Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Day of Thanksgiving!

Here in America we have the excellent and inspired tradition of a day of giving Thanks to God for the bounty of life. The (perhaps) apocryphal story of the Native Americans bringing food to the settlers in New England expresses the essential theme and ideal of America as a place where all can live in harmony. An affirmation, mind you, but one that has brought millions of immigrants to this continent and nation and has inspired untold others to dream of freedom from oppression.

It isn’t necessary that that America and its citizens and government express this ideal perfectly or imperfectly. Do not you and I but imperfectly do so in our personal lives? It does matter that we as a nation and a people aspire to the best of our ability to do so, however.

Many, including myself, feel that America has lost touch with the ideals upon which it was so grandly founded. I suppose our very success undermined our commitment and understanding. I for one and only one among millions both here and throughout the world, feel that the need to uphold these principles of liberty, respect, equality, and justice is greater now than ever before.

My prayer today and everyday is that America and its citizens may someday re-establish our connection with these high ideals. For now, however, I doubt this is possible until or unless we are reinvigorated by the compelling necessity of challenges and tragedy. Such is the stubborn and somewhat perverse nature of habit. But I still believe it is America’s destiny to do so and if it takes strong medicine than “what doesn’t kill us will make us stronger.”

I won’t say I am “grateful” on this day of Thanksgiving for our national loss of idealism, but I accept that it, too, can be used by the Divine Wisdom and Will for a greater good because there are sufficient numbers of us who are open to being instruments of that will — however imperfectly may be our efforts.

The best way to express, energize, and uplift our national consciousness is to live it in our own, daily lives. This means to be accepting of others and their rights and opinions; to be willing to dialogue with them when appropriate; to participate calmly and responsibly in your civic duties, to be a visible and willing participant in your local community (and church or other such forms of fellowship), to be a caretaker and steward for our natural resources and environment, and generally to live these ideals in thought, word, and deed. Honesty and integrity in your work, applying your talents and intelligence productively and creatively, to mentor and help co-workers as appropriate, to be a peace maker and not a gossip or negative influence at work (or school etc.), and to live within your means, to be generous and charitable with your material resources, to be prepared to help yourself and neighbors in the event of natural or other disasters, grow your own food, and generally to live simply and with contentment!

Paramhansa Yogananda, the renowned teacher from India whose life story, “Autobiography of a Yogi” has been read by millions, championed the future spread of small intentional communities outside of the cities. In such environments with like-minded people, he predicted, the negative influences of unhealthy city life and the pressures of globalization could be mitigated by simple living and high ideals. I believe that time is fast approaching. Ananda’s founder, Swami Kriyananda (1926-2013) and the members of Ananda worldwide have established nine such communities on three continents. Countless other communities ranging from co-housing to spiritual communities exist and flourish on every continent. Such is the natural instinct of human nature to seek others of like-mind. In this new age of universal education, advancing technology, communication, and travel, this tendency is necessary to balance the scales of global and impersonal forces, of galloping consumption, and a tragic and threatening disconnection from the world of nature and the world of other people as equals and individuals.

Let us give thanks, then, for the Divine wisdom that appears in hearts and minds seeking truth and harmony. Let us give thanks to those divine messengers who, in every age, race and nation, come to trumpet the “truth that shall make us free.” Finally, let us give thanks for our own efforts and those of others who strive to live by high ideals of honesty, integrity, compassion, creativity, and devotion to the Supreme Giver and Creator!

Joy to You, my very Self,

Swami Hrimananda, Thanksgiving, 2013

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Kriya Yoga and World Evolution & Revolution!

Since the dawn of the scientific and industrial era on this planet, orthodox religion has been in retreat, defeated at every encounter, by reason and its applied powers of experimentation, proof, and practicality. No matter that our reason can also be ruthless and used for exploitation, violence, and destruction. The potential for reason to show the futility of negative or harmful behavior is touted as sufficient -- no other-worldly God, needed, thank you very much!

Humanity is in a race against time and the inadequacies of reason. The godless scientific attitudes of survival of the fittest, the clash of the classes, materialism, win-at-all-costs politics and power, ruthless competition, and the sacred cows of entitlement and self-interest are rushing us like lemmings to our mutual destruction over the cliff of “what’s in it for me?”

Sorry to have to tell you, atheists and scoffing humanists: reason alone is inadequate to the task of seeing the golden rule applied universally among nations and peoples. Put more bluntly: it ain’t gonna happen. What our reasoning minds have yet to admit or even see is that greed, violence, poverty, and abuse (inter alia evils) are powers or levels of consciousness that, while appearing in individual humans and their actions, are greater than any single individual. We are influenced by our family, our culture, and, more importantly (since individual actions often cannot be traced to these environmental or even genetic influences), by subtle influences which can only generally described as “radio stations” of varying types of consciousness enabling prenatal tendencies (from past lives). Why, e.g., might a child raised in a “good home,” turn to a criminal lifestyle? Why do substance addictions or pornography or human trafficking persist (or even grow) in the face of so-called “modern education?”

I will admit together with those who are also “spiritual but not religious” that orthodox religion deserves its fate of declining adherents. But like all institutions of influence it is struggling mightily to keep its place. I read of one church that serves beer as a focal point of interest to attract its congregation!

The body, mind and spirit-numbing and harmful effects of industrialization and now globalization (though not without their benefits) have prompted sensitive souls throughout the world to cry out for inspiration and true spiritual upliftment. As a young Catholic boy studying the life of Jesus and the saints, I recall bemoaning what seemed to be the absence of saints and sanctity in a world that has placed even rainbows in the catalog of ordinary things explained analytically.

Scriptures and saints of east and west have always attested to the role of God, through human  instruments, to intervene in human and planetary history. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna promises to appear “whenever virtue declines and vice predominates.” The Christian Bible, both Old and New Testaments, are nothing less than a story of the “Word made flesh and dwelt amongst us.”

In response to this call of aspiring hearts, there took place in a cave in the Himalayan foothills in 1861, a meeting between renowned but secretive yoga master -- the peerless and now famous “Babaji” -- and a humble accountant from Benares who was initiated into a powerful and central meditation technique to which was given the generic name, “Kriya Yoga.” Babaji told this married-with-children householder, Shyama Charan Lahiri, that this technique would spread throughout all lands and would aid in establishing world peace based upon direct perception of one’s indwelling divinity and kinship with God and God-in-all.

The spread of kriya yoga is now a historical fact. Its use grows exponentially throughout the world. First brought to America and the West by the renowned yogi, Paramhansa Yogananda, author of the popular “Autobiography of a Yogi,” kriya yoga is spreading through not only Yogananda and his disciples but through many branches of teachers related in various ways to Babaji and Lahiri Mahasaya. (Not all techniques labelled “kriya” are the same, however. Best to do one’s homework in this regard. The internet, travel and communication have their downside, too,of course.)

Kriya Yoga expresses the spiritual science which is the corollary to the material sciences. As the natural sciences reveal a vast outer universe, so the yoga science reveals the far vaster inner world of consciousness: the source of all created things. As materialistic scientific “progress” brings comforts and knowledge, so meditation brings inner peace and wisdom. As control of nature can yield material wealth, so control of the mind yields happiness free of outer circumstances. As our planet searches desperately for clean, cheap, and abundant energy sources, so Kriya Yoga puts the yogi in touch with cosmic energy: the source of life, creativity, health and divinity.

As Yogananda put it, it is time in the history of humanity for the best of East and West to be united in the common and divine purpose of uplifting humanity in material and spiritual realms. Harmony of earth and heaven and spirit and nature is needed for the survival and sustainability of humanity and all life on earth.

As 19th and 20th century material “progress” shouted down the “old time religions” with promises of unending prosperity, health, security and pleasure, and as science proclaimed the insignificance of human life in the face of the scientific facts and the inviolate rule of the law of survival as the mechanism of life itself, tens of millions suffered or perished in the struggles between socialism, communism, and capitalism. But as science purported to show our insignificance in the face of a vast cosmos and of epochs of geologic time, so meditation reveals the vastness of human consciousness which is “center everywhere, circumference nowhere.” (Autobiography of a Yogi) Our significance is not as an ego with a human body that is tiny and lasts only a brief time, but as a spark of Infinite consciousness out of which this vast universe has come.

Yogananda predicted many challenges for humanity before his death in 1952. Though he didn’t specifically use terms like global warming, he saw the materialistic and exploitative trends of modern society, big business, war-enriched industries, and global power. He foresaw an economic depression on scale far exceeding the 1930’s during which the dollar would become all but worthless. He saw many wars to come and the appearance of what he called international criminals (and we call terrorists). After much worldwide suffering, he said humanity would experience two hundred years of peace--so sick of warfare would we become.

The pace of consumption of natural resources on this planet is unsustainable. The lifestyles of countries whose relative wealth and comfort was leveraged by cheap and plentiful energy resources (both natural and human) at the expense of other nations is doomed. Wealth creation by fiat money without regard to any measure of value or useful productivity cannot last. Many governments, national and local, around the world are de facto bankrupt. So-called democracies are being strangled by their dependency on constituents who demand their entitlements in return for their vote without regard for the fiscal consequences, the greater good or their own civic and personal responsibilities. Increasingly it would appear that multi-national corporations, including makers of weapons of vast destruction, hold the reins of apparent power.

There is, however, a rising tsunami of shifting consciousness that is forming to fight these crushing global forces. We lovers of peace are not yet strong and haven’t learned the necessity of personal sacrifice as modelled to us by Gandhi and M.L. King, but our time is coming to enable the worldwide revolution that is needed and is coming. We are not interested in simply replacing ourselves in positions of power (political, economic, or religious). We are forming networks of sustainable communities (of all types) that emphasize the importance of individual creativity and initiative, and our essential unity as children of God. We are the hope for a better world. But we, too, must pass through the “valley of the shadow of death,” meaning personal commitment and self-sacrifice. Meditation, however, including kriya yoga, is at the heart of our revolution. This not another “ ism “ but a shift in consciousness based not on mere belief but actual, individual experience and Self-realization.  Yogananda predicted that in the centuries ahead the concept of “Self-realization” (the necessity of personal, direct, intuitive perception of divinity) would be accepted by religionists of every stripe. This is seen already in what is now accepted as a growing tide of “spiritual but not religious.”

There are practical ways to prepare for challenging circumstances but that is another subject altogether. The greatest protection, however, lies within you, and meditation is the key. Learn to meditate; check out kriya yoga; find others who share your ideals and practices; move out of cities if you can, especially with others; grow your own food; live simply; be prepared for difficult times; don’t depend on the government!

Meditation is for everyone, regardless of belief or religious affiliation. With meditation one readily comprehends his unity with all life and with Giver of life. No special distinctive creed or ritual is needed. Chapter 26 of Yogananda’s autobiography describes kriya well (read online for free at It is the science of how higher consciousness is developed, experienced, and nurtured in the holy temple of the human body and consciousness. It is the science of “finding happiness.” (A movie of this title has just been released: the story of Ananda and finding happiness within. (

Joy is our “gun!” Stand tall and smile wide! Rejoice, for “We are Won!”

Swami Hrimananda

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The All Seeing " I " or "not"? What is Mind-full-ness?

A fellow meditation teacher commented that in the midst of a recent class that he was teaching, he suddenly became self-conscious and found that the flow of inspiration stopped. Being also a professional artist with a very creative and visual way of self-expression, he described it this way when I asked him to write it up:

 ....everything was going fine, until the eyeball turned around and looked at me. Then I found my mouth talking words but now without meaning.  Empty words....A little later, this happened a second time, the eyeball turned around to look at me.  The words again became empty, words without anything behind them.  I knew what to do this time.  Just turn the eyeball back around. It was the ego.  It's empty.  It has nothing.  In trying to do the words, it had nothing to say....So, the the flow needs to be towards others, for others...."

As I have no issue with or need to add further to the comment "the ego is empty and has nothing (of its own)," I feel the subject worth here pursuing is "What is mindfulness?" We hear the term often in articles and books and conversations on meditation. It's more likely to be associated with Buddhist forms of meditation than with yoga lineages. For example, in the tradition that I represent (Kriya Yoga as taught by Paramhansa Yogananda), that term is used only occasionally. 

So what IS mindfulness?

Did my friend, in mid-sentence, suddenly become mindful? Shouldn't mindfulness bring greater calm and sense of connection? For him, his experience emptied his words of both meaning and feeling. He suddenly felt disconnected from himself. In a flash he had a kind of existential crises of meaning. No doubt some self-described intellectual would laud that experience as an authentic encounter. But my friend didn't see it that way, and I trust his "take" on it. 

There are two kinds of mindfulness, just as there are two kinds of flow. In ego consciousness, mindfulness inclines to becoming self-conscious and, as my friend noted above, being self-conscious is when you "freeze-up," so to speak, and no more words come out (or they stumble out like drunks at 2 a.m.). The other kind of mindfulness is of the Self-aware variety which produces the calm out of which words (or actions) flow, to quote Patanjali's "Yoga Sutras," like oil from a drum.

The flow of action similarly can be either "mind-less" as when we get all caught up, avidly or in a panic, in the moment and lose Self-awareness entirely, or, there is a unitive energy flow in which the present Self is fully engaged, as in "one with," the action. A downhill skier or ice skater (or that type of action) would be a typical example where intensity of attention reflects both being "in control" (Self-aware) while the art, grace and responsive skill reflect the flow aspect. BOTH-AND!

As you can "see," the higher mindfulness in both cases is essentially the same. And, I might add, that should be no surprise because "oneness" has no "other."

Krishna states in the Bhagavad Gita that one cannot achieve the "actionless state" of Oneness by not acting (or by refusing to engage with life's demands, one's "karma," or one's legitimate duties). Stillness is the precursor to oneness. But stillness is not merely or not only the cessation of motion. It also includes the elimination of the ego principle, or to say it differently, the sense of "doer-ship" and the sense of separateness from the act (of perception) itself.  

Just as playing a video game of race cars doesn't make the race cars real, so too our bodies and personalities are like vehicles which our higher Self uses to drive our Car-ma (Karma) around to complete the errands and lessons for which we incarnated. Just as too many car crashes in the video game will make the game end too soon and we a "loser" because of our lack of skill, so too must we learn how to drive our vehicle with precision and skill so we can complete the tasks we've been given as we grow towards enlightenment and freedom.

The regular practice of scientific meditation techniques which can take us to a deep and calm inner awareness are the most effective way to gradually transform ordinary "fight or fright" ego self-involvement into the state of calm confidence from which we can flow through daily life (including meditation) with greater and greater ease, naturalness, and harmony.

With practice we become aware that this state is not merely our own, but something greater. But trying to describe this in words is where experience ends and philosophy or belief enters. Both belief and philosophy are helpful, but neither should substitute for the only thing that really counts: the actual realization of this harmonic state of Being.

Thus, now, we return to the subject of mindfulness. Is it empty or is it full? To quote the woman saint, Ananda Moyi Ma (see "Autobiography of a Yogi" by Paramhansa Yogananda), "It IS; and yet, it ISN'T." In fact, there are times when it feels empty and times when emptiness is dynamic with latent potentiality; and, everything in between. "No-thing," sometimes described as Infinity, has neither form nor beginning nor an end, you see?

In many meditation traditions, the techniques taught involve various objects of contemplation, concentration, and meditation. Emptying the mind is just one of many techniques or goals of meditation. Stilling the conscious and subconscious flow of thoughts, mental images, and feelings is best accomplished, for many (if not most of us), by having an alternative focus rather than forcing by will or by relaxation the restless mind from doing what the ego and body-bound mind does best (which is to affirm and protect its separate identity). 

It is no coincidence nor a mere mental trick that the usual "objects" of meditative concentration have their own attraction and often possess an innate psycho-physiological or vibrational power of their own. Examples include watching the breath, feeling the energy within the body, focusing on a mental image either abstract (light or sound) or personal (the guru or a deity), or, a mental repetition of a mantra, affirmation or prayer.

The purpose of one-pointed concentration is to, ultimately, go beyond and merge into and beyond that object into the state of oneness. (Patanjali enumerates some of the stages and aspects of this progression.)

Here, then, we see yet another example of Krishna's advice: how the "action" of concentrating inwardly (combining intention and will with reverence and devotion) leads to the actionless, non-dual state of oneness. Merely "trying" to empty the mind, while certainly possessing worthwhile aspects, is more difficult for our over-stimulated, often toxic, stressed, and electrified (cell phones, computers, EMF's of all kinds) state of mind and body. We are accustomed to acting towards a goal and even if it must be admitted that the meditative state is not the kind of goal that is outside our self,  like winning a promotion. Indeed, the state of oneness, sometimes called superconsciousness, is a state "realized" as always present at the still center of the the merry-go-round of ego involvement. Thus, Krishna's counsel remains as practical today as it was 3,ooo years ago.

Blessings and joy to you who is not, but simply IS I AM,

:-)  Swami Hrimananda