Eastern Thoughts, Western Thoughts
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73 pages

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Swami Kriyananda's wise and witty reflections are both timely and timeless. In this book he looks at Western civilization and its issues from a perspective of deep attunement to the ancient teachings and truths as taught by the sages of India—and especially those of his great Guru, Paramhansa Yogananda (author of the classic Autobiography of a Yogi). Readers can expect rich new insights, revelations, and laughter.



Publié par
Date de parution 15 septembre 2018
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781565895836
Langue English

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Eastern Thoughts, Western Thoughts
Eastern Thoughts, Western Thoughts
Swami Kriyananda

Nevada City, California
Crystal Clarity Publishers , Nevada City, CA 95959
© 1973, 2018 by Hansa Trust
First Printing, 1973
Second Printing, 1975
Third Printing, 2018
All rights reserved.
Printed in the United States
3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4
ISBN-13: 978-1-56589-331-3
eISBN-13: 978-1-56589-583-6
Cover and interior designed by David Jensen
[CIP data available]

Crystal Clarity Publishers
1. Change—Or Transformation?
2. Know Thyself
3. What Is Man?
4. The Basis of Faith
5. Pragmatism—Idealism
6. Institutions and the Individual
7. Inner Freedom
8. The Oneness of Truth
9. The Need for Meditation
10. The Need for Yoga
11. Say “Yes” to Life!
12. The Saints
13. A Simple Test
1 Change—Or Transformation?
The winds of change are blowing over this world. Un-ease soars the restless currents, swooping down here to touch a carefree stroller: Having nowhere special to go, suddenly he thinks, “I must get there quickly!” There it touches an office worker, a postman, a housewife; abruptly the thought seizes them: “We must hurry, lest we miss . . . ? Well, whatever it is, surely it is important!” Unease grips the hearts of simple villagers in Bengal, of farmers on the slopes of Mt. Fuji, of bakers in sleepy towns on the Dordogne. Nowhere nowadays are the winds of change not being felt. “Hurry!” has become the universal password. “Something awaits us. We may not know what it is, but if it slips us by shall we ever be able to capture it again?”
These are all symptoms of a sort of “changing of the guard” — the crumbling of an old order, the heralding of a new. But in the midst of all this confusion it behooves us to ask: What about us? Need we, too, submit to the general impatience?
O restless mind! Where is there for you to go? Why be like a wave, tossed helplessly every time the gales of history blow? Be glad for what passes. Be glad also for what stays. Soar the ever-changing currents on responsive wings. Accept all, yet be inwardly identified with nothing. Seek freedom not in change, but in your changeless Self.
O mind — O restless one: Seek peace within!

If you identify yourself with a situation, any ensuing change in it will seem painful to you. Unfortunately, of all things in life change is the most certain. That is why life for most people is so full of pain.
Change comes not only with the passing of time. Already even in present suffering one can see, if one watches closely, the first ripples of gladness. And already in laughter — in the sadness of knowing that this moment must pass, or in the soul’s silent reproof that its true bliss is being compromised — one can see the spreading, dull stain of tears. Change is pain. Even the change from tears to laughter can seem painful, once we have accepted tears as our reality.
What is the solution? To be non-attached. Come, let us leap boldly astride the winds of change, clap hands with the thunder, sing when the lightning strikes!

A friend of mine and I the other day were discussing a certain institution. “It saddens me,” she said. “The founder is now old. I wonder what will happen to his organization after he dies?”
“Why,” I said in surprise, “perhaps it will collapse. What’s so sad about that?”
She looked horrified, so I hastened to reassure her, adding that, as long as a thing is needed, surely it will survive. But in that case, again I thought, if it dies why weep? Surely its need will have passed. And isn’t that what death is for — to make way for new forms of life?

Worldly life is like a deck of cards, endlessly shuffled. Rearrange the deck how you will, it remains changed in nothing but sequence.
Do you think by social, scientific, or political changes to bring radical improvements to the human scene? Without a corresponding change of consciousness, any outward reform will be merely like hanging costly paintings in a cow barn.
It is ourselves we must change if we would truly improve our lot. And to other men what we should try above all to give is the inspiration to change themselves. Growth lies not in things. The sky seems bright or sad according to our own changing moods, not to its own. True growth comes first by improving our own attitudes. Following that, outward reforms too can be fresh and new, and no longer the same old deck of cards, reshuffled yet once again.

Sooner or later, a straightforward view of things cannot but lead to the confession: “I haven’t got what I’ve been looking for in life. I have things; I haven’t the fulfillment that I sought in things. I have friends and loved ones, but not perfect companionship and understanding.” Life affords one the merest glimpses of those things for which he truly longs. Man looks at reality as if through a bamboo fence. Always the view is fleeting, always so fragmentary!
May we not pass through that fence? Our deepest instinct is not only to glimpse, but fairly to revel in the fields beyond it, to roll in their grasses, to smell their wild flowers and breathe their fragrant, cool air. But how are we to get in through that fence? The secret lies in finding our way out of an enclosure, not into one! For what is enclosed is no far-flung meadow, but our own petty selves. It is time we stopped fencing ourselves off from reality, crying, “This much I want of life, but no more.”

Whatever your experience of life to date — tell me, are you satisfied with that? You may say, “But I’m happy! I have money, friends, a loving family.” Nice, I reply. But back to my question: Are you satisfied ?
You well know the answer! Whatever you have of things, so long as things seem meaningful to you you will always want more of them. You may have them to superfluity; even so you will want more. “Desires,” said the great sage, Paramhansa Yogananda, “if kept ever fed, are never satisfied.” The way out of them is not to increase or vary the outward fare, but to learn to find contentment within ourselves.
Even the search for more things has a spiritual origin. Instinctive in the very fact of living is a constant demand for expanding experience, for expanding identification with the world around us, with truth, with reality. It is the soul’s longing, not merely to possess superficially, but to become everything.

What is right, moral living? A denial of human nature? What would be so moral about that? Keep a frog from jumping, and it will still twitch its legs. Morality should be a pathway to higher fulfillment.

Why revile your present nature, however unregenerate? If you want to play a drum, will you try stroking it with a bow? Obviously, you must beat it with a drumstick. And if you want to play divine music on the instrument of your mind, you must first accept it realistically — indeed, respectfully — for what it is. Then and then only may you develop its potentials, step by step, until this once-clumsy instrument resounds to the harmonies of angels.

To extricate oneself from the coils of a rope, one must see where the knots are. It won’t do to cry, “There is no rope!” Even so, to get out of the coils of ignorance one must see where the “knots” of his mistakes lie, and not affirm brazenly with his ego, as so many new-style meta-physicians do, “I am perfect!” But even while seeking out error, his mind should dwell on the thought of ultimate freedom. Otherwise he will find himself only tying new knots while endeavoring to untie old ones.

Each of us in his own way is seeking, more than anything else, his own personal fulfillment. Can you deny it?
But here’s a paradox: With all this self-seeking nobody likes an egoist!
Again, most of us would like in some way to be outstanding, yet nobody likes a braggart. Why not? Is it only that we don’t like competition? I don’t believe so. For even when no threat to our egos is implied, the boaster continues to displease us.
I think we instinctively recognize an unloveliness in egotism. The fulfillment we seek in life is a radiation outward from ourselves, a reaching out to embrace broader realities in the universe around us. But egotism reverses this trend: It embraces limitation. We dislike egotism in others because, essentially, we dislike it in ourselves — even when we succumb to the exhilaration of passing praise or success. We don’t want to be petty, but “great” in the most expanded sense of the word. Our souls long for infinity.

Love, friendship, and all good things can be doors to broadened awareness. They help us to find ourselves in others, and not to limit love to ourselves. But love must ever grow — from the few to the many, from the many to the innumerable, until it embraces all life, until it sees everything as One.

The lures of the world! Can they really be, as many a stern sermon insists, completely foreign to God’s nature, utterly evil and wrong? If so, how can we poor mortals ever begin to love God? This world is all man knows, consciously at least. Has it no redeeming features?
I myself am not a drinking man, if only because I would rather face my troubles with greater understanding than numb my consciousness to their existence. But I must say, I would prefer to stay up all night madly carousing in a bar than sit grimly in a church, worshiping a God who is cold, jealous, vindictive, devoid of any sense of humor, and a foe to joy. For whatever we worship, that we become.
If this earth is truly God’s handiwork, it seems to me a poor step towards pleasing Him to insult what He has made. Surely my very laughter must be the condensed rays of His joy; my love, the tremor of that mighty force by which He holds the planets in their courses. Everything must, in varying degrees, express His grace and His love.
Yet I don’t mean to say, Let us all be worldly minded! Recognizing gratefully the beauties of this world, we should still see it as but a reflection of God’s far greater beauty. This world is no barren desert; yet even at its best it expresses so very little of His absolute beauty, of His infinite perfection.

“Life, liberty, and the pursuit of property” — why doesn’t someone propose this as our new national motto? In our two hundred years as a nation, property — by which I mean possession of all kinds — has come to be fairly generally equated with that happiness which was promised us by our Founding Fathers.
But then, has all this property brought us happiness? Hardly! It has robbed us of it, and in the process has undercut our life and liberty as well.
What is life? “Come alive: You’re in every sort of new generation a dollar-struck adman can think of!” “Try Muddies for a new taste thrill!” Let the admen speak for themselves, but true life is something we give out to others, to the world. We cannot expect it to be served to us with a sparkling drink, or driven into our garage with a shiny, new car. We cannot find life if, instead of acting, we wait hopefully, even passively, to be acted upon.
And what of liberty? Is a man free merely if he can buy whatever he wants, or roam the world and behave as he pleases? Moods can assail him as well in Istanbul or Bombay as in New York. Bondage — or freedom: both depend on one’s state of mind. Essentially, man seeks freedom outwardly that he may escape the inner jailors of pain and confusion that have seized his thoughts. But if he can free himself inwardly , he will be free though his body be locked in a dungeon.
Do you want life and liberty? Then realize first that property is not synonymous with happiness, that the pursuit of happiness means the expression of it, the living of it in every moment of your existence. To live it inwardly is the first step toward true freedom on all levels.
2 Know Thyself
You must have heard the saying, “Heaven is where you find it.” But it would be even more to the point to say, “Heaven is what you find it with .” For what you observe in the world around you depends on your own state of mind. Most people look everywhere but in themselves for perfection. Then they wonder why the world seems so imperfect! If they are religiously inclined, they may stretch the error even further by thinking, “Well, with a little luck I’ll get to heaven when I die. There, at least, things will be as they ought to be.” But still they look outside themselves for their solutions!
Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is within .” His implication was that heaven itself would be a disappointment to restless, worldly people. They’d miss the stench and confusion of our earthly cities, the excitement of competition, the pleasure of squelching an opponent in argument. If a person has no true joy in his heart, he will not find true joy outside though he be in heaven itself, and in the company of angels. Heaven must be experienced right here, right now, within ourselves if we are to experience it ever.

A stream extending itself too far into a desert will go dry. Man too dries up inside, spiritually and emotionally, when he extends himself too far in his search for outward pleasures. The wellspring of enjoyment lies in his inner Self. What he is, inwardly, that he will find without. The more truly he lives in himself, the more rewarding will his outer life be, also.

There is a land that should be more “homey” to us than any other. Yet to most of us it seems foreign. I refer to our own selves. Man engages in perpetual, almost frenzied efforts to avoid this most native of all soils. Is it any wonder that, whenever (inadvertently as it were) he does return to it, he finds it so barren?
If one neglects a spring, it may clog up and stop flowing. Man’s inner Self is the spring that feeds all his knowing, all that he can enjoy on earth. If he neglects it, all his perceptions must wither and die. You have only to look into the eyes of spiritually unaware people, especially as they grow older, to see what has happened to them. Is it with enthusiasm and dynamic energy that they pass their leisure time? Watch them sitting idly, staring at the TV, or peering vaguely at you to ascertain whether that was really a joke that you just finished telling.
Man’s mistake is to run from the one fact which alone can be completely real to him. It is only by making friends with his inner self first that he can ever make friends with the world.

Scientists are always trying to perfect their instruments. But we, too — our bodies, our minds, our nervous systems — are “instruments” in need of perfection. Can we observe anything intelligently through telescope or microscope beyond our own capacity for observation? It is only as this instrument, the mind, is made more perfectly sensitive that we can ever hope to penetrate deeply to universal mysteries.

Will it cut you off from an understanding of others if you seek truly to understand yourself ? Not at all! You can understand others only to the extent that you have understood yourself.
But will it make you less sensitive to their needs? less sympathetic? less outgoing and eager to help them? Again, No. For it is only as one becomes aware of his own weaknesses and overcomes them that he develops compassion for others in their sorrows.

There is a strong trend nowadays towards international unity. But the kind of unity politicians seek is only a patchwork job. True unity — the kind that lasts — cannot be created; it must be realized . The point is, we are already One! We are already brothers. We have imagined distinctions that do not really exist. Legislation cannot banish what was never there! It rests with each of us individually to discover those levels of our own Selfhood on which we share our realities with all men, and to live in harmony with that realization. The trend of the future must be toward a greater development of personal conscience, of personal awareness.

A friend of mine, young and restless minded, once planned to go to India to visit various saints. This might have been a laudable purpose, except that, so far, this boy had put forth very little effort to improve himself; his real hope was to find someone who would consent to do all his spiritual work for him. (I could imagine him rushing from ashram to ashram, collecting blessings like pine cones!) I said to him:
“If you take a thimble to the ocean, you’ll only get a thimbleful of water. No doubt those great saints have much to give you. But what of your own capacity to receive what they give?”

If you would change the world for the better, first of all be better yourself. You are the greatest responsibility the universe has placed in your hands.
3 What Is Man?
What am I? An American? A member of some political party, of a particular church, of this club or that? Why these labels? I don’t wear a flag to bed! It isn’t often that I gaze into a mirror, thump myself on the chest, and cry, “You, Kriyananda, are an American!” When I’m with other Americans, we rarely need to affirm our own nationality. When I’m with foreigners, or when I myself am a foreigner in other lands, I’d much rather emphasize those aspects of my life which I hold in common with my hosts. Why labor a point (perhaps the only one) that sets us apart from one another? I think the reason national anthems usually deal with warlike themes is that only in competition does the distinction of nationality become important.
What I am is a human being who happens to have been born into American citizenship. I am proud of that citizenship. I am not, however, a human being in consequence of being an American. My humanity broadens my identity. My nationality narrows it. I’d rather have a broad consciousness than a narrow one.
I’d rather not even say too forcefully, “I am a man,” lest my pride in the fact separate me from women and children. Even to insist, “I am a human being,” may separate me from the animals. There is something in me more basic than my very humanity, for I find I do have certain things — life, for example, and curiosity, and consciousness — in common even with insects.
In my humanity at least, then, let me be a human being first. For I am only superficially a man, an American, a Californian by adoption, and all the subsequent labels I’ve acquired to make sure my mail reaches me. Wherever I go, I want to meet people as a human being like them, unlabeled, a member of the human race to which we all belong.

The world over, we are all more or less the same. All of us want basically the same things, though we want them in different forms. An Indian may prefer curry, a Mexican, hot chili, an American, apple pie, but all of us want sustenance. We may like candy bars, baclava , or rasagulla , but all of us like sweetness. Everyone wants love, though different people are conditioned to prefer it in different forms. All men want happiness, though to some of them happiness means a simple life in the country, while to others it means escaping country life for the Big City as quickly as possible. Under the “skin” of their specific tastes, what men everywhere want is the same. Doesn’t this fact suggest that what we are is basically the same, also?

What is man? I once had the answer to this question given to me in the form of a sort of parable.
Some years ago I worked in an office. My desk was placed before a large picture window, outside of which was a lovely garden. I enjoyed looking up from my work occasionally to rest my thoughts on the flowers and greenery.
One day we had a storm. My picture window was spattered with mud. Now I could no longer enjoy looking out at the garden, for all I saw were obstructing blotches of dirt.
Time passed. At last, on a free Saturday, I got busy and washed off the mud. Looking out now, I exclaimed, “What a beautiful window!”
And then I smiled. For I realized that the only reason I now considered the window beautiful was that I couldn’t see it anymore! I could again see the garden beyond it.

The sunlight shines onto the side of a building. But if the windows are shuttered, can its light enter the rooms? The divine light, similarly, always shines on our lives, but if our minds are shuttered with spiritual ignorance, how can we receive it? We must open those shutters by meditation, service, and divine aspiration. Then only may we express our highest potential as human beings, and as sons of God.

If we would only clear away the grime of ego and selfishness from our hearts, each one of us might become like panes of glass in a beautiful stained glass window, the one infinite light shining variously through us: blue through some windows, deep yellow through others, rose through still others, green, and violet — glorious colors all! Each of us in his humanity is unique, a very special manifestation of the Infinite Joy. But each of us derives the power to express that uniqueness, not from his own mind, but from Infinite Joy itself.

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