Showing posts with label Satan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Satan. Show all posts

Monday, December 15, 2014

Did Jesus Die for our Sins?

Forgive me my own, instinctive reply: if He did, I hadn't sinned yet. And, besides, I've done my share without a lot of interference from Him! ha, ha, for me.........and now, for a more serious treatment:

We are taught that the Fall of Adam and Eve made it necessary for God to send his only begotten son to redeem us. That God's supreme act of "so loving the world that God sends his only-begotten" is part of the covenant between God and man. And, that, as in sacrifices since ancient times from around the world, Jesus is the "Lamb" of God being sacrificed on the altar of redemption and forgiveness.

As my teacher, Swami Kriyananda, used to quip (on this subject): "It may well be that Jesus died for our sins, but there's sure been a 'whole lot of sinnin' ever since.

As a yogi, I am taught (as my guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, affirmed from his tradition) that the guru can take on the "karma" (i.e. the sins) of a disciple. Presumably not ALL the karma, but enough to speed up the salvation (aka moksha, or liberation) of the disciple. Saints down through the ages have shown that they can take on the karma in physical ways upon their own bodies. Swami Kriyananda stated that this gurus do often towards the end of their lives (I suppose for obvious reasons: to clean things up before they go).

In the Old Testament, Elijah, at the end of his life, gave the mantle of his spiritual power to his disciple, Elisha, who requested it. Paramhansa Yogananda, upon meeting his guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar, asked that he be given the power to know God. There "ensued," his autobiography stated, an hour long (silent) tussle because the word of a guru is "law" and armed with the power to bestow the cosmic vision, the guru must first seek divine benediction.

So, as a yogi, I have no essential issue with the general idea that "Jesus died for our sins." I have no doubt that Jesus took on the karma of his disciples by doing so. He gave an example to all time on how to deal with spiritual tests of every kind: with acceptance of God's will, with love for whomever might deliver the unpleasant opportunity, with equanimity, and with faith and divine attunement unto death. His greatest miracle was to "forgive them for they know not what they do."

Jesus' resurrection is the symbolic victory our souls experience when we meet our tests with these same right attitudes. For therein, the power of our innate soul-divinity is raised from its slumber and bit by bit we grow and wax strong in Spirit.

But: "the sins of, like, the WHOLE WORLD?" Ah, c'mon now! That's a stretch, ain't it? Indeed!

Swami Kriyananda, quoting Paramhansa Yogananda from whom he was taught in person, said that the difference between an "ordinary" saint (even a jivan mukta: one is liberated but not yet totally free from past karma) and a savior (an avatar), is that the avatar has the spiritual power to liberate many souls, not just a handful of close disciples.

Thus we see, over two thousand years disciples of Jesus who are truly great saints: St. Francis, St. Theresa of Avila, St. Anthony of the Desert, and in modern times, Padre Pio and Therese Neumann. An avatar, whether by later centuries long since reincarnated, remains eternally accessible to true devotees through the Infinite Consciousness of God (the Eternal Now) and can even be materialized into flesh and blood form by the devotee's devotion.

But, again: the WHOLE WORLD? No! Disciples........true disciples (not pledge card membership ones, merely)....YES, some at least!

Let's back up into the realm of metaphysics now, before we leave you. "Adam and Eve" represent not only the "first humans" created by God but our own initial incarnation as pure souls, made in the image of God. Their choice has also been ours: time and again; lifetime after lifetime.

The echo of this initial stage of our existence is the innocence of childhood in which the "fruit" (consciousness) of the tree of good and evil (i.e., duality -- esp. our ego consciousness which recognizes the eternal competition between male & female principles and archetypes)--has yet to be "eaten" (absorbed into our attitudes and view of life).

The Redeemer is our soul's innate divinity. It is reawakened by the guru (including the teachings of the guru which may take an initial form in the teachings of religion). When that memory of our soul's purity is stimulated and nurtured by us, the inner light of the soul is born in the dark manger of the cold night of prayer, meditation and withdrawal from ego-active desires and ambitions.

This innate soul divinity "takes on the sins" of our world, our past karma. Though crucified by the tests and trials necessary for our purification, the soul accepts all as from God for its own awakening. In this stage, and as our soul longs for and attunes to God through the guru (Jesus, Buddha, Yogananda, etc.), the guru renders inner guidance and help. To what extend the guru "takes on our karma," cannot be easily known. The very fact that an avatar, free from all karma, comes again and again into human form, experiencing the burdens of human life and taking on the path of awakening, to some degree, each time, is sufficiently good karma (not needed for the guru's own soul) for many guru-attuned souls. The very fact that a true guru gives a teaching, techniques and models an ideal life, is also an investment into the Good Karma Bank that the disciples can cash their Karmic Checks upon.

But make no mistake: there's no free ride! The depth, the intensity, the intelligence, and the sincerity of our efforts is what attracts this grace: the guru's power--the guru's mantle!

Remember: in God all are equal; we are One! Thus the reality of our separateness is evanescent. We did not create this world of maya (delusion and satan). It is no surprise therefore that as God's power created this cosmos, it is God's power that redeems us. And this is "the good news." We may have made badly informed choices over many lifetimes but the error is not completely ours alone! The dice of creation are, however, loaded with God consciousness.

This is an aspect of why devotion to God is the key. Our devotion draws the succor, the help of God in human form, to which we can relate from our own human form. And though God is an Infinite Power and not essentially anthropomorphic, He has created us and is, indeed, our very essence. We must ascend from where we are: bound by ego consciousness. Thus, God in seemingly human, egoic form, comes to help us unmask our soul's eternal and non-egoic nature.

The indwelling presence of God in creation is what is referred to as the "only begotten son of God." On the one hand, the realization of this aspect of God (the Son, of the Trinity) is crucified by our ignorance over many lives, on the other hand, it is our irrepressible soul-Spirit that takes on, with assistance from God in the form of the guru, this past karma and works it out in order to shed the self-limiting but essentially insubstantial ego. Twice-born and twice crucified, you might say! It all balances to the Cosmic Zero of God!

This, then, is the Good News! God, through the guru, is our Redeemer and has been born both in outward human form time and time again and, then, by our acceptance, in His second coming: in our hearts.

Happy Christmas: may the Christ within you be born again and again, be nurtured and grow to maturity, in the silent, still manger of daily meditation and devotion.

Swami Hrimananda

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Does Satan Exist? Do Demons Exist?

Having just returned from a visit to the shrines of St. Francis and other saints in Italy, I am “inspired” to ask this question: Do demons exist?

From what I understand, a great questioning took place during the 20th century among Protestant theologians, ministers and members regarding the core beliefs of the Christian faith. Without wishing to explore the history of Protestantism, let us simply say that the rationally-minded skepticism of the 20th century found expression among religionists to the point of questioning all of the miracles of the Bible, both New and Old Testament. The existence of Satan, likewise, was among the debates. So pervasive was the skepticism among ministers that the self-described “modern mystic, Frank Laubach, conducted a campaign among ministers to remind them to even mention God in their sermons!

Catholics were not permitted most of these questions but even amongst them, in the form of what I believe is called, “scholasticism,” questions were raised. In the life of the famous stigmatist, Padre Pio from southern Italy, for example, Vatican hierarchy sought to question, ostracize and distance themselves from what some felt were medieval and superstitious beliefs in miracles such as the stigmata, the devil, bi-location, psychic powers, levitation and so forth. Catholic hierarchy was sensitive, reactive, or influenced by the thinking and the accusations of Protestants, what to mention science-inspired rationalism, and therefore were eager to hush up claims of miracles so that Catholicism could be seen as a rational and appropriate in the 20th century world of politics and “‘isms.”

Paramhansa Yogananda, a world teacher from India, lived in this same 20th century. In his teachings he stated that the saints are true custodians of truth, not the bishops or theologians, or worse. The great saints of east and west down through the ages (including the twentieth century) testify to the existence of evil as a conscious Force that can sometimes take on human or individual appearance.

I contend that whether evil is personified as outside oneself or “merely” a projection of the subconscious mind, the difference is not as significant as one might imagine, at least not to the person “imagining” it! I say this early on so that we don’t get into a sparring contest over “how many angels fit on the end of a needle.”

Human incarnations of evil can perhaps be recognized in the form of great evil-doers such as Stalin, Hitler or serial killers who inflict suffering intentionally and repeatedly, even wantonly. Metaphysically or ethically, at least, are these people not, in effect, human incarnations of the overarching consciousness of evil? The other side of this coin might be viewed in the long-standing religious teaching that the greatest of saints and saviors are considered direct incarnations of God! On a lesser note, we sometimes refer to special people as “angels in disguise!” On a deep level, humans sometimes reveal that we do understand that each of us is an incarnation of a greater spirit than what our physical form, our habits and personality might suggest.

Turning now to mental illness, such as schizophrenia, multiple personalities, and other forms of extreme mental illness, (adolescence count in this?), it seems just as plausible to at least consider these illnesses to be the result of possession by disincarnate entities as it is to puzzle it out medically, behaviorally or environmentally, doesn’t it? Even if mental illness can be traced to aberrations in the brain, are these aberrations the cause, or the result? It’s not as if modern medicine has been all that successful in finding wonder drugs for mental illness! Maybe something else is going on?

I just read, moments ago, that Pope Francis sent an encouraging message to a convention of exorcists, thanking them for their important work and acknowledging that their case loads are growing rapidly in today’s stressed and extreme world!

How about drunkenness or drug addiction? At least in more extreme cases, doesn’t it seem as though the person is not himself, to put it mildly? Unrecognizable, in fact? Yogananda taught (and I don’t imagine only he did so) that in bars and other places (proverbial “opium dens”), “ghosts” hover to find bodies to inhabit in order to have a taste of sensory experiences. Yogananda was not alone in warning people from trance channeling or, worse yet, parlor seance "games." I personally know of a case in which a person went too far into using a pendulum to help him become a medium. In time he lost his job, his marriage, his health and his mind -- to whom?

James van Praagh, “ghostbuster” and author of “Ghosts Among Us,” seems to be a credible witness to the presence of disincarnate entities who, for various reasons, refuse to leave us and move on to the “other side” in order to continue their journey. He has found ways to help them detach. His description of such entities, their motives and behavior match, in most respects, that of Yogananda's experience.

We can speculate at length but we might also at least consider the testimony of Jesus Christ, Buddha, Yogananda, St. Anthony of the Desert, Padre Pio, many others, and even Martin Luther (who threw an ink pot at the devil — the spot is still on the wall in his room): Satan DOES exist and can take a human form. The essence of evil is not a person with cloven hoofs, a red suit, and a pointy tail, however, but a Conscious Force that has the power to take any form or no form.

Such witnesses of evil incarnate or disincarnate are people who, themselves, demonstrated power over material objects; psychic power (seeing at a distance; knowing the future; bi-location; levitation, even, in some cases, raising the dead) and more. What do we think of that supposedly scientific attitude of inquiry that dismisses such testimony on the basis of an a priori assumption that the evidence must be false simply because they can’t replicate it?

For all the impotence of modern medicine to treat extreme mental illness with drugs, why not consider what indeed might be an obvious, if alternative, explanation? If so, and applying appropriate techniques of exorcism (not just rituals) but the power of an intuitive person, to work with the “victim,” might not equal or better results be found?

It is my understanding, derived from the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda, and from things I have heard my spiritual teacher, Swami Kriyananda, say (or write) that the reason most of us have no commerce with demons is that we are not worth their time! We have our own demons of desire, anger, revenge, lust, jealousy and so on —already within us, so to speak. Indeed, the teaching as I understand it is this: when our spiritual consciousness is so advanced that we come close to achieving Self-realization, the delusive force of “maya” takes note and takes human form in a last ditch effort to dissuade us from dissolving forever our identification with our body, our ego, and the world of matter over which maya rules. Thus Jesus was tempted with having dominion over the world, and power over the angels (disincarnate entities, however benign), and power of matter (stones into break).

The reason most humans do not encounter demons of anger, lust, revenge (etc.) attempting to dance upon our soul’s grave is that we simply don’t have sufficient mental energy and psychic sight to call such to appear before us. We are neither terribly bad nor exceedingly good to matter much. We don’t warrant a visitation! We are not yet royalty, you might say. 

Our physical brain is the accepted seat of intelligence. In raja yoga, we practice techniques of breath and mind control (the two are inextricably linked!) which effectively raise “energy” to the brain (re-directing it, as it were, from the body, the tissues, and the senses). By stilling the natural turbulence of our thoughts and related metabolism, caused by the constant interaction with the world around us and the mind within us through our senses and our ego-directed fears and desires, we can “raise our energy” (and consciousness) from identification with body and ego to a higher and more subtle level of awareness.

Just as a child, becoming an adult, outgrows the interests and preoccupations of childhood, so too the adult — striving for maturity — accepts an ever expanding awareness of the world in which we live. We are concerned about wars and poverty in other parts of the world; we read about Ebola and terrorism as threats to our world. The yogi, by raising his energy within, to the inner world of consciousness (sans tangible objects and personal emotions), becomes increasingly aware of the subtle realities of consciousness and the forms taken by consciousness. This can include not just a subtle awareness of divine realities but also lesser forms, including such beings that are traditionally given names as angels, devas, or demons.

As the soul gradually expunges from its aura behaviors that are sense and ego affirming, subtle forces and beings and states of consciousness become increasingly apparent and real to us. Lest you dismiss such a description as being hallucinatory or self-deluding, I can say with assurance that to achieve such a level is to have the power to accomplish material goals far more effectively than the average person. Psychic power and sight are not debilitating but empowering. The mind rules matter. Intelligence and genius have more power not less.

If I have forever banished from my consciousness inclinations to be competitive, angry, or sensual, I begin to experience states of consciousness as preexisting their manifestation in one form or another. Lust is a universal state of consciousness that beings, including human, experience from time to time. If I have worked to overcome this particular tendency, I may find that in the final stages of my looming victory, lust incarnates in either human or a subtle form as part of my last temptations. The magnetism of my efforts (my karma) might attract to me some final opportunities to either re-affirm it or expunge it forever. The form of temptation might come as a person, or, if by this time, I live almost exclusively in the subtle atmosphere of consciousness, it may take the form of an apparition of one sort or another. Besides, you don’t have to be a saint to become aware of the fact that sexual desire is “all in the mind” anyway! A cow in its pasture happening upon the centerfold page of Playboy Magazine is going to walk right by it towards the greener pasture beyond it.

If good and evil exist in human form, then, according to metaphysical precepts, they preexist in subtler forms. All that exists already exists in latent form or else it could not come into form.

Fortunately for us, we need not fear the appearance of the Great Deceiver any time soon. But, sufficient unto today are the demons of temptation and habit within us. When the time comes when we are soon to merge into pure goodness, we will certainly be tested then, too. At such time, we must not imagine our reason or will is sufficient to outwit the powers of darkness. We must call upon God and guru with faith, even if, temporarily, our inner sight goes dark. It is only a test. It might be the final test! 

Thus while St. Anthony of the desert (in Egypt) was being attacked by demonic forces, he called upon God and Christ to save him. Though they failed to appear at his call, the evil One was nonetheless vanquished by his faith. Anthony, when Jesus finally appeared to him, asked Jesus “Where were you when I needed you?” Jesus replied, “Anthony, I was always with you!” 

Faith, you see, is the ultimate test. Before our moment of final victory, it is our faith that must, at last, be tested. All else is taken from us, even the consolation of God’s presence that has otherwise grown steadily in our soul’s evolution. This final test is the true "dark night of the soul." We must give up everything, even what might seem our very existence and consciousness, even (seemingly) what we have come to rely upon as God's protection in that final test. Our choice to enter into God's bliss must be an act of complete self-offering: given freely and dynamically. Jacob's being tested by God to sacrifice his own son is a metaphor for this final act of faith.

Like St. Anthony, we will discover that we have never been separate from God, for God is all there is. “God alone,” as Sister Gyanamata (advanced disciple of Yogananda) put it.

So, yes, demons do exist; angels do exist; saints exist; God exists! We have nothing to fear but let us be, as Jesus counseled, “Wise as serpents but harmless as doves.”

Blessings of Light,

Swami Hrimananda

Thursday, September 11, 2014

"Bad Karma" - Another Word for "Sin"? What is "Karma?"

In the Book of Job (in the Old Testament of Jewish and Christian faiths), Satan comes to God and wants to make a bet! (Yes, really!) Satan says, "God, I see your faithful servant Job down there on earth. But I bet you that if you let me take away his wealth, his health, his reputation, and his loved ones, Job will lose faith in You. You wanna bet? Hmm, hmmm, hmmmm?"

So, as you can imagine, God couldn't turn down this one from the old buster, the devil his-self! So He, the Almighty, says, "Satan, you're ON!" So, sure enough, poor old Job, innocent as a lamb, loses his health, his wealth, and his loved ones. Then his so-called friends come to him and say: "Job, old boy, what great sins did YOU commit to deserve this obvious displeasure of Jehovah?"

Poor old Job protests his innocence. Despite all his suffering he holds on to his faith in God's wisdom and goodness. God, in the end, therefore wins the bet with Satan. Whew!

All of Chapter 9 of the gospel of St. John describes a curious incident in which Jesus comes upon a man "blind since birth." Jesus is asked by his usual taunters, "Who sinned, this man, or his parents?" Now, mind you, the poor fellow was blind SINCE BIRTH. So if it was he, he must have sinner in a past life! While Jesus here has a perfect opportunity to endorse reincarnation, Jesus ducks the issue and says, "Neither has sinned!" Jesus explains that this man was born blind for the glory of God! What!!!! You kidding? Lucky guy, eh? Jesus then heals the man of his blindness. The story that follows is very touching and poignant but not needed for this article.

So what do we have here? Let's pause for "station identification."

Old Age'ers (fundamentalists) might tend to think that misfortune heaped upon a good Christian is a sign of God's disfavor. Some Christians, to turn this around, think that material success, health, wealth, position, and a loving family are a sign of one's virtue and one's finding favor in the good Lord's eyes. New Age'ers might tend to view a fellow meta-physician's troubles as a sure sign of some past bad karma. Neither view is necessarily correct.

The law of karma, it is said, is exacting. Paramhansa Yogananda (author of the famous "Autobiography of a Yogi") said the metaphysical law of karma finds expression in Newton's third law of motion: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. In Vedanta and metaphysics, this is the law of duality as well as part of the law of karma. St. Paul wrote, famously, of the law of karma saying "Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap." (Galatians 6:7).

So look at what we have: by the law of karma one would naturally think that Job and the man born blind since birth must have done something to have earned their suffering. But by Jesus' explanation and by the story of Job, there appears to be a third option: a divine source. I call this the "Third Rail."

Think of karma as a pendulum: good and bad karma. (Never mind, for now, which is which. For the moment just think that "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." Or, to quote from Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, "What is day to the yogi is night to the worldly man; what is night to the yogi, is day to the worldly man.") In the centerpoint of the pendulum lies, however momentarily, a rest point: a point from which the pendulum begins, and ends, its motion. This point we call God.

According to the dogma of man's free will, we understand that God has given us the power to choose good or evil. ("To eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.") This is like pushing the pendulum for the first time. It begins with the appearance of material and ego-active desires, likes, and dislikes. In this we abandon the God's eye view of Oneness: seeing God in all and, as a result, seeing "through" the illusion that the senses, matter, and ego have any intrinsic reality and attraction (or repulsion). 

Once the pendulum swings into motion, the interplay of good and bad karma, action and reaction, will keep the pendulum moving essentially forever until, suspicious and wary, worn and torn, we decide not "to play" the "Great Game" of ego.

When the prodigal son of Jesus' story in the new testament decided to return to his father's home, he had a long way to go on his journey. But his decision to return is the starting point. It says (and not just once) in Revelations (3:12), "Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out." This "pillar" is like the shaft and center point of our pendulum.

It is then by our choice that we begin to slow the pendulum and with sustained effort and divine grace that pendulum will come to rest in God, in our own center. God will not step into our lives as He has in Job's or that of the man born blind since birth until we invite Him into our lives.

This "third rail" of divine neutrality is God's invisible hand giving to the devotee what seems like troubles and suffering but which, if the soul will "overcome" the test with faith in God, with wisdom and equanimity, it will be the means by which the soul will not have to "go no more out" in repeated reincarnations to continue to work out its karma (whether good or bad). 

The threads of past action (karma) are subtle. The question of karma vs. grace may be somewhat a false dichotomy. Think about Job, or that blind man. Nothing in their respective stories suggests that they are souls already freed from karma ("saints," you might say). That means that they certainly have karma to overcome. Thus the fact that they each encounter troubles can logically, at least, be attributed to such karma. 

Where God's grace (the "Third Rail") enters is the timing and nature of those troubles: testing their faith and equanimity at time and in a proportion they can digest. By passing their tests with the flying colors of faith and equanimity, they have become free of some of their past karma. You see: BOTH-AND. Both-And is the nature of Infinity (while EITHER-OR is the product of the play of duality and the limited view of the intellect using logic and reason). Nonetheless, there is an element of divine intervention. It is the "good" karma of reaching upward to God: we make one step in His direction and He takes two in ours. "Faith is the most practical thing of all." I once heard my teacher, Swami Kriyananda say that when I was still quite new and it puzzled me to no end. I think, now, I understand it much better.

The worldly person will usually attribute blame to God, or to life, or to others for his troubles. He is miserable or angry when trials come and seeks however he can to get away from trouble and find pleasure and happiness. So, for this soul, the pendulum continues on and on and on until it seems like an eternity of hell.

When troubles come to you, as in every life they must, "what comes of itself, let it come" and stand tall "amidst the crash of breaking worlds" with faith, hope, and charity (even-mindedness). When success, pleasure and human happiness arrive on our doorstep, accept them gratefully but also with equanimity, for all "things must pass." This is the way we must face our tests and our successes if we are to neutralize our karma. In this way we convert what might seem to be our "bad" karma into the "good" karma of soul wisdom and eventually freedom in God. 

Krysta Gibson, editor and publisher of the New Spirit Journal, wrote an article (that inspired this one) and I thought you might enjoy reading it too:

Meditate on a great pillar, a shaft of light, as the symbol of the inner spine. This is, in part, the meaning of the Hindu "lingam" (a stone pillar....too often, but incorrectly, likened to a phallic symbol). This "pillar" is our own center, our subtle spine, to which if we withdraw mentally and with good posture gives us psychic protection, spiritual fortitude and insights.

Om namoh Shivaya!

Swami Hrimananda

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Why does God permit suffering?

As part of a team of members who respond to questions from all over the world on behalf of the Ananda Worldwide Ministry, some questions get directed to me for a response. Today there came a classic question, "Why does God permit suffering." We are here in human form to discover the mysteries of our existence. Some who have gone before us have solved the riddles of life. Great souls such as Buddha, Krishna, and, in our time, Paramhansa Yogananda (author of the worldwide classic, "Autobiography of a Yogi"). 
When I first saw this question this afternoon, I thought, "Oh heavens, how am I supposed to say anything meaningful on so deep a question?" Often those who ask have suffered greatly: directly or through the loss of loved ones. There was no hint in the question that the person who wrote in to the website was especially or deeply hurt personally, but it is often the case when this question is asked.
So I penned below a response as best I could. Much more could be added but it is such a universal and important question, I thought to share the response with others:
RESPONSE (later "enhanced"):
Dear Friend,
You have asked the ages-old paradox that all compassionate and thoughtful people must ask: "Why does God (who is all Good), permit suffering?"
Is a parent negligent who permits his child to go to school where he may encounter bullies or simply other students who might harangue, insult or even fight with him? Is a parent negligent who permits his son to go to war, perhaps to return crippled for life, or to never return?
God is not the cause of suffering. Whatever else God is, we must do what we can to deal responsibly with our suffering, our grief, or the travails of others.  Why should we imagine, especially in our grief and pain, that we can understand the mind of God? This universe is vast and we are complex creatures. Let us not look afar to cast blame but be practical and do what we can to improve our or others' situation. 
A God's eye view of humanity reveals that we humans only think of God when we are in need. Left to our own, we prefer to revel in the the gifts and pleasures of His creation rather than to see these as but His gifts. Few receive His gifts with gratitude and love for the Giver. Fewer still can receive life's hardships as HIs gifts, given to purify our attachments or teach us valuable soul lessons. 
Instead, if we have too little, we want more; if we have much, we want more. We are never satisfied even when sated. We burn with disquietude, wondering all along "What's wrong with this picture?" "Who is to blame?" 99.9% of humanity is too busy chasing pleasure, happiness, security, recognition (or avoiding or getting over their opposites). 
Still, I must concede that those who suffer all too often and all too much are the innocent. But among life's many questions, can we ever really answer the questions that start with "Why?" Why was I born poor, rich, healthy, ill, luck or unfortunate? As suffering obviously happens and too often to those who do not deserve it, we cannot help but ask "Why" and wonder "Who is to blame."
Our instincts are well placed, however: someone indeed has to be blamed! For if there is not cosmic justice, no inexorable law of cause and effect, our universe, both outward (material) and inward (moral), will go up in flames of chaos, anger, violence and rebellion.
The questioner also asked whether, given the suffering in the world, "Why does He destroy the whole thing?"
Yes, God could dissolve this creation; some say, in fact, that he does every 4 billion years or so (like night and day cycles). But then it just continues later. Let us step back, however, towards the "big picture."
God is the novelist, the playwright, who sets into motion a grand drama whose purpose is to entertain and to play the divine romance of "hide 'n seek." He doesn't want us to suffer but if the show is to go on He can't simply make us puppets and pull all the strings. The show would be a sham. He is hoping his children will wake up and seek Him behind the curtain of maya but the show won't work unless he gives us both the freedom to choose, and at the same time, makes the drama of life real and enticing enough to make it unique and dramatic. As a result, He knows that it is difficult to "find Him."
We think of life in terms of our physical body. It lives a mere 80 years. Yet this universe has existed for untold billions of years and consists, we are told, of an estimated 200 billion galaxies. Maybe, therefore, we need to take a longer view. If there is no known center of the universe (and even if there were, what difference would it make to me), maybe the real center is, as Jesus said it is, "within you?"
Maybe as the great sages have averred and as thousands of lives have offered tangible proof or hints of, we have lived for many lives: indeed, many more lives than we can even imagine. We can't imagine 200 billion galaxies, so of course it would be extremely difficult to imagine thousands, even billions, of lives. It is taught that we have come up through the stages of evolution. Paramhansa Yogananda even said he could recall an incarnation as a diamond!
So could the cause for suffering, even for those who otherwise appear (in this lifetime) as innocent, be traced to a distant past? With so many lives, who can imagine we've been "saints" the whole time? "There but for the grace of God, go I!" Can you not imagine being a criminal? A murderer?
In the Old Testament Book of Job, Job was a righteous man. But Satan made a bet (imagine!) with God, that deprived of his health, family, wealth, and respect, he would denounce God.......just like so many people do when suffering. Job passed the test and remained faithful to God. This story, weird as it may seem, suggests to us that some of our tests may be permitted in order to test and purify our love for God. These reflect our relationship with God and are as much God's grace as His consolation and inner peace, or other many gifts of the Spirit, are.
Paramhansa Yogananda taught that "all conditions are neutral; it is our reaction to them that determines our happiness, our wisdom, and our peace of mind." Remaining in the God's eye view of this drama, we find ourselves increasingly untouched by what he called "the crash of breaking worlds."
I agree, however, that no explanation can satisfy the sense that it's bad deal for us. Paramhansa Yogananda said he used to "argue with God" that as He made this mess, he has to clean it up. But, to no avail. Yogananda said he knows why but nonetheless he also knows we suffer so. The deep compassion of the avatars for us impels them to return lifetime after lifetime, forgoing the bliss of union with God, to endure the "slings and arrows" of ignorance and persecution and troubles to uplift humanity and free disciples.
Suffering gives thoughtful people more than cause for anger or puzzlement; it also gives us an incentive to seek the answer to life's riddle. For we know perfectly well that life is a gift and the gift is good! But then there's pesky thing called suffering!
The real question isn't so much "Why does God permit suffering" but the more practical one: "What do I do about it?" We have the freedom and therefore we have the opportunity (and responsibility) to solve the riddle of life by our own efforts. When we unite those efforts and direct those questions to God (being willing to pay whatever price the great pearl of truth may cost us), then He responds.
Indeed, one of the great themes of Krishna's discourse in the Bhagavad Gita is that we must act in this world. In other words, we must take responsibility for the conditions in which we find ourselves. We don't need to know the "why." A soldier on the battlefield cannot focus on the reasons for the war or even the overall strategy for the battle. He must fight to defend himself and defeat the foe right in front of him.
No great scripture or teacher fails to counsel us to adhere to righteous action. Right attitude and action are like levers that trigger the divine response in the form and the power of grace. When we are uplifted and protected we know, in that state, that this power doesn't come from us. Yet, we had to initialize the relationship and the flow of energy toward superconsciousness (God-consciousness).
At first we read books, talk to people, go to teachers. But in time as our ardor blossoms into the flower of faithful devotion, He sends us a true guru: one who can help us achieve freedom from endless rounds of birth and death (and suffering).
Make each day an effort to know, love and serve God in the silence of your soul and in the hands of your daily service, guided by wisdom and compassion.
"God so loved the world that He sent His only-begotten Son to redeem it." That son is, at first the guru, but in time it is the our very own soul, a child of God, for this is who and what we are. God knows that we suffer and wants to help us but most people are too busy with the playthings and troubles of this world to seek Him, not for making our mud puddle nicer, but for His love alone.
May the LIght of Truth and the Moon of Divine Love guide your footsteps to His bliss,
Nayaswami Hriman

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Cosmic Drama Continues: part 4 of 5: In Walks the Devil!

The Cosmic Drama
Part Four (of Five) - In Walks the Devil!

This is part one of a series of articles. It has its origins in a prior blog article entitled, "Who is Jesus Christ?" You may wish to read that first, though not absolutely necessary. This series attempts to describe the Trinity, or, how God can be omniscient, omnipresent, infinite, and immanent in creation at the same time. And, what significance this has for the reality we face as individuals. As the prior article on Jesus Christ noted, "Who Jesus is says a great deal about who we are." So, too, who God is addresses who we are.

When God “sent out” His power through vibration (“Aum”) and seeded it with His reflected Intelligence, the creation (especially the powers and intelligences behind matter) are endowed with procreative power, desire, intelligence, and individuality. Just as the son, who may resemble his father in many ways, is given free will to make his own choices in life, so too, the creation and the souls in creation have been given, and have, made choices. As vibration acquires form, individuality and intelligence it acquires a relative degree of independence. Not absolute, but relative. This power, force and intelligence assumes unto itself a self-perpetuating momentum, not unlike the famous computer HAL in the movie: 2001: A Space Odyssey. The outflowing power of God becomes, by degrees, not only independent but, as it begins to assert its self-identity, either rebelliously or ignorantly, it become satanic. The term “satanic” implies a conscious intention to remain apart and independent. It implies a purposeful rebellion against harmony and attunement with the Creator. It is not sharp line in the sand, but a gradual continuum from divine attunement to forgetfulness to restlessness to ignorance to harm and to conscious evil.

Endowed with intelligence and empowered to go out and multiply and then acquiring the form and feeling of separateness (from God), this outgoing power takes onto itself the responsibility and desire to create, multiply, dominant and remain its own “god.” (Think of the myth of Lucifer or Adam and Eve wanting to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.) Thus does the outflowing force begin gradually to make its own way. The further from God its consciousness inclines, the more the good intention becomes gradually an evil one, usurping God’s power and worshipping itself as godlike. (Thus was Jesus tempted by Satan to have dominion over all the earth if he would but worship Satan as the creation itself.) Thus humans set up false gods, worshipping money, the pleasures of the senses, power over others, addictive substances, and so on. Satan, in the form of the creation, invites us to worship him as the summum bonum of existence. In the end he takes our souls, metaphorically speaking (only), in the sense that we lose (temporarily) our soul joy and innocence in God’s bliss. Death, old-age, disease, disappointment—at last, he reneges on his promise leaving us with neither God’s peace nor our moth-eaten treasures on earth.

There is another aspect to this loss of innocence. As Spirit is cloaked in form, individuality, and separateness, it finds itself competing for survival in a world of the senses. Forced to feed, clothe and shelter itself, it finds that the compelling necessities of its outer form cause it to look outward through the senses. The outer world gradually becomes its reality and lost is the divine memory of its own omniscience and immortality. It will take untold incarnations for this lost soul to (ascend first to the human level, and then untold more incarnations to) rebel against the “anguishing monotony” of continued rounds of rebirth, struggle, pleasure, pain, illness and death after having exhausted every avenue of sensory and ego-affirming, but ultimately disappointing, fulfillment.

Thus, the macro-characters in the cosmic drama are God (as the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost) and the satanic force which opposes harmony with and union with God. Paramhansa Yogananda put it this way: the satanic force has sowed the creation with patterns of imperfection (pain, disease, & physical death) so that our memory of divine perfection will impel beings to want to return to the creation to make it perfect. But alas, the cosmic drama requires the villain that we might love the hero. The villain must be punished and the hero is applauded. As we act more like the hero we come closer to God. In this way, even the satanic force of maya (delusion and ignorance) act to sow the seeds of our longing for perfection. This perfection, this bliss, this union is found only within our souls—in God alone. We have an eternity of free choices to discover and seek this re-union, just as the prodigal son in Jesus’ story, hungry and famished, decides to begin the journey home to his Father. There he is welcomed and embraced (not punished).

Whether we view the betrayal of God’s divine purpose as the result of the “first man and woman” (Adam and Eve) or as a choice we all make, especially beginning with puberty, is perhaps a matter of taste. The reality is that, from the human point of view, evil exists, ignorance exists, wrong choices and bad things happen and we need to make things better. Blaming God has its place, but only to a point. Doing so doesn’t change the bad things. We have to take action and we have to take at least some responsibility for ourselves and our neighbor. Without this, life would be not worth living. Besides, in truth and at the present moment, most people wouldn’t have it any other way and are not the slightest bit interested in knowing, loving, serving and uniting in love with God.

The "devil made me do it",

Nayaswami Hriman

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Does Satan Exist? (Or, more depressing news?)

Last Sunday at the Ananda Meditation Temple, in Bothell, WA our subject was a peek at the dark side and one of humanity’s core ethical and existential issues: Does evil exist? What is the cause of suffering? Is there a cure for suffering? If there is evil, did God create evil? Is God evil therefore? Does Satan exist?

I’ve always had an interest in such musings. My mother used to tell me that as I child I pestered her with “the big questions of life.” But my response to that was that it was she who prodded me day in and day out, constantly urging me by shouting: KNOW KNOW KNOW. (Maybe I misunderstood the NO for KNOW - :)).
As you have perhaps heard it said here, the Indian scriptures proclaim that GOD CANNOT BE PROVED. Ishwar Ashiddha

I suppose therefore it must also be admitted that neither can evil be “proved,” only experienced and judged as such. Paramhansa Yogananda defined evil as that which obscures truth, or prevents us from knowing the divinity behind all forms of creation.
Relative to the bliss state of cosmic consciousness (out of which the creation has been manifested) we could say that any lesser state or any desire for a lesser state of consciousness or object of creation would take us away from our bliss nature.

There cannot be the great drama of creation, the great symphony of life if all life were harmonized with bliss alone. It takes the multifarious forms of creation each seeking their own existence and separate welfare to enact this drama. It is the duty and opportunity of awakened beings to pierce the veil of maya to see through the drama to the dramatist Himself behind it all but, as we are not its creator, it is not our duty, task, or ability to change the nature of creation itself. To exist it must perforce carry on the drama of dark and light.
We are all in a matrix, a spider web of false appearances. The game goes on only if we play it on its relative terms of survival, competition, conquest, pleasure, pain, health, disease, life and death. Once we begin to view it transcendently and to view these opposites as only a ceaseless flux can we begin the journey towards the goal of pure consciousness which is untainted by opposites and where we find our original state, our home in God, in Bliss.

Does this mean however that evil, being opposite of good, is, well, just as good? Well, of course not! On the scale of “distance” from bliss, evil (selfishness, e.g.) blinds us far more completely to the divine within than good. But good alone is not enough though it is better. Good remains only an opposite destined to reverse itself until we see it and use it as a stepping stone off the wheel of samsara, rebirth, and the opposites of life and death.
Though we exhibit self-awareness we cannot claim to have created it, no more than we can claim to have given birth to ourselves, or to the world around us. We come from and are part of something much greater. This, then, is as true for good and evil as it is for consciousness and life.

“Thoughts are universally, not individually, rooted” Paramhansa Yogananda wrote in his famous autobiography. What this means to us is two-fold: the power which darkens our life towards error, ignorance and suffering is greater than us, but the power which brings light is also greater than we. In each case, as we are not the origin of dark or light, we can consciously call upon the power of Light to uplift us from the darkness. Not passively, of course, for the Light vibrates on a higher level of energy, intelligence and bliss than we do on a merely conscious egoic level. We must attune ourselves to its level by thought, word, and deed.

The vast nature of that Light is such that we, confined as it were to the prison of ego and body, cannot comprehend that Light without a medium. It is its own language and we need an interpreter, a teacher, to instruct us in its syntax (that's a pun, actually). Just as a radio or cell phone is needed to capture the spoken words of one far away but attempting to speak to us, so too it is the guru who acts as a light-house that refracts, aims, and concentrates the universal but subtle and difficult-to-perceive beam of cosmic Light into human form that we can see, feel, and be transformed by it back into it!

Is God responsible for ignorance, suffering and evil? He created this world, didn’t He? God becomes this world as the playwright writes a play but in so writing becomes not villainous for making the villain evil. Without the villain the play would not play and no one would pay to see it.

Therefore His actors, who are manifestations of His intelligence and desire to create that His joy might be experienced in the play, are similarly endowed but by necessity separated by their forms. Our created separateness is a necessity for the drama but imposes upon us the urge to survive, to compete, to win, and to seek the natural objects of sensory fulfillments and ego affirmation. By degrees, therefore the actors of the play begin changing the script. We begin to be typecast as second rate actors who have forgetten that it's just a play. We have forgotten our lines in the script.

We come now to our red, horned, cloven-hoofed friend, Satan. As we are beings clothed in human form, endowed with intelligence and intention, and the power to act, so too does the divine creating Light manifest higher (astral and causal) beings with roles to act in the grand drama of creation. As we fall into ignorance by the hypnosis of the creation's seeming reality, so too some of these Beings fall into ignorance drunk with their own power and embolden by their duties to create and oversee.

As this world is itself a manifestation of consciousness, so too the forces that emerge to create and diversify and to sustain the creation are conscious. Whether seen as Beings or as Forces it matters not. There is a satanic force that impels and invites us into ego affirmation, into the delusion of sense satisfaction, security through material weath, and pride, just as there is an angelic force that invites us into the inner silence to commune with Her as Peace, Joy, and who invites us, as prodigal sons, to return to our Father's kingdom as Sons of God.

An example of such forces of darkness and suffering can be seen in a drama that is unfolding right now on our planet. Today our western world is on the brink of the greatest depression and economic collapse in recorded history. Will it happen? How can it not happen except by pretending it isn’t happening? Paramhansa Yogananda certainly is among the many who have predicted it. In his case, he did so over sixty years ago. But of course so have other seers of various persuasions seen through the fragile success of capitalism. Whether spiritually seeing the delusion of materialism fanned by capitalism or socially seeing the potential for the enrichment of a few at the expense of the many, or economically seeing the endless expansion of capital and wealth and consumption as the false foundation for its success, the end result is the same: collapse.

Not that the basic tenets of capitalism are somehow evil, at least not so far as giving individuals the freedom to earn a living. Rather the pursuit of wealth for its own sake and money (a non-productive, imaginary object) as the measure of that wealth: these are the false gods before us who are soon to betray our trust in them.

Life must be productive, harmonious and sustainable of life, health, and harmony. The western form of consumption and lifestyle is simply based on the untruth of himsa, injury to life. It cannot therefore last. Here we see evil pretending to be good: the good life (for some at the expense of others, and other life forms). Generation after generation this good life has lulled us, its beneficiaries, into increasing dis-ease with ourselves, one another, and the planet on which we live.

I doubt anyone can even explain or understand what this item called a “dollar” actually is, or represents, or is based on. It’s a fiction, a lie agreed upon. We must consume faster than we save in order to increase our wealth and pleasure. The interest on the debt we incur to do this rises exponentially like a tsunami which races across the trackless ocean and then suddenly rises to crash to shore leaving death and destruction in its wake.

The solution is to reject fear and despair and inaction and to embrace the Light of God's love within and with our fellow men and planet. We are invited to change our lifestyle to one of harmony and sustainability with our own souls, our bodies, and with the divine life which is this creation.



Imminent Collapse of the U.S. Dollar?

As I am preparing for a talk tomorrow at the Ananda Sunday Service (in Bothell, WA, USA) on the subject of the existence of evil, my friend and teacher, and founder of Ananda, Swami Kriyananda (direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda) forwarded a YouTube video on the subject of the dollar's imminent collapse. It's about 10 minutes long and if you're interested here's the link:

To students and members of Ananda worldwide this is hardly news. You know already that Swami Kriyananda has repeated this prediction which Paramhansa Yogananda gave repeatedly in the last years before his death in 1952. But we hardly need a yoga-master to tell us that the worldwide economy (dollar denominated) is in trouble and that the possibility of the collapse of the dollar isn't at least a threat!

But what the heck can you or I do about this? How can we be prepared for the possibility, whether extreme (as portrayed in the YouTube video), whether partial, short-term or permanent? From years of living with this prediction and with the steps some members of the various Ananda Communities worldwide have done, here are some thoughts (taken to a wide range of extremes or just a few steps):

  1. Purchase a supply of food, but more than just 2 to 3 days of a power outage. Perhaps 6 months supply of canned or freeze dried food. I'm no expert but there's lots of information on the internet and places where this can be purchased. Don't forget water, too!
  2. Supplies like prescriptions, flashlights, batteries, toilet paper and all the bare necessities.
  3. Camping supplies and outdoor clothing: tent, blankets, sleeping bags, etc.
  4. Bicycle?
  5. Start a garden for food or at least have seeds and don't forget sprouting!
  6. If you can, buy land outside a city where food can be grown and shelter can be taken.
  7. Convert savings, at least partially, to exchangeable commodities. Obvious ones are gold and silver but there are many other bartable goods as well.
  8. Get out of debt: this is trickier because it's possible you can later pay off dollar-denominated debt with worthless inflated dollars later, but this is hard to predict. If you have excess cash that you cannot otherwise put into commodities including decent land then maybe this is good especially if it's your home.
  9. Get to know your neighbors or, if family, start planning with others who share your concerns.
  10. Get out of the inner or large cities if you can. Riots and looting will start almost immediately in the worst case scenarios and food will disappear immediately. Water supplies may be shut off if and assuming most government services shut down due to lack of funds and payroll. (Virtually every government entity in America is technically already insolvent or will easily be.)
  11. Buy land in the country with like minded people. Start a community with friends and family.
  12. Learn to meditate. Pray daily. Join in with others of prayerful inclination to reinforce each other's faith. Read spiritually minded books.
  13. Accumulate supplies not just for yourself but to help others, as you are able.
  14. Curtail your exposure to entertainment and news that is filled with gratuitious violence or is fear-inducing. It's easy to stay abreast of important news through other means that are less impactful on your subconscious.
  15. Don't panic and don't frighten others. Be calm and sensible. You'll sleep better at night helping yourself, your family, and being prepared to help others as well.
Well I'm sure I could go on but you get the general idea.

Oh, yes, evil DOES exist. Combat it with nobility of thoughts and actions and with the grace of God.