Which Is Better: to Pray Out Loud, or Silently?
July 31, 2011
Namaste. I presume that the Spirit/Soul is more subtle/fine/powerful than the mind, which in turn is more subtle/fine/powerful than the body. Does this mean that mental prayers/chanting are more powerful than physically audible ones because the consciousness/attention is more interiorized? Or the physically audible ones are more powerful because they automatically carry the mental thought behind them in addition to the physical sound? What is more effective prayer/chanting, inner or outer?
What an interesting question. In our spiritual practices, the energy and focus we put into them determines how much power we experience from these practices.
Whether it is prayer or chanting, deeply focused interiorized devotion is the most powerful.
However, if the mind wanders and we lose the deep inner focus, then returning to audible chanting is the doorway back into an deeply interiorized state.
It is the same with meditation; we can be very deep for a while, and then the mind wanders, so we begin again with the breath to refocus.
The chakra of the throat, when activated in a spiritual direction, takes us into the essence of that chakra: pratyahara, which means withdrawal from the senses.
When we withdraw from the senses, the energy continues to rise freely toward the spiritual eye or christ consciousness center.
Shifting from audible chanting or prayer to speechless absorption in Spirit just happens naturally. We find we don't want to disturb the deep inner connection with God through the outer vibrations of the voice.
Just as with meditation, when we go so deep that the breath stops, we recognize the restless nature of the breath itself when it begins again, and the still waters of deep inner peace are ruffled with the action of the breath.
All techniques are meant for achieving a wordless, breathless, inner absorption in Spirit.
What Language Should I Chant In?
February 10, 2011
Yogananda told his disciples to learn poems written by saints and to repeat them during the day, and to sing song throughout the day because they help to attune oneself to master's conscientiousness. My question is: English is my second language and as I know it's better to use your native language for this purpose? But at the same time translated poems contain vibrations of the person who translated them. What language should I use?
Greetings, and joy to you!
You ask a good and important question. I know the situation well: English for me too is the second language.
I have found that reading, singing, reciting poetry, using the language Yogananda wrote in - English - is much more effective than doing so in my native tongue. English just brings you closer to him, to his aura, to his presence. For example he said that he put his vibrations into the Autobiography of a Yogi, which contains the poem Samadhi: the poem he recommended especially to learn by heart, and to repeat often. I certainly find that a translation loses some of that vibration. Another language always introduces another color and feeling.
Yoganda's Cosmic Chants are similar: he said he spiritualized them, infusing into them the power of God-contact. I found that a translated chant never quite transmits the same spiritual power.
That being said, there is another side: it somewhat depends on your level of English. Judging from your letter it is pretty good. But if you feel that the language barrier is still quite strong, that your English isn't all that great, and that therefore his poems, chants, and words don't touch your heart as much: in that case your own language might be the better choice for you.
I hope this answers your question. If not, please get back to me.
God bless you on your journey, in divine friendship,
September 8, 2010
Should mankind pray like the jews do and only praise/worship god or is it ok to ask for personal things (isn't it "overbearing")? E.g.: Why pray for a special person. Why not pray for whole mankind?
Let's say you are wanting to open your own small business, and are looking for advice about the nature of assistance available to small business entreprenuers. Or someone dear to you is having a health crisis and is confined to bed. You want to help them by researching home-care options.
When you go to the offices of the agencies responsible for this kind of assistance, would you merely praise them for their good works, or would you specify your needs?
And would you expect these agencies to do everything for you, or rather to offer you assistance in carrying forward the responsibilities which you have undertaken?
A person of faith and spiritual experience knows that God cares about each of his children far more than social agencies, and the He is willing and able to offer assistance to those who seek it. The enormous power and intelligence that maintains the operation of the universe responds to our needs.
And just as there are people who can help us get through the complicated procedures when requesting a grant from a large foundation, there are spiritual guides who help us in making what Yogananda called our "prayer demands."
He says: "The first rule in prayer is to approach God only with legitimate desires. The second is to pray for their fulfillment, not as a beggar, but as a son:
"I am Thy child. Thou art my Father. I and my Father are One."
When you pray deeply and continuously you will feel a great joy welling up in your heart. Don't be satisfied until that joy manifests; for when you feel that all-satisfying joy in your heart, you will know that God has tuned in your prayer broadcast.
Then pray to your Father:
"Lord, this is my need. I am willing to work for it; please guide me and help me to have the right thoughts and to do the right things to bring about success.
I will use my reason, and work with determination, but guide Thou my reason, will, and activity to the right thing I should do."
Simon, if you have a real need, then use these guidelines and ask God to be your partner in fulfilling your destiny.
In divine friendship,
To Know God Is to Love God
September 7, 2010
How can we love God without experiencing him? We can experience and feel God in Meditation. Meditation as Yogananda Jee says is like experiment within our self to find God but until we we are successful in meditation and have that experience.... loving him will not be just blind love? And how can we pray with devotion chants like 'Oh God beautiful'...? On the other hand we cannot find God without devotion..is not it going in circles?
Can you truly love that which you do not know? There is a saying, "To know God is to love God," but until we have that experience of "knowing" through inner experience, we cannot love completely.
But certainly we can yearn for that love and expand upon the flickers of love we have experienced for family, friends and loved ones. In your meditation, spread your heart's feelings to include an ever wider circle of souls. As your sympathies grow, love will come to you.
Devotion and awakening of the heart's natural love are essential for spiritual progress. Not "knowing" God should not prevent you from cultivating love for God's expressions, other people, beauty, or some aspect of the Divine. Once those feeling have awakened, they can be purified and directed upward toward the Beloved hiding behind His outward creations.
Call to the Giver behind the gifts you receive and ask Him to reveal Himself directly to you. Our heart feels the absence of God's presence and longs for that unknown "Something" to fill the void within. Your continued calling will eventually draw His response. But, we must be persistent and not give up easily for God hides His love as a test.
Paramhansa Yogananda once wrote:
"Never mind if you cannot see Him or hear His knock at the gate of your heart. For a long time you have been hiding from Him and running away in the marsh of the senses. It is the noise of your own rowdy passions and the flight of your heavy footsteps in the material world that has made you unable to hear His call within. Stop, be calm, pray steadfastly, and out of the Silence will loom forth the Divine Presence."
Love for God is a gift of grace. If you do not feel devotion now, pray for it. Ask God to awaken those sleeping feelings within you. Pray for love just as the thirsty man prays for water. In the very act of praying for love, you will begin to feel it. You must meditate with joy in order to experience joy in meditation. So too is it with devotion and love.
My best wishes,
Nayaswami Jaya Helin
Ananda Sangha, Pune
Offer Your Mistakes to God
July 24, 2010
Swami Kriyananda said in one of his discourses that master said we should offer to god even the mistakes we make and make him responsible for them so that he gives us the power to change them.How do we offer to god?
Offering oneself to God is mostly a matter of intention, at least at the beginning, because we can't give to God (or to anyone) that which we don't own. And for a long time on the spiritual path we are, in a sense, a house divided.
Even though the over all direction has been set, some of our "mental citizens" may still resist. So our offering is incomplete.
God, however, doesn't care. He made us this way. He understands. He knows that sooner or later, if we persevere, even the rebellious aspects of our nature will be drawn into the divine flow.
In the meantime, whenever these "rebels" gain temporary control and send us helter skelter in directions we don't really want to go, the most important thing is not to give up your overall direction.
In other words, no matter how wandering your route to God, you are still on the path to Him. And even the detours are part of your journey.
Offering your mistakes to God is a way of saying, "I may not be coming in a straight line, Lord, but I am on my way home! Keep the lamp lit and the door open!"
God is your best friend. Offering your mistakes to Him is another way of saying, "Hide nothing from God." Do not be ashamed. Do not be embarrassed. Don't become discouraged.
If you make a mistake, whether large or small, just say to God, "Help me. I know You are with me. With Your help, all limitations will be overcome."
If you close yourself, and hide what you consider to be your errors from His light, then your reward is that you get to keep them, and probably repeat them. Not the result we are looking for.
Open yourself completely to God and the experience of His loving presence will drive all darkness out of your heart forever. "Blessed are the pure in heart," the Bible says, "for they shall see God."
In divine friendship,
Is Chanting Necessary?
July 14, 2010
I often hear the phrase, "chanting is half the battle", from Swamiji and other devotees, as well as in Yogananda's writtings. I come from a Catholic background and hymns and singing in church was something that turned me off to the chuch and did not inspire or uplift me. I prefer solitude rather than community when it comes to spiritual practice and I do not enjoy kirtan or chanting.I develop my devotion by meditation, and practicing the presence. What do you make of this and is this a problem?
I'm glad that your devotion is deepening with meditation and practicing of the presence. Isn't it amazing how many spiritual tools we have: Meditation, yoga, chanting, energization, affirmation, japa, diet, pranayama, healing prayer, just to name a few!
Each of us will resonate differently with each of these, and many of us will certainly have issues with at least one of them. Thankfully, Yogananda said that we would make great spiritual progress if we were able to practice fully just a portion of these.
I can understand your history with music - hymn singing in our church was never terribly inspirational to me, because no one ever explained to me how I could get the most out of it, or the depths of inspiration to be plumbed.
Chanting first comes to us as an auditory experience, and I think if you were to experience it on the deeper inspirational level, you'd have a better connection with it. For instance, eating something that is 'good for you' doesn't have any appeal until you feel for yourself its benefits. Doing yoga postures just for the physical stretching may not be appealing until you can feel inside the changes in your energy. The seeming bore of sitting still in meditation turns many people away, ignorant of the fact that it can be a most powerful experience.
Yogananda writes that 'sound is the most powerful force in the universe'. This is due in part because music is vibration, and we are vibrations of energy at our smallest atomic level. But not only does sound affect us on the physical plane, but it also is able to bring us into resonance on our astral and causal bodies with the presence of God in the form of joy, peace, love, deep calmness, and wisdom. For music has the ability to hold inspiration of all kinds, and by listening and singing, we can start to vibrate with the Divine response that Yogananda experienced as he experienced with his chants.
I would be remiss if I didn't try to guide you in a deeper experience of chanting. If you would like to experience the deepest that chanting has to offer, try this:
Choose a chant to listen to (I've included a recording of I Am the Bubble in my recent blog, Chanting Is Half the Battle)
Bring yourself into a calm, dispassionate place that agrees to look unbiased upon the upcoming experience, avoiding the temptation to think 'this isn't going to work!' Disregard any previous experiences and bring yourself into the now.
As you begin to listen to the chant, go deeper than just the auditory experience. Let your mind travel inward, calming the breath. Ask Divine Mother to help you in your receptivity on this deeper level, and practice the presence.
Bring your awareness to any minute change in your energy, your feelings, your consciousness. Take whatever glimmer may be there, and begin to expand it, relaxing into it as you exhale each breath. Give yourself permission to enjoy (you'd be surprised how many of us have issues with this!), and then begin to lift your energy and experience up to the spiritual eye, offering it up to the Divine from which it came, making a dynamic circuit of energy and consciousness.
After the chant, sit for a few minutes and take stock: has there been any change in your consciousness, your devotion? Would it be easier to meditate now, after listening or chanting?
May God bless you on your efforts!
In joyful service, David
Love for God
July 12, 2010
How do I know that my attraction to God is not merely a manifestation of my desire of something more than this world?
Love for God, attraction to that which is permanent and real, is an attribute of our soul's wisdom.
However, sometimes there is another side to our attraction which is rejection or fear of involvement in this world. Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita reminds us that we cannot achieve the permanent beatitude of God-realization by turning out back on God's creation and refusing to carry out our responsibilities and work out our karma.
Therefore, deepen your love for God through prayer and meditation even while you carry out your duties in life with a calm, creative, and joyful attitude.
Intellect: friend or foe?
February 20, 2010
I am doing my Ph.D in neuroscience, and my intellect is my greatest strength and my very worst enemy! I have a deep love and connection to Babaji and Yoganandaji and I feel an intense yearning for liberation. However I tend to over analyze everything. Eg. when a spiritual teacher advises me, I tend to constantly question their true motive and I get scared that I may be sucked into a cult ! My intellect will not allow me to follow my heart..I feel hopeless sometimes..can you please help me
It feels to you that your head and heart are in conflict, but in fact, reason follows feeling. This is one of Paramhansa Yogananda's precepts. Analyze yourself sensitively and you will find it is always true. Whatever the predisposition of the heart, reason will support it.
That is why highly intelligent people can be so blind sometimes about situations that are obvious to others. Such people are so accustomed to trusting the intellect above all other forms of perception, that they don't notice at times how prejudiced the mind can be.
So what you have, in fact, is your heart at war with itself. You love and you also fear. The fear is a feeling first; the reasons come afterwards. Your mind is agitated by your anxious heart and fills your awareness with mental chatter.
Swami Kriyananda once said people speak about meditation as calming the mind. Actually, meditation is calming the heart. For when the feelings are still, then the mind also comes to rest. And calm feeling is the doorway to intuitive perception.
What I suggest is that you practice experiencing life through your heart in ways that are less frightening than the idea of being drawn into a cult.
Create relationships that can't be run by the intellect. Spend time with babies and young children, or elderly people, animals, even plants, and flowers. Learn to dance, sing, or play music. It isn't about becoming highly skilled; it is about giving you positive, heart-centered experience so you can get to know - gradually to trust - that side of yourself.
Devotional spiritual practices would also benefit you, especially chanting. If you don't already have a harmonium, perhaps you could get one and learn to play it. But don't wait; start right away with recorded chants. But don't just listen passively, learn the words and melodies and sing along. If you sing badly, then sing in private, but put your own voice into it.
You might not feel uncomfortable at first, doing things that engage your heart, but the whole point is to explore unfamiliar territory.
I don't know what spiritual teachers are advising you, or what advice you are afraid of, but for the time being I suggest putting it on a shelf. Don't throw it away, just move it out of the center of your consciousness. Don't let it define your spiritual life.
After you have more experience living from the heart, look at that advice again. When your feelings are calm, your reason will see the situation quite differently.
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