The Yuga Cycles of Time

A Different Approach to the Ages

Sri Yukteswar and Paramhansa Yogananda presented a fascinating explanation of a 24,000-year cycle of rising and falling eras of consciousness on our planet. According to their teachings, we have recently passed through the lowest period in this great cycle of time and are moving upward into a higher age—an Energy Age known as Dwapara Yuga—that will revolutionize the world.

They went on to declare that we would live in a time of great social and spiritual change, and that our entire way of looking at the world, what we believed to be fixed and true, would ultimately be transformed and uplifted.

We are honored to have The Yugas co-author Byasa David Steinmetz here for this game-changing presentation!

Noble Is As Noble Does

In the years I managed our Ananda Pune ashram, the workday began after meditation and breakfast with a morning circle. Tushti and I, with our staff and guests, would discuss the day’s projects and assignments, and then we would all affirm together, loudly at first and then more inwardly, “I will do my work thinking of Thee, Lord. I offer to Thee the very best that is in me.”

It’s too bad that governments and corporations don’t do something similar. If they did, and if they took it to heart, we wouldn’t need millions of laws and thousands of agencies to enforce them. The Golden Rule would preside, because in offering to God the best that is in us, it becomes our nature to serve our neighbors in that same spirit.

As we strive to do better, the real work is not about building or fixing things, it’s about building and fixing ourselves. Attitudes, relationships, and commitments are the greater construction projects involved in creating a successful community, which creates a more successful you and me. A house is not a home if it is just a structure, even if it is a palace. You have to fill it with love and joy, otherwise it is merely a place of temporary shelter. Likewise, a body is not a home if the person living inside is unhappy, lazy, angry, greedy, or selfish. When that is the case, there is work to be done, and who of us can be called a finished product?

We sometimes refer to ourselves as “works in progress.” What we need to keep in mind is that a work in progress implies that someone is investing actual work in making the changes necessary for progress to occur!

Building a spiritual community, as we were endeavoring to do, is a gradual, ongoing process too. It takes time. But in fact the idea of community does not require an actual community to exist. You can have it in spirit wherever you are. Community is serving and supporting each other for the welfare of all. It is doing the work of clearing away our egoic motivations. It is offering the best that is in us.

Work done in the right spirit, from the messiest chore to steering the course of a nation, is to me a supremely noble occupation. It nourishes the soul whether or not the outcome is what was hoped for. Work is about the journey more than the destination. Performed with right attitude, it becomes a blessing to the individual and the universe alike.

Oh, but don’t we love to complain when work becomes a drag. Have you ever tried to get out of doing work of that sort? Or maybe you cut a corner or two in order to be done with it sooner. Sometimes work gets in the way of how we would rather be spending our time, and we don’t exactly give it the “best that is in us.”

Today it is common for people to work long hours, often under stressful conditions and constant deadlines. Many see work merely as means to an end with little joy in the means, and for them the end is a fleeting experience that turns to disappointment. They think we are seeking freedom, but the truth is, we are giving it away.

This is not an easy time to be alive, but we cannot wish away the trials it brings. The great American president Thomas Jefferson was once asked if he believed in luck. He replied that yes, he did. When the interviewer asked him why, Jefferson said that he simply studied the law that luck obeys. “The more good work I do,” he said, “the more good luck I have.”

If I ask myself why I was born, the answer in one form or another is essentially the same. It is to “offer to Thee the very best that is in me.” This life is a playing field on which I am opposed by my lesser nature. Working to overcome its negativities is not only the way to reach my highest potential, it is also the way to a happier me.

Working Through the Wobblies

Mark Twain once declared that he loved work so much, he could sit and watch it all day. His remark always draws a chuckle from me as I picture him in a rocking chair on the porch of a stately hotel, savoring his favorite cigar, lazily appraising the bee-like business around him. I suspect, however, the remark did not really describe him except as a wit.

Nor does it speak of me. I love work, and I cannot imagine the day that I would not. But here is the obvious disclaimer: I love the work that I love! Give me a task that appeals to me, and my energy for it will flow for as long as needed. But give me a task at the other end of the spectrum, and whether or not it falls within my range of effort and skill, I confess that I might grumble at first, if only to myself. The end may have its reward, but the journey to it will test my sense of enjoyment and good nature.

What brings this to mind is a helpful article by Gyandev McCord, written in 2005 for Clarity magazine. He offers how to revitalize our sadhanas when the well has begun to run dry. Let’s face it, striving to overcome dry or restless meditations can sometimes be the hardest of a long day’s work.

With self-honesty and humor, Gyandev highlights the subtle mental traps that seem to ensnare us all at one time or another. The question is, what do we do about them? How do we manage to pull ourselves out of falling into apathy? How do we get back on track with a greater sense of purpose and devotion?

The answer, for the most part, is to strive with a brighter attitude and a willingness to turn on the juice. But that’s the point where the petulant baby in me wants to throw a fit: “You’re doing enough already! This is too demanding. It’ll take too much time, and maybe it won’t pay off. C’mon, let’s blow it off.” And sometimes I have.

These little reactive tantrums, like sudden squalls, are not uncommon when threats to our comfort zone are proposed. I am not averse to taking risks when the odds are decidedly in my favor; when my confidence, that is, is sufficiently present. But in the absence of that, saying “Yes, I’ll do it” is a stretch. My ego hates to be at the wheel if there’s the chance of a crash.

Well, enough of that. It’s got nowhere useful to go, and useless isn’t an option. When I look at Swami Kriyananda’s life, aspiring to follow his lead, I know that I cannot afford to shrink from being a better example to myself. We’re surrounded at Ananda by other great souls as well, and I know what they had to do to reach where they are. They worked hard, took chances and pushed ahead when the noisy voice of inertia told them not to. Where would I be without them and the spiritual modeling they do for me?

Sometimes the greatest risk is not to take one, even when the outcome looks a bit murky. And if backing down would only cause your spiritual life to suffer, having farther to climb to recover would only add to the insult. Although we are not always ready to do what must be done when the doing is at hand, hoping we can do without it is folly indeed.

A good meditation starts with showing up. And showing up to do it is the one and only way to make it good.

I and Other

Life is a dance.

You’ve heard that before. Every moment offers a new set of rhythms and flows to interpret. Sometimes the dancing is done with beauty and grace, and sometimes it is not. The question is, in this tango of the intertwined, who is the one who leads when the tune is called?

In the ballroom of human relationships, the pairing of the impulsive ego and its more conscientious partner, the super-ego, is always an interesting match. Attunement and mutual trust is required. This, however, is not achieved when the ego is determined to take control. Unfamiliar with when, why and how to make all the right moves, it can quickly turn the tango into an ungainly tangle instead. As comic relief, this can be entertaining, but not in a way that serves the choreography or composition.

I have often been amazed at how many of us, myself included, still find it hard to surrender the floor, even to one who knows better. The little egoic self, it seems, would rather appear in command than allow another to steer who could skillfully lead the way. “Other,” as opposed to “I,” is often viewed as a threat to “my” self-existence and self-image.

“Other” and “I” are frequently at odds in matters of perception especially.

At times, for instance, we have all been afraid of the dark, fearing that it was hiding something, an “other” that was out to get us. As children, in bed at night, we may have even imagined an “other dressed to kill.” Fueled with adrenalin, our thoughts raced like stampeding horses, and turmoil churned inside us. Later, in the light, we saw what we could not see at the time – “other in familiar attire” or “no other at all” – and we heaved a sigh of relief.

Now that we are much older, what we tend to fear most is a darkness more subtle and pervasive. In the shadows of our imagination, monsters of a different sort are apt to gather. We worry that we could lose what we treasure most, especially the ones we love, our mental abilities, and our physical health. Maybe we worry, too, that death will find us unprepared to meet it. In such a state of mind, we fail to see that instead of trying to get us, something or someone in this worldly experience is trying to get us out!

Ultimately, our dance of life needs to be led by the “Other” who can guide us to its final bow, the one who is our true partner in God. It is he, the Guru, in spirit and in truth, who is ready to guide us gracefully into the bliss of becoming the dance itself.

Truly, there is no darkness, no stumbling, and no fear when we can surrender fully to that Other’s lead, when we make the attitudinal shift from egoic pre-occupation to Self-awareness.

A true story in a mere eleven sentences captures the essence of this lesson more eloquently than any treatise could. “This year began badly,” wrote Sarah Hawk in her journal. “One day I woke up and started having seizures. They got worse and worse. It looked like a brain tumor, but it turned out to be epilepsy. Serious epilepsy. Now I am on medication for the rest of my life. It makes be clumsy. It makes me forget things. It makes me throw up.”

Sarah slumped into a pall of self-pity. She stopped dancing altogether. And then in a single, Other-inspired epiphany, she turned the whole experience right side up. “Now I realize this was a great year. It was the year I didn’t get a brain tumor.” What Sarah got instead was a deeper love of life and all that it offers. With understanding and acceptance, she transformed her disease into the gift of a new, more expansive “I,” and it took her to a place within her heart and soul that radiates peace and light.

Life is a dance. You’ve heard that before.

Paramhansa Yogananda Shares a Christmas Message

A Christmas Message from Paramhansa Yogananda, December 1950

My Christmas wish for you this year is twofold: that the consciousness of Christ be manifest in you through deep meditation, and that your exemplary actions will persuade others to abandon their evil or worldly ways and become spiritual.

Both meditation and action are necessary or the spiritual path, for they contribute toward individual and mass evolution.

It is not God’s will to develop spiritually in a selfish way, i.e., without extending help to others who are suffering. So remember always to render service to mass evolution, while seeking the Father through regular practices of deep meditation.

The more one develops spiritually, the deeper becomes his or her love and compassion for humanity. Accompanying love and compassion is the desire to uplift humanity from the throes of ignorance and war and the consequent suffering they bring. However, you must remember to make God first in your heart always.

The Father will not be content with second place!

He must reign first and foremost in the most tender center of your being—your heart. Through His blessings and grace alone are you able to develop and help humanity emerge from its ignorance.

Meditate regularly and practice Kriya Yoga faithfully with all the concentration of your mind and the intensity of your heart. On Christmas Eve meditate for many hours in the presence of other devotees. Dedicate this extended meditation to the achievement of the love of God and the attainment of World Peace and Brotherhood among all nations.

Share your gifts (material, mental and spiritual) with the less fortunate on Christmas. This will make your holiday a real one. The gifts need not be expensive but practical ones: durable clothing (new or used) for those who need it, canned and dried foods for people who find them difficult to obtain in their countries, a friendly visit to the physically afflicted, a word of comfort to the depressed, and spiritual manna to those who are seeking the love of God. You can help distant as well as local people in these ways.

Be ambitious for God.

Keep seeking Him through meditation and keep working for Him. This will give you the spiritual emancipation you are seeking. Christ and the great ones showed through exemplary living that it can be done. So follow their footsteps quietly and humbly. God bless you always. May your every day become a Christmas of ever-new joy, love, peace, and wisdom in God and the Gurus.

With deepest blessings, Paramahansa Yogananda

And from the Ananda Portland Temple and Teaching Center, its staff and ministry: We wish you a blessed Christmas. May the blessings you receive during this sacred time of year, reach far and deep. And continue throughout the upcoming year. May the Light of the Christ-consciousness shine upon you and yours. In Joy and peace.

Of Time and the River

Every once in a while, when my biorhythms and higher awareness seem to be in sync, I am able to pierce the veil of events that is otherwise known as my life. Stepping aside mentally, watching the flood of sensory data that ceaselessly rushes in, I am witness to the brilliant salesmanship that I perform on myself to maintain my belief that it’s all real. In a word, my world is a-maze-ing!

Not to be presumptuous, but is your world any different? If not, then welcome to another round of dealing with its strangeness. Ours is the riddle of existence, yet unsolved.

Heaven knows, there has been no lack of divine intervention to correct this condition. Ascended masters and their enlightened disciples have often returned to earth on missions of mercy, intending to guide us home to God’s embrace. It is our task merely to crew the worthy vessels they provide, and they, as God’s helmsmen, will pilot us over the ocean of our delusions to the shores of Bliss. But only by fits and fussing, it seems, do we take unto ourselves their wisdom and ways. Frequently we bail out in fear of leaving behind the flustering lives we have known.

An aide to our fears and misdemeanors of habit—in particular our wanton pursuits of sensory pleasure—is our obsession with time. Though we prize and flex our free will, we are, on the whole, slavishly obedient to the rule of the clock. Its advancing hands are reminders to us of desires yet unfulfilled, of distances yet to cover, and of deadlines and pressures that do not abate. Every second marks the loss of whatever was here just a second ago, and except for the pain and suffering that our ignorance demands, we fret over its passing. In moments of higher consciousness, we vow to practice letting go of what is already gone. And then we find another reason not to.

Granted, it serves us to think of time and place, to measure distances traveled, to pause and reflect before pushing ahead. Without this capability we wouldn’t remember birthdays, appointments, important projects, where we parked the car or how to drive it. Still, our reliance on timeline perspective often renders us helpless to break away from unproductive patterns. Instead of striving to develop intuition, we exaggerate the merits of memory, style and routine to give our lives meaning. But what do they mean? Where is the spiritual progress in these worldly fixations?

To make matters worse, memory is merely a form of approximation, less and less dependable as time goes by. Do you really remember yourself as a kid? Chances are, that person belongs to the ages, accessible only in snatches of recollection. Even the immediate past is barely impressive. Who were you a moment ago? Who are you now? By the time the answer comes, there has been a molecular change.

Philosophers and poets have often used the metaphor of a river to represent the miracle of life: ever flowing, never the same. And so it is for us too. It is only in our habit of clinging to the past, or of looking to the future for what is still out of reach, that we succumb to repetition and immobility.

Like the trillions of physical cells that sustain us, we, in our minds, need to keep moving as well. Into the present. Into that placeless place of constant fluidity. Into the liberating experience of non-attachment. When moving in this way, the lure of our senses begins to lose its grip, and we begin to discover ourselves as we truly are, as beings of divine light. This is how we open the door to a quintessential interior world that is blessedly and transcendently un-a-maze-ing.

Awesome Tips for Walking the Path to Self-realization

Tips on Living the Yogic Life

Here we are given the recipe for the spiritual path, in the tradition of Paramhansa Yogananda, taught to Swami Kriyananda, and passed to us in Ananda.

Nayaswamis Jyotish and Devi spoke on all of these during their recent visit to Portland, Oregon. They repeated different items, sometimes talking about them in slightly different ways. To further and deepen our understanding.

These are the practices of a yogi walking the path to Self-realization.

God-Guru greeting and reconnection: Every morning after sleep, which Yogananda called counterfeit samadhi, energetically we are more withdrawn. This is a good time to greet the Divine, acknowledging the Divine presence in our lives, as a ongoing practice to start our day. And then at the end our day, reconnecting with the Divine, maybe by reading a special passage in a book like The Essence of the Bhagavad Gita, or Whispers from Eternity. Setting the tone for our consciousness before we sleep again.

Energization: We are given these exercises by Yogananda, to aid us in the active practice of using and controlling our energy at will! These are a gift to us, basically. Yogananda stated once, that if there was only one technique to learn, the Energization Exercises would be it. As they will lead the yogi to all else on the path of Self-realization. Energization Exercise series.

Meditation: Even a little practice of this inward religion will free one from dire fears and colossal sufferings. We repeat this weekly in the Festival of Light service. It is a reminder that to find God, to connect to the Divine, we need to access the silence and stillness within ourselves. It is the soul’s longing to go deeply into stillness. And it is something that requires daily practice, to open those channels we hold within.

Gratitude: Being thankful for all things that we are given every day. It is so easy to be grateful for the good in life. So easy to say thank you when it goes with our expectations. We need to learn to say thank you, even when it does not. Swami Kriyananda used to make a practice of sincerely thanking the Divine in every circumstance, in what he was given.

Positivity: Nayaswamis Jyotish and Devi spoke so beautifully on the power of positivity in one’s life. How they are consciously shedding the desire to look at, react to, comment on, involve themselves in, the darkness or negative. Finding that it does nothing for their state of being. There’s so much negativity and restlessness in the world already. Why add to it, when it doesn’t make it better? Or help your inner peace! Inspiration: Find It and Keep It!

Centering: There are plenty of opportunities to learn, and use, the practices that help center us. Counted breathing or pranayam. Detaching ourselves from the situation, to quell the reactive process. Using positivity to deflect negative energy coming at us, or in us. It’s in these techniques, that we can access our true inner potential. Remembering that we are children of light with access to the Divine in every moment. Helping to stop us from the “wheel of reaction.” Yogananda Book Study Group.

Listening: God’s call is within us. Nayaswami Devi talked about God’s song, playing eternally within us. It is there. But it is quiet. It takes our practices to still the mind, calm the heart and open our “ears” to hear it. It’s there though. It is the eternal song that plays.

More links: The talks for Nayaswamis Jyotish & Devi Portland visit 2016

One Lesson in the Story of Jesus

I was once a part of a team writing spiritual curriculum for children and had the fascinating assignment of writing the story for the Easter lesson. It was fascinating and challenging because I was asked notto refer to the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ. This group took a more scholarly approach to the life of Christ and did not believe in the resurrection.

My first thought was, what is the point of Easter if it is not about the resurrection? If there is no triumph over death or joyful celebration of the eternal reality of Spirit, why bother? I even considered saying no, but as a disciple of Yogananda I knew there was a deeper purpose at work and perhaps I was being asked to look more closely.

Jesus was born into the depths of Kali Yuga, the darkest hours in the cycles of time. Think of the consciousness that was present to even allow crucifixions to happen to anyone. It was not an extraordinary form of execution reserved for Self-Realized masters. It was common practice.

Jesus came to change that consciousness and to make a lasting impression—he had a great mission. So he gave the most material, graphic, outward demonstration of the power of divine truth over fear, hatred, and unspeakable suffering.

He was nailed to a cross and his body died in front of witnesses. He then created a new body and dramatically showed up alive again; a walking testimonial of God’s power and personal love. It made an impression—we are still talking about it. Some of us are celebrating. I am thrilled to my very core every time I hear the words: He is risen!

Another Self-realized master was born 2000 years later, at a time when mankind was awakening to more subtle spiritual truths. He was able to use different tactics to teach those who were ready to hear.

Paramhansa Yogananda said that resurrection is more than the physical death and rebirth of the material body. Another way to look at resurrection, Yogananda explained, is relaxation away from our identification with the body and an increased awareness of our reality as Spirit, or Christ Consciousness. He said that resurrection can be any beneficial or uplifting change.

Swami Kriyananda explained that if we understand the lesson of the cross is the resurrection, then that means, for us, the lesson of every test we go through is resurrection from that test to a higher level.

Every day we can resurrect ourselves and come closer to understanding our true nature. Every mistake and every triumph can be a resurrection and renewal, a step toward the complete freedom that Christ and Yogananda have.

Truth exists on every level of reality, so of course Jesus could resurrect his body after being crucified, and of course, there is much more for us to understand than one empty tomb.

Jesus taught the subtle truths that Yogananda did, but not many were ready for that level of understanding. Now we can dive more deeply into the hidden lessons behind the resurrection and celebrate the eternal truth of Christ’s life and his infinite consciousness.

I want to tell my scholarly friends that when you peel back the layers of an avatar’s life, you find more truth, not less.

Therefore, pass this Easter, at least a few hours of it, in lifting your consciousness from the domain of matter into the vastness of the Silence within your own temple and commune with the risen Christ there. Rise above the body consciousness. Resurrect yourself from the tomb of ignorance. Sit on the throne of Christ Consciousness and say in Realization: ‘I and my Father are One.’ —Paramhansa Yogananda, April 1933

"Oh You Gotta Have Faith!"

That sounds just like a song (and it is, by George Michaels), but I really do think that it says it all. Faith.

How often do we struggle with things in this life, wondering if in fact it’s ever going to get better? Or is it going to get worse? Do we really know the answer? Or is there actually an answer to be had?

Faith.

I had a recent situation happen with my child. I was all “momma-bear,” ready to storm the playground (to give you a visual). I was wondering why this problem was happening? Where is this coming from? I didn’t have a thought to why am I feeling this way or taking it on. Just that I have to fix it. This has to change! And now!

I was actually getting myself rather worked up. Almost in a froth, as they say (another visual). What am I going to do!?

Faith.

There was a period of time that I would not have stepped back. I might have yelled or called. Or called and yelled. My mind would definitely have been way behind my matter. I would have been all (to borrow another expression) in their face! ….Oh. Oh no you didn’t! (I know, so east coast.)

Faith.

I am a disciple. I practice Kriya Yoga. I am a yogi. I am a child of God.

And so is that other being. So is my child. And everyone deserves a bit of time. A bit of space to allow the Divine Will its opportunity to aid in/change/affect the situation.

And so it did.

Faith.

Faith is something we want to know is there. Know it so deeply that there is no question that it is there. Feel it so deeply that there is no thought, if you have it or not.

It is right there. All we have to do it…HA! You guessed it…have faith. It’s not hard, I think. It is more of a letting go, letting go of action and reaction. Feeling that divine spark in our hearts and fanning that flame alive.

Faith.

Simple spiritual exercise time:
Take a deep yogic breath. Inhale through your nose, filling those lungs all the way to the bottom. Now exhale through your mouth, nice and easy letting the air come on its own without force.

Repeat while focusing at your spiritual eye.

Now say these words.

Faith.
I am a child of God
Faith.
I am light and love
Faith.
I know that I am worthy and all that is good
Faith.
I am
Faith.

(Remember, you are that!)