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

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