Excerpted FromAnanda Course in Self-Realization by Swami Kriyananda
Right Attitude is Everything
The ability to live more inwardly is the hallmark of right, spiritual attitude.
Because the science of yoga deals so much with the awakening of subtle energies, many yoga students imagine the entire process of spiritual evolution to be a mere mechanism. They think by technique alone to find God.
Mankind has always been somewhat prone to mistake technique for inspiration, forgetting that technique is merely a vehicle for inspiration. Yoga, which approaches the path to salvation more scientifically, offers at the same time a stronger temptation to confuse method with something infinitely more important on the path: right attitude.
Remember, technique is only a vehicle. What good is a car in the hands of a driver who has no idea where he wants to go? And of what use is it to be a technically skilled driver, if one’s driving attitudes are anti-social? The fact that yoga practice accelerates one’s spiritual progress only increases the need for right attitude. Socially responsible attitudes are more important for automobile drivers traveling at high speeds than for bicycle riders. Concentration on yoga techniques alone, without developing right attitudes, can prove dangerous. For spiritual progress can never be forced, any more than one can force the delicate mechanism of a watch.
The ability to live more inwardly is the hallmark of right, spiritual attitude. Right attitude is the force that sets the wheel of spiritual evolution turning in the first place. Right attitude is what keeps it turning, drawing more and more divine power to itself. Right attitude it is, finally, that keeps the whirlpool of Self-realization expanding outward to infinity, instead of becoming locked in a narrow cycle of ego-limitation.
But many are the paradoxes on the spiritual path. This inward attitude is not easily comprehended by the worldly mind, for the world has its own power to draw anyone who embraces it. Boredom-fatigue and reluctance are self-perpetuating cycles capable of generating its own negative energies. For the beginner, therefore, an extra impetus may be needed initially to spark the right, inward attitude.
An electric generator needs a strong spark from a battery to get it started. The wheel of inner development, similarly, usually needs a strong stimulus from without to get it going. Hence the need for contact with other devotees, and particularly with saints. Since saints are not easy to find in this world, and not easy to get close to once one does find them, one would do well also to meditate on them from afar. Study their photographs. Try to draw into yourself their magnetic, divine attitudes.
It would be no exaggeration to say that attitude, in the last analysis, is everything. One may have right attitude and know nothing of yoga or of meditation, and still reach God, eventually. But without right attitude, lifetimes of yoga practice may develop nothing but spiritual pride, and an outward focus thereby for one’s energies.
The world, steeped as it is in delusion, often upholds as the best attitudes those which would most surely enmesh us in further delusion. Egotism, for example, is often prized by ignorant people as a sign of strength. Self-seeking is mistaken for practicality; miserliness, for thrift; restlessness, for a proof of inner vitality; and loud laughter, for a sure sign of inner joy.
Look, then, to the saints. But since probably you must mix with worldly people, too, and may have to be more with them than with saints, look to them also. But study the end results of their attitudes. For even in a worldly sense, those attitudes bear the sweetest fruits which spring most purely from an inner source: self-giving, rather than possessive, love; a wish to correct oneself, not others; an inner freedom in every undertaking, and in every human relationship; an impersonal gaze that can enjoy even the world without constant reference to one’s own standing with respect to it.
The developed yogi sees in all things the one, divine Self. But the beginning yogi needs to cultivate, in addition to a divinely impersonal outlook, a more intimate, devotional attitude towards the Lord.