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Questions and Answers About Meditation, Yoga, the Spiritual Life, and More

Category: Self-Realization

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Jim
usa

Question

What does it really take to achieve true spiritual success?

Tyagi Jayadev

Tyagi Jayadev

Ananda Assisi, Italy

Answer

Dear Jim,

A great question, and very vast, as achieving true spiritual success encompasses the whole life of a spiritual aspirant. It is a goal not only you, but all of us are after.

There are two answers to consider: the personal answer, individual in nature; and the general answer, valid for everyone.

Personal answer: To achieve true spiritual success you need to learn your personal lessons, follow your personal dharma, work with your personal strengths. We are all on the upward path, but your step forward, your path, your lessons are different from mine. Do you have clarity which inner lessons you need to learn right now? Which qualities to develop, which obstacles, desires, and weaknesses to remove? Which are your strengths, your personal inclination? A true Guru, for example, always guides his disciples according to their personality and character, to help them achieve inner success.

General answer: First of all we need to have (or develop) the thought: "I absolutely can achieve spiritual success. I can attain samadhi." Otherwise we will never get there, blocking ourselves with our own mind.

Then: without fiery passion for the goal nobody arrives.

Having it, achieving true spiritual success also requires various qualities: most central are devotion and sincerity, which Yogananda called the two most important elements on the path. It also requires training your concentration, without which you'll never be successful in meditation. You very much need will power to overcome dry periods, overcome obstacles, and to control your inner energy strongly. We all need to be warriors. It takes perseverance, in order to be a long-distance runner, not a sprinter, to keep your sadhana going with fire ever day. Often you need patience with yourself. Inner success requires continuous working on the ego in daily life, otherwise your ego weighs us down, and working on the ego requires discrimination, self-analysis. It too takes an adventurous spirit, because without it you can't experience yourself in a formless state, for example. Spiritual success also requires good (sattwic) company, good environment and influences, as environment is stronger than willpower. Most importantly, for high spiritual success you need a guru, otherwise you get stuck somewhere along the path, as you lack inner power.

Personally I think a mixture between determined will-power (the male principle in us) and sincere love for God which attracts grace (our female principle) is a winning mixture. But a greater mind than mine (Yogananda) proposed another mixture: "Technique (like Kriya Yoga) plus devotion cannot fail, it works like mathematics." Without technique, in fact, hardly anyone achieves true inner heights.

To sum up: the enterprise of achieving spiritual success requires your whole being, your whole heart, soul, mind, even your body, which to can block you from inner success. Yogananda taught: "Keep your body fit for Self-realization." You need to desire nothing more than this inner achievement. And yes, you can do it!

God bless you with glorious inner success, jayadev

Christlike Masters
February 24, 2011

Lemains
CR

Question

In the chapter "Ressurrection of Sri Yukteswar," from Autobiography of a Yogi, it says:

"The undeveloped man must undergo countless earthly and astral and causal incarnations in order to emerge from his three bodies. A master who achieves this final freedom may elect to return to earth as a prophet to bring other human beings back to God, or like myself he may choose to reside in the astral cosmos."

Is he saying that he has already achieved this final freedom and has merged with God? Same as Jesus?

Puru (Joseph) Selbie

Answer

Dear CR,

Yogananda often used the phrase "Christlike masters" to refer to great souls like Sri Yuteswar who had acheived the same "final freedom" as Jesus.

Christlike masters are alike in their utter freedom from all karma and limited awareness, but unalike in their earthly roles. Jesus' role on earth was that of a Savior. His life was led (as we know) very publicly for the purpose of reaching millions with his message and his grace.

Not all Christlike masters are given such dramatic roles. Some are largely unknown to the world, others, like Sri Yukteswar have quiet missions. Sri Yukteswar said he incarnated on earth with the mission to help a small number of disciples, then return to the astral level of existence to help even more advanced souls who had overcome their earthly karma but not yet freed themselves from their astral karma.

Yogananda emphasized that everyone will eventually attain the same freedom as Jesus and become Christlike masters themselves.

Joy to You,
Puru

Raju
India

Question

In the path of self realization or realization of Brahma, where is the place of God? I did several inquiries (self) and cannot find a place! Precisely my doubt is, is it necessary to have faith in God to realize the Self? And is it a prerequisite to leave normal life to seek the spiritual life?

Nayaswami Pranaba

Nayaswami Pranaba

Ananda Village

Answer

Dear Raju,

It may be a matter of how you understand the term 'God'!

In the deepest sense, God is beyond any human description. But the teachings of yoga also emphasize that God is within every aspect of creation. The Self in Self-realization refers to the oneness in spirit that we come to experience as we go beyond ego attachment. In otherwords, the Self is the individualized expression of Spirit or God.

The sanskrit term, satchidananda, offers a helpful concept of what the goal of Self-realization is all about. The way that Paramhansa Yogananda defined satchidananda is "ever existing, ever conscious, ever new bliss".

If we can expand our concept of God, as well as make it practical in our everyday living, then it is indeed helpful to have faith in God. The point is to come to our own experience of inner communion with God as bliss, and not just believe in a concept of God.

There is no prerequisite to leave normal life to seek the spiritual life. Indeed, Yogananda's and Ananda's emphasis is to show that one can carry on one's worldly responsibilities while living a deeply committed spiritual way of life. As Lahiri Mahasaya once suggested, "live in this world but not of it".

Blessings on your journey.

In divine friendship,
Nayaswami Pranaba

aa
Europe

Question

Why is it that people keep asking. If God exist why does bad things happend ?

Why is it that they don`t understand that humans are behind most of the bad things that happens ?

Nayaswami Asha

Answer

Dear aa:

True, human beings are the instrument through which things happen - bad and good.

The question is, then, what is a human being? Where do thoughts come from? Why are some people noble and others despicable? Do we act entirely on our own or are we subject to influences we may not be aware of?

In Autobiography of a Yogi, Master says, "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 it may mirror the divine vision in the universe."

In other words, we don't create our own consciousness; we tune in to what is already there. We receive what we are capable of receiving. Fears, desires, resentments, anger and a host of other egoic cross-currents limit our receptivity. In the Bible, St. John says, "To all who received him [Jesus], to them gave he power to become the sons of God."

So, in a sense, human beings are responsible for whatever level of consciousness they channel. Still, it is God who created the whole system in the first place, so in that sense, He is responsible, too.

An interesting subtlety is presented in the first line of Master's poem Samadhi, describing the state of complete oneness with the Infinite. "Vanished the veils of light and shade," The obvious phrase would be "light and dark." Instead, Master says "light and shade." Shade is created when something blocks the light. The light is not diminished in any actual way.

Some human beings are like clear glass: light shines through perfectly. Others have so clouded their consciousness with "imperfect discernments," that almost no light comes through. They create shade all around them.

Points worth meditating on.

Blessings,

Nayaswami Asha

Free Will
July 24, 2010

karen
UK

Question

Hi

I have read how we are more evolved than animals as we have free will, and we can use that will to choose what we do and how we live. But I have also read that none of what we do is our (individual) doing - its all god acting through us, even when we are creating bad karma. Do we make our own spiritual choices? or not? Thanks

Nayaswami Asha

Answer

Dear Karen:

What distinguishes human beings from lower forms of life - what makes the human a "higher" form - is self-awareness. A dog or cat may perform an amazing feat of intuition, crossing the country, for example, to find an owner who has moved from New York to California, and left the pet behind.

Still, that animal cannot objectively contemplate itself as a dog or a cat. It cannot meditate on the unfairness of being left behind. Even though it has individuality, it doesn't have a sufficiently defined sense of personal ego to think about itself in that way.

The individual soul manifesting at that time as a dog (or any other animal) gradually grows in awareness. The Masters explain, however, that its progress is not the result of individual effort. Rather animals are propelled forward by the overall expansion of consciousness that is creation itself. Mostly the animals we get to know are pets. To be in association with humans is a sign that an animal has already progressed a long way up the chain of animal evolution. Which is why pets often have quite notable human-like characteristics.

A defining characteristic of the human level, when we finally reach it, is that we have the self-awareness now to contemplate ourselves and our position in life. And, because of what we learn by reflecting on our condition, we can use our will power to change it. We can change for the better - in terms of consciousness - or change for the worse. It is up to us.

Still, we are not free for one reason: we are bound by ego. Master defined "ego" as the infinite soul identified with a limited body. That body can be material, astral, or causal. The material body is the most confining. But because we also have an astral and a causal body, and our ego identifies with each of those, too, mere physical death does not automatically bring spiritual liberation.

Also, merely killing the body does not kill our sense of identity with the idea of being a physical body. That's why we reincarnate. We find another mother and father who will help us make a new body so we can express what we believe ourselves to be.

So we move around within that self-definition, for many lifetimes, thinking perhaps that we are "free," but in fact we walking around in a small room. In minor ways - compared to infinitity - we change our point of view, but no matter where we are in the room we are still in the room.

As for God acting through us, there is nothing else to act. We are one with the infinite; no misunderstanding on our part can ever change that.

But practically speaking, as long as we are identified with ego, we experience the limitations of ego, not the freedom of being God.

Thus the need for spiritual practice. We don't create a new reality by our spiritual effort we realize what has been true for all eternity. That's why we call it "Self-realization," rather than Self-creation, or Self-invention.

Our divine nature is always there, waiting, you might say, for us to notice.

So the choice we have is whether or not to reinforce our ego identity or to dissolve it. Every true spiritual practice expands our sense of identity from the limited to the unlimited.

Obviously, this is a huge subject, and this answer only hints at the many dimensions of it. The last letter in Swami Kriyananda's book of letters, Divine Friendship, talks about free will. You might enjoy reading it.

In divine friendship,

Nayaswami Asha

aa
europe

Question

How can i find God again ?

Where do i look ?

Nayaswami Asha

Answer

The word "God" in English is a very unsatisfactory word, because it has no specific meaning. Many people who say they don't believe in God are rejecting only the dogmas associated with that word.

When it comes to spiritual matters, Sanskrit is much more satisfactory. There are literally hundreds of words that can all be translated into English as "God." Putting aside the gods and goddesses, which are a whole other subject, most of the words for "God" in Sanskrit describe specific experiences, such as peace (Shanti) or joy (Ananda).

Shanti is more than just the quiet after the kids are finally asleep; Ananda is more than having your sports team win the championship. These are profound states of inner stillness or bliss that transcend all limiting conditions.

The most perfect Sanskrit word for God is Satchidananda: Ever-Existing, Ever-Conscious, Ever-New Joy.

You ask how to find God and where to look?

Where to look is everywhere. Every atom of creation is an expression of Satchidananda. There is nothing else. Above all, look within. Explore the reality of your own consciousness.

How to experience God is the whole science of yoga: meditation, right attitude, prayer, service, devotion. What we are doing is refocusing our attention.

Most of the time we live on the surface of our consciousness, distracted by sensory input and the jumble of thoughts that is our everyday experience. We speak of realizing God, not discovering or creating, but simply expanding our awareness of that which has always been true.

The science of yoga takes us from the periphery of our consciousness — thoughts and sense impressions — to the core of our being: Satchidananda.

Joy to you,

Nayaswami Asha

Stages of Enlightenment
April 29, 2010

Romila
UK

Question

Is there a difference between the state of being Spiritually Awakened and Self Realisation? Thank you very much for helping me understand

Nayaswami Devi

Answer

Dear Romila,

The problem with using words to describe states of enlightenment is that words exist on the level of the conscious mind, while soul experiences exist on a higher, superconscious level. It's often difficult to translate one into the other.

One could certainly make a case that being "spiritually awakened" or "Self-realized" is the same thing. You would probably need to ask whoever used these terms how they were defining them.

The important thing to understand is the basic concept which may be called by many different names. This is a state where the individual soul has transcended limited, separate ego existence and has merged his identity into the vast ocean of spirit.

There are many stages and steps along the journey, but I find it more helpful to see the whole spiritual path as a continuous flow and self-offering to God.

In divine friendship,
Nayaswami Devi

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