Light of the Spirit Blog

The Reincarnation of Elijah

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The Following is an excerpt from May a Christian Believe in Reincarnation? by Abbot George Burke.

I cannot resist giving one more Biblical instance–bridging both the Old and the New Testaments–of how the human drama can be played out over the “acts” of several births on the stage of this world.

(This example, by the way, was pointed out to me by Bess Hibarger, a Presbyterian Sunday School teacher of long standing and great popularity, who at least once a year devoted one Sunday to the subject of reincarnation.)

The sowing

Ahab, the king of Israel, married Jezebel, who was a Gentile and an idolater. For these reasons, Elijah the prophet came to Ahab and challenged him, demanding that he rid himself of Jezebel.

As could be expected, Jezebel decided that either Elijah or she had to go–and she preferred that it be Elijah. Though she had squadrons of soldiers searching for the prophet to kill him, he managed to elude them, and departed from this world still in hiding. Later, Jezebel died, but with the desire for the death of Elijah burning in her heart. Thus was the sowing; then came the reaping.

The reaping

As Jesus said, Elijah was born again as John the Baptist. Ahab was reborn as Herod, and Jezebel as Herodias, the wife of Herod’s brother. Herod broke the Law by marrying Herodias illegally, thus committing the double crime of adultery and incest.

Just as in the previous lifetime, John came to Herod and demanded that he get rid of Herodias. Herod had respect for John, and so tried to simply ignore him. Finally, at the insistence of Herodias he imprisoned John, and ultimately Herodias got John’s head on a platter, fulfilling her desire of centuries.

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Can Women Attain Liberation?

Anandamayi Ma: Can Women Attain LiberationAnandamayi Ma

Even today in India there are people who believe that there is no need for a woman to engage in meditation because it is impossible for a woman to attain liberation.

My friend, Saguna Hejmadi (a cousin of Papa Ramdas of Anandashram), was once at the Anandamayi Ashram in New Delhi (Kalkaji). Somehow an ignoramus standing nearby learned that she was a disciple of Ma Anandamayi and did a great deal of meditation. “Why are you wasting your time with all that?” he asked, “Women cannot attain liberation–only men can attain liberation.”

Foolishly she began arguing with the the man, who bolstered his assertions with many scriptural quotes. In the midst of this altercation, Anandamayi Ma came walking through the room.

“MA!” called out Saguna, “Is it true that women cannot attain liberation?” Still walking on, Ma nodded and answered: “That is true. Women cannot attain liberation.”

Saguna stood there completely thunderstruck as the man chuckled and chortled at his “triumph.” After standing and stewing for nearly half an hour, Saguna saw Ma returning. Ma came right up to her, said: “And men do not attain liberation either!” and walked on and out of the room.

Then Saguna understood: only those who transcend body identity and live identified with the spirit-Self can attain liberation.

More on Meditation:

The Perfect Tranquility of Lahiri Mahasaya

Lahiri Mahashaya, Master of Tranquility“The Vedas are such that their scope is confined to the three gunas; be free from those three gunas, indifferent toward the pairs of opposites, permanently fixed in reality, free from thoughts of acquisition and possessiveness, and possessed of the Self.” (Bhagavad Gita 2:45).

“Permanently fixed in reality.” A simple sentence, but a profound concept. Later in this chapter it is elucidated by Krishna saying:

“With the elimination of attraction and aversion, even though moving among the objects of the senses, he who is controlled by the Self, by self-restraint, attains tranquility. In tranquility the cessation of all sorrows is born for him. Indeed, for the tranquil-minded the intellect [buddhi] at once becomes steady” (Bhagavad Gita 2:64, 65).

A living example

This truth is illustrated by an incident from the life of Yogiraj Shyama Charan Lahiri Mahasaya. He continually expounded the idea that the goal of yoga is to be established in sthirattwa, in perfect tranquility.

“A group of spiritual leaders from Calcutta once conspired against Lahiri Mahasay.  They invited him to join in an evening discussion on spiritual matters.  Lahiri Mahasay accepted the invitation and accordingly attended the meeting.

“The conspirators had well prepared themselves to trap Lahiri Mahasay.  For example, if Lahiri Mahasaya were to express his preference for a particular deity, or ishta devata, then a particular leader would find exception to that choice.

“In fact, each  member of the group selected a particular devata (deity) such as Lord Vishnu, Lord Krishna, Lord Siva, the Goddess Kali and prepared to debate and challenge Lahiri Mahasaya choice.

“As soon as Lahiri Mahasay arrived, he was received in the traditional manner and shown proper courtesy.  After a while one of the members of the group asked Lahiri Mahasay, ‘Upon which deity do you meditate?’

“Lahiri Mahasay looked at him but did not reply.  Then another gentleman asked him, ‘Who is your ishta devata?”’  Lahiri Mahasay turned his head towards him and looked at him in the same way, while keeping his peace.

“Finally, a third gentleman asked him, ‘Can you tell us upon which deity usually you meditate?’

“Lahiri Mahasay faced him and said very gently, ‘I meditate on sthirattva (tranquility).’

“The gentleman replied that he did not understand what was meant by this.  Lahiri Mahasay continued to observe silence.  After some time, another gentleman asked him, ‘Could you please explain this?  I do not understand exactly what  you are saying.’

“Lahiri Mahasay, as before, continued to maintain silence.  Another gentleman asked, ‘Can you enlighten me as to what you mean by that?  I do not understand at all!’  Lahiri Baba told him, ‘You will not be able to understand, and also I will not be able to make you understand (realize) through words.’

“The group was at a loss.  All of their preparation and conniving had come to naught.  Only silence prevailed.  All kept silent.

“After a long time Lahiri Mahasay got up and silently prepared to leave the meeting.  All showed him the traditional courtesy as he left.”

Here we see how to fulfill Krishna’s counsel: “Be…permanently fixed in reality.”

Material detachment

Next in the Gita Krishna uttered another simple phrase: “Free from thoughts of acquisition and possessiveness.” Swami Swarupananda renders it: “[Be] free from [the thought of] getting and keeping.”

Frankly, this is such a high ideal it is virtually impossible to comment on, except to say that it refers to intangibles as well as tangibles. To transcend the impulse to acquire or keep is itself liberation, for only a liberated consciousness is capable of such a condition (or non-condition).

Practically speaking, the best policy is to immerse ourselves in sadhana that leads to liberation. Then we will attain the state Krishna has set forth to us.

Random Gems:

How the Book “May a Christian Believe in Reincarnation?” Came to Be

You might find the history of this study interesting and amusing.

Quite some time ago we became very good friends with an Eastern Orthodox archpriest who not only believed in reincarnation, but had engaged for years in research into methods of past-life recall.

One afternoon he phoned and told me that several guests were coming from an Orthodox seminary to visit him and he planned to bring up the compatibility of reincarnation with Christianity. The reason for his call was to ask if the monks and I could research the subject of reincarnation in early Christianity to give him material to prove that Christians could believe in reincarnation.

Certainly we would! For the next few days several of us went through our library and finally reported back to our friend that we had a lot of material for him to use.

Then he revealed to us that what brought this on was the discovery of a small boy in our state that remembered being his own uncle! And the priest had been asked by the local television station to comment on this at the end of their broadcast of the story.

Were we ever excited. An Eastern Orthodox priest advocating reincarnation on television! So we delivered the material and awaited the broadcast.

A witness for truth?

The segment on the boy was very well done and very believable. Then suddenly there on the screen we saw our priest friend in full vestments standing at the front of his church. This was it!

No, it wasn’t.

He began a tirade (no other word for it) about how Christians cannot believe in reincarnation and how incompatible the belief is with Christianity.

For us, the bottom dropped out.

But when life hands you lemons, make lemonade, so I just worked all that researched material into a small book I named May a Christian Believe in Reincarnation?

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A Christmas Message from Paramhansa Yogananda

December 8, 2014

Paramhansa YoganandaThis short article was originally posted four years ago, but as it is timeless, we have updated it, with links to more Yogananda related articles at the bottom of the post.

Doors of joy, which may have been long closed within us all, should be thrown wide open at the coming Christmastide, in memory of One whose divine example has lit the way down twenty centuries.

This is my prayer for you all on this occasion of spiritual Christmas, that you keep those little doors of joy open so that the ocean of Christ-Consciousness may continuously, uninterruptedly, flow into you.

Instead of bestowing material presents on those that you love, give them spiritual books and spiritual gifts, which will remind them always of the necessity of attaining Christ or Universal Consciousness thru meditation and universal love and service.

Material favors, dinners, exchange of gifts during Christmas, are purposeless without the attendant spiritual consciousness for which the Christmas holidays were originated.

Make up your mind that this Christmas you are going to supremely try to revive in you the principles for which Christ lived and by which he deserved to ascend to Heaven or God-consciousness.

Be determined to endeavor so that your consciousness will ascend to heavenly heights.

May this newly awakened Christ-love enable you to see the underlying unity which pervades the East and West, the North and South, all races and nationalities, all children of the One Father.

“Peace on earth, good-will toward men.”

Amen! (Christian Om); Om! (Hindu Om); Amin! (Moslem Om).

Further Yogananda Reading:

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What Happens to the Yogi in Samadhi?

smiling buddha in samadhiSutras 40 through 46 of Book One of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

  • Sutra 1:40. His mastery extends from the finest atom to the greatest infinity.

This is not as big a leap as it seems, for it does not mean that after the preceding steps the yogi is master of the cosmos, from smallest to largest. Rather, it is speaking of the range of the yogi’s awareness/concentration. The adept yogi can attune his awareness to perceive the smallest or most subtle objects and also direct his awareness to encompass that which is not only the largest, but also That Which is Infinite. In other words, there is no limitation to his awareness–under the direction of his will.

  • Sutra 1:41. In the case of one whose Chitta-­Vrttis have been almost annihilated, fusion or entire absorption in one another of the cognizer, cognition and cognized is brought about as in the case of a transparent jewel (resting on a colored surface).

The precision of Patanjali is to be noticed and admired. He could have said that the fusion takes place when the modifications of the chitta have ceased, but that is not accurate. The fusion can occur when the modifications have almost come to an end. There is no room for inaccuracy or exaggeration in Yoga.

Patanjali is telling us that when the modifications of the mind-substance are almost eliminated, the yogi is able to completely unite his awareness to his own Self as the knower, the very process and instruments of knowing, and any object that he is perceiving. The Buddhists call this “penetration.”

  • Sutra 1:42. Savitarka Samadhi is that in which knowledge based only on words, real knowledge and ordinary knowledge based on sense perception or reasoning are present in a mixed state and the mind alternates between them.

In A Brief Sanskrit Glossary, vitarka is defined as: “Thought; reasoning; cogitation with sense perception; discussion; debate; logical argument.”

Savitarka Samadhi is the state of union with an object in which the yogi is able to conceptualize and intellectually define what he is perceiving. He is able to internally analyze and recognize what he perceives. Basically, he can still “think” in that state, though it may not be in the usual internal verbalization which we usually mean by “thinking.” In Savitarka Samadhi there is not pure, direct Knowing that is a divine quality. Rather it is a mixture of intellection and direct perception. However it is the step before Nirvitarka Samadhi, and its attainment assures the yogi that he is approaching the summit of Kailash.

  • Sutra 1:43. On the clarification of memory [smriti], when the mind loses its essential nature [swarupa], as it were, and the real knowledge of the object alone shines (through the mind) Nirvitarka Samadhi is attained.

Nirvitarka Samadhi is the state of union with an object in which remembrance of their names and qualities is not present. That is, the mind ceases to be either a perceiver through the outer senses or a thinker in either words or concepts, and becomes so perfect a knower that no distinction can be found in knowing, knower, or known. This is a state of perfect (total) unity in which outer and inner, object and subject, simply no longer exist–literally. I do not mean they are not present, I mean they are no more in the absolute sense.

  • Sutra 1:44. By this (what has been said in the two previous Sutras) Samadhis of Savichara, Nirvichara and subtler stages (I-17) have also been explained.

Here are the definitions given in A Brief Sanskrit Glossary:

Savichara samadhi: A stage in samadhi wherein the mind (chitta) is identified with some subtle object and assumes its form, being aware of what it is and capable of analyzing it by means of the purified buddhi; with deliberation and reasoning or inquiry.

Nirvichara samadhi: A stage in samadhi wherein the mind (chitta) no longer identified with a subtle object or assumes its form, simply resting in perception without analytical awareness of its nature by means of the buddhi, whose operation has become completely suspended so that only pure awareness remains; without deliberation and reasoning or inquiry.

Nevertheless, only an adept yogi really knows what Patanjali is talking about.

  • Sutra 1:45. The province of Samadhi concerned with subtle objects extends up to the Alinga stage of the Gunas.

In meditation, consciousness is the ultimate object, but our perceptions need to pass through the intervening veils of subtle vibrations between our higher mind, the buddhi, and Consciousness itself. Consequently, even though right from the beginning we should be at least dimly aware of the principle of Consciousness, nevertheless, we will start to experience the subtle elements (bhutas), the subtle energies of our inner makeup.

If the meditation is proceeding as it should, we experience increasingly subtle elements while at the same time our awareness of Awareness steadily increases. This is the savichara samadhi Patanjali is talking about. Eventually the original state of pradhana (prakriti) is experienced that is beyond the point of differentiation of the three gunas. This is the highest point of savichara samadhi. “Alinga” means: without any attribute, characteristic or mark, and in this sutra refers to the undifferentiated prakriti.

Just as the buddhi borders on the Self and reflects the Self, so is this state of samadhi. It is at the apex of experiencing subtle vibration with profoundly experiencing Consciousness, for Vyasa says: “There is nothing more subtle beyond pradhana.”

  • Sutra 1:46. They (stages corresponding to subtle objects) constitute only Samadhi with ‘seed’.

Sabija, “with seed,” means that which possesses attributes, and produces samskaras or subtle karmas in the experiencer. Sabija samadhi is Savikalpa samadhi wherein the seeds of samskaras or karmas are not destroyed, and which produces the highest and subtlest of samskaras or karmas.

Next Sutras: The “Dawning of the Spiritual Light” in Samadhi

Previous Sutras: Seven Ways to Purify the Mind, Part 2

Further Reading: How to Be a Yogi, a book on living the spiritual life.