Showing posts with label happiness. Show all posts
Showing posts with label happiness. Show all posts

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Is Human Happiness Enough? Finding the "Third Rail"

Swami Yogananda (aka Paramhansa Yogananda) signaled the theme of his life's work and teachings in his very first book, "The Science of Religion." [

That book was ghostwritten by a friend of his and it was somewhat poorly articulated. Swami Kriyananda re-wrote or re-presented its theme in his own book, "God is for Everyone."]

The theme could be described as "How to be Happy!" I won't attempt to describe his book and its precepts but I do wish to begin with this common word, "happiness."

"Happiness" is a rather vague word, connoting to most people a state wherein one has all the comforts and satisfactions of material existence, including a few excitements and high points along the way. A good job, career, recognition, family, friends, home, pleasures, and monetary security--these are among the "treasures and pleasures" usually considered to bring us "happiness."

Reflective humans, both in their own life and in observing the lives of others on the planet, conclude that this kind of happiness, which I will call, "human happiness," is fraught with uncertainty. These ordinary satisfactions come and go, all too often tainted by both their disappearance and their opposites.

No matter how large our bank account or how high our status or how large our house or car, there's always more. There are bigger homes; higher pay or status;  and faster and newer cars. 

Then too there's the inevitable troubles brought by competition, repairs and upkeep. One's beautiful wife or high status husband might stray or become disillusioned, despondent, or ill. Your perfect child might end up disappointing your high expectations.

And, last of all, you can be certain that even if you manage to carry all these good things to the end of life, you can't take them with you. Such forms of happiness are far from certain and fodder for insomnia or worse.

I saw a joke recently in which the question was asked about super-healthy people: "What will they die of, nothing?" 

And then think of the 99% of have none of these "things."

Is human happiness possible? Is it enough? In "Autobiography of a Yogi," Paramhansa Yogananda writes, "for wisdom, too, do we hunger" (not just for food, shelter, etc.)

One time honored response is to simply become a stoic: accepting life as it comes, neither especially high or low. The dullness that covers our heart in this state of mind has a certain practicality and groundedness, and not a few votaries down through the ages follow its path, but is it really all that satisfying? 

Another is to energize one's commitment to "get mine while I can." Ok, sure: this sounds really satisfying, doesn't it?

It may take our souls countless lifetimes to pursue every possible form of human happiness before we throw in the towel and break one way or the other, but eventually, one finds the "third rail."

God is the "third rail:" the electrifying force that powers the universe and the life of all beings. "I am the light and life of the world" (3 Ne. 11:10–11). 

As the universe is incomprehensibly old so God, the indwelling "life and light of men" can patiently wait. We have been given choice and reason. We do not merely get zapped by this electrifying conscious, blissful Force and find ourselves enlightened. We must consciously seek it. And what we seek is to be more than merely conscious in a human body and ego. In the end, however we may define it (whether as "God" being an anthropormorphic entity or an abstract Force). What we find is what is already there within and in front of us: Infinity itself.

Talk to God. Share your thoughts, emotions, struggles, and moments of human happiness. Turn within in silent, inner communion (aided by the science of meditation). "Be still and know that I AM." Pray for guidance and the light of an unerring conscience. Pray to be an instrument of the light to those around you. 

God has sent to us those who have achieved Self-realization. It is not so easy to approach Infinity directly. It is easier to approach God through those who have become "the sons of God." If I AM THAT I AM, then there must be those who already KNOW THAT and who can help me along the path to inner freedom.

The "way to God" is not for sissies or for boasters. "Suffer the little ones to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven."

Blessings of light and silence,

Swami Hrimananda

Thursday, April 28, 2016

For Wisdom, too, We Hunger! The Battle of Life

Paraphrasing in the title above the words of Paramhansa Yogananda in "Autobiography of a Yogi," we are reminded that all the material success, pleasure, security and popularity in the world can never bring us lasting contentment and true happiness.

Long ago, in the mists of pre-history, on the eve of a great battle between the forces of light and darkness on the Gangetic plain of northern India, a warrior in his chariot, driven by his friend and mentor, pulled up to a stop between the lines of opposing warriors: thousands of warriors, war horses and elephants in armor, death dealing weapons, their sharp edged steel glinting in the sun, mighty chariots bedecked in regal symbols and flags of certain victory, all arrayed for the dreadful moment that was soon to begin.

Troubled by the sight of his own kith and kin against whom he must fight and the thousands he would send to their doom, this warrior, the famous archer, Arjuna, slumped in his chariot in despair for the ugliness, violence, and seeming uselessness of the pending slaughter.

"Why must life be such a struggle?" he, speaking for you and I, echoing humanity's ageless paradox, asked his guide and guru, the avatar and prince, Lord Krishna. Life is so unfair: sunny, today; stormy, tomorrow. Bright and promising in our youth; burdensome and complex in middle age; bitter tasting with regrets and ills in old age.

"I'm not greedy and don't need that much from life," he said. "Can't we just live in peace with one another?" "Can't we just talk this through?" But no, the Dark One is selfish and wants it all. He doesn't like you; he doesn't trust you; he wants you to disappear.

Oh think how easily the competition and rivalry among siblings, nations, the haves and have nots, and competitors could be settled to mutual benefit if we could just learn to get along! Can't the leaders of political parties and factions just sit down and work out compromises in the name of serving the citizens of the nation they are pledged to defend, protect and serve?

Why can't the Golden Rule hold sway over the hearts of all? I pray my way and you pray yours but we both pray our own way each and every day. So why are we not friends? Can we please the Lord of Life with our prayers at odds? Surely not!

Paramhansa Yogananda wrote: "The drama of life has for its lesson the fact that it is but a drama." It is not the destiny of this planet and its incarnate humanity to achieve ever-lasting peace. Who can persuasively say why this must be. But it has ever been so since dawn of time. He who rests comfortably on the laurels of his life may find his bed soon wreathed in the flames of destruction.

Life, earth, water, fire and air vie ceaselessly in endless ever-changing forms. Change is the constant of incarnate life.

The simple pleasures and goals of life all too often betray their true nature by overtaking our, at first innocent, enjoyment and modest intentions with ever increasingly obsessive indulgence and desire. The pleasure of drink becomes the horror of hangover and grows to a compulsive addiction; the pleasure of sex turns dark with selfishness, moods, fights and betrayal. The joy of romance may lead to family life, with its bills, screaming children, and fighting parents. The goal of financial success and security yields but ceaseless struggles to get ahead, the fruit of which is mounting debt and endless responsibilities eclipsing all hope of a balanced and stress-free life. Years of saving for retirement may bring early death from cancer. Such are in the insecurities inherent in material life.

Always the fly lands in the soup; the ants invade the picnic; the neighbor is a schmuck. Famine, war, plague and depression visit our lands with unpredictable predictability.

Yes: there are many moments of peace and enjoyment. But just as much, most people live for the future, always hopeful that things will be better. Self-reflection, however, and only a little is needed, prods us to stay focused and centered, for "you never know!" (My favorite saying!)

"The only way out is IN" it has been said. Not in an escape FROM reality but an escape TO reality. The center pole around which life swirls is our own self-awareness. When things are too good to be true, the "I" of the knowing Self knows this to be so. When things are bad beyond belief, the "I" knows this too "will pass." Only the Self endures all. You were you as a child; a teen; a young adult; and so, on to old age and to your deathbed. The great movie of your life is for your, and for others', entertainment. Have you enjoyed it (yet)?

We receive respite in sleep but no relief from the troubles that spring upon us by day. To those dogmatists of orthodox Hinduism who claim that bathing in the Ganges will forgive sins, the rishis, knowers of the Self, say that one's sins hide in the trees on the banks and jump on you when you come out of the Ganges! "There's no getting out of it, alive!" I like to say.

Is this all too pessimistic? Perhaps. But likely those content with life have either achieved the wisdom of which I speak, or simply haven't suffered in the way that millions, indeed billions, of others on this planet have or living in right now, today. Good karma, for now, but even now you are using up your storehouse of it.

When the soul awakens "to the anguishing monotony" of endless rounds of rebirth, then it cries out in rebellion for a way to freedom.

Imagine yourself gazing out at a glorious panorama: perhaps the Grand Canyon, a sunset at the Pacific Ocean in Hawaii or Big Sur, California! You gaze out, soon lost contemplation and enjoyment (meaning all thoughts have ceased), and suddenly the conscious enjoyment of the scene simply vanishes and there's nothing left but "I." Like staring out a window, daydreaming at first, but soon the daydream vanishes and you are simply "self" aware. No thoughts intrude, no object in the field of vision (or touch, taste, smell or hearing) is being studied......just "I, I, I, everywhere."

This is what it is like to return to your core; to your consciousness; to your spirit. It is not an end in itself; in fact, it's only a beginning. With practice, we call this meditation. Various techniques, especially using thought or focusing on the breath, exist to make this experience a regular and consistent foray into the land of Self-awareness.

As this experience deepens, our awareness of "I" grows beyond I and enters the field of being that encompasses past, present, future, all space and beyond. For many, indeed, most, this state of consciousness is approached in a devotional way. We seek the deep connection that we give a name, and even in image or symbol: God, Divine Mother, a deity, or our guru. Since "infinity" is a pretty large thing (being no-thing at all), there's no end to how it can approached or described, but, like good art and good food, we know it when we see or taste it!

To win the battle of life we need the right weapons; we need to be on the side of the good guys; and, we need to know what we are fighting for. Our most powerful weapon is the mind; it activates right attitude and right action. (To develop the power of the mind we have the tool of meditation.) The good guys are those seek harmony with all life and especially those souls who have achieved the goal. The goal is lasting happiness, unbroken by the vicissitudes, the ups and downs, and simple facts of material life.

Be not afraid, O Arjuna: take up the battle of life and be victorious!

Joy to you,

Swami Hrimananda

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Secret of Happiness: It's Directional; It's UP!

Truth is simple: all else, complex.

How easily we stumble into the darkness of confusion and doubt by looking down into the labyrinth of our troubles, indulging our fears and self doubts, accepting the judgmental verdict of others or what we imagine that judgment might be!

If our own happiness, satisfaction and contentment be our guide and our goal, no one condemns us more than ourselves: no distant deity, no colleague or intimate can do to us what we do to ourselves.

As Paramhansa Yogananda has said, "If we want to be unhappy, no one can make us happy."

The turning point in maturity and spiritual awakening can be said to take place when we know without a doubt that there exists a separation, indeed, a gulf, between what happens to us and our reaction to it. "All conditions are neutral. They seem positive or negative, happy or sad according to the attitudes of the mind." (P.Yogananda) Only as and to the extent we gain awareness and control over our responses to life (including our own thoughts and emotions), can we begin to be the masters of our fate and destiny............and HAPPINESS!

Recognition of the separation of the world around us from the "ME" is but the first step. It is by no means the last. A teenager will rebel or reject his his parents' values and upbringing, but may, in the years that follow, return to embrace those values consciously (like the prodigal son). In a similar way, the soul, in the form of the ego (defined by Yogananda as the "soul identified with the body"), may be inspired, at first, to wean itself from the attractions of material life in its spiritual search. But as the seed of spirituality grows into a mature tree, its leafy and lofty branches nourishes and protects all who come to it for shade and refreshment. The soul's very detachment from an ego-centric life is not the life negation that other egos assume. Life negation is not the consequence of a spiritually mature form of nonattachment! Indeed, quite the opposite. Nonattachment makes life affirmation truly possible because not biased by personal interest, likes, and dislikes but motivated by what is right and good for all.

Nor is nonattachment a recipe for boredom or for being a bore. Nonattachment brings a constant flow of joy, humor at life's ironies, strength in dealing creatively and positively with life and compassion for all beings. Self-involvement, by contrast, sees the world revolving around itself. Its centripetal force steadily makes one's life view very narrow and, ultimately, rather boring. Why, then, doesn't everyone seek to expand his sympathies to include others? Habit, first and the ego, second, protecting its turf and fearing the unknown! And: reinforced by the power from which ego separation came and which sustains it so universally in human minds.

As a young man working in the world of business, I was astonished to see that the most successful investors, inventors, and business types were those whose focus on making money was a distant cousin to doing what they loved and were good at. By contrast, the "losers" were inevitably those most attached to the results. The little guy buys high and sells low, moving with the crowd, trembling eagerly at the prospect of profit or panicking in fear at the prospect of loss. Thus even in the grubby realm of making money, the law of non-attachment to the results holds sway. (Krishna, in the scripture of the Bhagavad Gita, called this form of action: nishkam karma: acting without desire for the "fruits" of action.) Nonattachment is the secret of success in all things. This is one of the great paradoxes of life.

Financial success however is no guarantee of happiness. Far too many mistake the one for the other, and, if they succeed financially, they will find, after years of strain, the coin debased. 

Life's challenges will always be with us. In this world there are no absolutes. Ill health, death, disappointment, betrayal and failure alternate with their opposites. As we mature and grow spiritually we can take in long, even strides the vicissitudes of success and failure with increasing equanimity and calm cheerfulness. Ironically, this distance, this dispassion, allows us to embrace WHAT IS with humor, with compassion, with wisdom, and with creative vitality. 

This world is a world of energy and constant change. We never stand still and, unless we harness conscious intention and will power towards a given goal and in a specific direction, we will bob up and down like a cork on the ocean of life. Thus, our journey towards happiness must be seen in directional, not absolute, terms. If we learn to love another person, we may begin with human love, which is rife with attachment. But if we consciously try to leverage on our love-relationship to make it ever more unconditional, than our human love can grow towards unconditional, divine love. In this way, my ability to love even one person can be a doorway to perfect in me my capacity to love all without condition!

Being energetic, enthusiastic, willing, helpful, creatively engaged, and compassionate (while yet also wise): these are the simple steps that make for human happiness. A selfish person is never happy in her selfishness. A giving person finds satisfaction in helping others. Are these enough, however? No, but an excellent beginning. Imagine if enough people aspired sincerely to these merely human qualities, we'd be living in a paradise on this fair earth.

Where's the fly in the soup? Well, the problem is this "ceaseless flux" thing. The average person might affirm enthusiasm but life keeps score and wants to settle accounts. It prefers to keep the universe in balance. It has this annoying way of popping balloons. You see it goes like this: "whatever goes up, must come down." If we push the rope of attitude "up," it will have to come down, eventually.

Is there a secret escape: a skylight out of this dilemma? Yes, there is. But even if there wasn't, the effort to express enthusiasm would be worth it. Swami Kriyananda (my teacher) said of himself, "The reason I love is that I am happier loving than hating." To affirm enthusiasm does make us happy, even if just for a while. But it's at least the right direction, you see?

The skylight however is the discovery that enthusiasm isn't your invention. It comes from your own higher nature. This nature isn't personal: its universal. The secret of enthusiasm (and, therefore, happiness), however, is to know that happiness is an "inside" not an outside job. It is a product of our consciousness, not outside circumstances. Enthusiasm for vacuum cleaners (if you are a sales person for such) can't carry one very far by the nature of vacuum cleaners: nothing's perfect; competition may come up with a better one; too many people have one already; the one you are selling may be over priced etc.

Enthusiasm is larger than you: just as life and the universe are vaster than any one person. Enthusiasm (joy, peace, etc.) is like a radio station. All you need to do is to tune your receiver to that station. The more powerful your receiver the more happiness stations you can choose from. What if, "by nature," you are not an enthusiastic person? Then ACT enthusiastic and the power of your affirmation will automatically and magnetically turn the dial of your receiver to that station! Again, the direction of our efforts is vital.

Meditation offers the single most effective way to experience a state of mind where life affirming qualities like joy and peace can become increasingly your new and permanent self-identity. Living from your center is like having a box of chocolates where you know that each one has a creamy, yummy soft-center. Not like that box of chocolates like Forrest, Forrest Gump had. You know, the one where you "never know what you're gonna get."

Enthusiasm, like joy and peace, is an invisible and conscious force which, if we affirm that we do have it, will respond to support us. This is the anti-gravity serum that allows us to defeat the up and down-ness of the law of opposites which otherwise rules nature. This teaching is at the heart of the once popular pop movie, "The Secret." It's called magnetism. Our "energy" is like electricity: it generates a force field which attracts to it a like kind. Energy, then, based on attitude and reinforced by action, is the key to our destiny.

Yoga practice (by yoga, I mean primarily meditation but also its physical forms: postures) takes this a step further. Not only by "sitting" or "stretching" can one experience inner peace, but by consciously working with the life-vitality of the body to move this life force from the lower parts of the body up to the brain! A yogi learns to experience the body not merely as a physical mechanism, but as a creative vortex of vital, intelligent, life-giving energy.

Just as we look up when happy and look down when unhappy, so too yoga practice teaches us how to move the "energy" of the body upward. In the very process of this movement, we experience greater calmness and joy. It's not wholly mechanical for the mind has to cooperate rather than fight this process. As happiness (etc.) is a state of consciousness and not merely a "thing," it requires conscious intention, not just mechanical movements to attract it. But nonetheless it's amazingly easily to prove that a flow of energy in the right direction can change your consciousness. No belief system needed.

As we progress in the pursuit of true happiness, we gradually awaken to the reality that this joy exists not just within us but all around us: indeed: everywhere. We discover that this reality is conscious; it is self-evident to our own experience. This reality is super-conscious, meaning omnipresent and omniscient and, indeed, is the essence of life itself. It connects all matter and all people in one larger-than-life vortex of Consciousness and the reality of it becomes intuitively incontestable to your inner experience and sight. It is called: God! Divine Mother, or Father. or Holy Ghost or AUM.

Ultimately, this divine consciousness is both the source of, and the solution to resolving, all the opposites, both positive and negative. But that doesn't make negative as "good" as positive! Positive attitudes foster happiness far more effectively than negative ones. The bad guys go to jail; the heroes are honored. Our "job" is to move in the right direction (positive). When we discover the greater reality from which they come, then we are drawn magnetically towards our Source. It is in the baptism of our consciousness in that divine state where the opposites do not dwell that our efforts achieve both beatitude and increasing permanence.

To start this journey seeking the Holy Grail of happiness requires no dogma. Anyone, atheists included, may embark upon the adventure. The goal and the path are self-revealing, for, the secret of happiness, like the "kingdom of heaven," is, as Jesus Christ said it well enough, "within you."

Joy to you,

Nayaswami Hriman

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Happiness: the new God!

The war between religion and science has been a long one and bitter one. I suppose it started with the Renaissance and man's growing interest in the natural world and in himself.

Science and its offspring and sidekick, materialism, have brought undeniable prosperity, health, security and comfort to billions. While the skirmishing continues, for the most part there is a no man's land, a kind of DMZ (De-militarized zone) between faith and science. "Never the twain shall meet" to quote Rudyard Kipling.

Scientists who have faith simply say the one has nothing to do with the other. Following Einstein's failure to put the universe neatly together in a box, they figure, well, if Einstein couldn't make sense of the natural world why should we even try to imagine there's any connection with God? Even India's ancient scriptures, those known generally as Shankhya philosophy, declare "Iswara ashidhha," God cannot be proved (to the satisfaction of the intellect or the senses, that is).

But our worship of the gods of unlimited material progress and ever-better technology has not brought the world peace nor to our hearts, harmony. Neither, for that matter, has the worship and praise of a distant and aloof God for all of our credos and rituals done much more. Worse, sectarian competition and rivalry are more like the battles between cable networks.

Paramhansa Yogananda, author of the now spiritual classic, "Autobiography of a Yogi," was born in 1893. It was a time and an era when New Thought in America was born. By the time he arrived in 1920 in America to make his home here, he had declared his life's work to be based on a simple observation of what all humans possess and share: the desire to avoid pain and find happiness! And, he had a solution to offer.

No coincidence that he came to the first country in human history to be founded on the principle that its citizens should have the right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Yogananda came to America to cash in the promissory note of our Founding Fathers!

Never mind that the citizens of our young nation assumed that happiness was primarily defined by materialism and self-interest. Yogananda came to help us understand something deeper and more satisfying than owning a Prius or having a second home or having an important sounding title.

By uniting the ancient Vedic teaching, endorsed down through the ages by saints and sages East and West, that we are made in the image of God with the teaching that "the kingdom of heaven is within you," Yogananda helped usher in a new dispensation of understanding.

It is happiness that bridges the otherwise impenetrable gap between God and human life. It is meditation that provides the tool to discover that happiness within and that that happiness IS God, the joy of God; the joy of our own soul's nature. Science can delight in the fact that happiness, unlike God, can be studied, analyzed, and measured!

Science proved its point and its worth. Religion, based solely upon belief and enforced by authority and expressed only through ritual, is steadily losing ground. During much of the 20th century that lost ground was still born and sterile; in its place materialism offered only emptiness; meaninglessness; and naked self-interest. The brutality of two world wars and many lesser ones only proved its "worth."

Now, however, the message of hope for a better world is growing. The search for happiness unites us. The wealth of happiness that we seek is an "inside job." Citizens of prosperous and relatively secure nations like America have demonstrated that material success cannot bring happiness. Each and every one of us, if we make the effort, can prove that happiness is within us. We need no intercession or outside authority.

Happiness, or what I will now term, joy, is the new religion. It is the spirituality that is not religious. Ananda's motto is "Joy is within you." This might as well be everyone's motto who seeks it within, especially those millions (and growing daily) who seek it through the science of religion: meditation.

Yogananda's very first book was called: "The Science of Religion." Meditation is for everyone. Even scientists and atheists want happiness, don't they?

And if there's more to it than this simple article addresses, well, that's less important than the point I seek to share. Never mind that just because happiness is an inside job that doesn't mean it's a solo flight. Nor that we don't need guidance and inspiration for the journey.

As our complex bodies work their wonderful magic without our conscious consent, so too our inner peace and happiness are already there, within us, and ultimately they can be and must be our guides. We need not be concerned about where the journey takes us and what form it will assume. We need only take one step at a time. See you there!

Joy to you!

Nayaswami Hriman

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Can Meditation Make You Happier?

This year's "Spiritual Renewal Week" ( at the Expanding Light Retreat (located at Ananda Village near Nevada City, CA USA), has for its theme, "Finding Happiness." Numerous speakers will share thoughts on many aspects of the increasingly vital topic, "how to find happiness." It just so happens that "Finding Happiness" is the title of the movie about Ananda's worldwide network of intentional communities, but it also presents to us in these days of great uncertainty, countless lifestyle options, and turmoil, a timely AND timeless subject.

It is difficult to keep up with the published studies on the effects of meditation on the brain, the mind, the body, and general "spirits." But the question is worth asking: "Can meditation make you happier?"

My favorite answer to these types of questions is, "It depends......on you!" Let's start by saying meditation can help you become calmer. Being calmer allows you to be clearer in both emotions and thoughts (two sides of the coin, I'd say). Being calmer allows you to make choices about your response to stress or anything that might make you UNhappy or LESS happy. To activate this potential, you have to make the effort to retain that calmness sufficiently well enough to use your will to remain even-minded, and to choose your response rather than react. Rather than bite someone's "head off," you might take a deep breath and remaining calm, patiently explain your thoughts. Etc. etc.

But meditation can take us deeper than simply remaining "mindful" and calm. There are stages of meditation and much of what's taught under the stress reduction category of "mindfulness" is just an entry level stage....unless practiced "longer and deeper," that is. Other techniques (combining attitude, feeling, intention, and the technical aspects of the deeper meditation science) can accelerate the depth of your meditation. But not merely mechanically. There's more to it than mere mechanics.

Many prior blog articles have explored aspects of meditation but for this blog, on finding happiness, let me say that a deeper experience of meditation partakes of the nectar of true happiness directly, without intervention of thoughts, intentions or techniques. It's like taking a bath or shower; standing under a weightless waterfall of joy and peace! Experiencing a form of happiness that is not circumstantial and not conditioned by any outer situation, one "knows" a joy that slowly begins to percolate through one's body cells and consciousness. Bit by bit, day by day, the bubble of happiness permeates your thoughts, attitudes and actions and, by so doing, magnetizes to you even greater opportunities for joy, for gratitude, for service, for self-forgetfulness..........for lasting happiness.

It would be fair to ask whether this deeper experience requires a belief system, a faith ideal, or any form of religious or spiritual affiliation or inclination. I want to say "Yes," but, in fact, it does not. But, which came first, the "chicken or the egg?" The one can lead to the other and vice versa. I cannot say for sure that deep and regular immersion in this state of consciousness can remain always a subjective experience with no intuition about God or "other" arising, but let me say, rather, that the search for meaning (and what is meaning if not happiness) will ineluctably, inevitably and indubitably lead us to the "truth that shall make us free." I think that's all I need to say because each soul's path to truth (and what is truth if not God) is unique and is his own. I can speculate but, no matter.

I will say this, however, those souls who intuitively are drawn to seek the "other" (as I have frequently commented upon in other blogs), who are open to the presence of God, Christ or the masters, in whatever form, and have an innate devotional awareness will have in place an important piece of this thing we call "truth." That's as much as I can say.

So, yes, meditation can help you find the wellspring of happiness that is, as we often say at Ananda, "within you."

I believe some of the key events are video streamed on the internet. Classes begin Monday mid-morning, August 18. See the link above for more information.

Blessings to all,


Friday, January 17, 2014

Search for Meaning - Part 4 (of 7) : Inquiry into Consciousness

Part 4 - Inquiry into Consciousness

Skeptics or scientifically minded people who turn away from any inquiry into the meaning of life, into life after death, into the existence of God, or reincarnation, ought to simply admit that they lack the interest, confidence, courage and/or willingness to make the effort to investigate. Just as billions of dollars were spent on building the large Hadron Collider in Europe to conduct sophisticated experiments on subatomic particles, so too investigation of fundamental consciousness takes focused commitment and years of rigorous inquiry. Some scientists, atheists, etc. are surely as bigoted in their refusal or denial of the possibility of subtler levels of reality and consciousness as the most self-righteous religious scripture-thumping fundamentalist.

Let the rationalist consider, too, the hypotheses of science which we readily accept but which lie far beyond reason or the senses: From astrophysics, geology, genetics, and astronomy to quantum physics, string theory and the “God-particle,” we readily accept as true, realities that can only be described (from the point of view of our actual sensory experience or our reason) as “metaphysical!”

Proofs of subtler truth teachings do exist for those who are interested. It’s really that simple. Well, ok, maybe simple but not so easy. Just consider what it takes to be a top-notch physicist these days. Inquiry into consciousness can only be conducted on its own level. There are no tools or machines that can do anything other than hint at the effects of consciousness. Consciousness is the only “tool” to perceive itself. The Greeks counseled: “Know thy Self.” Only by mental and mindful inquiry might we perceive the vastness of the halls of consciousness, opening up to first contemplate and then aspire to become infinity itself.

We are taught to begin with simple inquiry: “Who am I?” Examine your every thought minutely, as if under a microscope, and wonder not at the absence of God. Our daily preoccupations with matters mundane and egocentric number into the thousands. Clear your mind of such thoughts for increasingly long periods of time, and, wonder of wonder, what appears but a window onto Superconsciousness and a universe of Inspirations, insights, creativity, vitality, and joy that has no outer conditions!

Just as to become a scientist or doctor takes years of training, so too one who would plumb the depths of consciousness would have to expend years of concentrated effort under the mentorship of one who has mastered the art. His tools would include introspection and the science of meditation

The agnostic will say “I don’t know, I am interested only in tonight’s dinner and whether I get that promotion.” Both dinner and the promotion however are but thoughts in your mind. They have no reality (at that moment, at least) outside of your mind. The educated agnostic will certainly have no problem believing in science’s tenet that there are at least a hundred BILLION galaxies and that our earth has existed for billions of years and the humans have been on this planet for some six or seven million years? He will admit that his life of eighty years in the context of the length of time humans have lived on earth isn’t all that significant. Further he must admit that his life is not more important than that of the other six billion people on this planet. His temporary delight at gobbling down turkey on Thanksgiving is no more significant than his neighbor’s enjoyment of his vegetarian nut loaf. He might fight back and conclude, claiming to be rational, that all inquiries beyond his own material, bodily, and egoic interests are unnatural and unworthy of contemplation, but he cannot say, objectively, that his personal realities are more real or more important than another’s.

The “enlightened agnostic,” by contrast, will go further and recognize that to be virtuous, honest, loyal, hardworking, and compassionate is a better and more honorable way to live. He will surely believe in the golden rule. If he writes off his belief on the basis of obtaining better treatment from others, then he is but a cynic. What satisfaction or happiness would accrue to such a one who appears friendly only to curry favor? How would he view his love for his wife, mother or his child in the context of his philosophy of life?

There are of course varying levels of such agnostics ranging from cynical to noble but they all at least recognize that we must deal responsibly with the realities we face in life. “Responsibly” is something of a subterfuge for a realization of which few such agnostics contemplate the potential implications. What is the meaning and philosophical significance of that intangible but valuable satisfaction that is achieved when we relate to others along the lines of the golden rule? Those who have lived by this rule know that life is more satisfying, more complete, and, yes, more meaningful. C’mon now: why not admit it: one is happier!

Once again, the hard crust of reason and narrow self-interest, indeed egotism, which like prison walls, begin to crumble as our heart and mind expands to include others. The law of the jungle, while presumably the fate of lions and tigers and bears, is something most of us do our best to avoid! And even in the jungles of concentration camps or in times of war, famine, or catastrophe, there were and are those who reach out to help others. To them is bestowed nobility, strength, wisdom, contentment and inner satisfaction that the bitter and selfish will never fathom.

While reason can endorse this enlargement of sympathies and self-identity, it is first and foremost a matter of the heart. Only in the crucible of testing is the metal of our character forged. Some are born with this enlargement; others earn it in their current life.

And what about the phenomenon in human experience we call the “conscience?” More survival tactics, I suppose? Based on lack of conscience, one will steal and enrich himself; based on the whispers of conscience, another will turn away from the temptation. Which, I ask you, is the more successful survivalist? The former may outlive, out-propagate, and out-prosper his more scrupulous friend. But will he be happier?

Whence cometh this realization, this power of the knowing of our shared humanity, the nobility of self-sacrifice, this reaching for the stars? As we acknowledge biological evolution, is there perhaps a psychic or soul evolution? As we cognize the ever-changing interchange between matter and energy, is it possible consciousness evolves also as it takes on new forms?

Stay tuned, then, for Part 5, Evolution of Consciousness!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Search for Meaning - Part 2 (of 7) - What, then, is Happiness?

Part 2 - What, then, is Happiness?

If scientists, materialists or scoffers were more self-honest, they’d simply have to admit that these questions are outside the scope of their inquiry or their personal interest. Just about any “man on the street” can supply the most obvious answer to the purpose of life: we want to enjoy life and to perpetuate that enjoyment. It’s happiness we seek, silly! Most men and women, looking at life’s wonders, mystery, complexity, order, and beauty, see that the cosmos is veritably bursting with intelligence. The observant and aware human experience is sufficient to tip the odds strongly in favor of creation being both a product of, and directed toward increased awareness of, Consciousness, Intention, and Purpose! Albert Einstein, one of the greatest scientists who ever lived, was in awe of the universe and saw beauty and intelligence where other more pedestrian observers see how to make better bombs or grow food more profitably.

Most weekend-Darwinists would fall into the trap of admitting that mere existence isn’t enough, at least not for them personally! “Sure, I wouldn’t want to be in a coma or paralyzed for life. I’d want to enjoy life!” In any case, they can’t help but allow a higher purpose to enter which I will call simply, happiness. Right there they’ve forfeited the match by admitting to something, “happiness,” that cannot be defined and that constitutes a non-material reality -- in fact, a reality which is a product solely of consciousness and feeling! Bingo, ‘ol boy! I think I’ve just won!

And if you’d be tempted to say that happiness is the result of material satisfactions (home, hearth, money, pleasure, success, etc.) I would counter with the well established fact that the human experience discloses ample examples of people under the most harrowing conditions of pain, suffering or lack experiencing happiness (in the form of joy, contentment, and focus) like the full moon appearing in the sky, untouched in its beauty by earth bound devastation. The potential for human consciousness to transcend seemingly impossible physical conditions can never be circumscribed. Score one for metaphysics, I say!

You might still object by saying that desiring happiness (in any form) doesn’t make life necessarily meaningful, just purposeful? Hmmmm, hair splitting, are we? Even a scientist would say you have to limit your inquiries to what you know and can test. The meaning of life isn’t likely to found in a rock or in outer space. The very inquiry suggests consciousness & intelligence and, besides, intelligent or not, it is we who are asking the question, not the rocks or the whales. So we must be the measure of the response and the inquiry into whether and what is happiness and whether our pursuit of it is meaningful!

In any case, to admit happiness into the discussion is certainly a crack in the materialistic egg of strict Darwinism. You might object that seeking happiness doesn’t answer the question for the lower life forms and their respective stages of evolution. Hmmm, I would say, really? Are not earthworms and plants “happy” if they get sustenance and favorable conditions for living? Well, ok, we can’t say for sure they are “happy,” but as their simple needs are more fulfilled they are at least, well, “more fulfilled!” It’s at least as good as your survival of the fittest theory, I’d say. It supplies at least a motive, as it were, for their compelling interest to survive. Survival for its own sake has no logical explanation by itself without the squishy appearance of consciousness and feeling. A kind of primordial, “What’s in it for me?”

I will admit that we have yet to grapple with what is happiness. For one question that remains is not so much why we want to be happy (that is intuitively and innately self-evident even if beyond logic and reason), but what parameters foster this happiness. A murderer might imagine (presumably does) that killing his enemy will make him happier in ridding his life of some terrible pestilence. But remorse and regret may set in, afterwards, or the hangman’s noose, descend. Either way the happiness achieved by the murderer may be fleeting, at best. But, let’s explore the nature of happiness in another section.

Positing that happiness is the goal and purpose of life isn’t all that much of a threat to anyone, now that we’ve dismissed the Darwinists from the room, that is. It’s the atheists and the agnostics who are now left standing, quietly muttering to each other and suspicious of what’s to come next.

Our AA friends (agnostics and atheists) are suspicious because once you introduce meaning or happiness into life, then a higher octave than material fulfillments of the law of cause and effect is admitted into the conversation. The causes of achieving meaning are as insubstantial and lacking materiality as meaning and happiness itself. A metaphysical truth can only be dismissed when one lives comfortably, if narrowly, under the umbrella of materialistic, present life realities.

Right now, however, these baddies think that the meaning of life is to “get mine” and the only cause and effect they care about is how to cause mine to be got. Now I admit that some of ‘em are actually really nice people who love whales, pets, lovers and mothers. They just don’t cotton to that God thing. We’ll call this a sub-group of AA’ers, humanists.

You see: all of these people, nice or not, are wedded to the idea that the only realities worthy of note are the ones that they are interested in. Such realities are likely to be things they can see, hear, taste, touch, or smell. The idea of a broader, intangible reality is, for them, dismissible on the grounds of “Frankly, I’m not interested.” Even the billions of galaxies or the bad things that live under their fingernails are generally of little interest to this group of people. Maybe they love puppies or buy organic produce, but these they can touch.

Is there a way to bridge the happiness motivation into something less subjective? Can “God” enter the picture through the backdoor of happiness? Let’s wait and see….stay tuned for Part 3 – Consciousness, God & Intuition

Friday, January 10, 2014

Search For Meaning - Part 1 (of 7)

This is the first of seven articles on the search for meaning, for happiness and God. This series reflects the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda, and also specifically, the lifelong efforts of Swami Kriyananda (a direct disciple of Yogananda) to see the cup of modern consciousness as half full, instead of half empty. This is a message of "Hope for a Better World," to use the title of one of Kriyananda's books.

Part 1 - To What End, Creation? Survival?

Introduction: Before I begin, I’d like to start with some acknowledgements and references. My spiritual teacher, Swami Kriyananda (SK), wrote nearly 150 books in his long and productive life (1926-2013). One of his first books was originally published under the title “Crises in Modern Thought.” Later revised and expanded, it was renamed, “Out of the Labyrinth.” In this book, SK grapples with the 20th century issue of meaninglessness -- a cultural and philosophical malaise which brought much suffering, both physical and mental, to millions (and a lot of meaningless art--see also his book, “Art as Hidden Message”). For those interested in going into this subject far more deeply and lucidly than I can here, I recommend this book highly (and its sequel, “Hope for a Better World”). Both can be purchased online, or from the publisher (, or from my favorite bookshop, (or an Ananda center near you!). The culmination of these two books comes in a re-write of Yogananda’s thesis, or personal mission statement: a ghost-written book he called “The Science of Religion” but which Swami Kriyananda re-wrote with the title: “God is for Everyone.”

In his own life story, originally titled “The Path” in 1979, but also revised and expanded thirty years later (2009) with the title, “The New Path,” SK describes the turning point in his life (at age 21) when walking out under the stars on the beach, desperate to understand the meaning of life. Using the only tool at his disposal and with which he felt secure--his reason--he concluded that as he is conscious and asking himself these questions about the purpose of life, so too God, if He exists, must be a larger version of himself: or, to sum it up: Consciousness Itself. As he, SK, exists, God must exist. As he is conscious, God must be Consciousness itself. Until his dying breath, SK would repeat this story to audiences time and again. He often would choke up in the telling, so deeply moving and life changing was his realization.

Matter or Consciousness? Or, does it matter? As SK would put it time and time again throughout his life in lectures and writings: either nothing is conscious, or everything is conscious. Extending that, I would add that either life is meaningless or life is meaningful. Skeptics, scoffers and materialistic scientists maintain that consciousness arises from the electrical and chemical activities of the brain in its fevered attempts to survive and prosper. Thus, for them, consciousness is merely a useful function and has no intrinsic meaning in itself. It is as useful to us as, they might aver, the trunk of an elephant is to the elephant. This is what, I believe, SK meant by the phrase “nothing is conscious.” Put another way, the materialistic view is that consciousness is a mere functional byproduct and not the very essence or the source of matter. They might say, if they had a sense of humor (and often they do not), “It doesn’t matter.”

I once read an article in National Geographic that explained, quite unselfconsciously that human love and romance were “merely” responses stemming from these core “Darwinian” impulses! The article went to great lengths to explain the chemical processes involved. It was sad, or perhaps silly, actually, but this form of explanation is the accepted dogma of science and of culture today. In many so-called intellectual circles, it is an accepted dogma that all human activity has its origins in the impulse to survive and propagate! (Speak for yourself, I say!)

But these pseudo-philosopher-scientists are not being logical or true to their own rigorous methods of reasoning and experimentation. If you want to remain logical and objective you must by sheer logic alone agree that Darwinian compulsions, while factual, do not limit other influences or possibilities. These impulses could just as logically be but aspects of a bundle of influences and elements related to the interplay of matter and consciousness. Just as we have “lower” animals so too we, humans, may possess lower impulses as well as higher ones. The two might, at times, be in conflict, but, at other times, in cooperation. Darwinism need not be the final statement on the meaning and function of life. It is not exclusive. It simply points out a demonstrable (and useful)  fact of sentient life.

Is there not more to human life and its motivating impulses and myriad activities and interests (and, demonstrably to animal life, at least the more highly developed species)? Is the possibility of higher consciousness, of preexistent intelligence really such a threat to science? Why don’t they just admit it’s outside the purview of their interests or present ability to measure or predict (with the possibility of being forever outside their control!). Just look at human emotions, even in a single day, going from angry to forgiving.

A cup half full. Is it not at least just as possible that the material universe is a manifestation of consciousness as it might be that consciousness is the product of electrical and chemical processes? That it seems to us that the brain and nervous system are prerequisites for mental processes, does not logically preclude the possibility that behind the development and evolution of such sophisticated organisms lies a hidden but guiding intelligence, like the oak tree hidden in the seed. Sensitive awareness and sophisticated analysis of high functioning or unusual (but demonstrable) mental processes discloses conditions and instances where cognition and consciousness exist independent of the body and its organs.

There’s no point disputing the existence and value of the impulse to survive or to procreate, but primal impulses cannot answer the question, “Why?” Or, “What for?” Whatever may the compelling impulse to survive and procreate, organisms, both human and otherwise, don’t necessarily spend an enormous amount of time or energy dwelling on these impulses. It’s not unlike defining the human body as a composting mechanism: a rather narrow and pedestrian point of view, and of limited utility. Why, in any case, does the instinct for either arise to begin with? What’s so great about surviving and propagating? As I like to put it, “We don’t get out alive” in this world!

Given the depth and profundities of our very inquiries, and those of humankind down through the ages, moreover, it is at least slightly more likely that consciousness is the bedrock source of matter, not the other way around! On what basis and for what Darwinian purpose would we, and untold numbers like us, be having this conversation? Why has this conversation been repeated in every generation since the dawn of human history?

Part 2 - What is Happiness? stay tuned........

Swami Hrimananda!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Memorial Day - What is self-sacrifice?

Yes, ok, so Memorial Day was just the other day! Well, I was a bit busy but that didn't stop me from thinking about it. Now if you think this piece is about soldiers sacrificing their lives, well, it's not. But the theme of Memorial Day made me think of this topic: self-sacrifice.

Students and devotees of the Bhagavad Gita (India's most beloved scripture) are aware that the theme of sacrifice appears throughout the "Gita." The term used (from Sanskrit) and (crudely) transliterated is yagya.

The idea of sacrifice went out with sinning and hair shirts just a few years ago. Nowadays nobody talks about sins (or wears hair shirts). We just look for our bliss: it's more fun, besides. Sinning is, like, so passe. Besides, I think we got that sinning bit all wrong. "Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa!"

We do seem to pay lip service to servicemen (and women) who have in fact sacrificed their lives or health (physical or mental) in wartime. How many go into battle to honor and serve their country and willing to give their lives for it is difficult to say. There are as many reasons to be in military service as there are soldiers and by no means all of them do so with honor, dignity or conscious intention. That's not a criticism, it's a fact. Think of all the soldiers  and sailors down through the ages that were "inducted" (perhaps against their will), or enlist for economic or social reasons, or, even, out of complete ignorance of what they are getting into! Well, anyway. I said I wasn't going to talk about that.

My point remains that self-sacrifice is about as popular as wanting to catch a cold. On the other hand:

Few question the instinct and rightness of self-discipline for recovery from addiction, losing weight, regaining one's health, saving for retirement, going to night school to get a degree, practicing meditation, exercising and any number of other obviously useful acts of personal self-discipline.

It has been well said by others more informed and intelligent than I that our society (America and others) inclines more to indulgence than delayed gratification. I just heard today repeated on National Public Radio the relatively well known study that documented that children who postponed for fifteen minutes having a marshmellow now so they could have two of them a little later did better as young adults in achieving their goals and happiness.

It is commonplace to bemoan excessive spending and lack of savings, and, an embedded sense of personal entitlement and on and on. And I guess I'm be-moaning along with the rest of them.

But this concept of yagya, self-sacrifice for a higher good, intrigued me since long ago when I first read of it in the Bhagavad Gita. Now, being raised Catholic, I was big into sin and into Jesus' sacrifice on the cross for our sins. And I knew the story of Abraham being tested by God by being asked to sacrifice Isaac, his son (in the end, he didn't have to: "Just testing you!" God said. "What, my intelligence?").

The Bhagavad Gita talks in terms of how all worthwhile things, including material life itself, is achieved by offering oneself in gratitude to a higher Source, to God. Krishna encourage us to see all things as coming from God and seek all fulfillment in attunement with God. Jesus put it this way: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and its righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you."

In other words, understand that true happiness comes from living for a greater reality (by whatever name) than self-gratification. Rather than eat for pleasure alone, eat healthy and vitality giving foods for nourishment  (lest through a junk food diet it later "eats" you!) Sex enjoyment, too, becomes perverted the more we seek it for its own sake rather than as an expression of love, friendship and commitment (and as a means of bringing to earth through love, other souls). Rather than to see your work as merely for personal gain (income or status), see it as a service to God through your fellow man. Rather than to see the earth's bounty as ours for the taking, for exploitation, see our access to it and dominion over it as a gift from God to be stewarded and sustained for all generations to enjoy in harmony. And so on.

Yagya, then, means, among other things, to live in the consciousness that we are all One. Thus to behave selfishly is to be short-sighted and to seek ephemeral, sensory or egoic satisfactions at the expense of long-term happiness. Ice cream tastes good "going down" until, after a few years, it stays down (and around the stomach and arteries, so to speak).

In the happiness of others we find freedom from ego. What we give or share with others freely opens our heart and affirms our security in a larger reality. What we receive in return is a hundredfold.

Some would say self-sacrifice is also manifested in what so many bemoan as having disappeared: the good 'ol fashion work ethic. Well, all I will say is that willingness, generosity, a creative and noble spirit, an attitude of wanting to serve and to help others appeals to me more than a good "work ethic." How much of this term came with grim sacrifices which resulted in resentments?

It is only the ego, the small and selfish self, that balks at the expansive attitude of yagya. Think of yagya as an  investment: in our long term happiness and that of others. Only a hard hearted spirit can pretend to be happy at the expense of others, or in the face of their travails.

So you see, it IS BLISS that we are talking about. The difference is that sacrificing to avoid sin is how the ego sees it, but investing in one's happiness (by investing in the happiness of all, e.g.) is just good sense and an investment in BLISS.

Of course if you are watching carefully you might just see a rat scurry by. That rat is the ego perhaps getting a little smarter and going for what we used to call "enlightened self-interest." The golden rule requires no belief in heaven, in God, or bliss eternal. So, you are right, There's a catch and you caught me.

You see the rat of ego remains. So long as we think we are the doer, being good (for a change) instead of being selfish, it's still just us. We might indeed be happier and more self-satisfied, have more friends, and better health, but it's still just me and I am as mortal and frail as before. My selfishness has just gotten more refined. But, it IS an improvement.

To truly understand and reap the rewards of God's creation, it is ultimately for our own eternal satisfaction that we understand that the essence of yagya is to offer oneself into the higher Self of All. For when we say "We are One" this means, as Paramhansa Yogananda put it, "When this "I" shall die then will I know "Whom am I."  The more the sense of doership and separateness dissolves into the greater reality of an ever expanding awareness of self, the closer to real bliss we can come. One lifetime or many lifetimes, it doesn't make much difference because "living for God" is it's own reward and if we focus too much on measuring we defeat the purpose which is to go beyond all measure.

Yagya to you,

Nayaswami Hriman

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Success is One (Won)!

Today I and hundreds of others travel to Ananda Village, CA on pilgrimage for an annual week of Spiritual Renewal with Swami Kriyananda, founder of the worldwide work of Ananda. Our subject is the new era of consciousness known by its Indian astrological name, Dwapara (or Second Age). Our era is estimated to be of some 2,400 years in length and to have begun about 100 years ago. It is characterized by an increasing awareness of energy as the reality beyond the multitude of forms. During this cycle of the ages we will advance rapidly in the "conquest" of space as the technology of energy unleashes new forms of communication and travel..

I have the privilege and opportunity of a brief talk this coming week on the meaning and form of success in such an age. Success in the last two thousand years or so was defined by mass and size, and determined by conquest and one's birth. Land was the primary measure of wealth and the power over others and their production that came with ownership. Success meant control and domination.

As we've moved away from the prior age, money and ownership of the means of production have been the measure thus far of our wealth and success. But this is a transitional step as old ways and new ways vie for expression. Note how suddenly we are seeing currencies and all forms of monetary measurement and wealth being eroded by the trillions. Instead, the onset of Dwapara Yuga shows us that information, intelligence, skills and adaptability are the measure of value and success of a human being.

Success will become increasingly defined by integration, balance, and harmony. Cooperation rather than conquest will and is becoming the language of successful people. Success in health means cooperation with laws of natural health and healing; in relationships at work, at home, and in government, cooperation, respect, and mutual support will lead to the greatest success as we recognize that we, and all life of this planet, are united by common goals and interests (regardless of race, creed, caste, or form (human or otherwise)).

Spiritually speaking, success means finding true, and lasting happiness. Happiness is found by seeking it where it exists: within ourselves. Thus meditation will become the dominant characteristic of spirituality where seekers find inner peace, creativity, joy, and vitality at their source. We become devotees when we re-discover the intuitive, soul knowledge that that happiness is not ours alone but is the very nature of creation, of all matter and that behind this energy and consciousness lies the Infinite consciousness of Spirit.

Success is One(ness)!  Joy to you, Hriman