In a cosmic sense, we can say that God’s will is everything that happens. God, after all, created delusion and it’s His will that perpetuates this world. It’s his will, on one level, that accounts for all the evil in the world.
But that aspect of God’s will that perpetuates creation is not what we’re usually referring to when we speak of His will. We’re speaking of the aspect that loves us deeply and wants to draw us back to His love—that responds to the highest in us and draws the highest from us.
The same for everyone yet also different
In a general way, this aspect of his will is the same for everyone, but it will also be different, depending on what we need to work out in order to become free.
There is a very strange story that Paramhansa Yogananda told from his early years in India. When he was a young man, many people looked to him for political leadership and hoped he would lead India in a revolution against the British. Having been a great warrior in past incarnations, he had that kind of magnetism.
He told them, “No, God will free India in my lifetime by peaceful means.” He could see what would come in the future.
But to one man who sought his help, Yogananda said, “It’s your karma to do it. Go ahead.” This man went ahead but was later caught and executed.
I asked Yogananda, “Why, if you knew that India would be freed by peaceful means, did you tell him to do that?” He replied, “It was his karma. He had to go through that in order to grow.”
The masters aren’t very concerned about death because they know there is no death. If, in the process of learning your lessons, you have to leave this body, that’s not important. They see it as going from one play to another.
A very subtle process
Knowing God’s will is a very complex and subtle process. It involves many levels of understanding and gradual growth toward deeper and deeper sensitivity, attunement, and wisdom.
For example, you might feel motivated to campaign for somebody to become president. That’s not the highest goal but if you weren’t capable of anything higher, it wouldn’t be wise of God to say, “Don’t do it.”
He’d say, “Sure go ahead. That’ll be fine.” And you would think, “Oh, He wants me to do it.” But that may not be the case.
Stepping stones to the highest
Many times God allows us or even wills for us to do certain things as stepping-stones to the highest. It may be God’s will for you to be president of an organization. For another it may be to write books, paint paintings or go into business.
But these are just to help you learn certain lessons. His real will isn’t any of those things. What he really wants is for you to reach the point where you realize is that none of that really matters.
God’s highest will is the same for everyone—that we merge back into Him. Subsidiary to that is whatever takes you in that direction.
Intensely active for God
Some people may say, “Well, if it’s God’s will that I unite my soul with him, then it must be God’s will that I meditate and not do any work.” This seems to make sense except that there are many things that you have to work out before you can meditate properly.
As Yogananda put it, you have to be intensely active for God before you can attain the actionless state. You not only have to meditate, you must also do those things that bring the rest of your life into alignment with that meditative frame of mind.
I once met a wealthy man who, unfortunately, saw these two aspects of his life as inimical to each other. He told me that his real life began when he came home from work and meditated—that’s when he could really live for God.
Unfortunately, this was a wrong understanding. We should incorporate our spiritual life into everything we do. When you can take care of your family, work at the office, etc., but do it all for God, you then begin to advance on all fronts. Everything you do gives power to that final thrust of merging into the Infinite.
The ability to pull back
God is not going to appear on a cloud and tell you his will, so how are you to know? Yogananda used to say, “Seclusion is the price of greatness.”
It may mean literal seclusion, but it certainly means the ability to pull back from the fads, and what everyone else is saying, and to go within and consult your heart.
Be sure you’re not attached
The more you can become centered and non-attached in the heart, the more you’ll know what to do. Attachments cloud the issues.
It’s like the time I bought my first harmonium. When I returned with it to Mt. Washington, I saw Yogananda outside his elevator and I said, “Master! Master! Look what I have!”
Of course he saw this wave of attachment and excitement, so he looked at it, played it a little and said, “How nice, I’m buying it.” I thought he wanted it for himself.
But the truth was he wanted to buy it for me. He didn’t tell me because he wanted to teach me a lesson. So I said instantly, “Oh no sir, I’m giving it to you.”
Had I been calmer and able to listen more carefully to what he was saying, I would not have made such a big deal of renunciation. I would have been able to accept whatever he wished to give me.
Don’t hold back
So first get clear—feel that you aren’t attached. Once you have a feeling you can trust, don’t hold back. Even if the guidance you receive is not a complete answer, it’s important to follow it.
The more you follow it, the more that guidance will come. If, in your sincere desire to follow God’s will, you make a mistake, God will correct that mistake.
The energy flow will guide you
But it’s better to use your energy in a mistaken way than not use it at all—just to keep the energy flow strong. Otherwise, if you’re too cautious, you block the energy and the intuition won’t flow.
It’s that energy flow, perhaps more than anything else, that will gradually guide you in the right direction.
But, always listen and don’t presume. If you keep listening, you will know when the guidance shifts. Often the first feeling is only temporary and other fine tunings come later.
Use common sense
Follow your intuition with common sense. In evaluating guidance, always make sure it’s in tune with what the great ones have always said. Throughout history, those who have found God have never disagreed with each other.
None of them has ever said, for example, that “God isn’t love; God is hate.” Any guidance you receive that is not in tune with these realities is highly suspect.
How others respond
Once you’ve acted on the guidance you’ve received, the reactions of other devotees can provide helpful corroboration.
If the people who seem to be in tune are responding to you in a positive and harmonious way, that’s an indication that you’re doing the right thing. If you’re doing something right, the outward results should be harmonious.
But then, look at the life of Christ. He was doing all the right things but he was crucified. Can we therefore say he was doing something wrong? Of course not. That’s what makes knowing God’s will such a subtle and complex process.
Asking for a sign
Yogananda’s intuition was, of course, perfected, yet even he would sometimes ask for a sign. When we were planning to go to India in 1951, he used to say, “I won’t believe we’re going until we get on that boat.”
He was uncertain about the trip and he asked Divine Mother to give him a sign. Well, the sign came unfortunately through me, to my lasting embarrassment.
Yogananda hadn’t wanted anyone to know about the trip, but one disciple somehow guessed and talked to me as if he knew all about it. I assumed he did and responded in that way.
Well, he hadn’t known, he was guessing. He was physically unwell and went to Yogananda and said, “Are you really going to leave me in this condition?”
Yogananda said, “That was a sign. Now we can’t go because this negative energy has come to block it.”
It’s interesting that a Master would work that way. But he was showing us that Divine Mother will give you helpful signs. You have to learn to watch for them and, most important, to understand them from within.
Don’t talk about your intuition
To know God’s will, perhaps the most important things are to have a respect for your capacity for being mistaken, as well as for God’s capacity to somehow get through your ignorance. Listen to the guidance you receive in the heart; that’s the clearest of all. The more you can become centered and clear in the heart, the more you’ll really know what to do.
Don’t talk about too much about your intuitions. When you talk about them, you tend to lose them.
Remember always to follow that aspect of his will which leads you towards freedom from the ego and union with him. What God really wants is that you know Him.