Asha Praver's Monthly Letter
September/October 2007

Dear Friends,Asha Praver photo

Often, over the years, friends would speak to me of their deep longing to be part of Ananda, to spend as much time as possible in the uplifting vibrations of Temple and community.

Then weeks, months, some times even years would pass, and I’d scarcely see them.

I knew their longing was sincere. But the pace of life in this area works against our spiritual aspiration. This is not an excuse. It is, however, a fact that has to be taken into account.

In other words, if we merely to drift on the tide, that tide won’t necessarily take us where our heart’s long to go.

Work, family, the limitations of health and energy can eat up 28 hours out of every 24. Where is the time for God? We have to set that priority for ourselves. We are dedicated to a path of peace and calmness in a world dedicated to stimulation and entertainment.

AUM: The Substance of Creation
Recently, I went to Whole Foods to buy a bottle of laundry soap. What could be simpler? I found, however, I was completely unable to decide which one I wanted. With a mounting sense of desperation, I crouched in the aisle, reading and re-reading the labels.

Then I realized there was a loudspeaker right over my head. I couldn’t escape from the dissonant sound, but at least I could shield myself inwardly with a song of my own choosing. And I was able to buy the soap.

Later, I registered a strong protest with the manager against their choice of “music.” I know it is futile, but still, I do my part whenever I can.

Sound is the substance of creation. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” This is a deeply esoteric reference to the AUM.

Sound vibrations do not bounce off us; they merge with us. More than any other artistic medium, they affect our consciousness. That is why Swamiji has devoted so much energy to creating the right kind of music, one that helps, rather than hinders spiritual development.

Different Realities
When a famous chef opened a restaurant in the area, a friend who likes to keep up with all the latest trends, invited us to enjoy what promised to be a culinary delight. The food was good, but the room was so noisy we could hardly hold a conversation.

I remarked to my friend, “What a shame that they designed this so badly! They’ll have to redo the whole room.” He laughed at my naivete.

“They did this on purpose,” he said. “When people come in they are hit with this wave of sound and it makes them feel this is a ‘happening’ place. It is called creating a ‘buzz.’”

But what about peace of mind?” I protested, further persuading him of my naivete!

He laughed again. “Peace of mind may be your concern, and mine, but it was hardly the concern of this restaurant!”

A Little Help From Our Friends
A newspaper columnist made an interesting observation: The problem with moving fast, she said, is that however fast you go, if you do it long enough it becomes commonplace. And in order to get the same thrill you have to go faster.

To put it another way, when the mind is so constantly stimulated by unrelenting noise, when we want to quiet down, the momentum is so great, it is extremely difficult. It is easier to find rest by going unconscious through television, food, alcohol, or sleep.

Of course, this kind of slow-down is only a recess. It does not reset or retrain the system. For that you have to lift your consciousness, through meditation, devotion, satsang, or service in the company of others also seeking calmness of spirit.

That’s why we have a Temple and a community, and not only individual practice. Our own efforts may not be enough, especially in this time and place, unless supplemented by the concentrated force of group practice, the companionship of like-minded friends, and places made holy by years of devotion.

Rest in the Self
At times, coming to Ananda, even meditating, may seem like just “one more thing to do” in a life already overbooked. Spiritual practice, however, is the antidote to stress, because it brings us back to a state of rest in the Self.

The picture I’ve painted of our society may seem bleak. But, well, there it is.

The Bay Area is also a wonderful place to live: interesting, energetic, creative, innovative, world-changing, spiritual sincere.

Above all, the Good News is that the Power of Spirit is stronger than anything Maya (Cosmic Delusion) can throw at us. Maya, however, is a formidable enemy and it behooves us not to underestimate its influence.

Good Company
Master said, “Keep the company of saints.”

A disciple asked, “What about when I am alone?”

Master answered, “Am I not always with you?”

“To those who think me near,” Master said, “I will be near.”

Swamiji tells of the time he had to walk down one of the most sensually oriented districts in San Francisco. People standing in the doorways of the various nightclubs urged him to come in and sample the “delights” awaiting him inside.

“Sri Ram, Jai Ram, Jai, Jai Ram” Swamiji chanted continuously to himself as he walked. The more others tried to entice him away from his awareness of God, the more deeply he felt himself bathed in divine bliss.

Joy Is Within You
We carry within us a “portable paradise,” Master said. “Always keep your attention at the Spiritual Eye,” Master advised. “Come out a little as needed to eat and talk a little, then go back again to that inward reality.”

To live successfully here—spiritually, not just materially—we need to add into our lives the uplifting vibrations of spirit, and, as much as we can, minimize the restless vibrations that constantly bombard us.

iPods are helpful! So is silence, if one has the freedom to create it at home, or work, in the car, when walking. Constantly repeat a mantra, a prayer, a chant. We can’t control the weather outside, but in the portable paradise the sun always shines.

It is our karma to live and work here, to seek God and to help others along the path.

No one said the spiritual path would be easy! All the Masters promise, however, that it is worth the effort. In fact, as the Gita says, “Even a little practice of this inward religion, will free one from dire fears and colossal suffering.”

Sounds like a pretty good deal, don’t you think?