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

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Divine Magnetism - Bhishma, the Sacklers & Treta Yuga

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In divine friendship,

Swami Hrimananda



Monday, September 12, 2022

Unworthiness vs Entitlement?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings to all!

Swami Hrimananda!

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Are Yuga Cycles Relevant to Self-Realization?

Part 1 - A New Age?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings to you,

Swami Hrimananda


 

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