Learning To Love

by Nayasvami Seva

From a young age, I wanted to know the purpose of life. What was it all about? Why was I born? I know that many people today ask the same questions, often after seeking answers in all the wrong ways, just as I did.

A long dry period
Before I found the spiritual path my life could be described as “a long dry period.” I never understood why people were so enthusiastic about growing up, going to college, marrying, raising children, and being successful when everything ended in death and forgetfulness. It made no sense to me. Only those few individuals who had an important history-making mission seemed never to die, but lived on in history.

Since I found myself living in a world I found incomprehensible, I tried to make the best of it. I went to a junior college, got a job, and then moved to California. With a college classmate and her sister, I drove cross country from the East Coast and finally ended up in San Francisco. It was 1957. I was 23 years old.

I loved the city of San Francisco and eventually obtained a stable, well-paid position as the accountant/bookkeeper for an architectural firm. I was still looking for true, lasting happiness. For a while, since there didn’t seem to be any alternative, I thought I would find happiness through outward experiences. But I eventually saw that I wasn’t finding any answers. Life still made no sense to me, and as far as I could tell, people were going no where.

Finally I find a lifeline
One night I became so discouraged that I swallowed far too many aspirins. In the midst of sickness and numbness, I called to God to help me. This was the first time in my life I had ever called to God. I was shocked to realize that I even believed there was such a Being. But God answered my prayer. Soon after, I went with a friend to a lecture in San Francisco given by Swami Kriyananda, who introduced me to Paramhansa Yogananda’s teachings, which gave me answers that made sense. Finally, I had a lifeline.

At the time I didn’t understand that when we start on the spiritual path we don’t change overnight. We don’t suddenly become joyful, even-minded, and all-forgiving. We take all of our unresolved karma – emotions, conflicts, and blocks – with us. I now had spiritual teachings and a guru to guide me, for which I was grateful beyond words, but I had no idea how many major challenges lay ahead.

After meeting Swami Kriyananda in 1967, I visited the small Ananda community as often as possible, while continuing to live and work in San Francisco. In 1970, I quit my job and moved to the Ananda Meditation Retreat, where the Ananda community first started.

Later I became part of the monastery at Ananda Village, which grew in time to close to a 100 people. The main value of the monastery was in giving many of us the opportunity to deepen our attunement to the spiritual path before we were drawn into other aspects of life — marriage, child-raising, or very demanding jobs.

I was already in charge of Ananda’s finances when Swami Kriyananda asked that I also oversee the women’s monastery. Being in charge of the finances put me in touch with nearly every aspect of the community. I conferred regularly with Swami Kriyananda and, for a year or so, served informally as overall community manager.

Completely at loose ends
In the early 1980s my life changed completely. The monastery fell apart – nearly all the monks and nuns got married. Since I remained single, I no longer had much contact with the people I’d been close to in the monastery. Increasingly, householders or married couples began leading the community. Around this same time, two people with accounting training and experience that far exceeded mine moved to the community, and it was only natural that they would take over my job.

Without a real job, and struggling to understand what work I was supposed to do, I was completely at loose ends. My self-esteem took a nose-dive. Looking back, I can see that everything that happened was divinely orchestrated to give me the challenges I needed to grow spiritually. God had a plan for me, complete with many new, and different, experiences.

Since there was no longer any work for me at Ananda Village, I was asked to go to Italy to help with the Ananda retreat just getting underway near Lake Como in northern Italy. I was there for nine months. During the colder months there wasn’t much to do. When not working as a cook’s assistant, I knitted sweaters, scarves and gloves.

Upon returning from Italy, I was asked to become co-director of the new Ananda center in Portland, Oregon. My time in Portland was a mixed experience. My first year included teaching, working as a waitress in the Ananda restaurant, and looking for a location at which to start a church. We did find a good location and the Ananda Portland church soon got underway. After a year, however, there was a change in co-directors and, once again, I found myself having my role cut back. My role was now limited to teaching, which was never my strength; I did not do well as a teacher.

Confused about why my life had taken this new turn, and feeling somewhat depressed, I returned to Ananda Village after two years in Portland. Since no other work was available, I took a job as a medical assistant at the nearby clinic, founded by an Ananda Village resident and physician. I was also strongly encouraged to seek professional counseling. Going into counseling and working in a job I would never have chosen for myself were big tests for me. But Ananda was my whole life and I wanted to cooperate, so I decided to give both a try.

Pulling out of my slump
In counseling I realized that I had always wanted to serve — to serve people and God, and that it really didn’t matter whether my outward service was “important.” I realized that it had actually mattered to me that my service be “important.” I could now see that my deepest desire was to go beyond ego, not to get trapped in my emotions and wrong attitudes.

The other important realization was that unless I wanted to sink into bitterness and despair, I needed to love. I chose love over anger, frustration, and depression. Truly, it was the only choice possible. Since I felt no love in my heart, I prayed to my Guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, and asked him to love people through me. I hoped thereby to learn how to love. Having these goals, which were clearly God’s gifts to me, began to pull me out of my slump.

I had experienced a big breakthrough in consciousness, but it wasn’t the end of the process. Many lessons followed, some of them very painful. Changing oneself is a long-term process, but with each step I was becoming happier, the journey was getting easier, and I found it easier to meet the tests with the right attitude.

Making the commitment to serve God and Guru through the work I was doing at the clinic — work that was not overtly spiritual — helped me understand that even a leaf, as it says in the Bhagavad Gita, is pleasing to God if offered with love and devotion. In  times of upliftment and joy, I realized how important it was to make the commitment to meditate and do Kriya Yoga every day. Kriya helps to burn up the karma that draws us away from God.

Looking at the world with love
Looking at the world with love, I began to see situations differently. People no longer hated me! (They never did, but I’d thought so). I could now see why people acted the way they did, and this understanding opened my heart even more. Asking Yogananda to love people through me eventually became such a joyful experience that I was able to love those who were negative, unbalanced, or using the spiritual path for selfish ends. Perhaps most difficult of all, I even began to see and love the Divine within me.

I learned not to let anything — no judgments or negativity on my part, and no one else’s negative attitudes toward me — pull me down. I now understood that people who disliked or misjudged me had their own karma to work out. Their thoughts and actions were not my concern.

As I understood relationships more deeply, I became more joyful in my interactions with people. Joy was creeping into my being, opening doors to expansive new experiences, and helping me understand the spiritual teachings more deeply. During those years I shed a lot of old karma. And I learned not to let anything interfere with my dedication to finding God in this lifetime.

Becoming a different person
I have come to see that to take up the spiritual path in earnest is to shed everything we think of as ourselves, all our desires and plans. When we give up our plans and surrender to God’s plan for us, we find true happiness. In that state of consciousness, hatreds and judgment can’t exist, human love doesn’t exist — only God’s love and what He wants of us. God’s plan for all of us is that we learn to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. As we do that, we become the person He intended us to be.

Nayaswami Seva, a founding member of Ananda, serves as a Lightbearer at Ananda Village. Since 1995, she had been an integral part of the staff of Crystal Clarity Publishers at Ananda Village.

Taken From: http://www.anandaclaritymagazine.com/2012/06/love-meditation-yogananda-god/


True Yoga – the Most Ancient Art of Self-Realisation

Basics of the Ancient Art

According to Ancient Texts and the Maharishis, there are many types of Yoga, of course, the categories are few. In the Western World, New Age Yoga has come to be known as Hatha Yoga, which, in spite of being devoid of true Hatha Philosophy,should simply be called Asana Yoga, for that is all even in meditation, that is truly done.

The main four (4) types of Yoga are: Jñana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga and Kriya Yoga or, the Yoga of Knowledge (especially that of the True Self); the Yoga of Devotion (Surrender to God in his/her Infinite Forms); the Yoga of Action (Service to All Beings); the Yoga of Technique (A myriad of techniques including Tantra, Yantra and Mantra, Kundalini Shakti, Ashtasiddhi, etc.).

These four Yogas, comprise of all the bits and pieces of the separate Yoga schools across the world. Accordingly, each type of Yoga appeals to a different type of person by varying Mental or Spiritual Constitution, called the Gunas of Sattva, Rajas and Tamas; and by varying Ayurvedic or Corporeal Constitution, called the Doshas of Vata, Pitta and Kapha. These basic Physical Constitutions have refined states in the forms of Ojas (Kapha), Tejas (Pitta) and Prana (Vata). Anyone who is serious in practising any form of Yoga, must understand these concepts well.

A Brief Look at the Doshas

The three Doshas of Kapha, Pitta and Vata have their basis in the Primal forces of this Universe: (Pure) Energy, Light and Matter. Energy is the origin of all things and therefore the source of the Life Force or Prana. In its base or gross form, therefore, Vata is the first of the biological doshas which give rise to motion in the other two Doshas. Vata governs all the spaces in our bodies, such as our joints, colon, hollow organs and on a mental level, the space in our minds that gives rise to the motion of thought. Of the elements, Vata is not simply Air but also Ether, and thus govern the organs of both: the ears, the skin, the vocal organs, the hands; it presides over our comprehension and psychological balance; bestows creativity and enthusiasm, and  propels the achievements of out life goals.

However, the Doshas are cyclical and it is the temperament  of Pitta (Fire) and the pressures inflicted by Kapha (Water and Earth) which cause Vata. Pitta, is the digestive force of the body and is responsible for intensity, concentration, motivation, the warmth of blood and bodily transformation beginning on the cellular level. Mentally, it bestows intelligence, perception, courage, vitality, allows the digestion of our sensory impressions (surroundings). Pitta exists mainly in the form of acids in the body and oily substances which entrap heat. Its organs are those of the Fire element: the eyes and the feet. Just like Vata, depends upon Pitta and Kapha, Pitta needs Kapha as the fuel upon which it may be ignited and continue to burn and Vata, as the oxygen to  allow it to combust. In Vata, there is an electric force, much like the atmospheric static that results in lightning, which is the subtle effect of Pitta within Vata.

Kapha is both the Water and Earth Elements of the body, it is the force of attraction and cohesion that exists in the forms of water as bodily composition, the plasma in the blood, mucous and phlegm in the body and is the deya in which the flame of Kapha and the movement of Vata is held and mixed. The qualities of feeling,emotion, love, adoration, devotion and faith are all Kapha qualities. Kapha rules the urino-genital (Water) and excretory (Earth) organs and their sense organs of the tongue and nose respectively. Kapha is all the tissues and liquids that lubricate the tissues of the body, as well. Without Kapha, neither Pitta nor Vata would have a medium upon which to exist.

The Gunas – Purity, Action and Stagnation

Sattva: This is the State of the Pure, the state of pure energy, of Ahimsa or non-harming, of a great lack in transgression and the state usually found in an illustrative way in highly spiritual persons.

Rajas: This is the State of Action, wherein which, things must move and transform, and so does not last for long as it is transitional unless there is continuity in action and the stimulation necessary to achieve it.

Tamas: This is the State of Stagnation – inaction, or even Rest. In many cases it is a negative quality and relates to darkness, but is not always so.

The three Gunas together are both alternating: as energy follows a sine wave-like pattern, whereby, the negative is Tamas, the Positive is Sattva, and the neutral where they cross and the very action of the crossing is called Rajas; and continual or cyclical: they are never-ending, and so long as one predominates in anything, it must continue for a period before the imminent change.

A simple illustration for the three Gunas is the cycle of the day and night. The night is Tamas, the Daylight is Sattva and the twilight times and also, the motion of the Sun in the changing of the times are Rajas.

A Rajasic nature is necessary for Yoga, so is a Sattvic one; or if not there, the Rajasic slowly turns into a Sattvic one, but that does not mean that neither Rajas nor Tamas is there. It is very rare that there is ever only one Guna present in a person, especially that of Sattva, which is found mainly in Enlightened beings, or those close to Enlightenment.

Ojas, Tejas and Prana

In refined states and on a more subtle level, Kapha becomes Ojas, whose primary supply in the body is sexual fluid and thus sexual energy. Ojas is like refined and pure oil, which allows the fire to burn ever more brightly and powerfully. This is the point Brahmacarya or control of sexual energy in Yogic Philosophy. By not over-indulging or by indulging at all in expending sexual energy, the sexual energy is cultivated and transmuted into higher forces. This is the basis of many forms of Tantra which use this sexual energy to awaken Kundalini Shakti and to bring the aspirant to a more energetically awakened state. This, however, is but a stepping stone and a very base form of Tantric practise for more Tamasic persons. Nonetheless, there is nothing shameful or demeaning about this practice as it is important to begin where we are in life. In addition, many advanced Yogis continue to use these exercises (which are Kriya Yogas), even after having surpassed this stage, for it is also important to remember your beginnings and the foundation of your Yogic practice, which indeed is your own.

Pitta becomes Tejas which is the electrical force or power and is the power of the refined mind. It gives to us higher perception and greater discernment. Tejas is used extensively in Yogic practice and is the power of motivation and also the advance digestion of Yogic study. It is therefore, the rising of the Kundalini in the aforementioned Tantric practices. Much care must be taken with overusing Tejas, however, as it causes the supply of Ojas to diminish and the result is usually exhaustion – like a flame whose oil is burnt out and the black, over-carbonated smoke remains and the vessel is scorched.

As the Ojas gives rise to Tejas, Tejas gives rise to Prana, the fortified life force and revitalised channels for its action. It is the refined flame from the refined oil that creates the refined air around it and keeps it ever in motion, that it may be applied where and when needed. Prana is the force that allows us to heal ourselves and others. While it is true that we absorb Prana in our very breaths, without having the refined Ojas and Tejas, the Prana is not as easily cultivated and stored. Prana, is also naturally created in the body as a living organism, but also as a spiritual being. Thus, the burning of the Ojas by Tejas transforms the fuel into Prana as well. However, as with the other two, overuse of Prana does not allow the flame of Tejas to properly burn. After all, it is cyclical. As Tejas burns Ojas to created Prana, Prana is the air that must allow Tejas to burn and  enhance the entire process. So in essence, the three must work together, but we must first cultivate Ojas, or the other other two of Tejas and Prana will exhaust the body and create many disease factors. This is reflected in the mind as well.  A mind without enough Ojas, cannot go very far for very long, and the thoughts of such a mind are very haphazard and non-functional.

The Three Triplicates and The Four Yogas

The three Doshas of Kapha, Pitta and Vata are refined in Ojas, Tejas and Prana. These with the three Gunas are the three Triplicates that are Fundamental to Yoga practice. Any Yoga practice that does not contain them is a far cry from completion and indeed, may even be said to be debilitated.

Jñana Yoga, the Yoga of Knowledge, is best practised in the first Rajasic period of the day – Dawn. This is basically the Yoga of self-inquiry that seeks to unite the aspirant with the true self and so leads to self-realisation. Just as the sun courses from the Darkness in the process of the Dawn into the state of illumination or proverbial Enlightenment of the day, so too does Jñana Yoga take the yogi from darkness into light. Jñana Yoga appeals mainly to Pitta types as it deals with a great deal of mental focus and illumination.

Bhakti Yoga, the Yoga of Devotion is the Yoga that most appeal to Kapha types in is often best performed in the evening time or in the Tamasic period of the day. Devotion itself increases Ojas and one-pointed concentration on a deity increases Tejas and Prana. Indeed, one-pointedness naturally causes the Kundalini Shakti to rise up the Sushumna Nadi, the subtle nerve centre of energy in the body that runs along the spine into the medulla oblongata (the part of the brain closest to the base of the skull), which is also called the Pool of Heaven in Ancient Chinese Philosophy. Bhakti Yoga may also appeal to Vatas i a more ritualistic fashion and also to Pittas who may tend to see themselves as missionaries of God.

Karma Yoga is the Yoga of Action and of Service. It arises from both Jñana Yoga and Bhakti Yoga, in that one sees the need to provide service to nature and to other human beings because, as God is in me and ultimately I am one with God, so are all things; therefore, performing service to others in any small form is nonetheless, a service to God. However, one should be careful not to be selfish in Karma Yoga and seek no reward. Kaphas gravitate to this Yoga for its devotional side,while Pittas may prefer some form of Activism in this Yoga.

Kriya Yoga is the Yoga of techniques. In its basest form, it means “Action Yoga” and refers to any action done under the broad umbrella of Yoga. Therefore, Rituals such as Havan, Yajna and Pooja; Mantra and Yantra which are technically forms of Tantra (literally, “technique”); transmutation of sexual energy and even certain aspects of Jñana Yoga are all Kriya Yoga. It can be said therefore, that Kriya Yoga, which is also the broad category under which Hatha Yoga falls, is instrumental to the other Yogas. If so much as a mantra is chanted, or a Graha Pooja to appease the planets is performed, you are partaking in Kriya Yoga. Kriya Yoga appeals mainly to Vatas who love the continuity of movement. It may also help discipline their excessive movements and create a greater stillness in them as Kriya Yoga does not act without the act being necessary – an act without purpose, is a purposeless act.

A discerning eye would realise, that ultimately, all the Yogas must intersect at one point. Verily, therefore, there is only one True Yoga that simply, all the other Yogas form in their respective components, according to the personality and sublimely, the soul of the person.

One must never forsake the self in spiritual practice, meaning: one must not forget that spiritual practice relates to the Self and to God, and that through it, other beings must benefit as well. It is also important to have a Guru in spiritual practice. A true Guru is one who has attained enlightenment, however, there is a deficit of those in the world and so, we must at least have around us, those elders, or persons well learned, who are able to guide us from time to time. In light of no Guru, one must depend on many, and that also includes the Guru within, who is the True Self and will guide you through Intuition and also, the Greatest Guru himself, God.

Blessings of Peace, Love and Light!