Asha Praver's Monthly Letter
February 2008

Musings on the Presidential Race

Dear Friends,Asha Praver photo

Usually I don’t pay attention to politics. “It is not my world,” is how I explain why, for years, I wasn’t even registered to vote.

This presidential primary, however, has captured my attention. The personalities are more interesting than they sometimes are, and no one can deny that there is a great deal at stake.

The karma of a nation
Still, my faith is in God, not in politics. As Swamiji put it, “The outcome depends on the karma of the country.” In other words, forces greater than just one human ego are at work here. The individual is carried into power because the consciousness he (or she) brings to the job is what the nation collectively merits at that time. “Merit” can mean either punishment or reward.

Even horrific leaders, like Adolph Hitler, for example, are usually not personally responsible for what happens during the time they are in power. Yogananda said Hitler was not the cause of the tragedies he implemented, but rather an instrument for the karma of the nation, or several nations, in his case.

Hitler certainly didn’t get good karma for what he did. But nor does the entire weight of what happened fall only on his shoulders. It is a collective responsibility held by that karmic entity called “Germany.”

Bear in mind, “Germany” is not an individual soul working for its own salvation. Rather what we call Germany is a vibration of consciousness, located in time and space, into which a soul is born if the unique conditions prevailing there are spiritually appropriate for that soul’s on-going development.

Over the course of many lifetimes, a soul will incarnate in different cultures and countries, even on different planets, drawn for each incarnation to the exact conditions needed for its continued spiritual growth.

Interestingly, though, Master also said that Stalin, whom he described as far worse than Hitler, was personally responsible for the misery he inflicted on his own people.  The soul known to the world as Stalin will endure thousands of years of suffering, Master said, because of what he did.

A God’s eye view
When contemplating any aspect of human life, it is always beneficial to stand back and take a “Gods eye” view of it.

In The Path, Swamiji describes how great spiritual families of like-minded souls gradually come together under the influence of great spiritual teachers -- like Christ, Paramhansa Yogananda, and others. By repeated association, Swamiji explains, over many incarnations, these spiritual families “become powerful for the general upliftment of mankind.”

Yogananda’s spiritual family, Swamiji writes, is part of a greater “spiritual nation” in which Jesus Christ and Sri Krishna (in this age, Babaji) are also leaders. To this “Nation of Self-Realization” is given the “real task,” as Swamiji puts it, “of guiding the human race -- not in the way governments do, by ordinances, but by subtle, spiritual influence.”

A rise in consciousness
Looking back over the half-century since Yogananda died in 1952, on the political front, it is hard to say whether we are going backwards or forwards. But on the level of consciousness, a revolution is taking place.

Not by ordinance, as Swamiji put it. Not led by the secular government at all. It is a grass roots awakening of consciousness.

I started in these teachings in the late sixties. At that time, even the concept of organic produce or whole grain cereal was considered radical. I used to bake my own bread, prepare my own granola, make fruit jam with honey.

I was part of a bigger movement toward simple living and going “back to the land.” The early years of what is now Ananda Village were a mixed bag of classical raja yoga and sixties rebellion. It took time for it to sort itself out.

The reason I made my own food for myself and for the community was that those products were not available in any other way.

Now the very food companies we scorned in those days -- Kellogg’s, General Mills, and others -- have long since jumped on the whole grain, organic band wagon.

None of this happened from the top down. “Government” did not order citizens to forgo Wonder Bread and eat whole grains. Consciousness awakened on its own, subject to influences far subtler than any government could exert.

Diet was an important symbol of the change in perspective we embraced, but the heart of it, naturally, was yoga and meditation, practices virtually unknown at that time.

Meditation now mainstream
Nowadays, even if people don’t actually meditate, at least they feel guilty about not doing it! Recently we were in Chicago and when the taxi driver asked what we do for a living we gave our simple answer to a simple question, “We teach meditation,” we said.

“Yeah, yeah, meditation,” the taxi driver said enthusiastically. “I tried it twice.”  Then after a moment he said, “It didn’t work.”

“What did you do?” I inquired sympathetically.

“I sat in a dark room and closed my eyes,” he answered. “Nothing happened. After a couple of minutes I gave up.”

“Perhaps it would be easier if you had a little instruction,” I said, wanting to open the door, but not push on it. The driver expressed no further interest, so the matter dropped.

The point isn’t whether or not we were able to help this taxi driver. The point is how widespread knowledge and interest in meditation is nowadays.

Did the government ever mandate that its citizens should learn to meditate? Or at least desire to do so? Of course not.

But a “subtle influence” is at work on this planet.  Far more than we realize, Swamiji has said, this planet is guided by great Masters empowered by God to uplift the world by influencing the thoughts of those who are in tune with this upward direction of consciousness.

A prayer for now, and for the future
So, even as we collectively engage in the process of choosing the next President of the United States, let us keep in mind a broader view. Nations and leaders rise and fall endlessly like waves on the ocean.

Only consciousness endures. Even though, usually, I am indifferent to politics, I am far from indifferent to the fate of mankind. My concern is based on a fundamental spiritual truth, perfectly expressed by Swamiji as the first principle in The Way of Ananda Sanghis:

We believe in a single, blissful, eternal consciousness, Satchidanandam, which pervades the entire universe, unifying it and all creatures in a bond of mutual service.

The spirit of that bond of mutual service is again perfectly expressed by Swamiji in the prayer of the Ananda Sanghi:

May the Divine Light awaken and purify my heart, and bring enlightenment to all beings.

Many blessings and joy,

David and Asha