Showing posts with label metaphysical. Show all posts
Showing posts with label metaphysical. Show all posts

Thursday, February 28, 2019

5 Paths to Enlightenment

Last Sunday, I gave a talk on "God" that included a summary of Paramhansa Yogananda's summary of five core aspects of the path to enlightenment. They are not mutually exclusive and, in fact, should be seen as facets of the diamond of Self-realization.

The talk itself, in video form, can be found:

Here are the five "paths" summarized:

1. Way of the Heart - the Social way to God. By expanding our sympathies and service from ourselves and our family outward to neighbors, town, country, and the world, our ego-active tendencies are softened and eventually dissolved in divine love. To be real, we must be able to love even those who do not love us; those who criticize, blame, or hurt us in some way. Forgiveness is a given on this path. A more complete expression of this would be to include both aspects of divine love: "Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, mind, strength and soul; and, love thy neighbor AS thy Self. Love includes service, thus combining "Bhakti Yoga" with "Karma Yoga" as sympathy and compassion are not complete without action.

2. Way of the Mind - the Stoic or Ascetic way to God. Dissolution of the ego-active tendencies is a valid, indeed, virtually traditional path. It is not as suited to the consciousness of our culture at this time but it is valid, to some degree, to every devotee. This path uses a sharply focused, mindful intensity to practice what in India is called "neti, neti". (Not this, not this, I am NOT these thoughts, actions, emotions, body, etc.) A form of gyana yoga that includes the tantric practice of calmly observing oneself during all thoughts and actions, the Path of the Stoic is focused on self-discipline: disciplining the palate; the tongue, the senses, practicing austerities of one sort or another. All are mental and some have physical manifestations. With practice, the mind becomes still and enters the non-reactive state of pure observation. In its strictest form, there are no meditation practices as such. But this path, taken to its logical extreme, is arduous and eschews imagery, visualization, devotional practices, chants and all outward forms of spirituality. Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita answers Arjuna's question about this path by saying that it is better for embodied souls to seek God through the I-Thou relationship. Nonetheless, disciplining our ego active patterns and habits remains a necessary aspect of spiritual growth.

3. Way of the Yogi. Kriya yoga, whether seen in the form taught by Paramhansa Yogananda, or in the overarching view of control of life force ("pranayama") in meditation. Put another way, one could say, simply: the path of meditation. Described more fully, the yogi learns to withdraw his attention from the physical body using specific techniques in order to enter and identify with the subtle, or astral, body wherein begins the path of ascension of the soul to God through the astral and causal realms of creation. From the micro reality of the soul to the macro reality of the Oversoul. 

4. Metaphysical or Transcendental Path to God. The power of thought, imagination, and intention describes the "how" of God's creation. It also gives to us the means to return to God. Paramhansa Yogananda gave a wide variety of "metaphysical meditations" that teach us how to experience an expansion of our consciousness into the creation and beyond to God. His book with the same name is very popular. This path guides one to use the power of creative visualization to attune ourselves broadly and deeply with all creation with the goal to pass through the stages of creation and enter the Kingdom of Bliss beyond all vibration. It is a valid and powerful practice and path. It is, practically speaking, a form of meditation.

5. Way of the Disciple. It is axiomatic in the teachings of India that one needs a guru to achieve enlightenment. While recognized implicitly or explicitly in other spiritual traditions, India's ancient tradition of "Sanaatan Dharma" (the Eternal Religion) posits this as a precept. One who is blessed to attract a true (or "sat") guru (one who is fully liberated, an avatar) and who "receives" the guru's blessings fully, receives the power "to become the son of God." If our incarnate souls are, in essence, a spark of God's Infinite Bliss, then the proof of this must be the appearance in human form and in human history of some souls who can truly say, "I and my Father are One." The transmission of liberation takes place through the only medium in which liberation exists: consciousness. No mantra, no prayer, no rite or ritual can substitute or purely transmit God consciousness. Only consciousness can do this. The ego, like Moses who led "his people" (his mental citizens) to (but not into) the Promised Land (of enlightenment), cannot, itself, become enlightened. The ego must surrender the kingdom of the mind to the Infinite Bliss of God. By will power alone we cannot scale the heights of cosmic consciousness but by the grace of God incarnate.

These five "paths" are not independent and separate. During the soul's many incarnations after it begins consciously to seek liberation from delusion, it will emphasize one or more of the paths as part of the process of purification and release of karma. The five work together and perhaps align (though I have not thought deeply about this) with the five pranas (energies) of the human body. 

Therefore, respect your own, and others, natural inclinations to pursue and express different aspects and forms of these core paths and practices.

Joy to you!

Swami Hrimananda

Monday, October 20, 2014

My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor

Hi! I've been away nearly three weeks in Europe: two weeks in Italy, visiting Rome and Florence, and then on pilgrimage to the shrines of St. Francis and to the Ananda Center in the Umbrian hills above Assisi (home of St. Francis).

While I would like to share about my trip, I wanted to share briefly about book I read (a birthday present from my daughter and son-in-law): "My Stroke of Insight: a scientist's personal journey" by Jill Bolte Taylor. See

I don't want to take the time for a book review but it contains several aspects of interest for meditators and, indeed, everyone and anyone. Yes, for starters, it's a handbook on the medical aspects of a stroke. One of its great contributions is to help both patients and caregivers to understand how to deal effectively with a stroke. In this contribution you'll find insights on dealing with emotions as well as practical techniques.

Metaphysically, however, Jill uses medical and scientific language to gently approach the sphere of spirituality, prayer, God, and oneness. As the book nears its conclusion, she advances more boldly into these realms, but always keeping some distance. I suppose she doesn't want to offend anyone and I suppose she wants to make it accessible and helpful to (almost) anyone. She does a good job at this, too!

She follows the accepted scientific protocol of assuming the brain produces consciousness, or at least avoiding challenging that assumption! She never really addresses who this "I" is that perceives and records the dramatic effects of her stroke and her recovery. So from the soap box that I stand on, it is less than satisfying but I accept that she has another soap box and it invites to the same platform: we are One!

So, I highly recommend the book for just about anyone. I'm one who finds, unpredictably, a certain flutter of nausea from some medical facts, so for parts of this, I had to pause and return to the book at certain points. I marvel at how anyone could undergo a stroke with such recollectedness and I can't help but wonder how much of the experience was reconstructed, but, no matter, it is a good read from a number of angles, so I highly recommend it.

Blessings to you, and on to our pilgrims' journey: "In the footsteps of St. Francis."

Swami Hrimananda