Spiritualizing Family Life
In the Bible, Jesus is talking to a group of people when a man tells him, “Behold your mother and your brothers standing outside, wishing to speak with you.” Jesus replies, “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?”
Jesus then points to his disciples and says, “Behold my mother, and behold my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven, he is my brother and my sister and my mother.”
Jesus is saying that we have families on many different levels. One, of course, is the family into which we are born. However, the deeper soul relationship is often lacking among those in the same physical family. They are attracted together not by soul affinity but by various karmas.
When we speak of family in the deepest sense, we’re referring to the unchanging nature of true soul bonds. People who enjoy the same activities can have a strong sense of camaraderie, but such relationships usually don’t last if they’re based only on shared interests. If the interests change, the relationship ends.
Unconditional love is rooted in the soul
When I first met Yogananda, he said to me, “I give you my unconditional love. Will you give me yours?” “Unconditional love” means a love that doesn’t change no matter how the other person changes. This type of love is possible only on a soul level.
Yogananda said, “How many lovers have pledged undying love by the light of the moon—love forever, love eternal—and the moon looks down at their bleached bones and laughs.” The idea of that kind of relationship being permanent is indeed laughable, because it’s based on physical or psychological affinity. If love is rooted in anything but the changeless nature of the soul, it will inevitably fall away.
What is a “divine relationship?”
Yogananda said, “If you can develop a divine relationship with even one person, then you will be able to find God.” A beautiful example of this was the relationship that Yogananda had with Rajarsi Janakananda, his most advanced disciple. Theirs was a love for God in each other. They were like two divine children. We would see them walking hand in hand, drunk with the bliss of each other’s being.
One time someone came into Yogananda’s room and found him mending Rajarsi’s suspenders. There were often sweet little touches like this, where each would want to serve the other because they knew that it was God serving God.
Yogananda bore the same depth of love for everyone, but couldn’t always show it because most people would respond in a personal, egoic way. So he would usually remain somewhat aloof. But when you reached up toward his level with the proper sense of divinity, he responded instantly.
An affinity of consciousness
We can only develop that level of divine love with the family of people who share our love for God. This is why Jesus said, “Who is my mother and my brother save those who do the will of my Father?”
The family that we have at Ananda is a wonderful example of such a family, one dedicated to the ideal of living for God, and in God. Each person is seeking communion with God not only in his meditations, but also through his friends.
Our bonds are based on shared spiritual attunement—an affinity of consciousness and understanding. Even people who don’t live here are very much part of this family. Through prayer and positive thoughts, we’re able to help one another to grow—mentally, emotionally, and, above all, spiritually.
To complain is to miss the point
In a community like Ananda, our relationships help us to bring out the qualities we need in order to find God, and also to see to what extent we have developed those qualities. If we think we love God, but every time we’re around others we stir up trouble, then obviously we have much to learn.
Similarly, whenever we have a negative reaction to someone’s behavior toward us, we need to look at what there is within us that is causing our reaction. Everything that comes to us is a reflection of energy we’ve put out. The wish to criticize another always springs from some kindred flaw in one’s own character.
That’s why it is foolish for people—particularly those on the spiritual path who ought to know better—to complain at the way others treat them. We miss the point of what might be a very important lesson for our growth when we think: “If only he would behave in such and such a way!”
What vibration are you putting out?
We can also learn important lessons from the qualities we draw out of others. A person who is very harmonious with most people may, in your company, become disagreeable. Somehow you rub him the wrong way.
Although the disharmonious person needs to correct his behavior, there was nevertheless something in the vibration you projected that drew that disharmonious reaction. The lesson for you is learning to manifest the kind of vibration that will draw harmony out of everyone.
“Make my family more spiritual”
Meanwhile, we have our worldly family, and it’s important for us not to ignore or regret them. They are part of our karmic lessons. You can spiritualize your relations with them if you see them as founded in God, even when they are not. They can become so, if you live in that consciousness yourself.
The most important thing that we can do for our family—and for ourselves—is to be more in tune with God. The magnetism you develop through that attunement will allow more and more of God’s power to flow through you.
Then, if you pray, “Make my family more spiritual. Draw my family into oneness with Thee,” this will have a greater impact on them than anything else. Ultimately it is God alone who draws people back to Him. As Yogananda’s chant goes, “He knows whom You let know.”
So don’t try to do it all yourself. Get away from the tense feeling: “I have to bring my family to God.” Be in tune, act as His channel, and He will bless others through you.
They will surely be helped when the time is right, especially those who are open. And that time will be different for each person.
Never limit your sense of family
We should always try to expand our sense of family not only beyond our blood relations, but also beyond devotees and others who share our spiritual aspirations. We should try to see everyone in this world as part of our family.
Yogananda told us that when a person finds liberation he is able to recognize his friends and loved ones from the past. Through intuition, he can penetrate the outer “masks” they are wearing in this incarnation and see through to the soul level.
It’s only when we can see others on this soul level that we acquire the most important sense of family of all—one in which we see all people as brothers and sisters in the great family of God—even those who hate us or try to hurt us. On the soul level, we are all one in God.
From a 1980s talk