Showing posts with label faith. Show all posts
Showing posts with label faith. Show all posts

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Are You Too Sensitive? Do Yogis have Moods? BOTH-AND is the Path of Yoga!

Today at the Mother's Day Service at Ananda Meditation Temple in Bothell, Padma, my wife, spoke on the subject (from the reading for the week) of Martha and Mary (from the New Testament).

Martha and her sister Mary are the hosts for Jesus who is visiting their home. I believe they might have been cousins, actually. Their brother is the famous Lazarus who, later and towards the end of Jesus' life, was raised from the dead in a rather dramatic scene. So Lazarus was probably also in the room. It seems the occasion was what we might call a "satsang:" an informal gathering of people at someone's home around their spiritual teacher. Most likely Jesus was giving an informal discourse; perhaps he was answering questions. I imagine that the house was somewhat small and the number of people there was limited to the family and Jesus' entourage of twelve plus disciples (including perhaps Mary Magdalene and/or Jesus' mother, Mary).

Martha, however, is busy in the kitchen, making supper. She's fussing, banging pots around (I would guess) and all hot and bothered. Her sister, Mary, on the other hand, is in the living room sitting peacefully on the floor (we imagine) at the feet of her teacher, Jesus.

No doubt in a bit of snit and in a mood, Martha, comes into the room and, perhaps even interrupting, asks Jesus to send her sister, Mary, to help her in the kitchen. Jesus responds, in front of everyone (demonstrating the intimacy of the gathering), by gently upbraiding Martha for losing her inner peace even while engaged in worthy service, saying that Mary had taken the "better part" by tuning into his spiritual vibrations and teachings. (In the Sunday reading, written by our teacher, Swami Kriyananda--a direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda--it is explained that the issue is not what it appears to be: whether serving is better than meditating. Rather, it is not WHAT you do but HOW--with what attitude and consciousness--you do it!)

Padma used the story to illustrate the challenge devotees have in allowing moods to overtake us.

Padma also recalled Swami Kriyananda's story (which he writes in his own life story, "The New Path") where he had gotten into a mood and how, upon encountering his guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, Yogananda snapped the young "Walter" (Swami Kriyananda) out of it and added, "No more moods now, Walter. How are you to serve others?"

Thoughts being "universally, not individually, rooted," it just so happened that last night, while Padma was preparing her talk, I was drafting this article on moods and over sensitivity among yogi-meditators. I hadn't even considered the reading about Martha and Mary that Padma was to speak on.

So a felicitous coincidence, I suppose.........Yogananda taught that moodiness, whether habitual, or simply a periodic episode, has its roots in past sense over-indulgence. But I have another kind of moodiness in mind tonight.

What about those well meaning people who find that their sensitivity to the sufferings of others upsets their own peace of mind? I mean, think about it: meditation is supposed to make you peaceful, right? As your inner peace gives rise to an expanding love and compassion for others you might find that your sympathy for their troubles causes you to lose your peace of mind! Selfish people, at least, are not bothered by other people's trouble! You'd think THEY were more peaceful! Well, then, hmmmmm....we have a dilemma, don't we?

I see two things taking place: the initial stage of the spiritual path, and a longer-term tendency among spiritual seekers.

When, in the beginning of one's spiritual efforts, the hard shell of ego begins to break and fall away, the heart opens and expands. During this initial stage of awakening a person can be somewhat vulnerable.

It's not uncommon to find "young" yogis suddenly falling in love with someone, engaging in excessive yoga practice, trumpeting dogmatic diets or long fasts, and any number of tangents caused by the awakening of uncontrolled creative energy not yet accustomed to remaining upwardly focused on divine love, selfless service, ego transcendence or the wisdom of superconsciousness!

Newly minted devotees, previously inured by the protective shell of ego indifference or self-absorption, find that their increased awareness and empathy can make them emotionally or psychically vulnerable to the vast amount of suffering of others.

But more than a temporary phase is the issue. For at each stage of spiritual growth we must walk the tightrope line between wisdom and love. Yet there is, however, a "left-leaning" inclination in spirituality that naturally feels the pangs of suffering of others. Under this influence, wisdom is challenged to know the boundaries of what is ours and what is not ours.

Even in the stories of saints working miracles of healing, you don't find that they heal thousands. Only a few in number are blessed in this way. Saints have the innate wisdom and divine guidance (and the spiritual power) to know how and who to heal.

Swami Kriyananda quoted his guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, who, when in a state of impersonal wisdom and uplifted vision, described seeing God "eating people." Images of god and goddesses dealing death and destruction are more or less commonplace in the East.

In the ancient teaching of duality, we are taught that death and destruction, evil and suffering, are the necessary counterpoint to goodness and virtue. Both are needed to keep the play of creation interesting and varied. Otherwise, it is said, we might discover too soon the secret behind it all: that it is all God, and God alone; God, the Creator, dreaming the drama of creation. When we unmask the divinity behind the creative play of light and dark, we begin the journey (like the Prodigal Son) to our home in God.

Some might recoil from this truth teaching as too severe and heartless. And, indeed, for the human heart, in many ways, it is difficult to accept. Thus most spiritually minded people incline to virtue and goodness, expressing sympathy and compassion, but stopping far short of transcendence of the sway of good and evil, of maya, the satanic force.

But in a world that has never known anything but a mix of good and evil, we would do well to attune ourselves to God's ways which are not "our ways." The law of karma rules the created universe and though there are subtler aspects to it, such as the redemptive power of divine love, the law of karma is exacting.

One sees in the lives of the saints (think Jesus on the cross, for starters) a courageous, positive, and bold acceptance of life's dualities, especially the less pleasant ones. Indeed, the middle path of even-mindedness is the very definition of the path to soul freedom given to us by Patanjali in the second stanza of his famous "Yoga Sutras."

It is the same truth discovered by Buddha under the Bodhi Tree. It is the unmasking of this Truth that sows the initial seed of faith that, as it grows, achieves ever-greater gnosis, faith, that behind the play of good and evil is the absolute good of God. The hand of goodness guides the great drama of creation towards the release of individual souls from the bondage of desire, ignorance, and suffering born of mistaken identity. Through the God-given law of karma and the gift of reason and intuition, stirred by the teaching and spiritual vibrations of God-realized preceptors, souls begin to awaken to the "truth that can make you free."

Thus, my real point here today is that a yogi (a meditator) should learn to balance sympathy and love with wisdom and faith. A proverbial BOTH-AND assignment! To achieve infinite consciousness is to absorb good and evil, dark and light into One unchanging and eternal state of Bliss.

Sometimes bad things happen to good people but these bad things can be the means through which their own past karma is erased or balanced. Or, it becomes an opportunity for them to practice non-attachment, acceptance, courage, or faith. Or, in the case of more spiritually advanced souls, their troubles become a vehicle by which they can even take on the karma of others. It is difficult to know the inexplicable workings of karma.

We don't start, however, by practicing non-attachment or pretending wisdom in respect to the troubles of others, especially those for whom we are able to assist in some way. We do this, instead, by developing non-attachment to our own desires, our moods, and our likes and dislikes. This can include our moods or sadness as a reaction to the troubles of others (especially when in lieu of helping, comforting, encouraging, or praying for them!)

For ourselves, then, when cold, don't complain; remain calm and endure it, at least for a little while, before calmly putting on a coat or turning up the heat. Accept, when you have no other choice, barbs of critique or less-than-tasty food with equanimity. See all day-to-day tests as coming from God as a way to purify your attachments. Start with the small things and work your way "up."

To the sensitive heart, the world's woes can crush all hope, all sense of divine mercy and justice, and the very incentive to seek God through wisdom and love. No doubt the ego or maya feels victorious when the devotee despairs or falls into moods, doubt or confusion.

Ironically, as the soul advances spiritually, the power to change outer circumstances and to help others (materially as well as spiritually) grows! This comes from letting divine power and energy flow through us rather than be pummeled by the ego's reaction to outward circumstances.

The young plant of spiritual awakening needs the protection of the company of like-minded and more seasoned devotees.

If you find, therefore, that you are "touchy" around what you hear (or believe) people say about you; or that the suffering of others crushes your equanimity and triggers moods and doubts, then it is time to emphasize wisdom and faith in God. Critique becomes an opportunity for self-reflection, perhaps for changing your ways, for forgiveness, and / or for even-mindedness. Sadness becomes an opportunity to be centered, even-minded, cheerful, and offering aid and help to others without regard to your own moods or sadness. Fear becomes an opportunity to affirm faith in God and courage of heart. You won't help anyone by being sad but by being calm, comforting, hopeful and even courageous. Work on yourself if you find you are too sensitive. Be like a doctor or nurse attending the needs of their patients with skill and equanimity.

Is it possible to feel both the suffering of another AND inner peace or joy? Yes, it is! And, without guilt! By meditation, especially, we know true joy as a living, divine presence. This inner joy can co-exist even when the outer surface of our mind and life is touched by sadness. We find that we can retain, in ourselves, a calm acceptance and joy. Yes: BOTH-AND is the way of the yogi.

Let our love and sympathy be practical and our response to it calm with inner eye of wisdom always scanning the horizon of intuition for guidance, acceptance, and practical compassion.

"I am strong in my Self; I am complete in my Self." The Self of self is the Self of all!

 Blessings to all in these "interesting" times. Be a peaceful warrior, not a peaceless worrier!

Nayaswami Hriman

Monday, August 25, 2014

Meditation: Is Effort & Technique Enough?

One of the great themes of spirituality is "self-effort vs. grace." This can be stated another way: "Who is the Doer?" Christians might quote St. Paul in support of "By grace alone are you saved." Yet Jesus himself said not everyone who says "Lord, Lord" will enter the kingdom of heaven but those who do the will of God.

In one sense, it is obvious that we must strive to grow spirituality by our own will! It's as true in spirituality as it is true in business. Human life would be unbearable if we did not believe innately in "truth and consequences," in cause-and-effect. Imagine if we really believed that nothing we could ever do would improve our circumstances, our health, our happiness? Life would not be worth living.

So, of course self-effort and will power is needed. It is axiomatic in the practice of yoga (and meditation---which is true yoga) that by the knowledge and use of the science of meditation one can advance spiritually. The "bible" of yoga is the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. These have little, if anything, to do with yoga postures and everything to do with meditation and the unfoldment of human consciousness toward divine consciousness and union with God, the Infinite Power. Paramhansa Yogananda, renowned for his life story, "Autobiography of a Yogi," and bearer of the now famous technique of Kriya Yoga to the world, would claim that he could essentially transform anyone, no matter how unspiritual, if he or she would faithfully and correctly and regularly practice kriya yoga. Swami Kebalananda, an advanced disciple of Lahiri Mahasaya, claimed that “I myself consider Kriya the most effective device of salvation through self-effort ever to be evolved in man’s search for the Infinite.”

I have practiced Kriya Yoga since 1978 - 36 years: twice daily. I know how the transforming and illuminating impact of this advanced technique. Yet........

Yet........."from whence cometh the Lord!" Deep spiritual experiences come, as Jesus put it, "like a thief in the night." One cannot force from "superconsciousness" its blessings in the form of deep peace and greater states of consciousness, no matter how "hard" one meditates. One can no more achieve higher states of consciousness through will power than can one "try" to go to sleep. Swami Kriyananda describes meditation in his excellent book, "Awaken to Superconsciousness," as "the upward relaxation into superconsciousness." In meditation, we offer our energy, our will, our act of devotional self-effort into the flow of grace from "above."

Kriya Yoga is given as a form of initiation into discipleship. The opening sentence of Yogananda's autobiography says: "The characteristic features of Indian culture have long been a search for ultimate verities and the concomitant disciple-guru relationship." We cannot escape the reality that God has manifested this cosmos by the power of his illusion (known as "maya"). We are not the ultimate Doer or force behind our own life.

Thus our effort may be every ounce of will but the final result of liberation is largely the flow of grace. It is not whimsical: our effort is the trigger, but neither can it be commanded by our will, for we cannot see or know either the obstacles or the channels through which in time or in space that grace will flow. Yogananda gave this formula for our salvation: 25% our effort; 25% the guru's effort on our behalf; and 50% God's grace!

So I add my testimony to that of wiser ones when I acknowledge that the peace and inspiration of meditation flows "where the wind willeth" and not under my control. As one practices kriya yoga or any form of valid spiritual seeking, one learns, bit by bit, that the true Doer is the Divine Will and when we place our will at the feet of the Infinite Power, the little self is transformed by the Great Self of All.

In your meditation, then, offer yourself at the feet of Infinity and ask that God, in the form of a true teacher, come into human form with right teachings, right technique and as the right teacher (for you), to guide you to the Infinite shores of Self-realization.

Joy to you,


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