This was originally posted at YoganandaBiography.com/blog.
“Smile because you are fearless; smile because fear is ashamed to cause you apprehension and failure” –Paramhansa Yogananda
I’ve just about finished reading Paramhansa Yogananda: A Biography, and one story stood out to me in particular. Yogananda was giving a talk in New York and he accused some very wealthy people of taking advantage of the poor. As he was walking home, someone came up behind him and put a gun to his back. The stranger said, “Why did you say such things against those people?” The Master explained that everyone is a child of God and God does not want one of His children to take advantage of the others. Yogananda gazed at him with spiritual power and the man fell to the ground and cried, “What are you doing to me? I can’t go back to my old ways!” He then ran away, terrified.
My first thought on reading this story was “Wow! I wish I could do that!” Can you imagine being able to scare away dangerous criminals with just a look, not to mention teaching them a lesson at the same time? What a useful tool this would be! In my opinion, the reason Yogananda was able to stand up to the man was because he was completely fearless. He was so immersed in Bliss and the knowledge that he was immortal that nothing could shake him. That was what the other man saw in his eyes that so disarmed him. He thought he was in control because he had a gun, but Yogananda knew no gun could ever harm his soul.
When I was growing up, I took martial arts classes down the street from my house. After years of classes, I was finally able to test for my black belt. I was terrified I would forget everything and just freeze. I practiced daily, but my exhaustion came more from anxiety than from the exercises.
Finally, the big day came. I was panicked. However, as I sat there watching the others test, the fear slowly fell away. I thought, “I do this every day, why is today any different?” The only difference was that people were watching, which shouldn’t really make any difference. The only real obstacle keeping me from my black belt was fear, which was only in my mind. When the moment came, I performed just as I had in my living room, and I gratefully accepted my black belt.
When you can stand up to your fear knowing that you are an immortal child of God, then nothing can defeat you. Of course, Yogananda has great spiritual power and we may not all be able to take someone down with a look, but the principle is the same. There are many obstacles to overcome on the yogic path, or any path for that matter, but if we stand up to those obstacles without fear then we can find the strength to overcome them. The story about Yogananda confronting the accoster in Paramhansa Yogananda: A Biography makes that abundantly clear.