Paramhansa Yogananda came to the West with a world mission—to bring unity and harmony to the world through the understanding that we are all one with the Infinite. How do we, his disciples and followers, participate in his worldwide “course correction?” What can we do to bring harmony to this earth and all its residents?
The tumultuous “peace” movement
Back in the late 1960s, I was very involved in the anti-war or “peace” movement, as it was called. With the distance of time, it’s very easy to romanticize what was going on then.
In reality it was a very tumultuous time. There was tremendous friction and very little harmony. Even our peace rallies often erupted into riots. I attended a peace rally in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco where one of the speakers was a Buddhist monk from Vietnam. He chided the crowd saying, “You say you want peace but look at yourselves! You will not bring peace with shouting and screaming and name-calling.”
I had been inspired toward social activism by the dignity, love, and commitment to non-violence that Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and others had brought to their expressions of protest. Repulsed by the violence and discord of the peace movement, I gradually separated myself from social activism and began reading Indian philosophy. After coming onto the spiritual path, I understood that there can be no peace and harmony without meditation and tuning into the Self within.
Meditation brings rays of harmony to the world
When we don’t have harmony on this planet we have war, disease, and famine. Paramhansa Yogananda lived in this world during World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the rise of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin, and many unspeakable horrors. While all of that was happening, Yogananda and his most highly advanced disciple, Rajarshi Janakananda, a successful businessman, sat on the beach in Encinitas, California and meditated.
By taking time out to meditate were they advancing Yogananda’s mission of unity and harmony? Yes, because by tuning in to the consciousness of God, whether on a beach, under the trees, or in cities and towns, we become channels for harmony. Great souls like Yogananda and Rajarshi serve as spiritual lighthouses, shining divine rays of love and harmony into the world.
Inner peace is contagious
In June I went to the river near Ananda Village with a group of 24 young people between the ages of 18 and 30. All had come to Ananda Village for a two-week “Living with Spirit” program of yoga, meditation, community, and sustainable agriculture. It was a hot day and we went to swim, tune into the natural setting, and practice yoga and meditation.
The river was the usual mix of moms with their kids, a few people swimming, some people relaxing with beer and cigarettes, and a little loud music. At five o’clock, one of the youth leaders said, “Let’s energize.” So we began with a prayer and, facing the river, started doing Yogananda’s Energization Exercises.
As we energized, the people around us and on the opposite bank looked inquisitive but respectful. Gradually the river became quieter and more peaceful. After energization, we sat in meditation and the vibrations became even more peaceful. People who were laughing and joking as they floated down the river on rafts became quieter when they passed us. A calm, harmonious magnetism radiated outward from our group. By the time we ended the meditation, there was no one on the opposite bank.
Swami Kriyananda writes that inner peace is “contagious and has an uplifting effect on those capable of receiving its influence.” I felt that the people who had left, and those who had floated past on rafts, had taken with them a little peace and harmony, and a little more happiness.
“What is trying to happen?”
What else can we do to bring harmony and peace to the world? Paramhansa Yogananda and Swami Kriyananda, as his disciple, have understood that harmony comes from meditating and listening to the “melody.” The “melody” is God’s will.
When asked if Ananda is developing and growing in the way he envisioned, I’ve heard Swami Kriyananda say, “I didn’t envision it.” His approach has been to meditate and harmonize his efforts with the Guru’s vision, and then to let the chips fall where they may. His total surrender to the will of God and Guru means that we can only do our best by listening to Divine Mother’s plan and watching Her drama unfold.
When Ananda Village needed to start a business to provide jobs for people, Swami Kriyananda suggested that we open a restaurant in Nevada City. At that time, Nevada City had the most vegetarian restaurants per capita of any area in Northern California. We wondered: “Should we go forward?”
Kriyananda encouraged us to look at the situation superconsciously. He pointed out that Paramhansa Yogananda had opened a restaurant in Hollywood as a way to share high vibrations—people when eating are taking in vibrations and are sensitive to the consciousness of the cooks, servers, and staff. He said that if the devotees working in an Ananda restaurant thought first and foremost of serving others, and of sharing vibrations of love and joy, we would succeed. So we opened the restaurant—“Earth Song” —and it succeeded marvelously.
The question that Swami Kriyananda has condensed from the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda is one we always ask: “What is trying to happen?” In everything we do, we try to listen to the “melody” and then go forward in the unity and harmony of Spirit.
In June 1976 a forest fire destroyed 450 acres and 21 of the 22 homes at Ananda Village, all uninsured. The county was at fault and Ananda could have sued and recovered its losses. Instead, Swami Kriyananda wrote the county supervisors to say that Ananda would not be suing. He said: “We don’t want to take our bad luck out on our fellow citizens by increasing the county’s insurance rates.”
I still remember the thrill I felt reading Kriyananda’s letter posted on the wall in the Ananda Village mailroom. I was so happy we could live our philosophy even if it meant foregoing a lot of money.
Awaken to the unity
It’s difficult to watch the world run headlong into war, famine, disease and greed—to watch it besmirch this planet with chemicals and, in the name of religion, wipe out beautiful statues of the Buddha in Afghanistan. It’s very hard to watch all of this foolishness and say, “I surrender everything into the hands of the Divine Mother,” but we must.
The essence of Paramhansa Yogananda’s teachings is to awaken to the unity that connects us to every being and every aspect of creation. Whatever our role, we must see ourselves as a part of the great divine whole and have compassion for our brothers and sisters who are acting in ignorance. And we must discover those actions that move us towards harmony, peace, love, joy, and reverence for all life.
This is often the missing element in the ecology and environmental movements. In trying to help the planet, many have fallen into violent or hateful tactics. The need to respect the divine ecology that keeps life healthy and abundant is sometimes lost in anger over corporate greed. Anger is not beneficial to plants or animals. Harmony with nature requires harmony with the Spirit that animates nature and dwells in all of us, even if obscured by the ignorance of greed.
Allow God to channel harmony through you
To understand what each of us can do to assuage suffering and increase the light, we need to meditate, contact God, and pray for guidance. But there are a few simple and profoundly effective things we can all do that will allow God to channel harmony through us:
- At the end of your morning meditation, visualize the light of God radiating out from your body and consciousness, harmonizing each situation of the day. See your co-workers, clients, children, friends, and the people you see on the way to work bathed in a light of harmony and filled with a joyful, harmonious vibration. Pray to be a channel for harmony in everything you do.
- Close your meditation chanting AUM, blessing every situation and person you will come across during the day.
- As you go through the day, try to send a vibration of harmony by silently asking God to bless every person and situation. Feel God harmonizing each person and situation through you.
- If you are interested in ecology, try meditating on the phrase, “You are a part of all there is,” and try to feel the Divine flowing through all ecosystems—rivers, lakes, mountains, soil, plants, animals, and your own body. Let love, gratitude, and peace drive your ecological work and it will be a thousand times more fulfilling and effective.
- Whatever you do, see your work as a service to your fellow human beings. If we concentrate on how our work benefits others, it becomes karma yoga—selfless service. Feel that God is playing your part and the parts of those being served.
And thus, as Swami Kriyananda writes, “the ripples of positive, joyful influence spread outward into the world.”