Showing posts with label Yugas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Yugas. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Breathlessness is Deathlessness!

What does "counter-intuitive" mean? Sitting on an airplane, ready for take-off, how many of us have wondered to ourselves: how can this thing, weighing 300 to 400 tons, possibly fly? And, yet it does: thousands of flights everyday, filled with hundreds of people, fuel, baggage and the airplane itself! But is this truly "counter" to our intuition? Or, is it counter to the experience of the senses?

Intuitively, in our dreams and aspirations, after all, flying is possible for us. Without the aspiration, fed by intuition which is the "knowing" that we can fly, we wouldn't even attempt it. So, instead of being counter-intuitive, it is really counter to our sensory experience! It wasn't until 1978 that two men climbed Mt. Everest without additional oxygen. Their feat may have defied (then) common sense, but it wasn't "counter-intuitive."

In this ascendant age of science and technology we are each day, each month, each year transcending limitations which, heretofore, would have seemed impossible. Some day, Paramhansa Yogananda (author of "Autobiography of a Yogi") predicted, we would figure out how to span the light years that separate us from distant planets and galaxies without paying the limitations imposed upon us currently by time and space.

Consider, too, our experience with illness, old age, death and all manner of suffering, including emotional and mental. When these things strike us, loved ones, or others, we know intuitively that this is NOT who we are; we knowingly separate ourselves from them, even when we accept them, at least calmly, as our present, but not permanent, reality.

It's not that we can't see these things are a fact of life for everyone. But at the same time we "know" that health is who we are and we know what is our true nature: happiness, freedom, goodness......all these are ours on an intuitive level.

Our intuitive knowing is the soul's power to fly and to seek freedom from all limitations. Our creative thoughts write novels, and plays, and make movies of past centuries and cultures; we imagine the life on earth in the future or on other, as yet undiscovered, planets. Every day in so many ways, we affirm our freedom from all limitations even if just in our thoughts, our desires, our fantasies.

In the past, breathing meant you were alive: the first breath of a baby, and the final exhalation of the dying signaled the appearance or disappearance of life. Yet the yogis tell us that "breathlessness is deathlessness." This is counter to our sense impressions; it is repudiated by the subconscious mind, which includes the body's autonomic system, for these are efficiently designed to keep us in the body and breathing. And this is a good thing from a common sense and daily living point of view. But we also posses an innate, intuitive sense of our immortality whenever we contemplate the mystery of death or encounter its stark but physical reality.

For a long time, lack of breathe meant a person was dead. That was disproved with the onset of CPR. In more recent times, it was said that lack of brain activity is certain death. That, too, has been disproved. One example is of a boy who drowned in icy water and had no signs of life for over an hour and a half. By intelligent and sustained efforts of the medical staff, he walked out of the hospital three and half days later.

Death, while at the same time a socially taboo subject in both family and medical circles, is yet a new frontier for science. A well known meditation researcher is investigating a phenomenon known in Tibetan circles as thukdam. A monk, knowing of his coming death, enters a deep state of meditation. All bodily and biological functions cease, yet, his body remains without decay or other signs of death for periods of a week or more. When does death actually occur?

Humanity, having descended to the nadir of what is called "Kali Yuga" (the dark or lowest cycle of human consciousness) around 499 AD and having, from that point, begun slowly our 12,000 year upward journey to greater awareness, has lost many of the treasures of the wisdom of higher ages. Even in the science of yoga, e.g., we've inherited from the relative ignorance of Kali Yuga cycle the association, almost universal around the world in today's cultures, between the term "yoga" and the physical body. Ananda Yoga, taught as a prelude to meditation, is viewed, as if almost unique, and is considered by others as "spiritual yoga." This is ironic because the term "yoga" is refers to the highest state of spiritual consciousness (and to the concomitant techniques to achieve it).

Another example from the science of yoga is the term Prana, or life force. During Kali Yuga this term became associated with the physical breath and with physical breathing exercises. Its original and correct meaning is a reference to the movements of intelligent energy that inhabit the physical body and which comprise the essence of the astral body. Physical breath is but the grossest, most outward evidence of life force in the body. Kriya Yoga, one of the world's most sought after and advanced meditation techniques, emphasizes awareness and control of these subtle currents in and around the astral spine, even if it, too, utilizes the physical breath as a doorway to the subtle, astral breath.

In the declining yugas of the BCE era, as humankind increasingly lost touch with its ability to contact divine realms and consciousness, priests of the cult of Osiris performed a ritual reenactment of the entombment and resurrection of Osiris by going into the Great Pyramid and placing the new pharoah or high priest into a coffin and sealing it with wax for a precise number of minutes. By this ritual, they would attempt to induce a near-death experience for the new pharoah so that he could experience higher realms and claim his kinship with Osiris and his lineage! A crude and dangerous ritual, to be sure, and a desperate attempt to reenact the lost mental and spiritual powers of a higher age and induce an experience of superconsciousness.

Julian Jaynes, author of "Origins of Consciousness" (1976), studied ancient traditions and writings, e.g., the Iliad, and concluded, somewhat crudely, that in former times humanity claimed to have had access to divine consciousness and "heard voices" in our heads that guided our actions. He termed this "bicameral" thinking. Thus it is that ancient scriptures, including the Old Testament, do NOT emphasize the kind of personal, egoic, existential angst and burden of personal decision making that we take for granted today. The author's view of this may not exactly coincide with our own, but it is an interesting observation. Yogananda wrote (in his autobiography) that "thoughts are universally, not individually rooted." A saint is a saint for having attuned his consciousness to divine consciousness. As the Old Testament put it, "My thoughts are not your thoughts." But a saint speaks and acts with divine attunement. The Bhagavad Gita teaches us that we who think we are the Doer (and the Thinker) are deluded for all creation is a manifestation of God, whether wisely or ignorantly.

Medical scientists are studying how to induce a kind of hibernation level so as to slow bleeding in trauma victims, to give time for heart surgery patients to regain normal function, and to resuscitate people who might even have been without a heartbeat for several hours.

Life without oxygen is possible! The wealth of testimony from the studies of near-death experiences (NDEs) shows a consistent pattern of experiences about a state of awareness never before thought possible. One study showed that a group of NDE'ers had very accurate and precise descriptions of the procedures performed on their otherwise "dead" bodies (while being resuscitated) compared with a survey of a group of medically savvy people who were nowhere near as accurate or successful when asked what procedures would likely be performed under such circumstances.

Returning now to the subject of breathlessness, quoting Chapter 26 (Kriya Yoga) of Paramhansa Yogananda's now classic story, "Autobiography of a Yogi," he wrote:

Kriya Yoga is an instrument through which human evolution can be quickened,” Sri Yukteswar explained to his students. “The ancient yogis discovered that the secret of cosmic consciousness is intimately linked with breath mastery. This is India’s unique and deathless contribution to the world’s treasury of knowledge. The life force, which is ordinarily absorbed in maintaining the heart-pump, must be freed for higher activities by a method of calming and stilling the ceaseless demands of the breath.”



In Chapter 12 of his autobiography, his guru gives to him an experience of cosmic consciousness. Entering this state, he describes it thusly: "My body became immovably rooted; breath was drawn out of my lungs as if by some huge magnet. Soul and mind instantly lost their physical bondage, and streamed out like a fluid piercing light from my every pore. The flesh was as though dead, yet in my intense awareness I knew that never before had I been fully alive. My sense of identity was no longer narrowly confined to a body, but embraced the circumambient atoms."

Rather than the materialistic view that matter has produced consciousness, the ancient teachings of a much higher age aver that consciousness has produced matter. God has become the universe by vibrating His consciousness to create an illusion of separateness. 

Scientists debate whether the mind has an independent existence apart from the brain, More and more evidence is piling up to suggest that it is so. But the mind, then, would need a source of energy. The yogis say that this is source is the source of all things, all life and is called, in Sanskrit, prana, or Life Force. This intelligent and divine life source is both macro and micro: it is the essence of all creation and the manifestation of our individualized consciousness. 

Yogic techniques are emerging than can show us how to safely and naturally transcend the slavery of our mind to the body. Yogananda taught a mindfulness technique (watching the breath), taken from ancient times, using the mantra "Hong Sau." He called this the highest technique of concentration.

The breath is the single most obvious barrier to concentration: when we need to focus on something, we automatically quiet the breath, or even hold it temporarily. At the same time by focusing one-pointedly upon the breath, it begins to calm down and, with proper training in the technique itself, we can relatively easily experience moments of cessation of breath. It is therefore the natural focus of our meditative attention.

The respiration rates of humans and of various animals shows that the faster the rate, the shorter the life expectancy. Scientific studies are all ready showing that meditation can slow, and even reverse, the effects of aging. Though it may seem counter to our natural, biological instincts, breathing less gives us more life; more awareness; greater health; and sustainable joy. 

Certain techniques (kapalbhati pranayam, double breath exhalation, and others) can produce momentary experiences of breathlessness: not unlike the training of astronauts in weightlessness when they are taken up in an airplane as high as they can go and then begin a rapid descent during which weightlessness occurs for a brief time.

Centering one's inner, visual focus through the forehead (the point between the eyebrows....the "kutastha") can also instantly bring breath and heart to a near standstill. This, combined with other advanced meditation techniques, is powerfully effective. No such techniques should be attempted on one's own, however. Not because they are dangerous so much, as why waste time doing something worth doing but doing it ineffectively?

As explained in Chapter 26 of the "Autobiography of a Yogi," Kriya Yoga introduces an "extra atom" of oxygen to bring the metabolism into stasis and reduce the need to breathe and thus gradually become acclimatized, like those who climb Mt. Everest without oxygen, to the rarefied "atmosphere" of breathlessness.

As we approach "absolute zero" of stillness of breath, the sense of separate identity, aka the ego, begins to dissolve. Not surprisingly, the ego is sustained by the autonomic system and sometimes balks at the possibility of its own dissolution in breathlessness. A meditator might experience momentary fear, or with the very thought "I'm not breathing," the heart and lungs kick back in. 

Gradually, over time and with practice, we overcome this hesitation. The key to this is NOT however the psycho-physiological description I've offered above. Higher consciousness is not, or should not be, a "circus." These realms are for those who sincerely, and with deep devotion and self-offering of the ego at the feet of the Infinite Spirit, seek the "truth that shall make us free" (of all limitations of ego and body). This is not for the faint of heart or for those whose wounded egos require extensive surgery: we cannot offer back to God that which, we, ourselves, do not yet possess. To become Self-possessed we must first become self-possessed!

Our hearts must be cleansed and purified by right action and right understanding. Breathlessness is, itself, only a doorway to the Divine Presence. In fact, without proper training and guidance, breathlessness can descend into lower forms of subconsciousness, including trance states, which offer to us no pathway to enlightenment whatsoever. One can, I am told, press on certain nerves and induce trance-like states. There are chemical means of inducing states of hibernation or feigned death. None of these is what this article is about. 

Think of lifting your arms up high in celebration! Imagine lifting your eyes as if at the sight of a awesome panorama! Even in such simple and ordinary acts, the mind becomes instantly still and the heartbeat can become immediately quiet. "It left me breathless!" Even human love, in its deepest forms, is silent and still. In addition to the yoga science, each of us can practice "breathlessness" at any time. 

May your breath be taken away in blissful, divine ecstasy!

Swami Hrimananda

For some follow up reading you might enjoy:
http://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2016/04/dying-death-brain-dead-body-consciousness-science/?utm_source=Facebook&utm_medium=SocialAds&utm_content=ngm-deathconsciousness&utm_campaign=Membership&kwp_0=159471&kwp_4=724566&kwp_1=365650

also: "Closer to the Light," by Melvin Morse, M.D.










Monday, June 27, 2016

Finding Peace in a Peaceless World

(Note: This will be sent to members and students of Ananda Seattle)

We’d be willing to bet that you may be finding that you are busier than ever before; that life is moving faster and more unpredictably than ever before. What’s going on? Is this some conspiracy? Is it toxins in our water, air, or food?

Paramhansa Yogananda’s guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar, published only one book in his life: “The Holy Science.” In its introduction (written in 1894), he made a number of predictions for the 20th century and into the future based on a very technical analysis of astronomy using ancient Indian teachings and science. Among those predictions included the prediction that the average life span of humans would soon begin to increase. Another similar prediction relates to the average height of humans.(1)

The National Center for Health Statistics says that in 1907 the life expectancy for men was 45.6 years; by 1957 it rose to 66.4 years; and, in 2007 it reached 75.5.

Quoting from the website Our World in Data (org), it says that average height over the last two millennia hovered around 170 cm. “With the onset of modernity, we see a massive spike in heights in the developed world.”

But the most important prediction Sri Yukteswar made was that humanity would very soon discover that all matter is, in essence, a condensation of energy. That year was 1905 and the person who did that was Albert Einstein. Einstein proved that energy and matter are interchangeable! At its most elemental level, we call this the dawn of the Atomic Age. (1)

As humanity reaps the windfall (both blessings and curses) of this discovery, it has, and continues to rapidly convert the “matter” of fixed ideas and customs (politics, religion, science, art and culture) into a maelstrom of high energy potentials! The pace is not about to abate any time soon, because  Swami Sri Yukteswar further predicted this trend would continue for some two thousand years! We can only hope, for the sake of everyone, that the rate of change will gradually diminish.

This shift of awareness is upending and challenging traditional attitudes, customs, and power structures. From the “hard” view that matter (including our bodies and ego) are the bedrock reality to the “soft” view that we are all connected and interchangeable, is a rough and tumble journey generating conflict and confusion everywhere.

We see the past vs the future; haves vs have nots; sustainable living patterns vs destructive ones; racial conflicts; gender revolutions; international, national and local conflicts; global vs local interests; religious conflicts; personal liberties vs social mores or responsibilities; political upheaval; and on and on! Paramhansa Yogananda warned audiences that future conflicts and catastrophic events precipitated by the transition from one epoch of human awareness to a higher one would have to come first before a prolonged period of peace born of the new awakening.

Into this maelstrom of lifestyles, conflicts and confusion has come the gift of peace: the practice of yoga (meaning, meditation supported by physical yoga). This is the gift of the “gods” (meaning our higher nature, divinely inspired).

The practice of meditation, supported by hatha yoga, was brought to the West in 1920 by its foremost proponent, Paramhansa Yogananda . “Divine vision,” Yogananda wrote in his classic life story, “Autobiography of a Yogi,” is “center everywhere, circumference nowhere.” In a world view of billions of galaxies with no discernable center, we can discover that “the kingdom of heaven” is “within you.” There is no certitude or safety in money, position, reputation or talent. The source of our calmness, strength, and happiness lies in the “portable paradise” of peace within us.

If you want to walk with courage, confidence, and calmness amidst the “crash of (our) breaking worlds,” meditation is for you.

Take the time, therefore, each and every day, to put aside the world of duties and distractions, affix your inner gaze at the point between the eyebrows, open your heart, and calming your breath, come to the only reality there is: THE PRESENT MOMENT. This “point of singularity” is the “throne” of God, creator of all that is and it is your very SELF! “Be still,” the Psalmist counsels, “and know that I AM God.”

Joy to you,

Nayaswamis Hriman and Padma

(1) See either the Introduction to the book, "Holy Science" published by Self-Realization Fellowship, or, a more complete and fascinating analysis in the book, "The Yugas," by Joseph Selbie and David Steinmetz, published by Crystal Clarity Publishers


Monday, October 20, 2014

In the Footsteps of St. Francis - A Perspective

A group of Ananda members from Seattle, WA have just returned from a two-week visit to Italy. We saw the sights of Rome and the treasures of Florence, but these were but introductions to the deep spirituality which is their true source and the greatest treasure of Italy and of humankind: "the Word made flesh and dwelt amongst us."

So much has been said about the impact of St. Francis on religion and culture that I feel in awe of even attempting to share any insights. As a fact of history, St. Francis mobilized and inspired thousands of people in the direction of a profound and deep spirituality (many becoming saints like himself). His use of the vernacular, the language of the Italy of his time, and his love and embrace of nature, is said (by those more knowledgeable than me) to have sown the seeds for the Italian renaissance. Over a thousand years after the life of Jesus, he was the first to recreate and reenact, for devotional purposes, the birth of Jesus. In one simple event in a small village, he single-handedly birthed one of the most profound and inspired traditions of Christendom: the Nativity!

While ancient Rome was, itself, a colossus of genius, brute force, and sheer energy, it is not really the cultural treasure of Italy today. After all, most of it is in ruins. Nonetheless, I came to feel that for Italians, and Romans especially, they are understandably proud of their ancestral tradition and history of the glory of ancient Rome. Surely this memory has inspired some of Rome's offspring to heights of glory and genius. (Yes, Mussolini attempted to imitate it, too, for sure!). I can't say that the "glory of Rome" resonates deeply with me but any objective measure of it at its height is impressive by any standard.

Thus it is that I believes the echoes of that former greatness continued to emanate from its center in Rome far into the medieval and renaissance periods. What happened, historically, was that the fading glory and strength of the Roman empire was given over by Emperor Constantine to the fledgling Christian religion. The Church thus inherited the erstwhile power and glory of Rome, even if much reduced, indeed, on the brink of collapse, but Christianity re-enabled that power into a new form and for a new era of history.

The brilliance of the classical periods of Greece and Rome is found in its foundations in logic, reason, and appreciation and devotion to the human experience and psyche, both body and mind. While far from religiously spiritual, the classical times had a strength and beauty of its own. Indeed, so much so, that by the height of the Italian renaissance and against the pressures of the Protestant revolt, the Catholic Church itself was accused of paganism because it supported great works of art that depicted characters and gods and goddesses from the classical period and, shockingly, featured the human body in all its (unclothed) glory.

(An aside: To those of us who view human history in the light of the theory of the "Yugas" as revealed and re-interpreted by Swami Sri Yukteswar in his abstruse tome, "The Holy Science," we see that during the classical periods of Greece and Rome the power of the pantheon of the gods had become mostly an empty ritual. Belief in gods was on the decline as human consciousness was steadily losing its power of subtle perceptions beyond physical form. The old time religions devolved into superstitions and myths, the power now faded into empty, even debased, rituals and time-worn customs.

To replace the gods, humanity, or those few with integrity and insight, only had human life as a measure of our potential. What arose is what we might call today "secular humanism." This included the Stoics and the emphasis on ethics and morals based on human reason. The decline of human awareness, according to the yuga theory, reached its nadir around 500 A.D. -- about the time of the last Roman emperor. The libraries of learning and knowledge from past ages were purposely destroyed out of fear, ignorance and disdain for their seeming uselessness. Then began the slow ascent, first through the Dark Ages, then medieval times onto the Renaissance, the Protestant revolt, the age of exploration and so on. The cycle reached its parallel, though ascending rather than descending, with the Greek and Roman secular humanism during the so-called "Enlightenment," the Age of Reason which occurred roughly around the time of the American and French revolutions. In the ascending cycle, such a stage in the growing awareness of human consciousness would be a natural result of the Renaissance and the age of exploration during which human thought and the natural world became legitimate and inspired objects of man's growing self-interest. Medieval mysticism and heaven and hell began to lose their lustre in part as deep thinkers, and later, whole generations, lost faith in the practicality of their reality, such a loss being catalyzed in part due to the excesses of church institutionalism. For a marvelous and eye-opening explanation of the yugas, visit: http://www.crystalclarity.com/product.php?code=BTY)

Returning now to our subject, it occurs to me that the Roman genius and energy was reborn by divine decree (blessings, in other words) in the flowering of Christianity which replaced the Roman empire. Unfortunately, it would long be tainted, as if even by physical association, by the Roman legacy of seeking power by conquest, beauty in grandiose architecture, ego affirmation and sensuality.

The transformation of the Roman legacy into essentially a religious and spiritual one was something I felt as I walked the streets of Rome. My sense was for a new-found appreciation of the spiritual influence of so many saints (and martyrs) through whose sacrifice and consciousness the failed Roman empire was transformed into the spiritual heart of Christendom and which effectively moved its center of gravity from Jerusalem to Rome. The presence of saints Peter and Paul, alone, would have endowed the ancient city with the blessing of being an "eternal city."

As Buddha was a Hindu, Jesus was a Jew. As Buddhism left India and went east, Christianity left Palestine and went west. Such was the divine will. Rome became the center of Christian energy and remains so today. As we are witnessing a mini-renaissance in the Catholic Church under Pope Francis, purposely taking the name of St. Francis ("rebuild my Church"), so we can see at work the continuation of the promise of Jesus that to Peter he gave the keys to the kingdom on which to build his church which will stand to the end of time. (How well it has carried out its commission is, of course, debatable, but the Catholic Church is still here and is in fact experiencing yet another renaissance of sorts. That Paramhansa Yogananda gave a more metaphysical and more personal interpretation of Jesus' words doesn't necessarily negate a more outward interpretation if not taken too literally.)

Padma (my wife) pointed out that Yogananda taught that Jesus appeared to the prophet Babaji and asked Babaji to send someone from India to the west to resurrect the personal practice of inner communion using the art and science of eastern meditation. To St. Francis, then, Jesus appeared with a similar message, "Rebuild my church" by the personal "Imitation of Christ." In one conversation, one of the pilgrims wondered if, in fact, St. Francis was himself a reincarnation of Jesus. Francis had twelve disciples; he was the first to receive the stigmata (wounds of Christ); he imitated the life of Jesus literally; raised the dead. Well, anyone, idle speculation, to be sure.

Thus it was that on this journey, I found it "easy," perhaps obvious, to ascribe the genius of the Italian Renaissance (in art, sculpture and architecture) to the spiritual power and transformation of consciousness that St. Francis initialized. Further, it seems to me that Francis' appearance on the scene was a continuation of an essential vibration of greatness that stretches back, albeit taking a very different form, to Roman times. Francis' greatness was entirely spiritual but its ramifications created echoes, like waves, emanating outward from the initial shock of omnipresence, resulted in, literally, a renaissance of human consciousness. Each aspect of this being understood in the larger context of the devolution and subsequent evolution (upward) in human consciousness.

It was appropriate, therefore, that our little pilgrimage begin with a tour of the cultural treasures of Rome and Florence. On those treasures, I have little to say or to add, as art, for art's sake, is not an area of great personal interest. That I was as floored, awed, and inspired as just about anyone (ought to be) by these great works, I attest and confess, but beyond the general shock into speechlessness that many experience, I have nothing to add!

So, now we will go onto Assisi in the next article..............in the footsteps of St. Francis.......taking a far more personal and spiritually oriented tone..............and away from the more grandiloquent tone of this first "perspective."

Blessings,

Swami Hrimananda




Monday, March 3, 2014

Give Peace a Chance?

Fighting in Ukraine: Russia vs the West? Sarajevo, 1914. One hundred years ago, the assassination of the Archduke, heir to the Hapsburg throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, triggered the outbreak of World War I, the war "to end all wars" among the competing trigger-happy, imperialist western powers. The first fifty years of the twentieth century saw violence and killing on a scale unprecedented in human history. The result has been the collapse of imperialist dynasties and empires. The residue, like acidic ashes, gave rise to the Soviet Union and to America as opposing imperialist forces. Each, though on different timelines, have been steadily weakened. Are they back at it? Will we never learn to be cooperative partners and equals with the rest of the world, especially its emerging nations and cultures? Must we always attempt to dominate?

Now, 2014, one hundred years later, a minor political flare-up in a small state resting on the fault line of east and west threatens to ignite Cold War and maybe Hot War tensions once again.

There exists a fault line through the Asia-European imaginary continental boundary that is not so imaginary and where tectonic cultural plates meet and all too often clash and thrash about for supremacy. Up through the near east (Egypt, Israel, Syria, Iraq, Turkey and right up the line to Scandinavia exists this (I wish it were) imaginary "fault."

The east in its higher values is expansive: Indian cultures inclines towards the impersonal, abstract and cosmic; China inclines to social ethics and responsibilities and harmony. In its darker side it inclines toward ruthlessness and an absence of value upon individual human lives.

The west in its higher values inclines toward individuality, personal liberty of thought and action, exploration of the material world, of nature through science and reason. The west in its darker side is domineering, arrogant, godless, prejudicial and exploitative.

(If I omit the southern hemisphere continents, well, they speak, or don't, for themselves. For whatever reason if any, the southern hemisphere has played a relatively small, perhaps insignificant, role in human history and culture in the few thousand years. Sorry to say this, but it seems self evident. If its a western prejudicial bias, well, there you have it, then!)

In the book, "The Yugas," by Joseph Selbie and David Steinmetz, (www.crystalclarity.com), the authors elaborate on a revolutionary view of history given to us by ancient cultures and specifically the culture of India as this view of history was modified, updated, clarified and corrected by a modern mystic and astrologer, Swami Sri Yukteswar (1855-1936), in the foreward to his one and only book, "The Holy Science."

According to this fascinating view of history, the planet earth and its human inhabitants are on a 12,000 year upward cycle of expanding awareness. The age we are currently in is not terribly enlightened but it is very energetic, rational, and technological. It is lacking, however, in wisdom. According to this account, the age we are in (which will last over two thousand more years before the appearance of a yet higher age), which they call Dwapara Yuga ("The Second Age"), warfare and insecurity (economic, planetary, weather, disease, political, etc.) will be unceasing. There may be periods, even some lasting a century or two, later on in this upward cycle, where peace will be experienced, but overall it is an age of energetic instability.

Well, who knows, eh? What we can see for ourselves, right now, is that on every continent, struggles by the have-nots against those in power and struggles between competing powers, parties, groups, nations, and tribes is unending. Armed now as we are with weapons of mass destruction (from automatic, rapid-fire guns to atomic bombs and everything in between), the causalities are shockingly high and shockingly inhumane.

Why would we expect such troubles to end anytime soon? People like you and I (why else would you be reading this blog), want it to be otherwise. Our own consciousness is peaceful and violence seems foreign to us. That fact, which is not unimportant, does not change the other and much larger fact of global violence and conflict.

Maybe we are still young adults and can still entertain roseate expectations, or not. So, shall we collapse in apathy and immerse ourselves in self-indulgence? Many have and many will continue to go this route. It leads to personal violence against our own health, happiness and well-being. So, in choosing that route, one is saying, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em."

But if you are reading this I would guess that's not the route you've chosen. We can give "Peace a chance" (John Lennon's song) by becoming "the change we seek" (Mahatma Gandhi). The odds of any one of us bringing the world to a state of peace by our own efforts is, well......I won't say it.

Our contribution and consciousness unites western individuality (sense of personal responsibility) with eastern expansiveness and cosmic view. As vibrant, conscious, living sparks of a higher intelligence, like points of light, we can reflect the light of wisdom and the healing rays of peace: first in our calm, centered, peace-filled heart; then, in the respect we show others; in the attentiveness, integrity, harmony, and excellence of our actions, no matter how mundane; and finally, in attunement with the great Will and Love of Life, the Spirit behind all seeming, we, as individuals, can know how we can be free from all violence.

Paramhansa Yogananda (1893-1952), author of "Autobiography of a Yogi," predicted that east and west (specifically, America and India) would work together to bring a higher consciousness into being during this energetic age. What he meant by "working together" wasn't explained but I suppose it ranges from the change of individual consciousness all the way "to the top" of international cooperation and exchange.

The tiny worldwide network of Ananda Communities and centers exists as a result of the efforts and dedications of thousands of individual souls. Our efforts provide a model and an example of how people who are otherwise from a wide range of backgrounds, can live together in harmony, serving creatively and being engaged, while yet retaining and refining our individuality towards our highest potential beyond mere ego consciousness.

It is a small step and it won't necessarily bring peace to Ukraine; or, will it? We may not know the consequences of our own consciousness and commitment to expressing it in outward effect, but we can make the effort and if we make no tangible contribution to the world around us, it will not be for lack of interest, but we will be changed for the better by the attempt.

Give a peace a chance!

Nayaswami Hriman



Thursday, September 8, 2011

Armageddon or a New Age? A New View of History

I would like to invite you to a revolutionary revelation that has come out in a newly published book called THE YUGAS, by two friends of mine, Joseph Selbie and David Steinmetz. This weekend the East West Bookshop hosts a talk and workshop by Joseph Selbie: Saturday night, 7 p.m., and Sunday, 1 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online at www.eastwestbookshop.com

You don't want to miss this, and the book which these two great souls have written. Coincidentally (if you believe in coincidences), I have just, this week, begun a course at Ananda Meditation Temple on the book, The Holy Science, by Swami Sri Yukteswar. It is upon the revelation given in the introduction to this book that Joseph and David have built upon, now over 100 years since the Holy Science was first published.

Western science posits that not many thousands of years ago humankind were just a scotch above apes, living in caves, foraging, hunting and gathering. But the accumulation of anomalous facts and discoveries is pushing this view of progressive history off the cliff of human knowledge.

Instead, every great civilization of the B.C.E. attested to the existence of a higher age in the dim, pre-history of time. Evidence continues to mount in favor of this point of view. As a simple example, we are pleased to imagine that literacy is evidence of growing intelligence. Is it possible that literacy is just the opposite? Just as we, today, need to write things down because of being plagued by faulty memory, perhaps it is so that literacy arose in response to the need to "write things down" which, prior, were conveyed in a verbal tradition and memory?

Yes, this revelation will turn our view of history upside down. And, just in time, for the question of Armageddon vs a New Age is no armchair philosopher's topic. Science seems to be giving us unceasing insights into knowledge of the natural world while human behavior seems to be plaguing us with selfish and destructive patterns of exploitation, abuse and prejudice. Or, is it?

Up through the Renaissance of western Europe we believed in the past higher knowledge and wisdom of a long forgotten classic age. Only with the dawn of the age of exploration, reason, and industry have we switched to look ahead for ever expanding vistas of awakening.

But by what mechanics can such cycles of consciousness ascend and descend upon mankind? Learn the secrets of the stars known to the ancients whose descendents, in desparation, erected the great megaliths in an effort to track the celestial motions that influence the history mankind!

How can we understand past, present, and future history and trends that we might live a more aware and conscious life? Come this weekend to learn more. It is fascinating, inspiring, and utterly up-setting of a world view with which we, in the west, have been raised. You will not be disappointed.

Blessings,

Nayaswami Hriman

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

THE HOLY SCIENCE - PART 4 - THE PROCEDURE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thus is described the universal path to freedom in God.

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

Blessings,

Hriman

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

O Holy Science of Yoga - Introduction

Beginning Wednesday, September 7 at the Ananda Meditation Temple, we will hold a 4-week series on the book that started it all: "The Holy Science," by Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri. Sri Yukteswar was the first in the line of Self-realization to write and publish a book. It was published at the request of the deathless guru, Mahavatar Babaji. Babaji asked Sri Yukteswar 'Will you not write a short book on the underlying basic unity between the Christian and Hindu scriptures? Show by parallel references that the inspired sons of God have spoken the same truths, now obscured by men's sectarian differences.'

Sri Yuktewar was a man of few words and a soul of not merely wisdom but God-realization.  Our exploration of his brief but deep tome will open up vistas unto eternity. In this series of blogs, I will offer hints of those vistas as teasers to that class.

In the Foreward to the Holy Science, Paramhansa Yogannada reminds us that the great Ones of East and West achieved their wisdom by realizing the Supreme Reality behind all creation. While their words may have taken different forms and employed different symbols ("some open and clear, others hidden or symbolic") - all spoke from the truth of Spirit.

INTRODUCTION.  Swami Sri Yukteswar ("SY") has divided his book into four sections, according to the four stages in the development of knowledge. To attain Self-knowledge one must have knowledge of the world around us. Therefore the first part of the book is a description of the truths and purposes of creation. The second part concerns the goal of life: immortality, consciousness & bliss. The third section is how to realize those goals and the fourth is the revelations of those who have achieved these goals.

It is in his introduction that SY reveals his profound and intuitive understanding of the history of our planet and the mechanism which accounts for the changes in human consciousness over a 24,000 year cycle. I would recommend the just published book, "The Yugas," by Joseph Selbie and David Steinmetz (Crystal Clarity Publishers, Nevada City) for a more complete description of this seemingly abstruse theory and SY's insightful but complex explanation.

The "yuga theory" provides the objective basis for why humankind is ready and needful of this new and deeper understanding of the universal truths of creation and of all faiths.

So join me next blog post, for Chapter 1.