Showing posts with label kriya yoga. Show all posts
Showing posts with label kriya yoga. Show all posts

Monday, September 11, 2017

Happy Anniversary, Swamiji! September 12 1948

Happy 69th Anniversary, Swamiji (Kriyananda)! 69 years since you first met your guru, Paramhansa Yogananda and were accepted by him as a renunciate and disciple. Your time with him was to be only three and a half years but these years were as many as had the disciples of Jesus with their master! 

It was enough: enough for you to go on to establish in your guru's name a worldwide network of intentional, spiritual communities whose residents (and their fellow, non resident Ananda members) were instructed and inspired in the path of Kriya Yoga as taught to you by Yogananda.

Who can possibly number the miles you've traveled throughout the world? The talks and lectures? Yoga classes; meditation classes, classes and initiations in the techniques of Kriya Yoga! The time spent counseling with individuals and with the leaders of the various organizations you established? Who can chronicle the depth and breadth of the musical compositions and concerts--a new form of music--both instrumental and vocal--Songs of Divine Joy that came through your attunement and talent? Who can count the wisdom insights expressed through your writings--hundreds of pieces from articles and papers to published books? They are beyond measure and offer wisdom and inspiration that spans the breadth of the human experience, its challenges and aspirations. "Crystal Clarity" you called your writing and editing work, and crystal clear it is for those with "eyes to see" and "ears to hear."

All of these efforts were infused with the vibrations of wisdom and joy of the world spiritual teacher, Paramhansa Yogananda, and the line of preceptors who sent and trained Yogananda a century ago. 

You revealed that Yogananda told you more than once that "You have a great work to do!" And when Yogananda's most advanced disciple (Rajasi Janakananda) repeated this to you after the death of Yogananda, he added, "And Master will give you the strength to do it," that strength was amply demonstrated throughout your life. 

Who can know the untold burdens of body troubles that beset you; the years of diatribes and accusations from fellow disciples who might as well have wished upon you and condemned you (if they could) to eternal hell fire! Yes, "tapasya" (self-sacrifice) is the price of spiritual service and soul freedom but you always knew it was Divine Mother's gift for it meant your freedom and the upliftment of countless sincerely-seeking souls.

And oh what blessings to us to have received all of these things and more: opportunities to serve with you; to serve the "great work" you have done; to serve with one another in divine friendship; and to practice the art of discipleship. You never accepted the role of guru (for God is the guru through the last of the Self-realization line: Paramhansa Yogananda) but you gave us a window on to what living discipleship looked like. You gave to us who accepted the opportunity to give our lives to our guru's work through Ananda, living lessons in the attitudes and roles of a disciple.

We thank you and offer back to you (wherever your soul may be roaming now in freedom), our gratitude and love for we will go on until the end where we will meet again. We vow to do our best to honor the spirit and the letter of your legacy and instructions to us in carrying on this great work. 

Happy Anniversary, Swamiji!

Nayaswami Hriman

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Be the Change : Be a Kriya Emissary!

There is a surge of inspiration worldwide among millions of meditators to find ways to become visible and to offer the “meditation solution” to a world in desperate need of change. 

Ananda, the worldwide network of communities and centers based on the practice of kriya yoga meditation, has initiated a campaign called, BE THE CHANGE: I Meditate. At the website, meditators around the world have an opportunity to pledge their meditation hours as an affirmation of their personal commitment to meditation as the solution to affecting a shift in worldwide consciousness towards peace, harmony, and cooperation.

The term “kriya” has always intrigued me for the simple reason that its literal meaning is simply (more or less): action. In Chapter 26 of the "Autobiography of a Yogi," Paramhansa Yogananda interprets the term as “union (yoga) with the Infinite through a certain rite or action.” Very generic is his explanation, in other words.

Swami Kriyananda may have been the first swami ever to take the spiritual name “kriyananda.” At the time, as I understand it, his intention related to the practice of kriya yoga. But inasmuch as Paramhansa Yogananda described Swamiji’s life as one of “service, and (he paused), meditation,” Swamiji also opined that his name has a double meaning: not just action as kriya yoga meditation but action as in service!

Why is it that Babaji and/or Lahiri Mahasaya used this singular, generic term (kriya) to describe the technique that they have given to the world? In our times every teacher goes out of his/her way to brand his own form of meditation or yoga with a trademarkable term! Were they simply ignorant of the benefits of trademarks and branding? (I can’t answer that for them, of course.) 

The term they chose is generic because creation at large and the human body specifically are generic. The way to enlightenment and to liberation is universal and not dependent upon belief or religious affiliation. The soul’s awakening gradually withdraws identification from the three bodies (physical, astral, causal) step by step going in reverse order and enter the kingdom of God through the channel(s) through which we came. The technique which they called “kriya” does precisely this. 

There are innumerable variations in terms of describing and practicing the technique itself. Thus it is that Yogananda claims that “St. Paul knew kriya, or a technique very similar to it…….” It’s the channel and the process that is universal. The details of the technique are important both as to the effectiveness which results by practicing the technique correctly to energize these channels AND as to the grace and power that comes through the guru and the instructions given by the guru.

Thus I come to my main thesis: as “kriya” refers to action, it is time for kriyabans (practitioners of kriya) to take action, to become Kriya Emissaries. I don’t mean we should rush out and teach the technique itself on the street corners. Meditation itself is “kriya” when understood in its broadest context. Ananda’s BE THE CHANGE initiative and campaign is the first level of our taking action. Sign up and pledge your meditation. Let’s achieve those million hours of meditation and help shift consciousness at a time in history when it is desperately needed.

But I would also hope that individuals, two by two (preferably), could with the support and guidance of their spiritual teacher, organization, or like-minded friends, go for a weekend; a week; a month; or more, and travel locally, regionally or internationally to share the BE THE CHANGE message and the practice of meditation. 

As most of my readers are likely affiliated with Ananda, this message can and should include sharing information on how and why the practice of kriya yoga can powerfully aid in this shift of consciousness. Paramhansa Yogananda wrote in "Autobiography of a Yogi" that the kriya technique is destined to spread around the world so that “all…may come to know that there is a definite, scientific technique of self-realization for the overcoming of all human misery.” Later in the "Autobiography of a Yogi," he writes, “Through use of the Kriya key, persons who cannot bring themselves to believe in the divinity of any man will behold at last the full divinity of their own selves.”

Whether we leave our town or city or not, we CAN be Kriya Emissaries. Sharing with others that we meditate need not be an imposition upon others. It can be done subtly: a picture at our desk; a book on a table; a suggestion to a friend. For others, taking a meditation teacher training course will not only help your meditation practice but it will empower you with confidence to share simple techniques with friends, family, children, or more formally in classes at work, fitness center, church, or other public venue.

“The only way out is IN!” The solution to humanity’s pressing issues today is a shift in consciousness. Leadership is needed but consciousness is by definition individual. This is the age of Self-realization which has come, as Yogananda put it, “to unite” all sincere seekers (not under the umbrella of any single organization or creed but under the shining stars of Superconsciousness!). Let us vow to ourselves, as Yogananda did when his guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar challenged his resistance to public service, “to share with my fellows, so far as lay in my power, the unshackling truths I had learned at my guru’s feet.”

Joy to you,

Swami Hrimananda

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Meditation: Are You Missing the Point?

I had an interesting discussion with a friend the other day. The topic we discussed is one that is very common among meditators but while there are lots of opinions, there is very little consensus. Here are some of the ways it is approached:

1. I have very little time. Should I spend my time practicing my technique(s) or should I simply sit in meditation?

2. I struggle with following the prescribed meditation routine that I have been taught. Practicing the routine can require more concentration than I have or want to give, or, I find them tedious and uninspiring.

3. I am faithful to my daily meditation routine but I don't feel I am making any progress or at least don't feel very much inspiration. 

4. I have very little time to devote to meditation; I have many responsibilities; but I feel guilty about not fulfilling my pledge to meditate, including completing the practices I have committed to.

No matter how it’s stated, the basic issue is how to find inspiration from one's meditation.

Before I comment more usefully on this subject, let me remind us that meditation which is practiced "because I have to," or, "in the expectation of results" is already bound to be unsatisfying.

Why is this? This is because the very nature of inner peace is unconditional. It is devoid of compulsion or expectation.

I have lived in the ashram-like communities of Ananda most of my adult life. In meditating frequently, often daily, with others (often the same people day in and out), and, having taught meditation for many years, I understand how easy it is to mistake the practice of techniques for the goal of meditation.

There is a dialogue in AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A YOGI between the young Mukunda (Yogananda's name as a boy) and a saint he would frequently visit. The saint says to Mukunda: "You often go into the silence, but have you developed anubhava? He was reminding me,” Yogananda wrote, “to love God more than meditation. Do not mistake the technique for the goal."

Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras warns us (tongue in cheek, no doubt) against "missing the point."

We live in a technology and technique oriented culture. As one who teaches the family of meditation techniques that includes Kriya Yoga as taught by Paramhansa Yogananda, I see students come seeking to learn these techniques.

Too often a student imagines that the techniques themselves hold the promised reward of enlightenment. Because we tell them that belief is secondary to experience, they assume the experience of meditation born of the techniques of meditation will bring them what they seek.

Again, frequent articles based on scientific studies encourages the expectation that meditation is a panacea for all sorts of physical and mental maladies. Few stop to consider that even the most healthy, well-balanced, active, peace-loving, compassionate and creative individual may be very far from enlightened or unendingly blissful. Happy, well, yes but how dependable is human happiness in the face of Buddha’s threefold suffering: illness, aging, and death? (What to mention a veritable plethora of potential human woes around every corner!)

I would be a fool to attempt to define enlightenment but for the purposes of points I wish to make, let us posit the thesis that the purpose of meditation is to experience perfect stillness, Oneness or a state of ego transcendence. Obviously, then, perfect health (physical and mental) is none of these states.

Between the psycho-physiological benefits of meditation and a state of perfect stillness or ego transcendence lie recognizable and identifiable experiences in meditation. Most experienced meditators, for example, know what is inner peace, joy, love, or expanded awareness.

Therefore, for my purposes let's call these states the "goal" of meditation techniques and routines. Making it even simpler, let's say for the purposes of this article that INNER PEACE in meditation is my goal.

Therefore it must be the case that the technique(s) or routines of meditation that I practice are SECONDARY to my goal. They may of course help to achieve my goal. But are they ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY?

At first, when we learn to meditate, the routine and technique ARE substantially necessary and certainly useful to achieve consistent results with meditation. A person too lazy or lacking energy or intelligence, or one who cannot or refuses to learn the science of meditation, cannot thereby fault his "tools."

But with dedicated practice, the meditator learns to summon (mostly) at will the state of inner peace. To be clear, I am NOT saying that one should expect to be able to abandon meditation techniques or routines. A true technique (especially "guru-given") can take one to ever deeper states of meditation which are, in fact, “endless” because Oneness equates to Infinity and there’s no end to Infinity!!!! "Those too perfect for this world, adorn some other" the dry-witted Swami Sri Yukteswar (guru of Yogananda) once remarked.

What I AM saying, is that when pressed for time, or when internal resistance to the discipline of technique surfaces strongly, the meditator who can should simply enter at will the happy state of inner peace which is, in fact, our true goal. Of course, if he cannot do this, then it would be best to reach back into his tool kit of affirmations, prayer, chanting, mantra, or pranayama to kick start the energy needed to lift off (up).

My real point is that many meditators MISS the point and get bogged down in their own unhappy resistance to routine, or to the pressure of limited time, when, if they were more aware, could simply sit and realize they can enter into INNER PEACE at will! Or, if they are already feeling that deep peace even as they begin to sit, but believe they have to go through their routine first before being rewarded by inner peace, they should consider going with the flow of peace first.

If time allows and that peace wanes, then, by all means, go back to your routine to once again prime the pump!

The purpose of learning the techniques of one's profession, craft or art, is to go beyond them into the art of it. As a raft is left behind once one reaches the opposite shore, so are meditation techniques put aside when higher states appear.

Don't fool yourself in imagining that one or two blissful meditations means you can throw out your kriya beads. Nor should you imagine that feeling inner peace is the end game of true meditation. (Infinity, remember?) While meditation is both a science and an art, the science leads to the art (and not the other way around). 

But real meditators struggle to find time for meditation. Real meditators struggle with guilt over not being able to practice the way they "should." Real meditators can sometimes get into a rut, practicing the same routine every day until it becomes stale.

Let us not, therefore, "miss the point" of meditation.

Joy and blessings,

Swami Hrimananda

Postscript: In another article I will share thoughts on making every moment of the active day a meditation; and, perhaps another article on specific ideas on how to keep your meditation routine fresh and inspired! A deeper aspect of this apparent dichotomy between technique and the goal is the integration of the two when “being” enters the “doing” and “doing” becomes “being.” This little phrase comes to me at this moment: “No-thing is the way to where Fullness comes to stay.”

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Easter: We Shall Overcome!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A blessed and happy Easter to all,

Swami Hrimananda

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

Friday, December 23, 2016

The True Story of Christmas

A White Christmas

As I write these words it is snowing thick, puffy flakes! While for the sake of many practical holiday matters, I hope it stays light and fluffy, for now it is a pleasure (on all levels) to behold. The shortest day of sunlight is now past and the only way is “up” towards greater Light.

At Ananda, throughout the world—even in India—we celebrate Christmas. We do so in two ways: the social form and the spiritual way of meditation. Included in my meaning of “social” are the celebrations with family and friends; gift exchanges; and, importantly, recognition and celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ as reported in the four gospels. The spiritual “way” is of course through meditation and especially in the tradition, happening even now as I type throughout the world, begun by Paramhansa Yogananda of an eight-hour, day of meditation upon the cosmic Christ universal.

But let’s view, first, the story of Christmas. We, in this new age of Dwapara Yuga (the electrical or atomic age), are very fond of facts but rather short on truth. Science has given up on finding a “theory of everything” and is content to make new discoveries, particularly ones that can be put to practical (meaning monetary) use. Facts have their place in daily life, for sure.

But truth is something lasting and of the spirit. Endless debate and research has surrounded things like, “How can a woman (mother of Jesus) become pregnant asexually?” “What about the star seen by the wise men? How is that possible, astronomically?”

For the sake of brevity and focus, I will leave aside these factual questions so dear to the historian (and, I suppose, to the doubter). The real story of Christmas involves, by contrast, its meaning to you, and me. We’ve lost the interest and habit of “story,” which is to say myth. Even the word “myth” connotes in our usage of it “that which is false.” I take issue with that but I don’t control our use of words in our language!

The story of Christmas is that “God so loved the world that He sent His ‘only-begotten’ Son.” Well, what does THIS mean? Certainly not the orthodox Christian interpretation! According to Paramhansa Yogananda and according to the Bhagavad Gita (India’s beloved ‘bible’), God sends redeemers or saviors time and time again into human history. Jesus is not the only such incarnation of divinity. Nor is he and the others mere puppets. For as the beloved disciple St. John wrote in the first chapter of his gospel, “And as many as received Him, to them gave He the power to become the sons of God.”

Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, Rama, Yogananda and many others are no different than you or me. Rather, their level of awakening, of realization of their true soul-Self, has achieved perfection in union with God. Ours is yet struggling to emerge. They come to remind us of who we are AND to transmit the power of redemption. This doesn’t come through mere words or belief systems or rituals but through actual, but spiritual, power. “To RECEIVE HIM” means to take the savior’s life, teachings, and vibration (spirit) into your thoughts, feelings, and actions until He is in You, and You in Him.

What is “only begotten,” Yogananda taught, is that this universal, cosmic Christ-spirit resides at the still center of every atom of creation. It is the pure reflection of the Father-Spirit beyond and untouched by creation. It, and it alone, is Pure.

Second to this is the Word (In the beginning was the Word…..and the Word WAS God………and the Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us). The Word is the vibratory aspect of all creation. It is secondary because its very motion and movement is the underlying foundation and structure for creation. While it, too, is pure, it is halfway, as it were, between pure Spirit and the creation which completely hides Spirit.

Hence Jesus, as a person inhabiting a human body, with a concomitant personality, is not the sole and exclusively begotten son of God, but his consciousness is united with God: “I and my Father are One.” But Christians, Hindus and others confuse the appearance, the form, with the Spirit behind the form.

This is the story—the promise of our own mortality—that allows the Christmas story to endure, and, further, why we, at Ananda, as disciples of Paramhansa Yogananda, and as practitioners of kriya yoga from India, ALSO celebrate Christmas in both its social and its spiritual aspects.

A blessed, happy, and Merry Christmas to you,

Swami Hrimananda

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:

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

Friday, July 22, 2016

Kriya Yoga for the Evolution of Human Consciousness

(This letter was sent to Ananda members and students in the Seattle area in anticipation of a kriya initiation ceremony on Saturday, July 23, 2016)

This weekend we will conduct kriya initiation: the sacred ceremony in which the technique(s) of kriya meditation are taught to those who have undergone the requisite training and preparation. In Paramhansa Yogananda’s famous life story, “Autobiography of a Yogi,” Chapter 26 (called Kriya Yoga), he explains the basic nature of kriya yoga as a meditation technique: how it accelerates our spiritual evolution by dissolving psychic blocks which reside deep in the subtle spine of the astral body.

Obviously not every member or student at Ananda has been or seeks to be initiated into kriya, nor is that expected or required. Ananda means many things to different people: for some, the practice of hatha (“Ananda”) yoga; others, serving and sharing through their talents and interests with others of like-mind, others, yet, the study of spiritual teachings east or west; others are devoted to God or gurus in the heartfelt practices of chanting, prayer and constant, inner devotion; others, find inspiration in friendship and community; others are engaged in the practical application of their ideals ranging from growing food to teaching children at Living Wisdom School, serving at East West Bookshop or the Living Wisely Gift and Thrift Store! Food, health, healing, teaching, sharing, studying, playing, supporting, chanting, prayer, counseling and so many, many activities are doorways to fellowship and spiritual awakening!

Nonetheless, the centerpiece of the science of yoga for which Paramhansa Yogananda was sent to the West and to the world is the ever-increasingly popular practice of kriya yoga. Why is this, a relatively simple meditation technique, so central to the work of a world spiritual teacher and to a worldwide work of yoga?

In Yogananda’s autobiography he writes that “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.”

Consider now for a moment how many of you, and millions of others, have turned away from orthodox religion and/or are committed to reason and the evidence-based findings of modern science. In effect, SCIENCE is the religion of modern times. We get excited when science pushes the envelope of knowledge and hints at cosmic or subtle realities. No more do we turn to religion or theology or priests for describing or defining reality.

Next: consider if you could achieve health, vitality, calmness and happiness by working with the psycho-physiological and biological realities of meditation techniques. Researchers are falling all over themselves in studying the techniques and effects of meditation. Not a week passes without a new study discovering yet another amazing and demonstrable benefit from meditation.

And what is that biological reality that offers so much promise? Yes, you’re right: the breath! The most elemental necessity and evidence of life itself!
Science and society is steadily and inexorably moving towards the same discovery that yogis and rishis made thousands of years ago: that the relationship of breath to mind (and mind to breath) holds the key to unlocking our own highest potential.

Any thoughtful person knows that we cannot always control the circumstances of life and that, in consequence, our happiness and health depends, rather, on how we respond to life. In the scientific and provable fact that our reactions to life produce responses in heart and breath rate, AND, that heart and breath control can, in turn, re-direct and calm our reactions to life holds for us the greatest promise of health and happiness in an age of constant turmoil, change, and uncertainty.

But, we all know that there’s more to spiritual awakening than doing breathing exercises! Devotion, wisdom, kindness and generosity (the “yamas” and “niyamas” as Patanjali teaches in the Yoga Sutras) is, of course, the foundation for spiritual consciousness. But the greatest obstacle to actually achieving a superconscious state of spiritual awakening is the monkey mind and its obsession with the body and ego. The relationship of breath to mind (and mind to one’s state of consciousness, happiness, contentment, and awareness) holds a key to a rapid acceleration of higher consciousness.

This is where kriya comes in. Kriya operates directly upon the nervous system, brain, and breath to safely and gradually slow the breath and heart rate that the higher states of divine awareness may appear on the horizon of the mind’s inner, or spiritual, “eye.” This is why Yogananda called kriya yoga the “airplane route” to God. Good deeds, rites and rituals are what he called “the bullock cart route” to the release of the ego into soul consciousness. The mystic key to the doorway of higher consciousness has been re-discovered to accelerate our spiritual evolution in an age of rapid change and growth.

So we ask for your blessings upon this sacred weekend where the light of kriya yoga with the grace of the guru spreads person to person. If you find yourself inspired to learn more, we welcome your interest and offer free classes to explain more about kriya yoga and even have several videos on our website that you might find helpful!

Blessings and joy to you!

Nayaswamis Hriman and Padma

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

What is Kriya Yoga?

Padma and I (and others) just returned from a four-day retreat at Ananda Village whose theme was the art and science of kriya yoga. Kriya Yoga is the central practice of the meditation teachings brought from India to the West by Paramhansa Yogananda and which are at the heart of the spirituality of Ananda worldwide. This article was sent to Ananda members in the Seattle area.

Kriya Yoga is an advanced form of meditation known and recognized throughout the world. It was re-introduced to the world in 1861 to a humble Hindu accountant, Shyama Charan Lahiri (aka Lahiri Mahasaya) by the mysterious Himalayan saint known only as “Babaji” who gave “Lahiri” permission to initiate any sincere seeker of any faith whether monk or householder.

Through the traditional transmission from teacher to student-disciple-teacher, the spread of Kriya Yoga was destined to encircle the globe. It is well suited to the modern age where the emphasis is upon personal experience over belief. Paramhansa Yogananda’s now famous life story, Autobiography of a Yogi, put Kriya Yoga on the world map of popular meditation techniques.

Both by tradition and by intention, Kriya Yoga (KY) has been given only to those who have received preparation and training using various preparatory meditation techniques. Traditional yoga training includes a healthy diet, right attitude and moderation in sense faculties, study of spiritual teachings, and physical exercises in addition to a spectrum of meditation and purification practices such as yoga postures and breath control.

The basic purpose of this training is both to test the aspirant’s sincerity AND to prepare the body, nervous system, and the mind for deeper and more advanced meditation practices and experiences. With the popularity of meditation ever growing, most people naturally seek physical and mental benefits. For this purpose, mindfulness techniques (such as the Hong Sau - "Watching the Breath" - technique taught by Yogananda) are more than adequate. Kriya Yoga is for those seeking enlightenment (using any number of other possible words or terminology).

The other prerequisite intended by the reintroduction of KY into popular use is the recognition ­— part in gratitude and part as a transmission of actual spiritual awakening — of the need for a God-realized guru or preceptor. Such a person is no mere ordinary spiritual teacher; nor is the intended transmission thwarted by the guru’s no longer being in living, human form. Any technique given as initiation, including the Kriya technique, functions as much as a “channel” for the transmission of higher consciousness as it does a technique of meditation. Without the former, the latter is only partly effective. As we are “Spirit” and not merely a body with a personality, so the spiritual freedom we seek cannot come through merely material means or psychological efforts alone.

The true Goal of advanced meditation practices transcends ego, personality, body and matter: it “lives” in a realm without second, without form, and in unconditional consciousness. Such a state is therefore its source and being beyond ordinary perception must be channeled and received bit-by-bit just as a computer or a cell phone conversation carries information bit-by-bit. The technique is to the goal as a cell phone is to the substance of a conversation. The cell phone alone cannot substitute for the conversation even as the cell phone makes the conversation possible.

But as the guru or preceptor is a transmitting station, a sub-station and transformer, for the ultimate Goal, we must recognize that the preceptor, too, has no substantive personality. Our “discipleship” is not to a person but to an “instrument” (a rather “conscious” cell phone tower, if you will) sending us transmissions from Infinity. In this somewhat limited sense, then, the technique itself can become our guide and guru because it allows the transmission of higher consciousness to reach us. As Yogananda said of himself in the role of guru, “God is the guru. I killed Yogananda long ago.” Just as we can no more pick up our cell phone and call the President of the United States, so we must call the switchboard and talk to one of God's reps! Eventually, by building a relationship of trust with those who have His ear, we’ll get through to “the top.”

Yogananda, as the guru, is no longer present in a human form. Far too much is made these days by prospective and otherwise sincere devotees of the fear or doubt surrounding a discipleship relationship with him since it must needs be an inner relationship alone. Recognizing that through kriya yoga practice one can consciously draw on the spiritual power of Yogananda’s omnipresent consciousness is hardly a threat, except perhaps to the obstructive, no-saying donkey we call the ego!

Nor does such a relationship prohibit the recognition of other God-realized channels, for in God consciousness, there are no distinctions and no competition for loyalty. Whether world teacher or unknown, a free-soul is no more, or no less, free in God.

Given, however, that few devotees, even among the most committed, can spend more than an hour or two each day in the practice of kriya yoga, it must be recognized that the company of other (and especially more advanced) devotees is one of the most important ways of drawing on that spiritual transmission. This outward “transmission” is necessary so long as we are “outward” in our consciousness and self-definitions. Serving the outward work of the guru’s transmission with fellow devotees is easily one of the most important ways to advance spiritually and transcend ego consciousness. It doesn’t necessarily mean being a teacher: there are many ways to serve, each according to what is best spiritually for him. If one’s life circumstances permits such association but one balks at this opportunity, one would do well to question his spiritual readiness.

A wonderful description of Kriya Yoga can be found in Chapter 26 of “Autobiography of a Yogi.” The book can be read online for free at You can also watch several video presentations by Padma and I on our own website: .

Sincerely and with unceasing blessings,

Nayaswamis Hriman and Padma

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Ananda : Who Are We?

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

Ananda: Who are We?

Dear Friends, Members & Students of Ananda Seattle:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nayaswamis Hriman and Padma McGilloway
Spiritual Directors, Ananda Seattle

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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Kriya Yoga & Discipleship in the 21st Century

[My apologies in advance for the length of this article. These opinions are not those of any organization but are solely my own.]

I am a disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda (PY) and the line of preceptors who sent him. In this life, I did not know him as I was born in 1950 in northern California and he, PY, left his mortal frame in 1952 in Los Angeles.

I was greatly blessed to become a student and friend of Swami Kriyananda (SK) who lived with and was trained by PY in the last three and a half years of PY's life. Thus in a very real sense, I (and of course many hundreds, indeed, thousands) were blessed to receive PY's vibrations, wisdom, and joy through the channel of SK.

Commissioned and ordained by SK as a minister and, in 2009, as a kriyacharya (one authorized to initiate others into Kriya Yoga), I (and my wife, Padma) offer classes to prepare students to become disciples of PY and to receive kriya initiation (through the Ananda Center based in Bothell, near Seattle).

We do this twice a year and each time we see students struggle with the hurdle of taking discipleship as a prerequisite and a consequence of kriya initiation. In this training, we follow the pattern established by PY during his lifetime and given to us by SK.

During his very active and full lifetime of teaching, SK would regale us with stories of his time with PY. It was not to separate himself from us, as in, "lucky me," it was genuinely to help us understand what discipleship entailed and how important it is to achieving Self-realization. In turn, we share and train students in this same manner.

After SK's passing three years ago and during one of these classes, I was inspired to play an audio recording of SK speaking on the subject of discipleship. (SK gave many such talks during his lifetime.) I was shocked, however, when the students had no substantive reaction to the talk; they were not particularly inspired or touched. Listening to it with them in our living room (where we give these classes), I could feel that they were not able to connect to SK nor yet, more importantly, to either the precepts or the stories that SK shared with them.

It was then that my concerns arose and my thoughts have been evolving ever since.

Allow me to digress: PY's life story, "Autobiography of a Yogi," (AY) describes Lahiri Mahasaya (the saint who brought the practice of kriya yoga back into public view) as giving kriya to all sincere seekers: Moslems, Christians and others (not just orthodox Hindus). Students sometimes ask us about this, especially with the hidden, unstated question of "Why, then, must we take discipleship vows?"

Yet in the AY, Lahiri is told by Babaji (who initiated Lahiri into kriya and commissioned him to spread kriya yoga) to quote from the Bhagavad Gita a particular stanza to all his "disciples" to whom he gives kriya. Thus Babaji states, without reservation, that those to whom Lahiri would give the kriya technique would be disciples.

I am not aware of PY doing this with any regularity but he was known to give kriya spontaneously and/or to those of other faiths. He quotes Lahiri's statements about the universality of kriya in AY, so he obviously accepted and approved it. However, notwithstanding his own example and teaching, I am told that in years after PY's passing, his own organization began to require students preparing for kriya to pledge their allegiance to that organization and to their discipleship to PY as being exclusive of other paths, gurus, etc. (I don't have the exact facts on this requirement but I've heard it repeatedly from others first hand.)

Returning to our subject, then, we are faced, here and now in the 21st century, with the simple fact that PY is NOT in the body; that kriya is being disseminated throughout the world through various lineages and organizations, and even in published book form; and that its worldwide spread was predicted and intended by this lineage. Yet, SK is no longer in body to guide us; and with both PY and most other direct disciples like SK, also gone from this earth, new potential disciples will not have the opportunity to have the blessing of PY's human presence, nor yet that of his direct disciples.

A variety of organizations and spiritual teachers, each of which claims transmission from the kriya lineage of Babaji, Lahiri Mahasaya, Swami Sri Yukteswar and/or Paramhansa Yogananda, offers training in the kriya technique. Each may have slightly different requirements in regards to training and/or initiation.

Even in following the training we have been given by Swami Kriyananda (the pattern follows the training PY employed), there are nuances in respect to the expectations and requirements that we hold out in respect to the meaning and form that discipleship should take.

Let's consider first a person of another faith? Can they receive kriya? Are they expected to be disciples of PY? At Ananda we've more or less considered that people of other faiths are eligible for kriya initiation on the assumption that their participation in that faith is for cultural, family and convenience reasons rather than as an act of deep faith. Is that, in fact, what the masters have intended? 

I, for one, have no reason to assume or believe that this assumption was intended by them. If such a one is loyal to his own faith, is he not a true disciple of PY? I think that such a person can be both loyal to his faith AND a disciple of PY (and this line of kriya masters). How can this be? "God is the guru" PY said often. If a person is sufficiently mature enough to not view his loyalty to his faith as being compromised by his discipleship to PY, and who views PY as an incarnation of God who has been sent to him for his spiritual growth, then why would PY have a conflict with that person's faith (and, if a true faith, why would he?)?

Imagine that this person, say, a Christian, is given personal instruction in his faith by a wise and spiritually mature or advanced minister, teacher or friend. Let's say this person is his spiritual guide. Is that a conflict with his discipleship to Christ? Of course not! The Kriya masters make it clear in their lives and teachings that they represent "Sanaatan Dharma," the eternal religion. Not some new sect! 

True, you might object, saying, "But this mentor is not the sat guru!" True, but how can any one of us know whether PY or any of the others are our sat guru? I don't think we will know until we are much closer to enlightenment. Even PY's guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar, was a "proxy," he explained, for his sat guru, Babaji! We should know the teaching and the precepts but their application to our individual lives is necessarily directional and relative.

Would a self-professed atheist be eligible for kriya? I don't see how. Profession of atheism is as dogmatic as any narrow-eyed religious dogma. A sincere agnostic, on the other hand, who simply professes not to know whether God exists but otherwise is open, could certainly be. At first, his "discipleship" would be the commitment to practice kriya and study the teachings; in time, the descent of divine consciousness will baptism him in true faith and intuitive gnosis. Sri Yukteswar told his disciple, PY, that "joy is the proof of God's existence! (And His adequate response to our every need.)"

Can one who has taken a vow of discipleship to another guru and lineage take kriya? Hmmm, that hits closer to home, doesn't it? I'd say generally, "it depends." If that guru offers no kriya equivalent, is in all other respects compatible in the teachings, and the disciple mature and sincere.......Maybe? After all, the line between this circumstance and the situation of being of another faith can become a very thin line. Besides, PY's lineage is compatible both vibrationally and historically with a number of other saints. So, this is too close to call, at least for me. The issue of having only one guru has two aspects: practicality and principle. Practicality has to do with the admixture of vibration, teachings and techniques that potentially confuses the devotee; principle has to do both with the importance of loyalty (which PY emphasized as "the first law of God") and the principle of the sat (sad) guru: that instrument through which our salvation is destined to come. 

I know numerous devotees whose personal altar contains many true saints. What is the significance of this and the person's inner attunement and relationship to each saint? I generally have no idea. Why should I be the judge? Sincerity and maturity linked with intensity of effort, common sense and intelligence, are the magnets that attract the power of grace. 

Not everyone can integrate this bifurcation of loyalty and commitment so readily. In fact, and in general, our planetary human consciousness is not very evolved this way. We tend toward "either-or," rather than "both-and." One sees more genuine examples of this universality and integration in a culture like India than in the West. 

The downside can, however, be a lack of discernment and an eclectic approach for which no deep roots are nurtured. Nonetheless, we are not here to judge others even if, we must, by the requirements of our role, fulfill some degree of our own discernment of a person's readiness to take kriya and to accept discipleship.

As one trained and commissioned by Swami Kriyananda, I am committed to following the instructions and training he has given to us. My priority is to serve and build the work of Ananda rather than to be a vending machine for kriya. We could not offer kriya if there were not a committed group of disciples operating through genuine attunement to the guru(s) to support this work of kriya.

Yet, as I encounter students seeking kriya for whom very little personal connection, if any, exists in respect to PY (owing at least in part to the passage of time and the disappearance of direct disciples), I must wonder whether our description and training in discipleship which is wholly based on the example of PY and his own direct disciples, is unnecessarily too high a bar; too irrelevant to the daily lives of sincerely seeking men and women living in this conflicted world of ours; people for whom kriya was intended to uplift. How can kriya spread if every potential disciple is expected to accept and have the kind of relationship that direct disciples had with PY, or even what some of us had with PY through SK as our teacher (and who was a direct disciple)?

Is it, then, possible to reconcile these aspects of discipleship in regards to kriya initiation?

I believe it is. I believe we must consider the reality of discipleship for an ever widening circle of sincere souls. Few of these will become members of organizations founded to serve Yogananda's work; fewer still will live in a monastic life, or in Ananda Communities, or become ministers, acharyas, or reunciates or in any other way adopt the outer forms of discipleship and renunciation. Indeed, PY's teachings and Lahiri's own commission from Babaji clearly anticipate kriya for the common (but sincere) "man."

I believe that the simplest resolution of these questions lies in viewing the practice of kriya itself as the primary instrument of discipleship. Kriya, in effect, becomes the guru. Kriya (and its attendant practices like Energization, Aum, and Hong Sau) become the channels through which, by the disciple's sincere effort based on his or her training, inspiration and guidance from the guru comes. Yes the touch (and guidance) of the disciples is the primary vehicle of transmission but by and of itself it is, like the kriya initiation ceremony itself, it is only a beginning. So PY has taught us.

Sincere students should of course study the lives of direct disciples; they should learn the value of serving the guru's work; the importance of devotion; right attitude; the concepts of the teachings of the guru; and so much else. Sharing these essential elements of the spiritual path is important; but, as these students are fresh and new to this, and as the training we and others offer is generally less than one year, we cannot expect them to manifest these qualities overnight! Attunement takes time and practice. Nor, in fact, have we done otherwise, all these years. 

What we've done to-date, however, is to describe discipleship in such a way as hold aloft a high bar of expectations which lies beyond the current reach of understanding and experience of an increasing tide of otherwise sincere and potentially qualified kriyaban-disciples. As discipleship is unfamiliar to westerners and triggers doubt, fear, and confusion, I think we need a broader brush to meet them where they are.

I think, therefore, we should add to our training an emphasis that with right attitude and devotion, kriya itself can be an instrument through which attunement to the guru can grow naturally. It's not the only way, obviously, but as kriya spreads and as more and more come seeking kriya for whom service and satsang may not be accessible or of immediate and obvious appeal, this can be their legitimate starting point and as a starting point, it can be their guide.

I'd like to share some quotes from an unpublished course in discipleship that SK created for training the monks at Mt. Washington back in the 1950's:

In the West, the importance of the guru-disciple relationship is over-looked; one great reason being that it is not understood. Even the more familiar word disciple is not understood. Who were the disciples of Jesus, for instance? Those who followed the discipline of Jesus. There are several references in the Christian Bible to this relationship as a necessity for communion with God. Paramhansaji frequently explained that a disciple is one that follows discipline. Whose discipline? Certainly the blind cannot lead the blind. Neither can a human being steeped in delusion go on alone,as many think to be able to do. One cannot become a surgeon without studying under experts in surgery; no one can become a pianist without studying under a pianist. The same principle is involved in one’s quest for God. Without the discipline of following a true guru one may not find God.

......    Note: In all cases, in the ultimate sense, it is God who is the Guru: First,through His Law; second through books and teachers; third, through the most direct channel possible, a guru. Lesser teachers turn one to themselves. A guru’s wish is only to turn devotees to God; to lift them up to his own stature of spiritual realization.....

The practice of the techniques is essential. Many times I have heard our beloved Master say to a disciple, “Practice your techniques. It is through the techniques that I can help you.”  He has given us these great techniques, but it is up to us to use them for our own salvation."  

When you read the AY and its frequent references to kriya, and the writings and lectures and lessons written by PY, it is abundantly clear that the principal, and most visible and objective legacy he has given the world is KRIYA YOGA. It seems inescapable to me that PY intended kriya to be the instrument of attunement for future generations and centuries, when little else other than books and a relatively few number of dedicated and attuned disciples exist to carry on the work.

The only other choice, apart from just printing the technique (as has been done) in a book, is to require commitment to an organization to receive the requisite training and support in satsang and service. This is precisely what PY's own organization apparently has done. 

It is understandable. I, too, find sometimes frustrating the mercenary and ignorant impulse in some seekers to come for our training, take the kriya, and "run." They do not understand the importance of satsang (fellowship), devotion, and seva (service) to the guru's work. Yet, SK has made it clear that we do not require membership or service to Ananda as a requirement of kriya initiation.

Nonetheless, when I survey some Ananda members who outwardly fulfill all of these things I don't always see true devotees, either. It takes time to grow our attunement to the truth. We who might be privileged to train and initiate others and therefore act somewhat as gatekeepers, must be careful not to create hurdles that are inappropriate or skewed by our loyalty to the organization we serve in our guru's name. 

Today's seekers have little exposure and sometimes a great deal of ignorance, misunderstanding or wariness regarding the meaning of discipleship. We can share what we've been taught; share what we have learned. But we must not impose either the ideals or our own experience on souls whose karmic pattern of unfoldment is uniquely their own. 

So long as they are sincere and are open to learning about the precepts of discipleship, I believe it is up each to approach and express their discipleship uniquely (so long as other requirements, namely, learning and practicing the other techniques that are part of the kriya path are fulfilled). One who goes to the altar of matrimony may be confident or have secret reservations but so long as they are sincere, the outcome must await the unfoldment of the resuls of their efforts and their karma. 

Let us make kriya yoga available for all who are sincere!

Swami Hrimananda