Showing posts with label Yoga sutras. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Yoga sutras. Show all posts

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Are Yuga Cycles Relevant to Self-Realization?

Part 1 - A New Age?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings to you,

Swami Hrimananda


 

Monday, July 18, 2022

Kriya Yoga: the New Covenant; the Second Coming

 [This article was inspired by a talk I gave at a Kriya initiation at the Blue Lotus Temple in Bothell, WA]

 


In anticipation of the consciousness of the third millennia A.D., the rishis of modern India have explained the path to enlightenment in rational, scientific terms. For the lingua franca of our times is, in fact, science. In former times, however, deeper spiritual truths were conveyed in parables, metaphors or allegories and were understood intuitively rather than intellectually.

Long ago in the highest or golden age, highly advanced spiritual beings possessed the intuition, the inner sight, by which they cognized subtle realms, astral beings, higher truths and the Divine presence. Indeed, it is said in the ancient texts that the first humans were so enlightened that after observing the natural wonders of creation they sat in lotus pose and merged back into God. These souls had no interest in playing the game of hide and seek with God. So, God decided to raise the stakes and make the creation more attractive so that these beings would want to stay and play with Him. In the Bible version of this story, Adam and Eve fell to the temptation to be "like” God and enter into the drama of duality, experiencing good and evil and all the opposites which attract or repulse.

Well, it's just a story though it seems that God has played an unfair trick on us. While contemplating the whole sad affair, it occurred to me that maybe there’s another way to explain what happened to us. (No explanation, however, can satisfy our heart's yearnings.) It might be related to the explanation of the cycles of time as revealed by Swami Sri Yukteswar in the introduction to his only book, “The Holy Science.”

In that book, Sri Yukteswar stated that the twelve thousand years ending on or about 500 A.D. constitute a long period of decline from the highest age of virtue and wisdom to the nadir of the larger twenty-four thousand year cycle. Biblical scholars place the Garden of Eden somewhere just after 5,000 B.C. Maybe what really happened was that the gradual loss of God consciousness and the concomitant rise of ego consciousness was the real “fall” described in these stories.

Then somewhere after 2,000 B.C. we find that humanity’s oldest scriptures, the Vedas and the scriptures that followed, came to be written down perhaps because the oral tradition could no longer be relied upon as human understanding and virtue declined.

Nonetheless, what remained would have become dry parchment were it not for the repeated appearance of great souls’ generation after generation all the way to the modern age, including the lineage of the Self-realization masters. Saints are the true custodians of faith and the avatars are the prime movers who offer wisdom in the midst of the ebb and flow of human consciousness.

Whatever the facts that led us here, here we are. Faced with our own modern troubles, let us admit that neither world peace nor a cure for cancer will bestow upon humanity the pearl of great price of true and lasting happiness. As some of the lyrics in Swami Kriyananda’s happy but instructive song, “Secret of Laughter” puts it: "You can win the world but still be poor, win peace and live like a king." No matter how great are the blessings of science, the yogi’s cliché is still true: "The only way out is IN."

God, knowing our present needs, has sent to humanity a great gift in the form of Kriya Yoga. Though an ancient science, it was lost in the dark ages but for us now it has been resurrected by the deathless prophet, Mahavatar Babaji. Kriya is a priceless gem, a chintamani, offered to those who sincerely seek help in their journey towards Self-realization.[1] Kriya is more than a meditation technique that uses the breath; it is more than a series of core techniques; it is a way of life, indeed, a new dispensation bestowing knowledge and grace that can propel us quickly over the ocean of delusion. Kriya is a relationship with God through the agency of the divine gurus. Initiation into kriya establishes and affirms the connection between disciple and guru. The technique acts as an instrument of transmission of the guru’s guidance and grace.

Swamiji states in his booklet, “A New Dispensation,” that Yogananda wrote in his commentaries on the “Bhagavad Gita” that sometimes in history a sea of calm appears in the midst of the storm of maya.[2] Perhaps when a world savior descends like a comet into this world of darkness taking on human form, he does so through a vortex, a wormhole that lingers to and from eternity. Those who are drawn to this eye of calm in the middle of the storm of duality find rapid spiritual progress just as the apostles of Christ were transformed in those three brief years. 

I think of the Day of Pentecost described in the Acts of the Apostles.[3] That day, the Holy Ghost descended upon them in the form of tongues of fire and as a wind. The apostles spoke in diverse languages and some three thousand people were converted to the new covenant in Christ. 

Yogananda said his coming to the West was the “second coming” of Christ. He said that those who were ready to receive him would be baptized by the Holy Spirit through Kriya Yoga. A new covenant, a new dispensation has arrived he said. “The time for knowing God has come!” Yogananda declared.

Just as those apostles blessed by the Holy Spirit were destined to change the course of history, so too is Kriya is destined to uplift humanity in this age of Dwapara Yuga.[4] Kriya opens the door that we may commune with the Holy Spirit as the Aum vibration, and on its wings ascend like a dove into superconsciousness.[5]

So, what, then is this technique, this “kriya?”

In Yogananda’s now famous story, “Autobiography of a Yogi,” he wrote that "The ancient yogis discovered that the secret of cosmic consciousness is intimately linked with breath mastery. This is India's unique and deathless contribution to the world's treasury of knowledge. The life force, which is ordinarily absorbed in maintaining the heart-pump, must be freed for higher activities by a method of calming and stilling the ceaseless demands of the breath."[6]

As we come into the body with our first breath and leave the body by our last breath, so breath links us with the subtle (astral) world from which we have come and to which we return. We incarnate again and again on the basis of the unfinished business of our likes, dislikes and our past actions. Once incarnate, the world of duality begins with the duality of inhalation and exhalation. Our breath is the foundation and prerequisite for our life in the human body. The cycle of the breath is also the foundation for the reactive, emotional process of like and dislike. Indeed, Patanjali in stanza 2 of the renowned Yoga Sutras defines our soul freedom by the cessation of that process. It is really and truly that simple.

We can't just hold our breath, however! If we tried, we'd pass out and the nervous system would re-start the breathing process. Moreover, the breath is, itself, only the necessary starting point for how we can explore the far subtler causes for our reincarnation: desire! Like those first humans, or like our first foray into creation, we WANT; we LIKE; we DESIRE this and FEAR that!

Made in the image of God, we want to be like God and manifest the great play of creation, experiencing good and evil. But unlike the Spirit beyond by creation and unlike the son of God hiding silently at the heart of every atom of creation, we forget “Who am I?” We become identified with the play like a bad actor who forgets he’s only an actor. You could even say that it is not “I” who reincarnates but it is my desires--likes and dislikes and the unfinished business of past actions--that reincarnate into the great cycle of inhalation and exhalation to find resolution and release. Our thoughts and actions are our offspring and after countless lives we have an entire nation of subjects, indeed slaves, yearning for satisfaction and, knowingly or unknowingly, to be free. 

As Christ the redeemer taught his disciples to commemorate his living presence through the Eucharistic form of communion, so Paramhansa Yogananda (and his lineage which includes Christ) has brought to us inner communion through Kriya Yoga. As Jesus gave the ritual of communion, so Babaji gives us the inner fire rite of kriya.

In his first book, “Science of Religion,” Yogananda explained the science of inner communion. It is based on the cessation of breath and the reactive process through a time-tested and safe method of breath and life control. Yogananda called Kriya “the airplane route” to God because it works on the source of our delusion rather than upon its effects.

As the storm of breath is quieted, we begin to "see." We become "seers." Just as when we see attractive objects of the senses we are drawn outside of ourselves, so too when we begin to “see” the far more attractive world of divine magnetism and the higher realms we are drawn inward. Our life current is drawn away from the body and into the subtle, astral body and then upwards towards the higher realms. It's like a cosmic game of "Musical Chairs." When the music of creation stops, the one without a chair (of attachment) rises. The song of creation is built atop the dance of breath and when breath ceases, creation vanishes and our spirit rises. This, then, is the shortcut to freedom. This is what happens at death and when meditation takes us into breathlessness, it is the little death. It is thus a preparation for the final exam.

It would be a mistake to suppose we reject God’s creation as evil. It is our identification with it that we seek to cauterize. It was God’s original intention that we enjoy the creation with God. How could God, bliss itself, bliss eternal, not wish to share that bliss? But the drama of creation could not sustain itself if there were no drama. There can be no drama without free choice and no free choice without good and evil to choose from. Drama is the métier of the play.

For the purpose of dissolving our identification with the play, Kriya seeks to dissolve our commitment to playing in it. The force and power of that commitment is a force that is called kundalini. Kundalini represents and in fact IS the deeply magnetic commitment we have made to our separateness from God. By dissolving this commitment, we unleash the power to reunite our life force with soul force. Again: we have been given a shortcut. Cauterize the “I” or ego principle and the rest falls away from lack of interest in playing, that is to say, in reacting!

This commitment to our “mortal delusion” anchors our consciousness in the body at the base of the spine. Every positive and kind thought releases some of its power upward toward the brain wherein resides the soul. But kriya practice is far more powerful than random thoughts of kindness and acts of virtue. By daily practice of kriya yoga, we ascend upward through the lights of the tree of life along the spiral staircase of wakefulness. Along this path lie the subtle energy centers of the astral spine known as the chakras. The chakras are both doorways out into the body (and into the world beyond it), and, when the life force is restrained and coaxed inward, they are doorways into the subtle spine where we experience true baptism into eternal life. In Chapter 6, verse 46 of the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna praises the yogi and yoga-meditation as the greatest and fastest path to Self-realization. 

When by daily kriya practice we begin to neutralize the ceaseless work of the breath, we find that our reactions to the world within and without begin also to become pacified. It's not just in meditation that we become more aware but also in activity. Nor is this process merely the result of self-control. We discover that being calm and centered in the Self is increasingly natural; less and less must we use our will to restrain our impulses. We begin to live in cooperation with grace.

As the inevitable karmic bombs of life explode, we remain centered; we live ever more fully by faith in God. "What comes of itself," Master would say, "let it come." The stale cheese of sense delights yields to the refined cheese of life-sustaining, eternal life (prana). This is what is meant by Jesus and other saviors when it is said that we achieve "eternal life." By living more by life force, living more AS energy centered within, we gradually slough off the snake-like skin of body-attachment. We become an angel of light and energy. Ultimately, we will pass through the portals of life and death with the same awakened consciousness. This is what is meant by the promise of our immortality: unbroken awareness and ever-new joy in that awareness.

In kriya we begin with the physical breath. This is like a door handle to the doors of the inner sanctum. The doors are the chakras and the inner sanctum is the astral spine, called the sushumna. The practice of kriya constitutes the true "fire rite" mentioned in ancient texts such as the Bhagavad Gita. With each "kriya" we offer the "inhalation into the exhalation" as Krishna describes in the Gita until they neutralize each other in the vision of God as prana, life energy.[7]

During the practice of kriya, the movement of life force around the sushumna acts like a magnet rotating around a wire and generates an increasingly powerful electro-magnetic force that loosens and dissolves countless vortices (“vrittis”) of commitment and attachment. But enough of words, “The time for practicing kriya has come.”

Blessings to you!

Swami Hrimananda

PS: See Chapter 26, "Kriya Yoga," of Yogananda's now famous book, "Autobiography of a Yogi." Ananda centers worldwide offer training and preparation for kriya initiation.



[1] Chintamani is a wish-fulfilling jewel in both Hindu and Buddhist traditions.

[2] Maya  refers to the material world of duality, emotions and thoughts which obscure the essential divine nature of all things.

[3] New Testament, “Acts of the Apostles,” Chapter 2

[4] “Dwa” means “second” and “yuga” means “age” or “epoch.” The second age in the ascending arc of 12,000 years began in approximately A.D. 1900 according to Swami Sri Yukteswar in his book “The Holy Science.” See also the profound treatise on the Yuga cycles: “The Yugas,” Joseph Selbie and David Steinmetz, Crystal Clarity Publishers.

[5] “In the beginning was the Word….” John Chapter 1. The “word” is the holy vibration of Spirit called by different names such as “Amen,” “Aum,” and so on.

[6] Chapter 26

[7] Bhagavad Gita, Chapter IV:29

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

Monday, January 28, 2019

Stand up to shine the Light!

The paradox contained in the great spiritual teachings of East and West is how to reconcile our divine origins (and destiny, as children of God) with the reality of our day-to-day ego-active and Self-forgetful lives. Whether we refer to the Sanaatan Dharma teachings of India ("Tat twam asi" - "Thou art THAT!" One of the grand pronouncements of the Vedas) or the gospel of St. John ("As many as received Him to them gave He the power to become the sons of God" Chapter 1:12) or any number of other great scriptures, the question of "Who do men say I am?" (Mark 8:27) applies as much to us as it did to Jesus Christ.

This paradox is directly addressed in St. John's statement in the first chapter of his gospel: "The light shineth in darkness but the darkness comprehended it not." (John 1:12)

This is saying, among other profound precepts, that within each of us shines the light of Life; the light of divinity. And yet, in the darkness of matter and ego consciousness, we are generally unaware of that inner light and thus do not "comprehend" that it even exists (what to mention being willing to "receive" its influence in our lives).

I heard an inspiring story recently. There's an organization, Homeboy Industries, in Los Angeles founded by a Jesuit priest, Fr. Greg, that helps released prisoners and reformed gang members. He takes the "boys" occasionally to conferences to have them share their stories. At one such conference, Mario, who was covered head to foot in tattoos and the kind of young man you might move to the other side of the street to avoid, shared his story of "redemption" to a crowd of about one thousand people.

In the Question and Answer session which followed, Mario, unaccustomed to public speaking, was quite nervous. Out of the crowd, a woman stood to ask Mario what advice would he give to her two teenage boys. Mario fumbled a bit and finally blurted out: "Don't be like me!

The woman was silent for a moment. Then she spoke again: "Why?" she said, having heard his remarkable story. "You are kind, wise, and giving. I would want my boys to be like you!" For a brief moment, the room was utterly silent. Then, the crowd burst into appreciative applause and support for Mario.

Mario had not yet recognized that inner divine light in himself. But he was clearly ready and receptive when the woman in the crowd "called it out." Our potential, and indeed divine duty, is to discover that "Light" within us, and to share, reflect, and call it out in others.

This reminds me of another story I came across just as recently. There's a Jewish woman doctor, Dr Racel Naomi Remen, whose life work is to bring caring and feeling back into the practice of medicine. In one of her talks, she recounts the story of her grandfather who, in each of his weekly visits during her childhood, would reveal to her one aspect of her own goodness and higher potential (her "light") His influence upon her was life transforming and in turn she has helped uplift countless others in her life's work. In the talk she gave that I watched, the theme of her talk was to encourage us all to be what she called "blessers."

In the grand scheme of spiritual teachings, this role of "blesser" is distinctly, though not exclusively, the role of the "satguru." The satguru is one who is of the spiritual stature of Jesus Christ, Buddha, Krishna, Paramhansa Yogananda and others. In India, such souls who return to earth to help others and who are, themselves, free from all past karma, are called purna avatars.

That innate divinity may be purely expressed in the consciousness of the avatar, but all who have "seen the Light" should also strive to emulate their example. 

Patanjali, the author of the Yoga Sutras, says spiritual awakening is the function of our soul's memory: Smriti. We don't create a truth we recognize it. And we recognize it only when we are ready to do so. Surely you've heard the expression "When the disciple is ready, the guru appears."

The sharing of universal truth-teachings (which can be called Sanatan Dharma) is not a process of proselytizing. It is the process of that "light shining in the darkness" and, at last, the darkness beginning to "comprehend" its existence! That light shines most purely through the vibration of consciousness. To shine, the Light does not need words though words and actions can be a medium to express it. The vibration of divine Light is, however, subtle. It is no surprise, then, that spiritual works like Ananda are not attracting millions for millions are not yet ready. "Out of a thousand," Krishna declares, "one seeks Me."

In the worldwide Ananda communities (www.Ananda.org), its founder, Swami Kriyananda (a direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda) taught us to work with positive people. Give little, if any, energy to negativity, he counselled. Negativity is not, by its nature, cohesive and constructive. This doesn't mean we should snub or ostracize detractors or naysayers. What works the best is when you focus on working with others who share a common and worthwhile goal.

At the risk of a tangent, I responded to a question from someone in India who wrote to ask about psychic experiences both in and out of meditation. Some of these were interesting; some positive; some somewhat threatening. I responded saying that as we awaken spiritually, we awaken to a realm of reality far more vast than the physical one our bodies inhabit. We can easily get sidetracked, spiritually or psychically. "The spiritual path," Yogananda stated, "is not a circus." Sages from ancient times warn aspirants that they may be tempted by powers over nature or by beings who seek to flatter or to use them for their own purposes.

Yogananda confirmed the existence of disincarnate entities ranging from angels and fairies to demons and ghosts. Nothing to be afraid of but a reality to be aware of. In responding to her questions, I suggested that she should focus on her devotion to God and her intention to achieve God-realization through her meditation practices. She should live increasingly "in the spine," I said, and "centered in the Self within."

I explained that the guiding wisdom and power of the Divine Light pouring into her "spine" would infuse her with focused, centered, Self-awareness. Being "in the Light" put into proper perspective the presence of lower entities and her need, if any, to respond. 

Like the famous mathematician, John Forbes Nash, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia, he said, later in life, that although the delusions of his disease were still present he simply didn't "give them any energy."

Recently, in Seattle at the East West Bookshop, we gave a Tribute to Mahatma Gandhi and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. After the program, one of the attendees commented to my friend (Rick Johnston) that some years ago (when he worked there), his kind remark and counsel regarding the death of this woman's mother, changed her life and helped her immensely at the time of her grief. How many times has each of us, even casually, perhaps not even remembering the incident afterwards, has shed "light" into the life of another person?

We can each be a light-bearer, in other words. This doesn't suggest that we set ourselves up on soapboxes on the street corner. Let the Light shine through us by our attunement and those with "eyes to see" will come to the Light. 

In my years of teaching meditation and these precepts, I find that there are some who draw from me inspiration I didn't think I had. The law of magnetism operates very well on its own. All we have to do is be willing to cooperate with it.  

By contrast, there are others who are not interested or, worse, just want to counter anything I say. (Paramhansa Yogananda stated, partly "tongue-in-cheek," that the reason God doesn't appear to most people is that they would just argue with him.) In the early days of Ananda's first community in California, the fledgeling community was struggling to find its own identity. Swami Kriyananda said that there was a time when every time he opened his mouth his self-styled opponents "would jump into it!"

Another reason for us to be open to being light-bearers in this world is that Yogananda affirmed an ancient and long-held precept from the yogis of India: to achieve enlightenment, one must "free" at least six others. Haven't you found that there is one or more people who seem to turn to you for inspiration and guidance? Don't let it get to your "head," but be open to be a channel of light. 

When, in the Bhagavad Gita (4:7-8), Krishna says that the Divine Light descends to "destroy evil and re-establish virtue" he does not mean to destroy people (evil doers, that is). Rather, it is the upliftment of consciousness, like bad seed falling on stony ground, that weakens the power of delusion and makes it difficult to sprout and flourish.

Nonetheless, there is this "combative" element to the avatara (and therefore to our own lives, as well): Krishna was a warrior. In his life, he is said to have battled numerous so-called demons. (Leaving aside the objective manifestation of demons for another lifetime, are there not demons in human form to be found in every city and nation? Are there not inner demons, as well?) Yogananda claimed he had been William the Conqueror; and, later, a King in Spain fighting the Moors. Later in his life, Yogananda thought there should be an international police force to counter the evil of "international criminals."

We, too, are part of the avatara. We, too, must confront not just our own inner demons, but, if your circumstances and dharma suggest it, the demons of injustice that surround you just as Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr. did. This isn't about "fighting," it's about "witnessing." To witness is to act as a mirror and reflect back what you see from a higher perspective of Light.

Whatever form our spiritual battles take, both outward and inward, we need to find our "spine" wherein we draw the strength, grace, and wisdom to do what is needful.

Too often we emphasize the softness or the love and acceptance aspects of the spiritual path but ignore our own, internal need for self-discipline and courage in daily life. 

Don't try to convert negativity unless you are truly strong in yourself. Worst yet, don't accept their critical point of view just on the basis of your wanting to be liked, accepted, open-minded, or "nice."

So while it is better to let the vibration of your inner light beam its rays upon those whom you live and serve with (rather than to proselytize), we should be willing to stand up against the darkness of ignorance or intentional evil. Stand up and defend the ideals for which you live or serve; or for those who have inspired and taught you; or others who are defenceless (even if for the simple reason they are not present in the conversation to defend themselves). 

Don't in the name of supposed fairness, remain silent considering merely the possibility of "two sides of the story." Intelligent negativity begins with a kernel of fact and creates from it the pretence of a righteous cause. What makes it negativity is that its motivation is born of envy, resentment, prejudice or dislike. Loyalty is basic to success in relationships, health, career, and in seeking enlightenment. Cowardice or self-doubt sometimes uses silence (not-witnessing) to hide behind wanting to consider all sides.

To grow in the Light, attune yourselves to those great souls whose Light is pure and without taint of ego or karma. Then, associate with others of like-mind, seeking the Light. Finally, be a Light unto the world!

Joy and blessings to you,

Swami Hrimananda