Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Ask Asha: Should We Forgive Everything?

[You can ask your own question here.]


On the surface, my question has an unambiguous answer,and I know what it is. But please, help me here.

My partner claims to have been in pain for years over an inability to 'connect to the world' with symptoms similar to Bipolarity but not diagnosed as such. He has a deep understanding of spirituality, but I broke off with him after 15 years over his constant straying.

He explains it away as a result of the pain he was going through and now he says he has healed and wants me back. And wants to grow spiritually together.

Can people really change?

When one commits to love and forgive EVERYTHING, does it include inconstancy?

-Anonymous comment
in reply to Ask Asha: The Reason for Attractions


Dear ....

I am not certain what part of the answer you feel is unambiguous. Probably you mean the issue of forgiveness.

Yes, love forgives all, including infidelity -- above all for your own peace of mind. To consider yourself a victim, to feel that the world and the people in it “owe” you a certain standard of behavior is to doom yourself to constant suffering and disappointment.

So in terms of how you should feel about this man who has treated you so unkindly, do your best to purge from your heart any feelings of anger or betrayal. Don’t whitewash what he did, however, in an attempt to overcome your negative feelings. Forgiveness is not to run away from the truth but to face it squarely and then see it from a higher perspective.

We all make egregious mistakes. Divine Mother understands and forgives our transgressions. It behooves us to learn to see one another through Her eyes.

That said, however, Divine Mother also enforces quite impersonally appropriate consequences for our actions. When what we do is not in harmony with divine law, we suffer. Selfishness brings misery. It is the way we are made.

Bad enough that you were made miserable by this man’s wrong actions in the 15 years you were together. You don’t want to make yourself miserable in all the years -- even incarnations to come -- by continuing to hold onto the bad feelings created. Give them to God. Let this man work it out directly with Divine Mother. You don’t have to be in the middle of it.

As for the question, “Can a person change?” Of course, everyone can change. Paramhansa Yogananda puts it in a rather humorous way, “A saint is a sinner who never gave up.” We are all divine in our essence, equally children of God.

Some people, however, manifest that divinity clearly. Others manifest to various degrees egoic self-interest.

Unfortunately, just because a person declares himself healed does not mean that he is healed. Maybe he genuinely believes he is; maybe he is only affirming. Here is where the answer is far from clear-cut.

You describe your friend at least in the past as experiencing intense mental pain. Perhaps he felt helpless in the grip of his own suffering. One can see reasons for compassion but it doesn’t exonerate him.

All I’ve received from you is a brief note, but in the few words you offered there is a phrase that, if accurate, causes me some concern. Referring to his past wrong actions you say, “He explains it away as a result of the pain he was suffering.”

Part of true healing is to take responsibility for one’s actions. Taking responsibility includes, insofar as it is possible, making amends. One step of the Twelve Step Program, for example, is to find those you have hurt and do what you can to fix what you broke. Not always possible, but you have to try. Otherwise there is a big gap in your healing.

To “...explain it away...” is not the same as taking responsibility.

A man who had lived at Ananda for a time later did his best to harm the community, Swami Kriyananda, and many of his former friends by aggressively spreading false and malicious rumors about us. His lies caused great difficulty for many people.

Years later, after the dust had long since settled I happened to meet him again. He came on with great friendliness then began to speak to me about the importance of forgiveness and healing. His point was that I, as a long time member of Ananda, should be expansive enough in my consciousness to forgive him for the trouble he had caused.

My response was, “Have you changed? Do you repudiate the attitudes and actions of the past? Are you willing to make reparations? Will you apologize to all those you hurt? Will you take back your lies?”

His answer was carefully crafted. “I’m sorry that some of you suffered.”

I responded, “That’s no answer! Are you sorry for the part you played in causing that suffering?” To that he made no response, which said all I needed to hear.

He was not willing even to acknowledge that he had acted improperly! Instead he was trying to shame me into believing I would be acting improperly if I didn’t welcome him back with open arms!

I bear him no ill will. But, as I explained to him in no uncertain terms, it would be irresponsible of me to welcome him back into my life and the life of Ananda if he showed no actual proof that he had changed. He was trying to take advantage of Ananda’s well-known generosity of heart.

“Be practical in your idealism,” Yogananda said.

The question is not, “Can a person change?” The question is, “Has he changed?” And if so, “What is the proof?” His assertion alone is not enough.

You can forgive him, but that does not mean you should take him back!

Be practical. Is the mental suffering he endured a thing of the past? Is he now a happy man? Does he demonstrate in his life the ability to endure suffering without passing that suffering on to those he purports to love and who love him?

I would move very cautiously. To be foolish is not the same as being spiritual.

Be open to him if you feel to, but don’t be in a hurry. If his transformation is genuine and sincere, he will understand that after all the pain he has inflicted on you, he has to win your trust and forgiveness, not presume or demand it. If he doesn’t see this, that in itself is a cautionary sign.

Naturally I hope that his healing is real but please don’t be blinded by your desire that it be true. Pray deeply that God guide you to the right decision.

In divine friendship,
Nayaswami Asha

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

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Ask Asha: Blank Mind - Dangerous or Desirable?

[You can ask your own question here.]


Hello everybody,

every now and then i come across the term "a blank mind". Can you please explain to me in detail what a "blank mind" is? I have read that one shouldnt drink alcohol or take drugs because they can make the mind go blank which can me dangerous. I have also read that one shouldnt meditate with a "blank mind". English is not my native language but when i translate the word blank into german it means empty. If i then google "empty mind" i get loads of articles about how important it is to have a blank (empty) mind in meditation. So now iam totally confused. I would really love your help on this one. Thank you very much

From Germany


Dear Carina:

The only meditation I have studied and practiced is Kriya Yoga as taught at Ananda. Kriya to me includes not just the technique learned through initiation after a year or so of preparation, but also the whole approach to spiritual life brought to the West by Paramhansa Yogananda.

I was fortunate to find this path early, to be deeply inspired by it, and to have never felt the need to explore deeply any other way. So what I know of “blank mind” meditation was either told to me by others or picked up in snippets of reading here and there.

It seems wiser then for me to describe “blank mind” from the point of view of Kriya — which recommends against it, as you have discovered — rather than trying to speak for it from the point of view of those who teach it.

I prefer to do this also because often the words we use in languages other than Sanskrit to describe subtle states of consciousness are given meaning by those who use them and are not always self-evident or consistent from one tradition to another. Sanskrit has specialized in describing states of consciousness whereas the speakers of other languages have not focused on these inner realities to the same extent and do not have such a specific vocabulary.

This is a good example. “Blank” or “empty” mind in the Kriya tradition is not offered as a positive image, whereas in other traditions it forms the heart of the practice. Perhaps this is a fundamental disagreement or perhaps it is just semantics.

In Kriya practice, the emphasis is on devotion and will power. A blank mind is considered undesirable insofar as it is the result of low or passive energy. If by “blank” one means “still and focused” that would be entirely different. “Still and focused” are words we often use in Kriya because they are more precise than empty or blank.

Even though meditation involves relaxation, the art of it is to let go of tension without also lowering one’s energy level. We know how to put out energy on the conscious level by keeping the mind and body active and busy. Meditation requires that we still both the mind and body, but not — as we are habituated to doing — falling into a state of subconscious sleep.

Rather we must take all the energy that we usually direct in an outward way, and use it to keep the mind and body absolutely still in a state of complete, relaxed, alert awareness.

No surprise that this is not so easy to do! Among other reasons, this is why in Kriya we do not recommend meditating while lying down on your back, even though this position allows you to relax with a straight spine. The association between lying down and falling asleep is simply too great for most people to resist!

Because in meditation we have to withdraw our attention from what usually preoccupies it — mundane activities and thoughts — and because where we are going is a state of awareness often unfamiliar to us before we experience it — sometimes people will say, “Make your mind blank,” or “Empty your mind.” The meaning here would be to withdraw it from where it usually rests.

The problem is succinctly described in the a statement taken from the scientific study of the natural world, “Nature abhors a vacuum.” What this means is that when one force is withdrawn, another will rush in to fill the now empty space.

In meditation, an empty mind is very difficult to achieve. As soon as you withdraw your attention from one preoccupation, another will rush in to the fill the vacuum.

Thoughts, Yogananda explains in Autobiography of a Yogi, are not individually created, but universal streams of consciousness that we attune to and receive. We are not separate from the universe, but merely an individual expression of greater realities than just our own ego.

The art of meditation, as explained in Kriya Yoga, is not to attune yourself to nothing. Some meditation methods conscientiously avoid any mention of higher realities, especially God. They may even pride themselves on what I have heard called “non-deistic spiritual practices.”

Kriya Yoga is not like that. Kriya Yoga is about attuning to God. Satchidananda is the ideal way to describe it, since the word “God” in English has no clear meaning. Satchidananda means “ever-existing, ever-conscious, ever-new bliss.” It is definitely Something. Not emptiness. Not a blank mind.

So in Kriya practice we are encouraged to withdraw from mundane realities and focus with great will power and relaxation (it is simple, but not easy!) on the Divine. Whether we define that impersonally or personally, as I said, it is definitely Something other than emptiness.

The danger of an empty or blank mind comes from two possibilities. The first is simply that in trying to become blank, one may too easily fall into low, passive energy, which will not bring success either in meditation or in any other area of life. Think about it. Do passive, uncreative people without will power accomplish anything in any field? No, they don’t. Why, then, would this approach bear positive fruit in meditation? Doesn’t make any sense.

The other danger of the blank mind is the possibility of possession by disincarnate entities. "Nature abhors a vacuum." If you are not using your mind, someone else may rush in to fill the empty space. Wow! That is scary! Definitely not something you want to mess around with.

No sincere teacher would recommend a way of practice that is doomed to fail -- i.e., passive and low energy -- or dangerous to his students -- i.e., opening to disincarnate entities. So I must assume that the words “blank” and “empty” mean something different than the way I am writing about them here. As I said, I am not educated in those paths. I respectfully concede that the seeming disagreement between Kriya Yoga and other teachings that emphasize “blank” or “empty” mind may simply be the different way we interpret those words. I sincerely hope so.

Both alcohol and drugs do lessen your ability to control your own mind. They blur your focus and lessen your will power. The long-term effect of marijuana use, for example, which some people consider to be a “harmless” drug, is the inclination not to put out will power to accomplish goals. Under the influence of marijuana, trivial things appear profound, small stimulation brings great enjoyment. The “munchies,” for example are considered to be one of the great happy effects of marijuana — a delight in eating that is far greater than usual.

As a result, habitual marijuana users begin to rely on getting high as a way to enjoy life and miss completely the divine truth that the greater our awareness, the more dynamic our will power, the greater the sense of satisfaction.

One need not live in constant fear of being taken over by a ghost, nonetheless, the fact is, that disincarnate souls hover around in great numbers the places where people drink and take drugs looking for opportunities to slip into a physical body that is not their own, either for the duration of the substance induced stupor, or longer if blank-minded passivity has become that person’s habit.

Disincarnate beings like this died so focused on physical pleasures that their progression through the astral world and eventually into another physical body of their own has been derailed by their consuming desire to experience again the pleasures they feel have been taken away from them. Or, even worse, they are beings seeking to have power over others. Bad news any way you look at it!

Normally, disincarnate beings are held at bay by the fact that a body is fully occupied by someone else. There is no room for another consciousness to come in.

However, diminishing self-control and awareness by drugs or alcohol, or deliberately reducing your will power and blanking the mind, can be a way of opening the door for someone else to move in.

Many crimes are committed under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Afterwards, the one who is imprisoned for the dastardly deed may say, “I have no memory of doing it and no idea why I would have done it.” Sometimes it was that person’s subconsciousness given free rein because conscious control was obliterated by mind-altering substances. But it can also be that, literally, someone else used his body to do it.

The good news is, meditation practiced with will power, with a focus on higher realities, protected and guided by a guru, unequivocally slams the door against intrusion by these lower entities. There is no possible entry into your mind when you have lifted it, or are sincerely trying to lift it, into divine attunement.

Nayaswami Asha

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