Let me set the scene: an amphitheater packed with several hundred people while, in the background, the bare wood of an emerging temple rises miraculously. People from many nations immersing themselves in the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda and Swami Kriyananda. Add stirring music, drama, friendship, joy, and light. Here, for a brief transformative week, the astral plane has touched the earth. It is Spiritual Renewal Week at Ananda Village.
The theme for the week is The Power of Self-Transformation, and Devi and I talked about the tools that can help us. One of the listeners told us, “I was furiously scribbling notes but I’m afraid that I might have missed important points. Can you review them in a written form?” So, here is a brief summary of my part of the class. (Devi will share hers next week.)
God manifests creation by vibrating a small part of his awareness. Vibration creates duality: the positive and negative charges in the atom, the light and dark of images in a movie. For us, as humans, this primordial duality manifests as the breath, as pleasure and pain, as good and evil. On a subtler level, duality manifests as movement of energy, either upward or downward, in our astral spine. As energy moves down, the ego, the material world, temptations, and self-serving attitudes are strengthened. As the energy moves in an upward direction, the world of spirit grows more real. It would be fair to say that all spiritual techniques and attitudes are meant to strengthen and maintain an upward flow of life-force toward the spiritual eye where enlightenment awaits.
Paramhansa Yogananda explained that all of the characters in the Bhagavad Gita are personifications of inner tendencies. The great war that takes place is the battle between the positive and negative citizens of our mental kingdom. When our life-force is flowing downward, we energize “King Material Desire” and his ninety-nine brothers, representing the contractive egoic tendencies. A positive upward flow supports our spiritual qualities, characterized by the five Pandava brothers, who symbolize the chakras.
For the seeker, the question is how to strengthen that upward flow. The tools available to us are reason, willpower, and action. Rightly directed they send the energy upward toward enlightenment; wrongly directed they lead to sense slavery. Yogananda said that the highest prayer is to call on God’s help in this way: “I will reason, I will will, I will act, but guide Thou my reason, will, and activity to the right path in everything.”
When reason is positive and inspired, will strong and focused, and activity properly channeled, energy rises in the spine. As it does, each chakra is empowered, and we experience the stages of Patanjali’s eightfold path. Successively these are yama, the power to resist temptation; niyama, the power to adhere to virtue; asana, fiery self-control; pranayama, the ability to turn the heart’s energy upward toward God; and pratyahara, calmness and expansion that come from sense detachment. Ultimately, all of the upward-flowing energy must be offered into the light of the guru at the spiritual eye.
When reason, will, and activity are negatively directed, the opposite occurs. Our spiritual aspirations wane and we become increasingly negative and self-centered. We experience agitation, moodiness, and an inability to control our own behavior, with a consequent inclination towards trying to control the behavior of others. We shun virtue while being drawn toward tawdry temptation.
This is a quick summary of the battle for Self-realization. Yogananda reminded us that “The minutes are more important than the years.” Every day offers hundreds of opportunities to make small choices that send our life-force in either an upward or downward direction.
Fortunately, God is on our side in this battle. Invoke His help with this affirmation from Master: “I go forth in perfect faith in the power of Omnipresent Good to bring me what I need at the time I need it.”