Shankaracharya Swami Brahmananda Saraswati (1870 – 1953) Reestablished Vedic Wisdom in Northern India

Shankaracharya Brahmananda Saraswati

Born in Gana India, Rajaram left behind his family’s householder life style at the age of nine to seek spiritual wisdom and enlightenment. He renounced worldly pleasures and left in search of a more permanent peace.

After visiting many spiritual masters and living with some for short periods of time, he became a disciple of Swami Krishnananda at age 14. He finally had found a living example of absolute bliss consciousness in human form.

As part of his training he lived in caves nearby his master’s ashram, coming out only to visit with Swami Krishnananda on occasion. He spent his time in deep meditation.

At the age twenty five it was time to leave the caves behind and move into the ashram to be with his guru 24/7.

At the Kumbh Mela festival in 1906 Rajaram was formally ordained by Swami Krishnananda, and bestowed the title Sri Swami Brahmananda Saraswati Maharaj. He was 36 years old at the time.

After the passing of Swami Krishnananda in 1936, Brahmananda Saraswati spent years in the forest enveloped in silence and bliss.

1,200 years ago renowned spiritual luminary Adi Shankara (788 – 820) established four principle seats (monasteries) of learning in India, to maintain his revived reinterpretation of Hindu scriptures.

Shankara established one in India’s north, south, east and west …

Geography Math (monastery) Location
North Jyotirmatha Peetham Jyotirmath, India
South Sringeri Sharada Peetham Karnataka, India
East Govardhana Peetham Puri, India
West Dvaraka Peetham Gujrat, India

The North seat, the Shankaracharya of Jyotirmath, is the principal of the four maths (monasteries). The seat was unoccupied for 108 years because a qualified Acharya was not to be found.

Tenure Shankaracharya of Jyotirmath residents
1696-1703 Shivanand Swami
1703-1717 Balkrishna Swami
1717-1750 Narain Updendra Swami
1750-1763 Harishchandar Swami
1763-1773 Sadanand Swami
1773-1781 Keshav Swami
1781-1823 Narain Tirtha Swami
1823-1833 Ram Krishna Swami
1833-1941 EMPTY

Brahmananda Saraswati was approached on several occasions to occupy the empty spiritual seat of Jyotirmath. At age 70 he finally relented and told a committee he would accept the position. On the day that the installation ceremony was to take place, he was nowhere to be found. He left two days earlier in the hope that perhaps all that commotion about the seat would go away.

But shortly thereafter he was installed as the Shankaracharya Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, and remained there seeing visitors and attending to disciples, until his passing in 1953.

Among the many disciples that Brahmananda Saraswati had was Mahesh Prasad Varma, later known as Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

Moments before Brahmananda Saraswati passed away, he told Mahesh, “What I have taught you also contains the knowledge of the technique for the householder.” That inspired Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (http://meditationandspiritualgrowth.com/?p=964) to bring that meditation to the world in 1959 as TM (Transcendental Meditation).

Swami Brahmananda Saraswati

Here are the words of Brahmananda Saraswati …

“There is no distance or separation with Paramatma (God).

Learn to make full use of the human body. One should not waste this chance.

When the mind realizes God, it is permanently established there and does not desire other things.

The aim of life is to stop the mind from involvement with this world.

The dawn comes to dispel the darkness of night, allowing us to enjoy the light of the sun (which is self-illuminating). Spiritual teachings destroy ignorance and therefore remove darkness, but they cannot throw light on the inner Self, for the Self is Light.

The people struggle hard to gain valueless baubles of daily living, day in and day out. It is said: Gain one thing to gain everything – try to gain everything and you will gain nothing.

If you want to catch the shadow, catch the real thing and automatically the shadow will be in your hands. Leaving the real, if you run after the shadow, the faster you run, the faster it will run away from you. That is why, to run after shadowy wealth and fame is foolhardy. Catch hold of the real – Paramatman – and all these will come by itself to be under your command. Remember, that remembering Paramatman is always highly profitable. Whatever time you put into this, you will get back with multifold interest.

As long as one has to live, live peacefully. It is certain; the work here can never be completed. So do not make much out of doing. Work as it is, is a waste. Lead this life with a peaceful mind, doing your duty and always remembering Paramatman.

Nobody wants your mind in this world, and the mind is not satisfied with anything of the world. The mind is not fit for the world, or the world for the mind. When the mind realizes God, it is permanently established there and does not desire other things. From this we can understand that God alone is fit for the mind and nothing else.

Do good works without hesitation. The Jiva has been experiencing samsara for many, many births. It is only natural, therefore, that its tendencies have become worldly. To turn its tendencies toward Paramatman and away from samsara requires some effort. In reality, the aim of life is to stop the mind from involvement with this world. If one engages in spiritual practice and in thinking and speaking about God, the mind will start dwelling on Him and after some time it will withdraw from the world on its own.

In our daily affairs we should adopt a strategy of quickly attending to good works and things related to the Divine. Should any wrong thought arise, on the other hand, we should try to postpone it to another time by saying, “I’ll do it tomorrow, or the day after next.” In this way, wrong action can be continuously postponed.

To be born a human is more fortunate than to be born a deva (angel or Divine being).  Taking birth as a deva is considered comparable to taking birth as any other life form. Birth as a deva is attained by those who perform certain sacrifices and karma, etc. associated with divinity, with the intention to enjoy divine pleasures. The minds of the devas wander incessantly because of the abundance of enjoyable things in the heavenly realms, and hence they cannot perform purushartha (Divine action – action in accord with the cosmic evolution and individual destiny). For this reason, the human birth is considered superior, because here, by doing as much purushartha as possible, one can eventually merge with God.

A human being is like a lump of pure gold, whereas devas are like pieces of fine jewelry. Having been perfected as jewelry, their progress is complete, and they cannot be further improved. On the other hand, gold which has not yet been crafted by the jeweler, has unlimited potential. Hence the birth of a human being is said to be the very best birth for action.

To get a human body is a rare thing—make full use of it. There are four million kinds of births which a soul can gather. After that one gets a human body. Therefore, one should not waste this opportunity. Every second in human life is very valuable. If you don’t value this, then you will have nothing in hand and you will weep in the end.

Because you’re human, God has given you power to think and decide what is good and bad. Therefore, you can do the best possible kind of action. You should never consider yourself weak or a fallen creature. Whatever may have happened up to now may be because you didn’t know, but now be careful.

After getting a human body, if you don’t reach God, then you have sold a diamond at the price of spinach.

For this reason, the human birth is considered superior, because here, by doing as much purushartha as possible, one can eventually become one with God.

Having attained this birth, one should not act carelessly, but should conscientiously perform the best purushartha. Fulfilling one’s own dharma while keeping faith in Paramatma is the greatest purushartha. Strive to become one with God in this lifetime. Have firm faith in the Vedas and shastras and keep the company of those wise people who also have faith in them. Only then will the purpose of your life be fulfilled.”

The difference is the same as the difference between rice and paddy. Remove the skin of the paddy and it is rice. Similarly, remove the covering of Maya, and the Jiva will become Brahman.’

The one who has come, has to go. Nobody can stay here. Every moment keep your luggage packed. Nobody knows when death will call. The warrant of death is like the arrest warrant.

If you are not cautious, you cannot escape from falling. It is the nature of samsara-river (worldliness); it will always try to take you downwards. Involvement with the senses makes man multifaceted. Being multifaceted and with involvement with vasana makes it very difficult to have the ability [kshamata] to discern. So it is essential to be cautious always.

It is a waste to make much of your activity, so try to live quietly as long as you have to live.

The Creator is Vishvambhara. He shoulders the duty to sustain and protect us. And so, he will make arrangements. Without having faith in His support, if you depend on your intellect and cleverness, deceit and craftiness, you will lead a life of turbulence and the future path will also be darkened.

As is the cloth, so is the price. For carrying on the short-lived activities of the work, employ your short-lived body and wealth. Mind is a permanent thing, which remains with you always. Even in the other world it will continue to stay with you. Therefore connect it with a permanent thing, God, being the eternal existence in animate and inanimate things, is the only permanent thing of the highest order. Therefore connect your mind with Him. If the mind is satisfied with wealth, wife or children, why does it go elsewhere? Because if cannot stick onto anything. From this it is clear that it is not satisfied with anything of the mundane world. It runs after things, taking them to be good and desirable, but after a short while it leaves them.

Do good works without hesitation.

There are three types of protection and service: The highest is like a tortoise; the middle is like fishes; and the lower is like birds.
The turtle does not keep his eggs near. The fish does not go near its eggs. The bird protects its eggs by covering them always, sitting on them.
In the manner of the tortoise, the Great Spiritual Guru helps, protects and guides his sincere disciple by concentration and observation of the behavior of his disciples. By the blessing of the Guru the life of disciple become purposeful and develops faster on the (path of) Spiritual Progress. [Abr. Brahmananda]

Divine union can be realized by the practice of Yoga.

Every moment is the power of the Supreme to be realized and remembered.

Paramatma is one, and is present everywhere and in every time. Absolute bliss consciousness (Satchidanada) cannot be broken and is Knowledge Incarnate.

Real victory is that, after which there can never be a reverse. Nobody can call himself a victor forever merely by crushing an external foe, because such foes can spring up again. A real victory is achieved by bringing under control the internal foes. A check over the internal enemies is therefore the only way of conquering the external enemies forever, because we should bear in mind that it is our own internal enemies which create the external enemies.

These inner enemies are ambition, anger, greed, false attachment, vanity and jealousy. It is this hexagon sitting inside us which makes a cat’s paw of anything in the outer world in order to create enemies for us. Therefore if anybody wants to enjoy peace and happiness through victory over all enemies, then he should raid the very source of all physical enemies – the subtle hexagon living in us. Destruction of enemies by root is not possible without breaking up this hexagon (ambition, anger, greed, false attachment, vanity and jealously). This is axiomatic.

It is not too difficult to win over the hexagon. But people take it to be impossible without giving thought. Most of them hold the belied that only a perfect saint who has renounced all worldly concerns can break up the inner hexagon. This belief is based on complete ignorance. A renouncer renounces the very cause of the hexagon, so in his case the question of conquering the hexagon does not arise at all. A victor over the hexagon is one who maintains his worldly attitudes but does not allow himself to be subordinated by them. Let the enemy have an occasion to strike, but let him find that he cannot do so because he finds you too strong for it. Only then can he be treated as defeated. Mere engagement in bonafide worldly activities is no hindrance in keeping the inner hexagon in a state of subjugation.

One can become a mahatma wherever one lives. No one becomes a mahatma by simply wearing ochre clothing or by applying some marks to the forehead. Dress and other externals will not lead to the ultimate good, whereas faith will certainly lead to it. The state of a mahatma is determined by the state of mind. So stay wherever you are, but change the direction of your mind. Think less about samsara and think more about Paramatma.

Nowadays people think a great deal about things they should not waste their time on. One should primarily contemplate Paramatma; instead people contemplate worldly objects. That is why they are unable to experience peace and happiness. If you apply your vital breath to worldly activities and enjoyment of the senses, then your lungs are like the bellows of a blacksmith. Hence take care of your vital breath and apply yourself to Paramatma. First generate faith. You already have sufficient faith in money. That is why you are able to think about it. When you have faith in Paramatma, then you will start contemplating Him.

You must realize that money and all the objects of samsara will remain here, while you have to carry out your future journey alone. Prepare for that future journey at this very moment. Increase your faith in higher goals, and increase your love for that ever-blissful Paramatma. Show superficial interest in the things of the world, which will always remain here, and place primary faith in the ultimate goal, which will remain with you. Once you discover that a tantalizing heap of money was actually created by a magician, the temptation to take it will wither, and you will no longer covet it. Like the magician’s money, all the objects and relationships of samsara are transient. Therefore, carry out all daily affairs according to social expectations, but do not reserve a place for these things in your mind. Keep your mind free for the imperishable Paramatma, whose very essence is bliss. Always keep Bhagavan in your mind and never transgress the bounds of propriety – this is what is means to be a mahatma.

§§

Close your eyes and meditate. Know the timeless reality.

Posted by John Kirszenberg on December 1st, 2013 Comments Off

A matter of perspective

Some spiritual teachers claim that the path to enlightenment is long, arduous, and challenging. It requires great personal sacrifice.

Others claim that no path is necessary at all. That’s because you are already there. They reiterate that only a slight shift in awareness to the “ever present now” is all that is needed.

So which viewpoint is correct? Does enlightenment require years of meditation practice and tapas (penance, physical austerities), or none at all?

Let’s explore this a bit further …

§§

Minutes after I was born my father gave me the name Nizhoni, which means beautiful. It is an appropriate name for a young Navajo girl like me.

Although outsiders know us as the Navajo, we refer to ourselves as the Dine, or Children of the Holy People. Other Indian tribes consider our home in this rocky desert to be too demanding, but we have flourished here for hundreds of years. When I look at the surrounding majestic rock canyons, the mountains and buttes, I’m in awe at the grandeur of this landscape and give thanks to the Great Spirit.

At a young age I worked with my Mother on daily chores to help keep the family feed and clothed. Our major staple is corn (naadaa) but we supplement that with wild plants and game. When the Spanish explores arrived here 100 summers ago they introduced us to sheep; so mutton is now also a part of our diet.

I grew up like most girls in our village, except for the fact that my grandfather was the tribe Shaman. He often wanted to teach me such things but I was never interested. Instead, I prefer the wind in my hair and the warm sun on my face in this real world.

At age 18 I was married to Toh Yah. He is a strong man with a good hunting eye for game. He learned tracking skills at an early age and often accompanied the elders on extended period hunts. When I was near him he smelled masculine. He always made me feel safe. Later when we had children he took keen interest in our three sons and always gave due notice to our daughter.

I love a gentle caress from my husband, and seeing my children at play.

In this harsh desert climate it’s hard to keep your hair looking good, but I try my best. I often spend time making nice clothes and gathering eucalyptus to use as a perfume. Although my ancestors wore deerskin, hip-leggings and moccasins, today we also wear woven cloth and colorful small blankets laced together – but leaving room for our hands (i.e., like a poncho).

As the years passed I watched my children grow and have families of their own. We didn’t stray very far from the canyon lands where I lived. We traded with other tribes and the Mexicans from the South. After Toh Yah passed I am ready to follow.

§§

In 1850 my family moved from Ireland to Chicago to escape the great famine. For some unknown reason one of our main food staples, the potato, was savaged by the blight. People were starving to death by the hundreds of thousands.

I was born in the Windy City in 1870, and joined my clan of four other brothers and three sisters. My name is Jason. My parents raised us as Protestant, and following that strict work ethic I found my first job at the mill when I was but 14 years old.

When I was eighteen I placed our King James Version of the bible on the kitchen table, along with two other versions. I read the same verse in all three. The words conveyed somewhat different meanings.

Is this why people point to the Bible in support of their own personal opinion? Do we interpret verses to suit our own needs and justifications?

After comparing many other verses I started to question the authenticity of the Protestant text. Was this truly the word of God, or a human manuscripted interpretation?

Is there such a thing as “the word of God?”

I did some research at the library and learned that the Bible as we know it today was largely put together at the Council of Nicea, in 325 AD. Books such as the Gospel of Judas and the Gospel of Mary Magdalene were left out. Many other stories about Jesus were omitted. Some say that during his missing years (age 12 – 30) Jesus traveled in the East. I guess that today’s Christianity was sculptured more by the apostle Paul, than anyone else.

In 553 AD the Roman Emperor Justinian convened the Second Synod to remove the many references to reincarnation espoused in the Bible. That’s because his wife was an ex-prostitute and concerned that if reincarnation were true, she would have to atone for her actions in many future lifetimes.

So I was a Protestant by birth, but left the religion when I reached the age of reason.

In September of 1893, when I was 23 years old, my true spiritual education and quest began. That month spiritual luminaries from around the world gathered in Chicago for the World’s Parliament of Religions.

Worlds Parliament of Religions - Chicago 1893

I heard many speakers but the words of Swami Vivekananda struck a resounding chord in my soul (http://meditationandspiritualgrowth.com/?p=1529). By some stroke of luck (or was it my karma) I heard that the Swami was staying with a family near the outskirts of town. I went to the house and was invited in. The Swami was in the living room speaking to other people. I sat down to listen and asked some questions. His eyes were alive and a heightened sense of serenity pervaded the room. That evening he initiated me into meditation. I have been practicing meditation ever since.

The following year I visited the Swami in New York City, around the time that he established the Vedanta Society. In June of 1895 I sat at his feet as a disciple for two months, at the Thousand Island Park in New York. When he traveled back to Sri Lanka in 1897 I was but one of many followers who accompanied him. When I learned of his passing in July 1902, my heart was broken, but I vowed to continue on in my quest.

In all, I was able to practice meditation for over 40-years before lying on my death bed. I was disappointed that I had not reached the exalted state of enlightenment, but looking back I marveled at the progress I had made. My mind was now blissfully silent and no longer mired in random thoughts. Peace and serenity was upon my face.

§§

My name is Isabella and I remember taking lovely summer vacation trips with my family to Playa de Las Canteras, and the other Spanish beaches. As a young girl I also enjoyed the sun, sand, and my friends.

I am the first child of four, and therefore my parents had high expectations for me. At the very young age of five I was enrolled in Suzuki violin school. I studied hard and gave several performances, but I was not going to be a virtuoso. That was not part of my DNA.

When I was eight years old my elementary school teacher called my parents for a conference. Mrs. Pérez told them that I was an extremely bright student, kind, and loved by my fellow classmates, but that I seemed to be engaged excessively in day dreaming during class. Mrs. Pérez said this was a problem that needed to be addressed. So she gave my father the name of a psychiatrist for me to visit.

I told them all that I would get lost, while spontaneously experiencing inner silence. It was as if my senses had shut down and there was no input from the outer world. My mind was awake inside and I felt that time was suspended. Then I would snap out of it and hear Mrs. Pérez talking at the front of the class.

The doctors didn’t know what to do. They told my parents not to worry because I would outgrow it.

At the age of twelve I started playing soccer with our middle school team. My father was an avid player himself when he was younger, so he accompanied me to all my games. He liked to also serve as an assistant coach, always eager to give me pointers to help my game. Since all four of us kids turned out to be daughters, I guess that I was the son he never had. Although I didn’t like the idea that there had to be a winner and a looser, rough and tumble sports were OK with me.

During the summer of 1961 we traveled overseas for the very first time to the Big Apple, New York City. We visited Times Square, the Statue of Liberty, and Radio City Music Hall. When we took a walk at the Thousand Island Park, I suddenly felt very strange. While strolling down Garden Avenue I realized that I had been here before. A left turn on Rainbow Street, all the way down to the end where it intersects the junction between Prospect Avenue, Sunset and Coast; and then forward to Grenell. Later on Eden Street I found the house of silence and peace.

My parents were not avid Church goers, but we made our rounds during the Christmas holiday anyway. They did not believe in that kind of stuff, but they showed up more as an insurance policy. Just in case there was some truth to it, they wanted to be certain that they had good credentials to get thru the pearly gates. As for me, I don’t know if the Good Book and its stories are true or not, but in any event I believe in helping everyone out and sharing love whenever possible. We are all connected to each other. The words “conflict” and “hate” were never in my vocabulary.

At night during sleep I seemed to dream a lot more that my sisters. They could hardly remember anything. But for me, I seemed to remember dreaming most every night.

I often dreamt about flying like a bird over the majestic countryside. Below me were rolling hills covered in lush verdure and tall trees. Small cities and large cities would past under my sight. And occasionally I would fly up high and see the Moon under my wings.

Once I was a soldier fighting the Moors who invaded my country. Once I lived in England and was an attendant to a Duke and Dutchess. I was a farmer, and a mountain man. I was a blacksmith’s daughters, and a gypsy girl. I was an Indian girl named Nizhoni living with my family in the American Southwest. I often dreamt of different people and different places. It was all soothing and peaceful.

I quickly learned that life often gives you the exam before the training lesson. We may call that learning by trial and error, or just gaining experience and becoming wiser over time. But either way, it seemed to me that a better way was needed. We do need to stand up after we fall down. But is this the school of hard knocks, or is there a better way?

I graduated from college and started my newfound career in marketing. It was exciting to work in the big city and I made many new friends at the office.

For lunch I often went outside to site on the bench in the sun. But something startling happened one day. I was lost again in that inner silence, but when I came out of it the world was unlike anything I had experienced before. Although my eyes were open and I saw people walking and I heard the sounds of car traffic, that inner silence did not go away. Now I was that silence, looking out at the world, at my own body and mind, as a spectator.

The experience is oh so blissful. I’m wide awake and witnessing activity along with silence. What is this? How did this happen? What does this all mean?

I spent the next few months enjoying my newfound freedom and trying to understand what had happened. I went to the library and found some interesting books by someone call Swami Vivekananda. I liked his books so I read everything that I could. So this is what enlightenment is, I thought.

Well here I am now sitting at the airport waiting for my flight to Pretoria, South Africa. I left my marketing job and I’m working for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Once in Pretoria I’ll meet up with the Foundation’s HIV team and spend my days working to prevent the spread of aids.

§§

Conclusion …

Although everyone is searching for happiness and the meaning of life, virtually no one recognizes that the pursuit of enlightenment is germane to that end. Clouded by the enslavement of the five senses, deluded by cravings and wants, we live life after life is search of riches; as cattle remaining in their stalls.

The story of Nizhoni is one of spiritual awakening, taking place in the year 1620, in the American Southwest.

The story of Jason is one of purpose driven spiritual development; meditation, sacrifice, and a life of virtuous progress toward enlightenment.

The story of Isabella is one of innocents and goodness, spontaneously wakening into the timeless reality of enlightenment.

For Jason the path to enlightenment is long, arduous, and challenging. For Isabella it is a pathless path. Both prescriptions for attaining enlightenment (path or pathless) are correct. What you are faced with depends upon your viewpoint of life, and your current state of consciousness.

There is nothing to be acquired or gained. Referring to enlightenment as “self realization” highlights that only the fog of ignorance (not knowing) needs to be dispelled.

It’s not the divine that must be found, but rather that which deludes you that must be released.

I am neither created nor uncreated, for I have always been here.
I am neither deluded nor undeluded, for I have always been here.
I am neither of light nor of darkness, for I have always been here.
I am the Bliss, I am the Truth, I am the Boundless Sky.
(Avadhuta Gita)

The eternal absolute bliss consciousness is not in the realm of what can be acquired, or not acquired. IT is not in the jurisdiction of time, space, or causation. IT is beyond the arena of mind, concept and thought.

We are all connected to the universe which celebrates life. Today was given to you as a gift. Happiness is inherent to man. Retrace your steps and return to yourself. Slay the false notion of I and mine (ego) and awaken.

Posted by John Kirszenberg on September 22nd, 2013 Comments Off

A Mature Ego is an essential part of the Spiritual Equation

On this warm summer day in Northern Quebec, crystals of faux amphibolites (cummingtonite-plagioclase-biotite-garnet) lay exposed on the ground and bathe in the bright sunlight. Considered to be among the oldest rocks on Earth (4.28 billion years old) and possibly part of our planets original first crust, these ancient sentinels of time – have no ego.

Of course everyone would say that a rock has no ego. That seems to be just common sense. Such a notion is quite preposterous and borderlines on insanity.

But why is that, and how do we know?

A rock displays no visible sign that it is aware of itself, or its surroundings. Yet the ability to be aware is not the sole criteria for confirming the existence, or non existence, of an ego.

The term ego is often defined as a human trait. It’s how we see ourselves as separate and distinct from all other people in the world. It gives us the sense of I and mine; a unique identity in our world of multiplicity.

Yet just having an individual body, with both inner and outer awareness, is also not the sole criteria for confirming the existence of an ego.

There is much more to the ego than that. We need to explore deeper.

Most religious and philosophical systems categorize the different levels of creation. Some speak in terms of different bodies, while others speak in terms of unmanifest and manifest principles. In the mainstream Buddhist tradition there are three sheaths (Dharmakaya, Sambhogakaya and Nirmanakaya), subdivided into 31 levels. In Hinduism there are five Koshas (Anandamayi, Vigyanamayi, Manomayi, Pranamayi, and Annamayi).

Let us explore where the ego resides, and where it does not, based on the Theosophical system of seven divisions:

• Adi – Spirit, the first, original, and primordial element.
• Anupadaka – The unmanifest logos, self born and spontaneously generated.
• Atman – The highest part of a human being, pure consciousness. It is the realization and knowledge of “I am the absolute SELF, eternal and unbounded.”
• Buddhi – The spiritual soul, the faculty of discriminating, the channel through which streams divine inspiration.
• Mental – Manas, the Causal and Mental realm.
• Astral – The emotional realm.
• Physical – The dense physical world composed of material, liquid, gas and etheric levels.


The crystals of faux amphibolites are composed of hard physical substances. It can be seen, tasted, smelled, touched, and even heard when the forces of nature (erosion and heat) act upon it. These minerals have a physical body, a basic consciousness, and nothing more.

Plants and flowers first appeared on the earth’s surface about 700 million years ago. These delicate and beautifully life structures have a material as well as an Etheric body. We have learned in previous posts that having an Etheric (life force) body is characteristic of all living beings.

Plants are conscious of their environment. When the sun rises in the morning many species turn in that direction to bathe in the warm precious rays. When the sun sets many close their petals and rest. They respond to heat and cold, drought and rain, and thrive when conditions for growth are present. Scientists now believe that somehow plants communicate with each other. When a pest (i.e., aphids, beetles, caterpillars, etc.) or disease is present and threatens a plant community, plants in the area take a defensive posture.

Because of the presence of plants on the Earth we have a life sustaining oxygen-enriched atmosphere. This happens thru a process called Photosynthesis …

6CO2 + 6H2O + sun light = C6H12O6 + 6O2

(carbon dioxide + water + sun light = glucose (sugar) + oxygen)

We owe our lives to plants. Plants are the bottom line basis of the food chain. Without plants there is no food.

When we as human beings fall asleep, dreaming takes place when our awareness is centered in the Etheric body. So it is said that because the highest body a plant has is Etheric, a plant’s consciousness is likened to that of a dream state.

With only a Physical and Etheric presence plants are incapable of emotion or reasoning. They have no ego, or sense of I or mine, since that is a more highly developed life trait.

Animals have a Physical, Etheric, and Astral body. Nothing more, nothing less.

On the physical level, animals are acutely aware of their environment. In fact they are more attuned then we are. They can see, taste, hear, smell and feel. Depending upon the species of animal, their five senses are more developed and function beyond the normal range of human perception.

The Astral body (linga sarira) is also known as the feeling and emotional body. Because animals have an Astral body they can experience; anger, fear, happiness and sadness.

In order to function more efficiently and express greater awareness in our diversified time/space world, life forms have developed more complex brain and nervous system structures.

As you can see from the picture below, greater expression of life’s intelligence depends upon more refined physical organs.

Animals rely on instinct to guide and protect them in the world. Through instinct, or feeling what is right, they know what to eat, where dangers are, and how to act. It’s a collective consciousness that they share. They do not have the ability to reason, which is a higher trait.

They have no ego, or sense of I or mine. That feature does not develop in the Astral body, which is the highest attainable for animals.

Men, women and children stand shoulders above all other living creatures on the Earth. That’s because humans have a Mental, Buddhi, and Atman body. Our sense of Ego, or identity, lay within all three of these levels.

For the most part, the Atman body is but a seed within modern man. It lies dormant and undeveloped.

Although the Buddhic body is somewhat more utilized in man, it still remains an untapped reservoir of potential. Today intuition and the higher values of mind function at minimal levels.

Our true individuality is referred to as the Monad, whose presence resides in Atman and Buddhi.

The Mental level consists of the Causal and Mental body, sometimes called Manas.

The practice of meditation develops all human bodies.

If you believe in reincarnation it’s the ego consisting of Atman Buddhi Manas that come to regeneration, again and again.

The birth and development of ego is a major milestone in the spiritual development of human beings. It’s one of the foremost characteristic traits that separates and makes us unique, among all other Earthly creatures.

Only people and higher beings have an individual ego, one per life-form.

On the evolutionary ladder one rung below us, animals have a collective or group identity that resides on the Astral level. When an animal dies their life experiences and lessons learned are incorporated back into the Astral group identity. That is where animals get their instinctive nature from.

For man, the full development of ego takes place in our material time-spatial world.

When one is faced with choice, preference, and a multifarious environment in which to act, human distinctiveness becomes sharper and more pronounced. It is said that no two people are exactly the same.

Human beings have control over their Buddhi, Mental, Astral and Ethric bodies. Even though these inner bodies can bring to bear great influence on our physical body, it’s the external physical laws of nature that holds sway and actually govern it.

Try not drinking or eating for a period of time, and see what happens.

When our inner life force withdraws from the physical body at death, then the corporeal forces of nature take over and decay promptly sets in. So from the standpoint of material existence, we can honestly say that our physical bodies are more in tune with the laws of nature; than our Etheric, Astral, Mental and Buddhic bodies.

Exposed to the field of space/causality over time, human beings have diversified thru the development of different races, languages, and cultures. All of these activities strengthen and make for more pronounced human ego.

People are also different from each other based on their sexual identity (male & female), sexual orientation, how happy (or sad) they are, and whether they consider their lives to be a success or failure.

Modern Psychology identifies personality and intelligence as the two root factors that distinguish one ego from another.

• Personality – Your style of dealing with other people and the world
• Intelligence – Your abstract reasoning, problem solving, and capacity to acquire knowledge

Both personality and intelligence are somewhat stable over time, but they can change. Meditation serves as an accelerant to elevate both of these characteristics to the highest possible levels of life.

Human heredity and personal experience account for why people are different.

Behavioral Genetics has found that our basic inclinations in life are contained in our DNA; passed down to us from our parents and their family lineage. Our basic view of life is also molded by experience in our shared (family) and non-shared environments.

Here is an interesting tale about two identical twins …

“Lulin and Yanfei discovered they had been separated at birth. The two were put up for adoption as infants because of China’s one-child policy. The girls share a number of things in common: They were both married in 2007, their husbands have the same name (Bin), they share some of the same hobbies and favorite foods, and their sons could pass for twins. Here’s something that’s really uncanny — they each have a scar on their fingers resulting from similar accidents that happened when they were 6 years old.”

This story clearly demonstrates that there is high heritability for almost everything; intelligence, personality, how happy you are, how religious you are, your political orientation, your sexual orientation, et cetera, et cetera.

Now with regard to the influence of environment, here is another story …

Spring has arrived so Chinese farmer Shaozu sets out to plough his fields and plant his crops. This past winter was financially difficult so he had to sell off some of their dairy herd to make ends meet. Because of that he only has enough cow manure to fertilize half of his fields. After fertilizing half, and waiting the required time for proper soil assimilation, he planted his corn seed. There was plenty of rain and sunshine over the next weeks. But as expected, the corn that grew on the fertilized soil was larger and more robust than the corn that was not fertilized.

This story clearly demonstrates that the same corn (identical genetic makeup) grew differently based upon the environment that it grew up in.

Over time the various climatic and environmental differences on our planet shape and influence how people develop and mature. Live by the sea, and your world revolves around water, adventure, and seafaring. Live in the mountains, and your physiology adapts to the thinner air and harsh climate. Live in the desert as nomads, and you are more likely to be thin and tall in body structure.

If you live where there are four distinct seasons (spring, summer, autumn and winter) your outlook on life gets molded differently than someone who lives at the equator, where the climate is similar all year round.

Our various human cultures and religious systems create egos that are vastly different. Because of these two strong influences on a persons life, philosophies and world interpretations vividly contrast. Some people believe that the “here and now” is all that is important and all that really exists, while others believed that their current life is but a test and preparation for a next one.

Systems that treat women as unequal to men have a detrimental effect on ego development.

We eat different foods, wear different clothes, and live in different places. Some people are outgoing in nature, while others are shy. Some are smarter than others, and some have better memories. Some are resilient, and some are dependent. And what we learn from our parents greatly influences how we interact with the world.

As we dive deeper into the world of materiality and continue to study its endless differing aspects, the human intellect develops further and becomes more refined.

Thinking in terms of language rather than in pictures, is a sign of greater discriminative skill.

Intellectual human development is on the rise. As noted, the “Flynn effect “is the substantial and long-sustained increase in intelligence test scores measured in many parts of the world from roughly 1930 to the present day.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flynn_effect

§§

The ability to remember is intimately linked to the structure of ego, and what we sometimes call the soul. Our Causal body retains the essence (memory impression) of all personal experiences.

The birth of ego is a blessing and part of the natural unfoldment of human life. But now that the ego is born, our spiritual mission is to bring it to maturity. That means overcoming and outgrowing the negative attributes of a young, totally self centered ego.

After having fully embraced the physical world we should now set our sights on learning loftier lessons. Human beings are now on the upward (spiritual) swing of evolution.

Through concerted effort, growth, greater knowledge, and meditation; negative ego attributes (selfishness, greed and violence) will give way to peace, harmony, and enlightenment for all.

Great people have said …

The ego is nothing other than the focus of conscious attention.
Alan Watts

More the knowledge lesser the Ego,
lesser the knowledge, more the Ego
Albert Einstein

The Ego is a veil between humans and God.
In prayer all are equal.
Rumi

When your mind becomes fixed on Me, you shall overcome all difficulties by My grace. But, if you do not listen to Me due to ego, you shall perish.
Bhagavad Gita

When the body is filled with ego and selfishness, the cycle of birth and death does not end.
Sri Guru Granth Sahib

The foundation of the Buddha’s teachings lies in compassion, and the reason for practicing the teachings is to wipe out the persistence of ego, the number-one enemy of compassion.
Tenzin Gyatso

I add …

A mature ego is one that imbibes all the noble truths of life. Having attained enlightenment through daily meditation, functioning now fully in the Atman body, every action promotes peace and well being for all.

Posted by John Kirszenberg on July 6th, 2013 Comments Off

Prana, the Foundation of Life and Catalyst for Spiritual Unfoldment

If you are a rock basking in the sunlight and gazing out at the beautiful blue Pacific Ocean, you wouldn’t really notice the presence of Prana. And chances are, you wouldn’t care about it either. But if you are a plant, an animal, or a human being – your very survival and existence here depends upon it.

So what is Prana, and what roll does it play in life?

The Buddha taught his disciples that the body of all that is, and is not, consists of three sheaths (trikaya); Dharmakaya, Sambhogakaya and Nirmanakaya.

Dharmakaya is the absolute, the essential constituent of all constituents, the unity of all things and beings. It is beyond space and time, concept and thought, and the field of all that is. Buddhist meditation masters refer to Dharmakaya as, “the basis of the original unbornness.”

The absolute is not the relative world taken to an extreme. It is not the farthest distance that one could travel. It is not the longest time that our universe could exist. It is not forever, because that to has a beginning and an ultimate end. It is not infinitesimal, or infinite. Instead, it is completely outside, separate, and distinct from all causal and relative realms.

Sambhogakaya is known as the body of bliss. It’s there you experience the result of good Earthly deeds, and enjoy the benefit of all the time you spent practicing Buddhism. In this body your relative-individuality experiences the bliss associated with the realization of the absolute.

Nirmanakaya is the Earthly sheath where your physical body is present today. In this body you experience birth, pain, happiness, sickness, health, old age and death. But you are manifested here to have the opportunity to practice your dharma, and reach for enlightenment.

When you see terms like “absolute,” and “beyond time and space,” Prana does not reside there. Instead, Prana exists and functions within mind, in the relative field of shape, time, space and causation.

Prana plays a pivotal role in all mind/time/space environments; the Sambhogakaya and Nirmanakaya sheaths.

Energy is needed to move around and function in our world. Whether we travel up or down, or straight along the highway, force is expended to keep us moving. If we are walking, we burn calories to power our leg muscles that make the journey. If we are driving or traveling by train, a fuel source is needed to move the vehicle’s wheels and keep us rolling on our journey. The Earth rotates around the sun, and Galaxies spin in the farthest reaches of the universe.

There is One main source of energy for all that is. But in our world of multiplicity we call it by different names, depending upon how and where it brings to bear its influence. We have labeled one force “gravity,” to describe that aspect of the One that works thru the presence of matter. We have labeled another force “electricity,” to describe that aspect of the One that works by shifting atomic electrons around to create a potential for work.

… and so there are cosmic and solar energies, Prana, Kundalini, and a plethora of other aspects yet to be identified.

We commonly refer to the term “Prana” as that aspect which enters the etheric human body through cosmic and solar currents, and enters the physical human body thought the breath.

Prana is the basic life force that animates living beings in our time/space world.

The Sparrowhawk

Prana is present in all that moves and does not move, but is especially powerful in living things – from microbes, plants, fish, birds, mammals to man.

All living Earthly creatures, whether large or small, need three essential functions to sustain life:

• breathing, for Pranic energy
• eating, for food (input)
• excretion (output)

An Elephant Family

In human beings Prana is responsible for the breath, sensory perception, thinking, digestion of food, and body waste elimination.

Here is how Prana provides the energy that is the basis of our metabolic processes:

Inhalation entails the reaction of the Hemoglobin (Hb) in our red blood cells with Oxygen gas (O2) from the air, to form Oxyhemoglobin (Hb-O2).

Hb +  O2 = HbO2

The red blood cells then travel the body to deliver its oxygen. Glucose and other sugars react with the oxygen to produce energy:

Glucose + Oxygen = Carbon dioxide + Water + Energy

C6H12O6 + 6O2 =  6CO2 + H2O + Energy

The practice of Meditation releases stress from the human nervous system, thereby enhancing our more efficient use of Prana. The breathing discipline that seeks to culture and enhance the breath (Pranayama) is a science onto itself, and worthy or your further inquiry.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi has said, “Breathe less and live longer.”

Mind is the stage or platform from which Prana and any other form of energy has existence. In our physical world, that energy takes on various forms:

Types of Physical energy:
• Chemical
• Elastic
• Electrical
• Electrochemical
• Electromagnetic Radiant Energy (light)
• Gravitational
• Kinetic – by virtue of the fact that it’s in motion relative to the ground
• Magnetic
• Mass (E=MC2)
• Mechanical
• Nuclear
• Potential – based upon it state or relationship
• Solar energy
• Sound
• Thermal, or heat

Energy is the latent potential that has the ability to perform work.

Work = Force * Distance

Dolphins at play

Now let’s be more specific about what Prana does for us …

Prana acts within every human body to sustain and promote healthy living conditions. The five major currents of Prana acting and circulating through the body follow nature’s path, to address different functions of the cosmic life force.

The five fold natures of Prana are …

Prana: upward energy
Apana: downward energy
Samana: inward energy
Udana: outward energy
Vyana: expansion in all directions, all-encompassing.

Although these five Pranas are different from each other, they are more commonly known as Mahaprana (great prana).

“Just as an emperor posts his officials in different parts of his realm, similarly the chief Prana allots functions to the lower Pranas.” Prashanopanishad

“Pranam Brahmethivya jaanath” – says the ‘Taithriya Upanishad.’
“Know that Prana (vital energy) is one of the representations of Brahman (Almighty)”

Let’s look a bit closer at the five subdivisions of Pranas …

1. Prana
This Prana is centered in the region between the larynx and the upper diaphragm.

Although closely associated with our respiratory organs, it also plays a vital role in enabling speech via the mouth and nose. It powers our body’s use of water, and the production of sweat and urine. Prana enlivens our sensory organs (sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing) and couples with the mind to interpret and make “apparently real” what we are experiencing.

When Prana gets out of balance harmful desires and insatiable craving may develop.

2. Apana is centered below the navel.

It provides the energy for the large intestines, kidneys, anus, and reproductive organs to function properly. From a physical standpoint, Apana rids the body of what cannot be digested and what has accumulated as toxins.

From a psychological standpoint, Apana helps to eliminate poisonous ideas and harmful emotions. When Apana gets out of balance mental depression may set in and the body is weakened.

3. Samana is centered in the region between the heart and the navel.

Samana is involved in the functioning of the pancreas, liver, and digestive system. Residing in the stomach, food is converted into refined nutrients and energy so the body has strength and can function.

If the natural flow of Samana is hindered in the body, excessive mental attachment and greed may develop.

4. Udana is centered in the body above the larynx. Responsible for building and maintaining body muscle, this prana also plays a key role in the functioning of our sensory organs; namely the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and skin receptors.

The uninhibited flow of Udana promotes a positive mental and physical enthusiasm. It enlivens your creative and spiritual potential. When out of balance, personal pride and arrogance may develop.

5. Vyana is the prana that encompasses the whole body. It helps with governance of the other fundamental energies, regulates the balance between the upward (Prana) and downward (Apana) forces. As a master controller, Vyana coordinates overall body health and activity.

When functioning properly this prana supports our free movement in the environment and enhances self confidence and independent thinking. When the flow of Vyana is restricted individuals feel isolation, hatred and alienation for others.

Upon entering our bodies (etheric and physical) Prana flows through conduits or channels more commonly known as “Nadis”. Ancient literature states that the total number of nadis in the human body is 72,000. Of these 72,000 there are 12 primary flows which Traditional Chinese Medicine has termed “meridians.”

The 12 major meridians in the body:
• Lung
• Large intestine
• Spleen
• Stomach
• Heart
• Small intestine
• Bladder
• Kidney
• Pericardium (Circulation/Sex)
• Warmer
• Liver
• Gallbladder

There are 3 other primary flows that run the entire length of the body, up and down, and these have been termed Ida, the Pingala and the Sushumna by adherents of Yoga and Hindu philosophy.

… now this is where the science of Kundalini comes into play.

Our life experience is made possible by the presence of Prana. Through these channels, the glorious life force Prana flows in all men, women and children.

§§

Jumping for Joy

According to the Tao Te Ching,
“Because the eye gazes and catches no glimpse of it, it is called elusive; Because the ear cannot hear it, it’s called rarified; because the hand cannot feel it, it is called infinitesimal; it’s rising brings no heat, it’s sinking no darkness. It is called CHI.”

As we practice meditation the 5-fold Pranas become more enlivened and begin to function more efficiently. They work better together as a group and instill health and a positive mental outlook. As such, Prana is a catalyst for promoting spiritual development and our conscious well being.

Prana vitalizes the entire human system, while Apana grounds us and enhances personal stability. Samana bring joy and a peaceful outlook, while Udana adds lightless to all of our activities.

Continued spiritual development for human beings depends upon integrating absolute bliss consciousness within our relative world. By animating our etheric and physical existence, Prana thereby maintains the platform for continued human evolution.

By meditating every day, you move several steps closer toward realization of your full potential. The world needs your gentle fearless spirit, harmony and wisdom.

Posted by John Kirszenberg on May 26th, 2013 Comments Off

The Right Brain hemisphere is your highway to the Eternal Transcendent

Dr. Pierre Paul Broca

Many great and wonderful things come in pairs. Two halves of a cupcake is great for sharing. Investors want their stock to split. Computer bits alternate between a zero, and a one. There is Yin and Yang, Ladies and Gentlemen, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, Milk and Cookies, and the famous Holiday half price sale.

And with that, one of the most striking discoveries of modern medicine is that the human brain has two hemispheres.

In 1840 the French doctor and anthropologist Pierre Paul Broca was presented with a medical mystery…

A young patient named Louis Victor Leborgne was admitted to Bicêtre Hospital where Broca was working at the time. Louis Leborgne seemed to be healthy in most respects other than he could not speak clearly. When he tried to talk only garbled sounds came from his mouth. He was classified as having “aphasia,” which literally means “incapacity to speak.”

Not only could he not speak, but he also couldn’t write. He was right handed. Leborgne seemed to be intelligent, still exhibiting full use of mental and physical capabilities, and yet, he had this inexplicable deficiency.

In 1861 Leborgne passed on, and so Pierre Broca decided to perform an autopsy. Pierre found a lesion in the left posterior frontal gyrus area of the brain. After careful study Boca concluded that was the part of the human physical brain that controlled speech. If damaged, physical speech is rendered unintelligible. Any destruction to a nearby part, later termed “Wernicke’s area,” was found to inhibit a person’s dispensation and understanding of language.

Over succeeding years doctors and scientist have been able to pinpoint areas of the brain that control other life functions. For example, it was found that the Medulla regulates unconscious activities such as breathing and blood circulation. The Hypothalamus is concerned with hunger, thirst, moods, sexual maturation, and the regulation of body temperature. The Thalamus handles traveling nerve signals, and the Cerebral Cortex facilitates thinking, learning, emotions, and voluntary muscle movement. The often misunderstood Pineal gland mostly sits and waits for your spiritual awakening.

The brain also has a left and a right hemisphere. The Corpus Callosum is the bridge between the two halves of the brain. Although both hemispheres have different purposes and functions, they need to learn to work better together.

The left hemisphere is your anchor in this time/space causal world. The right hemisphere is your divine spirit, which transcends all that is, and is not.

Each hemisphere addresses a different set of functions, behaviors, and controls. Here is what scientists have found:

Left brain functions:
• Controls right motor and sensory activities
• Is the center for reaction, language, and writing skills
• Linear processing of information, from part to whole
• Sees details, and not the big picture
• Makes lists and does daily planning
• Completes a task one step at a time
• Uses symbols, letters, words, and mathematics
• Makes decisions based on logic
• Sees cause and effect
• Looks at differences
• Deals with things as they are
• Is the center for individual, ego based activity and identity (the small self)

Right brain functions:
• Control left motor and sensory activities
• Is the center for relationships, artistic and music expression, visualization, and intuition.
• Holistic parallel processing of information, from whole to part.
• Sees the “big picture” and not the detail
• Reads words in context, and understands formulas
• Makes decisions based on intuition
• Like to draw and manipulate objects
• Likes open ended questions
• Sees patterns and resemblances
• Is creative
• Thinks in terms of visualization and images
• Is the center for transcendent, absolute based identity (the large SELF)

Many EEG (Electroencephalogram) studies over the past fifty years have clearly demonstrated that meditation enhances and improves the cooperative functioning of both brain hemispheres.

The fact that you have both a left and right brain hemisphere show that your nature is truly two-fold, individual and universal.

For the Enlightened person, both hemispheres operate at full capacity and interact as a seamless whole.

The physical brain functions because consciousness and life energy “Prana” permeates it, through and through. Often called Chi, its five aspects (Prana, Apana, Samana, Udana and Yyana) animate all human ethric and physical activity.

“From prana indeed all living forms are born and, having been born, they remain alive by prana. At the end they merge into prana once more.” Taittiriya Upanishad

Mind and Prana live in a sort of symbiosis with each other. Where you find Mind, you also find Prana. But Mind is more subtle than Prana.

Fluctuations of Prana rise as thought. Identification with thought is the display and property of your ego.

Your left brain hemisphere allows you to understand language, cause and effect, and examine detail. When that part of the brain is damaged the ability to speak is also impacted. It is the scientist within you.

Your right brain hemisphere nurtures your creativity and allows you to see the forest from the trees. When that part of the brain is damaged the appreciation of music and the spiritual quality of life escapes you.

Through meditation as your consciousness rises above the barrier of time, both brain hemispheres function more and more as one. The right hemisphere leads the way to the transcendent, while the left hemisphere stabilizes that experience in our time/space world to make it permanent and real.

A fully enlightened person stands on the Earth and yet functions from the spiritual heights of Satchidanada (eternal being, knowledge, and bliss).

Beyond the influence of pain and suffering, heat and cold, light and dark, right and wrong, life and death – lies your true identity. When the human ego dissolves into the universal reality you take your rightful place as the crown of creation. Thou art That, eternal, unbounded and free.

The Earth was born so that humanity could manifest on the physical plane and thereby complete the evolutionary process of perfection (Self realization).

Meditate every day to reclaim your eternal freedom.

Posted by John Kirszenberg on May 12th, 2013 Comments Off

An Atheist’s perspective on meditation

Atheism Symbol

The sun was shining and the warm autumn breeze blew across the Mediterranean shore. The leaves of the Cypress trees danced about while the onlookers at Café Portofino sipped their coffee, chatted with their friends, and nibble on Cannolis. Both locals and tourists could be seen walking the cobble streets, entering shops, cafés and restaurants, and walking out with wide smiles.

Brown Castle stood upon the hilltop as a sentinel gracefully watching over the Italian seaside. All is beautiful, just as it was meant to be.

My name is Angelina and I am writing a midterm paper for my college social studies class. My professor handed out many topics from which we could choose to research and compose.

I briefly thought about one of the choices, how the influx of immigrants was changing the fabric of Italian society. Writing about the effects of global warming, a second choice, was also attractive. But instead I decided to venture into the world of atheism, to better understand how people come to pick that path. For me, a devout member of the Catholic Church, not believing in God seemed irrational and heartless. What human viewpoint could bring a person to such a conclusion – as atheism?

Georgio is my fellow classmate, who volunteered to be interviewed for today’s assignment. I did not know that he is an atheist. As we enjoyed our coffee and pastries, sitting outside in view of the ocean, the morning conversation slowly turned to the topic at hand.

Portofino Italy

Angelina:
Georgio, what is atheism, and what if anything do you believe in?

Georgio:
Well, to start out with, we are just regular folks. We eat, sleep, and work hard at our jobs to make a living for our families. We love, dream, and meet misfortune just like anyone else. We wear the same clothes, eat the same foods, and breathe the same air. I like to exercise, stay fit, and do my daily meditation. My heart beats just like yours.

But the defining difference is that we atheists do not believe in God. If you are Monotheistic (belief in one deity) or a Polytheistic (belief in multiple deities); we do not share that sentiment.

Angelina:
So does that mean you would not attend a Christian Church or Hindu Temple service?

Georgio:
Yes. I don’t attend religious services or subscribe to any philosophy/system that promotes deity recognition or worship. We believe that there are no deities of any kind.

I do believe in the basic goodness of people. I cherish love and life. I live by the Golden Rule and respect nature and most aspects of this world.

But there are some churches and spiritual traditions that emphasize the search for truth and meaning, in a non-sectarian way. Those are places that I can attend a service, if I wish.

Angelina:
Well, if you don’t believe in God what do you think happens when we die?

Georgio:
I have always felt that when I die, I am dead and finished, and my conscious life will simply come to an end. I’ll be gone. I don’t know what generates consciousness or awareness, but I expect that it will end. Maybe I will live on as memories in my surviving loved ones, in those who carry me on in their hearts. But for myself, I will cease to exist.

Angelina:
Do you hold any family, political or ethical views?

Georgio:
Just because I’m an atheist that doesn’t mean I hold radical views. Quite to the contrary, we are fairly main stream.

I support the rights of married and divorced couples, gay or straight. Opposition to gay marriage is based more upon traditional religious beliefs, which atheists simply don’t share.

I rely on science to determine when life starts. If a newborn baby can survive outside the womb due to an early premature birth (after 37 weeks), then that’s when human life starts. Although abortion is not a pressing issue for me, I tend to be more pro-choice. I respect the rights of women.

I strongly believe that our country got it right with separation between of church and state. Far too many wars have been waged in the name of religion. Millions have died for their cause. And when I look around the world I see daily occurrences of beheading and forced religious conversion. It’s a misguide ego thing.

Religious States and Theocracies are so yesterday. They belong to the medieval 12th century, not to modern man. I hope that mankind will outgrow those dark features of human unconsciousness.

Here in modern Italy, reborn as a secular state in the 19th century by liberals, church and state are separate. Gone are the days of the Reformation. But even so, the Vatican still exercises a huge influence over Italian politics and society.

The World simply is. Born with a Big Bang, it’s operating in accordance to physical laws. And now scientists are saying that there could be as many as 17 billion Earth like planets just in our own galaxy, the Milky Way. How will the Church deal with that?

Angelina:
Speaking about different types of governments, are there some places in the world that are better for atheists than others?

Georgio:
Yes, definitely.

While most government constitutions in the world have nice language that supports freedom of speech and religion, very few nations actually abide by it.

Check out the Freedom House 2013 assessment for yourself. Of all the areas on the Earth, Western Europe governments are the most free (96%).

Western Europe – 96%
The Americas – 69%
Central and Eastern Europe – 45%
Asia Pacific – 43%
Sub-Sahara Africa – 22%
Middle East and North Africa – 1%, (Israel is the only free country in that region)

http://www.freedomhouse.org/sites/default/files/FIW%202013%20Booklet.pdf

Freedom is essential to life and human growth. It provides a safe platform for the search for truth and meaning.

Atheists and humanists suffer persecution worldwide. For example, an atheist would be sentenced to death in Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iran, the Maldives, Mauritania, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Sudan. In other countries, such as Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Kuwait and Jordan, “blasphemy” laws prohibit its discussion.

According to the Pew Forum, as of 2011, 47% of the world’s countries and territories have laws or policies that penalize blasphemy, apostasy (abandoning one’s faith), or defamation (disparagement or criticism of particular religions, or religion in general).

Angelina:
What are your views on war?

Georgio:
Think beyond your own personality. Then there will be no wars.

But as a group we sometimes discuss if there ever is justification for going to war. Some atheists believe yes, and others believe no.

Angelina:
Is health care a right or a privilege?

Georgio:
Just as in your question about war, us atheists have a wide variety of opinions on this topic. Should end-of-life treatment be provided, and should governments be responsible for providing universal coverage to everyone? Some atheists believe yes, while some others believe no.

Angelina:
You mentioned staying fit and healthy. I thought that meditation was more of a religious practice and that as an atheist you would never get near it.

Georgio:
I practice meditation to reduce stress and strengthen my individuality. I found that a calm mind better helps me to concentrate on the task at hand, and enjoy life’s experiences more. Peace of mind helps to free me from worry.

Here are some additional benefits of meditation:
• physical relaxation becomes deeper with continued practice
• studies have shown increased blood flow and a slower heart rate
• decrease of the aging process
• better social behavior
• it’s easier to get rid of bad habits; they just fall away
• personality becomes more balanced
• phobias & fears become less
• satisfaction at work increases
• has been shown to lower high blood pressure
• there is less restless thinking and wandering of the mind
• less anxiety attacks
• will power becomes stronger
• with a clearer head, it’s easier to make better judgments
• enhances the immune system
• helps to build self confidence
• contributes to greater creativity and brain wave coherence
• leads to better grades at school, and an improved memory
• helps to quit smoking and alcohol addiction
• emotions become more stable
• relationships with just about everyone gets better
• petty issues no longer have any sway over you
• more self actualization
• more acceptance of oneself

Angelina:
Do you pay your taxes like most people?

Georgio:
I suppose we share the biases of just about everyone in society. Lower taxes and limited government, or higher taxes and more government, are in question.  Take your pick, because there are valid arguments on both sides of the equation.

Angelina:
Do you believe in Global warming?

Georgio:
Based on climatologically records that have been kept over the past few hundred years, and geological research into climate over past millennia, it does seem that average temperatures are increasing.

Now whether that is due to manmade pollutants, or other human activity; or natural causes beyond our control, that question is still up for grabs. Some of my scientific friends say that there is undeniable evidence that the current 7-billion people of this planet cause significant carbon dioxide emissions. We certainly pollute the waterways with pesticides and a multitude of other chemicals. The coral reefs in the world’s oceans are dying. Species are disappearing from the face of the earth.

But my one geologist friend states that the current warming is all part of a natural cycle that the Earth goes through; from ice age – to warming – to the next ice age. The continents will all be rearranged again over the next 250-million years. Due to continental drift they will once again come together to form one big super land mass.

But I do believe that we need to limit human created contaminates in the oceans, land and atmosphere, to keep the earth as pristine as possible.

Be as friendly to this beautiful planet as you can.

Angelina:
What type of world government is best?

Georgio:
Any country that separates Church and State is preferable. Religious theocracies and religious republics are horrible, since they regularly prey on atheists and other minorities.

Angelina:
I’m curious as to what events and experiences in your life brought you to embrace atheism. Were you raised that way by your parents, or did you choose atheism for yourself?

Georgio:
As with me, many atheists grew up in families that were religious. My parents are Catholic and go to church every week. They consider themselves to be god fearing, charitable good Christians.

When I was young I went to Church with my parents, but somehow what I learned there did not resonate with me. I didn’t know if there really is a God, because I never saw, heard, or touched him. Yes, there a plenty of status of Jesus and Mother Mary and the other Saints in Churches, but I never actually saw God with my own eyes.

Some people say that they talk to God every day. But what is that all about? God is certainly not appearing and standing in front of them so that they could have a real face to face conversation. It seemed to me that just as children have invisible friends to play with, so to, that adult relationship with God is nothing other than imagination. It’s one sided, and then people look for events in their lives to “justify” or “prove” that God answered them.

Faith is good for some things. Speaking for myself, just because I don’t know something first hand, that doesn’t mean it’s not true. In fact, our five senses perceived just a tiny fraction of what is happening in our environment at any one time. And the curtain of death is hidden from us all. The afterlife, if there is such a thing, must be wonderful because everyone who goes there doesn’t see fit to return.

And yet for me, faith must build upon actual verification to be trusted. If my science professor tells me that electricity in the flow of electrons from negative to positive charge, and he shows me that in a laboratory experience, I start to have faith in his teaching. If later he tells me that space-time is all relative and depends upon the speed of the observer and the observed, although I don’t understand Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, and the mathematics are way beyond me, my faith leads me to believe that what he has said is true. So faith builds upon concrete and verifiable truths, not something that is just taught in the Church, and you just must believe it or else.

Religions seem to have done a lot of harm in the world. All too often it stops people thinking in a rational and objective way. It divides people, and is a cause of conflict and war. Religion doesn’t give equal treatment to women and gay people, and thus offends basic human rights. Religion obstructs scientific research and evidence, and is a political tool for the social control of people.

But it’s also possible to be both an atheist, and spiritual.  Virtually all Buddhists manage it, as do some adherents of other religions.

That’s why I practice several forms of Buddhist meditation. I do Vipassana Mindfulness Breathing Meditation and Walking Meditation as I can. But I make sure that I do their Mantra Meditation twice each day, morning and evening. It’s very relaxing.

Epicurus, that ancient Greek philosopher (341 – 270 BC), was one of the first atheists. He presented the theory of “materialism.” It states that the only things that exist are bodies and the space in between them. Epicurus taught that the soul is also made of material objects, and so when the body dies the soul dies with it. There is no afterlife.

It seems to me than some atheists are much more “spiritual” than most solid church goers, simply because they question everything and want to find out the truth – not just blindly accept something because a Religion, or Priest, or Imam, or Rabi says so.

So my religion is the search for truth and social justice. I’m a humanist. No deities are involved.

Angelina:
Well, thank you Georgio for meeting with me today and helping in this college assignment. I have certainly learned a lot.

Georgio:
Sweet Angelina, enjoy the rest of your day.

§§

Monotheistic Religions:
Bahia, Christianity, Hinduism, Deism, Islam, Judaism, Sikhism, and Zoroastrianism.

Polytheistic Religions:
Hinduism, Shintoism, Chinese folk religion, Wicca, and Taoism.

God, religion, and atheism are concepts that only exist within the realm of mind. All of that occurs in thought; bound by time and space, past, present and future.

To He/She who has transcended the sphere of mind and relativity, immersed in timeless eternal absolute being, those concepts which may have once guided the seeker upon the path are now cast aside. Unfettered by limitation of any kind, the enlightened person serves as nature’s gift.

No matter what meditation practice you prefer, or how you came to meditation, spend some time with it every day. Your reward will be immeasurable.

Posted by John Kirszenberg on January 21st, 2013 Comments Off