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.
“Eastern Thoughts, Western Thoughts offers us a work shining with subtlety and clarity, which blends the timelessness of the present moment. Swami Kriyananda has taken the essence of Eastern thoughts and translated it into a modern Western idiom. His words speak to us deeply, immediately, like the advice of a close, trusted friend, yet with the wisdom and detachment of the ancient Indian sages whose minds spanned infinity. Herein lies the impact of this book. The eternal truths upon which it is based are not merely answers to the specific problems of men today: they speak to our souls, to the souls of all men, or the basic human striving for happiness and fulfillment.” —Nayaswami Devi Novak, co-author of Touch of Light and Touch of Joy
1. Change—Or Transformation?
2. Know Thyself
3. What Is Man?
4. The Basis of Faith
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. The winds of change are blowing over this world. Unease 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?
2. 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!
3. 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!
4. 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?
5. 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.
6. 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.”