Monday, January 31, 2011

Change is Destructive

"Pante Re" : All is flux. Change is a constant. Change is destructive to that which is changed, destroyed or lost. Death itself is but a change. It's not change per se that is problematical for us, but our reaction to change. Some die peacefully, content, and uplifted. Others die tragically, bitter, painful or and hate-filled.

Great change is taking place on planet Earth today. It is not always clear whether it is for good or ill, and change is usually that way: messy and argumentative; violent and yet idealistic. Those who are "seers" and see the change and understand its meaning or at least its application to them, and who then act boldly and decisively, are the ones who can "profit" by change in as many ways that "profit" can suggest: material, emotional, or spiritual.

Ananda's worldwide network of communities has been blessed by the wisdom of Swami Kriyananda, direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda, the world renown yoga master and author of "Autobiography of a Yogi." Kriyananda has consistently kept alive Yogananda's prophesy (Yogananda died in 1952) that great changes were coming. He didn't mean in 1,000 years: he meant in the coming decades.

Hence the work of Ananda has been long been attuned and accepting (and preparing) for such great changes. We are not speaking here of "the end times." Rather, a period of turbulence that would make way for a new level of expanded consciousness that has a worldview such as we have never new existed in our current understanding of history.

Millions already posses this new awareness. It is characterized by many attributes, both positive and negative. But it has hardly become the lifestyle and attitude of even half the world's population and even less of the leaders of countries and institutions, including (and perhaps especially) religious institutions. Some of these attributes include the simple calm acceptance of a world that is interconnected and interdependent. This can be seen as an ecological creed, a pyschological creed, an economic creed, or a spiritual creed.

Some, according to their own level of consciousness, seek to exploit this view while others seek to serve a greater good through this point of view. But it is far from a global point of view.

In the meantime the old way, the way of conquest and competition, is enlivened by the technologies of war, of the production of fiat money, agricultural and industrial oil-based production, dictatorship, and religious hierarchy. But we are fast running out of options as we deplete natural resources whose ripe and fertile abundance made us drunk with our own power. The music may stop and many will, and already are, left standing holding only mountains of debt and worthless pieces of script.

We, today, the generations of baby-boomers can scarcely imagine either the destructive forces of change that are descending upon us, or the way of life that will emerge in the future. But some around the world are envisioning a world that reflects the popular bumper sticker: "think globally; act locally." In order to regain our "center" (having expanded perhaps too rapidly around the globe in every directiion), we will have to learn to live more simply and more harmoniously. It's really as basic as that.

How ironic that the power of the twin forces of democracy and capitalism are now challenged by a nation with a top-down government and economy! Neither, in their extreme, can survive very long. The watchword of success and happiness into the future lies with individual initiative. But large institutions of all types will fight to the death to preserve the privilage and wealth of the few over the many. Nor is success in terms of any mythical egalitarianism any where near in sight, now or in the forseeable future. As always, it will be an ebb and a flow. Still the trend and direction of consciousness is clear.

A dynamic tension is always what produces both the best and worst in people: whether in war, in business, or in spirituality (wherein the "devil" assaults the "saint"). This world functions on the basis of the mainspring of opposites who are locked in competition and combat.

Nonetheless like the great ocean that contains both violent storms and large areas of stillness, the unceasing ebb and flow goes on. At the same time a cycle brings new forms and directions to the ebb and flow, for this is never static or esle we'd discover too easily it's secret.

Build for yourself a castle of protection in the fortress of God's unconquerable Bliss. Through daily meditation reestablish your divinity and your true, eternal security. Armed and protected therein, stride into daily life in harmony with others of like mind to form communities, actual or virtual, peaceful warriors creating a new way of life: close to the earth while reaching for the heavens. Grow food, buy land outside the cities, get out of debt, develop new and practical skills and help others as you continuously seek the Divine presence in the temple of silence and in the temple of activity.

God alone, all is flux. 

Blessings, Nayaswami Hriman

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sex: a matter of evolution of consciousness

Over a year ago, Swami Kriyananda established a renunciate order for a new age. He calls it the Nayaswami Order. In it, married couples pledged to celibacy and dedicated to spiritual ideals through meditation, devotion, and service can become Swamis. This is an astounding statement and example in the context of social mores.

What makes this article difficult is the twin facts that our culture celibrates (take the 'r' out and you have celibate!) sexuality as the pinnacle of pleasure, and that sexuality is necessarily very personal (and complex because involving two, not just one, person).

Nothing can be said about sexuality that can stand alone as a truth for everyone. Therefore anything I might write here must be seen in the larger context of at least the article as a whole and not any single sentence or statement.

There are certain aspects of human sexuality that are sources for and hints at the deeper reality that this powerful urge represents. One of these is the instinct to privacy in sexual matters. Indeed, in the dark and under the covers is typical. Why is this? Is this the legacy of past social conditioning or is it deeper? Why the instinct to cover up private parts, what we call "nakedness?" This is true even outside the context of sexual arousal or activity.

We accept, in other words, a general norm of "decency" but we don't necessarily understand its source in human consciousness. A few revolt against this or flaunt it and, although relative (like hemlines going up or down), it seems to persist in one form or another. Some cultures enforce a total cover-up of women while others have certain implicit and accepted guidelines that are context sensitive (a bikini worn on a beach is accepted but at the office is not).

Without the creative impulse humankind would eventually die out. Without the creative impulse, inventions, great art, new ventures and social services would not exist. The question in human consciousness has always been how to deal responsibly with the creative urge. The extremes of condemnation or suppression vs. promiscuity aren't worth commenting upon in an article on general spiritual principles.

Another aspect of human sexuality that invites deeper understanding is the simple and undeniable fact that its biological function is the continuation of the human species. Equally obvious is its pleasurable aspects, but then, too, so is the reality of boredom, disease, crime, suffering, shame, abuse, violence, and perversion. Indeed, one wonders if the pleasure of sex is more or less equally balanced by the suffering and degradation it can engender: not in any single individual, so much, as in the human race as a whole. A specultative question, admitedly and one without a definitive answer but interesting, nonetheless.

[A footnote to the sordid side of sex is a curious remark by Yogananda--hardly original, however--commenting that sex, devoid of fantasy and pleasure, and seen strictly speaking from the animal or procreative function is, well, off-putting, to say the least. Not unlike how young children vew their parents caught in the act of kissing: "disgusting!" While no one would seriously offer this view of sex as the recommended one in the face of the human experience, it is not without some validity. Why were the organs of such intense pleasure made to double as organs of elimination?]

Another aspect inviting deeper contemplation is the dynamic tension between sexuality as an expression of human love, caring and tenderness, and sexuality as a means for individual self-gratification. These two aspects of human sexuality compete against each other, too often dragging human sexuality into a neutral zone such that a couple with a great sex life can still end up divorcing one another. It's as if there's no connection between enjoyment of sex and the respect, compatibility, and friendship that is the real basis of marriage.

Paramhansa Yogananda interpreted the Adam and Eve story as a teaching that the impulse to procreate sexually was the single compelling cause for the "fall" of the human race. For as is taught in the Bible and in other similar stories around the world, we were originally created pure and God-realized. Yogananda taught that we were even created with the power to procreate through divine power without resorting to sexual means. Whether this is literal or metaphorical is unclear, for he also suggested a personal one for everyone.

For example, in everyone's life when a human being reaches puberty, a new power and responsibility emerges through the human body and often produces challenges and suffering for the fact of its misuse early in adulthood. In any case, however interpreted, we cannot deny the power of the creative urge and then need to channel it lest harm and suffering result.

Imagine if marriage partners viewed sex as strictly for procreative purposes. Ok, that's NOT imaginable. I agree, it's not. Imagine if marriage partners entered marriage with no prospect of having sexual relations. Ok, again, UNimaginable. I would, however, counsel marriage partners to contemplate both of these and see if their desire for marriage stands on its own in terms of friendship.

Yet, a decline in sexual interest and activity is, in fact, the general trend as the years of marriage progress. (Of course, infidelity, whether mental or physical, can serve as an outlet for unfulfilled sexual or romantic urgings. However, neither fantasy nor fact can bring any lasting happiness as millions can and do testify.) It’s as if nature herself ignites the flame of sexual desire when our bodies are young but then we, in our ego and by indulgence, keep it alive almost despite ourselves.

Few, if any, couples will sustain the high level of sexual activity as the years go by. “As absence doth make the heart grow fonder,” it doesn’t take a sage to experiment and realize that a balanced level of sexual activity is more sustainable than extremes; and, that extremes of passion engender a self-balancing degree of bickering, disrespect, moodiness and the need for separateness. Intense sexual activity cannot be sustained without encroaching upon the longer term success of a marriage partnership which requires calmness, dignity, respect, and mutual friendship. [Again: a general statement, only.]

Thus it is, generally, that the importance of sex to a couple’s relationship will tend to decline as other aspects of their friendship emerge and are strengthened. Indeed, if this doesn’t happen, it’s not unlike a person who only dates but never marries: at a certain point, he or she may seem stunted in their emotional maturity.

Yogis teach (and other traditional cultures) that celibacy or at least sexual self-control and moderation supports mental and physical health and vitality. Moodiness, loss of memory, inability to concentrate, and premature aging are considered the consequences of sustained over-indulgence in sex. Hmmm, don’t these symptoms sound like issues which exist and are widespread in our culture?

Maybe the instinct for privacy derives from the witnessing and transcendent wisdom of our higher nature while the impulse to experience sex itself derives from the past memory of incarnations of sexual procreation as we advanced through the lower life forms towards the human form. (Is it no coincidence that passionate embrace means self-forgetfulness? Is not the tendency to hide this activity perhaps not unlike Adam and Eve hiding from God, their conscience, after the deed was done?) While saints and masters who were married and had children demonstrate that one can be in the married state and still achieve liberation from all desires and attachments, it’s far more true that saints (aspiring to freedom) and masters (having achieved it) live or recommend the unmarried, celibate life, or at a minimum, a self-controlled moderate one.

Perhaps we should contemplate that a person of high ideals and spirituality might aspire to indulge less and less, and eventually not at all, in his or her sexual desires. I admit, yet another culturally unacceptable statement.

Western culture has contributed to the world at large the proof positive that fulfillment of sexual desires and fantasies are incapable of giving us lasting happiness. With traditional cultures we imagined that suppression and repression were the cause of unhappiness, but we, as a human race, must now admit, that neither does sexual indulgence. [This isn’t really news to the human race, but in past civilizations discovery of this truth was limited to a very small number of privileged people.]

It’s time, therefore, for the culture to take a step or two forward, towards a more balanced view of human sexuality. Paramhansa Yogananda made the bold statement that sex enjoyed for its own sake, as an end in itself, not merely a means (at least to human love, if not only procreation) is de facto adultery (even between married persons).

Accepting that almost no one would agree with such a statement today, the purpose of this article is to offer points of view that could expand our view of human sexuality such that in time, in our personal lives, and, culturally, in time, we might edge towards a more balanced form of human sexuality.

A form of “meditation” for married couples would be to re-direct sexual urges, fantasies and feelings, away from personal pleasure and towards the image of procreation as its purpose. (Nothing like images of diapers and howling babies to wilt sexual desire!)

In yoga there are techniques for drawing sexual energy up the spine towards the brain; for keeping busy in exercise, creative arts, serviceful activities, and devotion to high ideals and love for God, as natural means to transmuting procreative energy from its physical manifestation to a higher one.

The simple point of this exercise is to suggest that we face boldly the reality that sexuality cannot bring us happiness, and, conversely, that sexual transmutation and moderation can bring us greater happiness. This could engender a greater personal effort to consciously avoid the bombardment of images on television, in the movies, and internet that suggest the pleasure and happiness of sexual attractiveness and indulgence. It offers suggestions as to how to behave with members of the opposite sex, which in our culture, we accept that we mix freely but we do not have to "mix freely" in familiarity. Dignity, respect, and centeredness in our relations can elevate even the workplace to higher level of creativity, productivity and human satisfaction for a job well done through cooperation and teamwork.

The interaction of men and women from a higher level offers great hope and promise in humanity's tackling the challenges of this new age. As people struggle for freedom from racial prejudice, and from discrimination in the treatment of women generally, we have yet to consciously work towards outgrowing sexual stereotypes, attitudes, and behaviors that we might be more liberated towards our higher (genderless) nature. On this higher level, the differences between men and women can be elevated to a new level of co-creation. When working together as partners in the workplace or at home, and doing so with mutual respect, great things can be accomplished and greater happiness and satisfaction achieved.

At least, I offer this as a possibility and one that most people can experiement upon for themselves.

Blessings, Nayaswami Hriman

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Infinite Christ: Part 2. Chanting is Half the Battle!

A hundred years ago women were fighting for the right to vote. Imagine that! It seems incomprehensible now to us, doesn’t it? A hundred years ago a person, village or nation of another race, language, culture or religion were suspect and even proper objects for destruction and theft.

In our recent Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi Tribute, we revisited the fact that it was only fifty years ago a black person couldn’t eat in the same restaurant, use the same public restrooms, or public transportation waiting rooms or seats as whites.

Today fanatics blow themselves up and innocent bystanders in the name of God, expecting thereby to earn entry to the pearly gates.

So it is no surprise that some followers, perhaps most followers of Jesus Christ and self-appointed representatives of his teachings, proclaim Jesus Christ the greatest, indeed, the only son of God!

[By the way: the placement of Jesus’ picture here on the altar at the Ananda Meditation Temple (in the middle and slightly above the others) does not signify a stature greater than any other. It’s artistic… fact, really, it’s the ladies who do the flowers who insist upon it!  ]

In this week’s Sunday Service reading, the metaphor which Paramhansa Yogananda gives is that of the wave and the sea. No mere wave can claim to BE THE SEA. Jesus may have realized his Oneness with the Father but he himself never claimed to BE THE FATHER, as a result, thereby. He made constant reference to his doing the will of the Father in a variety of circumstances, including his healings of others. He promised to send the HOLY SPIRIT. Jesus consistently deferred and referred to a reality far greater than himself.

He promised his disciples that they would do the same things as he, greater things than this, he said. St. John in the same first chapter of his gospel (quoted in the reading) said, as we so often quote here at Ananda in accordance with Yogananda’s teachings, “That as many as received Him to them gave He the power to become the sons of God!”

In today’s quotation from the bible St. John says the “world was made by him.” So, I ask you, did Jesus Christ, the man, live in a human body BEFORE the world was created? Absurd. Elsewhere he said, “Before Abraham WAS, I AM.”

The divinity of Jesus, therefore, belongs to the ages. It supercedes its own appearance in the human being known as Jesus. To be “only begotten” (a phrase Jesus himself never used, according to the New Testament), refers to this overarching divinity which Yogananda and others call, variously, the Universal Christ Consciousness. This refers, inter alia, to the underlying divine consciousness that not only created the world (in the beginning) but lies immanent, or inherent, latent, at the heart of every atom of creation.

It is the “son” because, in terms of the Trinity, this only begotten divinity is the offspring of the Father which “is in heaven” – meaning which is “above” and transcendent of creation, untouched by creation. Just as a playwright can write the story, the hero and the villain, the buffoon, and himself be none of them, as they are but a creation of his mind, so too God the Father Transcendent, the Infinite Spirit, perfect Bliss, remains untouched.

He leaves unto the other two aspects of Himself, the Trinity, the work of creation: the Mother (a Virgin, pure and untouched by the creation which she manifests) does the housework through the holy, divine vibration (the “Word”) which underlies all differentiated manifestations; and the only-begotten son of the Father, the Christ Intelligence, hidden and unseen in the womb or center of every atom of creation gives the intelligence and the impulse (and in humans, the free will) to carry on the work of creation from within.

All great prophets come and express universal truths, clothed in the language and the metaphor of their times and their people, addressing their particular needs at a particular time. Each represents a ray of the divine and universal truth and none, like the wave, can claim to be the “final” Word.

It is the mother, this vibration to which I would like to turn today. We have here this weekend David Eby. David, a professional cellist, has dedicated his life to exploring and sharing the music of Ananda, written by our founder, Swami Kriyananda. He guides the musicians and singers of Ananda Village and elsewhere in their technique and attunement.

Music has the power to change consciousness for the fact of its vibratory power. Music is its own language and is a universal language. It uses the tools of melody, harmony, and rhythm, but its seed language is consciousness and the vibration of consciousness.

I was saying to David that when I was a teenager and listening to rock and roll, e.g. the Beatles, I usually couldn’t understand the words owing to the noise of the music. In many songs, in fact, the words are only carriers, hosts as it were, to the underlying message. I love you, yeah, yeah yeah! Gadzooks….. and yet, we may laugh, but isn’t that the basic theme of most of the world’s folk and popular music? Is not love what makes the world turn ‘round? Human or divine, debased or platonic……

Music is far more important to the upliftment (or the degradation) of consciousness than we, with our proud intellects and insistence in being guided solely by reason, are able to admit.

We can turn that to our obvious advantage. For Paramhansa Yogananda taught that “Chanting is half the battle!” A yoga pose can change our state of mind or our mood; meditation can help us transcend anxiety and fear; so, too, can chanting (aloud or mental) can raise our consciousness.

Few can practice yoga or meditation more than a small percentage of our waking hours. But everyone can at least mentally chant “half the time!” Think of it! Half the battle!

This goes also for the music of Ananda. Chanting, defined narrowly, is not always enough. Our minds crave variety (how many old Beatles songs “pop” into my head?). Our minds like to chew on the words of music and understand them. We want to dwell on their meaning, extract their practical advice, and be moved by their inspiration.

“Brave were the people” “Walk like a man” “Father, now that I wander with Thee” what wonderful melodies and meaning we have been given. “Still your mind if you want to pray” as we sing to the Egyptian goddess, Isis (as a form of Divine Mother)!

If you struggle with finding the time, overcoming the resistance, or going deep into meditation, don’t give up but add to your efforts chanting, for it is half the battle! Ananda has a collection of CD’s (also at East West Bookshop) for your IPOD, MP3 player, car, or home! Don’t wait. Soon you’ll be halfway there.

Aum, aum, aummmm.......

Jesus Christ and the Infinite Christ

Before considering the nature of a Jesus Christ in his human form, let’s consider the nature of a Jesus Christ in his divinity. In the gospel of St. John, Chapter One, John writes, of Jesus: "That was the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not."

In this chapter — the most cosmic or metaphysical of all the gospels — St. John does not even use Jesus’ name, although the context (contrasting with John the Baptist and the Baptist’s role vis-à-vis Jesus), makes it clear that the words are referring to Jesus.

How could it be that Jesus Christ made the world? This would mean that Jesus existed before the world was created? Surely he would not have existed then as a human: with a human body and personality? Jesus was not declaring, “Hey, dude, I’m, like, THE MAN who created all this!”What an absurdity.

When Jesus made declarations in the first person, such as, “I an the way, the life and the light. No man comes to God except through me” (a paraphrase on my part), he was not making an egoic claim. True, some of his followers have interpreted these words in sectarian terms and have used them to justify putting down the founders and gurus of other faiths.

Even for the “blasphemy” for which he was crucified (“I and my Father are One”), it is clear in Jesus’ own words that he spoke in reference to his divine and overarching nature, not his human personality and body which had been named Jesus.

Just as a wave of the ocean cannot claim to “be the sea,” so, too, no human being can claim to BE GOD. One might affirm (or indeed speak from the realization of a Jesus Christ) that one is a child of God but cannot claim to be God Himself. Waves of the sea partake in the sea but cannot limit or define the sea itself.

Jesus referred frequently to the Father as the source of his inspiration and guidance to do and say what he taught and did. Near the end of his brief ministry, he also spoke of sending the Holy Spirit. So even in this, one can see that Jesus saw his divine nature as part of a greater, Infinite consciousness. He was in no way limiting God to himself. (And therefore he could not have limited God to appearing only in the body and personality of Jesus Christ, born in a tiny mud ball of a planet at one miniscule point in time, place, and history!)

Divinity appears in human form as a conscious, or Self-realized, manifestation of the same divinity which lies at the heart of all creation and which is our own true, if higher, Self. God appears in the form of his saints and saviors (meaning fully realized souls, or avatars) to give the promise of our own immortality and to help awaken souls to our divine destiny to also become one with the Father.

As St. John declares in that same first chapter: “As many as received Him, gave He the power to become the sons of God.” How much clearer can it get?

The stages of enlightenment are found by retracing our steps-not backwards in time or form (like having to go back to being monkeys or amoebas)-but upwards through the spiral staircase of the inner, astral spine to heaven (cosmic consciousness).

First we are awakened to the existence of divinity in human form. “Whom do men say I AM?” Then, through the magnetic exchange of a divine level of consciousness through the vehicle of the guru’s human persona (not merely while incarnate but afterwards as well, through disciples, teachings, stories and ultimately through inner attunement: "at-One-ment").

As this divine consciousness grows within us from the seed of its birth in the human heart, we begin to feel and perceive its subtle, vibratory manifestation in all creation (known as the “Word,” or the “Aum”).

Past this we begin to perceive the silent, still Presence or Witness centered at the heart of the primal, creative vibration. This is the “only begotten” consciousness of the Father that can be found IN creation. This is known as the Universal Christ Consciousness (or Intelligence) which in Sanskrit is the Kutastha Chaitanya.

Only by re-uniting with these two manifestations of the Holy Trinity can we finally ascend to the third (and seed consciousness) that lies beyond all vibratory spheres: the Father, or, the Infinite Spirit whose nature is pure Bliss. This nature, which is our own nature and the nature of all things in creation, is described as Ever-Existing, Ever-Conscious, Ever-New Bliss (or Satchidanandam).

Thus, our spiritual journey should begin with an openness to God’s presence in his saints and the masters. We should, as Krishna counsels in the Bhagavad Gita, learn at the feet of such teachers the truth teachings of wisdom and right action. We should learn the art and science of meditation that we not limit our journey to the intellect, or even to good words alone.

We should strive to commune inwardly with that Divine Presence that is, as Jesus taught in answering the question, “Where is the kingdom of heaven,” “within you.” Without concern for time and progress, we should strive to fulfill the two great commandments which can make us free: Love the Lord Thy God with all thy heart, mind, soul, and strength. And love thy neighbor AS thy Self.

Blessings to you,   Nayaswami Hriman

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Meditation: mental or devotional?

"There are two kinds of people....." Well, you've heard THAT before, I know. Meditation is practiced now by millions of people. One study I saw recently said 8% of the population. Like yoga (postures), however, most of what's taught is stripped of spiritual or religious content. That's neither good nor bad, of course but it runs to the question of what is the purpose of meditation? Is it a mental exercise? A kind of brain gymnasium workout? Is the goal to achieve cessation of thought and emotions in order to experience and enter a quiescent or quietist state? A trance? Blankness?

Or is meditation, per se, an act of devotion to God? If so, God as what? Whom? A blazing light, a thundering sound, as peace, Bliss, unconditional love? As a guru or deity?

No doubt my perspicacious readers are anticipating that meditation is either-or, or BOTH-AND and of course you would be correct.

To reach a higher state of conscious awareness one must first let go of the lower state. Just as you can't reach up to get something off a shelf if you are holding grocery bags in your hands. You first have to put the grocery bags down!

So the process of meditation necessarily involves an emptying of restless thoughts and a calming of agitated emotions, desires or attachments. The experience of emptiness is by no means passive or boring. In fact it is dynamic and thrilling, even if so deeply calm that those very words are inadequate to describe the experience. Thus it is that the goal of meditation is sometimes described in such terms. It's natural enough, for sure.

Since we accept that there "two kinds of" meditators, this must surely mean the "other" meditators are the opposite. Rather than to empty themselves, they seek to expand or fill their consciousness with a higher reality. Such aspire devotionally to worship or become One with the object of their devotions. Their approach to meditation might involve some preliminary chanting, then inward (perhaps mantric) chanting, visualizing their deity or guru and mentally placing themselves at the feet of their Lord!

In fact, a meditator can do both: first empty; then fill! And the filling need not be devotional. It can be mental or at least impersonal, such as visualizing a golden light, or an aureole of peace, compassion or tranquility. The filling can also be energetic rather than mental. This takes place when the object of meditation is to experience that dynamic vitality that enters the body and mind in a heightened state of consciousness.

(Just for the sake of completeness, I will acknowledge that meditation is practiced for health (physical and mental, including stress reduction) as well as the two main purposes outlined above. But in this case it still holds that one way or the other one is taught what to expect or to achieve and it's usually some variation of either emptiness or fullness in the forms of relaxation and/or happiness.)

There's another duality experienced by meditators. Take, for example, the experience of inner peace. One meditator may mentally reach up to and seek to BECOME peaceful while another meditator may want to relax and receive peace into himself. Both are valid and perhaps we could say that one represents an extrovert tendency and the other introvert---but those are just words and a way to express the difference in terms we might recognize from daily life.

In terms of ultimate spirituality (described as "enlightenment," "samadhi," "cosmic consciousness," Oneness and the like), some seek salvation as an end to mortal or egoic existence (usually in relation to suffering). Others seek it for the Bliss or joy it represents. Others, yet in order to share it with others. All of these are valid motivations. The only caveat is that rejection of life is contractive to our consciousness whereas Oneness with All necessarily is an expansion of consciousness. So the contractive part is equivalent to the emptying aspect of meditation.

Paramhansa Yogananda explained that the emptying experience precedes the filling of Divine Bliss. I've heard it said by other teachers that it is just the opposite: we get joy first, and then we transcend even that. Well, as Yogananda is my guru, naturally I "side" with him, but as my teacher, Swami Kriyananda puts it: who truly aspires to non-existence? Complete lack of feeling of any sort is equivalent to non-existence because feeling and consciousness are inextricably linked. So even logically and humanly speaking, Yogananda's promise of eternal joy in God is not only more attractive but it makes more sense. True, when a body dies, it would appear that the "end" of mortal existence is no-thing, but aren't appearances in this world deceiving?

Anyway I stray from the topic. A balanced form of meditation will focus on the emptying through methods of relaxation: yoga postures, energizing movements, diaphragmatic breathing and the like. This prepares the body-mind for expansion of consciousness using chanting, affirmation, visualization, and advanced pranayam practices such as kriya yoga.

However, transcendence comes through perfect stillness. It is not enough to "practice" meditation methods. When doing ceases, Being be-comes. Thus always leave time in your meditation sitting time to go beyond techniques of any kind and just BE. God in the Old Testament says "BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD." Few people interpret the "I" of I AM as pertaining equally to our higher and true Self.

Finally, I will toss my hat into the ring by saying that as much as I enjoy the emptying and the thrill of silence, I find greater awakening and joy when I also offer myself at the feet of Infinity, and especially in the form of my guru whose eyes and image and feeling of his Presence I can detect when I invite him lovingly into my heart.

Yogananda taught us to be life affirming, not life negating. Ok, ego-negating to some degree, especially as it relates to selfishness or self-indulgence in the senses, but more generally to invite God into the summer of our lives. This means, among other things, into the summer of our active lives, dedicated to high and ethical ideals and actions.

Meditation is the quest for Joy! Blessings, Nayaswami Hriman

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

There Ought to be a Revolution!

Years ago, probably in the 1940's, Paramhansa Yogananda, author of "Autobiography of a Yogi," and founder of the Self-Realization Fellowship headquartered in Los Angeles, encountered difficulties with the Los Angeles Planning or Building Department. In the way people do, a small group that included Yogananda were complaining about government red tape. Someone pipped up and said, whether humorously or in frustration, "There ought to be a revolution!" Yogananda was quiet for a moment and then said calmly but with quiet conviction: "There WILL be a revolution."

I recently finished a book by David C. Korten, "Agenda for a New Economy: from Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth." In briefest summary it's about how and why America should dump Wall Street in favor of Main Street. America and the western countries, and truly most of the world, is faced with a large bank overdraft. We have overdrawn the balance in the account of natural resources, energy usage, fair trade of useful goods and services, fair wages, respect for differences in race, nation, culture, and religion and so much else.

The rubber band of over-indulgence is near to snapping. There ought indeed to be a revolution and I think there WILL be a revolution. Naturally, as a yogi, I hope it will be peaceful but, let's face it, the odds of that happening are slim to nothing. We've seen riots occur spontaneously in different countries when price spikes in food, or shortages in basic commodities take place, or when wages or hours are cut due to austerity measures. And these are small potatoes.

There need not be any violence if enough leaders and citizens shared a common vision of what's needed. And if any country can gather the will to make drastic changes, I think America, for all her many faults, can do its part. But it's going to take a lot more hardship before the political and cultural will rises to the challenge. We saw a glimmer of heartfelt national unity immediately after the 9-11 attack. It didn't last long but we saw and felt it. And so did other countries.

But what David Korten is describing, even if it is but a fraction of the large areas of human activiity that are in desparate need of radical change, requires the overthrow of powerful people and vested interests. As Gandhi and King knew firsthand, those in power do not relinquish it willingly. Bankrupting them would of course do it but what we've seen is the bailouts only made those who triggered the need for the bailout, richer.

Faced with such odds, the authentic thing for most of us is to turn our back on that which we cannot change. Let the "dead bury the dead." Let's start new and promising things: small and creative businesses, communities, sharing with others what we have learned and have.....creating, in short, community, in all its rich variety of forms.

We need to revolt from and break away from dependence on government handouts, and go on alone. A song, "Go on Alone," is something of Ananda's theme song. It takes courage to leave a career, a "good" job, a looming pension, a comfortable home but haven't thousands (or more) already been forced to give up these things already? Why cower in the darkness, hiding your head in the sand, hoping the sandstorm will pass over you and everything will be just like it was before? It won't! The mainstream news is not worth exposing yourself to.

It doesn't take a whole population to effect a revolution. Study any revolution, peaceful or otherwise. It's usually a statistically insignificant percentage of the population that ignites the movement! And I'm not talking about being AGAINST anything but FOR sustainable, community, balanced living. If enough people stop borrowing money to buy consumer goods, and begin living real lives with real people who share real values, the edifice of power and greed will tumble like the walls of Jericho!

America is the best place for this second American revolution. Many here may seem greedy, selfish, and self-indulgent, but I think that's mostly what we've had the luxury to do for a relatively short period (since WW2). In general, America still has vitality, drive, creativity, and, yes, even high ideals.

A part of this better half of America died with the last of 3 assassinations: Robert Kennedy's. The election of Richard Nixon marked a detour or turning point in losing touch with our ideals, however flawed they have always been in their implementation. The cynicism and distrust brought about what we saw in ourselves in Vietnam and in some of our citizens' public brutality and hate during the height of the civil rights movement exposed and wounded our national self-image. We descended into self-involvement and haven't stopped since.

But now the necessity to pull out of this drunken binge of galloping consumption and debt will be the saving grace of this country's creative vitality and ideals. We have to recognize the opportunity and seize it.

Everything is going to be turned on its head: religion, politics, construction, manufacturing, retail, farming, health......and on and on. The basic trend will be that the individual, and relatively small or smaller groups of people, will need and will seize the initative to implement changes. These will largely be outside government control or influence, though in some cases, in partnership. With the federal, state, and local governments crushed under their own debt, imagine the thousands (or is it millions) who will become unemployed? Lord help us if we stop waging wars: what will become of all the soldiers and their contractors?

Yes: a tsunami is heading our way. It mgiht seem far offshore and too small to notice but by the time you see it, it will be too late. Those who live a God-centered life and guided by grace and strengthened with Divine power, who step off the wheel of unsustainable living and do so in harmony with others of like mind will not only find greater fulfillment but can act as instruments to help many, many others: whether by example or directly.

I am not a pessimist. I am an optimist. I base these things on what Paramhansa Yogananda predicted before his death in 1952 and what my teacher, Swami Kriyananda, has warned audiences about for decades, and from what knowledgeable forecasters in all fields are saying, and what just makes good, common sense.

Blessings, Hriman

Saturday, January 8, 2011

What is Kriya Yoga?

[Tuesday, Jan 11 at East West Bookshop, and Thursday, Jan 13, Bothell, WA a free class on this subject will be given by Padma and I....see for details.]

Paramhansa Yogananda made the meditation technique known as Kriya Yoga popular through his life story, "Autobiography of a Yogi." In chapter 26 of his autobiography he gives an explanation of how it works and why it can greatly accelerate one's spiritual evolution. (You can read this online at

Yogananda is a very good "salesman" and indeed the practice of kriya yoga has spread around the world. The term itself is generic. "Kri" comes from the Sanskrit root which includes the term "karma" and which indicates a kind of action. Thus "kriya" is a specific act or meditation technique. In the tradition of raja yoga there are many "kriyas." One such, also taught by Yogananda, and given in the book "Awaken to Superconsciousness" by his direct disciple (and founder of Ananda), Swami Kriyananda (See Crystal Clarity Publishers) is called "navi kriya."

Lahiri Mahasaya was Yogananda's guru's guru and received the kriya technique directly from the Himalayan master known simply as Babaji. Not only are there many "babaji's" (for the named is really an honorific, "revered father") but there are, as I said above, many "kriyas." I've been told, for example, that Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (the popular Indian teacher) teaches a technique called Sudarshan Kriya.

Thus there can be many different techniques with the name "kriya." Even in the direct lineage of Babaji-Lahiri Mahasaya-Swami Sri Yukteswar-Paramhansa Yogananda you will find at least slight variations and more so as the different branches from each guru go off in different directions. In a talk Yogananda gave, he commented that this kriya technique he taught had been simplified to its vital essence by each of the gurus in the Self-realization line.

Since Yogananda gives an excellent description of the technique (without revealing it!) in his Chapter 26, I won't repeat why he says kriya yoga accelerates our spiritual evolution and why it is both an advanced meditation technique and an essential technique. Essential here does not mean one can't do without it so much as it works on our essential psycho-physiological structure at its core. Kriya is a breath control (pranayama) technique but more than breath it puts us in touch with the very energy ("prana") at our center in the subtle spine of the astral body. Hence, it works with the essence of our incarnate consciousness and the seeds of ego ignorance. This Life Force sits at the inner doorway to higher consciousness which leads to soul freedom in God. Reversing its direction from its outward flow through the senses to the world to the inner and higher world of Spirit is the path to God.

The question most frequently encountered beyond the technique and its mechanics is "Why does one take initiation as a disciple of Yogananda in receiving the technique? A simple question with many answers shining like facets on the diamond of truth. Some people object to this, seemingly offended that they should have pay homage to any guru, or limit their loyalties or other practices in any way. Some point to the "Autobiography of a Yogi" itself where Lahiri Mahasaya is described as giving the technique to people of all (and no) faiths.

In human relations, a gift from a friend is a token, a symbol of that friendship. An adult would be deemed immature to only focus on enjoying the gift without recognizing its symbolic value. This value often exceeds any monetary or functional value of the gift itself. Each time I see or use the gift, I will think of the giver of the gift.

Traditionally, upon pledging one's obedience and loyalty to a true guru, he is given a mantra, personal instruction, or a meditation technique as just such a gift: a key to one's own salvation. The power of the gift lies only somewhat in the value of using the gift (practicing the mantra, e.g.). At least as much of its efficacy lies in the gift's capacity to transmit the guru's gift of God-consciousness. The technique becomes a sacred "object" or in archetypal terms, the magic ring. This sounds fanciful until you try it.

Meditation is not easy. Achieving superconsciousness does not come for simply repeating a mantra or huffing and puffing through breathing exercises. Much more is needed. When the technique is used as a means of "summoning" (with devotion and humility) the guru's presence (whether in vision, actual, or as love, peace, wisdom, joy etc.), it begins to "glow" just like the ring in the Lord of the Rings when it was worn and its powers invoked.

What I see more often than not, is that a person simply doesn't yet understand who the guru is, what the guru offers, and why a guru is needed to achieve enlightenment. A simple blog as this isn't about to explore such a deep subject satisfactorily. Deep not only for its meaning but for the fact our relationship to the guru is our relationship to infinity. In the guru, Infinity has been condensed into human form so that we can even begin to relate to it. Each relationship is not only unique (as each of our souls are) but is infinite as well and defies simple explanation.

But the idea that one is subservient or lesser or negated in any way is as far from the truth as it can be. God invites us toward our own highest potential! Only ignorance and the ego posits discipleship to be an imposition. The guru has nothing to gain and needs nothing from the disciple; yet, the guru has the power to give the greatest gift imaginable: perfect bliss, eternal freedom!

But this article is about kriya, not the guru. So why not just print up the instructions for kriya and put it on a website? Why not let people use it and see where it takes them? Yogananda himself claimed "Give me ten boys of the worst type, I will teach them kriya, and if they practice as I teach them, they will become saints." So the question (and what amounts to an objection to the requirement of taking discipleship) is, in fact, a good one.

Years of teaching these techniques and answering this question from all sides has left me as unsatisfied as those who ask it. Well, ok, maybe not entirely! I cannot, however, give an "answer" beyond saying, “Well, this is how Yogananda instructed his own teachers to do it.” Thus Swami Kriyananda who is my teacher and who initiated me as a kriyacharya (authorized to teach the sacred technique of kriya to others) enjoined me and the kriyacharyas of Ananda to do so likewise.

Ours is not a high age of consciousness and our American (western) culture is not deeply attuned to the idea and need for a guru. I have seen that those who come to Ananda to learn kriya but who never either intend or ever connect with Yogananda as the guru tend to become "lapsed kriyabans." Further, I been told by some who received the technique from a few other kriya teachers who dispense it freely that few of those to whom they give it stick with it.

Our culture and at this time in history we suffer from what Swami Kriyananda once called "toolism." A form of materialism and rationalism, we have a distinct bias toward believing we know something if we can comprehend it intellectually. We also prize objects more than people; quantity over quality; money over inner peace. In short, we still live under the cloud of a lower age that sees only the outer form of things, and not the spirit that animates life.

I believe, therefore, that, for now, kriya yoga must be given in the context of discipleship or it will die out (again). A person must practice with clear and heartfelt understanding of how it really works and not have what amounts to a kind of reverse superstition that merely breathing will bring us to God. I say “reverse” because to most people in our age, a loving relationship with a disincarnate guru would be the essence of superstition. How opposite is the truth of it! But that's my point. The gift serves to bring to mind the Giver.

Many great saints have lived who didn't necessarily practice kriya yoga. (Though Yogananda claimed in his autobiography that Jesus taught his disciples "kriya, or a similar technique" and pointed as proof to St. Paul's statement that "I die daily" in Christ....meaning he had life force control as to enter the breathless state: the goal of kriya). What all saints possess, however, inter alia, is devotion. What our age needs is more heart quality: seeing God in nature, in one another, and seeking God in inner silence, in the essence of our very own Life Force.

This, therefore, is why I believe kriya yoga is given in the context of discipleship.While this undoubtedly slows the spread of kriya yoga, it will help maintain the depth and purity of kriya until such time comes when people generally understand that discipleship to a true guru is not at odds with any outward faith, dogma or ritual, or none at all.

Blessings, Nayaswami Hrimananda.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Paramhansa Yogananda: Avatar of a New Age

On Wednesday, January 5, 2011, we celebrate the birthdate in 1893 of Paramhansa Yogananda. At Ananda in Bothell, WA (near Seattle) we hold a meditation retreat from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. The evening segment is a program of music, readings, and inspiration while the 1 to 6 p.m. segment is mostly meditation. In between we conduct vows for those entering the worldwide, nonsectarian Nayaswami Renunciate Order.

Through his now classic life story, "Autobiography of a Yogi," Paramhansa Yogananda has become well known throughout the world. Millions have read the story. As a piece of literature in the English language it stands out among the finest of the 20th century, irrespective of content. As a book of wisdom and insights into the human mind and heart, it offers modern, rational humanity a new vista into human possibilities. As a book of the science of yoga and the art of devotion to God, a new scripture for a new age has been born.

This wonderful story appears to tell the story of Yogananda's life but hides the true man except to those with eyes to see. Just as Jesus Christ was primarily viewed as merely the latest spiritual teacher wandering the countryside with unorthodox teachings and was reputed to have miraculous powers, so too Yogananda seems to have attracted the attention of thousands as a charming, magnetic, unorthodox, and charismatic speaker and spiritual teacher.

The number of people who actually left their homes and gave up all they had to follow him were not much more than those who followed Jesus. Though Jesus' teachings had, some fifty or sixty years after his death, spread throughout the Mediterranean region, so too Yogananda's teachings have spread around the world. But in both cases, a historian of the times would possibly not even have noticed this new spiritual movement. But as the life of Jesus Christ changed the course of history, so too many disciples of Yogananda feel that he is the world teacher for the new age that has unmistakably dawned in the time since his birth in 1893.

In this new age, which Yogananda's guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar called, in his only book, "The Holy "Science," Dwapara ("Dwa" meaning second age, out of four), the attention given to Yogananda as its avatar will be less personal than in the former age (known as Kali Yuga) when the followers of Jesus Christ institutionalized his teachings and deified the man as the one, and only, son of God.

This "less personal" aspect of the age's world teacher is reflected in his own scripture (his autobiography). In it he hides his own spiritual achievement and makes no claims for himself. He did reveal his stature as an avatar to close disciples, but only hinted at it publicly. This new age, he taught, emphasizes, self-effort as the key to attract God's grace and strength. The prior age taught that man was essentially sinful and helpless to affect his own salvation and hence needed a redeemer who, though self-sacrifice, would redeem men's souls.

As Jesus came to "fulfill the law and the prophets," so too Yogananda did not come to overturn the truth teachings of Jesus. He did come to correct the teachings of what he jokingly called "Churchianity," however. Thus Yogananda affirmed the need for a guru to achieve liberation in God but emphasized that this is based first upon our own efforts. Hence the science and art of yoga-meditation, especially the advanced technique which he termed Kriya Yoga.

Yogananda predicted that a great change would take place in the churches and that "Self-realization" would become the religion of Dwapara Yuga. By this he did not intend to state that some new Pope and Catholic Church would unite religions. For indeed he termed his own teachings, both their practice and the goal of that practice, "Self-realization." By its own terms this means that it is to EACH person, individually, that salvation comes. It is NOT a matter of religious affiliation. The effort must be made and can only be made by EACH person, individually.

So what he meant was that religious people the world-over, regardless of whatever faith tenets, dogmas, and rituals they were born into or otherwise adhered to, would come to "realize" that it is within themselves that their spirituality, their faith, flowers. Anything they do outwardly in the form of ritual or good works would be a means to this end but not the end itself. Put another way, Yogananda's prediction was that meditation would become the primary and most prevalent practice among those seeking God and expressing their our spirituality.

From the realization of our own higher, non-egoic nature would flower new lifestyles and attitudes: cooperation, mutual respect, and creativity for the greater good. It's not that he foresaw earth becoming some final paradise: quite the contrary. This planet of ours is essentially an active and restless one. Good and evil will always vie for supremacy according to the cosmic law of duality: the play of opposites.

What he sees ahead is that God's plan for human history includes giving us a "weapon" or the "keys" to balance the great powers of technology and information, which would unite all nations and all peoples, and without which we would probably perish. Orthodox faiths have sunk to the level of divisiveness, not harmony. Religion is the one aspect of human life that offers, or should offer, a view of life that transcends competition and conquest. And yet most faiths have leaped into the very fray of global competition and warfare.

Despite even his own language to the contrary, when Yogananda spoke of a United Nations of the World or Self-realization for all, this did not mean he advocated, predicted, or preached a new world order the fearful likes of which would control the planet. To him being "united" meant in our hearts, in our avowed high ideals and in our cooperative, respectful and creative efforts to achieve them.

What makes Yogananda a world teacher for this age? Why not other spiritual giants of our times? It is not my intent or place to make comparisons. Each of us must find for ourselves, should we desire it at all, our spiritual family and that teacher whose teachings resonate deeply with our own needs and growth. One indication however of his role in this age is the universal popularity of his life story. All feel his warmth, his sincerity, and his wisdom, regardless of whether their own spirituality draws them to go further in his teachings.

Another is the very nature of what he taught. He taught the principles of vegetarianism even as he gave instruction for those for whom this would be too strict or not the right diet for them. Yogananda developed a new form of simple tense and relax exercises to keep the body fit. These require no expensive gym fees or equipment, can be practiced sitting, standing, lying down and by virtually anyone.

He taught the principles of success appropriate to this age: in business, in the arts, in the home and in marriage. He initiated the example and precepts of establishing small intentional communities of like-minded residents embracing high ideals with simplicity and which includes all races and nations. He said this lifestyle would someday spread like wildfire (presumably as a balance and anti-dote for the impersonal forces and technology of globalization). He taught the art and science of meditation, the value of yoga postures, and was the instrument destined to bring out into the world the previously secret but highest technique of meditation: kriya yoga. He taught and encouraged by his own example, respect for all religions and especially the saints of all religions (as opposed to the theologians and church dogmas and rituals). He showed how those saints give to the world the same essential and universal precepts and living examples.

I can think of no other so complete appropriate description of a world teacher for this new age. As I said at the beginning, this does not mean nor did Yogananda anticipate, that this would put him and his personality on some pedestal or his picture in every home, church or mosque. This means that what he taught - even when not ascribed to him - would become the lifestyle and attitudes for this planet if we are to survive and not perish.

He also taught the validity of the guru-disciple relationship and its essential power to uplift individual souls into final, perfect union with God. But it is also true to say that those who personally acknowledge his wisdom and grace, and who deliberately draw upon these by conscious attunement (through gratitude, study, practice, and sharing), will receive more. There will be, over the generations to come, millions who will become in tune with the new wave of consciousness that he and his teachings epitomize and symbolize. Some will not necessarily even be aware of Yogananda's life nor yet would even consciously understand the universal truth that wisdom and creativity itself flow from "above," from divine consciousness. (Though more and more people in this age of increasing awareness, WILL!)

For those of us who are disciples of Yogananda and the line of masters who sent him, and who practice kriya yoga, we have a great opportunity and responsibility to become the lightbearers for a new age. A great war is taking place here on earth and in the astral heavens above between the forces and consciousness of Kali Yuga and Dwapara Yuga, and between good and evil. To be neutral is to become instruments of inertia, which is a form of darkness.

New lifestyles of renunciation, devotion, and harmonious, sustainable living are needed. And they cannot be only personal and therefore invisible. They must unite in some way to become a force for positive change in the world. The suffering due to change and due to misuse of the earth's resources and exploitation of the disenfranchised masses can not be entirely avoided at this point. But those who will work in tune especially with Yogananda as a world teacher will have a great opportunity for personal spiritual growth, and will receive protection on many levels for the hardships that are to come as a new understanding is being born.

Whether disciple, friend, or admirer I invite you to celebrate Yogananda's birth and life in your heart and, if possible, by your presence at our meditation retreat this Wednesday, January 5, or at our Family Service and banquet following, this Sunday, January 9.

Blessings to you,

Nayaswami Hriman