Friday, September 23, 2011

After the Fall - The Road Ahead?

What lies ahead of us after the Fall? What Fall, you may ask? America and European nations stand on brink of a fall in currency values and wholesale economic paralysis. No matter what form it takes: hyper-inflation, deflation, partial or complete, the results will affect everyone to varying degrees.

What, then, may the road ahead of look like after "the Fall?" We see the American Congress (seen as a symbol of American public opinion) in paralysis. Some say the government should uphold spending as a safety net to wholesale collapse. Others say continued spending in the face of such immense debt and deficits is irresponsible and, itself, responsible for wholesale collapse. As I have written previously, it probably doesn't make much difference as the result is the same.

For today, however, I want to roll the film ahead and peek behind the curtain of the road ahead. What are the consequences of a new economy in which the central government plays a greatly reduced role in the lives of its citizens (whether in America or in Europe)? Here are some possibilities:

1.     So long as major war(s) are not imposed upon us, we can expect a great reduction in public and governmental willingness to intervene militarily in off shore wars. If things go this direction (and not towards MORE international warfare), the reduction in military spending for personnel, facilities, and weaponry will result in the unemployment of thousands, with a concomitant ripple down affect.
2.     We saw how World War II was a major economic engine that drove the 1930's Depression from the national scene. While the Depression was not necessarily the cause of that war, we might see that a worldwide economic collapse or stagnation might generate warfare especially around energy resources, or as a window to more effective and devastating acts of terrorism. When things are tough at home, uniting against a common "enemy" can be "good" politics and "good" economics, if you know what I mean.
3.     Social services and support systems will be greatly reduced in their funding. Charity will shift to the private sector, the individual, and to the nonprofit sector with the result that many otherwise on some form of relief or subsidy will have a difficult time. Social unrest is certain to result and polarization of public attitudes towards the poor will certainly make things even more difficult.
4.     A renewed emphasis on both individualism and cooperation will surface. Faith-based groups, ideologue-based groups (green or cause oriented), and local partisans will form to tackle various needs and causes. 
5.     A large increase in part-time or shared jobs, telecommuting and other forms of shared, partial, or results-based (commissions, e.g.) jobs will occur. The trend to the use of subcontractors will continue to accelerate.
6.     Private, corporate, union and nonprofit pensions will be reduced.
7.     Despite the glut of homes on the market, more people will live together, whether related or unrelated.
8.     A small but growing exodus out of the cities will begin in the face of unemployment and harsher living conditions, including scarcity of food, social instability, and cost of utilities.
9.     The trend toward personal or small farms will accelerate. 
10. Communes, cooperatives, co-housing, and intentional communities will become visible and will grow in number and influence.
11. Small numbers of westerners will move to other countries and expatriates of such countries currently living in the west will return to their country of origin.
12. Government spending will shift toward infrastructure and jobs, and away from social services. 
13. A rapid increase in the use of barter clubs will be seen.
14. The high cost of public transportation may be strangled by lack of public funding and interest. Low-cost individual transportation systems (from bicycles, motorcycles, smart cars and hybrids), including telecommuting and living near one's workplace, will increase.
15. Energy conservation will become high profile and high priority in all sectors. 
16. Agri-business will lose substantial subsidies provoking more instability in food prices and boosting interest in individuals growing their own food (and locally grown produce).
17. Immigration into the U.S. will slow due to slow economy and tightened security and public attitudes.
18. Alternative forms of currency (not just bartering) will pop up here and there, greatly enhanced to the extent internet remains stable. 
19. Government efforts to regulate will become increasingly ineffective. Regulatory power will shift to the state and local levels, but even here, will be lax or inconsistent from place to place. Crime or lack of conformity to laws and regulations will skyrocket. Society will become far more random and chaotic while yet free and enterprising.
20. Travel will be greatly reduced and more emphasis will be placed on local recreation, sports, and holidays. People will tend more to stay at home or local.
21. Home improvement projects, especially low-cost and energy-efficient (with rapid payback), will accelerate.
22. Real estate prices, in general, will remain low, stable, or dropping for years to come (with various exceptions of course!) Commercial real estate will be the next sector to drop hard and fast. Malls will be devastated and big-box shopping will move even more strongly to the internet (assuming the internet remains reasonably stable).
23. A new growth industry in trade and labor skills will slowly build. Jobs in small manufacturing activities will slowly begin to build momentum as the economic and energetic incentives to make things locally or nationally grows.
24. A trend toward simplicity in technology, lifestyle, and household products will begin.
25. The trend toward non-impact exercise and interest in yoga and meditation will grow at an accelerating rate. Fewer people will be able to afford or have interest in high-tech gymnasiums, pools, and equipment.
26. Public interest and acceptance of non-sectarian spiritual values, beliefs, and association will begin to rise. This will threaten mainline and sectarian oriented churches and institutions. Mainline churches will suffer in membership and revenues, although there will be exceptions and some push-back as members turn increasingly to their faith for comfort.
27. Trend toward alternative health care and naturopathic and energy healing will increase rapidly both for economic reasons and for the lack of satisfaction with allopathic solutions.
28. Health care industry will be devastated, whether private or public due to economic pressures.
29. It would seem that conflict and instability in less developed countries around the world will increase. But this will be mitigated (perhaps) by economic paralysis. We will probably see an inconsistent and spotty pattern of conflict alternating with reconciliation, both at more local levels with less interference from developed countries. 
30. Against the prior point is an increase in the intensity of competition for natural resources among all countries and especially the (relatively) richer nations.
31. Increased attention and commitment to alternative energy sources will be slowed by economic troubles creating an inconsistent stop and start pattern of research, development and implementation around the world. Necessity will be the mother of invention and solutions will tend to be more local than global.
32. Lifestyles in developed countries hard hit by economic troubles will tend to polarize but in general will move towards traditional, universal, and simpler values: health, commitment, saving, hard work, community and family. I avoid the label here of conservative in favor of natural, balanced, and sustainable living in all levels: earth-oriented, health-oriented, family-oriented, community-oriented, and church-oriented values and lifestyles.
32.5 The public school system in America will continue its steady decline. Committed parents will continue to look for alternatives but economic woes will make traditional private school increasingly out of reach. Tutors, small non-profit schools staffed by dedicated staff and volunteers, after-school enhancement activities, character and holistic education, home schooling, and volunteer associations will sprout everywhere. Online and internet alternatives, especially in higher grades and education, will skyrocket almost as fast as costs and prices.
33. The BIG IF'S that can drastically affect all of the above are as follows: war, plague, and natural catastrophes.
34. War between nations is not difficult to imagine when global conditions become stressed and competitive. Terrorist use of small nuclear devices could wreak havoc and great suffering.
35. Pandemics are constantly being touted as just around the corner. Millions could be affected.
36. Natural catastrophes are seen, by the public at least, as increasing in both frequency and intensity of devastation. Predicted sunspot activity could herald global disaster for telecommunications, travel, and energy production. Meteor hitting earth is a popular fear as is a shifting of the poles (perhaps as a result of the former).
37. When the time arrives for a general subsiding of our troubles on earth, it seems that humanity will so yearn for peace, health, and prosperity that a long and gradual period of relative security and peace would undoubtedly result. 
How long a time frame is all of the above? Well not short like a recession, certainly. The trends above are long-term but are listed because I feel that in the few years ahead of us we will be able to discern their appearance. Those who live with faith, share with love, pray with devotion, and act courageously and creatively will fare well, spiritually for sure and likely in most other ways as well.

May we live in God's light and peace as His children!

Nayaswami Hriman

Thursday, September 15, 2011

What does an Avatar Know? or, Feel?

[[edited and revised Saturday, Sept 17]]

The nature of divinity incarnate must surely remain one of humankind's greatest questions and mysteries. You may question that statement but the key to understanding it lies in the simple realization that our "answer" reveals our own nature as well.

I often state in my classes and talks that the answer to "Who is Jesus Christ?" shows us "Who am I?" Is the avatar a divine creation, a puppet? God descended into human form? Is the avatar human like us, and if so, to what degree, to what extent? How did such a one come into being an avatar? By divine fiat or by self-effort? Is such a state unique or do all of us have the potential to achieve it?

We are, to ourselves, also a mysterious concatenation of moods, ideas, actions and feelings. Our sublime states all too frequently descend to the mundane, or lower. We want our deity (our image of perfection) to be clear, clean, and essentially one-dimensional. Look what inevitably happens after the avatar leaves this earth. Even Yogananda who died only in 1952 has been cast by some of his disciples in the one dimensional terms of a strict disciplinarian, or as the founder, merely, of a monastery. In Swami Kriyananda's latest book, "Restoring the Legacy of Paramhansa Yogananda," he describes how in a few decades Yogananda's own disciples have been steadily re-making his image in their own image.

Jesus Christ was crucified once but his image, teachings, and persona have been crucified daily for centuries such that for many Christians and non-Christians he’s been reduced to a wooden crucifix or a spiritual victrola in a sad monotone of “Thou shalt!” Gone is the joyful camaraderie he had with his disciples, the adventure of living and learning from him, the joy and inspiration they felt in his presence. Who would be attracted to a sad and somber saint?
Life is dual; life is messy, and when divinity incarnates, He (She) plays by the rules She has created. Just as Oneness is a state of consciousness that transcends duality, so too the only way to pierce the veil of divinity incarnate is to aspire and to approach the deity via an upward effort and flow towards transcendence. Thus it was that the apostle Peter was the only one who answered Jesus’ question (Who do men say I am?) correctly when he responded from intuition, saying: Thou art the Christ, the son of the living God. That Jesus was One with the Father was more than his critics could handle. For his revelation, he was crucified. His own response to his accusers who saw only blasphemy in his claim, he said “Do not your scriptures say, ‘Ye are gods?’”.
Thus it is that our attempts to identify divinity or perfection in a living spiritual teacher, or in one now gone from sight, in another person, or in ourselves are fraught with peril. To pierce the veil of duality, we, ourselves, must achieve some degree of intuition born of our soul’s state of knowing-ness. Armed now with this tool of in-sight, let’s now turn directly to our subject of the avatara: the descent of divinity into human form.
If an avatar is "one with God" does the avatar feel pain? Grief? Does he make mistakes? Does he get angry like you or I? Is an avatar above delusion, material desires, hurt feelings, or judging other people?
It is taught in India and is taught by Paramhansa Yogananda (author of the popular and renowned spiritual classic, "Autobiography of a Yogi") that an avatar is free from karma and acts in freedom (without personal desire). Is this always and under all circumstances? Is personal desire different than the influences of or appropriate responses to circumstances?

To what degree does such a one feel human joys and sorrows? A further question is this: to what degree does an avatar have access to omniscience? Let's explore this multi-faceted diamond of consciousness where infinity is crystallized into human form. Swami Kriyananda once used the example of an inverted triangle wherein the tip (pointing downward) touches earth in human form and the base (above) stretches to infinity.

Here are some examples (mostly from "Autobiography of a Yogi") for us to consider:
  1. Jesus was crucified and cried out in his agony, "Eli, Eli, lama sabacthani" (Loosely translated: "Lord, why have you abandoned me?").
  2. Paramhansa Yogananda grieved inconsolably (by his own account) at the loss of his mother when he was still a boy.
  3. Babaji told Lahiri Mahasaya that the reason he (Babaji) materialized a golden palace for Lahiri at the time of their meeting and Lahiri's initiation was that Lahiri had had a past life desire for a golden palace.
  4. According to the story of Lahiri's life, one gets the impression that until age 33, when he met Babaji and Babaji reawakened Lahiri's memory of his past life, he was somehow unaware of his own mission and consciousness as an avatar.
  5. Paramhansa Yogananda recounts in his famous story ("Autobiography of a Yogi") that the day after his own guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar had manifested pyschic and telephathic powers in the charming story of the "Cauliflower Robbery," Sri Yukteswar was unable to state the location of a misplaced lantern, disclaiming his own power to do so.
  6. When Sri Yukteswar and Lahiri Mahasaya were each informed of their impending death, they were temporarily taken aback and had to recollect themselves.
  7. In the garden of Gethesmane, Jesus prayed that "this cup be taken from me."
  8. Paramhansa Yogananda claimed that he was, in past lives, William the Conqueror, a famous Spanish king and general, and Arjuna, the Pandava warrior whose archery skills in warfare (and discipleship to Krishna) were legendary.
  9. Swami Sri Yukteswar tells the story how, as a boy, he wanted to have an ugly dog and his mother was powerless to entice him by more attractive canine substitutes.
And yet, each of these (Jesus, Lahiri Mahasaya, Sri Yukteswar, and Paramhansa Yogananda) are believed to be avatars.

What do the rishis and scriptures tell us about the avatar? An avatar is considered to be an incarnation of divinity. In the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda this definition is clarified to state that such an soul is like you and I, but has achieved Oneness with God and cosmic consciousness. This achievement occurs over many lifetimes and its victory is the combination of self-effort and divine grace. An avatar is freed from all past karma and has the power to help an unlimited number of souls and to dispense any and all levels of God-realization according to the will of "the Father who" sends him.

Others speak of an avatar as a direct manifestation of God or some aspect or diety (Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva), but Yogananda did not use the term in that way. This is more or less how Christian theology defines the nature of Jesus Christ. But Yogananda pointed out that Jesus and his direct disciples made it clear numerous times that what Jesus attained all souls have the potential to become ("sons of God"). The avatars, Yogananda taught, do not come to show off, but to show to us our own highest potential.

Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita describes how he (and others) have come repeatedly down through history and may play a visible role on the stage of human history or be behind the scenes (like Babaji). Therefore it is clear that an avatar comes and takes on many different roles and personalities. Discerning the chain of incarnation is beyond the scope of any except the most spiritually advanced and probably is only truly made known by the avatar himself.

Swami Kriyananda, contemplating the paradox of Yogananda having once been William the Conqueror, once asked Paramhansa Yogananda what it means to be an avatar under such circumstances. Yogananda's terse reply was that "one never loses his sense of inner freedom." The clear iimplication is that, as William, he did not necessarily access (openly at least) his omniscience and prescience. So far as we know, he made no disclosure of knowledge of his longer-term purpose or his spiritual stature. Perhaps such knowledge was simply unnecessary to the fulfillment and conduct of his role as William.

[As an historical aside, historians show that William set into motion a chain of events whose significance grew over time. The government that he established and that was brought to greater completion by his youngest son Henry I created a new political form that, in time, produced the Magna Carta and subjected even kings to the rule of law and due process, and, established the concept of inalienable human rights and liberties. The political stability and power of Britain was to eventually give birth to the founding of America, to the beginnings of globalization and exchange of knowledge between east and west (through its empire), and to the spread of the English language as the linga franca of the world.]

In the book, "Conversations with Yogananda," Swami Kriyananda reports that Yogananda also clarified that an avatar does not necessarily act or have at his disposal in every moment cosmic and omniscient knowledge. Functioning as he must in a physical body, he, like ourselves, must deal with the material realities and human egos which surround him. In fact, while enjoying, let's say, a meal, he may be calmly present and enjoying that experience, chatting away merrily, without regard for or need to elevate himself to a transcendent level. If you ask him "What year did Columbus sail the ocean blue?", he may pause, try to remember, and even get the date wrong! For in that setting, there's no compelling spiritual need to prove anything or help anyone, so his ordinary human memory suffices for the task at hand.

But that's a far cry from what many people do: avidly wolfing down a sandwich, completely forgetful of the Self! For when the need arises, the avatar has a "divine security clearance" and higher access to cosmic knowledge! They demonstrate this time and again, certainly at least to those "with eyes to see."

But when and how does he access that higher knowledge? Can he just "dial up" God the Father and ask him about so-and-so? What is difficult for us to understand is the "I-ness" of an avatar. Yogananda said that even an avatar has to have an ego to deal responsibly with his body and in this world. Thus our inquiry today is the attempt to discern that spectrum of motivation and awareness possessed by one who is free in God.

We see in the life of Jesus, of Yogananda, and many others that they prayed frequently to God (as Father, Mother or in other forms dear to them) for guidance. They attribute their miraculous powers to God, not to themselves. So whether in reality or for our benefit, there seems to be a veil in place between omniscience and their level of consciousness in human form. But many avatars have raised the dead, healed the sick, spoke prophetically, or disclosed the thoughts or past lives of others. Sometimes these incidents were spontaneous; other times, the avatar prayed beforehand or otherwise showed himself going within for divine sanction or power.

Yogananda said of himself (and Jesus and Krishna similarly), "I killed Yogananda long ago. No one dwells in this form but He." There seems therefore to be a flow of energy between the avatar in his human form and the avatar in his cosmic consciousness. There seems to be an I-Thou interchange which, while different in degree, is not different in kind from our own efforts to attune ourselves to God's presence in our lives.

Absence of personal motive would be another approach to trying to discern the consciousness of the avatar. Thus we see illustrated in the life of William the Conqueror a steady flow of actions based on moral, ethical, political, and religious rules, precepts, and standards of behavior. Although some of his actions, looked at through the lens of 21st century mores may seem ruthless, living as he did in the Dark Ages ruthlessness (as we would define it) was not only accepted in his time but expected, for few royal subjects would respond to anything less. Reluctance to take on battle would only have been interpreted as weakness; likewise, as would anything less than the commitment to win and to be victorious or the willingness to punish enemies in accordance with standards of the time. (In fact, however, both William and his youngest son, Henry I, showed remarkable forebearance and magnanimity over their self-styled enemies.)

An analysis of history shows us that William was no mere interloper taking advantage of political instability to expand his dominion but the rightful heir and protector of the British crown. He was supported by all the princes of Europe and by the papacy in his claim. Similarly Henry I (who may very well have been Swami Kriyananda in that past life) conducted his royal affairs in a manner that showed that he was fulfilling "the will of his father" in establishing the British kingdom and Normandy on principled grounds. [See the fascinating account of their lives in Catherine Kairavi's newly published account, "Two Souls, Four Lives."]

An avatar willing accepts the limitations inherent in human form when he incarnates. This includes going through the human stages of infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood and old age. The avatar experiences the joys and sorrows of human existence. But the avatar's incarnation is not propelled by karmic complusions or ego-oriented desires, and, instead, is inspired by a desire to help others and fulfill the divine law.

If you willingly went to jail, though innocent of any crime, in an effort to spare another person who might have been wrongly accused or who would suffer unnecessarily from the experience of incarceration, you would still be innocent of the crime. But there you would be in jail and you'd have to accept the limitations, rules, and daily humiliations of prison life. Were you to protest your innocence, you would be ignored by fellow inmates and jailers alike, for we all know that in prison, "everyone's innocent!"

A grandparent might thoroughly enjoy playing catch with his grandson or a father wrestling with his son without ever losing the sense of his role. Even in the spirit of rivalry or competition, the grandparent or parent probably experiences the "game" with a greater sense of detachment than the child who perhaps plays in earnest or with abandon.

An actor, practiced and well honed in his skills, might with confidence play his role upon the stage with immersion into the role while acting. While doing so it is unncessary for him to remind himself that he's not, say, Hamlet, for on an existential level there is no confusion. Moreover, arriving home after work, he greets his wife and children as himself, and no taint of his stage persona or role lurks or stains his own consciousness.

Yogananda taught that Jesus did not suffer on the cross for himself but felt grief for the ignorance and the consequent (if future) suffering of his tormentors. Jesus' greatest victory was not even his resurrection but the forgiveness he expressed even while hanging on the cross. Yogananda went further to state that Jesus could have, at any time, transcended the physical pain of his agony. As Christians teach that "Jesus died for our sins," so Yogananda taught that a true guru (an avatar) can take on karma of his disciples. He himself endured physical illness and explained that it was for the purpose of taking on karma of his disciples. Such is the great gift of love and divine friendship the guru offers.

If your friend loses a loved one to illness or a sudden, fatal accident, will you tell her that "The soul is eternal and does not suffer? Or, that death has no true reality and therefore she shouldn't grieve?" Well, I hope not! Yogananda as a boy felt the grief natural to a child when he lost his mother. Later Divine Mother appeared to him to reveal that it was She, herself, who was his mother in that life. This consolation would have dissipated any vestige of sadness that may have been retained. But his grief need not have been merely the grief of human delusion but the grief appropriate to his condition and his circumstances. I believe that such a one, like the actor, can genuinely experience grief while remaining untouched within. This is demonstrated by the lack of residual or recollected pain in the future. The ordinary human being takes many years to recover from grief and very often re-experiences again and again, perhaps, over time, less often, or less intensely but all too often for the remainder of his or her lifetime! The avatar, by contrast, like writing on water, undergoes the human experience and then moves on, untouched.

Remaining in his human "self" and eschewing the power to withdraw to his omniscient Self, I believe that Yogananda experienced and expressed his loss as a child, even as the quiet, inner, watchful Self remained intact and withdrawn from the drama. 

Swami Kriyananda has also commented on what might be somewhat particular to Yogananda's "lila" (the way he behaved and related to the world around him). Kriyananda explains that Yogananda willingly experienced various human emotions and circumstances even when he could have just as easily chosen to transcend them. Being free, he was unafraid or had no need to protect himself from the power of maya. He wore his wisdom like a comfortable old coat and had no need to affirm his transcendence. This was demonstrated at times when he was mistreated, misunderstood, humiliated, incurred or accepted physical pain, human grief, or enjoyed the simple pleasures of good food, in his infectious humor, beautiful scenery, sports, and the pleasure of the company of friends.

Sri Yukteswar tells the story of his childhood attachment to an ugly dog and how he could not be dissuaded from wanting that dog by more attractive substitutes! Lahiri may have had a past life desire for a golden palace but perhaps that desire was gone and perhaps Babaji simply resurrected that past desire to honor Lahiri's re-awakening and initiation in the form of that golden, bejeweled palace on Drongiri Mountain?

Still, let's assume that each them actually had, as avatars, these desires. Is that possible? Imagine that you are an avatar and that you are free from the delusion and shackles of desire. But then you willingly incarnate to help others. In so doing, you must cloak your cosmic spirit in maya. Your cosmic consciousness must be "squeezed" into a human body, so to speak. You descend into the womb of maya for the sake of struggling souls. This means you will be surrounded by and even temporarily exposed to and tempted by maya's power. Remember, for example, the temptation of Jesus (Yogananda said Jesus had long ago been liberated). An avatar, being free and retaining that freedom, can "play" in the storm of delusion with a kind of absolute impunity while even yet allowing the law of duality to influence or circumscribe his inner freedom during the "lila" of the experience.

Thus, should the circumstances surrounding the avatar (as a child, a warrior, a husband, etc.) call for grief, desire, warfare, he can enter the fray and may be, for a time, wholly or seemingly immersed in it. But when he "comes out of it" he can instantly detach the vrittis, the energies, from his consciousness, just as a professional football player can pound the heck out of the other team, leave the field satisfied and not be the least bit personally angry with his opponents. In the great epic of India, the Mahabharata, it is said that the good guys and bad guys met in Swarga (heaven) afterwards for a party! An avatar is perhaps like you and I working in the garden. We necessarily get dirty, but we can come inside the house, take a shower and the dirt is gone. It has no ultimate power to affect us.

Have you ever been in an embarrassing situation while yet laughing at yourself or mentally saying to yourself ("This will make a good story!")? Have you ever had a great idea and you knew instantly it was just perfect? Then, as you go about sharing, energizing and manifesting that idea you find that there is little or no sense of ego or pride in the idea: just the joy and satisfaction of its manifestation? In the midst of the flow of inspiration, talent, and skill we can feel "the force" without necessarily involving the ego beyond the necessity to stay present and focused on the task at hand. Isn't it so?

Some people (maybe in their business life, artistic talents, or inventiveness) just seem "to know." There's no great angst involved. There's no agony of reasoned analysis, or impassioned affirmation. "He who knows, knows." It doesn't require hindsight (conscious analysis of how you know) or foresight (conscious awareness of what it all means or what will result). It simply IS. We all have probably had this experience sometime, somewhere! Imagine the level of calm, inner confidence an avatar must possess! What freedom!

With these examples and illustration, perhaps we can intuitively sense even a fragment of the consciousness of an avatar who lives and acts in this world of duality. At the same time, we must be careful not to imagine we can define or in any way limit that consciousness, for it expresses Infinity itself! Their lives offer to us a window onto the uniqueness which is our true Self, and the permission and duty to play our roles with passion, creativity, joy and yet, like a great actor, without ever being touched by its drama.

Yet for us to "see" who is an avatar, to detect divinity in another person, and to finally uncover divinity in ourselves we mustn't be fooled by outer appearances. (Like the picture-perfect sadhu in India who approached Swami Kriyananda to say, "Want a picture? 40 rupees!") It takes sincere and sustained "sadhana" (meditation, introspection, right attitude and right action) to develop the intuition that we may have "eyes to see, and ears to hear."

Imagine it! Act it! Be-come free!


Nayaswami Hriman

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Armageddon or a New Age? A New View of History

I would like to invite you to a revolutionary revelation that has come out in a newly published book called THE YUGAS, by two friends of mine, Joseph Selbie and David Steinmetz. This weekend the East West Bookshop hosts a talk and workshop by Joseph Selbie: Saturday night, 7 p.m., and Sunday, 1 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online at

You don't want to miss this, and the book which these two great souls have written. Coincidentally (if you believe in coincidences), I have just, this week, begun a course at Ananda Meditation Temple on the book, The Holy Science, by Swami Sri Yukteswar. It is upon the revelation given in the introduction to this book that Joseph and David have built upon, now over 100 years since the Holy Science was first published.

Western science posits that not many thousands of years ago humankind were just a scotch above apes, living in caves, foraging, hunting and gathering. But the accumulation of anomalous facts and discoveries is pushing this view of progressive history off the cliff of human knowledge.

Instead, every great civilization of the B.C.E. attested to the existence of a higher age in the dim, pre-history of time. Evidence continues to mount in favor of this point of view. As a simple example, we are pleased to imagine that literacy is evidence of growing intelligence. Is it possible that literacy is just the opposite? Just as we, today, need to write things down because of being plagued by faulty memory, perhaps it is so that literacy arose in response to the need to "write things down" which, prior, were conveyed in a verbal tradition and memory?

Yes, this revelation will turn our view of history upside down. And, just in time, for the question of Armageddon vs a New Age is no armchair philosopher's topic. Science seems to be giving us unceasing insights into knowledge of the natural world while human behavior seems to be plaguing us with selfish and destructive patterns of exploitation, abuse and prejudice. Or, is it?

Up through the Renaissance of western Europe we believed in the past higher knowledge and wisdom of a long forgotten classic age. Only with the dawn of the age of exploration, reason, and industry have we switched to look ahead for ever expanding vistas of awakening.

But by what mechanics can such cycles of consciousness ascend and descend upon mankind? Learn the secrets of the stars known to the ancients whose descendents, in desparation, erected the great megaliths in an effort to track the celestial motions that influence the history mankind!

How can we understand past, present, and future history and trends that we might live a more aware and conscious life? Come this weekend to learn more. It is fascinating, inspiring, and utterly up-setting of a world view with which we, in the west, have been raised. You will not be disappointed.


Nayaswami Hriman

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Are We Bankrupt Yet?

When a person's debts and payments on his debt overwhelm his ability to repay and to continue the expenditures of his current lifestyle, the curtain of material loss descends. Throughout the western countries in Europe and in the United States, the national governments are on or over the edge of bankruptcy. Add to this state and local governments, and we have a bit of a problem.

So, which is going to win: the Tea Party types, slashing expenditures and taxes, or those who want to keep government expenditures rolling so as to keep the house of cards from collapsing completely?

Seems to me that we are past opinions and that the reality of bankruptcy and insolvency is upon us. If we slash expenditures and keep tax rates equal or lower, we will unleash thousands of government workers and military into the tepid job pool only to drown. Social benefit recipients will find their support slashed or eliminated in the direction of homelessness and lack of food, heat, and medical care. We've seen civil disturbances erupt at what will, in the not too distant future, seem like minor inconveniences. Just wait when the cities are teeming with unemployment and homelessness, and the suburbs become ghost towns of idleness and despair.

The result is no different if we continue to spend. For then the currency will, and perhaps quite suddenly, simply implode with essentially the same exact results. You see, the die has been long cast.

It will be up to creative, energetic, and bold individuals and groups of individuals to act for survival and (hopefully) in cooperation with others of like mind. Homes, boats, ski doos, SUV's will be all but worthless. Gardens, rural land, running water and safe shelter will be in high demand, as will consummables that can be bartered.

The apocalypse that our culture has been visualizing through sterile and violent futuristic movies and video games, or through intense downbeat metal or rap music espousing all manner of violence and anger is, tragically, about to become a reality.

Naturally this sad picture is not the only picture, though I find it hard to imagine that it won't be realized in certain places and at specific times. As the sun rises and sets, warms and cools, so too even tragedy has comedy and comforts. Regions of our nation may be impacted very differently. Cities, too, may experience a wide range or degree of these scenarios. Families, businesses, and organizations, also, will experience the gamut of possibility. Even the Depression era of the 1930's saw many unscathed and oblivious to the suffering of millions. So, too, again, by the play of opposites, the sad scenario that I paint will not be absolute, or black and white, as the expression goes.

That doesn't make any less real, however, and certainly not for those who will feel the heavy heel of its foot.

So, am I such a pessimist? No, in fact. I believe much good can come from something that is simply overdue and the obvious consequence of overspending: not just money but natural resources. It's time to balance our budget of time, wealth, energy, health, education, trade, and care and concern for others. It's time we shrink the government in favor of personal initiative and responsibility. It's time to re-discover basic values of truth and consequences, hard work, saving, sharing, and love for our world and the Creator of our world. We need a new and sustainable lifestyle for the 21st century and we, in America, and in Europe, must take the lead (as we have sown the seeds of the weeds that are now choking the flowers of our lives).

If this were the Fifties and you thought the enemy were about to drop "the bomb," what would you do? Well, this time the bomb is one of our own making and it's about to drop. So, what do you do? Prepare! Cut your expenditures, stock up on provisions (food, water, medicines, camping supplies), things you can trade, move to the country if you can, join with others to gather more strength, get healthy and drop unnecessary luxuries and indulgences, learn to pray and meditate (especially with others), start a garden, store seeds, payoff debt where you can.....this is plenty for most people to do.

One ethical question I hear about is what to do with your "upside down" home? Is it ethical to simply walk away from it even if, for now, you still afford your mortgage payment? I wish I had a clear answer to this. But let me start by saying that the catastrophe of value-loss you are experiencing now, and the prospect of much more to come, goes far beyond anything you personally did.

This is BIG. I personally think it is better to make the kind of preparations described above even if it means abandoning your house. This is because I think you may end up having to do that anyway, and by that point, your ability to cope will have gone down the mortgage payment drain. Seems to me the banks are going down anyway. Sorry to say that but if a tsunami is coming at your town you could run around and try to alert people (even though the sirens are wailing and authorities are already doing that) or you could evacuate. Assuming you don't actually know of anyone too fearful to evacuate or unable to heed the warnings, you search may be in vain and at the expense of your own life. It's a personal decision, I grant you, but making your ideals practical and not being foolish has its place, too.

I think the sinkhole is draining our economy and resources faster than we can get out without serious losses at this point. While I don't espouse "every man for himself," but in fact espouse working with others and helping others, I don't see the ethical value in paying your mortgage for the benefit of a vague "greater good" that your payments cannot possibly or realistically impact.

It's a time for bold, yet thoughtful action. And action that includes good of others. Most of my readers already know that Paramhansa Yogananda made predictions of this decades ago and that Swami Kriyananda, founder of Ananda and direct disciple of Yogananda, has repeated warnings about this global economic tsunami for decades as well. I don't repeat those statements now because we no longer need seers to predict what is upon us already for those with "eyes to see."


Nayaswami Hriman

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Am I Breathing Yet?

Isn’t it rather insulting to pay to attend a class that teaches you how to breathe? Haven’t you been doing that rather steadily now for a few years?

But that’s the problem: we fall asleep. Breathing is natural and so integral to our life that we no longer notice it. It’s just like our habits in food and relationships: our problems arise when we “fall asleep” and live on auto-pilot. We get overweight or unhealthy because we are not paying attention. We may find ourselves in divorce proceedings because we didn’t pay attention.
The act of breathing signifies we are still alive! It is the beginning (and its cessation, the end) of life in a human body. Yogis put it this way: breath is that which connects our mind to our body. Yogis view “mind” in a much broader way than western culture and language. Mind is, in yoga, synonymous with consciousness and individuality (at least as far as “we” are concerned).

To be more clear, mind is divided into four parts: buddhi, mon, chitta, and ahamkara. Buddhi is described in various ways to include intellect, perception, and intuition. These three are different but share in common the aspect of consciousness that we call “knowing,” or gnosis. We can see a horse and “know” that it is a horse. We can experience the astral light in meditation in the forehead and “know” that it is not our own imagination. We can “know” that a friend is in trouble before we get the phone call.
Mon is that aspect of consciousness that depends upon and works in tandem with the senses: receiving sense stimuli and “re-constructing” those signals in the “mind” in some orderly way. It is pre-cognitive in the sense of one looking out the window and seeing objects in the field of vision prior to labeling those objects. For example: smelling an odor before identifying it. This is a lower function of mind but one necessary to survival in a physical body. It is also dependent upon the healthy functioning of sense organs.

Chitta is our feeling nature. This can range from our emotions and emotional reactions to either sense stimuli or our own thoughts and perceptions, all the way to a deeper level of feeling that is unconditioned by either but at least as powerful (if not more).
Ahamakara is consciousness identified with oneself: one’s body and personality. This is our sense of individuality and separateness from all other objects in our field of vision and perception. This is commonly labeled our ego.

Yogis teach that there is a deep and abiding connection between our breath and our consciousness. Try noticing that moment when you “fall” asleep. It’s while nigh to impossible, but do-able. When we are busy with rapid fire thoughts or actions, we virtually cannot notice our breath (unless we really practice — enhanced by long and deep meditation).
Your awareness therefore of your breath under all conditions (from sleep, to action, to meditation, during emotions and any intense state of being or activity) will bring to you awareness of your own state of mind. (I like to joke that we begin meditation with being mind-full, but seek to go beyond so that we are mind-less: in a state of non-verbal, intense inner awareness)

If while sitting still with eyes closed you observe the flow of breath within you, especially for an extended period of time (no less than ten minutes) with continuous and unbroken awareness, you will find your powers of observation, concentration, and baseline level of deep and enjoyable feeling greatly enhanced.
Why don’t I leave at that, for now?

Breath in joy, exhale peace!