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Inside-Out: A Journal Out of a Spiritual Journey Paperback – Import, 21 Aug 2014
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Smanu documents her spiritual journey that started in early childhood and had one of its culminations in 2012, what she calls a `kundalini/cosmic awakening.' The book itself is derived from 5 years of her blogging efforts, and as she says she wants to share her spiritual journey with people for a `collective benefit.'
Apparently Smanu's blogging efforts have been well received and widely read world-wide. She clearly states that in such a format the time sequence of her journey is preserved, but `there is no story here.' She writes, "The intention of this book is to facilitate the readers to explore their part and role in this Grand Design that is Universe, through their own soul journey..." The author concludes this thinking in her Foreword thus "this journey has reinforced this author's long-held conviction that - Happiness is the default state of a being...
In reading this book I connected with the author on several levels, the least of which being that it was published on my birthday, August 21. In a more teasing level I suggested to the author, after reading the editorial review on Amazon.com, that the book may receive "a fog index of about 16, but that's only because the subject requires the reader to do some disciplined thinking!"
After further searching through the Amazon.com site I no longer find the `fog index' that they `so rudely' used to assign to books according to the amount of poly-syllabic words that the author(s) employ. Oh, well, so much for fun and disciplined thinking!
The author connects with me through her writing on the spiritual level and that, of course, is as it should be. In my own writing I specialize in topics of meditative experience and techniques, as well as in literary accounts of people's experiences with direct contact with the divine. And I, as she, have refrained from detailing my own spiritual experiences, even though mine, as Smanu's, have continuously occurred since early babyhood. Smanu explains to me that she has omitted reference to her experience(s) because the reading audience may not appreciate it.
There is a great deal of wisdom in that insight. As a PK (preacher's kid) here in America, I found that revealing these inner experiences can create animosity from those readers (especially of my own protestant denomination) who think their theology or religious views are being challenged or contradicted. This, of course, becomes a distraction and detracts from the message of the writing.
I found that Smanu's format of short chapters quite helpful, because I would read a `biteful' in a chapter, and then need to take a break to assimilate the material. In my written exchanges with Smanu (and by looking at her contributions on others' blogs) I find that this is intentional and meant to be helpful. It is.
Philosophically Smanu starts in her title "inside-outside" with a basic tenet of Vedanta, and that is that this world is based on contrast; and that without contrast there would be no "real" reality (to the senses, that is) to be experienced. As an American disciple of Paramahansa Yogananda I find Smanu's references to Vedic and Indian philosophy helpful because she (usually) gives notes defining her terms. She stays at a safe level in doing that, especially since pursuing any deeper meaning entails commitment to particular schools of thinking, and this too can become a distraction. For instance I could quote passages from Isaiah and Ezekiel that are derived from Vedantic truth, but to do so would create dissension (or to promote another metaphor, `create more heat than light').
But, but, but on the other hand...I was `bowled over' to find that she is acquainted with the thinking of my guru's guru Swami Sriyukteswar and his book, The Holy Science. In Part V Smanu evinces the argument that adjusting Sriyukteswar's cyclic concept of time to a spiraling one (as suggested by John Major Jenkins (Galactic Alignment: The Transformation
of Consiousness According to Mayan, Egyptian and Vedic Traditions) she anticipates a major catastrophic cosmic adjustment to the inhabitants of earth sometime in 2015.
As the saying goes, `we shall see.' But three pieces of information here hold me back from endorsing her view, even though she cogently presents it. First is that one doesn't lightly suggest that an avatar has mistakenly presented a concept. Sriyukteswar wrote his book only because he was instructed to do so by his own paramguru, Babaji. In reading his work I have never mistaken his concept of time to be one of strictly `cycling,' rather than evolving upward. Paramahansa endorses the upward `spiraling' concept of time in his own Autobiography of a Yogi when he points out that a `day of Brahma' is over 3 trillion years long. This amount of time is meant for the spiritual, mental, and physical evolution of creation (and its inhabitants).
The video, "The Great Year" narrated by James Earl Jones (with extensive interviews of Yogananda's disciple Swami Achalananda of Self-Realization Fellowship), clearly gives this `spiraling' spin to Sriyukteswar's concept of time.
On the other hand Yogananda predicted a world crisis in the publication of the same name put out by Self-Realization Fellowship. He did not give a date to it, but Smanu's description of what may happen next year is certainly in line with Yogananda's. Add to that observation the thinking of Rabbi Cahn in his "The Mystery of the Shemitah" who suggests that next year is the seventh year in which another catastrophe may happen in the world: he gives a list of such 7 year cyclic catastrophes including that of 9/11. I have watched his interviews in which he carefully delineates that this "may" be the time (between 2014 and September 2015) that upheaval occurs, but that (in his view) God isn't "forced" to do any of it just because it's part of a cycle.
Do you see why I have to take breaks from reading short chapters from Smanu's book? She has packed it with such thought-provoking insights as these. And nothing I have said in the paragraph above is meant as a criticism of her book or thinking.
Will Russia and England be wiped from the face of the earth, as Yogananda foresaw? Is another 9/11 catastrophe awaiting us? as Cahn suggests? and if so what does it all mean. And ironically these few issues are noted in a chapter entitled "When are we now?"
Should Smanu and I include descriptions of our `awakening' experiences? It won't improve Smanu's book, in my view, because the reader is the one making the journey (along with Smanu) in reading the text. There certainly are experiential descriptions of the the kundalini life force, and one of the best is by Yogananda in the chapter 14 "An Experience in Cosmic Consciousness" of his Autobiography of a Yogi. More recently I read the reprint of Kamala's "The Flawless Mirror," in which she quotes her guru (Paramahansa Yogananda) as saying to her and her mother, "There is a current surging within me and through my whole body. Such bliss!" Hours later, when we meditated, I had a spiritual experience. Of this I wrote, "It is just the beginning. I can't describe the joy." (p. 25, The Flawless Mirror).
And then Kamala quotes her guru saying the following, "Worship [God] as Bliss, the most interesting thing within you." (p. 27, The Flawless Mirror).
My friends, Smanu, in her new book, is inviting each of us to explore and experience the bliss within, to continue in our own lives the spiritual journey and to savor the goal, the path, and the destination along with her.
Without a guru, spiritual evolution is slow, but if you've started your spiritual quest in past lives, you continue on the path. The Buddha said he had lived countless times in the past. Smanu has obvious lived many lives, and continues to evolve. She shares her progress with the reader; she discusses astrology, quantum physics, dualism and non-dualism, karma, and realization. That's for starters.
Self realization is difficult. Jesus said, 'narrow is the way' and few people find it. Smanu is working her way through the spiritual spiral. But although we seek for the grace of God, it's better to let God come to us. We can't tell God how to do His job.
It's a terrific book, and not for brutes (as Vivekananda would say).
A unique aspect of this awakening testimony is that it comes from a native Indian, which gave me insight into the Indian culture and the Hindu religion. It is rich with information about Indian religious festivals, deities, sacred sites and importance of family. I also feel she gives a unique understanding and interpretation to classic Hindu religion subjects.
Smanu has deep knowledge of math and science she uses at times to dive into spiritual subjects and shed light on them from that angle. Smanu is gifted intellectually and uses her wit and humor often in the blog posts. A typical post will discuss some topic that at first glance may seem trivial but there is always a deeper message being conveyed behind the words. Her deep questioning from different angles on topics and creative story telling creates a fresh perspective that can lead to insights for the spiritual reader. I also note that many of the epiphanies she realizes show a high level of awareness rarely seen such as “accepting challenges because they help you grow” and there is “no absolute right or absolute wrong” in this world.
There is also a serious side to this book, bringing up topics that need to be discussed such as the potential for man to trigger doomsday scenarios due to his overemphasis on his technological prowess. She argues that more feminine energy is needed on Earth to put a brake on this destructive tendency. This is a question of balance of male and female energies and is the responsibility of both men and women. More women need to embrace their masculine aspects and men their feminine but also we each need to know that the sexes are different and males and females have different capabilities and roles. Resource use is also covered and the importance of humanity to find more sustainable ways to live. People reading this book living in the developed world will get a better feeling for how people living in countries with fewer resources per capita view them and perhaps it can be a wake up call to change ones ways! We all need to become balanced internally and externally to realize our full potential so we can live in peaceful and nondestructive ways together as ONE on Earth.
Smanu wrote: “I might have used the phrase ‘growing negligent attitudes’ earlier in this post, but I take that allegation back. The recent spurt of Technological Development (which we subconsciously equate to Science) is the result of us losing awareness of ourselves, not really the result of negligence; we have either forgotten, denied or suppressed some aspects of our own selves to make this development happen.”
This really states the problem in a nutshell. While I don’t share all her opinions, I often agree with Smanu. So far, this is the most challenging book I have ever read and it is a good one. This book is genius, which the author can be proud of, even if she has a smaller audience that can appreciate what is within these pages... Great Job!