Monday, November 21, 2016

The Need for Religion : Religion of the Future

Here is a link to one of the most inspired talks given by Swami Kriyananda, Ananda's founder and direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda, on the subject of religion.

There are far too many points for me to attempt to substitute my words for his wisdom but just so you know "where you are going" here's a few points he hits in his awesome talk:

  1. Why "being spiritual but not religious" is not enough. It can even be a cop-out for most!
  2. The reason and need for religion of the past era to have become institutionalized.
  3. Why not to be judgmental towards those who need to be dogmatic.
  4. How science has inadvertently guided spirituality in a new direction.
  5. Why it is necessary to find one's path and be loyal to it as a precursor and prerequisite to accepting all faiths.
Well, these are teasers enough. Enjoy, be inspired, then take action!

Joy to ya'll,

In gratitude for the gift of wisdom, the power of grace, and the opportunity to serve!

Swami Hrimananda

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Autobiography of a Yogi : A Life Changing & World Changing Classic

Some 70 years ago -- December 1, 1946, a new scripture for a new and atomic age was born: AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A YOGI. How many millions have read this book? Difficult to say but millions of copies have been sold and this classic story likes to travel! But let others attest to the facts of its sales and readership. 

[For your own free digital audiobook copy, go to BEFORE December 1st.]

I join those countless souls around the world whose lives have been changed for the better by this now famous and beloved classic of spiritual literature. It is also a scripture, for during this worldwide celebration of its publication you will read countless stories of men and women who, in times of need, simply open its pages at random for inspiration and guidance. I am, in fact, one of them.

Its author, Paramhansa (Swami) Yogananda, born in India in 1893, was only 53 years old when he wrote it. Having arrived in 1920 to the shores of America, he returned to India only once, in no small part to gather the material needed to write this book. Otherwise he came to America to stay. The completion of his autobiography was to mark the beginning of the last few years of his life. (He left this earth in 1952, only six years later.)

The "AY" as many of its devotees lovingly refer to it, seamlessly blends charming and inspiring stories with deep, spiritual teachings drawn from ancient India and offered with the immediacy of a flash of revelation. 

My own personal search for truth took me to India in 1975-76. I traveled the length and breadth of India "In search of Secret India" (the book that inspired me, by Paul Brunton). Alas, like Dorothy and Toto (her little dog) in the famous movie, "The Wizard of Oz," I did not find what I sought there, in India, but, instead, the "AY" was handed to me upon my return home to the U.S. Years later I was forced to conclude that "when the disciple is ready, the guru appears" applied to me as well! Naturally I don't for one moment regret that life changing adventure to India.

How many readers have commented on the perspicacity of that great work. I say, "perspicacity," because I include the frequency with which unfamiliar, even obscure words are employed amongst its pages. Even apart from its spiritual subject matter, the AY is a marvelous work of literature which will remain in the annals of literature for centuries to come. It deserves to be read, whenever possible, in its "native" language: English.

Its first sentence encapsulates its intention in these memorable words, at once both personal and cosmic: 

"The characteristic features of Indian culture have long been a search for ultimate verities and the concomitant disciple-guru relationship."

As Genesis of the Old Testament begins Chapter 1 with cosmology and descends with lighting speed to the personal story of Adam and Eve (meaning your story and mind) in Chapter 2, so also does the AY rotate between the precepts of India's universal and ancient revelations, Sanaatan Dharma (the eternal truth revelation) and their application to the individual lives of Mukunda Lal Ghosh (later Paramhansa Yogananda), his family, friends, and spiritual teachers.

I too laughed one moment and cried tears of joy or sadness the next. I too could NOT put the story down. Even the footnotes wear the robe of wisdom, connecting the dots between modern science and the hoary Vedas.

The reader is carried to India, to the feet of its timeless tradition and through the veils of its otherwise impenetrable mysteries. Having just returned from India myself in 1976, from its villages, cities, temples, plains, seas, and mountains which I visited on the eve of its explosion into the 21st century, I embraced this book and its author as my very own and have never looked back: not once. 

Like millions of its readers I closed its pages wondering "What on earth do I do now? How will I ever be the same again? Will I forget and revert to striving to fulfill the American dream (and thus falling back to sleep, spiritually)? Never!" came the silent reply.

With my introduction to the AV in 1976 came two other life-changing gifts: my future wife, and her introduction of me to Swami Kriyananda and to the Ananda Village community near Nevada City, CA which he founded. I was blessed with an immediate pathway for my inspiration. 

Swami Kriyananda (1926 to 2013) was a direct disciple of Yogananda's. He came to Yogananda less than two years after the publication of the AY. After reading it, he immediately took a bus from New York City to Los Angeles! This pattern of "read and act" has been repeated so often by readers of the AY that it is all but a "standard issue" discipleship tale! 

I recognize, however, that for countless readers of the AY no immediate pathway for action seems evident. In fact, the most common refrain I hear from students coming to Ananda goes something like this: when asked if they'd ever heard or read the AY, the stock reply is, "Oh, yeah, I read it twenty years ago......" I no longer ask the obvious question, "Well, what happened?" because life's compelling needs, desires, and activities take over in most cases. Thus I count my blessings with those who, like me, found an immediate pathway for our inspiration.

Strangely enough, Paramhansa Yogananda's compelling life story hides from most readers his own spiritual greatness. He appears on the stage of his story as mere seeker, blessed with opportunities to meet modern saints and sages of India. The "story behind the story" is that the saints he met recognized him, the boy Mukunda, to be a great saint. 

As the world teacher he became, Yogananda brings reconciliation and understanding to the core issues that have long separated the religious traditions that we have inherited. And yet, in the AY and in his public teachings, his insights are so natural and so self-evident that few grasp the revolutionary insights he has offered to the world. 

Some of those issues include monotheism vs. polytheism; monism vs. dualism; God as personal or impersonal; the dual nature of Jesus Christ and of other world teachers and avatars; is an avatar a special creation, indeed, God "himself," or a fully God-realized soul like you and I? 

Does heaven and hell really exist? Do we go there for an eternity or? Is our soul absolutely and forever separate from God? Or, does the ego get obliterated in cosmic consciousness? Is the creation an illusion and a mere dream and, if so, therefore are we not responsible for our actions? What is free will? 

Does reincarnation exist and, if so, is it arbitrary and whimsical? Did Jesus believe in reincarnation? Has creation always existed or did it have a beginning? He even answered the question of "What comes first, the chicken or the egg (A: the chicken). 

In the AY Yogananda demonstrates by example the true nature of the disciple-guru relationship as one of divine friendship, not one of master and obedient slave. It is one in which both guru and disciple help one another and fulfill the divinely guided destiny of one another. 

He also explains the inner workings of so-called miraculous powers and their relationship to the findings of modern science. Death is shown for what it is: a change, merely, and an opportunity for most to simply rest before continuing the adventure of Self-awakening. 

Yogananda affirmed the life, teachings, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He shows that other avatars have demonstrated similar power of life and death. 

The AY is truly and clearly a scripture for a new age and a new consciousness. It will remain so for centuries to come, though the impact of its revelations has only begun, its influence will continue to grow exponentially. The AY is the herald of the world-changing meditation technique of Kriya Yoga. Kriya Yoga is spreading throughout the planet and will steadily become available for sincere seekers of every race and nation, and every faith tradition as well. 

Jai Guru!

In joy and with deep gratitude at Thy feet,

Swami Hrimananda

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Trump trumps All!

Dear Friends,

There's no point glossing over with platitudes the material and spiritual implications of Trumps "victory". If we pray or increase our prayers, let it not be, however, in and with fear. As disciples of Paramhansa Yogananda (or disciples of truth, peace & harmony) committed to the work of Ananda (or to other, similar endeavors) whose roots lie in our own hearts, bolstered by prayer, meditation and selfless service, we are doing our part as divine soldiers under the guidance of an exalted line of masters to bring light into the world. No one ever said this would be either welcomed by others or without self-sacrifice. 

"Trumpism" is in fact happening all over the world and in countries once the most accepting and liberal nations on earth. Fear is spreading tentacles of prejudice and selfishness like a dark cloud of poisonous gas throughout the world. It has always existed, yes, but now the nations of the world are networked together, rising or falling together: the time has come to disperse its power with light and energy.

We forget that our post WW II American generations have lived in a bubble of freedom, health, security and prosperity (however relative such things necessarily always are). Most nations and people down through the ages experience generational, or bi-generational wars, famines, catastrophes or economic upheavals on a cyclical basis. I suspect our turn is fast on its way to us. Someday it will be clear but only in retrospect how we got to this place step-by-step, whether materially, politically or spiritually.

Not fear but courage and commitment is what this turn in our country's affairs should remind us to affirm. Given who we are and what we represent, then, the form of that commitment is primarily spiritual. At the moment, our material commitment has taken only limited forms such as natural farming, educating children in a balanced, holistic way, and sharing truth teachings of many traditions (through East West). But just days ago our first homeless person appeared at the Ananda Temple in Bothell, WA late Saturday night after the evening meditation. No doubt, therefore, other avenues of serving will open up by necessity and circumstance.

Our beloved Swamiji, founder of Ananda and direct disciple of Yogananda, gave his life to serve his guru. By normal standards of merit and service, he had earned a comfortable retirement many years ago. Against the dictates of his body and health, he soldiered on, as he always said he would, to the end of his life "with my boots (of service) on." All his teaching days he never failed to remind us of Paramhansa Yogananda’s predictions, notably those of a "depression far worse than the 1930's" and of (natural) calamities we cannot imagine. (And, yes, of wars to come.)

Given Trump's ideologies and vaunted policies, the former (economic troubles) is easy enough to predict, as economic isolationism will no doubt trigger wholesale disruptions in trade. But, as history has shown and Swamiji has indicated, economic troubles often lead to competition and war. As to the other (catastrophes), are we not also urging one another to be prepared? A friend sent me an article just days ago with the Washington state government's conclusions based on their massive preparedness exercise (last summer/) extending their recommendations for individual and household preparedness from 3 days to two weeks. Well, enough on that; just read the news every week from around the world!

History will view the post war significant events in American history along the lines of such things as the three assassinations in the '60's (rejection of inspired and moral leadership), the debacle of the Vietnam War and the resignation of President Nixon (revealing our greed and cynicism), September 11 (when the rest of the world's woes came to our shores), Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans (when we first learned that we are likely to be on our own in times of need), and now this: the (temporary) victory of hate over love; competition over cooperation, abuse over respect, and prejudice over acceptance. 

My note sounds ominous because words in print exaggerate the intention but, in fact, this is the almost invisible beginning of "our time." Ananda and people like us all over the world are both the present and the future. As I have been saying for the last year in my Sunday Service talks, the time to make a choice has come. Sitting comfortably on the sidelines "minding my own business" has ended. 

Just think what it was like the day Hitler was elected. All sorts of rationalizations to remain calm and hopeful were given. Yet step by step he demolished the political and legal safeguards while everyone simply watched in amazement, sitting on the sidelines, minding their own business. I doubt history will repeat itself quite so literally and America in the 21st century is not Germany in 1930 but a bully is a bully, anywhere and everywhere. 

Ironically I am hopeful. Because the time for America's purification in order to re-establish our role and moral leadership in the world, together with that of India (not politically, but spiritually and energetically) has come. The spread of small communities where simplicity of living with high ideals is destined to appear: if not in the lifetime of some of us, surely as a result of the sacrifices and efforts we make here today, and elsewhere throughout the world. 

I am hopeful because more Americans (and others) will wake up and will make choices and commitments toward service, cooperation, simplicity and high ideals. Most people don't change lifestyle until forced; when forced, they will, at first, be angry, bitter and resentful. But enough people in this great nation and elsewhere will stand up for what is good, right and just. Of that I have no doubt, As to the details, who can say?

So, yes, let us pray but let us also affirm our commitment to these ideals of cooperation, service, devotion, meditation, and attunement to the guidance of our blessed line of gurus in harmony with the greater work of Ananda worldwide.

There is nothing to fear, only an opportunity to walk our talk with greater enthusiasm and faith. Death, troubles, and illness come to all. Never mind these things for we are a soul having a human experience for the time. Divine attunement does, in fact, bring protection in ways we cannot know in advance except through faith. 

So let's not pretend that nothing will change. Everything will change. But let us remain unchanged in our hearts and in our soul's march toward Self-realization sharing of the divine blessings we have been privileged to receive.

"Yato dharma, tato jaya" - "Where there is dharma, there is victory."

May Master's light and joy shine upon us and guide our way to freedom,

Swami Hrimananda