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.
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 naïve 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.
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,