Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Ask Asha: Spiritual Excellence is Practical

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I am very much benefited from Sri Yukteshwar’s wisdom. And i strive to follow his teaching.

I could not understand his statement "The active expression of virtue gives rise to the keenest intelligence.”

What does "active expression of virtue" mean? What is "keen intelligence"?

from India


Dear Chary:

My friend Sahaja in Assisi does the great work of translating into Italian the books of Swamiji and Master. Sometimes she asks me to help her unravel some linguistic or philosophical knot, which has awakened me to the depth of meaning contained in every word of their writings.

Because their writing flows so beautifully, we don’t always notice the gems that are contained there. A good practice sometimes is to read their books very slowly.

The meaning of this sentence comes from the context. Master is telling us how perfectly balanced Sri Yuktewsar was. His consciousness soared to the infinite, but at the same time, he was practical, and clear minded even in the most mundane matters. The management of his property, the feeding of guests, the careful allotment of his financial resources, to name just a few.

By contrast, Master described himself as being vague where practical matters were concerned. And, furthermore, excusing that vagueness by saying that his attention was occupied with spiritual matters and therefore couldn’t be bothered to remember, for example, to lock the ashram gate. Chapter 15 of Autobiography of a Yogi, “The Cauliflower Robbery,” is a humorous, but deeply instructive story of how Sri Yukteswar endeavored to correct this flaw in Master.

“Active expression of virtue” in this case means the active pursuit of spiritual consciousness. In other words, trying to live in accordance with divine principles — “virtues” Master calls them in this case.

“Keen intelligence” means here the ability to function well on all levels of life. Many people think that if you are focused on high ideals you will necessarily be incompetent or at least inattentive to the practical side of things. Sri Yukteswar is saying, very strongly, that this is a misunderstanding. The more you expand your spiritual consciousness the more aware you become in every area of your life.

“Saintliness is not dumbness!” he says a sentence before. “Divine perceptions are not incapacitating!”

True spiritual development, in other words, brings excellence to all aspects of life.

Nayaswami Asha

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

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Ask Asha: In Marriage, Is Celibacy or Sex More Appropriate?

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I find that as I transcend higher with Kriya, I have lost interest in sex. Initially I was able to tolerate moderation, but, as I continue to climb higher and feel closer to God, sex has become meaningless to me and my interest and drive gone. I do not miss it, but my wife, like most people who are not on the path, needs sex as a sustaining part of marriage. I have no drive to even oblige her any more. All else is perfect with marriage & family. But how can I sustain my marriage in this regard?

from USA


Dear Robert:

You are fortunate to be moving away from the need for sex, but you are still a married man. Even among devotees, where there is a shared understanding, this could create great difficulties. Since your wife is not a devotee, she has no context at all for what you are imposing on the marriage. And no desire to give up what is to her a perfectly appropriate expectation: to have sex with her own husband.

Even though there are many reasons why celibacy is spiritually beneficial, it is not spiritually beneficial to be too self-centered in this matter.

Swamiji once said to me that sex is one of the biggest problems in devotee marriages. And he didn’t mean overindulgence. What he was talking about is exactly what you are describing here.

“One or the other in the marriage,” Swamiji explained, “loses interest in sex, or decides to be celibate, and the other doesn’t feel the same way. The sexually interested partner is no longer perceived as a loving mate, but has now become a temptress, a threat to one’s spiritual well being. Naturally, the rejected partner feels demeaned, and everything spirals downward from there.”

A devotee once said to Swamiji, “It would be very easy for me to be celibate but my spouse doesn’t feel that way at all. What should I do?”

Swamiji answered with a quote from the Bible (unfortunately, I don’t know where exactly the quote comes from). The sense of it was, “Thou shalt not demean thy spouse.”

In a committed, monogamous marriage, each partner is completely dependent on the other to fulfill his or her sexual need. This is a position of great vulnerability and is why, among other reasons, sex is such an intimate experience.

If one partner decides he no longer has responsibility in this matter, the other is placed in an impossible position.

Sex is one of the strongest drives a human being experiences. It can’t just be turned off.

I recall reading an account of prisoners in a concentration camp. The writer himself was amazed to report that even though they were on the brink of death by starvation, they were still filled with sexual longing.

One concern about the stance you have taken is simply practical: Sexual frustration in a woman can cause a whole host of other problems. If you continue to feel you don’t want to “oblige her any more,” as you put it, you could find your “perfect” marriage and family falling to pieces.

Furthermore, your wife could easily turn against the spiritual path altogether. That would be unfortunate, not only for the harmony of your home, and your ability to continue with your practices, but also for her spiritual well-being.

Instead of seeing the spiritual path as something attractive that has made her husband more kind, loving, and sensitive, it has caused him to reject her. It could take her a long time to overcome the fear and aversion she may feel toward the spiritual path.

These are not good outcomes. You have to weigh the potential catastrophe to yourself, your wife, and your children, against the satisfaction you are finding from celibacy.

Sex doesn’t have to be about you and your desire. That is an immature way to look at it. It can be instead an act of selfless love and care for your wife — the mother of your children, the keeper of your home, the companion of your life.

Spiritually speaking, selflessness in this matter is just as important as celibacy, perhaps more so. Be moderate, be creative, be uplifted, but also be attentive to her reality and to her needs. Let your love making be an offering to Divine Mother and you will find there will be little or no spiritual loss to you, but, in fact, a spiritual gain.

In divine friendship,
Nayaswami Asha

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

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Ask Asha: Benefits of Meditation

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Dear Ashaji,

Have a question to ask. One person says meditation doesn't solve your problems but helps one to relax body and mind to function better in the world. Then others says its very powerful. I practice Kriya and they say it can change your karma, future events and ultimately our destiny. I a little confused what should I be concentrating now on?

jai Guru,


Dear M:

The word “meditation” has no specific meaning in English and can be used, therefore, to describe any number of techniques and practices, which often vary widely one from another. So if you ask people who meditate what the benefit of meditation is, their answers will depend on what techniques they practice and how well they practice them.

Some meditation techniques promise only a concentrated mind and a relaxed body. Others are focused on “manifesting” material success. Kriya Yoga, by contrast, is a technique that leads you to God-realization.

On the way to God-realization, all your other problems will also be solved. Kriya yoga dissolves the vrittis (whirlpools) of karma in the spine. Your life and consciousness are determined by those vrittis. As Kriya practice releases them, everything about your life will change.

That’s why some people say, “Don’t worry about anything. Just meditate.” This is true advice if you meditate with sufficient energy and concentration, and if the technique you are using is subtle enough actually to change the karmic pattern in the spine.

As for what you should concentrate on, I would suggest you concentrate on devotion. When you meditate, focus at the spiritual eye and try to attune your consciousness at that point with the divine ray that flows through this line of masters. Then ask them to guide your practice.

It is natural to talk with your friends about the spiritual practices you and they are following. But, as you have found, opinions vary. So you are wise to ask advice from those who have, not only their own experience to draw from, but also the experience of helping others along the same path you are following.

And, of course, go to the source. What does Master say? What does Swamiji say? Every time I read the chapters on Kriya Yoga in their books, a new understanding comes to me. The words on the page haven’t changed, but my ability to receive the wisdom behind them -- by the grace of God! -- seems gradually to expand as the years go by. Another proof that Kriya does work.

Blessings on your practice.

In divine friendship,
Nayaswami Asha

P.S. In a letter called “Bad Dreams,” I talk about more about dissolving vrittis.

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

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Ask Asha: Love vs. Attachment

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what exactly is the difference between love and it a subtle one?...please elaborate on this...

From india


Dear Vamshi:

Love is one of the “Eight Manifestations of God.” The Infinite Spirit beyond creation expresses in this world, the Indian scriptures tell us, in eight ways: love, peace, joy, calmness, wisdom, light, sound, and power. When people say, “God is Love,” it is more than mere sentiment; it is a specific metaphysical fact.

The Eight Manifestations of God is a fascinating discussion in itself, but here we’ll talk only about love.

Love is a fundamental aspect of our own consciousness. It is the way we are made, the spontaneous expression of God within. Love is not something we learn; it is what we are.

This inherent divine love has certain characteristics, however, that are different from the ego-based love we most often express, and most often receive from others.

Divine love is unconditional. Whatever or whoever comes before the divine consciousness — whether ugly, beautiful, cruel, or kind — receives the same selfless, whole-hearted love.

As Master said to one of his disciples, “God loves you just as much as He loves me. He is our common Father.” God has no favorites. The apparent differences in our experience of God’s love reflect our varying ability to receive that love, not God’s willingness or unwillingness to give it to us. God loves equally the saint and the sinner.

Love based in ego is conditional. To most people, these conditions seem only natural. It doesn’t even occur to most people that they should be — or even could be — overcome.

“I love you because you are beautiful.”

“I love you because you are kind.”

“I love you because you love me.”

“I love you because you are the baby that grew inside my tummy.”

Obviously, none of these reasons for loving someone are, in themselves, dark or wrong. But they are different from loving because it is your divine nature to love.

Once we set conditions on our loving, the next thing that happens is we become identified with (or attached to) those conditions. If the beautiful person you married becomes overweight and ugly, insofar as your love was based on physical beauty, that love is now diminished or gone.

If someone you loved betrays you, then to the extent that your love was based on that person’s kindness to you, then that love ceases to exist.

Of course, this is not an “either-or situation.” It is not a question of “love or attachment.” For us, as ego-identified creatures, it is directional.

It is not easy to love as God loves. So God helps us to learn. First he awakens love by endowing the object of our affections with a variety of attractive conditions. Then, often, He modifies those conditions, or even withdraws them completely, to see if we can go deep within ourselves to find the place where divine love dwells.

Don’t misunderstand, however. To love unconditionally does not mean that you have to be a sap or a doormat. Attachment is what makes us behave in ways that are not appropriate.

Unconditional love is fearless. It has nothing to protect because it is not dependent on any specific conditions being fulfilled.

Unconditional love is selfless. It wants only what is best for the loved one. That means unconditional love is not always nice! A mother who can’t bear to hear her children cry does them no favors by never disciplining them. In fact, she ruins them.

Sometimes a stern response is appropriate. Just see how God treats us! Otherwise we become, as they call it these days, an “enabler” of wrong actions. This is not love. This is cowardice.

Is unconditional love a high ideal to aspire toward? Of course! Is it attainable? Of course! But it takes continuous, often heroic, disciplined self-effort.

How do we get there? Step-by-step. We learn by doing. Pain, unfortunately, is often the main teacher, so it takes courage to embark on the road to unconditional love.

But what choice do we have? Love is our nature and it must be fulfilled. Better to embrace the process than be dragged kicking and screaming to where we will eventually have to go anyway!

In divine friendship,
Nayaswami Asha

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