Piousness and devotion may be taken to mean the same, and may be taken to mean two things. The first of them is sound, and the other - other-oriented devotion - is not much to boast of, believe it or not.
1. Piousness - inward-focused. Piousness and devotion in the sense that Shankara uses the term(s), is found in the ancient yoga work Crest-Jewel of Discrimination (Wisdom) (Shankara 2001; Prabhavananda and Isherwood 1973). The work is presently on-line in two versions. Page numbers refer to the Johnston translation:
Piousness suggests intentness of the soul on its own nature.* (p 10-12)
2. Devotion, outward-turned by dualist notions.. Devotion turned outwards, onto some other or things, may fixate naive feelings and give rise to religious fervour, unsound worship in "otherness" and devoting oneself not full well. This outward-turned feeling-with-regard implies strong dedication in some. Belief and trust may be played on by others through it. Piousness (the inward-focused devotion) differs from this unsound or unschooled devotion.
It is not that devotion is bad; but it is not ordinarly taken to mean intentness on one's own soul, and therefore may not reach high. Outward-turned devotion may be regarded as an outlet of id (libido), and serves the animal kingdom too. The young makes a show of devotion to superiors for gains, hoping to adjust finely and perhaps grow to "take over some of the business" in time. That is how devotion works in the conformism of apes and their likes. So devotion directed to someone else as a part of dualism, could miss the inner aspects of the whole thing, that is, one's own deep Self and monism (advaita).
It boils down to "Don't underestimate your own heart."
Family outlets. Devotion and love are related. In a good family a parent gives his dear ones love to "set them free" by steps and stages. It may take twenty-thirty years, and in some unfortunate cases it does not happen. A bad parental figure may never do.
If the natural family-related libido growth and its phases do not work so well, a step-in parent may exploit the thwarted, unused id, by setting up traps of yoga. "Cry to Divine Mother, and she will come" seems to be one such frustration trap. "Divine Mother, Divine Father, Divine Beloved, Divine Friend" makes use of natural longings for belonging, and can be dangerous if pursued intently, devotedly, as described in QUAG circles. It is not without reason that devotion may lead to very little advancement on the giant (spiritual) path; for it suggests being trapped in id.
One more thing: As long as there is worship into "you-ness", the inner "I-ness" is neglected. Good yoga helps you to glide inward, while devotion based on dualities, may lead nowhere.
In Yogananda's church, SRF, you have to swear an oath of unconditional devotion and loyalty to six unmet gurus who teach against one another. Such formalised devotion is fool's devotion, just as fool's gold is not real gold. It leads greedy ones astray.
First, you do not know whether you are not able to muster unconditional devotion for the rest of your life, that you can "freeze" such things by the SRF kriya pledge put in your way – or your marriage vows either, for that matter. If you are not sure you can deliver, do not swear you will. It often backfires.
Second, consider the functions of id-based devotion in family living. You may feel devotion to dolls and imaginary friends as a little child, but it wanes as you grow up. Frozen promises may hinder the deveopment that child id and its attachments serve in the long run, if successful.
Third, in yoga circles, devotion is tinged by you-ness, dualist thinking, and should not stand in the way for greater achievements, much as "what is good should not mar what is best." In Shankara's yoga, it is clearly stated that the Self is the aim, not extraneous devotion. Yogananda hailed Shankara pompously in his Whispers from Eternity, and presents his own teachings as Vedanta, in part. He was also fond of Shakespeare for a particular reason, the Shakespeare who wrote, "To thy own self be true ...". But in the natural conflict between outward devotion and being true to oneself, it is the latter that loses where a pledge is put in the way to ensure guru might.
There could be a good reason to ignore teachings on misdirected bhakti (devotion, love) that serves ulterior ends and maybe Hard Games (psychological hanky-pankies) too – and to stick to yoga technicalities that don't undermine you, but ease your way inwards, to the Self or Nirvana side of things.
Heading for higher states
Piousness is what you may end up with by going deep inside. It is inwardness, in essence. Being pious is very good, then. But blind devotion or devotedness on the other hand, can be used as part of a plot that leads off the mark somehow. For simple devotion is of id, can be played on, misdirected and misused. It happens so often. Further, id-linked devotion seems to be up to wholly duality-based.
One has to steer out of dumb devotion (if ordained by others also) in order to protect the heart – and it is the heart that counts in this. (A secret let out for you).
Some say that guru devotion is a means – don't listen to them. It can work fine if considered as a result of delving inside yourself, though, but how often does that happen?
Furthermore, observe how many there are who become maniacs through wrongly or faultily directed devotion for tens of years on end – poorly directed, used and perhaps stultifying – they become used, and awkward devotion could be a means to it. Still further, some appear to delight in wearing their devotion on their sleeve, even though they could be better off by being very discreet about it and not overlook such as Matthew 6:5-6 about going to one's closet for it and not flaunt it either.
Don't be too shallow (and rejoicing for a little while), but ponder and calculate adequately too (cf. Matthew 13:20-23). Devotee "show-offs" in the name of God are not deep enough to regard those words of Jesus as they should, and may not count for much by such a measure4. That is the gospel message, like it or not.
According to Jesus, whom Yogananda revered with his lips without dropping show-off prayers for the following, you had better recognise evildoers by their fruits, as Jesus is into in the passage that ends with "I never knew you." "Away from me, you evildoers!" (Matthew 7:19-23)
So what about praying in church, in a shallow, seemingly devoted congregation, and further down? Drop it, if the words of Jesus are dear to you, and you do not want to end up like the hypocrites (above). Jesus foretells he will denounce and not accept hypocrites, even though they have called him "Master, Master." There is a lesson there somewhere, isn't there?
Haven't you got a better fare than showing off in public prayer, then? Maybe not. And, after all, the sermonising of Jesus was left out by all the apostles and the Holy Ghost together when they founded the basis for Christianity for non-Jews, gentiles. No words of Jesus found their way into the Apostolic Decree of ca. 50 CE. Acts 15 tells of the four main things to observe for the non-Jewish Christian: No to blood food (blood sausages, black pudding, etc. is not excluded) is one of the four requirements of the first and bottom Christianity Deal. If the bottom is knocked out, the barrel will probably not hold much fluid as it was meant to. If the Christian eats wrangled poultry (choked animals is on the list), so much the worse for him or her. Adulterers are not the only ones that may be denounced, in other words ("No adultery" is one of the four requirements too). However, there were no gospel words included or referred to in the Great Deal of non-Jewish Christians, but adjustments that the Holy Ghost and all the apostles saw fit for the following (Acts 15).
If you have eaten chicken that was wrangled, a requirement has been violated, and one fourth of the bottom of the barrel is gone, figuratively speaking. There is no reason to think it is different with eating blood food either. Add up and guess of your chances to enjoy heaven in the beyond if breaking just one requirement will do to denounce you when the time comes. "A deal is a deal." This more than suggests that unless you find yourself under the "deal" of "original Christianity as taught by Jesus Christ" - for Jews only, one may add - you may not be barred from heaven for praying out loud, since that is not a no-no in the Apostolic Deal. Maybe there is hope outside Nyingma Buddhism and Vedanta too. But I would not count on it. As for all of us who have eaten blood food, for example hamburgers with added (blood) protein in them, what is there to say? One may let that sensitive topic rest for the time being, adding that the Apostolic Decree is still followed in the Orthodox Church, and has nowhere been annulled by the Ghost.
For reasons such as those, it might pay to take care. In Yogananda's fellowship they tell they are in harmony with the "Christianity of Jesus." So the fact that they wear public prayers and are governed by nuns in Yogananda's fellowship, might come as a surprise or lesson in original shewbread Christianity. Facade does not have to be all there is to "following Jesus", though, but to claim him with your lips and stupidly form lots of those hypocrites that Jesus condemned and said he would bar from heaven, cannot be good. That is in part gospel truth, and I can't see how wriggling and squirming can help the guru and those he has misled into "Jesus Christianity" but without meeting its requirements. See for yourself. [More]
Some play fair, and some don't. I leave to you to decide who they are. A tip: They can be overwhelmingly many, many.
And if this "serenade" is not enough, it also stands out that Lahiri Mahasaya told followers to keep their practice of kriya yoga to themselves.
Further, devoted bigots develop sects and cults. It stands out very clearly in a historical perspective. Just check Wikipedia's article about "Hinduism" and its cults: The larger parts of Hinduism are cults. And many cults evolve on the basis of devoted minds who get grossly bigoted or limited of outlook as time goes by. It happens almost as "by itself," methinks. In other words: If deep inside you want to wither and decay, outré devotion might be the thing – and don't say that you have not been warned against much that is regularly practiced in churches the world over ...
My Master is Swami Sri Yukteswar Giriji. The inspiration and command for the spread of Yogoda Sat-Sanga [SRF] in America is due to him. The whole credit belongs to him. He is one of the world's greatest intellectual and spiritual giants. – Yogananda, "Christmas Message", East West, September – October 1928.
Is Yogananda looney to tell that Yukteswar is "one of the world's greatest intellectual and spiritual giants" or not? [Link]
You could realize your Self and go into God (Lord) and find out as far as you can. Until then, think that the original meaning of "God" as used by Alf and other yogis, is "Self". At the back of many words, like "Elf-Realization Fellowship" you can still sense this angling. It is also possible to note things like that in some of Alf's early writings, one of which was written by a ghost writer in his name, they say.
Alf did not dispense with the early (pristine) teachings totally as the decades went by – but he did take to dualism-tinged, religiousness-fostering God-constructs and other, similar concepts among "middle-aged American women in California" when he spoke to them. He adapted, it seems to me (and others too).
In a fare, you adapt to your family and its members, and then to many groups inside the large society. The alterative is to be ostracised, which seems to be worse to many persons. Ideally, you adapt in cosy ways for mutual benefits. If the family and others around you are not functioning normally or in healthy ways, you have to dismiss them if you don't want to band with them. Some give up.
Something to believe in - could it be eggs of gold that is not gold?
The idea "You, God" is of duality. The work of contemplation is to pass beyond that by the method(s). This is a main strategy.
Gold Eggs is a metaphor for building selfsameness (building a neat everyday self and so on), and that could be good for folks far and wide.
Beliefs: I believe that "Believe, but make sure (Russian proverb)", carries a lot of sense. Basically though, I consider "Believe as little as possible" to work better. "Believe in your Self" could be even better again. It depends.
Reincarnation: A site devoted to Ian Stevenson's research on the subject: [◦Link]
When all else drops off, the Self (your inmost self) remains, some also say.
Doctors go against smoking because of its
accumulating detrimental effects in the long run.
Some men do without women and some women do without men. (Cf. Going Solo by Eric Klinenberg).
Dr Georg Feuerstein explains in The Deeper Dimension of Yoga (Chap. 12, "Types of Hindu Yoga") that the approach of the Upanishads involved discernment. Hatha-yoga deals at bottom with the serpent power or kundalini (No. 11) and japa-yoga consists of mantra recitation (the way of repeating syllables). No 22 in his list is Mantra-yoga of repeating sounds has been a part of the Yoga tradition ever since Vedic times.
No. 32, Samputa-yoga, is of sexual intercourse - a part of Tantra-yoga, and No. 38,Tantra-yoga is kundalini-based.
- and so on.
It says that yoga in itself is fit for many activities, including sex. The how to may not be told of here. Effects may depend on one's partner too.
Women differ in their natural dispositions: there are women who are worthy of all praise. - Sheikh Nefzaoui, (al-Nafzawi 1886, Chap 5)
There could a fit reason for being attracted to the opposite sex, future divorce, havoc or not. Insticts are deep and wise in their ways, even if individuals pay.
It has been observed, "When I talk to God it is called prayer, and if God talks to me it is called schizophrenia."
Some persons hear something, and to know steadfastly and truly is much better. Visions need accompanying understanding, and words one hears within may be from not-good guys. Yogananda's biographer Dasgupta (2006) says that one night before Yogananda went to America in 1920, he screamed a lot when seeing a cot. From then on, a student would sleep in a separate cot in Yogananda's room. Take care not to misunderstand. (Dasgupta 2006:114) - And by the way, in many fairy tales, the heroine finds out that a beast is not a burden but a lot -
First attune yourself inwardly as best you can, in order to ensure as reliable output as possible. And to lessen the risks of being outsmarted or in the wrong, check and double-check and triple-check or more if it can be done in any given case.
There are many books that describe chakras. Do chakras exist? Well, what do you think? What do we mean by chakras (wheels), padmas (lotuses) and such things, including the currents they link up to?
The basic thing is that they represent levels of awakening, of getting more (inwardly, at first) conscious, and so on. Practitioners don't have to think of them, unless such attention is part of a method that is used. In Zen the subject of chakras is considered to be "not interesting".
Besides, if you would rather see some hard evidence, you may not get that. For the delicate mind-and -energy vortexes called chakras are not items, not hardware, so to speak. So hard evidence is hardly to be had about you. But individual experiences may be had and registered, we are told.
Statistical studies or inquiries about chakras may yield statistical data – useful to some, but hardly hard evidence anyhow, just averaged reckoning with statistical significance at the root of many of you.
Bear in mind that chakras are like fays and fairies in that they are not seen and understood by everybody. One may behave all right without seeing them all the same - that is, eat vegetarian food, drink juice, and be genuinely merry. Solomon of the Bible said something in a similar, coarser vein. He fell greatly, that so-called wisest man on earth. The ancient Greek Epicureans tried to enjoy living on an even keel too. Know a lot in order to master it full well.
When tired of being yourself, what's the alternative? Buddha teaches that it may help - at the very least in the long run - to lead good, moral lives. His karma teachings. [Link]
In yoga, thinking about something good is at best only second to experiencing for yourself by methods handed over. That's in the teaching.
Then, what may be called second-hand thinking is not a fruit of own experience. "Modest dogs miss much meat."
One may say that everything that others say about God and God's grace may not be very favourable to oneself. Ramakrishna used to pinpoint it by "eating mangoes" (meditating very deeply and so on). "I have come to the garden to eat mangoes. What is the use of my calculating the number of trees, branches, and leaves? I only eat the mangoes; I don't need to know the number of trees and leaves." (Nikhilananda 1974:217-18) On another occasion he said:
I cannot cure my own illness, and you ask me to tell you what happens after death! . . .
Often, progress in the deep mind is unnoticed for a long while. You feel disappointed after believing in big words that sell well over there?
Meditation methods: A tool in able hands may do great work, and the same tool in beginner's hands may not – not at once at any rate.
Also, fulfil any need for sleep all right.
Still, everybody is different (to some degree). Fingerprints, DNA profile, and – if Carl G. Jung is right (again), one's identity, individuality.
Struggling with making fair and hopefully fit "maps" (cognitive maps) of a "terrain" that others have found worth exploring, you have stumbled across discrepancies between SOME descriptions and your experiences, and keep asking yourself much. That is not bad, but it is not the best one can do either.
When we doze off, certain energies are turned inward, and we stop experiencing a lot through the senses. When such turning is accomplished while being conscious, that is called the pratyahara (withdrawal) stage of meditation in yoga literature. Patanjali's yoga classic Yoga Sutras explains more of it.
A tip: One could focus on establishing the mantra/method in one's heart and mind from the start so as to get beyond memories or whatever.
The best method has to be easy enough - not difficult to practice. Strained practice means something is goes wrong, you may find among the cautions around.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (1918 – 2008) tells that the inward-going (called meditation) by TM and activities (work in the world) need to get balanced – like night and day – and that inward-turning helps inward-tuning. One balance is of yin and yang. If you steadily give out or give up more than you get, you get depleted and cannot give any more. Getting depleted could turn harmful at length.
God in Buddhism: Upon much study, dr Richard Gombrich maintains in What the Buddha Thought (2009) that the no-soul doctrine ("there is no Atman (soul, spirit, Spirit) in much of the contemporary Buddhism depends on an error of interpretation. He finds that both Pali grammar and a comparison with the Vedanta show that the true meaning of an ancient saying is 'is not atman' rather than 'does not have atman' and that the translation 'self' is appropriate, Dr Gombrich sums up (p. 69-70).
Simply: a wealth of Mahayana Buddhists think there is an Atman (Self) for example Padmasambhava, the originator of Nyingma Buddhism.
You may go on and ask, "How does the Self relate to the "I" at its peak? Mahavakyas, great sayings in ancient Upanishads include:
This Self (Atman) is Brahman. (Mandukya Upanishad 1.2)
We are into subtleties. There are many other statements. Brahman means the Absolute, Highest Truth, Consciousness Itself, Intelligence and much else. It all goes to say, "Do not set your aims too low, and not too high either."
Also know who your real friends are. There are criteria (yardsticks, benchmarks, indicators), so you do not have to wait for much need to reveal much of it. [Hallmarks of genuine friends]
al-Nafzawi, Muhammad (Shaykh Nefwazi, Cheikh Nefzaoui). The Perfumed Garden: A Manual of Arabian Erotology, tr. Sir Richard Burton. Cosmopoli for the Kama Shastra Society of London and Benares, 1886. Online.
Feuerstein, Georg. The Deeper Dimension of Yoga: Theory and Practice. London: Shambhala, 2011.
Gombrich, Richard F. What the Buddha Thought. London: Equinox, 2009.
Isayeva, Natalia. Shankara and Indian Philosophy. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1993.
Nikhilananda, Swami, tr. The Gospel of Ramakrishna. Abridged ed. New York: Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 1974.
Prabhavananda, Swami, and Christopher Isherwood, trs: Shankara's Crest-Jewel of Discrimination. 3rd ed. Hollywood: Vedanta Press, 1978.
Shankara. Crest-Jewel of Wisdom, tr. John Richards. (2001). Online.
Harvesting the hay
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