About the Expert
Asha is a founding member of Ananda Village. She is a Kriyacharya (authorized Kriya Yoga teacher).
Swami Kriyananda placed her in the role of teaching and counseling soon after her arrival to Ananda. In that capacity, she has taught throughout the United States, and occasionally in Europe and India.
She served as Swami Kriyananda's correspondence secretary for many years, and is the author of Swami Kriyananda As We Have Known Him, a collection of stories told by people who have been touched by his teachings and spiritual friendship.
Asha and her husband David reside at Ananda's community in Palo Alto, California, where they serve as the spiritual directors.
You can listen to talks of Asha's and more at www.nayaswamiasha.org.
Posts by Nayaswami Asha:
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Yogananda's Writings on the Bhagavad Gita & the Chakras
Can you please tell me in which book Paramahamsa Yogananda wrote about the chakras and the Bhagavad Gita?
There is a book published by Self-Realization Fellowship called God Talks to Arjuna. It is Yogananda's commentaries on the Bhagavad-Gita. His original manuscript forms the basis of it, but it has been highly edited by SRF so it is not really his style or voice. Much of the information is from him, but by no means all of it. For example, the book is filled with footnotes which Yogananda never included.
Obviously, I am no so keen on that book, and, fortunately there is another option.
Swami Kriyananda wrote a commentary on the Bhagavad-Gita based on his knowledge of Yogananda's commentaries both from reading the original manuscript and helping Yogananda with editing that manuscript. Swamiji said when he wrote this book with each stanza he was able to remember all of Yogananda's explanations and that is what he offers. The style and voice of what Swamiji calls The Essence of the Bhagavad-Gita Explained by Paramhansa Yogananda is the way I understand Yogananda himself to be, whereas the SRF book is not.
This conclusion is not just SRF-bashing. In the course of the 12-years of litigation that SRF pursued against Ananda (see www.YoganandafortheWorld for details of that, or read the recently published A Fight for Religious Freedom by Jon Parsons) I had the opportunity to see many pages of the original manuscript of Yogananda's commentary on the Bhagavad-Gita. SRF obtained a strict confidentiality order which is still in force and, unfortunately prevents me from being specific, so I can only say the manuscript is in Yogananda's own voice. The book SRF published is mostly not. I have not read all the pages of the SRF book. In what I have read, occasionally to me it sounds like Yogananda, but mostly it does not.
Another way that is available to everyone that the voice of Yogananda can be contrasted to the voice of SRF is by comparing the original version of Autobiography of a Yogi published by Crystal Clarity (Ananda) Publishers with that 13th edition published by SRF. Ananda's is the blue version; SRF's the orange one. That tells the whole story. You'll find more about versions of the Autobiography also on the website mentioned above.
The essential difference is that Yogananda's own voice is warm, encouraging, forgiving, humourous, easy to understand, practical, down to earth. That is what you find in Essence.
By contrast, I find God Talks to Arjuna is difficult to understand, tends to be declarative in its statements rather than encouraging, and often dogmatic in its conclusions. After reading God Talks to Arjuna I didn't have much hope that God would ever talk to me. Whereas Essence gives me hope for my spiritual future.
As for the chakras, I believe there is some information in God Talks to Arjuna, but I can't think where else there are published writings by Yogananda about that subject. Maybe they exist, but I don't know where. You will find the chakras well explained in the Art & Science of Raja Yoga by Swami Kriyananda. Also in a book by Savitri from Ananda, and in many recorded talks by Swamiji and other Ananda teachers. All are Yogananda's teachings, but not his writings.
Son of God or Son of Man?
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.
Thoughts Are Universal
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.
Negative Thoughts, Divine Union, Health
Can negative thoughts be overcome? How can we connect our soul to God? Can meditation heal every type of disease?
Can negative thoughts be overcome?
Yes, of course negative thoughts can be overcome. As Master explains in Autobiography of a Yogi, thoughts are universal not individually rooted. Thoughts are a reflection of our state of consciousness. Change your level of consciousness and your thoughts also change.
A depressed person, for example, sees in every situation reasons for his depression. If that same person receives some good news and suddenly feels hopeful, he may look at the same situation and see reasons now to be positive. Nothing has changed except his state of mind.
Master said conditions are always neutral, whether we perceive them as happy or sad depends entirely on the predisposition of the mind.
Rather than trying to change individual thoughts, it is more effective to work directly on your state of consciousness. That means regular spiritual practices - meditation, study, prayer, chanting, affirmation. There is a long list of things to do.
When working to change thoughts, instead of concentrating on what you don't want to be thinking (that can actually give more energy to what you are trying to get rid of!) focus on the state of consciousness you want to have.
Choose one or two chants, or an affirmation that speaks clearly and appropriately to your goal, and every single time a negative thought enters your consciousness, with all your willpower repeat the affirmation or sing the chant - out loud if possible but silently if necessary - until the negative thought simply has no space inside your mind to live.
One of the most difficult aspects of getting rid of negative thoughts is persuading ourselves that we really do want to get rid of them. Yes, of course, we say we want to get rid of them, but, in some way they must be serving us, otherwise we would drop them like a hot potato.
All states of consciousness, including the negative have a certain attracting power. Once we are in a negative place negativity uses what Master calls "our own false reasoning" to persuade us that we need to stay there.
Rather than engaging with each individual thought, better to wage war generally against the whole concept of negativity, treating any thought that wanders into your mind as a mortal enemy that must be banished instantly. Don't entertain negative thoughts even for an instant! Go after them with your chant or affirmation as if your life depended upon it, because it does.
How can we connect our soul to God?
Your soul is always connected to God. Nothing can separate you from Him. What you are asking is, how can you realize your union with God. That is the whole spiritual path.
When I met Swami Kriyananda I was instantly attracted to him. I was just a neophyte, but somehow I sensed that his consciousness had no boundaries, whereas I felt so confined. The experience of meeting him was overwhelming in its simplicity. "He has what I want."
That was more than 40 years ago and I have followed this path ever since. Still, at the beginning, I didn't have faith in many fundamental aspects of it.
I had to consider, "Should I wait until I have more certainty before I dive into this life with Swami Kriyananda?"
I decided, "No, I need to go forward with faith in what I do know. The reason I don't understand is because my intuition is clouded. If I do nothing, my intuition will remain clouded. If I do something - with full energy and commitment - my consciousness will change, my intuition will clear, and then I will know."
And that is precisely what happened. I threw myself into the spiritual life as Swamiji presented it, acting on what I did know and taking a "wait and see" attitude toward those things that remained unclear. And in time, because of the grace of God and my sincere effort to receive it, my intuition developed and ... well, the rest is history.
Can meditation heal every type of disease?
The example of the ever-living, ever-youthful Babaji, described in Autobiography of a Yogi, tells us that consciousness is greater than matter. The resurrection of Jesus and Sri Yukteswar tell us that even death is not permanent for a person of Self-realization.
Meditation is not in itself Self-realization. It is a technique we use to help bring us to Self-realization. So even if practicing meditation does result in a lessening of disease, it is the change in consciousness, and the grace of God that consciousness may attract, that brings healing.
This is an important distinction. Otherwise we may take things too much to the ego. "By the power of my meditation I have healed myself!" Then healing becomes the cause of a much worse disease: spiritual pride.
Generally speaking, people who meditate enjoy a more dynamic state of wellbeing than people who don't. The physician who runs the clinic near Ananda Village has seen that those who practice Kriya Yoga, as a group, are far healthier than those who don't.
Of course, Kriyabans also follow a number of other healthy habits - vegetarianism, exercise, refraining from drugs and alcohol - that contribute to their wellbeing. But there is no doubt that the powerful, subtle energy generated by Kriya practice also uplifts their health directly.
It is a mistake, however, to equate physical health with spiritual wellbeing. Some great saints have vibrant physical health, some are chronically ill. It depends on how God wants to play through them.
Those saints who are ill may be working out vestiges of their own karma, or maybe they are taking on the karma of others. That is between each one and God.
What meditation heals is your consciousness. It brings you in touch with your natural state of inner bliss. Often this brings about great harmony in the physical body, too. But even if the body remains ill, meditation can make it possible to transcend physical limitations, and in that sense it does heal all disease.
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent!
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent!
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?
Epicurus, Greek philosopher
Did Yogananda ever say anything about this ?
My inclination when I read your question was to return it and ask that someone else answer. I realized, however, I have a little bit to say. So here it is. If it is insufficient, please resubmit your question and someone else will answer.
Yes, Yogananda did speak on this issue. Not cleverly, as this man does, leaving the reader as confused at the end as he is at the beginning, but as a man of realization answers - clearly and decisively with the power of superconscious intuition.
I suggest you look up the word "evil" in the index of at least the following books, which contain Yogananda's words and teachings: The Essence of Self-Realization, The Essence of the Bhagavad-Gita, and Revelations of Christ.
In various forms, I have been asked this question many times. The reason I didn't want to answer is because whatever answer I give is simply countered by another objection. You can't reason your way through this one.
As Swami Vivekenanda put it, "The level of consciousness that asks this question cannot understand the answer."
That is a clever response and worth quoting, but not entirely satisfactory. So I have come up with another one, not original, but a quote from Lahiri Mahasaya: "Do Kriya." Or another technique like it that will lift your consciousness from the level that asks the question to the level where the answer will be experienced and the question itself will dissolve.
Another way to phrase this question is, "Why did God make the world the way He did?"
When a devotee reduced that question to the single word, "Why?" Swami Kriyananda answered, "What difference would it make?"
His meaning was, the need to find happiness (leading to bliss) and escape suffering remains exactly the same, whether or not we know why we got into this situation in the first place. To do nothing until the question is answered is to postpone bliss and prolong suffering. To that I say, "Why?"
The first order of business is to escape the bondage of material ego consciousness. With or without an explanation, the way out is the same. "Do Kriya."
A Blank Mind: Dangerous or Desirable?
Every now and then I come across the term "a blank mind". Can you please explain to me in detail what a "blank mind" is? I have read that one shouldnt drink alcohol or take drugs because they can make the mind go blank which can me dangerous. I have also read that one shouldnt meditate with a "blank mind". English is not my native language but when I translate the word blank into German it means empty. If I then Google "empty mind" I get loads of articles about how important it is to have a blank (empty) mind in meditation. So now I am totally confused. I would really love your help on this one. Thank you very much.
The only meditation I have studied and practiced is Kriya Yoga as taught at Ananda. Kriya to me includes not just the technique learned through initiation after a year or so of preparation, but also the whole approach to spiritual life brought to the West by Paramhansa Yogananda.
I was fortunate to find this path early, to be deeply inspired by it, and to have never felt the need to explore deeply any other way. So what I know of "blank mind" meditation was either told to me by others or picked up in snippets of reading here and there.
It seems wiser, then, for me to describe "blank mind" from the point of view of Kriya - which recommends against it, as you have discovered - rather than trying to speak for it from the point of view of those who teach it.
I prefer to do this also because often the words we use in languages other than Sanskrit to describe subtle states of consciousness are given meaning by those who use them and are not always self-evident or consistent from one tradition to another. Sanskrit has specialized in describing states of consciousness, whereas the speakers of other languages have not focused on these inner realities to the same extent and do not have such a specific vocabulary.
This is a good example. "Blank" or "empty" mind in the Kriya tradition is not offered as a positive image, whereas in other traditions it forms the heart of the practice. Perhaps this is a fundamental disagreement or perhaps it is just semantics.
In Kriya practice, the emphasis is on devotion and will power. A blank mind is considered undesirable insofar as it is the result of low or passive energy. If by "blank" one means "still and focused" that would be entirely different. "Still and focused" are words we often use in Kriya because they are more precise than empty or blank.
Even though meditation involves relaxation, the art of it is to let go of tension without also lowering one's energy level. We know how to put out energy on the conscious level by keeping the mind and body active and busy. Meditation requires that we still both the mind and body, but not - as we are habituated to doing - falling into a state of subconscious sleep.
Rather we must take all the energy that we usually direct in an outward way, and use it to keep the mind and body absolutely still in a state of complete, relaxed, alert awareness.
No surprise that this is not so easy to do! Among other reasons, this is why in Kriya we do not recommend meditating while lying down on your back, even though this position allows you to relax with a straight spine. The association between lying down and falling asleep is simply too great for most people to resist!
Because in meditation we have to withdraw our attention from what usually preoccupies it - mundane activities and thoughts - and because where we are going is a state of awareness often unfamiliar to us before we experience it, sometimes people will say, "Make your mind blank," or "Empty your mind." The meaning here would be to withdraw the mind from where it usually rests.
The problem is succinctly described in the a statement taken from the scientific study of the natural world, "Nature abhors a vacuum." What this means is that when one force is withdrawn, another will rush in to fill the now empty space.
In meditation, an empty mind is very difficult to achieve. As soon as you withdraw your attention from one preoccupation, another will rush in to the fill the vacuum.
Thoughts, Yogananda explains in Autobiography of a Yogi, are not individually created, but universal streams of consciousness that we attune to and receive. We are not separate from the universe, but merely an individual expression of greater realities than just our own ego.
The art of meditation, as explained in Kriya Yoga, is not to attune yourself to nothing. Some meditation methods conscientiously avoid any mention of higher realities, especially God. They may even pride themselves on what I have heard called "non-deistic spiritual practices."
Kriya Yoga is not like that. Kriya Yoga is about attuning to God. Satchidananda is the ideal way to describe it, since the word "God" in English has no clear meaning. Satchidananda means "ever-existing, ever-conscious, ever-new bliss." It is definitely Something. Not emptiness. Not a blank mind.
So in Kriya practice we are encouraged to withdraw from mundane realities and focus with great will power and relaxation (it is simple, but not easy!) on the Divine. Whether we define that impersonally or personally, as I said, it is definitely Something other than emptiness.
The danger of an empty or blank mind comes from two possibilities. The first is simply that in trying to become blank, one may too easily fall into low, passive energy, which will not bring success either in meditation or in any other area of life. Think about it. Do passive, uncreative people without will power accomplish anything in any field? No, they don't. Why, then, would this approach bear positive fruit in meditation? It wouldn't make any sense.
The other danger of the blank mind is the possibility of possession by disincarnate entities. "Nature abhors a vacuum." If you are not using your mind, someone else may rush in to fill the empty space. Wow! That is scary! Definitely not something you want to mess around with.
That's why I respectfully concede that the seeming disagreement between the way Kriya Yoga is explained and other teachings that use "emptiness" and "blank mind" in a positive way could be more about semantics than anything else.
Both alcohol and drugs do lessen your ability to control your own mind. They blur your focus and lessen your will power. The long-term effect of marijuana use, for example, which some people consider to be a "harmless" drug, is the inclination not to put out will power to accomplish goals. Under the influence of marijuana, trivial things appear profound, small stimulation brings great enjoyment. The "munchies," for example are considered to be one of the great happy effects of marijuana - a delight in eating that is far greater than usual.
As a result, habitual marijuana users begin to rely on getting high as a way to enjoy life and miss completely the divine truth that the greater our awareness and the more dynamic our will power, the greater the sense of true satisfaction.
One need not live in constant fear of being taken over by a ghost; nonetheless, the fact is that disincarnate souls hover around in great numbers the places where people drink and take drugs looking for opportunities to slip into a physical body that is not their own, either for the duration of the substance-induced stupor, or for longer if blank-minded passivity has become that person's habit.
Disincarnate beings like this died while so focused on physical pleasures that their progression through the astral world and eventually into another physical body of their own has been derailed by their consuming desire to experience again the pleasures they feel have been taken away from them. Or, even worse, they are beings seeking to have power over others. Bad news any way you look at it!
Normally, disincarnate beings are held at bay by the fact that a body is fully occupied by someone else. There is no room for another consciousness to come in.
However, diminishing self-control and awareness by drugs or alcohol, or deliberately reducing your will power and blanking the mind, can be a way of opening the door for someone else to move in.
Many crimes are committed under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Afterwards, the one who is imprisoned for the dastardly deed may say, "I have no memory of doing it and no idea why I would have done it." Sometimes it was that person's subconsciousness given free rein because conscious control was obliterated by mind-altering substances. But it can also be that, literally, someone else used his body to do it.
The good news is, meditation practiced with will power, with a focus on higher realities, protected and guided by a guru, unequivocally slams the door against intrusion by these lower entities. There is no possible entry into your mind when you have lifted it, or are sincerely trying to lift it, into divine attunement.
My Mother Is Bitter. How Can I Help Her?
I saw Swami Kriyananda's video "What Happens After Death" and now I am worried about my mother's "afterlife". She doesnt believe in God and became a very bitter and difficult person. I can feel her unhappiness but can't get through to her. I love her and I know that she has a kind heart underneath. I always believed that angels and passed "loved ones" will be there to guide us into the spiritual world. Will my mom experience this also? I can't stand the thought of her not experiencing love and relief.
God is no tyrant. His law is impersonal and always fair.
God lives within us and is not fooled. If your mother has, as you feel, a kind heart, be certain: God knows and will respond. "God reads the heart," is how Paramhansa Yogananda explained it.
Justice after death is not subject to human whim. Your mother will perceive the highest reality of which she is capable. The soul longs to reunite with God. It seeks the Light the way a river seeks the sea.
Be assured, angels and other divine beings will help your mother in the astral world. But she can't rise beyond her actual state of consciousness. I suspect during her lifetime you, and perhaps other friends, tried to coax her out of her bitterness. But if she was determined to hold onto it, probably nothing you said or did could change her.
Dying does not in itself liberate us from self-induced limitations. To the extent that we define ourselves by those limitations, to that extent - even in the astral world - we are still limited.
If her bitterness is more than personality, but extends also to a rejection of divine realities, there is no way that even God Himself can force her to open to a Light she doesn't want to receive.
We learn through the satisfaction of Bliss to seek more Bliss. We also learn through the absence of Bliss - that is, through suffering - to question ourselves and, eventually, open to realities we may have formerly rejected.
Think about your own years growing up with your mother. Perhaps now you are a mother yourself. Certainly there are times when a child rebels against necessary - but in the perception of the child, unpleasant - requirements. Going to school, for example, or learning to share with his siblings, or doing his homework - or not eating the whole cake in one sitting!
The child may be angry, rebellious, or grief-stricken at what is being imposed upon him, but a good mother will not yield to the whim of her child. She knows the future and the child does not.
It would not be love on her part but mere cowardice to cave into his emotions when the child's future is at stake.
So it is with our Divine Mother. She knows that all souls must learn what appear to the ego to be hard lessons. She knows the future and we don't. Only through transcending the ego and embracing the Infinite will we find the satisfaction our heart longs to receive.
You and your mother played the part in this life of parent and child, but that is merely a garment you wore for this one incarnation. Now that she has discarded that "garment" - the body that carried you in its womb - your relationship has gone back to its underlying truth: friendship in God.
If you want to be a true friend to your mother you must now help her in the way Divine Mother would help her. To pray merely that she be happy is like giving the child the whole cake so he will stop crying. You must show the same courage and faith in God that you want your mother to have.
What you must pray for now is that your mother learn whatever it is that Divine Mother is trying to teach her. That she find within herself the courage, devotion, humility, and wisdom to move forward in her divine understanding, not merely in her ego-based feelings.
Your mother has very good karma: she raised a devotee who can now pray for her, not merely for her temporary comfort, but for her eternal well-being.
It is natural to feel sympathy for your mother's suffering. It is a good thing to have a tender heart. But that heart must also be guided by wisdom. Too much sympathy may not be helpful to her at this time.
To become bitter is not helpful to the soul. When your mother made that choice she dug for herself an unpleasant pit of wrong understanding. Now she is living in that pit and has to decide whether to stay there or climb out.
Be assured, your mother got herself into this difficulty and she can also extricate herself from it. You need to respect your mother the way a mother needs to respect her child.
Yes, she is having a hard time now, but she has the power within her to overcome. And she will. A good mother doesn't panic merely because her child is struggling. She stands by with calm faith.
Your prayers can help her. Especially if you pray in the right way: with gratitude for what she gave you, with tender concern for her feelings, but also with courage and faith that she can and will awaken to higher realities.
I answered another similar question on May 27, 2011, called "When a Loved One Digs Themselves into a Pit, Do What Works." That is posted here, too, and you might find it helpful.
An Ugly Divorce
How is it possible to forgive or to let go of fear and anger when the person who hurt you continues, deliberately and unrelentingly, to do so? An ugly divorce, in which I did my utmost to remain civilized, has devolved into guerilla warfare where my ex uses our kids to "stick it to me." Particularly when my children are subjected to this sickness, my heart fills up with fear and a terrible anger. I do my best not to add to the strain on the kids. How do I rise above the hatred and live well?
My heart goes out to you. It is hard to imagine anything worse than what you are experiencing. Every parent naturally wants for his children the best he can imagine. To see your family life fall so far short of what you may have hoped for is difficult karma indeed. Not easy to overcome, as you are finding out.
Still, what choice do you have? You cannot control the behavior of your ex. You cannot live your children's life for them. It is their karma, too, to be caught in this "guerilla warfare." Not that you should be indifferent to helping them through it, but for them, too, it is a reality that has to be faced.
One of the greatest obstacles to overcoming karma is that instead of wanting to face it, we want it to go away. Not surprising, or anything to be ashamed of, especially when those we love are being hurt.
In the Festival of Light, which we do at Ananda every week at Sunday Service (I don't know where you live, but you can see the Festival as a live stream from Ananda Village) there is an allegory about the spiritual evolution of a little bird who represents our soul journey. The second stage of that bird's adventure is "The Revolt." He suffers from his own wrong action. He is given the right advice about how to change himself, but he doesn't want to change. Instead of adapting to reality he prefers to insist on declaring a reality of his own.
The problem is, it doesn't work. And even though "repeatedly he lost everything he had," he persists in his wrong action for a long time. An afternoon for the little bird equals "eons of our time," the Festival says.
Self-evidently you have no wish to continue in the reality you are in now. However, the law of karma is always fair. This is a very difficult truth to accept. Very difficult. No spiritual progress is possible, however, until you take that truth into yourself all the way down to your bone marrow.
Whatever is happening now is the exact result of wrong actions and wrong attitudes of your own in the past, perhaps not in this life but in incarnations you no longer remember.
I'm not trying to blame you or make you feel bad, hopeless, or helpless. Who in their right mind would inflict this kind of suffering on oneself and one's children? Clearly, whatever dark actions in the past are being worked out in the present, are in the past. This is not who you are now.
You have learned many lessons. The mere fact that you are appealing to a spiritual source for help means that you have learned a great deal. Still, self-evidently, you are not free. The same is true for your children. The only thing to do now is devote yourself to learning whatever lessons remain.
What might those lessons be? It is not easy to penetrate our past lives and find the details of who did what to whom and how those consequences are playing out now. There are people who can do that for you. Not all are reliable or helpful in the way they present things, but if there is someone you know to be compassionate and trustworthy, you might consider a session or two. Sometimes to know the past life influences gives us the courage we need to persevere in the right way.
Even without that kind of understanding, however, the lessons are obvious. Even mindedness, calm acceptance, faith that God is in charge, even in a situation like this which seems so far outside what you would like to think of as the will of God.
The ego wants ease and pleasure. The soul wants freedom. As Swamiji wrote recently, "Sometimes pain is the shortest route to freedom." The ego doesn't like this. Thus "The Revolt." The soul, however, rejoices, no matter how difficult the road. Our higher self knows that on the other side of this wall of fire is bliss.
I suspect there is very little you can do to solve this problem directly. If you haven't already explored legal options, I certainly would, but I doubt if there are laws against "wrong attitude," which is what your ex is expressing in spades, and which you are also falling into.
The only solution to this is on the level of consciousness.
You are going to have to become a world-class athlete of consciousness. You'll have to train all the time. When one of my friends developed cancer, she said to me, "I don't have the luxury of having a single negative thought." She was already one of the sweetest women I had ever met. Within herself, though, she saw room for improvement.
The situation with your ex and your children is your gold-medal event. Every so often you will have a chance to "compete" against your own wrong attitudes in that final round. In between, however, like any athlete, you have to stay focused on that upcoming challenge.
I've noticed that almost always the wrong attitudes that pull us to pieces in the major challenges of our lives are also expressed by us, in some form, in all the lesser challenges as well. Usually we don't even notice that we are responding with anger, for example, or resentment, or hatred, because the intensity is low or nothing is at stake. Raging at a bad driver for example, or a roommate who leaves dishes in the sink, or the weather when it doesn't cooperate with our plans may not seem relevant to your problem with your ex and your children, but it is.
Every time you respond to anything in your life in an inappropriate way you are cutting a groove of habit in your consciousness that will pull you right into it when the stakes get higher. You are making vrittis (whirlpools of energy) in your chakras that will influence your consciousness in every future situation. And, by contrast, every time you respond with calm, loving, uplifted energy, you are making a habit that will give you the strength you need when you need it.
Another factor comes into play here: the grace of God. Take one step toward Divine Mother and she will take three steps toward you - or more. I call it the "Divine Matching Fund." Put a penny of good energy into each of your charkas and Divine Mother will donate a dollar of Her bliss. You'll see. It is amazing.
The only weapon you have in this guerilla warfare is your own consciousness. The good news is: consciousness is everything. Not only will it change your experience, it is also the primary influence you will have on your children, and the way ultimately to resolve this karma.
Remember: Where there is dharma (right consciousness) there is victory.
Not necessarily today, or even tomorrow, but eventually. Dharma always triumphs. This is the founding principle of Ananda and the secret of our success. Time after time it has proven true. Even when everything has gone against us, in the end, because we have always clung to right consciousness, it all came out in the right way. Please understand, that doesn't mean we've always been perfect moment to moment. Everyone fails sometimes. Our perfection is that we have never given up.
God has taken away from you any margin you may have had to be casual about your thoughts and attitudes. He has also taken away from you the freedom to be lazy about your spiritual practices. You have to practice all the time having right consciousness so when the big challenge comes - your ex and your children - you will have the strength to remain centered in yourself.
Here is something hopeful to consider. Often when a person no longer gets the result they want from the action they are taking, they lose interest in repeating it. Your ex seemingly is quite successful in "sticking it to you," as you put it. You need to find a depth of experience of God within that makes this tactic ineffective.
Your children, seeing your calm acceptance and joy, even in the face of extreme provocation, will also be impressed, and, we pray, inspired to emulate your example. You can't depend on that in the short run, but "Where there is dharma there is victory." It will affect them. And your ex - eventually.
As for specifics, study the writings of Master and Swamiji on karma, affirmations, meditation. Really, you need the whole spiritual path!
Even though it doesn't feel like grace right now, God is gifting you by challenging you to such an extent that you must turn to Him.
If you haven't already done so, please submit your name and that of you ex and your children to the Ananda Prayer Council and every other group you may know that will pray for you. I will pray also.
Mary Mother of Jesus as Explained by Yogananda
What was the reason that God picked Mary to be the mother of Jesus ?
This is going to be a long answer to a short question. There is so much theological confusion behind what you ask that even in a long answer I can only begin to unravel it. For the "rest of the story," I urge you to read Swamiji's book, Revelations of Christ as Proclaimed by Paramhansa Yogananda.
There is much controversy now about the life and teachings of Jesus. Historians, theologians, intellectuals, sociologists, politicians, even novelists are all offering competing theories.
How is the devotee to know what is true and what is mere speculation?
Revelations of Christ gives us the answer: Look to the saints. Only those who share the consciousness of the Masters are qualified to speak with authority.
When Swami Kriyananda was a young disciple, sitting at the feet of his Guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, he was present when Master dictated a revised set of lessons to be sent to the devotees. (Alas, never put into wide circulation.) In the first lesson, Master made this astonishing claim: The three Wisemen who came to visit Jesus in the manger were none other than three of the Masters in our line of Gurus: Babaji, Lahiri Mahashaya, and Sri Yukteswar.
Whether this was an astral visitation, a previous incarnation, or Babaji as he is now descending from the Himalayas, Master didn't explain.
There was, however, some enduring quality to their presence, because Master further explained that during the so-called "lost years of Jesus," he "returned the visit," traveling to India and Tibet to sit at the feet of these same Gurus. There are many traditions in the East that have Jesus visiting there.
Jesus lived only 33 years. Yet all four of the Gospels say nothing at all about 18 of those 33. It is preposterous to imagine that in the time Jesus spent with his disciples the subject never came up or that his biographers would fail to include this critical period of his life.
Self-realized Masters incarnate for no karma of their own, but to show those of us struggling to be realized the path to freedom. Spiritual practice - sadhana - and the relationship with the Guru are critical elements on this path.
Almost every Master demonstrates in his own life how to be both a disciple and a sadhaka. Sometimes there is no apparent Guru, but still there is a deeply devoted, disciplined, focused way of life.
Otherwise, it would be too convenient for disciples to say, "On your path you have to meditate and do austerities, but on our path, we just sit around and know God."
Think how much of Autobiography of a Yogi is about Master's search for his Guru, his years of training with Sri Yukteswar, and his intense effort to meditate and realize God. Yet he was born Self-realized. This wasn't his own karma he was expressing; it was a freely chosen role to show generations to come how to achieve Self-realization.
The life of Jesus was just the same.
Master tells us that when he was 12, Jesus left home and wandered for 18 years in India, learning from the Masters there and doing intense sadhana to set the example, and prepare himself for the mission ahead.
For some centuries after Jesus passed away, this part of his life was included in the Gospels and known by all his disciples. It helped define how they, too, should live if they would fulfill the destiny their Master offered them. "That which I do, ye shall do and greater things," Jesus said.
He promised Self-realization, not merely after death, but while living, as Jesus himself showed.
However, at some point, in Kali Yuga descending (the darkest of the ages on this planet, which reached its nadir at 500 A.D.), the Church began the process of making Jesus more and more "special." Being steeped in the materialistic thinking of Kali Yuga, Church officials - by now more bureaucrats than saints - could no longer understand the true nature of their own Master and set about remaking his image to more closely resemble what they felt it ought to be.
It was at this time that those 18 years were "lost" from the Bible.
Church officials reasoned that it would hurt people's faith to think that Jesus had to undergo a period of training under the guidance of other Masters.
Some argued that it didn't hurt the faith of the disciples who were with Jesus and heard about it directly from him, but that plea fell on deaf ears. And in the end those 18 years were removed.
As Swamiji points out, one proof that they were taken out, rather than omitted by the original writers, is that there is a complete blank where those years are concerned. The officials had the nerve to remove information, but they could not bring themselves to create new facts.
Any biographer would have at least said, "And he grew up and worked in his father's shop."
Instead, there is nothing.
Also removed around this time - 553 A.D., at the Second Council of Constantinople - were all references to reincarnation.
The logic was similarly non-logical: "We need people to buckle down right now. We don't want them to think they have all the time in the world to work things out."
Again, counter arguments fell on deaf ears. Even the Pope at the time, it is believed, opposed the ban. Still it was carried out. Removing reincarnation from the Bible proved a little trickier than the lost years, and some direct references remain. (See p. 311 of The New Path, by Swami Kriyananda.)
Now how does all of this relate to Mary the Mother of Jesus?
You see, what has happened is that by taking out of the "Christian" teachings the concepts of Guru, sadhana, and reincarnation, you have removed the whole idea of Self-realization.
The Church accomplished exactly what it wanted. No longer can the devotee work on his own salvation, now it comes only through Jesus Christ, and - here is the worst part - through the intercession of "His" Church. Rituals, sacraments, blessings, absolutions, etc. were all gradually substituted for the direct connection between God and the devotee which is the heart of Self-realization.
Thus "Christianity" becomes "Churchianity."
It is not when religion becomes "organized" that the damage is done. It is when the institution makes itself essential to the devotee's salvation that true teaching dies.
The other purpose the Church had in doing this, besides strengthening its own position, was to make Jesus ever more unique and special. The teachings of Self-realization say that every soul has the same infinite destiny. That Jesus himself - and all Self-realized Masters before and after him - are souls like us who have completed the journey we are now on.
"Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect," was not a compliment, it was a commandment.
But if Jesus is unique, as the Catholic Church now tells us he is, then the whole process of Self-realization is moot, in fact, impossible. If Jesus never went through it, obviously none of the rest of us could either. We would have to simply depend on Jesus (and the Church) for our salvation.
And if there is no such thing as reincarnation, and one lifetime would obviously not be long enough to become "perfect, even as our Father in Heaven is perfect," then the meaning of that statement must be other than it seems.
Many translations of the Bible have been amended accordingly; "Be ye therefore good, as your Father in Heaven is good," is but one example.
The Catholic saints who do make it to Self-realization (whatever the Church calls it) are an anomaly.
There is no tradition within present-day Christianity to explain how it happens.
They just appear, are usually fiercely persecuted by the Church, and then canonized by that same Church after they die. They are persecuted, because without an understanding of Self-realization, saints cast doubt on the whole system.
For example, according to the Church, all priests are ordained equally. How do you explain it then, when one priest is obviously more "ordained" than any of the others, i.e. a saint?
Because the Church has no answer to this question they usually try to bury the evidence, sometimes literally, by confining the priest to his cell, or transferring him to some far-off parish where they hope he'll never be heard from again.
Read the life of Padre Pio for a modern day example.
Paramhansa Yogananda called his work "The Second Coming of Christ." He came, he said, because of the request of Jesus to Babaji to restore the original teachings of Jesus, and the original teachings of Krishna (which have also been diluted) and show that in essence they are the same.
The Bhagavad-Gita explains divine incarnations in a more expansive and explicit way. "Whenever virtue declines," the Gita says, "and vice predominates, I, the Infinite Lord take visible form to destroy ignorance and restore dharma."
Now, again, back to the question of Mary.
In his lifetime, Master spoke not only of that incarnation as Paramhansa Yogananda, but of several of his incarnations in the past, including as Arjuna and William the Conqueror.
He also mentioned previous incarnations of other in the line of Gurus: Lahiri Mahasaya had been Kabir and also King Janaka; Babaji had been Krishna; Sri Yukteswar incarnated when Master was William as his closest advisor, Lanfranc.
James J. Lynn, Master's most advanced male disciple, whom he named Rajarshi Janakananda, had been with Master as one of Arjuna's younger brothers. When Master was William, Daya Mata was his daughter; Swami Kriyananda feels he was Henry, one of William's sons. (A fascinating book about William the Conqueror and his son Henry is Two Souls, Four Lives by Catherine Kaivari.)
The list goes on and on. In The New Path, in the chapter "His Last Days," Swamiji describes in thrillingly poetic terms how families of souls form around a great Master, incarnating together again and again "to work out their salvation - not only inwardly on themselves, but by interaction with one another.
"To achieve divine emancipation, it is necessary to spiritualize one's relations with the objective world and with other human beings, as well as with God."
"The stronger the family, spiritually speaking," Swamiji goes on to say, "the greater its attractive pull on new souls that may still be wandering in search of an identity of their own. A family evolves with its individual members; at last it, too, becomes a 'star' in the firmament of humanity, and begins to produce great souls of Self-realization.
"As spiritual 'stars,' such great families become powerful for the general upliftment of mankind... Yogananda's is one such spiritual family. His forms part of a greater spiritual 'nation,' of which Jesus Christ and Sri Krishna (in this age Babaji) are also leaders."
I believe what the Bible tells us, that an angel came to Mary and told her of what was to come.
She would have had the state of consciousness where she could easily commune with angels.
She was not, however, some random, albeit pure-hearted girl who happened to catch the angel's attention. Mary's relationship with Jesus must have been formed many, many incarnations before. She was part of his spiritual family, one of those "great souls of Self-realization" that Swamiji speaks of.
God chose Mary because Mary chose Him.
As we say every week in the Festival of Light, "Your chosen people have always been those of every race and nation who, with deep love, chose Thee." The Festival goes on to lead the congregation in this prayer: "O Lord, with all my heart, with all my mind, with all my soul, and with all my strength, I choose Thy love, I choose only Thee."
There are also ancient traditions gaining new credibility that say Jesus was part of the Essene community, an enlightened group within Judaism that was still in touch with more uplifted teachings than most Jews practiced at that time.
According to this tradition, the Essenes knew that an avatar was coming and the community had been working together for a long time to prepare for him and the mission that would follow. Part of that tradition is that Mary was trained from a young age for her role as his mother.
Who can say if this is true? Certainly it is apocryphal.
For Mary to play the part she did, she would have to be highly dedicated and evolved before Jesus was born.
Understood this way, Mary is not merely an inspiration and a blessing: she is also an example we can all follow of dedicated service to God, Guru, and mankind.
Alien Invasions in Ancient Times
Davy asked a long question which we have summarized here:
The question stems from statements made by Master in Conversations with Yogananda. In #36, Master confirms the truth of UFO sightings, and says someday we'll travel to other planets as easily as we go now from continent to continent. In #44, Master responds to the desire of some disciples to visit Mt. Shasta in California because they have heard that ancient masters live there. He said there are no masters living on Mt. Shasta, but there have been "colonists."
Davy asks about research, supported by "Sumerian tablets found in Iraq," that say Earth has been visited by beings from other planets, who have tried to gain power over earthlings and that perhaps the darkness and seeming satanic influences on Earth now are because of these invaders. He speaks of these dark, reptilian creatures interbreeding with earthlings, feeding on negative energy, etc. In this context he mentions the vast numbers of ways the three gunas can manifest. He also asks about lower astral entities and how to protect ourselves from them.
Many of your questions are answered in the book just published by Crystal Clarity, The Yugas, by Joseph Selbie and David Steinmetz (Sanskrit names: Purushottama and Byasa). "Yugas" are the different ages - long periods of ascending and descending consciousness - that have happened on Earth over many thousands, in fact, millions of years.
Starting with information given by Sri Yukteswar in The Holy Science, and Master in Autobiography of a Yogi, the authors did extensive research to find supporting facts in history, geology, archeology, religion, and science. They then wove these facts into a fascinating narrative that puts into perspective past, present, and future.
UFOs, interplanetary travel, invasions or colonization from other planets - all of these are included, not in detail but in concept. I think you will find it helps you put into context other research that you have read.
There is also a website, The Yugas.
In the meantime, here are a few thoughts about the questions you have raised.
Your ideas about invasions of other species, interbreeding, creatures feeding on negative energy are all, in a sense, true, but perhaps not exactly in the way you are seeing it.
The drama of creation is the same everywhere. Whether on Earth, Mars, or on planets not yet discovered, the only "plot" in the universe is consciousness trapped in ego-based self-interest gradually becoming free.
Everything is a manifestation of the Divine. And everything seeks to return to its Creator.
Ego-based self-interest often expresses itself in cruel and hideous ways, feeding, as you say, on negative energy. It is not that beings caught in this delusion are in themselves evil. They are merely misguided, utterly confused as to the source of their own happiness.
Look at the Chinese takeover of Tibet, Communism under Stalin, the Nazi takeover of Germany. If you want to believe the cause is alien invaders, who have systematically mated with human beings to create an evil race, feel free to do so. I don't think it is factually true, but it does describe the spirit of what we see in history. At times madness descends, and it is comforting to explain it some way other than merely the degraded potential of human consciousness.
But in fact, it is our own potential. Not you, not me - not anymore. Master says, however, that before the soul attains liberation it experiments with every possible alternative. We try everything to see if it will give us happiness and only when we have drunk each cup to the dregs are we convinced. We don't learn from being told; we only learn through our own experience.
This isn't pleasant to contemplate. Among other things, it speaks of a very long time before we become liberated. But why else are we so certain that some behaviors will never bring us happiness? We don't merely believe; we know.
This is why we have to be so patient, both with ourselves and with others, as we gradually work our way from darkness to light.
In every aspect of creation there are egos striving to be free, expressing themselves in some combination of the gunas - the three levels of consciousness: dark, active, and light.
Some people, some planets, express a preponderance of one or the other. Earth at this time is a mixture. The difference in the overall consciousness of various planets at various times is one of the many fascinating things explained in The Yugas.
In #41 of Conversations with Yogananda, Master is asked if we always reincarnate on Earth. He replied that there are many populated planets in the universe and where we go depends on our level of spiritual development. We choose a planet that is appropriate for what we need in that incarnation.
Technological advancement alone does not insure purity of consciousness. What we see on Earth right now makes that clear. We have the technology to blow ourselves to bits and no guarantee that we won't do it. It is the nature of early Dwapara Yuga - which is where we are now. Consciousness is rising but technology is rising faster. Eventually it will work out, but those on the planet now may experience the unpleasant "growing pains" as consciousness catches up to technology. (All of this is explained in The Yugas.)
Once interplanetary travel becomes common, as Master says it will, the idea of interplanetary invasion also rears its ugly head. Yugas run in a cycle 24,000 years long - 12,000 years each of ascending and descending consciousness. There are four yugas in all (we are just entering the second) and war continues into the third Yuga. By that time, space travel will be common so we can only assume that something of Star Trek can easily be reality - planets and planetary species getting all mixed up in peace and war.
The good news in all of this is Master's comment in Conversations #41. We go to the planet that is spiritually appropriate. He does not say we go where it will be easiest or most pleasant. For all of us, too, are engaged in the great Cosmic Drama of consciousness trapped in ego-awareness seeking its home in the Divine.
All of this is fascinating to contemplate, and thrilling to read about (Did I mention the book The Yugas?!) but in the end, our job is the same. To love, serve, and meditate. For in that way we will gradually liberate ourselves from the only cause of suffering: bondage to ego.
The yugas are a planetary phenomenon, dictated, as The Yugas explains, by external astronomical realities (a planet's position relative to the center, and therefore the source of energy, of the galaxy in which it orbits).
Self-realization is individual. The planets and the yugas are only the backdrop in front of which the process of realization takes place. Great masters have lived in every yuga, from the highest to the lowest. We go to the planet that provides for us the right context to work out our karma and gradually then to escape from ego into the consciousness of God.
As for astral entities, yes, they do exist. Sometimes souls after their bodies die are too attached to the material plane to leave this world for the astral spheres. They become ghosts, clinging to places and people that vibrate on their wavelength. Not all astral entities are evil; some are merely confused.
A young mother who dies, for example, may be so attached to her baby, and so worried about his well-being, that she will cling to the house or family where her baby lives. Even though her intentions may be good, her actions are not, because they show a lack of faith in God's plan. Eventually such a person has to learn to trust God, and go on with her own destiny.
More negative attachments, like drinking, drug addiction, over-sexuality, cruelty, or hatred, can also bind a person to this world even after death. Those are the entities that seek to enter into other people's bodies so that they can experience the material "pleasures" they crave.
Such an invasion, however, can only happen when a person gives up control of his own consciousness - which is what happens when you become drunk, high, or over-stimulated with sexuality. Many crimes are committed when people are in these states. Afterwards the person may not even remember doing it. It is not only the effect of the substances they may have ingested, it may also be because someone else came into their body when they were effectively "out to lunch."
Not a pleasant prospect, certainly, but one easily avoided! Even when you meditate, don't just go blank. Lift your consciousness upward to God. Don't make the mistake of thinking that you can wander into the "dark side" and be strong enough to "handle it." Maybe you will be, maybe you won't. Don't gamble with something so important as your own consciousness.
Ultimately, Light is the only reality. Concentrate on that, focus on the Masters, and you will always be protected.
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