The Ego Is Both Foe and Friend
August 20, 2013
Why do people never shed their ego? Throughout my life, I have seen many things which had a great start, but unfortunately due to someone’s EGO it didn’t last for long. Why do people put their ego first and compromise their relationships? Does Karma comes into play here?
In Paramhansa Yogananda’s commentaries on the Bhagavad Gita, he said that the many characters of the Mahabharata represent different facets of everyone’s being. Bhisma represents the ego. Bhisma fights on the side of darkness against the Pandavas, yet he is deeply respected by everyone on both sides of the war.
Thus symbolizing that the ego is both our friend and our foe. Yogananda defined the ego as the soul identified with the body. In this sense it is our foe. Our narrow sense of identity with the material body, and thus the material world, is what drives us to search for satisfaction and pleasure in the material world. We try to find ultimate happiness in wealth, recognition, sensory experiences — often at the expense of other people, and at the expense of other people’s success and well being.
But paradoxically, the ego is also our friend. For without the ego we can’t move forward toward liberation. It is our ego that provides the motive force to get out of the suffering caused by — yes — the ego’s identification with the body.
In the great school we call life, death, and reincarnation, we all experiment with finding happiness through the material world until, after many disappointments and painful experiences, we — in our egos — realize that our soul qualities, not our physical qualities, are the only source of lasting happiness.
It is hard to dispassionately watch others learn their lessons in the great school — especially if we figure as the victim in their lesson! But try to remember that it is a school and that we, along with everyone else, are learning our own lessons which will ultimately inspire the ego to release the soul from limitation and achieve soul-liberation — self-realization.
With warm regards,
Puru (Joseph) Selbie
Swami Kriyananda and Nirbikalpa Samadhi
June 21, 2013
Hello Ananda friends,
I’ve one question about Kriyananda, I am intrested if Kriyananda himself reached nirbikalpa samadhi already?
Thank you, Roberto
Swami Kriyananda has stated publicly that it is his belief that in a past life he had attained sabikalpa samadhi but had "fallen" from that state. He never said he had achieved nirbikalpa in this or a past life.
Of course, few are those who can attest from their own experience what the spiritual stature of another soul is, nor, until we achieve it ourselves, what that state is really like.
I suggest, therefore, that your inquiry and curiosity into Kriyananda’s state of realization be set aside in favor of your own spiritual efforts toward Self-realization!
Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God
June 8, 2013
“Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto thee.”
Could you please elaborate on what this means? I have not been as successful in my career as I should have been as per my talent. Could sufficient non-connection to God be the reason?
Of course there are many reasons why you may not be achieving as you feel you should, but it is true that no matter what else is ‘in your way’ coming closer to God will always help.
What Jesus meant when he said, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and all else shall be added unto you” is that when we are in tune with our divine nature we feel intuitively the ‘right way’, … what we call dharma (the Law that "upholds, supports or maintains the regulatory order of the universe") … to move forward, to make decisions, and choices.
He is saying, first look within and attune yourself to your highest, most expansive way of finding solutions, then from that inward place ask for guidance. From this ‘place’, found only in meditation, we bypass the mind that often gets in our way of making anything other than ego centered, looking for immediate gratification choices, and we move into soul consciousness, or wisdom guided decision-making.
We are all so used to thinking our way through everything, yet that is sorely limited compared to the source of infinite knowledge (Kingdom of God) available to every one of us.
As complex as this sounds, it is really quite simple. Start a daily practice of meditation (classes available through Ananda.org), or perhaps start by writing some affirmations from Swami Kriyananda’s book, “Affirmations for Self Healing”. Choose one that speaks to you and sit quietly and write it five times/day. Write it with deep concentration and focus … write as if you mean it. Your life will begin to change in ways that are unimaginable. We often think we have to focus on our problems to solve them, but mostly that just makes them look even larger than they are. As Yogananda said, “A room may be in darkness for thousands of years, but the instant you turn on a light, the darkness disappears”. That light can easily be found in the forms mentioned above.
“Seek ye first …” means start looking within for solutions rather than focusing our attention out.
Bless you in your search for wisdom.
Son of God or Son of Man?
October 19, 2012
I've been reading the Bible and there are more than a few terms I'm confused about. Is there a difference between the Son of Man and the Son of God? And I think circumcision is an allegory but I don't understand. Could someone help me?
Every Self-realized master has the same state of consciousness and teaches the same essential truths. Sanaatan Dharma it is called in India - Eternal Truth. Another definition that I particularly like is, That Which Is. Spiritual truth is the way we are made - all of us, made by God in the same way.
Once a master takes a physical body and commits to a particular incarnation, he is limited, not in his own consciousness, but in the way he has to express that consciousness. He has to relate to the planetary age, the culture, the spiritual needs of the time, and the karma of his disciples.
There are always two forces at work in defining his mission: the mass consciousness of the planet and the individual Self-realization of those who are drawn to him.
The potential for individual Self-realization is always the same: infinite. Even in the lowest age, highly evolved souls incarnate, either to work out specific personal karmas or to uplift the planet at a time of need.
In a fascinating book called The Yugas (published by Crystal Clarity), you can read all about planetary ages. There are four different ages - Yugas they are called - that go in ascending and descending cycles over a period of 24,000 years. The lowest age, Kali, is the age of matter. The second age is Dwapara, the age of energy. The nadir of the 24,000 year cycle was 500 years after Jesus died. The beginning of Dwapara (which goes for 2400 years) was 1900. So we have just emerged from the age of matter at the beginning of a rising age of energy.
Jesus lived at nearly the most unenlightened stage this planet goes through. Mass consciousness was very limited, and for several centuries afterward got worse.
When Jesus came he was an avatar, a God-realized divine messenger, specifically for the Jews. The irony of Jews feeling resentful of Christ and Christians feeling angry at Jews is that Jesus was a Jew, all his followers were Jews, Christianity itself was only a sect of Judaism until the apostle Paul decided to carry the message to the gentiles.
Paul did that because he didn't find enough receptivity among Jews and was too filled with the Holy Spirit and the bliss of what Jesus had given him to keep it for himself. So he went where people would listen, which, as it happened, was the non-Jewish community. That's how "Christianity" came to be a separate religion. Jesus never did it. It was Paul.
That's a pretty brief summary of a big subject, but you get the picture.
Now we come to circumcision.
Circumcision itself has always seemed a rather confusing idea to me. God made the male in a certain way. Why would surgical intervention be required? The question of circumcision has little relevance to my daily life, though, so I live comfortably with my confusion.
Just out of curiosity I noodled on the internet around "symbolism of circumcision." I found a number of articles, but none seemed consistent with the principles of Sanaatan Dharma as I have learned them from Swami Kriyananda. So what circumcision might symbolize philosophically, I don't know. As for why it is discussed in the New Testament, I do have some thoughts, which I offer here for your consideration.
As you know, circumcision at that time was a Jewish practice. It was part of the covenant between God and the Jews, a way of marking their special relationship as the "chosen people." Being the "chosen people" undoubtedly started as a purely spiritual principle, a way of attuning to God. It was Kali Yuga descending, however, and perhaps as the age became more physical so did the concept. Eventually the physical fact of circumcision became important in itself, and the consciousness it was intended to affirm nearly forgotten.
I grew up Jewish and being one of the "chosen people" was rarely offered as an incentive for humility or greater dedication to spiritual ideals. Mostly it was a cause for pride. I can't imagine that Moses, or whoever came up with it originally, had that in mind!
In the Festival of Light, the ritual we repeat at Ananda every Sunday, Swami Kriyananda included these lines, speaking to the divine, "Your chosen people have always been those of every race and nation who with deep love choose Thee." The congregation then recites together a prayer of commitment to choose God.
I believe this is the spirit in which that phrase was first given to the Jewish people. It gratifies me to repeat it now with this deeper understanding.
The Jewish religion began with Moses - a true avatar - as a true expression of Sanaatan Dharma. But as the Yugas declined, it declined. By the time of Jesus, Judaism had largely become a rigid, uncompassionate, legalistic system run by a corrupt priesthood.
Despite all the corruption, Judaism itself was still the most elevated religion around. It was a "true" religion, meaning it was the revelation of an avatar (Moses), an expression of Sanaatan Dharma. And even though the public face of Judaism had become corrupt, individuals and small groups of Jews kept the higher truths alive. It was the devotion of these Jews that attracted an avatar to rejuvenate their faith. That is the tradition of the Essenes, the community into which Jesus was born, many say, and from which his mission emanated.
What happened to Judaism between the time of Moses and the time of Jesus is not dissimilar to what has happened to Christianity from the time of Jesus to the coming of Paramhansa Yogananda. In India it is understood that over time the message of the great ones gets corrupted by individuals of lesser realization who bring the teaching down to a level that makes more sense to them. Sometimes they do it for selfish motive; sometimes it is well-meaning but ignorant.
When the apostle Paul began to carry the message of Jesus to the gentiles a controversy soon developed. Paul asserted that the salvation, i.e., spiritual realization, that Jesus taught was available to all "who received him," to quote from the Gospel of John.
This interpretation was not universally agreed upon. Other of the apostles - all of them, remember, including Paul were Jews - felt that there was no salvation outside of Judaism. And even what Jesus offered was dependent on being a Jew.
Circumcision was the mark of being a Jew. It was not a gentile custom. A rather heated discussion ensued between Paul and his followers, and the other disciples and their followers, as to whether you could become a "Christian," as they began to call themselves, without first becoming a Jew. If you were born a Jew, you were circumcised as an infant. If you converted as an adult, you had to be circumcised.
Circumcision itself is merely a physical thing. And it is only an option for the male half of the human race. So it really has nothing to do with Self-realization (or the lack of it). This is obvious to us now, but in the depths of Kali Yuga it wasn't. So you see in the Bible a number of discussions about the relationship between circumcision and salvation.
Nowadays it all sounds ridiculous. It is natural to assume they must be talking symbolically about something relating to consciousness. But that is the Dwapara Yuga view. In Kali Yuga, they thought differently. Physical reality was the only reality. Consciousness, insofar as they understood the concept, was defined by physical facts: how you washed your hands, what prayers you said, whether or not you were circumcised. This was the definition of your covenant with God.
This, however, was the very misunderstanding Jesus came to reform! "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath." In other words, consciousness comes first. The rules are there not as an end in themselves, but as a means to help us achieve right consciousness.
In the end, Paul won. Christianity became entirely distinct from Judaism, and, eventually, even antagonistic to it.
Circumcision gradually became an accepted medical practice and lost its "Jews only" character. Which makes the conversation in the Bible even more bewildering.
Which is why, in the tradition of India, they understand that every so often, a new avatar incarnates to bring the teachings back to the pure principles of Sanaatan Dharma. The new avatar communicates the same truth in a way the current Yuga can understand.
When Paramhansa Yogananda was asked if his message was a new religion, he replied, "No, it is a new expression." It is a new perspective on a timeless truth, Sanaatan Dharma, That Which Is.
In the Bible, there are many examples drawn from every day life: tending sheep, harvesting wheat, petitioning a king, disciplining your servants, stoning a wrong-doer. To us these seem exotic and require study and interpretation. At the time, Jesus was talking the opposite of esoteric. He was using examples everyone could relate to.
Nowadays we aren't sure what we would do if one of our sheep fell into a ditch on the Sabbath. Those listening to Jesus had first-hand experience.
Yogananda, by contrast, talks about airplanes, television, movies, telephones, atomic energy, electricity. Imagine how impossible those things would be for a contemporary of Jesus to understand. Similar to the way we feel about the wheat harvest and the sheep.
In this Yuga, Yogananda has been able to talk about energy and consciousness in an open way because we are in an ascending age of energy and these concepts make sense to almost everyone. Einstein's revelation that matter is energy is universally accepted. Perhaps not understood, but nonetheless it is a familiar premise. In the time of Jesus, the idea that matter was anything except exactly what it appeared to be was, for the mass consciousness, simply absurd. Those of spiritual realization, of course, understood, but most did not.
In this age also, where time and space are being annihilated - now by technology, in the future by the power of the mind - we are able to relate to cultures on the other side of the globe, and communicate with them instantly. Part of Yogananda's mission has been to show the essential unity between the teachings of East and West. In Kali Yuga, they didn't know it was a globe, or that anyone lived on the other side of it. The idea of unity with culturally diverse beings was unimaginable.
Christianity, as many institutions express it now - "Churchianity" Yogananda called it - describes Jesus as a unique phenomenon. According to them, he is the beginning and the end of divine revelation. This is a rather limiting concept given the picture of the universe that science has now shown us. Among other reasons, this is why fundamental Christianity is fighting so hard to survive. It is being undermined on all sides by a more expansive view of reality.
Understand that what is being undermined is not the teachings of Jesus. He taught pure Sanaatan Dharma, like every Self-realized master before and after him. What is being undermined is the corruption of that teaching by those of lesser understanding.
A seminar-trained theologian of my acquaintance actually told me that the full teachings of Jesus were not present at the time of his crucifixion but "developed" over several centuries afterward. He is also a follower of this path so I was able to respond honestly.
"Are you telling me that Jesus, as a Self-realized master, had a limited understanding of his own teaching? That he required the help of priests and ministers who came after to express it for him?"
My friend had the humility to laugh at himself and the often institutionally based, self-serving logic in which he was trained.
Now for your question "Son of Man" vs. "Son of God."
At the time, Jesus was not able to speak directly, except in private to his most advanced disciples, about the more subtle teachings he came to bring. In his general discourses, which is mostly what appears in the Bible, he had to speak indirectly, through parables, stories, and images that "those who had ears to hear" could interpret.
Yogananda could talk about the spirit beyond creation and the Christ consciousness reflected in creation, but Jesus had to speak of the Father and Son. More explicit explanations of consciousness would have been incomprehensible to most of his Kali Yuga listeners.
Jesus, like all avatars, fully incarnated as a human being. He had parents, a childhood, a physical body. That body had a birth, it aged, and then it died. Yes, he was able to resurrect it, but that was part of the difference between Jesus as the Son of Man and Jesus as the Son of God. The Son of Man was physical, subject to physical laws; the Son of God was not.
After Jesus died and Christianity began to build itself into what we see now, people felt a need to emphasize the unique nature even of his physical body. This gave rise to concepts such as Immaculate Conception, Virgin Birth, and being conceived by the Holy Ghost.
Yogananda mostly skirted these issues. When I asked Swamiji why he was not more direct on these points, Swamiji said it wasn't timely. The ensuing controversy would have distracted from his real message. Yogananda did call his work, The Second Coming of Christ, but he never brought that idea to as fine a focus as he might have. When Swamiji asked him, for example, "Were you Jesus in a former life?" Yogananda replied, "What difference would it make?"
Much of the confusion people have in reading the Bible, and the chaos caused by sectarian interpretation, comes from a single word: "I." What or Who was Jesus referring to when he spoke of himself as "I"?
Fundamental Christianity says, "He was speaking of that unique incarnation in a physical body that was called Jesus." They emphatically declare also that he was the Son of God but are a little fuzzy on how that one physical body could be the only Son of God for all time, forever. But since they believe that Jesus is unique, they don't have to make sense of a pattern. They can just declare it and leave it at that.
Self-realizationists reading the Bible with the expanded perspective of Sanaatan Dharma, know that there have been many avatars and all share the same infinite consciousness. The fact that there are others equal to Jesus, does not, for Self-realizationists, make him any less in the eyes of man or in the eyes of God. An avatar lives within one physical body, but that body does not define him.
When an avatar says "I" he is referring to the Christ consciousness, the divine spirit within him - and within all of us. To explain his consciousness, Jesus said, "I and my Father are One."
He also emphasized a point that has been effectively lost in modern Christianity: that all of us must rise to that same state of realization. "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is Perfect." "To all those who received Him, to them gave he the power to become the Sons of God."
Jesus did live in a physical body, as a man among men, and when he wanted to emphasize that aspect of his mission, he called himself the Son of Man. When he wanted to speak of himself as the infinite consciousness, which expressed through that body but wasn't defined by it, he called himself the Son of God.
As the Son of God he declared himself to be one with God. And for that he was crucified. For no man, according to the orthodox tradition of the time, can be God. Jesus never claimed that the Son of Man was God. He agreed, "No man can see God." To see God we must transcend all physical limitations, which Jesus proved by his resurrection.
Even when contemplating the resurrection, remember that Jesus said, "That which I do, ye shall do, and greater things."
Sometimes translators, unaware of the important difference between these two terms, have not used them correctly. But most of the time if you apply this understanding, you'll see Jesus makes perfect sense.
Does This Path Lead to the Highest Possible Enlightenment?
October 12, 2012
In Buddhism they talk about two levels of spiritual realization: The level of an
The path of Kriya Yoga leads to Self Realization.
Here is Swami Kriyananda's explanation (taken from his article: The Journey to Enlightenmet: The Final Challenge, Clarity Magazine):
Liberation from the ego does not come with the first glimpses of cosmic consciousness. Samadhi comes in two stages: sabikalpa and nirbikalpa. The first stage, sabikalpa samadhi, is conditional and temporary. From this state it is still possible to fall spiritually, for one has not yet overcome ego-consciousness completely.
In the highest samadhi, nirbikalpa samadhi, there is no longer any danger of slipping spiritually. The ego no longer exists. At this point the soul is no longer aware of the ego in human terms, but knows it solely as a manifestation of the Infinite Reality. Every moment of one's life, and every atom of one's body, is permeated throughout with divine bliss.
Truth seekers must understand that finding God is not like the supreme effort required, say, to climb Mount Everest, the accomplishment of which is more arduous at the end than at the beginning. Finding God is the simplest, most obvious, and most supremely natural thing to do in the world! At the end, one doesn't find himself straining with desperate, heroic zeal to merge in Him. Rather, one relaxes, supremely, into perfect Bliss. Strain, tension, ardor, heroic zeal: these end forever for the soul. What is left is Satchidananda: ever-existing, ever-conscious, ever-new bliss.
What happens is that in your meditations you reach a point where you've gotten rid of all self-definitions. There's nothing to cling to anymore. You're not a woman or a man. You're not American or Indian or French. You're not rich or poor. You're not young or old. You're not beautiful or ugly. You're none of these things.
Gradually, as the devotee keeps trying, his higher nature takes over, and a power he thought impossible for him, manifests itself, giving him the strength necessary to make the effort to continue on to victory. Yogananda writes that the supreme state, nirbikalpa samadhi, comes in time "with a natural inevitability to the sincere devotee. His intense craving begins to pull at God with an irresistible force."
So, in the beginning, the process of finding God is a matter of constant struggle until, as Yogananda put it, "efforts end in ease." After a while it becomes natural; there's no struggle involved. The truth is that you can get out in this lifetime if you work at it-especially, Yogananda said, with the practice of Kriya Yoga, which dissolves the seeds of karma that hold you back spiritually.
However, only by mental attunement with the consciousness of an already-liberated guru can we make that leap across the yawning abyss which separates the ego from infinity. Most important of all is an attitude of deep loving receptivity toward one's God-ordained guru.
The magnetism emanated by a true master lifts his disciples above their egos. What the guru does for us is primarily on a level of consciousness. He works from within, on our thoughts and feelings. Our job, above all, is to offer our hearts and minds up to him, that he may transform us. Gradually, his ego-less consciousness seeps into our ego-centered consciousness, and transforms us with new understanding of our own reality. Once ego-limitation has been demolished by selfless love, nothing remains to prevent self-awareness from expanding to infinity.
The storm of duality is finally stilled, and the self, no longer in rebellion against God, merges completely into the Infinite Self, becoming the Infinite. This, and this only, is the state of salvation, of final liberation from all the bondage of delusion.
The Internet and Deepening Spiritual States
August 28, 2012
Now with the internet, it seems that people in very remote places can have the virtual darshan of great saints and spiritual figures. My question is that how important is it for people to actually be formally initiated to advance to serious levels of realization?
This is a good question to ask, as I'm sure many people are wondering how the internet affects the need for direct spiritual contact with saints and masters.
Yes, people can have the "virtual" darshan of a saint through the internet, but not the actual darshan. These are two very different experiences for those who want to go deep spiritually. The internet has provided a wonderful thing - broad access to, and awareness of, spiritual realities for anyone who is seeking. It has provided Ananda with the ability to reach out in support of spiritual seekers and devotees all over the world, no matter where they may live. But this kind of sharing alone is generally not sufficient to take us to the deeper levels of spiritual realization. This is because deeper realization is accomplished through attunement to the consciousness of someone who has achieved that level of realization. For this to happen, we need to be in their physical presence. In some rare instances, for those who are already highly advanced spiritually, this attunement and the guidance it provides can come in meditation. But for most people it is essential for this to happen in person.
I would say that the internet is very good for providing spiritual support, but for going deeper in realization, it is necessary to have at least some direct, physical contact. In fact, Paramhansa Yogananda said that it is necessary for a disciple to have at least one physical contact with the guru.
Therefore, it is important for people to have not only formal initiation, but also direct contact with those who have achieved those advanced states of realization. Without that contact, it is not possible for most people to develop the intuitive perception (not merely the intellectual understanding) needed to come to deeper states of realization.
The further reality is that to have the subtle guidance necessary to achieve deeper levels of realization, one needs to have entered into the disciple-guru relationship. The guru is your own God-given instrument through which you will be guided inwardly. It is the guru who gives you the grace (spiritual power) to achieve deepening levels of attunement, and, eventually, God-realization.
As you can feel, this is a deep subject and one you might like to explore more in depth. Both the Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda, and The New Path by Swami Kriyananda (if you haven't already read them) offer wonderful examples and teachings on what it means to be a disciple and what it looks like to go deeper in the relationship with a guru. Both books are available at the Crystal Clarity Publishers website (www.crystalclarity.com)
A Good Version of the Yoga Sutras?
July 5, 2012
What might be a good version of Patanjali's yoga sutra's to read?
I haven't encountered a commentary that I can wholeheartedly recommend. Some are too obscure, others are rather shallow, and still others have a "take" on the Sutras that I simply cannot endorse. And of course, I haven't even seen most commentaries.
However, a couple of my colleagues here at Ananda Village have told me that Inside the Yoga Sutras, by Jaganath Carrera, is the closest they've seen to the way Yogananda approached the Sutras. I've not read it, but I have confidence in my colleagues, so I'll offer that book as my recommendation. Enjoy!
Thoughts Are Universal
May 26, 2012
I have read many articles related mental telepathy, like in book Think and Grow Rich, it says our brain broadcasts thoughts and receives others' thought through subconcious mind, please elaborate.
"Please elaborate" is an open-ended request that could encompass the whole spiritual path!
In Autobiography of a Yogi, the chapter with the amusing title, The Cauliflower Robbery, Paramhansa Yogananda summarizes this idea with brilliant simplicity. "Thoughts are universally and not individually rooted; a truth cannot be created, but only perceived. The erroneous thoughts of man result from imperfections in his discernment. The goal of yoga science is to calm the mind, that without distortion if may mirror the divine vision in the universe."
The marvelous thing about spiritual truth is that applies to all levels of reality.
Napoleon Hill, in his book Think and Grow Rich, uses this truth to help people achieve (among other things) material wealth.
Yogananda was not indifferent to the need for money. He wrote Laws of Success and Scientific Healing Affirmations to help people magnetize whatever they might need. Swami Kriyananda has written an entire course called Success and Happiness Through Yoga Principles.
If you want to understand the Self-realization point of view on this subject, I would encourage you to look at those books and course.
The Masters help us on all levels. They know that experience is the best teacher. Eventually, through our own experience, we will be drawn to seek fulfillment on ever more expanded and subtle levels of reality. Finally we understand it is God Alone that we were seeking.
You say Think and Grow Rich talks about receiving thoughts through the subconscious mind. Self-realization teaches us to receive thoughts through the superconscious mind. You can imagine what a quantum shift this is in the nature of the thoughts we receive.
Just as a powerful radio can attune itself to every broadcasting bandwidth to receive a limitless variety of programs, in the same way, we can receive in our own consciousness Infinite Reality.
And just as the radio is not the creator of what passes through it, but merely the instrument, so it is with us. We are part of all that is. The purpose of our lives, and our deepest fulfillment comes when we attune, open, and allow that Infinity to flow.
- Guru-Disciple Relationship
- Health and Healing
- Karma, Reincarnation
- Kriya Yoga
- Paramhansa Yogananda
- Science and Yoga
- Spiritual Community
- Spiritual Parenting
- Spiritual Path
- Swami Kriyananda
- The Arts
- The Yugas
- Yoga Postures