Should a spiritual aspirant hang out with non-spiritual aspirants?

Question

Can you still lead a spiritual life if you still hang around people who don’t feel the same as you? After finding Yogananda and his teachings, I feel myself becoming so disconnected from everyone in my life. I don’t know if I can still lead my day to day life and not become spiritually restricted by the people I’m close with. It’s causing me major depression not knowing how to live.

[Also] I am currently in a relationship with someone that I am in love with and want to spend my life with. However, they are not on a spiritual path and have no real interest in Yogananda and his teachings for spiritual liberation. The person I’m with respects and supports my journey, but I’m wondering if they will hinder my progress in any way or if giving in to their sexual desires will hold me back from true spiritual progression.

—Jackie Free, United States

Answer

Dear Jackie, Both of your questions came in to us at the same time, so since they are related, I’ll answer them both together. Yes, you can lead a spiritual life and still be among people, who are not spiritually inclined. It’s just a lot harder to do. This is why satsang (being with spiritually like-minded people as much as possible) is so very important to have as a dynamic part of your life. If you have a lot of good quality satsang in your life, you don’t necessarily have to disconnect with non-spiritually oriented people. The combination of meditation and satsang will give you great spiritual strength!

Yogananda does say that environment is stronger than will power, and the most important aspect of your environment are the people with whom you spend the most time. When you are a new spiritual seeker, there is often a feeling of becoming disconnected from the people you are used to being with, because they to do not share your spiritual aspirations. But this should not be a depressing thing! Rather it should inspire you to find new friends to be with who actually do share your spiritual aspirations. It’s not that hard to do! I’m not sure if you live in a place with a center or meditation group of Yogananda’s lineage. Let us know that, and we’ll try to help you find them, or else you might want to join our Ananda Virtual Community. Look for it at www.onlinewithananda.org.

As for the person you are in love with and want to be with, the answer is similar. When you are a sincere spiritual seeker and you closely connect yourself with someone who is not, it will surely make great difference in both of your lives. Not be able to share your spiritual life with the one closest to you can be a challenging situation, indeed! It can be done, but again, it’s not easy.

Think and pray carefully about this matter. It could work out, but it is also likely to be a recipe for huge future obstacles to your happiness in the relationship. Either the relationship cannot stand that sort of challenge and will cease, or the spiritual aspirant will try to hide their inner life or give up their spiritual life quest, in order to keep the relationship afloat. Or the non-devotee could change eventually and embrace your spiritual path, too. I’ve seen it happen, but it’s somewhat rare.