In a vision when he was a boy, Paramhansa Yogananda saw himself standing in the marketplace of a small town in the Himalayan foothills. The day was hot, and the marketplace, dusty and crowded with dirty stalls, harassed shoppers, and whining beggars. Dogs ran everywhere. Monkeys stole down from rooftops to snatch at food in the stalls. Donkeys brayed complainingly. People laden with purchases bustled to and fro, brows furrowed with anxiety and desire.
No one seemed happy.
Now and again, however, someone in that milling crowd paused before the entranced boy, and gazed high into the distance behind him. Into the gazer’s eyes there came a look of intense wistfulness. Then, after a few moments, he would turn away with a weary sigh and exclaim, “Oh, but it’s much too high for me!” Lowering his gaze, he returned to the hot and dusty marketplace.
After this sequence had repeated itself several times, Yogananda turned to see what it was that had held so much appeal for those people. And there, rising high above him, he beheld a lofty mountain: verdant, serene, beautiful. An absolute contrast it was to everything in this hubbub of noise and confusion. On the mountaintop there was a large, exquisitely lovely garden, its lawns green-gold, its flowers many-hued. The boy yearned to climb the mountain and enter that earthly paradise.
Reflecting, then, on the difficulty of the climb, he thought as had the others, “But it’s much too high for me!”
Weighing his words, then, he rejected them scornfully. “It may be too high to ascend with a single leap, but at least I can put one foot in front of the other!” Even to fail in the attempt would, he decided, be infinitely preferable to existence in this showcase of human misery.
Step by step, determinedly, he set out. At last he reached and entered the heavenly garden.
For Master, this vision symbolized a predicament common to every person with high aspirations. Indeed, I wonder whether all men do not fret, at least sometimes, at the restrictions the human body places on them with its constant demands for sustenance, rest, and protection. Man longs instinctively for a life freed from competition and worry; freed from hatred and violence; freed from the need for constant care. Few people, alas, even suspect that such a state exists and can be found. Of those, moreover, who do harbor such hopes, most turn away with a sigh, saying, “But it’s much too high for me!” How very, very few take up the path in earnest! “Out of a thousand,” Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita, “one seeks Me.”
Yet the path is not really so difficult, for those who will but take it one step at a time. As Jesus put it, “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”(1) And as Paramhansa Yogananda often said — a quote I have mentioned earlier in this book—“A saint is a sinner who never gave up.”
The spiritual path requires courage, and dedication, and the absolute conviction that only God can ever satisfy the soul’s yearning for true happiness. Those who take up the path for what Yogananda called its glamour, expecting only blissful visions and a comfortable, mossy trail strewn with rose blossoms of divine consolation, become discouraged when they find how often God neglects the moss and roses in favor of thorns. For those, however, who cling to their purpose with devotion, taking the path calmly one day at a time, no test is ever too great. Obstructions are seen, then, as blessings, for they provide the strength one needs to reach the heights.
- Three Stages Meditators Experience
- Take a Long-term View of Your Meditation Practice
- Obstacles to Meditation and How to Overcome Them
- How to Avoid Spiritual Overconfidence
Matthew 6:34. How is it, I have often asked myself marveling, that so few Christians realize what a delightful, if sometimes incisive, sense of humor Jesus had!
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