Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Quantum Physics Reveals that You Need a Guru

Reality, as our religion of science reveals to us, is, ever increasingly, a magical one of quarks, quasars, strings, and black holes.


It’s as if this magical world has its own invisible deities and divine beings. Like the mallet in the croquet game that Alice used in the Wonderland, our very attempt to observe this mysterious world impacts what we see. We have discovered that we are an inextricable part of the scenery, the action and the dialogue.

Raising the dead? Healing the sick? Levitating yogis? Why not? No longer do scientists strive to find a theory of everything. The Holy Grail is simply “what works.” Our once secure hold on logic and Newtonian physics —a comfortable world of right angles —is on the rocks of chaos.

Maybe it’s time to expand our mind!

In India, it has long been axiomatic that God, the Infinite Spirit, takes human form from age to age to set into motion a new understanding of universal truths and to confront the evils of the time. Such human incarnations of divinity are called “avatars” in India. For individual devotees such a one will be their personal savior or “sat guru.” Though there are always devotees who feel their particular savior is the best or perhaps even the only, it remains true to Hinduism that the dividing line between the divine and the human is fairly porous. In that tradition, many have been the avatars that have descended into human history.

In the Abrahamic world, it would appear that the best God ever had to offer the Israelites (or to the Moslems) were prophets who were very human, often rather flawed. So, when Jesus Christ appeared and declared himself the son of God, there was clearly going to be a fight. In the end, Jesus paid the supreme price, at least in human, egoic terms, for his declaration.

 In so doing, however, Jesus set into motion a new direction of spiritual awakening to his followers and to what was to become “the West.” For these last two thousand years, the West has embraced the concept that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” and that it had done so only once for all humanity and eternity. Christian dogmatists seem not to have noticed that what became flesh wasn’t a person but the Word: an entirely impersonal though super-conscious Force. Such a force could surely descend into and become any number of forms! This “Force,” the Holy Spirit, is God and was “in the beginning” and “made all that was made.”

But skipping this troublesome point for the moment, we recall that at the end of his ministry Jesus promised to send the Comforter, the Holy Ghost. The Holy Spirit was to be the “spirit guide” for the apostles and presumably to those of their descendants who remained faithful to the Spirit. He also promised to return.

If Jesus’ promise of return was to take place “before this generation passed away,” he either changed his mind or returned unnoticed (which, for one who is the son of God, is but another form of crucifixion!).

 

Maybe he meant something else. Wars, plagues, earthquakes and anti-Christs come and go all the time and hence can be no predictor of Jesus’ return.

Paramhansa Yogananda came to the West in 1920 and called his mission “The Second Coming of Christ.” Now, that’s a bold declaration. Since crucifixion on a wooden cross had declined in popularity by the 20th century, he, instead, had to contend with accusations, yellow journalism, and lawsuits.

Did Yogananda intend to say HE was Jesus Christ reincarnated? If so, he never made that statement. His verbal response to the question was simply, “What difference would it make?” Huh! Indeed, it would make a lot of difference to most of us. But, that’s all he said.

The explanation that he DID give, however, was one far more relevant to the very purpose for which Yogananda was sent to the West. The “second coming of Christ,” he said is the awakening of the universal, indwelling Christ in our OWN hearts. The "first" coming of the (universal) Christ consciousness is in the human form of the savior-guru. The guru comes to awaken the souls of individual devotees and, in some cases like Jesus Christ, to initiate a wholesale upliftment of an entire culture or people.

For our age where reason and “how-to” reign supreme Yogananda brought advanced meditation techniques, especially Kriya Yoga. Calling the spiritual path that he brought a “New Dispensation” and describing the goal of the path the achievement of “Self-realization,” Yogananda is in step with the self-actualizing, self-improvement, can-do and personal liberty consciousness of this age. After all, The practice of yoga and meditation requires self-discipline, training, and daily practice and thus places a premium on self-effort: a value prized in our times.

And yet, who is this Self that we are expected to realize? Is this realization achieved by self-effort alone?

An interesting counter weight to the ideology of ME that characterizes our culture is the concomitant recognition of our interdependence with one another and our integration into all nature. Leading edge scientific speculation and discoveries take this into a far subtler realm—into the inner sanctum of quantum physics. If matter isn’t what it seems, neither are our bodies nor our brain and nervous system. Brain research, psychology and artificial intelligence are exposing the evanescence and plasticity of the mind and personality. These investigations are pointing toward pure consciousness: the greatest mystery of all.

Enter the guru: a super-consciousness human! You see, when we dive deep into anything, including our mind, we discover, not simplicity, but a labyrinth. Early in the scientific age, it was thought that we might break down the building blocks of matter into its basic elements. That proved a chimera.

As science cannot find a one theory that fits everything they discover, so the ME is an elusive, mercurial and complex reality. Bootstrapping our restless and fickle minds to a point of perfect stillness and inner concentration is never going to happen by self-effort alone. The ordinary functions of the body, brain and nervous system all but guarantee our outwardly focused, forever restless mind and body. This is why we need divine grace coming to us from a divine incarnation to spark the process of soul transformation.

Proof of the pudding is in the eating. Spend one week; one month, bringing to your mind and into your silent, inner narrative the face and living presence of any avatar, any savior, living or supposedly dead, and you can discover for yourself, if you are sincere, the power of the Word made flesh. This practice which includes meditation, takes mindfulness and focused heart-energy but the results speak for themselves. I don’t mean to suggest, as has often been the case down through religious history, that by so doing you will discover a magic wish-fulfilling genie. Far from it. But if you sincerely seek to know “the truth that shall make you free” from duality, suffering, and death, God, in the form of a Self-realized son of God will be your savior. Such a one requires no human form to communicate because having achieved deathlessness is omnipresent even if respectfully distant until called upon.

There are lesser guides just as there are lesser teachers and lesser spiritual paths. The ignorant or na├»ve will “go to their gods” just as we always get what we deserve. But for a person of energy, intelligence, openness, and sincerity, “knock and the door shall be open.”

For the beginning devotee, a true guru, like Paramhansa Yogananda, gives his teachings through writings and through those disciples who share them sincerely and intelligently in his name (his vibration). In Yogananda’s teachings, meditation practice is central. Right attitudes and virtues, the so-called “do’s” and “don’t’s” of the spiritual life, are also naturally included.

Yogananda gave us an interesting chant: one that is rarely sung, and for good reason (and not a musical reason, either). “O devotee, I can give the salvation, but not my love and devotion. For when I give those away, I give myself away.” Divine Mother can give the gift of many things in this life by the magnetic power of our spiritual efforts, but only by our heart’s natural love can we win the “pearl of great price.” Devotion, you see, is the necessary foundation for yoga practice.

The avatars come to fulfill the teaching that though we may have a body, we ARE a soul. If only by dying could we experience the bliss of the Self, of God, then the creation itself would be delusive and should thus be shunned. It IS delusive but it shouldn’t be shunned because the goal is to discover the “man behind the curtain,” the playwright writing the script and thus enjoy the great drama of life with God, as God, rather than to reject it. With God, all is beautiful, wondrous and ever-new. Without God, it is a roller coaster of pleasure and pain, success and failure and ends with suffering, old age, and death.

The guru comes to show us who we are and who we have the potential to become. The guru transmits to “as many as receive Him” the power to rise spiritually in accordance with the intensity and depth of one's effort. Yogananda said the goal is accomplished by a combination of our effort (25%), the guru’s effort on our behalf (25%) and God’s grace (50%).

I recognize that in this is age of individual self-expression relatively few people will even want to attract a true guru. As the centuries advance our knowledge and refinement this will gradually shift as more souls begin to appreciate that we are not who we think we are, just as matter is not what it appears to be. For now, however, a leading vanguard of Self-realizationists will pave the way for countless others to come. We will never know them but “sufficient unto the day” is our own “sadhana” which is its own reward.

That God would take a human form, a human face and seemingly have a personality, walking, talking, laughing, and teaching is the greatest gift imaginable. Admittedly, in any age, few can recognize a God-man in human form. In this age of individuality, Yogananda clarified that the avatars are souls like you and me who have achieved Self-realization. This, at least, encourages the modern truthseekers.

It is difficult to love someone you haven’t met; to love an abstraction. You and I are not abstractions, at least not to ourselves! For each of us, there awaits that one God-realized savior to whom your heart is drawn as the embodiment of perfection: go to that Soul whether Krishna, Jesus, Buddha and others like Paramhansa Yogananda. All the great ones say essentially the same thing as Krishna and Jesus:

“For those who venerate Me only, offering to Me all their actions, their minds concentrated on Me by yoga practice, and their hearts’ feelings uplifted to Me in devotion: Such devotees I rescue from the ocean of mortality.” Gita 12:6,7

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

Blessings to you,

Swami Hrimananda

Saturday, July 22, 2023

Oppenheimer & the Power of Kriya Yoga

  “Let pranayam be thy religion…” – the power of Kriya Yoga

There’s a new movie in the theatres: Oppenheimer. It’s the story of Robert Oppenheimer, “Father of the Atomic Bomb” and the ambivalence he felt upon successfully detonating the first bomb. There’s antidote bomb, however: this one brought from India by our guru in 1920: Kriya Yoga.

The historian Arnold Toynbee wrote that “While the West conquered the East with guns and bombs, the East will conquer the West with love.”

This reminds me of Mahatma Gandhi’s humorous but dry quip when he was asked “Mr Gandhi. What do you think about Western civilization?” Gandhi’s reply was, “I think it would be a good idea!”

There is another class of scientists — yogis and rishis — who long go unlocked the secret of the soul’s powers. These scientists revealed that the power of Mother Nature has its source in the power of Divine Mother and, to be beneficial, the two must be harmonized. The intelligent life force which creates, sustains and withdraws the worlds is known as prana.
Divine Mother knows that we humans desperately need
divine love as the antidote of to our destructive potential.

As science reveals the reality that matter is more than what it appears on the surface and is vastly different on the inside, so does the soul know things the ego but dimly remembers: our immortality; our true nature as joy; our power to rise above suffering; and, our innate power over matter and death, itself.

In the past, great saints have overcome the hypnosis of matter, body and ego by heroic acts of sacrifice in service, asceticism, prayer and devotion. But Paramhansa Yogananda, sent by a line of Self-realized masters, has brought a new dispensation: the airplane route, as he called it — kriya yoga — to accelerate the journey of transcendence to a people for whom the bullock cart of spiritual progress is inadequate and for whom there is a great need of stronger spiritual medicine.

As energy awareness is the characteristic consciousness of Dwapara Yuga, so the path to transcendence in Dwapara Yuga flies on the wings of energy: Kriya Yoga.

To transcend duality, we must re-trace upward the stages of creation down through which we have come: first, we remove the veil, or kosha, of matter to reveal the energy (or life force) of the astral body. Next, we remove the kosha that hides the causal or ideational body wherein dwells our soul, the true son of God. From there, step by step through the stages of samadhi we advance upward into the blissful Spirit beyond the created worlds.

The Kriya path is described poetically in the words to Sri Yukteswar’s chant, Desire My Great Enemy. Desire symbolizes the hypnosis of the world of matter and the chant counsels the devotee to go within to the body of energy, or prana. The entire creation is alive with energy. This energy is Divine and may be, in a sense, worshipped as the indwelling Spirit so far as we can contact it through the kriya key. Yogananda counsels us to “worship on the altar of the spine.”

As the Spirit vibrates creation first through causal-intention and then more grossly via energy, or prana, prana can be said to be the channel for God’s presence. What is God's presence if not grace? When we cooperate with prana and its potential to rise upward to the higher chakras, then we cooperate with grace. I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth. Psalm 121.

We know instinctively that when we are happy our center of pranic gravity rises as we look up, feel lighter, and stand taller. Heaven is above, and hell below, because in the human astral body these are realities based on the energy centers of the chakras.

What makes it difficult to rise and stay “aloft” however, is the downward pulling gravity of past karma, hiding in the astral body along the astral spine in the form of vibrating seeds, or vrittis. Their relative karmic weight as to heavy, medium or light depends on which chakra they are associated with. The lower three chakras contain the more materialistic desires, habits and tendencies. The upper three chakras contain lighter attachments.

The Kriya technique is designed to first energize, then dislodge, and then burn up or consume these vrittis that hold us down before they can ripen into outward form of karmic circumstances where defeating them is far more difficult.

Like the Greek hero, Sisyphus, our efforts in this regard are doomed to repeated failure without the aid of extra pranic power, which is to say, the grace of God and guru. To practice kriya with only will power is to reenact the hubris and receive the punishment meted out to Sisyphus.[1] Thus we always begin our kriya meditation with a prayer to the kriya masters. Throughout the practice we silently invoke Master’s presence and power, seeing these as the key to the success in kriya practice and seeing our efforts as cooperation with prana’s power to free us from past bad karma.

Kriya practice will be energized by the practice of Yogananda’s Energization Exercises which will help us become more aware of both energy but also the source of that energy in the astral spine. The gift of kriya is itself a part of the ray of divine light, the new dispensation that has been offered to us. As Lahiri Mahasaya, Yogananda’s param guru said of the only photograph taken of him, “to those who see this photo as a blessing it is that; to those who see only a photograph, it is only that.” So too for kriya yoga: for those who see it as Master’s grace, power and presence, it is that. To those who see only a technique for self-empowerment, they will get a little improvement but nothing permanent. This is so because in part the spinal currents constantly rotate around one another, never stopping. It is our devotion and attunement to the guru that draws forth the power of grace hidden in prana and needed to neutralize the currents completely and enter the breathless state.

Living more in the spine and especially feeling the pranic currents of the astral spine is to bath in the Ganges of Spirit, the River of Life; it is baptism in the Holy Spirit, Holy Aum. As the characteristic feature of Energization is energy; and that of the Hong Sau technique is peace, the Aum technique, the inner sounds, so the characteristic feature of Kriya is the bliss of the soul. As your contact with the astral spinal currents becomes more frequent and more intense you will begin to recognize their signature and the feeling of their presence. Their signature can take many forms but all stem in one way or another from the vibration of bliss; of joy; of energy. Sometimes it is a general euphoria; other times specific to the currents themselves. Swami Kriyananda has described the pleasurable intensity of meditation as “delicious,” thrilling to one’s very core.

Banat, banat ban jai! Doing, doing…….soon done! Never give up.

Swami Hrimananda



[1] His punishment for his pride was to roll a large stone up a mountain and have it roll back down again and thus to repeat this futile and endless task for an eternity.