We heard a good joke recently. A man and his young grandson are shopping in a supermarket. The little boy is fussing and whining, wanting to leave.
We were sitting with two dear friends at a retreat house in the foothills of the Himalayas, where we take a yearly seclusion. One of them asked me if I felt a special power here and if my meditations were any deeper. I told her that for me personally, this is one of the two most sacred places on earth. The other is the Moksha Mandir at Ananda Village, where Swami Kriyananda’s body rests. Both are places wholly dedicated to prayer and meditation, with no other vibrations mixed in. As a result, each has a special purity, and great spiritual magnetism.
As I write this, we’re in India for two weeks on an unexpected trip. A series of completely unforeseen events has provided the potential for a wonderful new project. Working with one of India’s premiere leaders in education, our small team is creating a vision and feasibility study for a world-class Institute of Leadership based on Paramhansa Yogananda’s principles of higher consciousness. If it comes into manifestation, it will be the fulfillment of a dream of Swamiji’s, and a vehicle for the upliftment of world consciousness. The project is in such an early phase, with clarity just starting to emerge, that it’s too early to share any more details at this time.
Last week, here on the island of Hawaii, we visited an interesting historical site called “The Place of Refuge.” The old Hawaiian culture was hierarchical, with the king at the top, the warriors and artisans beneath him, and then, at the lowest level, the vast majority—those who fished and worked the land. There were many laws concerning what was “kapu,” or forbidden, and someone breaking one of these rules could easily receive a death sentence. However, one could avoid certain death by fleeing to a temple at “The Place of Refuge,” where the offender would be absolved by a priest and freed to leave.
I experienced an amazing day when I was young, and it still echoes through the corridors of my memory. I was around six years old, living in a small town in northern Iowa. Our home sat across the street from a large park in a hilly part of town, and my youth was spent playing and exploring among its trees, ponds, and grass. Those images, imprinted on my young mind, still form the “magic cloth” of the tapestry in some of my dreams.
A friend recently sent us an article by the head of Mercedes Benz, talking about some of the disruptive changes that are coming due to the combination of AI (artificial intelligence) and robotics. For instance, we are on the cusp of self-driving vehicles, which is exciting news for most people, but an existential threat to automakers and truck drivers. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. One of the fastest-developing, and potentially most disruptive, changes is a type of artificial intelligence, called neural networks, that mimics the way the brain learns.
I am currently writing a book with the working title Ananda Seva, about the power of selfless service and how it can help dissolve the ego. Paramhansa Yogananda taught a path to liberation that combines both meditation and service. There is a wealth of resources to train and support aspirants in meditation: teachers, books, courses, meditation centers, websites, and apps. But even though most people spend much more time in outward activity than they do in meditation, very little is available that focuses on service as a spiritual practice. Even a little training in right attitudes and practices can turn our activity into a true spiritual path.
Cooperation, being able to work as part of a team, is an essential skill in life. While this is true in business, sports, or any other undertaking, it is also important spiritually, where aligning our individual will with God’s will is a vital step on the spiral stairway that leads to Self-realization.
The tide of the old year is ebbing, and the new one is rolling in. It is time, once again, for New Year’s resolutions: the best opportunity to rid yourself of those habits you know to be self-destructive, and to develop those that you know will improve your life.