Monday, August 26, 2013

Back from Spiritual Renewal Week Annual Retreat

Dear Friends, 

Padma and I have returned from Spiritual Renewal Week refreshed and recharged and ready to greet a long list of "to-do's". We, too, perhaps like you, are slightly reluctant to bid adieu to summer just yet. Maybe this next, Monday (Labor Day), we can enjoy the day as a day of rest and simple enjoyments with friends. 

Every year we and many others from the Ananda Sangha in the greater Seattle area fly or drive to Ananda Village near Nevada City, CA. Hosted by the public retreat there (the Expanding Light,, we enjoy a week of classes, yoga, meditation, good conversation, delicious vegetarian meals, sunshine, starlit nights, concert, kirtan, play, walks in the forest, cooling breezes, and inspiration from within or without! People come from all over the world for this annual event. There are Ananda centers, communities, groups and members across the globe. To see so many gathered together, chanting, meditating, sharing meals and inspired entertainment, and seeking inspiration together is itself rejuvenating and inspiring.

Generally the key talks of Spiritual Renewal Week eventually get posted by or the at some point, [here's the link: } What made this year (Aug 16-25) special was that Swami Kriyananda left this earth just a few months ago. Since the founding of Ananda, this was the first "S.R.W." without him (at least somewhere on the planet). Hence the week was dedicated to his memory, inspiration and ever living spirit. It was well attended and especially so from the Seattle Sangha. There were about 24 of us from the Seattle area. 

One might have expected that the week would have had a pall of unspoken sadness, owing to Swamiji's passing. Instead, there was, at times (early morning or late at night), only the pall of distant forest fires. Ironically, the whiff of smoke reminded many of us more of Delhi, India (on a good day), than of the ever present summer threat of forest fire in the Sierra Nevada mountains and hills of northern California. 

Instead, we felt Swamiji's presence even more strongly as we came together as his spiritual family blessed and guided by Paramhansa Yogananda. Swami Kriyananda is now free of the burden of his aged body which, despite its troubles, he transcended so gracefully with the power of divine bliss. During that week, the only moment I felt something "missing" was the Monday night outdoor concert. In past years, Swami used to always be present and lent a vibration of inwardness. That vibration was there but he wasn't there in the usual way. The feeling passed quickly, however, for the music itself, composed by him, lifted us on the wings of his living spirit.

The main feature of each day are the morning classes. Two or more speakers (on Wednesday, there were eight) share inspiration on the day's topic. The general theme was lessons from Swamiji's life. Sub topics such as discipleship and creativity and kriya yoga were special features. All of the speakers shared stories from their experiences with Swami Kriyananda: poignant, humorous, or inspired. Padma and I heard some stories from "old timers" and friends that we'd never heard before! There were afternoon workshops, three levels of kriya initiation, walks on the ridge (which looks to the west across the great central valley of California), engaging conversation, and much more.

Padma and I stayed with our daughter, Gita and her husband, Badri, and our two grand-dogs! Gita is pregnant and due in a few weeks! A newlywed couple live there also so the house is a busy and fun place to be. 

Summer at Ananda brings generally warm to hot weather. The nights are generally cool. Even the day's heat, if any, is softened by cool summer breezes, shady trees, and gentle forest paths. Somewhere in August the weather begins to shift toward hints of Fall. Overall, it was delightful, in fact.

Every morning Padma and I attended the in-Community meditations at Hansa. The meditations were deep, quiet and filled with God's presence. We participated as blessers in one of the kriya initiations, and each of us were among the featured speakers during the morning talks (she on Friday; I, on Saturday).

Personal retreats and seclusions have their benefits but there's no substitute for the power of what we call "satsang," or the fellowship of like minded truthseekers. There is a power, a joy, and a celebratory sense of divine presence and connection that emerges from the events. It tends to build day after day. At Spiritual Renewal Week it culminates on Friday night with the kriya ceremonies and reaches a peak of celebration with outdoor Indian banquet and starlit entertainment which follows the banquet on Saturday night.

Maybe you can attend next year! Look for it on the website of!

Joy and blessings to you,


Monday, August 19, 2013

Why take a retreat?

I am here at Ananda Village, near Nevada City, CA, for the annual week of Spiritual Renewal. There are about twenty of us from Ananda in the Seattle area. Overall attendance I don't know but for the major talks and events there are two to three hundred (or more) people. There are guests and visitors from around the world.
A week-long retreat was a tradition begun by Paramhansa Yogananda during his years of teaching from his headquarters in Los Angeles during the Twenties and Thirties.
Each morning, Monday through Saturday, there are talks by different Ananda teachers from communities around the world. Most days there are at least two speakers, sometimes an entire panel of speakers.
Afternoons offer workshops or tours or quiet time while evenings bring such activities as a concert, a play, a kirtan, an Indian banquet, and kriya initiation (for those eligible).
For those of us who are not, strictly speaking, guests on retreat but members returning  "home," it's like a reunion. We do have some business or planning meetings, but mostly it is reconnecting with friends and getting up to date.
I cannot over emphasize the value of such retreats, no matter what one's role in the retreat might be.
Retreat differs from seclusion in that seclusion is private and individual. Seclusion is also entirely in silence. Retreat is often with others, although the hybrid is personal retreat which takes place like a semi-seclusion in the midst of other retreat activities.
At Ananda's Expanding Light Retreat you can come for a specific program or on personal retreat, tailored to your own needs and schedule. You can also come on "work exchange".
Many, including myself, get more recharge from retreat or seclusion than most vacations (where you are traveling, in hotels, airports, cars, surrounded by crowds, and over eating etc etc)!
If you want a true recharge for body, mind, soul, I recommend a retreat!  Seclusion is generally best for those with a strong meditation and prayer practice, and who are comfortable yet energized spiritually being completely alone. Thus retreats are the place to start and both are very helpful, indeed, absolutely necessary.
As Paramhansa Yogananda put it, "Seclusion is the price is greatness" and this includes retreat.
Reference Ananda's west coast retreat: We have retreat centers also in central Italy (Umbria, near Assisi), and, in India (in the hills outside Pune city).
Joy to you,
From Ananda Village!

Swami Hrimanananda

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

What is the best or original Kriya Yoga?

As the practice of kriya yoga (a meditation technique(s)) grows exponentially in popularity and public awareness, the number of teachers of kriya and books about or revealing the kriya yoga technique also grows.

Different ones or groups claim to have the "original," or the best, or the correct technique. For better or worse, the term "kriya" is generic. It is almost equivalent to the term, in English, "technique." I refer readers to that which has put kriya on the public map: Chapter 26 of "Autobiography of a Yogi," by Paramhansa Yogananda. Thus there are many "kriya" techniques: some are preparatory for the more advanced kriyas as taught by Lahiri Mahasaya and his line (which includes Paramhansa Yogananda). Examples include navi kriya and talabya kriya, to name just two. Some teachers who use the term "kriya" in describing what they teach offer techniques that only casually resemble what Lahiri and his lineage have taught (directly and through their disciples).

To a "bhakta," or one who approaches God through devotion, techniques are either boring or virtually sacrilegious because presuming upon self-effort to achieve salvation (as if the yogi ignores the power of grace through God and guru!). A "gyani," or one who approaches Truth through the intellect and observation and strict non-attachment and monism, may view "kriyas" as unnecessary, distracting and smacking of dualism, as if affirming the yogis separateness from the One. A "karmi," or one who is self-sacrificing in rendering service without thought of self, may view "kriyas" as tempting self-invovlement and lacking in compassion for others. All of these objections, moreover, may, in some cases, be valid.

But the eightfold path taught by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras and the path of yoga as taught by Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, both confirm that right feeling (devotion), right attitude (non-attachment and ego transcendence), and right action (nishkam karma) are integral aspects of the inner path of meditation (raja yoga--of which kriya yoga is a part). Krishna, in the Bhagavad Gita, counsels Arjuna (us) to "Be thou a yogi." This counsel is repeated throughout the Gita.

In prior blogs I have pointed out that there is no "best" technique, best religion, or most exalted guru but that which inspires our souls to seek freedom in God. For some yogis, a simple mantra is best. For others, watching the breath. For others, more complex techniques such as kriya yoga (which as taught by Paramhansa Yogananda includes a body of at least four core techniques and several supportive ones).

In the blatthering blog-a-sphere, one sees these debates about "best" and "original" going on. Those who defy the "ancient injunctions" of secrecy in regards to who is authorized to teach kriya, will claim a higher path of public service and decry the misuse of teacher-student relationship in regards to secrecy. It's not, of course, secrecy, per se, it's preparedness: mental, emotional, psychological, and physical. Preparedness means the more sensitive and inward understanding that it's not really about a technique: it's a matter of the heart: devotion and commitment. It's as if the "secrecy" thing is a direct challenge to the ego to reach for a deeper understanding.

Nonetheless, all sincere points of view have their place. As a given fact, why cry over the spilt milk of others' seeming transgressions. And besides, some teachers have misused these sacred teachings for personal gain.

In reading one author's revelations of his decades long search for the "real" kriya, it is evident that, as Patanjali warns us, he "missed the point." The point isn't "best" or "original." It is: how much of yourself are you willing to give? Still his account was interesting for all the lesser teachers that abound and that are tempted to use the knowledge they've received for self-aggrandizement. How blessed I feel for the self-honesty, the wisdom, the patience and the loyalty of my teacher, Swami Kriyananda: a direct disciple, indeed, of Yogananda! Kriyananda was blithely dismissed by this author (as a source for knowledge of kriya) by the author's cursory acceptance of the condemnation of Kriyananda by others as being disloyal. Well, that's fine, of course. Each to his own. I suspect, however, the real reason is that Kriyananda did not write or publish details of the basic and so-called higher kriya techniques in accordance with his guru's wishes. Thus he was of no interest to this author.

According to my teacher, Swami Kriyananda, Lahiri Mahasaya emphasized, and indeed, I may have heard him say, even, required mastery of the kechari mudra before giving the first kriya initiation! So few people that I know have a tongue long enough to do this technique at all or for very long that it would be a shame not to learn kriya yoga on the basis of not being able to place the tongue behind the soft palate and up into the nasal passage behind it! Yes, there are techniques for stretching the tongue, but, golly, how weird do we yogis have to be, anyway, to find God? (I'm all for kechari! I look forward to it; but my tongue isn't there yet.)

If, therefore, Paramhansa Yogananda, in coming to the West taught the technique without requiring or even, sometimes, mentioning kechari (except to close disciples), I, for one, think he knew what he was doing. With kechari mudra, the technique is essentially done with mouth closed (or air passage through it blocked). Without kechari, the kriya technique is more easily and powerfully done otherwise. To accuse Yogananda of changing or diluting the technique on the basis of doing or not doing kechari is silly. Ignoring for the moment, the grace and power of the guru's instructions, a survey of techniques going by the name kriya, and knowing, indeed, the advanced (or "higher") kriya techniques, it's obvious that there are an infinite number of minor variations to these techniques. Some of these will naturally occur to the dedicated kriya yogi as he practices and calls upon divine guidance to guide his practice. Swami Kriyananda has pointed out that the purpose and result of spiritual growth is to go more and more by intuition: by the inner guru. Thus a kriya yogi, in time and with dedicated and right practice, earns the "right" (by intuition) to explore the inner path and techniques in ways that are suitable at that moment. (Whether one teaches or shares such things is also a matter of both inner guidance and validated outer commission. See my prior blog.)

Collecting them all like baseball cards produces only pride, confusion, and restlessness. Surely not devotion, in any case; nor yet self-offering and humility.

Let us therefore understand that the spiritual path is unique to each and an inner journey. It can be supported by techniques but only with right attitude, right technique, and right teacher. "Right" means "right" for our soul's highest potential.

Blessings to all,

Nayaswami Hriman

Monday, August 12, 2013

Is it unnecessary to follow a particular spiritual path?

Recently, I assisted with the planning towards offering a specially designed meditation support group for those in the "recovery" movement. The eleventh (of the now well known "Twelve Steps") step in the recovery process is prayer and meditation. So, we figured, since Ananda has much to offer in regards to both, why not offer such support to others?

The first question that arose, however, was "Wouldn't it be more acceptable to more people if what we offered drew upon a variety of universally acceptable prayer and meditation sources (and not just Ananda's)?

I had to admit that such was likely to be the case. The further statement to the question was the assumption that by only offering what Ananda had to share we'd be seen as promoting our own way, indeed, perhaps proselytizing. I had to admit, again, that, well, yes, some would certainly view it that way.

My musings here are not really about how best to format the meditation support group. In that particular instance, I had several, not entirely irrelevant, objections: 1. What we would offer would be universal and not particular; 2. The mere fact that we would draw on Ananda sources doesn't, in and of itself, make it self-promoting. 3. Self-promoting is an aspect of both intention and delivery and in this case there was to be neither. 4. What we have to offer is effective and helpful to people. There is nothing lacking in it and there is no need, therefore, from the standpoint of the goal of the support group to seek out other sources. 5. The public service we wanted to offer is not merely the use of our physical space but to share something valuable that we have to share.

I admit that to many people these distinctions are just too subtle and human nature too suspicious to carry the day against the objections raised above. I figure, well, ok, then if fewer come and fewer therefore benefit, that's their choice. Why should we dilute what we have when we know it is effective and offered in good faith?

In my last blog article I explored the question of whether heretofore "secret" teachings and techniques should be made free (or mostly free) and public. Is to do so to "throw pearls before swine?" Is there any harm done? For those exposed to sacred teachings who spurn them because not spiritually ready, such persons may, karmically and psychologically, defer their own acceptance for having rejected them. Aren't material objects which are considered precious generally costly, scarce or otherwise difficult to obtain?

Still, one could also argue that more people will have access and therefore, following the spiritual lottery odds given to us in the "Bhagavad Gita" by Lord Krishna, "out of a thousand, one seeks Me."

My conclusion in that blog article was not a call for secrecy but a reminder that what makes such teachings and techniques precious is that one must have, by self-effort and grace, have advanced sufficiently spiritually and sensitively to recognize their value and to plumb their depths through discipline, self-control and devotion.

So, now, what then, is best? A synthesis of yoga techniques and philosophies or a singular lineage and spiritual path? I say, "There's something for everyone." When searching it is useful to explore different traditions and teachers. To draw the best from each and incorporate it into one's "sadhana" (spiritual practices) can be helpful.

But how many frogs does one kiss before finding a prince? There is, so I believe and believe I have observed in others, a restlessness and dissatisfaction in a concatenation of disciplines and methods. It is not uncommon, when yoga practitioners of different lineages assemble together, to feel a different "vibration" in another tradition, even when outwardly very similar (practicing meditation and yoga, e.g.)

There's another point however. This must be either experienced by oneself or observed sensitively in others. When one approaches spiritual disciplines like a smorgasbord, the ego engages in a "like and dislike" weighing and comparing attitude. The sense of personal ownership and "doership" is increased, not lessened. It is an axiom of spirituality that ego transcendence is an integral part of the path to the goal. "I have chosen this technique, that method, this book or teacher" to satisfy "What I think is right for me!" The resulting direction of consciousness is opposite to that of the soul, which is surrender, self-giving, devotional and so on. There is, further, a tendency toward pride over having learned or studied all these different philosophies or techniques, or having studied under this teacher or that. It may even be the ego's excuse to remain "above it all" (meaning above a personal commitment to ego transcendence) -- best to study everything, you see.

Yes, the ego does have to make decisions, spiritually and otherwise. Those decisions, however, which incline one towards ego transcendence will advance the soul toward freedom ("moksha") faster. As I stated in the prior blog, there is no one "right" yoga practice or meditation technique. What is right is that which brings you toward soul freedom!

This idea leads one naturally, indeed, inexorably to the need for the guru. But I have written on that subject in numerous other blogs. Suffice to say that anyone who sincerely and with energy seeks spiritual freedom, such a one will be guided to those teachers, teachings, and techniques best suited to his own unique and individual path to God.

The simple fact is this: in the practice of yoga and meditation today (and, let's face it, in the multitudinous practices of religion and spirituality generally throughout the world), most seek something far less. In yoga, it's often health, inner peace, well-being, muscle tone, stress relief and so on. For students of philosophy there are just never enough time to read all those cool books. For others, there's always a newer and more popular teacher coming to town. Even for the vast majority of devotees (those who undertake yoga disciplines, prayer, or charitable service for spiritual growth or to do God's work), we are working out karma: we feel better living this way; we feel compassion for others; we want to give back; and sometimes it's less ennobling, as, for example, we engage in practices because we are expected to, or otherwise for approval and recognition.

You see, and now I get to the meat of things, we have this deeply embedded tendency to mistake the form for the spirit (behind the form). Thus, we get attached to doing yoga; or meditating; or reading and learning; doing charitable work; or going to church on Sunday. We mistake the outer act (even meditation performed mechanically is a kind of outer work) for the presence of God, or joy, or upliftment. We too often settle for the outer act because we know we can't control when the "spirit will move and come upon me." And, of course, we should never so presume.

Thus we think that if we can learn dozens of yoga poses or meditation techniques we will be better at yoga or meditation. Little do we realize how little it takes; or, put more intelligently, that it's the attitude and consciousness with which we pray, meditate, or stretch that awakens the Spirit within. When, far along our spiritual journey, we realize that "joy is within you," (Ananda's motto), and that spiritual growth is not a matter of accumulating more techniques, or reading more books, and that it is, after all, really simple, then we let go of our "romance with religion" (its outer trappings), and seek, as one great modern saint was apt to counsel, "God alone."

I'm not saying we throw the "baby out with the bath water." I'm saying that we realize that one, true path, one true teacher, one effective technique is sufficient in regards outer practices and that what we really need is attunement with divine realities. And this is where it gets "good." Good because so subtle. Good because God, being the Infinite Power, the Supreme Spirit, has no form; no name; all forms; all names! It's just too confusing. Monism? Dualism? Where to start? Where does it end?

Are you ready, yet, for a guru? Ok, later, then. Nonetheless, my point is that, using the analogy of human love, we don't need five wives or husbands: we need only one if we want to know what the potential of human love might be. And so it is with God. Being everywhere (and nowhere), we don't need to "kiss every frog." Rather, simplicity of outer practice; purity of heart; selfless hands in service; and devotion to the Supreme Spirit (in whatever form is your "Ishta devata" -- that which inspires you to seek Truth and Freedom).

It would not be my intention to discourage you if you are enthusiastically engaged in learning and practicing (or teaching) yoga, meditation, or other worthy spiritual practices. Energetic engagement of will towards and for Good is necessary for the refinement of our consciousness and nervous system, and the purification of our karma and dross.

Further, there are those whose syncretic methods are helpful to them, and, if they are teachers, perhaps helpful for others. I maintain, however, as stated above, that this a phase one goes through. A necessary phase for some, to be sure, but a phase nonetheless. I object to what is sometimes the pride and even arrogance with which some syncretic teachers and students look down upon those poor slobs "stuck" in one path or lineage. But, well, I have spoken above of the drawbacks to this form of "fast lane" eclecticism.

Nonetheless, I hope some of distinctions made here can be helpful. For, very often, given the tendency toward sectarian rivalry with which spirituality and religion is too often a victim, a sincere person hesitates to make the plunge toward a singular path, leaving behind the garden of syncretic delights (like leaving behind dating in order to marry).

No step, taken sincerely and intelligently, with energy and faith, toward God, toward Truth, can ever lead us astray. Lessons we may have yet to learn, to be sure, but if we take one step toward God, Spirit takes two toward us. As we increase in purity, wisdom, and energy our path to God will surely lead us home.

There is no God, but God. There is no good, but God. There is no Thing, but God.

Peace! Shalom! Shanti!

Nayaswami Hriman

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Spiritual Teachings in the Marketplace - for all? for the elite? free, or costly?

Originally published in 1925, Bruce Barton, one of the founding members of the advertising agency Batten, Barton, Durstine and Osborne (known today as BBDO worldwide), presents Jesus Christ as a leader, role model, and a successful salesman. Paramhansa Yogananda, who came to America in 1920 from India, to bring the teachings of Vedanta and the practice of Raja Yoga (including the now popular Kriya Yoga meditation technique), intersected and endorsed Bruce Barton's book as he, Yogananda, who was frequently compared to a modern Jesus Christ, struggled to present his teachings to the dynamic, creative, diverse and all-too materialistic American culture.

Yogananda delighted in the fresh and dynamic portrayal of Jesus by Barton. It contrasted sharply with the depiction of Jesus as dour and "acquainted with grief," and as one who was crucified for our sins and perpetually carrying his cross on our behalf. Jesus was, after all, a young man who hiked up and down ancient Palestine with a band of brothers. Why would hundreds, even thousands, of his fellow countrymen be attracted to this young man if his message was one that reminded them (as if they needed reminding) of the need for suffering? Of course not! He and his band had to have been vibrant, joyful, and enthusiastically learning, practicing and sharing the "good news" of our soul's eternal birthright in God's joy and love.

Yogananda, author of his world renowned life story, "Autobiography of a Yogi," came from India, he said, at the behest of Jesus Christ who, in cooperation with the deathless and great (maha) avatar, Babaji, were guiding the evolution of consciousness here on earth by resurrecting the previously hidden scientific techniques of God communion through yoga practice. Babaji was asked to train and send someone to the West to help bring together the best of the east and the best of west -- the material efficiency of the west with the spiritual efficiency of India's timeless science of yoga introspection and concentration. As the west was uncovering the secrets of Mother Nature ("Prakriti") through observation and measurement, so too have the yogis of India, since ancient times, uncovered the secrets of consciousness ("Purusha") through yoga concentration and observation.

The parallels between Yogananda's life in establishing himself and his teachings in America and Jesus Christ bringing his "new testament" to the Jews are interesting. Each had no choice (because possessing no institution or other network or orthodox endorsement) but to traipse across their respective countries, speaking to those with "ears to hear and eyes to see." We don't know how Jesus' travels and ministry were supported but we do know that Judas "kept the purse." So, presumably, some of his wealthier students and disciples were helping. Perhaps even Matthew, the tax collector (one who would presumably have had some accumulated wealth), had helped sweeten the pot.

According to Phillip Goldberg (author of "American Veda") who has studied the various Vedantic teachers who have come to the West with yoga, Yogananda made a major innovation when he instituted his printed lessons in Vedanta and Yoga and sent them through the mail. Goldberg compares this innovation to the landmark invention by Sears and Roebuck of their catalog some decades before. They were the equivalent in their time to online classes of our age of the internet.  

Yogananda's printed lessons allowed him to come to a city, stay and give classes for a week or several weeks, and enroll students in his lessons which would then be sent bi-weekly from his headquarters in Los Angeles. The lessons at the time (say, 1930) cost $25.00 which according to is worth $352 in today's dollars! Yogananda printed photos of himself which he sold at his lectures and even had billboards with his photo to advertise his classes and lectures. It would hardly surprise anyone that he encountered no small amount of criticism, and not just from Christian fundamentalists, but even more so from fellow Vedantins. 

Yogananda stated that "If Mr. Wrigley could sell chewing gum with billboards than I can use the same to sell good ideas for people to chew on." Quoting, in effect, Barton's very popular book, Yogananda declared that "if Jesus Christ were to come today he would employ modern advertising methods to share his message." Indeed! He made the distinction that to use business methods for God's work was right and proper but to use God's work to get rich was not. It is, thus, the intention and consequence of one's efforts that form the basis for assessing their righteousness before God and conscience.

In his autobiography he relates how Lahiri Mahasaya, upon being initiated in kriya yoga and empowered to teach it to others, requested from his guru, Babaji, that the ancient requirements of monasticism and renunciation be lifted so that oppressed and stressed householders might also benefit. Babaji endorsed this request as an expression of the divine will and empowered Lahiri to give to those disciples who were sincere the kriya "keys" to "heaven." On the first page of the same chapter (Chapter 26), however, Yogananda states that owing to "ancient injunctions," he could not reveal the technique in the pages of a book for the general public. (He taught the techniques in his lessons, however.) He explained that the technique must be learned from someone who knows the technique (correctly, presumably!). In his own organization and training of kriya ministers ("kriyacharyas"), Yogananda had developed a system whereby the initiate was taught a series of progressive yoga techniques in preparation for learning the kriya technique.

Jesus, famously, remonstrated to his disciples not to throw that which is holy to dogs, or pearls before swine. The New Testament reveals that Judas was less concerned about the poor (when he objected to the costly ointment used to bathe Jesus' feet) than his own attachment to money and to the good opinion of religious authorities. 

Yogananda's spiritual heir and most advanced disciple, James J. Lynn, to whom Yogananda gave the spiritual title and name of "Rajarsi Janakananda," endowed Yogananda's work, through the organization he founded (Self-Realization Fellows) on the basis of Lynn's spectacular rise from poverty to wealth through business. He was, in short, a self-made millionaire (when that was a lot of money). Letters from Yogananda and the testimony of close disciples reveal that Yogananda was persistent in his urging of Rajarsi to make contributions to the work and that Yogananda expressed concern that satanic forces would find ways to defeat this endeavor for which Rajarsi was incarnated to accomplish in service to the new dispensation which Yogananda declared was his mission in the West.

Ours is an age of freedom, individual liberties, universal education, and free exchange of ideas and information. The internet is the most obvious and dynamic engine of this free exchange. Notwithstanding Yogananda's refusal to publish the details of the kriya technique publicly, others, primarily from lineages other than his own (Lahiri Mahasaya's, principally), have reportedly done so. Some people, as if to fulfill ancient patterns of religious and commercial rivalry and competition, will claim that their revelations are of the "original" or correct technique, implying or stating that Yogananda changed or diluted Lahiri Mahasaya's actual instructions and techniques!

Human nature doesn't change much, does it? So which is right: public and free dissemination, or, training, discipline and paying (a modern day symbol of giving back in gratitude and recognition). 

According to Yogananda, his guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar, made a major revelation and calendar correction that essentially asserted that which we, in the west, readily accept as self-evident: the human race has entered a new age of information and globalization based on rapid advances in technology and new and inexpensive sources of energy. This revelation, however, isn't confined to science but includes the evolution of consciousness.

Fundamentalists of all religions more or less disagree, for they see the breakdown of their religious hegemony over their adherents in the light of moral disintegration--hardly a sign, they say, of upward evolution! But to Yogananda's followers, and many others besides, this disintegration has been the necessary accompaniment to the dissolution of institutional authority (especially religious) in favor of the a resurgence of spirituality independent of traditional religions.

Yogananda's essential and original message was to teach the "Science of Religion" which would free sincere seekers from the rigid enclosure of religion and bestow the blessing of direct, intuitive and personal perception of God who is, as Jesus himself taught, "within you." 

Thus in this new age (called the Second, or "Dwa-para"), humankind would rediscover universal (and therefor nonsectarian) ethical and moral values on the basis of their harmonizing effects upon consciousness and, by extension, upon society. It would be through meditation that this social upliftment would occur -- person by person, soul to soul -- as the Self of all becomes realized within. Hence, Yogananda termed this movement "Self-realization." Yogananda's essential message linked meditation through kriya yoga with the universal search for true and lasting happiness--that soul impelled impulse that unites us all.

He said that it would encircle the globe and, in time, refresh and reinvigorate faith among all peoples. It would also help rejuvenate orthodox religions towards a fresh and new life for those still attracted to them. He said that "Self-realization" would become the religion of Dwapara Yuga. (Swami Kriyananda, a direct disciple and founder of Ananda's worldwide work, insisted that this did not mean a prediction of a new "Catholic" church but that this statement had to be understood on a personal and individual level.)

How, then, after this long and windy tome from me, do we reconcile Jesus' not throwing pearls before swine with the age of the internet and the free dissemination of yoga techniques? Between Yogananda's own method of training disciples in Kriya (over a period of months up to a year or more) and those who have published what they claim are kriya methods in books, in weekend workshops or in person on the spot?

For starters, we can't. That is we must accept this new age of Dwapara as it is an age of relative chaos that includes both freedoms and license. The true races of humankind are not based on color or class but on levels of consciousness. The merchants of the world of spiritual seekers will simply buy or get what they want. The sincere devotees whose refinement of consciousness intuit a need for more than facts and methods but of spiritual (cosmic) consciousness itself will seek others who they perceive can bestow what they really seek.

Many meditation and other techniques can help one advance spiritually. This includes serving humanity and loving God with body, mind, strength and heart. Each according to his need, in other words. There isn't one "best" technique or "best" teacher, certainly not, at least, as it relates to the individual soul. The basic meditation technique of watching the breath has been given by some true teachers as the sole technique. In Yogananda's kriya yoga system it is but the basic technique. Yet he himself acknowledged that one could find God through the basic breath technique which he called "Hong Sau."

Not only does personal instruction and specific, focused training help preserve the correctness of a given technique and help ensure its accuracy down through the generations, but it fulfills the ancient and intuitive principle of "transmission." Universities, professional and trade accreditation boards, and governmental authority procedures are everyday examples of transmission by proper authority. Religion (think Pope, bishops, priests and its institutional arm, the curia and the Holy See), too, contains the symbols of ordination and transmission. Whether in monarchies or democracies the legitimate transfer and recognition of authority has supreme value and importance in human affairs.

It is true that great prophets, including Jesus Christ, might be said or might appear to have sprung to life free from transmission, but for the most part, any such examples are the exception. Jesus received several endorsements: at birth, the Three Wise Men (from the East---gee, could that have been, well, like, INDIA?), and from John the Baptist. While neither had the imprimatur of Jewish orthodoxy, each, at least according to the New Testament, had the direct recognition of such other sources as the Star of Bethlehem, the angelic hosts, and the appearance in vision and form of the archangel (Joseph, Zacharia, Mary, & the shepherds).

The same is true for the birth of Buddha, Moses and many others. Divine transmission and recognition figure prominently, in other words, in all important aspects of authority, both temporal and spiritual. 

Our age of liberty, life and pursuit of happiness is of course testing the limits of such ancient and universal truths. Self-appointed spiritual teachers spring up like weeds in May, often claiming some hidden or personal inspiration and transmission. "Buyer beware!" In respect to life and to the internet, the truth isn't "out there." Jesus said to Peter, after Peter, and only Peter, correctly hailed Jesus as the Messiah that "upon this rock" (of inner, intuitive, direct, personal perception of truth) will "I build my church" (of cosmic consciousness).

Thus, in the end, each one of us are free to and required to make our own choice regarding our spiritual path. Those (the "merchants" or "Vaishyas") who want things free and cheap will get them: free and cheap. Those (the "warriors" or "Kshatrias") willing to give their lives in service, devotion, and meditation, even at great personal cost, will get their reward in the heaven of Self-realization born of ego transcendence. The "peasants" ("Sudras") will get little to nothing because they don't want to put out energy. They come to lectures, workshops and classes but make little to no effort to change from within. They (the "priests" or "Brahmins") who know, know. Those who say they know, don't. Those who say they don't, don't.

Joy and blessings to you and apologies for the length of this.........I write only by inspiration, not by demand or popularity or conformance with any one else's standards.

Like you, I AM THAT I AM.

Swami Hrimananda (aka Hriman)

"Religion and the New Age," by Swami Kriyananda. Available at Ananda, or the East West Bookshop nearest you, or from the publisher: