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

Sunday, April 2, 2017


I am hopeful because "black lives matter." I am hopeful because thousands of women around the country marched to affirm cooperation and respect for people of every race, nation, and persuasion.

I am hopeful because everyday more people learn to meditate or practice yoga. I am hopeful because I see groups of people and individuals helping others each and every day.

I am hopeful because millions around the world have regular contact with people of other nations, races, religions, and cultures. I am hopeful because millions have the opportunity to travel and experience other cultures and see that we, as humans, are basically the same. 

As Mahatma Gandhi put it and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. affirmed, if violence and prejudice were uppermost, the human race would have disappeared long ago.

I am hopeful because I see knowledge and awareness spreading like the dawn's early light around the world. At first the light exposes our ignorance and our darkness but soon enough the light enlightens our conscience. 

I am hopeful because while I expect many challenges will result from humanity's refusal to heed the signs that we must live in greater harmony with our planet and one another, I also expect those challenges to serve as instruments to prod our "pride" to embrace change with faith and courage. 

I am hopeful because a line of yoga masters assures us that humanity is NOT in a descending spiral of brutishness (as many fundamentalist types aver) but that, instead, we are in an ascending arc of ever greater knowledge and awareness. It may be slow but it is inexorable. It may be two steps forward and one step back but like a silent tsunami it is unstoppable and will, in time, overcome all that is not of itself. Swami Sri Yukteswar, the guru of Paramhansa Yogananda and a renowned astrologer, predicted that in this age (2,000 years long beginning around 1900 A.D.) humanity will gain self-respect. A simple statement but with profound implications.

I am hopeful because I see that "the divine light has ascended anew**" and though it is crucified daily by ignorance it continues to grow just as the early light of dawn can only grow as the hours pass.

I am hopeful because I believe that even the present regressiveness of otherwise progressive nations (like America) will incite people of goodwill to rise up, band together, and stand up for what is true and good for all. When I see the expansiveness and open heartedness of young adults and when I see the intelligence and light in the eyes of the youngest barely new-born generation, I am hopeful.

I am hopeful because even though my own youthful expectations could not have foreseen current events and trends, I know that there are millions, perhaps a billion or two, who, once in their youths, also cherished the same dream of peace and brotherhood for all.

I am hopeful because even though now in the life cycle commonly (and formerly) considered "retirement age" I know that good and evil, happiness and sorrow, and success and failure will always and eternally vie for supremacy, I also know that true joy is within me and awaits discovery by all who would seek the "pearl of great price."

I am hopeful even as I am prepared for what others may insist is the worst. It is darkest, it is said, before the dawn. Progress cannot be made without sacrifice and that includes lives, not just money or dedicated effort. My eyes are open; my heart is calm; my spirit is glad. In God, we are One. 

I am hopeful, how about you?

Swami Hrimananda!

** a quote from the Festival of Light ceremony referencing the birth and life of modern saints and especially those in the lineage of Paramhansa Yogannada. The Festival of Light is recited and sung each Sunday at an Ananda center and temple near you.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Religion: Problem or Solution?

After the blog I wrote the other day ("A Call to Link Arms") I reflected on a couple of sentences I read in the book I bought in India recently about the time period before, during, and immediately after Indian independence from Britain. It's called "Indian Summer" (by Alex Von Tunzelmann) and chronicles the lives of the last viceroy and his wife ("Dickie" and Edwina Mountbatten) and the events of that time.

In the book there was a passing reference to a long standing debate in Indian political history of whether the British were at fault for the communal violence of that time owing to their reputation for "divide and conquer" in stirring up religious and tribal feelings during the 20th century or whether there was (also) a rise in religious self-identity in Indian culture during that time.

No matter what one's opinion on the matter, it triggered in me the thought (related to my key point in the previous blog) that this "call to link arms" is, in effect, a recognition of the power of spirituality (and yes, "religion," if you must use the term!) to change the course of history. Jesus Christ did it. Buddha did it. Mohammed did it. Or, if you wish: Christianity did it; Buddhism; Islam; etc. Human history was unalterably changed from these religious trends. Better or worse, doesn't matter (though I say, on the whole, better, given the times during which they appeared).

What have we seen in the 20th and 21st century in re religion? Two things: the first, ironic to some degree, is a growing fragmentation and divisiveness born of increased contact and integration. This refers to a need groups have to assert their identifies and, perhaps therefore, to defend their values (as they view it). The second, also ironic, is the decline of people's identification with established faiths as a result of education, travel, and intermingling with other cultures and faiths! Each of those reasons seem opposite if strictly defined but in fact I believe each can be viewed as true in its own way.

The same might be said of nationalism vs globalism. Globalism has been on the rise since the end of World War II and now, somewhat recently, is the counter trend of a rise in nationalism. Both are valid even if somewhat opposite trends.

I'm not at present interested in the globalism trend but I am interested in the trend in religion, religious views, and spirituality. (I wish I didn't have to keep making those distinctions but it seems I have no real choice given the current use and meaning of these terms.)

Finally to get to my real point: if the spiritual (and YES, religious) point of view is that "God" ("the Divine" or whatever WORD you want) is the essence of all reality and the "point" of ALL established religions is to make contact with and experience for your Self, then this is, effectively, a new "religion" and one that knows no boundaries, requires no religious affiliation, and stems from inner experience born of prayer and meditation (especially the latter). (This thought is not new to most of you reading this but it's the context I want to share.)

Thus what occurred to me is that my prior blog articles ("A Call to Link Arms") is actually a reference to a new "world religion" of sorts that, like the internet itself, has no pope and has no priestly hierarchy. That doesn't mean there aren't spiritual teachers, prophets, or saints to whom an aspirant might look or affiliate with (via a personal relationship or formal organization) for the sake of his or her deepening spiritual consciousness. But, this new "religion" has the potential to uplift the human race at a time we desperately need a unifying view of one another of life's meaning.

There is a "credo" of sorts for this new religion but it is a simple one and its essence can be expressed as Oneness or connection. The (relatively) new science of ecology is something of its partner, born of science. Other aspects of cutting age science also lend rational support even if Oneness defies rational or sensory "proof." Our connection with life is something we feel, just as millions and billions are steadily acquiring a feeling for their love of nature, the environment, and the impact of human behavior on our planet and our health.

In short we are moving toward greater feeling, balancing the rational emphasis that has enabled a mindset of exploitation of nature and of other people. When I say rational I should use quotes but concepts like survival of the fittest lean towards master race ideas and on and on can and have been used to justify genocide or, at "best," racial prejudice.

Feeling in turns leads to recognition of the intuitive (direct knowing) part of human consciousness. The caveat on this feeling idea is its emotional aspect. As we humans begin to allow for our feeling nature to rise to the surface probably the first thing that arises is emotions, fanaticism, and violence. But these, like all mere emotions, are unsustainable even as much as our consumption of natural resources is ultimately unsustainable at today's pace and form.

In this view, will this new religion destroy established faiths? I don't think so. Survival being each entity's core instinct, I believe that established faiths will incorporate the concept of our Oneness as a necessity and as a self-evident reality. They will no doubt cling to the idea that their particular faith is better suited to assist people toward realization of Oneness, but much of the heat that surrounds their claims and causes divisiveness will be dissipated as each struggles to reclaim and hold members drawn away by the many independent expressions of Oneness (ironic, eh?).

The point in my prior blog ("A Call to Link Arms") is that the trend toward non-affiliation among adherents of Oneness weakens the potential of this new and I believe divinely inspired intuition to heal humanity of the many crises which we face. Religion, in its own context, is the only aspect of human consciousness that uplifts people toward people and harmony. Nationalism is far more limited in this respect and generally fosters wars, not peace. Globalism which has already shown itself as exploitative in nature could never do this as such except on the basis of near-universal realization and affirmation of Oneness.

I don't know if these thoughts make any sense but I feel compelled to share them. It interests me that millions practice hatha (physical) yoga in all manner of venues from fitness centers to yoga studios but apparently few have yet come to realize that what they are practicing is the physical expression of Oneness. By linking mind with body, we affirm a unity within ourselves. "Yoga" refers to "union," the integration of mind-body-spirit. The very images of yoga poses suggest quite openly respect for all life and our connection with all life through life itself; through life force or energy ("prana") or in Spirit. The endless flow of scientific studies showing the medical and psychological benefits of physical yoga and its concomitant practice, meditation, are more than a hint of how both individuals and the human race can find a way to "link arms."

Joy to you,

Swami Hrimananda

Friday, March 17, 2017

I've Just Returned from a Pilgrimage to India

Two days ago I returned from helping to lead a trip to India for 24 Ananda members and students, most from the Seattle area. I've been many times to India but I would say that this trip was a highlight for me. I think I may, at last, have some perspective on these trips worth sharing.

Here's a few general things that have come clear:
1.    A true pilgrimage always involves "tapasya." Tapasya can, in this case, equate to the hardship and self-sacrifice that is entailed in leaving home, comforts and routine to travel a long distance to a foreign country for the sake of spiritual purification and upliftment. As one of the pilgrims put it, "it's not what you put in the brochure!" Maybe it should be, but we didn't! (We DID talk about it, however.) You can start with the simple fact that it is expensive to take such a trip but that's only one kind of tapasya. There's the discomfort and weariness of travel; the exposure to illness, disease, and general malaise associated with bacteria of a far distant country. There's heat, humidity and coldness: and we had it all, though truthfully, the heat was no by no means extreme, nor the cold, though we were near to literally freezing in the Himalaya (there was an unseaonable snow in Ranikhet). There are unlimited opportunities for annoyances specific to travel and to traveling in groups (where's there's bound to be one or more fellow travelers who get on your nerves).
2.    There's the unrealistic expectation that you are going to go into "samadhi" (a high spiritual state) at these holy shrines or in the presence of saintly people; or, that you might have visions or deep insights into your life's drama or into universal truth. Even though, in fact, you might have such experiences, the issue is one of expectations. What then is a realistic expectation in regards to the spiritual "fruit" of pilgrimage? Let me share some thoughts a little ways further on this very important topic.
3.    The bonds of friendships that derive from sharing meaningful, adventurous and new experiences, both mundane and sublime, cannot be understated. The value of learning patience with others and acceptance of self are enduring, practical, and life-long traits.
4.    Entering into a culture that is so different than one's own is expansive to the mind and heart. The importance of, as one pilgrim put it, "getting out of the bus" (from where we look out at Indian street culture, separate and safe), is paramount to the instinctive impulse in signing on to such a trip. Immersion is what the pilgrim seeks: both material and spiritual. It is empowering to ride local transportation; to visit the homes and families of locals; to learn about their history and way of life, and, more importantly, to experience their way of life: these are also essential. As visitors this is not easy and attempts to induce this integration can be all too false (like tourists attending a luau organized by their five star hotel in Hawaii). There are risks, both to health and person. But making the effort (which takes some courage, common sense, and intuition) is important. Five our pilgrims accepted the auto rickshaw driver's invitation to his home. They were all women. On paper, at least, it was risky, perhaps foolish. But grace and intuition seems to have guided them to a genuine and heart opening experience.
5.    India is changing rapidly. New apartment buildings are rising to surround temples, ashrams, and other sacred sites. Don't put off unnecessarily your inspiration to go on pilgrimage. Our travel to and our devotion to these holy places will help them survive and thrive. The Indian people take notice of our sincere interest in preserving and honoring these holy sites. A culture that historically and instinctively honors saints and sacredness seems wonderfully unusual to us. We may be stunned when we meet an Indian professional man or woman (perhaps in fields such as medicine or technology) who, while well educated and traveled, spontaneously and naturally expresses deep devotion to the guru, deities, or shrines. Same for the rickshaw driver. Either way, we contribute not only to developing our own devotion but preserving theirs by our example and our pilgrimage.
6.    No pilgrim from western countries can avoid the intensity of encountering first hand the contrast and seeming conflict and injustice between luxury and poverty; health and disease; life and death; self-indulgence and hunger, to name a few. To return each night to one's four or five star hotel after walking the streets where trash, hardship, and poverty run amuck is a contrast guaranteed to generate tears of sorrow or guilt, anger at injustice, or worst of all, deadening indifference. 
It is our intention that dictates the consequences. If we go truly on pilgrimage, offering ourselves and any tapasya that comes, into the flames of devotion, self-sacrifice, and desire for soul-freedom (ours and others), then the results are "guaranteed" but not in any way we can or should expect. Non-attachment to the fruits of pilgrimage must be our starting point. 

Spiritual consciousness and insight come "like a thief in the night" Jesus warns us. We must be prepared but not expectant. "Two are working in a field; one is taken, the other remains." This paraphrase of another of Jesus' metaphors reminds us that our consciousness (including intention) is more important than any outward (travel) or position (role). Prayer, meditation, humility, openness, equanimity under stress or success........these reflect the ways we must approach our pilgrimage if its spiritual fruit is to be tasted.

Spiritual blessings from pilgrimage may well be experienced after, even long after, the trip itself. The power to suddenly make important changes in your personal life may be felt almost immediately. For some, time is needed for the seeds of grace planted during the pilgrimage to sprout. The joy of pilgrimage may appear like flowers in the Spring but may not even be noticed by you until you return home when the contrast with your pre-pilgimage state becomes noticeable. Meditating in Babaji’s cave may be, for some, a contemplation of discomfort rather than bliss. But the effort may produce spontaneous wisdom or joy under otherwise challenging circumstances just when you need it most.

When we travelled to the Himalayas to visit Babaji's cave on Drongiri Mountain, northeast of the hill station of Ranikhet, we were met by unseasonable and near winter conditions. Hope of even ascending the path to the cave was silently at stake, potentially crushing our highest hopes. But, all in all, our group remained cheerful and confident regardless of weather conditions. But the following morning dawned bright and sunny, even if still cold. Our climb that day, and the next day's trip back down to the plains, was met with gorgeous, sunny weather!

Every culture has its own tailor-made ways and karmic patterns which produce misery for its people. India is no exception. Once one of the richest countries in former times, centuries of foreign occupation had reduced the subcontinent to the poorest of the poor countries. A rigid class (caste) system nurtured exploitation and prejudice even as it stifled freedom, creativity and energy for far too long. 

But all of this is steadily, even rapidly, changing. One cannot but experience the vibrancy and creativity of modern India. While loss of spiritual values attends growing material prosperity everywhere, it is a necessary stage in India's recovery and in overcoming past karma. Underlying this obvious trend, a pilgrim finds the innate sweetness, kindness, devotion to saints and sacredness, and hospitality very much alive today. India's avatars and saints, nurtured by the native devotion of its people, has, as Yogananda put it in his "Autobiography of a Yogi," bulwarked India against the fates of Egypt, Rome, Greece and other past civilizations.

The pilgrims' discomfort in encountering a culture that tolerates widespread beggary is not so easily resolved or dismissed. Each pilgrim must confront his response to extreme poverty in his or her own way. While we cannot end injustice or hunger by our own individual actions, we mustn't let this reality excuse our own indifference.

Share, then, as or if you feel to do so and under whatever circumstances confront your conscience. There is no one way; no pat response. I've seen the simple act of giving a few "cents" to a beggar create an onrush of fellow beggars grasping and pawing at the hapless foreigner whose confusion and discomfort grow to the point of panic or even anger.

At a train stop, some of us, with meal plates in front us in our seats, were confronted with a little boy outside our window on the platform asking for food. We had eaten a banquet only hours before and had little need for the meal placed in front of us on the train. There was no time to jump up and try to give our meal to this boy as the train was about to lurch forward. The feeling of helplessness: both his, and our own in responding to his need, produced tears and averted eyes. This is the price of expanding our awareness of realities far from our own. It is the price of opening one's heart to the realities of others. For this we have traveled so far.

The bonds of friendship in a holy and sacred effort last far beyond the few weeks of a pilgrimage. The simple exchanges of kindness with those in India whom we encountered in our journey, too, are heart-opening. We need not measure "success" by visions or superconscious experiences but by the yardstick of the open heart. Open not merely to sentiments or personalities but to the great Giver of Life, Love, and Joy from which the transforming power of love and friendship come. To attune ourselves to that divine power as manifested especially in the lives of those great saints whose lives reflect this power so perfectly is find a channel, a life-spring, to the Source.

We, who are, in a sense, privileged, have put our karmic inheritance to good use in fulfilling the timeless inspiration to leave all, risk all, and go on pilgrimage. Pilgrimage is a metaphor of the soul’s journey back to God. Not only do the destinations offer to us priceless blessings but the very journey itself opens our hearts and minds to the greater reality which we call Life: the divine Life.

It’s good to be back and it’s a blessing to have gone!

Nayaswami Hriman

Monday, October 17, 2016

What is free will?

How much choice do we have in life? How conscious are we when we act?

Let's start with the simple fact that despite good intentions, we make mistakes; we have accidents; we cause suffering, intentionally or unintentionally, whether to ourselves or others. People hurt us; things hurt us; we don't know why or what, if anything, we might have done to deserve it. "Stuff happens," in other words.

There's a lot about our world and our lives that is much, much, much bigger than we. Long before we commit a consciously and an intentionally selfish or hurtful act, there are lots of other, less conscious and less intentional acts, that cause suffering.

Read any classic novel or myth or modern drama and we see life is filled with strange twists and turns of so-called fate.

This world, we must conclude, is not of our own doing. Whoever we are and wherever we have come from or go to, the world around us imposes and impinges upon us in ways that we must simply deal with. Then there are the actions we take and initiate into the little tiny world of our lives that, to some degree, imposes and impinges upon others, or, helps and serves others or improves our own lives.

But consider how little is our impact on the world around us and, by contrast, how big the impact the world and the circumstances into which we find ourselves has upon us! It seems a bit out of proportion.

True there are giants of will power and dominion and influence who create for themselves an entire world view and reality. Yet the more self-centered are these "giants" the more their influence is soon washed away by time and opposing forces. Think of all the politicians, actors, artists that have come and gone. Few, only a few, withstand the eroding effects of time. Those whose impact is lasting are those whose imprint was far bigger than self-interest.

Like the narrow bandwidth of atmosphere that surrounds our tiny planet whirling through space, we operate in a very narrow bandwidth of freedom of choice. Most of what we do, say, like or dislike we cannot really account for logically unless it's universal like fearing death or illness or criticism or liking praise, pleasure or money. Why do you like red sports cars, or I, pistachio ice cream? Who can say?

And yet.....and yet......without human commitment to the precept that we can change our life for the better and that we are accountable for our actions, life would become unbearable. Within this narrow bandwidth of freedom, therefore, is our life, small as it may be and separate as we may view it to be from that great big, sometimes threatening world, around us.

We are confronted by the conditions in which we live, including our bodies, their age, gender, health and abilities, and we must face the conditions we ourselves have created. Complex stuff, eh and, in the the big picture, we must admit that our choices in life have been very narrow. And yet, how impactful upon our lives are those choices: who we marry; what career choices we make or accept; what addictions we fall into; what habits, good or bad. A narrow but potent bandwidth. Does not happiness, itself, exist inside a narrow bandwidth of attitude where the cup is either half empty or half full?

Consciousness itself exists in a very narrow bandwidth of self-awareness. How close to existence of non-existence do we live? My friend who was "randomly" struck by a car that jumped the curb as he was walking along the sidewalk? How many cars whiz past us......the margin of life is indeed narrow.

More than one saint has stated that the only freedom we possess is whether to turn toward God or away from God. All else is more or less the function of our past actions (aka karma). Ananda Moi Ma, the now famous woman saint of 20th century India, described our free will as the equivalent of being on a speeding train and having the choice to walk up or back inside the passenger cars while yet remaining on the speeding train.

But what does it mean to turn TOWARD or AWAY from God? "God" is a pretty BIG idea if you consider "God" deeply and if you can get past the baggage that the "poor fellow" has to carry.

Instead, let's start with something more useful. Let say that our choice is whether to respond positively, or to respond negatively, to life's circumstances.

Ok, then, what does "positive" mean? Or, "negative?" What does it mean to respond "positively" to the fact that you are born into a wealthy family? Or with excellent health? Talent? Beauty? "Positively" means expansively....unselfishly......with non-attachment....with a desire to help others.......

Let's say you are indeed born into a wealthy home, or at least one with comfort and advantages and therefore choices like education, hobbies, health, security, and also into a loving family. Do you recall the phrase (seemingly out of date), noblesse oblige? It recalls the implicit obligation that those of privilege bear to help others. (Yes, that's not really so old fashioned is it?) To see your life as a privilege and an opportunity to do something meaningful would be a good example of a positive response. A negative one would be the all too familiar one of feeling entitlement and becoming lazy, mean, or selfish as a result of your otherwise favorable birth.

Thus "toward" God can begin with the concept of expanding one's awareness to include the needs of others. Call this, therefore, an expansive response. A selfish response would be contractive, meaning ego-centric, selfish, or self-absorbed.

Faced with disease or illness, a positive response would be to be calm; to have faith in the ultimate goodness and value of the inherent lessons of one's challenges; to think even first of others, than of yourself; to affirm your love for God.

[It should be pointed out also, as I have in other articles, that acting or responding positively is not sufficient for those seeking eternal freedom in God. The latter is a far bigger subject and is one derived from faith and intuition (or, more commonly, starts at least from belief). "Virtue may be its own reward" but in the teachings of "Sanaatan Dharma" good karma that derives from the sense of personal doership (ego) is insufficient to win freedom for the soul. For that, "yagya," or personal self-offering with devotion to God (inter alia) is necessary.] 

The line between passive acceptance and a dynamic outpouring of energy to confront challenging circumstances may seem obvious but it's ultimately a matter of expansive or contractive. Acceptance can be expansive if it's calm, joyful and even-minded, and, willing to do what is needed; it is contractive if submissive and fatalistic. Dynamic energy can be contractive if ego-active and ego-protective but expansive if joyful, enthusiastic, creative and without rancor or pride.

Our real choice is remain "in the Self," untouched by outer circumstances. This, more correctly, defines a saint but it is a goal brought steadily into manifestation by the practice of meditation, the company of others of like mind, and the spiritual power of grace born of our attunement with a true "son of God."

"The only way out is IN." This is our real choice, for "tat twam asi," -- "Thou art THAT (Spirit)."

Swami Hrimananda

Monday, September 26, 2016

Self-acceptance vs self-acceptance! All life is a play

Note: today, September 26, is the anniversary date in 1895 when the great yogi, Yogavatar, Lahiri Mahasaya (Shyama Charan Lahiri) left his physical body in the conscious exit known as "mahasamadhi" of a great saint. To ready about his life and service and spiritual attainments visit the newly created website:

In a few days I will have attained the ripe old age of 66! Fortunately for me, 66 is the new 56 (or younger). What I find characterizes this stage of life is the need for self-acceptance.

Actually, there is a need for both self-acceptance AND Self-acceptance.

During one's middle life, working-type years, one is constantly pushing and striving. For most people that effort is to acquire material possessions, human love, family, success, health and recognition of one sort or another. Nothing wrong with these goals up to a point, as they are both natural and necessary for the development of character and maturity for most people.

It's like walking against a strong wind in your face. You lean into the wind, head down, pushing with all your strength and effort. If, after hours of struggle, the wind were suddenly to abate, you might even fall flat on your face! Certainly you'd feel some relief but also some disorientation. 

When fighting a battle it isn't the time to assess the costs or other consequences. Only when victory or defeat becomes a fact, do we stand up, take a deep breath, and view the result.

So it often is with life itself. There comes a point where "effort ends in ease." Let me explain: first, not for everyone, of course, nor am I talking about the classic point of one's retirement from active, working life. Nowadays with 66 - 76 being the new 56-66, it is common for many to want to continue working, even if they don't need to. Why? Because being still healthy and creative, and even at the pinnacle of one's skills, there's simply no desire to step down and do what......exactly?

Nonetheless, therefore, even for those who continue an active, service-full life, there will likely be a shift in consciousness. One finds stories from one's past popping into your head and speech (only in later years do they start repeating themselves with little or no prompting or context!!!!)

One begins to reflect upon one's life and experiences naturally and spontaneously. The metabolism perhaps slows, wisdom flows naturally as do opportunities (and the need) for mentoring or guiding others, perhaps one's future successors. 

But something else is likely to happen, and, even before what I describe above is in full force: the "chickens come home to roost." This means that unfulfilled desires, perhaps shoved aside in the process of making life choices, such as marriage and family, and contending with life's middle-aged duties and obligations and intense activities, raise their flag as if to say, "Remember me? The clock of your life is ticking and little time is left to fulfill your 'bucket list'"!

This is not dissimilar to a "mid-life crises" and in fact that may even be when these chickens return to roost. That's why I say this stage is likely to happen BEFORE the reflective stage.

In this crises of self-examination and self-awareness, we may stumble a bit with moods, depression, anger, frustration and even some pretty dumb things done or said impulsively.

For those who set about emptying their bucket list, they may be simply postponing the stage of self-acceptance or perhaps their adventures in pursuing their list is an active form of self-acceptance.

Whether self-acceptance takes the form of contentment, calmness and wisdom or the somewhat more active form of pursuing one's not-yet-achieved dreams (travel, e.g., being typical), the process is more or less the same though I am speaking more of the reflective stage than the active stage (which by necessity is short-lived usually---due to health, money or a list that is finally completed). 

Reflectively, like the wake of a speed boat whose waves slow and spread out as the boat comes gradually to a stop, we now begin to see our life and our personality (habits, tendencies, and even our now aging appearance) in a clearer light and perspective (than when, during middle life, we were constantly in motion pursuing fulfillment in the future tense of life). 

No doubt we won't like everything we see. A variety of emotions will surface: denial, anger, grief....the usual litany.....all leading (one hopes) to self-acceptance. Self-acceptance leads to contentment. Contentment to reflection and reflection to wisdom. This is where most people stop.

For the yogi and the devotee who seeks Truth, who seeks to know God, joy, the light of the soul or eternal freedom in infinite bliss, self-acceptance leads to Self-acceptance.

As a grandfather I find it natural to delight in my grandchildren's innocence and childhood even as I reflect on their budding traits and their possible evolution and challenges as they grow towards adulthood. 

As a yogi, these flower-buds of traits are but a sampling of the infinite variety of traits, experiences, attitudes, and lives our souls can pursue. 

It is natural therefore to step away from identification with my own life story and personality and re-affirm more deeply and with greater interest (as the clock of life is ticking away) my soul's call to awaken in the perfect bliss of God. 

"The drama of life has for its lesson that it is but a drama," Paramhansa Yogananda stated. At this stage of life, that's all life seems to be: a drama. Whether this year's politics, last year's wars and catastrophes----all a great play wherein tears and laughter, pleasure and pain alternate like actors changing costumes and roles.

The lesson in this insight is to turn away (not in rejection but with contentment and gratitude for having been part of a good show) and climb the spiral staircase (of the spine) to the "heaven (as Jesus put it) that is within you." We must now more soberly contemplate that, for us, the play is in its final act(s). The time is coming when we must "exit, stage right."

Joy and grace upon a sun-kissed Seattle day whose hidden melancholy whispers that "winter is coming."

Swami Hrimananda

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

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Secret of Happiness: It's Directional; It's UP!

Truth is simple: all else, complex.

How easily we stumble into the darkness of confusion and doubt by looking down into the labyrinth of our troubles, indulging our fears and self doubts, accepting the judgmental verdict of others or what we imagine that judgment might be!

If our own happiness, satisfaction and contentment be our guide and our goal, no one condemns us more than ourselves: no distant deity, no colleague or intimate can do to us what we do to ourselves.

As Paramhansa Yogananda has said, "If we want to be unhappy, no one can make us happy."

The turning point in maturity and spiritual awakening can be said to take place when we know without a doubt that there exists a separation, indeed, a gulf, between what happens to us and our reaction to it. "All conditions are neutral. They seem positive or negative, happy or sad according to the attitudes of the mind." (P.Yogananda) Only as and to the extent we gain awareness and control over our responses to life (including our own thoughts and emotions), can we begin to be the masters of our fate and destiny............and HAPPINESS!

Recognition of the separation of the world around us from the "ME" is but the first step. It is by no means the last. A teenager will rebel or reject his his parents' values and upbringing, but may, in the years that follow, return to embrace those values consciously (like the prodigal son). In a similar way, the soul, in the form of the ego (defined by Yogananda as the "soul identified with the body"), may be inspired, at first, to wean itself from the attractions of material life in its spiritual search. But as the seed of spirituality grows into a mature tree, its leafy and lofty branches nourishes and protects all who come to it for shade and refreshment. The soul's very detachment from an ego-centric life is not the life negation that other egos assume. Life negation is not the consequence of a spiritually mature form of nonattachment! Indeed, quite the opposite. Nonattachment makes life affirmation truly possible because not biased by personal interest, likes, and dislikes but motivated by what is right and good for all.

Nor is nonattachment a recipe for boredom or for being a bore. Nonattachment brings a constant flow of joy, humor at life's ironies, strength in dealing creatively and positively with life and compassion for all beings. Self-involvement, by contrast, sees the world revolving around itself. Its centripetal force steadily makes one's life view very narrow and, ultimately, rather boring. Why, then, doesn't everyone seek to expand his sympathies to include others? Habit, first and the ego, second, protecting its turf and fearing the unknown! And: reinforced by the power from which ego separation came and which sustains it so universally in human minds.

As a young man working in the world of business, I was astonished to see that the most successful investors, inventors, and business types were those whose focus on making money was a distant cousin to doing what they loved and were good at. By contrast, the "losers" were inevitably those most attached to the results. The little guy buys high and sells low, moving with the crowd, trembling eagerly at the prospect of profit or panicking in fear at the prospect of loss. Thus even in the grubby realm of making money, the law of non-attachment to the results holds sway. (Krishna, in the scripture of the Bhagavad Gita, called this form of action: nishkam karma: acting without desire for the "fruits" of action.) Nonattachment is the secret of success in all things. This is one of the great paradoxes of life.

Financial success however is no guarantee of happiness. Far too many mistake the one for the other, and, if they succeed financially, they will find, after years of strain, the coin debased. 

Life's challenges will always be with us. In this world there are no absolutes. Ill health, death, disappointment, betrayal and failure alternate with their opposites. As we mature and grow spiritually we can take in long, even strides the vicissitudes of success and failure with increasing equanimity and calm cheerfulness. Ironically, this distance, this dispassion, allows us to embrace WHAT IS with humor, with compassion, with wisdom, and with creative vitality. 

This world is a world of energy and constant change. We never stand still and, unless we harness conscious intention and will power towards a given goal and in a specific direction, we will bob up and down like a cork on the ocean of life. Thus, our journey towards happiness must be seen in directional, not absolute, terms. If we learn to love another person, we may begin with human love, which is rife with attachment. But if we consciously try to leverage on our love-relationship to make it ever more unconditional, than our human love can grow towards unconditional, divine love. In this way, my ability to love even one person can be a doorway to perfect in me my capacity to love all without condition!

Being energetic, enthusiastic, willing, helpful, creatively engaged, and compassionate (while yet also wise): these are the simple steps that make for human happiness. A selfish person is never happy in her selfishness. A giving person finds satisfaction in helping others. Are these enough, however? No, but an excellent beginning. Imagine if enough people aspired sincerely to these merely human qualities, we'd be living in a paradise on this fair earth.

Where's the fly in the soup? Well, the problem is this "ceaseless flux" thing. The average person might affirm enthusiasm but life keeps score and wants to settle accounts. It prefers to keep the universe in balance. It has this annoying way of popping balloons. You see it goes like this: "whatever goes up, must come down." If we push the rope of attitude "up," it will have to come down, eventually.

Is there a secret escape: a skylight out of this dilemma? Yes, there is. But even if there wasn't, the effort to express enthusiasm would be worth it. Swami Kriyananda (my teacher) said of himself, "The reason I love is that I am happier loving than hating." To affirm enthusiasm does make us happy, even if just for a while. But it's at least the right direction, you see?

The skylight however is the discovery that enthusiasm isn't your invention. It comes from your own higher nature. This nature isn't personal: its universal. The secret of enthusiasm (and, therefore, happiness), however, is to know that happiness is an "inside" not an outside job. It is a product of our consciousness, not outside circumstances. Enthusiasm for vacuum cleaners (if you are a sales person for such) can't carry one very far by the nature of vacuum cleaners: nothing's perfect; competition may come up with a better one; too many people have one already; the one you are selling may be over priced etc.

Enthusiasm is larger than you: just as life and the universe are vaster than any one person. Enthusiasm (joy, peace, etc.) is like a radio station. All you need to do is to tune your receiver to that station. The more powerful your receiver the more happiness stations you can choose from. What if, "by nature," you are not an enthusiastic person? Then ACT enthusiastic and the power of your affirmation will automatically and magnetically turn the dial of your receiver to that station! Again, the direction of our efforts is vital.

Meditation offers the single most effective way to experience a state of mind where life affirming qualities like joy and peace can become increasingly your new and permanent self-identity. Living from your center is like having a box of chocolates where you know that each one has a creamy, yummy soft-center. Not like that box of chocolates like Forrest, Forrest Gump had. You know, the one where you "never know what you're gonna get."

Enthusiasm, like joy and peace, is an invisible and conscious force which, if we affirm that we do have it, will respond to support us. This is the anti-gravity serum that allows us to defeat the up and down-ness of the law of opposites which otherwise rules nature. This teaching is at the heart of the once popular pop movie, "The Secret." It's called magnetism. Our "energy" is like electricity: it generates a force field which attracts to it a like kind. Energy, then, based on attitude and reinforced by action, is the key to our destiny.

Yoga practice (by yoga, I mean primarily meditation but also its physical forms: postures) takes this a step further. Not only by "sitting" or "stretching" can one experience inner peace, but by consciously working with the life-vitality of the body to move this life force from the lower parts of the body up to the brain! A yogi learns to experience the body not merely as a physical mechanism, but as a creative vortex of vital, intelligent, life-giving energy.

Just as we look up when happy and look down when unhappy, so too yoga practice teaches us how to move the "energy" of the body upward. In the very process of this movement, we experience greater calmness and joy. It's not wholly mechanical for the mind has to cooperate rather than fight this process. As happiness (etc.) is a state of consciousness and not merely a "thing," it requires conscious intention, not just mechanical movements to attract it. But nonetheless it's amazingly easily to prove that a flow of energy in the right direction can change your consciousness. No belief system needed.

As we progress in the pursuit of true happiness, we gradually awaken to the reality that this joy exists not just within us but all around us: indeed: everywhere. We discover that this reality is conscious; it is self-evident to our own experience. This reality is super-conscious, meaning omnipresent and omniscient and, indeed, is the essence of life itself. It connects all matter and all people in one larger-than-life vortex of Consciousness and the reality of it becomes intuitively incontestable to your inner experience and sight. It is called: God! Divine Mother, or Father. or Holy Ghost or AUM.

Ultimately, this divine consciousness is both the source of, and the solution to resolving, all the opposites, both positive and negative. But that doesn't make negative as "good" as positive! Positive attitudes foster happiness far more effectively than negative ones. The bad guys go to jail; the heroes are honored. Our "job" is to move in the right direction (positive). When we discover the greater reality from which they come, then we are drawn magnetically towards our Source. It is in the baptism of our consciousness in that divine state where the opposites do not dwell that our efforts achieve both beatitude and increasing permanence.

To start this journey seeking the Holy Grail of happiness requires no dogma. Anyone, atheists included, may embark upon the adventure. The goal and the path are self-revealing, for, the secret of happiness, like the "kingdom of heaven," is, as Jesus Christ said it well enough, "within you."

Joy to you,

Nayaswami Hriman

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Dying to Learn How to Die

Most of the readers of this blog know Nayaswami Tushti Conti who, after a battle with cancer, has passed on from this world just a few days ago.

One of the interesting aspects of her process was the understandable desire on her part to "die consciously." It is axiomatic in the tradition of yoga, and presumably all spiritual traditions, that to die peacefully with "God on your lips" is something of the gold standard for the death of a devotee.

Yes, it's true that a liberated master is said to exit his body consciously, knowing even the time and the hour beforehand, but in these thoughts that I wish to share, I'm not referencing that state of consciousness. Only the lesser goal of exiting in peace and with conscious, devotional awareness.

I have no pretense to offer any deep insights into the process of dying but certainly this hope of dying consciously spurs thoughts and reflections in the minds of the devotee-friends of Tushti.

No experienced hospice care giver; no experienced midwife or obstetrician; no thoughtful observer of life itself is unaware of the simple fact that each death, each birth, and each life is unique and personal. It is not reasonable, therefore, to burden one's expectations of death with a judgment of "good" or "bad" or holy or profane based solely on the incidents and attributes of a particular person's dying.

Take the daily example of "falling" to sleep. One simply CANNOT WILL oneself to sleep. To "fall" asleep, you have to let go; relax! Dying must surely have a similar aspect: not in every and all cases of natural death but the basic stages of resistance and final acceptance or surrender are fairly easily imagined and readily observed with even some modest amount of deathbed experience.

We, as devotees, must consider the importance of accepting not just the time but the circumstances of our death. We cannot say what karma of our own might be released by end of life suffering if accepted with faith and equanimity. Naturally we would all like to have a peace-filled, joy infused passing, with friends at our side, and angels and masters above! But whether or not we are granted this grace, we should not judge ourselves or others by its yardstick.

It is also axiomatic that one's thought at death importantly affects one's journey "northward" into the astral realm and, just as importantly, one's next incarnation (if any). The thought of God, and self-offering without reservation into the light, can propel one past mountains of past (bad) karma, or so it is said. (Krishna so states in the Bhagavad Gita and similarly in the Tibetan Book of the Dead and numerous other traditions.) [So, too, as we "fall" asleep our last thought can impact our sleep, our dreams, and the state in which we reawaken in the morning!]

I very much like this thought-at-death "escape clause;" in fact, I have a lot riding on it. Unfortunately I have this nagging thought that "as I have lived, so shall I die!" If one has had no God-remembrance in his daily life, why would it suddenly appear at death: the moment of extreme renunciation of attachment to the body, to loved ones, to fears, attachments, unfulfilled desires, regrets and so much more?

Yet, I think it's one of those "both-and" kind of things. I can picture, for example, a person who truly loves God but has had many challenges in life: addictive habits, for example; or extremely poor health; then, at death, this person makes a heroic effort to surrender to the love of God. At such a moment perhaps all the karma, all the challenges evaporate in this moment of supreme surrender to the light.

As the life force withdraws from the organs and tissues and breath begins to fade, the "I" is beginning to "shrink" as the life force is squeezed, as it were, into the the narrow passageways of the astral body. We do this in a partial way each night as we "fall" asleep and rest in the lower energy centers (the chakras) of the spine. This is in part how and why our senses shut off and are generally unaware or untouched by outer lights, sounds, and so on.

Deprived of the day-to-day and lifetime identification with the body, the senses, passing thoughts, memories and desires, the "I" seems to fall asleep; to wink out, like a light bulb being shut off. Thus it is that many people at death appear or in fact do fall asleep and fade away, seemingly unconscious. That seeming fact however is also illusive; hearing, being the last sense to fade away, gives to the apparently unconscious dying person a link to his or her surroundings such that, he may not be able to visibly respond or react to what is being around him, he may nonetheless be affected, emotionally or otherwise.

Reports of a last minute rush of wakefulness, even when otherwise heavily sedated, is not uncommon: whether immediately before death or within hours or the last day. Thus it is a back and forth between wakefulness and a kind of sleep. There is no end to the iterations and symptoms that can be observed in dying persons when surveying a large sampling of deaths.

Paramhansa Yogananda wrote that the sojourn between earthly incarnations is marked mostly by a kind of sleep state: not unlike what we experience each night. Deprived of a physical body, with its brain, organs and nervous system (including senses) the average person is not capable of retaining consciousness in the prolonged sleep of death. It's like those who can climb Mt. Everest without oxygen. Few can do it. Deprived of oxygen of breath, most people go unconscious (actually, "sub" conscious).

But there are others who live more directly and more frequently in a state of expanded awareness, living, in effect, on the direct current of the intelligent life force that makes life in a human body possible to begin with. Deep meditators who effectively control their breath and heart rate, slowing it down not into the state of subconscious sleep but into an intense state of heightened awareness, will more likely enter back into that state during the dying process. Those whose lives on earth were lived more in the brain and higher centers (say, from the heart upwards), people such as devotees, saints, meditators, inventors, composers, scientists, mathematicians, humanitarians, and the like, are also more likely to remain conscious of the astral realm.

So as we slip towards losing our breath and our heart beat and are being "squeezed" into the astral tunnel from which we came into the body (at conception), it either appears or is in fact most people's experience to go subconscious. I suspect that one can no more by will power alone remain in the conscious, wakeful state during the final stage of dying than one can do so when falling asleep. [As the baby being born is squeezed and pushed through the mother's birth canal, so we, being reborn on the astral plane at physical death, are squeezed in the upward direction through the birth canal of the astral spine.]

The difference however is that, whether by divine grace, good karma, and/or actual life experience, it is possible, I believe and have been given to understand, to exit the body more, rather than less, consciously. But the "more" is not the day-to-day conscious mind and consciousness of the personality version of "I," it is, I am certain, the higher mind of superconsciousness, stripped of attributes but intensely aware with undertones (or overtones) of joy, peace, energy, the astral sounds or inner light, etc. No doubt, as we are taught, there are some who do so in the presence of or guidance of God, guru, etc. Again I say: there is no one set pattern or experience for everyone.

This "squeezing" is like squeezing the water flowing in a hose; by temporarily limiting the diameter of the flow, the flow shoots out with greater force. In an analagous manner, it is commonly reported that upon exiting the body and entering the astral realm, one enters into the "light at the end of the (astral) tunnel [of the spine]." There one is greeted by loved ones; by one's guru; by an angel; etc. There is a moment where a life review takes place and we see the significance of events that perhaps we didn't really notice. We receive a kind of report card. It is not judgmental, it is, in a spiritual sense, simply a review and a report. Perhaps it is a moment to resolve to do better in the future.

How long after that intense experience wherein we have a heightened experience do we retain consciousness is dependent, then, upon the factors described above. Most people, fall asleep for a much needed rest after a long or difficult life, or suffering in old age, regrets, disappointments and so on. Since this topic is worthy of a book, I can only go so far in a blog article.

Mostly my point is to offer reassurance that each of us must face our final exam as best we can with courage, faith, joy and gratitude. We need not concern ourselves for the ideally "perfect" ending. Let us live in the light rather than hope it is there in the end. It will be there one way or the other if we have lived it day to day.

As for our friend, Tushti, we know she is well and in joy. Her life was lived in that consciousness and her dying confirmed it.

Blessings to you and may we each approach life's Final Exam ready to succeed!

Nayaswami Hriman

PS A further consideration is "What of "Me" survives past death?" Maybe some other time.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Can God Be Proved? A New Dispensation

I believe that in the Shankhya scriptures of India it is said that "God cannot be proved." (Ishwar ashiddha"). People argue about this all the time.

Many simply believe in God and call it good. This is, in part, because our rational and scientifically committed culture does not "believe in" intuition, except for the inexplicable but not easily replicated phenomenon known as the "hunch." This is all too frequently dismissed as just another of those things about women that men can't rationally account for. Thus "believers" are forced to build a firewall between belief and proof; between spirit and nature; between divine and the human experience.

Standing with awe before nature, human life, drama, history and yes, even science, we touch upon the feeling of something greater than ourselves; something that underlies all things. Albert Einstein's life long pursuit of a unified theory of everything echoes this intuitive feeling often triggered by the experience of awe. This is one example (of many) of intuition. We just KNOW that IT is there, here, and everywhere. It can be felt, touched but not seen or possessed. But, not proved!

Paramhansa Yogananda describes in Chapter 14 (An Experience of Cosmic Consciousness) of his life story, "Autobiography of a Yogi," a doorway into this supra-sensory realm of intuition. It is, unsurprisingly, through meditation that this experience can be replicated by anyone willing to pay the price of admission: sincere and sustained effort using specific methods of meditation.

Some many months after having this mind-blowing experience of infinity, Yogananda (PY) took a problem to his guru (who had bestowed upon him that experience). "I want to know, sir -- when shall I find God?" Swami Sri Yuktewar, perhaps smiling, responded, "You have found Him." "O no, sir, I don't think so!"After a brief exchange, in which an incredulous Sri Yukteswar was certain his disciple did not expect to find a man on a throne, he explained:

"Ever-new Joy is God. He is inexhaustible; as you continue your meditations during the years, He will beguile you with an infinite ingenuity." Later, he continues, "After the mind has been cleared by Kriya Yoga of sensory obstacles, meditation furnishes a two-fold proof of God. Ever-new joy is evidence of His existence, convincing to our very atoms. Also, in meditation one finds His instant guidance, His adequate response to every difficulty."  (Autobiography of a Yogi, 1946 edition)

PY effectively introduced, as he put it, a "new dispensation." Truth is one and eternal but its manifold expressions change according to the needs of receptive souls. So the new part is to offer truthseekers to put aside mere belief and rancorous theological debates in return for the direct perception of God in meditation. It is in the universal and nonsectarian experiences of inner peace, joy, and unconditional love (to name three of eight aspects) that God can be experienced.

As a measurable bonus, pleasing to scientists, testing has proven innumerable physical and mental benefits to meditation. These are the "added unto you" of Jesus' famous counsel to "Seek the kingdom of heaven (which is within you) first, and all these things (health, intelligence, creativity, happiness) will be added unto you."

Sticking a bit with Jesus Christ, since "sufficient unto the day" are the needs thereof, the meditator need not focus unduly with the cosmic consciousness experience described by PY and the goal of the soul's journey toward Self-realization. For the "infinite (and beguiling) ingenuity of God is sufficient unto the daily meditation practice to push us along our journey to that end which, were it to be bestowed prematurely, would "fry our brains!" as intimated elsewhere in PY's autobiography.

Thus is released for millions the tension between the rational mind and the intuitive soul. This is the new dispensation and the glad tidings, the good news that PY has brought to the world. Satisfaction, convincing to our very atoms and to our thirsty hearts, and lasting, bestowed without condition of belief or affiliation, can heal the wounds of divisive sectarianism and the war between science and religion, atheists and believers.

Blessings to you,

Swami Hrimananda

Friday, November 13, 2015

Egos Rising : the Kriya Yoga solution

According to the explanation of the cycles of human consciousness (called the Yugas **), we are only about 1,600 years into an ascending cycle of some 12,000 years. In this theory, the good news is that the darkest era of consciousness lasts the least number of centuries (12, to be exact).

Whereas in that dark era (called the Kali Yuga), human beings had names and stations in life that were generic, dictated by birth, and tribe-related, now, as we begin the second era (the Dwapara Yuga..."dwa" meaning second), we have a veritable explosion of choices and the egoism to match.

We speak glibly about selfies, the Me generation, and in general, "me" this, and "me" that. In many cultures now, we have so many choices that it can be overwhelming and down-right stressful. Left unchecked by education, the enlightenment of reason, or the bounty of intuitive grace, we might easily destroy our planet.

The divine intelligence within us offers to sensitive and attuned hearts the message that we are all connected; we are, beneath the superficial differences of race, religion, culture and gender, partakers of the same One Life, the same Spirit.

No other traditional religion or spiritual path has as much to offer to scientific and rational minds as the path of yoga. Meditation, and including physical yoga, can and is being clinically tested and proven to reduce stress, increase longevity and intelligence, and nurture well-being, connection and happiness. Mere belief is not required. Experience through personal practice is the only entrance requirement.

In a world of 6 billion egos rising with energy and intelligence, we need an antidote to the potentially destructive and chaos-producing impulses being unleashed upon our planet. 

Kriya Yoga is an advanced meditation practice and way of life that is universal and universally enlightening. Brought to the west and out into public accessibility initially by Paramhansa Yogananda, kriya yoga is rapidly becoming the most sought after meditation technique in the world. 

It comes to us from an unblemished lineage that is incomprehensibly ancient and held in high repute.

Soothing the restlessness of the human mind and body's natural inclinations toward ego-protectiveness and assertiveness, kriya yoga awakens us to an unshakable state of inner peace, a natural love flowing from the heart, and the wisdom-filled whispers of intuition.

Admittedly, the practice of kriya will appeal primarily to sensitive and receptive hearts but the good news is that even if only 5 or 10% of the world's population seeks divine solace and enlightenment through daily kriya practice, this planet can be spared the worst effects of the challenges we presently face.

Those who wonder why the Ananda communities worldwide are not as focused on humanitarian relief as we are on the spread of kriya yoga might do well to understand the deeper and practical significance of our public service.

Reality begins with intention and consciousness. Material reality reflects consciousness. While this precept is far beyond the scope of realization of the vast majority of the earth's human inhabitants at this early stage in the 12,000 year upward cycle of awakening, it takes only a relative small number of souls to enable changes in human behavior.

The spread of kriya is part of the divine succor and plan for this age. It constitutes, in no small part, the hope for a better world. 

Fortunately for all, the underlying precepts of cooperation and sustainable living are resonating with far more people than even the practice of kriya. The consciousness of unity and cooperation are a natural outgrowth of the new spirit descending like healing balm upon this planet with its billions of "egos rising" and bristling with energy "looking out for No 1."

The word "kriya" means "action" and is, itself, a call to right action: action guided by wisdom and inspired by high ideals.

There is hope for a better world. Yoga practice can strengthen our "aura," our courage and confidence that, no matter what comes of its own, we can stand firm "amidst the crash of breaking worlds." Lightbearers are needed, spreading the light of yoga far and wide.

Tomorrow, November 14, Ananda Seattle conducts our annual kriya yoga initiation as we do our part to spread the light of kriya yoga to truthseeking souls.

Joy to you,

Nayaswami Hriman

** see the book, "The Yugas," by Joseph Selbie and David Steinmetz. Available wherever good books are sold and published by Crystal Clarity Publishers. You might also enjoy the book by Swami Kriyananda: "Hope for a Better World," also published by Crystal Clarity.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Are You Too Sensitive? Do Yogis have Moods? BOTH-AND is the Path of Yoga!

Today at the Mother's Day Service at Ananda Meditation Temple in Bothell, Padma, my wife, spoke on the subject (from the reading for the week) of Martha and Mary (from the New Testament).

Martha and her sister Mary are the hosts for Jesus who is visiting their home. I believe they might have been cousins, actually. Their brother is the famous Lazarus who, later and towards the end of Jesus' life, was raised from the dead in a rather dramatic scene. So Lazarus was probably also in the room. It seems the occasion was what we might call a "satsang:" an informal gathering of people at someone's home around their spiritual teacher. Most likely Jesus was giving an informal discourse; perhaps he was answering questions. I imagine that the house was somewhat small and the number of people there was limited to the family and Jesus' entourage of twelve plus disciples (including perhaps Mary Magdalene and/or Jesus' mother, Mary).

Martha, however, is busy in the kitchen, making supper. She's fussing, banging pots around (I would guess) and all hot and bothered. Her sister, Mary, on the other hand, is in the living room sitting peacefully on the floor (we imagine) at the feet of her teacher, Jesus.

No doubt in a bit of snit and in a mood, Martha, comes into the room and, perhaps even interrupting, asks Jesus to send her sister, Mary, to help her in the kitchen. Jesus responds, in front of everyone (demonstrating the intimacy of the gathering), by gently upbraiding Martha for losing her inner peace even while engaged in worthy service, saying that Mary had taken the "better part" by tuning into his spiritual vibrations and teachings. (In the Sunday reading, written by our teacher, Swami Kriyananda--a direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda--it is explained that the issue is not what it appears to be: whether serving is better than meditating. Rather, it is not WHAT you do but HOW--with what attitude and consciousness--you do it!)

Padma used the story to illustrate the challenge devotees have in allowing moods to overtake us.

Padma also recalled Swami Kriyananda's story (which he writes in his own life story, "The New Path") where he had gotten into a mood and how, upon encountering his guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, Yogananda snapped the young "Walter" (Swami Kriyananda) out of it and added, "No more moods now, Walter. How are you to serve others?"

Thoughts being "universally, not individually, rooted," it just so happened that last night, while Padma was preparing her talk, I was drafting this article on moods and over sensitivity among yogi-meditators. I hadn't even considered the reading about Martha and Mary that Padma was to speak on.

So a felicitous coincidence, I suppose.........Yogananda taught that moodiness, whether habitual, or simply a periodic episode, has its roots in past sense over-indulgence. But I have another kind of moodiness in mind tonight.

What about those well meaning people who find that their sensitivity to the sufferings of others upsets their own peace of mind? I mean, think about it: meditation is supposed to make you peaceful, right? As your inner peace gives rise to an expanding love and compassion for others you might find that your sympathy for their troubles causes you to lose your peace of mind! Selfish people, at least, are not bothered by other people's trouble! You'd think THEY were more peaceful! Well, then, hmmmmm....we have a dilemma, don't we?

I see two things taking place: the initial stage of the spiritual path, and a longer-term tendency among spiritual seekers.

When, in the beginning of one's spiritual efforts, the hard shell of ego begins to break and fall away, the heart opens and expands. During this initial stage of awakening a person can be somewhat vulnerable.

It's not uncommon to find "young" yogis suddenly falling in love with someone, engaging in excessive yoga practice, trumpeting dogmatic diets or long fasts, and any number of tangents caused by the awakening of uncontrolled creative energy not yet accustomed to remaining upwardly focused on divine love, selfless service, ego transcendence or the wisdom of superconsciousness!

Newly minted devotees, previously inured by the protective shell of ego indifference or self-absorption, find that their increased awareness and empathy can make them emotionally or psychically vulnerable to the vast amount of suffering of others.

But more than a temporary phase is the issue. For at each stage of spiritual growth we must walk the tightrope line between wisdom and love. Yet there is, however, a "left-leaning" inclination in spirituality that naturally feels the pangs of suffering of others. Under this influence, wisdom is challenged to know the boundaries of what is ours and what is not ours.

Even in the stories of saints working miracles of healing, you don't find that they heal thousands. Only a few in number are blessed in this way. Saints have the innate wisdom and divine guidance (and the spiritual power) to know how and who to heal.

Swami Kriyananda quoted his guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, who, when in a state of impersonal wisdom and uplifted vision, described seeing God "eating people." Images of god and goddesses dealing death and destruction are more or less commonplace in the East.

In the ancient teaching of duality, we are taught that death and destruction, evil and suffering, are the necessary counterpoint to goodness and virtue. Both are needed to keep the play of creation interesting and varied. Otherwise, it is said, we might discover too soon the secret behind it all: that it is all God, and God alone; God, the Creator, dreaming the drama of creation. When we unmask the divinity behind the creative play of light and dark, we begin the journey (like the Prodigal Son) to our home in God.

Some might recoil from this truth teaching as too severe and heartless. And, indeed, for the human heart, in many ways, it is difficult to accept. Thus most spiritually minded people incline to virtue and goodness, expressing sympathy and compassion, but stopping far short of transcendence of the sway of good and evil, of maya, the satanic force.

But in a world that has never known anything but a mix of good and evil, we would do well to attune ourselves to God's ways which are not "our ways." The law of karma rules the created universe and though there are subtler aspects to it, such as the redemptive power of divine love, the law of karma is exacting.

One sees in the lives of the saints (think Jesus on the cross, for starters) a courageous, positive, and bold acceptance of life's dualities, especially the less pleasant ones. Indeed, the middle path of even-mindedness is the very definition of the path to soul freedom given to us by Patanjali in the second stanza of his famous "Yoga Sutras."

It is the same truth discovered by Buddha under the Bodhi Tree. It is the unmasking of this Truth that sows the initial seed of faith that, as it grows, achieves ever-greater gnosis, faith, that behind the play of good and evil is the absolute good of God. The hand of goodness guides the great drama of creation towards the release of individual souls from the bondage of desire, ignorance, and suffering born of mistaken identity. Through the God-given law of karma and the gift of reason and intuition, stirred by the teaching and spiritual vibrations of God-realized preceptors, souls begin to awaken to the "truth that can make you free."

Thus, my real point here today is that a yogi (a meditator) should learn to balance sympathy and love with wisdom and faith. A proverbial BOTH-AND assignment! To achieve infinite consciousness is to absorb good and evil, dark and light into One unchanging and eternal state of Bliss.

Sometimes bad things happen to good people but these bad things can be the means through which their own past karma is erased or balanced. Or, it becomes an opportunity for them to practice non-attachment, acceptance, courage, or faith. Or, in the case of more spiritually advanced souls, their troubles become a vehicle by which they can even take on the karma of others. It is difficult to know the inexplicable workings of karma.

We don't start, however, by practicing non-attachment or pretending wisdom in respect to the troubles of others, especially those for whom we are able to assist in some way. We do this, instead, by developing non-attachment to our own desires, our moods, and our likes and dislikes. This can include our moods or sadness as a reaction to the troubles of others (especially when in lieu of helping, comforting, encouraging, or praying for them!)

For ourselves, then, when cold, don't complain; remain calm and endure it, at least for a little while, before calmly putting on a coat or turning up the heat. Accept, when you have no other choice, barbs of critique or less-than-tasty food with equanimity. See all day-to-day tests as coming from God as a way to purify your attachments. Start with the small things and work your way "up."

To the sensitive heart, the world's woes can crush all hope, all sense of divine mercy and justice, and the very incentive to seek God through wisdom and love. No doubt the ego or maya feels victorious when the devotee despairs or falls into moods, doubt or confusion.

Ironically, as the soul advances spiritually, the power to change outer circumstances and to help others (materially as well as spiritually) grows! This comes from letting divine power and energy flow through us rather than be pummeled by the ego's reaction to outward circumstances.

The young plant of spiritual awakening needs the protection of the company of like-minded and more seasoned devotees.

If you find, therefore, that you are "touchy" around what you hear (or believe) people say about you; or that the suffering of others crushes your equanimity and triggers moods and doubts, then it is time to emphasize wisdom and faith in God. Critique becomes an opportunity for self-reflection, perhaps for changing your ways, for forgiveness, and / or for even-mindedness. Sadness becomes an opportunity to be centered, even-minded, cheerful, and offering aid and help to others without regard to your own moods or sadness. Fear becomes an opportunity to affirm faith in God and courage of heart. You won't help anyone by being sad but by being calm, comforting, hopeful and even courageous. Work on yourself if you find you are too sensitive. Be like a doctor or nurse attending the needs of their patients with skill and equanimity.

Is it possible to feel both the suffering of another AND inner peace or joy? Yes, it is! And, without guilt! By meditation, especially, we know true joy as a living, divine presence. This inner joy can co-exist even when the outer surface of our mind and life is touched by sadness. We find that we can retain, in ourselves, a calm acceptance and joy. Yes: BOTH-AND is the way of the yogi.

Let our love and sympathy be practical and our response to it calm with inner eye of wisdom always scanning the horizon of intuition for guidance, acceptance, and practical compassion.

"I am strong in my Self; I am complete in my Self." The Self of self is the Self of all!

 Blessings to all in these "interesting" times. Be a peaceful warrior, not a peaceless worrier!

Nayaswami Hriman