Asha Praver

Letters from Asha

Monday, January 31, 2011

Ask Asha: Leaving Work to Find God

[You can ask your own question here.]

Question

Dear Asha,

I am happy to tell you that I have now completely overcome this unhealthy relationship. I realize intuitively that this experience was something needed for my growth. Since I was going through this experience completely conscious of the whole thing, I was able to get a tremendous insight into how the ego gets attached in the belief that the " Other" is going to offer fulfillment. My energies are once again centered within my being and now I fully understand the workings of the ego in human relationships. Thank you so much.

I wanted to get your opinion on something else. There has been this slow but steadily growing desire within me to find and experience the truth. Day and night all my mind can think of is God and meditation. As a result, my performance at work has taken a huge beating. This has become worrisome! You can imagine the demands from employers in our western world. I am not a lazy person, but suddenly my job seems so lifeless and futile. All this effort, twelve hours a day, for what? I’m no longer excited about my job and the rewards it offers. My mind is constantly engaged in thoughts of a simple life dedicated to yoga and meditation. What do you advise?

Regards
V.

Answer

Dear V:

From the little I know about you -- these exchange of letters -- I think you may be inclined to extremes. Am I wrong? For example, you write here, "I fully understand the workings of the ego in human relationships."

Of course, this is just e-mail, and we all know how easy it is to hit “send” without considering the implications of every word. Still, you also say, "I was going through this experience completely conscious of the whole thing."

What I am saying is, perhaps you should consider a more measured approach to your own understanding. Even though it is tempting to claim total victory, such profound truths are difficult to acquire. And it is more likely that you are beginning to gain insight, or perhaps you have had a glimpse of a profound truth, rather than the truth being entirely yours.

Leave yourself a little room to learn more than you now know. If you feel you have already learned everything, you may miss important lessons that come later.

This is relevant to your present question as well, where you say “Day and night all my mind can think of is God and meditation.” If, indeed, you had attained that state, your work situation would be effortlessly resolved for you. But apparently, it has not.

So, if you don't mind, I shall assume instead that you are beginning to awaken spiritually and are asking what to do about it.

Often I find that when people begin to be drawn to the spiritual path the first thing they think of is leaving husband, wife, and job. "Now that I am spiritual," seems to be the thought, "I have to leave everything behind." Rarely -- I would venture to say never in my experience -- have I seen this to be a good idea. It is too dramatic, too romantic, too distant from one's actual state of realization.

God has so arranged this world that we have to live with others and work for a living. This is not a mistake. Spiritual realization has to be proved in the cold light of day. And home life and job life are definitely the cold light of day.

The skills required to create harmony with others and success in the workplace are exactly the same skills required to find God: concentration, determination, perseverance, relating to realities other than one's own, creativity, energy, calmness, courage -- the list goes on and on.

When you renounce these everyday demands prematurely, rather than soaring in spirit, one tends to go in the opposite direction, usually spending less time on spiritual pursuits, rather than more, as laziness and lack of discipline invade body, mind, and spirit.

Instead of thinking you have to leave your job to concentrate on God, bring God into your workplace. If personal ambition has left you, become ambitious for God. See your work as divine service, your purpose in being there to help others, to bring a calm and joyful attitude, to help others achieve their goals, to earn lots of money so that you can donate it to a spiritual cause.

Even Lahiri Mahasaya, after meeting Babaji and being awakened to his divine destiny as the founder of the Kriya Yoga line, continued for many years to do his job as a government accountant, and continued to do service to his community in a variety of seemingly mundane ways. Nothing in itself is unspiritual. It is only made so by our own lack of spiritual understanding and attunement.

What I suggest, rather than putting less energy into your work, is that you apply yourself whole-heartedly to it, but with a different perspective. Become an instrument of God Whom you are always thinking about. Ask His guidance in every interaction with people. "How can I serve You, Lord, in this soul?" Even if the context seems entirely unspiritual, inwardly, God is always present. Ask to be His instrument.

When you have creative work to do, ask God for inspiration. When you have mundane tasks to perform, ask God to entertain you inwardly with his bliss. Practice japa -- the constant repetition of a mantra, chant, or name of God. In all these ways, use your 12-plus hours at the workplace in exactly the way you would imagine using your time if you weren't working: to think of God.

I believe that the discipline required for success and diligence in your job is the right training for you right now -- to learn to apply yourself dynamically to whatever task God has placed in front of you. Living by likes and dislikes -- even spiritual likes and dislikes -- is not wholesome for the devotee. Instead, use your willpower to demolish all sense of difference in the world, as the Bhagavad Gita constantly urges us. To the man of wisdom, all is God.

Here is another thought to consider. Master tells us that we must be "practical in our idealism." Ideally, the devotee renounces all to seek God. But is that, for you, a practical idea? Do you have the self-discipline to remove all compelling conditions from your life and continue to live with high energy and God as your only focus? Or will you, as I say above, find that you fall into low energy habits?

And can you afford to fail at your job? Did your parents sacrifice greatly to give you the education needed to get you to this job? Are they depending on you for their support? How would they feel if you throw it away now? Just recently you were strongly attracted to a woman. How will you support a wife and children?

Are you resident in your own country or do you have a visa to America or elsewhere that is dependent on your employment? What would happen if you get fired from your job because of lack of competence? Will you have to leave whatever country you are in now? How will that work out?

You say that you are not a lazy person. That is good! Are you, however, easily affected by your likes and dislikes? Some of your earlier correspondence would lead me to believe that you have a distance yet to go in terms of doing with full enthusiasm whatever is asked of you. Your job is a great place to learn that much-needed lesson. Once acquired, it will be your ticket to success spiritually as well.

If I have not understood you, please correct me. If you have further questions or discussion, please feel free to write.

Blessings,
Nayaswami Asha

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

Friday, January 28, 2011

Ask Asha: The Reason for Attractions

[You can ask your own question here.]

Question

Dear Asha,

Your take on this situation was so right! This woman is so different from me it would take nothing short of a miracle for us to come together.

I followed your advice and prayed to Divine Mother “Whatever you desire of me in this situation, let that be done."

Almost without warning, the woman completely cooled off towards me! This must be a great thing, right? Still, there is great suffering in me. Why did the universe kindle the attraction between us if it was doomed to fail right at the start? Was the time spent together completely meaningless?

Regards
V.

Answer

Dear V:

The attraction between men and women is inherent. It is not personal. It is the way we are made. Yes, some connections also have a personal element, but even without that, the magnetism can be activated. When Swami Kriyananda was a young monk, Master advised him, very strictly, to avoid as much as possible being in the company of any woman, even older women, where there wasn't the slightest chance of attraction. Master said that the magnetism between the sexes is very subtle and can easily pull us out of our center.

This world is designed to challenge us to stay centered. And for this reason, God often sends us attractive options that are not destined to be fulfilled. God wants us to understand that the fulfillment we are seeking lies only within. Not that pleasant things will never happen. We do marry. We do have families, but the success of those relationships, I assure you, depends entirely on your self-control.

If you are not self-controlled -- emotionally, sexually, verbally, energetically -- relationships become miserable very fast. Of course you interact, you have intimacy, you talk and share, but if you don't have some level of self-mastery things get disharmonious very easily. With self-control, relationships can be very satisfying. Without it, not so likely.

So God is training you by putting in front of you an attraction, then taking it away, then challenging you to master your desire in order to learn self-control that will help you when the right relationship does come.

This attraction was kindled by the fact that you are a man and she is a woman. I don't know this woman at all but I wouldn't be surprised if she is in the habit of drawing the attention of men to herself, "flirting," as people call it. And not taking the results very seriously.

By contrast, I think you are not at all inclined to play with this magnetism and got drawn into a net that was very confusing for you.

Merely to be attracted, as I wrote earlier, is not the same as to be destined to be together. Almost any man and any woman if they open that door of magnetism can kindle an attraction. It just means you are human.

I know you would like to find some deeper destiny here, but I don't think there is one.

Whether or not your time with her was meaningless depends entirely on what you consider meaningful. If having a certain outcome was the definition of meaning for you, then, yes, it was meaningless. If simply enjoying one another's company was meaningful, then it did have meaning.

Again, I think you want somehow to find a cosmic reason that will ensure that you can be with this woman. I don't think it is there.

And yes, it is tough once you have become enmeshed in magnetism like this to have it disappear. That is how we learn. We follow something that isn't in our best interest, we reap the inevitable results of that wrong direction. We suffer. And, hopefully, we learn.

I wish there was some other answer I could give you.

You allowed yourself to follow an attraction that was not suitable and now your energy is way outside of center and will have to be brought back to center. Not so easy, but what choice do you have?

I will pray for you.

Blessings,
Asha

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

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Ask Asha: The Difference Between Peace and Calmness

[You can ask your own question here.]

Question

Dear Asha,

First of all thank you a lot for all your classes. Your way of explaining Yogananda's teaching is huge help in my spiritual development. The classes are not only the source of detailed knowledge with many practical examples but also motivate me to keep going this path.

Recently I came back to the lecture "The Eight-Fold Manifestations of God". I realised that I am not able to discriminate between 'peace' and 'calmness' and I have little idea how to apply them in everyday life. Could you explain it once again?

Best regards,

Anna
From Poland

Answer

Dear Anna:

I am so happy to hear that what we are doing here is of benefit to you on the other side of the world. Many great advantages to being in early Dwapara Yuga! One big one is this wonderful unifying of all the citizens of the "Nation of Self-Realization," as my friend calls us, crossing traditional national borders.

It is not surprising that you find it a little difficult to discern between "peace" and "calmness." In many ways they are similar. In English, they are often used together, referring to something as "calm and peaceful." It is notable, though, that one uses both, because they do have a nuance of difference.

I think the problem comes when you think of them at their perfected end, that is, close to their source in God. At that level, the distinction is difficult to see.

If you think of them, instead, at their most extended, in the middle of human activity, the distinction is clear.

Peace, in terms of human life, means the absence of conflict, stress, or even action of any kind. An empty meadow at dawn is peaceful. The house after the children finally are asleep in bed is peaceful. The quiet harmony between husband and wife as they fall asleep together at night is peaceful.

Calmness, however, can exist in the middle of stress, conflict, or dynamic action. Two people could be having an intense verbal debate, but it is possible, even at such a time, to be totally engaged but inwardly calm. A soldier may be in the middle of battle, racing across a field with bullets flying, but can, in himself, be calm. A child may be having a tantrum, even pounding with his fists on his mother, but she can remain calm in the midst of it.

Nothing about these scenes is peaceful, but calmness can exist, even in the absence of peace.

Often in life peace eludes us. That is the time to concentrate instead on calmness. Which is to say, don't become agitated by outer circumstances but, even in the midst of agitating events, remain calm inside.

Does this help?

Blessings,
asha

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

Friday, January 21, 2011

Ask Asha: Truthseeking in the Modern World

[You can ask your own question here.]

Question

Hello, I was just reading the first few chapters of 'The New Path' and I noticed that my personality strongly mirrors that of swamiji in his youth! I have an intense longing for truth and I try to live life based on the principles taught by the masters. However, in the modern western society, idealists like me are perceived as mentally abnormal! It is so hard to live each day being bombarded by sex, violence and lack of empathy in people! What can I do to be at peace? btw I do mediate daily...

A
From Canada

Answer

Dear Friend:

It is very gratifying for Swamiji to hear that so many who read his autobiography feel as if they are reading their own story. The circumstances of his life were unique, but the longing of his heart is universal.

The happy ending to his story — finding his Guru and dedicating his life to Self-realization — gives us all hope that the longing our hearts, too, will be fulfilled in God.

Yes, modern Western society is not supportive of the Self-realization way of life. And yes, this is inconvenient and a challenge to the dedicated path of the truthseeker.

But there will always be something! What we seek is a pearl of great price and naturally obstacles must be overcome before it will be ours.

You can’t control the outer environment, so you must redouble your efforts to control and direct your inner awareness according to your ideals.

And insofar as your sphere of influence extends, try to create an uplifting environment for yourself. Your home, your room, your companions, the music and entertainment you bring in, how you spend your leisure time — with some discipline and will power you can carve out of even our modern Western world a way of life more conducive to growing spiritually.

Do you live near, or can you relocate to be near, an Ananda community? On Ananda.org you can read about the various Ananda places in the world. This includes a retreat and community in Pune, India, and dynamic retreats and communities in both Assisi, Italy, and Nevada City, (northern) California. Plus, Ananda teachers literally travel the world offering classes and seminars.

Through the website, you can get in touch with Ananda Worldwide and make sure you are informed whenever Ananda events happen anywhere in your region. You will receive then the benefit of experienced guidance, and also meet others who share your interests.

Above all, pray constantly to God and Gurus to provide you what you need in terms of inspiration, teaching, companionship, and supportive environment to bring your spiritual aspirations into profound realizations.

Through the internet you can “keep the company of the saints” no matter where in the world you live! A great benefit of ascending Dwapara Yuga!

May God bless you and guide you in your search and bring you speedily back to your divine home in Him.

Blessings,
Nayaswami Asha

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

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Ask Asha: Falling Asleep While Meditating

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Question

When ever I meditate for a long time I tend to sleep; But for a few seconds only; I start dreaming; Then all of a sudden I realise that I have started to sleep & dream;

When we close our eyes, we see some kind of noise, i.e, everything seems to be dotted. Due to this I am finding it difficult to concentrate; How should I tackle these problems?

Thanks a lot.

A
From India

Answer

Dear Friend:

Whenever I teach a beginning meditation course, I talk about the relationship between meditating and falling asleep, for, as you have discovered, they are more closely related than you might think. And certainly closer than we want them to be!

We tend to think of the three states of consciousness — subconscious sleep, waking consciousness, and superconscious meditation — as linear, with “sub” and “super” nicely separated by the waking state.

In fact, all three meet at what you might call the horizon line of awareness.

Meditating and sleep also share certain characteristics. Both involve the cessation of physical action, mental activity, and sensory input. The all-important difference between them is that to enter superconsciousness requires an increase of energy, whereas to enter subconsciousness requires a decrease.

We go to sleep when our energy has run out. If we are filled with energy — mental or physical — we can’t enter subconsciousness, but have to do something with all that energy before sleep will come.

One of the challenges of meditation is to learn how to increase our energy in a non-physical, non-mental, totally relaxed way. At first this seems impossible, but gradually we learn. For all the energy we need is already within us. It is a matter of learning how to direct it.

Another obstacle to entering superconsciousness is that we already have a fixed habit of what to do when we withdraw our energy from body, mind, and senses: we go to sleep.

What is happening to you (which is common) is that, finding yourself with your energy withdrawn you naturally go where you are accustomed to going, which is sleep, not meditation.

The key to breaking that cycle is the concentrated application of will power and energy, which makes sleep impossible. Naturally, this takes time to learn.

In meditation classes, I draw this diagram to illustrate this point:


The leftmost point of that straight line is waking consciousness. When you decide to sleep or to meditate, you travel along that straight line, to the right, closing down as you go all your usual expressions of energy — talking, moving, thinking, hearing, seeing, tasting, feeling, etc. — until you reach the intersection where the V meets the straight line.

At that point, you have a choice to make. If you continue to decrease your energy, you fall into subconscious sleep. If, however, at that point, through devotion, techniques, concentration, willpower, etc., you increase your energy instead, you go into superconsciousness.

If, however, during the course of your meditation, your energy decreases, you sink back past that junction until you find yourself suddenly on the “low road,” not meditating at all, but dreaming and sleeping.

The solution is simple. When you find yourself suddenly subconscious, increase your energy through any one of the many methods you have to draw upon in Kriya Yoga or whatever path to Self-realization you are following.

Eventually, you will create a superconscious habit stronger than your subconscious habit, and this will cease to be a problem for you.

Of course, when and where you meditate also influences your success. Perhaps you are meditating too late at night. Perhaps you need to do the Energization Exercises before you meditate, or go outside and get some fresh air before you begin. Keep the room cool; maybe sit by an open window. Don’t meditate sitting on your bed but have a special place where you only meditate, so the habit and vibrations of superconsciousness will build up there.

As for the visual noise, which you say makes concentration difficult, it is also a lack of concentration that creates the restlessness which manifests this way. The only solution is to persevere.

However, meditation is both a science and an art. Self-realization as Master teaches it, includes numerous techniques, which is the science of it. The art is to learn what techniques work best for you and when to apply them. Maybe visualizing the spiritual eye, or the face of a saint, or the eyes of Master as you see them in a photograph you may particularly like would be a good way to counteract a visual distraction.

Or perhaps you want to chant mentally, or even quietly aloud, calming your eyes by using your ears. Or you could pray, for yourself or others, until your concentration is restored. You get the idea. Experiment, and see what works for you.

Is there too much external light where you are meditating? Maybe you should darken the window, blow out the candle, or even wear a sleep mask. Try this. See if it helps.

Most importantly, don’t give up. Any effort to meditate, no matter how distracted it may seem at the time, will bring great benefit. When we first start meditating the mind can be like a runaway horse. Our first efforts to concentrate are comparable to the first tentative tug on the reins. It seems like nothing is happening. But eventual mastery of that runaway horse begins with the first feeble, “Whoa horsey!” We have to start somewhere.

Blessings,
Nayaswami Asha

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

Friday, January 14, 2011

Ask Asha: Spiritual Evolution Is Not Linear

[You can ask your own question here.]

Question

Swami Kriyananda has sometimes said that in order to get perspective on an issue, to look at it against the background of eternity. It’s easy for me to picture eternity as a really really long time, but I know it is actually endless, with no beginning and no end (something I have a harder time getting my mind around). I remember reading somewhere, maybe in the Autobiography, that Yogananda was asked (by Dr. Lewis?) if we have to go through all this soul evolution again, or just once, and the answer was, just once. So, to me, this pits a linear process against something very non-linear (eternity) and that’s what I don’t get. For example, what determines when a soul will start to evolve?

Thank you Asha,
Mary

Answer

Dear Mary:

Spiritual evolution is not linear. We do not become anything. We realize that which has always been true.

Think of it this way. Let’s say on a jungle trail a branch is lying across the path in such a way as to appear to be a poisonous snake. Seeing that branch, you may behave as if your life is in danger. But it is only an illusion. It is just a branch that looks to you like a snake. No matter how committed you were to the illusion, there was never any reality to it. It never was a snake.

So it is with the ego and everything associated with it. It appears to be one thing, but in fact, it is nothing but God. Time itself is an illusion. It is always the Eternal Now.

Yes, from the ego’s perspective we seem to go through a process of coming to a state of realization, but in fact, once that realization comes, we see even the sense that it took time to achieve that realization was all part of the illusion.

Naturally, these are not thoughts that can be grasped easily (or perhaps at all) from the level of consciousness that asks the questions. We get a hint, but that’s all.

This is why Master suggested we memorize his poem Samadhi and repeat it every day. Through that poetic medium, imbued with Master’s realization, we can be lifted into the realm where these truths are not questions but direct perceptions.

In the tradition of India they speak of Days and Nights of Brahma. These are unimaginably (from our perspective) long cycles of time in which God manifests creation and then withdraws it, and then manifests it again. (What that actually means I have to say frankly, I have no idea! But this is what Master tells us.)

Dr. Lewis asked Master if, when creation is withdrawn into the Night of Brahma, do we have to start over again? Master said, no, if you are still wandering in delusion at the end of a Day of Brahma, then you are drawn back into the Unmanifested and then re-emerge at whatever state of realization you had when you were withdrawn. You continue from that point of karma. (Again, I have to say, that these are sensible words to me, but the realization of what this is in truth is far beyond me. But you asked, so here is the answer insofar as I can express it.)

As to when evolution begins, we are like the river seeking the sea. There is never a time when we are not being called back into the Divine Source from which we came. We may be more or less conscious of that call, more or less delusion-bound in the decisions we make and the actions we take, but underneath, all beings are seeking bliss. Because bliss is our own nature.

I hope this is helpful.

Swamiji’s book, The Essence of the Bhagavad-Gita, contains wonderful explanations of these things. You could start with the index and look up this and other related subjects to see what he has to say. I am repeating words that I have heard; he perceives the realities he describes. Naturally, then, his explanations will have more power to convey the states of consciousness he describes. And without a change of consciousness, these things cannot be understood.

Blessings,
Nayaswami Asha

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

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Ask Asha: The Nature of an Avatar

[You can ask your own question here.]

Question

When an enlightened soul chooses to reincarnate on Earth in order to help humanity or for any other reason, does this being know he is enlightened since the moment he has consciousness after birth? Or, he is born ignorant of this and later in his life he realizes his true nature? How does this work?

Alex M
From Costa Rica

Answer

Dear Alex:

The way Swami Kriyananda explained it is that, for the enlightened being, to incarnate in the material world is like going to a movie that he has seen before. He knows the whole plot already. Even as a baby his consciousness is free. Still, he allows himself to get caught up in the story, for the sake of setting an example for others.

He has to yearn, and seek, and find, just like anyone else, if his life is to be helpful to others. He shows us by his divine example how life can be perfectly lived. If he didn’t participate at all, his life would be of little value to anyone, and then what would be the point of incarnating?

At any moment, however, the enlightened being can step back from human life completely and see the whole divine panorama in a way that the ordinary person cannot do.

When Swamiji asked Master how deeply involved an avatar — one who is completely free before he is born — is in the events of his own life, Master replied, “Inwardly, you are always free.”

Sometimes I think of it like this. Everyone but an avatar is compelled to incarnate in a physical body because of unfinished karma — lessons still to be learned. Once we incarnate we are bound by the limitations of the material world.

It is like being in prison. But it is okay, because we are guilty in the sense of having unlearned lessons. An avatar, by contrast is innocent. He has no karma, no unlearned lessons. He comes into the prison only to help others understand how to get out of the prison forever.

The way Jesus put it was to say that he alone was born without sin, i.e. karma or ignorance, but that everyone else was born with sin, i.e. with karma, which is to say unlearned lessons. Jesus had perfect knowledge of divine law and perfect ability to live in harmony with divine law. The rest of us are still learning.

Still, once the avatar incarnates in a physical body, he, too, is bound — to a certain extent — by the limitations of the physical world. He can transcend them when appropriate — doing what we call miracles — but for the most part he has to work hard to succeed like any other human. He doesn’t just materialize his goals. He has to find a guru, be disciplined, meditate, earn money, build buildings, train people, experience setbacks, disappointments, betrayal, misunderstandings, and so on.

He is in prison, just like us, but the big difference is that he is innocent. He could walk out at any time, whereas we have to stay until our sentence is served, which is to say until all our karma is resolved.

So even though we all live in the same limited reality, and all appear to be imprisoned by the mystery of physical incarnation, the avatar could walk out of the prison any time, whereas we can’t. We have to serve our sentence. We have to stay until all our karmic lessons are learned.

These are not easy things to understand, since we are not at the level of consciousness where they are happening. But perhaps this gives you some idea.

Blessings,
Nayaswami Asha

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

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Ask Asha: LSD and the Search for God

[You can ask your own question here.]

Question

What do you think Yogananda’s teachings would be on the use of LSD as medicinal and used as a sacred means to experience god. My partner and I have a difference of opinion and has caused many arguments. I think with great moderation it can be useful. But that Kriya is much more helpful in the path to god. LSD use to me seems like an illusory experience of god, not a true experience of god. Of course he feel otherwise.

Thank you
Sara
From US

Answer

Dear Sara:

I don’t think Master would favor the use of drugs. Everything about drugs is antithetical to true spiritual experience, which comes from purifying the heart, not from ingesting substances. There is no shortcut to ego transcendence.

Yes, drugs sometimes open a person to the idea of expanded states of consciousness. But those same drugs can also bring on frightening experiences, even psychotic states. So those who have a spiritual experience from drugs are tapping in to their own samscars (latent tendencies). The drug itself is neutral.

And if you have spiritual samscars, you want to develop them properly, not squander them on what is actually subconscious indulgence, not superconscious expansion. No saint, master, or true scripture has ever suggested that enlightenment can come through anything but self-effort. There is a reason for that.

Richard Alpert (now known as Ram Das) was one of the early pioneers of LSD in the 1960s. When he went to India for the first time, he took his drugs with him. There he met his guru, Neem Karoli Baba. Neem Karoli took a whole handful of LSD pills — a bigger dose than anyone could imagine taking. It had no effect on him. Ram Das took the lesson. Drug induced so-called “spiritual” states have nothing to do with real enlightenment.

When Jesus was asked how to tell a true prophet from a false one, he answered, “By their fruits ye shall know them.” This is a way to evaluate anything that in itself is difficult to examine. Drug experiences by their very nature are subjective, in fact subconscious, so the only way to evaluate them is by their long-term effect.

I have never seen in habitual drug users, even those who claim to use drugs only for “sacred experiences,” the kind of spiritual light you find in those who seek enlightenment through the self-discipline of Kriya and other practices. Drug users generally have a kind of confused aura around them, not the clarity and dynamic will power that characterizes a saint.

For the long term effect of drug use is to weaken the will power. Drugs train you to think that experiences are there for the taking, rather than the fruit of sadhana, self-offering, and the grace of God earned through attunement. Drugs teach you to measure spiritual progress in terms of experiences, whereas true progress is measured by increasing inner freedom. Dependence on drugs to give you experiences is the opposite of freedom.

With drugs you get the impression that a great deal is happening, when, in fact, nothing is happening but a change in your chemistry. Not a change in actual consciousness, just in chemistry.

Spiritual life is about giving. Drugs are about getting. It is simply the wrong direction.

And that doesn’t even take into account the fact that you have no idea what the drug itself might be doing to your brain in the long run. It seems foolhardy to conduct an experiment on your brain that could in the end prove disastrous.

The other question here is “How are you going to work with your partner when you have such a fundamental disagreement?” For I do think the difference is far-reaching. It is easy to call oneself spiritual and to seek God through drugs. To actually dedicate oneself to living in a disciplined, selfless, high-minded way is something else entirely.

If you are hoping to make a life with this person you need to think carefully about whether or not your core values are compatible. One who defines life in terms of the experiences he can get may not have sufficient strength of character to be a partner for a devotee who thinks in terms of what he can give.

Swami Kriyananda’s answer to this same question can also be found in the article at Clarity Magazine, Hallucinogenic Drugs: Are They Spiritually Harmful?

Blessings,
Nayaswami Asha

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

Monday, January 3, 2011

Ask Asha: Changing Habits of Relating

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Question

I am going through an exceptionally difficult time right now. It seems that everything around me has a negative air. My parents have been fighting since I was a child and it has always gotten to me. I just graduated and I am living at home again and there is a lot of negative air in the house. My mother is a really hard person to live with but I know that she can be a very caring person too. It seems that I can’t go a minute without arguing with her. How do I begin to love her and maybe help her

SK
From USA

Answer

If you were raised in a household where your parents were always fighting, it is not surprising that you “can’t go a minute without arguing.” It seems to me the issue right now is not your mother but you. Before you can be of any help to her you have to gain some clarity in yourself.

How did you get along when you were at college? Were you able to make deep connections with people or were your friendships superficial? In other words, outside of your family, what kind of interpersonal skills do you have?

Many of our attitudes and understanding of how to relate to people are formed in our childhood by the family atmosphere. It seems what you grew up with is nothing you want to carry into adulthood.

Now that you have finished college, this would be a good time to study yourself. To find out who you are, what you believe, why you respond as you do. Obviously, even though you are not pleased with the fighting that surrounded you as a child, now you are perpetuating it in your relationship with your mother.

Some effort, however, is going to be required in order to shift this. Living at home, where the habits are set, will make it more challenging, but it will also make the need more urgent.

If you have never had counseling, perhaps now is a good time to look into it. I don’t know if alcohol is a factor in your upbringing, but if it is, perhaps one of the AA related programs — Al-Anon is for family members of alcoholics — could be helpful to you.

There are many kinds of self-help books available now. Pray that God guide you to what you need. Start almost anywhere and with that prayer see what God brings to help you.

I don’t know how intense your anger is, but perhaps anger management classes would be appropriate. As I say, just start somewhere and see what doors open.

This could be a much bigger project than you realize, to become aware of how your childhood has affected you and then to choose, as a mature person, the responses you wish to have for the rest of your life. But there is nothing more important for you to do at this time.

Meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, of course, would also be very helpful in terms of keeping you more calm and centered. But I suspect those practices will have to be supported by serious introspection guided by someone who can be more objective than you are likely to be at this early stage of your journey to self-understanding.

Altogether, though, that could be a formula for the transformation you need.

Blessings,
Nayaswami Asha

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