Monday, October 21, 2013

Who Will Win? Republicans or Democrats?

Sometimes they are difficult to tell one from the other. But these days, so polarized are they that it isn’t quite so difficult. Nonetheless to define or characterize them is not easy. There are high-minded, noble partisans and there are the others, as diverse as human nature can be. If I left it at that, I wouldn’t have an article to write, however, And for those who stick with me on this, I assure you there’s point somewhere to be made.

Republicans tend to describe themselves as conservatives: fiscal conservatives, traditional values, mainline religion, God and country first, and finally, “hands off my stuff!” (my business, my family, etc.) Democrats tend to be associated with plurality, diversity, acceptance of alternative lifestyles, compassionate and desirous to help those in need. Well, I know that just as in the rest of politics we could split hairs and argue about these distinctions but I ask, if I must, for your forbearance for the sake brevity and simplicity, lest whatever point I might have, be buried in the “ifs, ands, and buts.”

Conservative, status quo and tradition has been on the run since the very dawn of modernism. Perhaps it began with the Italian Renaissance when men of genius and curiosity stepped out the darkness of medieval consciousness and began boldly to explore the natural world of the human body, biology, astronomy, non-religious philosophy, chemistry and much more. Hot on its heels came the great Protestant revolution (beginning with Martin Luther) and simultaneously the age of world exploration and conquest. The medieval era of unchanging tradition and rigid social and religious castes and customs began to crumble. Advances in knowledge, technology, arts, sciences, medicine and, of course, war, gave birth to the hope for freedom with the appearance of the initially weak but dynamic 13 colonies, now the United States of America.
Change and innovation by men and women of genius, courage, and commitment have been upsetting conservative bastions of “this is how it’s always been” in every generation since!

Still, orthodoxy and conservatism have always managed to regain the reins of power even if new ideas and new forms of populist activism temporarily wrested those reins away. Indeed, in the halls of power, this is the reason most of typically see little difference between the blues and the reds. Once in power, it’s “the same old, same old” song.

The reason the blues and the reds alternate in dominance every so many years is that each has a piece of the trending puzzle of consciousness and change. By definition, neither will ever in the course of history win permanently and forever. From the point of view of consciousness and metaphysical truths, Democrats represent the growing awareness, initiative and energy of the common man, flinging off the shackles of caste and of the past. We are living in the early stages of a long cycle (thousands of years) during which human consciousness (slowly at first, and then with increasing intensity) grows in the awareness of individuality, personal initiative, and an internal yardstick of right action, increasingly independent from external or traditional laws, customs, or forms.

Republicans represent the stability inherent in the calm acceptance of the law (law of karma and right action). “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” With experience and wisdom, a person who early in life was a maverick finds that he becomes, later in life, a conservative. This is for the simple reason that some people realize that basic truths of behavior don’t really change. One might find, later in life, that the most valuable things in life aren’t money or pleasure, but health and friendship—just to describe one common realization.

A person who starts adult life as a stickler for the rules and apt to pounce on those who don’t uphold the “ol-time religion” (whether ethics, politics, caste, or religion) may, later in life, after some struggles and disillusionment, relax and become more accepting of others’ realities and their need to find their own way in life.

Our government today is in a great crises. What is to come will affect not only the fortunes of this nation but of many nations, some of whom share our predicament, and others who will be affected by it. We are bankrupt. The momentum of habit, the existence of ignorance, and the paralysis of fear of change, both in this country and abroad, have kept the masses from hearing the little boy whimpering, “The emperor (dollar) has no clothes!”

The debt crises has galvanized some Republicans over Obamacare for, among other reasons, the fear that it will create an exponential increase in mandated federal entitlements at a time in history, regardless of Obamacare’s long overdue status and intrinsic merits, when it could be the proverbial “straw” which when added to our deficits and consequent debt will topple the dollar into the dustbin and trigger a financial and commercial collapse never before seen in the history of the world.

With so many economies of developed countries in equivalent or worse shape, only blind, habitual, and fear-anchored “faith” in the dollar holds the world’s fragile “fiat” fictionalized trading and lending activities in an evanescent and virtual chimera.

Add to this a wide range of concerns about global warming, declining energy and other natural resources, erosion of water, air and soil quality, exponential increases in population, and the potential for pandemics or mega-cataclysms, one can see why artists in the entertainment and creative arts have produced, for decades now, an unending parade of futuristic movies and books depicting a depleted, ugly and sterile earth, devoid of all but a handful of humans living like beasts! Warning or reality?

Yet millions hope for a better world. Millions associate themselves with trends, ideas, organizations and a culture of stewardship for the earth and responsibility to be channels for the descent of an expanded consciousness from above.

If the Republicans “win” it won’t be against Obamacare but “for” the need to rein in government spending. This goal is now impossible, however. Voters don’t have a clue, any more than their on-paper representatives. No one has the moral authority or political power to stop the train wreck that is coming. The only politically feasible option is to let the government careen out of control and bottom out. Only then will the voters stop arguing about entitlements; the military industrial–industrial complex be temporarily paralyzed; and the pork barrel farm and industry subsidies will shrivel up like crops in a draught. Just imagine, however, the consequences.

The power of big government will be permanently shaken, though in time it will attempt to bestir itself to its former glory. But like the zig-zagging chart of the Dow-Jones Industrials, which though it regains some of its value, the overall trend is southward, or the mad beast who keeps getting back up and shot again but finally succumbs, the long term trend of destiny shines on the individual and on smaller groupings of people. Though I suspect a dark period of “Big Brother” is yet to come, no matter how bleak the winter of our discontent, the Spring of individual initiative is the real hope for a better world.

Blue and Red will always have parts to play in the drama of human affairs. We mustn’t fuss so overly much over their their ever-changing ascendancies and seeming demise. Nor yet will the world end anytime soon.

Have faith not in the dollar of matter but in the gold of Divine Love, Divine Will, and the Divine Presence which, as Jesus and the great ones of east and west have always proclaimed is the “good news” and is the “truth that shall make us free.” Meditation offers the most effective way that anyone, anywhere, and anytime can use to find these pearls “of great price.” Move away from the city if you can. Grow your own food, but in all circumstances, associate with people of like-mind, and you will have a wealth more precious than a king’s ransom.

Joy to you,

Swami Hrimananda!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Should We be Optimistic or Pessimistic?

Well, both are, at least, "mystics!" By this, I mean now "vague" and "uneasy." There is little more fraught with error than predicting the future. And that's my point, really. It's not the predicted or potential future scenario that should suggest our state of mind. As I enjoy saying: "You have to be present to win." And to take a bad joke further down, it's not the present "tense!"

Be present, then. Be calm, content (without being passive), even-minded (even in adversity), enthusiastic (without dependency on outcomes).......well, you get the idea.

In my last post, I described Dmitry Orlov's book, The Five Stages of Collapse. No doubt someone out there in a digital listening post has already taken note, for this book is subversive to the power status quo. Whereas Facebook postings of my sweet, newborn granddaughter attracted well over one hundred 'likes,' my blog on this book was almost entirely ignored.

Think how few Jews in Germany, even among the small percentage who had the means, got out? To quote Frank Zappa, the weird 60's rock musician social commentator, most think "It can't happen here."

Orlov's admittedly dire predictions based on a worldwide scarce resources consuming binge and red hot government printing presses desperate to hope for never ending economic growth and productivity gains in the future to pay our escalating present debt, are neither shocking nor new. We just think that "it can't happen here!" Those of us of the post world war "baby-boom" have no yardstick of comparable measure for the more commonplace boom and bust and wars and pestilences to which the human drama down through the ages is subject. We have lived truly in a bubble. Travel and communication reveals a very different reality for most of the billions of other inhabitants with whom we share this planet.

It is really NOT a question of optimistic or pessimistic; rather: realistic. The Ananda Community movement has succeeded or has been required to succeed at the margins of mainstream developing countries by banding together, pooling skills and resources, and coming up with products and services to serve the alternative and conscious, simple living community worldwide.

Bear in mind, that Ananda's "mission" is first and foremost a spiritual one: sharing kriya yoga and the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda and his foremost public spokesperson (disciple), Swami Kriyananda. However, it is not entirely possible to separate the two messages. Yogananda was bold in spreading the message of a new age (based on the astrological and intuitive wisdom of his guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar) but he was equally blunt in saying it wouldn't be pretty (at first). As spiritual transformation is nothing less than annihilation of the petty ego, the dawn of new age of higher conscious won't be born without birth pangs.

While the spiritual message is indeed for everyone "with ears to hear," so is the second message: be prepared. I, as much as most, do not wish to be associated with some cultish group announcing the end of the world as we know it! But Orlov's book confirms the value of small groups of people helping one another, and others, and developing a new and sustainable way of life for human life on this planet, that we might not only survive to tell a happy story, but that human consciousness might grow towards a greater awareness of the oneness of all life, in outer harmony of action and relationship, in use and consumption of resources, energy, and creative endeavors, and, finally in attunement with God, our creator and true Self. It's a public service, so to speak, where everyone wins!

What part each of us plays in this tide is as unique as we are. But what is offered to see is the radical transformation in us as souls and in society at large, at least in its outer appearance.

It's good news, not bad least for those who can read the "head-lines." "What is Thy will, Lord?" "How can I serve Thee in others?"

Joy to you!

Swami Hrimananda!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Five Stages of Collapse - Survivors' Toolkit

I am reading the book with this title by Dmitry Orlov. It was given to me as a birthday gift by my friend Cliff Kushler. It's definitely only for the "good, bad and the ugly" nonconformist. I don't challenge anyone to read about the collapse of society as we know it, but if you were open to exploring what it might look like in both theoretical and practical terms, you might find it interesting, at least.

Orlov was born in Russia came to the United States in the 1970's. You can "Google" him and find YouTube videos and Wikipedia.

My spiritual teacher, Swami Kriyananda, spoke for decades about predictions made by his guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, about the collapse of society and various countries as we know it. Yogananda didn't specify a time frame though he did point to specific countries which would be devastated and to a third world war. He also predicted a "depression" far greater than that of the 1930's.

Orlov, however, brings to a clear and practical focus the possible scenario that Swami Kriyananda warned audiences of to his dying day (earlier this year!). I've known Kriyananda since the 70's myself and not until recent years did it seem to at least possible that a perfect storm of global economic events might possibly produce the catastrophes (war and depression) predicted by Yogananda (up until his death in 1952).

American financial markets came very close to a complete meltdown in the Fall of 2008. Reading various economic accounts in the years since forces me to conclude that the so-called safeguards enacted by legislation since that time are without teeth and all but useless to prevent a recurrence. I cannot pretend to understand the complexity of such things as derivatives, but, according to others, neither can the regulators nor yet even the markets themselves. Yet such financial instruments were left more or less untouched by the so-called market reforms. Warren Buffet is often quoted as calling these instruments "weapons of mass financial destruction."

I don't feel to recount the various global soft spots, economically. This is beyond my frame of interest and knowledge. But I point to you to Orlov's book for a more intelligent and thorough analysis.

What is interesting to me is that one of Yogananda's predictions was that the time would come when intentional communities would "spread like wildfire." Orlov describes in amazing detail what amounts to intentional communities of people who would be needed to rebuild society in the event of the collapse of currency values, financial markets, and especially commercial trading activities. The five stages, by the way, are 1) collapse of financial markets and trust in them; 2) collapse of commercial activity (trading, importing, shipping etc.); 3) collapse of political institutions (dependent on tax revenues); 4) collapse of faith in social structures; 5) collapse of cultural values. The last two are extreme and can be avoided, the author believes, if people can prepare for the possibility of the first two, and even, the third.

If this subject intrigues you, please simply read his book! Again, what interests me is that he sees the reconstitution of society and survival itself as being on the basis of interacting with people you trust. To whatever degree of the five stages of collapse might occur, interacting with people you know and trust is the essence of stability, prosperity (in simple and sustainable living), security, and happiness. So, yes, "like wildfire" may true community spread!

Never before have I read such a focused and detailed analysis of what might lie ahead of us in such a way as to balance the "bad news" with the "good news," and to give practical, down-to-earth suggestions about how to prepare.

I cannot say from my own intuitive insight what may lay ahead. But between my guru's (Yogananda's) warnings, my teacher's counsel, Orlov's writings, and my own instincts, I cannot help but feel this world will be unrecognizable in the next few decades. Scanning the history of human culture, we in the West have lived in a bubble of prosperity, health and relative security and the statement by many that this is, at least in part, based on cheap and plentiful energy sources seems indisputable. As does, the concomitant reality that these cheap energy sources are steadily waning even as the world's population is exploding. A train wreck seems inevitable. Throw into the mix, global warming, terrorism, and possible pandemics, and I think we have a deadly brew inclining to mass loss of life, destruction, and colossally rapid change on a scale unprecedented in human memory.

We in the West are living on borrowed money, borrowed time, and depleted resources. Our comeuppance is due, as if we have tried to cash a check that cannot be cleared. What greater counsel can there be to form communities, especially with rural, food-producing land, with friends who share high ideals and seek to life simply and creatively. The future belongs to the brave and the daring.

Blessings to you,

Swami Hrimananda

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Interfaith Outreach: a cup half empty, or half full?

Tonight I accepted the invitation of Michael Trice and the School of Theology and Ministry of Seattle University to attend a dinner and talk by Father Francis X. Clooney (Jesuit priest). Father Clooney's credentials are quite impressive, not least of which is living in Nepal and India and learning Sanskrit and Tamil! He's written fifteen books on the subject of Hinduism and Christianity (Catholicism, esp.) and had much to share with the group about the points of intersection between them.

The group was more or less representative of the Seattle metropolitan area "Hindu" community. I didn't get a full range of names or temples represented but the Vedanta Society was certainly there and many others as well. The intention behind the evening was to initiate dialog between our local groups with Seattle University and its forward thinking interfaith activities and curriculum, with Fr. Clooney as the magnet and spokesperson.

Fr. Clooney's story is compelling. You can "google" him and find a great deal of information. Here's just one link to Harvard Divinity School where he is a faculty member:

Interfaith efforts are a mixed bag, however. In part because only the faithful come. The ignorant or bigoted simply do not. Nonetheless, even at such gathering, there are those who want to pound their chests in saying "My way is the best way (because the most universal!)" and others, who, though likely possibly much to contribute, do not do so because respectfulness is the essence of interfaith! Then there are those who secretly hope to promote their own cause in case there are newbies present who are searching. Sigh!

Ananda Sangha in the greater Seattle area promotes interfaith through two doorways: for adults, we operate the East West Bookshop (; for children, the Living Wisdom School (  In both places, Ananda members share the traditions of spirituality of east and west which honor one another with a broader view.

Interfaith education is useful whether for children or interested adults. Only by understanding the faith traditions of others can we find bridges and links to our own and thereby wipe away ignorance and sow seeds of mutual respect.

Most orthodox believers however have no interest in learning about other faiths: afterall, even if a few were to imagine other faiths at least equally efficacious, they themselves aren't interested. But most don't think that, I suspect and therefore not only lack an interest but harbor, perhaps, a suspicion that to expose themselves would be to risk catching a disease.

In this they are, perhaps, correct, oddly enough. In listening to Fr. Clooney's remarkable story it was obvious he is not the usual Catholic Jesuit priest. His life was most certainly influenced, indeed transformed, by his exposure to Indian traditions and scriptures. One of the participants asked him if he'd encountered any push back from higher ups or the Vatican but he said he hadn't. Nonetheless, he is not typical: whether of priests or laity. Those dogmas of his church which would tend to hold Hinduism at bay were clearly sublimated by those aspects of each faith which were shared in common: and they are many.

Thus at the heart of interfaith dialog is the very "clear and present danger" of influence and transformation. In Fr. Clooney's case he would probably say that the experience deepened his own faith. Interestingly enough, however, he didn't say that. But, for his sake, I would assume it to be true. But he would be the exception, because both intelligent and spiritually mature.

Fr. Clooney was clearly suspicious of the typical response to interfaith education which says, "Well, all faiths are the same, then!" This dilutes all faiths at the risk of not deepening one's own. He obviously has this issue "down!"

Thus there exists a resistance based on fear by religionists in exposing themselves to interfaith. To make it worse, there's nothing more cheesy (in my opinion) then participating in the rituals and prayers of another faith for the sake of doing so for its own sake. There sometimes exists in the goodwill and good faith of interfaith proponents an inclination toward syncretism: concatenating dissimilar rituals and beliefs in the hopes of honoring each of them! To me that lacks vibration and sanctity. Well, admittedly this is a personal opinion. I don't mind someone demonstrating their ritual or telling their stories provided they can universalize their meaning so I can understand and appreciate it.

My point here is that interfaith efforts, though needed and high minded, are somewhat artificial and very much like "preaching to the choir." If individual faith traditions themselves introduced an unbiased survey of other faiths in order to help their adherents place their own faith in the broader context of humanity and culture, then that makes sense to me. Or, if individuals seek out interfaith activities for the same purpose or during their personal search, that makes perfect sense.

The gatherings I've gone to, however, are typically of those of various traditions coming together, all too often with mixed motives, objectives, and their own prejudices, owing in part to the fact that each one is a representative of his or her tradition and thus feels a certain need to uphold, defend, or promote it.

On the other hand, so-called scholars who attempt to objectively represent such traditions do so poorly, because lacking in the heart quality of intuition that understands not only the form but the spirit behind the form.

Interfaith is like a teenager: all arms and legs, awkward, and unsure of itself. It must needs be done and I will support it when I can. I applaud those dedicated to its mission of education and mutual respect. I am grateful that the Sanaatan Dharma tradition brought to the West in the form of Kriya Yoga by Paramhansa Yogananda is innately universalist and respectful. I don't personally have a pressing need to delve into the details of other faith traditions for I respect them all and recognize, when exposed to them, the core precepts which true spirituality necessarily affirms.

I believe that the best form of interfaith lies within each faith to find at its own core the same truth precepts that have inspired other traditions. Honoring its own tradition and expression of faith, let each reach out in gratitude, recognition and respect while yet diving deep for the pearls of wisdom and love within itself. Teach one another these core precepts and to recognize them in all, and little more will be needed.

Joy to you!

Swami Hrimananda aka Hriman