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How to Balance Devotion and Mental Activity
September 21, 2015
So joyous am I to contact you again. My question is, how can I remember God when I have to do something like learning engineering and keep myself blissful? I feel terrible to have to learn engineering when thinking of God. At other times, I may be so engrossed with the subjects that I forget Him. If I’m not interested in the subject because I feel it to be tasteless when I think of, say, Master, I’m just not able to learn. How can I balance both rightly?
As it happens I am in India right now, Delhi, on pilgrimage to holy Badrinath. Thank you for writing.
Your question is good and you are right, balance is needed. How to achieve that balance?
It is indeed difficult to study a difficult topic while remaining entranced in devotional bliss. Such devotional inner contact can work during manual labor, but usually not while studying or doing mental work. Therefore it might be best to accept your time of study as a different kind of training: not for devotional bliss, but for example a training of strong concentration, doing one thing at a time, with all your energy and focus. That too is a most important yogic quality to develop, for all of us.
Then set your clock to beep after each hour or two, and at these moments allow yourself a sweet dip of devotion, saying, "I love you my God!" After that resume your study.
In the morning and evening do exactly the opposite: forget all engineering, and in your sadhana concentrate only on one thing: sweet God-contact, love, bliss, Master.
If you keep your sadhana strong, there will come a time when the subtle presence of God is with you all the time, even while studying. By then you will have reached an advanced inner state. You will have become a Mt. Kailash, a sacred mountain, whose base is very grounded and practical, but whose inner peak in the sky of divine consciousness.
God bless you, in divine friendship,
Is it dangerous to love God as my beloved?
October 23, 2014
I’ve read that approaching God as your Beloved is dangerous because it's too intimate.
I've found though that approaching God as Beloved works better for me because I can think of my beloved all the time, as I do in human relationships, and it brings a tendency to feel that He's the only one I love and need. Also it is easier to see the Beloved in all. It seems harmless to me.
If it’s possible, can you explain more about the dangers?
Yours is especially a good question because much of western culture (and certainly Dutch culture) is head, not heart oriented. The intellectual approach to life and truth is suspicious of traditional forms of devotion because they can seem or in fact be fanatical and irrational.
But, in fact, one India’s wisest preceptors, Swami Sri Yukteswar, in his one and only book of abstruse philosophy, The Holy Science, concludes therein, "That without the natural love of the heart, one cannot take ONE step on the spiritual path."
In the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna (representing the soul, the "everyman" disciple) asks Krishna (representing God in the form of guru), "What is the best way to approach God: with devotion or with the mind (intellectual perception of the Absolute)?" Krishna responds, "For incarnate (embodied) souls, the path of devotion ("I-Thou" relationship) is the easier, though both lead to the One."
Be not, therefore, concerned. Even if you "fell in love" with the "Sacred Crocodile," God, who is in all forms, would gradually re-direct your devotion to a steadily higher octave. Why reproach those who think Jesus is the only one; or Krishna; or Buddha? As long as they are sincere (and not judgmental of others), they will enter "the kingdom of heaven" (Self-realization/Oneness). There are many paths to the One! Clinging to one divine form to the exclusion of others is still better than chasing the will o' the wisp of delusion and materialism, isn’t it?
Best yet, however, is to use both mind and heart: common sense, intellect, selfless service as well as heart/devotion/love to guide you to as high and pure expression of God’s presence as you can. This, in fact, is the role of the guru. A true guru (and there are very few) doesn’t seek your attention for himself or for his / her own needs. A true guru is a divine incarnation: a soul, like you and I, who, through many incarnations, has achieved the same state as Jesus, a true Christ: "I and my Father are One."
For me and perhaps millions, Paramhansa Yogananda is such a one. He lived in the 20th century and spoke the modern language of English and lived in the West (USA). He related well to the western emphasis upon reason, proof, and science (experimenting and proving). He brought techniques of mind concentration (Kriya Yoga) and devotional self-offering (chanting, mantra, etc.) and serving our fellow humans and creatures in practical ways. Through Kriya Yoga and similar yogic practices and attitudes, we find a universal path that is nonsectarian and that anyone can benefit from.
But, ultimately, Yogananda was bhakti: a lover of God. For those of us who see in such a one God’s loving presence we feel blessed, for in such a one "the Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us." We, too, are THAT: "Tat twam asi." But we haven’t achieved full and permanent realization, yet!
Jesus said there are but two steps on the path to truth: Love God with all your heart, mind, strength and soul, and, love your neighbor AS your SELF.
Joy to you,
P.S. My wife is from Holland we were just there recently to visit her brother in De Hague. We stayed near the beach and enjoyed perfect weather, the sun and sea and the dunes!
May 20, 2014
Hindus worship images and icons of stone, clay, and metal. Is not this practice of idolatry contrary to the teachings of the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita ?
The validity of worshiping any material object always depends on the inner understanding and consciousness of the person doing the worship. I read something interesting a number of years ago. It was about a man who had visited India many times to study the different forms of worship done there. He was a Westerner and had a deep respect for India. He did this kind of study for over 20 years. To him it was something of great interest, but nothing deeper.
On one of his visits, he was invited to a special worship ceremony in a small rural village. Here the Divine Mother was worshiped in the nub of a tree. This “nub” was covered with vermilion powder, and draped in beautiful cloth. It had been worshiped in this form for many, many years. The particular ceremony he was invited to was performed each year to invite the “Devi,” or spirit of the Divine Mother, into the tree. It was during this ceremony that this man had a powerful experience and actually felt the “Devi's” presence and felt it come into that tree! This experience changed his life, and after that he viewed everything he had studied outwardly for over 20 years very differently.
The villagers knew they were not worshiping just the nub of a tree! They also knew that they were in reality worshiping the Divine Mother of the Universe in this simple form. For this reason worshiping a statue, or outward symbol of any kind, can be either idolatry or true worship. It is idolatry if we think that that object is itself Divine, or true worship of the Divine if we understand that it is the Spirit behind the object that we are actually worshiping.
Here is the part of the commentary on this topic from the book The Essence of the Bhagavad Gita, 7:19, by Swami Kriyananda.
“Anything one desires intensely becomes for him, in a sense, a god. This is the true meaning of idol worship. An idol is not a statue or a painting that people use to remind them of some high ideal. Such people are, indeed, ideal worshipers, not idol worshipers. Idol worship means to harbor a desire for anything other than God.
Every man, unless he loves God alone, is in this sense an idol worshiper! To love something, or some person, because it reminds him of God is a virtue, not a fault. To get to the top floor of a building one must ascend by the other floors: No one can leap all the way to the top. To feel love for God as He really is, formless and impersonal, is almost impossible for human beings. Such love comes naturally, however, to those who first envision divine perfection in some human form. The important thing in such worship is always to keep in mind that the form one loves (even of a living person) serves one only as a window onto infinity.”
I hope this explanation will be helpful. It’s a good question that needs to be understood more deeply. The actual experience and understanding of this point will come to us more as we meditate regularly and engage in the spiritual life more deeply.
God as Divine Mother
May 7, 2014
I’m used to thinking of God as the Heavenly Father. The idea of Divine Mother is very new to me. What’s the Divine Mother all about?
In the summer of 1970, I visited a friend who lived on the small property that was Ananda’s only land at the time. Later, it became the Ananda Meditation Retreat. But at the time, it was all there was of Ananda, just 12 acres of remote land with hardly anything on it but trees, bushes, and a few primitive structures.
We were all very young, and everybody was just scratching out a living on the land.
Binay was a young monk who lived there at the time and still lives at Ananda Village. But back in those very early days, he started a jewelry business in the back of a delivery truck that the owner had abandoned there.
Binay would cut little pieces of wood and put rosin on them, then put dried wildflowers in the rosin. It was a very nice product. Every so often, you can still see Ananda folks carrying them as key chains or wearing them as necklaces.
Then someone got the bright idea of cleaning up the property, and so they attached a tractor to Binay’s jewelry shop and hauled it away to the dump.
On the afternoon I arrived, I wandered around and eventually found my friend talking with Binay in the office dome.
Binay was saying, “Well, I really thought that Mother wanted me to start that jewelry business, but I guess She didn’t, because she hauled the truck away.”
As I sat there listening, I thought, “He’s got a really strange mother! First she tells him to do a jewelry business, and then she takes his shop away.”
I thought, “And he’s a pretty old fellow to be letting his mother run his life.”
The whole thing was way, way too weird for me, even though I’d studied eastern philosophy for quite a few years. And when I found out that he meant the Divine Mother, it didn’t make it any easier. In fact, it made it worse, because I had no mental cabinet where I could fit that idea.
The first job I had at Ananda was in the kitchen. The woman in charge desperately needed help, and so someone asked me to go work there.
I told her I couldn’t cook worth beans, but she said, “That’s okay, for lunch you just need to make scalloped potatoes.”
I said, “How do you make scalloped potatoes?” And she raised her eyes to the ceiling and said, “Oh, Mother, why do you always send me people like this?”
So again I was thinking, “What’s wrong with these people?” But fortunately, I liked Ananda enough to stay.
This woman consistently turned me off to the concept of Divine Mother. She was extravagant in her expression, and she was always blaming Divine Mother for everything that happened, always in an extremely dramatic way. And I just wanted nothing to do with it.
A year or two later, somebody was talking to me and I said, “Oh well, just trust Divine Mother, and it’ll be all right.”
I heard myself say the words, and I thought, “Where did that come from?” And I realized that they were the only words to describe something that had become very big and real for me.
There are people who have an image of the Heavenly Father as looking like Michelangelo’s painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel – a God in human form, living in a house with Divine Mother, and they have a little family and they cook and lead a normal life like you and I. But that’s not what we’re talking about when we refer to God in these familiar forms as mother and father.
“Mother” and “Father” are, in fact, only words. What we’re saying is that there is a force in the universe that you can experience inside yourself, and this force feels like someone who always loves you, whom you can trust completely, who accepts you completely for who you are, and who is always on your side.
Jesus called this force “the Comforter.” I love that word. In the Bible, Christ says, “I am leaving you, but I will send the Comforter.”
Esoterically, Jesus was talking about the AUM vibration. AUM is an actual sound that we can hear in meditation. It is, in fact, the force that is our own deepest nature. It’s the Comforter – which we know because when we experience this vibrational force, we experience the power and presence of God – not way out there somewhere waiting for us to get organized so that He can bless us, but right inside of us, exactly like a mother.
Think of what it is to be a little child, and to be able to rush up to the mother and experience her complete acceptance and love. A two-year old can be playing happily, and all of a sudden they see something that is way too much for their little minds, and so they press against the mother’s body. They’re gripping her legs and asking to be lifted onto her lap. And the mother picks the child up and holds it against her bosom.
This image, which seems so intimate and loving and familiar, is in fact very small compared to the love that we feel when we receive this inner vibration.
Searching for a word to describe what that inner vibration is like, we arrive at the image of a mother, because that vibration is saturated with unconditional love.
It was hard for me to accept the idea of Divine Mother, because it wasn’t intellectual. I had studied philosophy and I’d read the Gita and the Upanishads, and I had a grand picture of the cosmos all worked out in my mind.
And then to say, “Oh, Divine Mother…” – I simply couldn’t be that childlike! It was too unsophisticated. And it wasn’t until I had lived the teachings for a time that I began to feel, without really thinking about it, the presence of the Divine Mother. And then the words came out of my mouth naturally. Because there weren’t any other adequate words to describe that presence.
Jesus spoke of the Father, so that people could feel closer to God. And he promised that their Father would never judge them harshly or punish them, because He was a spirit of Love, and not only of impersonal Law.
Now, Yogananda has come to us with a new dispensation from God, and he speaks of God as the Mother.
Yogananda told people, “Pray to God as Mother, because the Mother is closer than the Father.”
The image he urged us to hold in our heart is that there need no longer be any separation between us and the consummately loving expression of God as the Mother. Yogananda came to tell us that God is much closer than mankind has ever dreamed.
You find that your experience broadens over the years. In 1970, I would never have thought that I would take Divine Mother as my own. I was far too small and mentally contracted. But as I began to open my heart, what do you know? I found that I could experience a reality that included Divine Mother.
So, even if you can’t accept the Mother for now, don’t reject it. Just say, “I won’t put on that particular garment yet. I’ll put it in the back of the closet, and for now I’ll wear this one, because it’s comfortable.”
Yogananda said that if we would do only ten percent of the things he said, we would find our freedom in God. But everyone needs a different ten percent, and that’s why he gave us so much.
The point is, you can only trust your experience. So go forward step by step, and don’t limit yourself because something seems strange at first. After a time, it won’t seem strange at all.
God bless you,
How to Pray to God as Mother and Father?
June 14, 2013
Namashkar! God is one. Could you please tell me the difference between Divine Mother and Divine Father and how can I address them separately during my prayer.
Yes, God is one, and in “His” true essence He is beyond any human understanding. To understand His eternal essence we have to go beyond our human level, and meet Him on His own level, by expanding with our formless soul into in “heaven”, into Eternity, beyond time, space, gender, and definitions.
But as long as we are “down here" on earth with our consciousness, the one God manifests to us with many aspects and qualities, and we are free to approach Him in any way we chose, to pray to Him in the way it inspires us. For example He manifests as Divine Mother and Divine Father.
There is a talk by Yogananda on these two aspects of God in the book Man’s Eternal Quest, called, “Is God a Father or a Mother?” The Mother aspect of God is tender, unconditionally loving, all-merciful, he explains. The Father aspect of God is wisdom, truth, law, justice, cosmic, eternity.
Yogananda often addressed them both in his public prayers, saying, “Heavenly Father, Divine Mother, Friend, beloved God….” He explained that we can approach Him in all these ways: as Mother, Father, Friend, Beloved, and even as a heavenly Child (Gopala or little Jesus), if our heart feels that way, or as Eternal Spirit, if God in form doesn’t inspire us.
The supremely important thing in prayer is: LOVE. Nothing else! God watches the heart, Yogananda taught. He answers to our love, not to our prayers “chiseled to perfection”. The best prayer is the one that comes spontaneously from our heart. Only love can “break His vow of silence”.
You ask how to address the Heavenly Father and Divine Mother both, separately, in your prayers. Prayer of course is a completely personal issue, but generally speaking it is most effective to chose one aspect of God, either Father or Mother, and to sincerely pray to that form, to deepen that relationship, in a loving and intimate way.
Yogananda for himself chose the “Mother”, because “the Mother is closer than the Father”. You can find many of his teachings on prayer in the book The Essence of Self-Realization, which also contains a chapter on "How to Pray Effectively".
Love is the key to His/Her presence. A good prayer is: “Divine Mother, naughty or good, I am Your child. You must release me!”
May deep love fill your prayers,
PS Maybe this prayer from Yogananda’s Whispers of Eternity will inspire you:
I Will Be the Naughty Baby of the Divine Mother
In the hall of life, decorated with mountains,
stormy cataracts, and wild scenery,
I have played long.
Each time, when, tired of play, I cried for Thee,
Thou didst drop down
through the skylight of my heart’s craving
some new doll of fame, friends, or prosperity
to quiet me.
This time, Divine Mother,
I will play the naughty baby.
I will sob unceasingly.
No more shall the toys of earthly pleasure stop my cries.
O Divine Mother, Thou must come soon,
or I will waken all Creation with my cries!
I will make all Thy sleeping children
wake and join me in a chorus of wails.
Forsake Thy busyness with the housework of Thy Creation!
I demand attention. I demand Thee!
I no longer want Thy playthings!
“I Have Become Very Bitter in Life”
June 10, 2013
Because of some cases of cheating and hurts I have received from loved ones and friends, I have become very bitter in life. Of late, I have realised that the bitterness has made me very unattractive. I am into kriya which certainly helps me but not when it comes to bitterness .... that is judging almost evrything negatively. I makes me appear very aggressive, which unfortunately I am not. Is there any other stronger way of being genuinely easygoing and not taking life seriously?
You mention the word “bitterness” twice as well as referring to disappointments regarding disloyalty and pain given by those close to you. You have recognized the cost to you in taking on and absorbing their energies, whether they intended their inflictions or not. Associating with environments, behaviors, people, all have an effect on. As Yogananda, our guru, said, “Environment is stronger than willpower.” Sometimes we have to run away from circumstances that pull us down. But often we are unable to and have to absorb the slings and arrows of what is playing out in and around us. First see that attacks are not personal and ultimately have no power over you. You come to know that through your empowering practice of Kriya, including Hong-Sau and Energization, practiced regularly and consistently. This is how you build your strength and your knowing, your assuredness of the power already within you. Be realistic too and don’t allow yourself to be subjected to anyone’s or anything’s contracting, belittlement of you, the immortal soul. You are that ever-expansive soul and no one can take it away from you.
OK, so you are doing your Kriya and still feeling embittered. First, review your techniques. Check your progress and perhaps even have someone check them for you. Secondly, and pre-eminently, are you practicing with DEVOTION? The heart quality of devotion is the key. I might suggest first opening your heart to God and Guru; see them there, in the heart center, as you practice your meditation and as you go about your daily activities. Literally, envisioning the Guru or another emanation of God. Chant or do japa and feel His presence within and around you to get out of your reactive thinking and emotions. Pray to Guru to remove the hardness from your heart. See God in even those who may have harmed you. In other words forgive them. “For Give” them: reflect on them as children of God, in spite of all they have done and be a channel for Divine Love, no matter the reason or circumstances. By becoming bitter you have closed down the flow of energy, which, not ironically, is meant to go inward and upward through the spine to your spiritual eye! This is one of the simple but important aspects of pranayama, or energy control, vital to the life force, especially for yogic practice and understanding. Inward and Upward; if whatever you are contemplating/feeling doesn’t do this, then abandon ship and “love God!” The essential ingredient of devotion will literally open you to those qualities and aspects of God which you learned before receiving Kriya Initiation. (Love, Light, Calmness, Peace, Sound, Power, Joy and Wisdom) Remember that with proper attunement and devotion to Guru, with the Kriya key, “You can stand unshaken midst the crash of breaking worlds!” Master said. That’s the power of Kriya brought to us by such an Avatar as Guruji.
Krishna, in the Bhagavad Gita, says “Even a little practice of this inward religion will free one from dire fears and colossal suffering.” This is eternally true. Everything you’ve learned and perhaps temporarily forgotten, you will realize as you continue to expand and not contract your love for God in all Her manifestations, i.e.; in everyone. Then find that life can be fun, when you see it as God’s play. You will be less burdened and lightened. “Karma”, through your diligence, will be neutralized, your moods will be lessened, and joy will again be a more tangible reality throughout your life. So, “seriously” love God, Shweta, know that you are His beautiful child and everything will be added, especially Joy.
Seeing you radiant and free,
God Loves All Equally
May 23, 2013
"God is Love" this is what I have read all the time and believed in it. Then why didnt God help me unite with my love? I recently brokeup with my ex due to family pressure. We prayed so much... wasn’t our love real or pure or worth saving? Or am I paying for my past karma?
I feel agitated and have this urge to turn very revengeful towards my ex as well as family. Will then God forgive me if I become so? Will God understand me if I do so?
It is true God is love. And, God’s love is unconditional and God loves all equally! He loves you and your ex just as much as He loves your parents. It is extremely important for all devotees to understand God’s love is far above and beyond our rational, analytical and logical mind. God’s love is tremendously much greater than we will ever know. That being said, it is very important to realize that God’s love, being what it is, does not mean, He will grant our every prayer.
When our emotions are disturbed it is very difficult for us to grasp how it is that God could love all equally. When we’re emotionally distraught, it takes a tremendous amount of energy before we can understand how it is that God could possibly love all equally.
Some say, our ego/mind is designed to think that if God truly loved us He would grant us our every wish. Until our liberation our ego does not have the capacity to understand the depths of God’s love. It is only when we experience , the depth of God’s totally complete, unconditional love through deep, devotional, grace filled meditation could we begin to understand God’ s love. Yogananda and other Masters have teachings that will guide us out of our unhappiness to true happiness, to bliss and Christ Consciousness. Divine love can be experienced through Kriya Yoga. Master has promised through his teachings of Self Realization we will know God’s love truly. It is his mission to bring the Infinite to our reality.
I don’t know about your past karma but, you said it your self, “You broke up with your ex due to family pressure.” God did not make you brake up with your ex. Remember you are loved the same by God whether you stay with your ex or stay broken apart as to follow your parents wishes.
Dear one I hope and pray you take this time to fall in love with God once again. Granted this may be difficult to do. But God’s love is the only thing that will make your heart sing once more. God’s unconditional love is in your heart. God’s love wants to come out and take over your being but it needs your permission. God will not force open you heart’s love and devotion. You must invite it to shine.
Now is the time to plant the seeds for your hearts flowers to blossom into a beautiful bouquet. It is during times like this we are giving the opportunity to grow stronger and brighter than the sun with God’s divine light. Or we can contract and grow dark with rage anger and distrust. Like most growth there may be some pain involved with the growth. But even this too shall pass.
Pray for the desire to be strong mentally, emotionally, and most important spiritually. Allow your self to feel Guru’s grace this very moment. Close your eyes and take a deep breath. Allow your self to open your heart to the magically, mystical, merriment of God’s love this very moment. Now is the time receive God’ love. It is in every molecule of your existence. And may you be able to share this ever new ever increasing love with all whom you meet. You are a child of God.
And remember when you pray for this or that to happen it is a good prayer that ends with the thought but not by my will Lord let Thy will be done. An open and honest devotee understands the importance of letting go and letting God. For all of this is a part of His dream. An in tune devotee knows that this life is His play. We are only actors in His play. Granted this truth is easier said than done. For it is the nature of truth to have that type of quality at times.
It is my opinion, that, one of the greatest miracles Jesus displayed took place as He hung on the cross. After all the violence, hatred, pain and suffering He endured, He found it in His heart to ask His Heavenly Father to forgive them for they know not what they do. .
Forgiveness is powerful. Forgiveness is a quality that changes lives for the better. But don’t take my word for it. Try it for your self. Meditate deeply on the topic of forgiveness. Pray with a sincere desire for the ability to forgive. A prayer I like to say is Lord, change not the situation. Change me. Know that God forgives you and He looks forward to helping you on your path towards forgiveness.
I wish you well.
In His love,
Why Pray to God if He Gives Us What We Need?
May 21, 2013
Namashkar !!! Man proposes, God disposes! God knows our true needs and gives us the best in his own time. What then is the use of prayer apart from the fact that we remember Him at least on the pretext of asking for something. I mean God will anyways give us what we deserve and what we need? So why pray?
The reason is: if you pray, miracles can happen, if you don’t, they won’t.
It’s like this: God is impersonal, but He is too great to be only impersonal, as Yogananda explains. He is also very personal: He is a Father, Mother, Friend. If you don’t pray, His impersonal law will be active, which is karma. Everything then that happens is in the flow of action/reaction, cause/effect.
But there is a higher principle than the law, which is love. God, if prayed to, responds to love. He then intervenes amazingly. It’s part of His "show", how He has set up His drama of life and creation: He enters into His own drama when He is called, loved, sincerely prayed to.
In the Autobiography of a Yogi you read: "No man lives who has not seen certain of his prayers granted."
Of course what you say is valid too: we easily pray for things which might not be really good for us. God knows better. The way to pray, then, is "God, give me this, help me with that, if it is Your will." If one prays for something and the prayer is not granted, then we accept the situation as coming from His hands. Swami Kriyananda actually said that he never prayed for himself, for his health for example. He said: "Divine Mother, do with this body as you like."
But he did pray for his service, for his mission, for other people, for guidance, inspiration, for Cosmic Energy to fill him, for devotion.
The best prayer is for God-contact: "God, come to me, reveal Yourself!" With that prayer He comes sooner. Without prayer of love, without a soul-call, He will never "break His vow of silence", as Yogananda puts it.
He actually teaches that we shouldn’t do prayers in the normal sense, supplicating. This is too weak, and not worthy of a child of God. We should do prayer-demands. All of our prayers should be determined demands from a child whose birthright is everything the Father has. Especially this kind of prayer has to be a demand: "You have put me in this trouble, and I didn’t ask for it, I never asked to be created. I am Your child, and You have to free me, now!" Listen to Yogananda on a recording, how he prays. No supplication there, for sure, but a lot of determined love!
He tells us (in Essence of Self-Realization): "God doesn’t need from us carefully contrived theological definitions. And He doesn’t want prayers that are chiseled to perfection lest they give offense to His imperial ears. He wants us to love Him in all simplicity, just like children."
God bless you and your spontaneous prayers of love, jayadev
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