Recently I received an email laced with unfair criticism, and my first reaction was to get defensive. I could feel my mind speeding up, getting ready to argue. Then I had a flash of insight and remembrance: You can’t fight darkness with more darkness. I decided instead to neutralize negativity with gratitude. I thought about this person and recalled several things about him for which I was grateful. Within minutes my happiness level began to climb. I realized then that gratitude brings happiness.
For the last year we’ve been working on a very important project, The Indira Institute. The purpose of the Institute is to bring the universal teachings of Ananda’s line of masters to a much larger audience. Until now, Ananda has concentrated largely on training and supporting devotees, those who want to find God. Noble though this is, there are many people who want to improve their lives and know this involves changing their consciousness, but don’t currently define themselves as spiritual. This is the audience we want to reach.
Last week a dear friend of ours from India visited Ananda Village for the first time. What a wonderful experience it was showing her around and explaining to her the many aspects of this remarkable community.
Two students had just arrived from India to attend high school at Ananda Village, and we were welcoming them and their teachers to our home over tea. We had known both of these wonderful, creative girls from our time in India. One of them asked, “What were the essential qualities that went into creating Ananda?”
It’s not always easy to feel joy in life, especially when we’re bombarded with discouraging news and wrenching images of human suffering. Yet holding on to happiness in spite of everything is a challenge which confronts everyone. As Paramhansa Yogananda wrote: “Life is a struggle for joy all along the way. May I fight to win the battle on the very spot where I now am.”
“Good karma is that which moves you closer to God, and bad karma is that which moves you farther away from Him.” Swami Kriyananda once gave this reply to a young man’s question. His answer not only clears up much of the confusion around the subject of karma, but also gives us a guideline for living: Always strive to do that which moves you closer to God. At another time Swamiji said, “The whole spiritual path is meant to dissolve the ego.” So, good karma is that which dissolves the ego, and bad karma is that which reinforces it.
One of the intriguing accounts surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ is the story of the three wise men, or magi, who traveled from the East to bring him gifts of gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. Paramhansa Yogananda tells us that these three wise men were, in fact, Babaji, Lahiri Mahasaya, and Sri Yukteswar in earlier incarnations, and that later in his life Jesus traveled to India to return their visit.
It is nearing Christmas, and next week Ananda centers will host the annual eight-hour Christmas meditation. This long meditation is a spiritual anchor for many of us, and so I thought it would be helpful to give some tips on how to deepen our meditations, especially longer ones.