1. Gratitude and Generosity
Paramhansa Yogananda’s guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar is quoted in Autobiography of a Yogi as making the statement, “So long as you breathe the free air of earth, you are under obligation to render grateful service.” One naturally asks, why be grateful without reason? The “air of earth” is simply there; it comes with living on this planet. Where then, is the need for gratitude?
The fact is, everything in the universe is consciously manifested, and with love. There is a consciousness which receives our gratitude and responds to it. Sri Yukteswar said that karmic law, though it functions to a great extent automatically, it is also guided by a universal intelligence and love, and can be intelligently diverted. Hence the concept of divine grace (kripa in Sanskrit). Grace can be won above all by devotion and love. The more a person gives generously of himself, to God and to life, the more karmic law supports him in return.
Is generosity always practical?
I received dramatic corroboration of the functioning of karmic law many years ago when certain people tried to undermine me by false accusations. Reflecting on Sri Yukteswar’s counsel “to render grateful service,” it seemed to me that the only way to preserve my integrity was to respond with gratitude — if not to them, then to life for helping me to grow spiritually no matter how they treated me. I made up my mind, indeed, to respond not only with gratitude, but with love. In the years since, my firm adherence to Sri Yukteswar’s teaching has brought me peace of mind, and a steady increase of inner joy. Moreover, I was able to accomplish all that my Guru told me to do.
In response to the later efforts of those same people to engineer my undoing by legal action, I wrote and published a little book called Do It NOW! which offers spiritual and practical sayings for every day of the year. Though Ananda Sangha’s monetary needs were urgent, I felt inspired all the same to get this book read by as many people as possible. Therefore I decided to give it away free, and invested my own money for the printing of 5,000 copies, which were distributed free of charge.
Was it wise of me — and, indeed, was it practical—to be generous when our needs were so great? Some people might well consider my deed irresponsible. However, I knew I could reach 5,000 people directly — people who knew and appreciated what Ananda was doing. Therefore, I myself don’t call it at all impractical! Indeed, I can add that something did work for us, for Ananda Sangha emerged from that struggle stronger than ever.
Always keep a generous attitude
In rendering “grateful service,” it is always good to be generous, yet one must be practical. That is to say, one should do what works, and one should also be generous within his means. What I want to say above all, then, is keep a generous attitude even if you haven’t the financial means to be generous in other, more material ways.
2. Indomitable Will Power
Usually, the first essentials for material success are a positive attitude and a strong will. I say “usually,” because people do strike it rich often enough, not because of their present mental attitude, but because they have strong money karma brought over from past lives. The following episode, which actually occurred, provides an amazing glimpse into the workings of karma, and the importance of a positive attitude and strong will power.
A certain gold prospector in America lived with his wife in a humble cabin in the mountains. For years he found only enough gold to “keep the wolf from the door.” Undaunted, he kept on with his prospecting, hoping someday to strike it rich. Throughout all that time, he and his wife always kept a cheerful outlook on life.
One evening the husband came home in triumph, his arms around a large bag of money. He’d struck gold at last! That very day he had sold his claim to a mining company. He and his wife were now rich beyond their wildest dreams! The prospector handed the precious parcel to his wife, then, with her consent, went out to celebrate with a few of his cronies. His wife, meanwhile, hid the money in the only safe spot she could think of: the wood stove, which they rarely used because of their straitened circumstances. Satisfied that no thief would ever think to look there, she went off to bed.
Her husband, meanwhile, having had a few drinks with his friends, returned home with them late at night and invited them in to do a little more celebrating. It was late, and the air was chilly. Anxious not to disturb his wife, he placed a few logs in the stove as quietly as possible, and built a fire. Their entire hoard of newly gained wealth went up in flames!
The man and wife were horrified on discovering the disaster the next morning. The woman was devastated. Her husband, fortunately, was made of stern stuff.
“Never mind, Honey,” he said consolingly. “I’ll just find us some more gold.” He went out after breakfast, and that very same day struck another vein, much richer than the first. They now found themselves rich beyond the dreams of avarice.
The harshest karma can be defeated
Two morals, especially, can be drawn from this amazing account. The first is the glimpse it gives into the workings of karma. When any karma is powerful enough, it can overcome seemingly insuperable odds. Indeed, how extraordinary: to find enough gold to make them both rich for life, to lose all of it that very day, and then immediately to find another source of even greater wealth! I have never heard anything comparable to this account of what is so often called, “luck”!
The second moral teaches an even more important lesson — namely, the importance of exerting one’s will when faced with adversity, no matter how appalling. Sometimes we seem to be confronted by a seemingly implacable fate. If we meet it indomitably, however, even the harshest karma can be defeated, and any lingering good karma that is still present can be reaffirmed.
Had that man lacked courage, he might have given up mining altogether, in a mood of utter defeat. Many people would have done so. Even if he didn’t abandon hope utterly, but after some time summoned his will power once again until it was strong enough to return to the “fray,” someone else might, in the meantime, have discovered that second vein. For the gold was there all the time, ready to be found. It wasn’t that the gold itself was fated to be found, or to be found by any person in particular. That man had the karma to become wealthy. He also had the karma to lose his wealth. The two karmas vied together, for and against him. It was his indomitable will power that decided which side would predominate.
3. Right Attitude
Right attitude is the most important ingredient in any struggle for success. Right attitude is not merely produced by success: it actually attracts success. My own experience in life has convinced me that right attitude is even more important than good karma. For although good karma can ensure success, no one, generally speaking, can say whether, when, or for how long that good karma will last. True success is his already, indeed, who determinedly clings to right attitude.
The stronger a person’s attitude, whether positive or negative, the stronger the magnetic field of energy it generates, drawing good or bad fortune to oneself. A positive attitude depends far less on things going right outwardly than on an inner determination to be happy always. More often, such an attitude is the cause of good fortune, not merely a result of it. People whose outlook on life is, by contrast, basically negative can actually attract failure!
The ego: the greatest stumbling block
The ego is the greatest stumbling block to true success. Those who affirm their self-importance egoically do in fact sometimes rise to the top of their little anthills of ambition. Because they accomplish their victories in a spirit of competition, however, they find themselves anxious to protect themselves from the slightest challenge to their own “high” position. They become, in consequence, increasingly tense inwardly, and aware of a growing mental and emotional discomfort.
People who think expansively are more likely to succeed in every way, even materially. An expansive outlook opens the mind to many possible alternatives. People, on the other hand, who think, “What’s in it for me?” often blunder in both trifling and important matters. Tunnel vision prevents them from being aware of opportunity even when it stands like a visitor on their doorstep, ringing the doorbell.
Always expect the best from life.
Make it a point to expect to succeed, and to expect the best from life and from other people. Never allow fear of failure to weaken your will, even if failure looms over you as a possible reality. Don’t be attached to the outcome of your acts. Try to maintain an inner sense of freedom. In that way, you will be able to rise above discouragement altogether.
Learn also to be solution-oriented, not problem-oriented. This doesn’t mean to be blissfully unaware of any problems before you. Look at your problems, rather, with a view to overcoming them. In this world of duality, where a problem exists there must be a solution to it. That is a law of nature. Know that if anything you do doesn’t work, something else has to work for you; such is the nature of duality.
Keep on trying, therefore, until success is at last assured. Within ourselves we have the power to emerge smiling from the greatest defeat, and to go on to shining victory.