Monday, August 25, 2014

Meditation: Is Effort & Technique Enough?

One of the great themes of spirituality is "self-effort vs. grace." This can be stated another way: "Who is the Doer?" Christians might quote St. Paul in support of "By grace alone are you saved." Yet Jesus himself said not everyone who says "Lord, Lord" will enter the kingdom of heaven but those who do the will of God.

In one sense, it is obvious that we must strive to grow spirituality by our own will! It's as true in spirituality as it is true in business. Human life would be unbearable if we did not believe innately in "truth and consequences," in cause-and-effect. Imagine if we really believed that nothing we could ever do would improve our circumstances, our health, our happiness? Life would not be worth living.

So, of course self-effort and will power is needed. It is axiomatic in the practice of yoga (and meditation---which is true yoga) that by the knowledge and use of the science of meditation one can advance spiritually. The "bible" of yoga is the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. These have little, if anything, to do with yoga postures and everything to do with meditation and the unfoldment of human consciousness toward divine consciousness and union with God, the Infinite Power. Paramhansa Yogananda, renowned for his life story, "Autobiography of a Yogi," and bearer of the now famous technique of Kriya Yoga to the world, would claim that he could essentially transform anyone, no matter how unspiritual, if he or she would faithfully and correctly and regularly practice kriya yoga. Swami Kebalananda, an advanced disciple of Lahiri Mahasaya, claimed that “I myself consider Kriya the most effective device of salvation through self-effort ever to be evolved in man’s search for the Infinite.”

I have practiced Kriya Yoga since 1978 - 36 years: twice daily. I know how the transforming and illuminating impact of this advanced technique. Yet........

Yet........."from whence cometh the Lord!" Deep spiritual experiences come, as Jesus put it, "like a thief in the night." One cannot force from "superconsciousness" its blessings in the form of deep peace and greater states of consciousness, no matter how "hard" one meditates. One can no more achieve higher states of consciousness through will power than can one "try" to go to sleep. Swami Kriyananda describes meditation in his excellent book, "Awaken to Superconsciousness," as "the upward relaxation into superconsciousness." In meditation, we offer our energy, our will, our act of devotional self-effort into the flow of grace from "above."

Kriya Yoga is given as a form of initiation into discipleship. The opening sentence of Yogananda's autobiography says: "The characteristic features of Indian culture have long been a search for ultimate verities and the concomitant disciple-guru relationship." We cannot escape the reality that God has manifested this cosmos by the power of his illusion (known as "maya"). We are not the ultimate Doer or force behind our own life.

Thus our effort may be every ounce of will but the final result of liberation is largely the flow of grace. It is not whimsical: our effort is the trigger, but neither can it be commanded by our will, for we cannot see or know either the obstacles or the channels through which in time or in space that grace will flow. Yogananda gave this formula for our salvation: 25% our effort; 25% the guru's effort on our behalf; and 50% God's grace!

So I add my testimony to that of wiser ones when I acknowledge that the peace and inspiration of meditation flows "where the wind willeth" and not under my control. As one practices kriya yoga or any form of valid spiritual seeking, one learns, bit by bit, that the true Doer is the Divine Will and when we place our will at the feet of the Infinite Power, the little self is transformed by the Great Self of All.

In your meditation, then, offer yourself at the feet of Infinity and ask that God, in the form of a true teacher, come into human form with right teachings, right technique and as the right teacher (for you), to guide you to the Infinite shores of Self-realization.

Joy to you,