Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Independence Day!

Dear Friends, hundreds of Ananda members are travelling to Ananda Village in northern California to welcome Swami Kriyananda (Ananda's founder) back from Europe and India. July 4 is also the anniversary date of the founding of Ananda Village in 1968.

So this is an auspicious moment to consider what is freedom and what is Ananda's relationship to it! Most readers of this article understand that from the soul's perspective freedom means freedom from untruth and ignorance. Freedom from delusion also is the doorway to the one thing we all seek: happiness (or more accurately and absolutely, we would say immortality and unalloyed, ever-new bliss - the soul's permanent and true state of Oneness with God).

The principal of duality (the existence of the opposites which, like an engine, drives the great drama of life) dictates that truth lies at the center of those opposites. But to land with pinpoint accuracy upon that center when we and everything in creation is in ceaseless flux means that this still point is not easy to find and tends to seem like a moving target. Thus it is that on the spiritual path truth cannot be expressed in precepts or examples except by imperfect analogy and with a certain taint of irony and paradox.

To return to the subject of freedom, then, we find that to achieve soul freedom appears to require entering into a kind of voluntary servitude! At least from the ego's standpoint, the spiritual life, with its daily disciplines, ego-submission to inner or outer authority, and the giving up of pleasures and comforts is like going off to jail. But that's the irony and the price of admission. To most people the need and reasons for such giving up are obvious.

The problem we have is that "we" don't want to. Or, to be perhaps more fair and reasonable, we are not sure whether the brass ring on the "other side" is worth the price of the ride! Thus to assuage modern sensibilities, much of what passes as spirituality has been quietly sanitized of the vestiges of "cross-carrying" burdens.

There is a positive side of this, lest we wax too cynical. According to Paramhansa Yogananda and his astrologically oriented guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar, planet earth is in a long and upward arc of rising consciousness. We naturally tend to be upbeat and want to look for the positive. We don't find inspiration hanging from a cross (mea culpa, mea culpa).

Indeed, even in past centuries when suffering was the summum bonum of the spiritual life, one Christian mystic proclaimed that "a sad saint is a sad saint indeed!" Or, as Swami Kriyananda wrote in the poetic and inspired Festival of Light ceremony (performed on Sunday's at Ananda temples throughout the world), "And whereas in the past suffering was the coin of our redemption, for us now the payment has been exchanged for calm acceptance and joy."

It is important in these times to emphasize that a life of moderation, simplicity, devotion to God and his saints, service to humanity, and silent inner communion with the soul brings to us a satisfaction that no outer success or pleasure can ever offer.

Nonetheless, the pearl of great price cannot be debased. Freedom is not won without sacrifice. When I read about the Revolutionary War which gave birth to America I cannot be but astonished how few people sacrificed so much and how fragile was their margin of victory. Our political and military leaders never fail to remind us that freedom must won again and again, generation after generation.

And so too our soul freedom. Ananda Communities differ from many intentional communities in what seems a glaring absence of democratic and consensus driven decision making. This is because these communities are also ashrams where individuals willingly work together, cooperate, and attune themselves to "what's trying to happen." This includes listening and tuning into the guidance offered to us through what we describe as the "ray of light brought to earth by Paramhansa Yogananda and his line of gurus as represented through Swami Kriyananda, a direct disciple."

It's not that we treat Kriyananda's guidance or that of the leaders appointed by him as infallible. But we do practice the art of discipleship to divine guidance by listening first rather than reacting first; by drawing upon inner guidance and intuition rather than mouthing mere opinion or likes and dislikes.

The path to freedom involves a "give up" and a "take up." The giving up is of inclinations and tendencies inherited or brought over, or which affirm our ego and separate identity. The take up is the taking up of listening instead of talking, of serving without thought of self, and of loving without regard to being loved.

Freedom and Independence to each of you, from Ananda,


Saturday, June 12, 2010

Not WHAT but HOW!

  Secret of Right Action! For those who seek to act with integrity and in harmony with Divine will it is far from easy to know what is right action. It is so common, even (perhaps especially) in religion, to justify the means by the ends. How much injury and wrong has been done in the name of a worthy goal, a high ideal, or for the glory of God? How is easy it is to justify oneself. Is it not commonly said, "Even the devil quotes the scriptures."

Not only is it difficult to know what course to pursue but it is even difficult to know which consequences constitute success or failure! Is it "success" if we get by cheating? And don't we sometimes learn from our failures. How many have said that a seeming failure was "the greatest thing that ever happened to me."

For the secret of right action, and by extension, of success itself lies in the intention and the consciousness that motivates it. In cases (such as losing one's job) where we do not initiate the act, the same can be said for our reaction. If we respond with faith, calmness and creative energy, a seeming failure can be a life-transforming turning point.

We see a similar pattern in criminal or civil law. For example, the punishment for the crime of injuring another person may depend on whether the act was intentionally or accidentally inflicted. But note that punishment is not necessarily waived just because the act was unintended.

Many a high-minded soul is at a loss to know which choice is the spiritually right one. In the great scripture of India, the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna admits to his disciple Arjuna that it is very difficult to know what is right action. In Chapter Two of the "Gita" Krishna prescribes the wisdom of achieving union with God as the true and highest path. But in Chapter Three, Arjuna expresses his confusion for the fact that Krishna counsels Oneness with God (through meditation) while also enjoining Arjuna to take part in the great (albeit metaphorical) battle against his cousins (his lower nature) who have stolen his (soul) kingdom.

Krishna then explains that to achieve Oneness one must act. This appears to be a paradox, at least to the intellect. But it is right action that leads us to the actionless state, and right action starts as one performed without selfish motive. But Krishna goes further. Right action is not only one which lacks self-interest but in its highest octave proceeds from, and is expresses the consciousness (and intention) of, God and godly purposes.

It is far less important what we do than how we do it. No legitimate job or task is greater than another. Neither are outward spiritual works greater than mundane jobs as it relates to one's own consciousness if the latter is one's proper duty in life. Regardless of the "what," the how is with intensity of love for God, clarity of purpose, creativity and inner, divine awareness. This is as true for washing dishes as for sharing spiritual teachings. That which pleases God is that which pleases our own higher Self in the manifesation of greater of inner peace, soul joy, perception of God, and unconditional love.

The more that we open ourselves to God's presence in our life the more God will guide us toward right action and to true, soul freedom. Swami Kriyananda in his inspired account of Paramhansa Yogananda's teachings on the Bhagavad Gita (in his book, Essence of the Bhagavad Gita) counsels that to achieve God contact we should learn to relax our awarenness "upward" (to the point between the eyebrows) in meditation. Struggle and tension are self-defeating. To learn devotion to God isn't a matter so much of "trying" as it is to open oneself to receive God's love. By degrees we "fall in love" with God, who IS love!

Daily meditation, combined with right attitudes of self-offering, selflessness, integrity in fulfilling one's worldly responsibilities, creativity, and, perhaps most of all, the joy of God: these are the secrets of right action. Such action leads to freedom from (past) karma and increasing identification with God and soul qualities.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Will Jesus Come Again?

Paramhansa Yogananda, author of the world renown classic, "Autobiography of a Yogi," spoke and wrote frequently in respect to the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. Many of his students and followers have wondered why he did so, especially in light of his emphasis upon respect for and the need to seek a deeper understanding of the underyling truth of all true religions.

He explained that there exists a special link between the lives of Paramhansa Yogananda and Jesus Christ. Though Yogananda himself gave little by way explanation about the nature of this link, his extensive commentaries on the Bible (especially the New Testament) strongly suggest it. At least once that we know of, he was asked directly why he gave special emphasis to Jesus' teachings. His only comment was "It is Babaji's wish that I do so." (Babaji is the Himalayan Christ-like sage who, indirectly, sent Yogananda to the West.)

In respect to his writings on the New Testament, he claimed to have received endorsement from Jesus Christ in vision for his interpretations. Yogananda would usually get a chuckle from audiences when he commented, tongue-in-cheek, that "Jesus was crucified once but his teachings have been crucified daily ever since" by dogmatic and ignorant followers. (He also added, however, that ignorance, East and West, is "50:50", meaning similar distortions of true teachings exist everywhere!)

But what has become of Jesus Christ since his incarnation in Palestine some two thousand years ago? Where is he now? Will he come again? When will be his second coming?

Curiously, Yogananda termed his work in the West the "second coming of Christ." Did he mean that HE is Jesus Christ? Many disciples of Yogananda report they have experienced a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ through Yogananda's teachings. During his lifetime, he was frequently "mistaken" for Jesus Christ by his American students and even passers-by.

When Swami Kriyananda (founder of Ananda) asked Yogananda this question directly to him, Yogananda replied brusquely, "What difference would it make?" When I commented to Swami Kriyananda that Yogananda could not have been Jesus in a past life since Yogananda had a vision (more than one, in fact) of Jesus, Kriyananda replied in a similar manner saying, in effect, "What difference would THAT make?" (Apparently, the ability to bring into manifestation the living presence of a saint of past times is independent of subsequent incarnations, including his own!)

Let us put aside, however, this question of whether Yogananda is a reincarnation of Jesus. For we cannot answer that and, as Swami Kriyananda put it, what difference would it make to us!

Yogananda explained that the term "Christ" is a title, not a name. It means the "annointed one." It is a reference, he said, to the God-realized consciousness that the soul named Jesus had attained through self-effort and grace over many lifetimes of spiritual effort. This indwelling, latent, and innate divinity which is our own soul's true nature can be called "the Christ consciousness." The divinity of which Jesus' consciousness partook is therefore infinite and omnipresent. When he spoke using the personal pronoun "I" ("I am the way, the life, and truth and no one achieves the Father but by Me.") he was speaking in the impersonal voice of that universal Christ consciouness, fully conscious and fully realized. It is the indwelling Christ that is our spiritual guide to the heavenly realm of Bliss in God.

This divinity is most realizable in human beings, with our highly advanced nervous system and energy centers known as the chakras. It is latent and can be reawakened by the touch or living presence of one who is an awakened Christ, or savior (or guru). So it might be said that the "first" coming of the Christ is in the form of the guru. The "second" coming therefore would be its consequent awakening in true disciples.

Thus any soul who has achieved this liberated, enlightended state is a Christ. The coming of Christ is as much true in one God-realized soul as another. It is not limited to the person known as Jesus, who lived only thirty-three years long ago in a remote outpost of the Roman empire. In India it has long been taught that God descends into human form via a divine incarnation known as the avatar in response to the call and need of souls in every age. But even accepting that such a one as Yogananda came to earth as an avatar, it remains true that his special mission was to give the "keys to the kingdom." The keys he offers are the techniques of meditation (as well as the spiritual power of grace transmitted through those keys).

These keys include access to the special role in the divine plan for the Holy Ghost. Jesus taught that after his earthly passing he would send the Holy Ghost, or Comforter, to guide his disciples. For it is the role of the Holy Ghost to play a part in the process of the devotee's path to the Father. Once the preceptor has re-awakened the disciple's memory of his divinity, the disciple must seek to enlarge his identification with it within himself. For, as Jesus said, "The kingdom of heaven is neither 'lo here, or lo there.' It is within you."

In the yoga teachings, the Holy Ghost is referred to as the "Aum vibration." In the gospel of St. John it is referred to as the "Word." "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made by Him (the Word)." The Holy Ghost is that first appearance in the creation of God at the inception and as the essence of creating, sustaining and dissolving all things. In Genesis this is explained poetically when it says the "Spirit of God moved across the face of the waters." So the first, or virginal, or primordial vibration of God's creative intention is the Word, or Holy Ghost. It is this vibration that initiates the world of duality through which the seeming appearance and separateness of all things created from their Creator is maintained. This vibration has a sound and is called in various traditions "Amen," "Amin," "Aum," or "Ahunavar." From this vibratory stem cell of creation comes the multitude of differentiated objects both gross and subtle. Each is endowed with the innate intention of the Word to create and the intelligence of God to do so independtly, with free will.

This vibration has both an audible and visual manifestation which the meditator can perceive in the inner silence. The sound usually is generally easier to perceive than the light. God is referred to in forms of sound (lightning, rumblings, many waters etc.) and light perhaps one hundred times throughout the Old and New Testament. It is by inner communion upon the holy Word of God that the devotee begins, in earnest, his ascent toward God. The Aum Vibration is referred to as feminine in many traditions, as it is the mother vibration of the universe.

The meditation technique of communing with the Aum vibration was brought from India by Yogananda. It is taught in the context of discipleship, as the gift of the guru that the devotee might achieve actual divine contact and, by degrees, Self-realization. This technique involves using a mudra (position of the hands) and an arm rest. It enables the devotee to more quickly hear, with "ears to hear," as Jesus put it, this blissfully comforting sound which is the actual presence of God in creation. Communion with Aum reveals to us the remembrance of the truth (that we are children of God) that shall make us free. It also brings great comfort and joy.

Meditating upon Aum is a step towards the next level of Self-realization. By prolonged inner communion with Aum, the devotee comes to the next stage which is to commune with the vibrationless state of the Christ consciousness itself. This sphere of pure consciousness is the only "begotten son of God." It is the only pure reflection of the infinite consciousness of God which is otherwise beyond and untouched by the creation. It is first experienced at the quiet, still center of all vibration IN creation. It can only be accessed through communion with Aum, which witnesses its presence like the sound of motor which reveals that the motor is running. Yogananda explains it this way: the "Mother" of creation is the Aum vibration. In her womb, unseen by others, is the Son of God (whose Father is the Spirit beyond creation). This Son reflects the character of the Father. It is His only begotten because it is the only appearance of the Infinite Spirit which can be found emmanent (in the midst of) the creation itself. It is not Jesus the man who is the only begotten son of God, but Jesus as a Christ who manifests Divine consciousness in human form. As St. John writes in the first chapter of his gospel, "as many as received Him gave He the power to become the sons of God." We are all, potentially, capable of reacquiring our sonship through this process of ascension.

The final stage of liberation (after communion with Christ consciousness in all creation) is to enter the Bliss-state of God the Father that lies beyond all creation. In this way is the "son" (the Christ intelligence IN creation) reunited with the "father" (in the vibrationless sphere BEYOND creation).

So where is Jesus now? Within you, and in all creation. But he can be summoned at any time from the ether of eternity by the devotion and concentration of a true devotee. This has been proven time and again down through ages, just as St. Francis (among many others) walked with Jesus at La Verne, the mountaintop where Francis received the blessed stigmata, over a thousand years after the human life of Jesus.

Jesus can walk with us, too. And Yogananda and many other saints and sages.A true savior comes to earth and directly, or through the lineage of his disciples, to awaken us to the promise of our immortality in God.

Blessings to you,


P.S. I will conduct a two part class on the yoga teachings of Jesus, from 7 to 9 p.m., Thursdays, June 17 and 24 at the Ananda Meditation Temple in Bothell. Go online to to register. Prepay and receive a 10% discount.