Asha Praver

Letters from Asha

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Ask Asha: An Incorrigible Son

[You can ask your own question here.]

Question

A few years ago I brought a boy from a troubled background into our family. I love him like my own son but recently (he is a young teenager now) he has begun to act out in a way that makes it impossible to keep him with us unless he changes. I made it very clear to him, even wrote it out in a letter, what he needs to do. I don’t know if he will be able to do it, but I must insist, for his sake, and also for the rest of our family.

I don’t remember the last time I went through something this painful. I so want to help him, but I can’t unless he does his part. How do I give up my attachment to him when I don’t feel the presence of God or Master enough to compensate?

N.T.

Answer

Dear N.T.:

Nonattachment is a beautiful spiritual concept. But I would be surprised if a loving mother with a troubled son would find it easy to achieve. Perhaps it is not the right way for you to focus your energy right now.

When you choose an affirmation or try to embrace a spiritual attitude, you have to be careful to select one that is more expansive than your present awareness, but not so much bigger that there is no point of inner connection. It must also take you in a direction that is natural to your own line of development. If it is too large or too foreign to your own nature, it won’t work. In fact, it can actually make things worse.

For every time you focus on it you are likely to activate within yourself resistance to the very idea you are trying to affirm. It seems likely that nonattachment falls into that category for you.

An acquaintance of mine worked as a research chemist. After a number of happy and successful years in her chosen profession, she inexplicably developed allergies to some of the chemicals she had to work with every day. Perhaps it was caused by over-exposure to them, but the cause doesn’t matter.

As a result, she had to take a long leave of absence to recover her health. She spoke to me just before she went back to work. She had been focusing on an affirmation that was something like, “I am perfectly well, healthy, and happy. Nothing of this world can touch my state of perfect well-being.” I am paraphrasing, but that was the sense of it.

Even as she said it to me in the calm comfort of the room where we were talking, I could feel behind her words a deep insecurity.

“You don’t really believe a word of that, do you?” I said.

“NO!” she answered almost desperately, expressing a commitment that I hadn’t felt when she said the affirmation. Instead of strengthening her, the more she said that particular affirmation, the more her subconscious rebelled against it.

“I think we need to affirm something you can actually believe,” I suggested. After some discussion we came to an affirmation like this. “Whatever happens to me in life comes from God and God and I together can find a way to go forward in happy harmony.” Again I am paraphrasing, but you can see how entirely different this is from what she had been saying.

She did have faith in God and in His loving care for her. But she had no faith in her body’s ability to be healthy in the presence of those chemicals. It was far better, then, to go with her strengths than to emphasize her fears.

She was only an acquaintance, so I don’t know what happened when she went back to work. But she did walk out of our session happier, more confident, and stronger in herself than she was when she walked in.

Now, back to what you are facing.

Some experiences in life are tragic. There is no other word for it. Life is full of deep disappointments, at least when viewed from the level of reality on which they happen. And even a dream, as Yogananda said, is real on the level of the dream.

That is where you are now. In the midst of a dream in which you have opened your heart to a troubled friend who has come to you in the form of a young child needing a home. When you opened your heart you committed yourself in a way that cannot be withdrawn merely because what you hoped for him may not happen, at least not now.

The happiness you feel in God’s presence you say is not greater than your grief over your son. So joy alone is not going to be your antidote.

Sister Gyanamata, Yogananda’s most advanced woman disciple, wrote many letters to her fellow disciples which are published now in a book called God Alone. If you haven’t yet read that book I think it could be of great comfort to you.

To one of her gurubhais, Gyanamata explained that your spiritual life has to be built on a foundation of unshakeable faith. She goes on to say that each devotee has to find his or her own cornerstone and build from there. For some, it is their experience of the Guru. They know him to be an infallible guide and that is their starting point. For others, it may be the healing power of love, the experience of meditation, the joy of service, the bliss of chanting, the friendship of fellow devotees, or a single revelation so powerful that nothing can undermine it.

It doesn’t matter what it is -- whether dramatic or humble. The only thing that matters is that you have unshakeable faith in the expanded reality it reveals to you. That faith gives you the perspective you need to cope also with the reality of the dream.

At this time, it seems nonattachment for you may be just a word. It is not an experience of God, and certainly not a doorway to joy. Your challenge now is to find your personal cornerstone of faith. God gives us difficult experiences like what you and your son are now facing to force us to go deep within until we find the bedrock of faith upon which we can build a spiritual life.

There was a point in my life when I was struggling with self-doubt. No amount of reassurance from others could break through my confusion. I needed an affirmation to guide me through the chaos of my own mind and feelings. Looking at books of affirmations written by Swamiji and Master, I searched for one that fit the criteria I explained above -- bigger than my present consciousness but not too big.

The one I found was perfect. “I know God’s power is limitless, and as I am made in His image, I too have the strength to overcome all obstacles.”

I had unshakeable faith in the truth of the first two phrases: God’s power and my relationship to Him. The last phrase was the dicey part. But the first two locked me into the inevitable implications of the third and my philosophical honesty held me there until my consciousness expanded to include it.

I had to say that affirmation for several years before it finally beat down my subconscious habit. But in the end, it did. Not perfectly, but enough for me to go forward in an entirely new way.

In what aspect of the spiritual path do you have unshakeable faith?

I believe there are few experiences in life more devastating than to see someone you love making decisions that will cause him immense suffering and having no power to prevent it from happening. Master himself wept when he saw certain disciples turning away from the path he had opened to them, condemning themselves to lifetimes more of suffering. Tears streamed down his face -- a Mother’s heart breaking for Her children. You are in good company.

But even he -- the Guru himself -- could not intrude upon the free will of his own disciples.

When I have been faced with the helpless inability to prevent what I think to be a preventable disaster, I take refuge in a point of unshakeable belief. It happens to be a core principle of Ananda: “Where there is dharma there is victory.” (Dharma means “right action.”)

In other words, even if we appear powerless in the moment, if we do our best to do our dharma as we understand it, in the end, righteousness will prevail. The challenge is to live through all that may happen before that righteous end is achieved. Years? Lifetimes? Only God knows.

Even if it is lifetimes, however, what choice do we have? Good results never come from wrong actions. And right actions always -- eventually -- bring good results.

Sometimes I describe this as “Doing your dharma in a vacuum.” Not a vacuum cleaner, but a space in which there seems to be no apparent positive result from your actions. Sometimes your right actions may even seem to make the situation worse. That is what you are facing now. You have told your son what he must do. If he refuses, he cuts himself off from the shelter of your family. It would seem your right actions may disconnect you from his fate.

Don’t think for a moment that this is true. The devout prayers of a loving mother are never lost. God knows your heart and will store those blessings until your son can receive them. The only hope you have of helping those you love is to stick fast to dharma, no matter how pointless, distant, or sad you may feel. “Where there is dharma, there is victory.”

What to do in the meantime with all your emotions?

One time when people close to me were facing a serious crisis and I was called upon to do what I could to help, I quickly discovered that everyone else’s free will was stronger than my ability to change the unfortunate direction in which they were going. For the sake of others, I had to maintain a calm and confident demeanor, but inside I was coming to pieces under the weight of their suffering.

Sitting in my car in the dark -- the only place I could have complete privacy -- my tears didn’t begin to express the pain in my heart. In the midst of that emotional outpouring, a still, small voice within asked a question. “Do you think this is happening outside the will of God?”

Much as I didn’t want to admit it, my point of unshakeable faith is that God is always in charge. No matter how tough the karma, I know God is walking us through whatever we have set in motion that now has to be faced.

I stopped crying, but my despair was not replaced by joy. Far from it! In fact, inwardly I said the equivalent of, “Rats!” What I meant was, “You mean I can’t just weep and wail at the injustice of it all? I have to face this situation with calm acceptance?” Thus the feeling, “Rats!”

I was “cornered,” so to speak, by my own faith. My heart was still broken and that emotion had to go somewhere. Master assures us that we don’t have to pray as beggars, but should demand of God our divine inheritance, whether wisdom, love, or joy.

In this case, what I wanted was to alleviate the suffering of others. So all the emotion that had gone into tears, now expressed as a prayer-demand. “Okay, God,” I said. “I accept that You know what You are doing. But You have to get on with it! Whatever it is you are trying to teach these people, you must help them learn it -- and soon! Maybe they are okay, but I can’t take anymore!”

I went back inside to face the emotional chaos happening when I left. To my astonishment, everything had shifted for the better. The crisis had passed and we began to heal. I think God wanted to be sure I got the point.

Since then, I have often used this way of talking to God to give me something to do when external actions bring no positive result. Some karma is difficult to resolve. “Whatever it is You are trying to teach them, Lord, give them the humility, wisdom, devotion, and receptivity to learn it.” I have found great comfort in offering this prayer over and over again, for weeks, months, or years.

Even if your son is karmically destined to take a long side trip into suffering that you hoped to spare him, your prayers are registered in the ether. When your son is ready to receive them, God will shower him with accumulated blessings. Perhaps by that time he will have traded the body you know several times over. He may never consciously know where those blessings are coming from, but your soul and his will remember.

The man who is known now as St. Augustine was in his early life a libertine. His mother was a devout Christian and no matter how far her son wandered from what she felt to be his true path, she never gave up on him. Later, when he awakened to divine realities, he credited his transformation to the power of his mother’s prayers.

For now, don’t even think about giving up your attachment to your son. Think rather of these qualities: patience, courage, and faith. Patience as your son finds his own way through life. Courage to stand strong in right action no matter how your heart may bleed for him. Faith that where there is dharma there will be victory. This is God’s law and He will never break His promise.

I will pray for you, your son, and all your family.

In divine friendship,
Nayaswami Asha



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

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Ask Asha: Who Is in Charge of My Destiny?

[You can ask your own question here.]

Question

I am wondering how karma between people is carried on from lifetime to lifetime. For example, if one person has a strong attachment to another person -- perhaps a dying wife’s attachment to the husband she is leaving behind, or a dying mother to her son -- but the other person does not have the same feeling of attraction or attachment, can the attached person force his desires on the unattached one? Could my karma be determined by someone else’s strong desires? Could someone else’s will overcome my own will?

From RK

Answer

Dear RK:

The first thing you need to understand is that karma is always fair. Karma is a law, not a variable human opinion. It is the impersonal working of cause and effect in human life. Because most people don’t remember their past lives -- or even many parts of their present life -- or understand clearly their own motivations -- then or now -- fairness is not always self-evident or easy to accept.

It takes deep philosophical discernment to understand how, against all apparent evidence, karmic law is fair.

The modern tendency to see one’s self as a victim is, spiritually speaking, disastrous. Until you take responsibility for your own destiny, spiritual progress is impossible.

One important thing to understand, is that the lesson is not always to turn the other cheek, to be subservient in the face of abuse, or to think you are being punished and deserve what is happening to you. Not at all! Many times the lessons is to stand up for yourself, to have the courage to cast someone unworthy out of your life, or refuse to cooperate with inappropriate demands made of you by others.

Whatever it might be, there is always a lesson or you would not have drawn the experience. Even those who have had to face exceedingly difficult circumstances, often say, “It was not easy, but it made me who I am. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Karma, reincarnation, and the chakras are all one integrated system. None can be understood without the others.

Every thought, deed, response, emotion, or desire we have reflects the level of consciousness we are on at the moment that it happens. We act according to what we perceive as reality and in what we believe to be our own best interest.

Every act reflects an inner prompting toward happiness, ultimately toward bliss. Even if our responses are entirely misguided, it always, to us, seems like a good idea at the time. Otherwise we wouldn’t do it.

If someone treats you meanly and you respond with anger or carry out a cruel revenge, some part of you believes that anger and revenge is the way to happiness. This reflects a certain understanding of reality.

If your response to betrayal is compassion for that person’s ignorance, concern for the karmic consequences to him of his misguided behavior, and forgiveness for any hurt done to you personally, that reflects an entirely different perception of reality.

Jesus when crucified on the cross, instead of looking with anger at those who had so wrongly condemned him, prayed for their wellbeing. “Father, forgive them,” Jesus said, “for they know not what they do.” Spontaneous concern for the welfare of others, and forgetfulness of himself, expressed a God-united understanding of reality.

Eventually all of us will achieve that level of consciousness. In the meantime, we express who we are now.

Every level of reality has its own vibration. The chakras represent -- from the base of the spine to the spiritual eye -- a gradually ascending refinement of vibration -- from material to spiritual, from self-affirming to Self-realized. This is an oversimplification, but sufficient for this discussion.

Even though our human mind quickly forgets what we have done in the past, the energy that passes through us does not dissipate. Everything we do is recorded as a vibration in our chakras. These vrittis as they are called -- whirlpools of energy -- are stored in whatever chakra corresponds to the level of reality it stemmed from.

The chakras are part of the astral body. The physical body is a manifestation of the chakras, but when the physical body dies, the chakras remain intact, and move with the astral body into the astral world. The pattern of energy in the chakras determines what astral universe we are drawn to, and, eventually, the nature of our next incarnation.

Modern science confirms what great yogis have long asserted: matter is an illusion; everything in this universe is a manifestation of energy. The implication of this, which is just beginning to dawn on people, is that magnetism acting upon the energy nature of the universe is far more powerful than brute force.

The vrittis in the chakras generate magnetism and that magnetism -- acting upon the energy field which is the universe -- is the cause of everything that happens to us. That magnetism is the means by which karma is carried from one incarnation to the next.

Magnetism is not a matter of opinion or favoritism or whim or even the will of God considered as something entirely separate from ourselves. It is an impersonal fact. It is our karma, the accumulated result of everything we ourselves have done.

So, to your specific question.

The energy in the vrittis is only a vibration of energy at a certain level of reality. That reality could be described, for example, as the belief that security comes from having a certain amount of money. There is no vritti, however, called “money.” Money is a specific thing, and there are no material things in the chakras. The belief, however, and energy expended on the basis of that belief is recorded in the appropriate chakra as a vibration.

If the dying wife feels that her wellbeing is dependent upon having this specific man as her husband in a future life, the vibration of specific, personal, ego-based love is recorded in her chakras. Even if her love has been selfless, it is still ego-based because it is limited to one specific expression.

Yes, we do have repeating relationships with certain souls over many incarnations and love deepens and refines through repeated association. Still, even the most exquisite human love is only a stepping-stone to infinite love. We have close relationships with so many souls, from the perspective of one lifetime we literally cannot imagine how many.

Whether or not this wife will again find this husband, depends not only on the pattern in her chakras, but also on the pattern in his.

If he longs for her company in the way she longs for his that could draw them together. If he despises her, that could draw them together. If he fears being close to her again, that could draw them together. If he feels sorry for her, and worries about her wellbeing, if he lacks faith that God will take care of her and feels it is all up to him, that could draw them together.

In other words, there has to be some karmic lesson still to be learned from relating to her in order for them to be together again.

Overcoming a too-personal definition of love may be the very lesson that dying wife needs to learn. If the husband has already learned it -- loving his wife not only for herself but also as a manifestation of God -- he may not need to marry her, or perhaps anyone, ever again. Whereas she may have to live through who knows how many more cycles of personal love before she learns that it is love Itself that she craves, not any particular expression of it.

There is nothing wrong in this. We learn by experience. Karma draws the experiences we need, and, if we act with conscious attunement, we will learn from them. The more attuned we are, the more quickly we learn. The more we rebel against karmic law, the longer it takes and the more we suffer.

In the meantime, can one soul force karma onto another? No. Karma is always fair. There has to be a corresponding resonance for the two souls to be drawn together or for the conditions to manifest.

In the case of that husband and wife, if she has lessons to learn, but he has already learned whatever lessons that relationship has to teach him, her magnetism will find no corresponding resonance in him to draw them together, no matter how deeply she wants him.

Perhaps he will have transcended so completely that they will not meet at all. Perhaps she will find him, but he will not be compelled to give his life to her in the way she wants. Whatever karmic lessons remain for her, she will still learn them, but with someone else, not him.

Can the resonance be subtle? Definitely. Therefore honest introspection, prayer and self-offering to God is essential.

This is where Kriya Yoga comes in, as explained in Autobiography of a Yogi. Kriya works directly to dissolve the vrittis in the chakras. Dissolve the vritti and you dissolve the karma. You can get rid of it without having to live through it. That is why Kriya dramatically accelerates spiritual progress.

As you can see, this is an enormously complicated subject and I have only touched here on a few aspects of it. From Ananda you can find many books and other resources on the subject. Over the years I have written other letters and given many classes about this you may find interesting. They are available for free online.

Blessings,
Nayaswami Asha



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

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Ask Asha: Facing Your Fears

[You can ask your own question here.]

Question

I have often heard people say you have to “face your fears.” What does that mean and how do you do it? Fears plague me enough as it is. Why would I go out looking for them?

From S.

Answer

Dear S.:

In Autobiography of a Yogi, when Master asks Sri Yukteswar to tell him stories from his boyhood, Yukteswar tells only a few, each with a moral.

“My mother once tried to frighten me, with an appalling story about a ghost in a dark chamber,” Sri Yukteswar said. “I went there immediately and expressed my disappointment at having missed the ghost. Mother never told me another horror tale. Moral: Look fear in the face and it will cease to trouble you.”

Sri Yukteswar included this in the handful of stories he told because fear is something that plagues most people. You are not alone.

Unfortunately, most of us lack the courage and clarity to do as Yukteswar advises. As a result, our lives are often ruled by forces we can’t name, and, in many cases don’t even know are there.

When I was eighteen years old, just before I was given my first book of spiritual teachings, I looked at the world around me -- the college campus where I was a freshman -- and came to the conclusion that the only entirely negative emotion was fear. I couldn’t see anything beneficial about it.

Whether or not that insight was true, it was a useful truth for me at the time. I was strongly influenced by fear, although startling less so than many of my classmates.

Just a few months later, I was given a book by Swami Vivekananda. It included, among other life-changing ideas, the statement, “Love casts out fear.” It was from the Bible, but I didn’t know it at the time. Since I had already focused on fear as the obstacle to be overcome, I was thrilled to have a method now for doing it.

It took me much longer to understand that it is love of God -- and God’s love for us -- that finally chases all fear away.

Kriya meditation dissolves fear by working directly on the vrittis in the chakras where subconscious tendencies are stored. Those who are tormented by unnamed fears, often come to the spiritual path in the hope that those fears will be dissolved by Kriya. In itself, this is fine. Too often, though, behind that hope is the fear of facing those fears.

“Just give everything to God,” is, for such people, another way of saying, “I’ll do anything but confront the ghost!” The primary ghost is the fear of seeing ourselves as we actually are. We are afraid of being judged unworthy, especially unworthy of God’s love.

This is ironic in the extreme, because God’s love is unconditional. Nothing we do can diminish His love for us. Love God and you will cease to fear His rejection. Receive His love and all your fears dissolve. “If you knew how much God loves you,” a French saint said, “you would die for joy.”

“Love casts out fear.” Meditate on that. It has endless depths of wisdom.

I have noticed over the years that even when the intention is a little off -- “Please, God, I’ll do anything You ask, as long as I don’t have to confront the fear!” -- I have found that Kriya still works. Eventually, we are brought face to face with the closet door, with no alternative but to open it. Sometimes this happens gradually and harmoniously, sometimes through sudden, even dramatic, karmic developments. If the person is sincere in his spiritual aspiration, inevitably it will happen.

This is often a deciding moment on the spiritual path. How much do we trust God and His love for us?

Swami Kriyananda tells us that when Paramhansa Yogananda was living at Mount Washington, many people came to be his disciple, stayed a short time, and then left. Often they justified their departure in terms of what they weren’t getting from Yogananda and what they would get by returning to a worldly life, or going on to another teacher.

In fact, Swamiji said, most of the time people left Yogananda not get away from him but to get away from themselves, or rather the necessity to see themselves clearly. In the presence of Yogananda, everything about each person was revealed. He was a pure light, a flawless mirror. Many people weren’t ready to see themselves that clearly so they moved away from the light.

The first step in facing a fear is to become aware of it -- to have the courage even to admit that it is there. The next step is to transcend it. Yukteswar did it all in one fell swoop. Usually it takes the rest of us a little longer. We have to try and fail and try and fail and try, try, try again. If we don’t give up we will succeed. Light always triumphs over darkness. Love casts out fear.

Merely keeping these fears below the conscious level does not erase them, or diminish their hold over us. Darkness is the natural habitat of fear. Rather than losing strength, the more we try to hide fear from our awareness, the more powerful it becomes. Finally the suffering it causes us is greater than our fear of facing it. That is the karmic moment I refer to above when God puts us in front of the closet and we have no choice but to open it.

I’ve noticed an odd fact about karma. If we have a negative tendency, rather than being born into circumstances that will help eradicate it, often we are born into families and conditions that make it worse. Until it gets so bad, as I have said about my own journey, that even I notice. In God’s infinite mercy, though, that realization seems to come only when our awareness of Him is great enough to give us the wisdom, grace, light, and love to get through it.

This is what Mother Theresa of Calcutta meant when she said, “God never gives us more than we can handle.” I have always enjoyed her further comment, “Sometimes I wish He didn’t trust me so much!”

In other words, we don’t have to go digging about in the darkness. Just do your positive spiritual practices with an open, receptive heart and mind. Not half-heartedly, though, but with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. God will show you what you need at the time you need to know it.

This doesn’t mean I am against psychological counseling. If you are a complete mystery to yourself, you may need the help of an impartial third party -- a counselor or therapist of some kind -- to help you sort out truth from fiction. If you feel this is appropriate for you, seek someone who is solution oriented, who sees therapy as a means to a goal, not an end in itself, who believes in God, preferably in the same way you do, or close enough that his or her guidance will be consistent with the teachings you follow.

If you feel your self-understanding and capacity for self-honesty have reached a functioning threshold, then on-going introspection and self-observation may be enough, perhaps assisted from time to time by meeting with someone whose impersonal wisdom you trust. If you don’t already have such a person in your life, go find one! We all need help!

Pay attention to your reactions to situations and to people, and how people react to you. Be especially attentive to anything that seems out of proportion, or unrelated to the apparent causes. Look for repeating patterns of disharmony, anxiety, resentment, or anger. See what triggers it.

If you know you have a major issue -- anger, for example -- see how it plays out not only in the big situations or relationships, but in all the small ones, too. I’ve noticed that the big disharmonies are almost always supported by a series of small ones. Often the big one is too much to tackle, but we can dismantle it brick by brick rather than trying to knock down the whole structure at once.

For example, if you are furious at the person who raised you, you may notice that anger is a response you have even when “it doesn’t matter,” like when someone cuts you off on the freeway, or fails to wash the dishes. It is all on the same wire and if you begin to snip it anywhere it will weaken it everywhere.

Be interested in what is true. Not in what you have always believed, or wish to be true, but simply what is.

Don’t, however, in the name of self-honesty become self-centered. Another truth I learned from that first spiritual book was, “Don’t think about yourself and you’ll be happy.” At the time, I couldn’t conceive of anything but a self-concerned life! I thought I was being spiritual by worrying all the time about whether I was doing well or badly in my efforts to be good!

I used to think that Self-realization meant perfection of the ego. It is a great trick the ego plays on us. The perfection we seek is impossible as long as we remain identified with the ego. Only when we forget the ego-self in the contemplation of God do we find what we are seeking.

I have a theory which I don’t think is actually valid, but it is a pleasant half-truth that serves me well. Instead of worrying all the time about how my ego-self is doing, I have accepted the fact that my ego-self will always be something of a mess. So just forget about it and love God! Love casts out fear. And when fear is gone, suddenly we know ourselves as we are -- One with the infinite spirit. And whatever little foibles the ego has seem as nothing compared to that enormous truth.

Ask God and Guru to guide you. Pray all the time. Don’t go near that closet door alone! Always take your divine friends with you. And when you put your hand out to open that door, be sure the other hand is gripping Divine Mother’s hand. In the presence of Her love, all fear vanishes.

Blessings,
Nayaswami Asha


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

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Ask Asha: Karmic Bombs

[You can ask your own question here.]

Question

I took Kriya a few months ago and it has really boosted my meditation practice. Before I struggled to find time; now there is always time to meditate. Everything was going great until this week when two nuclear size karmic bombs went off that may change the pattern of my life forever. I was doing okay with the first one but the second one took me down. The teachings say I should pray, accept, go with the flow. But I don’t feel like doing any of that. I am sad, angry, negative, and feel I am being punished for something, I don’t even know what. Why would God do this to me? Some people told me before I took Kriya, “Watch out! After Kriya initiation your whole life will fall apart!” I didn’t take that seriously before, but now I wonder.

From T.L.

Answer

Dear T.L.:

The ego sees life in terms of pleasure and ease. A powerful ego can define pleasure in a way a weaker person might not -- physical challenges, for example, the adventure of becoming wealthy, the courage to be a soldier may be a form of pleasure for one ego but not for another. However defined, whatever fits within the ego’s definition of pleasure and ease it calls “good.”

When life moves outside of that definition, as inevitably it will, the ego calls that “bad.” It may be the untimely death of a loved one, betrayal by people we trusted, advancing age, failing health -- the list of things that are not pleasurable and easy is a long one indeed!

From a spiritual perspective, the ego’s idea of good and bad is entirely irrelevant. What matters spiritually is not what happens to us, but what we become through those experiences -- whether we expand our consciousness to embrace a greater reality, or contract in the hope of avoiding suffering by rejecting reality itself.

Think of it the way a human mother responds when her five-year old child is afraid to go to kindergarten. Yes, she is sympathetic, but also unrelenting. She knows there is no future for her child just hiding at home. The child has to find the courage to expand into a greater reality. The mother is firm, she is also supportive, and helps with her love to give the child the confidence to expand.

It is the same with us and our Divine Mother.

It is common on the spiritual path to define God’s love in terms of all the nice things He does for us. We give our prayers, meditation, and donations and in return have a good job, nice house, and a parking place right where we need every time. This kind of “faith” is really nothing more than what a satisfied customer might feel after shopping at a good department store.

Maybe I am trivializing this a bit, but the point is an important one. Being a devotee is not a deal we have made with God. His love for us transcends mere pleasure and ease. What he wants for us, as Paramhansa Yogananda dramatically put it, is “To stand unshaken amidst the crash of breaking worlds!”

And that is also what we want for ourselves. Nothing less will satisfy. Even though at first we may cringe when we see the path we have to follow to reach the freedom our hearts crave.

So, no, you are not being punished, but, yes, you are being challenged to embrace a reality greater than the one you were living in before. You had it all neatly arranged and now that picture of pleasure and ease has been shattered, probably forever. Is that “bad” or is that “good”?

In fact, it is neither. It is merely an opportunity life has given you to expand or contract your consciousness. All external conditions are temporary. Sooner or later, whether by natural attrition or karmic bomb, everything changes into something else. Only consciousness is eternal. What you are in your consciousness will be with you always, no matter what conditions surround you. That is why God wants you to cultivate right consciousness.

God has given you an opportunity to push beyond your own definition of yourself. The fact that you have responded first with anger and negativity shows that you have much to learn. Rather than be dismayed at this realization of your shortcomings, be delighted! Those shortcomings were always lurking just behind the comfortable scene you had before. The fact that you were unaware of them did not free you from their stifling influence.

The bliss your heart longs to experience will never be yours until these limitations are overcome. Now you know and can get to work. Is that “bad” or is that “good”? You see it all depends on your point of view. Pleasure and ease? Or bliss for eternity?

As for Kriya Initiation causing these difficulties, let me put it bluntly: Don’t flatter yourself! To imagine that you have generated enough power in your Kriya practice to change your destiny in just a few months is, well, preposterous.

Or, to put it another way, if you had that kind of power you wouldn’t be suffering from the anger and negativity you describe, but would be floating in bliss.

Karmic bombs such as you describe have taken years, more likely lifetimes to build up and then detonate. If a gifted astrologer had looked at your horoscope the day you were born he probably could have predicted to the day when these things would happen.

Far from causing difficulties in life, Kriya is our safe haven. It gives us a way to move inward, away from life’s problems to the realm of spirit where our true self is untouched by mere outward shifting.

I think sometimes people want to blame Kriya for karmic troubles they face in the hope that if they just stop doing Kriya everything will come back to pleasure and ease.

If you abandon God, where will you go? And what will you find there?

I have noticed when people are faced with karmic bombs such as you describe, they use the event either to cling more tightly to God or as an excuse to run away. Often it comes down to a simple decision of where you seek comfort. Do you keep up your routine of spiritual practices, do you come to the Temple, do you participate in group activities and seek inspiration in the company of other truth seekers?

Or do you allow false reasoning to persuade you to stay away from the very things that would lift the darkness from you. “Oh,” the wounded heart will say, “I’m too sad to go to the Temple this morning.” Or, even more insidiously, negative thinking will persuade you, “I don’t want to bring others down.”

Don’t give in to thoughts like these. Darkness cannot be dissipated by beating at it with a stick, whether that “stick” is anger at God, fury with other people, self-recrimination, loss of faith, or tears. None of it will work. Darkness is dissipated by the presence of light. Seek the light in every possible way and you will be astonished to find yourself standing, if not unshaken, at least solidly on the two feet of faith and love for God.

That power, nothing can take away from you. So is the means to that end “good” or “bad”?

You see, God loves you, not because He gives you pleasure and ease, but because, in the end, He gives you Himself -- infinite freedom, unconditional love, perfect bliss.

Blessings,
Nayaswami Asha



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

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Ask Asha: Thoughts, Health, and Divine Union

[You can ask your own question here.]

Question

Can negative thoughts be overcome? How can we connect our soul to god? Can meditation heal every type of disease?

Pankaj, from India

Answer

Dear Pankaj:

Can negative thoughts be overcome?

Yes, of course negative thoughts can be overcome. As Master explains in Autobiography of a Yogi, thoughts are universal not individually rooted. Thoughts are a reflection of our state of consciousness. Change your level of consciousness and your thoughts also change.

A depressed person, for example, sees in every situation reasons for his depression. If that same person receives some good news and suddenly feels hopeful, he may look at the same situation and see reasons now to be positive. Nothing has changed except his state of mind.

Master said conditions are always neutral, whether we perceive them as happy or sad depends entirely on the predisposition of the mind.

Rather than trying to change individual thoughts, it is more effective to work directly on your state of consciousness. That means regular spiritual practices — meditation, study, prayer, chanting, affirmation. There is a long list of things to do.

When working to change thoughts, instead of concentrating on what you don’t want to be thinking (that can actually give more energy to what you are trying to get rid of!) focus on the state of consciousness you want to have.

Choose one or two chants, or an affirmation that speaks clearly and appropriately to your goal, and every single time a negative thought enters your consciousness, with all your willpower repeat the affirmation or sing the chant — out loud if possible but silently if necessary — until the negative thought simply has no space inside your mind to live.

One of the most difficult aspects of getting rid of negative thoughts is persuading ourselves that we really do want to get rid of them. Yes, of course, we say we want to get rid of them, but, in some way they must be serving us, otherwise we would drop them like a hot potato.

All states of consciousness, including the negative have a certain attracting power. Once we are in a negative place negativity uses what Master calls “our own false reasoning” to persuade us that we need to stay there.

Rather than engaging with each individual thought, better to wage war generally against the whole concept of negativity, treating any thought that wanders into your mind as a mortal enemy that must be banished instantly. Don’t entertain negative thoughts even for an instant! Go after them with your chant or affirmation as if your life depended upon it, because it does.

How can we connect our soul to God?

Your soul is always connected to God. Nothing can separate you from Him. What you are asking is, how can you realize your union with God. That is the whole spiritual path.

When I met Swami Kriyananda I was instantly attracted to him. I was just a neophyte, but somehow I sensed that his consciousness had no boundaries, whereas I felt so confined. The experience of meeting him was overwhelming in its simplicity. “He has what I want.”

That was more than 40 years ago and I have followed this path ever since. Still, at the beginning, I didn’t have faith in many fundamental aspects of it.

I had to consider, “Should I wait until I have more certainty before I dive into this life with Swami Kriyananda?”

I decided, “No, I need to go forward with faith in what I do know. The reason I don’t understand is because my intuition is clouded. If I do nothing, my intuition will remain clouded. If I do something — with full energy and commitment — my consciousness will change, my intuition will clear, and then I will know.”

And that is precisely what happened. I threw myself into the spiritual life as Swamiji presented it, acting on what I did know and taking a “wait and see” attitude toward those things that remained unclear. And in time, because of the grace of God and my sincere effort to receive it, my intuition developed and ... well, the rest is history.

Can meditation heal every type of disease?

The example of the ever-living, ever-youthful Babaji, described in Autobiography of a Yogi, tells us that consciousness is greater than matter. The resurrection of Jesus and Sri Yukteswar tell us that even death is not permanent for a person of Self-realization.

Meditation is not in itself Self-realization. It is a technique we use to help bring us to Self-realization. So even if practicing meditation does result in a lessening of disease, it is the change in consciousness, and the grace of God that consciousness may attract, that brings healing.

This is an important distinction. Otherwise we may take too much credit to the ego. "By the power of my meditation I have healed myself!" Then healing becomes the cause of a much worse disease: spiritual pride.

Generally speaking, people who meditate enjoy a more dynamic state of wellbeing than people who don’t. The physician who runs the clinic near Ananda Village has seen that those who practice Kriya Yoga, as a group, are far healthier than those who don’t.

Of course, Kriyabans also follow a number of other healthy habits — vegetarianism, exercise, refraining from drugs and alcohol — that contribute to their wellbeing. But there is no doubt that the powerful, subtle energy generated by Kriya practice also uplifts their health directly.

It is a mistake, however, to equate physical health with spiritual wellbeing. Some great saints have vibrant physical health, some are chronically ill. It depends on how God wants to play through them.

Those saints who are ill may be working out vestiges of their own karma, or maybe they are taking on the karma of others. That is between each one and God.

What meditation heals is your consciousness. It brings you in touch with your natural state of inner bliss. Often this brings about great harmony in the physical body, too. But even if the body remains ill, meditation can make it possible to transcend physical limitations, and in that sense it does heal all disease.

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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