Showing posts with label depression. Show all posts
Showing posts with label depression. Show all posts

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Is This Pandemic the Beginning of "Hard Times?"

Question we received:

Hi, It feels relevant to the global times we are living in now to ask: do you at Ananda believe that this virus will soon lead to the 'Global Depression' that will be 'worse than in the 1930s' as Yogananda said? I know its hard to give an 'official answer' to a question like that but I’d rather hear your opinion since I want to be prepared for the worst (yet with a positive mindset). 

Dear Friend,

I wrote an article on this subject a while back: search on Predictions in the search bar of this blog.'ll see several (Nov 2019 and March 21 2020)

For all of the fifty-plus years that Ananda has existed, Swami Kriyananda warned us of impending financial collapse based on statements made by Paramhansa Yogananda before his passing in 1952. Though there have been times and financial crises during my life when it seemed imminent, Yogananda's predictions have yet to manifest.

The current situation seems to me, and some of us, as a far more volatile mix of circumstances and thus far more likely to be the "big one."

So, with a tentativeness born of experience, I say YES! Yogananda's stern warnings about a depression far greater than that of the 1930s, during which the dollar will be all but worthless and the American economy brought to its knees, seems more likely now than any time during my 69 years of life in this body.

I recall being slightly amazed that the Federal Reserve's quantitative easing policy actually worked to lift the economy from the "Great Recession" of 2008. It already seemed our national debt and trade deficit was beyond recovery, but, then, it worked! It's difficult, however, to imagine lightning striking twice in the same spot. 

Add to our economy the connections you allude to in your note, connections with other countries such as China, and it seems ominous, to say the least.

Yogananda said that the result in America would be that we would be half as wealthy but twice as spiritual! Simple living; sustainability; compassion; calmness; cooperation; prayer and meditation. More living by these principles would be worth it all.

Yet, like the pandemic, suffering is a part of any cleansing or large scale change. Change always has an element of destructiveness. Yet, also like the pandemic, some will be untouched while others perish. Such is the great drama of life.

"The drama of life has for its lesson that it is but that: a drama." (Yogananda) We must play our parts and follow the script from the Divine Playwright so that when our part is done, we remain free as sparks of the Infinite Light. Our "job" is to live in joy and to share that joy, for this is our true nature.

Joy and blessings to you!

Nayaswami Hriman
Seattle WA USA

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Illness & Depression: Karma or Chemistry?

I have observed that if I am ailing and it's serious enough to go to a doctor I find immediate relief even with the simple statement of a diagnosis: giving what I have a name! There is no doubt more than one reason for this relief (which is felt in spite of pain, discomfort or seriousness of the ailment), but what I take from this is that the name objectifies the ailment as separate from "me."

In a similar way, it's more comforting to believe that the reason I have high blood pressure, or diabetes, or colon cancer is because it "runs in the family." Somehow this relieves me of responsibility. I suppose that because each of these psychological ruses brings some relief that they, therefore, have some merit, a bit like taking Ibuprofen or another pain reliever.

But then there's the question of karma. Do I have cancer because of my family history? Or, because of my own actions? Am I depressed because my brain doesn't produce the right chemical balance, or because bad things have happened to me, or was it something I did that attracted to me unbalanced chemicals, bad things happening to me, and/or this depressed state?

The metaphysical teaching of karma and reincarnation (which most of the readers of this article will no doubt take for granted as a given, a truth, and a reality) offers a potential challenge to the "pain" relieving results of attributing my illness to external causes.

And yet there is an irony here because even in the worldview of Vedanta, the belief that this illness isn't me is ALSO taught! "Tat twam asi!" I am THAT (which is eternal, beyond suffering, beyond the body and ego). Reconciling the teaching of karma with the affirmation of my soul's perfection requires and invites us to a level of self-honest, awareness and intuition beyond that of the average person.

Returning to the earth plane of the body and ego, let us consider that the fact that taking two aspirin will cure my headache doesn't mean I didn't do something (like forget to drink water; get stressed out; have too much sugar, etc.) to trigger it. Just because my brain chemistry is off doesn't necessarily limit the cause of my depression to mere chemistry even if balancing that chemistry alleviates (some of) my depression. Just because my mother had high blood pressure doesn't mean she's the only reason my body has high blood pressure.

Even when the solution to my illness is a straightforward medical one, the simple fact that I have access to that solution is part of my karmic matrix. There are billions of people on our planet who don't have access to the medical care that many of us are blessed to have.

The solution for a broken bone is fairly straightforward but does not in any way explain why I slipped in the first place. Perhaps I was careless; perhaps it was a freak accident; maybe some child left his toy in my path.

The reason for remembering the metaphysical law of cause and effect is not to blame oneself; nor is it to necessarily or reasonably expected to uncover the past actions which may have given rise to my current health issues.

Rather, the value of taking responsibility is to remind ourselves that what we created we can uncreate. "A prod to pride" rather than passive submission is how Yogananda described the lesson of astrology ("Outwitting the Stars," a chapter in Autobiography of a Yogi)

This "prod to pride" to undo what we have done does not mean that we can defy death or always defeat cancer or depression. We are a soul who happens to have a body. This reality is a two-edged sword. When appropriate, we either dismiss the body and its troubles to affirm our soul, or, other times we assert the power of the soul (divine) force over even life and death! In both cases, our body troubles are meant to strengthen our consciousness of the soul as our true Self. The body, by contrast, is short-lived. "There's no getting out alive!" But the soul is eternal.

The test of illness is not just the medical one in front of us, but may, in fact, be a test of courage; faith; energy; joy; trust; or, even, acceptance! Sometimes, one conquers a disease by accepting it with equanimity and faith. Other times, we do so by putting up a good fight, even if our body loses the fight to death itself! And sometimes BOTH are true: we calmly deal with our body's ills using medicine, on the one hand, and God-communion on the other hand, but both with equanimity and faith.

I happened to stumble on an article about a book by Johann Hari: "Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression -- and the Unexpected Solutions." The author traces the root cause of depression to attitudes and actions that lead to a lack of connection with other people. Of the nine contributing factors to depression that he uncovers, only two have to do with brain chemistry.

If I were to boil down the gist of this author's analysis in metaphysical terms I would conclude that ego transcendence is, ultimately, the solution! This doesn't deny either the value of medicine nor the many intervening steps at reconnection suggested by the author. But separation (ego from the soul) is the elemental dis-ease of the soul. Overcoming our existential malaise requires energy. Expanding our consciousness beyond the little ego to include others is the ultimate cure for all dis-ease.

It takes willpower, energy, commitment, and intelligence to cope with the downward pulling tendencies of illness. Paramhansa Yogananda is often quoted saying, "The greater the will, the greater the flow of energy."

On the other hand, the simple acceptance that my past action (pre-natal, past lives, or postnatal current life) is the root cause doesn't mean we can know what action(s) were the cause; nor, more importantly, does dwelling on the fact of our being the cause necessarily help deal with my present situation. Why beat ourselves up (even more)?

Yogananda's guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar, put it this way: “Forget the past. The vanished lives of all men are dark with many shames. Human conduct is ever unreliable until anchored in the Divine. Everything in future will improve if you are making a spiritual effort now.” ("Autobiography of a Yogi," by Paramhansa Yogananda, the first edition)

The point of this article is that to overcome our problems we must exercise our own, God-given willpower, at least as the first step. Calling on the Divine Power and attuning ourselves and our prayer with the Divine Will is the second step. 

What does it mean to seek divine power and the divine will? In part, this refers to the intuitive understanding that God alone is the First Cause, the essential Doer and the underlying Reality of all things. In this remembrance, God is, at first, separate from us. But in the deeper our realization of this truth, God becomes not just the Doer but also the instrument. Our prayer becomes not so much a desire for health but a prayer to be "in tune" and that "Thy will be done." 

If the solution to any problem is as simple as taking medicine, or having a surgery, or reach out for help, well fine, of course! Sometimes the karmic test involved with our illness is the obvious one: to draw upon the intelligence and willingness; forsake the temptation of denial; deal responsibly with the present reality; and, then take action to rise above that reality. 

Another aspect of dealing with illness comes as we advance spiritually: "What comes of itself, let it come" Yogananda also counselled. While few people, even devotees, are ready for this stage, it is a true state of being wherein we don't even consider our karma to be ours: instead, what comes is the blessing of God's grace, the Divine Alchemist, refining the crude ore of our consciousness in the crucible of divine love. 

One must, however, be sure not to hide behind this attitude to disguise fear, paralysis, or passivity. This state comes only with heroic self-giving to God in all matters of daily life. Swami Kriyananda, Ananda's founder, never prayed for healing for himself when illness struck or death threatened. His life provided countless opportunities to test his resolution. (He admitted that he did not expect others to be ready to live this way but simply stated that it was, for him, necessary and right.)

In the Old Testament, the Book of Job, the righteous man Job is tested by Satan to see if Job will remain faithful "to the Lord" if his health, wealth, wife, and reputation are taken away. (He does.) But Job's "friends" taunt him insisting that Job must have done something to deserve his troubles. Job insists he has not! This complex, hard, and subtle tale invites us to see all our tests as tests of our faith in God's goodness and wisdom, and our love for God. It took tremendous willpower and faith for Job to overcome the test he was given.

A devotee, then, sees illness not even as a test but ultimately as God's grace drawing us closer to Him. This does in NO way imply passivity. Swami Kriyananda described all tests as invitations to raise our energy. A saint may already be living in, for, with and AS God but the rest of us will have to go through some kind of step by step process.

I suppose there's no harm in dealing with illness only on medical terms: at least one is dealing with it on its own apparent level. But our emotional reaction to illness is the subtler and more important point. We have two opposing responses: on the one hand, objectifying illness as not ours can be a subterfuge for denial while, on the other hand, dwelling on one's "fault" can paralyze the willpower. So, the right response, well, depends on whether your intention and attitude lead you towards wisdom or ignorance. 

Yogananda described depression as the result of past sense indulgence (prenatal or postnatal). That may seem simplistic but as the article cited above suggests, some cases of depression, perhaps many cases, involve a loss of connection with the world and people in our lives triggered or worsened by self-absorption and self-involvement. Unlike a traumatic accident like an automobile crash wherein the hospital treats your body without regard to your involvement (especially if unconscious), depression, like other addictions, requires the willpower and motivation on the part of the one who is ill. One has to WANT to reconnect with life again.

As we all know, depression sometimes results in suicide. Yogananda commented that a baby who dies at childbirth or in early childhood (and perhaps even later as a young adult) may have been a soul reborn who previously committed suicide. The premature death in a later life, he said, is intended by the law of karma to reawaken the soul's desire for and appreciation of life again. 

Medical science, has, I am told, corroborated the anecdotal evidence that a patient's will to live can be a crucial factor in regaining health. In any case, however, attitude, even in the face of death, is the soul's challenge, blessing and opportunity. 

May the the Divine Light shine ever within you,

Swami Hrimananda

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Kundalini: Existential Ecstasy or Dark Depression?

(I tried to serialize this into 5 posts but Blogspot is somewhat inflexible, so, out of some frustration, I simply post now all five parts into one, too long, single post. Sigh!)

Part 1 - Demons and Angels

In spiritual literature and tradition, the concept of the "dark night of the soul" has the feel of a good dramatic story. Tales come to mind of demons threatening or attacking, or of violent convulsions of pain or fear overtaking the monk or nun who is innocently but determinedly focused on his or her devotions and life of service and humility. It conjures up medieval images of ghouls and just about everything that modern Catholicism and protestantism before that rejected with an embarrassment born of the scientific method. 

But, like or not, struggles with demonic forces are well established in the Christian tradition in the lives of such luminaries as Teresa of Avila, Padre Pio, St. John of the Cross and St. Francis. In the eastern traditions, the list is endless and the tales even more bizarre, indeed, fanciful. In both east and west, angels and devils figure prominently (and with a studied naturalness) in the lives of the greatest saints. No less than Buddha himself was subjected to a final temptation by Mara (the devil) just as was Jesus Christ. So often in fact do such entities appear, whether benevolent or malevolent, that to dismiss them seems folly to anyone sincerely walking the spiritual path. 

Paramhansa Yogananda explained that there was a period in his life when his legs were paralyzed due to taking on the karma of disciples. He said that astral entities (shaped like corkscrews and saws!) were attacking his astral legs. Yet, when he needed to appear in public and walk to the podium for a lecture, he could suddenly stand and walk, later to slump helplessly into a chair.

Books have been written in modern times on the terrors, trevails and prescriptions for those caught in the throes of "kundalini rising." Kundalini refers to that elemental and existential life force that is otherwise hidden, silent and sleeping in most humans. Oft depicted as a feminine goddess, she might first appear as a temptress to test the purity of heart of one who dares to summon her. If one passes her test she morphs into the goddess ready to lead the warrior to the promised land. But until that time, she is coiled around and guards a great treasure at the base of the astral spine of the human body: the secret of eternal life. 

For centuries, the quest to slay her and capture her treasure of immortality has inspired yogis of varying degrees of purity and clarity (kriya yogis, tantra yogis and many others) to give their all. 

By modern accounts of Kundalini's awakening power, you'd think that just about anyone who dares to practice certain esoteric yoga techniques or who engages in a life of intense spiritual practices runs the risk that Kundalini, part demon, part angel, will appear and wreak havoc upon one's body and one's life. 

Well, "no such luck!" Reports of her appearance are greatly exaggerated. Devotees and yogis have plenty of inner demons consisting of personal desires, fears, ambitions, and neuroses to wrestle with such that it will be a long time before the "real" ones come to dissuade us from the intensity of our devotions. Similarly, it will be a long time before Kundalini herself is stirred enough to cause an earthquake in the mountain of our inner spiritual life. 

In fact, it is sometimes said that we encounter such beings only in the final stages before our ascent into final union with God. I wouldn't flatly accept that statement without condition, but that is "what I've been told." Individual karma is so complex that, well, "you just NEVER know." (If a person had spent a prior lifetime(s) toying with summoning spirits through seances and the like, who knows what exacting boomerang effect might be called down.)

While this article isn't about the phenomenon known as possession (by astral entities), this, too, is a well attested to spiritual reality. In cases of possession, however, we are NOT talking about spiritually advanced souls; possession occurs to those with minds weakened by drugs or other debilitating conditions and habits. Fortunately it is extremely rare and nothing for most to be concerned about. While not provable either way, possession seems a more likely explanation for multiple personality cases than any other merely psychological or organic reason. 

Part 2 - What is Kundalini?

Returning now to our main subject -- Kundalini -- I have found the most practical and profound description of kundalini is one given to us by the founder of the worldwide network of Ananda communities (based on the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda), Swami Kriyananda, in his (now) classic text, "Art and Science of Raja Yoga." In that book, Step 12, Philosophy section, he writes, "Kundalini represents the entrenched vitality of our mortal delusion." Yet, as he continues, it is also the single greatest key to enlightenment! "Only by arousing this force from its ancient resistance to divine truth can the soul hope to reunite itself with the Spirit." Need I say: WOW?

With the above understanding, we can confidently state that there is no separate yoga called "kundalini yoga" because in the sense given above, the entire spiritual path consists of raising the Kundalini from her ancient sleep. The words and images may be specific to India but the reality of the spiritual path is universal. The soul's path to God consists of overcoming the hypnosis of our separateness from God (i.e., our commitment to ego) to reclaim our true, soul nature as a spark of God's infinite bliss.

The only distinction to be made between yoga precepts and other spiritual terminology is that the yogis define the steps of awakening in somewhat clinical terms. The masters of yoga describe reversing the normally outward flow of life force to the senses, tissues and organs back through the doorways of the energy centers (chakras) and into the spine wherein the increased energy summons forth from below the Kundalini from her sleeping state; thus roused and reunited with the energy in the spinal centers, the increased energy of the "river of life" begins its upward ascent through the astral spine to the brain. 

The saints of Christianity did not have the benefit of an unbroken tradition of the science of soul-awakening but they accomplished the raising of kundalini through devotion, self-mortification (ego-transcendence), selfless action and, of course, the all-powerful descent of grace: God's response to the sincere efforts of the soul. Not unlike the simple fact that the chemistry of a medical drug can function without the conscious will of the patient, so too will Kundalini respond to the sincere efforts of the devotee and to the summons of the resulting descending divine grace regardless of that devotee's knowledge of the clinical details or methods. Suffice to say, however, such knowledge is a great aid to one's efforts! [But just as placebo testing and faith healing demonstrate, belief, awareness and understanding of medicines can make a big difference in their efficacy. So, too, then with kundalini.)

As kundalini rises and touches upon each chakra, beginning at the lowest center, the coccyx (earth or "muladhara"), new insights are received (both personal and universal) just as in climbing a mountain you see farther and farther in the distance as you rise even as you gain climbing experience as you ascend.

Some awakening occurs long before Kundalini actually rises. Yogananda taught that even kind thoughts cause Kundalini to stir in her sleep, relaxing her coils even a tiny bit to send shafts of light upward toward the brain. The opposite occurs with selfish thoughts. Various yogic techniques, moreover, stimulate the chakras so as to magnetize them and help draw Kundalini upwards.

Certain techniques, found especially in hatha yoga, attempt to force kundalini to rise by focusing will power at or around the base of the spine and spinal centers. These have their place but the danger is with the delusion that will power alone can force her energy to stir and rise. Impure ego motivation will counter the pure energy which is Kundalini's rising nature.

In stories like the "Never Ending Story" (never-ending, because it is the story of each soul), it is a child (representing innocence) who must free the kingdom from the Nothingness. Or, in a story such as St. George and the dragon, or Theseus and the Minotaur, it takes a warrior with a pure heart to successfully slay the dragon of ego.

Part 3 - Frontier of Consciousness

Is, then, the image of Kundalini as a temptress or goddess simply a metaphor or is this "real?" Our western and left brain dominated minds are more likely to experience and describe that experience in terms of "energy." But maybe that's because we have a scientific view of quantum realities, that is, of "energies" that are not in organic form. 

I think it is safest to say that when one reaches the frontier of consciousness itself and it is no longer a question of one's own imagination and subconscious mind, and the realm of matter and the senses has been transcended, all bets are off. I think the question is actually a non-starter and not relevant to the realm in which the phenomenon actually occurs. 

Put another way, the fundamental matrix of reality IS consciousness, so the question has no ready-made answer. Patanjali describes the psychic power attributable to realization of the consciousness of "austerity" (one of the niyamas of the Eight-Fold Path) as the ability to commune with higher beings. As indicated above, there really cannot be a question regarding the existence of higher beings: whether "good guys" or "bad guys."

It is a typical pattern in the soul's evolution that we approach God through good works, prayer and meditation. Our efforts are rewarded with various and sundry inspirations and feelings of joy, peace, love and so on. We encounter, therefore, the more impersonal or abstract experiences of higher consciousness. Even the meditative experiences tend to be of a phenomenal nature (light, sound, energy, etc.)

As we progress, the impersonal begins to be personal. God may come to us in visions, in the form of our chosen deity (godhead), savior, guru etc. This distinction is not in cement and depends both on one's karma and, what is basically the same as karma, our basic temperament: whether devotional, mental (intellectual), or active (energetic). But the basic pattern is somewhat recognizable in the bigger picture of the lives of devotees. 

Part 2 - The Battle

The soul may have many of its own demons in the forms of innumerable material addictions: fame, name, romance, sex, security, wealth, health and the various forms of the seven deadly sins. These, however common, are almost trite in relation to the existential battle of which we speak here. It may indeed take more than one lifetime to overcome, say, alcoholism, but the means to do so lay largely, if not entirely, within the domain of the ego (though reaching for divine succor is recommended because spiritually elevating).

Think of the image of the cross: a vertical bar crossed by a horizontal one. The horizontal represents our relationship to the body, the senses, personality and the world around us. We can "get our act together" by self-effort (as I said above) reasonably well. Human virtue, though a necessity and a victory, is largely still of human making. The sense of personal doership remains upper most. It is "I" who conquers and controls my palate; my tongue; etc.

A wiser soul seeks divine guidance in all matters but even an atheist can work towards health, happiness and a balanced life of integrity.

The vertical bar however is the battle of the soul's ascent back to God. At the bottom lies Kundalini: the entrenched vitality of our mortal delusion. Built over incalculable lifetimes, our commitment to ego and separateness, personal likes and dislikes, protection and affirmation is deeply rooted. 

At the top of the head is the soul! Eternal, perfect, unchanging and blissful but otherwise unaffected by and not involved with ego's play and unending karma (so called "good" and "bad"). The vertical ascent up what is sometimes called the spiral staircase to heaven is the existential challenge, climbing Mt Carmel (Christianity) or Mt. Meru (Hindu). 

Ordinary, clinical depression is bad enough. It can lead in some cases to suicide: ego's worst "crime." But its roots are in the unending play of pleasure and pain, desire and fear, and limitless ups and downs of karma. 

Existential depression, on the other hand, is the discouragement we feel (albeit in ego consciousness) in the seemingly insurmountable task of achieving enlightenment. This, in various forms, is, more or less, what is meant by the "dark night of the soul." At one end of the darkness spectrum is the darkness that immediately precedes the moment of enlightenment. This is the "classic" form. How literal it is, I do not know. It certainly makes for good poetry or drama. 

Paramhansa Yogananda's most advanced disciple, James J. Lynn (Rajasi Janakananda) spoke of having his inner world of meditation disappear into total darkness. Used to, as he was, the bliss of meditation and recurring visions of various saints and masters, this sudden experience of the void, of "pure" emptiness, was upsetting; presumably frightening; and, perhaps if but for a moment, a challenge to his faith (he didn't give the details; he was a man of very few words). Then, all of a sudden, a small point of light was seen. It steadily came towards him (or got larger) until an ocean of bliss broke upon him as entered cosmic consciousness ("samadhi"). I don't recall if that was his first experience of samadhi or simply "an experience." 

More common forms of the dark night are periods in an advanced soul's life when the accustomed divine consolation (whether in the impersonal feeling form of peace, or light, or divine love or in the personal form of one's guru, e.g., Jesus Christ appearing in vision) has gone. It can be a time when the gentle touch of divine inspiration has fled in favor of suffering (mental, certainly but also physical, likely). It can take place during periods of persecution or illness; or, even a loss of one's faith, being tested like Job in the Old Testament. And, as mentioned earlier, it can be in the form of testing by dis-incarnate, evil entities mocking one's faith. Many great saints attest to periods of "darkness" when the light of spiritual consolation disappears to test their faith in God, guru, and the spiritual life and goal.

We ordinary devotees may face diluted versions of the above: loss (temporary or permanent) of one's spiritual vocation; humiliation or embarrassment by a fall from grace; loss of spiritual support from our spiritual colleagues; grief, or other loss; major illnesses and so on. All to the effect of robbing from our hearts our spiritual inspiration, our practices and perhaps everything spiritually with which we identified even for most of our life!

Part 4 - The Ascent

All of these echo the same challenges that all people face on the horizontal plane of their desires and fears. The difference is that on the vertical plane we are dealing with absolute (i.e. existential) realities, not fleeting realities born of the flux of duality. The soul's evolution through countless lifetimes seems never ending, but the soul's struggle to emerge from ego-constricted darkness is absolute and final (unless, for a time, we give up).

There is another cycle of the spiritual path worth mentioning even if it is somewhat off topic: that is when our spiritual "efforts end in ease." This is a phase in our spiritual growth when much of the hard work of overcoming ego and subconscious habits (the horizontal plane) has paid off and our focus on the vertical plane (eyes on the prize, as it were) is propelling us steadily upward. Is there any soul for whom the "ride" is steadily upward, with no dark night of the soul--even at the end? I simply don't know but I'm am willing to bet the salvation of your soul (joke) that there's no free ride.

The dark night, at least classically, comes nearest the end. As the last chakra before enlightenment is that which is the seat of ego, it is, at last, any and all sense of our separateness that must be offered up into the divine, infinite light. This is why I believe that the darkness must be faced by every soul. 

The ego, like Moses, who, though he led the children of Israel through the desert of purification, was not allowed into the Promised Land, must be "killed." Or, must BELIEVE he must be killed. The darkness must come, in other words. In God, in Infinity, and in the "end," nothing is lost and everything is gained. But the ego must not believe this; or put more correctly, the ego CANNOT believe this and must therefore face the prospect of its own extinction. This it simply cannot do without a combination of a supreme act of will and the faith born of divine grace.

Yogananda assures us, however, that nothing is lost. The basic survival instinct was not given us to be simply violated. God is, as the great Adi Shankyacharya of India declared: ever-existing (immortal), ever-conscious (omniscient), (ever-new) bliss. Nonetheless we must pass through the fires of seeming extinction that we be purified of the dross of ego. 

Once we have achieved true enlightenment (the experience of nirbikalpa samadhi), the rishis say the soul cannot fall again. BUT: much remains in past karma to unravel the knot of doership. In infinite consciousness, the soul can play as long or as short with this process, for time no longer has a bearing. Sometimes, Swami Kriyananda has told us, a soul remains in the play to aid disciples toward freedom. Patanjali even suggests that a freed soul ("jivan mukta") can inhabit or incarnate into multiple bodies to work out the past karma more quickly. Egads, eh?

Part 5 - So, Where's the Problem?

So now at last we come to the question of problems associated with the rising of the Kundalini energy. At the base of the human astral spine (and human body), we are relatively unconscious. Our consciousness is normally in our head! Our bowels and internal organs "down there" operate wholly without our conscious control and awareness. Kundalini, in any case, in her coiled state at the base of the astral spine, is described as asleep. 

Thus it cannot be a big surprise that when she stirs and even begins to rise, perhaps only haltingly, the effect can seem to be independent of--even at variance with--our conscious will and assent. And this is where the oft-reported problems may arise.

Many a great saint has had a sudden, and often rude, spiritual awakening. Even people who are far less than great saints, have moments of sudden awakening (known as "satori" in the Zen tradition). Illness, grief or other shock to one's ordinary life patterns can also shake kundalini from her sleep-like trance below. 

The resulting spiritual vision or experience(s) are not unlike hallucinating or being on an LSD (drug-like) "trip." Physical symptoms, psychic insights, loss of physical feeling in one's limbs, loss of appetite and on and on and on..............profoundingly disturbing and yet, alternating, with ecstatic insights and feelings.

All one's normal living (perhaps in marriage, family, business and community) is suddenly turned upside down. (Just as it is, in a way, if you have a tragic accident, say an auto accident or a stroke, and you are hospitalized. Your entire day-to-day life vanishes!)

Much has been made in spiritual literature about these intense spiritual experiences. I do not downplay or minimize any of them. But I do offer not a few caveats regarding them.

  1. In my experience of the path of kriya yoga as taught by Paramhansa Yogananda, encounters with disturbing kundalini like symptoms are infrequent, if not rare. This suggests to me the truth of what my teacher (and direct disciple of Yogananda), Swami Kriyananda, taught us: that the aid of a true guru combined with proven yoga techniques will minimize imbalances in the awakening and life transforming energy of kundalini.
  2. In my experience with those who have come to the Ananda center here in the Seattle area, referred to us on account of their psychic disturbances which they have labelled kundalini symptoms, I have found that such persons typically have a smorgasbord of personal issues and imbalances, both psychic and organic.
  3. Those true devotees who encounter wake-up spiritual experiences, even those which can shatter their normal day to day world, are generally equipped to process them in a positive way. 
  4. Here is a list of imbalances that I have observed in practically all of the nearly one dozen cases (never among our own kriyaban members) that have come to our center for counsel:
    1. Far too talkative (always about themselves), as if on uppers.
    2. Far too enamored of their own spiritual stature
    3. Zero devotion (except to ego) or humility
    4. Far too enamored of psychic phenomenon
    5. Often paranoid
    6. Seemingly bi-polar, alternating between self-aggrandizement and self-loathing.
    7. Likely to have engaged in extreme practices of various sorts: from binge eating; to intense fasting; to drug and alcohol abuse; poor diet; poor sleep habits; little exercise (or perhaps too much); underweight; nervous; 
    8. Incapable of listening to or, in any case, accepting and implementing any common sense advice. Have answers for everything: "Oh, I tried that."
    9. Generally have been prescribed medications for mental issues but too often have rejected their use.
    10. Generally incapable of holding a job, having a committed relationship, or supporting a family.
    11. Though they say they've come for help, it would seem they want someone (in some established spiritual role) to simply validate their spirituality.
  5. In the cases above, the admixture of physical, mental and spiritual symptoms is so confused that, while I try to be open to their spiritual needs, what they really need most is to reinvent themselves from the ground up. Diet, exercise, serving others, prayer, short, the basics (yamas and niyamas). For some, they shouldn't even attempt to meditate! For all, they need professional help: medical and psychological. Again, this is not an outright denial of their spiritual needs but almost always they are re-defining their physical and mental imbalances solely in spiritual terms, as if to avoid the work they should really be doing. In any case, as it relates to my own personal dharma, I can't help them anyway for the simple reason they don't listen. So it's not really a choice that I have to make (thankfully).
In conclusion, then, a person who can function in this world and carry his (her) responsibilities and who comes to a true (which is to say, balanced) spiritual path (for them being the right teacher, technique, and teaching), is very, very unlikely to find that his (her) spiritual growth and inner experiences are debilitating, confusing, or painful. 

Such a one may benefit from time to time by meeting with someone a little further along in order to share and discuss their progress and experiences. For the inner path can seem lonely and at times almost surreal (or, more likely, one's outer life will begin to seem surreal compared to the inner life!). It's helpful to have someone to share this process of stripping away the superficial self-identities and interests in favor of the deeper, more satisfying insights and consciousness of the awakening soul.

The spiritual path is nothing short than a wholesale revolution of values and reality but it isn't generally so shocking that one can no longer function. Swami Sri Yukteswar taught that the spiritual path is not an excuse to be irresponsible or dysfunctional.

An extreme psychic experience is most likely to come to one who lives at the extreme end of life's psychic spectrum. A person of extraordinary energy (especially mental or emotional energy) may trigger such an experience but if Patanjali (author of the famous "Yoga Sutras" -- the bible of meditative experience) is correct: our gain in inner, spiritual experience and consciousness comes specifically as the result of our increasing lack of reactiveness to life's circumstances. (Stanza 2, Book 1: Yogas chitta vritti nirodha: yoga is the neutralization of the reactive process.)

A true yogi has nothing to fear from the practice of yoga. Not, at least, if one uses common sense, proven methods, and seeks the guidance of a true path and true teacher.

Blessings to all on the Path of Ascension up the Tree of Life!

Swami Hrimananda

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Kriya Yoga and World Evolution & Revolution!

Since the dawn of the scientific and industrial era on this planet, orthodox religion has been in retreat, defeated at every encounter, by reason and its applied powers of experimentation, proof, and practicality. No matter that our reason can also be ruthless and used for exploitation, violence, and destruction. The potential for reason to show the futility of negative or harmful behavior is touted as sufficient -- no other-worldly God, needed, thank you very much!

Humanity is in a race against time and the inadequacies of reason. The godless scientific attitudes of survival of the fittest, the clash of the classes, materialism, win-at-all-costs politics and power, ruthless competition, and the sacred cows of entitlement and self-interest are rushing us like lemmings to our mutual destruction over the cliff of “what’s in it for me?”

Sorry to have to tell you, atheists and scoffing humanists: reason alone is inadequate to the task of seeing the golden rule applied universally among nations and peoples. Put more bluntly: it ain’t gonna happen. What our reasoning minds have yet to admit or even see is that greed, violence, poverty, and abuse (inter alia evils) are powers or levels of consciousness that, while appearing in individual humans and their actions, are greater than any single individual. We are influenced by our family, our culture, and, more importantly (since individual actions often cannot be traced to these environmental or even genetic influences), by subtle influences which can only generally described as “radio stations” of varying types of consciousness enabling prenatal tendencies (from past lives). Why, e.g., might a child raised in a “good home,” turn to a criminal lifestyle? Why do substance addictions or pornography or human trafficking persist (or even grow) in the face of so-called “modern education?”

I will admit together with those who are also “spiritual but not religious” that orthodox religion deserves its fate of declining adherents. But like all institutions of influence it is struggling mightily to keep its place. I read of one church that serves beer as a focal point of interest to attract its congregation!

The body, mind and spirit-numbing and harmful effects of industrialization and now globalization (though not without their benefits) have prompted sensitive souls throughout the world to cry out for inspiration and true spiritual upliftment. As a young Catholic boy studying the life of Jesus and the saints, I recall bemoaning what seemed to be the absence of saints and sanctity in a world that has placed even rainbows in the catalog of ordinary things explained analytically.

Scriptures and saints of east and west have always attested to the role of God, through human  instruments, to intervene in human and planetary history. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna promises to appear “whenever virtue declines and vice predominates.” The Christian Bible, both Old and New Testaments, are nothing less than a story of the “Word made flesh and dwelt amongst us.”

In response to this call of aspiring hearts, there took place in a cave in the Himalayan foothills in 1861, a meeting between renowned but secretive yoga master -- the peerless and now famous “Babaji” -- and a humble accountant from Benares who was initiated into a powerful and central meditation technique to which was given the generic name, “Kriya Yoga.” Babaji told this married-with-children householder, Shyama Charan Lahiri, that this technique would spread throughout all lands and would aid in establishing world peace based upon direct perception of one’s indwelling divinity and kinship with God and God-in-all.

The spread of kriya yoga is now a historical fact. Its use grows exponentially throughout the world. First brought to America and the West by the renowned yogi, Paramhansa Yogananda, author of the popular “Autobiography of a Yogi,” kriya yoga is spreading through not only Yogananda and his disciples but through many branches of teachers related in various ways to Babaji and Lahiri Mahasaya. (Not all techniques labelled “kriya” are the same, however. Best to do one’s homework in this regard. The internet, travel and communication have their downside, too,of course.)

Kriya Yoga expresses the spiritual science which is the corollary to the material sciences. As the natural sciences reveal a vast outer universe, so the yoga science reveals the far vaster inner world of consciousness: the source of all created things. As materialistic scientific “progress” brings comforts and knowledge, so meditation brings inner peace and wisdom. As control of nature can yield material wealth, so control of the mind yields happiness free of outer circumstances. As our planet searches desperately for clean, cheap, and abundant energy sources, so Kriya Yoga puts the yogi in touch with cosmic energy: the source of life, creativity, health and divinity.

As Yogananda put it, it is time in the history of humanity for the best of East and West to be united in the common and divine purpose of uplifting humanity in material and spiritual realms. Harmony of earth and heaven and spirit and nature is needed for the survival and sustainability of humanity and all life on earth.

As 19th and 20th century material “progress” shouted down the “old time religions” with promises of unending prosperity, health, security and pleasure, and as science proclaimed the insignificance of human life in the face of the scientific facts and the inviolate rule of the law of survival as the mechanism of life itself, tens of millions suffered or perished in the struggles between socialism, communism, and capitalism. But as science purported to show our insignificance in the face of a vast cosmos and of epochs of geologic time, so meditation reveals the vastness of human consciousness which is “center everywhere, circumference nowhere.” (Autobiography of a Yogi) Our significance is not as an ego with a human body that is tiny and lasts only a brief time, but as a spark of Infinite consciousness out of which this vast universe has come.

Yogananda predicted many challenges for humanity before his death in 1952. Though he didn’t specifically use terms like global warming, he saw the materialistic and exploitative trends of modern society, big business, war-enriched industries, and global power. He foresaw an economic depression on scale far exceeding the 1930’s during which the dollar would become all but worthless. He saw many wars to come and the appearance of what he called international criminals (and we call terrorists). After much worldwide suffering, he said humanity would experience two hundred years of peace--so sick of warfare would we become.

The pace of consumption of natural resources on this planet is unsustainable. The lifestyles of countries whose relative wealth and comfort was leveraged by cheap and plentiful energy resources (both natural and human) at the expense of other nations is doomed. Wealth creation by fiat money without regard to any measure of value or useful productivity cannot last. Many governments, national and local, around the world are de facto bankrupt. So-called democracies are being strangled by their dependency on constituents who demand their entitlements in return for their vote without regard for the fiscal consequences, the greater good or their own civic and personal responsibilities. Increasingly it would appear that multi-national corporations, including makers of weapons of vast destruction, hold the reins of apparent power.

There is, however, a rising tsunami of shifting consciousness that is forming to fight these crushing global forces. We lovers of peace are not yet strong and haven’t learned the necessity of personal sacrifice as modelled to us by Gandhi and M.L. King, but our time is coming to enable the worldwide revolution that is needed and is coming. We are not interested in simply replacing ourselves in positions of power (political, economic, or religious). We are forming networks of sustainable communities (of all types) that emphasize the importance of individual creativity and initiative, and our essential unity as children of God. We are the hope for a better world. But we, too, must pass through the “valley of the shadow of death,” meaning personal commitment and self-sacrifice. Meditation, however, including kriya yoga, is at the heart of our revolution. This not another “ ism “ but a shift in consciousness based not on mere belief but actual, individual experience and Self-realization.  Yogananda predicted that in the centuries ahead the concept of “Self-realization” (the necessity of personal, direct, intuitive perception of divinity) would be accepted by religionists of every stripe. This is seen already in what is now accepted as a growing tide of “spiritual but not religious.”

There are practical ways to prepare for challenging circumstances but that is another subject altogether. The greatest protection, however, lies within you, and meditation is the key. Learn to meditate; check out kriya yoga; find others who share your ideals and practices; move out of cities if you can, especially with others; grow your own food; live simply; be prepared for difficult times; don’t depend on the government!

Meditation is for everyone, regardless of belief or religious affiliation. With meditation one readily comprehends his unity with all life and with Giver of life. No special distinctive creed or ritual is needed. Chapter 26 of Yogananda’s autobiography describes kriya well (read online for free at It is the science of how higher consciousness is developed, experienced, and nurtured in the holy temple of the human body and consciousness. It is the science of “finding happiness.” (A movie of this title has just been released: the story of Ananda and finding happiness within. (

Joy is our “gun!” Stand tall and smile wide! Rejoice, for “We are Won!”

Swami Hrimananda

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Five Stages of Collapse - Survivors' Toolkit

I am reading the book with this title by Dmitry Orlov. It was given to me as a birthday gift by my friend Cliff Kushler. It's definitely only for the "good, bad and the ugly" nonconformist. I don't challenge anyone to read about the collapse of society as we know it, but if you were open to exploring what it might look like in both theoretical and practical terms, you might find it interesting, at least.

Orlov was born in Russia came to the United States in the 1970's. You can "Google" him and find YouTube videos and Wikipedia.

My spiritual teacher, Swami Kriyananda, spoke for decades about predictions made by his guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, about the collapse of society and various countries as we know it. Yogananda didn't specify a time frame though he did point to specific countries which would be devastated and to a third world war. He also predicted a "depression" far greater than that of the 1930's.

Orlov, however, brings to a clear and practical focus the possible scenario that Swami Kriyananda warned audiences of to his dying day (earlier this year!). I've known Kriyananda since the 70's myself and not until recent years did it seem to at least possible that a perfect storm of global economic events might possibly produce the catastrophes (war and depression) predicted by Yogananda (up until his death in 1952).

American financial markets came very close to a complete meltdown in the Fall of 2008. Reading various economic accounts in the years since forces me to conclude that the so-called safeguards enacted by legislation since that time are without teeth and all but useless to prevent a recurrence. I cannot pretend to understand the complexity of such things as derivatives, but, according to others, neither can the regulators nor yet even the markets themselves. Yet such financial instruments were left more or less untouched by the so-called market reforms. Warren Buffet is often quoted as calling these instruments "weapons of mass financial destruction."

I don't feel to recount the various global soft spots, economically. This is beyond my frame of interest and knowledge. But I point to you to Orlov's book for a more intelligent and thorough analysis.

What is interesting to me is that one of Yogananda's predictions was that the time would come when intentional communities would "spread like wildfire." Orlov describes in amazing detail what amounts to intentional communities of people who would be needed to rebuild society in the event of the collapse of currency values, financial markets, and especially commercial trading activities. The five stages, by the way, are 1) collapse of financial markets and trust in them; 2) collapse of commercial activity (trading, importing, shipping etc.); 3) collapse of political institutions (dependent on tax revenues); 4) collapse of faith in social structures; 5) collapse of cultural values. The last two are extreme and can be avoided, the author believes, if people can prepare for the possibility of the first two, and even, the third.

If this subject intrigues you, please simply read his book! Again, what interests me is that he sees the reconstitution of society and survival itself as being on the basis of interacting with people you trust. To whatever degree of the five stages of collapse might occur, interacting with people you know and trust is the essence of stability, prosperity (in simple and sustainable living), security, and happiness. So, yes, "like wildfire" may true community spread!

Never before have I read such a focused and detailed analysis of what might lie ahead of us in such a way as to balance the "bad news" with the "good news," and to give practical, down-to-earth suggestions about how to prepare.

I cannot say from my own intuitive insight what may lay ahead. But between my guru's (Yogananda's) warnings, my teacher's counsel, Orlov's writings, and my own instincts, I cannot help but feel this world will be unrecognizable in the next few decades. Scanning the history of human culture, we in the West have lived in a bubble of prosperity, health and relative security and the statement by many that this is, at least in part, based on cheap and plentiful energy sources seems indisputable. As does, the concomitant reality that these cheap energy sources are steadily waning even as the world's population is exploding. A train wreck seems inevitable. Throw into the mix, global warming, terrorism, and possible pandemics, and I think we have a deadly brew inclining to mass loss of life, destruction, and colossally rapid change on a scale unprecedented in human memory.

We in the West are living on borrowed money, borrowed time, and depleted resources. Our comeuppance is due, as if we have tried to cash a check that cannot be cleared. What greater counsel can there be to form communities, especially with rural, food-producing land, with friends who share high ideals and seek to life simply and creatively. The future belongs to the brave and the daring.

Blessings to you,

Swami Hrimananda

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2012: a Year to be Remembered

In some quarters the new year, 2012 is awaited with great expectations. Some are hopeful; others, well, not! Perhaps the weight of expectations alone will precipitate something dramatic.

I think we can expect that 2012 will not be boring, whatever twists and turns lay ahead of us. The pace and intensity of change and the volume level of uncertainty continues to rise, and not just steadily but exponentially.

What better time to get one's life together. What better time to grow up; get real; get a life; and share a life. What better time to think more deeply about the gift and the meaning of our lives.

Time to "occupy" your own life with substance, rather than fluff. I have lived nearly 35 years (most of my adult life) in an Ananda Community (first Ananda Village, near Nevada City, CA), and, since 1993, here at Ananda Community, north of Seattle, WA. I've been privileged to live among and to serve together with literally hundreds of high-minded, idealistic, sincere, unique, creative, and energetic pioneers in the practice of meditation and intentional community. So, I have some suggestions drawn from my (somewhat) unique life to offer:

1.)  Break the mold of daily habit and drudgery. Find some way to view and motivate your daily duties with inspiration and purpose. To make every act of the day an act of devotion to God is perhaps a bit too high for some, although it, too, is only a steppingstone to feeling divine consciousness flowing through you. But short of such lofty heights, remind yourself that your work is service, whether humble or "great," to others. Feel gratitude for the health and vitality that permit you to perform your duties; the intelligence to be focused, productive and creative; and for the harmony and beauty that results when we perform even simple tasks with conscious attention to detail and to excellence.

2.)  Pay attention to the world around you. Pay attention to your every act, words, thoughts, and movements. Just .... pay attention! Start with your own family or whomever you live with. Notice, appreciate and help in simple ways: many unnoticed by others and others by open expression. Add to that close circle your neighbors, your neighborhood, your town. Go from there to your country and around the world. Show sincere interest in life: science, nature, art, community, yes, even politics and religion. Notice and then get involved. Interest and mobility reinforce the flow of vitality, energy, and creativity into your life. I remember discovering in college that if I affirmed that I was interested in a subject I was having to take in class, that the interest would follow and would actually be stimulated. By interest, questions would arise; I would listen in class; ask questions and when time came for exams, it was just all "right there" as if it were the easiest thing in the world.

3.) Look ahead, don't hide in the sand. Are you spending more than you earn? Are going further in debt? Using up your savings? Rein in your spending if necessary. At the same time, expand your spending to include the well being of other people and worthy causes. No one, not even the "poor widow" (in the Bible), can afford NOT give something to help someone else. If you are not doing anything for others, something is terribly wrong in your life and resolve to open your heart and help. How secure is your job or other source of income? Don't wait for life to happen to you. Each household should have ample supplies for emergencies and something more for periods of unemployment, or even just to help others in such conditions. Do you have a place or know someone who does (friend, family, etc.) in the country (if you live in a city) where you could go if necessary? What if there's no food in the stores? Rioting? Looting? Can you grow some food in your yard or deck? Do you have food storage? Seeds? Develop your handy skills and make sure you have basic tools around your home. Learn how to turn off water, gas, and electricity.

4.) I have written about it before on this blog, but there is an economic tsunami coming to the shore of your life and your town very soon. Yes, like the Depression of the 1930's, some won't even be touched; some will prosper; many, however, will be devastated. What if our dollar currency became worthless? What if your bank fails? Why not obtain some hard currency or items you can barter. (There's lots of info on this sort of thing on the internet.)

5.) Do you have a faith practice? If you don't, you can meditate or approach God (or ?) on your own. But it is more powerful to share your faith with others, even just a few others. Faith brings courage, inspiration, and opens the heart. You can demonstrate to yourself a higher power if you have the courage and will to experiment. Put aside skepticism (or fear or resentment), and try it. Share your inner thoughts, aspirations; ask for inner guidance; ask yourself why things happen (good or "bad") and what the higher purpose might be? Be self-honest; willing to change; willing to know the truth and be guided by the truth. Consider that truth may be something you can mentally ask to know, but then, having asked, "be still and know." You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

6.) If everything we have become accustomed to disappears, can you handle that? Your health; family; financial security. Someday these will all be taken from you, but it could happen much sooner and not merely by death, which would be a relief comparatively speaking. Prepare yourself in body, mind, and soul to live courageously and "amidst the crash of breaking worlds." (a quote from Paramhansa Yogananda, author of the world renowned spiritual classic, "Autobiography of a Yogi")

In short, pledge to grow taller and stronger this year and to include in your life and needs the life and needs of others.

May 2012 shower upon you blessings of wisdom, courage, and true soul joy!

Nayaswami Hriman

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Are We Bankrupt Yet?

When a person's debts and payments on his debt overwhelm his ability to repay and to continue the expenditures of his current lifestyle, the curtain of material loss descends. Throughout the western countries in Europe and in the United States, the national governments are on or over the edge of bankruptcy. Add to this state and local governments, and we have a bit of a problem.

So, which is going to win: the Tea Party types, slashing expenditures and taxes, or those who want to keep government expenditures rolling so as to keep the house of cards from collapsing completely?

Seems to me that we are past opinions and that the reality of bankruptcy and insolvency is upon us. If we slash expenditures and keep tax rates equal or lower, we will unleash thousands of government workers and military into the tepid job pool only to drown. Social benefit recipients will find their support slashed or eliminated in the direction of homelessness and lack of food, heat, and medical care. We've seen civil disturbances erupt at what will, in the not too distant future, seem like minor inconveniences. Just wait when the cities are teeming with unemployment and homelessness, and the suburbs become ghost towns of idleness and despair.

The result is no different if we continue to spend. For then the currency will, and perhaps quite suddenly, simply implode with essentially the same exact results. You see, the die has been long cast.

It will be up to creative, energetic, and bold individuals and groups of individuals to act for survival and (hopefully) in cooperation with others of like mind. Homes, boats, ski doos, SUV's will be all but worthless. Gardens, rural land, running water and safe shelter will be in high demand, as will consummables that can be bartered.

The apocalypse that our culture has been visualizing through sterile and violent futuristic movies and video games, or through intense downbeat metal or rap music espousing all manner of violence and anger is, tragically, about to become a reality.

Naturally this sad picture is not the only picture, though I find it hard to imagine that it won't be realized in certain places and at specific times. As the sun rises and sets, warms and cools, so too even tragedy has comedy and comforts. Regions of our nation may be impacted very differently. Cities, too, may experience a wide range or degree of these scenarios. Families, businesses, and organizations, also, will experience the gamut of possibility. Even the Depression era of the 1930's saw many unscathed and oblivious to the suffering of millions. So, too, again, by the play of opposites, the sad scenario that I paint will not be absolute, or black and white, as the expression goes.

That doesn't make any less real, however, and certainly not for those who will feel the heavy heel of its foot.

So, am I such a pessimist? No, in fact. I believe much good can come from something that is simply overdue and the obvious consequence of overspending: not just money but natural resources. It's time to balance our budget of time, wealth, energy, health, education, trade, and care and concern for others. It's time we shrink the government in favor of personal initiative and responsibility. It's time to re-discover basic values of truth and consequences, hard work, saving, sharing, and love for our world and the Creator of our world. We need a new and sustainable lifestyle for the 21st century and we, in America, and in Europe, must take the lead (as we have sown the seeds of the weeds that are now choking the flowers of our lives).

If this were the Fifties and you thought the enemy were about to drop "the bomb," what would you do? Well, this time the bomb is one of our own making and it's about to drop. So, what do you do? Prepare! Cut your expenditures, stock up on provisions (food, water, medicines, camping supplies), things you can trade, move to the country if you can, join with others to gather more strength, get healthy and drop unnecessary luxuries and indulgences, learn to pray and meditate (especially with others), start a garden, store seeds, payoff debt where you can.....this is plenty for most people to do.

One ethical question I hear about is what to do with your "upside down" home? Is it ethical to simply walk away from it even if, for now, you still afford your mortgage payment? I wish I had a clear answer to this. But let me start by saying that the catastrophe of value-loss you are experiencing now, and the prospect of much more to come, goes far beyond anything you personally did.

This is BIG. I personally think it is better to make the kind of preparations described above even if it means abandoning your house. This is because I think you may end up having to do that anyway, and by that point, your ability to cope will have gone down the mortgage payment drain. Seems to me the banks are going down anyway. Sorry to say that but if a tsunami is coming at your town you could run around and try to alert people (even though the sirens are wailing and authorities are already doing that) or you could evacuate. Assuming you don't actually know of anyone too fearful to evacuate or unable to heed the warnings, you search may be in vain and at the expense of your own life. It's a personal decision, I grant you, but making your ideals practical and not being foolish has its place, too.

I think the sinkhole is draining our economy and resources faster than we can get out without serious losses at this point. While I don't espouse "every man for himself," but in fact espouse working with others and helping others, I don't see the ethical value in paying your mortgage for the benefit of a vague "greater good" that your payments cannot possibly or realistically impact.

It's a time for bold, yet thoughtful action. And action that includes good of others. Most of my readers already know that Paramhansa Yogananda made predictions of this decades ago and that Swami Kriyananda, founder of Ananda and direct disciple of Yogananda, has repeated warnings about this global economic tsunami for decades as well. I don't repeat those statements now because we no longer need seers to predict what is upon us already for those with "eyes to see."


Nayaswami Hriman

Saturday, August 13, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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