Asha Praver

Letters from Asha

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Ask Asha: Love Triangle

[You can ask your own question here.]

Question

If I love a man and he loves me but also loves someone else — how can i get over jealousy? Why can’t i let him have his own happiness and not bother him? Why must I cry and not dream big and of happiness for all? I am supressing him with my tears? He is honest and loving. Walking away would be hurting myself and him. Divine love doesn’t hurt and there is no other such love as divine love. I want to be free

Emily
From US

Answer

Dear Emily:

It is impossible to know from what you have written here what you are actually dealing with.

Is this man married to someone else? Does he have children? Is he planning to leave his wife for you or is he content to have both of you in his life? Or are you the wife and the difficulty is the affair he is having with someone else?
Or is he unmarried and in a relationship with you but also having a relationship at the same time with someone else?

The details matter. The advice depends on what you are dealing with.

I have a hard time reconciling your statement that he is “honest and loving” with everything else you have said. If a man is carrying on with two women and at least one of them (you), and perhaps both women, are suffering greatly because of this, both the “honest” and the “loving” are a little hard to see. Perhaps he is very nice in other ways but obviously he has some trouble with loyalty.

Walking away from him, far from being a disservice, could be the best thing in the world for him and also for you. If he is married (and even more if he has children) leaving him gives him a chance to face the commitments he has made and keep them honorably, and will give you more dignity, honor, and self-respect.

If, however, you are the wife and you have children together, it gets a little more complicated. That’s why I need to know more of what you are actually dealing with.

All love is divine in the sense that everything is a manifestation of God. But that love can be purely and selflessly expressed or corrupted by selfishness. What you are describing here is filled with self-interest and therefore suffering is inevitable.

I am so sorry that you are caught in such a difficult situation. I will pray for you.

Blessings,
Nayaswami Asha

[Questions and answers from other Ananda ministers worldwide can be found on the Ask the Experts page of Ananda.org.]

Monday, December 13, 2010

Ask Asha: Dealing with Unwise Attractions

[You can ask your own question here.]

Question

Hello, I need some help in regards to human relationships. Recently I found myself being attracted to this woman who works in my office. She is a very nice person at heart but her interests and personality is so very different from mine. Yet I cannot help being drawn to her..Day and night my mind is raked by fierce storms of emotion and I feel envy, jealousy etc..I try so hard to follow Masters advice on loving her on a divine level but I haven’t yet succeeded. Is there a way to get some solace?

V
From India

Answer

Dear V:

When you say she is a “very nice person at heart,” does that mean she is less nice on the outside? You say her interests and personality are “different from mine.” Presumably you mean in some way incompatible with yours?

One person could like opera and another walking outside in Nature. Those are different interests, but both are refined activities.

If one person, however, likes to meditate and the other likes to drink beer and go disco dancing (if that is what it is still called!) then those are quite incompatible.

Even though you haven’t been explicit, I suspect that you are talking “incompatible,” not merely different.

Although the idea of arranged marriages would be impossible to impose on Western society — habituated as we are to having “free” choice in these matters — there is a lot of wisdom behind that custom. Namely this: It is not that hard to love someone. It is effortless to be “attracted” for any number of reasons, not all of them high-minded (nor, to be fair, not all of them gross either, in the sense of unrefined).

We can have lots of karma with people, and “recognize” them from past lives. This happens all the time. But not all of these connections are appropriate to live out in this incarnation. Much of the karma in these kinds of infatuations (where there is no true compatibility) is not good — if your goal is happiness and freedom, rather than endless experiences.

The great challenge is not just to find someone to whom you feel “attracted,” the challenge is to make a successful life with another person. That is where compatible values, goals, and general approach to life are essential.

Those a little outside the “heat of the moment” usually are better able to evaluate the long-term viability of a relationship. The ones most closely involved too often have their judgment distorted by desires of all kinds. Sexual is the most obvious, but other desires also come into play — home, children, financial security, social status, etc. Thus the benefit of arranged marriages, where these various priorities can be sorted out objectively. It isn’t the society we live in now, but it is helpful to appreciate why, in so many cultures for so many centuries, this has been the custom.

No doubt you have some kind of a “karmic connection” to this woman; otherwise you wouldn’t be haunted by the thought of her as you seem to be. But having karma with someone is not the same as having dharma with that person.

Karma means that cause and effect is working on you. And you are invited by the cosmic force to set in motion more cause and effect. Probably lots of painful cause and effect. To get involved with someone that you know from the start does not share your fundamental view of life (I am assuming that this is true) pretty much guarantees that once the fires cool a bit you are in for a lot of suffering. And if you should be so unlucky as to marry and have children, then you get to spread the suffering out beyond yourself and this woman. Not a good plan.

Dharma are those actions which expand your consciousness and move you closer to God. Dharma is to resist unwise attractions. Dharma is to trust that you don’t have to practice by having relationships that are unsuitable, but can wait — even if tempted and lonely — until a relationship with an objective chance of success comes along. Not a popular teaching these days for sure. So no one is asking you to be perfect. Just do your best.

In the meantime, what to do about your preoccupation with this woman? Well, above all, don’t feed it. Even though everything in you is pushing you to be close to her, to think about her, to spend time with her if you can — Don’t. Is this easy? No, of course not. This is the cosmic play, the way God trains us to be strong in our commitment to high ideals. You don’t get strong without being tested.

You may think this is a bad system, but as the gurus tell us repeatedly, those who have walked the path of righteousness to the end never say it wasn’t worth it.

The benefits of dharma are not necessarily obvious at the beginning, but a few trips down the karma path, rather than the dharma path, have a way of teaching us pretty fast.

Do everything you can to stay away from this woman. And avoid any kind of personal interactions, and above, don’t be alone with her. You can’t afford to play around with this kind of energy. It is simply too strong.

Forget about “loving her on a divine level.” That is not the appropriate advice for this situation. Now is the time for complete separation, inwardly as well as outwardly.

When you are in the throes of an attraction, you shouldn’t think of the object of your infatuation at all. Any mental or emotional energy directed to her will immediately draw you back into the kind of attraction you are trying to escape. Don’t kid yourself. Be realistic.

If you have to see her at work, complete separation might not be possible, but if you are honest you can tell the difference between what is imposed upon you by circumstances and what you are seeking out because of desire.

You think it is very important to relate to her on some level, but that is karma calling, not dharma.

You can’t, however, replace your preoccupation with nothing at all. Nature abhors a vacuum. You have to fill your day-dreaming time, or the social time you would try to spend with her, with other fulfilling (I would say more fulfilling, but it may not feel like that at first) activities.

Get involved in whatever your interests actually are. Be in uplifting company. Develop yourself spiritually, to give you more inward strength. Stay away as much as you can from anything romantically or sexually stimulating. (Difficult to do in this society, but at least give it a try!)

And pray. Continuously. Ask God and Gurus to free you from this preoccupation, but then do your part to extricate yourself. Don’t, however, use that prayer time as an excuse to focus on her again! The mind is very tricky. Rather than being specific, better to pray, “Lord, help me to live a life that is pleasing to Thee.” He’ll know what you mean.

You’ll be surprised, once you commit yourself to this course of action, that it isn’t that hard. And even if it is, what choice do you have? Guaranteed, a bad relationship is MUCH worse.

And if you fail from time to time, and the attraction sweeps you into unwise interactions, extricate yourself as soon as you can. Don’t say, “I have failed,” but only that, “I haven’t yet succeeded.”

Eventually you will look back and say, “Thank God I never followed that attraction. How unfortunate that would have been.”

Good luck!

Blessings,
Nayaswami Asha

[Questions and answers from other Ananda ministers worldwide can be found on the Ask the Experts page of Ananda.org.]

Friday, December 10, 2010

Ask Asha: Helping Others With Their Karma

[You can ask your own question here.]

Question

Dear Asha,

I understand that it is possible to mediate some of the effects of your own karma through behaving rightly, but is it possible to do that with others’ karma also, by prayer or doing kriyas for them?

Thank you,
M

Answer

Dear M:

A good question.

Karma is energy held in a certain pattern by the magnetism of identifying with the event, being attached to it, longing for it, or ashamed of it. Because it is only energy and magnetism it can be shifted at any moment by applying energy and magnetism of sufficient force to set a new pattern.

In theory, all karma can be dissolved in an instant IF you apply enough energy of a balancing kind.

In practice, karma shifts slowly. Generally speaking, it took us time to apply enough energy of a particular type -- kindness, selfishness, fear, love, etc. -- to create an energy pattern. And generally speaking it takes time and consistent effort in a new direction to set up a new energy pattern.

Think of it like a river flowing toward the sea, but some of the river water gets caught along the bank in whirlpools created by debris that holds the water. You can free the whirlpool by removing the debris -- i.e., overcoming a particular attachment -- or you can simply draw the whirlpool into the flow of the river by making the flow of the river to the sea stronger than the pull of the debris to sideline the water in a whirlpool. Can you see the image? Does it make sense?

The river in this image is the flow of energy up the spine; the whirlpools are the vrittis of karma stored in the chakras.

So, yes, if you behave rightly you are increasing the flow of positive energy in the spine and it will eventually dissolve the karma into itself when the balance of energy and magnetism finally shifts in favor of the positive flow. You are starving the vritti by not doing whatever wrong thing created it in the first place. And you are increasing the energy in the spine by behaving rightly.

Kriya is a way of doing the same thing inwardly. Draw energy powerfully up the spine and the vrittis are drawn in and the karma dissolves without you ever having to live through it outwardly.

Prayer, or doing kriya for others (which is a form of prayer), is a way of giving energy to others. And yes, it can help.

If you are trying to impose your will on someone, however, it will be far less helpful and also less effective. Even a positively intended imposition -- e.g. please stop drinking! -- is less effective than simply giving a person pure divine energy. Send the person divine energy, and their soul will know what to do with it. Energize them, fill them with light, and then they will be more able to fulfill their own destiny.

Be prepared, however, for things to get worse before they get better. This doesn't always happen, of course, but sometimes it does. Because sometimes what the soul needs is to go deeper into the lesson before it is ready to change directions. So do the kriyas, or offer the prayers, with faith that Divine Mother is in charge.

joy,
asha

[Questions and answers from other Ananda ministers worldwide can be found on the Ask the Experts page of Ananda.org.]

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Ask Asha: Relating to My Parents

[You can ask your own question here.]

Question

subir
From india

How can i strengthen the relationship between me and my parents? How would i bring more love and kinship towards us? I think i m not in the best of terms with them. Please advice.

Answer

Dear Subir:

In order to be in right relationship with your parents, or anyone else in your family, you have to first remove the obscuring clouds of sentimentality and subconscious expectations.

Master tells us that when the sperm and ovum unite, there is a flash of light in the astral world, and those souls who are in tune with the vibration of that light (and ready to reincarnate) are drawn to enter that womb. He said sometimes more than one soul is drawn, so not everyone gets in, or sometimes there are twins.

Despite these false starts, you do end up where you are karmically meant to be. Swamiji has explained, however, that you can be “in tune with that flash of light” because of just a few aspects of those people or that situation.

Perhaps your interest is music and that family will give you the opportunity to develop that. Perhaps you need a peaceful environment, in a certain cultural setting, and that family is ideal. Perhaps all you want is money. Or maybe your karma is to be poor. All of that is contained in the flash of light and can draw you.

In other words, just because you are born into a family does not automatically mean you will have a deep affinity with everyone, or even anyone, in that family.

Yes, sometimes you do incarnate where there are profound bonds of heart and soul. But not always.

Master also said, sometimes enemies are drawn into the same family. Hatred also forms a strong karmic bond. The benefit is that, as enemies, Master said, you can “fight it out at close quarters.”

Sometimes a person will deliberately choose a family where the karmic connection is very light. Maybe that soul has been burdened by excessive family entanglements and wants a break from that kind of emotion.

Or, if the soul is a serious devotee, he may want to “get a body where he can,” as Swamiji put it, and then go on and find his spiritual family. Having a light connection with the birth family makes it easier to leave them behind.

Consider also, given the countless incarnations we have had, how many fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, children, cousins, uncles, aunts we have had in the course of all our lifetimes! When we go to the astral world, Master says, we see all these various relatives in a vast array and it helps us appreciate that we are born to love everyone equally, not to divide the world up into “I, me, and mine.”

Once someone asked Swamiji about her relationship with her parents. She was, it turned out, one who had “gotten a body where she could” in order to come as a young adult into her spiritual family, which was far more her family than those who birthed and raised her.

She was asking Swamiji how to relate appropriately to her parents.

He asked, “Do they oppose your spiritual life? Have they ever asked you to choose between them and your spiritual family?”

She replied, “No, they are not fond of what I am doing, but nor have they opposed it. And they have never asked me to choose. If they did, there would be no contest: human birth is something, but divine birth is everything, as Master said. In fact, they have been kind, respectful and supportive all my life.”

“In that case,” Swamiji replied, “you have a debt of gratitude to them and should always treat them as they have treated you: kindly and respectfully.”

The woman followed Swamiji’s advice, and kept up an appropriate relationship with them for the rest of their lives: visiting, writing, keeping in touch, and, toward the end of their lives, helping them as needed.

But she never expected anything more. They had very little in common, and no amount of effort on her part could change that. But they never did anything to warrant her coldness or mistreatment, so she always responded with appropriate respect and warmth.

Now, to your case. You have to assess your situation in the light of these considerations. Have your parents been respectful and helpful to you? Are they good people or have they abused their position as parents? If the relationship is abusive (rather than merely distant) it may be appropriate to separate yourself more from them. You will have to consider that carefully.

However, if it is merely a matter of lack of affinity, and they have given you no reason to cut them off, then you owe them a debt of gratitude for raising you. If you want to be closer to them, I suggest you begin by trying to understand your parents as people completely separate from their relationship to you.

Do they have friends? Do they have interests? What are their hobbies? What is their cultural and spiritual background? If you met them on the street what kind of an impression would they make?

Children continually take from their parents and seldom even imagine that their parents have a separate living reality. If you want to make an adult relationship with them, you have to come yourself to a state of maturity and cultivate their friendship as if you were meeting them for the first time.

What do they like to talk about? What do they like to do? How can you bring into your relationship with them a freshness and genuine interest in their well-being?

Parents sacrifice on a level a child can’t even imagine just to feed, clothe, raise, and educate you. If you want to improve your relationship with them, give back. The relationship at this point is not about you; it is about them. Even if your interest in what interests them is assumed only for the sake of the relationship, they certainly embraced your reality when you were growing up. Time to return the favor.

If they are asking of you things that are not appropriate for you to give, i.e., choosing a way of life, partner, career, location that doesn’t suit you, you don’t have to do what they want just because they are your parents.

But if you do have to disappoint them in fundamental ways, then try to please them in every other way you can. Be very attentive to remembering them on holidays, to contact them regularly, to focus on their interests and needs, to give them small gifts, to send them news and information that reflects their interests.

If, after all this effort, it proves that your parents simply don’t have the capacity to rise to a mature relationship with you, then you can adjust to whatever is realistic, with the confidence in your heart that you’ve done what you can.

And, of course, pray. Hold them in the light. Thank God and Gurus for the gift of life through them. And thank them for all they had to do to raise you. Ask that the Masters bless them and guide them on their own spiritual journey. Even if there is little outward communion between you and your parents, you can give them a great deal just through prayer, and in that way, fulfill your duty to them.

Blessings,
Nayaswami Asha

[Questions and answers from other Ananda ministers worldwide can be found on the Ask the Experts page of Ananda.org.]

Monday, October 25, 2010

Swamiji in LA

Dear Friends:

We encourage you to keep foremost in your consciousness a prayer for Swamiji and for the “great work” he is doing for Master in Southern California.

A great deal of tapasya is needed to launch this work. The same was true when Swamiji went to India. Tapasya is austerity accepted with devotion to gather energy and grace for a noble cause.

God is blessing Swamiji with the opportunity to serve in this way.

It is not surprising. Los Angeles is a huge metropolitan area with powerful crosscurrents of both spiritual and worldly vibrations. To bring to a focus in that environment the single ray of Master’s light through Swamiji and Ananda takes great will power and concentration. Plus, there are those in Los Angeles who would prefer to see Swamiji fail. Those vibrations are yet another obstacle to be overcome.

Often Swamiji’s physical body is the battleground where the forces of light and darkness collide. Almost every great success in his life has been preceded, or accompanied, by great physical trials.

You remember just a few weeks ago, on the eve of coming to Los Angeles, Swamiji suffered a serious fall in the living room of his home at Crystal Hermitage. He had to delay his trip till the last possible moment, and came to the inaugural event at the Ford Theater in a wheelchair.

Gradually he has recovered, until he could walk on his own, without even a cane. But the tapasya continues, manifesting above all as chronic sleeplessness, which gives rise, as you can well imagine, to a host of other difficulties.

A week ago, Swamiji fell again, but apparently the injury was slight. The very next day (October 17) he gave a beautiful satsang (which you can see on the internet—click here). In the following days, however, there was some concern that there might be a “slow bleed” in his brain from the impact of the fall. Three times he had to go to the hospital to be tested. At first they thought there was a bleed, then there wasn’t, then maybe there had been. In any case, it is over now; that is certain.

In the process, however, of dealing with what would have been very serious, Swamiji was given strong medications which threw his system out of balance. Now he has developed an adverse reaction to another medication he was taking. Unfortunately, that one is slow-acting, and it will be several days before it is cleared from his system.

Lest you wonder, Swamiji is being cared for by excellent physicians. His case, however, even in purely physical terms, is extremely complex. Add to it, all the intangible factors, and, well, you see the result: tapasya, given by God to Swamiji as part of the “great work” Master asked him to do.

So, as we said in the beginning: Keep Swamiji always in your prayers. Perhaps put a photograph of him not only on your altar, but also around your home, workplace, car, garden--anywhere you spend time and will see him often. Each time you notice his picture, offer a prayer to God and Gurus for his divine well-being.

Pray also for the success of Master’s work in Los Angeles. Someone’s effort brought Master to us, through a book, a class, a word from a friend. We can return the favor by praying that our brother and sister devotees in Los Angeles also be touched by Master’s ray.

Many of you have come to Ananda through doorways other than Swami Kriyananda himself; devotion to Master being the widest and most inviting. Because Ananda is now so far-flung, only a few devotees at any time are in physical proximity to Swamiji. And even then, he is far less available than he was in the founding years.

For all these reasons, you may not be aware of the extent to which everything you enjoy about Ananda, every benefit you receive from it, is the direct result of Swamiji’s devoted service to Master.

To use a very mundane way of explaining it, you may never meet Steve Jobs, and if you do, you might not even like him! But if you have an iPhone or an Apple computer, or a knock-off from any of these or the countless other technologies that came from Steve’s fertile imagination, you owe him a great debt of gratitude!

And much as we love our electronic toys, we can’t take them with us (as Swamiji was telling us just yesterday in the satsang from Los Angeles). But our consciousness is with us forever!

Imagine if there were no Ananda, and your only access to Master was through SRF. That means no community, no non-monastic spiritual leaders, no Living Wisdom School, no Conversations with Yogananda, no Festival of Light, no Oratorio, no music other than chants, no Expanding Light--well, the list goes on and on.

Master’s ray--transmitted through Swamiji, manifesting as Ananda--has been for so many of us the reason why we have a spiritual life. How can we ever express our gratitude? A constant prayer for Swamiji’s divine well-being, and for the success of the work in Los Angeles, is one small way.

Blessings,
David and Asha

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Letter #1 from LA

Dear Everyone:

At Spiritual Renewal Week and recently in Los Angeles, I was witness to some extraordinary moments with Swamiji that I want to share with all of you. For those who are new to these letters, I warn you in advance: the letter is long. Hope you enjoy it.

Where Swamiji Met Master

When Swamiji (Kriyananda) arrived in America at the end of June this year, he planned to return to India in early September unless . . .

Those three dots held a number of possibilities, which have now come to pass. Instead of going back to India, Swamiji has gone to Los Angeles, where he will stay for the next several months. He lives now in a lovely guest cottage at the home of a long time Ananda friend. For now, Los Angeles is home, the city Master called the “Benares of the West.”

For Swamiji, in a sense, it has always been his home. For it was there he met Master, became his disciple, was trained by him, and, on March 7, 1952, at the Biltmore Hotel, witnessed his Guru’s passing.

Many times since then he has visited Los Angeles and given programs there. Three times, in fact, an effort has been made, to make a permanent home for Ananda in Southern California. Twice the project was dismantled. The third time, even though the permanent center had to be let go, seeds were planted and began to sprout.

For the last several years, Sean Meshorer and Brook Cassady have been nurturing a multi-branched Ananda tree composed of many meditation groups throughout the four-county area we northerners think of as “Los Angeles.”

Early in the summer, Swamiji committed to give a major public program in Los Angeles, as he has for the last several years.

The Wayshower: A Movie about Master

In addition to planning that event, Sean and Bharavi (a core Ananda Los Angeles member) had been working on another of those dots: turning the screenplay Swamiji wrote about the life of Master into a feature film.

Usually when people think to making a movie about Master, they think to work from Autobiography of a Yogi. The problem is, it has no plot, is not really about Master himself, and ends just as the story of Master’s life begins: coming to America to carry out his mission to the West.

Master’s life story needs to be told by one who witnessed and understands it. Swamiji is the obvious, in fact, the only one to do it. The screenplay is called The Wayshower. It starts with Jesus appearing to Babaji in the Himalayas, speaking of the need to send a great soul to the West to bring back the forgotten inner truth of his teachings. A thrilling start!

To make a long story shorter (none of my stories are really short), it looks very promising. This alone would have kept Swamiji in America, at least for some weeks.

The Answer: Swamiji’s Search for Meaning

On a parallel track -- every movie, we have learned, is a complete project in itself -- Swamiji has another screenplay called The Answer. In this screenplay, Swamiji tells the story of his own search for answers, in the context of responding to a young man’s despair at the meaninglessness of life. In the opening scene, the young man’s mother finds him about to commit suicide. Desperate to save him, she takes him in the middle of night to see Swamiji, hoping through him that her son can find a reason to go on living.

Swamiji tells the young man, “I understand. There was a time when I, too, was overcome by the apparent meaninglessness of it all.” Then Swamiji begins to tell the story of his own search and the answers he found in Master.

Nandini, a devotee from Italy with a talent for making things happen, is also living for a time now in Los Angeles, working exclusively on The Answer. She is assisted by an Ananda devotee who has years of experience in the Hollywood film industry.

Ancient Prophecies Soon to Be Fulfilled?

Just before he left India, Swamiji received a reading from documents believed to be written by Agastya, an ancient sage. This reading, like the Book of Brighu, makes detailed predictions about the past, present, and future lives of people living now. The Brighu readings have proved to be quite accurate for Swamiji. Now an Agastya reading has also come to light.

The pundits who presented the reading were overcome with awe at the spiritual greatness Agastya described in Swamiji. Never before, they declared, has there been such a reading.

The relevant point here is that Agastya specifically stated that Swamiji would be creating movies and films! Prophecy is not certainty, but it is interesting that Swamiji had not even thought of writing a screenplay until just a couple of months before this reading surfaced. The benefit of these movies is self-evident. Keep them in your prayers.

Back to the Present: Ananda Village, Late July 2010

From Sean, Swamiji received a long, thoughtful letter about the work in Los Angeles. Everything is going beautifully, Sean wrote. Reservations are pouring in for the August event at the Ford Theater. It will be a sell-out, for sure.


How unfortunate, Sean went on to say, that we have no way to follow up on all this energy. A fulltime staff of two -- himself and Brook -- just isn’t enough. Much more is needed. Then he listed out all that could happen, if Swamiji would stay longer in Los Angeles.

It was a superb letter. Complete, imaginative, but not overstated; committed, but impersonal. He laid out the facts and let them speak for themselves.

Swamiji was persuaded. It seemed to be the “sign” he was waiting for. He called a few of us over to Crystal Hermitage (his home), read the letter aloud, and said he had decided not to return to India this fall, but to stay in Los Angeles, for some months at least.

Master for the World

Of course, for the Indian devotees, this is a great disappointment. And Swamiji is not blind to that fact. In the handful of years remaining to him, though, Swamiji has to plant Master’s light-seeds in fertile soil everywhere. Nurturing those seeds, as they sprout and grow, he can leave to others. Not that he won’t return to India sometime. For now, though, his work is in the Benares of the West.

Nearly 60 years have passed, since Master’s mahasamadhi (a great yogi’s final, conscious exit from the body he has used for that incarnation). Of the many thousands who met him, only a few are still living. And of close disciples, who lived with him, only five remain.

Swamiji is the only one living a public life, actively sharing Master’s teachings. He is the only one who has written about his experiences with Master, what it was like to live with him. We have his autobiography, The New Path, which could be called a sequel to Autobiography of a Yogi, taking up the story where Master ends it, coming to America. Then we have The Essence of Self-Realization and Conversations with Yogananda, plus The Essence of the Bhagavad Gita and Revelations of Christ. Of course, everything Swamiji does is an expression of Master’s teachings, but these are “primary sources.”


Master: An Avatar of Love and Bliss

One can access the Guru directly, of course, through intuition, his own writings, recordings, photographs, and the little bit of video we have, and above all through inner communion. New devotees also look to those who have come before to understand who Master is and how to be his disciple. Receiving the Guru’s ray through a more advanced disciple, Master said, not only accelerates one’s spiritual progress; that contact is essential.

Swamiji was commissioned by Master to do this “great work” of being the Guru’s channel for those of us who never knew Master directly. As the years pass, and his peer disciples retire from active service, or leave the planet altogether, Swamiji’s role becomes increasingly central.

Swamiji and Company

About a dozen devotees will go with Swamiji to Los Angeles. These include Jyotish, Devi, Durga, Vidura, Haridas, Roma, Bhagavati, Ramesha, Peter Kretzman, Lauri Moschini, Dharmadevi, Narayan, and me (Asha) part-time. (I am not moving, but will split my time, about 1/3 in Los Angeles, 2/3 in Palo Alto. David will be mostly in Palo Alto, but sometimes will come with me to LA.)

Add to that, Sean, Brook, and Bharavi, who are already in place, and Swamiji’s staff for as long as he is there, and you have quite a dynamic crew. A great adventure in Self-realization begins.

Tapasya

At the age of 77, Swamiji moved to India. At the age of 84, he is moving now for a time to Los Angeles, in both situations taking on a major work for Master. Not easy at any age.

Swamiji’s health overall is quite good. Still, from the time he arrived in America at the end of June, he had some difficult physical symptoms. He never seemed to adjust to the time change, so sleep was elusive, and often he had extreme shortness of breath.

You can’t think about Swamiji’s physical symptoms, however, in strictly physical terms. His body seems to be used by the Divine to work out karma -- not for himself, but for others and, above all, for the work he is doing for Master. Tapasya it is called: self-sacrifice and austerity offered with devotion as a way to clear karma and magnetize energy for what God will accomplish through him.

When Swamiji first went to India, he did a lot of tapasya. During one of his many hospital stays that first year, a swami from Rishikesh came to see him. When he expressed concern over Swamiji’s health, Swamiji replied cheerfully, “Don’t be concerned. I’m just doing tapasya for India.”

When I asked him about it later, he said simply, “In every story of noble achievement the hero has to do ‘penance’ of some kind to gather the strength and the divine blessings needed to accomplish his goal.”

Light and the Absence of Light

The decision to stay in Los Angeles seemed to intensify the inner battle. Whenever I was with Swamiji, I could feel the power of his will going out in a wave toward the work he felt called to do for Master.

Many times during those days, just sitting in his living room with a few old friends, he would speak about what was needed in Los Angeles, with a power and intensity more suited to a grand auditorium filled with thousands.

Master speaks of a conscious force that tries to keep light from expanding. Even though I couldn’t see them, I often felt during those days that Swamiji was addressing a dark astral horde, hovering around him, trying to break his will.

Not a chance. But the battle was intense and manifested not only through his determined words and thoughts, but also in his physical body.

Chapter 30: Karmic Patterns

In his book A Place Called Ananda, Swamiji gives a detailed account of his years in SRF -- both in India and America -- and how in 1962, he was kicked out of SRF. It is his most personal book, more personal even than his autobiography. At the same time, it is also a cosmic tale of how a great Master’s work is established and all the forces that try to keep it from happening.

Christianity is the story we know best and there are many parallels between what happened then and what is threatening to happen now. It is significant that Master called his work “The Second Coming of Christ.” The battle is between individual inspiration and institutional authority, the same dispute that raged in early Christianity. Most people don’t know how intense was the dispute, because the institution won, and the Church rewrote history.

Master’s work, Swamiji explains in Chapter 30 of A Place Called Ananda, is threatened by the same karmic pattern. There is nothing personal about it. This is Dwapara Yuga vs. Kali Yuga, the very reason Master was born.

The Plot Thickens

In the days after he decided to move to Los Angeles, until he actually arrived, the battle raged within Swamiji’s physical body. Among other symptoms, he was having pain in the center of his back, which made it difficult for him to work at the computer. He could still write, though, by dictating his thoughts and having someone else type them. He asked me to help.

So despite everything, he continued to work. In preparation for the Los Angeles event, he wrote notes of what he wanted to say, how he wanted people to understand Master as an avatar of bliss and love. Writing became a focal point of the physical struggle. Fatigue, breathlessness, pain would conspire against his clear-minded focus, but again and again Swamiji overcame limitation with will power.

I felt I was witness to a sacred struggle. No matter what obstacles assailed him, no matter what mental fatigue he felt, Swamiji let nothing deter him. And in the end, the day before he was scheduled to leave for Los Angeles, he finished the project. It was late, and he went to bed (and at least tried to go to sleep) while I continued to work several hours more in his office, entering all the final changes.

How that document may be used and in what form seems far less important to me than the victory Swamiji won in completing it.

Body and Soul

The next day, Swamiji fell. Right in his living room, thank God, going down on his side, on a carpeted surface without hitting furniture or walls. Still, the injury to his hip was severe. Paramedics had to be called and he was taken to the hospital in an ambulance. Swamiji still talked of going on with his plans to spend the night at Ananda Sacramento and fly to Los Angeles the day after! But no one else could even imagine it! And his doctor would not permit it.

Fortunately, his hip was bruised, but not broken. He couldn’t walk or even move without assistance, but no surgery was needed. And, the doctor assured him in a few days he would feel much better. Although weak and in pain, as he came out of the Emergency Room, Swamiji’s face shone with divine love and bliss.

One understands philosophically that we are divine spirits merely inhabiting our bodies. But it is quite another reality to see the living proof right in front of you.

Divine Service

The adventure was not over. During his convalescence back at Crystal Hermitage, there were complications from medication and fluctuating blood sugar that made travel impossible. Because he couldn’t move without assistance, and because of the pain wasn’t able to sleep easily, several people had to be with him all hours of the day and night. His staff and all the volunteers did heroic service for those several days.

Although arduous at times, all considered it a privilege to give back in this way to one who has given so much to all of us. In The New Path, Swamiji describes a time when Master was taking on karma for his disciples and for a time was unable to walk. The monks had to carry Master up and down the stairs.

When Master thanks them for his help, Swamiji responded, “Sir, it is you who are helping us.” Master smiled and said, “God helping God. That is His way.”

Getting to Los Angeles

1200 people had reserved seats for the big event in Los Angeles, Sunday, August 22. Swamiji said, “If I don’t go, it will be the first time in my life I have not kept a major commitment.”

From the beginning of his convalescence, his attention was on that event. Even when standing and walking was impossible, before he would accept help, he would try with all his willpower to manage on his own. “I want to be able to walk onto the stage at the Ford Theater.” Even his willpower, though, could not prevail over his injured body.

In the end, plans remained uncertain up until the very end. Finally, Sunday morning, he was well enough to travel. He drove to Sacramento, then flew to Los Angeles, arriving around 2:30pm. The program started at 6:00. He was not able to walk onto the stage, or, for that matter, to walk at all. He had to be brought out in a wheelchair, and spoke from it. But he was there: body diminished, but spirit untouched.

He was radiant, childlike, blissful. His face looked ageless. In the photographs, he looks like a little boy playing at sitting in a wheelchair.

And Now....

Naturally there was concern that the effort of traveling from Ananda Village to Los Angeles, and then giving the program that same day, would be a major physical setback for Swamiji. Not at all.

Often in Swamiji’s life, the days and weeks leading up to a major event are marked by great tapasya. Once the goal is reached, usually the physical challenge subsides. So it has proved in this case.

Swamiji is not yet well, but there has been a marked improvement in his condition. He is settled now for the next few months in Los Angeles. A new chapter in the life of this amazing man will now unfold.

Blessings,
Nayaswami Asha

Friday, January 22, 2010

Letter #2 from Goa, India

Dear Everyone:

Not much to report in terms of what we are doing. I could list out the daily menus, but I don’t think that would be of overwhelming interest. Although I will say, the staff here has been wonderfully attentive to Swamiji. They consider it an honor to serve him in any way they can.

Because Swamiji is accustomed to the marvelous, sattwic cooking of Lila, and his body is very sensitive to salt, sugar, and various other things that people commonly put into their food, finding a way for him to be nourished when he is away from home for a long time is always a challenge.

Over the years coming here we have made friends with the chefs and they have been willing to allow us to pre-order, usually from the small print, or completely off the menu. Being vegetarians we make our entrees from side dishes, which they are quite willing to do.

They have also added, since the last time we were here, a “high tea” in what is actually the bar, but being located in this resort, the second floor veranda outside the bar has a gorgeous view of the ocean, where the sun sets every day at tea time. So this has been our most-days routine—to sit watching the sun sink into the ocean.

The sun represents the Father, Master explained to Swamiji. It is harmful to the eyes to gaze into the sun, except in the 30 minutes when it is closest to the horizon, rising or setting.

Since this exactly coincides with teatime, we have enjoyed looking into the golden, then usually red-orange circle. It feels like the entryway into another reality.

At one point, Swamiji told us, Master made a practice of gazing into the sun when it was close to the horizon, and, Master said, he found a great increase of inner wisdom from doing so.

A specific practice for strengthening the eyes is to gaze for 9 minutes directly at the sun, during the 30 minutes when it is closest to the horizon. Then turn your back on the sun, close your eyes and cover them with your hands, the right hand over the left, and gaze into the after-image until it is gone. Then, with closed eyes, look up, to the right, down, then to the left—repeating this several times.

Of course, where we live, far from a straight horizon line, this is not so easy to do, since we usually can’t see the sun during that last half hour.

Still, interesting to know. There are so many subtle connections in this world that we are simply oblivious to.

Sitting at tea, gazing at the setting sun, Swamiji remarked how very “human” all of creation is, starting with the fact that the human body itself is modeled after the spiritual eye. When you stand with legs apart and arms outstretched the body forms the “five points” of the star.

Swamiji said even on other planets they have human-like bodies, i.e., modeled with these same five points.

God Himself, Swamiji was saying, is very human in His feelings. In fact, our feelings are His feelings. When we feel sorrow, God is not is not scornful or indifferent to the fact that we feel sorrow. He is not “condescending,” as Swamiji puts it. He feels sorrow with us, for our feelings are God’s feelings.

This is a beautiful thought to meditate on, for so often we are condescending to ourselves, thinking it is more spiritual to hold a kind of lofty disdain for our own feelings, rather than responding to ourselves with divine sympathy, as God does.

Nirmala repeated something Swamiji had said earlier: God makes us, God makes the pitfalls that besiege us, God is not surprised that we fall into those pitfalls!

Swamiji said also how very simple God is, how “childlike”.

What an interesting idea, to think of God as “childlike”. The intellect wants to make spirituality very complex. We naturally think of the Creator as complicated, because creation appears so complicated to us.

Speaking along these lines on another occasion, Swamiji explained that since creation is Spirit vibrating from a point of stillness at the center, the closer you get to the heart of creation, the less movement there is, until, of course, all vibration ceases in absolute stillness.

It is the movement that creates the impression of complexity. The less movement, the simpler everything becomes. God is that point of stillness, where everything is perfect simplicity.

Swamiji also said God is childlike because He is without “expectations.” This is an idea we often toss about—to have no expectations—but it is marvelous to contemplate in this context: as a “childlike” attribute of God. To be without expectations, to accept everything without any reference to what it should or could be, to live without being tied to past or future, but only in the now.

Quite wonderful teatime conversation!

Swamiji often looks intently around him at the people here, as if he were looking into their souls. He looks kindly, with compassion, but also with a rather far-away look in his eyes, as if he were seeing them from the perspective of eternity.

Strolling toward breakfast, a few days ago he pointed out the obvious, how everyone has a different body and a different face. And that face and body reflect the consciousness. So either the body creates consciousness, or consciousness creates everything.

Obviously, the latter is the true explanation.

Scientists are moving toward that thought, but, Swamiji said, they will never figure it out, because they don’t have the right method. To understand you have to go within, and science tries to understand from the outside.

For a few days there was a group of Iranian people visiting here, two couples and a single man. They happened to sit next to us in a restaurant. Swamiji heard them speaking a language he didn’t recognize and became curious. And it is his habit to greet everyone. So we stopped at their table to chat.

They made a very sweet impression. The next day we ran into the women and Swamiji asked them about an Iranian man he had met when he was a college student. Swamiji was curious to know whether that man had become well known in Iran, since he seemed to have that kind of magnetism.

He had become well known; the woman knew of him. She told Swamiji he died more than a decade ago.

Swamiji asked, “Was he a good man?”

The woman replied, “The people know him to be a good man, so the government thinks of him as a bad man.”

This naturally led to some discussion about the government in Iran.

Swamiji told her, “I had the opportunity to visit Germany before World War II, and I met many good Germans.” Swamiji writes in The New Path of how painful that time was for him, to have people he knew to be good people suddenly declared enemies. When he spoke of it now, his voice choked with emotion, and he had to pause for a moment. Then he said, “When good people have a bad government.... there is little we can do.”

The next day, Swamiji left the breakfast table, and went upstairs alone. He came back carrying a small package and went inside to where the Iranians were sitting having breakfast. He sat with them for a few minutes then came back to our table without commenting about his conversation with them.

We were walking back to the room and I noticed he didn’t have the package. “You left your package,” I said, and started back to the table to get it.

“Don’t bother,” Swamiji said, “it was a present for the Iranians. I said to them, ‘Since our countries have defined themselves as enemies, there isn’t much a private citizen can do. At least I can give you this gift as a gesture of friendship between us.’”

Again, his voice choked with emotion. In fact, all of us found we had tears in our eyes.

Recently Swamiji conferred a Sanskrit name that means “tender.” Obviously, he didn’t mean simply weak, or soft, or vulnerable. Nor did he mean, as he explained, merely sentimental. “Tender feelings” is what he wanted to inspire.

It is not a concept that is immediately understood. But thinking of the earlier conversation about how God is our feelings, and how tenderly Divine Mother loves and comforts us, one begins to see what a divine quality this is.

Certainly, Swamiji’s feelings, about these people, about the ego-created misery so often present in this world, are so tender, that we were all immediately touched by the sweetness and depth of those feelings.

Master spoke in the 40s about the interrelationship of seemingly unrelated events: the influenza epidemic after World War I being caused by the suffering in that war; floods and earthquakes caused by war in Ethiopia; and other such examples.

In the same way, even though as individuals we may feel powerless, in this interwoven web of a world, no act of kindness or love or spiritual awareness goes unnoticed by the Universe. In fact, of course, there is no power of darkness as such; there is only the absence of light.

Even in his poem Samadhi, Master says in the first line, “Vanished the veils of light and shade....” He refers to “shade” not “darkness.” Shade comes when something blocks the flow of light. No matter how profound the shade created, the light is not changed. As soon as the block is removed the light shines on as before.

Blessings from David and Asha

Monday, January 18, 2010

From Goa, India

Dear Everyone:

As most of you know, David and I are with Swamiji in Goa, India. For the last several years, Swamiji has taken a holiday at a beautiful beach resort here, to get away from the foggy cold of January in Delhi, or, this year, to give those building his house at the new Ananda community in Pune an extra few weeks to get it ready so he can move in. A most auspicious event, as you can well imagine.

As always, Swamiji arrived here after a period of intense work. We jokingly said to him, when he mentioned how hard he has been working, “Why are we not surprised?”

There has never been a time in the 40 years I’ve know Swamiji when he wasn’t in a “period of intense work.” The projects have varied, but never the level of energy.

When he became a disciple, more than 60 years ago, Swamiji accepted, with that initiation, the disciple’s divine duty to be an emissary for his Guru’s work in the world, further strengthened by Master’s words to him, “You have a great work to do.” And, well, the rest is history!

Dharmadas and Nirmala came with Swamiji from Pune (via Delhi) and we from America, so it is a small group.

Even though Swamiji is in need of rest, and taking lots of it, he is well. The cottages where we have our rooms are a (very) leisurely 10-minute walk from the dining room, and Swamiji makes the trip at least twice a day, sometimes more.

In previous years, we always had to walk around to the elevator, to get to the upper story of the lobby. Now Swamiji often takes the steps, a formidable multi-flight affair, that, on the rare occasions when he braved them in past years, left him gasping for breath, collapsing in a chair as soon we reached the top.

Now he strides upstairs, without assistance, usually not even using the banister, and continues on through the lobby without a pause. We still hover around him, less he have a misstep, but he rarely does—a dramatic change from the past few years.

Swamiji often refers to his “miracle healing” of last June, and the proof is right before us. Jai Guru.

His mood is light and blissful. One morning at breakfast (a huge buffet), Swamiji sampled several different dishes not liking any of them. Finally he said, “Nothing tastes as I think it should. It is all like a dream to me.” We understood him to mean that everything around him seemed like a dream and it was hard to “enjoy” within that any specific thing, like a cup of tea or a piece of toast. He ate a few bits of this and that, and then gave up trying.

We have breakfast in an outdoor dining area, bordering on a huge expanse of green lawn that leads to a cliff with steps down to the beach. Many other guests were coming and going around us.

Swamiji sat back. Gazing around him he said, “I see everyone in terms of their consciousness. They are all like hermit crabs, dragging their consciousness behind them.” An amusing and profound image.

Seeing a thin woman walking by with her obese husband and a young, already pudgy child, Swamiji remarked with compassion, “She is overwhelmed by the situation she finds herself in.”

He then began to speak across several tables to a refined looking British man sitting nearby, “You look so familiar,” Swamiji said, “do I know you?” They had never met, but Swamiji chatted with him for a few minutes.

“What do you do?” Swamiji asked. “I am an engineer,” the man replied. “You look like you should be a professor,” Swamiji said. The man seemed surprised then responded, “I do like to teach.”

A woman from Australia sat down a few tables away. Seeing her for the first time, Swamiji remarked to us, “Now there is a fine person.”

To another nearby diner on a different morning, after a simple greeting, Swamiji said, “You look like you should be an actor.” The man looked surprised, said he was not an actor, but then looked thoughtful and made no further reply.

Of course, no one can say whether these chance encounters will have any lasting impact, but it is impressive to see the way Swamiji relates to everyone as a friend. Recently he wrote that often waves of bliss sweep over him and everyone around seems a manifestation of that bliss, or at least seeking that bliss, and of course profoundly lovable.

“Even in a crowd of people I’ve never met,” Swamiji says, “everyone seems to me like an old friend.”

Buddha made the amazing statement, “The reason we should be kind to everyone we meet is because at one time or another, we have been close to every single person.” An impossible concept for the ordinary mind to grasp! But in Swamiji’s company, the practical implications of it are expressed: All the world is my friend—so behave accordingly!

Some of you may remember a story I tell in my book about Swamiji meeting a jeweler here in Goa and how impressed the jeweler was by Swamiji’s spiritual consciousness. A few days ago I stopped in to visit that man.

Immediately he began to speak of Swamiji and the great spiritual energy he felt from him. The jeweler himself seemed calmer and more centered than he was when last we met. Impossible to say, of course, what part meeting Swamiji played in that change. Still, it is inspiring to see how, step by step, the divine draws us back to the truth within.

Yesterday for dinner we ventured out to another beautiful hotel about 20 minutes away. They have a fine Indian restaurant and it is worth the taxi ride to enjoy a dinner there.

Swamiji also stopped in to visit the various shopkeepers he got to know well in previous years when he stayed in that hotel. One jeweler shared with us two extraordinary stones that he had recently acquired.

One was a 2.5-carat emerald. It was apparently an old stone (in a new setting) from a mine, the jeweler told us, long-since exhausted, on the India-Pakistan border. Most emeralds, the jeweler said, are treated in various ways to enhance their color. This one was just as God made it.

Swamiji wears a beautiful emerald, a gift from a friend in Rishikesh. I also have a lovely emerald ring. Swamiji and I sometimes have a friendly competition as to which one of us has the most beautiful emerald. Both our stones are indeed impressive.

Both, however, were “put in the shade,” so to speak, by the presence of this emerald being. The intensity of the color, the way the light shone from it was like nothing we have seen before.

Master said he remembers back to the stage of being a diamond. You could feel in that emerald that whoever inhabits that stone is going to be a great soul!

The jeweler then brought out a unique blue sapphire. This was 10 carats, set in a ring with small diamonds to set off the extraordinary blue color.

This, too, the jeweler said, was a rare untreated stone, not heated, as most sapphires are, but just as God made. He showed us how, even in shadow, the stone still sparkles with blue light.

Nirmala put one ring on each hand and we sat for some time just drinking in the refined emanations of sapphire and emerald. Even from across the room (only a small shop, but still 8 feet away) you could see the flecks of light and color in each stone.

At one point, Nirmala jokingly said to the jeweler, “What if I just leave now with these rings?” He replied without missing a beat, “Are you wearing running shoes?”

Although we would happily have walked away (perhaps not run away!) with both of those gems, eventually Nirmala gave them back and we went to dinner. All evening, we felt the “presence” of those stones and were grateful to have “met” them.

FYI: the emerald was $30,000, the blue sapphire, $100,000.

We commented that we hope whoever buys them has the right horoscope for such powerful stones.

Nirmala remarked that she read an article by an Indian astrologer who said that Princess Diana had a passion for blue sapphires but they were astrologically wrong for her. Just before she died her friend had gifted her with a necklace of large blue sapphires and, the astrologer said, the stones “overwhelmed her” and contributed to (caused?) her death.

“Death by Sapphires” sounds more like a crime novel than a philosophical treatise. Still, who can fathom the mystery of karma? Everything in this universe is interrelated, and only a Master can see how the threads weave together.

So, as you can see, no great adventures to report but we wanted to greet you all.

Swamiji is well. We are, of course, delighted to be in this beautiful place in his blissful company.

Blessings and love to all,
Nayaswamis David and Asha
blueline

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