“The Master would occasionally take some of us to the movies to get away from all the demands on his time,” a direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda once told us. “Then, in the middle of the most exciting parts, he would tap us on the shoulder, point upward to the beam of light coming from the projection booth, and say, ‘It’s all just a play of light and shadows.’”
Stories are great teachers. They involve the listener emotionally, and stick in the mind much better than mere concepts. For example, we all know that that we should think of others and not only ourselves. But the principle comes alive when packaged in a good story. Here is that same teaching delivered by Krishna and Arjuna.
“I’m feeling so discouraged and anxious when I look at everything that’s happening in the world today,” a friend recently wrote us. It’s hard not to respond in this way when we see violence and hatred running rampant across the globe.
Many years ago I saw a bumper sticker that said, “Visualize Whirled Peas.” I’m afraid that this image, humorous though it was, is truer today than the actuality of world peace. We seem to be whirling around, splintered into frenetic factions.
Today is January 5, 2016—the anniversary of Paramhansa Yogananda’s birth. There are numbers that convey some of the historical significance of his life: 123 years since he was born; 100 years since he created the Energization Exercises for recharging the body with energy; 70 years since his spiritual classic, Autobiography of a Yogi, was published; and, in 2020, 100 years since he boarded the ship that brought him to America and began his mission to the West.
There was a full moon this year on Christmas Eve, a relatively rare event that last took place 38 years ago. The full moon occurs, of course, when the entire surface reflects the light of the sun back to the earth. As the moon makes its monthly revolution around the earth, it passes through all its various phases, from the new moon when no light is reflected to a half moon and then, finally, the full moon. In astrology, the moon is associated with our emotions. Interestingly, the moon is dark when it is between the earth and the sun, just as our emotions are dark when they get between us and the light.
It is a great blessing to live at Ananda Village, where its members have chosen lives of simplicity, selflessness, and dedication to God. At Christmastime, we often give each other little gifts that remind us of our shared devotion and that inspire us to seek God more deeply. This year two friends gave to everyone copies of a letter that Swami Kriyananda wrote to the community some years ago.
We have a tradition at Ananda called World Brotherhood Day. Each year we gather together in a celebration in order to make the first gift of the Christmas season. We suggest that people give one day’s income to help spread the light of the Christ consciousness throughout the world. Paramhansa Yogananda explained that the Christ consciousness (in India it is called the Krishna consciousness) is the presence of Spirit at the heart of every atom in creation. When we are aware of this, we feel united with everyone and everything, and, because the Spirit of God is composed of love and joy, we spontaneously want to become a channel for these qualities. The Christ consciousness produces a desire to give to others, which is the deeper reason that people give presents to honor the birth of Christ.
Our recent time in India was life changing in many ways. Over time we’ll be sharing with you some of our experiences there, but one of the inner transformations that occurred for which we are very grateful is a strong desire for longer, deeper meditations. This grace began during our seclusion in the Himalayas, and has continued upon our return to Ananda Village.
What an amazing day! Six of us were in Pench Tiger Reserve with Satya Prakash, a friend and gurubhai, and a very high official in the Indian Forest Service. He is one of the world’s top experts in preserving tigers. India has taken a lead in this area and is helping some eighteen other countries that have tigers still living in the wild. Preserving tigers is really about maintaining ecosystems, because tigers act as an umbrella. When you save a tiger’s territory, you also save all the associated plants and animals. Pench is one of the world’s best preserves: 400 square kilometers (about 155 square miles), 80% of it banned to people. It is in the Seoni district, made famous by Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book.