Sunday, September 26, 2010

Many are the Pathways to Truth

Religious sectarianism is an afront to people of intelligence, sensitivity and goodwill. It's no wonder the number of non-affiliated but religious-minded people continues to grow.

In Paramhansa Yogananda's now famous story, "Autobiography of a Yogi," his guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar, confronts the young swami-in-training (Mukunda, the future Swami Yogananda) and his adverse attitude toward organizations. Sri Yukteswar bluntly (was he ever NOT blunt?) asks Yogananda whether he would have found such wisdom if true teachers, current and past, were not willing to share their wisdom with others.

It was then that Yogananda vowed to do what he could to share with all the wisdom he had received. Thus, in short order, he embarked upon a life of self-sacrifice and service. Not many years later he came to America and against great odds and opposition began a nationwide (indeed, international) spiritual work.

I meet many sincere seekers in my work of teaching meditation, and in my association with the local East West Bookshop (in Seattle, WA). Among such people I find a distinct reluctance, even disdain, for participation or commitment in any form of organized spiritual work. This is understandable considering the bad name religion has earned for itself around the world. (Is not religion but organized spirituality--at least in principle?)

Oddly enough, despite sixteen years of Catholic education (grade school through university), I never felt the weight or burden of the organization. I took what inspiration I was blessed with and left the rest at the curbside. So I can't say I am a "recovering" Catholic. I treasure the inspiration and the great tradition of the saints and of mystical union that has been (more or less) preserved.

At Ananda, too, in my over thirty years of participation, I see the necessity of organization as separate from my inner relationship with God and Self.

What Swami Kriyananda has been saying in more recent years includes encouraging high-minded souls to join together in affirming their ideals. He points out that more good can be accomplished by cooperation and harmony than by separation and independence.

Ours is simply not a time nor an age where disappearing into the caves or hermitages either satisfies Spirit-seeking souls or serves the spiritual needs of those around us.

Yes, organizations are a pain. Indeed, both Yogananda and Kriyananda call them "evil" though in both cases I think more for effect than for absolute! After all, is not the creation, including our bodies and personalities, being dual, a kind of evil--at least if one defines evil as that which obscures the transcendent Divine nature of all things?

To grow spiritually we must learn to accept things as they are and be willing to serve and sacrifice. Self-sacrifice ("Yagya" in the Vedas) is a term that, in American culture at least, seems only to apply to military service! (Ironic, no?) We are, I believe, in the beginning throes of having to relearn this universal truth: all good comes from sacrifice.

Furthermore, to refuse to commit is all too often an affirmation of ego-separateness, perhaps hiding behind the veil of disdain and critique. It is a common truth that pride hides fear.

Therefore, I encourage those of goodwill and high ideals to "make your ideals practical" (advice Yogananda gave to Kriyananda long ago) and get involved. Better yet, committed. Like the old joke about breakfast: "The chicken's involved, but the pig's committed!"

Only by merging ourselve into a greater reality, expanding our sense of Self, can we ever find true and lasting happiness.

Joy to you,


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