Tuesday, September 30, 2008
15. Brother Lawrence.( First instalment ).....( afnta, afnta-questforallah, Allah, God, love for God, quest)
Brother Lawrence invented his own path. It was not mentioned in any of the books of that time. His method was to talk to God all the time. He did not limit his conversations with God, only, during the time of meditation, but held them during his ordinary activities of daily life; cooking and repairing sandals. He was a Lay Brother (the lowest in rank) in a Discalced Carmelite monastery in Paris. Whenever, he got a moment of respite, he turned his attention, inwards, towards God. With over forty years of practice, he had developed such an expertise, that he was able to connect himself, with God, in an instant
He recommended his method, of constant conversation, to anybody who wanted to attain nearness to God. In his own words:
“In my opinion, the practice of the presence of God is the essence of spiritual life, and it seems to me that when practiced properly, you become spiritual in no time. “
Let us discuss his method a little bit. He declares in the above mentioned statement that ‘you become spiritual in no time ‘. You may become spiritual in no time but most often, you do not get peace and happiness for a long time. Almost all mystics enter a period of great sorrow and anguish, which may last for years. St John of Cross has called it the dark night of soul. Brother Lawrence was no exception. He suffered ten years of fear and suffering, last four of which were especially harsh.
What made the experience even harsher was the fact that God did not give him the smallest consolation during that period. “…. Everything was taken from him……….his life became unbearable…”
In his own words:
“It seemed to me that creatures, reason, and even God himself were against me, and that faith alone was on my side.”
What caused and what ended this dark night?
During this search for God, What were the tools at his disposal? What is this faith he talks about?
These and other questions in next installments
Saturday, September 20, 2008
14. St. Therese of Lisieux Continued......( afnta, afnta-questforallah, Allah, God, love for God, quest)
There was a statue of Blessed Virgin on her bedside. One day she kept calling her sister, Marie."Marie, Marie" , despite the fact that she could clearly see her. Her three sisters, who were nursing her, were greatly distressed by her calling and failure to recognize.They knelt by her bed and prayed to the statue of the Blessed Virgin for her recovery. She, herself, also turned towards the statue and “ … and beseeched her to have pity on me.”
“ ….Suddenly the Blessed Virgin glowed with a beauty beyond anything I had ever seen. Her face was alive with a kindness and an infinite tenderness, but it was her enchanting smile which really moved me…..”
Years later, she had the chance to visit the church of Our Lady of Victories in Paris. She wrote;” I cannot describe what I experienced in that sanctuary of hers. I was filled with joy and peace. And there the Blessed Virgin , my Mother, told me clearly that it really was she who had smiled on me and healed me.”
When she was fourteen she had a vision. In her own words,” One Sunday when I was looking at the picture of Our Lord on the Cross, I saw the Blood coming from one of his hands….”
Perhaps a year before her death, in 1896, she had a dream, in which she saw three Carmalite nuns, wearing mantles and long veils. She knew they were from heaven. She thought to herself that how happy she would be if she could see the face of one of them. As if in answer to her wish, one of them lifted her veil. She instantly recognized her, as The Venerable Mother Anne of Jesus, the foundress of Carmel in France. Her face had a beauty not of this earth. ……..
She caressed her. Moved by her love, she ventured to say, “I implore you, Mother, to tell me if God is going to leave me on earth for long……….”
She gave me a tender smile: "Yes, soon…..soon. I promise you.”
And then she said these words, which are amongst the tenderest and humblest words that I have come across in all of spiritual literature:
“Tell me also, Mother, if God is pleased with me. Does He want anything from me beyond my poor little deeds and longings?”
As she spoke her face shown with a new splendour…..
She said “God asks nothing more from you. He is pleased, very pleased.”…..
It is not often that you are informed, while you are living, that God is pleased with you. Perhaps ,once in a year? , a century?….
I have chosen her to demonstrate that some mystics are preselected by God or His representatives. We know that she was preselected, because she had a “ spiritual event “ in childhood, at the age of fourteen, and thus satisfies the first criterion.
She fulfils the second criterion of ‘holiness’ (which is a mandatory requirement) for a preselected mystic or saint, although it need not be lifelong ( as lives of St Paul and St Augustine testify, who sinned against God ). We are sure of her holiness because she was made a saint not too long after her death . She died at the young age of twenty-four, in a convent, where her life must have been an open book. And we come across this astonishing statement from her confessor, made just two months after her entrance in the convent;
“Before God, the Blessed Virgin, the angels, and all the saints, I declare that you have never committed a single mortal sin……”
We have the added advantage of fulfillment of the third criterion, the truthfulness of the events of her life, because she has left an autobiography (see footnote). She did not write the autobiography at her own behest, to parade her virtues, but was ordered to do so by her superiors. The book is a pure delight to read. It has sold millions of copies and has been translated in dozens of languages .
Love for God overflows from every page. “The only good thing is to love God with all one’s heart, and to stay poor in spirit.”
She also tells us that God loves us, and this is a recurring theme of the book. She is awe-struck at how good and kind the God is. She made a profound statement to her sister a month before her death:” What I have written will do a lot of good. It will make the kindness of God better known”.
Her great desire, in all her life, was to glorify her Beloved, the God. If it meant torment and suffering, that was even better. Few months before her death she wrote:
“… Like you, my adorable Jesus, I want to be scourged and crucified. I want to be flayed like St Bartholomew. Like St John, I want to be flung into boiling oil. Like St Ignatius of Antioch, I long to be ground by the teeth of wild beasts, ground into bread worthy of God. With St Agnes and St Cecillia, I want to offer my neck to the sword of executioner and, like Joan of Arc, murmur the name of Jesus at the stake……” “My Jesus, fling open that book of life in which are set down the deed of every saint. I want to perform them all for You.
You have to read the book yourself
I will narrate her spiritual events in the next installment
1. The autobiography of St. Therese of lisieux. The sorry of a soul. Translated by John Beevers
Monday, September 15, 2008
12.Preselected persons Sri Yogananda .....( afnta, afnta-questforallah, Allah, God, love for God, quest)
Being a monk he never married and lived with his disciples, who had a chance to observe him closely for decades (he had taken the vows of chastity, obedience and poverty, as a monk of Swami Order). Let us see what one of his closest associates, Sri Daya Mata, says about him in her book,” Finding the joy wihin.”She refers to him as Guru or Guruji or Gurudeva (divine teacher ). Here are some excerpts
1. “ he had the power to heal. I have seen his healing of many, many diseases “He healed me of a severe disease by mere touch.”
2. “he had the power to read the mind of others”. “But he never intruded on anyone’s mental privacy unless invited.”
3. “ I was blessed that at a very early age---seventeen---I met Gurudeva. He transformed my life. To him I shall be eternally grateful….”
4. Gurudev was to say in later years,” if I was to display powers given to me by God, I could draw thousands…………I gave the powers back to God, and I never use them unless He tells me to”
5. On his day of death, he was to speak at a banquet, for a dignitary, in downtown Los Angles. Few hours before his sudden death, as he was gazing at the picture of his beloved guru, he said to her ,” Do you realize that within a few hours I will be gone from this earth……..when I am gone.....be so drunk with the love of God that you will know nothing but God………”
6. “For twenty-one days after Guruji left his body, that form remained in a state of perfect preservation.” There is a notarized letter by the funeral director stating that strange, unparalleled phenomenon.
7. One day ( after his death ), as she was praying in front of his picture, for some guidance regarding an important matter, his living form emerged from that photo image.” Guruji blessed me and…..,,,,,,,”
I have related these incidents because they have been told by another person. There are dozens of supernatural incidents which he himself narrates in his book. I have not mentioned them here, because at some future date I plan to discuss the book in more detail. So we have two very truthful persons ( and there is at least one other, Walters or Swami Kriyananda, in his book,” The path.”) giving first-hand account in two separate books.
Sri Daya Mata is now ninety-four years old. She is the president and spiritual head of Self-Realization Fellowship. She was a young American girl of seventeen when she first heard SY speak at Salt Lake City. She narrates that day in her book,” I could only think, ‘This man loves God, as I have always longed to love Him. He knows Him. Him I shall follow.’” And she followed him.
You can find more at http://www.yogananda-srf.org/srf_news/sanghamata.html
Does it make the miraculous events , narrated in these two books, certain, for the reader. No , off course not. To be certain one will have to do one‘s own search which may take a lifetime.
Note: Sri Daya Mata has since expired
Saturday, September 13, 2008
11.Preselected persons Sri Yogananda .....( afnta, afnta-questforallah, Allah, God, love for God, quest)
His book has been read by millions of readers and has been translated in many languages. The book has introduced millions of persons to spirituality. Through his book his influence will continue for years or centuries to come. The book is full of spectacular events. The reader often has the reaction, which I once heard , from a good friend,” Why should I believe these things?. Just because somebody wrote it in a book does not mean that I have to believe them.”
What my friend said is the crux of the problem. He had no personal acquaintance with the author, therefore, he could not know whether the author was a truthful person. To be certain, that a supernatural incident actually took place, one needs other witnesses which saw that event, or an account by dozens of persons, who were closely associated with the author, , regarding the truthfulness of the author.
You may have heard the expression.”Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof”
When one reads about a supernatural incident, such as materialization of silver amulet, out of thin air, in SY’s mother ( Sep, 10), there are three possible explanations
1. Author is lying
2. Author is telling the truth. The event, though it appears impossible, occurred just as it has been narrated in the book
3. Author is mistaken. As for as he is concerned, he may be telling the truth, but he may have had an auditory or visual hallucination or may be suffering from some mental disorder.
If the author was not the witness of the event, dozens of other possibilities exist, such as his mother was lying or mistaken, etc. We will not discuss this scenario any further.
I will continue it in next installment
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
I could have selected half a dozen incidents from his early childhood. Let me start with the earliest, to document the fact that he was selected by God or his representatives in childhood (or right from birth or pre-birth ). I will give an abbreviated version. The interested reader can read the fuller account, in author’s own words, from the book itself.
As a baby, her mother carried him in her arms, to her guru, Lahiri Mahasaya, who was sitting with closed eyes in meditation, amongst a group of visitors. He opened his eyes and took the infant in his lap .He told her,” little mother, thy son will be a yogi (mystic)……” and that he will bring many souls to God’s kingdom.
Some years later, one day a strange sadhu (ascetic) came to their door and asked for Mukunda ‘s(childhood name of Yogananda) mother. He told her that she is going to die soon. On her deathbed she was instructed to hand over a certain silver amulet to her eldest son, who had to keep the amulet for one year and then hand it over to Mukunda, who would know what to do with it. To ensure that she would believe what he was telling her, he predicted a supernatural occurrence. He said that next day the talisman will materialize in her hands as she would meditate. That is exactly what happened.
After about another two years her mother suddenly died. She had already died before Mukunda and his father could reach by train the town where she was lying lifeless. To be not present when she was dying made the tragedy even worse. He missed her terribly, and longed for her soothing black eyes. Years passed before his heart could be healed. His cries at last summoned the Divine Mother. “It is I who have watched over you, birth after birth……see the black eyes, that you seek, in my gaze”
After reading these strange incidents, the reader will be curious about Swami Yogananda. Did he manifest the qualities of a great soul?
I will discuss it in the next installment
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
The author writes about this incident in a book called “Shahabnama “. Unfortunately this book is written in urdu language and is not available in English. I will have to give details to the readers to establish trustworthiness of the author (since, most likely, they cannot read the book themselves, and did not know the author personally). The author, a high-level bureaucrat, was a man of great integrity. He was incorruptible in a corrupt society. He stood up to the British rulers to save a village to be burnt as punishment, and as a consequence was physically assaulted by a high ranking British police officer. He criticized the supreme leader of the country and was persecuted by his minions. An attempt was made to kidnap his son from England. These worries made his wife so sick that she soon died. In the famous famine of Bengal of 1943 in which approximately four million persons died from hunger and flood, and mothers threw their infants (and sometimes themselves too ) from a bridge in Calcutta on Hugli river, he ordered and supervised the distribution of about three hundred tons of stored rice, in violation of the orders of British government (because the rice was stored for the exigencies of war, and second world war was in progress)
The second point to be noted is that nobody knew the full extent of the spiritual side of the author. He did not tell much to anybody. The details came to light only after his death, when the book was published. Even his closest friends (and being a public and literary man he had a large circle of friends and acquaintances) were astonished. My point is that he did not have to gain anything from the praise or censure of anybody because he was already dead. When his autobiography was published, there was a lot of discussion about his life. He was criticized for serving many autocrats, but everybody agreed that he was a truthful man. Being a literary and public man, in a sense, his life had been an open book. Even his harshest critics could not narrate a single lie in all his life. Therefore, we have to accept the astonishing, supernatural, events that he has narrated in his book. Over here we are concerned only with one simple dream from his childhood to establish the claim that he was preselected from childhood.
He was perhaps twelve or thirteen years old when he had a dream. He found himself in a vast desert. He had great trouble walking. His legs would sink up to his knees in sand. He became very short of breath. After a while he could not even walk and started crawling. He developed chest pain. Eventually, he saw prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) sitting on a prayer mat under a palm tree. The holy prophet smiled at him. Just at that moment he woke up.
He started crying on his good fortune. For a Muslim, visitation of holy prophet in a dream is considered the height of good fortune. Hearing the sound of crying his mother woke up. She asked him if he had a bad dream. Then she sniffed in the air and angrily said , “I have told you not to use fragrant oil in your hair. Now with fragrant oil, off course, you will get nightmares.” He hastily told his mother that he did not use any fragrant oil and narrated the whole dream to her. She also started crying.
The two persons that I have mentioned in my accounts of Aug, 14 and Aug, 18, had visitation in their dreams by holy persons/deities who left enchanting scent in the atmosphere.
Saturday, September 6, 2008
There are two broad groups of travelers walking with the aim of realizing God:
- Those that are preselected by God
- Those who come on their own. Although, strictly speaking, nobody travels on this path without God's will.
It is easy to differentiate between the two groups. Those who are in the first group are pious in youth (actually they are pious even in their childhood). (Sexual urges are at their peak in youth and young adulthood). Whereas the second group often turn to God in later life, when it is easier to control the passions
The second group is quite heterogeneous. Some of them ventured on this path because they wanted to expand their consciousness. They may only have a vague belief in God or did not believe in God at all (Nancy Mayorga is an example. See the sidebar,"The Hunger...")
some wanted to attain supernatural powers. Some were just too poor and had no means to support themselves. It was easy for them to renunciate the world,wear the holy garb, and get free food and board by charitable people of India.
Some wanted to understand the world. What is the purpose of life? Why are we here? Who created this universe? These and other eternal, unsolvable questions. Human knowledge cannot supply the answers. May be, direct, divine knowledge, through meditation, will (this mote started like that).
A good percentage probably come from religion, i.e. they become more and more religious as they grow old. Eventually, religiosity changes to love for God. There may be other groups
What are the key differences between the various groups? Do all of them travel on the same path or are there different paths? What keeps them on the path, despite all the hardships that were mentioned previously? (Aug,30). I will expound upon them some other day
Monday, September 1, 2008
He sang impersonating one of the milkmaids.Her love of Krishna,the human form of God.
You are the mirror for the hand
And You are the flower for the hair
O Friend, I shall make a flower of You
And wear You in my hair;
Under my braids I shall hide You, Friend!
No one will see You there
You are the betel-leaf for the lips
The dark collyrium for the eyes
O Friend,with You I shall stain my lips
With You I shall paint my eyes.
March,1886 (see the sidebar "The gospel...")
Narendra was a young college student at that time. He later became Swami Vivekananda and founded the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda center of Newyork
( see sidebar for reference. "the gospel of ......")