Sunday, October 24, 2010

New Challenges Require a New Understanding

Great changes and great conflicts are taking place throughout the world. Much dialogue surrounds topics such as changes predicted for the year 2012. To me such dialogue symbolizes a shared inner sense of a growing need for quantum change, rather than incremental changes.

In the United States and in Europe we see basic ideologies being stressed and challenged. The cradle to grave social supports of most Europe countries are becoming unaffordable just as the United States has made a somewhat belated and overdue effort to create a healthcare safety net in the midst of the largest financial crises since the Great Depression.

Hardly a year has past since the sweeping victory of Barack Obama promised great changes only to find his proposed changes largely thwarted and still-born. In the United States, the self-image of individual self-sufficiency linked to distrust of government swelled in opposition to the spectre of growing governmental influence. Somewhat anachronistic "tea parties" have been growing like mushrooms after a rain decrying big government and more deficit spending while largely suggesting nothing practical or positive beyond business as usual and life as we've always known it.

These are, indeed, challenging times. The problems this nation and much of the world faces require bold leadership and new solutions right in the face of bankruptcy and political paralysis.

Our age is and continues to evolve in the direction of being an age of individuality, individual liberties, and personal initiative. At the same time, large institutions of all types (political, business, educational, scientific, medical, and religious) still hold the reins of power, wealth, and prestige. Nor is this likely to change anytime soon.

The paralysis in national and global solutions that we face will not be broken until great hardship and suffering has occured which is to say, by sheer and dire necessity, probably handled (and badly) by such large institutions. But long-term solutions will, whether in advance or after the fact, come from individuals and small groups of individuals.

It is my feeling that karmically the United States finds itself needing to have a cohesive and strong central government in order to help initiate the lifestyle and attitude changes needed even as that government is broke, is lacking in leadership, and even as our citizens reject and distrust it.

The good news is that this deadlock will invite the kinds of solutions that will serve all us the best because in greater harmony with the needs of our age. Thus individual states, cities, and counties (and their residents) will be forced to look for solutions and not depend upon the central government. Where those solutions suggest or demand a national concensus or at least involvement, that participation will be both voluntary and cooperative, rather than imposed from above.

In fact, with both the central government and the states becoming increasingly impotent because bankrupt, cooperation among institutions and citizens will be required even if, sadly, most likely forced upon us by circumstances for the fact of our not facing realities sooner.

We need to encourage a variety of experiments or alternatives around the country in areas of health care, for example, or in welfare, in reduction of carbon emissions just to name a few obvious areas. People love choices and de-centralized alternatives will encourage the necessary fermentation to find viable solutions.

Perhaps the role of a central government therefore is (at least in these critical areas where change is badly needed) to set very general goals, directions, and guidelines for sub-entities and individuals to experiment with. Other examples include health and safety in food handling, nutrition and diet, alternative energy, energy conservation, balanced immigration policies, responsible savings habits, legitimate investments, and a balanced long-term housing strategy (vis-a-vis mortgage, tax, and other housing policies).

One subject remains perhaps too big to handle but too big to ignore: military spending and its relationship to our strategic and legitimate global interests. How many "Vietnams" must we so ignorantly initiate before we face the fact that we are not capable or worthy of being the world's self-appointed policeman of justice and democracy?

Here, too, and perhaps here especially, we must face the fact that unilateral military action is (generally) inappropriate and unfeasible. Cooperative international action with nations who share our interests and ideals is the only and obvious way to soften the rough edges of national pride, misuse of power, and naked, but ignorant, self-interest.

Military spending alone, if not common sense, past experience, or wisdom, should demolish forever this nation's (out of date) cowboy-cavalry self-image.

One last subject equally large and difficult to address is a moral one. What nation can retain its vitality and creative vigor when dissipation of its natural resources, its financial wealth past zero into debt, or its citizen's morality through self-indulgence, selfishness, or violence becomes the norm?

I believe and endorse the concept of separation of religion from political life. But we have thrown out the baby with the bath water. We don't want nor would our culture tolerate censorship but affirmation, training, and encouragement of universal values of good citizenship, healthy living, and ethics - the development of national virtue, in other words -- should be at the center of what individuals and institutions champion in ways large and small. Funding for wholesome entertainment would be a refreshing change as would public-figure examples of modesty, civility and integrity. Demonstrating and championing the practical benefits of hard work, self-respect, healthy living, education, creativity, and self-iniative would do more than money or legislation to uplift and change for the better our nation and our world.

Blessings to all, Hriman

Saturday, October 16, 2010

What's Important?

In a prior blog written over a week ago while in Frankfurt, Germany at the annual international publisher's trade show, I commented on the dizzying spectrum of attitudes, appearance, and consciousness gathered in one place from all nations, races, and cultures of the earth!

While there I met a publisher who represents a Vietnamese spiritual teacher whose ministry revolves around respect for animals. The publisher returned my visit to her booth with a visit to our own. As Padma was busy with another publisher (a regular "customer"), I agreed to be interviewed and filmed for this publisher's TV station based in Los Angeles. (Due to language difficulties I never quite got the whole picture and details and it happened so fast.)

Among the comments I made during that interview (held right in the busy aisle of a large exhibition hall and adjacent to our booth) were included the remark that seeing all these thousands of people, all seemingly so different in many ways, I could also see that each and every one of us wants the same thing: happiness.

Since the venue was that of conducting international business it was natural to project that many people there were seeking success (aka happiness) in their business dealings. But it doesn't take much awareness to see, even but visually, that a large spectrum of desires and ambitions (and hurts) are reflected in the faces and bodies of passersby.

If human beings could truly examine their own motives and realize that it's not only happiness that we seek but that the infinity of (generally) trivial, fleeting, and even petty pleasures and desires we entertain cannot possibly bring lasting satisfaction, wouldn't it be so easy to make real progress toward inner peace?

Alas, the Great Dramatist of this varied universe has put on a very good show. As actors we have to work our way up the ladder of success and recognition before we can meet the Director and see that's it's only a show. The parts we have seem very realistic and we do get very much caught up in them.

Question: is "God" for losers? For failures? Do we only turn to God when we've lost everything? This is a common perception, isn't it---especially among materialistic, self-made people?

It's certainly true that suffering makes us re-think our priorities. But it's equally true that success, which inevitably fails to bring us the happiness we seek (when sought only for its own sake), can offer an opportunity for deeper reflection. So, in this world of duality, BOTH success AND failure can be prods to awaken our desire for truth and true happiness.

One of the most famous sayings of Jesus Christ is universally in every language and in so many words the true devotee's mantra: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and its righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you."

It takes a beginning affirmation (belief) but with a little "practice of this inward religion" (quote from the Bhagavad Gita), faith which is based in and grows toward Self-realization emerges to show us that when we put God first in our lives, everything else takes its proper place to support our journey.

What does this mean: put God first? It can mean, "first" of all: to put virtue first. Honesty, committed, creative effort, unselfishness, healthy living, compassion and fulfillment of one's appointed duties. But goodness and virtue, by themselves, have their limits. Based only upon our ego's sense of doership and ownership (of our very own virutes), we lay the groundwork for their opposites to rise up and strike down our growing pride.

Yet virtue, being its own reward, builds strength and character and attunes our goodly consciousness towards a more Godly one. But it is not until we seek the highest virtue, God alone, God's pure love alone, that we can begin the journey away from the opposites towards the center where no sorrow, no polarity can rob us of our peace.

It becomes a question of uplifting our sense of self identity: from the body (and ego), to the soul and to eternity. Only when anchored in changelessness and unaffected by the opposites of which this world is made, can we find release and true happiness.

This certainly does not permit us to be remiss in our God-given duties. It certainly doesn't excuse us from enthusiasm, generosity, compassion and self-sacrifice in support of worthy goals and causes (not just our own salvation).

In the Ananda Communities around the world, practicing daily meditation and self-giving service to others, we find that simple living and high ideals brings the greatest happiness. Such communities are living laboratories wherein it becomes obvious that those who give the most in devotion and service (and in self-forgetfulness) are the happiest. Those who hold back and who complain, and who put their personal comforts and concerns ahead of the needs of others, are never satisfied.

Ananda's founder, Swami Kriyananda, has given over sixty years public service: creative, energetic, devotional and kindly. Now, at age 84, with the body-temple giving him lots of trouble, it is Bliss, not pain or regret, that he experiences.

Only the saints can "boast" of having found true happiness. A saintly life, a God and Good-centered life, brings to our bodies, nervous system, feelings, and perceptions the cooling breezes of Bliss. God first, God alone.

Blessings, Hriman

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Pride or Prejudice? Two Souls, Four Lives!

Few people ever meet a person of greatness. Fewer could even define what that is. Fewer, still, in this culture of "I'm as good as anyone else" would appreciate greatness if they bumped into it.

Yet history and culture consistently uphold and recognize greatness in every field of human activity: great artists, leaders, saints and scientists. It's just safer once they are dead and gone to pronounce someone to be "great."

Millions have read the classic story, "Autobiography of a Yogi." Many are the admirers and disciples of this truly great soul, Paramhansa Yogananda. In the recently published book by Catherine Kairavi, "Two Souls, Four Lives" she chronicles and compares the lives of William the Conqueror and Paramhansa Yogananda, and, William's youngest son, Henry I, and his reincarnation as Swami Kriyananda (a direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda). (Yogananda announced publicly that in a prior life he was William!)

I highly recommend this fascinating tale of two souls. It has many levels of truth and wisdom to plumb but the one I choose to highlight is how "greatness" may seem like pride to those unfamiliar with greatness. Thus many people feel a disdain or prejudice towards those who appear to assume such roles.

In this story, Henry I ends up waiting many years and later having to combat his two elder brothers (both literally and otherwise) before at last inheriting the kingdom of England and Normandy established by his father, William the "Conqueror." Some historians were disdainful of Henry I because his character seemed difficult to interpret. His calmness and lack of obvious signs of kingly ambition were suspect as though to assume that all rulers were motivated only by petty ambitions.

It is Henry's greatness that was so misunderstood and his high mindedness, calmness, fairness miscast as manipulative or ruthless. (Much the same treatment was given to his father William I.)

So it has continued for Swami Kriyananda in this lifetime that the public role that he feels he must assume and feels so natural toward is assumed to be based on ego motivation.

My point is not to revisit that issue directly but to invite all of us to understand what "greatness" is so that we, too, each in our own, often unseen ways, might aspire to it.

Greatness is to act without desire for the results or for recognition of our action. To act compassionately and selflessly for the simple joy of self-giving as its own reward. To act with greatness of Self rather than affirmation of ego-self. This is greatnesss.

Spiritually this is to offer, each day, our actions into the Divine Will. The prayer of peace usually ascribed to St. Francis has in fact been found to have been written by William the Conqueror and would be a fitting prayer for each of us in every day. "Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace......"

As Jesus promised devotees both "heaven" and persecution, you can be sure your lack of ego-driven motives will be similarly misconstrued. "No good deed goes unpunished" is the cliche that seems to fit the facts.

For now, however, I invite and encourage you to read "Two Souls, Four Lives." For those of you who are also reading "Rescuing Yogananda" you will soon recognize that one book (Two Souls) is, in a sense, the foundation for the second (Rescuing).



Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Many are the pathways: Frankfurt, German

Dear Friends,

Padma and I are in Europe. A few days (a long weekend) on the eastern coast of Ireland, south of Dublin (just fabulous!). And, now, in Frankfurt, Germany, at the world's largest publishing convention. Here publishers from nearly every country in the world come to show their books and offer them to other countries for translation and publication.

Padma has been coming here at least twenty years! She's established friendly relations with like-minded publishers in Europe and Asia. This year she's taken on the line of books by Joesph Cornell (Bharat) who as kriyacharya living at Ananda Village has become a world renown inspiration in the field of nature awareness.

Here one sees walking by our booth (called a "stand") every nation and every representative of consciousness one is likely to encounter. It is a form of yoga practice to see all with, as Krishna says in the Gita, an "equal eye." Not always easy, mind you, but good practice I can assure you.

In addition one sees many spiritual traditions, lineages, and teachers represented. We are in the English Exhibition Hall which includes Great Britain (Ireland included) as well as a few other countries. The size of this show is enormous. The Frankfurt Messe (Fair) grounds comprises many acres and many large buildings, most multiple floors.

In general, therefore, this is a microcosm of the world. The least represented nations would be Moslem nations and African nations. The most represented are Asian and European (including American). Nonetheless, in a relatively small space one "sees it all." This is doubly so because in addition to the "vaishyas" (businessmen and women) are the general (mostly local German) public who purchase tickets to browse the fair grounds.

Therefore the theme of many paths is an obvious one. Apart from national characteristics the most important and most intriguing aspect to me is the representation of the full range of caste-consciousness: from the sudras to the brahmins (who are in relative short supply!). Yes, the Vaishyas are the most represented, but that is by trade, not by consciousness!

What I "enjoy" the most is to see written into the faces of thousands the state of mind and the level of consciousness so wondrously presented by Divine Mother. The fact that ba-zillions of book titles (representative of the same) are face out (read: in your face) just adds to the divine circus.

I can never but reflect what a sheltered life I lead among the brahmins and spiritual kshatrias (warriors). I don't mean this judgementally, just that I am not exposed to such a wide range of people normally. The result is always something of a shock or at least I am left in a vibrational daze of sorts.

Travel is always hardest on sadhana and on diet. As we stay on the lovely home with some very high-minded friends, we have relatively good control on both. But the demands of a trade show do take their toll and I look forward to home-coming as well.

Padma meets with fellow publishers every year who have become friends travelling in their own ways the path of service. This year our booth location changed (first time in many years) and we face the Krishnamurti booth. Gyanic and philosohical. A loud and somewhat irritating visual and audio sale pitch for learning Chinese blares at us from across the corridor, diagonally. The constant hum of conversations fills this enormous hall as I type furiously the results of each meeting Padma has with publishers. This year I spontaneously am attempting to photograph each publisher for Padma's records. Everyone seems to love having a photo!

I practice sending out vibrations of peace and divine love to each passerby (and there are thousands)! It's my main job, really. It's also my main sadhana, given the circumstances. I go outside from time to time (there's a little prana in the air) to energize once in a while.

Haribol to the soul of Divine Mother entrancingly manifest in an infinity of faces. Blessings, to all from Frankfurt, German!