Showing posts with label Swami Sri Yukteswar. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Swami Sri Yukteswar. Show all posts

Sunday, January 2, 2022

Return of the Magi

Note to readers: The Christian Feast of Epiphany celebrates, in part, the visit of the Magi (Wise Men) to the Christ child. It takes place on January 6, twelve days after Christmas, and is sometimes called the Little Christmas. January 5 is known as Epiphany Eve and is the birthdate of Paramhansa Yogananda in 1893. Traditionally this marks, for many, the end of Christmas and the taking away of Christmas decorations! This becomes also for Ananda worldwide a natural endpoint to the sacred holiday season of Christmas.



Paramhansa Yogananda, author of the now famous and popular life story, “Autobiography of a Yogi,” lived and taught in America for most of his life beginning in 1920 at the age of twenty-seven. One of the many curious and interesting things he said was that the wise men of the gospel of Matthew were none other than the three Indian yogis (in a past life) who, in succession, were part of his personal lineage, training, and tradition.[1] While there’s no objective way to substantiate that, this idea certainly has implications for who he, Yogananda, was and why he came to live in America.

Those people in the world identifying themselves as Christians are said to be 2.5 billion, almost one out of every three people.[2] But the percentage of Americans identifying themselves as Christian is reported to be declining.[3]

It would seem that if Christianity is to grow and thrive in America (and the West generally) as a viable religious tradition some kind of rescue is needed. Could it be that the wise men of East have come again to acknowledge, honor, and worship the Christ? Can Jesus too be “born again?”

Paramhansa Yogananda described his work in America as “The Second Coming of Christ.” Like Jesus, one might have thought that he, Yogananda, too would be condemned for blasphemy. What did he mean by this description?

How can we bring these ideas together? When Yogananda was asked point-blank by a young monk, Swami Kriyananda, “Were you Jesus Christ (in a prior life)?” Yogananda replied, “What difference would it make?” What a curious statement to make.[4]

Where I am leading is to suggest that Paramhansa Yogananda came to resurrect the deeper meanings and teachings of Jesus Christ from their imprisonment in the confines of what he called “Churchianity.” It doesn’t matter who he was in a past life. I think that’s mostly the reason for his response. Part of what is making orthodox Christianity increasingly irrelevant and uninspired today is the narrowness of its claims and the rigidity of its rituals.

The very concept of reincarnation symbolizes the soul’s phoenix-like capacity to be “born again!” Again, it is not important whether one subscribes to reincarnation as a dogma.[5] We see rebirth all around us: civilization being reborn into a new era, a new age symbolized outwardly by science and technology and in consciousness by a new acceptance and interest of diversity of cultures, religions, and history beyond one’s own. There’s hardly a point in listing the number of cultural beliefs, taboos, lifestyles, and attitudes that have changed (for “better or worse” according to one’s point of view) in just a few years or decades. In the lives of individuals, stories of recovery and new life abound. So why can’t Christianity be born again?

In juxtaposition to scientific beliefs of the age of planet Earth, the age of the universe, and the existence of billions of galaxies, core Christian dogmas seem weak and difficult to believe: could one human being on this mudball of a planet in a distant galaxy on the edge of space be the ‘ONLY” son of God? And he lived a mere thirty-three years on the edge of an empire that has long ago faded into dust? What about those billions of other religionists? Are they condemned to eternity for being born on the “wrong side of the tracks” of centuries and continents? Can the crucifixion of this one individual that took perhaps three hours be sufficient to “save the sins” of all humankind? And what about heaven and hell, places where, after death, our souls (later perhaps to be somehow reunited with our long-disintegrated bodies) live happily ever after or are burned alive not-so-happily-ever-after for an eternity?

The fact is that Jesus and his disciples initiated their own world-changing version of a religious rebirth in the context of Judaism during their lives. And yet, Jesus said that he came not to “destroy but to fulfill the law and prophets.” In Chapter 5 of the gospel of Matthew alone, Jesus made significant changes to the interpretation of the Ten Commandments and other laws at that time. Later, his disciples set aside the circumcision (the primary symbol of God’s covenant with the Jews), the Sabbath and countless lesser dietary laws. Then they declared that Gentiles could become followers of Jesus without being Jews! A new religion was born. And the intention behind its birth was to “fulfill” the Old Covenant not destroy it. Do you see the pattern here?

Jesus gave at least one example of why changes in letter of the law can be made when he modified the rules surrounding divorce. Jesus stated that the rules given to them by Moses were “for the hardness of your hearts.”[6] By this, he meant that Moses knew that the Jews of his time were not ready for a more fair and refined view of the grounds for divorce.

Other examples in history include the birth of Buddhism. Buddha and his disciples were originally Hindus. They, like Jesus’ disciples, sowed the seeds for a new religion with a fresh understanding of basic, universal truths. Their core concepts are based on the teachings of India derived from the Vedas and other scriptures of ancient India. Like the Protestant revolt, however, Buddha urged seekers to abandon the abusive lock hold of the priestly class and take responsibility for their spiritual awakening.[7]

And yet, the impact of the life of Jesus Christ cannot be denied. His short life changed world history. His teachings have inspired saints and sinners alike; have produced great works of art, music, literature, architecture, civilization, and worship. And these are the positive aspects. There are negative ones as well where some humans corrupted those same teachings for their own, misguided, ignorant or sinful reasons.

The stage is surely set for the return of the Wise Men.[8] Is it no coincidence that the very first and most serious crisis in the history of the early Christian church was the Arian heresy which centered on the definition of the person or nature of Jesus Christ? This was then and remains today the crux of the question Jesus asked: “Whom do men say I AM?” The rebirth of Christianity will, I believe, center on a deeper understanding of what is meant by “Jesus being the only begotten son of God.”

Paramhansa Yogananda universalized the understanding and interpretation of the divinity of Jesus Christ.[9] He often quoted the first chapter of St. John’s gospel, “As many as received him to them gave He the power to become the sons of God.” Yogananda taught that the difference between Jesus and the rest of us is not a matter of kind, but of degree. We have not yet realized our birthright as souls made in the image of God. The soul of Jesus inhabiting the body called Jesus had long ago (in a prior life) realized its eternal nature as ever-pure, immortal, and “one with the Father.” We, too, are called to the realization of this birthright. It has been said that we are “as old as God” because God has manifested us (and all creation) from “His” own nature. How else can God—who is pure Consciousness—create anything except as part of Himself?

While this is not the place to continue with creation theology and the existence of evil it is the place to note that this very understanding—endorsed by great saints within Christianity and in many other traditions—has the potential to reinvigorate devotion and appreciation of the Christian Way. Orthodox religionists may initially fear that this dilutes the importance and uniqueness of Jesus. Yet Jesus’ life, teachings, and omnipresent spirit have been proven and attested to down through the centuries and in modern times through the Christian and even non-Christian saints.[10]

And why would such recognition of other Christs in history result in a dilution of the reverence one feels towards Jesus Christ? Does the sheer number of saints through the ages detract from their respective sanctity? Just as modern men and women accept and appreciate the diversity in races and cultures without denying or condemning their own, why should a Hindu devotee or Christian devotee feel slighted that another religion also claims that its founder has achieved Self-realization? Are we not all potential sons of God?

Humanity does not need, nor could possibly abide by, a “One World Religion.” History, culture and tradition, what to mention human nature, recoils from even the thought. Why can’t mature devotees recognize and validity of other faith traditions? Are we so insecure in our own faith that we are not able to abandon the slogan “My way or the highway?”

It is not that Christian teachings are wrong: Jesus did die for sins; we can experience heaven or hell; Jesus is a savior. But a new understanding—what Yogananda called a New Dispensation—is needed to revitalize and universalize the eternal teachings and spiritual power of Jesus Christ.

Once one considers that our planet alone has had a number of “saviors” or “Christs,” if you will, then other possibilities emerge. The man known as Jesus embodied the realization of God in his soul and in his human manifestation. So have others. “I am the Way, the Life, and Truth and no one comes to the Father except by Me” can now take on a powerful and universal new meaning.

The savior or living Christ is both an outer and human reality as a person and an inner reality as in the conscious presence of their divine nature. We too partake in this dual nature even at our level of awareness. We have a body and personality but we can also experience ourselves as the observer of our own thoughts and actions unaffected in our observation by the nature of the present tenor of our emotions and actions.

Jesus is the outer guru for innumerable souls just as Buddha (and other saviors) is for countless other souls. The statement, then, that “I am the Way…” applies to the guru, whether still in a human body or accessible because omnipresent in spirit. But the outer guru in human form comes to awaken the inner guru which is our invisible but omnipresent and eternal soul. Jesus as guru was the “first coming” of the son of God for his disciples while his “second coming” takes place in the awakening of the inner, soul-Christ in each disciple.[11] This is what Jesus’ promise concerning the coming of the Holy Spirit after his departure symbolizes. The Holy Spirit is grace manifested in the consciousness and acts of the disciples and descends upon the soul through the work of the guru.

Each savior has a family of souls given by God. In the poignant “accounting” that Jesus gave at the Last Supper, he makes it clear that his disciples were given to him by God.[12] The teaching in India is that from the beginning our soul’s creation, that savior who will forever stand ready to reach out to us (when we have made the choice to be helped) is already known.

Ditto for Buddha and others like Yogananda. Whether in the outer form of the embodied Christ as a guru or in the inner form as the Christ consciousness potential of the soul, the statement “I AM” applies progressively, that is, step-by-step in our spiritual evolution. Christian teachings thus, however unknowingly and limited to the person of Jesus, essentially reflect the teaching that to achieve God-realization the soul needs a God-realized guru.

Forgiving of sins means to dissolve or erase the karmic consequences of our sins. And what is sin? Ignorance: ignorance of our true Self. Our fall from grace takes place daily when we mistake the unreal for the real. Like the beautiful story of the Prodigal Son, we have the choice at any time and in every moment to turn away from the “foreign lands” of matter attachment and journey inward to our soul’s home in God.

It is the Christ—or the Christ or soul Consciousness—that baptizes and forgives us. First through the outer guru which awakens our souls (as described above), and then progressively as our soul ascends through effort and grace toward perfection. The Holy Spirit, the Comforter, awaits us in the silence within. But we need outer instruction in the precepts of right living and in the techniques of God-communion (prayer and meditation) to purify our body and mind.

It is a teaching in India that a guru—not merely an ordinary spiritual teacher but a true savior—can take on the karma of a disciple. A savior (known in India as an avatar) can free untold numbers of souls who “receive him.” But just as a wise father would not pay off the debts of an errant child unless that child was repentant, so too the guru’s grace to release karma is not given randomly or without just cause. Since our true nature is that of a Christ, it is always the Christ consciousness first awakened by the outer guru and then nurtured by the Holy Spirit in the inner, soul guru, that dissolves the knots of past deeds. Jesus’ crucifixion showed how we must surrender the ego to the will of God while the resurrection of his body shows us the immortal and victorious nature of our soul. His pain and suffering are examples and to a modest degree, related largely to his taking onto himself the karma of his direct disciples. When it is said that Jesus redeemed the sins of the world its deepest meaning is that the Christ Consciousness, truly the “only” begotten of the Father, is what redeems the soul.

Admittedly, without the concept of reincarnation, this New Dispensation is not “fulfilled.” But just as Christian teachings adapted themselves to a one-life incarnation so these concepts could stand on their own, just as lamely as the Christian teachings, without the benefit of reincarnation. Christian theologians and saints perceived what became known as Purgatory, Limbo, and mortal and venial sins to account for the wide variety of human experience and consciousness in just one human life. It’s not that such stages on the astral plane do not exist so much as their interpretation is incomplete.

But that leads us to heaven and hell. I’ve often said you don’t need to die to experience heaven and hell. It is right here on earth and within us. We can be rich and famous, yet at the same time, miserably depressed. We can be a wanderer, penniless but ever-cheerful. When we are in “heaven” we think we have arrived; when we are in pain, it seems forever.

It is also true, however, that other traditions, including that of India, teach that there is an after-death realm that contains “many mansions” of “my Father’s house.”[13] Here souls rest or reside awaiting their next incarnation. These more subtle realms range as far and wide as our minds are able and beyond. We go to “our own,” according to our soul’s misidentification and consciousness. But as the saying goes, “nothing is forever” (except God alone).

This is a short summary of the promise of the scriptures that is found in all true faith traditions. Increasingly in this new age, beliefs will wane in importance as personal experience grows. We have learned from science to test our hypotheses to see if they are real. Who we are in ourselves and how we behave is far more important than our “credo,” what we believe. Meditation is growing in popularity because it offers a tangible experience of consciousness without the burden of belief. What else is God than Pure Consciousness? What else is the soul but a reflection of God? “Be still and know that I AM God.”[14]

The only begotten son of God is that soul that is fully awake to its own nature. This nature is hidden by the sheath of all material creation and forms but has the potential to awaken to its-Self in humankind. This is the promise of the scriptures and is found in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ as in the lives of all awakened sons of God.[15]

Epilogue

As Moses could only give to the Israelites what they could accept, it is also true that Jesus could not directly teach the dogma of reincarnation (known otherwise as the “transmigration of souls”). In addition, given the controversy that Jesus aroused during his life, he could hardly have taught the existence of other Christs in other lands and times. To have taught each of these dogmas would have sidelined his mission to the point of irrelevancy. Why is this?

Reincarnation. That reincarnation was discussed in Jesus’ time is illustrated at several points of the New Testament. Modern scholars concur. One example from Jesus’ own words that the concept was known can be seen when the three disciples with Jesus descended Mt. Tabor after the Transfiguration at which both Moses and Elias appeared. Their reported conversation goes something like this: “Elias has come already and they knew him not….Then the disciples understood that he spake of them of John the Baptist.”[16] There are several other points in the Bible, New and Old, that can be cited.[17]

More important reasons for Jesus to sidestep the dogma of reincarnation include that reincarnation and, indeed, belief in an after-life itself, was hotly debated among the Jews and probably of no interest in the Roman and Greek cultures of that time. This lack of awareness extended throughout the two thousand years of Christian history until recent contact with Eastern teachings. Teaching it would have only invited an incentive to postpone one’s redemption! Now with our vastly broadened view of the material universe (macro and micro), the prospect of endless future lives is already showing itself to be an incentive to seek God now and not later!

As to Jesus being the only savior of humankind, it was enough of a shock for Jesus to announce “I and my Father are One” and that “Before Abraham was, I AM.”[18] In retrospect, Jesus was bringing to the Jews (and by extension, the West) the teaching that God incarnates in human form. This was already blasphemy and unheard of in the religions of his time. It was the immediate cause of his crucifixion! What good would it have done for Jesus to announce that there could be others like him? It would only have generated a frenzied search over the succeeding two thousand years! Confusion, heresy, and anti-Christs left and right would have been the result. It is only now, with the world becoming “one,” that this truth can be revealed. For, indeed, it is sorely needed “for the healing of the nations.”[19]

Devotion to Jesus as the son of God has been the right teaching for the disciples of Christ during these last two thousand years. Until recent times, the definition of Jesus as the only son of God mattered very little. Only in the beginning (as previously cited) during the Arian heresy, did the question arise. Now, however, faced with the reality day-to-day of coexisting with other religions, each of which claims its founder or rishis, as co-redemptors must we confront the deeper meaning of “Who do men say I am?”

Blessings to all for a (happier?) New Year!

Swami Hrimananda aka Hriman



[1] Those yogis were Babaji, Lahiri Mahasaya, and his own guru, Swami Sri Yutkeswar (See “Autobiography of a Yogi” for chapters on their respective lives.)

[4] Swami Kriyananda in his own life story, “The New Path,” reported several instances of individuals who in the general public assumed Yogananda was Jesus Christ reincarnated. I, too, had this same unexamined perception when I first became acquainted with Yogananda’s autobiography.

[5] https://reincarnate.life/how-many-people-in-the-world-believe-in-reincarnation/ 25% of Americans believe in reincarnation and nearly that same percentage of Christians do so also! Origen, one of the early Church “fathers,” wrote that reincarnation had been “taught since apostolic times.” It was removed from church dogma in 532 AD at a conference of Bishops without the presence of the Pope who boycotted the event.

[6] Matthew 19:8

[7] Buddha was not an atheist and nor is Buddhism atheistical as some claim. Buddha declined to speak of God to emphasize the here and now, the present moment and what we can and must do to grow spiritually.

[8] The gospels do not say there were three Wise Men: only three gifts were offered. Tradition suggest there were three men.

[9] Yogananda was not the only one to do so. The greatest Christian mystics all pointed to a universal Christ consciousness standing behind, so to speak, the person of Jesus the man. Meister Eckert, Thomas Acquinas, Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, St. Francis and others all experienced the eternal Christhood of Jesus.

[10] Consider the 20th century lives of Padre Pio and Theresa Neumann, as just two examples. Both had on their bodies the wounds (the stigmata) of Jesus.

[11] If you read the Acts of the Apostles carefully you find that during the lives of the apostles they were left with the thought that Jesus would return to earth soon. That had to be toned down when it didn’t happen so quickly.

[12] John 17

[13] John 14:2

[14] Psalm 46:10

[15] Reading references include AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A YOGI by Paramhansa Yogananda; “Revelations of Christ” by Swami Kriyananda; SECOND COMING OF CHRIST by Paramahansa Yogananda; YOGA OF JESUS by Yogananda.

[16] Matthew 17:12-13

[17] “Autobiography of a Yogi,” Chapter 35: The Christlike Life of Lahiri Mahasaya (opening paragraphs)

[18] John 10:30 and John 8:48-59

[19] Revelations 22:2

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Meditation Tips: Overcoming Subconscious Images and Influence


A question came in today and it went like this: "Recently when I meditate, I visualize graphic content where I have to shake my head to snap out of it. I feel these visions are coming up from previous jobs and/or lives, bringing up anger and distrust in humanity. This is very unsettling. I understand it is coming up for me to process suppresse​​d emotions, yet it effects how I relate to others. How can I overcome this? 

 Dear Friend,

The intrusion of subconscious images and memories is one of the side effects of meditation. One's meditation technique and motivation for meditation play key roles in the influence of the subconscious on our meditation. 

There are several aspects of what you are reporting and they come from different approaches. Let me list some of them:
  1. There is value in the instruction that responds to these images with the guidance that says to us: "When negative images appear in the mind, do not react: do not suppress them; simply observe them with a calm, steady mind until they dissolve like fog under the noonday sun." This instruction can be related to Patanjali's second sutra "Yogas chitta vritti nirodha" (The state of yoga comes when the mental and emotional reactive processes are stilled.) This practice requires the ability to concentrate deeply without emotional response. Accordingly, this approach DOES NOT always work when the images are overpowering. This is the stoic, or gyanic, approach.
  2. Energy control (karma yoga). This approach, based on raja yoga, encourages the meditator to raise the prana/energy to the higher chakras and thus bypass or lessen the influence of the memories stored in the lower chakras. This approach instructs the meditator to anchor the attention at the point between the eyebrows AND to awaken the natural love of the heart in order to raise that feeling upward to the Kutastha (point between the eyebrows). Then, when and if negative images appear to the mind, simply hold steady with one's attention at the spiritual eye reinforced by devotional pulsations from the heart center upward. Here, too, however, it is important to stay calm and centered in the spine. The more one reacts emotionally to such images the less control one will have in facing them or transcending them.
  3. Bhakti. The devotional path is greatly helped by the suggestions above but for some people devotion (alone) is their Ishta Devata, or Chintamani. Accompanied by prayer or mantra and offered upward from the heart, devotional fervor, the grace of the Mother, can dispel the gloom of past lives, all of which, Swami Sri Yukteswar explains, are "dark with shame." 
  4. General. Transcending the past, the hidden subconscious memories, should never be a process of denial or suppression. ("Of what avail," Krishna asks, "is suppression!") At the same time, their stored up energy exists and can be best countered by putting out conscious, intentional and present-tense energy upward toward the seat of the soul (crown chakra--approached via the point between the eyebrows). A practical view of this is to suggest a multi-level approach to your sadhana: yoga exercises (or Energization Exercises taught by Yogananda--see YouTube or the Ananda meditation app); prayer including healing prayers for others; mantra and chanting; breath control (pranayama); and silent, inner communion. Supporting sadhana can be daily service in the spirit of nishkam karma (non-attachment), spiritual reading and study, satsang with other devotees, seeking the company of saints, pilgrimage to places made holy by the presence of saints and masters, and living according to the precepts of yama/niyama. 
Lastly, the only reality is here and NOW. Calmly dismiss images from the past as easily as you would turn off the tele-vision like a rerun of an old sitcom or Bollywood movie. Respond to these with dis-interest! You can even address them like old friends from whose company you have decided to depart. "Oh, you again! Hey, sorry, I'm just NOT interested, thanks for the visit but I've got more important things to do." What did Swami Sri Yukteswar say about the time, as a child, that his mother tried to scare him by saying "There's a ghost in the closet"? He marched over to the closet; opened the doors; and guess what? NO GHOST. He concluded the story with the lesson: "Stare fear in the face and it will vanish."

OK? I've given you lots to "chew on!" Bite it off and chew it! (As Paramhansa Yogananda would say).

Nayaswami Hriman
Seattle WA USA

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Virus Induced Game Changers: Trends in Process

Swami Kriyananda, founder of the worldwide communities movement of Ananda, and a direct disciple of the great yogi, Paramhansa Yogananda (whose life story, "Autobiography of a Yogi," is now a spiritual classic and a modern scripture) often expounded on the Hindu calendar and its segments (called "Yugas") of rising and falling consciousness.

The source of his comments can be found in the Introduction to the book "Holy Science" written by Swami Sri Yukteswar (guru of Yogananda) at the behest of the now-famous Mahavatar, Babaji.

Swami Kriyananda's insights into the unfoldment of human consciousness were expressed in innumerable recorded talks, essays, and books--too numerous to reference. Ananda members, Byasa (David) Steinmetz and co-author Purushottama (Joseph) Selbie, authored an excellent book -- "The Yugas"-- on this subject.

I do not, therefore, want to repeat the groundwork offered to us by the drastic re-calibration of the Hindu calendar offered to the world by Sri Yukteswar in a mere few paragraphs in the introduction to his abstruse tome. If you want an orientation to human history that turns the modern narrative on its head, well, you'll enjoy "The Yugas."

Swamiji, however, would often peer into the future seeking insights to changes and trends in world culture. The one book I can reference in this regard is "Religion in the New Age." (It is a collection of essays on many subjects.)

There are several trends that I want to share that Swamiji spoke of:


  1. "Small is Beautiful." In this age, which I call the Age of the Individual, an egalitarian age, knowledge is increasingly being offered to everyone. The former hierarchy of education and concomitant power is being "flattened" and the accessibility of information via the world wide web is both symbolic and practically speaking an excellent illustration of this trend. "Think global; act local" is a bumper sticker that also expresses this trend. In America, it is my "theory" (and I'm sticking with it, ha, ha) is that Hurricane Katrina first introduced American society to the need to fend for oneself, whether individually or in local groups. I recall in the early 2000's being in Beverly Hills, CA on Rodeo Drive (the absolute epitome of wealth and celebrity status) seeing banners put up by the city government urging its citizens to focus on disaster preparedness! The failure of the large public utility, Pacific Gas & Electric in California has given those residents a huge incentive to produce energy locally. I could go on and on. Big is out. The federal government in America is paralyzed with divisiveness. States, counties, and cities are dealing with global issues like climate change, plus innumerable other issues, not least of which at this time, is the Coronavirus COVID-19. During the sheltering-at-home phase, seed companies are out of stock as millions are planting gardens. This trend is easy enough of observation. Ironically, the big issues facing our planet require cooperation on national and international scales even as large-scale entities, including corporations, are less and less the trendsetters and leaders of society. The lesson, however, must not be lost rather than only regretted: we (you and me) have to BE THE CHANGE WE SEEK! It's THAT simple.
  2. A movement away from cities. Since the beginning of the so-called Industrial Revolution, millions of people have migrated from agricultural life to the urban (and later, suburban) life. This trend is not wholly finished in some countries. But the trend that may be only just beginning is a rebound of the post World War II movement to the suburbs. Unfortunately, suburban life simply paved over natural habitat and copied urban life but with a nice green lawn, perhaps a swimming pool, and a few planted trees. But that trend and impulse still exist: a desire to live more in harmony with nature; it is deeper than conscious recognition that cities are toxic by their very nature. Toxic not just in terms of water and air but even by their artificially restless intensity. Sheltering at home has connected millions with the simplicity of home life; cooking real food; reading a book; reaching out to friends, neighbors, and family; having time for thoughtful reflection; prayer and meditation. A calm life is a real life. While young people, restless and adventurous, eager to live at the edge of their senses and taking risks (because believing they are invincible) may yet always tend toward urban environments, the far larger population is, or will be, gradually, drawn to natural living.
  3. Both of the above trends flow easily and naturally into acceptance of conscious, intentional communities of like-minded, ideal-driven people banding together. This banding or tribal trend (I don't care for the world "tribal" it makes me feel like I want to go beat on a drum and grunt rhythmically) can take place virtually, in service projects, in politics, in religion, education, and of course most naturally, residentially. Yogananda is deemed by Ananda members worldwide to be the "patron saint" of communities. In the 1940's he enthusiastically experimented with a community that included not just monastics but householders. It was premature but even after he disbanded it he continued to the end of his life to wax enthusiastic about its future prospects. He predicted that someday communities would "spread like wildfire." We haven't seen this, for sure, but the two trends mentioned above flow, as I said above, easily into the channel of the communities movement. However, I will admit that these last two trends (away from the cities and the rise of intentional communities) are still very nascent though any number of events could accelerate their unfoldment (like a pandemic!).
The ecological movement, perhaps more than any single trend, might be said to have begun the awakening awareness of the natural world and our interdependence upon it. Admittedly, this is perhaps a superficial statement but it works well enough for me and my life experience (being a baby boomer). In combination with a separate awakening toward what we used to innocently call "Eastern philosophy" the concept of our interdependence has filtered deeply into human consciousness. Science, our real religion (as a culture), says "it is so" and this is enough for us.

The percentage of souls in human form whose hearts awaken and seek the Divine Presence hidden behind the multitudinous forms of matter will, for a long time to come, remain small. But just as God in the Old Testament was willing to spare Sodom and Gomorrah if ten righteous souls could be found, so too this small percentage will always have an outsized impact on society at large. More so, however, in an age of awakening consciousness (as Swami Sri Yukteswar described these times). 

Even while yoga and meditation encircle the globe, those who practice these for the purposes of seeking enlightenment will remain, even among this already-select group, a relatively small number. But, again, their influence is profound. We who are followers of Yogananda, especially Ananda members, have been taught by Swami Kriyananda to view the influence of Yogananda and his teachings to be representative of and instrumental to the awakening trends of consciousness on planet Earth at this time. This is not a claim of pride or exclusivity but derives from the history of the lineage of Self-realization as Yogananda revealed it. 

A new form of spirituality is desperately needed in the world today. Faith traditions have ossified into rigid dogmas and rituals. They, despite their profession of the primacy of God's love and the example of their own saints, are forces for divisiveness rather than harmony. India's long tradition of tolerance and universality is uniquely suited to bring together the "best of East and West" (quoting Yogananda-ji). 

Swami Kriyananda included in his insights as to future trends Yogananda's prediction that "Self-realization" would become the religion of the future. Unlike other disciples of Yogananda, Swamiji had no false expectation of a new Catholic church. Rather, he explained that even mainline faiths would, in time, come to see that the most important feature of their faith was one's personal relationship and experience of God and that meditation offers the most effective form of achieving that. This follows the trend into the Age of the Individual. Spiritually this translates into Self-realization as the spiritual expression of the age.

Perhaps more cynically, even institutions (perhaps especially institutions) have an impulse toward survival. In the facing of a trend of decreasing numbers of adherents, one can be sure that each faith will "miraculously" re-discover their own prayer and meditation traditions and will, seeing the "light" of the trend of meditation amongst their followers, announce a new revelation! But, why not. It is true, after all.

So, while you are sheltering at home with little to do but read a long essay like this, I hope you've enjoyed the prospect of "hope for a better world." (Title of one of Swamiji's books!).


Joys to you,

Swami Hrimananda
sheltering on Camano Island WA

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Is the Bliss of Meditation for Real? "No-Bliss-Oblige?"

I began my life of meditation from the orientation of snippets of Buddhism. I say "snippets" because whatever I thought I learned was most likely inaccurate or at least spiritually untested. 

But when in my search I also encountered the Yoga-Vedanta-Sankhya traditions, I was suspicious because the references to bliss or divine joy seemed to me to smack of duality. 

In fact, just the other day, after a talk I gave at a Sunday Service at a Unity church, someone politely cornered me to question my references to bliss and the joy of the soul. This couple challenged me, in a friendly sporting way, relying as they did on teachings from a more Buddhist perspective. They described the ultimate state of the soul as beyond states of joy or bliss.

I've heard it said that in some Buddhist teachings bliss is said to be but a stage on the journey to enlightenment but not the final state of consciousness.

The very language we use when we use the word "bliss" or "joy" naturally seems to suggest a dual state in which someone, an "I" is feeling some feeling called blissful. Hence, by the very definition of non-duality, the very self-awareness of such a feeling cannot be the final state of being. Or so the logic goes.

Paramhansa Yogananda described eight aspects of higher consciousness, one of which is joy and another, love. Swami Kriyananda would comment occasionally in describing love as, in some subtle way, almost a lower state than joy (or bliss) for the very same, or nearly same reason: love suggests a relationship: I-Thou. I don't think he meant this literally because even I can feel "loving" without the necessity of a person or a thing being the object towards which my love is directed or from which my feeling of love is stimulated. Feeling "loving" can arise from within.

Swami Kriyananda did quote Yogananda as saying joy is a safer aspect of the soul's nature to emulate or strive to express than love because humans all too easily "fall in love" with another person (or thing).

Then there is the testimony of saints that say that immediately prior to their enlightenment comes the "dark night of the soul" or the tempter (Satan, maya, etc.) during which the inner light (another of the eight aspects) vanishes and only darkness remains. 

There are saints, including Lahiri Mahasaya, who make references to high states of consciousness as places of dark-less light, light-less dark and so on. 

Finally, all great mystics admit, one way or another, that the final state of being is beyond name, form or description (even if they try by poetry or imagery to convey).

And on a more mundane but at least a relatively more accessible level of human experience, the testimony of deeply sincere meditators over decades of living and practice demonstrates that while they may be generally described as joyful persons, they do not laugh off pain and suffering, whether their own or that of others. 

When Swami Kriyananda first wrote the ceremony Festival of Light (used on Sundays at Ananda churches especially in America), he had a sentence that read: And whereas suffering and sorrow, in the past, were the coin of man’s redemption, for us now the payment has been exchanged for joy.

A few years later he edited the end of that sentence to read ...."has been exchanged for calm acceptance and joy."

As with the word "love" connotes merely human love, so the term "joy" cannot be extricated from the our response to, say, winning the lottery. Thus the term "bliss" is often used to elevate the implied meaning of divine joy to something more than merely egoic or of the conscious mind.

Partly then we have an issue of language. And partly the question remains whether or not the dissolution of the separate ego-self results in any awareness that includes a "feeling" experience such as joy.

Well, let's face it: the testimony of the masters, the saviors, the avatars, gurus, and saintly souls tells us that what they have found or become is worth every bit of the effort taken to re-discover it. I think that qualifies to be called "bliss?" 

Paramhansa Yogananda said "Yes." The Adi Shankaracharya said "Yes." He described the non-dual state with the term Sat-chit-ananda. Loosely translated by Yogananda as "ever-existing, ever-conscious, ever-new joy." It might be stretched to say it is a state of immortality, omniscience, and bliss. The term describes the nature of God, the state of samadhi, and the nature of the soul.

Yet it is also true and discoverable by any serious devotee and meditator, that there ARE states of consciousness, in prayer and meditation, wherein feeling of any kind is held in abeyance; feeling is latent like an undercurrent, just behind one's steadfast awareness. It cannot be said to be no-thing, nor can it be said to be any-thing. It simply IS. 

In his autobiography, Yogananda was challenged by a saint when asked: "You go often into the silence, but have you developed anubhava? Don't mistake the path for the goal. Yogananda commented that the saint was reminding him to love God more than meditation. Perfect stillness (awareness without a manifested feeling of any kind), then, is not, itself the goal. It is not a state of Oneness beyond one's personal consciousness.

Then there are other experiences wherein one is absorbed in a feeling state such as peace, calmness, joy, love or subsumed in the power of subtle sound or inner light, or transported in a flash of instantaneous perceptive images or insights (similar to what is described as the life review at death or near-death). 

Such experiences can enter one's consciousness as if about to dissolve one's separateness; or, one's little self expands into the experience such that the self no longer matters and barely exists. Time begins to slow to a standstill.

Put another way: Infinity embraces all! As Ananda-moyi-ma described God: “It (the Spirit) is, and It isn’t, and neither is It, nor is It not.”

A saint can manifest dryness or joy, asceticism and renunciation, or enthusiastic engagement, creativity, compassion and joy. It is and it isn't!

The ray of divine vibration which descended through Paramhansa Yogananda and the lineage which preceded him is, however, characterized by joy!  But that joy, like devotion, like the higher inner states of meditation, can nonetheless be subtle or hidden from outward view in a particular devotee. Look at the eyes, however: do they glow with joy? Infinity? Light? Calmness?  

It is not surprising that in our efforts to share the teachings of Yogananda we frequently reference or express joy as an overarching characteristic. Yet power, too, is an aspect of God. Yogananda could be very powerful at times. 

Great saints do differ in what qualities are made manifest in their lives and thus in the lives of disciples who are in tune with them. Yet as Swami Sri Yukteswar, the guru of Paramhansa Yogananda, was a Gyanavatar, he didn't "convert" Yogananda from being a bhakti, a Prem-avatar (of love and joy).

Yogananda had a life such that he was at ease in a wide variety of situations and seeming "moods." He was, in a sense, very "human." Indeed, fully human. 

Unlike aspiring saints who may have to hold back or to express austerity as part of their journey to enlightenment, Yogananda was born free, a purna avatar. It's not that he flaunted proper behavior, ethics, and the do's and don'ts of life (like some aspiring saints have done to show their avowed non-attachment to sense indulgences or unethical acts). 

Rather, he was freely expressive. His behavior was natural and unpretentious. These qualities, too, can be seen in his disciples. Swami Kriyananda, founder of Ananda, was a friend to all; unpretentious and natural in his actions according to circumstances.

Finally, we must simply admit that terms like "bliss" or "joy" only really have meaning in their being manifested in observable human consciousness and actions. 

By contrast, in an uplifted state of consciousness, in a state of samadhi, applying the adjectives of "bliss" or "joy" simply no longer apply except perhaps afterwards in an effort to share some aspect of what the soul experienced. 

It is and it yet it isn't. We can say samadhi is blissful and yet we must also say samadhi isn't limited by anything, including bliss. It simply IS. When awareness and feeling merge in pure consciousness, you cannot extract the one from the other. But neither would you trade it for any dual state of consciousness.

The "beamers of bliss" are right and the "no-bliss-obligers" are right. My lifelong mantra and response to life's ups and downs remains intact: BOTH-AND.

Joy or no-joy, I remain unshakeably the same, your own Self,

Swami Hriman-non-Da! 


Wednesday, August 21, 2019

How to be Thought-less!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joy to you!

Swami Hrimananda

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Swami Sriyukteshvar Giri Maharaj - May 10, 1855

Swami Sri Yukteswar, guru to Paramhansa Yogananda, was born May 10th, 1855 in his ancestral home of Serampore (north of Calcutta). He was the only child of a middle-class family. His father was a minor landowner and businessman but died when his son, Priyanath, was still young. Priyanath (later, Swami Sri Yukteswar) had to attend to family matters from a young age.

I'd like to share some interesting aspects of Sri Yukteswar's (SY) life taken from the translated biography written by Swami Satyananda Giri, one of SY's disciples.

Not surprisingly, Priyanath was of an exacting disposition. Early in life, he made connections and friendships with a well-placed and well-off family, the Goswamis. An early incident took place at the home of the Goswamis at a time when a supposedly learned pundit was holding forth in the home. Everything the pundit stated was merely a recitation of scriptural passages. As a young teenager and tiring of this mindless parroting which lacked personal experience and commitment, Priyanath mocked the pundit by proclaiming aloud for all to hear (including the pundit) that he learned something the other day and found a quote in the shastras to prove it. He made a quick exit, laughing hysterically. The pundit was about to upbraid Priyanath, but the teenager had departed!

SY consumed knowledge voraciously and from all directions: science, medicine, art and music, and the scriptures. For a time he attended a Christian college in his home town where he delved deeply into the Christian Bible. But soon his interests turn to anatomy and medicine. When his professor couldn't satisfactorily answer his unceasing questions, he left the Bible college and went on to medical school where he studied for nearly two years.

He worked as an accountant but was so quick with numbers that he could easily finish his work and spent the remainder of the day in "chit chat!" He also soon left this occupation!

He was intrigued by homeopathy and studied the works of the German researcher, Dr. Konn. SY was proficient in helping others with their illnesses using this and other traditional forms of healing. He enjoyed horseback riding, hunting, skill with weaponry and sports.

For a short time, he studied under a man named Bankimbabu, a sort of rationalist teacher independent of sectarian religious traditions: a free thinker, of sorts. SY loved music and even played the sitar. He would be perturbed when he heard others singing or playing out of tune, for he had a "good ear" for music.

He married and had one daughter, though his wife did not live long and years later, his daughter, who also had one daughter, died young. He would say that "God made me a sannyasi the easy way!" (By circumstances, that is.)

He attended traditional religious festivals like Holi or Durga Puja and even accompanied his mother on pilgrimages. SY was attracted to sadhus, sadhakas, and siddhas: always eager to be in the presence of holy people and to learn yoga techniques. But he was also alert for fakes and frauds.

Once time in his search for yogis, he came upon a man who was said to levitate every night. So one night, SY hid under the man's bed before the man came to his room for sleep. Not surprisingly, nothing happened and a confrontation ensued!

His searches once took him to the jungles of northern India where he witnessed the moonlight dances to Krishna. He studied from tantrics, Vaishnavites, and many other traditions.

In his association with the Goswami family and other local leaders, he took note of how each would go his room to practice yoga techniques but never spoke of it. This inflamed his curiosity until finally he overhead a conversation about a yogi in Benares. Off SY went immediately to Benares and after an intense search found the residence of Lahiri Mahasaya, who, as we know, became his guru!

SY was initiated into Kriya Yoga in 1884. Thereafter he wrote a continuing stream of letters (and came also to visit often) to Lahiri Mahasaya (LM) about spiritual and yogic matters. Later as SY began writing a commentary on the Bhagavad Gita, he would send chapters to LM for review, editing, and approval. His commentaries were published locally for the benefit of a growing number of students. He founded an informal organization called the "Gita Sabha" (fellowship). Its members consisted of kriyabans who studied together.

He associated with many famous yogis of his time, including Trailanga Swami. He went to visit Ramakrishna at the Dakshineswar Temple but for some reason, Ramakrishna was not there. SY was friends also with Swami Vivekananda but SY's efforts to link his own ministry with that of the Ramakrishna Mission were unsuccessful.

When he would visit LM, he sat apart and spoke very little but he admitted that even in the "chit-chat" that occasionally took place in LM's presence he felt uplifted.

SY spoke Bengali (of course), Hindi, French and English and was versed in Sanskrit. He wrote "primers" with shortcuts for the learning of English, Sanskrit and Hindi. He took an intense interest in astrology and found the art and science of it in disarray, much knowledge having been lost or misunderstood. He sometimes paid the travel expenses of renown astrologer or himself would travel to meet them.

When asked about the value of studying Sanskrit, SY made a curious statement: he said that this would be a good thing for Indians to do for the next fifty years (until, around 1950?)

SY's efforts to correct the Hindu calendar were not accepted by the pundits of his time. Even though he convinced a council of learned astrologers in Puri, the one astrologer whose assent they said was still needed died before SY could meet with him. SY then predicted that it would after his own death before the calendar correction he had offered the world would be accepted in his own land.

It was, as we know from "Autobiography of a Yogi," in 1894 that SY went to the Kumbha Mela in Allahabad where he met his param-guru, Babaji and from whom he was commissioned to write the "Holy Science."

His first attempt at writing the book commissioned by Babaji was to do so in the French language. He had hoped to attend an Exhibition in Paris that was coming up. His hoped-for travel never materialized. For this, he spent an intense six months learning French! He gave his manuscript to a French Christian missionary. This missionary immediately recognized that these writings would create an upheaval among Christians and, somehow, managed to lose the document.

SY started over again: this time in English and this time writing Sanskrit slokas inspired by ancient precepts from Vedas, Upanishads, and the Gita. "Kaivalya Darshanam" was the Sanskrit book title for the "Holy Science." He employed the assistance of two local barristers in shaping his English.

Several themes played out in the life of SY. Among them was an abiding value set upon non-sectarianism. Another was the supportive relationship between reason and faith; science and religion; efficiency and spirituality; health and consciousness.

One of his followers, Sri Motilal, played a large part in making SY better known and in helping SY spread his message of kriya yoga and Self-realization in Bengal and Benares. Motilal was a proficient organizer who, over time, became highly advanced spiritually and later in life had an awakening that turned his life's work toward humanitarian causes. SY supported him but was not directly involved in those efforts. By the end of Motilal's esteemed life, he was known as the Satchidananda Swami.

A curious incident occurred where, in association with a professor, SY met with two German scholars who travelled to India seeking secret knowledge. While Swami Satyananda's description of this part of SY's life was not wholly satisfying to me, it triggered in SY a commitment to education that would integrate health sciences, how-to-live training with academic and spiritual studies. Whatever it was the German scholars were seeking, they (like many who have travelled to India) did not find it. SY evidently was inspired to formalize or rationalize the Self-realization teachings so that everyone could benefit (even if, presumably, not all were seeking moksha).

It was in 1904 that he purchased the land in Puri that was to become the Kararashram. For the training of disciples and renunciates, he saw three stages and three separate locations for them. The young brahmacharis (up to age 25) would live and train in Puri at Kararashram. The adult sadhakas would live in Benares in Pranabashram (where Swami Pranabananda was a part) and the senior renunciates (age 50 and above) would live in Rishikesh at the Siddhashram.

In each person's life, SY saw how one moved through the yugas: kali, dwapara, treta, and satya. An interesting view of the yugas: one suited to each of us, personally! [For a description of the yugas, see the Introduction to the "Holy Science" or the expanded exploration of the yugas in the book, "The Yugas" by Steinmetz and Selbie.

The active years of SY's service were years of political ferment in India. While he supported Indian independence he, like Gandhi, was emphatic that the individual (not "the people") was the key to the social changes clearly needed.

It was on building character, right behavior, attitude, virtue and spiritual consciousness that SY saw that India would deserve its freedom. SY protested against the servile, slave-like, tamasic (lazy) tendencies that being a conquered people fostered among his countrymen. He agreed with Swami Vivekananda that in seeking (pretending?) to be sattvic (peaceful) Indian culture had become tamasic (lethargic).

His all-around educational ideals included not only the sciences but farming and agriculture, martial arts, art, music, and craft, the languages of English, Bengali and Hindi, and of course yogic practices. He saw the value of post-educational travel including air travel (which had not become a commercial reality at that point) but he decried its influence on young men of India who only returned with western habits and a loss of self-respect for Indian culture. He agreed (again) with Swami Vivekananda that "if you want to know the Bhagavad Gita, play football." (Meaning, in part, that by health culture you can improve your mental acuity and your intuitive awareness.)

Indeed, he had a strong emphasis on the need for self-respect. In his description of Dwapara Yuga (the age our planet has entered into), he predicted that "self-respect" would be one of its hallmark characteristics. (We see this in the rise of minorities, women, and people of color, etc. etc.) He, like his guru, LM, initiated all castes and religionists who were sincere. He especially emphasized the need to imbue children with self-respect. This did not mean, he said, that children shouldn't be disciplined. Tone of voice, emotion, and form of discipline are important in finding the balance.

SY travelled extensively in Bengal (Orissa, too, I imagine) to many villages where he would share his all-around teachings of health and Self-realization through kriya yoga and yoga at large. He studied asanas, mudras, pranayama and all manner of yogic practices. Always he taught Vedanta adwaita as the supreme goal and reality: Satchidananda.

SY eschewed the traditional forms of "guru-worship" and behavior. He called himself, simply, a "servant of all." He strongly encouraged seva (selfless service) by day, and God by night! He recommended to those in family life to go on retreat at least once a year. He ridiculed the pomp and lavish sartorial displays of some of the spiritual leaders of east and west though he accepted the value and necessity of the diverse forms of religion. He encouraged that we respect all forms of spirituality.

Strangely, his own efforts at organizing were not successful. He called himself a "son of Saraswati disowned by Kali." I can envision several ways to explain this but in yogic terms I would say simply that he was a gyana yogi, not a karma yogi though his karma yoga was enormous! Go figure!

"Learn to behave" was something of a motto for SY. Be polite but not subservient.

I've only extracted some tidbits from the biography and without repeating what Yogananda wrote in "Autobiography of a Yogi." As Krishna counsels in the beloved Gita, "even the wise model right behavior" past the point of their needing it for their own upliftment. To westeners whose only source of information might be the "AY," one might be led to imagine SY was only a thinker and yogi. But, in truth, he was unceasingly active in seva (karma yoga).

Thus may we honor and celebrate the birth of this Gyanavatar, Swami Sriyukteshvar Giri, May 10, 1855.

"Tat twam asi"

Swami Hrimananda