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

Thursday, June 25, 2020

What is the Spiritual Fate of One Who Commits Suicide?

I recently responded to this inquiry from a person in India:

Does God sympathize with people who have suffered a lot in their life including those who commit suicide ? Recently an actor Sushant Singh Rajput in India committed suicide. Logically suicide victim should get more sympathy as his/her life is quite bad and hence he/she takes this drastic step.​  [[p.s. see addendum]]

Dear Friend,

The act of suicide surely generates sympathy and sadness. For the gift of human life is the most precious gift of all for with the human body the soul has the potential to achieve the fullness of the divine promise of immortality.

"God is no tyrant" Paramhansa Yogananda has said. Someone once asked Yogananda-ji what would be the fate of one of the world's greatest villains (Hitler, Stalin--I forget now which). The questioner expected to hear that the punishment would be extreme but this was not the response. (Nations, too, have karma and no one individual is responsible for the karma of groups or species.) Yet karma has its consequences and the law of karma is exacting just as are the laws of nature in the material world.

To take one's own life is a greater tragedy, spiritually speaking, than murder. In murder one at least values one's own life, though not the life of another. In suicide, life itself is rejected. While in truth, life can never die because consciousness is the essence of all life and all matter, the suicide does not affirm that reality but seeks oblivion instead. Fortunately, though in seeking self-annihilation, the suicide ultimately must fail. 

It is not that God is merciless but the gift of life and the gift of the use of free will is such that God will not interfere with our karma until such time as we reach out to seek His grace. Then the power of the Infinite, drawn by our love, can no longer resist for God is Love itself. 

So what, then, happens to this unfortunate jiva (soul)? Yogananda-ji was indeed asked this question. In the afterlife (the astral world), the suicide who, by his act, has chosen to cut off his connection with life (with family, with all other realities), will likely feel isolated, surrounded, as it were, in a fog of grey emptiness. And here, I must digress in order to offer some perspective.

No suicide takes place under identical circumstances. Suicide can take place while a person is deranged on drugs, alcohol or suffering from mental illness. Or, suicide can be a ritual exercise owing to disgrace or failure. Suicide can be a reaction to betrayal, misfortune, or love lost. Thus there are varying degrees of conscious intention, semi-rational behaviour or intention, to the act of suicide. [see addendum at the end] 

Thus in the afterlife state, the length of time and the depth of loneliness may vary considerably depending on the consciousness of the jiva himself. The suicide may in fact harbour great love for his friends, family, and this earth but feel he has failed and is no longer worthy to live. My point is that the underlying impulse to value life and goodness may arise within that jiva sooner or later, depending on how and why he committed suicide in the first place. 

Yogananda said that sometimes a baby who is stillborn, or dies in the womb, or dies at an early age might be the soul of a former suicide whose desire to live must be re-awakened by being thwarted (even repeatedly) until the desire to live becomes strong again. This is the action of the law of karma. A suicide is reborn for the simple reason that he has many other unfulfilled desires, notwithstanding that his act of suicide will, itself (karmically), require him to re-discover the gift of life.

So I cannot say from the statements of Yogananda (or Swami Kriyananda, a direct disciple and founder of Ananda worldwide) that a particular ray of mercy or compassion is sent to the soul of one who has committed suicide but I know for a fact that there is no sense that divine punishment is meted out. The law of karma is, however, as I said earlier, exacting. 

I can say THIS, however, and it is of vital importance: prayers for the departed, and especially one who has committed suicide, can hasten that soul's reawakening to the beauty and value of life. All great spiritual traditions encourage prayers for those who have left this earth. Why is that?

Because in the astral after death state, the typical decedent soul is generally not very conscious and not, therefore, able to help himself (except to the degree of his spiritual attainment). Remaining in human form, we who have a heart connection and feeling for one who has past on can offer love, peace, and blessings to one who has left us. It is, therefore, we who become a channel to express God's mercy and compassion! It is our heart connection that is the residue of karma that acts to forgive and uplift that soul who, for a time, is no longer able to do so for himself.

We can also pray to enlightened Beings to join us in our prayers: a sat guru, angels, and deities. 

May the divine Light shine within you!

Swami Hrimananda

Addendum: Assisted suicide or refusal of life-saving medical procedures are individual choices that are not a rejection of life but, in fact, the opposite: an affirmation of the gift and quality of life. While a saint or devotee might choose to accept whatever suffering comes as redemptive, this, too, is a choice. I cannot reliably draw from Yogananda's teachings or specifically recall comments by Swami Kriyananda (though Swamiji did comment on these two situations), but common sense and reason applied to the law of karma would surely admit of the distinction in intention. There are those who would condemn assisted suicide and I know there are legal and social issues with it but in principle it can be wholesome, conscious, and uplifting. In the Jain tradition, there are saints and others who simply stopped eating in order to hasten their demise when they felt intuitively it was their "time to go." Only by self-identification with the human body can one insist that this is morally wrong. Identification with the soul or the Infinite Spirit suggests these choices are secondary though, arguably, containing an attachment and aversion to suffering (and thus some identification with the body).



Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Racism & Violence: A Statement


Acts of Violence & Racism: How Should We Respond?

The members, staff, students and friends of Ananda share in the sadness and righteous outrage of yet another racially motivated murder. How can we not, both as people and as an organization that seeks to represent universal spiritual values, wonder “How long must this continue?” Our very teachings aver that we are all children of God and that behind the appearance of our separateness lays the one divine heart. The teaching of ancient India is that “We are THAT”— Tat twam asi — the Infinite Spirit made manifest. How then can racial distinctions be other than superficial?

Society’s awareness of and intolerance of such acts of violence is growing. As with the original movement of “Black Lives Matter” or the “Me Too” movement, the outrage felt by sensitive souls reflects a growing compassion even as it expresses moral outrage. There is reason for cautious optimism that attitudes and behavior are changing; they MUST change.

How, then, to respond? Anger does not quell anger. “Eye for an eye” leaves us all blind. Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. died defending the principle of non-violence, non-hatred, and non-anger responses to prejudice and violence as expressions of our oneness in God’s love. Their unearned sacrifices bestowed great blessings on humanity.

We express our heartfelt compassion—our hearts ache for those abused and mistreated—and we stand by them in solidarity as the world cries out ENOUGH, let's all work together to put this old hatred and distrust behind us.

It is important, however, not to be drawn into fear or anger or any other form of negativity by the delusive power of mass consciousness. Those who wish to express their righteous indignation should do what they feel to do but when we lose our own equilibrium, our own inner peace, then we too have been infected by the virus of negativity. The best thing most of us can do is to direct our sympathy, compassion and prayers towards those who need it the most.

The stress of isolation, fear and suffering from the pandemic, and hardship and fear surrounding our economic future are already enough to trigger emotions out of proportion. Remaining, therefore, calm and even-minded is vital at this time. This is something each of us can do to help.

Lasting change in human behavior comes from an awakening of consciousness: seeing life through the eyes of another; seeing in others, our very Self. Meditation, yoga, and spiritual community are Ananda’s focus and these are by no means an insignificant contribution to positive change.

Those great spiritual teachers who have inspired the worldwide work of Ananda demonstrated in their own lives the courage to accept all who were sincere, regardless of their social status, often enduring the taunts of their society. The true races of humanity are based not on color, status or culture but in consciousness. So let us strive to uplift our own and others’ consciousness in compassion, service, and devotion.

additional thoughts beyond the statement above:

What can I do? Simple: be the change you seek! What is needed to combat racism is more than legislation, education, and other important opportunities. It is a change of heart; a change of consciousness. Ananda's worldwide effort to establish intentional spiritual communities that bring together all of who are sincere in their commitment to live by high ideals and to live cooperatively, harmoniously, and sustainably is perhaps the most important contribution to serving by example as well as precept.

Meditation offers the single most universal, nonsectarian daily practice that can change the world for the better. And it doesn't take 100%. 1% to 10% would do it.

Nonetheless, be prepared for increased unrest worldwide; increased risks for many challenging things from weather to war to depression. Thus the need for communities, virtual or residential, of high-minded, self-sacrificing Warriors of Light. 

You cannot do it by yourself. Post on Facebook or carry a sign on a corner if you like but BE the PEACE that is within you and SHARE with all even when you are in difficult straights. This is not your world. We are here but briefly. Let's make it better by being better. Beyond that it will continue in its own way just as it did before you arrived and as it will after you leave. 

We need perspective; we need inner peace; we need joy in our hearts. Pray, meditate, serve. Lastly, resist mass consciousness by staying centered in your Self. What is yours to do will be revealed minute by minute.

Blessings to you!

Swami Hrimananda

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, May 9, 2020

Ending a Friendship that Doesn't Work

[Dear friends, I am sometimes asked to respond to questions that are sent to www.Ananda.org, operated by Ananda Village in California. Some of the questions are of general interest. In sharing one of them here on this blog I have erased all traces of identification.]

In the decades of being a member of Ananda and living in an Ananda (residential) community, I find that it is not uncommon that a person who takes up the spiritual path in earnest finds that a particular long-standing friendship no longer serves that person's newly adopted spiritual goals and lifestyle. The question therefore often arises "What to do about these friendships?" Do I end the relationship? We've been friends for years. What about loyalty?"

In the case below the question was more specific because the long-standing friend had a long-standing habit of verbal abuse toward the new devotee and the devotee was finding that being treated this way was increasingly intolerable. So the question that came to us was "What to do about the friendship?" And for those who would say, simply, tell the so-called friend to take a hike, the devotee was wanting to be sensitive while also firm and wondered whether there was no longer a point to even continue the friendship.

Dear Friend, 

Let's approach this from several points of view. Yes, of course, it's hurtful to be treated that way. But it's also hurtful to your friend's soul, her own self-respect, to behave in that way. Wouldn't a friend would want to help that person and, in time, wouldn't a true friend actually appreciate that help?

On the one hand, your friendship may no longer serve you spiritually speaking but on the other hand, you have been friends and loyalty is an important and valid aspect of friendship. So, let's explore together some possibilities.

Without wanting to shift the blame from her to you, let me at least point out that unintentionally your ongoing acceptance of her treatment of you is, in its own way, enabling her. I say this not to blame you but to set the stage for what follows:

So let's shift this around in the direction of a possible WIN-WIN. I don't get the sense that you no longer want her friendship; rather, it seems that you no longer can tolerate her abuse. But maybe there's a way, that a positive outcome can take place for both of you. 

For starters, what I may suggest can only be done successfully with calmness and a certain degree of non-attachment to the outcome, ok? If you are willing to experiment for a time, consider these suggestions:

1. Abuser-abusee takes two. If the abusee (egads, is THAT a word?) is not even aware of the abuse (e.g. sarcasm), the abuse may be "wrong" but it is one-sided and the abusee feels "no pain." What I am saying is that the push-you, pull-me back and forth of verbal abuse takes, in some measure, two people. One to abuse; the other to feel abused. So, what if as an experiment, and before making a decision to leave the friendship, you tried for a while simply remaining calm when verbally attacked; look calmly into her eyes without reaction. Imagine your face and eyes and entire being are a full-length mirror. In the mirror of your calm, reflective consciousness, your friend may, after some time and practice, begin to see herself (as you do--behaving inappropriately).  

2. This experiment presupposes that you both are truly friends and do, in fact, care for one another. If there's no psychic or spiritual connection (like being robbed by a random burglar), then this won't work. It's important that you not stare her down or "look daggers" when you do this. You can even smile just a little, almost sadly, as you reflect back and observe her abusive behavior. You know that little thing we do when we cock the head just slightly to one side with a questioning look on our face? Like a clinician examining a specimen?

3. What this is doing is it's you pulling out of the game. "You have the right to remain silent!" After a while, the abuser may look, well, bemused. By ending whatever little part you've played, you create a space, a vacuum that can sometimes allow the abuser the psychic space to stop the unconscious habit. You might even both have a good laugh. Hopefully, given enough time and practice, your friend will dial down her aggressive tone. 

4. This experiment doesn't preclude or doesn't require that you never address the issue or discuss your feelings. I don't know either of you but there may be other times (not often in the moment of the abuse), where you can say, "Jean, there's something I'd like to talk to you about. We've been friends for a long time and I'd like to keep it that way. But I find that your habit of talking to me sarcastically or critically is increasingly intolerable. So whaddya say you dial this stuff back? Maybe it's just old habit you got from childhood but real friends don't do that. Hmm?"

5. Now maybe, just maybe, what you are really saying to us is that the friendship is over and that it has no spiritual value, and the verbal abuse is just one symptom of that observation. From where I sit, I cannot "see" that one way or another. So if THAT'S really what you are saying, then let me offer some suggestions about going in THAT direction:

6. I'd begin by bringing into my prayers and meditations gratitude for the friendship and appreciation for my friend's finer qualities; even spiritual qualities. I'd also pray for guidance in choosing your words or circumstances or the timing of ending or withdrawing from the friendship. You don't want to leave the friendship on a negative note if you can help it.

7. I might suggest you consider reducing or ending regular contact from the point of view that you just need to take a break. This is not unlike a friend who has died. A deceased friend is no longer physically present but they still live in your memory and in your heart. Thus don't see it as a rejection, worse yet a condemnation or judgment. In fact, since it's not good for her to behave this way, by ceasing contact you do her a favor! By taking a "break" you release the internal tension around rejection or ending a friendship.

Remind yourself that we are ALL children of God. We just have unique paths to take and all the "time in the world" to take it. Think: "We will meet again for we are friends eternally in our one Father-Mother, Beloved-Friend, God."

7.5 In offering prayers for your friend, hold her image in your mind's eye (spiritual eye) surrounded by joy and light, with the Divine Image of God, guru, or Divine Mother behind her AS her.

8. Outwardly, rather than make an abrupt break which will surely cause hurt feelings, I would suggest you see how to ease out by fewer and fewer contacts. It would be best if you not feel compelled to resort to made-up excuses or "white lies." Ask Divine Mother to show you or give you the natural and right opportunities. 

9. On a positive note do not underestimate the power of the following: A shift of your energy and interests can make all the difference. Spend more time getting involved with people whose consciousness and behavior support your spiritual aspirations. Taking meditation or yoga classes (online, these days, I suppose). Ananda has a "Virtual Community" online. Re-direct your own creative initiative and energies (and time) in the directions you wish to go. This changes the vibration of your consciousness and your aura and even your friend may find, subtly, that she's no calling or contacting you as often. (It's like having a divine virus!) Be sure you are reading spiritual books or watching videos from Ananda on YouTube. CHANGE YOUR CONSCIOUSNESS --- CHANGE YOUR FRIENDS!!!!

In fact, you can do BOTH of these things: experiment with not reacting to your friend's abusive words, AND, re-directing your own energies. The obvious incompatibility of vibration and consciousness will subtly guide each of you in new and different directions. Patience, perhaps, maybe all that is needed.

I sincerely hope that this will work because your intention seems sincere and not vengeful. 

Blessings and may the divine Light show you the way through this! [end of response]

Maybe there are others who might find some useful tips in the above response. Paramhansa Yogananda stated that much of our spiritual progress is determined by the company we keep. Friendship, or fellowship, is far more important and supportive of our ideals than even our own self-efforts in the privacy of our "sheltering at home." Hence the plethora of online spiritual offerings! We are not an "island" (though some of us live on an island, ha, ha). But like an island, we are all connected below the surface of our differences. 

Blessings and joy to you!

Swami Hrimananda





Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Virus Induced Game Changers: Trends in Process

Swami Kriyananda, founder of the worldwide communities movement of Ananda, and a direct disciple of the great yogi, Paramhansa Yogananda (whose life story, "Autobiography of a Yogi," is now a spiritual classic and a modern scripture) often expounded on the Hindu calendar and its segments (called "Yugas") of rising and falling consciousness.

The source of his comments can be found in the Introduction to the book "Holy Science" written by Swami Sri Yukteswar (guru of Yogananda) at the behest of the now-famous Mahavatar, Babaji.

Swami Kriyananda's insights into the unfoldment of human consciousness were expressed in innumerable recorded talks, essays, and books--too numerous to reference. Ananda members, Byasa (David) Steinmetz and co-author Purushottama (Joseph) Selbie, authored an excellent book -- "The Yugas"-- on this subject.

I do not, therefore, want to repeat the groundwork offered to us by the drastic re-calibration of the Hindu calendar offered to the world by Sri Yukteswar in a mere few paragraphs in the introduction to his abstruse tome. If you want an orientation to human history that turns the modern narrative on its head, well, you'll enjoy "The Yugas."

Swamiji, however, would often peer into the future seeking insights to changes and trends in world culture. The one book I can reference in this regard is "Religion in the New Age." (It is a collection of essays on many subjects.)

There are several trends that I want to share that Swamiji spoke of:


  1. "Small is Beautiful." In this age, which I call the Age of the Individual, an egalitarian age, knowledge is increasingly being offered to everyone. The former hierarchy of education and concomitant power is being "flattened" and the accessibility of information via the world wide web is both symbolic and practically speaking an excellent illustration of this trend. "Think global; act local" is a bumper sticker that also expresses this trend. In America, it is my "theory" (and I'm sticking with it, ha, ha) is that Hurricane Katrina first introduced American society to the need to fend for oneself, whether individually or in local groups. I recall in the early 2000's being in Beverly Hills, CA on Rodeo Drive (the absolute epitome of wealth and celebrity status) seeing banners put up by the city government urging its citizens to focus on disaster preparedness! The failure of the large public utility, Pacific Gas & Electric in California has given those residents a huge incentive to produce energy locally. I could go on and on. Big is out. The federal government in America is paralyzed with divisiveness. States, counties, and cities are dealing with global issues like climate change, plus innumerable other issues, not least of which at this time, is the Coronavirus COVID-19. During the sheltering-at-home phase, seed companies are out of stock as millions are planting gardens. This trend is easy enough of observation. Ironically, the big issues facing our planet require cooperation on national and international scales even as large-scale entities, including corporations, are less and less the trendsetters and leaders of society. The lesson, however, must not be lost rather than only regretted: we (you and me) have to BE THE CHANGE WE SEEK! It's THAT simple.
  2. A movement away from cities. Since the beginning of the so-called Industrial Revolution, millions of people have migrated from agricultural life to the urban (and later, suburban) life. This trend is not wholly finished in some countries. But the trend that may be only just beginning is a rebound of the post World War II movement to the suburbs. Unfortunately, suburban life simply paved over natural habitat and copied urban life but with a nice green lawn, perhaps a swimming pool, and a few planted trees. But that trend and impulse still exist: a desire to live more in harmony with nature; it is deeper than conscious recognition that cities are toxic by their very nature. Toxic not just in terms of water and air but even by their artificially restless intensity. Sheltering at home has connected millions with the simplicity of home life; cooking real food; reading a book; reaching out to friends, neighbors, and family; having time for thoughtful reflection; prayer and meditation. A calm life is a real life. While young people, restless and adventurous, eager to live at the edge of their senses and taking risks (because believing they are invincible) may yet always tend toward urban environments, the far larger population is, or will be, gradually, drawn to natural living.
  3. Both of the above trends flow easily and naturally into acceptance of conscious, intentional communities of like-minded, ideal-driven people banding together. This banding or tribal trend (I don't care for the world "tribal" it makes me feel like I want to go beat on a drum and grunt rhythmically) can take place virtually, in service projects, in politics, in religion, education, and of course most naturally, residentially. Yogananda is deemed by Ananda members worldwide to be the "patron saint" of communities. In the 1940's he enthusiastically experimented with a community that included not just monastics but householders. It was premature but even after he disbanded it he continued to the end of his life to wax enthusiastic about its future prospects. He predicted that someday communities would "spread like wildfire." We haven't seen this, for sure, but the two trends mentioned above flow, as I said above, easily into the channel of the communities movement. However, I will admit that these last two trends (away from the cities and the rise of intentional communities) are still very nascent though any number of events could accelerate their unfoldment (like a pandemic!).
The ecological movement, perhaps more than any single trend, might be said to have begun the awakening awareness of the natural world and our interdependence upon it. Admittedly, this is perhaps a superficial statement but it works well enough for me and my life experience (being a baby boomer). In combination with a separate awakening toward what we used to innocently call "Eastern philosophy" the concept of our interdependence has filtered deeply into human consciousness. Science, our real religion (as a culture), says "it is so" and this is enough for us.

The percentage of souls in human form whose hearts awaken and seek the Divine Presence hidden behind the multitudinous forms of matter will, for a long time to come, remain small. But just as God in the Old Testament was willing to spare Sodom and Gomorrah if ten righteous souls could be found, so too this small percentage will always have an outsized impact on society at large. More so, however, in an age of awakening consciousness (as Swami Sri Yukteswar described these times). 

Even while yoga and meditation encircle the globe, those who practice these for the purposes of seeking enlightenment will remain, even among this already-select group, a relatively small number. But, again, their influence is profound. We who are followers of Yogananda, especially Ananda members, have been taught by Swami Kriyananda to view the influence of Yogananda and his teachings to be representative of and instrumental to the awakening trends of consciousness on planet Earth at this time. This is not a claim of pride or exclusivity but derives from the history of the lineage of Self-realization as Yogananda revealed it. 

A new form of spirituality is desperately needed in the world today. Faith traditions have ossified into rigid dogmas and rituals. They, despite their profession of the primacy of God's love and the example of their own saints, are forces for divisiveness rather than harmony. India's long tradition of tolerance and universality is uniquely suited to bring together the "best of East and West" (quoting Yogananda-ji). 

Swami Kriyananda included in his insights as to future trends Yogananda's prediction that "Self-realization" would become the religion of the future. Unlike other disciples of Yogananda, Swamiji had no false expectation of a new Catholic church. Rather, he explained that even mainline faiths would, in time, come to see that the most important feature of their faith was one's personal relationship and experience of God and that meditation offers the most effective form of achieving that. This follows the trend into the Age of the Individual. Spiritually this translates into Self-realization as the spiritual expression of the age.

Perhaps more cynically, even institutions (perhaps especially institutions) have an impulse toward survival. In the facing of a trend of decreasing numbers of adherents, one can be sure that each faith will "miraculously" re-discover their own prayer and meditation traditions and will, seeing the "light" of the trend of meditation amongst their followers, announce a new revelation! But, why not. It is true, after all.

So, while you are sheltering at home with little to do but read a long essay like this, I hope you've enjoyed the prospect of "hope for a better world." (Title of one of Swamiji's books!).


Joys to you,

Swami Hrimananda
sheltering on Camano Island WA

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Easter at Home! Reason to Celebrate?

Celebrating Easter at Home!


Well, this IS a first, isn’t it? Millions of people celebrate Easter worldwide but this year our celebrations will take place at home. For Jesus’ disciples that first Easter Sunday was a little bit like ours this Sunday. They were sequestered indoors, hiding out just like us. Though the gospel accounts of that Sunday are divided as to whether Jesus appeared to the disciples on that day let’s just say that he did. If so, we could say that the day for them “ended well!”

And so it can for us, too. The inability to celebrate in customary ways offers us an opportunity to look more deeply at what Easter represents to us—in our lives right now—under the virus cloud. This year we won’t be distracted by Easter bunnies, socializing, festive Spring outfits and sumptuous banqueting.

Easter is a celebration of victory. It is a celebration of life, of soul-immortality. Isn’t that worth being reminded of right now as our bodies are in hiding from this world-wide pandemic-virus? Even Spring, which while cyclical, returns each year reminds us that “this (winter) too will pass.”

Yet, I admit that the first Easter took place a long, long time ago. It has worn its celebratory robes well but they are worn nonetheless. There’s a mountain of tradition that keeps it going but the momentum behind a religious holiday celebrated worldwide by millions all too easily descends to the valley of the mundane: I mean, after all, chocolate bunnies? Money stuffed in plastic eggs? Hot cross buns? How droll!

There must be more to it than that. Of course, there IS! Most readers of this article are students or disciples of Paramhansa Yogananda (author of "Autobiography of a Yogi"). In Yogananda’s famous life story there are several accounts of persons being raised from the dead and saints appearing in physical form after death.  

While past generations took this to be a celebration of the deathlessness of the ego and physical body, it is easier for us, now, to see it for its more subtle meaning: consciousness survives the death of form. Death imposes no finality to the soul. To quote Yogananda, “Man is a soul and has a body (temporarily).”

I’d say that THIS truth is both worth celebrating AND is TIMELY given the threat to our bodies in this worldwide pandemic. You see that’s the interesting aspect of the great spiritual teachers: their message is not so much different as it is a reminder of basic truths. The emphasis each one has may appear to be different, seen from different angles of time and culture, but their “view” of the mountain top is the same: we are children of God; we are immortal; we are made in the divine image of the Creator. Put another way, in winter the mountain top has a mantle of pure white snow; in summer, green, lush trees; in spring, flowers; in fall, a riot of colorful leaves. But it is always, in every season, still the top of the mountain.

Just as our past slips into the darkness of the subconscious mind and just as the future is veiled from us, why should we get confused if our immortal Self is at least equally hidden from our rather distracted gaze.

To quote from Chapter 12 of "Autobiography of a Yogi": A noted chemist once crossed swords with Sri Yukteswar. The visitor would not admit the existence of God since science has devised no means of detecting Him.
              “So you have inexplicably failed to isolate the Supreme Power in your test tubes!” Master’s gaze was stern. “I recommend an unheard-of experiment. Examine your thoughts unremittingly for twenty-four hours. Then wonder no longer at God’s absence.”

Jesus’ crucifixion symbolizes the cost of this “pearl of great price.” It is the dissolution of the ego: our soul’s misidentification with the body and its fawning, obsequious attendant, the personality. To examine one’s thoughts uncritically is the advice of “Self-inquiry” given to all of us by the great saints and sages of East and West. “Know thy Self.”

We do not know the Self, the immortal Atman (soul), for the simple reason we haven’t bothered to look. We are busy with day to day life and, right now, we are laying low to avoid the pandemic.  

Another experiment to try is to count how many times in one period of time (minutes to hours) we say or think “I.” We constantly refer to “I” but we don’t know who “I” is. If you “stare” at this “I” (meaning if you silently observe “I”) you find “I” has no name, no form, no nuttin’! There are no attributes to this guy “I.” God replied to Moses when Moses asked who the voice in the burning bush was: “I AM who I AM.”

Jesus’ last days of his life were extremely dramatic but not all great saints, saviours, or avatars model for us such a dramatic pathway to I AM. Each has a song to sing and so do we. But to peel away the layers of our attachment and the burden of our past actions and identifications is every bit as arduous a task as Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. In our lives, we are generally not ready for anything quite so challenging as that. For us, Jesus said comfortingly: “Sufficient unto the day is the evil (the challenges) thereof.” We have, witness our virus challenge, our own, tests, trials, and crucifixions. Even as this pandemic is worldwide, our response to it and its impact upon our health is individual. Customized karma: just for me!

So, let’s turn to what we can learn from the Easter story? For starters, Jesus was willing to go through what he had to do. It’s not that he a danced a jig at the prospect (of his crucifixion) but after saying “I don’t mind if I don’t have to go through this” he quickly surrendered to the will of the Father. So it’s ok if we have doubts, fears, reservations about doing what we have to do or what will happen. But, in the end, if we say YES TO (OUR) LIFE then we will have access to the power of grace to do what we must do.

Next, he forgave his torturers in the midst of his body’s agonies. While Yogananda taught that Jesus’ suffering was primarily for the ignorance and future karma of his antagonists, the Bible does say that Jesus cried out from the cross to his guru (Elias) “Why hast Thou forsaken me?” If nothing else can be understood from this, Jesus must have at least endured an experience of psychic separation from God before expiring on the cross. It would seem to me that such separation was at least, and likely far more, painful than his wounds.

Why is that? Because a true saviour, an avatar, is not identified with the physical body and can transcend its sensory messages at will. I suspect Jesus accepted the body’s agonies as part of his willing sacrifice and acceptance of the karma of his disciples. It makes no point to say that he had a choice because “I and my Father are One” suggests that what was experienced was what was given to him, so to speak. [This is not rational; it is intuitive. It simply IS.]

Our founder, Swami Kriyananda, had a lifetime of inspired service in musical composition, writing, and counsel. Yet he encountered tremendous opposition from those whom he loved and respected. Despite the hurt, he never descended to hate and always affirmed love and forgiveness.

Jesus’ resurrection that followed the crucifixion was not some extra-credit bonus that he got for his efforts. It was the necessary, even logical, consequence of his acceptance of the crucifixion. Because his physical body was tortured and killed it was at least logical that his victory would express itself by a resurrected body. For us, then, our victories will be carved from our own karma. (Jesus did not have personal karma. As a true son of God, he took on the karma of others.)

It is an error on the part of some believers to take from his resurrection the belief that our bodies will someday be resurrected from graves at the “second coming of Christ.” It is an error, too, to imagine that for all eternity we sit in heaven in our bodies praising God but otherwise retaining our egos, our separation from God. Christian mystics experienced mystical union or marriage of their soul with the great Light of God. Their testimony, not that of theologians, shows us that this is the true and perfect union that is our destiny.

Easter then is a dramatic reminder of the “truth that shall make us free.” We are NOT these bodies and egos. Let us, in contemplating the story of Easter, affirm the truth that is represented by that story. If our celebration takes the form of silent, inner communion—seeking the formless, eternal Christ-like Self within—Jesus’ life and sacrifice will be honored in the best way possible. No amount of Easter eggs or chocolate bunnies can ever replace this eternal yet ever timely message.

If for the sake of young children the eggs and bunnies must be present, perhaps you could also have story time and share with them the “greatest story ever told.” It is also your story, theirs, and mine. It is the story of how the soul returns to the heaven of God-consciousness by attunement to the Divine Will. While the body may succumb to a virus our Spirit can remain, hands-outstretched in gratitude, devotion, and joy.

May this Easter be the most glorious of all,

Nayaswami Hriman




Saturday, March 28, 2020

There are ONLY Opportunities! Why I am Optimistic

When tests in life come (as they must because they are portals to our own growth), put out the energy needed to deal with them creatively and with a positive attitude and you'll be victorious. Victorious isn't the same as winning. This virus might kill you; the crashing economy might bankrupt your business; your lifestyle may change forever, but if you "fight the good fight" you get to keep the victory (the satisfaction, insights, and knowledge) of having done your best, regardless of the result on the outer surface of life's ever-changing drama. 

I know there is suffering and death happening with the pandemic that is afflicting humanity right now. I don't want to be glib in the face of tragedy but statistics suggest to us that the overwhelming majority of humans will not die and relatively few will require hospitalization. 

The real "disease" is the fear; paralysis of will, despondency and even boredom. Grief one cannot help when a loved one suffers or dies.

I find it both amazing and inspiring to hear about all the creative ways people and businesses are responding appropriately to help others and to serve their customers. Curbside pick-ups, drive-throughs, and delivery options have been catapulted into daily life. Gardens are being planted around the world to grow real food for life. People are reaching out to check on and help one another. 

Medical protocols and technologies are rapidly changing and emerging to respond to the overwhelming needs in this worldwide challenge. Health care providers and many others are rising heroically to the challenges they face. 

I read an article attributed to Bill Gates (but not verified by me) but which, no matter who wrote it, made valuable and inspiring insights into the results of this pandemic. Regardless of the authorship, some of the simple and obvious points, paraphrased or rephrased, but well worth thinking more deeply about include:

  • The virus doesn't exempt the high and mighty from its wrath.
  • What we do affects one another. 
  • Borders and passports have no authority here.
  • Our health and life are precious to us all.
  • We need to consume food that is healthy and not contaminated with chemicals.
  • To live, we need air and water that is not contaminated. 
  • Life is short and uncertain. We should re-examine our life's priorities to nurture our heart's finer feelings, not just our heads, bodies, and wallets.
  • Helping others brings us greater satisfaction than seeking status and wealth. 
  • We are being forced to stay at home because we have neglected to create happy homes where children are loved and cared for with wisdom.
  • A strong ego is necessary for survival and success but it must be held in check, taking into account the realities and needs of others and the world we live in.
  • We have the free will to cooperate and help one another or to be selfish.
  • Patience comes when we see the larger picture of time and cycles, knowing that "this too will pass." Suffering and deprivation will pass too. To panic is lose our reason and to succumb to "fight or flight."
  • We have the opportunity for a new beginning or to bemoan an end. We can be creative and find new ways to live; to live more simply; to live sustainably on this earth; to live with respect and cooperation with others; and so much more.
  • We are sick because our earth is sick. Our earth is sick because we have made it sick by greed and neglect.
  • Life's ultimate purpose is a spiritual one: to raise our energy and consciousness beyond the limited self to include others and the Creator of Life.
There are so many innate benefits to what we are experiencing they are too numerous to list. Yes, it takes a global pandemic to get large numbers of people to change their habits and lifestyles. Yes, much wealth in the form of ones and zeroes will vanish. But if that's what it takes, then it must be good. 

Yoga practice is one of the many beneficiaries of the times. It's true that yoga studios are closed but with more time and with a desire to remain healthy and fit while having to remain "sheltered in place," online yoga practice has been catapulted into center stage. Same can be said (to a lesser degree) about the daily practice of meditation. As it used to be said in the last so-called "world war," "There are no atheists in foxholes." Prayer is spreading as fast as the virus.

While there is much to decry about substituting online learning and sharing for in-person education and relationships, nonetheless there's no going back as it relates to the willingness of people to learn in this new way. It opens the door to so much more for so many.

I am positive and optimistic about the coronavirus pandemic's impact on human consciousness. In the meantime, I do my best to stay healthy and positive, to reach out, to share what I am able to share, and to appreciate people, nature, and life ever more deeply. 

But my greatest joy and appreciation go to the living presence of God in the form of my guru and lineage, and to my teacher who watches over his large family from his omnipresent blissful consciousness above.

Joy to you,
Swami Hrimananda










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







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