Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Search for Meaning : Final Post (7 of 7) :Meditation & Freedom

Part 7 - Meditation & Freedom

As science reveals the vastness of the cosmos, meditation reveals the vastness of thought and consciousness; as science perennially seeks new sources of energy, so meditation reveals a fount of creative energy within us; as science seeks to discover new labor-saving, life-saving, health-restoring devices and cures, so meditation reveals the subtle energy of life force which brings health and vitality into everyday life. As science seeks solutions to life’s material problems, so meditation discovers the innate joy of consciousness which is itself the greatest problem solver of them all because it brings unconditional happiness: the pearl of great price which cannot be bought cheaply at Wal-Mart.

Consider, friends, that the cosmos is an inextricable mix of matter and mind; objective and subjective; esoteric and exoteric; seen and unseen. As it has been proven by science that the observer is not separable from the observed, so too is consciousness an integral part of matter.

So, my scientific, skeptical, agnostic, atheistic friends: whether God exists, whether consciousness underlies creation, or whether consciousness persists in the midst of death is not the issue. Your interest in and open mind toward the subject is the issue. God gives us the free will to seek Him or to reject Him. For countless incarnations we can seek fulfillment in outer circumstances and yet will always find disappointment. As this universe has existed for untold billions of years, so have we. As energy can be neither created nor destroyed, so too consciousness! There is no death, only the outer appearance of change. Consciousness and Self-awareness simply IS. Indeed, given the transitory, fleeting appearance and disappearances of atoms, molecules, mountains and stars, Consciousness is the only reality.

We have nothing to fear for in our pure consciousness for we are eternal: not as bodies or egos, but as unique manifestations of Infinite Consciousness. This, admittedly, is a dogma (a precept) but it is one that can be proved, intuitively, step by step, even if, owing to distractions and outer circumstances, it might take more than one lifetime. The proof of pudding is in the eating and the eating is good, for the sincere and focused inquiry produces a more reliable and increasingly stable happiness. The eating is in the discipline of meditation and the art of seeking happiness (aka God). It is a money-back guarantee that meditation, combined with right attitude, right understanding, and right action will bring the greatest happiness possible in this life, bar none!

No saint who has achieved union with the Creator has returned to say, “Ah, what a scam!” By contrast, no single human talent or achievement can so boast. Its votaries invariably and eventually turn away with a yawn and a shrug. Like Ian Fleming said of fame, “At first was fun, but now it’s just ashes, old man, just ashes.” Same for money, pleasure, beauty, fortune and on and on. There’s always a fly somewhere in the soup! Like prostitutes, they are loyal to no one.

After hard experience, we may eventually recognize that self-indulgence and selfishness produce unhappiness and suffering. Then we turn to human virtue and goodness. These are our first, halting steps in the evolution of our consciousness. Most people and most orthodox religions more or less stop here. To go further, one must go on alone. For virtue, while its own reward, cannot satisfy our potential for lasting happiness. Through sincere seeking and studying truth from the wise, we awaken the intuition to see that no matter how virtuous I may be and no matter how satisfying to me my virtuous conduct is, I see that suffering, disease, old age and death still exist. I never know how or when my virtue may slip from my grasp under trying circumstances. Virtue isn’t arbitrary or inconsequential: it is a necessary stepping stone and a foundation for further evolution.

Something more is sought, therefore, as our soul evolves. Better to be agnostic than to embrace yet another unprovable dogma: atheism. Better yet, however, to have the rigor and self-honesty of mind to be open to realities beyond your next meal and to realize that it’s a matter of mind. Who can look up at the stars and ask “What’s for dinner?” Those who do can be excused for dinner, of course, but the rest of us will ask questions of life even if we also, later, eat our dinner. If you are uninterested, I don’t judge you. You judge (or limit) your own potential for happiness. The universe has lots of time. God will wait.

So, wise up, get a real life, and expand your consciousness. As Jesus put it, “The kingdom of heaven is within you.” Discover the truth that shall make your mind free from “dire fears and colossal suffering” (Krishna, the Bhagavad Gita).

For those of you who have followed my ramblings and reflections, I applaud your valor and endurance. It is my prayer that a bit here and a bit there of these reflections will provide some inspiration to readers and, in the process, some tribute to the memory and living spirit of my teacher, Swami Kriyananda and to our guru, Paramhansa Yogananda—a beacon of hope for a better world than that offered to us by the scoffers and skeptics. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Search for Meaning - Part 6 (of 7) : God as Consciousness; God as Joy

Part 6 - God as Consciousness; God as Joy

Science, technology, education and travel have expanded our view of reality beyond our nuclear family to include not just our city, county, state, and nation but the planet Earth! Indeed, we gaze into the heavens above and consider the possibilities of intergalactic travel. Similarly, the great preceptors of humanity have taught that Consciousness is a core attribute of God, the underlying substrata of matter. As our cosmos and as space would seem to have no end, so God, as Consciousness itself, is Infinite. There is no realm limited to our imagination and thought, neither time nor space can constrain our idea-mind. By our attunement with God, we, then, too, potentially have no limit to the expansion of our awareness. Thus it may be that by admitting the independent existence of mind, consciousness, and feeling (happiness) one has articulated synonyms for “God.”

You see, the innate sense of satisfaction, fulfillment and well-being which result from an expansion of our awareness and sympathies to include others are indirect testimonies to the existence of consciousness independent of matter and, by extension, then of God. When we are angry, resentful, jealous or vindictive we are upset and unhappy. The opposite is self-evidently true. It may be true that happiness and contentment “enhance” our chances of survival (though hardly a truism) but such actions are not rooted in mere (or is it “sheer”) survival. Instead, it is the deep memory of our latent or potential for transcendent awareness. For sure, it is happiness that we seek, not only mere survival. Born from the beginning of time out of the womb of God’s bliss, we are endowed with the silent, knowing memory that happiness born of perpetual existence and self-awareness is our nature, our birthright, and our destiny.

It is simply that the drama of creation cannot perpetuate itself if all beings could achieve this final state all at once or too easily. The nature of a good drama is conflict and resolution, good and bad, birth and death. As our true nature is eternal, the impulse of the creation is to perpetuate itself. But the nature of movement is that it swings back and forth, in and out, up and down, hot and cold and, like a perpetual motion machine, it is caught in its own machinations of movement. This is the nature of creation for it is Spirit cloaked in matter. Matter cannot recognize its dilemma, only Spirit, immanent within, can cognize itself. When it withdraws back into it-Self, matter continues more or less untouched. For now, it is not important to argue or explore duality vs nonduality, for that is beyond our subject. Suffice to see that the qualities inherent in matter and creation tempt spirit-incarnate to look for itself (like the Musk deer) in all the wrong places where it cannot be found.

I say to the agnostic scientific mind, you can just as easily contemplate countless  galaxies, the history of nations, the infinitesimal world of quantum physics as to contemplate where you will go on vacation. The vacation may come and go soon enough but the galaxies remain forever (well, at least for a long time). The vacation is an unmanifested idea that has captured your fancy, while the distant galaxies are real whether you think about them or not.

Which, then, is more real? We must conclude that reality is a matter of personal interest and awareness. I am not saying that reality depends on your awareness, so much, as your perception of reality depends upon your interest and awareness.

The world teacher, Paramhansa Yogananda, taught that the joy of meditation is proof of the existence of God. That isn’t literally or logically true but it is intuitively so. The actual inner experience of a state of joy that has no outward source in pleasure, material or egoic fulfillment of any kind, and that can be experienced even in the midst of trials, tribulations, and pain shows that there exists a level of consciousness unaffected by matter. With practice and depth of intuitive perception, this strata of unconditional joy is experienced as self-existent, self-aware, and self-satisfying (needing nothing beyond itself). You need not take this on belief. Be a metaphysical scientist, and prove this for yourself.

But, there’s a catch! I cannot give this to you, like writing a check. One can inspire you; teach you; give you suggestions and counsel, but you must seek and earn it yourself, for it is within you. You have to know about it and want it. Living next door to an excellent restaurant but not being hungry does not give you the pleasure of its fare. Nor is this joy merely a product of an overactive imagination. Anyone who has experienced it would scoff at the accusation that this inner joy was imaginary. Indeed, it can transform your life. That’s reality, so far as you are concerned. And it isn’t a merely subjective reality if it helps you cope creatively, efficiently, and successfully with day to life and life’s up and downs. Nor is it merely subjective if anyone else, making a similar sustained and intelligent effort, can have the same experience. Millions of people now meditate and millions testify as to the consistent results. What more is the scientific method?

Stay tuned for our last section, Part 7 – Meditation & Freedom

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Search for Meaning: Part 5 (of 7) : Evolution of Consciousness

Part 5 - Evolution of Consciousness

What if, for just a moment, we entertain the possibility that underlying all matter and form is consciousness. What if the evolutionary purpose of creation is to become more conscious, more self aware, and more connected in sympathy and feeling with others? And what if we discover that this does not pose a threat to the impulse to survive and propagate?

Indeed: consider how survival and propagation would fit neatly into the whole idea of reincarnation! If evolution is propelled by the intention of consciousness to take on form and through that form to become gradually more self-aware, then consciousness, so clothed, needs those forms to survive long enough to make progress. Then, in order to continue its evolution when the outer form it has inhabited has run its physical course of life, and after a “nightly” rest, it reincarnates and to do so it needs to find new forms, generally at least slightly more evolved. Indeed, such a possibility has not only been averred for thousands of years by the wise of east and west but this provides the intelligent and purposeful intention behind what otherwise seems a crude, hopeless, and mechanical explanation of life on earth. The cup of life may indeed be half full! (Something to think about, eh, Darwin?) Creation, defined as the cosmos, is “old as the hills,” and the evolution of consciousness is as much a part of it as the evolution of the forms of creation. Why not, then, mightn’t we be as old as time itself?

Just the other day a friend on Facebook shared a YouTube video from “Cosmology and Consciousness Conference” in India last month (Dec 2013) with Bruce Greyson, the speaker, an expert on consciousness beyond the brain. Here’s the link: He has studied numerous cases on reincarnation and other evidence supporting the idea that consciousness exists independent of form.

Any amateur psychologist will admit that the law of cause and effect governs thoughts and emotions just as much as it does chemicals, atoms and electrons! Over the long eons of creation, in this metaphysical view, perhaps as we gradually evolve through stages of mineral, plant, animal and human, we acquire more mobility, increased awareness of our surroundings, more control over our life, and, at last in human form, become self-aware. In super-human (superconscious) awareness, we achieve the Oneness spoken of even thousands of years ago! Achieving thus “Self-realization,” we are free to go (offstage, as it were, into the “bosom of the Lord”).

Instinct presumably guides the more or less automatic evolution of lower life forms towards higher life forms. But at the human level, armed with reason but heavily influenced by past subconscious tendencies, we can evolve upward or downward over time periods too great to even imagine. But intuition gradually awakens us to learn to expand our consciousness such that, as an example, we learn to love for love’s sake alone; to care for others because it is right; because it satisfies a deep need for connection; indeed, for many “reasons.” We simply know certain things about our feelings, consciousness and life. We may not articulate them in philosophical terms; or, we may do so, instead, using religious language. But the knowing is the same, regardless of the explanation employed. The left brain, reasoning mind is unable to critically examine the realm of intuitive knowing because intuition arrives on the doorstep of our awareness complete in itself, satisfied with the finality of its perception. It requires no acceptance and needs no approval. We can of course reject it. If we do so too frequently it will retreat back into silence. We can also, admittedly, misinterpret it or mistake subconscious influences, desires, and biases for true intuition. It takes practice to learn to recognize and trust true intuition.

Intuition knows that I am happier when I am calm, self-controlled, considerate, kind, energetic, and creative and so on. Our ego, by habit or self-assertion, however, wants excitement and stimulation (and to strike out at perceived threats) and then wonders puzzled when it receives the bill in the form of an emotional (or other) hangover or in returned hurts.

All great wisdom traditions acknowledge that the human psyche is engaged in a struggle between its past (and its subconscious) and its true potential in higher consciousness. Do we cling to the goal to “get ours” or do we haltingly and gradually begin to trust our intuition that happiness requires a long-term investment in an expansion of our consciousness?

The infant science we call modern psychology began with the proposal that it was more authentic to devolve in favor of our subconscious habits and to accept that these were our true self. This “solution” has been shown to be false, and worse, for it leads into greater suffering and unhappiness.

It must also be pointed out that the evolution of consciousness is not one of a species or even a group of people, but of each person, each soul, or put another way, individually. The nature of consciousness is such that evolution cannot be imposed upon itself. It awakens to itself and must choose to do so voluntarily AND individually. We call this free will.

Gradually, if we grow in wisdom and self-understanding through life’s ups and downs, we find that our definition of happiness takes us further than the pleasure of the moment and beyond self-gratification. It  expands to include the realities of others (family, friends, community, nation, and world), Even nature conspires to guide us in the direction of expanding awareness and sympathies. The young man falls in love; marries, starts a family, a career, becomes a responsible citizen and, in time, the doting patriarch of the clan. This naturally guided expansion of awareness brings us a satisfaction that the latest Smartphone or promotion cannot offer. Many a soul learns the hard way, later in life, that money can’t buy happiness.

When we take up recycling and donating to “Save the Whales,” clearly our frame of reference and scope of self-identification has expanded beyond our five senses, our immediate egoic interests, and beyond even our lifetime for it includes the welfare and well-being of other people.

Stay tuned for Part 6: God as Consciousness; God as Joy....

Friday, January 17, 2014

Search for Meaning - Part 4 (of 7) : Inquiry into Consciousness

Part 4 - Inquiry into Consciousness

Skeptics or scientifically minded people who turn away from any inquiry into the meaning of life, into life after death, into the existence of God, or reincarnation, ought to simply admit that they lack the interest, confidence, courage and/or willingness to make the effort to investigate. Just as billions of dollars were spent on building the large Hadron Collider in Europe to conduct sophisticated experiments on subatomic particles, so too investigation of fundamental consciousness takes focused commitment and years of rigorous inquiry. Some scientists, atheists, etc. are surely as bigoted in their refusal or denial of the possibility of subtler levels of reality and consciousness as the most self-righteous religious scripture-thumping fundamentalist.

Let the rationalist consider, too, the hypotheses of science which we readily accept but which lie far beyond reason or the senses: From astrophysics, geology, genetics, and astronomy to quantum physics, string theory and the “God-particle,” we readily accept as true, realities that can only be described (from the point of view of our actual sensory experience or our reason) as “metaphysical!”

Proofs of subtler truth teachings do exist for those who are interested. It’s really that simple. Well, ok, maybe simple but not so easy. Just consider what it takes to be a top-notch physicist these days. Inquiry into consciousness can only be conducted on its own level. There are no tools or machines that can do anything other than hint at the effects of consciousness. Consciousness is the only “tool” to perceive itself. The Greeks counseled: “Know thy Self.” Only by mental and mindful inquiry might we perceive the vastness of the halls of consciousness, opening up to first contemplate and then aspire to become infinity itself.

We are taught to begin with simple inquiry: “Who am I?” Examine your every thought minutely, as if under a microscope, and wonder not at the absence of God. Our daily preoccupations with matters mundane and egocentric number into the thousands. Clear your mind of such thoughts for increasingly long periods of time, and, wonder of wonder, what appears but a window onto Superconsciousness and a universe of Inspirations, insights, creativity, vitality, and joy that has no outer conditions!

Just as to become a scientist or doctor takes years of training, so too one who would plumb the depths of consciousness would have to expend years of concentrated effort under the mentorship of one who has mastered the art. His tools would include introspection and the science of meditation

The agnostic will say “I don’t know, I am interested only in tonight’s dinner and whether I get that promotion.” Both dinner and the promotion however are but thoughts in your mind. They have no reality (at that moment, at least) outside of your mind. The educated agnostic will certainly have no problem believing in science’s tenet that there are at least a hundred BILLION galaxies and that our earth has existed for billions of years and the humans have been on this planet for some six or seven million years? He will admit that his life of eighty years in the context of the length of time humans have lived on earth isn’t all that significant. Further he must admit that his life is not more important than that of the other six billion people on this planet. His temporary delight at gobbling down turkey on Thanksgiving is no more significant than his neighbor’s enjoyment of his vegetarian nut loaf. He might fight back and conclude, claiming to be rational, that all inquiries beyond his own material, bodily, and egoic interests are unnatural and unworthy of contemplation, but he cannot say, objectively, that his personal realities are more real or more important than another’s.

The “enlightened agnostic,” by contrast, will go further and recognize that to be virtuous, honest, loyal, hardworking, and compassionate is a better and more honorable way to live. He will surely believe in the golden rule. If he writes off his belief on the basis of obtaining better treatment from others, then he is but a cynic. What satisfaction or happiness would accrue to such a one who appears friendly only to curry favor? How would he view his love for his wife, mother or his child in the context of his philosophy of life?

There are of course varying levels of such agnostics ranging from cynical to noble but they all at least recognize that we must deal responsibly with the realities we face in life. “Responsibly” is something of a subterfuge for a realization of which few such agnostics contemplate the potential implications. What is the meaning and philosophical significance of that intangible but valuable satisfaction that is achieved when we relate to others along the lines of the golden rule? Those who have lived by this rule know that life is more satisfying, more complete, and, yes, more meaningful. C’mon now: why not admit it: one is happier!

Once again, the hard crust of reason and narrow self-interest, indeed egotism, which like prison walls, begin to crumble as our heart and mind expands to include others. The law of the jungle, while presumably the fate of lions and tigers and bears, is something most of us do our best to avoid! And even in the jungles of concentration camps or in times of war, famine, or catastrophe, there were and are those who reach out to help others. To them is bestowed nobility, strength, wisdom, contentment and inner satisfaction that the bitter and selfish will never fathom.

While reason can endorse this enlargement of sympathies and self-identity, it is first and foremost a matter of the heart. Only in the crucible of testing is the metal of our character forged. Some are born with this enlargement; others earn it in their current life.

And what about the phenomenon in human experience we call the “conscience?” More survival tactics, I suppose? Based on lack of conscience, one will steal and enrich himself; based on the whispers of conscience, another will turn away from the temptation. Which, I ask you, is the more successful survivalist? The former may outlive, out-propagate, and out-prosper his more scrupulous friend. But will he be happier?

Whence cometh this realization, this power of the knowing of our shared humanity, the nobility of self-sacrifice, this reaching for the stars? As we acknowledge biological evolution, is there perhaps a psychic or soul evolution? As we cognize the ever-changing interchange between matter and energy, is it possible consciousness evolves also as it takes on new forms?

Stay tuned, then, for Part 5, Evolution of Consciousness!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Search for Meaning - Part 3 (of 7) - Consciousness, God & Intuition

Part 3 – Consciousness, God & Intuition

The “God” word is troublesome in these days of “spiritual but not religious,” of separation of church and state, and freedom to think what you want and be who you want to be. The word implies we are being watched, and, worse yet, judged. Or, that there are limits on what we can or cannot do. The strong implication is that our actions have consequences beyond the immediate.

Now don’t get too riled up. I can’t prove that God exists. Fact is, you can’t prove that God DOESN’T EXIST; you can’t even prove that YOU exist. For all you know, you live in the Matrix, or, at best, in your own mind. So forget that approach and fear not, for I have no intention of proving to anyone that God exists. (This doesn’t mean we won’t talk about it though!)

Indeed, even the scriptures of India admit that “God cannot be proved” (by the senses or by reason alone). But can science or reason prove that God does NOT exist? Surely no one expects to find Him in a test tube? God, if He exists, is not an object in His creation. He is THE SUBJECT, so to speak. That the creation appears to perpetuate itself is by no means proof of anything. Unless the painting is signed, who can know its artist? Does Shakespeare appear in his plays? Is not the father also present in the son? Science, indeed human life itself, would be untenable were it not for faith in the principle of cause and effect. How can science, of all human pursuits, dismiss a First Cause simply because they haven’t or mightn’t ever find it?

What, then is the First Cause of creation? The Big Bang? Well, they are still banging their heads around that one. No “matter” what “matter” they posit, it will only and always be a theory insofar as the beginning of creation was, ‘er, well, how do I say this: a long, long time ago? And, like, we weren’t there? But no matter what they come up with it can never answer “Why.” At most it will be the “how” but only from a starting point beyond which by definition is material or maybe abstract mathematics. Just as bad is the fact that scientists will reevaluate and change their theories with each generation!

Definitely no absolutes in nature and in creation. Nowadays they are just happy to find something that works; a formula in which Y finally finds X! (I read a joke the other day: “Y, stop trying. Your X is never coming back. Y even try?”) They will no more find God in His creation with their scientific instruments or formulae anymore than they will find “the missing link.” Consciousness cannot be proved but only identified second-hand, by its manifestations as electro-magnetic radiations, articulated thoughts, emotions, and actions.

Would the most sophisticated computer-robot ever become human? Logic does not a human make. Feeling, too, is inextricably linked, even with our logic. Feeling is the doorway to our sixth sense: intuition and is that which distinguishes us from robots. A robot could mimic emotions but cannot “feel” them. No robot will come up with ideas outside its logic circuits and programming. As my teacher, Swami Kriyananda, was fond of pointing out: even an earthworm has more consciousness than a computer, no matter how sophisticated the computer. Spike Jonze’s move, Her, notwithstanding, all the clever algorithms cannot produce consciousness: it can only mimic feeling. Feeling and perception are inextricable elements of consciousness.

Consciousness is self-aware, and self-awareness is its own proof. There is no other, for consciousness is not an object, but the observer. Intuition, our sixth sense, is the only means of arriving at that proof. Reason is inadequate to prove that we even exist. In this lies, in part, the fascination such plots as in the movie, the Matrix, challenge us to define: what is real? Who are we? Are we a part of something greater?

Intuition is the state of awareness in which “knowing” exists independent of reason or the senses. The human experience of “knowing” which appears spontaneously without being based on any material, sensory, memory-based, or intellectual rationation is personal “proof” of Mind as independent of matter. This knowing we call intuition. The existence of intuition is experienced by almost everyone at various times in life. Some draw upon it more frequently; some receive it unaware of its own nature, others, receive more consciously; others, yet, with great success.

Where do new ideas come from? It may be reasonable and acceptable for us to say “I had an idea” but it is more true and accurate to say, “An idea came to me.” And, from where did it come, may I ask? You don’t know. It’s that simple. Let me repeat it because you probably missed it: you don’t know where the idea came from. Are you willing to ponder the possibilities? Good, I thought you might. So, now, you’re still with me, then. Good.

Paramhansa Yogananda used the term superconsciousness to designate that realm of thought that might be called, in essence, the Universal Mind. From this unitive realm of pure consciousness, he taught, flow all forms and ideas. “Thoughts,” Paramhansa Yogananda wrote, “are universally, not individually, rooted.” It has been amply demonstrated that discoveries can take place more or less simultaneously by unrelated researchers.

With meditation practice we can learn to open our access to this level of Being and enhance our ability to find solutions to life’s challenges, even at will. Now, this, I admit, as stated herein, comes to you, the reader, as a theory, or even as a dogma, perhaps. But it is one that can be proven by actual experience by those willing to take the effort. Inspiration, solutions, answers can be received with greater and greater frequency, clarity and confidence with the intelligent and disciplined practice of established meditation techniques.

Paramhansa Yogananda was asked this question in his hotel room by a reporter once as he was preparing for a lecture that he was to give that evening. Yogananda turned to his secretary and said: “Write this down.” He then instantly dictated a poem. This poem subsequently appeared in a book of Yogananda’s poetry and this particular poem was singled out by a literary critic in a printed review as the best example of Yogananda’s collected works.

My teacher, and founder of Ananda, Swami Kriyananda, showed this ability to channel inspiration at will in his writing of some four hundred pieces of music and nearly 150 books. While most authors take years to a write a book, Kriyananda could write a book in days or weeks: at most a few months. Unfortunately, scientific funding for developing intuition has not yet materialized.

Yogananda described intuition as the “soul’s power to know God.” Through the sixth sense of intuition, we cognize supersensory realities. The unitive field of Mind is no less one of an infinity of possible definitions for Infinity itself, also sometimes called “God.”

 In areas of psychic abilities, however, intuition has been amply studied and proven even if given different names and even if scientists can give no rational explanation. It has been demonstrated repeatedly that telepathic communication can transcend both time and space. Material science, at a loss to explain these things, turns aside, choosing to ignore what they can neither explain nor control. This is their choice and a reasonable one at that, but few scientists have the courage and clarity to articulate the implications of both these phenomenon and their inability to explain them.

Repeated cases of reincarnation that have been critically examined around the world are so plentiful that, once again, science can only shake its head and turn elsewhere. 

Stay tuned for Part 4 - Inquiry into Consciousness

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Search for Meaning - Part 2 (of 7) - What, then, is Happiness?

Part 2 - What, then, is Happiness?

If scientists, materialists or scoffers were more self-honest, they’d simply have to admit that these questions are outside the scope of their inquiry or their personal interest. Just about any “man on the street” can supply the most obvious answer to the purpose of life: we want to enjoy life and to perpetuate that enjoyment. It’s happiness we seek, silly! Most men and women, looking at life’s wonders, mystery, complexity, order, and beauty, see that the cosmos is veritably bursting with intelligence. The observant and aware human experience is sufficient to tip the odds strongly in favor of creation being both a product of, and directed toward increased awareness of, Consciousness, Intention, and Purpose! Albert Einstein, one of the greatest scientists who ever lived, was in awe of the universe and saw beauty and intelligence where other more pedestrian observers see how to make better bombs or grow food more profitably.

Most weekend-Darwinists would fall into the trap of admitting that mere existence isn’t enough, at least not for them personally! “Sure, I wouldn’t want to be in a coma or paralyzed for life. I’d want to enjoy life!” In any case, they can’t help but allow a higher purpose to enter which I will call simply, happiness. Right there they’ve forfeited the match by admitting to something, “happiness,” that cannot be defined and that constitutes a non-material reality -- in fact, a reality which is a product solely of consciousness and feeling! Bingo, ‘ol boy! I think I’ve just won!

And if you’d be tempted to say that happiness is the result of material satisfactions (home, hearth, money, pleasure, success, etc.) I would counter with the well established fact that the human experience discloses ample examples of people under the most harrowing conditions of pain, suffering or lack experiencing happiness (in the form of joy, contentment, and focus) like the full moon appearing in the sky, untouched in its beauty by earth bound devastation. The potential for human consciousness to transcend seemingly impossible physical conditions can never be circumscribed. Score one for metaphysics, I say!

You might still object by saying that desiring happiness (in any form) doesn’t make life necessarily meaningful, just purposeful? Hmmmm, hair splitting, are we? Even a scientist would say you have to limit your inquiries to what you know and can test. The meaning of life isn’t likely to found in a rock or in outer space. The very inquiry suggests consciousness & intelligence and, besides, intelligent or not, it is we who are asking the question, not the rocks or the whales. So we must be the measure of the response and the inquiry into whether and what is happiness and whether our pursuit of it is meaningful!

In any case, to admit happiness into the discussion is certainly a crack in the materialistic egg of strict Darwinism. You might object that seeking happiness doesn’t answer the question for the lower life forms and their respective stages of evolution. Hmmm, I would say, really? Are not earthworms and plants “happy” if they get sustenance and favorable conditions for living? Well, ok, we can’t say for sure they are “happy,” but as their simple needs are more fulfilled they are at least, well, “more fulfilled!” It’s at least as good as your survival of the fittest theory, I’d say. It supplies at least a motive, as it were, for their compelling interest to survive. Survival for its own sake has no logical explanation by itself without the squishy appearance of consciousness and feeling. A kind of primordial, “What’s in it for me?”

I will admit that we have yet to grapple with what is happiness. For one question that remains is not so much why we want to be happy (that is intuitively and innately self-evident even if beyond logic and reason), but what parameters foster this happiness. A murderer might imagine (presumably does) that killing his enemy will make him happier in ridding his life of some terrible pestilence. But remorse and regret may set in, afterwards, or the hangman’s noose, descend. Either way the happiness achieved by the murderer may be fleeting, at best. But, let’s explore the nature of happiness in another section.

Positing that happiness is the goal and purpose of life isn’t all that much of a threat to anyone, now that we’ve dismissed the Darwinists from the room, that is. It’s the atheists and the agnostics who are now left standing, quietly muttering to each other and suspicious of what’s to come next.

Our AA friends (agnostics and atheists) are suspicious because once you introduce meaning or happiness into life, then a higher octave than material fulfillments of the law of cause and effect is admitted into the conversation. The causes of achieving meaning are as insubstantial and lacking materiality as meaning and happiness itself. A metaphysical truth can only be dismissed when one lives comfortably, if narrowly, under the umbrella of materialistic, present life realities.

Right now, however, these baddies think that the meaning of life is to “get mine” and the only cause and effect they care about is how to cause mine to be got. Now I admit that some of ‘em are actually really nice people who love whales, pets, lovers and mothers. They just don’t cotton to that God thing. We’ll call this a sub-group of AA’ers, humanists.

You see: all of these people, nice or not, are wedded to the idea that the only realities worthy of note are the ones that they are interested in. Such realities are likely to be things they can see, hear, taste, touch, or smell. The idea of a broader, intangible reality is, for them, dismissible on the grounds of “Frankly, I’m not interested.” Even the billions of galaxies or the bad things that live under their fingernails are generally of little interest to this group of people. Maybe they love puppies or buy organic produce, but these they can touch.

Is there a way to bridge the happiness motivation into something less subjective? Can “God” enter the picture through the backdoor of happiness? Let’s wait and see….stay tuned for Part 3 – Consciousness, God & Intuition

Friday, January 10, 2014

Search For Meaning - Part 1 (of 7)

This is the first of seven articles on the search for meaning, for happiness and God. This series reflects the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda, and also specifically, the lifelong efforts of Swami Kriyananda (a direct disciple of Yogananda) to see the cup of modern consciousness as half full, instead of half empty. This is a message of "Hope for a Better World," to use the title of one of Kriyananda's books.

Part 1 - To What End, Creation? Survival?

Introduction: Before I begin, I’d like to start with some acknowledgements and references. My spiritual teacher, Swami Kriyananda (SK), wrote nearly 150 books in his long and productive life (1926-2013). One of his first books was originally published under the title “Crises in Modern Thought.” Later revised and expanded, it was renamed, “Out of the Labyrinth.” In this book, SK grapples with the 20th century issue of meaninglessness -- a cultural and philosophical malaise which brought much suffering, both physical and mental, to millions (and a lot of meaningless art--see also his book, “Art as Hidden Message”). For those interested in going into this subject far more deeply and lucidly than I can here, I recommend this book highly (and its sequel, “Hope for a Better World”). Both can be purchased online, or from the publisher (, or from my favorite bookshop, (or an Ananda center near you!). The culmination of these two books comes in a re-write of Yogananda’s thesis, or personal mission statement: a ghost-written book he called “The Science of Religion” but which Swami Kriyananda re-wrote with the title: “God is for Everyone.”

In his own life story, originally titled “The Path” in 1979, but also revised and expanded thirty years later (2009) with the title, “The New Path,” SK describes the turning point in his life (at age 21) when walking out under the stars on the beach, desperate to understand the meaning of life. Using the only tool at his disposal and with which he felt secure--his reason--he concluded that as he is conscious and asking himself these questions about the purpose of life, so too God, if He exists, must be a larger version of himself: or, to sum it up: Consciousness Itself. As he, SK, exists, God must exist. As he is conscious, God must be Consciousness itself. Until his dying breath, SK would repeat this story to audiences time and again. He often would choke up in the telling, so deeply moving and life changing was his realization.

Matter or Consciousness? Or, does it matter? As SK would put it time and time again throughout his life in lectures and writings: either nothing is conscious, or everything is conscious. Extending that, I would add that either life is meaningless or life is meaningful. Skeptics, scoffers and materialistic scientists maintain that consciousness arises from the electrical and chemical activities of the brain in its fevered attempts to survive and prosper. Thus, for them, consciousness is merely a useful function and has no intrinsic meaning in itself. It is as useful to us as, they might aver, the trunk of an elephant is to the elephant. This is what, I believe, SK meant by the phrase “nothing is conscious.” Put another way, the materialistic view is that consciousness is a mere functional byproduct and not the very essence or the source of matter. They might say, if they had a sense of humor (and often they do not), “It doesn’t matter.”

I once read an article in National Geographic that explained, quite unselfconsciously that human love and romance were “merely” responses stemming from these core “Darwinian” impulses! The article went to great lengths to explain the chemical processes involved. It was sad, or perhaps silly, actually, but this form of explanation is the accepted dogma of science and of culture today. In many so-called intellectual circles, it is an accepted dogma that all human activity has its origins in the impulse to survive and propagate! (Speak for yourself, I say!)

But these pseudo-philosopher-scientists are not being logical or true to their own rigorous methods of reasoning and experimentation. If you want to remain logical and objective you must by sheer logic alone agree that Darwinian compulsions, while factual, do not limit other influences or possibilities. These impulses could just as logically be but aspects of a bundle of influences and elements related to the interplay of matter and consciousness. Just as we have “lower” animals so too we, humans, may possess lower impulses as well as higher ones. The two might, at times, be in conflict, but, at other times, in cooperation. Darwinism need not be the final statement on the meaning and function of life. It is not exclusive. It simply points out a demonstrable (and useful)  fact of sentient life.

Is there not more to human life and its motivating impulses and myriad activities and interests (and, demonstrably to animal life, at least the more highly developed species)? Is the possibility of higher consciousness, of preexistent intelligence really such a threat to science? Why don’t they just admit it’s outside the purview of their interests or present ability to measure or predict (with the possibility of being forever outside their control!). Just look at human emotions, even in a single day, going from angry to forgiving.

A cup half full. Is it not at least just as possible that the material universe is a manifestation of consciousness as it might be that consciousness is the product of electrical and chemical processes? That it seems to us that the brain and nervous system are prerequisites for mental processes, does not logically preclude the possibility that behind the development and evolution of such sophisticated organisms lies a hidden but guiding intelligence, like the oak tree hidden in the seed. Sensitive awareness and sophisticated analysis of high functioning or unusual (but demonstrable) mental processes discloses conditions and instances where cognition and consciousness exist independent of the body and its organs.

There’s no point disputing the existence and value of the impulse to survive or to procreate, but primal impulses cannot answer the question, “Why?” Or, “What for?” Whatever may the compelling impulse to survive and procreate, organisms, both human and otherwise, don’t necessarily spend an enormous amount of time or energy dwelling on these impulses. It’s not unlike defining the human body as a composting mechanism: a rather narrow and pedestrian point of view, and of limited utility. Why, in any case, does the instinct for either arise to begin with? What’s so great about surviving and propagating? As I like to put it, “We don’t get out alive” in this world!

Given the depth and profundities of our very inquiries, and those of humankind down through the ages, moreover, it is at least slightly more likely that consciousness is the bedrock source of matter, not the other way around! On what basis and for what Darwinian purpose would we, and untold numbers like us, be having this conversation? Why has this conversation been repeated in every generation since the dawn of human history?

Part 2 - What is Happiness? stay tuned........

Swami Hrimananda!