Showing posts with label Bhagavad Gita. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bhagavad Gita. Show all posts

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Do You Need a Guru? Celebrating Guru Purnima

Today as I write it is the full moon and with it India's annual mid-summer day of honoring and celebrating one's teacher, especially one's guru! If I understand the festival, Guru Purnima, correctly, Hindus, Jains, and Buddhists celebrate this holy day. It just so happens that the weekly readings at the Ananda temples around the world land on this very same subject: Do You Need A Guru? Tomorrow, Sunday, July 25 is the day Ananda holds dear as "Babaji Day." To add yet more to this, tomorrow at our temple near Seattle we will conduct, coincidentally, a discipleship initiation for a few aspiring souls. So these are at least four good reasons to write this article!

I use these excuses and this occasion to talk not generally about the role of a guru but more specifically about the life and role of one such great yoga master of the twentieth century: Paramhansa Yogananda (author of the now-famous "Autobiography of a Yogi").


Most of you who will read this already know that Yogananda's guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar of Serampore, Bengal (India), made an important and shocking correction to the Hindu calendar in 1894 in his book, "The Holy Science." In the introduction to this book, he announced that according to Hindu astrology and Oriental astronomy planet Earth entered the ascending cycle of the second of four ages called Dwapara on about the year A.D. 1900.

Any student of the history of science and technology would not be the least bit surprised. The defining discovery of the twentieth century took place only a few years later by Albert Einstein who in effect declared the death of matter and the birth of the age of atomic energy.  

Religionists, on the other hand, eyeing the decline of adherence to traditional values and religions and the rise of atheism and materialism have declared the death of God-fearing civilization and the birth of an age that surely will culminate in the end times.

From the standpoint of spiritual awakening, this new age would certainly seem ripe for the appearance of a new Buddha or Christ. Swami Kriyananda, the founder of Ananda's worldwide work, lived with and was trained and commissioned by Paramhansa Yogananda in the last years of Yogananda's life (1893-1952). Swami Kriyananda concluded that Yogananda must surely be a world teacher for this new age of Dwapara. 

But unlike the personality cult surrounding the religion that revolved around Jesus Christ, it is far more likely that Yogananda's role will be seen somewhat more like that of the Buddha: a wayshower. Of course, true disciples will tune into Yogananda as true disciples always do to their guru but by virtue of Yogananda's teachings their understanding will already be grounded in a more universal understanding that Yogananda is one of many avatars sent by God to fulfill specific missions of spiritual upliftment in times of need.  

There are many reasons to see in Yogananda the role of a world teacher for this age. And there were during his life and are now many spiritual teachers on the planet. Comparisons are odious and unnecessary. Instead, some of the characteristics that identify Yogananda as having an important role in human spiritual evolution include that he struck a careful balance between East and West; indeed, he consciously lauded the best aspects of each. He didn't seek to convert his followers into Hindus nor yet did he pretend to be a converted Christian. He taught yoga and meditation and yet built churches and held services remarkably familiar to Westerners. He drew inspiration from the Christian Bible as well as from the Hindu Bhagavad Gita. He showed their underlying similarity rather than declaring one greater than the other. 

He expressed great devotion to his guru-lineage as well as to the One God, the Infinite Spirit. He affirmed Advaita Vedanta (non-dualism) while at the same time taught that the way to the One was through the Other (I-Thou). He loved saints while he had experiences of cosmic consciousness. He spoke of heaven and hell but as temporary waiting stations on the soul's long journey to God. He spoke of the evolution of the species but averred the special creation and status of the human form.  He affirmed the truth of all religions yet discerned that not all affirmed the highest teaching of union with God. He recognized the equality and yet the differences of the sexes and yet insisted the soul has no gender before God. He taught union with God as the goal of the soul's creation while explaining that consciousness is forever and nothing of our past lives is ever destroyed or obliterated. 

He praised Western technological and commercial efficiency but bemoaned our sectarianism and materialism. He loved India's deep spirituality but hoped that India would raise its standard of living through education, hygiene, and renouncing stifling caste taboos.

Yogananda urged students to get back to the land and form small self-sustaining communities which would grow their own food and have a lifestyle that was both efficient and God-centered. He didn't reject modern labor-saving technology but decried "installment method" consumerism as a modern form of servitude. 

Yogananda created devotional chants and poetry; started gardens and farms; schools for children; a yoga university; encouraged art and theatre with an uplifting message.

Interestingly, apart from the popularity of his life story and notwithstanding the universal respect for him and his contributions, very few outside his own followers, students, and modern-day disciples seem to acknowledge his role in this new and very uncertain age. Phillip Goldberg did the first real biography of Yogananda and included a chapter about Yogananda in his book, "American Veda," but overall it seems that Yogananda has not yet taken his place in history. But history is written "post facto" and many of us believe that in the future Yogananda's life will be seen as a pivotal contributor to the awakening consciousness of Dwapara Yuga.

For members of Ananda worldwide, we also believe that his strong emphasis on the importance of small, intentional communities (which he said would one day "spread like wildfire") will bear the fruit of recognition at some future date. Many alive today agree that humanity's lifestyle is in an unsustainable downward spiral of the consumption of earthly resources. This can only end in great calamity and presumably great suffering. Yogananda himself predicted as much. One easily imagines that this is what it will take for humanity to change our entrenched attitudes and habits. But this particular story also has yet to play out. 

As with all the great world saviors, Yogananda is alive and well on planet earth but perhaps more so for he came especially for us and in our times. He no longer requires a human form to guide anyone who seeks his help. You need not be or consider yourself to be his disciple because his love and wisdom are available to all just as it was when he walked the earth and thousands flocked to hear his words and be in his aura.

Jai guru! 

Swami Hrimananda


Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Who am I? What is the Universal Religion, the Perennial Philosophy?

Today I fielded this question from a Hindu in the United States:

"I have read from many sources, that Hinduism or originally known as Sanatana Dharma, the eternal way is non-sectarian, and can be applicable to anyone regardless of religion or race. I am Hindu, but don’t understand how the Bhagavad Gita for instance is non-sectarian, as Lord Krishna Himself says he is the Supreme God. I don’t see how a Christian/Muslim would be able to agree? Some of the teachings are universal, but many other religions do not believe in reincarnation either. Please clarify."

Dear Friend,


Paramhansa Yogananda made a distinction between "churchianity" and true religion (or "Sanatan Dharma"). Specific to the example of Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita that you mention, the same use of the personal pronoun "I" is found in the Bible as spoken by Jesus Christ. Thus, one has to step back from such statements to understand the broader context of what and who is this "I." 

The famous "Tat twam asi" ("Thou art that" or "Aham Brahamasi" I am Brahma) and similar statements from the very ancient texts of the Vedas and Upanishads hold the key to the underlying revelation of Advaita Vedanta. This refers to the teaching that underlies the form-centric expression of truth as manifested in formal sects or religions. It states that the only truth or reality out of which all diversity and creation comes and which sustains and unites all visible and invisible things is the One: the Infinite Spirit.

The One has divided Itself into three: the "Father" (Sat) beyond creation and untouched by the creation; the "Son" (Tat) invisibly immanent in every atom and every thought as the Intelligence and Feeling which animates all; and, the Holy Spirit (Aum), the Divine Mother in the primordial form of the Aum vibration which is the "stuff" of multiplicity, name and form.

This teaching of Oneness can be perceived as the basis for Hinduism (Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism) by fairly easy investigation; for Christianity and the Abrahamic faiths with a bit more investigation. When Jesus was criticized for saying "I and my Father are One" his response was to quote the Old Testament of the Bible, saying "Do not your scriptures say 'Ye are gods?'"

In Judaism is the famous mantra, "Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is ONE!" Jesus' beloved disciple, John, wrote "To as many as received Him, to them gave He the power to become the sons of God."

Indeed, this was the core mission of Paramhansa Yogananda which he described as the Second Coming of Christ: uniting the original teachings of both Krishna and Jesus Christ. Yogananda focused specifically on the Bhagavad Gita and the New Testament to illustrate this teaching but this focus is easily expanded into other scriptural texts and religions.

At the heart of divine revelation is the question (and the answer to) "Who am I?" Jesus asked his disciples this very same question as Krishna answers it in the Gita when he gives to his disciple, Arjuna, an experience of his cosmic Self. This experience shows that the man Krishna is not the true self but is an incarnation of the Infinite Spirit of all creation and who appears in the consciousness and form of Krishna. This appearance, or avatara, does not purport to limit the Infinite (a contradiction in terms) but is intended to show Tat twam asi. ("Thou art THAT")

Your question is not unlike the question "Is my cup half full, or, half-empty?" One inclined toward dogma and a sectarian attitude sees the half-empty cup that limits God or truth to their own faith. One inclined toward inclusion sees the cup as half-full, inclined toward universality.

The time for knowing the "truth that can make us free" (that is, bring healing and acceptance to the world's religions) has come, Yogananda pronounced (as have countless other hearts and minds).

Part of the conundrum in the history of religion as we perceive it is that the teaching that we, too, are "THAT" finds practical expression in the appearance of the "avatar:" one who HAS ACHIEVED the state of Self-realization. This teaching would not be real if there were never any person who embodied this realization! Moreover, to make matters a bit more complex, to achieve such a state cannot be done (by definition) by the imprisoned self. A savior, or true (sat) guru, is needed to unlock the soul from the prison of ego-identity. So naturally, a Krishna or Christ, taking human form, becomes the object of worship and is treated as separate when the core teaching is WE ARE ONE! (Sigh)

Such is the paradox of duality, you see. We are not ONE until we are ONE. I hope this explanation is not too mental or esoteric. 

We need to walk our path with integrity. Jesus repeatedly used the expression (connected to certain statements of deep truth) "for those with ears (or eyes) to hear (or see)." We recognize truth; we don't create it. So you and I, also, must walk step by step towards our spiritual unfoldment: both watching our step (meaning not go beyond our own experience of what seems true to us) and at the same time keeping our gaze focused on the horizon of Eternity beyond name and form. So take from this what feeds your soul and let go of the rest for perhaps another time.

Blessings to you on your journey on the greatest adventure this is!

Nayaswami Hriman
Seattle WA USA

Monday, March 16, 2020

"Even a Little of this Practice Will Save You from Fear and Suffering" - a Simple Meditation

The title above is a paraphrase of Verse 40, Chapter 2 of the Bhagavad Gita. If ever fear and suffering were a worldwide epidemic it would be now in the midst of this pandemic! And if ever there was a simple practice that could bring calmness and confidence to millions, this is a good time to share it.

There is so much being communicated about this crisis that it would futile for me to add to the burden of so much rapidly changing information, advice, and speculation.

Without denying the suffering, fear, economic losses and isolation being experienced around the world, I want to focus on the "silver lining" in this virus-infested cloud called COVID-19.

Millions are home from work with their families. They may be playing with their children; reading a book; gardening; spending time with loved ones. Admittedly, some are without family and are home alone. But all are potentially reaching out via the phone or social media; some are greeting neighbours (from a safe distance). Millions are concerned for others. Many are focusing on staying healthy through exercise and diet. What a great time to think more deeply about what is important in life: friendships, health, positive attitudes and spiritual connection.

I hope that some of these positive attitudes, experiences, and behaviours will outlast the pandemic.

But what was Lord Krishna referring to in the above-quoted stanza from the famous dialogue which is the literary format of the beloved "Gita?" He was referring to the practice of meditation and the attitudes and wisdom from which meditation arises. Meditation is an impossibly ancient practice. But now's not the time for discussing the history and evolution of meditation.

Most readers of my blog already practice meditation. So it would seem that I am "preaching to the choir." But with so much being shared worldwide among friends, why not share the practice of meditation?

First a simple meditation. Then, some links to more complete meditation routines. There are hundreds of meditation apps, maybe more even. But when one is new to something on what basis does one choose if not on the basis of the recommendation of a friend? And isn't friendship, caring, and connection the theme of our present circumstances? So, let's meditate! Here we go:

Sit upright but in a relaxed and alert natural posture: chest up slightly; head level; shoulders relaxed; palms upward on the thighs. Open or close your eyes as you feel. (As you internalize it will be natural for most people to close their eyes.)

Take a few long, slow but enjoyable breaths. Let the "stomach" (actually, the diaphragm) expand out as you inhale slowly. As the inhalation progresses you will feel your rib cage expand outward to the sides. Then, finally, as you complete the inhalation, the upper chest may rise just a little. Don't force it, however. Like the strokes of the brush of an artist, your controlled breathing should feel "right" not forced.

You may pause briefly at the top of the inhalation but it is not necessary. Exhale with a controlled release. The exhalation can be slightly longer (if you were timing it) than the inhalation. You can pause or not pause after the end of the exhalation but just continue this controlled breathing for at least three to five breaths.

Usually, three to five breaths will trigger a sense of increasing calmness, but if not, continue for a while and learn to anticipate a sense of peace and quiet satisfaction coming over you. Then cease your controlled breathing, and sit quietly. Relax not just your body but your mind. Since the mind is happier if we give it a focus, let that focus be on your natural (no longer controlled) breathing. Observation of the breath is a time-honoured and universally effective practice. Your observation can be in the chest (lungs etc.) or in the flow of inhalation and exhalation in the natural channels of the nose.

If your mind needs a bit more to chew on, create a word formula or a personal affirmation. “I am peaceful; I am calm; I am confident”.....etc. etc. Don't TRY to concentrate. Relax into interested attentiveness to your meditation practice. It's the same attentiveness you might apply to watch a movie, read a book, engage in a sport or exercise, or cook--anything, in short, that you WANT to do!

At the end of your time (it's not length of time; it's QUALITY of calm focus and resulting peacefulness), ask your intuitive self a question that might be on your mind. Ask in positive, not negative terms. In your calm state, be open to a variety of answers, even one that your mind might otherwise reject. Feel calm and be open to “hear” what is the right action or attitude to take in that situation. If nothing appears, then pose alternative solutions to your intuitive mind.

Or, at the end just bring to your mind the image or name of a loved one, friend, neighbour, or co-worker who could use a little "peace of your mind" for their health or daily life. Send that "peace" to that person without any consideration of desired results. It's a peace gesture, in other words. And right now, who doesn’t need a piece of “peace!”


You see: it's THAT simple.

Here are some links to other guided meditations:


In your smartphone's Play Store search on Ananda Meditation App to download and a wide selection of meditations and much more!

Share, then, a "little of this practice" with friends and family!

Joy to you,

Nayaswami Hriman








Monday, February 17, 2020

Valentine's Day: How Important is Love on the Spiritual Path?

[I've been away for over a month from regular postings and yesterday's Sunday Service was focused primarily on my trip to India. The topics, expressed below, did not get the "full Monty" so I offer thoughts on the subject below.]

Each year around Valentine's Day the service reading at the Ananda centers worldwide has had the topic title of "The Law is Perfected in Love."

It would be easy to conclude that love, according to the reading ("Rays of the One Light," Week 7, by Swami Kriyananda), is all that is necessary to achieve perfection (happiness, bliss, nirvana or samadhi).

However, even the title of the reading isn't saying that. In fact, the title is simply reminding devotees and seekers that the "way" is not the "goal." Your faith, your religion, your yoga, your beliefs, and your righteous way of life are but steppingstones to perfection in God. (Be ye therefore perfect as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. Matt 5:48) Do not mistake the path for the goal! 

But is the reading saying, never mind the "way?" Never mind the discipline; the self-offering; the effort? No, it isn't saying that.

No more is the reading saying that than is the emotion of love the only reality in human relationships. Effort, intention, and "work" is needed to achieve success in all worthy endeavours: health, relationships, career, art, and the spiritual path.  

Even Valentine's Day (which occurs each year around the time of this reading) isn't attempting to say romantic love is the definition of marriage. (It's simply acknowledging one aspect of marriage.)

Someone asked me the other day: "How can I love God more?" In responding I was fortunate to recall Swami Kriyananda's counsel on this: "pray to God that you feel devotion; that you feel God's love." I believe he went on to explain that it is difficult to love "someone" you haven't met yet. It is difficult to love an abstraction contained in a nondescript three-letter word ("God"). To feel God's love is the gift of grace, not merely effort.

When he, Swami Kriyananda, prayed to Yogananda that he could feel Yogananda's love for him, Yogananda (who intuitively "heard" Kriyananda's silent prayer) responded saying, "How can the little cup hold the whole ocean?" One must expand the cup of one's consciousness toward infinity if one is to know the infinite love of God. 

It is easier, however, to feel love itself: love without an object and without any conditions as to who, what, when, where or how. As God is the source of unconditional love, praying to feel love is to experience even a little bit of God: the Source of love. 

Swamiji also shared with us that Paramhansa Yogananda suggested that most of us approach God through joy, rather than as love. Why? Because most people's experience of love is tainted with the all too confusing (painful, pleasurable, attached, and mixed)  human love experience. How often have I seen a newcomer's heart open to divine love only find it difficult to remain on such a high plane and thus "fall" into attachment to the nearest soul clothed in the form of the opposite sex! (Reminds me of the delightful Shakespeare play, "A Midsummer's Night Dream.")

Even apart from romantic love, however, devotees who go more by emotions are sometimes far too personal (just as those who revel in ideas are sometimes insensitive to the feelings of others). And such devotees are inclined to "love" only those who "love" them. Beyond their "mutual admiration society," duality can throw a bucket of cold indifference towards outsiders.

We, humans, you see, are more likely to know what unconditioned joy is than unconditional love!

Think of an aspiring musician: unless born with it like Mozart, even the best musicians are likely to have spent years learning and practising. Their love for their art draws them through the "law of practising" into the inner experience of the joy and love of music. Without their love of music, their playing would presumably be colourless, lacking in feeling. But without the hard daily work of practice, they could not soar high on the wings of inspiration. As I often say in classes and talks, "truth is a BOTH-AND affair."

Love is higher than the law for the simple reason that the experience of satisfaction, success or oneness is the REASON behind the willingness to "pay your dues" through effort and self-discipline. To achieve the union, perfection, and joy of love which unites lover, loving and beloved is what propels the artist, devotee, the lover, or the humanitarian to sacrifice all for the "pearl of great price!" 

At the conclusion of the reading described above, Swami Kriyananda quotes Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita saying, in effect, "love God alone and let go of all else." Poetic, romantic, even, but be careful not to rely one-dimensionally upon a convenient interpretation. 

A story illustrates the point: Krishna once counselled the devotee, Draupadi, to practice yoga. Her response, however, was "How can I practice yoga when my mind is fixed upon you?" Krishna, it is said, only smiled. 

Until you, too, can be fixed upon God alone in every thought, feeling, and action, then you should not be so quick to dispense with the "rites and writ duties" of the "Way" of right action and right attitude.

Swami Kriyananda also offered this useful thought, drawn from his own experience of encountering those who, to say the least, didn't love him: "I choose to love because I am happier loving than hating."

When, through prayer, meditation, and self-giving we feel loving, it does not require a conscious act to love anyone: friend or self-styled critic alike. It is, rather, a natural extension of your own consciousness. When you are blessed to have this experience, distil from it the joy of loving so that the alternative of focusing on loving doesn't draw you into attachment to those to whom you express that loving feeling. Instead, feel the joy of that state of the soul.

Joy to you!

Swami Hrimananda

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Will there be War (Again)?

We've got Iran and USA (again) at each other's throats. The conflict has been, in fact, going on now, off and on, for many years. America's involvement in Iran is long-standing, at least as far back (as I am aware) when America stepped into the vacuum left by Britain's collapse as an empire after WW2. That involvement centered upon securing oil resources AND thwarting the expansionist goals of Communism. Each of those goals had their "day in court" but just how far does the "end justify the means?" America's role in Iran is far from flawless.

Iran (Persia) is a proud and ancient culture: a mighty empire that has risen and fallen over countless centuries. Part of the famous "Silk routes," Persia has seen a wide array of conquerors come and go together with its own long history of emperors and kings.

It was George Santayana (Spanish philosopher, poet, and novelist) who famously quipped that "Those who cannot learn from history are destined to repeat it." He is also known for having said "Only the dead have seen the end of war!"

A fascinating book is "The Silk Roads: A New History of the World" by Peter Frankopan. Tracing world history from ancient times all the way to the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2001, the author re-casts world history from the point of view of the history of Persia and countries along the famous Silk Routes. His thesis seems to be that much of history as we know it can be viewed in terms of those who sought to find, exploit, control and possess the riches of the near and far East. Oil, he concludes, is simply the most recent version of the wealth for which nations vie and battle.

But there is another and deeper battle involved. There is more to the ebb and flow of history than greed and conquest. This deeper battle takes place on the field of consciousness. This makes identifying and separating the good guys from the bad guys sometimes very difficult. Closed society or an open society? Inclusion or exclusion? Freedom or restrictions?

But for now, it is not necessarily helpful to try to paint a black and white picture. The hands of both America and Iran are stained with blood. Each will claim the high road but neither will confess their "sins."

Unlike the acquiescence of Americans and our representatives to the misleading war-mongering that got us into Iraq, I hope that more people in and out of government and the armed forces will think twice, maybe three times.

Nonetheless, the die is cast. How often have shrewd politicians used the perceived threat of war as a ploy to re-direct attention away from their domestic troubles to rally the nation in defence of a common enemy.

Yes, the conflict will continue and presumably escalate. Those who push the buttons on both sides appear to want it that way. Protest we should but who can say to what effect, given the leadership of both countries.

Life in 2020 is complicated, polarized, and highly nuanced. The need for authenticity and genuine relationships, lifestyles, and guiding ideals has never been greater. The question, therefore, is what are YOU doing to lead an authentic and meaningful life?

Just fussing, fuming, worrying and otherwise living outside your calm center in reaction to this issue is potentially a handy way to deflect awareness away from your own personal issues and responsibilities. These can include away from prayer, meditation, devotion, service, caring for others, focusing on your work, family, neighbours or community.

War will return again and again. If not this one, then another.

So stay calm and focused on what is yours in this life to do. To paraphrase Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, "It is better to fail (even die) doing what is yours to do, then to succeed doing someone else's duty."

The greatest contribution we can make to world peace starts with us. It's not like most of us are angry, combative, or prejudiced but we can be nervous, anxious, upset, depressed, gossipy, judgmental, lazy, selfish, or indifferent to the miracle of God who resides within us and all creation.

Pray, meditate, serve, give of yourself heroically just as a warrior in a just war for your soul. Winning your "soul" will send a bright light out into a world dark with ignorance. There is no greater contribution you can make than to be a light unto the world. "An easy life is not a victorious life" Paramhansa Yogananda has told us. Take up arms of self-control, self-effort, faith, hope, and charity!

Nayaswami Hriman



Sunday, November 3, 2019

Yogananda's Predictions of Coming Difficult Times: True or False?

I have written before on this subject and Swami Kriyananda has both spoken and written on this subject many times. So this article is NOT a recitation of Yogananda's predictions. 

Instead, I would like to address some common objections to these prophecies.

1. Predictions aren't set in stone. True! Swami Kriyananda would always say as much but his opinion was that, to-date, the awakening of consciousness and the concomitant change in human behavior seemed to him insufficient to completely mitigate the predictions Yogananda made (between 1948-1952). How can we view events in our 2019 world and feel confident of positive changes?

2. Bad things are ALWAYS happening. Yes, this is also true. But this fact alone doesn't mean the specific predictions Yogananda made won't ALSO come true.

3. Why is it religious groups are consistently predicting "end times?" For one, Yogananda didn't predict "end times," only difficult challenges in the world. In fact, he said that after a long period of warfare, we would enter a long period of relative peace. (Besides, don't some people think the "world's going to end" if they didn't an invitation to that party?)

4. Sceptics aver that religious groups (or their leaders) make these predictions to keep the faithful in line, fearful, and unquestioning. I suppose this could be the case but as a hypothesis, it's difficult to prove and surely can't apply to all cases for at least two reasons unrelated to any motivation: 1. Predicting the future is always a risky business, and/or 2. As pointed in #2 above, BAD THINGS happen all the time. As to motivations, some people are, in fact, motivated by fear; fear is part of the human experience and, as such, it has its place. 

So let's explore #4 in relation to #2: why are the "faithful" often being warned of bad things when bad things are always happening anyway?

And, whereas Paramhansa Yogananda DID make certain predictions, it is not by any means super-clear that any of those predictions have come true. I'm going to focus on just two of his predictions: 

#1: America would suffer a depression far greater than the Great Depression of the 1930's. and....

#2: He stated with great vigour: "You don't KNOW what a cataclysm is coming."

I don't think any of the recessions that have taken place since 1930's could possibly be greater than the Great Depression, right? 

On the other hand, there have been innumerable natural disasters around the world, not least of which would be the Asian tsunami of 2004. But none of these seem to me to qualify to fit Yogananda's intent on one of two counts: 

1) When Yogananda gave that warning, he was speaking to an American audience and none of the many hurricanes, fires or earthquakes in the USA would seem, in my view, to qualify for the level of intensity that Swami Kriyananda related to audiences (he, being present when Yogananda made that statement, at least once, if not several times). 

2) If the intensity of Yogananda's emphasis on cataclysm was intended to be global, we certainly haven't had anything of that magnitude yet, though there is fear building worldwide that the cumulative effects of climate change may, like a tsunami, reach just that intensity in the upcoming decades. 

It is curious to me that Jesus Christ is quoted as making similar prophecies. In over two thousand years one could argue that none of his predictions came true, or, alternatively, that all of them came true at some time or place or another! (See Luke 21; Mark 13; Matt 24)

In the Indian epic the Mahabharata, Krishna warned of a coming age of un-virtue and destruction. The Pandavas, his chief disciples, left their palaces and traipsed up into the Himalayas to escape these inevitable changes. 

Absent global catastrophic events, we are left with the fact that BAD THINGS are always happening. Thus until such catastrophic events occur we might at least content ourselves with exploring the #2 objection that BAD THINGS are always happening AND why then are avatars are ALWAYS predicting them? 

What if there are two levels on which the predictions of these saints are justifiable? The one is personal: are not people in general and devotees specifically apt to have great tests and challenges in their lives? Aren't such likely to be tempted to follow ideologies or lesser leaders who are false? Besides, what seems catastrophic to me might be nothing to you but it IS to me! All the ills human life is heir to happen to a great many people but when they happen in the lives of the devotees their faith is tested that they may see the depth (or lack) of their spiritual mettle. 

The second relates to groups of devotees: aren't they likely to be persecuted or encounter social or political opposition; or, great difficulties such as betrayals of trust or apostacy? Are they not likely to see taking place around them injustice, deprivation, wars, and calamities? Not a few religious adherents in modern times have turned away from the "heavens" to toil on earth for humanitarian goals. For this, they receive many worldly kudos but there can be, for some, a hidden trap.

Yogananda's warns of this trap in "Autobiography of a Yogi," writing in Chapter 45: "Refusing a monotheistic love to God, the nations disguise their infidelity by punctilious respect before the outward shrines of charity. These humanitarian gestures are virtuous because for a moment they divert man's attention from himself, but they do not free him from his single responsibility in life, referred to by Jesus as the first commandment. The uplifting obligation to love God is assumed with man's first breath of an air freely bestowed by his only Benefactor."

The same can be said of political or social activism. Devotees can be discouraged, frightened, distracted or energized away from the spiritual path by the endless woes and material concerns of human life. 

Hasn't history shown repeatedly that evil can spin a web of lies, disguising itself as good, enticing devotees, spiritual leaders, and churches to support dictators, slavery, wars, prejudice, or exploitation in a form that could be called the "anti-Christ?" (that is to say, "anti-Christ-consciousness)

Thus, even if BAD THINGS are always taking place, a saint may warn of them because they are challenges to the faith and equanimity of devotees. Is not the warning saying, in effect, that the "joy and inspiration you may feel in my presence or in your spiritual life will be challenged someday by things that happen to you or around you?"

When I think of Jesus' words of warning (about troubles, persecutions, false teachers, natural calamities) to his disciples I consider that they did not know at the time that they would be founders and missionaries of a new religion. That new religion was going to be tested year after year, decade after decade, and century after century by the persecutions and, later, the temptations of power and the betrayals of heresy and apostasy. There would be many false prophets and teachers; many wars, dictators, and spiritual leaders vying and competing. 

That Jesus is quoted as saying "this generation shall not pass away" before he will come a second time can be viewed on a personal level in the lives of his direct disciples and on a general level to all disciples of any generation. The power of the living Christ can be seen or felt by the spiritual eye or "I" (the kingdom within you) by those who remain faithful to the "spirit and the truth." 

Was, then, also, Yogananda saying the same thing to those of us who are his followers? Do we not see all around us catastrophes, suffering, betrayals, exploitation, violence, and evil? Are we tempted to lose hope and faith? To feel anger, fear or resentment? To abandon spiritual work and practices in favor of saving humanity? To be concerned for material things more than our soul's love for God?

Who among us, today, does not feel this country (America) has not only lost whatever "greatness" it may have had but has also betrayed its founding ideals as epitomized by its elected leader(s), surely an "anti-Christ-consciousness" embodiment(s) if there ever was one?

This isn't fear-mongering on the part of Yogananda (or Jesus or Krishna etc.). It may be dramatic, stark, or, for some, fear-inducing in its language and imagery, but to me, the message goes something like this: "Don't put your faith in making this world perfect. It is a school, merely. Yes, do what you can to make it a better place but focus on your love for God and your love for God in all." 

The function of a school is to give examinations and to help students pass them and move on. So, yes, you will see hardship and suffering but hold steadfast to your faith and love for God. If this world were perfect, who would seek God's love? Are not the imperfections of this world the necessary inducement for us to seek the "truth that shall you free"?

Returning now to the two predictions of Yogananda that I cited above, who can say with confidence that wholesale financial collapse in America is impossible? (Did I read the other day that the national debt of America is $23 TRILLION?) Who can say that a major catastrophe (asteroid, volcano, earthquake, pandemic, world war) is impossible? (Almost daily I receive postings about possible catastrophic asteroids or super volcanoes.) 

The primary reason for contemplating such possibilities is not fear but to warn us not to fall asleep in our spiritual efforts. It's not necessary for the most ardent devotees but helpful for those who are new, weak or discouraged. Given that bad things are always happening, why not heed Krishna's immortal words: "Get away, Arjuna, from my ocean of suffering and misery!"

Added unto us with the love of God we can "be the change we seek in the world" with far greater effect than only toiling in the vineyard where the grapes of wrath are grown. Ultimately, then, it CAN be a both-and but walking the edge of the steep path between the outer and inner worlds takes great spiritual agility.

As the scripture of the street puts it: "Just sayin'"


Swami Hrimananda



  

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

How to be Thought-less!

Paramhansa Yogananda, in his now-classic life story, "Autobiography of a Yogi," describes yoga as "a method for restraining the natural turbulence of thoughts, which otherwise impartially prevent all men, of all lands, from glimpsing their true nature of Spirit." (Chapter 24).

From Chapter 41 of that modern scripture Yogananda gives this challenging poem from one "of the many great saints of South India...., Thayumanavar:

You can control a mad elephant;
You can shut the mouth of the bear and the tiger;
You can ride a lion;
You can play with the cobra;
By alchemy you can eke out your livelihood;
You can wander through the universe incognito;
You can make vassals of the gods;
You can be ever youthful;
You can walk on water and live in fire;
But control of the mind is better and more difficult.

Stilling the agitations of the "monkey mind" is the subject and goal of countless meditation techniques and millions of meditators alike!

Ramana Maharshi is one of the most notable 20th-century advocates of Advaita (non-dualism), particularly in what he termed "Self-inquiry:" the quest to know "Who am I?" The great teachings of East and West essentially urge us to "Know Thyself" and discover "Tat twam asi" (That Thou Art). Watching one's thoughts and/or breath are among the ubiquitous and universal techniques of focusing the mind in order to still the "natural turbulence of thoughts."

Techniques are given, and there are many, to help focus the mind in order to reach the point beyond our thoughts. Too many meditators mistake the path for the goal and continue with their mantras, devotions, prayers, or breathwork "until the cows come home." The cows, that is, of their returning thoughts.

Why is so little attention is given to the cessation of what one teacher calls the "self-structure." The small self (ego, subconscious, etc.) is a little dictator whose mission is to keep us focused on our body, its needs, and to protect, defend and affirm the personality (ego.) It does a good job from a Darwinian point of view but it doesn't give us anything beyond a fleeting and insecure fulfilment and a deeply entrenched habit of restlessness. Praise, one day, blame, the next.

For starters, almost nobody on this planet is the slightest bit interested in the cessation of mental activity called "me." After all, didn't Rene Descartes tell us that "I think, therefore, I AM?" For another, the cessation of mental activity is very, very hard (note poem quoted above). And for those very, very few who make a deep and sincere effort, what they get for their reward is that their ego-self gets to stare into the abyss of nothingness, facing the prospect of its dissolution! So no wonder even meditators take the equivalent of a "rain check!" 

[In a humorous aside, Swami Kriyananda, in his landmark book on raja yoga, "Awaken to Superconsciousness," gently chides the Buddhistic tendency to focus on negative aspects of enlightenment (a state of no-thing-ness (nir-vana)) as the reason the enlightened ones, Bodhisattvas, chose to defer their liberation and come back to help others!]

But what, then, is the reward of making the effort? To quote Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, "Even a little practice of this inward religion will save you from dire fears and colossal sufferings." I'd add to this that the benefits of meditation, speaking generally and clinically, derive from the very effort to focus the mind inwardly and away from the senses, body, and ego. In an analogous manner, sleep too is essential for mental and physical well-being.

Thus I don't feel to dwell on the reasons the effort, challenging as it seems, is more than repaid. Besides, too great a focus on "what I get from this practice" will tend to undermine "what I get from this practice!" All great teachers of meditation caution that non-attachment to results--even of our meditation--is essential to success in every endeavor, including meditation. Besides, the reasons to meditate are as varied as those who practice it. 

How, then, best to focus the mind and transcend the thoughts? On this, too, I have to concede that the prescription is individual. There are many meditation techniques, philosophies, and, as stated just above, reasons to meditate. A strict approach, such as Ramana Maharshi's practice of self-inquiry, is probably too austere for most modern (and restless) minds. It is termed, in the yogic tradition, the approach of gyana yoga. Krishna states that meditating upon the formless (no-thought, or Absolute) is difficult for the average human. 

A devotional approach satisfies the heart's natural yearning to be loved and to love. One can meditate upon the image, feeling or thought of one's chosen deity, guru, or even an abstract principle such as love itself! But our culture is far from one that is comfortable with devotion, being, as we are, so fixed upon reason and analysis.

An energetic approach has the advantage of not requiring a complex belief system and is epitomized in the universally popular and useful approach of mindfulness: using the breath as the meditation object (with or without a word formula or mantra). In this Age of Energy, let "pranayam be your 'religion'" to quote a chant popular with Swami Sri Yukteswar!

Deeper practices of energy-meditation may involve a focus on the flow of subtle energy (prana or chi) in the chakras or the deep spine. The most well known of these is termed, simply, Kriya Yoga and was popularized by Paramhansa Yogananda (see Chapter 26 of his autobiography mentioned above).

What's wrong with thinking, you ask? The thinking and intellectual function of the human mind is a mixed gift: it is the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Thinking is necessarily logical and dual: this is not that, and that is not this! The intellect is a natural extension of the ego for it focuses on naming, labelling, distinguishing, and using for its advantage or protection the objects of the senses (people or things or forces it can control).  It has been well said that the mind makes a great tool but a poor master. 

Thus it is, by tradition from higher ages of consciousness, the power of the intellect (which can reveal the secrets of nature) is supposed to be given to or used only by one who has become identified with the soul, or higher Self. In such a case, this power is used for the good of all and not for self-aggrandizement or exploitation. It is obvious that at this time in history, this is far, far from the case.

Since the mid 20th century, it has often been said that humanity stands on the brink of self-destruction owing to our mastery of the tools of thinking, reasoning, analyzing and manipulating nature's secrets but that we have yet to save our souls! We have focused too greatly on the outer world at the expense of the inner world of consciousness. To this day, scientific dogma still insists that consciousness is the mere byproduct of matter, the brain, the body and evolution of the species. Reflection, and only a little is needed, would reveal the opposite: "I AM, therefore, I think!"

Thus it was that the noted historian Arnold Toynbee stated that while the west has conquered the east with its guns, the east will conquer the heart of the west with yoga. 

And finally, let me share this simple, uh oh: thought! The Thought-less Yogi emerges from the effort to still thoughts randomly throughout the day NOT just in the practice of meditation but between activities; before a phone call or email; at a stoplight. You learn to bring the monkey-to-heel by living increasingly in the "witness box" of the higher mind. This can be achieved whether your temperament is devotional, perceptive, or active. 

The state beyond thought, the transcendently aware state, must be felt, or intuited, not conceptualized. It is the portal to higher states of superconsciousness. As in Yogananda's quote above, the still mind "glimpses" our true nature as Spirit, as the formless I AM of all humanity, all creation, and of the Godhead. 

So train your monkey to be still and FEEL the stillness wherein no thoughts intrude. You may find it helpful to bridge ego consciousness to higher consciousness through the medium of a visualization from which you then extract the FEELING of transcendence. Examples include the image of the bright blue, cloudless skies on a sunny day; the vastness of the ocean when perfectly calm; the majesty of a great mountain; the roar of wind or water overtaking you; vastness of space in all directions; or the silvery-beam of moonlight filling you with deep peace and transcendent love. 

Once the raft of techniques has brought you to the shore, discard the raft and enter into PURE FEELING; PURE AWARENESS with no name, no form, no object to behold.

Joy to you!

Swami Hrimananda

Monday, June 17, 2019

How Can I Find that Perfect Job?

A person wrote to us with this question:

In Scientific Healing Affirmations, Paramhansa Yogananda says that we attract material success by obeying the conscious, subconscious and superconscious laws of material success. I would like to attract to myself a job which uses my God-given talents, my strengths, and helps me to relate to my higher self. Is it possible to attract a job to oneself by concentrating on the subconscious and superconscious laws alone? 

My response to this question was put this way:

Dear Friend,

When Paramhansa Yogananda uses the term "superconscious" he is not referring to a level of consciousness that is OTHER THAN divine! Think of the "superconscious" as being the soul: a reflection of God (the Christ or Krishna consciousness).

The significance of this is that this method does not automatically remove from our life the accumulated karma that we have created from the past. When you write ".....to attract a job to oneself by concentrating on......ALONE" you imply that this power of attraction is centred in the ego but that is NOT what Yogananda means when he uses the term "superconscious laws of material success." Or, perhaps you mean that these methods work without regard to one's personal karma. 

The principle and power of non-attachment apply in this case lest by will power you achieve your job but find yourself enmeshed in creating more karma for yourself. In fact, the laws of success as Yogananda outlines them very much includes non-attachment to the results. It's a fine line, do you see? Success combines the highest of will power, energy and creativity with non-attachment and surrender to the divine will. (Actually, it is not so much SURRENDER as ATTUNEMENT AND HARMONY with the divine will, but the difference is mostly in the words not in the reality of consciousness required.)

As a devotee and meditator, strive for freedom from karma by devotion, self-effort, attunement, and selfless service. Material success and creative engagement WILL COME when it is yours to come. On the other hand, if the success of this outward variety is your priority apply your will and attune your soul to the guru and if and when material success is yours, and especially for your soul's freedom, it will come as day follows night. 

Live in the present thought that such a job is yours already and is the gift of God. It awaits only time and place but in the eternal now it exists already.

Remember that if such a perfect job were yours today but is received without divine attunement, you will find it falling short of satisfaction like the string that Yashoda used to try to tie to baby Krishna to keep him from being naughty!

Pray: "Beloved Friend, God: I seek to serve you in a capacity that brings to me creative engagement with my divinely-given strengths and leads me to freedom in Thee. Bless my efforts with success that I might reflect Thy joy and serve other souls! Thy will be done!"

Blessings and joy to you,

Swami Hrimananda

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Is Being "Nice" Enough? Story of the Angry Saint Durvasa and the Flawed Warrior, Karna!

The heroes of legend are often characters both great and sometimes greatly flawed: just like most of us. 

At Sunday Service recently as a guest speaker with Padma, my wife, at the Ananda Church in Palo Alto, CA, I shared a simplified version of the story of Karna, one of the great warriors and tragic figure of the world's longest epic, the Mahabharata (the source of India's greatest scripture, the Bhagavad Gita).


 Despite being a great warrior he was handicapped by the need for recognition and the concomitant commitment of unquestioned loyalty to anyone who awarded him honor and love. His blind loyalty caused him to follow one who was, himself, dishonorable and provoked in Karna ignoble acts. Karna did feel remorse for his misdeeds but he met his death in the great war of Kurukshetra owing to both his virtues and his flaws which were exercised nobly but without discernment. Nonetheless, despite what could easily be judged his failure, he was honored after his death by Krishna for his unstinting generosity, strength and prowess in war, and self-sacrifice. 

Members of various faiths, spiritually minded, are exhorted to be good and to manifest virtue and integrity in their lives. Seen from the point of view of their opposites, who can argue? How much better a place our planet Earth would be if everyone were, simply, "nice."

As a member of a worldwide faith community known as "Ananda" I could be described as a Self-realizationist! Prayer, meditation, fellowship, study, giving and serving are, like most all faith traditions, an important part of my life. It's a good thing to try to be "nice." But it's also important to be honest, especially self-honest: in fact, ruthlessly self-honest! Sometimes our flaws act as the sand in the oyster of our soul which, over time, produces the pearl of great price.

I've been struck, so to speak, numerous times, with the contrast between those with no faith but who are infused with great integrity and virtue being contrasted with fellow religionists who seem all-too-fatally-flawed and difficult to get along with.

I recounted in that Sunday Service talk in Palo Alto that in the game of golf there is a rule that no matter where the ball lands, one must, if at all possible, play the ball (hit the ball) where it is found. (One is not supposed to touch the ball.)

No matter how poorly a "hand" (of cards) that life (our karma) deals to us, we must play the game of life with what we are given. Being born in a family of criminals or in a crime-infested neighborhood exposes us from an early age to the temptation, perhaps even the practical necessity, to engage in criminal acts.

Or, being born with the proverbial silver spoon of entitlement and privilege, we are a paragon of virtue, gentleness, refinement and compassion.

The history of saints, East and West, is riven with characters who didn't always play the game of life according to the Marquess of Queensberry Rules.
The famously "angry" sage, Durvasa, whose short fuse was legendary was the one who gave to the teenage girl, Kunti, the mantras to invoke various gods with whom to mate and produce offspring. Her innocent curiosity to use one of the mantras invoked the sun god from whom she conceived and later gave birth to Karna out of wedlock. 

Her fear of shame caused her to send the infant down the river in a basket (as, curiously, happened to Moses) thus setting the stage for Karna's existential insecurity about his not being accepted by others (for what was wrongly assumed to be his low-caste birth).

A person difficult to get along with might, nonetheless therefore, be a saint in the making by struggling to overcome certain non-virtuous traits. Another person born to innate sweetness may, in fact, be spiritually coasting along on good karma. 

The "nice" person may be offended by the unruly one but this may be a test of just how even-minded and ego transcendent the "nice" person really is. Not that this justifies being hurtful or unkind, but, spiritually speaking, we should be careful about our assessment of ourselves or others.

Swami Kriyananda recounted a beautiful story from the life of St. Therese of Lisieux. She was a novice mistress. Some of the nuns came to her and said “Why do we have to have some of these nuns here who are just so unpleasant? They wash the clothes in such a way as to deliberately get suds in the eyes of others who were helping!” You think in a convent, people shouldn’t act like that. But people are people, and their peopleness will come out. [laughter] You know what she said? “If we didn’t have such people, we would do well to go out and get them, and bring them here.” 

Yogananda put it another way: we cannot win the love of God until we can win the love of at least one other person (including and perhaps especially those who do not "like" us). I am not inclined to take this literally but in principle, I think the message is clear. 

So if you happen to be one of those difficult people, at least consider, as honestly as you can, just how deeply sincere are your efforts at self-improvement and, more importantly, how deep is your love for God and truth. "God doesn't mind our faults but seeks only our love (and interested attention!)," Yogananda would say to others. Don't pride yourself on your testiness, as if to justify your faults, but don't give up, either. "God watches the heart" Yogananda would also say to comfort and challenge devotees. 

And if, instead, your mouth has the silver spoon in it, watch the degree to which you take personal offense at criticism, especially when it is deemed (by you) to be unwarranted or unfair, for of such are the tests of karma and of God. Be at least inwardly thankful for whatever hurts you might receive that your "niceness" be honed by wisdom. Don't let your goodness be merely a show or worse, hypocritical.

Jesus warns us not to consider ourselves "good" for the fact that we love those who love us. Love is indeed the overriding aura of sanctity but so also is wisdom. God's love can sometimes be well disguised, masked that we might unmask the true Doer behind all seeming.

Joy to you!

Swami Hrimananda!

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Memorial Day in America: The Great Yagya, Wheel of Life!


The purpose of Memorial Day (celebrated in America) is to remember and honor the sacrifice of those who have given their lives in defense of their country. Whether or not you, or me, or history judges their sacrifice as justified, they gave their full measure and thus honor is due to all.

I think of the great and noble man, and war hero, General Robert E. Lee of the Confederate army.
He is quoted as saying “It is well that war is so terrible, otherwise we should grow too fond of it. Duty then is the sublimest word in the English language. You should do your duty in all things. You can never do more and you should never wish to do less.” 

History may judge that he made the wrong choice (he had been offered the leadership of the Union army), but he followed what he deemed to be his duty and to that degree, then, he was victorious. Both then, and ever since, he has been adjudged in error. In recent years, statutes to his honor have been removed in various cities in the American South. America’s Civil War was anything but civil and it was a holy war to free enslaved peoples: of this there is no doubt. Yet each must act in accordance with his own sense of duty.

Or, as Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita puts it: Perform those actions which your duty dictates, for action is better than inaction. Without action, indeed, even the act of maintaining life in the body would not be possible. (Gita 3: 8)

I once asked Swami Kriyananda (founder of Ananda and a direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda) about the righteousness and karma of the Allies in WWII having unleashed the atom bomb in Japan and having firebombed the cities of Germany. He dismissed my unspoken but critical view of these decisions with the equivalent of “all is fair in …. war.” 

Difficult times call for difficult decisions. You can only hope to do your best. The outcome is what determines the rightness of a decision. The victory of the Allies gave birth to the Iron Curtain but nonetheless deflected for a time the spectre of greater enslavement and hopelessness.

It is no coincidence that India’s greatest scripture, the Bhagavad Gita takes place on a battlefield where the first question asked is whether it is righteous to fight. But military warfare and its righteousness is not my real topic this day of remembrance.

Let us also remember those great saints and avatars who have given their lives to spread the message of Self-realization (our soul’s eternal life in God) to all “with ears to hear.” When a soul has become freed from all present and past karma but elects to answer God’s call to return into human form for the upliftment of others, it must bear the burden of the limitations of earthly existence even if that burden is not engendered by its own past actions. Human existence, even for a freed soul, entails some loss of divine contact, just as Jesus on the cross momentarily cried out to Elias or as Yogananda wept inconsolably for the death of his earthly mother. 

While that loss is never permanent nor is it the cause of actions fired by desire, the temporary eclipse of the immortal and omniscient bliss of that soul is surely a painful or burdensome loss. Even avatars, however briefly, confront their impending death with some trepidation; such was the case of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and both Lahiri Mahasaya and Swami Sri Yukteswar (as recorded in “Autobiography of a Yogi”).

Whether soldiers or saints, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13. The intention that motivates a conscious action ties the consequences to the doer of the act. The results of that act shape the nature of the act’s consequences. (If one (a saint or master) has dissolved the sense of doership, then the consequences of his action accrue to the benefit of others.)

Jesus’ response to God’s call to sacrifice his human life on the cross was faced in a different circumstance by Abraham who was asked by God to sacrifice his son, Isaac. The sacrifice of one level of existence to achieve or for the benefit of a higher level of consciousness is the way by which God has created the world.

In Chapter 3 of the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna explains to devotee Everyman (Arjuna) the purpose of “yagya,” or self-offering:

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 above is, for westerners, an unusual, even odd way of stating what we know of sacrificing the present for the future. It is investing in our future by refraining from present enjoyment. We in the West know all about “investing” whether for retirement; or investing in a college education, or the future of our children and so on.

Nature too teaches us that all life offers itself into the greater life of others as an integral part of the cycle of life. The great “water wagons” of rain clouds unleash their precious cargo that life might be revivified. The sun consumes itself to give us energy and light. Microscopic life forms are consumed by larger life forms all the way up the food chain. Plants grow, live, and die for the nourishment of other life forms. And, returning to our beginning, soldiers give their lives in defense of their nation and their people.

To lose weight we must sacrifice a few simple pleasures! To sustain bodily strength we must take the time and make the effort to exercise. To nourish a friendship we must learn to hold our tongue and to accept others as they are before considering how we might help them (if they are open to our help).

To fulfill our duties in work and service, we must sacrifice some of the time we might otherwise give to relaxation and recreational pursuits. Parents sacrifice the pleasure of one another’s company and many personal pursuits and friendships by serving the daily needs of their children.
   
The great wheel of life is sustained by sacrifice. From the saints to the soldiers, this is one of our soul’s great lessons and therefore we celebrate this day of Memory.

May each and every one of us surrender to the great wheel of Divine Life, offering ourselves into the fire of dharma and purification that leads to our soul’s true home in Bliss.

Swami Hrimananda
USA Memorial Day 2019
   

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Indecisive? Doubting Thomas? Bhagavad Gita Speaks to You!


The Doubter: Wisdom of the Bhagavad Gita
Chapter 4.V-40. The ignorant, the person who lacks devotion, the doubt-ridden: all these must perish. The man of vacillating temperament finds no happiness in this world or the next. For him, supreme bliss is not possible.
[Editor’s note:] There are two kinds of doubt: constructive and destructive. Constructive doubt wants to know the truth and is open to it but is yet unsure or unconvinced. Destructive doubt, by contrast, is not the kind of doubt that has no interest in pursuing the inquiry any further. 
Rather, destructive doubt is his who wants the truth but is fearful of being betrayed, made a fool, or proven wrong. Ego-protectiveness renders such a truth-seeker impotent and paralyzed. 

Here is what Swami Kriyananda writes about such a doubter in his magnum opus, Essence of the Bhagavad Gita:
“The worst case, however, is that of the confirmed doubter. He has all the intellectual equipment he needs to rise to the heights, yet his compulsion is to keep listing all the shortcomings, the drawbacks, and the mischief by which others might try to undo him. He has the devotion, and the desire to rise to the heights, yet a cynical inner voice keeps whispering in his subconscious, what will the end be treachery? lack of appreciation? opposition? ingratitude?
Paramhansa Yogananda once commented, “The doubter is the most miserable of mortals.” He was referring, not to constructive questioning, but to the nagging tendency to oppose every constructive idea, to prejudge it for no real reason at all, and to be disposed to reject everything wholesome or constructive. It can’t be right, therefore, it isn’t right! It can’t work therefore no matter what happens, it can’t really work even if it seems to be doing so. People can’t know what they’re doing, therefore, they must be wrong!
To doubt a true teacher [or teaching], especially if one is his disciple [or simply seeking] owing to arrogance or simply to a habit of mental rejection causes seething turmoil in the mind. One assumes dejectedly that whatever the guru [teaching] says must automatically be wrong: not because it has been proved wrong, nor even because one wants to disbelieve a conclusion that may simply be inconvenient, and not because one doubts the guru’s motives. . . . The doubter deeply desires something true in life, but cannot accept what he finds. A strange twist of mind rejects, not out of disinterest, but rather out of intense interest. His doubt is born of almost a fear of finding himself deluded in the end, when he wanted so much to be certain.
Were he indifferent, his condition might be better at least in the sense that he’d then be able to direct his interest elsewhere. The tragedy, for him, is that he desires his whole being yearns for the very truths which subconscious habit impels him to reject. That habit proposes no acceptable alternative. It simply shakes its head and says, No. The truths he wants so his habit tells him cannot possibly exist. The habit gives no reason. Darkly, instead, it poses the dire warning, What if . . . ?
What if all this should prove, in the end, to be chicanery? What if my guru’s [teachers’] motives be not so generous as they seem, and all he [they] really wants is somehow to squeeze others for his own benefit? Such doubts quickly develop a life of their own, and create for themselves an alternate universe: What if everything!? Ones will power becomes paralyzed; hope withers away, and becomes in time a dry twig. The sweetness of friendship is soured by suspicion.
For all the above reasons it may be justly said that the doubter is indeed the most miserable of mortals.
Finally, the man of vacillating temperament can never accomplish anything worthwhile. He will never commit himself to anything. He has no loyalties. He drifts through life as his whims waft him, settling on no truth, and forever uncertain of anything.
The determinedly ignorant person can only be left alone to his own plodding rhythms. Eventually, he will emerge from his self-woven cocoon: when he has suffered enough, and when, through suffering, he begins to care and, in the caring, to make the first, faltering attempts to develop his own latent abilities. Then he will emerge from his self-confinement.
The apathetic may at least be aware that there are clouds of unknowing to be blown away. Although they’ve imagined that life has nothing more to offer them, when their dreams of passive contentment or resignation fade, they begin to look around anxiously for viable answers.
It is the doubter, alas, who suffers the most. His thinking processes, despite his longing to be good and to do right, become paralyzed. He yearns to find something on which he can fix as his ideal, but then tells himself that, for one reason or another, that ideal cannot exist. His tragedy is that he yearns for bliss, but finds bliss denied him by a compulsion in his nature that he can’t understand. How can he overcome this self-damning tendency?
He must tell himself, There is no road back. I have no choice but to go forward, even if it means only trudging heavily, one slow step at a time. He can expiate his karma by helping others to resolve their doubts. He can concentrate on his own yearning for truth, until the very yearning pulls him out of the dense fogs of doubt into the sunlight of a faith all the more certain because it has rejected gloomy speculation as a waste of time and energy. Helping others to resolve their doubts and uncertainties becomes, for him, a way of affirming his own solution-orientation. For him at last, supreme bliss becomes the only possible solution to every problem and difficulty in life!”
[editor’s postscript] Swami Kriyananda was told by his guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, that in past lives he (Swamiji) was eaten up with doubts and that it was part of his karma to help others overcome their doubts. Thus Swamiji’s karma was to teach. As he said of himself, “I’ve probably had every doubt anyone could have so I am well placed to help others.”
Our western society, oriented as we are to the rational, reasoning mind, the consequence of which is to render intuition and heart knowledge hidden from conscious view, inclines toward skepticism and doubt particularly as to non-material statements and realities. Thus it is not uncommon for many, otherwise sincere and intelligent seekers, to remain on the sidelines of religion and spirituality, and, indeed, many other worthwhile causes, for fear of being wrong or disappointed and for lacking an inner intuitive sense of what is right for them to do.
All outward activities in a world of duality necessarily contain both good and not so good; truth and untruth. Just as each of us is a mixture of positive and negative qualities. The “Hamlet complex” (“Shall I, shan’t I?”) is easily found in a culture where comfort and material gain are constantly upheld as the summum bonum of life.
Swami Kriyananda urged us to take action (in the spirit of Krishna’s counsel in the Bhagavad Gita) saying “Doing something is better than doing nothing.” Even more useful, he explained that “action is clarifying.” While mental pondering leaves you stuck, taking some, even but tentative action, by contrast, helps you see and feel the consequences and to determine kinesthetically whether further efforts in that direction are warranted. Perfection in world of duality can never be achieved outwardly in form or in action, only in intention and consciousness.
If therefore you are, by habit, indecisive, or even temporarily so, take some tentative steps in the direction that seems best (or right in front of you). By your action, you will see and feel more clearly the results and the inner guidance as to the next step.

May the Force be with you!
Swami Hrimananda