The Importance of Seeking God
The whole world may disappoint us or forsake us, but if we have established a sweet and tender inner relationship with God, we shall never feel alone or forsaken. There is always that Someone by our side – a true Friend, a true Love, a true Mother or Father. In whatever aspect you conceive of the Divine, God is that to you.
In every human heart there is an emptiness only God can fill. Make it your priority to find God.
God gave each of us a quiet temple within, where no one else can enter. There we can be with God. We don’t need to talk much about it. And it doesn’t take us away from our loved ones, but rather sweetens, strengthens, and makes more permanent all our relationships.
When we go direct to the Source whence all loves come—the love of parent for child, child for parent, husband for wife, wife for husband, and friend for friend—we drink from a fountain that satisfies beyond all imagination.
Man was given a mind and a body with five senses through which he perceives his finite world and identifies himself with it. But man is neither the body nor the mind; his nature is spirit, the immortal soul. As often as he tries to find permanent happiness through his sensory perceptions, so often his hopes, his enthusiasm, his desires, are shipwrecked on the rocks of deep frustration and disappointment. Everything in the material universe is essentially ephemeral and ever changing. That which is subject to change carries within it the seeds of disappointment. And so it is that our ship of worldly expectations sooner or later runs aground on the shoals of disillusionment. Therefore we should seek God, because He is the fountainhead of all wisdom, all love, all bliss, all contentment. God is the source of our being, the source of all life. And we are made in His image. When we will find Him, we will realize this truth.
Developing a Loving Relationship with God
Think of God not as a word, or as a stranger, or as someone on high, waiting to judge and punish you. Think of Him as you would want to be thought of if you were God.
One of our great weaknesses is that we are afraid of God. We are afraid to recognize before Him the things that deeply trouble us in our souls, in our hearts, in our conscience. But that is wrong. The Divine Beloved is the first one you should go to with every problem you have….Why? Because long before you even recognize your own weaknesses, God knows them. You are not telling Him anything new. Only there is a wonderful release for the soul when you can unburden yourself to God.
In my relationship with God I like to think of that Divine One in the aspect of Mother. A father’s love is often qualified by reason, and by the merit of the child. But the mother’s love is unconditional; where her child is concerned, she is all love, compassion, and forgiveness….”We can approach the Mother aspect as a child, and claim Her love as our own, regardless of our merit.”
When we call to God from the quiet centre of the heart—with simple, sincere yearning to know Him and feel His love—unfailingly we draw His response. That sweet presence of the Divine Beloved becomes our supreme Reality. It brings complete fulfilment. It transforms our lives.
It is not necessarily long prayers to the Divine that touch His heart. Just one thought expressed repeatedly from the depth of the soul brings tremendous response from God. I don’t even like to use the word prayer, which seems to suggest a formal, one-sided appeal to God. To me, conversation with God, talking to Him as to a near and dear friend, is a more natural, personal, and effective form of prayer.
Develop a more personal relationship with God by looking upon yourself as His child, or as His friend, or as His devotee. We should enjoy life with the consciousness that we are sharing our experiences with that Someone who is supremely kind, understanding, and loving.
Our relationship with God becomes very simple and sweet when we strive to remember how close He is to us at every moment. If we seek miraculous demonstrations or phenomenal results in our quest for God, we may overlook the many ways in which He comes to us all the time.
During the day, whenever anyone does something to help you, see God’s hand in the bestowal of that gift. When anyone says anything kind about you, hear the voice of God behind those words. When something good or beautiful graces your life, feel that it comes from God. Relate everything in your life back to God.
The Importance of Meditation
People come to me, here and abroad, and say, “How is it possible for you to sit motionless in meditation for so many hours? What do you do during those periods of stillness?” The yogis of ancient India developed the science of religion. They discovered that by certain scientific techniques it is possible to so still the mind that there is not a ripple of restless thought disturbing or distracting it. In that clear lake of consciousness, we behold within us the reflected image of the Divine.
The scriptures of the world say that we are made in God’s image. If this is so, why don’t we know that we are taintless and immortal, as He is? Why aren’t we conscious of ourselves as embodiments of His spirit?… Again, what does scripture say? “Be still, and know that I am God.” “Pray without ceasing.”…
By regular practice of yoga meditation with steady attention, the time will come when you suddenly say to yourself, “Oh! I am not this body, though I use it to communicate with this world; I am not this mind, with its emotions of anger, jealousy, hatred, greed, restlessness. I am that wonderful state of consciousness within. I am made in the divine image of God’s bliss and love.”
There are several keys that enable us to be extremely active and yet not lose our inner peace or balance. The first of these is to start each day with a period of meditation. People who do not meditate can never know what tremendous peace fills the consciousness when the mind goes deep within. You cannot think your way into that state of peace; it exists beyond the conscious mind and thought processes. That is why the yoga meditation techniques Paramahansa Yogananda taught us are so marvellous; the whole world should learn to use them. When you practice them correctly, you truly feel that you are swimming in an ocean of peace within. Begin your day by anchoring the mind in that inner tranquillity.
With meditation comes self-forgetfulness, thinking more in terms of one’s relationship with God, and of serving God in others. The devotee must forget his little self if he is to remember the he is made in the immortal, ever-conscious divine image of God. The Bible says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” This is Yoga… Only when one raises his consciousness to the higher centres of perception can he realize that he is made in God’s image.
The peace and harmony so urgently sought by all cannot be had from material things or any outer experiences…. The secret of bringing harmony into the outer circumstances of your life is to establish an inner harmony with your soul and with God. Take a little time each day to withdraw from the world, interiorize your mind, and try to feel the presence of God. That is the purpose of meditation. You will find that after you have meditated deeply and harmonized your consciousness with the peace of God within, outer difficulties will not cause you so much stress. You are able to deal with them without losing your composure and overreacting…. You have the inner strength that enables you to say, “All right, I will face this obstacle and overcome it.”
Living a Balanced Life
Within each one of us is a temple of stillness that permits no intrusion of the world’s turmoil. Whatever may be going on around us, when we enter that sanctuary of silence in our souls, we feel God’s blessed presence and receive His peace and strength.
When I see people whose minds are troubled by so many problems—frustrations, unhappiness, disappointments—my heart aches for them. Why are human beings plagued by such experiences? For one reason: forgetfulness of the Divine whence they have come. If you once realize that the lack in your life is one, God, and then set about to remove that lack by striving to fill yourself with the consciousness of God in daily meditation, the time will come when you will be so complete, so utterly fulfilled, that nothing will be able to shake or disturb you.
Adversity comes not to destroy or punish us, but to help to rouse the invincibility within our souls….The painful ordeals we go through are but the shadow of God’s hand, outstretched in blessing. The Lord is very anxious to get us out of this maya, this troublesome world of duality. Whatever difficulties He permits us to pass through are necessary to hasten our return to Him.
It is the spiritually balanced individual who is truly successful. I am not referring to monetary success; it has little meaning. That has been my experience, as it was Paramahansaji’s: I have met scores of materially successful human beings who have been emotional and spiritual failures–stressful; lacking inner peace and the ability to give and receive love; unable to relate harmoniously to their families, or to other human beings, or to God. A person’s success cannot be measured by what he has, only by what he is and what he is able to give of himself to others.
Meditation helps us to align our outer life with the inner values of the soul as nothing else in this world can. It does not take away from family life or relationships with others. On the contrary, it makes us more loving, more understanding—it makes us want to serve our husband, our wife, our children, our neighbours. Real spirituality begins when we include others in our wish for well-being, when we expand our thoughts beyond “I and me and mine.”
How marvellously different and fulfilling is the balanced life in God shown us by Paramahansa Yogananda….People have the notion that when you seek God, you have to be oh so solemn! But such false piety is not of the soul. The several saints I have met and associated with, including Paramahansaji, have been joyous, spontaneous, childlike. I do not mean childish—immature, irresponsible; I mean childlike—one who can enjoy the simplest pleasures, who lives with delight. Today in Western civilization people do not know how to enjoy simple things. They have become so jaded in their tastes that nothing satisfies: overstimulated outwardly, starved and empty inwardly, they take to drink or drugs to escape. The values of contemporary culture are unhealthy, unnatural; that is why it fails to produce many truly balanced individuals and families that do not go to pieces…. Let us get back to the simple pleasures of life.
The Way to Peace and World Harmony
The peace and harmony so urgently sought by all cannot be had from material things or any outer experience; it is just not possible. Perhaps by watching a beautiful sunset or going to the mountains or seaside you might feel a temporary serenity. But even the most inspiring setting will not give you peace if you are inharmonious in your own being.
The secret of bringing harmony into the outer circumstances of your life is to establish an inner harmony with your soul and with God.
It is unrealistic to talk about peace among nations if the people in those nations are not at peace. And they cannot be at peace with their neighbours—or even with the members of their own household—if they are not at peace with themselves. It has to begin with the individual. One of the first questions people in every country have asked me in my travels around the world is, “How can I find peace?” I say to them: “There is no other way except by going within into the presence of God.” Daily meditation—the foundation of this teaching brought by Paramahansa Yogananda—is the way to restore spiritual balance in the lives of pressured individuals and fractured families, and to resurrect those values that will nurture peace and harmony in the large household of our world family.
If we look around us with the eyes of wisdom, it is obvious that world conditions are going to force humankind to develop a closer relationship with God. This globe of the earth, which in past centuries seemed so huge, has comparatively speaking been reduced to the size of an orange. No longer can we think of ourselves as separate from the other peoples and cultures of the world; modern communications and modes of travel have truly brought us all face to face, making it absolutely necessary that we develop the spiritual maturity to understand each other and get along with each other, even as members of the same household must do. Prejudices and small-mindedness—two great weaknesses of human nature—must go…
Now more than ever we must accept the truth: This is one world. It is made up of all different kinds of people with all their multifarious physical appearances, mentalities, interests, motivations. But uniting these endlessly varied blossoms of human individuality there is one basic principle that threads all of us like a garland–and that is God. In His eyes none is greater, none is lesser; we are all His children. God is not the least bit interested in where we were born, which religion we follow, or what the colour of our skin is–what does it matter whether our souls wear a red, black, yellow, or white dress? He couldn’t care less. But He does care about how we behave. That is the only criterion by which He judges His children. If we are filled with prejudices, we will in like manner reap prejudices. If we are filled with hatred, we will in like manner reap hatred. If we are filled with resentment toward any group of people, it is certain that we are sowing seeds of enmity that one day we ourselves must reap…
Underlying the varied beliefs and practices, there are spiritual concepts common to all religions… Paramahansaji tried always to draw the attention of devotees to these universal, fundamental truths–not merely as a matter of belief and dissertation, but as a practical necessity to be practiced in their daily lives. The most important of these—taught by the saviours of mankind throughout the ages—is for each individual to have direct, personal communion with the Divine—…
The more we strive by daily meditation to dwell in that consciousness, to remember our real nature, the more we will express that divinity which was in Christ and is in every one of us. This is the message of Self-Realization. It is a message that India can accept, that Christians can accept, that all religionists can accept. It does not go against the teaching of any faith.
Thought has tremendous power. From thought all action springs. Everything in this finite world results from thought. It is the most potent force in the universe, with the power to affect lives, communities, and nations. How important it is, therefore, that our thoughts be positive rather than negative. There are millions of people today who are thinking and acting in a negative way. So it is in the interest of ourselves and our whole planet that we all take an active part in praying for our fellow beings. When enough souls participate, their combined thought-vibrations of goodness, love, compassion, and positive behaviour generate a mighty force, which has the power to change lives all over the world.
The Guru: Remembrances of Paramahansa Yogananda
The answer to that yearning came in an instantaneous realization when in 1931 I entered the large, crowded auditorium in Salt Lake City and saw Paramahansaji standing on the platform, speaking of God with an authority I had never before witnessed. I became absolutely transfixed—my breath, thoughts, time, seemed suspended. A loving, grateful recognition of the blessing pouring over my being brought with it an awareness of a deep conviction rising from within me: “This man loves God as I have always longed to love Him. He knows God. Him I shall follow.”
Throughout the many years I was blessed to be with him, I never saw him Paramahansa Yogananda merely as a man. He manifested such divinity; that is the only way I can describe him.…he seemed to me like someone who had stepped right out of the pages of scripture. Such a God-intoxicated, loving, universal nature! It took a divine one like that to carry out the mission he had been given: to bring to the West and to all the world, the science of communing with God, which we call Kriya Yoga.