Sunday, April 22, 2012

To What Should We Aspire?

In recent months I’ve shared links to my blog articles with internet discussion groups organized around the subjects of meditation and yoga. The groups are comprised of mostly yoga and meditation teachers, so I suppose I expected a higher level of consciousness than what I observed. So it wasn’t long before I withdrew for lack of interest and time.

[To view the Sunday Service talk in which aspects of this topic were given, go to and search on AnandaSeattle. Look for the date 4/22/12.]

For example, when the subject of the history of hatha yoga was floated, one teacher opined that yoga postures must have derived long ago during the days of cave men when, as hunters, they stood poised, waiting for their prey to appear or for the hunt to begin. At first I thought it was a tongue-in-cheek joke. Turns out it was not. Then I figured, well, he’s just giving his opinion  -- which he most certainly was. That he’s entitled to. But what was so disappointing is that the writer showed no interest in whether his speculation was true or not. It was enough that it was his opinion. No quotation of scholarly research or the insight of a wise guru. He seemed completely oblivious to the distinction between his opinion and reality. That was the real shock for me. And those who joined the conversation were no different. It was entirely speculation and opinion, with no interest whatsoever in discovering what might actually be the truth! I won’t bother to share my contribution but between scholarly research and the teaching of the rishis there’s plenty of more intelligently and elevated resources to draw upon!

Another conversation generated several hundred threads of commentary! A male yogi started it all by declaring that it was unspiritual to have an orgasm and yogis should avoid this sort of thing. Here, again, I don’t intend to weigh in on the declaration, but suffice to say the range of opinions on this one were not only all over the map but, well, how else to put it, except to say orgasmic!

On one side were the female tantra yoginis insisting upon their rights and the intrinsic spirituality, indeed, necessity, of such experiences and on the other side were the austerely dogmatic male yogis equally insistent upon the necessity of total abstinence. I couldn’t decide whether the debate was a comedy or a tragedy (though I confess it was a bit entertaining), but I suspect the reality behind the computer screens on both sides of the argument would have been, well, pardon the pun, revealing, to say the least. I thought to myself, “Don’t these people have a life, or better things to do?” (But, then, there I was reading this stuff!)

Another thread involved whether enlightened beings make mistakes. Someone stated that Yogananda’s selection of his successor (Rajarsi Janakananda, who died within two years of his becoming President of Yogananda’s organization) was just one example of a mistake that Yogananda obviously made! (I mean, couldn’t he have “seen” that his heir would not live very long and his mission would be thwarted?)

Well this was the straw that lead me to discontinue my interest in these conversations. But before I did, I had to weigh in. It was just too dumb and insulting. Even a  casual reading of Yogananda’s life story, “Autobiography of a Yogi,” reveals plenty of examples of the seeming de facto fallibility of great masters in mundane matters. Swami Sri Yukteswar, for example, having one day revealed an incredible telepathic power, the next day was nonplussed and suffused with merriment in having to report he had no idea where a kerosene lamp had been misplaced!
But that implication in the other writer’s statements was that the avatar’s fallibility just shows that they, too, are like us and not really all that enlightened! A great saint is a saint not because of his efficiency or human intelligence or material success in every venture he undertakes. You’d think Jesus was a failure for having been tried, convicted and crucified! What makes a saint or master great is his or her consciousness. This is true whether or not one has a public mission, disciples, or a formal teaching.Even the miracles they manifest (mostly to close disciples) are not the mark of their spiritual freedom.It is their God-given power to awaken souls to their divine destiny; to bestow the gift of soul freedom!

Yogananda endured a procession of teachers who left him and a few who, in leaving, attacked him. Against the counsel of his own guru, he encouraged and gave a position of authority to a man who later betrayed him. He attempted to start a school for children and later a householder community but in both cases he was, outwardly, unsuccessful. The time wasn’t right but his example inspired Swami Kriyananda to found the first (of many) communities and the first (of many) schools for children based on yogic precepts. The true guru works with the karma of those whom he comes to help. He respects the free will and courage of disciples to cooperate or reject his saving grace. So, was Yogananda’s decision to close down his experimental “world brotherhood colony” indicative of a failure? Or, was it a success because Swami Kriyananda, inspired by Yogananda’s dream for such communities, started the first of many?

Unseasoned yogis and devotees sometimes mistakenly believe that a spiritually advanced person must be in perfect health, perfect outward joy, constant bliss and have at his command the power of the universe. This is not the case. Instead, It is the willingness of such souls to live amidst the cosmic play of maya (delusion) that is one evidence of their greatness. Yogananda wore his wisdom like a comfortable old coat! To close disciples they may reveal their true nature (as Self-realized souls) but to the world, generally, they live as ordinary mortals, subject to the universal play of duality.

In observing the life of our founder and teacher, Swami Kriyananda, I, and many of you, and many throughout the world, have been blessed to see seen the very human face of spiritual striving and growth. During the last twenty-five years or so of his life he has endured health challenges that would crush in most people the will, the equanimity, and the energy to be serviceful and creative. Yet, Kriyananda has never stopped his writing, speaking, counseling, traveling and his guidance to countless souls and to the Ananda communities worldwide! His bliss only grows even as his body wanes in strength and vitality. He is periodically brought to death’s door or to near incapacity by physical challenges, but he has just as often bounced back unfazed. He is like a fruit tree which, when shaken by storms, only showers its fragrant blossoms in greater abundance.

As the practice of meditation and yoga spreads to every town and city around the globe we cannot but help see and expect a certain dilution of its original power and purpose. Indeed, the health and fashion culture that surrounds hatha yoga has all but eclipsed its higher, more spiritual purposes. Some Yoga lineages such as Ananda continue, however, to uphold the triune purpose of yoga to unite body, mind, and soul into a harmonious whole.

One distinct disadvantage of the high spiritual teaching of liberation and return of our soul to cosmic consciousness is that the goal is seemingly so high and so distant that we become discouraged and may find ourselves defining our spirituality as a cup of morning tea sipped in quiet and comfort.

Indeed, Yogananda said Jesus Christ was crucified once but his teachings have been crucified daily ever since. But the same can be said of the high teachings of Vedanta and Yoga. Yoga is trivialized everyday not just in selling insurance or cars but in the yoga field itself where bright and beautiful teachers vie for popularity, fame and fortune.

To do good and to do what is right is our duty in life. The Bhagavad Gita says that we have no right to the fruit of our good works. Those belong to God who is the true Doer and are those very works. The soul seeks no credit. Remember no good deed goes unpunished. This means that all the good you do will fade away, outwardly. There will always some opposition, some “fly in the ointment,” of every good thing you attempt or accomplish. Every great and successful person knows defeat and failure in at least equal measure. But to strive for good is to climb the ladder of ascension towards transcendence. Pay your dues with joy for your victory is assured if you strive with joy and seek divine grace as your guide and sustenance.

Humility means to forget your ego demands and offer all at the feet of the Infinity of Love which has given us life and joy.

Lahiri Mahasaya, param guru to Yogananda, said the natural fragrance of God-realization will attract the honey bees of devotees to enter the hive of meditation and enjoy the nectar of divine awakening. He encouraged his disciples to forsake scriptural debate in favor of Self-realization.

Never think of your spiritual liberation as far away, distant either in time or space. Instead every day and as often as you can through the day, affirm by quietude of heart and mind the Infinite Beloved who resides in your heart, with each heart beat. He is the nearest of the near and dearest of the dear. He is your own Self.

Meditation, practiced with concentration and devotion, is our most creative act, for it puts us in touch with the cosmic creative vibration of Om, from which all things and ideas flow. Creativity is to create love and harmony which is OM, for OM unites all life in one harmonic chord of life and love.

Aum, Shanti, Amen,

Nayaswami Hriman

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Tower of Babel - the Art of Communication

I am reading a book I can recommend to you: America Veda, by Phillip Goldberg. I haven't finished it so I may have a different opinion by the time I'm done, but I doubt it. It traces the history of Indian teachings in America. It's informative, well-written, and inspiring for the fact that the eastern teachings are so well suited to life in the 21st century and offer such promise of harmony and peace in our conflict-ridden world.

Reading about the various teachings and teachers I am struck with wonder of how many points of view and emphases there exist on what otherwise are basic key points: in this case around metaphysics and the idea that all creation is a manifestation of divinity. Now, I don't particularly want to talk about metaphysics here, but rather, the amazing diversity of points of view that can exist around what is generally perceive to be an experience of Oneness that, well, for lack of other words, one imagines would be the same for every One!

Again, putting aside whether Oneness is One for every One (a matter hardly worth debating!), the point remains. How is it we humans ever get anything done or haven't already destroyed ourselves given what seems to be an endless  variety of opinions on even the most mundane matters. (Does the mundane matter? Is the mundane matter? Well, see what I mean?)

Now that I've tricked you into thinking I'm not going to talk about metaphysics, guess what? I imagine that the only way we humans can survive ourselves is because of our Self. Beyond the endless stream of words and infinite varieties of human experience there does in fact, must in fact, exist a level of connection underyling the human experience. This underlayment, like the silence out which words come, like the evanescent sunlight and the crystal clear water which bring forth life, must surely give us a level of certitude, trust, and stability that encourages us to interact even when we are uncertain of the results or the dependability of those we cooperate with.

My teacher, Swami Kriyananda, wrote a book, Do it Now! It is out of print and was upgrade and replaced by a newer version called Living Wisely, Living Well. Both are excellent but the older version I had all but memorized by repetition (it had 365 wise sayings). Among my favorite groups of daily counsel was the advice to listen, feel, and notice the silence and the space between words; the space between activities; between breaths; and so on. Meditation essentially helps us find that "space between our thoughts." I have found that the more I contact and seek that space (whether in meditation or in outward activity) the more I can trust that the right outcome will follow. This brings to me calmness, confidence, and solution-oriented ideas when I need them.

The Tower of Babel is the Tower of Ego affirmation. It's the experience of being in a crowded room of people and everyone talking at the same time. That's the crowded marketplace of human egos competing, vying for supremacy, attention, survival, and fulfillment of seething desires; we see it on the oversized stage of politics: everyone shouting at each other, spinning and nuancing every word to their own advantage or to the disadvantage of the other "guy."

The secret of success and happiness begins with listening. Listening means to "feel," to "sense," to be aware, and to develop the art and habit of looking for reality by tuning into intuition which hovers in a silent space just "above" us. It means shunning or calming the tendency to react to words and appearances, to imaginings, to speculation, to fears and to countless "what if" scenarios. It means to be receptive to and to accept "what is" rather than to substitute one's mental machinations for reality.

To be a listener and to live intuitively means to live on a subtler plane of feeling, sensitivity, awareness and consciousness. There's no point getting overly metaphysical about it: just start by listening. And when no one's talking, listen to your own stream of thoughts. Don't buy into the marketplace of your own opinions, desires, and fears. The yogis say practice the inward response of "Neti, neti." "Not this, not that," translated literally. But this means "don't buy in." Remain aloof or a little apart from your own reactive tendencies. Hear yourself think or talk or watch how you behave.

Yes, I think the only way life is bearable is similar to how we need sleep every night lest daytime life become hopelessly burdensome. The soul needs the refreshment that comes from the "listening" and from the "spacious" mind which exists in the blue skies of quietude that exist all around us. The talking mind is the ego mind: dissecting, weighing, counting, measuring, computing the odds and placing bets.

I say to my Self, "You don't mind, do you?" I ask my Self this question as a "re-mind-er to "mind" my own "Self."

In order to develop this trait, it is best to start slowly, one mind at a time. Let the talking mind talk for a while and then ask it to "shut up" (whether your mouth or your talking mind) and "listen." Listen not just with your ears, but your body, your senses, your heart, and your higher Self. Together these act as a kind of crystal radio set, provided they are are synchronized with each other.

After some practice you can go the next level which is to be both mind-ful (listening) and talking or acting more or less at the same time. When I give a talk at a class, for example, I try to pay attention in a calm, inner feeling sort of way as I am speaking. I am not analyzing what I imagine are the listeners' response but I keep my "inner ear" attuned. In this way I will be more likely to say things that will be in tune with their needs and the whispered counsel of their own higher Self.

So, let's come down from the Tower of Babel where everyone is shouting all at once. Walk calmly amidst the crowd of your thoughts or the cacaphony of outer sounds and listen. Don't judge just BE. In that space you will be everyone's Friend and your own best Friend. You'll be amazed how much better you communicate even in difficult situations.

Like the railroad crossings used to say: "Stop, look, listen!"


Nayaswami Hriman

Saturday, April 7, 2012

A New Tomorrow Dawns Today! Easter 2012

Today, Easter Sunday, 2012, we honor and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ and his relevance to our lives. As Easter and springtime signal a renewal of life and hope, so too we stand in the midst of the dawn of a new age, a new tomorrow.

Paramhansa Yogananda unhesitatingly affirmed the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He boldly claimed to have had many visions of Jesus Christ. In his autobiography he spoke of the resurrection of his own guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar who appeared to him in the flesh in a hotel room in Bombay some three months after his guru’s body was buried in the sands of Puri, on the eastern coast of India.

He came from the east as, in fact, did Jesus Christ, not “to destroy, but to fulfill the law and the prophets.” But he faced the dawn and spoke to the future of humanity of hope for a better world. That hope, which was vibrant in the first years of twentieth century was soon shattered by the "war to end all wars," which heralded only more and greater and unceasing  conflict ever since. That century saw two world wars and the deaths of untold millions of people, combatants and civilians alike amidst the appearance of a new and terrible weapon of death: the nuclear bomb. And yet in the hearts of millions, hope remains, progress is being made.

Jesus Christ, by contrast, was born amidst the dark age of ignorance, known as the Age of Kali. He spoke therefore only in parables. His disciples expressed their frustration but in time were instructed privately in matters direct and esoteric. The deeper teachings of Jesus were hidden from public view. His journey to the east as a young man was erased from the accounts of his life. His references to reincarnation were purposefully oblique because the consciousness of humanity could not see beyond the reality of physical form. In the centuries that followed his life humanity was to see the destruction of civilization and knowledge as it was known in his time. His teachings alone, though hopelessly crucified daily by ignorant self-styled representatives of it, to the extent embodied in the lives of his true disciples, were nonetheless the only light of civilization for centuries to come. Hope for a better world would await the future coming of another “son of God” for an age with “ears to hear.”

But the new age would not dawn peacefully because the institutions and consciousness of Kali Yuga are far from surrendering their claims willingly. During Yogananda’s life, the British empire which once ruled the waves (and Yogananda’s homeland of India) and upon which the sun never set was destroyed. Yogananda taught that the divine purpose behind that empire was to unite the world in preparation for the new age and to introduce the principle of rule of law, individual liberties, and even the English language as the future “lingua franca” of the world. This new era of consciousness, which we call the Age of Dwapara (meaning “second age”) was born, however inauspiciously, at the beginning of the twentieth century.

The pace of change ever since has been both exhilarating and frightening: both hopeful and fearful. Almost immediately at the dawn of the twentieth century came a lightning bolt of scientific (and philosophic) discovery: Einstein’s declaration that all matter is a form of energy. Thus Dwapara Yuga is an age of energy awareness and energy consciousness.

Thus we have seen in our lifetimes:
  1. 1.      an explosion in the search for and consumption of energy resources to power a whole new way of life and civilization; this is matched with a crises and concern for sustaining cheap energy resources and mitigating or eliminating the negative impact of our energy consumption;
  2. 2.      we see a rising and urgent interest in alternative medicine and energy healing as holistic illnesses surface in tandem with our awareness of our body as energy; we have become aware that health is the product of the quantity and quality of our energy;
  3. 3.      the vitality and cleanliness of food, water and air is of urgent concern; the need for locally based and sustainable food sources is spawning an entire new industry and inspiring a new generation of Dwapara pioneers;
  4. 4.      energy consciousness in society, business, and politics translates into the pressing need for cooperation rather than competition and exploitation on a global as well as local scale;
  5. 5.      in religion, strident sectarianism threatens the very foundation, source and value to humanity that religion should offer; the need to see the underlying harmony and unity among all faith traditions is as vital a concern as any environmental or political issue; the nonsectarian practice of meditation is steadily replacing dogmatic attachment to outward forms and beliefs into the expansive and joyful direct perception of one's higher Self, the Self of All.
  6. 6.      in behavior, morals and ethics, all is fair and all is game in the frenetic whirlpools of dissolving traditions and cultures; the expansion of consciousness of Dwapara Yuga is destroying the rigid boundaries of Kali Yuga; at first there seems unleashed not only freedom but license and licentiousness; the self-centeredness that seems to be emerging in Dwapara will be balanced by an expansion of self-awareness  and sympathies for the greater good of  all. 
  7. 7.   personal freedom of Dwapara will unleash the energy of self-initiative, creativity, and individual conscience. These will gradually overtake the power and dependence upon the centralized authority of tribe, culture, government or religion.

Fear of the rapid pace and consequences of change and the direction of civilization has halted the otherwise necessary and natural expansion of sympathies that Dwapara Yuga invites. In every country in the world, during the last ten or twenty years, two steps backward toward authoritarianism and violence is evident.

But the march of Dwapara continues. The internet, whose freedom and openness is under assault, nonetheless is spreading awareness like the light of dawn to all nations and all people. Nothing can stop the halt of progress through education and greater awareness of ourselves, our neighbors, our planet and our universe that is streaming toward us like a flood.

Hope for a Better World comes to us to with the rays of light from the new dawn of Dwapara. But Dwapara is an age of rapid change and unceasing instability. Its vitality can threaten destruction but those souls of goodwill can harness Dwapara's rising power for good by going within, to the calm and wise center of intuition. 

Individual liberties and freedoms are the outer form and leading edge of Dwapara. But its invisible inner counsel reminds us that true freedom is not doing merely what we want, but having the wisdom and courage to do what is right. No outward ruler or authority can contain the energy of Dwapara. Only individual conscience can do that now. Only conscience can stem the tide of misuse of personal, economic, military, or political power.

Thus it is that the overarching Intelligence of the One from whom the many have come has sent its sons, its children to be wayshowers: Jesus Christ said it even in the midst of Kali Yuga: the kingdom of heaven is within you! Jesus, in cooperation and communion with the rishis of India, and in attunement with the divine will, has sent to the West and to the world the sacred keys of awakening through yoga-union: the science of meditation and the technique of kriya yoga.

Kriya yoga is the energy medicine of the soul. As we learn to awaken and unite with the subtle but powerfully intelligent currents of energy and consciousness that create and sustain the human body, we are baptized in the river of life that brings to us the intuition, wisdom, vitality, and creativity with which to flow and adapt to the outward currents of Dwapara Yuga. 

Finding the unalloyed happiness of the soul within, we can shine and share the light of wisdom upon the earth as it is reborn into Dwapara Yuga. Ours is not only the privilege, not only the opportunity, but the obligation, for while the victory of Dwapara is assured, the extent of suffering which is resulting from the clash of consciousness between old forms and new energy can only be mitigated by soldiers of peace and messengers of mercy.

May this Easter resurrect in your heart the commitment to simple living and high ideals, of living in harmony and cooperation and in dedicated service to the flow of divine grace that can guide the boundless energies of a new age. Seek divine contact through the scientific techniques of meditation and express the divine will, wisdom, and love through selfless service to all. Be the hope for a better world that you seek for yourself, your family and for all.

A blessed Easter to you,

Nayaswami Hriman

[If you enjoyed this article, you will find more insights and wisdom for a new age in Swami Kriyananda's collection of essays, "Religion in the Age." See Available at Ananda in Bothell, WA or at your local East West Bookshop.

Monday, April 2, 2012

God: personal or impersonal?

This week is “Holy Week” in the Christian calendar. Coincident as both Easter and Passover is to the beginning of Spring, these religious celebrations express the Spring themes of hope and renewal.

My topic today would seem unrelated to Holy Week but the renewal promised by the great saints and scriptures, and echoed by Mother Nature in springtime, is a renewal of and in the Spirit. The question of whether to approach God as Spirit (impersonal) or as incarnate (personal) is raised in every tradition, every generation, every faith and in every soul seeking inner communion and inner renewal.

Great debates have raged through the millennia on this issue: some sects espousing the impersonal, others the personal. Swami Kriyananda, direct disciple of the renowned yogi, Paramhansa Yogananda (author of “Autobiography of a Yogi”), and my teacher (and founder of the worldwide network of Ananda communities) has taught that “infinity includes infinitesimal.”

“Why, then,” he is effectively saying, “should there a conflict?” God is the essence of everything and everybody! Armed with the expansive vista given to us by science and confronted with the narrowness of view of sectarian faiths, many educated people reject all religion and specifically any expression of devotion towards a person, alive or otherwise. Who can blame them?  “Idolatry,” Swami Kriyananda writes in his classic text, “Art and Science of Raja Yoga,” “is the bane of religion.”

And then there are those who worship God in the form of their “guru,” such as Jesus Christ, Krishna, Buddha, Rama and so many others. Such devotees may scoff at those pretentious enough to imagine they can approach the Infinite Spirit on their own terms, which is to say, from the insignificant soap box of the human ego. There are those who reject any form and insist that God is Spirit and no representation whatsoever can be made.

We humans all too often mistake the form for the spirit behind the form. We are hypnotized by our reaction to what we feel is the attractiveness (or repulsiveness) of external objects, including mental constructs such as theology or philosophy. We miss the point, in other words. We also cling desperately to our own ideas of what is right. Our insistence betrays only our uncertainty, however.

To the woman at the well in Samaria, Jesus taught that “God is Spirit and seeketh those to worship Him in spirit and in truth.” To worship God in spirit is to commune with the divine Presence in inner silence. To worship God in truth is to seek true wisdom and to walk the path of righteousness (dharma) in daily life.

Try these experiments in prayer and meditation  for yourself. First: sit in meditation and visualize the image of one of the great saints or masters, such as Jesus Christ, Buddha, Yogananda, or any other. For as long as you can calmly concentrate and while dismissing as often as necessary passing thoughts, hold that image behind closed eyes. As you do so feel that your heart is open. You may wish to visualize your heart as an open lotus, rose, or an upturned chalice. The fragrance of the flowers waft upward in adoration, or, in the latter image, let the crystal clear waters of peace flowing from the “master” fill your cup. When you feel complete, then sit still, in the silence and absorb the after-effects of your visualization.

As a second experiment, visualize a golden light behind closed eyes. See that light entering the brain and flowing down into the body and then encircling the body in a halo or sphere of Light. Rest in the gentle but vibrant healing balm of that Light. Now, expand that Light outward in all directions: to your home, your family, your neighbors, your city, country and encircling the earth, bathing all life in the peace-light of your heart. Now send this Light out into the universe and feel this Light is the great Light of God, your Father. Mentally affirm, “I and my Father are One!” When finished sit in the silence and just BE STILL and KNOW that I AM.

You can combine both of these starting from the personal and moving to the impersonal. St. John the evangelist describes Jesus as that Light that cometh into the world, that lighteth every man, and which is God and has created all things since the beginning of time. “Before Abraham was, I AM.” Paramhansa Yogananda taught that Jesus as a person wasn’t a divine creation so much as Jesus, the unique soul, had become wholly identified with the Father-Spirit. The difference between a Jesus Christ and most people isn’t one of kind, but of degree. We need only to come to the same Self-realization that the great masters have achieved through the combination of self-effort and divine grace.

Think, then, of yourself as a spark of that great Light. There is no conflict between you and the great Light of God. So long as we hold the candlelight of our own ego close to our eyes we do not notice the great Light that surrounds us. It’s a matter of attention and direction of our focus. God has descended into flesh to become the creation, and to become YOU. But as the wave cannot call itself the entire ocean, so we must shift our attention from the particular form Spirit has taken (in ourselves, others, and in the creation) to the formless, nameless overarching Spirit which is found in the vibrationless sphere of inner silence. This doesn’t happen in a day, but as Krishna promises in the “Bhagavad Gita,” “Even a little practice (of this) will free you.....”

A blessed and holy celebration of the great Light that rises in the East(er).

Nayaswami Hriman