Sunday, September 18, 2022

Divine Magnetism - Bhishma, the Sacklers & Treta Yuga

We live in an age of Ego! An age of the Individual. This is not a critique because former centuries, medieval times, was an Age of Serfs. These labels are not precise but they are like pointers: by "serfs" I mean that upward mobility, individual liberties, opportunities for creative advancement were rare, so rare that few even dreamed of them.

In this age, the age of Ego or Individual, we demand our rights; our freedoms; and the opportunity to pursue our dreams and desires. Just as some serfs might have become war lords or kings, so some individuals today are more like indentured serfs. It is a mixed bag but each age has its overriding character and ours is the age of ego.

In the great epic of India, the Mahabharata, one of the lead characters, named Bhishma,

Bhishma represents the ego principle in the allegory. Bhishma has the power to decide when and how he dies. The symbolic meaning of this is that only the ego has the right and power to surrender itself to God. 

Until that final supreme act of renunciation, the soul, identified with the body, can roam for countless lifetimes through the halls of an infinite and unending creation. 

So it is that the ego claims for itself even its spiritual victories. We can, for example, find ourselves proud of our humility. Such is the paradox of the delusion of ego. Attachment blinds the ego so that even its idealism can turn to ashes. 

This lesson is the story of the Sackler family: founders of Purdue Pharma, makers of the oxycontin opoid. Three brothers, Arthur, Raymond and Mortimer, set out to help to millions of people who suffer from chronic pain.


First Valium and later Oxycontin were supposed to be harmless and non-addictive. But their goals were quickly submerged by greed, dissolved in what became an irresistible high-energy marketing campaign. Their claims of harmlessness were false and before they could be called to account they had pocketed billions of dollars at the expense of countless lives and great suffering. The philanthropy of the Sackler family seemed at first idealistic but later presumably became a subconscious act of expiation. In the end, even their acts of philanthropy were disavowed.

In our age of reason, evidence, and science we imagine it is we, our egos, that are in control. We imagine that the history of humanity is one of emerging intelligence and power rather than a long decline from higher awareness of a long past golden age. Whether for good or ill, the ego claims or blames itself or other egos. Few see the hidden hand of karmic law and divine intervention silently guiding our destinies. 

In our high handed sense of individuality we look back in time or even in the present time at those who conduct rituals, symbolic offerings and sacrifices, as acts of superstition. While superstition cannot be denied, perhaps such rituals are a residue of something deeper and more powerful leftover from a time long lost in history when humanity communed with God in nature. We scoff at sun worshipers but are we sure we know what we are scoffing at? Can we say for sure that images of the sun weren't but symbols for something far greater?

According to the teaching in India of the cycles of time, the Yugas, there will come a time two thousand years or so from now that human consciousness will begin to acquire mental power. In our present age, humanity suffers from memory loss and inability to concentrate. But long ago and to come again in future millennia exists an age where mental power is beyond what the grasp of the human mind in the present age. I am convinced that the practice of meditation is the beginning of a long period of transformation into the next higher age. Meditation enhances concentration and psychic ability.

In the next age, the third or Treta Age, Swami Sri Yukteswar, the guru of Paramhansa Yogananda, says that humanity will comprehend divine magnetism. He doesn't define divine magnetism because he says, as I've already quoted, it is beyond our grasp at this time. But he is speaking of the general run of human consciousness. Nothing prevents you or me from attempting to seek such comprehension.

 

What is magnetism and how is it created? When electricity flows through a wire, an electromagnetic field is created around the wire. That field has magnetic properties. Electricity, Sri Yukteswar says, is the animal current of magnetism: meaning it possesses very little intelligence! But when a human being concentrates with great intensity and for a length of time, even years, on a goal there is created a magnetism that draws toward himself the natural consequences of that magnetism, for better or worse.

Divine magnetism, then, would be a term that acknowledges that the intelligence, consciousness and will-power energy necessary to create magnetism comes from a higher level of consciousness than that of the individual. Paramhansa Yogananda said as much in his well known statement that "thoughts are universally not individually rooted." 

So we return then to what appears on the surface as the vestiges of superstition: prayers of sacrifice and ritual offering. There was a time in descending Treta Yuga, which ended about 3,000 BC, when humanity had intuitive awareness of divine magnetism and could, by mental power, attune himself to accomplish whatever he sought. Let me quote from chapter three of the Bhagavad Gita:

10. Prajapati (God in the aspect of Creator) brought mankind into manifestation, and in so doing gave man the potential for self-offering into a higher (than human) awareness (through yagya). Along with this gift He enjoined mankind, “Whatever you desire, seek it by offering energy back to the source of all energy. Let this sacrifice (yagya) be your milch cow of fulfillment.”

11. (Prajapati continued:) “With this offering, commune with the devas (shining angels), that they may commune also with you. Through such mutual communion you will arrive at the highest good.”

12. (Prajapati concluded:) “By communion with the devas you will receive from them the (earthly) fulfillments you desire. He who enjoys the gifts of the gods without returning due offering (of energy) to them is, verily, a thief.”

The simple act of blessing your food before meals is both a holdover and yet also an affirmation of this universal truth. We might do this by mere force of habit, or, hopefully with conscious gratitude and recognition but it is symbolic of this all-but-forgotten truth. Our universe, our body and our life is the result of magnetic forces.

The Vedas, it is believed, appeared during the previous (descending)Treta Yuga. In the Vedas there exists a body of literature and ritual called the Karma Kanda. These are prayers and sacrifices for obtaining material and egoic goals. As human consciousness was steadily declining away from subtle awareness, these rituals were created that humankind would know from whence comes material sustenance, lest we forget entirely.

We live in an age where, for the most part, humanity, engrossed in the material world of reason and science, believes we are the doers of our fate. This is a good beginning but it is only a small part of the picture of human destiny. Enlightenment, Yogananda taught, is achieved by what is only 25% of our effort; 25% the effort of the savior or guru; and 50% the grace of God. While our effort is 100% of our will power the final goal takes much more. Even worldly success, when studied sensitively, depends on other people and the surrounding culture and circumstances. I believe it was the scientist, Max Planck who noted that scientific breakthroughs were achieved on the shoulders of those who came before.

Learn to tune into divine magnetism: first, the magnetism created by your own focused devotion in daily meditation; then, in the magnetism of offering all that you are, do and possess back to God in gratitude and for the operation of the divine will for your soul upliftment and the benefit of others. 

Those who practice advanced pranayams like Kriya Yoga can relate to the divine intelligence in the astral body as the "shining angels" of the chakras. Magnetism results from the devotional practice of pranayam drawing to oneself higher awareness and the help needed to grow spiritually.

Magnetism rules our destiny: first the magnetism of our past actions, which is to say our karma. Then, the magnetism created by our present actions. But if we lack will power and focus, our magnetism will be weak. Meditation can help develop concentration and will power and when meditation, and every act we perform, is offered into the divine magnetism for guidance, we can only find increasing happiness. "Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven, and all these things will be added unto you!"

God is the Doer. We did not ask to be created. We did not create this vast and awesome universe. Let us tune into the divine magnetism that creates and sustains all life, however invisibly to our sense and to our ego-awareness. Fear not and complain not but do your best and leave the rest.

In divine friendship,

Swami Hrimananda



Monday, September 12, 2022

Unworthiness vs Entitlement?

I've been intrigued with the concepts of "entitlement" and "unworthiness." In their exaggerated forms such attitudes are easily dismissed. If being entitled refers to a person who is arrogant and demanding, or by contrast, to someone self-abasing or self-loathing, it is obvious these attitudes are unbalanced and unhealthy.

Paramhansa Yogananda, author of the now classic story, "Autobiography of a Yogi," would say that "superiority complex" and "inferiority complex" are both forms of egotism. I recall my teacher, Swami Kriyananda (who was personally trained by Yogananda) wryly quoting this statement when some of us were initially resistant (as in "aw shucks") to his proposal that we be ordained as ministers.

Yet, at the same time, Swami Kriyananda often spoke of or wrote about the differences between spiritual or religious attitudes in former times as opposed to the attitudes encouraged by Paramhansa Yogananda in his public teachings up until his death in 1952.

The wisdom-seed for these differences are contained in the cycle of ages described by Swami Sri Yukteswar in the Introduction to his book, "The Holy Science." But for the purposes of this article, I will sidestep its technical explanation and terminology.

In the unworthiness "camp" we have concepts like sin, original sin, and past life (bad) karma. In the entitlement "camp" we have what Yogananda described as "prayer-demands," "you are a child of God," and affirmations such as "I am He" (Hamsa) or "I am Brahma (Aham Brahmasi)." So which is it?

Those who know me well, also know that my life mantra is BOTH-AND! Thus, some will NOT be surprised if I answer that question with the response: BOTH-AND!

Is it possible that we are BOTH unworthy AND entitled? Recall that one of the most controversial questions of Christianity was, and remains, "Who am I?" Is Jesus Christ God? or Man? or BOTH-AND?

You've certainly encountered the image of the devil on your left and the angel on your right: each giving advice and offering their respective support, right? In a recording of Yogananda's voice he humorously remarks that "In the day you are a devil but at night, an angel!"

Life is confusing. It is a paradox on so many levels. We strive and work so hard for so many things even though we all know, perfectly well and logically, that we will end up dead at any time, sooner or later. We know that smoking, drinking, cheating, lying, stealing, being lazy and eating junk food are bad for us but that doesn't seem to stop very many people, does it? 

We are quick to criticize others and just as quick, if not quicker, to justify ourselves! When bad things happen to us we instinctively feel these are foreign to our nature. When good things happen we feel this is surely ours. 

In former times, the overriding hallmark of spiritual attitude and behavior, both East and West, was one of unworthiness. Whether we call it the result of sin or bad karma, we "spiritual schumucks" needed to supplicate or make sacrifices to the Divine Being or gods and goddesses in order to make amends, or to go to confession and be given the penance of saying certain prayers; or, to accept Jesus as our personal savior whereupon his sacrifice on the cross absolves us. 

As St. Paul wrote to the Galatians, "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man sow so shall he reap." The need to pay our debts is an undeniable precept. It is embedded in human consciousness.

At the same, however, I don't see that fear or sorrow is as strong a motivation for being good as perhaps it once was (if it ever was). Referring back to Swami Sri Yukteswar's book, "The Holy Science," he describes the upcoming age (beginning around 1900 A.D.) as an age during which humans grow in "self-respect." 

When I think back to the American Revolution, the revolutionaries were offended by being treated in a way that disrespected their "inalienable rights." The history of America could be described as one during which the personal liberties and rights of individuals were continually a focus for discussion, protest and legislation. Consider the sentence in the Declaration of Independence: "we hold these truths to be self-evident."

The affirmation of personal liberties and rights is the opposite of unworthiness. I recall the phrase "just because" being used during the heat of the "Black Lives Matter" controversies. Black lives matter, in other words, "just because." No explanation or justification is needed for our innate value as human beings is "self-evident."

From the viewpoint of religion, this is a radical change even if from the standpoint of eternal truths it is nothing new. But the change in emphasis is important as well as practical. But, the emphasis is not simplistic. Let me explain.

If my insistence on entitlement is aggressive, arrogant or at the expense of the greater good, then it is the ego insisting on its entitlement. But to recognize my innate desire for and potential for goodness and, by extension, that of all others, than this is "soul-entitlement." A reverse description would apply equally to unworthiness. If I acknowledge that I have hurt or stolen, then this can be the soul's recognition of its need for grace, redemption, and forgiveness, and the need to change. But if my will power is paralyzed and I insist I am a victim of life and am blaming others, then this is the ego refusing to use its God-given will and intelligence to face current reality and to take steps to make changes.

As is taught in the Bhagavad Gita and in so many other scriptures, we are children of God and our destiny is to be reunited with the perfection that is God. To achieve realization of this truth requires a combination of self-effort and divine grace. Our souls are like gold covered in mud. The mud needs to be washed off in order to reveal the gold. Repeated error, especially over countless past lives, is the mud of our subconscious tendencies that block the soul's light from shining. 

Unsurprisingly, therefore, it is, once again, a BOTH-AND. The way to enlightenment can be described as either the Via Negativa or the Via Positiva. We can dissolve the ego or we can expand the ego. The end result is the same: Self-realization in God. 

But the point I wish to make is twofold: Yogananda generally emphasized soul-expansion and secondly, he did so because human consciousnesses is evolving in the direction of self-awareness and self-respect. Both points, however, are very general. In private and with the individuals who came to Yogananda for personal training, Yogananda emphasized BOTH the need to transcend ego affirming habits and attitudes, AND, the value of devotion, sympathy, compassion and selfless service. The very nature of any description of God-communion, samadhi, or cosmic consciousness is one of an expansion of consciousness towards Infinity!

Swami Kriyananda pointed out that those who insist that upon enlightenment that "we" vanish into nothingness are mistaken. The bonds of ego identification are surely dissolved in the state of nirvana, but the result is an expansion of consciousness into Pure Consciousness which is bliss. Consciousness is the source of creation. Consciousness may be "No-Thing," but it is not nothing.

Swami Kriyananda's book, Sadhu Beware, is a practical and modern playbook on overcoming ego. And yet as Yogananda once quipped to Swami Kriyananda, "When ecstasy comes, everything (else) goes!"

So you see, both unworthiness and entitlement have two octaves of applicability and we would do well to be conscious of the difference and choose the higher path.

Blessings to all!

Swami Hrimananda!

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Facing East: When Meditation Isn't Enough

 I, and many people I know in my circle of Ananda friends and members, have been meditating daily for upwards fifty years. Many others for several decades. Is it enough? Are our lives being transformed? Elevated? Ennobled? Fortunately the "answer" to this is not an "either-or" but a "both-and." Yes, our lives ARE transformed but maybe not as fast or deep as we had hoped when we first began. 

What does it take to change? Paramhansa Yogananda said "The soul LOVES to meditate; the ego HATES to meditate." But is it enough to meditate? And, besides, isn't it the EGO that is meditating? Yogananda told the story of a man who was being troubled by a demon. Seeking help, he was given a powder to say a mantra over and throw into the face of the demon. But when he attempted to do this, the demon just laughed claiming that before the mantra could be recited he, the demon, leapt into the powder. Yogananda said that demon is the ego. 

The ego gets plenty of brickbats in the world of meditation and spirituality. But, paradox though it be, it's what we start with. Were I a happy puppy or a satisfied clam I wouldn't seek Self-realization, would I? Nor, I suppose, therefore, would I have a need for it. 

How many hundreds of meditation apps and meditation teachers offer self-help forms of meditation: self-help for health, relaxation, insomnia, concentration, and creativity? There are many benefits to the daily practice of meditation. 

But can meditation transform us spiritually, too? Up to a certain point, yes, but self-effort, techniques, concentration are not enough. True: it is the, ego harnessing intelligence and will that, having received the inspiration to seek something greater than itself, begins the daily practice. But the ego, like Moses who was not allowed to enter the Promised Land, is marching to its own doom; it must be radically transformed and expanded beyond the body and personality and so, like Moses, must "die" before reaching the goal.

Before I say "You will need a guru" with the result that you will stop reading, let me go another direction (first). In the bad old days of the 1960's and '70's when altered states of consciousness were sought with liberal sprinklings of chemical additives, there was a greater interest in achieving ego-transcendent states of consciousness. As the fads ebbed away into "let's get rich while we can," meditation was turned over to the scientists for research purposes. This is not a bad thing, mind you, but applying a materialistic bias to meditation has also dumbed it down towards a stoic "chop wood and carry water" goal. (I'm all for managing stress but my response to this is to ask "Do you remember Frank Sinatra singing "Is that all there is?"")

Swami Kriyananda's book, "Awaken to Superconsciousness," has for its theme that meditation offers us the opportunity to nurture our connection with what Yogananda dubbed the "Superconscious mind." This is a step up from exploring the influences of the subconscious mind upon our thoughts, emotions and opinions. Observing our thoughts in their native stream of consciousness may be helpful for being more aware of these subconscious influences; and, alternatively, substituting beautiful or relaxing imagery or music may be helpful for relaxation; but no matter how much more we live a conscious, intentional life, we are still in the conscious mind. We are still stuck with the basic "I." A better "I" for sure but is it enough? I doubt it. For one thing, uncertainty, loss of every kind, illness, old age and death stalk us 24/7. How secure and how happy can we remain in this world of ceaseless change? The watchful ego is the protector and defender of the realm. Smugness, over-confidence, and prideful self-indulgence will surely be the ego's undoing. Can we ever rest secure in the ego?

The basic thrust of meditation from the standpoint of its own tradition and history is the intention to awaken our awareness to more subtle realities; more refined states of mind; less ego oriented behavior; and, to higher states of consciousness, including the ultimate or absolute state of Being. The Superconscious mind offers us the potential to align our consciousness with the greater mind of all-knowing intuition: the source of true confidence. While this realm is available and accessed unknowingly to all people, it is not under the command or control of the ego. Its influence is tailored made to our unique needs. Mozart "received" symphonies; Albert Einstein, E=mc2. I, the inspiration to write this article!

The Superconscious mind is, relative to our ego, "Other." You may, if you wish, call it "God," the "Soul," the "Atman" etc. etc. So far as its influence goes, however, the ego remains the arbiter, the decider of whether to accept or reject the promptings of Superconsciousness. We see this often in the quiet promptings of our conscience: one of the voices of Superconsciousness. 

Sometimes the Superconscious has to communicate to us through dreams because all too often the conscious mind is so restless and preoccupied that we are not paying attention to the subtle voice of the Superconscious mind. To make matters worse, it takes experience to distinguish subconscious promptings from Superconscious ones. This is where the practice of meditation offers valuable support.

Not surprisingly, therefore, meditation is the most effective practice to open up the channel to Superconsciousness: hence the name and theme of Swami Kriyananda's book. The part of meditation that does this best is inner silence. In turn, inner silence is most readily achieved if we have a time-tested method(s) to rest the mind, relax the body, and calm the emotions. Thus various meditation techniques are helpful before attempting to enter into inner silence. The longer and deeper one can be still in body and mind, the more we are opening and clearing the channel through which the Superconscious can influence us. 

But the ego fights this process and typically claims as its own the ideas and inspirations that it receives. This, then, is where the need for the Superconscious to take human form comes into play. The Superconscious in human form is needed to get our attention and to make real and personal the guidance the ego needs to gradually let go of control. It is far too easy for the ego to stay in control when the guidance is only internal.

But how many people have a personal and enlightened guru-guide? Very few. A popular spiritual teacher is not necessarily enlightened and, how much guidance are you likely to receive from a person with thousands or millions of followers?

The tradition of disciple-guru relationship and the tradition of the inner path of meditation is strongly focused on renunciation and self-discipline. Transport these traditions into a "spiritual-but-not-religious" extroverted culture that is strongly self-directed and ever-affirming personal liberties and you can end up with a great many meditators stumbling around in the labyrinth of the mind.

Therapy, coaching and counseling are among the fastest growing professions in America today. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates a 20% growth between 2014 and 2024. Isolation and anxiety produced by the Covid pandemic have, I imagine, accelerated this trend. So while the traditions of the inner path invite the practitioner to "go within," the need for 21st century meditators would seem to suggest the need for a "guide from the side" since a "sage from the stage" is difficult to find. 

Meditation has been lifted out of the culture of the East and dropped into a very different culture in the West. As a resident of one of the Ananda communities worldwide, and as a decades long teacher of meditation (and meditation teachers), I see that meditation by itself is simply not enough for most people to affect the kind of transformation that meditation has to offer. 

For starters, our culture has converted both meditation and hatha yoga (postures) into something more ego and body affirming than was classically their purpose. Even if there could be found a truly enlightened guru, only a few in this "me-first" culture would give themselves wholly to be transformed. Put another way, few meditators are ready for a true guru.

So, how then, can meditation help us achieve more than relaxation, concentration, vitality and creativity? How can meditation help us experience Superconscious states of the higher (soul) mind? 

First: we actually have to sincerely want that level of transformation. I've had meditation students react fearfully when hearing about cosmic consciousness or even higher states of awareness. Second: we may need help to gain greater self-awareness of our subconscious influences. Third: we may need help to re-direct old thought-patterns into new and self-expansive ones; Fourth: we need the tools of transformation in the form of advanced meditation techniques like Yogananda's Kriya Yoga; Fifth: we may need to be open to the spiritual and meditative guidance of those we feel can guide us even if they are not enlightened gurus.

I believe that the increase in the use of therapists, counselors and coaches represent a small but growing trend toward seeking greater self-awareness in this otherwise extroverted and materialistic culture. Yogis are generally not versed in the tools of this decidedly Western profession. The spiritual teachings are wonderful but making them real in one's own daily life takes hard, introspective work for which we in this culture are ill prepared. Quiet mind and still body don't come easily to our over-stimulated, frenzied lifestyles.

And I'm not limiting the help that I see we need to learning more meditation techniques or going to more retreats and workshops. These are important and have a place, of course, but I'm referring to something more personal. Ironically, the ego has to undergo healing and achieve some degree of wholeness before it can begin to surrender to a higher power. I know stories come to us of great devotees whose total surrender to the guru freed them in one lifetime but let's face it, most of us carry far too much karmic baggage. We need friends and wise guides to help us. Perhaps in a future lifetime the depth of our sincerity and magnetism will attract a guru whose very touch can liberate our souls.

I know that devotion to God and guru is "an inside job" and is not dependent on proximity to any human form but that level of devotion is rare. The effort to develop devotion remains a very powerful spiritual practice and should be included in our toolkit of transformation. My observation of the life of meditators and devotees suggests to me that much more is needed at this time and in this culture. 

In this regard, I think of the story of the Princess Draupadi: a devotee of Krishna. Krishna suggested that she practice meditation. Her response was simply, "But Lord, how can I practice meditation when my mind is wholly upon you?" Krishna just smiled and turned away. Devotion to the Supreme Lord is the quickest way to soul freedom. But alas, few are the devotees with the courage and conviction of this truth.

Among the fast growing number of professional therapists, coaches and counselors are few who walk with us on the inner path. One must choose a guide carefully and intelligently, therefore. Suggestions for such a search are beyond the scope of this article but my purpose is to point out the need among meditators for help in shedding the subconscious and activating the conscious mind. As a teacher of meditation teachers, I think it would help if potential teachers and spiritual counselors incorporated some of the tools of the emerging coaching field. I believe such tools can accelerate a person's access to the transcendent realm of the Superconscious mind when added to the other, traditional techniques and attitudes of raja yoga.

My daugher, Gita Matlock (www.gitamatlock.com), is a coach and on her recent visit to us recommended to me books by the author Nancy Kline (www.timetothink.com) for how to help others. I found the steps and principles outlined there to be completely congruent with the essence of Self-realization principles, but only using different terms and applications. The technique of asking questions is highlighted and has a long and ancient history. So too has the assumption of the essential goodness of people and our own power to find answers from within. Marvelous reading and I recommend it for Self-realization teachers and counselors.

Ours is a new age (Dwapara Yuga) and a new culture. Truth may be one and eternal but its manifestations are infinitely varied. If we are to help one another, let us tune into the song of Dwapara: individuality; respect; listening; and empowering.

Blessings and joy to you!

Swami Hrimananda

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Are Yuga Cycles Relevant to Self-Realization?

Part 1 - A New Age?

In the introduction to his 1894 book, "The Holy Science," Swami Sri Yukteswar (of Serampore, Bengal) proposed a shocking correction to the Hindu calendar by declaring that humanity was soon to enter ascending Dwapara Yuga! Most Hindus, including scholars and pundits, aver that the earth and humankind are in the midst of a long decline in morals, virtue and awareness. This decline, they insist, is the lowest cycle of the four and is known as Kali Yuga (the Dark era). I've read that when Sri Yukteswar held a parade in India declaring the beginning of Dwapara Yuga (around 1900 A.D.) he was ridiculed. Some onlookers even threw stones.

As best as I can tell, this dim view of humanity's future is shared by fundamentalists in other religions as well. From their perspective, who can argue with them? Rising nationalism, racism, cynicism and selfishness DO NOT suggest an increase in awareness or compassion!

And yet, by contrast, and in the matter of science and technology, no one could dispute that human knowledge is increasing: indeed, quite rapidly! 

So how can morals decline and yet intelligence rise? Isn't there a contradiction here? Is there any hope of reconciling these two? Yes! I believe it is possible.

Paramhansa Yogananda and one of his most prolific disciples, author, Swami Kriyananda, reconcile this seeming paradox by saying that the decline in moral standards represents a temporary dissolution of fixed values and stereotypes in favor of what will gradually become a greater sense of personal integrity and awareness. Behavior based on rules, taboos, customs and dogma must give way to behavior based on self-integrity. First comes the freedom to break the rules; then gradually comes the personal awareness to re-affirm basic truths and human values for one's own greater good, health and happiness.

An example in point is the story of the abdication of his throne by King Edward VIII of England in 1936. Documentaries I have watched claim that the king was forced out of office by high-ranking government and church officials, and people in London's aristocratic society. The controversy focused on the king's desire to marry Wallace Simpson, an American divorcee. But it went deeper than that because the king, young and popular with the common people, was breaking away from the formality of the royal office and the elitism of high society. His errant ways, viewed as "modern," were deemed a threat to the establishment and to tradition. His sympathy for the plight of commoners constituted an unforgivable offense to the high and mighty.  

Part 2 - Self-realization: A Frontal Assault on Orthodoxy?

But another question remains that I wish to explore is whether Sri Yukteswar's re-calibration of the Yuga Cycles is important to the Self-realization teachings he sent his disciple, Paramhansa Yogananda, to share with the world? Wouldn't it have been safer and easier to set this aside? Why did Yogananda explain this version of India's Yuga Cycles in his own life story, "Autobiography of a Yogi?" I ask "why" because by doing so Yogananda contradicted the religious authorities in India both then and to this very day! Why go "to bat" for something so esoteric and arcane? In most other important respects Yogananda's teachings are in alignment with the ancient and accepted teachings by such illuminatos as the Adi Shankacharya, Sage Byasa (Bhagavad Gita), and Patanjali (Yoga Sutras), to name just a few. So why make the Yuga calendar an exception?

I have puzzled over this for many years. Swami Kriyananda wrote a text that has become a classic in our time: "Art and Science of Raja Yoga." It is a text to share the core philosophy and practices of Raja Yoga as Paramhansa Yogananda taught them. Raja Yoga is an ancient tradition and while Yogananda was not its source, he explained it in terms we in the West could understand: free from orthodoxy, dogma and traditional cultural trappings. The text is both practical and deep in its understanding of the human mind, and illuminates for us the ancient wisdom of Vedanta, Shankya and Yoga (of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali).

So why does Chapter 1 of that book begin with an explanation of Sri Yukteswar's Yuga Cycles treatise? Surely a beginning yoga student in America would find it irrelevant! 

I myself made an interesting discovery that suggests an answer to this question. I have found over the many years of teaching that whenever I attempt to give a broad overview of Self-realization teachings even in America which has no understanding of Yuga cycles, I find myself referring to the assertion that humanity has entered the first stages of the ascending Dwapara (Second) Yuga Cycle. The characteristic features of Dwapara so aptly fit our society's consciousness and so clearly provide an explanation for the changes in consciousness that we see unfolding before us. Sri Yukteswar predicted an increase in individual self-interest and personal self-respect, for example. And, sure enough, what else does America stand for if not personal freedom? Moreover, the voice of freedom rings loud and clear increasingly throughout the world. He said, further, that during Dwapara Yuga (1900 A.D. to 3900 A.D.) humankind would demolish the dimension of space (via travel, communication, etc.)

While this "coincidence" is interesting it doesn't answer the real question: why is his explanation of the Yuga Cycles of any particular importance in understanding Yogananda's teachings of Self-realization?

Here are some of my reflections on the importance of Sri Yukteswar's explanation in the context of teaching Raja Yoga (including Kriya Yoga, the Bhagavad Gita, Yoga Sutras, and the Bible).

Yogananda's teachings are nothing less than a frontal assault on both Christian and Hindu orthodoxy. If humanity is really and truly in the throes of a four-hundred thousand-year decline in morals and wisdom there would be little point in upturning long-standing religious traditions. I suppose humanity, in this case, might need something simpler and easier to practice and understand (as we become dumber), but Yogananda teaches a very subtle and nuanced blend of yoga practices distilled from the yoga traditions of India. He draws wisdom and practicality from the Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Yoga Sutras and the Christian Bible. While the blend is recognizable for those who research it, it is also creative and new.

Indeed, Yogananda called his teachings A New Dispensation. In a separate blog posting, I compared this New Dispensation to a New Covenant such as Christians claim Jesus Christ brought (displacing the Mosaic Law). 

Why do I describe his teachings as a "frontal assault"? 

In respect to Christian dogma, Yogananda is claiming that Jesus Christ was not the only world savior in human history. John the Baptist, he claimed, was the guru Elias from a past life and he, Jesus, was Elias' disciple Elisha! He even called his mission in America the "Second Coming." I don't know how these could be more radical! (He stopped short of claiming he, himself, was Jesus Christ having returned, but he came very close to that. His only response to the direct question was "What difference would it make?") He claimed, further, that the three Wise Men who came to honor the birth of Christ were none other than his own guru-lineage (Babaji, Lahiri Mahasaya, and Swami Sri Yukteswar).

In respect to Hinduism, Yogananda stripped from its attributes as much, if not more material, as the early Christians did in respect to Judaism. The apostles removed the requirement of circumcision, for example, and repeated Jesus' claim that he was the son of God. Yogananda carried forward none of the rituals and only a very few mantras, from India. He challenged the orthodox Hindu view that such saviors as Krishna or Rama were direct incarnations of Vishnu (God). Rather than their being so-called "Purna" avatars, he said these great souls were souls like you and me who had achieved Self-realization in a prior life. 

So, in both cases, his was a frontal assault. Only the dawn of a New Age of Consciousness could be the external, or objective reason for what Yogananda taught. This is what I have concluded over the years. It may be perfectly fine for disciples of Yogananda to say that what he taught is "good enough for me because he was an avatar." But as the teachings continue to spread, they are helped by having an objective context to frame the necessity and relevance of those teachings.

Part 3 - Will Sri Yukteswar's Yuga Cycle Correction Ever be Accepted by Hindu Orthodoxy?

In the biography of Swami Sri Yukteswar by Swami Satyananda Giri (Yoganiketan press), it is described just how close to acceptance came Sri Yukteswar's astrological and astronomical calculations. The (then) famous astrologer in Puri, Orissa (India) Pandit Chandrakanta Shiromani Mahasaya died just before being able to review Sri Yukteswar's work. A group of the Pandit's students and associates had previously accepted Sri Yukteswar's proposals but said final acceptance would require the Pandit's approval.

As evidence of the onset of a higher age, Swami Sri Yukteswar stated in the introduction to his book, "The Holy Science," that, among other pieces of evidence, the average height of humans would increase; that the average lifespan of humans would increase; that we would discover the existence of finer electricities and the knowledge of atoms and other minute particles; that we would discover that energy is the fundamental essence of matter; and, that a star would be discovered to be our sun's "dual." 

I know of two books on this subject: "Lost Star of Myth and Time," by Walter Cruttenden, and "The Yugas" by David Steinmetz and Joseph Selbie. The former points to Sirius as the sun's dual and the latter speaks of a more complex astronomical explanation. In both cases, the existence of the sun's dual is yet to be found. That remains a missing piece to this question. Yet Sri Yukteswar's calculations can presumably be corroborated by Hindu astronomers and astrologists who perhaps need only the incentive to do so. But the implications to Hindu society and the priestly class are deeply profound and one wonders just how long it will take before a courageous and capable pundit will step up to the task.
 
I am not alone in expressing my appreciation for the clarity of insights that reevaluating human history in the context of the Yuga Cycles has brought to me. In fact, this view turns on its head everything we thought we knew about our human ancestors. The "Yugas" book cited above is well worth the read, just be careful who you share it with, lest they recommend to you a psychiatrist. But truthfully, evidence continues to accumulate worldwide for the proposition, held in former times by every great civilization, that humanity had long ago experienced a Golden Age of wisdom and harmony.

Blessings to you,

Swami Hrimananda


 

Monday, July 18, 2022

Kriya Yoga: the New Covenant; the Second Coming

 [This article was inspired by a talk I gave at a Kriya initiation at the Blue Lotus Temple in Bothell, WA]

 


In anticipation of the consciousness of the third millennia A.D., the rishis of modern India have explained the path to enlightenment in rational, scientific terms. For the lingua franca of our times is, in fact, science. In former times, however, deeper spiritual truths were conveyed in parables, metaphors or allegories and were understood intuitively rather than intellectually.

Long ago in the highest or golden age, highly advanced spiritual beings possessed the intuition, the inner sight, by which they cognized subtle realms, astral beings, higher truths and the Divine presence. Indeed, it is said in the ancient texts that the first humans were so enlightened that after observing the natural wonders of creation they sat in lotus pose and merged back into God. These souls had no interest in playing the game of hide and seek with God. So, God decided to raise the stakes and make the creation more attractive so that these beings would want to stay and play with Him. In the Bible version of this story, Adam and Eve fell to the temptation to be "like” God and enter into the drama of duality, experiencing good and evil and all the opposites which attract or repulse.

Well, it's just a story though it seems that God has played an unfair trick on us. While contemplating the whole sad affair, it occurred to me that maybe there’s another way to explain what happened to us. (No explanation, however, can satisfy our heart's yearnings.) It might be related to the explanation of the cycles of time as revealed by Swami Sri Yukteswar in the introduction to his only book, “The Holy Science.”

In that book, Sri Yukteswar stated that the twelve thousand years ending on or about 500 A.D. constitute a long period of decline from the highest age of virtue and wisdom to the nadir of the larger twenty-four thousand year cycle. Biblical scholars place the Garden of Eden somewhere just after 5,000 B.C. Maybe what really happened was that the gradual loss of God consciousness and the concomitant rise of ego consciousness was the real “fall” described in these stories.

Then somewhere after 2,000 B.C. we find that humanity’s oldest scriptures, the Vedas and the scriptures that followed, came to be written down perhaps because the oral tradition could no longer be relied upon as human understanding and virtue declined.

Nonetheless, what remained would have become dry parchment were it not for the repeated appearance of great souls’ generation after generation all the way to the modern age, including the lineage of the Self-realization masters. Saints are the true custodians of faith and the avatars are the prime movers who offer wisdom in the midst of the ebb and flow of human consciousness.

Whatever the facts that led us here, here we are. Faced with our own modern troubles, let us admit that neither world peace nor a cure for cancer will bestow upon humanity the pearl of great price of true and lasting happiness. As some of the lyrics in Swami Kriyananda’s happy but instructive song, “Secret of Laughter” puts it: "You can win the world but still be poor, win peace and live like a king." No matter how great are the blessings of science, the yogi’s cliché is still true: "The only way out is IN."

God, knowing our present needs, has sent to humanity a great gift in the form of Kriya Yoga. Though an ancient science, it was lost in the dark ages but for us now it has been resurrected by the deathless prophet, Mahavatar Babaji. Kriya is a priceless gem, a chintamani, offered to those who sincerely seek help in their journey towards Self-realization.[1] Kriya is more than a meditation technique that uses the breath; it is more than a series of core techniques; it is a way of life, indeed, a new dispensation bestowing knowledge and grace that can propel us quickly over the ocean of delusion. Kriya is a relationship with God through the agency of the divine gurus. Initiation into kriya establishes and affirms the connection between disciple and guru. The technique acts as an instrument of transmission of the guru’s guidance and grace.

Swamiji states in his booklet, “A New Dispensation,” that Yogananda wrote in his commentaries on the “Bhagavad Gita” that sometimes in history a sea of calm appears in the midst of the storm of maya.[2] Perhaps when a world savior descends like a comet into this world of darkness taking on human form, he does so through a vortex, a wormhole that lingers to and from eternity. Those who are drawn to this eye of calm in the middle of the storm of duality find rapid spiritual progress just as the apostles of Christ were transformed in those three brief years. 

I think of the Day of Pentecost described in the Acts of the Apostles.[3] That day, the Holy Ghost descended upon them in the form of tongues of fire and as a wind. The apostles spoke in diverse languages and some three thousand people were converted to the new covenant in Christ. 

Yogananda said his coming to the West was the “second coming” of Christ. He said that those who were ready to receive him would be baptized by the Holy Spirit through Kriya Yoga. A new covenant, a new dispensation has arrived he said. “The time for knowing God has come!” Yogananda declared.

Just as those apostles blessed by the Holy Spirit were destined to change the course of history, so too is Kriya is destined to uplift humanity in this age of Dwapara Yuga.[4] Kriya opens the door that we may commune with the Holy Spirit as the Aum vibration, and on its wings ascend like a dove into superconsciousness.[5]

So, what, then is this technique, this “kriya?”

In Yogananda’s now famous story, “Autobiography of a Yogi,” he wrote that "The ancient yogis discovered that the secret of cosmic consciousness is intimately linked with breath mastery. This is India's unique and deathless contribution to the world's treasury of knowledge. The life force, which is ordinarily absorbed in maintaining the heart-pump, must be freed for higher activities by a method of calming and stilling the ceaseless demands of the breath."[6]

As we come into the body with our first breath and leave the body by our last breath, so breath links us with the subtle (astral) world from which we have come and to which we return. We incarnate again and again on the basis of the unfinished business of our likes, dislikes and our past actions. Once incarnate, the world of duality begins with the duality of inhalation and exhalation. Our breath is the foundation and prerequisite for our life in the human body. The cycle of the breath is also the foundation for the reactive, emotional process of like and dislike. Indeed, Patanjali in stanza 2 of the renowned Yoga Sutras defines our soul freedom by the cessation of that process. It is really and truly that simple.

We can't just hold our breath, however! If we tried, we'd pass out and the nervous system would re-start the breathing process. Moreover, the breath is, itself, only the necessary starting point for how we can explore the far subtler causes for our reincarnation: desire! Like those first humans, or like our first foray into creation, we WANT; we LIKE; we DESIRE this and FEAR that!

Made in the image of God, we want to be like God and manifest the great play of creation, experiencing good and evil. But unlike the Spirit beyond by creation and unlike the son of God hiding silently at the heart of every atom of creation, we forget “Who am I?” We become identified with the play like a bad actor who forgets he’s only an actor. You could even say that it is not “I” who reincarnates but it is my desires--likes and dislikes and the unfinished business of past actions--that reincarnate into the great cycle of inhalation and exhalation to find resolution and release. Our thoughts and actions are our offspring and after countless lives we have an entire nation of subjects, indeed slaves, yearning for satisfaction and, knowingly or unknowingly, to be free. 

As Christ the redeemer taught his disciples to commemorate his living presence through the Eucharistic form of communion, so Paramhansa Yogananda (and his lineage which includes Christ) has brought to us inner communion through Kriya Yoga. As Jesus gave the ritual of communion, so Babaji gives us the inner fire rite of kriya.

In his first book, “Science of Religion,” Yogananda explained the science of inner communion. It is based on the cessation of breath and the reactive process through a time-tested and safe method of breath and life control. Yogananda called Kriya “the airplane route” to God because it works on the source of our delusion rather than upon its effects.

As the storm of breath is quieted, we begin to "see." We become "seers." Just as when we see attractive objects of the senses we are drawn outside of ourselves, so too when we begin to “see” the far more attractive world of divine magnetism and the higher realms we are drawn inward. Our life current is drawn away from the body and into the subtle, astral body and then upwards towards the higher realms. It's like a cosmic game of "Musical Chairs." When the music of creation stops, the one without a chair (of attachment) rises. The song of creation is built atop the dance of breath and when breath ceases, creation vanishes and our spirit rises. This, then, is the shortcut to freedom. This is what happens at death and when meditation takes us into breathlessness, it is the little death. It is thus a preparation for the final exam.

It would be a mistake to suppose we reject God’s creation as evil. It is our identification with it that we seek to cauterize. It was God’s original intention that we enjoy the creation with God. How could God, bliss itself, bliss eternal, not wish to share that bliss? But the drama of creation could not sustain itself if there were no drama. There can be no drama without free choice and no free choice without good and evil to choose from. Drama is the métier of the play.

For the purpose of dissolving our identification with the play, Kriya seeks to dissolve our commitment to playing in it. The force and power of that commitment is a force that is called kundalini. Kundalini represents and in fact IS the deeply magnetic commitment we have made to our separateness from God. By dissolving this commitment, we unleash the power to reunite our life force with soul force. Again: we have been given a shortcut. Cauterize the “I” or ego principle and the rest falls away from lack of interest in playing, that is to say, in reacting!

This commitment to our “mortal delusion” anchors our consciousness in the body at the base of the spine. Every positive and kind thought releases some of its power upward toward the brain wherein resides the soul. But kriya practice is far more powerful than random thoughts of kindness and acts of virtue. By daily practice of kriya yoga, we ascend upward through the lights of the tree of life along the spiral staircase of wakefulness. Along this path lie the subtle energy centers of the astral spine known as the chakras. The chakras are both doorways out into the body (and into the world beyond it), and, when the life force is restrained and coaxed inward, they are doorways into the subtle spine where we experience true baptism into eternal life. In Chapter 6, verse 46 of the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna praises the yogi and yoga-meditation as the greatest and fastest path to Self-realization. 

When by daily kriya practice we begin to neutralize the ceaseless work of the breath, we find that our reactions to the world within and without begin also to become pacified. It's not just in meditation that we become more aware but also in activity. Nor is this process merely the result of self-control. We discover that being calm and centered in the Self is increasingly natural; less and less must we use our will to restrain our impulses. We begin to live in cooperation with grace.

As the inevitable karmic bombs of life explode, we remain centered; we live ever more fully by faith in God. "What comes of itself," Master would say, "let it come." The stale cheese of sense delights yields to the refined cheese of life-sustaining, eternal life (prana). This is what is meant by Jesus and other saviors when it is said that we achieve "eternal life." By living more by life force, living more AS energy centered within, we gradually slough off the snake-like skin of body-attachment. We become an angel of light and energy. Ultimately, we will pass through the portals of life and death with the same awakened consciousness. This is what is meant by the promise of our immortality: unbroken awareness and ever-new joy in that awareness.

In kriya we begin with the physical breath. This is like a door handle to the doors of the inner sanctum. The doors are the chakras and the inner sanctum is the astral spine, called the sushumna. The practice of kriya constitutes the true "fire rite" mentioned in ancient texts such as the Bhagavad Gita. With each "kriya" we offer the "inhalation into the exhalation" as Krishna describes in the Gita until they neutralize each other in the vision of God as prana, life energy.[7]

During the practice of kriya, the movement of life force around the sushumna acts like a magnet rotating around a wire and generates an increasingly powerful electro-magnetic force that loosens and dissolves countless vortices (“vrittis”) of commitment and attachment. But enough of words, “The time for practicing kriya has come.”

Blessings to you!

Swami Hrimananda

PS: See Chapter 26, "Kriya Yoga," of Yogananda's now famous book, "Autobiography of a Yogi." Ananda centers worldwide offer training and preparation for kriya initiation.



[1] Chintamani is a wish-fulfilling jewel in both Hindu and Buddhist traditions.

[2] Maya  refers to the material world of duality, emotions and thoughts which obscure the essential divine nature of all things.

[3] New Testament, “Acts of the Apostles,” Chapter 2

[4] “Dwa” means “second” and “yuga” means “age” or “epoch.” The second age in the ascending arc of 12,000 years began in approximately A.D. 1900 according to Swami Sri Yukteswar in his book “The Holy Science.” See also the profound treatise on the Yuga cycles: “The Yugas,” Joseph Selbie and David Steinmetz, Crystal Clarity Publishers.

[5] “In the beginning was the Word….” John Chapter 1. The “word” is the holy vibration of Spirit called by different names such as “Amen,” “Aum,” and so on.

[6] Chapter 26

[7] Bhagavad Gita, Chapter IV:29