This last week the nation breathed a sigh of relief for what seemed to be the end of a nightmare. I don’t mean this to be as political as it may sound, for I am relating to the presidential inauguration in the context of our reading today (Sunday, Jan 23, 2021): the Infinite Christ.**
The drama of the history and karma of nations must go its own way. Those who seem to be leaders are largely but puppets or at least manifestations of the greater dramas taking place. (On the basis of this intuitive truth arises many an imagined conspiracy theory.) Political leaders, as well as you and I, can either cooperate with higher guidance or succumb to lower impulses, but for all of us the forces that influence and propel us exceed the power of anyone’s conscious mind unless such be a divine incarnation. We stand in the center between those influences with which we are in tune, even if those influences are at war with each other. But the influences remain independent of our cooperation and go their own way.
For example, what about those millions of indigenous or aboriginal peoples around the world whose cultures have been wiped out by the “conquistadores” of the modern age? Were all of those cultures so “bad” that they deserved annihilation? How could that possibly be? Like a fungus that wipes out a species of tree or the meteor the dinosaurs, their destruction is impersonal. But in the case of genocide, “woe to them that are the agents of destruction” for they shall reap some, but not all, of the karma for their participation in the suffering of others. But be not deceived, however, for the forces in motion were already present requiring only the assistance of those who would respond to their invitation.
So you see, there are the impersonal forces of creation and destruction but then there are our personal choices to accept their influence.
I say the nation has breathed a sign of relief because, if nothing else, the leader of the nation has re-affirmed the truth principles upon which “we stand.” For my purposes, and for all the difference it might make or not to the outcome of our nation’s history, the first thing in an act of creation is consciousness, intention, and the degree of alignment with the highest truth towards which we can imagine. Actions are always going to be circumscribed by the nature of duality; they will always be only relative good or relatively bad. Out of compassion, the government might pass legislation to feed the poor but there will be some for whom being fed excuses the need to feed themselves! And on and on. You can’t win this game on an absolute basis.
Language can clarify but also obfuscate. Good and evil are not the same as darkness and light though in casual speech we don’t differentiate. Good and evil, pleasure and pain are necessary attributes of the duality that keeps the creation moving and continuing. But darkness is a progressive diminution of the divine light which is the central and eternal reality of creation. One without a second. But as awareness fades with its increasing identification with matter, name, and form, so does its awareness of its own central reality as light. In the presence of light, darkness simply “misses the point” and cannot comprehend the existence and meaning of Light. Darkness is the absence of light; not the opposite! The light is always there, shining in the darkness.
That’s what today’s reading is about. The “Proud Boys” cannot see (meaning acknowledge) the pain of those whose lives were trumped by a privileged race while their own pain at the loss of their way of life is invisible to those who either never had one or those who have embraced change and prospered.
But the Light is always there. The darkness vanishes as if it had never been when we comprehend its presence. All we have to do is “improve our knowing.” Paramhansa Yogananda describes “Self-realization [as] the knowing in all parts of body, mind, and soul that you are now in possession of the kingdom of God; that you do not have to pray that it come to you; that God’s omnipresence is your omnipresence; and that all that you need to do is improve your knowing.”
Unlike turning on the light switch in a darkened room whereby the darkness instantly vanishes, the Light of higher consciousness is more likely to grow gradually, more like the spreading light of dawn from which the stars of material desire may, at first, flee and slowly fade away. There are, however, some stars that are the last to disappear and others that can even be seen even in daylight.
If you run over someone with your car, your punishment will be much greater if you intended it than if it was an accident. The intention, in other words, makes a difference to you as the Doer though not to the one who was “done-in.” If the victim of your inattentive driving was killed, your remorse cannot bring him to life, nor assuage the grief, anger and demands for compensation from his family. You, too, will suffer certain consequences but the accidental nature of your acts lifts those consequences far above those of murderous intent.
The son of a dear friend did precisely this: he killed someone through negligent driving while under the influence. He went to prison. The family of the victim was outraged as well as grief-stricken. A young person’s life, filled with promise was snuffed out in an instant. But the prison experience has changed the life of our friend’s son dramatically for the better. Though always a kind and sensitive soul, his young adult years were lost in dreams and fantasy until his action and consequent imprisonment woke him up to become an adult. The victim paid a high price, to be sure, but it is our sincere hope that the son, still young, will be energized to do good in the world if for no other reason than to pay tribute to the loss of life of the other.
In the Bible, in the gospel of John, he describes John the Baptist as “not that light but was sent to bear witness of that light.” We are like John the Baptist: we have come to bear witness, to reflect, to affirm, and to live ever more fully in that Light. Like John the Baptist, we “baptize” our consciousness with only the water of our efforts while God in the form of the guru bathes us in the “living water” of redeeming grace. Both are needed.
And what is this Light? While in meditation and in higher states of consciousness we can perceive that invisible subtle light out which comes the electrical forces from which arise material objects, but the essence of even that Light is consciousness. This is why so much is made of mind-full-ness. The more self-aware we are; the more conscious we are of ourselves and the needs of others, the more that Light grows.
The experience of the inner light energizes and validates the outward expansion of our sympathies just as, in turn, expansion of our sympathies attunes our consciousness to the inner light, should we seek it in meditation. It has other manifestations, however: including the one we speak of the most: Joy!
A life of expanded awareness necessarily brings greater satisfaction even if the price of that is the burden we feel for the suffering of others. This is the dichotomy inherent in the dual nature of the outer world. This is why we need the validation of the inner world to remain strong and not suffer the defeat of our high ideals by the world around us. “The poor ye shall have always but me ye have not always.” Duality will always exist but the "Me" of the divine light should be sought above all.
An experience of transcendence—the light of the soul whether experienced as joy, freedom from egoity and pain, love without conditions, or inner peace—is one that “ye have not always.” Thus we are encouraged to meditate and pray daily to contact that Me, that Thee, that I AM which is the “light of men.” The price of spiritual awakening is that we see, and in time, carry the cross of the sins of the world which rejects the light uncomprehendingly. By this I mean we work to help others in whatever way is ours to do, seen or unseen by others. The "cross" is only that challenge to the ego to soldier on in spiritual practices, attitudes, and actions towards purification and transcendence.
It is this that shines in the uncomprehending darkness of restlessness and at the center of the sway of maya--the play of opposites. Think of the thousands who came to hear Yogananda speak. The New Testament says in at least two places that five to seven thousand people came to hear Jesus. Perhaps their souls were “stirred but not shaken” sufficiently to stay awake.
And thus it is that a living Christ in human form—Jesus Christ, Babaji, Krishna, etc. etc.—is in the world, and the Christ consciousness with which his soul is identified was the maker of the world, but the world “knows him not” as he really is. So, we, also do not know who we really are. “It takes one to know one!” as the boys of my age used to say on the playground.
Those who lived with and around Yogananda, for example, varied to the degree they could recognize the awakened Christ consciousness in that form. Idolatry of form is the bane of human life and of religion, generally, but it is better to embrace a living deity than give a yawn as he talks to you. One can hardly blame devotees for insisting that their guru is God, just as in the amusing story we heard today in the reading.** For every devotee who sees God only in their beloved savior, there are a thousand others who aren’t even interested. There are, in other words, worse errors to make.
To see divinity in human form is to have had some intuitive recognition of divinity in one’s own form. I recall as a boy I would volunteer once a week to be an altar boy at an early morning mass at a monastery of cloistered nuns. One particular morning as I knelt during the mass, the sun rose and poured through the stained glass window just above the altar. It suffused my being with such intensity of light and joy that I nearly forgot to ring the little bell at the Eucharist. The experience has stayed with me always though at the time I had no vocabulary, no understanding of its significance or of its invitation to seek it repeatedly within. The general church teaching was that such “consolations” are the grace of God and are not to be sought. There’s some value to this counsel "lest we boast" but it is an incomplete teaching for we should “love the Lord our God with heart, mind soul and strength. Meditation and practices like Kriya Yoga have been given to us as a means to do our part to invite the divine light to dwell within us.
Last Fall when, after moving from one apartment to our present one, my back started to trouble me and I ended up with a bulging disk. Thanks to repeated sessions with Peony Lee I am here to say I now remember what “normal health” is like. But during the worst of it, I could not imagine another reality except pain, sleeplessness, and immobility. At the time I dreaded going to bed for the nightmare would begin once the activities of the day could no longer distract me. Now, however, I have to think back to remember what it was like. When you suddenly remember where you left your wallet or keys, it’s like the anxiety and fillibuster around their whereabouts vanishes like the darkness at the flick of the light switch. Pain or forgetfulness simply disappears as though they never existed.
And so it is when, like “a thief in the night” the Light of God steals upon our hearts. But like the ever-watchful virgins awaiting the Cosmic bridegroom, we must keep the oil of our devotion and wakefulness alive and vital.
I rejoiced, then, to hear our newly elected President re-affirm the precepts of equality, respect, truth, and inclusiveness that soul qualities even if, at the same time, we know that in this world of troubles these ideals can never be perfectly manifested.
Life will always present us with trials but Hope for a Better World, Ananda’s theme for the year 2021, is more than optimism that humanity will find solutions to the pressing issues of our times. It is Hope for A Better World based on the awakening of higher awareness in the consciousness of humanity at large. Consciousness directs energy and energy guides action. This Light shines in the darkness of our present state of polarization but we need only to look up to receive its guidance! It is our souls that are in bondage, not the world we live in. It will remain in duality but we can be free--even now!
Joy to you!
Our prayer at Ananda is taken from one of Paramhansa Yogananda’s prayer-demands and should you wish to join us in its daily repetition goes like this:
“Lord, fill this world with peace and harmony, peace and harmony.” (repeat 10 tens)
“Lord fill ME with peace and harmony, peace and harmony.” (repeat 3 times)
(If possible repeat the prayer five times each day)
** The reading at the Sunday Service is Week 4 - The Infinite Christ from the book "Rays of the One Light," by Swami Kriyananda based on the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda. Available at www.CrystalClarity.com