Saturday, August 13, 2011

Does Satan Exist? (Or, more depressing news?)

Last Sunday at the Ananda Meditation Temple, in Bothell, WA our subject was a peek at the dark side and one of humanity’s core ethical and existential issues: Does evil exist? What is the cause of suffering? Is there a cure for suffering? If there is evil, did God create evil? Is God evil therefore? Does Satan exist?

I’ve always had an interest in such musings. My mother used to tell me that as I child I pestered her with “the big questions of life.” But my response to that was that it was she who prodded me day in and day out, constantly urging me by shouting: KNOW KNOW KNOW. (Maybe I misunderstood the NO for KNOW - :)).
As you have perhaps heard it said here, the Indian scriptures proclaim that GOD CANNOT BE PROVED. Ishwar Ashiddha

I suppose therefore it must also be admitted that neither can evil be “proved,” only experienced and judged as such. Paramhansa Yogananda defined evil as that which obscures truth, or prevents us from knowing the divinity behind all forms of creation.
Relative to the bliss state of cosmic consciousness (out of which the creation has been manifested) we could say that any lesser state or any desire for a lesser state of consciousness or object of creation would take us away from our bliss nature.

There cannot be the great drama of creation, the great symphony of life if all life were harmonized with bliss alone. It takes the multifarious forms of creation each seeking their own existence and separate welfare to enact this drama. It is the duty and opportunity of awakened beings to pierce the veil of maya to see through the drama to the dramatist Himself behind it all but, as we are not its creator, it is not our duty, task, or ability to change the nature of creation itself. To exist it must perforce carry on the drama of dark and light.
We are all in a matrix, a spider web of false appearances. The game goes on only if we play it on its relative terms of survival, competition, conquest, pleasure, pain, health, disease, life and death. Once we begin to view it transcendently and to view these opposites as only a ceaseless flux can we begin the journey towards the goal of pure consciousness which is untainted by opposites and where we find our original state, our home in God, in Bliss.

Does this mean however that evil, being opposite of good, is, well, just as good? Well, of course not! On the scale of “distance” from bliss, evil (selfishness, e.g.) blinds us far more completely to the divine within than good. But good alone is not enough though it is better. Good remains only an opposite destined to reverse itself until we see it and use it as a stepping stone off the wheel of samsara, rebirth, and the opposites of life and death.
Though we exhibit self-awareness we cannot claim to have created it, no more than we can claim to have given birth to ourselves, or to the world around us. We come from and are part of something much greater. This, then, is as true for good and evil as it is for consciousness and life.

“Thoughts are universally, not individually, rooted” Paramhansa Yogananda wrote in his famous autobiography. What this means to us is two-fold: the power which darkens our life towards error, ignorance and suffering is greater than us, but the power which brings light is also greater than we. In each case, as we are not the origin of dark or light, we can consciously call upon the power of Light to uplift us from the darkness. Not passively, of course, for the Light vibrates on a higher level of energy, intelligence and bliss than we do on a merely conscious egoic level. We must attune ourselves to its level by thought, word, and deed.

The vast nature of that Light is such that we, confined as it were to the prison of ego and body, cannot comprehend that Light without a medium. It is its own language and we need an interpreter, a teacher, to instruct us in its syntax (that's a pun, actually). Just as a radio or cell phone is needed to capture the spoken words of one far away but attempting to speak to us, so too it is the guru who acts as a light-house that refracts, aims, and concentrates the universal but subtle and difficult-to-perceive beam of cosmic Light into human form that we can see, feel, and be transformed by it back into it!

Is God responsible for ignorance, suffering and evil? He created this world, didn’t He? God becomes this world as the playwright writes a play but in so writing becomes not villainous for making the villain evil. Without the villain the play would not play and no one would pay to see it.

Therefore His actors, who are manifestations of His intelligence and desire to create that His joy might be experienced in the play, are similarly endowed but by necessity separated by their forms. Our created separateness is a necessity for the drama but imposes upon us the urge to survive, to compete, to win, and to seek the natural objects of sensory fulfillments and ego affirmation. By degrees, therefore the actors of the play begin changing the script. We begin to be typecast as second rate actors who have forgetten that it's just a play. We have forgotten our lines in the script.

We come now to our red, horned, cloven-hoofed friend, Satan. As we are beings clothed in human form, endowed with intelligence and intention, and the power to act, so too does the divine creating Light manifest higher (astral and causal) beings with roles to act in the grand drama of creation. As we fall into ignorance by the hypnosis of the creation's seeming reality, so too some of these Beings fall into ignorance drunk with their own power and embolden by their duties to create and oversee.

As this world is itself a manifestation of consciousness, so too the forces that emerge to create and diversify and to sustain the creation are conscious. Whether seen as Beings or as Forces it matters not. There is a satanic force that impels and invites us into ego affirmation, into the delusion of sense satisfaction, security through material weath, and pride, just as there is an angelic force that invites us into the inner silence to commune with Her as Peace, Joy, and who invites us, as prodigal sons, to return to our Father's kingdom as Sons of God.

An example of such forces of darkness and suffering can be seen in a drama that is unfolding right now on our planet. Today our western world is on the brink of the greatest depression and economic collapse in recorded history. Will it happen? How can it not happen except by pretending it isn’t happening? Paramhansa Yogananda certainly is among the many who have predicted it. In his case, he did so over sixty years ago. But of course so have other seers of various persuasions seen through the fragile success of capitalism. Whether spiritually seeing the delusion of materialism fanned by capitalism or socially seeing the potential for the enrichment of a few at the expense of the many, or economically seeing the endless expansion of capital and wealth and consumption as the false foundation for its success, the end result is the same: collapse.

Not that the basic tenets of capitalism are somehow evil, at least not so far as giving individuals the freedom to earn a living. Rather the pursuit of wealth for its own sake and money (a non-productive, imaginary object) as the measure of that wealth: these are the false gods before us who are soon to betray our trust in them.

Life must be productive, harmonious and sustainable of life, health, and harmony. The western form of consumption and lifestyle is simply based on the untruth of himsa, injury to life. It cannot therefore last. Here we see evil pretending to be good: the good life (for some at the expense of others, and other life forms). Generation after generation this good life has lulled us, its beneficiaries, into increasing dis-ease with ourselves, one another, and the planet on which we live.

I doubt anyone can even explain or understand what this item called a “dollar” actually is, or represents, or is based on. It’s a fiction, a lie agreed upon. We must consume faster than we save in order to increase our wealth and pleasure. The interest on the debt we incur to do this rises exponentially like a tsunami which races across the trackless ocean and then suddenly rises to crash to shore leaving death and destruction in its wake.

The solution is to reject fear and despair and inaction and to embrace the Light of God's love within and with our fellow men and planet. We are invited to change our lifestyle to one of harmony and sustainability with our own souls, our bodies, and with the divine life which is this creation.



Imminent Collapse of the U.S. Dollar?

As I am preparing for a talk tomorrow at the Ananda Sunday Service (in Bothell, WA, USA) on the subject of the existence of evil, my friend and teacher, and founder of Ananda, Swami Kriyananda (direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda) forwarded a YouTube video on the subject of the dollar's imminent collapse. It's about 10 minutes long and if you're interested here's the link:

To students and members of Ananda worldwide this is hardly news. You know already that Swami Kriyananda has repeated this prediction which Paramhansa Yogananda gave repeatedly in the last years before his death in 1952. But we hardly need a yoga-master to tell us that the worldwide economy (dollar denominated) is in trouble and that the possibility of the collapse of the dollar isn't at least a threat!

But what the heck can you or I do about this? How can we be prepared for the possibility, whether extreme (as portrayed in the YouTube video), whether partial, short-term or permanent? From years of living with this prediction and with the steps some members of the various Ananda Communities worldwide have done, here are some thoughts (taken to a wide range of extremes or just a few steps):

  1. Purchase a supply of food, but more than just 2 to 3 days of a power outage. Perhaps 6 months supply of canned or freeze dried food. I'm no expert but there's lots of information on the internet and places where this can be purchased. Don't forget water, too!
  2. Supplies like prescriptions, flashlights, batteries, toilet paper and all the bare necessities.
  3. Camping supplies and outdoor clothing: tent, blankets, sleeping bags, etc.
  4. Bicycle?
  5. Start a garden for food or at least have seeds and don't forget sprouting!
  6. If you can, buy land outside a city where food can be grown and shelter can be taken.
  7. Convert savings, at least partially, to exchangeable commodities. Obvious ones are gold and silver but there are many other bartable goods as well.
  8. Get out of debt: this is trickier because it's possible you can later pay off dollar-denominated debt with worthless inflated dollars later, but this is hard to predict. If you have excess cash that you cannot otherwise put into commodities including decent land then maybe this is good especially if it's your home.
  9. Get to know your neighbors or, if family, start planning with others who share your concerns.
  10. Get out of the inner or large cities if you can. Riots and looting will start almost immediately in the worst case scenarios and food will disappear immediately. Water supplies may be shut off if and assuming most government services shut down due to lack of funds and payroll. (Virtually every government entity in America is technically already insolvent or will easily be.)
  11. Buy land in the country with like minded people. Start a community with friends and family.
  12. Learn to meditate. Pray daily. Join in with others of prayerful inclination to reinforce each other's faith. Read spiritually minded books.
  13. Accumulate supplies not just for yourself but to help others, as you are able.
  14. Curtail your exposure to entertainment and news that is filled with gratuitious violence or is fear-inducing. It's easy to stay abreast of important news through other means that are less impactful on your subconscious.
  15. Don't panic and don't frighten others. Be calm and sensible. You'll sleep better at night helping yourself, your family, and being prepared to help others as well.
Well I'm sure I could go on but you get the general idea.

Oh, yes, evil DOES exist. Combat it with nobility of thoughts and actions and with the grace of God.