Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Are We There Yet?

We humans spend a great deal of our time in the future: in anticipation and hope of something yet to come our way. We are so often living in the future of what possibilities exist. There's nothing wrong with this, or, at least, it is natural enough, given that we seem to have an inbred sense or desire for perfection.

How do we balance, however, contentment and self-acceptance with the urge for self-improvement and betterment? How do we resolve the tension between the present and the possibilities for a better future?

Moreover, isn't it so that once we give up on hope for a better world, we might collapse into apathy, into ennui (boredom), and lapse into permanent depression? Frank Sinatra sang that depressing song, "Is that all there is?" (So let's go dancing......).

Are things really "perfect," as so many New Age'rs like to affirm? Any honest assessment of present realities must surely conclude that there's a great deal of suffering in the world. How, then, can we look someone in the eye who has just suffered a great tragedy and say, "It's a perfect world?"

Resolution of the tension between the present, past, and the future lies in the eternal now! Every night when we sleep we dissolve our dichotomy, our existential angst, into the perfect state of the present. Yet, unfortunately, sleep merely gets us ready for another day. It doesn't really resolve this tension.

There is a conscious act of sleep, however. It's called meditation. Meditation can bring to us a conscious experience wherein the tension of opposites resolves into inner peace. This inner "harmonic convergence," not unlike sleep, but taking us deeper into our existential dilemma, refreshes us sufficiently to cope authentically with life's ever existing paradox.

We see in the lives of great saints this capacity to be present (and content) and yet dynamically, creatively, and compassionately engaged in real life. No fantasies or obsessions, just the present: a gift in itself!

As meditation takes discipline, motivation, and inner strength of character, so too it produces in us the capacity to cope with paradox in real time and with lasting effect: upon ourselves and upon circumstances that present themselves in our lives.

There's no time like the present to "Be still and know that I AM."

Blessings to you, this only day there is,

Swami Hrimananda aka Hriman

Friday, September 20, 2013

Things are Looking Up! "Listen up:" Hints for Meditation.

In the world around us, things are looking up, but only sometimes; other times, life is just routine, sometimes rather boring; other times, tragic, or at least, "looking down."

But at the heart of everything, whether matter, energy, or consciousness, is an elemental and essential reality that knows no opposite. This reality is the existential source of all the subsequent differentiation and opposites that result from the pendulum-like movements away from this central reality.

In the science of meditation, we are taught where to "look" for this non-dual state. This "paradise" of happiness lies in the "east" of the body, at the point between the eyebrows.

As an aside: North of the body is the top of head; south, the bottom of the spine; and west, the back of the head, at the medulla oblongata. East is whence comes enlightenment, knowledge, power, and inspiration. West represents our conscious mind and intentions, our present egoic state. South represents our past, our habits, tendencies and post and pre-natal influences. North is the way out, the path to liberation. But enlightenment precedes liberation. Only when we are fully enlightened does the pathway to the north open up, like Arctic ice melting in the summer to create a northern passage.

Returning now to "looking up." When, in meditation, behind closed eyes, we lift our inner gaze, peering through the point-between-the-eyebrows we find, by experimentation, a shift in consciousness and feeling. With open eyes, standing tall but relaxed, try looking up and declaring, "I am depressed!" It simply can't be done, at least not honestly. When we are sad or unhappy or discouraged, we look down. When we are happy and life is good, we tend to look up.

Our bodies are made this way and our bodily movements reflect our shifting attitudes as also does the subtle movements or currents of life force (energy) coursing through our veins, tissues, and organs. The eyes, in this example, look up more frequently when happy and down more frequently when sad. We can't help this universal fact.

The Christian Bible, new and old testaments, have repeated injunctions such as "Look up unto the hills from whence cometh the Lord." "Look onto the eastern gate......" And so on.

We can use this principal of "looking up" to change our state of consciousness from sadness or discouragement to a returning sense of hope and renewed encouragement. When we combine the habit of looking up with standing tall with good posture we discover the raw fundamentals of yoga practice itself.

In meditation, however, it is of course more subtle and takes greater focus to keep one's eyes in that position. Throughout one's time of meditation, one should periodically check to make sure one's eyes are still looking up. In fact, when the mind wanders, the eyes automatically lose their inner focus and generally begin to look straight (conscious thought) or down (daydreaming, drifting thoughts).

The sensation and awareness of our egoity lies at the base of the brain, at the back of the head, in the region of the medulla oblongata: you can feel the valley-like depression running north-south at the back of the head. At the upper end of that valley lies, approximately, the medulla oblongata. It is from this point that the embryo in the womb begins to build the tiny body of the child. It cannot be operated upon. Life energy and consciousness enters and exits the physical body (at birth; at death) through this doorway, described by Jesus Christ, as the "mouth of God." (The mouth of man is in the front where we take in food and water, but physical sustenance has no value to a corpse, one without life within!)

When we are meditating and gazing upward through the point-between-the-eyebrows ("PBE") we do so as if sitting in a theatre, seated in the back (at the medulla) looking up at the screen at the PBE. This should not be done with excessive will power, but on the basis of a relaxed, natural curiosity and positive interest. Imagine, for example, that you are peering through the darkness of closed eyes waiting for the movie to begin; waiting for someone to appear on the screen; waiting for some momentous revelation or at least very interesting appearance!

The eyes shouldn't "cross." Holding your arm outstretched in front of you and slightly above the forehead with your thumb upraised, look at your thumb. If this feels comfortable, then close your eyes and experiment with where the "sweet spot" of the East exists for you. Press your thumb against the natural flat spot at PBE and inwardly gaze at that. See if that works. Or, look up at the juncture of the opposite wall and ceiling. Experiment, then, with where this paradise lies. Then during meditation return to it as often as you can remember to check.

The most common complaint of meditators is restless thoughts intruding upon one's devotion or concentration or inner peace. Looking up (from the medulla forward to the PBE) creates what I describe as a current of energy rotating back and forth between these two points (the negative and positive pole of the sixth chakra). This current creates around this "pole" or line of current an electromagnetic field that holds at bay or drowns out, so to speak, the noise and chatter of the subconscious mind below which constantly calls out for attention. I experience this like standing in a hallway all by myself and having an adjoining or nearby room filled with people laughing and talking. I can hear their noise but can't distinguish their words and I naturally lose interest as I gaze down the hallway to a window or light at the far end and near the top of the far wall!

Notice what happens with your eyes when you need to remember something and you stop what you are doing and instinctively look up. The self-talk mind chatter instantly stops as if your mind, like a computer, is searching for a file on the hard disk. In other words to recollect something, you naturally stop the chatter and your eyes naturally look up! This is a kind of inner yoga posture, or mudra, that helps quiet the mind.

Swami Kriyananda, in his popular book on meditation, "Awaken to Superconsciousness," describes meditation as the art of listening. Here, too, when we strain to hear someone we cock our head slightly to the side as if to turn our "good" ear in their direction, and the mind chatter instantly quiets.

Thus in meditation we should both look up and listen. These two "mudras" of meditation are very effective poses to assume in order to have a deeper and more satisfying meditation. (There's no need to cock your head to one side, however!) Like the rural railroad crossing signs say: STOP, LOOK, AND LISTEN! This is the art of meditation.

In deeper states of meditation, the inner astral lights (and the "spiritual eye") and the inner astral sounds (of Aum and of the chakras) are seen and heard in each of these places: the PBE for the one, and inside the right ear for the other. Thus adapting these meditation mudras helps prepare you for the appearance of these inner astral guides to appear to you in meditation. They can, with proper instruction, guide toward superconsciousness. As this article is not about such a lofty topic I will say no more than to point to a deeper purpose for these using these meditation "mudras" (as I call them).

Well, happy meditating!


Nayaswami Hriman

Saturday, September 14, 2013

How Science Has Contributed to Spirituality!

For those of who you are "among the faithful, in the choir," these reflections are not for you. On the other hand, if you sometimes despair or at least feel frustrated by the scoffers who surround you, maybe here you can pick up a few tantalizing tidbits to use during "Happy Hour" over tea or at the breakfast table, or water cooler.

Put aside religion, now, for a moment. Put aside devotion, rituals, gurus, saviors, the Blessed Virgin (yes, there's only one left), etc. etc.

I'm not a student of science. I flunked high school physics (well, ok, I passed, but only on the curve). I find it difficult to change the oil in my car. Tires, well, no problem, but there I stop.

I remember the day that I realized that even my parents were now recycling paper, glass, and aluminum. Wow, I thought. This is like the 100th monkey. It's happening.

Somewhere between Galileo and Sir Isaac Newton, and Albert Einstein, science, based on the simple credo of observation, measurement and experimentation, has revealed to us a world far stranger than fiction. String theory? Hey, they admit there will never be a proof! Billions of galaxies? Can't go there....too big. How many light years to the nearest star? What do you mean my body is mostly space? In the now outdated book, "Holographic Universe," the author avers that scientists contend that in a cubic foot of empty space is more latent energy than in the calculated mass of the entire universe. Gee, did I get that wrong? Re-read it!

I am not the first, no, on reflection, I'm the last.....person to note that science looks more like a page out of the hoary Vedas than it does resemble test tubes in a laboratory.

Albert Einstein's revelation (and it is nothing less than) that matter is the same as and has as its underlying reality ENERGY has broken down all barriers of caste, creed, race, gender, animate, inanimate and everything else in between. While some 20th century commentators at first grasped one end of the conclusive spectrum in saying that this means that nothing is real; nothing matters; it's all relative to what you want; it's all random, only electrical impulses bouncing around your brain.......do what you like; do what feels good.......

More thoughtful common taters have come to say that, ok, if there's no "there, there," no center of the universe, no intrinsic purpose for life "out there," maybe the real purpose and meaning of it all is within each and every one of us! If the universe is giant electro-magnetic and energetically pulsating machine, who's running it? If energy underlies matter, maybe consciousness (intention, awareness, purpose) underlies energy!

Only a real nerd can learn about the universe, the human body, human history, and human psychology and the heights and the depths of human behavior and say, "It is meaningless." The abiding order, beauty, power, and intelligence exhibited in nature and in the most exalted aspirations and achievements of humankind can only suggest to an intelligent and sensitive consciousness the existence of an equal, and indeed, grander Intelligence and Beneficence.

Yes, there exists evil and suffering and darkness. If that were the sum total of reality, than, well, ok.....it surely is meaningless. That there are courageous souls who have stepped up the plate of self-sacrifice, valor, compassion and inner peace shows that goodness also exists. From where? Why?

Ecological science has opened the eyes not only of my parents but of billions of souls to the intrinsic interdependence of all life: human, animal, plant and all the way down to one-celled and lower. What an incredible vision and view of life!

Coming in sideways, as it were, rushing our shores like a defensive line in football, comes Vedanta saying that "Life is One and Eternal. Realize Oneness with it in your deathless Self within!" Connect, then, the dots of ancient wisdom with modern scientific revelation.

Science is a tool of divine consciousness. Though giving us materialism and weapons of mass destruction, it has also shown us our equality and interdependence before the altar of nature. Spirit and Nature, working hand in hand!

Paramhansa Yogananda predicted that east and west will meet and the best of each would lead the world towards a greater truth. It is happening. Haltingly, for sure. but inexorably, like a silent tsunami.

Say then at your tea party: "Hasn't science shown us that we are One? That we need to co-exist, to cooperate and then we can achieve more prosperity, health, security and happiness than if we compete and conquer? The sages of yore have whispered in our ear eternal truths cloaked in the rational language of our god: the scientific method and attitude. What is true must be true for all!

Hari Bol!

Blessings to you through God and Guru!

Nayaswami Hriman, aka Swami Hrimananda!

Monday, September 9, 2013

"To thine own self be true"

At a recent Sunday Service the subject was ego transcendence. Much is made in religion and the spiritual path of the need to rise above the demands of the ego to realize one's divine birthright as a child of God. This idea is expressed in many different ways by great spiritual teachers and representatives of orthodox faith.

My interest is not the philosophical idea but the process of attaining the goal of God-realization (or, Self-realization). Paramhansa Yogananda defined "ego" as the "soul identified with the body." A pithy definition, to be sure, but it is a workable one, ripe with introspective fruit.

No one ego can ever be fully secure. Not only is there the inexorable fact of mortality, but there's injury, illness, and innumerable threats to one's person, reputation, financial security, marital, family and job stability, and on and on. Even when, for a time, a person can be on top of the world, oblivious of these nearby shadows, there's something deeper, even sinister that lurks around the fringe of one's self-assertive confidence: an existential incompleteness; "Something's not right. Why am I nervous about, well, nothing? Or, maybe, everything?" Most people don't even try to live in a false bubble of self-confidence.

I have lived in intentional community for most of my adult life, over thirty years, anyway! I have taught hundreds of students meditation and yogic philosophy. I have counseled and talked more deeply (than just about the weather and sports) with countless sincere and intelligent people.

My sense of people, including myself, is that most intelligent, self-aware, sincere and energetic people find themselves all too often on the short end of the sensitivity stick. The spiritual path, especially the inner path of meditation, will expand our sympathies and awareness of subtler things (like the thoughts and vibrations of others). In so doing, however, it can make us vulnerable, if not to others, then, at least to becoming self-preoccupied about what others think of us or about how slow (or worse) is our spiritual progress---all too often in comparison (we believe) with others (who invariably seem to be progressing farther and faster than we!).

In a talk given by my teacher, Swami Kriyananda (1926-2013), he stated that "Self-acceptance is the first step towards ego transcendence." This is an interesting and fertile statement to ponder. One of the things I've admired and appreciated about S.K. is his transparency: his almost child-like willingness to be wrong, to share what he feels, and, in general, to simply be himself!

Living all these years in spiritual community and being blessed by so many souls deeply centered in God I observe that far from becoming an indistinguishable "nothing" the soul's emergence produces vigor, vitality and a unique individuality that is transparently genuine---so unlike the imitative caricature that most worldly "characters" assume or affirm.

What I am describing is no less the question of "What does it mean to 'love yourself'?" While I prefer to couch this in terms of self-acceptance (it seems somehow more objective than self-love), I doubt there's any real difference.

The example I gave in my recent talk goes like this: if you go to a shopping mall (perhaps one that is unfamiliar to you), and you are looking for a specific store, you must first find where in the center that store is located, and then you must find "You Are Here!" We must always know where we are in order to know how to get to where you want to go! This, in my view, is "self-acceptance."

Thus self-acceptance is therefore not an embracing of all our foibles and faults and pretending "I'm good." Rather, its the acknowledgement of where I am. Paramhansa Yogananda, the now well respected world teacher of yoga and author of "Autobiography of a Yogi," used to give his students a self-assessment psychological inventory to complete. (I doubt the students handed it in to him!)

In this way, we begin the habit of objectivity in our introspection. Ruthless self-honesty is, I believe, a prerequisite to spiritual growth. This does not mean we necessarily parade our yaw-yaws in front of every "Tom, Dick or Harry" ("Sue, Sally or Molly"). How often I've seen devotees disguise their desires with well-meaning platitudes and scriptural quotations. "I feel God wants me to ............ "

One arena of human life where we can readily test our resolve in the direction of self-acceptance and self-honesty is that of criticism. I've been told that I "never" say "I'm sorry." (I'm practicing it by typing it.) Criticism is a funny business because much of the time we only imagine that we heard even but a hint of criticism. Follow the banter in people's conversation and look for the hints of self-protective, self-justifications. Self-justification is like an acid that corrodes the sharp spiritual edge of introspection.

If, however, in fact, you are criticized directly and in person, you might tentatively say, "Perhaps you are right." Then, consider whether there's any merit. Do what you can to rectify an error or to change your behavior, including to make amends, if appropriate. Be willing to thank the other person, even a self-styled detractor, for pointing out something that needs correcting. If, as sincerely as you are able, you can find no cause for the critique, then say, then, let it go.

Now there are some situations where there are principles at stake or a larger issue at stake and you might need to defend the shared goal or principle, but that's a different matter than defending yourself.  Spiritually speaking, defending yourself is, well, very, very tricky territory. (If in attacking me, a person is attacking Ananda which I represent, then I might defend Ananda and to some extent, therefore, myself, but this must always be secondary. Yogananda was assailed by lawsuits and slander and he would defend himself in the name of defending the work he represented.)

At night before bed, pick out the fleas and burrs of attachment and self-definitions based on upbringing, social status, gender, age etc. etc. and flick them into the fire of wisdom: Tat twam asi: Thou art THAT I AM!

Blessings, I AM your very SELF,


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Ananda worldwide: What Next after the Passing of its founder, Swami Kriyananda?

Few organizations thrive after the passing of a creative and charismatic founder. In regard to leadership skills and looking ahead to the future, Swami Kriyananda was extraordinarily prescient. To his dying day (earlier this year at age 86), Swami Kriyananda ("SK") was writing books, music, lecturing, handling a voluminous correspondence, guiding movie productions (two), and counseling and guiding countless souls. He did this in spite of an aging body that should have given up the ghost long ago and which offered to him constant troubles and physical suffering. He took all of this in the stride of kindness, creativity, service and devotion to God and guru (Paramhansa Yogananda and his lineage).

Yet, for all of this, he had, decades ago, appointed leaders of various aspects of Ananda's growing and worldwide work. These leaders, then, were already in place and functioning independently but cooperatively both together and in attunement with his overall guidance and friendship.

For the immediate future, therefore, Ananda members and public need not expect anything radical or unusual. SK's spiritual successor, Jyotish (John) Novak, has been with SK for for over forty years and functioning as acting spiritual director for some years. He and his wife, Devi, are seamlessly making the transition to front and center of Ananda.

Nonetheless, SK was a spiritual and creative tornado. No vibrant organization can afford to remain static. Nor can Ananda rely passively upon his enormous legacy of writings, music, organizational wisdom, and spiritual depth for its momentum. Nor has SK trained us to do so!

So "Yes": changes can be expected. The largest hole in Ananda's work left by SK, in terms of public visibility, is, well, just that: public visibility. SK toured the world non-stop for decades; wrote books, non-stop, for decades; did radio and TV shows; spoke at major conferences, and on and on. As a direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda (PY), he spoke with authority, conviction, and wisdom in being the foremost and most accessible public representative for PY's worldwide teachings.

It would be fruitless to imagine anyone simply taking up where SK left off. SK wisely decentralized the work of Ananda and both by his example and his instructions empowered Ananda's leaders and membership to work BOTH cooperatively together AND creatively independently in our spiritual service.

What will be needed is for representatives of Ananda to emphasize the need to "get out front" in public view. Some have, will and are writing books and articles. But until now, most, with rare exception, were needed to remain in their respective teaching centers training members and guiding the local community. A younger generation is on its way "up" and the leadership group has both the opportunity and the need to be more available publicly outside the comfortable enclosure of our teaching centers and communities. What form that takes will be as individual as the individuals themselves.

Leadership, too, is, and has been changing. While SK naturally assumed the role of founder and leader, he actually trained us to see each other and relate to one another as friends and devotees first. Whatever particular positions we might hold for a time are simply roles but positions of leadership make no assumption regarding spiritual realization. For several decades, most Ananda communities have been led by married couples. But I see this evolving towards more team management in various departments and business. At the Ananda Farm here in the Seattle area, we have four "legal" managers but a seven-person management team. Same is true for our East West Bookshop.

I also see that the vocabulary of the message of Ananda will need to step-up to the tone of universality that SK embodied so well both in person and in his writings. This language was PY's language, as well. Most Ananda centers have focused on training of members and disciples. This is essential, of course, but easier to focus on while SK spread the universal message of Self-realization through Kriya Yoga around the world. Kriya and Self-realization are for everyone, regardless of spiritual affiliation or belief. Oneness in Spirit applies to all facets of daily life in the form of cooperation, harmony, respect, high energy and creativity.

Ananda is, and was already in process of (at the time of SK's passing in April), a great explosion of growth. Many members feel that SK's passing not only freed him from the confines of an aging body, but in some tangible but subtle way, freed his soul force to ripple outward and propel his "children" in new and expansive directions.

Without SK's presence and leadership, it seems to me natural that the various Ananda centers will look to its center (Ananda Village, Nevada City, CA) not just for leadership and guidance but as "home." This has always been the case but has been, in no small measure, eclipsed by the living presence and guidance of its founder, SK. With him gone, eyes and hearts turn naturally to "the Village." Already important work is taking place to allow overseas members to obtain special visa permits to come and study and apprentice in how to run centers and communities.

Several weeks ago the first annual Spiritual Renewal Week since SK's passing found members just as enthusiastic and just as present in numbers as ever before, even without SK being there in the body. Many could feel that the baton of spiritual leadership had passed not just to one, or two, but to an entire generation of members trained by SK. An online worldwide leadership course, begun in Fall 2012, is already uniting members of every age, generation and country. Online courses and webinars from Ananda Village come out almost weekly. The original Meditation Retreat has come back "online" offering seclusions, in addition to the vibrant and dynamic retreat programs at the Expanding Light (public) retreat facility "down the road." Members worldwide are uniting behind the project of building a simple but beautiful "Moksha Mandir" for interring SK's body at his beloved home (at Ananda Village), the Crystal Hermitage. A future Temple of Light will be built there with the support of members, students, and friends from around the world.

I also see a stepped-up exchange of staff, interns, and visitors between the Ananda centers. Pilgrimages to Italy, U.S.A., and India (and other places) continue to grow in momentum. Members are becoming, it seems to me, more fluid and willing to move to other Ananda Communities as the need or inspiration arises. This started especially with the Laurelwood campus, west of Portland, but is spreading, as Palo Alto, CA and here in Seattle have purchased properties for farming and mini-community/ashrams and have opportunities for helping hands.

Lastly, I foresee that the music of Ananda, a direct legacy of SK, will mature and begin to find acceptance in the world around us. I believe it was uniquely SK's life path that during his lifetime, though well known in some respects, he was, relative to the depth of his spirituality and genius, too often passed over. The "Finding Happiness" movie, a documentary story of Ananda will spread the message of Ananda's work and music far and wide. So too a second movie, still in production, on SK's life: The Answer.

PY said to SK that "you have a great work to do." This work is now in the hands of SK's children and I sincerely believe that we will carry on, yes in our way, but in his spirit.

Blessings to you from Ananda, not a place, but a state of soul.......

Sw Hrimananda

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Fall Follies:Back to the Mideast we go?

The waning days of summer provoke nostalgia and a desire to enjoy one more relaxing day in the sun! Tomorrow is America's day of rest, Labor Day, celebrating the end of summer with one last flip of the bar-b-que'd burger before the turning of the leaves calls us to more serious pursuits.

Once again, the "Fall Follies" begin. On the larger scale there are, again, the drums of war beating 'round the world and predictions of WWIII. Economically, under the surface of happy smiley faces of improving economic statistics are doomsday soothsayers warning of the perfect economic storm about to roll over us like a tsunami. In personal lives, well, "shift happens" and is either in full swing or on the cusp, or so it seems for so many people these days.

Those of us, as I wrote about earlier, who returned from Spiritual Renewal Week at Ananda Village in California are blessed to feel a renewed commitment to our spiritual practices, attitudes, and goals. We have girded the "loins" of our fiery self-control towards inner peace, mindfulness, and devotion to high ideals and to our divine Beloved (in whatever form we aspire or worship).

In the worldwide parallel universe called Ananda, we are growing like tulips in Spring. We have openings in a new ashram house on Camano Island, a new farm in Half Moon Bay, California, new centers in cities throughout India, expanded properties in Oregon, Los Angeles, and much, much more. Ananda Communities and centers are bursting with life, creativity, and inspiration.

But the bubble of joy that is Ananda isn't shared by all. This world is a mixture. It perpetuates itself by constant change and an ever new parade of dramas. After the trauma of the Vietnam War and humiliating defeat there and all the political drama that preceded it and followed it, I thought we'd never again see a foray into foreign country. Well I was wrong: and not just once. Drama and national karma continue until we work things out to another level of understanding and wisdom.

If nations like America can help relieve the suffering and afflictions of those traumatized by civil war in Syria, well, I'm all for it. If yet another despot were to mysteriously bite the dust, well, too bad for him and good riddance. Will it prove effective? Is it righteous, moral, practical? Opinions vary, of course.

The rightness of an action is sometimes difficult to know in advance. Failure to act is still action. Intention plus results (and results can only be known afterwards!) is the best most can hope for. Success, moreover, is not only measured by the intended goal but by the consequences to all concerned: not just physical, but mental and spiritual, as well.

As I felt many summers ago on the eve of America's invasion of Iraq (when most of the country, including both political parties were all revved up and gung ho), I would feel better if other countries who share our values were cooperative. In the case of Iraq, they were not. That still didn't make the invasion or, today, the action proposed by Obama to Congress, right or wrong. But in this complex and interconnected world, it is at least comforting if nations of goodwill band together for a righteous cause. When they do not, it more readily calls into question the proposed unilateral military action. Still, it takes courage to go on alone.. Right or wrong, America has shown that willingness since its very foundations. But when is courage foolishness, or, worse? (Vietnam was supposed to be a limited scope of action, too.)

I, a mere citizen, once again, cannot know more than what we are told, for I have no first hand knowledge. I pray for right intention and right action, no matter what it is. And, that right action includes the welfare of innocent people. No matter what opinion I might hold, it is only an opinion. You and I have the luxury of our opinions, which ultimately are mere beliefs based (probably) on our emotions and predispositions. We do not have the burden of decisions which will, either way, affect the lives of many. Where's Solomon when we need him?

I would rather help people than bomb dictators to hell. But, well, that's my opinion, and, I know its simplistic. It may well be not an either-or, but a both-and. If our country intervenes, I would want it to be one member of a coalition and not, yet again, the U.S. Cavalry. Once again, that would be my hope. Still, I suspect the whole thing is a karmic booby trap or tar baby. Moreover, our national character is prone towards intervention, especially when injustice reigns. (In all wars, profiteering and atrocities exist. Just as people die in war, so too, some people act nobly and others, ignobly. These facts are not, in themselves, justifications for not engaging in a just war, if it be, in fact, just.)

The lineage of spiritual teachers who are my guides (Paramhansa Yogananda, his guru, Swami Sri Yutkeswar, et al) have said that our planet is in an ascending age. It is not a spiritual age but an energetic, restless, and chaotic one. It is a time of great instability. The consciousness of the preceding age lingers still, and holds positions of power in certain places and realms, notably those associated with that prior age: call it the medieval times. Institutions of religion or government which ruled with an iron hand and imposed strict social structures and customs are beset by this newer, more free, more individualistic age. The tribalism, prejudice, and ignorance of that age dictates that those not of your "tribe" are, by definition, your enemy.

As Gandhi and M.L.King, Jr. taught, such institutions and people do not give up their power willingly. It is always a struggle. A dictator who can gas his own people deserves to be shown the door. How and by whom and when? We shall see. Yogananda, before his passing in 1952, made some radical predictions regarding future wars, economic collapse, and natural calamities on a wider scale, it would seem, than we have yet seen. Who know. Best to be prepared! Why, even government officials encourage us to have stocks of food; essential to our well-being regardless of future events is to have a network of family or community; finally, we cannot get "out alive," so faith in a Higher Power linked to a life of prayer, meditation and service expands our identity beyond the ego and thus can help free us from the shackles of fear and suffering.

Perhaps one hundred years from now we will see these mideast conflicts for what they probably are: no, not about oil or energy, or religions, but a clash of consciousness: old and tribal versus new and global. Yes, the characters are mixed bag on all sides, but with the long view of history we may see these skirmishes as the rising tide of global awareness and consciousness sweeping away the old to bring in the new.

Well enough of this talk. My deeper reflection has more to do with the "call of Fall" to get focused. The falling leaves herald a change in the air and we must not linger too long in the past. Whether personally or globally, therefore, "hang onto your 'hat." Be prepared to bid the pleasures of summer "adieu" and get centered and focused around what is important for your life's evolution towards truth and true happiness.

I love the summer and I welcome the fall. But, it's "back to (the) school (of life)" for us! The practice of meditation, prayer, devotion and selfless service, especially in fellowship with others of like-mind, is the single most powerful force for change in this world. The real power for change comes from our soul's oneness in God. Draw on that power in your life and offer your prayers for all those in need in these "interesting" times. Each of us are called to live our lives, however seemingly insignificant to others or to history, with faith, devotion to truth and to Spirit which is all truth, and with integrity.


Nayaswami Hriman