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