New Blog Launch

big-buddha

No, I’m not abandoning this one.

I am, however, starting a new blog designed to establish a narrative specifically around the attainment of meditative absorption (jhana/samadhi).

If you are a dedicated contemplative with a rigorous and skillful meditation practice… or if this is something that interests you in some way… please join me at:

Samma-Samadhi

…Which means “Right Absorption,” given as the culminating entry in Gautama Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path.

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Sanatana Dharma

vishnu-sanatana-dharmaVishnu….

At the risk of stirring the religious pot (i.e., please take no offense if the following challenges your religious beliefs)….

Perennial religion, before categories, before sects, before divisions:

Sanatana Dharma looks upon a person as a part and parcel of the mighty Whole, but never regards him as “the Measure of all things.” In the West, “person” is a supreme and final value, while Sanatana Dharma regards person as a part of the Whole, having the same vital essence as all other human and sub-human creatures of the universe. This cosmic view of Hinduism transcends the sectarian or group dogmas and paves a way for the coexistence of all creatures under the Vedic principle of Vasudev Kutumbhkam, meaning “The Universe is One Family.” This principle guides the humankind towards universal harmony through acceptance and tolerance.

Sanatana Dharma recognizes that the Ultimate Reality, which is the ground of infinite potentiality and actualization, cannot be limited by any name or concept. The potential for human wholeness (or in other frames of reference, enlightenment, salvation, liberation, transformation, blessedness, nirvana, moksha) is present in every human being. No race or religion is superior and no color or creed is inferior. All humans are spiritually united like the drops of water in an ocean.

Therefore:

* Don’t enforce one belief, one way of worship or one code of conduct for all. Do not attempt to destroy different forms of worship, claiming your own way to be the only right one. Such enforcement of uniformity would be un-natural and contrary to the Divine Law. It hinders the progress of a human being in his/her journey to the state of divinity.

* Give importance to sincerity of heart and nobleness of conduct in the field of religion. Do not claim to have obtained from God, exclusive and irrevocable power of attorney to be a dictator and to persecute others on behalf of God, because they do not agree with you.

* Don’t claim to have bound the Boundless God. Do not create inter-religious wars and massacres, forcing your claims and dogmas on others.

* Give a person freedom to think, freedom to believe, freedom to disbelieve and freedom to adopt a way of worship, which suits his/her temperament. After all, what is important in worship of God is the sincerity of heart, not the outer form of worship.

* Don’t divide the human race into conflicting armies and camps of Holy believers and Unholy Others.

In other words, one man’s ceiling is another man’s floor.

We’re all living our dharma, we’re all on the Path.

Who are we to decide what’s “right” for anyone else?

Who are we to believe that God is more present in one religion than another?

Who are we to limit the Divine in any way?

Mooji

My wife just turned me onto this gentleman, Mooji, who apparently was a devotee Papaji.

It seems like every other person in our hometown of Boulder was a devotee of Papaji.

Over the years I’ve probably attended 20 or 25 satsangs with devotees of Papaji, of whom Gangaji is the most famous example.

This is “neo-advaita” teaching, which purports to give the “ultimate view” that resides as the final stop along every spiritual journey.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t tell you how to get there, other than to repeatedly say what you shouldn’t do — i.e., “neti, neti.”

You’ve probably heard variations of it before:  “Consciousness is all there is.”

Gee, thanks.

What’s so enticing about neo-advaita teachings is that they are packaged as “not for just anybody.”  While the rest of us poor schmucks are out here beating our heads against the wall, enlightened neo-advaitins are “just being” in a state/non-state of absolute is-ness… or something… and it’s the simplest thing… so long as you are one of the chosen few whose capacity is deep and wide enough to “get it” in fairly short order.  Of course, there’s nothing you can do to “get it,” because it either happens or it doesn’t happen… but, then, there’s nothing actually happening, and for that matter there is no “one” for whom it happens, or doesn’t happen.

Suffice it to say, you just want to shoot yourself in the head after a few years of this stuff.

At a certain point in 1997 or so (can’t be sure, but give or take a year), I had for a close Internet friend a self-confessed Nisargadatta/U.G. Krishnamurti (both of whom I continue to respect and love, by the way) devotee named “El.”  As she was gruff and tactlessly honest in all her communication, she was universally disliked on the big neo-advaita discussion boards to which I belonged, but for some reason I was truly drawn to her.  Just when I was perfecting my neo-advaita pitch and putting it out there from an authoritative perspective (i.e., I was just sure that it had “happened” to me), El brutally knocked me off my high horse… and after three days of licking my wounds, it dawned on me what a beautiful favor she did me.  When I expressed my thanks, she said, “Okay, now you’ve got a chance to go all the way.”

I’m still working on it, but I can definitely say that I am thankful for having moved beyond neo-advaitaism.  It took three or four years after the above-mentioned event before I finally dropped it completely, at which point I stopped ignoring the “signs of absorption” that had been asserting themselves since the very early 90’s… and I found a meditation teacher who could not only explain what was happening to me, but who could help me devise a lifestyle that allows “jhana” to do its spiritually-transformative thing with me.

Still a work in process, but let me just say that, having been a “jhana yogi” for four years, I can watch Mooji’s satsang with a mixture of thanksgiving and tolerance.  My teacher would say that Mooji is “established in second jhana,” and that sounds about right to me.

More power to him.

He could very well, in fact, have it absolutely right.

The Real Yogananda

Yogananda with close disciple Swami Kriyananda

Many of us have read the “authorized” version of An Autobiography of a Yogi, by the great Indian spiritual teacher Paramhansa Yogananda.

Few of us, however, realize that the “authorized” version has been posthumously altered — some would say sanitized — and that the organization founded by Yogananda to carry on his legacy has systematically sanitized the founder’s teaching over the years.

Thankfully, one of his closest followers, Swami Kriyananda (J. Donald Walters) has maintained a “parallel” organization called Ananda, which has sought to offer Yogananda’s undiluted teachings, in letter and in spirit.

From a website, Yogananda Rediscovered, dedicated to this task:

We offer this website to you as fellow truthseekers and devotees of Paramhansa Yogananda. It contains many facts not commonly known about Yogananda, his teachings, and the organization he founded, Self-Realization Fellowship.

For a long time we have hesitated to speak out. But difficult circumstances and a sense of responsibility require that we come forward now. Many people do not know that in 1990 SRF filed a massive lawsuit against Ananda. Their goal is to gain a monopoly on Yogananda’s teachings.

Ananda is an autonomous network of spiritual communities and churches, founded by Swami Kriyananda, a direct disciple of Yogananda. Ananda has specialized in building world brotherhood colonies, the ideal lifestyle Yogananda recommended for householder devotees. Though Ananda has won nearly every issue in court, SRF continues its litigation unabated. Millions of dollars that could have been spent serving Yogananda’s work is being spent instead on this courtroom battle.

But we would not be writing if the issues affected only us, personally. What is happening now will affect Yogananda’s mission for centuries to come. Certain attitudes and actions by SRF are causing that mission, we believe, to drift from what Yogananda himself intended. (The attack on Ananda has also taken a very personal turn, with charges that Swami Kriyananda is a spiritual charlatan, and Ananda is an abusive cult. For the other side of that story, see www.AnandaAnswers.com)

Changes to Yogananda’s teachings after his passing

In the past fifty years, significant changes have been made to Yogananda’s books, teachings, ideals, and to his image—changes which emphasize SRF as an institution and limit how Yogananda is presented to the world. Kriya initiation, discipleship, Autobiography of a Yogi, and even Yogananda’s own signature have been altered. Edited versions of many of his writings have been greatly changed. All references to colonies have been removed from Autobiography of a Yogi. Even a cross Yogananda wore around his neck at the dedication of the Lake Shrine has been airbrushed out of that photo. Devotees have no access to the movies, recordings, photos, and writings of Yogananda still stored in SRF archives.

Lifelong disciples have shared heart-breaking stories of unkindness by SRF. Of grave concern is SRF’s increasing assertion of itself as a required intermediary between the disciples and their own master. This is what the Catholic Church did to the teachings of Christ centuries ago.

We hope, after reading this website, that you will share our concern about the issues raised here. Only a handful of direct disciples still remain alive. The mantle of responsibility is about to pass to the next generation. The guidance and legacy of “those who were with him” will long endure, but we will also be called upon to use our own judgment. Let it be an informed judgment. All of us as Yogananda’s devotees hold the future of his work in our hands.

As a confirmed iconoclast, spiritual rebel and anti-authoritarian (contrary to what those feisty rascals who’ve been banned from commenting on this site may say), I’ve had a warm spot in my heart for Swami Kriyananda for years now. Through his organization, Ananda, he’s been working ceaselessly toward a better life for all, building intentional communities around the world that are based on spiritual practice and attainment. He understands the Divine nature of this particular reality, and has harnessed the laws of creation in order to build his vision into a unique global movement that will gain in importance as the structure of society continues its race to oblivion.

In short, he is an essential model for me during this lifetime, and I offer his example to you, no matter what tradition you do or don’t follow, no matter how jaded you may have become toward the tradition through which you may or may not have been raised. He’s all about possitivity, all about the power of prayer, all about meditation, all about loving one’s fellow humans and the world we’ve been given.

Swami Kriyananda represents a particularly beautiful solution to the world’s problems, and we absolutely should give his ideas the attention they deserve.

What Is God? Pt. II

[Cross-posted at my other hangout.]

In response to Hawk’s comment under the previous post, I thought I’d offer another take on the subject. Looking at one of my favorite traditions, Kashmir Shaivism (or Trika Shaivism), we find that God is transcendant on the one hand, while taking form on the other:

Trika Shaivism is a form of Hindu religion that believes in one God, which they call ParamaShiva, who creates the universe within Himself out of his own pure cosmic conscious Being.

ParamaShiva literally means “Supreme Auspiciousness”. He is considered to be essentially pure infinite featureless consciousness (called Shiva). But this Shiva aspect has an active creative side called Shakti. It is this ever-active Shakti that creates, operates, and destroys endless universes.

Our own consciousness, which appears so tiny and limited, is not just a part of the cosmic consciousness, but actually is the supreme consciousness in total! It just appears small and limited due to creative activity of supreme conscious Shakti which has a veiling deluding aspect (Maya Shakti). It is through this veiling deluding power that Shakti then transforms the supreme conscious experience into the experience of infinite finite conscious beings inhabiting different limited non-sentient universes. The discovery and overcoming of this Maya Shakti is then the key to spiritual liberation – the realization of one’s own true nature and complete liberation from the wheel of Karma – of life and death. This process whereby the Supreme Consciousness hides from itself through its own veiling power, and then liberates itself through seeing itself as it really is, is described in 36 steps (or Tattva-s) of conscious creativity and delusion and liberation. These 36 steps, or principles of creation are actually part of a larger system of contemplation (called Sadadhvan) which fits the “principles of creation” into a framework that includes on the one hand the actual worlds that are created, and on the other hand, the subjective processes by which non-conscious worlds emerge from supremely pure cosmic consciousness.

Trika Shaivism does not consider anything to be good or bad per se, but instead as only being part of the ongoing creative activity of that pure infinite consciousness. But within this process behavior does lead to consequences. Thus good behaviors that help others (for example) leads to mental and physical freedom and power in this life or future lives, whereas bad behaviors would lead to increasing physical and mental bondage and limitation (called the Law of Karma). But the most important activity is realization of one’s own true identity with the supreme consciousness which leads to spiritual liberation which is complete freedom from the wheel of life and death.

Personally, I appreciate the absence of a concept of Hell, or of eternal retribution for “sins” proscribed by someone’s book.

On the other hand, I’m drawn more and more to expressions from the “People of the Book,” no matter which book it is. Prophetic, revealed literature carries an archetypal level of meaning that transcends mere intellectual understanding (or misunderstanding), and this is something we can’t get at until we “surrender” to God in terms laid out in The Book.

Catch-22, in other words.

If you follow the link to the above quote, by the way, you’ll find further links to Trika Shavist sacred texts. They are, in their own way, People of the Book, and as such, they deserve our open-minded attention.

Tell ‘Em, Swami!

Swami Vivekananda, principle disciple of Ramakrishna, was not afraid to say it as it is.

Here, in a July 10, 1893 letter, he weighs-in on the priesthood:

Come, be men! Kick out the priests who are always against progress, because they would never mend, their hearts would never become big. They are the offspring of centuries of superstition and tyranny. Root out priest craft first. Come, be men! Come out of your narrow holes and have a look abroad. See how nations are on the march! Do you love man? Do you love your country? Then come, let us struggle for higher and better things; look not back, no, not even if you see the dearest and nearest cry. Look not back, but forward!

Here, here!