Monday, December 31, 2012

Cosmic Drama: the Final Chapter: My Redeemer Liveth!

The Cosmic Drama - Part Five (of Five)
"My Redeemer Liveth"

This is part one of a series of articles. It has its origins in a prior blog article entitled, "Who is Jesus Christ?" You may wish to read that first, though not absolutely necessary. This series attempts to describe the Trinity, or, how God can be omniscient, omnipresent, infinite, and immanent in creation at the same time. And, what significance this has for the reality we face as individuals. As the prior article on Jesus Christ noted, "Who Jesus is says a great deal about who we are." So, too, who God is addresses who we are.

Returning full circle now to the life of Jesus Christ, we see how “TAT” (the second of the Trinity: the “Son”) appears on earth in human form to awaken the “TAT” within those who are ready! Such awakened ones also sow seeds of awakening in many souls, perhaps for a future lifetime. Those many such “descents” (avatars) have a public mission of uplifting consciousness in a race, nation or civilization and a personal mission to individual disciples more spiritually advanced.

Because the “Son” (the memory of our divinity) has fallen asleep through many lives, it takes another Son to awaken that memory. A further “proof” of divinity in human form is the simple fact that without the possibility of becoming “One with the Father” in human form, there would be no evidence of our divinity (in human form). Giving a coin to a street person may be a nice thing to do but it doesn’t make you a saint and it doesn’t show the power of God over all creation, which, as his “sons,” is our potential! It is natural, therefore, that there have been demonstrations down through the ages of the power to even raise the dead. While this is not flaunted to the masses, it has been witnessed by individual disciples who were willing to give their lives for and to dedicate their lives to their testimony.

The fully-awakened “son of God” is not a God-made puppet, but a soul, like you and I, who has achieved that final Self-realization and returns in human form to enlighten his (her) fellows. While this is said to have taken place in a past life, the point remains that the incarnation of divinity in human form is the natural fulfillment (indeed the divine purpose) of the Christ Intelligence (TAT) in nature and in all creation taken to its penultimate manifestation. Indeed it is said that the drama of creation is that souls make the free choice to reunite with our Creator and become fully-realized “sons of God” as Jesus, and other world saviors in history, have done.

As Krishna teaches in the Bhagavad Gita (India’s revered scripture), this descent of divinity into human form (the “avatara”) takes place in every age and nation as divinely ordained by the call of human hearts. “God so loved the world that He sent his only-begotten Son.” The redemptive power of Jesus’ life and spirit lies in both the message and uplifting spiritual power of Self-realization which has its source and its manifestation in attunement with the will of the Father. The New Testament reveals that Jesus knew of his impending crucifixion and even briefly prayed that it pass, but that he accepted the will of his father. Thus must we all do in placing the ego (and body) on the cross that our soul might be resurrected in the Christ Consciousness of our soul’s eternal and immortal reality.

This is the means by which we, too, can ascend. “No man hath ascended to heaven, but he that hath descended.” The meaning of this odd sentence is simply that we are all children of God and have come from God. To God we must return, like the prodigal son, that we might be free. Jesus was not boasting.
But the deeper understanding of this precept is that the indwelling and universal Christ consciousness (son of God) is that which leads us upward or home to God. But first the child must be born in the manger of our humble heart, in the darkness of material delusion. Jesus, and all other great saviors of humankind, come into each culture and age to wake us up and remind us of our immortality and identity as souls (not mere bodies and personalities). “We are of old!”

But what is awakened is within us. Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is with you.” Thus Jesus was the personification (human incarnation) of the Christ which resides, latently at least, in every atom of creation. Christ-in-human-form comes to awaken the Christ within. Whether incarnate in human form or at the still heart of every atom, this, and this alone, is the “only begotten son of God” in creation.

We, too, are potential Christs. When we have “ears to hear” and “eyes to see” this reality, then it is the Holy Spirit (“I will send to you the Holy Spirit, who will bring to your remembrance all these things.”) that leads us back to perfection, back to our home in God-consciousness. God is not in some faraway place but is a state of consciousness, bereft of name and form, and “behind” every atom of creation. This is why meditation is so important and effective as a means of perceiving the God presence within and in all creation.

When the infant child of divine memory is awakened, it is the Mother that nurtures the child to adulthood. The living Christ, or guru, comes only for a short time and fulfills his role by re-lighting the spark of that divine memory in in our consciousness. The Holy Spirit, or Virgin Mother, is that pure vibration (or feeling) of God to which we then attune ourselves that we might grow in Self-realization.

This vibration is the conscious and divine motor or engine of creation. The Bible refers many times to the “sound of many waters,” “thundering’s,” and “lightning.” We chant “Amen” (or “Aum”) with our prayers as a deeper-than-conscious recognition that the “word” of God is neither in English, nor Sanskrit, nor Latin, nor Hebrew, but is an actual sound heard deep in the inner silence. It “knoweth all things” because all things have been created by it (see the first sentences of the gospel of John). We mimic this holy sound with prayers, hymns and chants and various incantations and rituals. The sacredness one might feel at Mass, at prayer, upon a holy mountain, in nature and gazing upon a field is the living, vibratory presence of God AS creation: the Holy “ghost” unseen but felt.
It could be said that the “first coming” of Christ (the TAT, or “son” of God) is when God gives birth to the cosmos. The “second coming” would be the appearance of TAT (the Christ consciousness) in human form (as the guru). The “third coming” would be its awakening in the individual soul. The “fourth” would be the individual soul’s final redemption, or Self-realization: Oneness with the Father.

When Paramhansa Yogananda titled his life’s work, “The Second Coming of Christ,” he was using the phrase from the New Testament. It is a play on words in the sense that he, too, is an avatar, but that what he brought, through meditation (especially kriya yoga), was the “keys to the kingdom” that allows awakened souls to commune with the Holy Spirit (as Aum). Patanjali, author of the famous Yoga Sutras, and other great rishis, have declared that communing with God as Vibration, as Aum, is man’s highest duty for the entire purpose of creation is, as the Baltimore Catholic catechism declares, to “know, love, and serve God.” And, by deeper understanding of this phrase, to “become One with Father.”

Let us celebrate the coming of Christ as the awakening of this realization (of God’s presence) in our own hearts. And let us then share that presence by sharing the gifts of creation, and the greatest gift of all – God’s love – with all whom we meet.

Blessings to you this Christ-mas, and may the New Year bring us ever closer to Self-realization!

Nayaswami Hriman

The above is based upon and inspired by the teachings of the modern Yogi-Christ, Paramhansa Yogananda and the writings of Swami Kriyananda, a direct disciple and founder of the worldwide work of the Ananda communities. For additional reading, see “Revelations of Christ,” by Swami Kriyananda, available from Crystal Clarity Publishers, Nevada City, or the East West Bookshop nearest you.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Cosmic Drama Continues: part 4 of 5: In Walks the Devil!

The Cosmic Drama
Part Four (of Five) - In Walks the Devil!

This is part one of a series of articles. It has its origins in a prior blog article entitled, "Who is Jesus Christ?" You may wish to read that first, though not absolutely necessary. This series attempts to describe the Trinity, or, how God can be omniscient, omnipresent, infinite, and immanent in creation at the same time. And, what significance this has for the reality we face as individuals. As the prior article on Jesus Christ noted, "Who Jesus is says a great deal about who we are." So, too, who God is addresses who we are.

When God “sent out” His power through vibration (“Aum”) and seeded it with His reflected Intelligence, the creation (especially the powers and intelligences behind matter) are endowed with procreative power, desire, intelligence, and individuality. Just as the son, who may resemble his father in many ways, is given free will to make his own choices in life, so too, the creation and the souls in creation have been given, and have, made choices. As vibration acquires form, individuality and intelligence it acquires a relative degree of independence. Not absolute, but relative. This power, force and intelligence assumes unto itself a self-perpetuating momentum, not unlike the famous computer HAL in the movie: 2001: A Space Odyssey. The outflowing power of God becomes, by degrees, not only independent but, as it begins to assert its self-identity, either rebelliously or ignorantly, it become satanic. The term “satanic” implies a conscious intention to remain apart and independent. It implies a purposeful rebellion against harmony and attunement with the Creator. It is not sharp line in the sand, but a gradual continuum from divine attunement to forgetfulness to restlessness to ignorance to harm and to conscious evil.

Endowed with intelligence and empowered to go out and multiply and then acquiring the form and feeling of separateness (from God), this outgoing power takes onto itself the responsibility and desire to create, multiply, dominant and remain its own “god.” (Think of the myth of Lucifer or Adam and Eve wanting to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.) Thus does the outflowing force begin gradually to make its own way. The further from God its consciousness inclines, the more the good intention becomes gradually an evil one, usurping God’s power and worshipping itself as godlike. (Thus was Jesus tempted by Satan to have dominion over all the earth if he would but worship Satan as the creation itself.) Thus humans set up false gods, worshipping money, the pleasures of the senses, power over others, addictive substances, and so on. Satan, in the form of the creation, invites us to worship him as the summum bonum of existence. In the end he takes our souls, metaphorically speaking (only), in the sense that we lose (temporarily) our soul joy and innocence in God’s bliss. Death, old-age, disease, disappointment—at last, he reneges on his promise leaving us with neither God’s peace nor our moth-eaten treasures on earth.

There is another aspect to this loss of innocence. As Spirit is cloaked in form, individuality, and separateness, it finds itself competing for survival in a world of the senses. Forced to feed, clothe and shelter itself, it finds that the compelling necessities of its outer form cause it to look outward through the senses. The outer world gradually becomes its reality and lost is the divine memory of its own omniscience and immortality. It will take untold incarnations for this lost soul to (ascend first to the human level, and then untold more incarnations to) rebel against the “anguishing monotony” of continued rounds of rebirth, struggle, pleasure, pain, illness and death after having exhausted every avenue of sensory and ego-affirming, but ultimately disappointing, fulfillment.

Thus, the macro-characters in the cosmic drama are God (as the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost) and the satanic force which opposes harmony with and union with God. Paramhansa Yogananda put it this way: the satanic force has sowed the creation with patterns of imperfection (pain, disease, & physical death) so that our memory of divine perfection will impel beings to want to return to the creation to make it perfect. But alas, the cosmic drama requires the villain that we might love the hero. The villain must be punished and the hero is applauded. As we act more like the hero we come closer to God. In this way, even the satanic force of maya (delusion and ignorance) act to sow the seeds of our longing for perfection. This perfection, this bliss, this union is found only within our souls—in God alone. We have an eternity of free choices to discover and seek this re-union, just as the prodigal son in Jesus’ story, hungry and famished, decides to begin the journey home to his Father. There he is welcomed and embraced (not punished).

Whether we view the betrayal of God’s divine purpose as the result of the “first man and woman” (Adam and Eve) or as a choice we all make, especially beginning with puberty, is perhaps a matter of taste. The reality is that, from the human point of view, evil exists, ignorance exists, wrong choices and bad things happen and we need to make things better. Blaming God has its place, but only to a point. Doing so doesn’t change the bad things. We have to take action and we have to take at least some responsibility for ourselves and our neighbor. Without this, life would be not worth living. Besides, in truth and at the present moment, most people wouldn’t have it any other way and are not the slightest bit interested in knowing, loving, serving and uniting in love with God.

The "devil made me do it",

Nayaswami Hriman

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


The Cosmic Drama
Part Three (of Five)
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost - AUM, TAT, SAT

This is part one of a series of articles. It has its origins in a prior blog article entitled, "Who is Jesus Christ?" You may wish to read that first, though not absolutely necessary. This series attempts to describe the Trinity, or, how God can be omniscient, omnipresent, infinite, and immanent in creation at the same time. And, what significance this has for the reality we face as individuals. As the prior article on Jesus Christ noted, "Who Jesus is says a great deal about who we are." So, too, who God is addresses who we are.

In India, that aspect of God that is the Creator, separate and untouched by “His” creation is called “SAT,” and can be called “the Father.” The creation itself as a creative act of SAT and a manifestation of the Creator in the act of “becoming,” is “AUM.” The creation comes into being through an illusion caused by movement (“duality”) in opposite directions from a point of rest at the center. A whirling fan or the hubcaps of a wheel can create the appearance of solidity owing to their motion. Basic subatomic particles, atoms and molecules combine in an infinite variety of ways to give the appearance of separate objects. This “God AS the underlying reality of creation” is called “AUM” in India and, in Christianity, is given the term the “Holy Spirit.” It is “ghost-like” (Holy Ghost) because invisible; its presence is “felt” as a breeze, a whispered sound, or an ethereal rumble of thunder or a crashing sea.  Its visible appearance is as the inner light of meditation.

In Christianity, it is personified as the Virgin Mother of Christ: virgin because God AS creation is unpolluted or untouched by creation’s subsequent and infinite variations. In India, Divine Mother (personified in a variety of goddesses) is the personification of the AUM vibration.

This primordial and essential level of creation is characterized by sound and light, especially sound. Hence we find in the great faith traditions the universal intonation of a core and divinely conscious prayer-word such as “Aum,” “Amen,” “Amin,” and “Ahunavar.” This utterance attempts to articulate the metaphysical reality called “the Word.” “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1).” A word is a sound uttered based on thought and consciousness. The Aum vibration is the voice of God at the heart of all creation. It creates, sustains, and withdraws from sight all things. As the living presence of God in creation, it is the “Comforter” and brings to our “remembrance” all things because all things are made by it. In hearing it, we also enter into the presence of God’s presence and “remember” that presence. In that presence wisdom comes to us. Listening to the inner sound (of AUM) brings to devotees not just comfort but protection and inner guidance.

Just as the artist or scientist or inventor has a seed idea that triggers further details and enthusiasm and finally manifests in the intended object, so creation is said to contain three distinct levels: thought (ideation), energy (astral), and the physical cosmos. The investigations by science into the underlying chemical, atomic, electrical and electro-magnetic properties of matter are suggestive of the energy or astral world that underlies the superficial appearance of matter on the gross level of the senses.

But if the universe were only God’s manifestation it would be a sham. For God to set in motion His creation and yet remain apart from it, He had to impregnate the creation (Divine Mother, his consort, the Virgin and the Aum vibration) with His seed, which is to say, with his intention, His “looks,” and, you might say, His DNA. Genesis declares that we are made in His image and thus we “resemble” our Creator, not in physical appearance but in our true essence. (The five points of the body—two feet, two arms and head—resemble the five points of a star commonly seen in meditation.)

God thus had to bestow upon His creation, His only begotten Son, His own intelligence and intention, the seed of His own perfection in Bliss. In order to sustain and perpetuate His creation, he had to endow the perpetual motion of the illusion of creation with intention and intelligence. His seed of intention and intelligence resides at the center of each atom and each object and endows all things with the power and the desire to procreate. As God is Bliss itself (meaning the summum bonum of existence), and as it is the nature of Bliss to express itself and share, so too God’s creation and creatures find joy in the act of procreating (on all levels of intelligence and intention) and, at the same time, as the inner essence of Being. God is thus Being and Becoming.

This spark of divinity and intelligence is always appropriate to the need and context. Thus it is that trees make more trees and only trees, not frogs. Thus it is objects seek to survive and to perpetuate their existence. This divine spark of intelligence and joy is itself the aspect of God that is immanent in creation. This is the true and “only begotten son of God.” The intelligence inherent in creation is God’s “son,” for it resembles him in these respects. “God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son” that the son might reveal the Father. This intelligence seeks to reveal the Father. All creation is endowed, to some measure, with the bliss of God and the desire, born of the nature of bliss itself, to expand and multiply.
In India the term of this is TAT, or the Christ Intelligence in creation: the reflection in creation of the Infinite Spirit beyond creation. In matter and in lower life forms it can only express itself instinctually. But when it reaches the human form, the soul has the potential to become “one with the Father.” In Christianity it is given the term “Holy Ghost:” the silent, invisible ghost or spirit which gives “life” to all things.

Joy and blessings,

Nayaswami Hriman

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Cosmic Drama Continues: Part 2 (of 5): The Master Playwright!

The Cosmic Drama
Part Two (of Five)
God: the Master Playwright

This is part one of a series of articles. It has its origins in a prior blog article entitled, "Who is Jesus Christ?" You may wish to read that first, though not absolutely necessary. This series attempts to describe the Trinity, or, how God can be omniscient, omnipresent, infinite, and immanent in creation at the same time. And, what significance this has for the reality we face as individuals. As the prior article on Jesus Christ noted, "Who Jesus is says a great deal about who we are." So, too, who God is addresses who we are.

As Shakespeare the playwright who writes the script for the villain isn’t therefore himself an evil person, so too the cosmic playwright knows that the play, in order to be performed and enjoyed, must have both protagonist and antagonist. If the villain plays his role well on the stage he will be convincing and all the audience will hiss and boo at him. The hero, too, played correctly and well, will invite the sympathy and support of the audience. Thus we are drawn to the virtues of the hero and away from the evil of the villain.

As the players aren’t really killed in the battles that take place on stage,  so too are we, the players in this divine drama of life, not really killed when we shed our bodies in “death.” Like waves rising from the surface of the sea, the elements and individuals in the drama of creation appear on the lake of the cosmic mind, appearing to be separate, but then, after their time is finished, falling back into the bosom of the sea. (Reincarnation is suggested in the scientific principle that matter cannot be destroyed; it only changes form. Its corollary, the law of karma, also spawns a scientific principle: for every action, there is an equal or opposite reaction.)

Thus the playwright writes a script but it takes the creativity and talent of the actors to bring it to life, to make it credible, and to engage the audience emotionally and convincingly. Thus the playwright, the actors (and even the supportive stage crew from behind the curtain, as it were) and even the audience all have roles to play. No one stands completely apart from the others but the playwright gives birth to the drama and invites others to “play,” which they must do voluntarily: some with excellence, and others poorly following the script.

The essential reality of the drama and of the persona of the actors springs from the mind of the playwright. This “dream” magnetically draws to itself the necessary participants, both actors and audience. Shakespeare, already in his time well known, a famous and successful playwright, no doubt attracted both actors and audience, springing, as it were, from the unseen realm of his mind.

But this metaphor stops short of giving satisfaction because all participants are recognizably separate entities. To deny this is to give up the game for naught, saying that “nothing is real” and we might as well go home and go to bed or make merry. How can we be separate and at the same time One? How can we be held accountable for our actions when we are but creations of the dream-nature of God? This is the essential “mystery” of creation and the source of the teaching of the triune nature of God.

Let us return to the metaphor of the artist, craftsman or inventor. The “signature” of great artists is often recognizable in the style of their work even if the subject matter may vary widely. This is as true for Monet as for a cabinet maker, at least potentially. Thus every invention or work of art might be said to reflect some aspect of its maker, even while, at the same time, hiding much, indeed most, of the maker’s persona. As God “becomes” the creation, the creation hints at the existence of its creator even while it hides Him.

While the wood a carpenter buys to make a table is inert, all God has to work with is His own consciousness! Thus, no matter what He makes, He makes it with His own essence and cannot wholly be other nor yet wholly be hidden. Whereas a saint reveals more of the divine Presence than a criminal, it is only a matter of degree, not essentially a different species or kind.

Like hiring actors to play the roles in the script, God cannot help but endow his creation with His own intelligence and intention. As He has created, therefore, so we, his children, and all of creation, is endowed with both the intelligence to play the drama and the desire to do so. As the son of a father may look like the father and may have many of his parent’s attributes in appearance and personality, and yet, at the same time, walk his own path of life, so too might the creation reflect the Creator without either limiting the Creator or limiting the creation!

Parents do their best to raise their children with good habits but at some point the child becomes an adult and must choose to put into practice, or to reject, what he has been taught. But he can never alter his DNA, his essential bloodline. If he errs, he can still repent and come back to the truths taught to him by his parents.

The difference between the literal application of this metaphor and God and each soul is that our souls are forever and from eternity individuated expressions of the Cosmic Light of God. We might postpone this awakening or recognition for untold lifetimes but we can never kill it or separate ourselves from it. For it is gives us life, for it is life itself. God is like the hidden germ or life spring of intelligence and life force that animates us. His very intelligence, clothed with a specific outer form, takes on its own life and identity, losing touch (though never entirely) with its divine essence as it identifies with its outer form and as it interacts with other forms similarly clothed and cloaked, some benign, others threatening.

A B-grade actor becomes typecast because he and his audience begin to identify the actor himself with the role he plays. He ends up having to play the same basic roles again and again until, like the lesson of reincarnation itself, he “gets it” (by severing his true self from his repeated roles). A great actress, by contrast, plays parts tragic and comic, heroine and villainess, with equal gusto and talent, delighting and entertaining her audiences like a great artist but never becoming identified with any of the specific roles.

Let us now, turn, in the next article, to analyzing the triune nature of God!

May the Light of the Universal Christ Consciousness be born in you this and every day, a Christmas!

Nayaswami Hriman

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Cosmic Drama: Part One (of Five) Jesus Christ – an oriental who changed the West

This is part one of a series of articles. It has its origins in a prior blog article entitled, "Who is Jesus Christ?" You may wish to read that first, though not absolutely necessary. This series attempts to describe the Trinity, or, how God can be omniscient, omnipresent, infinite, and immanent in creation at the same time. And, what significance this has for the reality we face as individuals. As the prior article on Jesus Christ noted, "Who Jesus is says a great deal about who we are." So, too, who God is addresses who we are.

The teachings of Jesus were to force a reevaluation of the fundamental teachings of Judaism. St. Paul is generally credited with the intellectual horsepower that set the stage for these changes. What was to become the teaching of the Trinity – the triune nature of God – arose in Christianity primarily to help bring a broader understanding of the Jewish teaching of the oneness of God. In the Judaism there is only one God but the separation of God from man is absolute. His messengers might be angels or prophets but God’s appearance on earth was rare and never in human form. God “appeared” to Moses as a burning bush that did not consume the bush and out of which came a voice. In some form that is unknown, God gave to Moses upon Mt. Sinai the stone tablets upon which were written the Ten Commandments. But always God was “other” and all but inaccessible.

Jesus’ appearance on earth and his declaration that he was the “son of God” was naturally a shocking and blasphemous statement to the orthodox point of view. Moreover, as history and scholarship has repeatedly attested (and as the New Testament implies), the messiah was expected to be bring the Jews political freedom (from which would come the religious renaissance) in this world, a repetition of the role not unlike that of Moses who led the Israelites from bondage in Egypt to freedom in their new land and into a new covenant with God.

The assumption that God is wholly “other” and separate from creation is an easy and understandable one, for God’s presence in creation is well hidden, to say the least. The separateness of people, one from the other, plants and animals, night and day, male and female seems so obvious that why, too, wouldn’t God Himself be “other?” In Genesis, for example, we read that God simply says, effectively, “make it so” and it was. No one seems to have had much curiosity about exactly how He did it. A carpenter who makes a chair remains separate and apart from the chair. Isn’t that obvious? Why question it?

Obvious? Or, maybe not so obvious? Unlike the carpenter, God had place to go, no trees or hardware stores, from which to gather the materials of creation. Only now, in our age, with quantum physicists exploring the very nature of the creation of matter on its most element levels has the question (and the potential answer) been raised anew and piqued the interest of intelligent and thoughtful men and women everywhere. It is perhaps our newly acquired scientific consciousness that has provoked deeper inquiries into God’s methodology. Thus far, however, scientists seem to be stumped. They are standing before an abyss of emptiness devoid of discernible matter but latent with tremendous energy, out of which pops minute particles at seemingly random intervals only to vanish as quickly as they came. Like a scene out of the Trilogy, they stand as if before a door in a mountain unable to decipher the code that unlocks that door and leads to the inner sanctum of creation’s deepest mysteries.

A table and chairs may not reveal much about its maker but their very existence reveals the fact of a maker. A work of art, a new invention, a child conceived, and a new computer chip all appear from seemingly nowhere (the human mind and heart) but with great potential consequences, just as quarks and vibrating strings exist at the very edge of pure energy and no-thing-ness, out of which all things have come. While scientists tell us that energy is the underlying substrata of all matter, they have not nor probably ever will, discover the source and motive that underlies energy itself.

By contrast, rishis and masters, down through the ages, have suffered from no such limitation, for they have not merely tried to find the source of the atom but have become the atom using a kind of reverse engineering from the process by which God created the atom to begin with. The masters achieved Self-realization and oneness with the overarching Consciousness out of which all things in creation are born, live, and to which they are withdrawn. The teachings of metaphysicians aver that the creation is a manifestation of God’s consciousness “becoming” His creation. When the Jews intone daily their great mantra (“Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is ONE!”) little do they know that the concept “God is One” means God is one with the entire cosmos as well and at the same time Being other, separate and apart from it. Oneness surely includes infinity and infinity is presumably inclusive of everything and therefore big enough to be “both-and” so that God can be both separate from creation and at the same time the very essence and sustainer of creation itself. But how? This question we will pursue in the series of four more articles to come. But it provokes more questions that need addressing, also, such as:

If God became the creation, does this mean we are but puppets and our so-called “free-will” is an illusion? What, if any, is our responsibility for our actions? From whence comes suffering and evil? Is God good, evil, indifferent or something else? Stay tuned…….for the next four articles.

Aum, shanti, amen,
Nayaswami Hriman

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Price of Greatness!

When you examine the lives of many whom the world upholds as noble and history-making, you soon find that they endured, indeed sought and accepted, their own need to remain apart from "the maddening crowd" of popular opinion. Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed -- we think of the mountain top, the cave, the lone Bodhi tree! Gandhi, Martin Luther King -- all great men and women kept their distance, as it were.

Paramhansa Yogananda, famous for his life story, Autobiography of a Yogi, put it directly in saying that "Seclusion is the price of greatness." For those who are sincere in spiritual seeking, the tradition well established is to go on retreat at least once a year or a pilgrimage perhaps once in a lifetime (Jerusalem, Varanasi, Lourdes, etc.) Couples, too, should find time apart, in reflection and silence.

Writers do it; scientists do it; politicians do it. Why don't you?

When I managed the Expanding Light Retreat in northern California I recall meeting a retreatant who said that she'd never been apart from family all her life: from childhood right into marriage and children. She'd never been alone! Imagine! Well, don't.....because that's true for most everyone on this planet.

If you want to be good at what you do; if you want to be the best you can be; if you want to make contact with your, own higher Self; if you want to "find God;" if you are seeking soul freedom; all of these......Krishna  says in the Bhagavad Gita: "Get away from my ocean of suffering!" To have perspective of any sort, you need distance.

I just returned from my annual week of personal retreat which we call seclusion. It is a time alone: in prayer, meditation and mindfulness. There are periods of spiritual reading and journaling. During times of necessary tasks, such as meal preparation, one strives to remain in silence and in mindfulness of the eternal Present. Talk nor see anyone, if at all possible. Write notes, if you must.

I have been doing this for perhaps twenty five years: once a year for a week! It's not enough, really, but it's good enough. It's "hard work" but "good work!" I can't say it's life changing but it is a tune-up and a wake-up time to what's important.

I am 62 years old and came of age in the heady days of Haight Asbury, Monterey Pop Festival, and the Summer of Love. I was there, just like Forrest, Forrest Gump. I thought a lot of things were going to change. But you know, they didn't, really. I thought Vietnam was the "war to end all wars (of imperialism)." It didn't. I thought sexism was out the window and men and women were equals and friends. Not true. I thought peace and love was in; it isn't.

I can pass as pretty cynical but that's not really my point. My point is "the only way out, is in!" I do, in fact, think the world's consciousness is expanding toward a better place, but very, very slowly and with two steps forward; one step back.

We don't live very long nor do we know the "time or the place" of our departure. So, what's important? Is the love and family everyone talks about at holidays? Well, sure, why not? But most families are a bit nutty and usually more than a little broken. So, sure, if you're into that, fine. But it certainly isn't the reality for much of the planet. And if your family is really together, what about the one next door? See my point? You just never know, do you?

Our only "greatness" and success in life comes from the degree to which our selfishness expands into selflessness. That's it, really. Sure, I could say that this goes all the way into the Infinity of God's love, but if that doesn't mean much to you, maybe I said enough to begin with? But that expansion of consciousness cannot occur if the "trivial preoccupations of daily life" become the great mountains that you climb. "For wisdom, too, man has a hunger." (quotes from Yogananda's autobiography)

Yes, travel and education help give perspective, but these are more intellectual or in the moment. There's another aspect to perspective and it is the ages old dictum: "Know Thyself" or, as I prefer to put it: "Know Thy Self." "Whom am I?" "What is my importance, if any, in this life?" "My duty?"

Great sages of east and west say that to know thy Self is our only real duty because from this comes an understanding of right action. Are you your body? Personality? Social class? Race? Gender? Well, of course, not, but then "Who am I?"

Why, nothing, of course! That's the point. Nothing means everything and everyone. That's the point. Abstraction is the greatest gift to mankind for in it we see ourselves as our neighbor, not just our families, our nation.

A daily practice of meditation will help you make contact with the consciousness within you that precedes all the junk that you currently think is "you." Meditation can soften the heart, open the mind, and release your fixation on the body as your reality. Many powers of "mind over matter" have been demonstrated. Indeed, too numerous to bother to mention. There are people who have been documented to live without food or water for decades; to raise the dead; to be entombed for long periods and be revived; walk on water; fly; bi-locate and so on. You get my drift.

Science, too, tells us that reality is far from what it appears.

So, what's taking you so long? Get with it. Get out of it. Wish your loved one(s) "adieu" and take a retreat. Make sure you don't spend your whole time "chopping wood and carrying water" however. Make sure you are can be still for periods of time; and, alone. You'll find it's no picnic, at least if you are honest.

If you are not ready, and why should you be, then go to a real retreat facility where others are doing more or less the same. This is not only good in itself, taking some classes, doing some yoga or equivalent, but it is also a bridge to the real deal when you are alone and I mean really, really alone. That's why most people can't meditate: they are afraid of the dark though they'll never tell you that.

I dare you: once in your life face the abyss of unknowing, stripped of the comforts and preoccupations of daily life that assure you that you are alive and well. Buddha did it for real and for eternity. Can you do it for a short time? You don't need a mid-life crises you just need awakening to the Real.

Nayaswami Hriman

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Who is Jesus Christ?

It is once again the Christmas season and while “Who is Jesus Christ” is a question one can ask at any time, it seems especially appropriate this time of year. Millions celebrate Christmas, whether religiously or only just socially. The life of the man who became known in history as Jesus Christ has influenced, nay, changed the course of the history of the western nations. His life has certainly affected every continent on this earth to some degree, better or worse, according to one’s point of view.

So, like, “Who is this guy?” Jesus himself asked his own disciples that question, according to the New Testament. Reading behind the lines of that report one can easily feel the disciples looking down and shuffling their feet nervously, fearing to get the wrong answer. Since Jesus actually asked “Who do men say I am?” some of the disciples felt to venture responses on the basis of what they had heard others say, rather than offering their own opinion. And their answers are revealing. One response is rather ignorant saying “John the Baptist!” I say “ignorant” because John was Jesus’ older cousin and had only recently been murdered by King Herod. So, even assuming one believes in reincarnation, that would have been well-nigh to impossible.

Others responded with the names of some of the Old Testament prophets (e.g., Jeremiah). Why this aspect of the dialogue (which reveals that reincarnation was widely accepted and that Jesus made no attempt to deny or correct it when given a perfect opportunity to do so) hasn’t been noticed by Christians is an example of precisely what Jesus himself was frequently quoted as warning his listeners that his deeper teachings were “for those who have ears to hear.” (I have read that scholars have discovered that the doctrine of reincarnation had been taught for the first several centuries of Christianity but was intentionally removed in the fourth century A.D. Prior to that, one of the early teachers of Christianity, Origen, confirmed that the doctrine had been taught since apostolic times. Jewish scholars, too, can attest to the long-standing debate regarding its validity.)

Returning to our topic, it was, famously, Peter (bar Jonah, the “Rock”) who declared the true nature of Jesus: “Thou art the Christ, the son of the living God.” On other occasions, Jesus publicly declared “I and my father are one.” He alternated between referring to himself as “the son of man” (presumably a reference to his physical form and personality) and “the son of God” (presumably a reference to his divine nature). He further declared that “Before Abraham was, I AM.” By this shocking and seemingly blasphemous statement, he is saying that his spirit, being one with God, has, existed since all eternity, with God. But, now, just his soul? Or?

Now, let’s pause, after all, I am mostly just quoting Jesus himself. For that, you can read the New Testament yourself. Why, however, is this question, “Who is Jesus Christ?” a useful one to ask? Because the answer implies as much about whom you are as it does about Jesus.

Was Jesus Christ a special creation of God? Is he therefore unique and uniquely separate from the rest of humanity, despite his human form? Was he, then, like some spiritual alien? Did God Himself incarnate into the body of Jesus? (If so, who was minding the store for thirty-three years?)

When challenged by his self-styled tormentors, the scribes and the Pharisees (keepers of the Hebrew law), Jesus quoted back to them a phrase from their own scriptures (Jesus, mind you, was a Jew and he knew his Bible, too): “Do not your scriptures say, ‘Ye are gods’?” In reference to the many miracles Jesus is reported to have done, he told his disciples that they would do these and more, for he was soon to return to his father.

The beloved disciple, John, whose gospel stands apart from the other three evangelists for its impersonal presentation of the nature of Jesus, describes Jesus as the “Word made flesh and dwelt amongst us.” He states that the Word is God and is the co-creator of all things. Jesus is thus more than the human being whose life and teachings are described in the New Testament. But is he uniquely so? John the Evangelist goes on to write that “As many as received him to them give he the “power to become the sons of God.” 

Here then we see clearly and profoundly that Jesus was not uniquely different than you or I. It must be added, that to “receive him” must go beyond belonging to a church, being baptized with water or through mere intellectual or emotional assent. Whatever it is must be very powerful and life changing.
John is saying nothing less than we, too, are potentially sons of God as Jesus was “one with the Father.”

This teaching of our oneness with Jesus’ divine nature permeates the original teachings of Jesus in the early formative years of Christianity. The term “body of Christ” was used to describe both those who followed his teachings (and, in other contexts, all people) and to describe the sacrament of sharing bread and wine as symbols of the Christ presence in all creation and in all souls. That Churchianity later arose to make that an exclusive teaching is hardly a surprise given the exigencies and limits imposed upon it by history, culture, consciousness and circumstances.

The mystical saints of Christianity, however, attest in various ways to this universality, to this truly “catholic” teaching. St. Thomas Aquinas and later St. Theresa of Avila experienced the “formless Christ” as the eternal light that “lighteth all men” and which creates and sustains all things since the beginning of time. Their very experience of this formless Christ is testimony to its being our very essence (indeed, the essence of all creation!)

Now if you want to stop reading here, I’d forgive you. From where we, as westeners and Christians stand, we are not so shaken thus far in anything I’ve written (unless you are a dyed-in-the-wool believer). But from where Jesus stood, he was crucified for his unforgivable audacity in revealing himself as “the son of God.” 

We can’t fully appreciate how revolutionary this was, unless we are perhaps Jewish or Muslim.
Judaism (and later, Islam) represents a monotheistic tradition for which the appearance of a human being claiming to be God is the height of blasphemy. Insofar as the apostles were good “Jewish boys” they had an uphill climb to make. In the pagan cities of the Mediterranean, it was tough enough to sell a new religion based on the story of a poor Jew who died on a cross at the hands of the Romans and who was resurrected from the dead (not your usual, every day experience). But in some ways that line was easier with the pagans who believed in all sorts of things (after all Augustus was proclaimed a god, too!). But, for the boys back home in Judea, this was a tough sell. It’s hardly a surprise that Christianity ended up going its own way.

he idea that the Deity could incarnate as a human on earth required an entirely new understanding of creation and God’s role in it. This, in part, is what made Jesus’ teachings and message so revolutionary in its times. In fact, however, it is far more oriental in its message than we can possibly appreciate. I’m not about to write a book, so I won’t elaborate on that statement. Suffice to say that a broader understanding of divinity was needed. No longer would God be “wholly other” and outside human history except as He interjected himself through his messengers, the prophets. It was bad enough that Jesus took on the religious establishment of his time to expose their pusillanimity and hypocrisy in holding to the letter of the Mosaic law and not its spirit. 

But to declare the presence of God in human form would require the birth of a new religion that would change the world and, ironically, would, in fact, overthrow the Roman rule (which the Jews themselves yearned for). It would give birth to a new understanding of creation itself, though this was to take some time to formulate and articulate.

I will reserve a separate blog article on the teaching of the Trinity, for the triune nature of God has been taught in India since time immemorial and the fact that this teaching appears in early Christianity is no coincidence for its reflects this new and deeper understanding that Jesus came to initialize. But for now, during the Christmas season, let me say that we, too, are potential “Christs” and may only need to awaken, and then to perfect, this realization. It is on the basis of the recognition that we are all children of the One God that we can truly celebrate the Christmas spirit of giving and sharing.

Blessings to you this Christmas,
Nayaswami Hriman

The above is based upon and inspired by the teachings of the modern Yogi-Christ, Paramhansa Yogananda and the writings of Swami Kriyananda, a direct disciple and founder of the worldwide work of the Ananda communities. For additional reading, see “Revelations of Christ,” by Swami Kriyananda, available from Crystal Clarity Publishers, Nevada City, or the East West Bookshop nearest you.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Why Celebrate Christmas?

Why Celebrate Christmas?
Who, Scrooge or worshipper alike, doesn’t bristle at the commercialization of Christmas? It is so easy and so common to want to chuck it all out the window and into the trash. On reflection, however, doesn’t that simply put the nail in the Christmas spirit’s coffin? Why invest in materialism by essentially agreeing that there’s nothing sacred about Christmas?

Instead, why not search for how to express that spirit in ways that are authentic to you? And, given the familial and communal nature of that spirit, why not share your celebration with others of like-mind?

It feels slightly silly to attempt to define the Christmas spirit, but our world is closing in on us and in America and in so many countries our lives at home, at work and in the shops and marts are shared with people of other faiths or of no faith. Not only therefore might Christians stop to consider what Christmas is all about but how can everyone find inspiration from its universal message.?

I suppose I ought to ask whether it has a universal message? Is the birth of Jesus Christ an event only of interest to Christians? Generally speaking, Christian teachings hold that Jesus Christ is the world’s only savior and belief in the redemptive power of his death on the cross and the glory of his resurrection thereafter are the hallmarks of Christian faith. But this blog article will end up being a book if I head off in earnest in that direction. So, instead, let me say that …

As a yogi and a follower of the teachings of India (especially as brought to the West in modern times by Paramhansa Yogananda), I am not alone in espousing the view that saints and saviors have come to this earth down through the ages in all faith traditions and that the greatest of these are all “sons of God” as was Jesus Christ. They come to remind us that we, too, are that, and that our lives in human bodies are given us that we too might become Self-realized in God as are the masters in every religion.

There is, however, another aspect of universality that millions recognize, even setting aside the specifics of the meaning of Jesus Christ’s incarnation on earth. The Christmas spirit is one of giving and sharing. Christmas is a celebration of the Golden Rule of life and of the kinship of life that all nations, races, people, and faiths share. That surely is worth affirming in this world of troubles, is it not?

Though I can’t give specifics, perhaps you, too, have seen movies or read stories of how during World War I and/or II, soldiers stopped fighting on Christmas Day and shared in some way across their battle lines. How many children stories exist with tales of how the humblest child or animal had a gift to offer the baby Jesus? In that little form we pay homage to the life we all share, for in that light we are One and we are children of our one, Father-Mother God.

Even atheists and agnostics can celebrate the humanity and harmony exemplified in the Golden Rule.
Candlelight symbolizes, inter alia, that at the darkest hour of life (winter solstice of the northern hemisphere) there remains this light of eternal life, like the seed buried and unseen in the winter ground but which bursts forth in the Spring. In celebrating light in its many forms (colored Christmas lights, candles and so on) we share a universal symbol of hope that the sunlight of vitality and healing will once again rise.

The spiritual interpretations of this light, of which Jesus was a human representative, include the teaching that this light is the light of the soul, as a reflection of the Infinite Light of God. This Light exists eternally behind the darkness of ignorance and materialism, and at the still center of all matter. This eternal Light is the promise of our immortality which has its Being in our souls, not in our physical bodies.

Let us therefore celebrate this Light which “shines in the darkness, though the darkness comprehended it not.” Let us celebrate our kinship with each other, with all creatures, and with all life. Let us affirm that we are children of the Infinite Light and that all distinctions of race, nation or faith are but constructs of the limits of the human intellect and but constrictions upon the natural love of the heart. “Hear O Israel, the Lord, the Lord our God, is ONE!

One week from today at the Ananda Meditation Temple in Bothell, Nayaswami Jamuna Snitkin presents a 3-hour workshop on this subject, “Why Celebrate Christmas.” Saturday, December 8, 9:30 a.m.
Look forward, too, to a series of blog articles inspired by the faiths of Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity and Self-realization on the universal theme and celebration of Light.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Reflections: Atheism & Agnosticism

Last week's blog article was on the subject of meditation and atheism. In that article I suggested that even an atheist can practice meditation because meditation is an art and science and it presupposes no religious belief or affiliation. It is internal to one's own consciousness, using self-awareness as a tool for exploring consciousness wherein consciousness is gradually stripped of "objects" of mentation. (Indeed, Patanjali, the great exponent of meditation -- his book of aphorisms being the "Yoga Sutras" -- describes the process of meditation as the gradual dissolving of all mental image making and their concomitant reactions. Surely something anyone can attempt.)

It mildly surprises me to see the intensity with which some atheists proclaim not only their lack of belief in God (fair enough) but their insistence that "God doesn't exist." Richard Dawkins is one of the more visible scientists claiming to debunk religious belief. None of that is new. What amuses me is that these more vehement atheists sound as fundamentalist as the fundamentalists, each insisting on something that in all events cannot be proved through reason or the senses.

I might say that to me it seems "reasonable" that the vast wonders of the creation hint at the existence of a very powerful and intentional consciousness but I certainly can't prove it. No more, however, can our scientists say anything more than that they cannot "find" God in their explorations, calculations, or experiments. The most they can say is they "see" no evidence for God's existence. That doesn't, however, disprove God's existence. It's merely a shrug.

I've long preferred the more honest agnostics: those who say that they haven't "found" God so how can they possibly say that God exists, or not?

It is the simplest thing in the world to scientifically demonstrate that we humans see what we want to see, hear what we think we are supposed to be hearing and so on. Tests upon eyewitnesses show conclusively that not everyone "sees" the same facts.

A person sensitive to color can choose and decorate a room with exquisite success such that most others can only but admire but would be nonplussed to replicate. Visionaries in every key field of human activity see things that few others can see. We can easily demonstrate that expectations influence outcomes, even in the efficacy of allopathic drugs.Sensory sensitivity is even more highly developed in some animals than in humankind. The wave lengths of various radiations are unseen by human eyes or unfelt by the human body even as they pass through us conveying telephone conversations or television images. We see objects as  separate but cannot see their underlying unity on the level of electro-magnetic forces or quantum physics.

So, yes, there is much in what we know or at least accept as real that could hint at realities far beyond currently accepted knowledge.

Consider the process of creativity. No, I don't mean of Beethoven or Bach. Consider how ideas "enter your mind." Granted, let's say you have a problem to solve and it is important to you. You ponder it. At some point you relax and let it go. And, as studies have shown us, then, voila! The answer appears in your head! It's not unlike a computer command to the hard disk in search of a word or a file or a program. Sometimes it's a little slow but then, voila, the answer appears.

However, unlike the hard disk where the answer to your query already exists for having been put there, a creative idea isn't merely (or at least not necessarily) something cobbled together from pre-existing data or past experience. Many people will no doubt agree that in some cases a new idea seems to have appeared literally from nowhere because so completely unique to our past experience or current expectations. If important ideas in the arts and sciences can appear from "nowhere," well, what does that tell you? Where did those ideas come from? Some of them have changed the course of history.

Studies of creative people will frequently show that such people develop the habit of expecting solutions and meeting them halfway, so to speak. Like Google, "feeling lucky?" There is a sense with such creative people that answers "lurk" as it were in a realm just beyond our sight but which, with practice, we can learn to access. It seems as if such people have a relationship to this unseen world of solutions. Suffice to say the world of human experiences is filled with a wide range of spectacularly unexplained psychic phenomenon.

It's really a matter of taste, you see. Perhaps you are inclined, for reasons of your own, to dismiss the concept of God. It simply doesn't please you; you find it irritating and uninteresting; irrelevant, that is to say, to what is important to you in your life. Well, then, why didn't you just say so!

Others pray to God constantly and attest to God's intercession in their lives. Some people are romantic and sentimental; others, hard-headed and pragmatic. These differences in temperaments may incline one to reject God and another to seek Him, but the question of His existence supercedes them both. Just because people used to believe the world was flat didn't make it so.

This distinction between "what I like" and "what is" is all too often ignored even by otherwise intelligent people. Sadly, few people distinguish between their opinion and the truth. I think Democrats are better than Republicans so of course Democrats are better! (So much for logic!) The simple fact that my inclination and temperament are in the direction that supports the Democratic platform is, as I have said, a matter of taste. Others may believe in the importance of law and order, and preservation of long-standing values.

The proper inquiry of science is how things work. The proper inquiry of religionists is why, for what purpose? There may be areas of overlap of common ground but each has its own field of exploration. I fail to understand why they don't leave each alone and in peace!

Science can never prove, e.g., that the universe has always existed. They might not be able to conclusively find a starting point and presumably the end point hasn't been reached, but how far back do you search before you decide "it's turtles all the way!" (Meaning: there is no beginning!) That might be your conclusion but it is not thereby conclusive! How and who measures infinity? And, even if you did, what impact would it have on the existence of God, who, by all accounts, is also eternal, with no beginning and end? How do you know that we, like the movie The Matrix, aren't but a dream of the Creator? Can you prove that? Or, disprove it?

No saint, moreover, can define God so as to contain Him. No religion, no dogma, no rite or ritual can claim monopoly of His favor. How can that which is Infinite and which has made all things be remotely defined except in the most vague ways: omniscient, omnipresent, infinite, infinitessimal, personal or impersonal. That hasn't stopped 99.9% of religionists from doing exactly that: defining God in ways that please themselves and make their religion the "top dog." But in this they reveal their ignorance as much as those chest pounding scientists who declare that "God is dead."

I say, therefore, that we should simply agree to disagree. I believe in God because it seems "obvious" to me that this vast and complex universe (including my inner universe of thought and feeling) couldn't possibly be devoid of goodness, purpose, and consciousness. But, I can't prove it, and even less so, to you, if you, by contrast, are a hard-nosed self-defined scoffer! I say, well, let's talk about the weather instead.

There is another line of inquiry that is slowly developing on the planet and I call it the "happiness" proof. Gradually, studies are showing that people with faith in God tend to be happier. Now a scoffer's going to have a field day with this, but, for the sake of a good discussion, what if it were actually true? The scoffer will quote Karl Marx's quip about "religion being the opiate of the people" while the religionist will cry "Aha--proof!" But in this case who is the one being pragmatic? The religionist or the scoffer?

This line of inquiry is similar to the observation that the natural development of human consciousness from infancy to adulthood includes an ever expanding sphere of interest and sympathies. Oh, well, of course not with everyone, but in the archetypal sense that we progress from the self-involved infant, the tantrum throwing toddler, and the emotional child to the teen who interests in the world around him, to the young adult who marries, has children, takes on responsibilities (civic, community and familial). We see the fatherly patriarch or matriarch of a clan, a community, or a nation overseeing with benign and wise interest the affairs of his or her "children." In this (admittedly) fanciful world, we view this as well adjusted and as happy a life as we can envision. (Only a dedicated narcissist would maintain through life a commitment to selfish self-indulgence as the summum bonum of life. By the end of life, measure his cup of happiness and see for yourself.)

What if, for example, we could demonstrate that those who include the welfare of others with their own tend to be happier and even more successful? We have the all but universally accepted "Golden Rule" that is suggestive of the truth that our happiness is related to an expansion of self-interest to an enlightened self-interest.

Thus it might be supposed that by this rule of thumb (expanding self-interest) the greatest happiness is achieved when we embrace all life as our own, perhaps even to Infinity (if that were possible). How, then will the Darwin-driven scoffer factor in human happiness? Do not we admire those who give their lives to defend or protect others? To call human love the product of dancing hormones racing to be first to perpetuate themselves may be an acceptable mechanical model (if only because it is causally self-evident) but few human beings would leave it at that. Why is it the testimony of our own race is so airily dismissed by those pretending to be objective in the pursuit of truth?

Well, as I said in the beginning, I can't prove to you that God exists but I am not alone in saying I am happier to make God a part of my life, not just in thought but in deed.


Nayaswami Hriman

P.S. I have purposely left out the testimony of saints and sages of east and west and in every century for presumably to the logician their lives fall outside the scope of their admitted interest. In truth, however, it is only because such people of "science" decide a priori that saints must be discarded. That is as unobjective and as biased discarding of available facts as anything in religion is capable of. Sigh.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Meditation for Atheists & Agnostics

It has been frequently observed that what many atheists and agnostics object to in religion, inter alia, is the image and concept of an anthropomorphic deity eager to inflict eternal punishment on a hapless humanity stupid enough to embrace the wrong religion, the wrong ritual or disobey the clerical brahmins. My teacher, Swami Kriyananda (founder of the worldwide spiritual work of Ananda and a direct disciple of the world teacher, Paramhansa Yogananda) was once asked in Australia (after a lecture) what, if anything, had he to say to an atheist? Kriyananda paused, reflected for a moment, and then responded with the suggestion that "Why don't you hold for yourself the goal of being the best you can be; to live up to your own highest potential?" Our Australian atheist said in his thick Aussie accent, "I think I can live with that, mate!" He then strode off into the night pleased and satisfied.

But what about meditation? Can a self-proclaimed atheist or agnostic practice meditation without violating their conscientious objections to religion and belief in a Supreme Deity? Well of course: I wouldn't be writing this if I didn't think so.

To such a one, what is the purpose, goal and benefit of meditation, and, how does one meditate with this point of view?

Stress reduction is too simplistic a goal for my purposes, but it is worthwhile enough for just about anyone. Meditation has been amply and scientifically proven to be useful in mitigating the effects of stress. But that would hardly be worth writing a blog article about.

I would offer that meditation is a courageous experiment to explore consciousness at its most primal level of self-awareness. There is a level of awareness that precedes the appearance of thoughts and emotions and which if entered into can bring to one greater intuition, calmness, and dynamic self-awareness. It is not necessary to label this state of consciousness in terms of metaphysics or spirituality. It is not difficult to obtain though it takes training and self-discipline to enter into on a consistent and prolonged basis.

When we stare off into the distance or pause from the intensity of our activities we often have a moment of pure reflective self-awareness where thoughts and reactions are temporarily suspended. The benefits of this state are not immediately apparent in part because we don't think about it and partly because we don't do it purposely and partly because we don't do it long enough nor intentionally to reap its potential rewards.

It is had been said that meditation (and yoga) require no belief system nor religious affiliation to practice and to gain benefits. Thus their popularity. At the same time, there is much discussion and debate in various circles about the underlying and inherently spiritual basis of these practices from India. Some say these practices are not inherently religious while others vehemently insist that all you have to do is consider their source and context in India and in the east generally. A similar back-and-forth exists in respect to Buddhism, too.

Part of what makes Buddhism so popular among educated westerners, especially professionals and therapists, is its (relative) absence of the outer trappings of religion. While I find that view debatable and as much a function of selective "seeing" as reality, it is undeniably true that the Buddha's reticence about God and all things immaterial allow for a wider range of appeal than its senior cousin, Hinduism and its esoteric offshoot, yoga (which is far more meditation than movement).

The deeper truth is that metaphysical realities (viewed as philosophy or as the nature of reality) are considered by their exponents to be the source and basis for material realities. According to this line of thinking, therefore, there exists no essential difference between the here and now and the hereafter or the "other." The most essential metaphysical teaching is that all creation is a manifestation of consciousness and that this consciousness is infinite and cosmic and, by definition, divine and benign, both impersonal and infinite as well as personal and infinitessimal.

The point here simply is that the important and essential impulse is to experience and contact this level of reality rather than only merely talk about or define it. If there is an underlying and universal "Truth" or "Consciousness," the only valid undertaking is to "know" "It." Furthermore, that which is true does not depend upon anyone's belief in it. Therefore, any experiment or activity that is likely to reveal its presence is something that anyone who is courageous or open enough ought to be willing to undertake.

The scriptures of India (Shankhya) aver that "God cannot be proved." This is not the same as saying "God does not exist." It is an admission of the obvious: the intellect cannot prove ultimate reality; only consciousness itself can intuit consciousness. No test tube, no experiment, no chemical will reveal God or consciousness on its own level (as opposed to the various manifestations of consciousness such as thought, feeling, emotion, brain activity, motion, and innumerable appearances of intelligence and perception).

On this basis, therefore, it is consciousness that intuits itself, and meditation, viewed as awareness focused in upon itself, is the preeminent "tool" of perception and consciousness. It may very well be that meditation is perhaps the best and most consistent activity that can bring to one an experience of an underlying strata of pre-thought consciousness.  Such an activity has little, if anything, to do with an a priori belief or assumption as to the nature of that pre-thought level or that such a level should be called "God." I won't deny, however, that many forms of meditation are taught with the assumption that one desires union with God or some other supreme Consciousness. Masters of the science of meditation have frequently (though not always) testified to the experience of a higher Being or levels of realities. But if such is the truth, it should be discoverable without regard to belief. But what is true should be true for all.

As a lifelong meditator myself, I know the difficulty and challenges to meditation. The restless, monkey mind categorically rejects mental quietude, unless it be of a lower or subconscious level, induced by sleep, drugs or daydreaming. Thus it is that it is fair to ask oneself, "Why would anyone undertake the arduous journey away from the senses and natural mental activity into the depths of pure consciousness? Traditionally only those who held a strong belief (or intuition?) regarding the superior merits of the results (including "seeking God") undertake the sustained effort. But philosophically speaking, no such expectation or belief is necessary to do it.

Because of the difficulties of achieving deep states of one pointed meditation, the great teachers of meditation resort to promises of health, energy, creativity and, more to the point today, union with the Supreme Being.

Nonetheless I hold true to my assertion that any atheist or agnostic who is courageous enough to explore the boundaries of self-awareness can find great benefit by whatever technique of meditation appeals to him or her. Let me say succinctly that the experience of resting in the state of pure self-awareness, devoid of self-created mental images and their attendant ego-affirming associations, can yield many practical benefits to those who offer themselves into this felicitous state of being. And, if, perchance, he or she were to encounter the Supreme Power, well, I trust they will presumably reassess their position happily! If not, nothing is lost and I know that much can be gained in self-understanding, creativity, and joy.

Perhaps in another article I can suggest some exercises for our friends in "AA", "Atheists and agnostics not so anonymous.


Nayaswami Hriman

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Giving of Thanks this Thanksgiving Day

America's tradition of a national day of giving Thanks is one that all nations and people would be well counseled to observe. This was the comment today by Ananda's founder, Swami Kriyananda, in an email message from India to members and friends around the world.

I have heard it said that in Indian culture family members do not (or perhaps did not) traditionally thank each other for small services rendered in the home on a routine basis, e.g., thanking mother for a delicious dinner. The idea is, I suppose, that it is both mother's duty and honor to serve her family in the name of God (as manifestations of God), or as Paramhansa Yogananda put it when he thanked disciples for assisting him and they objected thanking him in turn, "God serving God."

But it is surely sweeter and also helpful that we express our gratitude even when it is not expected or needed.  I have observed Swami Kriyananda doing so with no great fanfare or mawkish sentimentality, but simply and quietly, thanking someone, for example, who served him a cup of tea. Such acknowledgements can help us stay mindful and intentional.

A gyani yogi (a nondualist) might understandably see all outward forms and activities "merely" as manifestations of the One and in so doing find it unnecessary, or, even unhelpful, to acknowledge a service rendered to him, as the person were different and separate. Such austerity of demeanor and attitude is dry and lacks warmth and heart quality. Better it would be to observe the outward formalities of acknowledgement and gratitude, paying inward obeisance to the One in all.

Surely a bhakti yogi (a devotee) would thank another for a service rendered seeing in that person the Divine Mother while a karma yogi (one who serves others humbly and happily) would perhaps be the one so serving others!

So long as we breath the free air of earth we should render grateful service and take up the yoke of dharma, supporting ourselves, helping others, and leaving this world a better place.

I have long felt that the greatest tragedy that befalls the homeless is not lack of food or shelter, but lack of love and opportunity to render creative, grateful service to God through others. In America and most other countries, only a little effort is required to find food and shelter, even if temporarily. But lacking no means to serve and be creatively engaged in the large world of life, well, that is the greater loss.

As Swami Kriyananda and so many others on this earth committed to service have said, "I will die with my boots on!" That may not be for everyone, but certainly let us be grateful for the opportunities we have to give of ourselves to God through our fellow creatures.

To you, a blessed day of giving Thanks!

Nayaswami Hriman

Thursday, November 15, 2012

"Proof of Heaven" - A Near Hopeful Experience

I recently finished reading the book, “Proof of Heaven,” by the neurosurgeon Eben Alexander. Eben fell into a life-threatening coma and miraculously survived but even more than that had a very revealing, profound, and conscious experience of higher realms in one of the more interesting NDE’s (near-death experiences) reported to date.

It doesn’t terribly much matter to me how true it is. No one but Eben can know that. But what interested me, for today’s purpose, was his statement that during his sojourn into heavenly realms he learned that although evil does certainly exist, it is a small portion or proportion of the good that exists.

Now in some ways this contradicts my (perhaps limited) understanding of the law duality wherein the play of opposites are equal and necessary to the appearance of substance in the drama of creation.

So his statement was pause for reflection (if not downright concern). In Paramhansa Yogananda’s teachings, including as they have been expressed by his direct disciple and Ananda’s founder, Swami Kriyananda, evil is described as a “conscious force” flowing out from Spirit towards matter. As this force flows outward it does so in a continuum of consciousness whose direction is towards the affirmation of separation and the perpetuation of the creation.

Thus “evil” is relative in several ways. For today’s topic, what strikes me is that much of this continuum is “relatively” neutral and far from “evil” as we normally define or experience it. A tree is “evil” only in the sense that its very character hides from our sight its underlying spiritual essence both as energy (“vibration and Life Force”) AND as conscious, and divinely intelligent and self-aware.

So, too, therefore are most objects and most human thoughts, feelings, and actions: relatively neutral (relative to classically “evil” behavior). With this understanding, then, the creation is largely benign and in its “awesomeness,” beauty, and transparent intelligence and order, a reflection of Divine Love and Harmony.

In this view, evil, as an intentional and consciously harmful force and action, is “relatively” small portion of the cosmos in the realms of thought, emotions, feelings, electricities, atomic energies, and physical forms and actions.

In Sanaatan Dharma, the “eternal and universal precepts” of Vedanta, the outflowing force is more or less matched by the inflowing force. I say more or less because its real importance is in the realm of human consciousness. We don’t expect much from planets and stars, rocks, trees, plants or animals in the way of good or evil, except in relation to their harm or their benefit to us as humans.

A person can be dedicated to humanitarian causes but, being perhaps an atheist or agnostic, has no desire to seek God or higher states of inner communion with “the universe.” Only consciousness can desire to commune with Consciousness. There’s obviously nothing “evil” about being a dedicated humanitarian. Sympathies for the suffering of others manifesting as practical and self-sacrificing action is surely pleasing to God as all great spiritual teachers have averred. But only by conscious, intentional seeking can the individual approach the Godhead (by whatever name). Yes, we can have peak experiences of Oneness, but unless such an experience(s) changes our life forever in the direction seeking “more of That,” we return to ego consciousness and to our life’s work, karma and dharma.

But good works can reinforce pride and cause attachment to results which, when thwarted by other worldly forces, might cause disillusionment, discouragement, anger and, at last, giving up and in. I think of the image of a “peace protester” marching angrily and shouting slogans or inflicting harm on others or their property. An oxy-moron, in other words.

So, both are true: good and evil vie equally from the metaphysical standpoint of the outflowing energy towards matter and separateness and the inflowing force towards union. But, on the whole, the creation is also largely neutral or benign and only a small portion of its actually evil in the more limited and normal sense of that term.

Most people are basically good, even if, in truth, the main reason they are good is that they don’t possess enough energy and creative initiative to be bad!

Still, I find this reflection, inspired by Proof of Heaven, a happy and hopeful one! I “hope “ you agree!


Nayaswami Hriman

Monday, November 12, 2012

What to do with your Enlightened Brother-in-Law?

What to do if your brother-in-law is enlightened? - The world's longest blog article. Apologies in advance for being a nerd. 

What is enlightenment? How to achieve it? Is it easy to do? What is nothingness?

Any resemblance to any living “brother-in-law”  is entirely coincidental.

Since a large number of people on this planet have a brother-in-law, it seems to me that it is about time this important subject be squarely addressed, for, given the large number of brother-in-laws on the planet, there must surely be quite a number who consider themselves “enlightened.” In fact, recent studies have shown that there is a veritable epidemic of enlightenment occurring in the population of brothers-in-law. I feel it is my duty to take on this subject straight up.

Notwithstanding the current pandemic of enlightenment in this group, there have always been some in every age and culture who consider themselves enlightened and who, moreover, consider any and all religious or spiritual doctrines, practices, or promotion as, to quote P.G. Wodehouse, “bilge.” Some, using stronger language, shout “poppycock!”

True devotees everywhere and in every age are plagued by at least one know-it-all scofflaw and self-described enlightened brother-in-law. Since presumably your gentle nature and your firmly held beliefs preclude you from knocking the ‘ol buster off (and putting him out his misery while saving civilization from this blight upon humanity), this article may offer you some solace and alternatives.

Perhaps you are plagued, as I have been, by one such who, while adamantly rejecting any label, would easily fit into the target range of the dreaded “nondualist.” These blighters fancy themselves godlike and omniscient, gazing down upon creation and its creatures with a sardonic and all-knowing hauteur. Their disdain and dismissal of practices such as meditation, dogma, ritual, prayer and the like is, well, “absolute.”

And what makes his assertion that religion is unnecessary (and, in fact, worse than unnecessary) so clever is that there is a some level of truth here. Starting with the well known evils and disadvantages, prejudices, and narrow-mindedness of religion and its practitioners and representatives, there is the deeper truth that in the nondualistic state of consciousness there is no longer any distinctions of “I or Thou” or ego or separateness. In the state of Oneness, there is only Consciousness itself! It almost absurd to spend a lot time describing the state because by “definition” this state is beyond words. Still, for my purposes and I hope for yours too I will use these words as synonyms or markers and these include Oneness and God. Other terms (and there are many more) include Self-realization, samadhi, satori, nirvana, heaven, or mystical marriage (etc. etc.). (Keep in mind that users of these terms may well make distinctions among them.)

In the tradition of Vedanta, the scriptures of India, and among yogis (rishis, masters, etc.) the attitude of our nondualist is the approach to God (or Oneness) called gyana yoga. A modern Christian who approaches God as the “Cosmic Ground of Being” might similarly be called a gyana yogi. So, too, a Buddhist who refuses to describe the ultimate state as any-thing at all except perhaps as nirvana.

As Krishna notes in the Bhagavad Gita, this approach, however, is austere to an extreme (like being a spiritual stoic) and comments that the path to the Absolute should be walked only by a few advanced souls for it is “arduous” for most embodied beings. Easier for humans is to approach the Unapproachable through the “I-Thou” relationship. To be a true nondualist one must deny the very existence of all objects in the field or sphere of duality, including one’s own body, emotions, thoughts and so on! Rare and difficult indeed! For those who attempt it prematurely (and that includes, in my humble opinion, just about everyone who does) they seem to fall into a pit of self-delusion. Those attracted to this path are, admittedly, those who possess a keen and sharp and discerning mind. In the attempt to cut off the report of the senses and emotions (too soon), the mind can drift and pretend to establish its own alternative reality. The consequences, as any amateur psychologist can tell you, are disastrous for as Krishna also notes in Bhagavad Gita, “suppression availeth nothing.” The sphere of the mind is far vaster and more labyrinthian than that of the physical cosmos.

Our aspiring nondualist might even, with a sarcastic grin, quote sages who say, of enlightenment, that “it is, and, it isn’t!” In this they pretend to be deep and profound, hoping by this koan to stump you into submission. Our nondualist will mock all forms of spirituality as tainted with duality and thus doomed by their opposite! And, again, there is some truth to this. One who emphasizes devotion in an unbalanced way may become fanatical, for example. One who emphasizes ritual or dogma may become dogmatic, and one who treasures selflfess service may become restless and disillusioned.

Hiding behind the pretense of nonduality may impress a few, but enlightenment is not a put up job. Yes, it is that an enlightened master can make himself appear very ordinary to ordinary and materialistic people but those of refined consciousness will always catch his scent! It is absurd to claim enlightenment but to have no noticeable traits of an expanded consciousness.

Still, we must confess that enlightenment is unconditional and it expresses itself uniquely in each soul who achieves it. Swami Kriyananda once asked an enlightened yogi why he didn’t seem to have any disciples or conduct any ministry. The yogi’s simple reply was, “God has done what He wants with this body.”

Another feature of the state of Oneness is that it exists independent of any efforts to achieve it. Will power or mental power or affirmation alone cannot command it. But the scoffer mistakenly concludes that any effort to achieve it is futile, and that any effort to share “the path to it,” is nothing but self-serving propaganda. Pointing to the many shortcomings of religion and religionists, and their all-too-human representatives, he claims to have “proof.”

In this we encounter yet another of mankind’s existential dilemmas: how can the ego transcend itself? Can any action ever be other than in self-interest? Is anyone who strives for salvation or seeks to help others towards the same goal simply self-deluded because he or she is so plainly NOT (yet) enlightened himself? Is there a way out of this conundrum? The relationship of spiritual growth to effort and even to grace is so difficult to establish objectively that it is not difficult to look at all the religious craziness that abounds and dismiss it all as useless. Add to this the overpowering satisfaction and relief it offers to the ego which can rise up and shout, “I told you so!” “I’m perfect just the way I AM!” “I don’t have to do a thing!” But is it true?

Human life is not worth living if we abandon the nexus between action and consequence. The law of action and reaction has its metaphysical counterpart in the law of karma. Problem is, the nondualist proclaims, leaping into the breach, action only produces reaction and it never ends. Or does it?

Sleep may be the opposite of activity, but yogis claims that Oneness is achieved through the state of breathlessness -- a state that doesn’t produce death to the physical body. “Be still and know that I AM GOD” says the Old Testament. To admit a nondual state is, itself, logically even, to yield to the affirmation that there exists a state of being, of consciousness that has no second, no dual, and that this state is transcendent of duality.

Other great spiritual teachers and scriptures further proclaim that from this state of Oneness is manifested the whole of creation itself. This cannot be proved logically, they admit, but only realized in the state itself. By definition, moreover, this would have to be the case.

The power of Oneness holds the key to our imprisonment in the body and ego. “It takes One to Know One.” It has been both a universal precept and an easily observed fact in the history of the spiritual giants of planet Earth that each soul, imprisoned, is eventually awakened from its delusive dream of duality and separateness by the influence, wisdom, and compassion of another who has already awakened from the dream. Thus the power of the myths such as the prince and the pauper. We are all royalty but we find ourselves paupers and have forgotten our true nature. Someone or somehow we must awaken from this error, this nightmare of mistaken identity.

This, too, is the meaning of the famous story by Jesus Christ: the Prodigal Son. A true guru (known as a “Sat” guru, or savior) comes in every age (measured in thousand or more year increments) to re-awaken the forgotten memory of our Oneness in those souls who, during that time, are ready and “have ears to hear” (as Jesus put it repeatedly). Such a One also has the power to attract and completely liberate those who have incarnated in that time and place in readiness to ascend.

But the pseudo guru of the Big Easy to Oneness is not finished yet, for he also has the testimony of some spiritual teachers (and seekers) who quote scriptures such as I AM THAT I AM (Old Testament), or, “Tat twam asi” (Thou art THAT! - Hindu scriptures) to bolster their claim that no personal effort is needed for we are already enlightened and only have to realize it.

This claim, though misplaced, nonetheless has its source in the truth that the state of Oneness both preexists and coexists with material reality. Out of Oneness, out of nonduality, and out of God has come creation’s duality. (Out of the One, comes two; from two, three!) Nonduality (God) is both the source and sustainer of duality and at the same untouched by it. This is as deep and profound a truth (and mystery to our duality-bound intellect and body-bound sense experiences) as any mankind has intuited. It is taught in various ways in every great faith and metaphysical tradition. On its basis, some have falsely concluded that we can simply declare ourselves “free” and thereby be proclaimed “enlightened.” But again I ask you, is it so? And if it is, how do you we know it’s true? Are there are any proofs of enlightenment?

Given that religion will always have its share of frauds and flawed human beings (as we find in all human endeavors), and given that there are ignorant and superstitious people who practice religion out of fear, suffering or for ego or material gain, it’s not so difficult, if so inclined, to conclude along with Karl Marx that religion is “the opiate of the people.” When one has a taste of nonduality and in relation to it, it is true that all spiritual efforts and beliefs seem unnecessary. If one achieves enlightenment and it is a permanent beatitude, well, why argue? But the mere contemplation or passing experience of Oneness does not thereby render one exempt from the challenge and effort needed for purification of ego consciousness in order to enjoy the permanent blessing of soul freedom. The coexistence of nondual and dual states of consciousness (and passing back and forth between) can give rise to pride and self-delusion.

In fact, this is a commonly reported challenge to spiritual seekers even if they never use these somewhat dry and technical terms. Swami Kriyananda, my teacher, has pointed out that in the last stages of liberation the final test is that of pride--in this case, pride in the very real lofty heights of vision and power granted to the soul before it merges into the stream of Bliss forever. The Christian analogy is the temptation of Christ during which Satan shows to him all the earth and offers him dominion over all things if Jesus will worship him, Satan, Lord of Creation. Jesus says, simply, “Get thee behind me, Satan!” The test of pride is both the soul’s first and last temptation.

And because many people, including your brother-in-law, may have in fact had some peak experience of a nondual or nonverbal reality, it tempts one to so declare the inadequacy and unessential need for self-effort, religion or spiritual activities or beliefs. If well read, our scoffer might quote Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita who (like Buddha centuries later) who decried the common reliance upon Vedic rituals and prayers in substitution for the effort to seek God as the sole reality.

Is all spiritual striving and sharing, therefore, simply a delusion, like your brother-in-law avers?

There’s a corollary to this line of false but egoically convenient reasoning. The corollary is the long standing appearance of the teaching of emptiness. The state of the void or emptiness is indeed a state of consciousness. It includes trance states or states induced medically or otherwise. Every night in deep sleep we enter the dreamless sleep state in which yogis say we touch upon our soul nature as Bliss. Yet far from being unconscious, when we awaken from a good sleep we are aware that we slept well (or not), having entered this important and essential state. Yogis have long used comparisons to sleep to hint at higher states of consciousness. Unfortunately, in sleep we cannot progress spiritually because enlightenment by definition is a higher, more aware state.

If all things are a manifestation of consciousness, this must include rocks. Rocks don’t appear especially conscious. Therefore, we can conclude that in this relative world, consciousness itself is relative but that unconsciousness, taken literally, is impossible.

But some clever scoffers aver that emptiness is de facto the state of enlightenment. This is convenient because it, too, absolves the scoffer of any guilt, remorse or need for effort or right action. This false teaching is well rooted in that agnostics, atheists and materialists believe that at death we disappear and no longer exist. Hard to argue with the obvious physical evidence (or lack of it) supporting this point of view. But in this article I don’t want to get into the afterlife issue, not for fear, but it’s a much bigger topic. In this article I want to focus on enlightenment as a present state of consciousness while living in a human body. I am only saying that the lack of belief in an afterlife is another point of view that would seem to support the idea that enlightenment is a state of emptiness.

This concept of no-thing-ness is, however, a valid teaching because, as a state of being, it can be experienced by meditative efforts. But is it enlightenment? Emptiness is a feature of and typically associated with Buddhistic teachings, though it appears throughout history and in human thinking. But it is flawed, both logically and intuitively. For no one, except perhaps a suicide, seeks permanent loss of consciousness. Survival is the most deeply rooted instinct to be found anywhere in creation. If it is false then the creation itself is false. And yes that teaching is common, too, but we are not here to discuss whether the creation is true or false. A useless debate. We can simply say that it is impermanent so far as our experience of it is concerned. We can say that intrudes impressively upon our senses and our thoughts, and, indeed, even our dreams. Whether anything is, ultimately, “real” begs the question and no doubt pleases mental midgets but not true seekers who, in the end, want practical results to their sincere seeking.

Let us therefore say that the creation is false in the sense of always changing, alternating between opposites and not absolute in the sense that Oneness, pure Consciousness, and God are unchanging and eternal. Whether or not the creation is self-perpetuating is also a “relatively” useless question for midget minds and dry hearts.

Returning now to emptiness, my teacher (Swami Kriyananda) has put it so well with his tongue-(firmly)-in-cheek: Commenting on the Buddhistic belief that the end of suffering and the goal of life is to achieve the void, he says, “No wonder that in that tradition they came up with the concept of Boddhisattva: one who postpones his enlightenment to help others. Seeking no-thing-ness is more likely to prompt a request for a rain check from what amounts to an act of suicide. Who would aspire to no-thing-ness? Why, moreover, would one who achieved emptiness feel such deep and abiding compassion for the sufferings of others?

That emptiness is in fact a state of consciousness and can be experienced is not worth denying. Many great spiritual teachers so attest to it. Most express this state as a steppingstone, a way station to the goal. But if the price to end suffering is to end consciousness as we know it, well, hmmmm, I think most of us would want put in a request for that rain check.

Like Frank Sinatra sang, “Is that all there is?” Hardly: saints down through ages don’t exhibit love, compassion and joy as aspects of an enlightened consciousness “for nothing!” The “nothing” that is real and true is the dissolution of ego, “nothing” less. But when ego is dissolved (or expanded into Infinity--either image works for the sake of describing the indescribable), the result is the one thing all beings seek: pure, unconditioned Bliss. Not a loss of consciousness but Consciousness itself. Satchidananda: God is, and we are, and we seek immortality (Sat), unbroken Self-awareness (Chit) and Bliss (Ananda): Ever-existing, ever-conscious, ever-new Bliss.

Our survival instinct isn’t present for the sake of mere survival. We survive that we may live; we live only as we are self-aware, and we seek to live to enjoy living. The ancient teachings of India, including the adi (first) Swami Shankycharya, in seeking to dispell the growing atheism among the adherents of Buddhism, declare that God is Sat-Chit-Ananda: ever-existing, ever-conscious, ever-new Bliss. This is the nature of absolute reality and is the eternal promise and striving of all creation and of our souls.

But no matter how cogent your response to the scoffer is, be prepared for his “ultimate defense strategy.”  When shaken, he will deploy his golden parachute of silent nonduality to dismiss your explanations as born in the “captivity” of duality.

Putting the scoffer aside, smug in his inertial blanket of theoretical nonduality, I do think he does us a service by helping us clarify some important questions. The effort can highlight for us both the limits of intellectual discovery and the potential for the intellect to point us in the right direction when used wisely. But, like Moses who could not enter the Promised Land because born in captivity (duality), the intellect must be set aside. Only the heart can “know” and can enter into God (Oneness). “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.”

So I see at least three useful inquiries offered to me by my (self-proclaimed) enlightened brother-in-law:

1.    What does it mean to be enlightened?
2.    Are there any objective signs of an enlightened consciousness?
3.    What, if anything, can I (as ego) do to transcend ego and achieve enlightenment?

Human life would be insufferable if we didn’t have the intuitive wisdom that we can improve our lives and that we can discover what is true (whether it be in respect to material, psychological or spiritual matters). The intuitive knowledge and common shared experience that intention and attitude markedly affect a person’s actions (and that one’s actions reflect one’s consciousness) is fundamental to the human experience.

Many sages, saints, poets and ordinary people have attempted to describe the indescribable state of nonduality. “Nonduality” is a coldly rational word and I prefer “God” or, at worst, Oneness. But it would the height of folly to “mince words” when describing God!

I suppose that many humans, indeed, perhaps most, have had some peak experience in their lives. In every field of human activity you find beginners, experienced people, and “masters” of their art or craft. This, too, is fundamental to the human experience.

So, therefore, it is not unreasonable to presuppose that enlightenment, too, has its stages of progressive development. You might object along rational lines saying that an experience of nonduality must surely be, by “definition,” the same for everyone. That may be logical but it defies the testimony and experience of human beings. Love, too, might be said to be the same, but in fact it isn’t. There are degrees of depth and feeling.

Paramhansa Yogananda was once asked if there is an end to striving (in achieving enlightenment). He said, effectively, that there is no end but one goes on into endlessness. What else, after all, would “Infinity” suggest?

John Paul Sartre may have declared himself “radically free” to act from his own inner creative impulse, unaffected by outer circumstances but in this he betrayed both common sense and truth. Nothing about his life, should you be so unfortunate to study it, suggests the truth of his self-declaration.

True saints may indeed have “seen” God but each and everyone of them are unique and their lives, examples, and message was surely conditioned by, because appropriate to, outer circumstances and the needs of others. Always appropriate to the circumstance is the wise one.

What can enlightenment possibly mean if it isn’t life changing? It may be that it transforms each person uniquely but states of anger, jealousy, lust and dishonesty are not aspects of an enlightened consciousness. This is not only common sense but it is, in fact, the testimony of the lives of thousands of souls who have been recognized as having a desirable and elevated state of consciousness worthy of being called enlightened.

I won’t attempt to go further and speak of the “miracles” performed by saints for I know those cannot be “proved” although a sincere study of their lives and the testimony of credible witnesses may prove surprisingly persuasive.

In the Bhagavad Gita, the disciple, Arjuna, in fact asks his guru, Krishna, “What are the signs of the one who has achieved liberation?” In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, he describes numerous signs of enlightenment which demonstrate power of nature and power over life and death. But again, such things are beyond the experience of most people.

“He who says he knows, doesn’t. He who says he doesn’t, doesn’t. He who knows, knows.”

I have purposely avoided attempting to define enlightenment. I would have to quote my guru and others who are Self-realized and consistent in their roundabout descriptions. But I cannot speak of it from my own experience. But how can I “know” who is Self-realized. We can point at the blue sky above, but until we can fly, we remain earth bound.

It is foolish to buy into the clever and ego-affirming dogma that enlightenment is easy of attainment; that it costs nothing (in terms of effort or discipline); that it eschews the need for religion, spiritual teachings, prayer, meditation, or a spiritual teacher. Such assertions will always be made by some but simply examine their lives and see with what degree of non-attachment, even-mindedness, inner peace, compassion and wisdom do they conduct their lives? Their philosophy is simply a state of self-delusion, for it comforts and coddles the ego and excuses it of any meaningful effort, devotion to anything greater than themselves, or grateful, compassionate service to others. In Oneness we see all life as a part of ourselves.

In the duality of human life, we have the opposites but this does not mean that anger is just as valuable as love. We find greater happiness in love than in hatred. They may be opposites but what separates them from Oneness is the link to ego desire and involvement. Love connects and unites; hatred, separates.

Peace and love draw one closer to Oneness because the ego-active principle is soothed and smoothed. As we express more and more virtue and self-less-ness we become calmer and stronger in ourselves. At the center point between opposites is the still state of Oneness and while logic dictates that the opposites should be equal as well as opposing, goodness brings us closer to ego transcendence than evil.

But there is a catch, for “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” As long as even our goodness is ego-centric and ego-affirming, we are still caught and the pendulum of duality will, in time, force us back. Only when we consciously give ourselves to God with love and self-offering can the power of grace (of Oneness, of nonduality) meet us halfway to draw us ever deeply toward the still point within. Only when we consciously surrender into Oneness with an open heart can we enter, and, when we are ready, remain, in that beatitude.

So don’t let your scoffer brother-in-law get to you. Disdain and contempt is difficult to bear, but only by the ego. Instead, consider it a glorious path to God. Meet disdain with love and even-mindedness. Indeed, feel but compassion, for a dry, loveless heart and overly intellectual mind has no room, no appetite for God, no chance for true happiness. Like one used to eating stale cheese, the armchair philosopher substitutes his cleverness for truth and, in time, finds the harvest but a bitter fruit of stillborn emptiness, devoid of happiness.

Be of good cheer! The truth shall make you free!


Nayaswami Hriman