How to Overcome Discouragement on the Spiritual Path


I am morally fragile. I struggle to keep my devotion and honesty at my work intact. I have a feeling that I can achieve God only through excellent performance at my work. But, frequent lapses of judgement and backslidings from my ideals and cherished habits deter and disappoint me. I become concerned at the loss of health and freshness because of them. I feel this struggle has been going on for years now. Do accomplished spiritual practitioners also face such challenges? What is the way out?

—Ashu, India


Dear Ashu,

Paramhansa Yogananda was fond of saying to us: “God doesn’t mind our faults but seeks only our love.” God has everything; God IS everything. But God lacks one thing: our interest; our attention; our love. Yes, it’s good to do your work well and with excellence. But if you are too focused on excellence how can you BE excellent? Success even in one’s work is, in part, a result of non-attachment to the results. This just happens to be one of the great teachings of Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita! It is called “nishkam karma”: action without desire for the results. As Christians sometimes say: “Do your best, leave to God the rest!”

Our teacher (Swami Kriyananda), a direct disciple of Yogananda and founder of Ananda worldwide, would say to us when we were discouraged: “You are doing the best you can.” And so it is for all of us. Do the best you can but focus more on mindfulness of God’s presence (in whatever form or name you hold sacred). Do you meditate daily? Strengthen your meditation practice with ongoing development. Ananda India offers classes and programs — in person and online — in the development of one’s meditation practice. (

Even when you slip from your ideals, try not to identify with your mistakes. Get up off your feet, spiritually, and continue; brush away the crumbs of disappointment from the clothes of your consciousness. Affirm: “I am He; I am Spirit; I am the immortal Atman! Do what you can to improve yourself and change your habits but true change comes from combining your effort with God’s grace. God is our creator and turning to divine grace and adding it to our efforts is to find the secret of self-transformation.

All devotees, no matter at what level of spiritual development, feel themselves unworthy to the goal. Perhaps this is how it should be lest pride poison our hearts. But put your life into God’s hands. Cooperate with divine grace by doing those things you know or have been taught are necessary for spiritual growth: prayer, meditation, devotion, good works, kindness, faith and so on.

When a monk was discouraged saying to Yogananda, “I don’t think I have very good karma,” Yogananda replied powerfully: “Remember! It takes very, very VERY good karma even to WANT to know God!” Place your salvation in God’s hands and in the meantime, do your best; do your part and all will be well.

Blessings and joy to you!
Nayaswami Hriman