Ask Ananda’s Experts
Questions and Answers About Meditation, Yoga, the Spiritual Life, and More
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Meditation, Service, and Cosmic Consciousness
September 1, 2015
I would like to devote my life completely to spiritual practice but I have students that I feel like I must work to pay off. How is it possible for someone to devote themselves completely to spiritual practice when they feel obligated to work? Are there spiritual centers that offer work opportunities?
Any spiritual community or center has opportunities to serve others and to assist with the care and maintenance of the facility. The highest way to "work" and dedicate your life completely to spiritual practice is to become a willing instrument for God by being kind, truthful, thoughtful and of uplifting service to others in all you do. Do everything with the consciousness that God is doing through you.
Meditation and service are both necessary for spiritual development. We can become too inward and aloof with only meditation and we can become too outward and lose our inner peace doing only service. The highest path is to offer all you do as spiritual practice wherever you are in the world and doing whatever is in front of you to do while making significant time for your spiritual practices and meditation each day as well.
This topic is discussed in Paramhansa Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi where his guru, Sri Yukteswar, says after giving him an experience in cosmic consciousness, "Now let’s go sweep the balcony".
“Those who are too good for this world are adorning some other,” Sri Yukteswar remarked. “So long as you breathe the free air of earth, you are under obligation to render grateful service. He alone who has fully mastered the breathless state is freed from cosmic imperatives. ”
For further discussion about this topic, read Chapter 25 in The New Path, by Swami Kriyananda, on Work vs. Meditation.
May you experience the bliss of being as you do all in service to the Giver of all.
The Conscious, Subconscious, and Superconscious Minds
August 27, 2015
Please Clarify ,
Ques. When we are fully calm after going through a good meditation then the source for our Creative consciousness is due to our Subconscious mind??As acc. to the Nature of mind, Subconscious gets manifested when the conscious mind is in abeyance.Is it True? or Creativity is an outcome of the Conscious mind itself??Acc. to my Knowledge ,Subconscious is the stuff of which only dreams are made.
I thought I would answer your questions by first clarifying what the levels of consciousness are and what they represent.
The levels of consciousness are: subconscious, conscious, and superconscious.
The conscious mind is what we operate with during our daily activities and waking hours. It represents only a small portion of our consciousness and awareness.
The subconscious mind, lies below the level of conscious awareness. Its physical seat in the body is the lower brain and the spine. It records everything we do: every activity we engage in, our thoughts about those activities, our likes and dislikes about what we encounter each day. Although nothing is forgotten by the subconscious mind, for the most part this part of our consciousness remains hidden from our everyday awareness. The subconscious has a tremendous influence on how we think and act when in the conscious state.
The superconscious mind encompasses a level of awareness that sees both material reality and also the energy and consciousness behind that reality.
If we have a really good meditation and feel “fully calm” as you have stated, then we are beginning to experience a level of superconsciousness. As we go deeper in meditation and experience a deepening peace, calmness, divine love, and even bliss, then we are experiencing deeper levels of the superconscious. The superconscious is where true creativity is found. Expressions of this kind of creativity are distinctive from those that come from the subconscious. The superconscious is where ideas for truly great works of art, music, prose, poetry, great scientific discoveries, and deep spiritual experiences are found.
Paramhansa Yogananda made an interesting statement. He said that, “Thoughts are universally, not individually, rooted.” This means that as we elevate our consciousness and access the superconscious, we are accessing the thoughts that live on that level of consciousness. These thoughts don’t belong to us, but are universally available to those who live more on that level of consciousness.
The opposite is also true. If we live mainly on the conscious or subconscious level, then we attract the kinds of thoughts that live on those levels of consciousness.
Generally speaking the conscious mind sees everything as separate from each other. A chair is only a chair, a person is simply the body they inhabit and nothing more. It has a very limited view of the world around it.
The superconscious mind sees that everything is, in reality, made of energy and consciousness and, therefore, it sees the underlying unity behind the outer forms.
The subconscious mind consists of “the unprocessed residue of thoughts, actions, and memories that are ever present, but more or less unnoticed. They greatly influence the conscious mind, which doesn’t often realize how ungoverned by free will its decisions really are.” (from Awaken to Superconsciousness, by Swami Kriyananda) In other words, the subconscious influences a lot of what we do each day, but those influences are from past actions and the habits we have created from them. This means that ideas that are drawn from the subconscious are not going to be new and creative. Looking in the subconscious can be like rummaging around the closet to see what we’ve stored away. This is why the usual dream state often has a confused and murky feel to it. There are also superconscious dreams, but they will have an uplifting and life-changing effect on us, and feel quite different from the usual dreams we may have.
I hope this will be a help to you and answer some of the questions you’ve asked. The book Awaken to Superconsciousness (available in India here), by Swami Kriyananda also provides much more about this important topic.
In divine friendship,
Kriya While Pregnant
August 26, 2015
Could you tell me please if its recommended to do Kriya yoga during pregnancy? I am two weeks pregnant and don't feel somewhat comfortable (the sensation inside of my abdomen isn't pleasant) during Kriya breaths.Thank you.
Congratulations on your pregnancy, and may you be ever guided and blessed in your role as mother. This Family Life Treasure Chest of Ananda Resources will be very helpful to you in the coming years.
Regarding your question of Kriya Yoga during pregnancy: please follow your instincts on this. The nature of Kriya is to withdraw the life force, and bring it up the spine, but of course the developing baby needs that energy, too!
I am the mother of three grown children, and I have been a Kriyaban since prior to the first pregnancy. I noticed that when I did the Kriya breaths with deep concentration and focus, it felt very wrong, like it was pulling energy away from the baby. My heartbeat would also get rapid and then slow down. It also made me dizzy, and I felt out of tune with the divine will for the baby and me. I asked Swamiji about this in my first pregnancy, and he replied, "Do more Hong-Sau."
I found in my next two pregnancies that it was okay if I did a few Kriyas very gently, staying focused on love. In general, while pregnant I found it was most helpful to focus the majority of my meditation on devotion to Divine Mother and Guru. You might appreciate this short talk on how to develop devotion, by Swami Kriyananda.
Kriya was originally meant to be given to those who had forsaken all else, and therefore would not have been pregnant. So, while we are in this special, blessed state of carrying a child, listen to your intuition. Let the Guru and Divine Mother guide you, for there are no rules written on this. Do not stress your body, or the baby’s developing body. Every uplifted and devotional thought blesses your unborn child, and helps to bring out their own seeds of spiritual tendencies developed in past lives.
Pregnancy is such a profound state in which a tiny baby is dependent directly upon your life force. Everything I have written, above, pertains directly to the state of pregnancy. As soon as the baby was born, it changes, and your body is your own again, even if you are nursing your child. It takes energy to create that milk, but not in the same way. Kriya was never a disturbance in that state. However, it is difficult to find time to meditate with a new baby, and so, in this way, the focus on devotion to Divine Mother continues into that phase. You may only be able to do short sessions of Kriya then. But do try to sit every day at your altar even for a short time, and give your love to God. You can also practice prayer, devotion and Kriya as you nurse your baby. Don’t aim for perfection — but instead aim for love and sincerity.
The only time I heard Swamiji address this issue of stopping Kriya to conserve the energy for the body, or for healing was after he had major heart surgery. Normally, he never missed Kriya, but after this heart surgery he did his Kriyas, and he said it felt wrong, like he was pulling the energy away from his heart, when it was needed to do the healing. Please note, the heart is connected to life force and the ability of the body to survive. So I am not talking about minor things.
So, in big circumstance, like pregnancy or major surgery, one may need to pull back from Kriya, or to do them gently. But it is important to not use this as an excuse once that situation has passed. Keep some sadhana going, and if it feels okay — do a few Kriyas gently, as this will keep you in the habit of doing them.
God Bless you,
Author of Finding God In Your Family
A friend of mine is desperately wanting to become a vegetarian, however is facing some issues. She is allergic to many vegetarian food sources and is prone to anaemia. She has anaphylactic reactions to nuts, seaweed, mushrooms and chickpeas; and is sensitive to pomegranate, potatoes, eggs, soya, dairy and fermented products. Do you have any advice considering her dietary restrictions and guilt surrounding her meat-eating?
This is not an easy question to answer, since your friend is anemic and has many allergic reactions to vegetarian foods.
Paramhansa Yogananda recommended to eliminate beef and pork as they are high in saturated fats and toxins. Fish, chicken and sheep are not as evolved animals as cows and pigs, so she can eat those.
Besides eating fish, chicken and lamb, she can focus on what she can eat in the plant kingdom, and see if it works. Experiment, use common sense, and consider seeing an ayurvedic practitioner that can work with her diet and tailor it more specifically to her needs.
I was wondering when you die the astral body or soul goes to the spiritual world. But the question is when you get born again and your soul goes into a new body. Does that mean you die in the astral world. To be reincarnated again do you need to die in the astral plane ?. Or is it that you just automatically get reborn after a certain time. ?
I find your question to be quite mental — a question that is fun to contemplate, not really needed to pursue enlightenment, but interesting.
And Paramhansa Yogananda does talk a great deal about the three worlds our souls are enclosed within. You will find this extensively covered in his book, Autobiography of a Yogi, Chapter 43, Resurrection of Sri Yukteswar. Let’s go direct to what he says about astral death:
Physical death is attended by the disappearance of breath and the disintegration of fleshly cells. Astral death consists of the disbursement of lifetrons, those manifest units of energy which constitute the life of astral beings…Experiencing astral death in due time, a being thus passes from the consciousness of astral birth and death to that of physical birth and death. These recurrent cycles of astral and physical encasement are the ineluctable destiny of all unenlightened beings.
Yogananda does state that reincarnating from the astral world to the physical world is determined by one’s karma. Our karma also determines into what astral plane we go to.
Therefore, dear friend, do spend your time and energy meditating, diving deep into the thought of God, opening your heart to Him, and serve Him in others. Also read this thrilling chapter in the Autobiography of a Yogi.
Joy to you,
In Meditation, Focus on the Medulla Oblongata?
August 24, 2015
How to concentrate on agya chakra (spiritual eye) having conciousness on medulla oblongata..is dis method really taught by lahiri mahasaya and gurudev..if so why it is not taught in ananda classes?
I’m not certain to what extent that Lahiri Mahasaya or Paramhansa Yogananda emphasized having one’s focus on the medulla oblongata while practicing concentration but it is something Swami Kriyananda did suggest as a helpful approach to meditation.
Here is a quote from Swami Kriyananda, from the book The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam Explained:
The fact of the ego’s centeredness in the medulla oblongata (agya chakra) is not dynamic to most people’s awareness. They objectify their energy, and are therefore more conscious of its outer effects than of its source within.
Beginning meditators, consequently, when they try to concentrate at the Christ center, come at it from outer awareness, and often create in themselves a vague feeling of tension, even of confusion. Concentration on the medulla oblongata is not recommended, obviously, for the purpose of strengthening ego-consciousness. The important thing is to direct the energy from its natural source to the Christ center. The energy must be released from ego-consciousness to attain a more universal awareness.
That is why, in all cultures, the recognized gesture of humility is a bowed head. To reach the Christ center, one must first be aware of one’s present focus in the medulla.
Don’t hold the thought of ego at the medulla, but gather your self-awareness, simply, to pass it onward in a spirit of self-offering and freedom. From the medulla, gaze mentally at the Christ center (kutastha) between the eyebrows.
In divine friendship,
Millions of Lifetimes
August 21, 2015
Why does a human being keep getting born again? Unfuliflled desire is one thing which may be the reason but what about animals they would not have much desire other than food. What happens to reincarnation due to evil nature. does human become animal again
According to the yogic teachings, souls reincarnate repeatedly due to their desires. As long as these desires can only be fulfilled on the material plane of existence, such as the desire for good food, then the soul needs to come back into a material body. And since there are so many desires possible on this material plane, this repeated coming back happens many, many times. In the Indian scriptures it is said, and Paramhansa Yogananda corroborated this as well, that it takes five to eight million lifetimes to reach the human level, and then millions of lifetimes more in a human body to become free and realize our oneness with God.
The physical plane of existence provides such an entertaining show, that it’s difficult to want to leave it! But, after millions of lifetimes spent not only on the material plane, but living in the duality that accompanies it, we begin to realize that something is very wrong. Living within duality we realize that we can never be completely satisfied or fulfilled. Every pleasure we experience must be balanced by a pain, for this is the law of duality. For every fulfillment, we must experience a disappointment, for every joy, a sorrow — and so on and on it goes.
Yogananda said that the soul comes to the point in its evolution when it experiences “an anguishing sense of monotony.” It is anguishing because our soul can only find its fulfillment in union with the Divine, which in duality will never be possible. The monotony comes because we know that things we always be balanced by their opposite, and will never be completely satisfying.
The soul, which is that spark of the Divine within us, will never be satisfied until we begin our journey home to our oneness in God. It is this longing for union with the Divine that keeps us ever moving forward during our many lifetimes. It keeps us constantly looking for what will be truly fulfilling, searching for it in many bypaths of experience. We never find this fulfillment until we realize that it is our longing for reuniting with God that is the answer we have been looking for. It is at this point that we become interested in the spiritual path and begin our journey back to our oneness in God.
Animals and other creatures, being on lower levels in the evolution of consciousness, evolve more automatically, and therefore, more slowly. (According to Yogananda, it is very rare for a soul that has finally reached the human level to reincarnate once again in an animal body, but it can happen due to lower material desires and evil actions.) It is only when the soul finally reaches the human level, after millions of lifetimes, that it has the potential to evolve in consciousness more quickly. But it remains only a potential for many, many lifetimes, because we have to choose to do this. The material plane for most souls is very entertaining and seems in the beginning to be fulfilling. But we find material fulfillment is like a carrot on a stick, with its promised fulfillments being always just a little out of reach.
This is why, even in human incarnations, it takes many lifetimes to come to the point where you want something more. That something more is complete soul fulfillment. This is a fulfillment that we gradually realize is not possible through fulfilling our material desires.
In divine friendship,
Thoughts Are Universally Rooted
August 21, 2015
From my spiritual practices i’ve became a lot better person but now an problem has occured with me whenver i’m thinking or lost in thoughts unknowingly i project my thoughts to other people around the area so i don’t want them to hear my thoughts sometimes there are too much personal thoughts what can i do to stop people hearing my thoughts.
First of all, your thoughts are not your personal creations. Thoughts simply "are," and different people often tune into the same thought at the same time, especially if they happen to be in the same location.
If you think that other people are picking up "your" thoughts, that would be a wonderful incentive to be extra careful about what you think. Keep your mind focused and strive to have only good, constructive thoughts. Then you will be happier and you'll have a beneficial influence on others.
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