Saturday, July 18, 2015

Thy Faith Hath Healed Thee – Law of Success

In the New Testament, the gospel of Luke (Chapter 8), we read of the woman who was healed by simply touching the hem of Jesus’ garment as he walked past. The story tells us that many people were crowding around Jesus, reaching for him, hoping also to be healed or blessed at least in some tangible way.

Jesus stopped suddenly and exclaimed “Who touched me? Power hath gone out of me.” His chief disciple Peter protested, pointing out (the obvious) that there were people all around him and many had touched him!

Was she just lucky, like having a winning lottery ticket? Why did her faith heal her when the “faith” of so many others did not heal them? What makes a “winner?” What is “luck?”

In Swami Kriyananda’s autobiography, “The New Path,” and in many of his lectures, he describes how he intuitively hit upon the law of luck by feeling “lucky!” Wanting to go to Mexico one summer during college, and in this state of serendipity, he caught a ride in a car from Philadelphia to Mexico City—three thousand miles!

No one would ordinarily associate someone down in the dumps with being on a lucky streak, right? Obviously, being lucky means being upbeat and confident: holding a positive expectation. Yet no one likes a boastful person, either. Such shallow ego-centeredness contains the seeds of its own undoing. We know that, too, intuitively.

Thus it was in the story in the New Testament that the woman at last came forward, “trembling” the Bible says, when Jesus demanded that the person who had been healed identify him/herself. Clearly for her to have drawn that healing power she could not have been a wimp! So, by “trembling” (and given the evolution and translation of languages) this must have been a reference to humility.

And, by “humility” we don’t mean the self-deprecating or self-abnegating “Aw shucks, fellas” kind of self-conscious humility. Spiritual humility is “self-forgetful” in the presence of or in the state of divine awareness. A true devotee, as this woman obviously was, she felt God’s presence in the person of Jesus. Besides, we’ve already acknowledged that the “lucky” or “successful” person is upbeat and confident! How else, then, can we make sense of the story and of this person?

In general, we find that one who serves a just or higher (or spiritual) “cause” draws sustenance, strength, courage and confidence from a higher (non-egoic) source. One example of this is the form of calm righteousness exemplified by Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr in the face of persecution and violence. The power that results from self-forgetfulness in the presence of divine consciousness is like a lamp being plugged into the circuit so the current can flow and the light can shine forth.

In our times a “new dispensation” has been given for those seeking to know God. (This term was used by Paramhansa Yogananda, author of “Autobiography of a Yogi.”) Instead of God being distant and even aloof; instead of Jesus Christ being distant in time and space (2,000 years ago in Palestine), it is given to us in our time to know that the divine presence is “within you.” The vehicle for this discovery is meditation. In meditation, we can know God through direct, intuitive perception. "The ever-new joy [of meditation]," Paramhansa Yogananda wrote in his autobiography," is evidence of His existence, convincing to our very atoms." (He then added: together His inner guidance, in times of difficulty, bestowing calm acceptance and confidence.) God can be known in the silence of meditation. 

That silence opens us up to another aspect declared by this new dispensation: super-consciousness. We know of the subconscious and the conscious mind, but there is a higher mind (mind you) from which the other two descend, as it were. 

Subconsciousness is inarticulate and hidden, a mishmash of images. It's "worldview" revolves around the ego; the conscious mind is, well, “conscious:” it seeks to define, defend, affirm or serve the ego incarnate in its vehicle, the physical body. 

But the superconscious mind is beyond the articulation of reason and the senses: it is, in one way, inarticulate because not dependent upon language and reason but super-articulate in that it is intuitive and “sees” reality as a unity, unbounded by body and ego. 

When we are super-conscious we are not “thinking” yet we are super-aware. Just as we can’t be “conscious” in the subconscious state and thus we don’t “control” the subconscious mind in the way we like to believe we command our conscious state, so, too, the superconscious mind isn’t under our conscious control either. 

But unlike the subconscious and because it is super-conscious, it brings to us greater awareness which has the long-term effect of greater self-control and power over objective reality.

Superconsciousness is the source and Being of consciousness. Further, it is an axiom of metaphysics and Vedanta that Consciousness is the Source of creation itself; it is the string that links the beads of all atoms and galaxies, all emotional states and all thoughts and perceptions. From superconsciousness comes true inspiration, healing, vitality and intuition. These gifts flow like "oil from a drum" (silently but powerfully, to quote the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali).

Not surprisingly, therefore, we cannot “own” superconsciousness. Any attempt to use it for ego gratification will, in time, diminish our access to it, for selfishness is "out of tune" with the higher vibrations of superconsciousness. Thus while I’d like to say that the spectrum of superconsciousness begins with the state where random or conscious thoughts have vanished like clouds, revealing the clear blue skies of pure awareness, superconscious states of mind can come upon us anytime, anywhere and in an infinity of forms! Nonetheless: silence of mind is the doorway to superconsciousness.

But because infinity is too large a subject for this article, let us say that superconscious has, as Yogananda taught, eight distinct aspects, like facets of a diamond: peace, wisdom, energy, love, calmness, subtle sound or light, and joy (leading to bliss).

A meditator can hasten the approach of superconscious by “attuning” (by imagination or feeling) himself to one or more of these aspects; or, to that form of divinity to which he is devoted; or, to quote Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, “to any form that inspires him.” Bear in mind that if one uses imagination or feeling it is only a tool. Superconsciousness is not an imaginary or emotional state.

It helps, however, for the meditator to clear the mind using whatever meditation technique(s) are his and then to consciously strive (often in conjunction with breath control or focusing on currents of subtle energy (“prana”)) towards stilling all thoughts and holding his awareness, love, feeling, or intention up to the Superconscious Mind. It is through this door that the divine grace of guidance, inspiration and self-transformation via ego transcendence pour.

Let every meditation bring you at least moment of pure stillness. As Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita, ”Even a little of this practice will save you from fear and suffering.” Are not the qualities of calmness, confidence, and positive attitude the antithesis of fear?

In superconscious attunement, therefore, lies victory!

Jai Guru!

Nayaswami Hriman

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Is Your Life a Bit Edgy? In Transition?

I don't know about you but the world around my life seems on the edge of one thing or another. I am hearing this from many others, too.

It all seemed to start with Monday, April 27, the first full day of a massive "all-hands-on-deck" moving party for the East West Bookshop of Seattle (moving across the street). That afternoon, a brilliantly sunny and warm day, our friend, Vajra (Jim) Madden, was struck while walking (in Lynnwood near our Community) on the sidewalk by a car that jumped the curb. [See prior blog in early May]

After a long, sweaty, muscle-bound day of moving boxes and bookcases (that later stretched into several more days) we got a call and sped to the hospital. Vajra had serious and (then) life-threatening head injuries and was in a coma. Then began many long hours and daily visits to the hospital and consultations with the medical staff, paperwork and bill paying and much more. [Now, two months later he is recovering functionality bit by bit.]

A few weeks later most of our local Ananda members traveled to northern California to Ananda Village for a historic and inspired weekend to dedicate the chapel under which is buried Ananda's founder, Swami Kriyananda. Members from all over the world gathered in a celebration of Swamiji's life, discipleship and divine friendship. As I left there to return to Seattle, I felt that a tangible, psychically tectonic shift had just occurred. The life of self-sacrifice and dedication ("tapasya") that Swami took on had just been moved from him to the next generation of Ananda leaders and members.

From that fateful day of April 27 to today, I can truly say I have never been so intensely active in my entire life. For it was just yesterday that four of us returned from a week of programs in three cities in Michigan where we have Ananda centers and members. It, too, was very inspired, even fun, and a blessing for the four of us who went. The joy of our trip and service and the wonderful new friends we made didn't make it any less active and focused. Between returning from Ananda Village in mid-May until we left for Michigan just over a week ago we had 3 sets of Ananda visitors (2 sets from India) complete with tours of the six Ananda "campuses," dinners, "satsangs," and hours of discussions.

Now, none of this compares with President Obama's calendar or that of many active, creative, and high energy people but my examples here are just taken from my own experience. I could go on about the intensity I am seeing in the lives of many, many others. A friend I spoke with today brought this question up saying, in effect, that no matter even with the many enjoyable or fulfilling activities she's involved with, there is still something "edgy" and slightly over-the-top about her life and that of people she's close to. And that's what I am talking about and wondering if something more is afoot.

So, not surprisingly, I believe something is indeed afoot. In the Ananda world, what is afoot is an increase, seemingly sudden, in our public visibility. [Many feel that Swamiji's release from his aging and ill physical form freed up an enormous wave of creative energy accessible by those in tune with him.] The trip to Michigan is a small segment of a larger and very conscious effort to send teachers and others outside our normal service areas. (For decades, Swami Kriyananda circled the globe lecturing, counseling and writing. He's gone now, so who will step up and carry on?)

In the larger world, my sense is also of high energy combined with an outer fringe of edginess and uncertainty. We've had a lengthy period of tension in our nation (and today I heard Holland has joined the racist fray) regarding police brutality in a racial context as one example no one could have predicted. Climate change seems to be intensifying. The field of potential political candidates is spreading like dandelions in the lawn. Why even the local traffic in Seattle is notably more congested than ever.

But whether in Ananda or worldwide what I feel is that "unpredictability" has suddenly spiked upward. Attitudes and actions just beneath the surface are, well, surfacing suddenly. Shifts are happening: some positive, some neutral, some not so positive. Anything, I feel, could happen and in any number of key directions, personally or globally.

The time now, in the midst of the high energy of the summer sun, is to deepen one's life of prayer and meditation. It is a time to be especially sensitive to others and consciously kind and calm ("active calm and calmly active" as Paramhansa Yogananda put it). It isn't a question of countering the intensity of our activity with rest or relaxation or retreat (though no harm in these), it's more a question of remaining centered and calm in the midst of intense activity. Not just calm but mindful and aware.

Under it all, whether at rest or active, we remain always the same. Let God or guru or the divine Self, direct our activities, restful or intense-full, at play or in service. It is all the same, for God is the Doer and this dream is His, not ours. Smile with the sun, even when it's hot for it will soon enough be not. Smile with the rain for the rainbow and the sun will appear as sure as the dawn follows dark.

Blessings to all,


Saturday, June 6, 2015

Evolution Ends in Endlessness!

My daughter, Gita Matlock, wrote a blog article yesterday that coincides with my thoughts in preparation for my Sunday Service talk tomorrow (June 7, 2015) on the subject, "How Devotees Fall." Gita's article is entitled, "Anguishing Monotony."

Her article might, at first, sound like a "downer" but it's not. She's not capable of doing "downers." (Her dad, she says, does the downer subjects.) Rather, while she states her admiration for human striving and overcoming challenges, she wonders "Is there an end to it?" What would the struggle mean if we were not aware of it being a struggle or if we didn't seek an end to it?

Self-awareness, you see, is inextricably linked with our human experience of striving and seeking. Good, bad, indifferent qualities are, at first, seemingly inseparable from the objects (obstacles and goals) with which they are identified. But, Gita writes, behind all human qualities, even the most admirable ones, is the hidden source of all qualities: Self-awareness and Consciousness. For without self-awareness, the experiences have no meaning or significance. Indeed, from a practical matter (ours, that is!), perhaps no existence at all!

Is it possible, however, to separate awareness from the objects illuminated by it? The yogis say YES! The science of yoga shows us how, by meditation, using mind and breath control, to strip away the objects reflected in the mind of the Seer. Gazing backwards into the mirror of Self-awareness, the "Eye" confronts an "I," which, like a mirror reflecting back onto itself, reveals an infinite Self-awareness.

Thus Self-awareness, stripped of all objects, is unqualified Being, and, being without name, form, definition or condition of any kind, is complete unto itself. It simply IS! It is not, however, by that fact devoid of feeling.

If you sit very still and your thoughts subside into deep silence, there wells up out of the apparent Void a rising tide of silent joy. Discover for your Self, that Self-awareness cannot be permanently stripped of feeling. When Awareness is without focus upon any external object, subtle or gross, then its Consort, Feeling, also becomes pure and without condition. Pure feeling is No-Thing less than Bliss itself.

Thus all the struggle, striving, and strain has for its aim ..... to return to our Source in Bliss!

Is Bliss some weird No-thing in No-place that is separate from time and space? Or, does Bliss permeate creation while it remains untouched by it? As the sea can exist without waves but waves cannot exist without the sea, Bliss is omnipresent, omniscient, and infinite.

When Paramhansa Yogananda, 20th century avatara and yoga master, and author of the spiritual classic and modern scripture, "Autobiography of a Yogi," was asked "What is the end of soul evolution," he replied, "Endlessness."

Though we naturally seek rest from strain and struggle, rest is but the opposite, not the resolution of effort. Ease and effortlessness lies in the center point between the two. But so also does Bliss; so also does Infinity. As an object approaching the speed of light must, by mathematical definition, become infinite in mass, so too pure Consciousness expands toward Infinity as it sheds the limiting, reflecting and reactive light of forms, emotions, memories, and attachments.

Rest, then, in the Self, even if from this Self we expand into the Great Self of God. As Swami Kriyananda, founder of the Ananda worldwide movement of intentional communities and the best known direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda put it in his landmark text on meditation, "Awaken to Superconsciousness:"

"The more you seek rest as the consequence of doing, rather than in the process of doing, the more restless you will become. Peace isn’t waiting for you over the next hill. Nor is it something you construct, like a building. It must be a part of the creative process itself.

Learn to be restful, even in the midst of activity, and you will be able to relax better when you sit to meditate. As Paramhansa Yogananda put it, “Be calmly active, and actively calm.”

Joy to you!

Nayaswami Hriman