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Nayaswami Asha

Nayaswami Asha

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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Kristine
United States

Question

Hello,

Can you please tell me in which book Paramahamsa Yogananda wrote about the chakras and the Bhagavad Gita?

Nayaswami Asha

Answer

Dear Friend:

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.

Blessings,
Asha

mihir
india

Question

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.

Nayaswami Asha

Answer

Dear Mihir:

"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.

Blessings,

Nayaswami Asha

pankaj
india

Question

Can negative thoughts be overcome? How can we connect our soul to God? Can meditation heal every type of disease?

Nayaswami Asha

Answer

Dear Pankaj:

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.

Blessings,

Nayaswami Asha

BCA
Europe

Question

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 ?

Nayaswami Asha

Answer

Dear B.C.A.:

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."

Blessings,
Nayaswami Asha

Carina
Europe

Question

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.

Nayaswami Asha

Answer

Dear Carina:

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.

Blessings,
Nayaswami Asha

An Ugly Divorce
October 27, 2011

Sandilion
Canada

Question

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?

Nayaswami Asha

Answer

Dear S:

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.

Blessings,

Nayaswami Asha

Davy
Belgium

Question

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.

Nayaswami Asha

Answer

Dear Davy:

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.

Blessings,
Nayaswami Asha

Maia
USA

Question

I meditate daily. Lately I haven experiencing vibration internally - very strongly when I am still but perceptible during activity. It started in my spine, then my heart chakra, now in my throat. I've been awakened at night with a whooshing sound, which feels Divine. Everyday I ask Guruji, Babaji, and Divine Mother for guidance. My life is being altered and I am changing. There are moments of insecurity but mostly what I feel is a deep, trusting love. Is this normal?

I have a friend, however, who is not accepting these changes in me. She says I am fooling myself. When I respond that I am feeling and hearing the Divine Mother, this friend gets very negative. As a result, I have distanced myself from her. I feel her negative energy of anger and resentment. She says I am making bad karma for myself. Am I? Is there a better way to handle this?

Nayaswami Asha

Answer

Dear Maia:

When you begin to meditate and ask God to guide you it naturally awakens energy in the spine and increases the upward flow.

This can manifest in many ways, including those you describe. As you are finding, these experiences are wonderful and bring with them a sense of being touched by the Divine.

Your spiritual effort is awakening "the natural love of the heart," as it is often called.

This is a great blessing and very positive for your life. "Everything in future will improve," Sri Yukteswar said, "if you are making a spiritual effort now."

Because these experiences are new for you, at least in this incarnation, to feel unsure is also a natural response.

If you moved to another country, you would find many familiar elements - people eat, drink, sleep, talk, laugh, love everywhere. At the same time, there would be aspects that would be confusing.

So on the one hand, you would feel completely happy and at home making new friends in a new country, and on the other hand you would feel insecure.

After a little while, though, when you become familiar with the customs of your new country, the insecurity will vanish.

Entering the spiritual path, getting deeper into the life Divine, is entering a new way of life - delightful, adventurous, promising, but also unfamiliar.

So, the answer to your question, "Is this normal?" is "Yes."

The response of your friend is, alas, also "normal" in the sense of quite common. She may, in fact, be genuinely concerned that you are getting yourself into something that won't in the end prove beneficial.

She is not showing much respect for your judgment, but at least we can imagine that she has your best interests are heart.

Even if she does, however, she is not behaving in a way that would make you want to spend any time with her right now. You may love her at a distance, but if she is going to insult your judgment and negate these precious experiences, why would you want to be with her?

Your choice to distance yourself is quite appropriate both from a spiritual and a merely social point of view.

Even if she means well she is not behaving well. Why expose yourself to that?

Also, when the tree of spiritual development is just a sapling, you have to build a protective fence around it.

Even a mighty oak when still a twig can be broken by a mouse.

If protected at the beginning, however, it can become a mighty oak, able to shelter and support many souls.

You simply can't afford to expose yourself to this kind of energy.

Yes, she is still able to direct it toward you through the ether. But that is really her problem, not yours.

Because this world is just a reflection of what we have inside ourselves, people often accuse others of what is actually happening to them. In this case, your friend says you are getting bad karma, presumably for distancing yourself from her.

Friendship is an important value. But a lower duty (dharma) ceases to be a duty when it is replaced by a higher one.

In this case, your devotion to the spiritual path is a higher duty than maintaining this friendship. She has forced you to choose.

There is no question: God first.

It is not good to say to or even about anyone that they are getting "bad karma." That is the yogic equivalent of the old fundamentalist accusation, "You are going to hell!"

Fortunately, the fate of others is not in our hands. God is in charge.

Still, without accusing her as she is accusing you, it is unfortunate that she has decided to respond this way. Some people feel threatened by the spirituality of others.

Perhaps deep inside she knows you have taken the higher path and feels shamed or jealous by the contrast between what she is doing and what you are doing.

Maybe she is just jealous because you have someone else in your life - Divine Mother - who means more to you now than she does.

All of this is unfortunate. But no, you are not getting bad karma from trying to get closer to God, even if, as a side effect, it creates distance between you and your friend.

Still, watch your heart. Even if she provokes you, inwardly keep a kindly attitude toward her.

It is not wrong, however, to respond sharply to her if necessary. When people insult something that is dear to you, you don't have to take it silently.

You can speak frankly. Even if your words are strong, however, keep a kindly attitude toward her inside. When a mother scolds her child, she doesn't cease to love the child. In fact, sometimes she loves the child even more.

This doesn't mean you have to think about her much or at all. And if thinking about her puts you on the wavelength of her anger and therefore disturbs your peace, do not think about her at all. Don't even pray for her. You are still a sapling and have to protect yourself.

Tell Divine Mother that you are not able at this time to be her friend, so She will have to take over for you.

Then turn your attention away from your former friend and don't think about her again. If your friend changes, of course, you can welcome her back into your circle.

But if she remains angry at you for being a spiritual seeker, you must keep your distance.

These things happen. In life we have to make choices if we hope ever to accomplish anything.

Focus. Concentration. Discipline.

These are the means to worthwhile goals. Sometimes sad things happen along the way - like the loss of friends who don't understand.

Give it all to Divine Mother.

Where there is dharma, which is to say, right action that leads to God consciousness, there is always victory.

The best way to be a friend to this woman right now is to do the right thing spiritually, which is not to let her bad energy pull you down.

In the end, she too will be blessed. For when we make spiritual progress, even if the egos of those around us who don't understand disapprove, their souls rejoice.

Your spiritual progress also uplifts them, even if they don't know it.

Blessings,
Nayaswami Asha

KT
USA

Question

Hello, Due to circumstances I have to marry someone without my full consent. My parents think that this is the perfect situation and this marriage will bring me a lot of happiness.The man that I am marrying is a good person. But, I am not attracted to him.I don't get the feeling that he is my soulmate. I have lost a lot of faith in God-the only thing I asked god all of my life is for me to be with my soulmate. Do soulmates exist? I am bitter towards God &parents. How can I marry someone I dont love?

Nayaswami Asha

Answer

Dear KT:

I am very concerned about you and even more concerned for your husband-to-be. To enter a marriage unwillingly is a recipe for disaster.

With every little disappointment or conflict you will throw into your husband's face the fact that you never wanted to marry him anyway. Not a pleasant prospect for him.

You say he is a good person. Then out of consideration for him - quite apart from your own happiness - you should stop this marriage now.

You say you "have to marry" but if you are old enough to marry, I presume you are old enough to walk in and out of a room under your own power. I presume you can get a job, a passport, or anything else you might need in order to have your own life.

What you are saying is that to avoid this marriage you will have stand up to people you are not accustomed to defying. You will create disharmony and be perceived as willful and ungrateful. Perhaps the pleasant home you now share with your parents will become far less pleasant.

In other words, it will be inconvenient for you not to marry him.

That is not the same as saying you "have to marry him."

Do take this seriously. If you are going to be rebellious and unwilling in this marriage, don't enter into it. It isn't fair to the poor man who will be stuck with you for the rest of his life.

Now, that is one side of the question. The other side is, "Is this a suitable marriage?"

You say he is a "good person." Are you compatible in other ways? Do you have similar interests? Education? Goals in life? Cultural and spiritual values?

How well do you know him? Does he come from a good family? I am not talking about social status, but rather is his family harmonious, loving, kind? Is he a man of good character? Of noble habits?

What about you?

Are you a good person? Do you have high values? Do you have noble habits? Are you generous and loving by nature? Are you willful and self-centered?

There is a spiritual reality called "soulmates," but it exists on a level far beyond romance and marriage.

Paramhansa Yogananda referred to soulmates only a few times in all his years of teaching and in all his writing. That's because he knew everyone would immediately lower the concept from the spiritual level on which he was speaking to the question of men and women falling in love.

Soulmates, as Yogananda described it, is a union of spirit that comes as part of final liberation - moksha.

At that point you have transcended the physical completely.

For the most part, when people speak of "soulmates" they are not talking about what Yogananda was referring to.

In fact, usually they mean just the opposite - a gender based attraction that is both romantic and sexual.

Is there a reality to a having a "special connection," whatever we call it, on this level? Of course there is.

Our relationships are determined by past life associations. Whenever we meet friends from past lives the present is always colored by whatever happened before.

Is there only one destined romantic partner for us in each incarnation?

Not likely.

Over the course of incarnations we have innumerable wives and husbands. Each relationship helps us learn certain lessons and develop needed qualities within ourselves.

Relationships naturally repeat over the course of incarnations.

It isn't possible to learn all our lessons in the relatively short span of one lifetime. But we have so many lessons to learn, we have to experience life with many different people in order to face and overcome all the various karmas.

I live in America where we are accustomed to choosing our own marriage partners, usually without help from anyone.

I wish I could tell you that the perception, "We are soulmates" at the time of the wedding ensures a happy marriage.

As far as I can see, it does not.

I don't want to go so far as to say it guarantees failure.

But I will say that too much emphasis on how unique and special the attraction is between the couple often leads to an ego-based connection that does not stand up well against the test of time and changing circumstance.

Yes, I know this is hard to understand.

Frankly, I did not understand it myself when I was 20 years old.

Experience has been my teacher. Over the last several decades I have performed many marriages and done a great deal of marriage counseling, often helping people through the painful process of divorce.

And I have been married 30 years myself.

Yes, of course, finding your marriage partner attractive is a great help to your relationship! But the kind of instant attractiveness, especially sexual attractiveness, that is so highly valued these days is not the most important factor in success together.

Romantic and sexual feelings can be generated for a wide variety of reasons, not all of them spiritually inspired or helpful over the long haul.

I don't mean to make light of your intuition.

We recognize our friends from past lives. That's a fact. And love at first sight that lasts for a lifetime does happen.

What I have learned is this: It is not hard to love someone. If you are sweet, tender-hearted, generous, understanding by nature - loving comes easy.

What is very challenging is to make a life together.

To make a home, to raise children, to be loyal through the hard times, to understand and support one another, to earn a living, to be faithful - that is the difficult part.

This is what parents think about.

Having lived long enough to raise you into adulthood, they know first-hand what really counts in a marriage.

In a culture where parents are involved in the choice, they will definitely look for lasting values, and will be, as you find them, not particularly interested in your ideas of "attraction."

Yes, attraction is important, but attraction that grows out of respect and appreciation for a depth of character that may take time to reveal itself - that is the kind of attraction that makes for a happy marriage.

And yes, it may be possible to have it all, but attraction alone is not the deciding factor.

Character is.

You say you have lost faith in God because all you ever wanted was to be with your soulmate and you feel this man is not the one.

Here is a question, "How well do you know him?"

Are there objective reasons for your "feeling" that he isn't the one for you? Sometimes we don't know our own minds.

Another question, "How much do you trust your parents?"

Do you feel that they know you well? Have they shown themselves to be insightful where you are concerned? Are they generous by nature? Are they bullying you into this or is this an act of genuine, thoughtful, loving concern for you?

I guess I have asked you lots of questions, as much as answering the ones you have asked, but this is such a personal situation, it seems you need to look deeply within and try to weigh the factors objectively.

You may still come to the same conclusion: That this is not your husband.

Your parents are likely to take you more seriously, however, if you approach this matter in a serious way.

An obvious solution is to postpone the wedding - but not necessarily cancel the whole idea.

Maybe if you have more time to get to know this man, to meet his family, to spend time with him, to experience whatever it is about him that your parents find so suitable, that the whole idea will be more attractive to you.

Or, it will be so obvious that it isn't a good match that it will be less difficult to extricate yourself from it.

If you do take that solution - to postpone and get to know him - I urge you to enter into it with good faith.

Don't be a sulky, reluctant person. Open your heart; be interested and sincere as you explore the friendship.

And if, for some reason, postponement is not possible, and, despite your doubts, you do marry him, I plead with you: Give your heart to the marriage.

Be a friend to your husband.

Be kind, supportive, loving. Above all, accept responsibility for having married him.

Don't blame him, your parents, or anyone else. Getting married is the act of an adult person, so behave accordingly.

And who knows? You may be surprised to find that God has brought your soulmate to you.

He may turn out to be everything you hope for in a life partner.

That result is far more likely if you offer to him the kind of love and friendship you have dreamed of having with your soulmate.

Rather than giving up on God, pray that He guide you and help you, either to step away from the marriage if you can't enter into it with sincere good will, or to make a success of it.

I will pray for you.

Blessings,
Nayaswami Asha

L
Europe

Question

In the world today it seems that it is almost wrong to believe in God. It is almost as if it is shamefull to believe. How do you stop feeling shame in believing ?

I know i should not feel ashamed of it but sometimes people make me feel ashamed that I believe in God.

Nayaswami Asha

Answer

Dear L:

If you are associating with people who make you feel ashamed to believe in God, I suggest you find new friends.

If they are people you can't escape from - co-workers or relatives - I suggest you walk away when people speak disrespectfully of the divine.

Don't engage in arguments you can't win that only leave you feeling badly.

If you can't separate yourself physically, withdraw inwardly. In the very moment pray deeply to God to give you the strength to resist their false ideas.

At this point on your spiritual journey your faith is fragile and needs to protected from the harsh doubts of others, the way a sapling is surrounded by a fence until its roots are deep and its trunk has thickened.

Once you are established nothing will shake your faith.

But for now, be careful.

Master says, "Whether one's energy goes outward to the world or upward toward God depends to a large extent on the company you keep."

If possible, find groups or individuals that support you in your faith and spend your free time with them.

If you can't find anyone in person, then make Ananda Online your community.

There are so many resources these days.

Even when you are physically alone you can always be in the company of uplifted people through books, recordings, and music.

Blessings,
Nayaswami Asha

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