheless, Yogananda, the guru and spiritual teacher for many of us and an inspiration for millions, and, Swami Kriyananda, Ananda's founder and inspiration and guide (and friend), have shared these warnings.

So, for what it's worth, my two cents is YES. We are on the brink of an immense change in history. 70 years since the last so-called "World War" is probably a record stretch of relative peace: punctuated as most of the people in the world know all too well with endless series of rebellions, conflicts, ethnic cleansings, and mini-wars (and a few lesser mini-pandemic threats).

Why bother to make note of the belief by millions (of us) that humanity needs to wake up to the unsustainability of our rapacious, unconscious lifestyle?

To humor my odd sense of humor: here's what my personal crystal ball is showing me. (You can take this to the bank....more bad humor, sorry.) An economic downturn, aka depression, the like of which history has never seen. The impact of this is too immense to even bother to quantify. It makes the COVID-19 virus seem small by comparison.

From the collapse of the wealth of nations and people will come war, disease and the usual panoply of humanity's griefs. I'm not going to repeat the details of what Swami Kriyananda shared of Yogananda's warnings as it is not important right now for you and me. What is important is to "see" that life is not returning to normal.

Now, it's true, as it is in every disaster (natural or man-made), there are some who will in fact not only prosper (economically) but who will rise to the occasion with courage, enthusiasm, creativity and inspiration. For these, it will be the "time of their life!" There will also be scoundrels. Gun sales, I have read, are up. Lawlessness is certain to increase. We have already seen an increase in burglaries.

So what it means for you personally is impossible to predict. It could, in fact, mean little or nothing at all. But you'd be foolish to make that assumption. The karma that is unfolding is, like a world war, bigger than an individual and will engulf millions if not billions.

Most of my readers probably meditate, pray, and serve. Most of you are followers of Yogananda and likely members of Ananda worldwide. So we already know that "the only way OUT is IN." Inner strength; devotion; care for others; meditation; prayer....we acknowledge that death and disease (as Lord Buddha came to see) is a common lot of all beings. Why fuss over it beyond taking care of the body temple "for God-realization."

So these reflections do not have for their purpose a call to action, per se. Rather, let us adjust the glasses through which we see the world and see what is, I believe and many others as well, a world in partial dissolution and partial recombination. Yogananda, through his guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar, sees our planet in an upward arc of awakening though we are yet in a relatively materialistic age: an age of buy and sell; what's in for me; but also awakening to our interconnectedness.

So unlike some doom and gloom sales pitches, this is NOT the end of the world. It's the inevitable trauma from the breakup of an old-world structure and the emergence of a new world consciousness. After difficult times, Yogananda predicted there would be 200 years of world peace (because we'd be sick of warfare!)

But lest you, like many of us in the 1960's, imagine life is going to suddenly be wonderful: forget it! The rich will always govern and, to quote Jesus Christ, "the poor you have always with you." It is the expansion of awareness of global consciousness that is the requisite emergent change. This awareness can be plundered for personal gain or offered on the altar of global good.

In time, that is to say, in the centuries to come, the rigidity and fixity and prejudice of religion, nationality, race, caste and gender will steadily dissolve into acceptance of differences as manifestations of a shared and beneficent reality. the differences don't need to change. It's attachment and fixed identification with them that will soften.

Harmony with Mother Earth and all creatures will eventually surface as an accepted goal by at least a majority.

In the meantime, however, there is a "war' to fight: fear vs courage, for example; selfishness (hoarding) vs sharing; faith vs hopelessness; God realization vs Ego affirmation. It is an inner battle, not an outer one. Paramhansa Yogananda thundered: "The time for knowing God has COME!" (Through meditation and kriya yoga). THIS is the spiritual purpose for individuals all the time, but especially now for us as a whole.

For those of us who are active, participating and committed members of Ananda worldwide: We were born for this and trained for this by Swami Kriyananda.

"The only way OUT is IN!"

Joy is within you.

Swami Hrimananda
Seattle WA

Monday, March 16, 2020

"Even a Little of this Practice Will Save You from Fear and Suffering" - a Simple Meditation

The title above is a paraphrase of Verse 40, Chapter 2 of the Bhagavad Gita. If ever fear and suffering were a worldwide epidemic it would be now in the midst of this pandemic! And if ever there was a simple practice that could bring calmness and confidence to millions, this is a good time to share it.

There is so much being communicated about this crisis that it would futile for me to add to the burden of so much rapidly changing information, advice, and speculation.

Without denying the suffering, fear, economic losses and isolation being experienced around the world, I want to focus on the "silver lining" in this virus-infested cloud called COVID-19.

Millions are home from work with their families. They may be playing with their children; reading a book; gardening; spending time with loved ones. Admittedly, some are without family and are home alone. But all are potentially reaching out via the phone or social media; some are greeting neighbours (from a safe distance). Millions are concerned for others. Many are focusing on staying healthy through exercise and diet. What a great time to think more deeply about what is important in life: friendships, health, positive attitudes and spiritual connection.

I hope that some of these positive attitudes, experiences, and behaviours will outlast the pandemic.

But what was Lord Krishna referring to in the above-quoted stanza from the famous dialogue which is the literary format of the beloved "Gita?" He was referring to the practice of meditation and the attitudes and wisdom from which meditation arises. Meditation is an impossibly ancient practice. But now's not the time for discussing the history and evolution of meditation.

Most readers of my blog already practice meditation. So it would seem that I am "preaching to the choir." But with so much being shared worldwide among friends, why not share the practice of meditation?

First a simple meditation. Then, some links to more complete meditation routines. There are hundreds of meditation apps, maybe more even. But when one is new to something on what basis does one choose if not on the basis of the recommendation of a friend? And isn't friendship, caring, and connection the theme of our present circumstances? So, let's meditate! Here we go:

Sit upright but in a relaxed and alert natural posture: chest up slightly; head level; shoulders relaxed; palms upward on the thighs. Open or close your eyes as you feel. (As you internalize it will be natural for most people to close their eyes.)

Take a few long, slow but enjoyable breaths. Let the "stomach" (actually, the diaphragm) expand out as you inhale slowly. As the inhalation progresses you will feel your rib cage expand outward to the sides. Then, finally, as you complete the inhalation, the upper chest may rise just a little. Don't force it, however. Like the strokes of the brush of an artist, your controlled breathing should feel "right" not forced.

You may pause briefly at the top of the inhalation but it is not necessary. Exhale with a controlled release. The exhalation can be slightly longer (if you were timing it) than the inhalation. You can pause or not pause after the end of the exhalation but just continue this controlled breathing for at least three to five breaths.

Usually, three to five breaths will trigger a sense of increasing calmness, but if not, continue for a while and learn to anticipate a sense of peace and quiet satisfaction coming over you. Then cease your controlled breathing, and sit quietly. Relax not just your body but your mind. Since the mind is happier if we give it a focus, let that focus be on your natural (no longer controlled) breathing. Observation of the breath is a time-honoured and universally effective practice. Your observation can be in the chest (lungs etc.) or in the flow of inhalation and exhalation in the natural channels of the nose.

If your mind needs a bit more to chew on, create a word formula or a personal affirmation. “I am peaceful; I am calm; I am confident”.....etc. etc. Don't TRY to concentrate. Relax into interested attentiveness to your meditation practice. It's the same attentiveness you might apply to watch a movie, read a book, engage in a sport or exercise, or cook--anything, in short, that you WANT to do!

At the end of your time (it's not length of time; it's QUALITY of calm focus and resulting peacefulness), ask your intuitive self a question that might be on your mind. Ask in positive, not negative terms. In your calm state, be open to a variety of answers, even one that your mind might otherwise reject. Feel calm and be open to “hear” what is the right action or attitude to take in that situation. If nothing appears, then pose alternative solutions to your intuitive mind.

Or, at the end just bring to your mind the image or name of a loved one, friend, neighbour, or co-worker who could use a little "peace of your mind" for their health or daily life. Send that "peace" to that person without any consideration of desired results. It's a peace gesture, in other words. And right now, who doesn’t need a piece of “peace!”


You see: it's THAT simple.

Here are some links to other guided meditations:


In your smartphone's Play Store search on Ananda Meditation App to download and a wide selection of meditations and much more!

Share, then, a "little of this practice" with friends and family!

Joy to you,

Nayaswami Hriman








Monday, February 17, 2020

Valentine's Day: How Important is Love on the Spiritual Path?

[I've been away for over a month from regular postings and yesterday's Sunday Service was focused primarily on my trip to India. The topics, expressed below, did not get the "full Monty" so I offer thoughts on the subject below.]

Each year around Valentine's Day the service reading at the Ananda centers worldwide has had the topic title of "The Law is Perfected in Love."

It would be easy to conclude that love, according to the reading ("Rays of the One Light," Week 7, by Swami Kriyananda), is all that is necessary to achieve perfection (happiness, bliss, nirvana or samadhi).

However, even the title of the reading isn't saying that. In fact, the title is simply reminding devotees and seekers that the "way" is not the "goal." Your faith, your religion, your yoga, your beliefs, and your righteous way of life are but steppingstones to perfection in God. (Be ye therefore perfect as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. Matt 5:48) Do not mistake the path for the goal! 

But is the reading saying, never mind the "way?" Never mind the discipline; the self-offering; the effort? No, it isn't saying that.

No more is the reading saying that than is the emotion of love the only reality in human relationships. Effort, intention, and "work" is needed to achieve success in all worthy endeavours: health, relationships, career, art, and the spiritual path.  

Even Valentine's Day (which occurs each year around the time of this reading) isn't attempting to say romantic love is the definition of marriage. (It's simply acknowledging one aspect of marriage.)

Someone asked me the other day: "How can I love God more?" In responding I was fortunate to recall Swami Kriyananda's counsel on this: "pray to God that you feel devotion; that you feel God's love." I believe he went on to explain that it is difficult to love "someone" you haven't met yet. It is difficult to love an abstraction contained in a nondescript three-letter word ("God"). To feel God's love is the gift of grace, not merely effort.

When he, Swami Kriyananda, prayed to Yogananda that he could feel Yogananda's love for him, Yogananda (who intuitively "heard" Kriyananda's silent prayer) responded saying, "How can the little cup hold the whole ocean?" One must expand the cup of one's consciousness toward infinity if one is to know the infinite love of God. 

It is easier, however, to feel love itself: love without an object and without any conditions as to who, what, when, where or how. As God is the source of unconditional love, praying to feel love is to experience even a little bit of God: the Source of love. 

Swamiji also shared with us that Paramhansa Yogananda suggested that most of us approach God through joy, rather than as love. Why? Because most people's experience of love is tainted with the all too confusing (painful, pleasurable, attached, and mixed)  human love experience. How often have I seen a newcomer's heart open to divine love only find it difficult to remain on such a high plane and thus "fall" into attachment to the nearest soul clothed in the form of the opposite sex! (Reminds me of the delightful Shakespeare play, "A Midsummer's Night Dream.")

Even apart from romantic love, however, devotees who go more by emotions are sometimes far too personal (just as those who revel in ideas are sometimes insensitive to the feelings of others). And such devotees are inclined to "love" only those who "love" them. Beyond their "mutual admiration society," duality can throw a bucket of cold indifference towards outsiders.

We, humans, you see, are more likely to know what unconditioned joy is than unconditional love!

Think of an aspiring musician: unless born with it like Mozart, even the best musicians are likely to have spent years learning and practising. Their love for their art draws them through the "law of practising" into the inner experience of the joy and love of music. Without their love of music, their playing would presumably be colourless, lacking in feeling. But without the hard daily work of practice, they could not soar high on the wings of inspiration. As I often say in classes and talks, "truth is a BOTH-AND affair."

Love is higher than the law for the simple reason that the experience of satisfaction, success or oneness is the REASON behind the willingness to "pay your dues" through effort and self-discipline. To achieve the union, perfection, and joy of love which unites lover, loving and beloved is what propels the artist, devotee, the lover, or the humanitarian to sacrifice all for the "pearl of great price!" 

At the conclusion of the reading described above, Swami Kriyananda quotes Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita saying, in effect, "love God alone and let go of all else." Poetic, romantic, even, but be careful not to rely one-dimensionally upon a convenient interpretation. 

A story illustrates the point: Krishna once counselled the devotee, Draupadi, to practice yoga. Her response, however, was "How can I practice yoga when my mind is fixed upon you?" Krishna, it is said, only smiled. 

Until you, too, can be fixed upon God alone in every thought, feeling, and action, then you should not be so quick to dispense with the "rites and writ duties" of the "Way" of right action and right attitude.

Swami Kriyananda also offered this useful thought, drawn from his own experience of encountering those who, to say the least, didn't love him: "I choose to love because I am happier loving than hating."

When, through prayer, meditation, and self-giving we feel loving, it does not require a conscious act to love anyone: friend or self-styled critic alike. It is, rather, a natural extension of your own consciousness. When you are blessed to have this experience, distil from it the joy of loving so that the alternative of focusing on loving doesn't draw you into attachment to those to whom you express that loving feeling. Instead, feel the joy of that state of the soul.

Joy to you!

Swami Hrimananda

Friday, January 3, 2020

Happy Birthday, Yogananda-ji!

Dear Friends,

At Ananda worldwide, the Christmas holidays come to a conclusion each year with our celebration of Paramhansa Yogananda's birth (January 5, 1893). 

In this new year of 2020, January 5 is THIS Sunday and as you may know, the Service is a grand, family service with skits taken from Yogananda's life followed by a festive, catered, Indian banquet! (At Ananda Blue Lotus Temple in Bothell, WA USA)

It would be natural enough for members of Ananda worldwide to celebrate the birth of the one whose teachings and life has inspired and guided our spiritual lives. But Ananda's founder, Swami Kriyananda, taught us to view Yogananda's life purpose in coming to America 100 years ago (1920) in terms far broader than the gratitude natural to those who consider themselves his followers. 

The fascinating and unusual story of Yogananda's spiritual lineage which begins with Jesus Christ and Babaji-Krishna is itself a hint that Yogananda has a role on the stage of world history broader than that of any organization and its members.

Yogananda left his earthly form only sixty-eight years ago. By 100 A.D., how much impact had Jesus' teachings had upon the Roman Empire? Not much, yet, but there were already hints and rumblings of great changes to come. By the time of Emperor Constantine's declaration in favor of Christianity in 312 A.D., one-third of the empire was already Christian!

Yogananda put yoga, and especially kriya yoga, on the American map (and, by extension, across the globe). He is not, of course, the only one but he has left a large footprint. His life story, "Autobiography of a Yogi," is still a best seller seventy-four years after its publication. And while we can see hints worldwide of the impact of yoga-meditation and the consciousness of yoga (oneness; harmony; health; joy; cooperation), this influence has only begun. And, as you might, no doubt, agree, it is desperately needed. The Dalai Lama has added his voice to thousands like you and me when he noted that if the children of this world were taught to meditate the problems that beset humanity would soon be solved. 

We celebrate Paramhansa Yogananda's birth and life, therefore, for a far more expansive purpose than it might seem natural for us to do so. And, we hope all of you will do so in your hearts and mind and, perchance, with us as well! 

Happy birthday Yogananda-ji!

Nayaswamis Hriman and Padma!

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Christmas Reflections - Still Night, Silent Night!

Who can resist the innocence and freshness of a newborn? The images of the animals in the stable where Jesus was born; the adoring parents, shepherds, and later the three "kings from the east"? The animals are hushed, awed, and respectful! It is a touching and unforgettable scene.

For those of us on the meditation path, stillness is something akin to the "pearl of great price." When you gaze into the eyes of an infant you don't usually see a personality (yet). The infant's aliveness, openness to the world, and general innocence is a natural reflection of their lack of ego-consciousness. Those eyes are windows onto pure consciousness. If you haven't paid much attention before, check it out on the next little one you find! Maybe the adoring parents will let you hold the little tike to drink in its fresh outlook on life.

Paramhansa Yogananda (author of "Autobiography of a Yogi") described the first six years of a youngster's life as a time when the child may still be halfway in the astral realm. The body is new but untrained and uncoordinated. The child needs to take ownership and control of his new "vehicle." Yet, it seems that the young child is in and out of another world in its early years.

There was a time years ago when talk about "my inner child" was all the rage. The idea was to recapture that innocence and that freshness. In the meditation path, recapturing the awe and reverence for life and life as exhibited in all people, beings, and forms, is an important aspect of the goal of meditation. Innocence is reborn by peeling back the layers of the "self-structure" of ego through mindfulness and, in the yogic (kriya) path, by "cleansing" the chakras and astral spine wherein are lodged habits and labels.

This innocence lies just behind, and therefore, just beyond, our thoughts. It rests beneath our ceaseless preoccupation with our bodies, senses, emotions and ego. Our "monkey mind" keeps us thrashing about on the surface where we cannot see the depthless depths of Self.

But does this transcendental state render us incapable of functioning? Yes, and, well, no! "Yes," while we are deep in a state of inner stillness but "no" when we return and engage in the world around us. Refreshed by contact with our own higher Self and potential, we face the world with the "God's eye" of wisdom.

Popular images of spaced-out saints are only partly valid. The road to perfection is unique to each of us. Stories of saints who don't even notice when they are physically attacked or injured may only be a stage in their journey: a stage that confirms their freedom from identification with the physical form.

But the truth is far deeper and more powerful because the "eyes of innocence" can also be God's eye of wisdom. Why is this?

St. Francis of Assisi stated that "What you are looking for is 'Who is looking."'  Albert Einstein, too, put it this way: "He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed."

Paramhansa Yogananda frequently quoted Jesus Christ saying I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.” (Matt 11:25) In this quote, "wise" could be in "quotes" as Jesus is not speaking of soul wisdom but worldly-wise-dumb. And of course, he doesn't really mean "babies" (infants). Being childlike is not the same as being childish! 

Jesus put wisdom and innocence together in this statement: "Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves." (Matt 10:16) 

The Christmas spirit of joy and generosity to kinsmen and strangers alike has its roots in this innocent wisdom of the soul. While the blessings of the Christmas holiday and tradition affirms the spirit of the season it arises naturally from the well of inner silence. Only through daily dips into this well can the Christmas spirit live in us throughout the year. 

The image of the darkened stable where Jesus was born is a powerful symbol of the synthesis, the oneness of all aspects of life preexisting in harmony on the subtle plane of inner silence. Joseph represents the male principle to whom wisdom comes through outward circumstances and reasoned conclusions (such as the angel which comes to him to reassure him about his marriage to Mary and later to warn him about Herod, advising Joseph to take the family to Egypt). 

Mary represents the female principle. Her wisdom comes from within her, impregnated by Spirit directly. She lives or embodies Christ consciousness and gives birth to it in her life. Joseph lives to serve and protect the intuitive soul-self. 

The quiescent animals represent our five senses and base nature now awake and focused on the Christ light of the soul, awaiting its guidance. The shepherds are those actions we must take in daily life to support ourselves. They have taken the time to stop and to worship the Christ light within through regular prayer, worship and meditation. The angels on high are those beings from subtler realms who support our soul aspirations with the vibration of their presence.

The shape of the stable itself resembles the shape of the brain. The stable is darkened as it is quiet and inwardly focused.  The return to silence and to stillness is the path to this rebirth. "And they who walked in darkness saw a great light." (Isaiah 9:2)

Finally, the three "wise men from the east" appear bearing the gifts of the ages and sages. They represent the guru coming from the east of the brain, the seat of enlightenment. They bear the three gifts of wisdom (teaching), devotion (teacher), and discipline (technique).

This imagery will surely endure for another two thousand years, more so as our understanding of its deeper significance spreads. 

Silence and stillness are symbolized in the infant Christ and in the story of Jesus' birth. 

As Swami Kriyananda put it in an affirmation he wrote: "View the world with eyes of calmness and of faith."

A bliss-ed Christmas to you!

Nayaswami Hriman



Thursday, November 28, 2019

"Coop" Sharing - A New and Not New Paradigm

(I wrote this Thanksgiving evening before leaving on seclusion. I didn't post it anywhere beyond the blog. Ananda is a cooperative movement both in spiritual terms -- "cooperation with grace" --- and on the human scale of cooperative living, serving, and sharing, including cooperating with nature and all living things. Though one doesn't seem to hear much these days about the more formal structures of "coops," the attitudes of cooperation are part and parcel of American culture and in strong evidence everywhere in the world where people take the initiative in respect to issues, needs, and causes larger than their own. I feel to share what I hope is an upwelling of conscious cooperation, whether informal or formal. Linked to divine attunement, it, together with simplicity and a recognition of the need for inspired, supportive leadership, is the single most hopeful trend for a better world.

As tragic are milestone events in American history as 9-11-01 and hurricane Katrina, and more recently fires and intentional power outages in California, each of these has and is contributing to an awakening of the need for individuals to take the initiative to band together to find scalable solutions for problems larger than ourselves.)

Friends of ours from Ananda Village, Omprakash and Prem Shanti Rider, were here at Ananda Seattle this week for Thanksgiving.

Omprakash has been a lifelong supporter and organizer of food coops. An opportunity arose recently at Ananda Village to start a food coop when the former Master's Market (convenience store and cafe) in "downtown" Ananda Village was forced to close for financial reasons after many decades of operation. 

When it did, Omprakash waited to see if anyone younger or newer might leap into the breach of the opportunity which most residents were sure would be taken. But the market remained closed for three months until Omprakash felt inspired to re-open it, not as a community-owned retail business but as a food coop.

Coops--food, agriculture, buying, residential, etc.--have been around a long time in American history. They reflect well the American experience and "can-do-together" consciousness. 

In much of the twentieth century and into the current century, coops of all types have languished in the face of efficient, well-funded, highly profitable corporate enterprises. Worker-owned businesses are now nonexistent or few.

I think that is going to change. I think that HAS to change. Efficiency and profit are not the only criteria for success. Happiness, fulfilment and satisfaction are also important aspects of whatever service or product is made, grown, re-sold, marketed or built. 

Food coops are perhaps the most resilient and visible coops in America. Despite the big box grocery stores and the efficiency of agribusiness food growing, food coops continue to appeal to those who want a human face and human touch to their food. 

Ananda in Washington effectively operates coop models in its thrift store (Living Wisdom Thrift and Gift); at our farm (Ananda Farms), in the residential community (Ananda Community, Lynnwood), and even to some degree in the East-West Bookshop of Seattle. None of these are formal or legal coops but all of them, including Ananda Blue Lotus Temple and Institute of Living Wisdom, are dependent upon volunteers and donations even as each of them also earn their "keep" through the services and products they provide.

Recently, Zach and Hailey Abbey co-sponsored a meeting on Camano Island to ask like-minded friends whether and who might be interested in forming a food coop and buying club on or around Camano Island. It was standing room only!!

While nonprofits including churches might want to view themselves as cooperative undertakings, and largely this would be true insofar as they depend on donations and volunteers, many lack cooperative management or leadership. Nonetheless, all but the largest national or international organizations, or those dependent mostly upon government grants, have the elements of hands-on, locally sourced operations with a cooperative spirit. 

Virtually all large organizations (governmental, charitable, research, medical, political etc.) are increasingly viewed with suspicion or scepticism. Questions arise over whether they are self-serving or pandering to outside interests.

It seems obvious to me that idealistic, creative, bold, and energetic people gravitate to independent enterprises. 

The so-called "Share Economy" is a kind of coop model. We share cars; houses; information; advice; references; recommendations; tools; you name it. We homeschool our children and have homeschooling groups. 

The model of brick and mortar educational institutions are groaning under the weight of endless regulations and expectations of parents, teachers, administrators, and the public; there are safety issues; concerns about violence; there's an increasing awareness of special needs children; racial, ethnic, and cultural differences; there's the out of control cost of education under the traditional classroom and administration model. 

Coop education models can include homeschooling blended with shared group and virtual resources. These offer hope for expanding educational opportunities beyond those who can afford it or who are willing to borrow against their lifetime earnings.

The top-heavy energy industry is in serious question or decline, its costly infrastructure out of date or decaying. The need to generate energy locally is increasingly accepted and desired. To do so would require a cooperative enterprise of various stakeholders.

Food growing is one of the most fertile cooperative ventures with many options, a variety of evolving models, and blessed with rapid growth.

Co-housing has been slow to take off, mostly, I suppose because funding remains a speciality of certain lenders. Mortgage lending falls off the cliff once one departs from the traditional funding of single-family homes. There long has been, however, a small but established infrastructure for coop apartments in the eastern part of the United States.

Condominiums have enjoyed more stable funding sources but condos are riddled with construction problems and uncooperative owners and tenants. Condos lack the cooperative spirit of co-housing.

Ananda has urban apartment communities but they are based on renting an apartment complex. Even if the owners are Ananda members, there remains a firewall of potentially conflicting interests between ownership and residency. This model puts financial results first but hopefully, this will evolve in time. 

Lastly, zoning and building codes remain a stumbling block to any creative residential enterprise.

Nonetheless, tiny homes and shared living arrangements are slowly blossoming owing mostly to economic pressures. 

Home-sharing finds its most robust expression in temporary vacation or travel lodging in VRBO or AirBnB. But this trend is also rife with controversy and doesn't address long-term residential needs.

Paramhansa Yogananda, author of "Autobiography of a Yogi," is considered by Ananda members and Ananda's founder, Swami Kriyananda, the patron saint of communities. He predicted that someday they would "spread like wildfire."

While I hesitate to jump on the image of "wildfire spreading wildly" (especially in California), I do welcome the prediction and I believe it will, in fact, happen, though maybe not very soon.

But the watchword for the future survival of humanity and the rest of the planet's inhabitants is clearly and necessarily COOPERATION! Linked to cooperation is simplicity, lest cooperation becomes diluted by merely legalistic contracts.

Also linked to and even a necessary balance to cooperation is leadership. While Ananda was founded by Swami Kriyananda--a strong, clear and yet sensitively supportive leader--future communities and coops will necessarily be more level in order to fulfil the coop ideals. 

Swami Kriyananda's training of us in leadership went counter to what was, at that time, the consensus dogma of intentional communities.

Strict consensus has shown itself to be impractical. It paralyzes creative and inspired directions. There is no substitute for the skills and role of leadership. But what we learned from "Swamiji" is that leadership is a role just like, but not more important than, any number of other crucial roles. It should emphasize service to others and to the goal of the enterprise, and not service from others or special status.

A coop model does not have to insist on consensus decision making. The Ananda experience shows that cooperation in a supportive leadership environment can result in a version of consensus that might be called "energetic." At Ananda, we've evolved an approach we describe by asking "what's trying to happen here?" Leadership listens; asks; serves; and shows the flexibility that expresses respect for the process and everyone involved.

Given that the age we live in emphasizes personal liberties, selfishness can result unless there is a balancing emphasis upon cooperation. Cooperation with nature; with other people and nations; with God and with universal, human values. 

Rebelling against established authority may be necessary or the dharma of some, but those of creative goodwill, energy and courage can instead direct our efforts to work cooperatively with others to live in harmony with Spirit and Nature.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Swami Hrimananda







Sunday, November 3, 2019

Yogananda's Predictions of Coming Difficult Times: True or False?

I have written before on this subject and Swami Kriyananda has both spoken and written on this subject many times. So this article is NOT a recitation of Yogananda's predictions. 

Instead, I would like to address some common objections to these prophecies.

1. Predictions aren't set in stone. True! Swami Kriyananda would always say as much but his opinion was that, to-date, the awakening of consciousness and the concomitant change in human behavior seemed to him insufficient to completely mitigate the predictions Yogananda made (between 1948-1952). How can we view events in our 2019 world and feel confident of positive changes?

2. Bad things are ALWAYS happening. Yes, this is also true. But this fact alone doesn't mean the specific predictions Yogananda made won't ALSO come true.

3. Why is it religious groups are consistently predicting "end times?" For one, Yogananda didn't predict "end times," only difficult challenges in the world. In fact, he said that after a long period of warfare, we would enter a long period of relative peace. (Besides, don't some people think the "world's going to end" if they didn't an invitation to that party?)

4. Sceptics aver that religious groups (or their leaders) make these predictions to keep the faithful in line, fearful, and unquestioning. I suppose this could be the case but as a hypothesis, it's difficult to prove and surely can't apply to all cases for at least two reasons unrelated to any motivation: 1. Predicting the future is always a risky business, and/or 2. As pointed in #2 above, BAD THINGS happen all the time. As to motivations, some people are, in fact, motivated by fear; fear is part of the human experience and, as such, it has its place. 

So let's explore #4 in relation to #2: why are the "faithful" often being warned of bad things when bad things are always happening anyway?

And, whereas Paramhansa Yogananda DID make certain predictions, it is not by any means super-clear that any of those predictions have come true. I'm going to focus on just two of his predictions: 

#1: America would suffer a depression far greater than the Great Depression of the 1930's. and....

#2: He stated with great vigour: "You don't KNOW what a cataclysm is coming."

I don't think any of the recessions that have taken place since 1930's could possibly be greater than the Great Depression, right? 

On the other hand, there have been innumerable natural disasters around the world, not least of which would be the Asian tsunami of 2004. But none of these seem to me to qualify to fit Yogananda's intent on one of two counts: 

1) When Yogananda gave that warning, he was speaking to an American audience and none of the many hurricanes, fires or earthquakes in the USA would seem, in my view, to qualify for the level of intensity that Swami Kriyananda related to audiences (he, being present when Yogananda made that statement, at least once, if not several times). 

2) If the intensity of Yogananda's emphasis on cataclysm was intended to be global, we certainly haven't had anything of that magnitude yet, though there is fear building worldwide that the cumulative effects of climate change may, like a tsunami, reach just that intensity in the upcoming decades. 

It is curious to me that Jesus Christ is quoted as making similar prophecies. In over two thousand years one could argue that none of his predictions came true, or, alternatively, that all of them came true at some time or place or another! (See Luke 21; Mark 13; Matt 24)

In the Indian epic the Mahabharata, Krishna warned of a coming age of un-virtue and destruction. The Pandavas, his chief disciples, left their palaces and traipsed up into the Himalayas to escape these inevitable changes. 

Absent global catastrophic events, we are left with the fact that BAD THINGS are always happening. Thus until such catastrophic events occur we might at least content ourselves with exploring the #2 objection that BAD THINGS are always happening AND why then are avatars are ALWAYS predicting them? 

What if there are two levels on which the predictions of these saints are justifiable? The one is personal: are not people in general and devotees specifically apt to have great tests and challenges in their lives? Aren't such likely to be tempted to follow ideologies or lesser leaders who are false? Besides, what seems catastrophic to me might be nothing to you but it IS to me! All the ills human life is heir to happen to a great many people but when they happen in the lives of the devotees their faith is tested that they may see the depth (or lack) of their spiritual mettle. 

The second relates to groups of devotees: aren't they likely to be persecuted or encounter social or political opposition; or, great difficulties such as betrayals of trust or apostacy? Are they not likely to see taking place around them injustice, deprivation, wars, and calamities? Not a few religious adherents in modern times have turned away from the "heavens" to toil on earth for humanitarian goals. For this, they receive many worldly kudos but there can be, for some, a hidden trap.

Yogananda's warns of this trap in "Autobiography of a Yogi," writing in Chapter 45: "Refusing a monotheistic love to God, the nations disguise their infidelity by punctilious respect before the outward shrines of charity. These humanitarian gestures are virtuous because for a moment they divert man's attention from himself, but they do not free him from his single responsibility in life, referred to by Jesus as the first commandment. The uplifting obligation to love God is assumed with man's first breath of an air freely bestowed by his only Benefactor."

The same can be said of political or social activism. Devotees can be discouraged, frightened, distracted or energized away from the spiritual path by the endless woes and material concerns of human life. 

Hasn't history shown repeatedly that evil can spin a web of lies, disguising itself as good, enticing devotees, spiritual leaders, and churches to support dictators, slavery, wars, prejudice, or exploitation in a form that could be called the "anti-Christ?" (that is to say, "anti-Christ-consciousness)

Thus, even if BAD THINGS are always taking place, a saint may warn of them because they are challenges to the faith and equanimity of devotees. Is not the warning saying, in effect, that the "joy and inspiration you may feel in my presence or in your spiritual life will be challenged someday by things that happen to you or around you?"

When I think of Jesus' words of warning (about troubles, persecutions, false teachers, natural calamities) to his disciples I consider that they did not know at the time that they would be founders and missionaries of a new religion. That new religion was going to be tested year after year, decade after decade, and century after century by the persecutions and, later, the temptations of power and the betrayals of heresy and apostasy. There would be many false prophets and teachers; many wars, dictators, and spiritual leaders vying and competing. 

That Jesus is quoted as saying "this generation shall not pass away" before he will come a second time can be viewed on a personal level in the lives of his direct disciples and on a general level to all disciples of any generation. The power of the living Christ can be seen or felt by the spiritual eye or "I" (the kingdom within you) by those who remain faithful to the "spirit and the truth." 

Was, then, also, Yogananda saying the same thing to those of us who are his followers? Do we not see all around us catastrophes, suffering, betrayals, exploitation, violence, and evil? Are we tempted to lose hope and faith? To feel anger, fear or resentment? To abandon spiritual work and practices in favor of saving humanity? To be concerned for material things more than our soul's love for God?

Who among us, today, does not feel this country (America) has not only lost whatever "greatness" it may have had but has also betrayed its founding ideals as epitomized by its elected leader(s), surely an "anti-Christ-consciousness" embodiment(s) if there ever was one?

This isn't fear-mongering on the part of Yogananda (or Jesus or Krishna etc.). It may be dramatic, stark, or, for some, fear-inducing in its language and imagery, but to me, the message goes something like this: "Don't put your faith in making this world perfect. It is a school, merely. Yes, do what you can to make it a better place but focus on your love for God and your love for God in all." 

The function of a school is to give examinations and to help students pass them and move on. So, yes, you will see hardship and suffering but hold steadfast to your faith and love for God. If this world were perfect, who would seek God's love? Are not the imperfections of this world the necessary inducement for us to seek the "truth that shall you free"?

Returning now to the two predictions of Yogananda that I cited above, who can say with confidence that wholesale financial collapse in America is impossible? (Did I read the other day that the national debt of America is $23 TRILLION?) Who can say that a major catastrophe (asteroid, volcano, earthquake, pandemic, world war) is impossible? (Almost daily I receive postings about possible catastrophic asteroids or super volcanoes.) 

The primary reason for contemplating such possibilities is not fear but to warn us not to fall asleep in our spiritual efforts. It's not necessary for the most ardent devotees but helpful for those who are new, weak or discouraged. Given that bad things are always happening, why not heed Krishna's immortal words: "Get away, Arjuna, from my ocean of suffering and misery!"

Added unto us with the love of God we can "be the change we seek in the world" with far greater effect than only toiling in the vineyard where the grapes of wrath are grown. Ultimately, then, it CAN be a both-and but walking the edge of the steep path between the outer and inner worlds takes great spiritual agility.

As the scripture of the street puts it: "Just sayin'"


Swami Hrimananda



  

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Swami Kriyananda : Testament to Authenticity

When you have made the acquaintance of a saint (a rare thing for most people), or even have studied the lives of many saints, you find that each one is simply him or her self. Some saints are rather eccentric, too, but in all cases, especially in real life (versus the one-dimensional biographies that are too often written), saints are creative, energetic, imaginative, and, in a divine way, unpredictable.

Here at Ananda in the Seattle area, we are studying the recently published book by Asha Nayaswami: "Swami Kriyananda: Lightbearer - The Life and Legacy of a Disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda.



It is an extraordinary account of the life of an extraordinary man. It is a study in discipleship in our lifetimes. It is difficult to write a post-mortem account of Spirit "dwelling amongst us" without whitewashing a human being into an icon. Fortunately, Asha Nayaswami has done an excellent job at sharing the fully human being who was called Swami Kriyananda.

In the book, which I highly recommend to everyone, not just Ananda members, Swamiji's life is shown as it was lived: transparently! In the countless gatherings ("satsangs") and in numerous letters to members, friends, and even to a few self-appointed adversaries, he was self-honest, fair to all, courageous, and insightful but never bombastic or emotional. He clung to and affirmed his soul's living reality and potential no matter what others would think of him or what others accused him of. Even if he ever disappointed himself, he rose to affirm ultimate soul victory. He also respected the right of others to be themselves, even if at his expense, and viewed each from their highest potential regardless of their current behavior or attitude.

One of the earliest statements I heard him make in a talk he gave long ago (late 1970s?) was to the effect that saints come to demolish the false notions devotees have of what it means to be spiritual. For those who are sincere but who also struggle with living the spiritual life, this was reassuring and supportive.

And he lived his life in that authentic way. For each of us, our path, our tests and victories, are unique. The delusions of Maya are innumerable but all too recognizable (at least by others!). There are, moreover, some delusions that are bigger or more deeply embedded than others.

Swamiji's lifestyle of complete openness and transparency are vividly reported in Asha's book and serve not just as the obvious and general example of discipleship but the practical and concomitant example of living authentically as a human being (on the way to becoming fully human). The two cannot be separated.

Like a great ship, whether moving its way through a storm or becalmed on a glassy sea, the polestar of Swamiji's soul-ship was Self-realization. Swamiji showed the balance between self-acceptance and Self-acceptance on a larger than life public "stage." This he did notwithstanding numerous hurdles, opposition, and challenges. That his "saving grace" flowed from his attunement to his guru (Yogananda) is, of course, the basis for his life and a core message of his life story.

While no book can ever substitute for the actual experience of another person, especially a saintly one, Asha's book is a masterpiece not just for the future of Ananda, or future disciples of Yogananda, but for anyone seeking to view authentic spirituality.

To define "authentic spirituality" is, by definition, impossible. To be "spiritual" means to live by grace; to live with faith; to seek divine attunement. By "definition," therefore, there can be NO yardstick of what, outwardly, constitutes "authentic"! In fact, the term "spiritual authenticity" is redundant for no authenticity can exist except for that which proceeds from soul guidance. Those who claim authenticity on the mere basis of expressing subconscious and ego impulses betray the very concept of authenticity.

Swamiji could play the video game, "Pong," on an Apple II Plus; he could arm or leg wrestle the "guys" or play "shoulder wars" in the pool; all in a competitive good spirit with laughter all 'round.

But he could also see your higher potential and nurture your soul, bringing tears of gratitude to your eyes. He could magnetize a network of eight or nine intentional communities around the world, write music and books and give lectures in many languages.

But these above are only outward facts. By "authentic" I will simply say that his transparency opened him up to be seen even if all too often the result was that he would be judged by the world around him. There's no point in recalling stories from the book: you should get the book and read it. His transparency challenged some whose definition of spirituality was rigid and one-dimensional. His life was a continuous effort at divine attunement and as it poured through him he answered its summons regardless of personal convenience or outward orthodoxy. (Nonetheless, he was strictly orthodox when it came to techniques taught by Yogananda and the counsel he received from his guru.)

It didn't matter if the action he took or the statement he made turned out to be, or seem to be, in error. He accepted that too, though he seemed to accept all things gratefully as part of the hidden divine hand. In a deeper sense, there were no mistakes. (This was not a denial on his part; rather, it was an affirmation of the deepest truth of the soul.)

Some devotees are not even honest with their own consciences as if one could hide one's most hidden secrets from God. Never mind those whose conscience yields easily to convenience or desire. Swamiji's example, therefore, is nothing less than extraordinary.

In addition, to his example of discipleship and the heroic service he rendered his guru to the world, and in addition to the deep gratitude I and countless others feel for his friendship, I honor the example of his courage, his inner Self-sufficiency, his transparency, and the resulting authenticity of his being fully human. Accepting that the soul is nothing less than authentic, too many spiritual seekers cannot see the forest of Spirit through the trees of religious convention.

The "romance of religion" (as Yogananda called it) is viewed by too many to be in the robes and rituals and outward piety common to all faiths. To those attracted to the trappings of religion, Yogananda counseled "Make your heart a hermitage, and your robe, your love for God."

There is a story from India of the husband of a famous woman bhakti, Mirabai. For years she had prayed for her husband's religious conversion, thinking him to be an agnostic for lack of outward religiosity. But one night, when he cried out in his sleep to God, she woke him to say that she now knew his secret. He pleaded with her to not to say it but when she did, he sat upright in meditation and left his body (for he had vowed to do so if ever his love for God were discovered).

Extreme, to be sure. But do not "judge the book (of the soul) by its cover." Some saints appear even a bit grumpy or as martinets but they have their reasons to do so. Look into their eyes for they will twinkle like stars with inner joy. Note further how others around them are spiritually transformed and uplifted.

The deeper your love for God and the stronger your attunement with the Divine Will, the safer you will be in your spontaneous and intuitive expression of the soul's innate wisdom, joy, peace or love. Ultimately there can be no difference. For Swamiji's courageous example of expressing inspiration, I am deeply grateful.

Jai Guru! Jai Swamiji!

Swami Hrimananda



Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Is the Bliss of Meditation for Real? "No-Bliss-Oblige?"

I began my life of meditation from the orientation of snippets of Buddhism. I say "snippets" because whatever I thought I learned was most likely inaccurate or at least spiritually untested. 

But when in my search I also encountered the Yoga-Vedanta-Sankhya traditions, I was suspicious because the references to bliss or divine joy seemed to me to smack of duality. 

In fact, just the other day, after a talk I gave at a Sunday Service at a Unity church, someone politely cornered me to question my references to bliss and the joy of the soul. This couple challenged me, in a friendly sporting way, relying as they did on teachings from a more Buddhist perspective. They described the ultimate state of the soul as beyond states of joy or bliss.

I've heard it said that in some Buddhist teachings bliss is said to be but a stage on the journey to enlightenment but not the final state of consciousness.

The very language we use when we use the word "bliss" or "joy" naturally seems to suggest a dual state in which someone, an "I" is feeling some feeling called blissful. Hence, by the very definition of non-duality, the very self-awareness of such a feeling cannot be the final state of being. Or so the logic goes.

Paramhansa Yogananda described eight aspects of higher consciousness, one of which is joy and another, love. Swami Kriyananda would comment occasionally in describing love as, in some subtle way, almost a lower state than joy (or bliss) for the very same, or nearly same reason: love suggests a relationship: I-Thou. I don't think he meant this literally because even I can feel "loving" without the necessity of a person or a thing being the object towards which my love is directed or from which my feeling of love is stimulated. Feeling "loving" can arise from within.

Swami Kriyananda did quote Yogananda as saying joy is a safer aspect of the soul's nature to emulate or strive to express than love because humans all too easily "fall in love" with another person (or thing).

Then there is the testimony of saints that say that immediately prior to their enlightenment comes the "dark night of the soul" or the tempter (Satan, maya, etc.) during which the inner light (another of the eight aspects) vanishes and only darkness remains. 

There are saints, including Lahiri Mahasaya, who make references to high states of consciousness as places of dark-less light, light-less dark and so on. 

Finally, all great mystics admit, one way or another, that the final state of being is beyond name, form or description (even if they try by poetry or imagery to convey).

And on a more mundane but at least a relatively more accessible level of human experience, the testimony of deeply sincere meditators over decades of living and practice demonstrates that while they may be generally described as joyful persons, they do not laugh off pain and suffering, whether their own or that of others. 

When Swami Kriyananda first wrote the ceremony Festival of Light (used on Sundays at Ananda churches especially in America), he had a sentence that read: And whereas suffering and sorrow, in the past, were the coin of man’s redemption, for us now the payment has been exchanged for joy.

A few years later he edited the end of that sentence to read ...."has been exchanged for calm acceptance and joy."

As with the word "love" connotes merely human love, so the term "joy" cannot be extricated from the our response to, say, winning the lottery. Thus the term "bliss" is often used to elevate the implied meaning of divine joy to something more than merely egoic or of the conscious mind.

Partly then we have an issue of language. And partly the question remains whether or not the dissolution of the separate ego-self results in any awareness that includes a "feeling" experience such as joy.

Well, let's face it: the testimony of the masters, the saviors, the avatars, gurus, and saintly souls tells us that what they have found or become is worth every bit of the effort taken to re-discover it. I think that qualifies to be called "bliss?" 

Paramhansa Yogananda said "Yes." The Adi Shankaracharya said "Yes." He described the non-dual state with the term Sat-chit-ananda. Loosely translated by Yogananda as "ever-existing, ever-conscious, ever-new joy." It might be stretched to say it is a state of immortality, omniscience, and bliss. The term describes the nature of God, the state of samadhi, and the nature of the soul.

Yet it is also true and discoverable by any serious devotee and meditator, that there ARE states of consciousness, in prayer and meditation, wherein feeling of any kind is held in abeyance; feeling is latent like an undercurrent, just behind one's steadfast awareness. It cannot be said to be no-thing, nor can it be said to be any-thing. It simply IS. 

In his autobiography, Yogananda was challenged by a saint when asked: "You go often into the silence, but have you developed anubhava? Don't mistake the path for the goal. Yogananda commented that the saint was reminding him to love God more than meditation. Perfect stillness (awareness without a manifested feeling of any kind), then, is not, itself the goal. It is not a state of Oneness beyond one's personal consciousness.

Then there are other experiences wherein one is absorbed in a feeling state such as peace, calmness, joy, love or subsumed in the power of subtle sound or inner light, or transported in a flash of instantaneous perceptive images or insights (similar to what is described as the life review at death or near-death). 

Such experiences can enter one's consciousness as if about to dissolve one's separateness; or, one's little self expands into the experience such that the self no longer matters and barely exists. Time begins to slow to a standstill.

Put another way: Infinity embraces all! As Ananda-moyi-ma described God: “It (the Spirit) is, and It isn’t, and neither is It, nor is It not.”

A saint can manifest dryness or joy, asceticism and renunciation, or enthusiastic engagement, creativity, compassion and joy. It is and it isn't!

The ray of divine vibration which descended through Paramhansa Yogananda and the lineage which preceded him is, however, characterized by joy!  But that joy, like devotion, like the higher inner states of meditation, can nonetheless be subtle or hidden from outward view in a particular devotee. Look at the eyes, however: do they glow with joy? Infinity? Light? Calmness?  

It is not surprising that in our efforts to share the teachings of Yogananda we frequently reference or express joy as an overarching characteristic. Yet power, too, is an aspect of God. Yogananda could be very powerful at times. 

Great saints do differ in what qualities are made manifest in their lives and thus in the lives of disciples who are in tune with them. Yet as Swami Sri Yukteswar, the guru of Paramhansa Yogananda, was a Gyanavatar, he didn't "convert" Yogananda from being a bhakti, a Prem-avatar (of love and joy).

Yogananda had a life such that he was at ease in a wide variety of situations and seeming "moods." He was, in a sense, very "human." Indeed, fully human. 

Unlike aspiring saints who may have to hold back or to express austerity as part of their journey to enlightenment, Yogananda was born free, a purna avatar. It's not that he flaunted proper behavior, ethics, and the do's and don'ts of life (like some aspiring saints have done to show their avowed non-attachment to sense indulgences or unethical acts). 

Rather, he was freely expressive. His behavior was natural and unpretentious. These qualities, too, can be seen in his disciples. Swami Kriyananda, founder of Ananda, was a friend to all; unpretentious and natural in his actions according to circumstances.

Finally, we must simply admit that terms like "bliss" or "joy" only really have meaning in their being manifested in observable human consciousness and actions. 

By contrast, in an uplifted state of consciousness, in a state of samadhi, applying the adjectives of "bliss" or "joy" simply no longer apply except perhaps afterwards in an effort to share some aspect of what the soul experienced. 

It is and it yet it isn't. We can say samadhi is blissful and yet we must also say samadhi isn't limited by anything, including bliss. It simply IS. When awareness and feeling merge in pure consciousness, you cannot extract the one from the other. But neither would you trade it for any dual state of consciousness.

The "beamers of bliss" are right and the "no-bliss-obligers" are right. My lifelong mantra and response to life's ups and downs remains intact: BOTH-AND.

Joy or no-joy, I remain unshakeably the same, your own Self,

Swami Hriman-non-Da! 


Friday, July 12, 2019

The Scarlet Letter (Attraction) meets Krishna in the Mahabharata!

When I was a teenager, perhaps even in college by then, I recall reading the classic story, "The Scarlet Letter," by Nathaniel Hawthorne. The novel is set in the Puritan Massachusetts Bay Colony of the mid 17th century. The condemnation of the protagonist, Hester Prynne for having a child out of wedlock, and the cowardice of her lover (a local minister) to confess and defend her, represented for me (at that impressionable age) the conflict between social mores and the "way of the heart." At the conclusion of the novel, the lovers reunite, albeit temporarily and even somewhat tragically.

In my life, the timeline for my reading of this famous novel took place during the explosion of America's own "cultural revolution" of the Sixties. Many in my generation eagerly and adamantly rejected any and all social mores as old fashioned and part of the controlling establishment or so-called "Puritan ethic." Youthful passion and exuberance, to be sure! (In case you don't know, the attempt mostly failed because truth is "one and eternal.")

But recently, Murali Venkatrao graced me with an astonishingly captivating re-write of India's great epic, the Mahabharata. The book is called "The Great Golden Sacrifice of the Mahabharata" by author Maggi Lidchi-Grassi. It is written in the first person as told by Arjuna. Utterly delightful and compelling, a kind of "we were there" historical (and spiritual) "novel" wrapped in God-consciousness-vibrations!!!!!

One of the predominant themes of this world-famous epic is discerning what is righteous action ("duty" or "dharma"). Unlike the adolescent rebellion of the Sixties, the Mahabharata is concerned with the soul's journey to Self-realization.

Arjuna, Krishna's beloved disciple and hero of the epic, seeks Krishna's counsel at every crucial turn of the epic's long and twisting tale because knowing what is right action in advance of taking action is very, very difficult!

One example can be seen in the death of Dronacharya ("D"). D is the teacher, or Acharya, of the young warriors, both the Pandava brothers (think: "good guys") and the Kaurava brothers (think: "bad guys"). In the allegory of the Mahabharata ("M"), D represents the subconscious mind and its power to create and sustain one's habits. But, being a product of the subconscious mind, habit generally sides with the "bad guys" ("K") in part because the duty and function of the subconscious mind is to defend and protect the ego.

(In life, we find that good habits are generally not powerful enough to sustain us when confronted by temptation or opposing negative tendencies. In fact, good habits are both established and sustained by inspiration from the soul (aka superconscious mind). Good habits are sustained only by fresh inspirations and affirmations whereas bad habits exist as a kind of default ("fight or flight" mechanism).)

Returning to the story, D is loved by all his students who are now adult warriors opposing each other. Yet D holds the key to victory for the K's. He has taught them all the arts of war and he knows and has all the powerful weapons. The "good guys" (Pandavas: "P") know that, despite their love and respect for D, he must be killed in the war if they are to win.

It occurs to the P's that one way to dishearten D's power and will to fight is to kill his son, Ashwatthama. But that's not so easy because, like his father, he is a fierce and unbeatable warrior. On Krishna's advice, a ruse is hatched wherein D is to be informed that D's son, Ashwatthama, has been killed in the battle (presumably elsewhere in that large and chaotic battlefield).

An elephant who happens to be named "Ashwatthama" is purposely killed so that Bhima, one of the P brothers, can boast that Ashwatthama is dead! D asks Yudhishthira, "Is this true?" Yudhishthira, the incarnation of truthfulness, says "Yes!" D then sits to meditate and while meditating one of the warriors cuts off the head of D! Both a "lie" and a breach of the rules of engagement takes place. A breach of social mores?

[Interestingly, the P warrior who cuts of the head of D is Dhrishtadyumna whose name relates, allegorically, to the soul quality of the calm, inner light--slayer of the force of habit.]

The real Ashwatthama, D's son, survives the war. In the allegory, he represents the quality of attraction. The explanation given for the fact that Ashwatthama survives, even though he is one of the K's who are all eventually slain, is that when the soul emerges victorious over the ego and achieves enlightenment, this quality remains in the form of the attraction to bliss, to goodness and all that is spiritually elevating. "Attraction," you see, never dies! It is the offspring of habit because attraction is the necessary ingredient for the sustaining power of any habit, good or bad.

But after the war has ended and the P's are victorious, Arjuna, in a fit and mood of self-doubt and regret, accuses his elder brother Yudhishthira of having lied and broken the law of dharma of which he, Yudhishthira, is supposed to be the living embodiment. A heated argument ensues among the brothers and others. Once again, Krishna intervenes to remind them all that the ruse was necessary for victory (the soul over ego-bondage).

Hence the saying: "All is fair in love and war."

Thus it was that the love between Hester Prynne and the minister had to be revealed and fulfilled even though it went against social taboos (neither was married to someone else at the time--the taboo itself was the mere product of "caste consciousness").

Nonetheless, in the death of D, a "white" lie and a violation of battlefield ethics were needed to effect the desired outcome. Sometimes it is useful when one is attempting to overcome a negative habit to calmly affirm victory even though, at present, it is not entirely true (yet).

Swami Kriyananda would tell the story of how he quit smoking (when he was a young man and before he became a monk). As often as he reverted to smoking after trying to quit, he simply and calmly affirmed that he would stop smoking even though he hadn't achieved his goal quite yet.

One day, without any outward assistance or sign, his affirmation proved to be true. He never smoked from that day forward. He could not have predicted when that day would arrive but intuitively he knew that it would. Indeed, his attitude, despite setbacks, was that it was true already!

In this way, Dronacharya, the master of habit, can be defeated by calmly and repeatedly telling him that his offspring, attraction to a wrong habit, has died. By feigning disinterest in the temptation to indulge, one deflates its power over you. This can be extended even into the indulgence itself when it overtakes you: keep a part of your mind detached from identification with the act.

They say "love makes the world go 'round" and true as that it is, one can also say that it is DESIRE that makes the world go round. Desire is of the heart and its power cannot be extinguished, only re-directed. Paramhansa Yogananda taught that the desire to know (and love) God, too, must be fulfilled. Nurture right desires and you shall find ever greater happiness.

Use the power of attraction, then, wisely and whatever you do to re-direct your attention from the lower to the higher, from ego to soul, is fair and wise. Live AS IF you are already free and Self-realized for indeed such is the nature of your soul. "Tat twam asi!" ("Thou art THAT!)

Swami Hrimananda