Showing posts with label God. Show all posts
Showing posts with label God. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Can God Be Known?

How to Know God!

The word “God” may only be three letters but this little Word carries a lot of weight in emotional and intellectual baggage. Scoffers and materialists naturally tend to say, “There’s no proof? Where is He? Searching for God, are you? I didn’t know He was lost?”

For many years I hesitated to use the “G” word for all of the confusion and objections inherent in its use. “Who could speak of God who doesn’t know Him,” I would ask myself.

Gravity cannot be seen; radio waves cannot be seen; the solar wind cannot be seen. Yet, we “know” they exist by observation and measurement of their effects. 

We can test their existence and assess their attributes.
Why should God be any different? Gravity doesn’t need our approval or recognition to exist. Why should God be pining away for our belief in Him? In order to explore deep space, the intricacies of higher mathematics and algorithms, split the atom, search for the Higgs Boson particle (the “God” particle), search for the cure for cancer, a person needs a highly specialized education, skills and equipment and must make intense efforts to be qualified even to try. 

It shouldn’t surprise us, therefore, if making direct contact with the Creator of this vast universe is going to take a bit of effort, education, skill, and dedication! God doesn’t owe us anything, does He? After all, humanity’s interest in Him is rather lacklustre, wouldn’t you agree?

To know God you have to have refined the most delicate and sensitive instrument in existence: your consciousness! Just as only trained personnel can fly a commercial airliner or operate a chemical plant or work on a nuclear reactor, so too those who know God are those who have put in the effort and acquired the skill and are “eligible.” Those who reach the “top” are called saints: scientists of the soul and cosmos.

Nonetheless, you might object and point out that unlike flying a jet airplane or doing brain surgery, God is (or is supposed to be) for everyone! But given “who” and “what” God is, he’s not going to be like the actor George Burns at the grocery store (who played the part of God in several movies). By any imagined or real definition of God you’re talking about a “pretty big guy!” Just as you’re not going to be able to fly to Washington, D.C. and walk into the president’s office to have a chat over a cup of coffee, God is kinda BIG; POWERFUL; AWESOME; INDESCRIBABLE; INFINITE; even if also charming, loving, and compassionate once you get on a “first-name basis.”

As gravity is evidenced by a falling apple, so God is evidenced by the magnitude, complexity, intelligence, beauty and power of the universe. As love can trump hate, and nature rises above destruction, and life renews in spite of death, so God’s presence can be intuited as the invisible and unifying Force of love and life behind all creation.

The joy of having skills, achieving success, experiencing human love, the companionship of pets, the touch of sunlight, breezes, sand and ocean and so much in life…..even life’s tragedies, perhaps especially life’s tragedies..... touch the human heart and bestow a sense of connection to a greater reality.

But, nonetheless, we have to admit that all of these attributes or signs are indirect: hints of cosmic Joy, intimations of the play of an invisible Hand.

But there are those who aver, indeed, insist that God CAN be experienced directly. In the gospel of St. John, he quotes Jesus saying: “But a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father is seeking such as these to worship Him.” God is a Spirit and direct contact with God must be made by and in Spirit. What is “spirit?” God is Consciousness: infinite, immanent, and pure and without condition; beyond or underlying restless thoughts, heaving emotions and ceaseless activity. “Be still and know that I AM God.” (Psalm 46:10)

The yoga of meditation has become accessible worldwide because, as Paramhansa Yogananda put it, “The time for knowing God has come.” In his famous life story, "Autobiography of a Yogi,” Yogananda’s guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar explains to Yogananda: “After the mind has been cleared by yoga of sensory obstacles (restlessness), meditation furnishes a twofold proof of God. Ever-new joy is evidence of His existence, convincing to our very atoms. Also, in meditation one finds His instant guidance, His adequate response to every difficulty.” [Chapter 14 – Experience in Cosmic Consciousness]

“Faith is evidence of things unseen” (Hebrews 11:1) Faith is acceptance, surrender and cooperation with the hidden but tangibly felt joy and presence of God moving through and informing one’s thoughts, feelings, and actions. Our bodies and ego are but vessels, containers, and transformers of God’s infinite power being brought to a practical focus here and now in the present moment and context. Like an electrical transformer that steps the voltage down to where it won’t damage appliances in our home, we are literally transformers of grace……..IF we choose to be.

We receive the gift of life in our bodies and minds but it is up to us to look behind the appearance of our own separate existence for the source of life. We have the opportunity to realize that it is a gift. Life isn’t ours; we receive it. From that awareness, we can choose to attune ourselves to that power, to that grace, to that divine life. By consciously inviting God’s grace into our lives to be used according to “Thy will (not my will),” the endless demands of the little ego are gradually dissolved like salt crystals in water. The result is increasing calm inner joy and strength.

Yes, we can know God. But the choice is ours. God says, “I will wait.” God has and IS all things but awaits our interest, our search, and, ultimately, our love. The skills to conduct the search can be learned; the knowledge is available. Meditation is the key to the search, but so also is purity of heart. It is the heart that must open, like a lotus, to the “truth that shall make us free.”

Be happy; be free!

Swami Hrimananda

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Jeff Bezos and God : "Objection Overruled"

So many people in modern culture object to the use (and the implied meaning behind) of the word "God." There are, it seems to me, several types of people who object:

1. Atheists. Those who describe themselves as atheists are those who actively deny the existence of God. For my purposes I will assume this includes any Being or Force that by any other name might still be "God." An atheist has a positive non-belief in God and in some cases an emotional rejection of the possibility of God's existence. The emotional rejection might stem from a person's experience of dogmatism or definitions of God that include condemning souls to eternal hell or as allowing injustice and suffering in the world. Or, their negative affirmation might be on intellectual grounds, perhaps on the basis that science has shown that there is no longer a "need" for God to explain material phenomenon. 

Ironically, atheists are illogical, despite their fixation on reason, science and pragmatism. They can no more disprove the existence of God with the very tools they claim disprove Him than religionists can prove the existence of God with anything other than faith (or, far worse, mere belief). Just because God can't be proved using their chosen tools of knowledge doesn't, logically, mean that God can't or doesn't exist! It just means there is no evidence acceptable to them. Just think of all the scientific laws, forces, or phenomenon that couldn't be "proved" only just centuries ago! Our non-belief had no effect upon the force of gravity, for example. 

2. Agnostics. These folks just say, "Gee, I just don't know. Maybe ....  but I've not met Him ..... " For this group there's less of a reactive objection to God and more of either indifference or a positive, intellectual doubt. Some agnostics might embrace the assumption that the question of God cannot be answered for lack of acceptable proof. Thus they are off the hook of having to grapple with such an existential or esoteric question. They can live their own life free of the angst or guilt they associate with religious beliefs! This group of people may incline (unlike the professed atheists) to be content with themselves; they are busy with their own lives and simply not interested in the question to begin with.

3. "God-Word Dislikers." Finally, there is this category (the one I wish to discuss) of "God-Word Dislikers" who might believe in a Divine Being or Force, abstract and impersonal, or personal and involved, but whose name, if that of "God," they find objectionable. Behind this objection is the basic same emotional rejection described for some atheists but in this group they leave room for a loving or at least neutral Being or Force. 

Maybe they view their god as an overarching Intelligence behind all created things. Others might prefer lesser gods (like Hindu gods, e.g. Ganesha, Shiva, or various goddesses) or angels or earth-based fairies, "devas," rather than one hierarchical, almighty, omniscient, all-pervading GOD! It might also be a male vs female objection wherein the GOD-word is impugned by male hierarchy, judgement etc. A female god (Divine Mother) or goddess, by contrast, is earth and people-centric, loving, caring and offers the bounty of the material world, enjoyment, happiness and love. The more earthy types of this genre incline dangerously close toward ego affirmation, offering humans the merely bounties of the earth and its pleasures (instead of eternal Bliss, which is said to be the nature of God and of our own Self).

It's not easy to disassociate words from their connotations. Even though I say to students in my classes, "get over it," it's not as if I don't understand their visceral objection. For me, at least, as a speaker or a writer, the G-word is simply convenient, easy-to-spell, easy-to-say hook for whatever attitude or practice I might be describing. 

Also in my view, each person can ascribe whatever attributes they wish to project onto their god. Their God may be male, female, gender-less, all pervading or simply watching over each of us: your choice. I'm not being merely cynical, but, again, in my view, practical. Until you "know God" you'll just have to find the approach or definition that works for you!

I often explain that just as you or I will never be able to telephone and speak to the President of the United States, or Jeff Bezos (founder of Amazon), so too we will never "see" or "hear" God face to face, or ear to ear with our human ego. 

But that fact doesn't mean the President of the United States doesn't exist. It just means that I don't know him in my little, egoic self. It also means he doesn't know me, except as a citizen of his country. On that basis he can say he "knows me."  Jeff Bezos would "know" me as one of his customers and that's all the counts from his point of view.

But both God and Jeff Bezos have customer service reps. 
God has a whole lot of reps (compared to Bezos). 

Some of these God-reps are self-appointed, like your average preacher, teacher, or priest. Others are indeed "His own" and have been "appointed" by God, not man: Buddha, Yogananda, Jesus Christ, Moses, Krishna, Rama and many others. These reps don't argue with one another or clash, though their messages "for their people" may vary in emphases, or culture, or time and place.

Down through history, millions (is it billions?) look up to these "high-end reps" for guidance and as examples of how to live. These reps and some of their high profile followers (aka "saints") play important roles in the lives of many. Relating to holy persons, whether alive or gone, is more than enough for most sincere devotees. Instinctively, many know that relating to the Infinite Power (aka "God") is neither particularly appealing nor practical.  Even the lesser but more accessible line of popular spiritual teachers is adequate for many. Knowing the "boss" or the "president" is simply neither an option nor is it necessary.

Still, this God-word and God-question will forever rage on. Is God personal or impersonal? Here are some thoughts on it: who can limit that which is Infinite? What's the difference anyway between Infinite and Infinitesimal? Why can't "God" be both? How could He who is Infinite NOT be both? And why can't a rep be a "son of God" (or, ok, for some of you, a daughter! Doesn't matter, really, because souls are without gender, so I am told.)

The distinction is our problem, not God's problem. Whether his reps are his "sons" or simply souls with the red phone hot line to the Almighty, it doesn't really make that much difference on the ground in the here and now.

Down through the centuries the reps were everything and God was just a faraway idea. The reps told you what He said we had to do, or, or, well, or ELSE! For those who needed the stick more than the carrot, that's what they heard.

But for those more sensitive, these reps always exhibit and express divine, unconditional love (and joy and power etc.). They attribute their "power" to God, not to themselves. They urge their followers, those with "ears to hear," to do so also. Most talked of God as intimate; as real, both personal and impersonal, depending on their own point of view and mission. But the masses generally missed the point and simply wanted what they could get from the reps: comfort, joy and a better life via divine favors. 

For the deeper souls, the imitation of these Christ-like reps is the goal. To have the joy of St. Francis even in the midst of suffering; to forgive while crucified by hate; to render aid no matter the personal risk; to love all alike; to adhere to righteousness in the face of temptation or at personal inconvenience. to heal the sick; raise the dead; forgive sins (meaning change lives of others). These divine powers, these "Gifts of the Spirit," have been demonstrated and witnessed down through the ages for those "with ears to hear and eyes to see." It's not blind faith but openness to that which might otherwise seem impossible. Faith is knowing without logical or sensory evidence. Belief is but a hypothesis.

The lives of these saints and masters bring us the "good news" that God exists and that we, being "His" children, are made in His image and are destined for immortality: not of the physical body but of the soul. Nor is it "mere" existence but "ever-existing, ever-conscious, ever-new Bliss of the soul. This is our destiny to re-discover and to realize our true Self. 

So, sure, stick with the reps if the big Guy is still beyond your ken. God is "big enough" not be upset by it. If you like his reps; if you know his reps; then, it's enough for HIM. Whether you know it or not, He knows that in knowing his reps you know HIM. The reps are a chip off the Old Block and so are you. Really.

He doesn't even mind if you dumb it down to wanting to find happiness within your Self. The last sentence of Chapter 35 of "Autobiography of a Yogi," states: "Through use of the Kriya key, persons who cannot bring themselves to believe in the divinity of any man will behold at last the full divinity of their own selves." ["Kriya key" means the practice of "kriya," an advanced meditation technique!]

Maybe our very interest in the subject has its genesis in God's hidden presence within us. Maybe that presence recognizes itself in the reps. Maybe the reps help that nascent knowledge to grow from a seed into a tree as we progress from ego to soul; from devil to angel; from sinner to saint. Just maybe, "it takes One to Know One." Just say'n.

"Goodness" (with two "zeros") is God (with one "zero") manifested in the duality of His creation. Goodness with its necessary opposite exists in this world (of duality) whereas God is transcendent Bliss itself. One without equal; One without opposite! 

In the name of Thy holy reps, 

Nayaswami Hriman

Friday, December 2, 2016

The Word "God" : a Problem for You?

Imagine how many people down through history have attempted to define this simple word: God! If "He" only knew what he started when he started it all. What a pain! So many troubles, sorrows, suffering and disappointment. "What was He thinking?"

Billions of galaxies? Parallel universes? When will it all end? Infinity? What's THAT, really? Everything, I suppose, eh? And there's some's that seez there "taint nothin' at all!" As in ZERO!

My, oh my. It's enough to make you want to go have a cup of coffee and drink cup after delicious cup to forget!

My guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, wrote in such devotional terms of God as his father-mother-friend-and beloved. Yogananda's poetic collection of "prayer-demands," published as "Whispers from Eternity," are thrilling. So, too, is the mystical literature of great men and women down through the ages. What, then, are we missing?

Such an outpouring of inspiration in literature, liturgy, music, architecture and humanitarian deeds has been offered to this invisible God-person-thing that it befuddles the modern, rational and scientific mind-set. But it also challenges the rational mind to play by its own rules: objectivity and impersonal inquiry! Raving atheists are more bedfellows with raving religious fanatics than with true and impartial inquiry. 

Can we really dismiss this enormous, and beautiful, outpouring to a confused jumble of hormones, genetics, impulse to survive and reproduce? I read in National Georgraphic years ago an article -- completely serious and unselfconscious -- that explored the subject of human love purely from the point of view of being motivated by the impulse to survive. 

Just because we can't isolate God in our test tubes doesn't logically mean he doesn't exist. Maybe we just haven't found him yet. Look how much we HAVE discovered in just 50 or 100 years!

And what about human impulses towards pure love, joy and perfection. If our scientists are willing to posit the possibility of multiple universes how far off from that (unproven) hypothesis is higher consciousness? Or, an overarching Consciousness? I propose that the latter is far more rationally likely than the former when you are willing to take into account the entire spectrum of human conduct and experience, or even just the vastness and complexity of the physical cosmos itself. 

And yet, who is not stirred by the contemplation of pure love, pure joy, and perfection unimaginable? From whence comes our secret desire for perfection? From a state, perhaps, of knowing? Memory? Is there a distant past -- a golden age -- that we can no longer consciously recall or archaeologically have found evidence of (yet)? [What if the very nature of such an age precludes any evidence of its existence for the simple fact that human population, being enlightened, was relative small; climate, benign; people lived out of doors; had no need to farm or make cell phones; and so on?]

Should we just shrug our shoulders and say, "Well, it's a paradox, so either we just put it aside or we live with it without trying to understand "it."" Is life really so engaging that we don't care? Don't wonder? Wherein comes our dreams? Imagination? Speculation?

The mystery and the challenge of the God-word-concept can be ignored but for those with the courage to confront it head on, "there's gold in them thar hills!"

The 20th century will go down in history as a time when humanity decided there was no meaning to life, so why not "get mine while I can." The mantra of the first 50 years was something like: "Survival of the fittest!" So off some groups went to prove that WE are fittest: the master race; the greatest country on earth; the richest or most powerful business tycoon; the most viciously competitive company; the most popular movie star; most talented, and on and on! 

Science, moreover, during this era revealed just how insignificant the human race is in terms of the vastness of time and space, and in the what appeared to be the random, chaotic, and meaningless motions of all particles, which are supposedly the basis of all life forms. Clearly survival and procreation were the only discernible motivations and impulses worth noting. Right? Hmmmm....

But towards the second half of the 20th century and into the present, the complexity and issues of modern life began to crowd in around us, urging us to take responsibility for the impact of our lives on one another, on other life, and on the planet as a whole. At first we ignored the human footprint; then we denied that we were significant enough to make a difference. But after time and hardship, and, oh yes, the findings of science, we were (will?) to eventually come to the conclusion that we had to take responsibility for the world in which we lived. 

So maybe we were insignificant in the cosmic scheme of the universe but here and now we'd better get off our 'arse and clean up the mess we made.

A good beginning, but a mere child's step. Just more of the survival motif.

The significance of our insignificance is that our significance lies in what we are behind our physical forms and trivial personalities. At the center of our being lies our significance; our meaning; our happiness. We are allowed to call that "God" inasmuch as we share this significance, which is life itself, with all life and with every atom. It isn't ours exclusively but it is very personal to us. It is us. 

If self-aware, we experience our vital essence. The best and most consistent means of doing this is through the process, yea, the science, of meditation (and yoga). Relaxing the body; quieting the storm of restless thoughts and the personal, fleeting and all too often trivial emotions; resting in Being, in the Self. Like plastic that, as it approaches the temperature of absolute zero becomes a "super-conductive" material, we, approaching stillness, become super-conscious of our connection with all life, with Being.

In meditation, we can go from movement to stillness; from doing to being; from an insignificant wave in the great ocean of atoms and molecules to the essential consciousness and intelligence and feeling that animates and guides all things, like a drop of the great ocean of consciousness. Our definition of it is a matter of taste, but we are part of it and can experience it. Modern clinical science has proven, moreover, that it is very healthful and beneficial to do so! Our existence in time and space is as unique as our perception of Being is both personal and impersonal.

Yes, call that God. Why not? And yet, this God-thing is small; oh, but it is also large; it has form (yours, at least) and yet no form. It exists independent of our awareness of it and doesn't depend on our acknowledgement. And yet this Silence calls to us. If we express a sincere desire to "know," It will gently guide us into It's arms!

You are not the first to encounter this "God." But you are all you have. While that is true, it is also true that others have gone before you, to this "land beyond our dreams." Others have realized this power, this presence, this love in ways far greater, presumably, than yourself. Be humble, therefore. Listen more; speak less. Remember as a personality you are insignificant. Accept that in favor of the unconditional Infinity which is your true Self. Letting go of ego is, in fact, one of the preconditions for your awakening to your own, ironic, significance. 

Yes, there are those souls who come to tell us of their Beloved, who beguiles them endlessly in inner beauty, playfulness, creativity, joy and love without end. Honor these souls; seek them out; heed their counsel. The experience of this state can be actually humanly transmitted from such people to those who are "in tune" with them. Silence is a medium of exchange just as a cell phone signal, though invisible, is a medium of communication provided you have the right channel and equipment! 

This realization, called Self-realization is the pearl of great price. It is not purchased with bank notes; or beauty; or talent; or position. It is born in a manger though it be a king. It is born in a palace though it rules over no one.

God resides at the zero point of stillness, in the hidden recesses where time and space unite, at the center of all motion, beyond all definitions, all change. This zero point has no form but it has feeling. Consider this concept: consciousness cannot exist without feeling. (Try it.) It is bliss: immortal (ever-existing); self-aware (ever-conscious); ever-new (without end, self existent, self content) bliss. "Satchidanandam." One without a second. Omnipresent, yes.

Get over it: God is good; "good" is God with one more letter, for "good" and "bad" exist in this relative world while God is beyond and untouched by it, even while at the heart of it.

There is no god but God; there is no good but God; there is no thing but God. God alone, God here and now; God for ever and ever until the end of time. "Good God, man, let it (ego) go!" And, go for It with heart, mind and soul even as you realize it in every one else. Simple, yes. Easy, well, hmmmm, yes, and, no.

Christmas celebrates this "Christ" in Jesus and in you, and in all creation! A blessed and true Christ-mass celebration to you,

Swami Hrimananda

Monday, October 24, 2016

What and Who is God? What is Spirituality?

The NEW PATH, by Swami Kriyananda
(Editor’s note: I am currently listening to the audio file of Swami Kriyananda reading his own life story, The New Path and feel to share this except. Sold by Ananda's publishing house, Crystal Clarity, you can find many of Swami's books read "on tape" by him. Listening is a thrilling and dynamic experience: one that exceeds mere reading of words on a page.)
CHAPTER 12 – Who Am I – What is God?
Civilized man prides himself on how far advanced his present state is from that of the primitive savage. We look condescendingly on his tribal way of endowing trees, wind, rain, and heavenly bodies with human personalities. Now that science has explained everything in prosaic terms, modern man considers himself wiser for having lost his sense of awe. But I’m not so sure that he deserves congratulation. It strikes me rather that, dazzled by his own technology, he has only developed a new kind of superstition, one infinitely less interesting. Too pragmatic, now, to worship, he has forgotten how to commune. Instead of relating sensitively to Nature around him, he shuts it out of his life with concrete ‘jungles,’ air conditioning, and ‘muzak’; with self-promotion and noisy entertainments. He is obsessed with problems that are real to him only because he gives them reality. He is like a violin string without the wood for a sounding board. Life, when cut off from its broader realities, becomes weak, thin, and meaningless.
Modern technology alienates us from the universe and from one another. Worst of all, it alienates us from ourselves. It directs all our energies toward the mere manipulation of things, until we ourselves assume qualities that are almost thing-like. In how many modern plays and novels are men idealized for their ability to act with the precision and unfeeling efficiency of a machine! We are taught to behave in this world like uncivilized guests, rudely consuming our host’s plenty without offering him a single word of thanks in return. Such is our approach to nature, to God, to life itself. We make ourselves petty, then imagine that the universe is petty also. We rob our own lives of meaning, then call life itself meaningless. Self-satisfied in our unknowing, we make a dogma of ignorance. And when, in ‘civilized’ smugness, we approach the question of religion, we address God Himself as though He had better watch His manners if He wants a place in our hearts.


My probing thoughts led me one by one, however, to a dead end. How much, after all, can the theater [art, music, literature, science, politics, technology] really accomplish for people, spiritually speaking? Did even Shakespeare, great as he was, effect any deep-seated changes in the lives of individuals? None, surely, at any rate compared to the changes religion has inspired. I shuddered at this comparison, for I loved Shakespeare, and found little to attract me in the churches. But the conclusion, whether I liked it or not, was inescapable: Religion, for all its fashionable mediocrity, its sham, its devotion to the things of this world, remains the most powerfully beneficial influence in the history of mankind. Not art, not music, not literature, not science, politics, conquest, or technology: The one truly uplifting power in history, always, has been religion.
How was this possible? Puzzled, I decided to probe beneath the surface and discover what deep-seated element religion contained that was vital and true.
Avoiding what I considered to be the trap of institutionalized religion, of ‘churchianity,’ I took to walking or sitting for hours together by the ocean, pondering its immensity. I watched little fingers of water as they rushed in among the rocks and pebbles on the shore. Did the vastness of God find personal expression, similarly, in our own lives?


The question returned to me with increasing urgency: What IS God?
One evening, taking a long walk into the gathering night, I deeply pondered this question. I dismissed as absurd, to start with, the popular notion of a venerable figure with flowing white beard, piercing eyes, and a terrible brow striking fear into all those who disobey Him. Science has shown us an expansive vastness comprising countless galaxies, each one blazing with innumerable stars. How could any anthropomorphic figure have been responsible for creating all that?
What, then, about fuzzy alternatives that had been proposed to suit the abstract tastes of intellectuals? A ‘Cosmic Ground of Being,’ for example: What a sterile evasion! What a non-concept! Such formulas I considered a ‘cop-out,’ for they gave one nothing to work with.
No, I thought, God has to be, if nothing else, a conscious Being. I had read alternate claims that He is a dynamic force. Well, He had to be that, too, of course. But could it be a blind force, like electricity? If so, whence came human intelligence? Materialists claim that man’s consciousness is produced by ‘a movement of energy through a pattern of nerve circuits.’ Well! But intelligence, I realized, is not central to the issue anyway. Intelligence implies reasoning, and reasoning is only one aspect of consciousness; it might almost be called a mechanical aspect, inasmuch as it is conceivable for something electronic to be devised that will do much of his reasoning for him.
Rene Descartes’ famous formula: ‘I think, therefore I am,’ is superficial, and false. One can be fully conscious without thinking at all. Consciousness obviously exists apart from ratiocination, and is a precondition for any kind of thoughtful awareness.
What about our sense of I-ness: our egos? We don’t have to ponder the question objectively. We simply know that we exist. This knowledge, I have come to understand, is intuitive. Even a newborn baby making its first cry doesn’t become self-aware because of that cry. It requires self-awareness for it to suffer! Even a worm demonstrates self-awareness: prick it with a pin, and it will try to wriggle away.
Obviously, then, consciousness is at least latent everywhere, and in everything. God Himself must be conscious, and, having created everything, must also have produced it out of consciousness: not out of His consciousness, for consciousness cannot be something He possesses: He is consciousness: Essential Consciousness.
What about self-awareness? This, too, must be inherent not only in all life, but in everything. We are not merely His creations: We manifest Him! We exist, because He exists.
To ‘cut to the chase’: all of us, as His manifestations, have the capacity to manifest Him more or less perfectly. Surely, then, what we need is to deepen our awareness of Him at the center of our being.
What a staggering concept!
I recalled the days I had spent watching the ocean surf break into long, restless fingers among the rocks and pebbles on the shore. The width of each opening, I reflected, determined the size of the flow. Similarly, if our deepest reality is God, might it not be possible for us to chip away at our granite resistance to Him, and thereby widen our channels of receptivity? And would not every aspect of His infinite consciousness flow into us, then, like the ocean, abundantly?
If this was true, then obviously our highest duty is to seek attunement with Him. And the way to do so is to develop that aspect of our nature which we can open to Him. The way to do that, obviously, is to lift our hearts up to Him, and to seek His guidance in every thought and deed. In so doing He must since we are a part of His consciousness assist us in our efforts to broaden our mental channels.
I realized, now, that true religion is no mere system of beliefs, and is a great deal more than any formalized attempt to wheedle a little pity out of the Lord by offering up pleading, propitiatory rites and prayers. If our link with Him consists in the fact that we are already a part of Him, then it is up to us to receive Him more completely, and express Him more fully. [“But as many as received him to them gave he power to become the sons of God.” John 1:12] This, then, is what true religion is all about!
What I had seen thus far of religious practices, and eschewed in disappointment, was not true religion, but the merest first, toddling steps up a stairway to infinity! One might, I reflected, devote his entire life to this true religion, and never stagnate. What a thrilling prospect!
This, then, would be my calling in life: I would seek God!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

"Oh God" - How to Get Over the "God" Word!

Teaching meditation and the spiritual teachings of raja yoga for many years, I have come to experience, frequently, the negative reaction and association that students have to the word "God."

I appreciate their dilemma and sometimes chide a class of students to "get over it" because I intend to use the term in part because it's so easy to use as shorthand.

The question is, though, "God" is shorthand for what, exactly?

My prior blog article spoke of a new dispensation wherein a growing understanding is evolving of "God" as something far different than the anthropomorphic "man" on a throne far away who watches our every move, eager to toss most of us into the fiery dustbin at the slightest infraction!

So if you, or a friend or family member, bristles at the notorious "God" word, I have a few simple suggestions:

1. Should we use a new word? That's been tried and like the gender thing (she, he, "they" etc.) it's still a bit awkward. Fellow teachers I know often like to use the phrase "the Divine," and I use it too, but it seems so lifeless, so pallid. God isn't a mere "thing" or dumb "force" like "the Force" or electricity. There IS a personal element to "the Force." Who can love the Cosmic Ground of Being? At Ananda we often follow Yogananda's lead (and Swami Kriyananda's, our founder) in referring to God as Divine Mother. I do too but that's most comfortable among fellow members and less comfortable in public settings (though I still use it there, too). But it can prompt further questions of its own.

2. I am of a mind to simply educate others and help them to "get over it."

3. Think of God, then as the pure joy of a smile; the pure joy of pure joy; the beauty and harmony of nature; kindness; the innocence and wonder of a small child or young pet or animal; I see all these pet and animal and nature pictures on Facebook: see the face of God in such as these!

4. Think of God as the pure love of true friendship: respectful, considerate, sympathetic, yet wise, and mutually serviceful. You may have to imagine such friendship for it is rare. But the exercise is worth it!

5. Think of God as the intelligence, bounty, and joy of the life "flowing through your veins!" The heartbeat of your life, or the vitality, health and energy, within in you; in others, in nature and in the cosmos itself! 

6. Think of God as the summation of all the sound and power in the universe, like a mighty roar, the power, awe and beauty of thunder and lightning!

7. Think of God as the light of the sun, all suns, stars, galaxies and the colors of the infinite rainbow of color. A thousand million suns into One!

8. Think of God as the seemingly infinite space of the cosmos: deeply calm and expanding toward infinity in all directions; in which all objects float like island universes! Feel your awareness of space expanding outward spherically. Yogananda wrote, the body of God is space. If you want to feel God's presence feel the space all around you and expand it outward to infinity. Feel the space within your own body, knowing that science tells us that the quantifiable matter of our body, emptied of the space between all particles, would fill but a thimble!

9. See the presence and hand of God in all circumstances, positive or negative; all life flows to and through us according to the magnetism of our own patterns, past and present, in its unending process of becoming. Through life's experiences God is talking to us: have a "conversation with God."

10. Hear God's voice in the voice of His messengers; read His words in the true teachings of saints, masters and avatars; see His actions in the lives of such great souls and apply their lessons to your daily life. Call on those great ones whom your heart feels attuned to for inner guidance. These more than any other manifestation of God in this world are the purest channels and guides to our soul awakening.

Like a hippie friend once said: "Good God, man, get over "It!" "

Or as I like to plagiarize: "There's no god but God. There's no good but God; there's no thing but God; God alone, God in All."

Or, as Jesus put it: "And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God."

Joy is within you,

Swami Hrimananda

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Confrontation with God: the unspeakable truth!

I've been meditating for decades and teaching meditation publicly for at least half of those decades. Whenever I am tempted (in writing articles or speaking) to start describing "God" I know I'm heading down a slippery slope (to hell? or, to hell with it?). Can we just agree that "God is Infinite" and therefore beyond definition? That would make my article here easier to write, ok?

If you, as a reader, have been taught to meditate anywhere in the Ananda world you will know that we describe meditation as having three stages. Using these or other English words, we begin with Stage 1: Relaxation. In this we might use yoga or similar stretches to relax and also energize the physical body as we transition from ordinary activities towards sitting in meditation.

Stage 2 consists of internalizing our awareness and focusing our attention inwardly. We might chant, use a creative visualize, work with the breath, or observe the breath in a popular mindfulness technique which, in our version of it, Paramhansa Yogananda called, simply, "Hong Sau." There are many other techniques, some more advanced, such as Kriya Yoga.

Stage 3 is when we leave behind all techniques and sit in the silence. Hands down this is, for most meditators, the most difficult phase. Here, we let go completely of doing and relax into "being." While there are elements of this process in Stages 1 and 2, in Stage 3 its a bare-bones, down and out fist fight with the ego to shut up, let go, and go away!

So it's not God we are confronting, it's the ego. And yet, to the ego, it IS God we are confronting and "he don't want nothin' to do with Him." It's like a possessed person being confronted by a saint who commands that the evil entity leave the body of the possessed person. The ego kicks and spits and sends out a blistering diatribe of useless, dumb, or purposely hot-button images.....anything to keep our soul nature from emerging from the ego's prison of self-and-body-pre-occupation.

Oh, yes, there are moments of sweetness, calmness, joy, and surrender. But as Deepak Chopra described meditation: it's the "space BETWEEN our thoughts." I don't care much for this negative definition but I confess that for millions of meditators it's probably closer to the truth of their actual experience.

I could write a book about this issue and share ideas taken from Paramhansa Yogananda, and from my teacher (and Ananda's founder), Swami Kriyananda, and from the Yoga Sutras (Patanjali) and from the long and rich tradition of God-realized yogis and saints. But, well, I have other things to do, too. [There are some pointers to meditators that I could give here but .... maybe some other time.]

This is an unspeakable topic in the sense that a teacher of beginning meditation wants to inspire and encourage, not discourage new students. When I contemplate the challenge and what it takes to consistently have meditations where the ego-mind subsides into silence, and the invisible presence of the powerful, loving, joyful, and/or expansive God of the Self "appears," I tremble.

Yet there's a simplicity in truth. The simple truth of "seeing" God is that you really, really, really have to want to. Does that sound dumb? Trite? Well, too bad for you because it's really, really, really true!

We Ananda teachers enjoy telling the story about Paramhansa Yogananda's first kriya yoga disciple (a Boston dentist named Dr. Lewis) who confronted Yogananda, insisting that he be given a taste of cosmic consciousness. After pestering Yogananda repeatedly, Yogananda one day grabbed Dr. Lewis' (wide) lapels, bringing their foreheads close together and said, "Doctor, if I gave it to you, could you take it?" Dr. Lewis being given "stiff shot" of the stuff (so to speak), lowered his eyes and said meekly, "No sir."

When, even in fleeting moments, we are faced with what seems like the possibility of becoming the Self--this immense, invisible, overwhelming Self--the ego invariably stops and asks for a metaphorical "rain check." Like St. Augustine who prayed, "Make me good, Lord, but not yet."

Part of us does; part of us doesn't. Usually, and until only after great and repeated effort and grace, the part aligned with habit wins out. The "demon" of God has to be confronted and wrestled with. I say "demon" because that's more or less how the ego sees it.

It is devotion and the childlike faith and trust of our true Self that dissolves the invisible but ego-built barrier between me and Me and You. You have to sincerely and purely (and for no other reason) want God alone; Love alone; love without condition or expectation. You have to "know" without second thought that there is nothing greater worth having or being. You have to be convinced to your atoms that there is no other thing, desire, experience, person, or state of greater value. No opinion, no talent, no fantasy worth keeping.

I don't want to discourage anyone. After all, meditation has so many benefits (physical, mental and spiritual) that it really doesn't matter that you haven't "hit the wall," or even seen the darn thing yet. "Sufficient unto the day" is the meditation thereof.

Yet we are all -- beginning meditators and lifelong meditators -- confronted, at least sometimes, with the struggle and the wrestle with that invisible state and presence that calls to us out of the darkness of our unknowing. Is it a demon or an angel? We really don't know. Aren't my thoughts (and plans for the day) important? We won't know until we enter the arena. We won't know whether we are wrestling the ego or the angel until one of us, of them, succumbs to the other.

Entering the arena, then, is a supreme act of faith, and love. Faith is born of love and love, of faith. As Job said in the Old Testament, "Naked I came out of the womb and naked shall I return thither." We must leave everything thought, every self-identification, desire, memory, fear....all of it behind not knowing "whence I go."

I leave now chanting Yogananda's chant: "I shall be roaming, roaming, roaming...."


Nayaswami Hriman

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Chappie: Artificial Intelligence and Consciousness! A Missing Link?

I had the misfortune to see the movie "Chappie." I might as well admit it now for the fact will haunt me as, indeed, does the movie. (Well, not really, but it is beneath my "pay grade!"). However, I will NOT disclose the name of my companions for the sake of their prestigious reputations (ha, ha).

My spiritual teacher and friend, Swami Kriyananda (1926-2013: founder of Ananda) spoke and wrote a great deal on the subject of consciousness. Just a few of his books which discuss this include "Out of the Labyrinth," "Hope for a Better World," and "Awaken to Superconsciousness." The current scientific belief, if I may dare attempt to articulate it, is that consciousness is the product of the evolution of various species of life. It has no innate properties of its own, being dependent entirely on matter as its source and reason for being,

On the subject of the possibility that AI (Artificial Intelligence) would become so sophisticated as to become self-aware, Kriyananda simply scoffed. "Chappie," while just a dumb movie, trades on the public's gullibility (or, desire for "entertainment"), to posit a "what if" the robot became human: alternating among various feelings and behavior such as being childlike, violent, hurt, loyal and self-sacrificing!

Over dinner with a friend, we discussed, "Well, what IS the difference between we, humans, and a (very sophisticated) robot? Later, in the theatre, we saw at least one movie preview which also intends to explore the world of humans and robots. In the preview, the robots evidently intend to become human partners: emotionally, and, yes, even sexually! Egad!

Organic life forms are created by the transmission of life-giving biological material. Simply put, the fertilization of a human egg by human sperm. Science and medicine are of course exploring that process and will continue to push the limits of the bare essentials of fertilization, seeing how far conception can be removed from natural biological processes. This isn't my subject today, but however removed the process becomes, there's presumably the essence of organic life being dealt with.

In the yogic teachings, we say (Paramhansa Yogananda, at least, taught) that at the time of conception, the soul enters the embryo. Well, no matter re the details. What matters here is the assertion of an invisible and non-material substance called the soul. Even if future scientists can clone or grow human beings, metaphysicians will presumably still insist that at some critical moment, a soul enters into the process!

But a robot is not made in this manner: at least not yet. It's built from parts and programming, including programming that is (said to be able to be) adaptive and can learn from experience. There is no biological transmission of biological material, what to mention soul-force. In "Chappie" the protagonist devised a way to transfer "consciousness" (see the file: consciousness.dat) from a human to a robot. This essentially made the human (who was, of course, on his or her deathbed) immortal, for he/she awoke inside a robot body. It was assumed that "consciousness" was a substance or energy force that resided in the brain and could therefore be "sucked out" and moved elsewhere. To another human brain might have been one thing, but in this case to the "brain" of a robot.

Does the brain create consciousness, or, does the brain allow for consciousness to manifest? The difference isn't important to us day-to-day but it becomes what appears more than a curiosity when we encounter individuals who can function either without significant parts of the brain or show functionality that has nothing to do with the brain (telepathy, bi-location, and other para-normal phenomenon). These so-called anomalies, including near-death experiences, challenge some deeply held beliefs about the dependence of consciousness on the brain.

If one had such a "perfect" robot that you could not tell the difference between the robot and a human, would the robot be self-aware? This is the funny-bone part of this whole thing. Consciousness cannot be seen directly by the senses; its presence is evidenced by movement, emotions, words, and so on. A brain scan or other such machine can detect the presence of brain waves and various movements of thought, but if a machine can detect brain waves, a machine can create them, too. One can presumably mimic all the signs of life and consciousness but none of that would be proof of self-awareness. A person in a coma or asleep is generally not self-aware.

The robot may exhibit emotions but are they "real" emotions or contrived (programmed) ones? In some ways, it might be said there are no differences since our "real" emotions are as fleeting (and usually off-base) as the robot's are without feeling! Where the average movie goer or sci-fi writer may cross the line or be confused is between the appearance of emotions and the reality of self-awareness.

A sleep walker (or, hey, a zombie!) is presumably NOT self-aware! Walking down the street, however, you might not be able to tell that the sleep walker is, in fact, unaware.

Thus it is that future robots might well and easily replace human companions and co-workers rather comfortably (for us). We might chat with them and find it stimulating and helpful to us. Our only interest may be what the robot can do for us: emotionally, practically, and intellectually. But that doesn't necessarily make them "human." Only, functional! And, let's face it, isn't that how most people relate to one another? Functionally, that is?

The robot could easily mimic human love: after all, it can say "I love you" with the best of 'em. Sounds weird, I admit, but some futurists may find that completely satisfying (although at this point even I am doubtful). Nonetheless, how many real humans say "I love you" and don't mean it or stick to it very long?

Ok, you think I'm nuts. Well, that's YOUR opinion. To paraphrase Forest, Forest Gump, "Love is what love does!" Now, mind you, I don't really buy it. But I don't need to (as it is not a reality yet).

My point, rather, is that "self-awareness, "me-ness," is something only "me" can perceive and attest to you. I can't prove it to anyone else. Assuming robots someday become human-like, we will encounter the appearance of me-ness and we may not be able to know which one is "human" and which one is not. And, most of the time, we won't care, provided they do their job! (Not unlike how real people are treated.)

The difficulty in knowing the difference does not, however, erase the difference. That's what I am trying to say. Just because scientists can't isolate God in a test-tube doesn't mean God doesn't exist. If God is the essence and source of self-awareness (consciousness), it makes sense that only consciousness can know that God exists and does so through direct, intuitive perception. Like recognizes like.

No machine can detect consciousness except by its manifestations (brain waves, speech, movement etc.). But that does not necessarily mean that consciousness is always and all times detectable. Just as energy can be latent or potential, why can't consciousness be present but undetected. You can gaze out the window or meditate deeply and not be having any internal thoughts or verbalization. You can be "processing" ideas even as you focus on the conversation or task at hand, Consciousness can lay hidden.

The debate in re artificial intelligence will, I believe, rage on for a very long time: perhaps centuries. After all, as A.I. gets more sophisticated, the line will become finer and finer! Swami Kriyananda asked "Can a computer write a scripture?" (Or art, music, etc.?) Well, in fact, I suppose I could imagine a computer so powerful and with access to the world's art or scripture, that, yeah, maybe it could put something together. But that won't mean the machine is a genius or saint. Nothing you can say to me can convince me otherwise. Write me off to junk heap of history, if you will..............the difference may someday be slight in appearance but there will still be, I aver, an unbridgeable chasm of consciousness for which the "missing link" will never be found.

The link between consciousness (as "God") and the material world has always been and will probably always remain a mystery to the intellect but one revealed to the soul's intuition if it has refined and internalized its powers. Whether hidden behind the creation of the cosmos or inserted into the conception of a child, or fleeing upon the death of a body, I believe that only "God, indwelling, can perceive God, omnipresent."

Joy to you,

Swami Hrimananda!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Interstellar Movie: The Search for Singularity! Is God in a Black Hole?

Tomorrow is America's Thanksgiving Day: the only truly American holiday. (Sure, 4th of July, but many countries have a version of independence day.) And for me, I leave for a week's retreat (personal seclusion) the day AFTER Thanksgiving. I've cleared my desk and am ready to "party with God in silence!"

I've seen Interstellar (the movie) twice, now. Very unusual for me. I couldn't quite figure out what the script meant by "singularity." It finally dawned on me, just the other day. And, even if what dawned on me isn't total square on track with science, I don't really care because what dawned wasn't about science in my view. (So, don't bother to write-in and try to explain to me. Well, ok, go ahead, write in if you think it might help me!)

In the movie, Interstellar, a black hole held the secret "singularity" that might solve the problem of how to defy gravity and lift all of the human race off our dying planet. My "aha" moment in this respect was to equate this "singularity" with the non-dual state of consciousness. Let me explain:

In science and in philosophy, there's lots of idle, speculative, studied, heated or jocular debate about what happened a nanosecond before the BIG BANG that began the universe. I'm out on a limb built of ignorance here, but, for me, the implication and the term singularity is a shorthand way of suggesting that the dual state of the cosmos had its origins in a singular state of nonduality JUST before the BANG went KABOOM. By "dual state of the comos" I mean the electrical properties of polarity (and yes, the neutral state of certain particles exists, too) found in all particles that underlie matter and finer electrical forces. "Non-dual" is code language (to meta-physicians) for God: the First Cause.

In the movie, the protagonist survives falling into a black hole (at least I think that's what happened). It was reminiscent of 2001: A Space Odyssey and its mind-blowing segment. The hero ends up in some time-space warp where he can access the past and interact with it. Anyway, this singularity is presumably what unites time-space into one continuous state, including, of course, its endless possibilities (resulting from being able to interact with present, past, and future).

The script concludes that there's no "THEM" guiding humanity's fate; there's only US! Not exactly theism, mind you, but this state of singularity suggests to my mind a scientific kind of God-state. (My projection, entirely, however.) The script doesn't explain how the worm-hole in space got there for them to go quickly into other star systems. But these sci-fi scripts are full of "worm holes" where credulity is suspended. So I figure I can play loose and fast with its metaphysical implications.

Again, at the risk of displaying my "private parts" of complete scientific ignorance, I suppose one aspect of a fascination with black holes is precisely the implication that the center of such a thing may indeed bear some relationship with the cosmic singularity that preceded the creation. A black hole is, I suppose, the opposite of the BIG BANG, for it represents the BIG CRUNCH in which matter and energy re-congeal into near-Oneness! A good symbol, then, for God, for those of us who are God-minded (maybe scientifically feeble-minded, too).

In my simple way, approaching Absolute Zero is similarly analogous. In my meditation classes I compare the superconductivity of non-conductive materials (think plastic) under conditions of near Absolute Zero, to the state of superconsciousness that occurs when, in meditation, our mind approaches absolute stillness. (The latter being the state described in the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali in verse 2 in which he declares that the state of "yoga" --- aka superconsciousness  --- is achieved when all reactive mental processes cease in perfect stillness, leaving only the Mind-Consciousness-Bliss focused upon itself in a state of Oneness. My more perspicacious readers will note that I'm being a little sloppy, here, with terminology and definitions, but never mind. This is a somewhat sloppy, holiday type article).

So, while Interstellar, the movie, is a sci-fi movie and presumably wishes to avoid metaphysical speculation (having already done enough scientific speculating), for me, I enjoyed the conjunction of singularity with God! That's my take; my right; my (humble) opinion and, I'm sticking to it! Ha, ha!

Be thankful, too, for one more thing: you've finished reading this article. I am looking forward to the singularity of inner (and outer) Silence!

Blessings to you for Thanksgiving and bless me in my seclusion!

Swami Hrimananda, beyond time and space and beyond a lot of things!

Post mortem (see comments): My friend, Oliver Shantidev Graf from Ananda Italy reminds me that in the book, Holy The Holy Science by Swami Sri Yukteswar, he describes energy and divine magnetism as emanating from the center of the galaxy. He says scientists believe or have discovered that each galaxy has at its center a black hole! See also a movie, the Black Whole by scientist Nassim Haramein.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Can God be Known?

“If there was a sound continuous since birth, what would you call it? Silence!” These words from a talk given by my spiritual teacher, Swami Kriyananda (1926-2013) were the opening line to his teaching a meditation technique designed to enable one to hear the cosmic sound of AUM.

One of the earliest learning lessons of an infant-toddler is that its mother is separate from itself. For, having been conceived in her womb and attached to her from the moment of its first breath, and only separated from her when asleep (and therefore subconscious), the child has to learn by experience that mother is not merely an extension of himself.

It can be said, therefore, that the only way to distinguish another person or object is if that person is observably separate from oneself.

Perhaps one reason we cannot prove the existence of God is that God is not separate from us! God, it is said, IS us. It is said, further that all that exists is the result of God becoming the creation. In so doing, God masks His own nature (which has no discernable form) or, put another way, “clothes” Himself in the forms of creation like so many masks. The first and original “invisible man” puts on creation that He can be seen. But what we see isn’t HIM for He has no form.

God's nature is consciousness itself, for consciousness has no form. Nor is it limited by time and space. That consciousness is not limited by time or space has been proven in a human way by experiments in telepathy wherein distance was no barrier to instant communication. Future predictions can show the potential for prescience over the barrier of time. Fighting crime by way of the help of psychics can reveal that consciousness has access to the past as well. Such established facts might hint at the omniscience of God, the overarching Intelligence.

Consciousness can only be examined by consciousness. While the effects of thinking or states of emotion can be detected and even measured by instruments or seen by consequent actions or words, only consciousness can experience thought or emotions. Consciousness per se cannot be separated from self-awareness. In turn, self-awareness cannot be separated from the awareness of feeling. It may be very calm feeling and it may be very subtle at first.

Imagine being in a deprivation tank and having no thoughts but being vibrantly self-aware. Or, imagine staring at something until all thoughts cease and you are left only gazing ahead of you. At first, you might describe your awareness as being without feeling or emotion. Meditators can experience this and may call it "emptiness" or the void. Prolonged resting in such a state will either cause one to lapse into a trance-like state which is blankness (not advised!), or, there enters into the mind, whether imperceptibly like a rising tide or crashing upon you in a giant wave, an ocean of joy. Whether having entered no-thing-ness (short of a trance) or into bliss, either way, the meditator returns from the experience refreshed, relaxed and vibrantly energized.

We have a more limited experience of this each night in sleep. Sleep is closer to the trance state, however, and thus has no ability to change our consciousness or our life for the better. Nonetheless, without the rest of nightly sleep states we could not function in this world. 

Life is a process of growing in awareness: of the world without, and, the world within. An adult cannot mature unless his awareness of the the realities of others around him expands and allows him thereby to relate responsibly and harmoniously with the world around. Whether cause or effect, the same goes for the inner awareness of oneself. Maturity and, indeed, happiness, derives from the degree of self-acceptance and self-knowledge within and success and harmony without.

Ultimately, a saint or sage is one who increasingly unites the inner and the outer until “what you see is what you get,” meaning a person who is clear, pure, without self-interest, self-giving, wise, and gentle yet strong. At the same time, what you see is no-thing, for purity of mind can only be “seen” intuitively. In the presence of a saint, a skeptic might come away wondering what the saint's "angle" is, for we can only see extensions of our own consciousness.

I marvel at the idea that anyone of sensitivity and awareness can contemplate this vast universe, with its history that stretches over unimaginable epochs, the vastness of the human mind, and the complexity and intricacy of the human body (and, indeed, all living forms) without feeling the presence of an intelligence that is conscious if unimaginably beyond our own, human experience.

Thus it is understandable that, faced with this vastness, one might shrug one’s shoulders in the hopelessness of understanding the universe or in seemingly obvious denial of the possibility of a Being of such vast power and intelligence. Maybe it's like flipping a coin: some like it hot, some not. Nonetheless, logic and human experience favors the obvious and the obvious is that the creation "must be intentional!" Logically speaking, the concept of it all being random is close to impossible, given the yardstick, especially, of the human experience and observation of human accomplishments and greatness. What human creation, artistic or inventive, social or scientific, that is worthy of admiration happens randomly?

But for those who gaze at the stars, or at the nobleness of true love or self-sacrifice, or the mystery of life and can intuit the presence of God, this feeling of awe and admiration gives rise to joy just as this joy gives rise to praise and to knowing that "Love is the Magician!" (The title of Swami Kriyananda's favorite musical composition.) 

Could such a consciousness be without feeling? Is intention of such a scale of creation merely mechanical, as if compelled by some other force, to create? How could the becoming of God into the universe not be anything short of the equivalent of a cosmic orgasm (forgive me), meaning, an act of love and of bliss? Do we, as humans, in any act of creativity (from procreation to invention to artistic creation) feel a notable degree of joy?

Ok, I admit that by the time one gets this “far out,” the stratosphere of metaphysical contemplation can become someone airless, rarified, and beyond day to day reckoning. But this is where the daily experience of meditation comes in because meditation can, if we work at it consistently and with effectiveness, bring us to the brink (and into the "drink") of pure consciousness.

The Indian scriptures say “God is not provable.” This is obvious for the reasons noted at the beginning of this article. By provable they mean by reason and by the senses. But God can be known by experience, which is to say by calm, intuitive feeling.

We can feel the atmosphere of warmth or coldness when we enter a room of people. There are many states of consciousness we can feel and know to be real for ourselves (at least). Meditation gradually refines our feelings to where we sense the presence of God as peace, joy, love, vitality and experience that presence in meditation as astral sound (sound of Aum) and inner light and as all encompassing state of bliss.

As Albert Einstein was sensitized to the abstract realities of time and space, and, as Mozart was sensitized to the world of sounds we call music, so, too, we, who are essentially tiny reflections of the consciousness innate to all creation (and which we call God), can become attuned to the “sound of silence” which is the indwelling presence of God.

It’s not a matter of belief but of practice which leads to experience. As Paramhansa Yogananda often proclaimed (in speaking of meditation and of kriya yoga):  “The time for knowing God has come.”

Blessings to all,

Nayaswami Hriman

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Soul's Story of Redemption: Mary Poppins & The Saving of Mr. Banks!

We watched the Tom Hanks movie, "Saving Mr. Banks." I had no idea what to expect and I generally don't watch a movie that I have no inkling of its pedigree. But this was well worth it, and I rarely make movie recommendations.

I think the only aspect of it that might prevent the movie from becoming one of the all time classics is that it is close-to-essential to know the story (and movie), Mary Poppins, starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke (and produced by Walt Disney and first screened in 1964).

If you don't know the Mary Poppins story and movie, well, you can skip this blog article, as I don't want to take the time and space to explain it. 

The lead character, the author of the original Mary Poppins story, "P.L. Travers," is played by Emma Thompson, of Shakespeare play renown. I do not know to what degree the movie, "Saving Mr. Banks," follows the real story of the author but, no matter. 

Why, "no matter?" Because truth is greater than fact. "Saving Mr. Banks" is a story of redemption. In this archetypal genre, such stories have for their truth the reality that we are need of redemption from the past, from ignorance, from delusion. Every great classic story of redemption involves the wisdom and love of another person who aids in the process of releasing the past and finding one's true Self. In the world of spirituality, God takes the form of the guru to lead us home to soul freedom.

This story of redemption is what makes this movie great. Well, ok, not just the story, but the acting, scripting, and, to whatever degree the facts behind it are true, all give it power beyond philosophy or mere intellectual analysis (like I'm doing!).

In this story Travers is a young girl whose father is an alcoholic and his disease destroys him and his career in banking--a career that stifles his creativity and his joy in life. As a young girl she watches her mother's attempted suicide, her father's public humiliation, and finally his death. As a young woman she achieves some financial security from her writings, beginning with the Mary Poppins childrens story that she writes. 

The movie unfolds via flashbacks and fairly slowly, but it crescendos in the realization that her beloved children’s book is her own attempt at redeeming her father, Mr. Banks. It is Walt Disney himself who unlocks the door to her secret. So, too, does her chauffeur (played by Paul Giamatti--leading role in and as "John Adams").

The acting is superb; the lines and music priceless; but the cathartic lesson is timeless. 

As souls we are prodigal; we are lost in the wilderness of our own separateness. The pain of separation, the existential angst, drives us to desperate measures of resolution: including destructive behaviors such as alcoholism, just to name one (of the more popular) of an infinity of ways to "lose our mind." 

Sticking, though loosely, to the story line, Mr. Banks is a free spirit. He loves his wife and his children and the last thing he's good at is buckling down to support them. His free spirit rules him however and soon produces the clash between his spirit and his actions; between his free spirit and the consequences of his own actions in a material world split by duality, a fatal dichotomy is created. 

He resorts, then, to alcohol to ease the stress and anxiety of his nonconforming behavior. But his habit leads him step-by-step down the rabbit hole, and his family suffers with each his humiliation. But he adores his children and especially our protagonist, his daughter.

She, in turn, innocent as a child and not understanding, but experiencing the tragedy of her parents' respective death wishes, despite their love for her (and her siblings), grows up deeply cleaved and soon shuts out the inner child who is playful, imaginative and free. She develops a compulsive personality that is so rigidly and merely factual, that few can abide her presence. Being a lone writer then suits her just fine. She controls the world around her rigidly and makes no accommodation to her own strict rules and perceptions, sparing no expense of the comfort of others.

In time and in her later years, however, the world catches up with her. She has spurned Walt Disney's annual appeals for movie rights but finally succumbs because she is about to lose her home due to financial woes caused by her own need to be perfect (and thus unable to be creatively inspired as a writer).

Well, the rest of this story is simply the story. You'll have to watch it yourself. As Mary Poppins helps free Mr. Banks (in the children’s story) so he can fly his kite, so P.L. Travers eventually is freed from the straitjacket of her rigidly correct and reasoning mind. In short, she finds redemption.

We have then a classic story whereby the spirit which is within us is held ransom by our fears or rejection of the world around us, its expectations of us, and our proper role in it. It is painful to love, to be vulnerable, to be spontaneous. But our free spirit must also remain in touch with Spirit so that it doesn't descend progressively towards a hell of our making: the subconscious, disconnected from the reality of the world around us. We can retain our innocence--which is our soul's eternal joy, untouched by suffering and death--if we seek that innocence at the heart of all that we do; at the heart of all that is dutiful and right for us to fulfill. It is we who create the tension between the "ought" and the "is." Once we view the world as a battle of wills between what we want and what it wants, it’s a fight to the death: the death of our soul.

"Joy is within you" even as you "do as you ought." This is the secret of redemption. The inner joy of which we speak is of God. It is transmitted to us by those souls who have achieved it as a permanent beatitude. Great saints can show us the way to the freedom of the soul. Freedom is not doing what you want, but doing, with joy, what is right.

What a difficult and daily lesson for each and every person who makes the effort to live intentionally, to live consciously, and, better yet, to live super-consciously, in harmony with the Divine Will, with the divine "lila" (movie or play), and in concert with the great script of our life’s dharma.

So, now, you can watch "Saving Mr. Banks."

"Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down."

Nayaswami Hriman