Over the years I’ve observed that there is an irreconcilable difference between the consciousness of worldly people and that of devotees. A worldly person lives for himself and invariably thinks in terms of “What’s in it for me?” By contrast, a devotee thinks, “What does God want?”
Another way to express this is that everything a worldly person does is designed to take him outside himself, while everything a devotee does is designed to remind him of who he is inside.
This interiorized awareness, or pratyahara, as it is called in the teachings of yoga, is a very important attitude to develop. We must actively foster this state, because the world trains us to see things in a different way. The world tells us that everything we seek must be a reaching outside of ourselves for something we don’t already have.
“I have Him right now!”
Often when we sit in meditation, we tend to think of how far we are from God. We should try instead to live in the consciousness that we are already one with Him, even though we may still have faults, because all we really have to improve is our awareness of who we truly are.
Yogananda wouldn’t translate the stanza in the Bengali chant, “Door of My Heart, that says, “ I am a beggar,” because he didn’t want us approach God with the consciousness of begging. He didn’t want us to say, “When will I have God?” but encouraged us always to think, “I have Him right now!”
This attitude will in no way diminish your devotion. In fact, your feeling of love will grow the more you cancel out the thought of separation from God.
Something we’ve always known
In everything you do, try to withdraw your mind into yourself. As devotees, this is something we should practice all the time. Let everything that you do remind you of the bliss of your own nature.
The Catholics have a very good word for this practice: “recollectedness.” Patanjali used a similar word as his definition of enlightenment: smritti, or the memory of who and what you are.
Smritti is something nearly all of us on the path have experienced. For example, after coming onto the path, I worked very hard to develop devotion and openness of heart. When, after a period of time I first experienced the “ray” of divine love, my first thought was, “But, of course. I’ve always known this.”
When you want to learn something in the world, you think, “I’d better write this down, because I don’t want to forget any of it.” When you’ve touched something of the soul within, your first thought is, “This is what I am. I don’t have to try to remember what it’s like.”
It’s your nature to be in samadhi. It’s your nature to be flowing all the time in love and joy. Sometimes that joy gets so intense you can hardly stand it, and yet if you relax a bit, it keeps growing and growing.
Don’t become cold or aloof
I have seen many people on the path try to achieve that inwardness, but because they haven’t understood it from within, they approach it in a cold or aloof way, without enough compassion for others. Instead of withdrawing into the fountainhead of divine energy, and then pouring that energy out to all, they become too involved in themselves.
This is one of the pitfalls of Raja Yoga. Don’t allow yourself to get caught in that aloofness, that coldness.
True interiorization feeds the fires of compassion. When your inwardness is in touch with divine love, automatically there’s compassion, a reaching out to help others. Your sense of completeness includes the awareness that all are your brothers and sisters.
Developing the right consciousness
How do you develop that type of inwardness? It’s necessary to mix with people who have that consciousness. But you don’t have to be with a person physically in order to get the full benefit of satsang with him.
For example, you can meditate on Yogananda’s eyes. In his eyes you see both that very withdrawn look that was never touched by anything, and that deep compassion flowing from the source of divine love that sees all as brothers and sisters. You see the difference between worldly love that is reaching out to attain something outside of itself, and divine love that is already united to everyone and everything.
Another good way to develop this state of pratyahara is to always practice japa in the back of your mind. Try constantly to repeat, “Om Guru,” “Om Kali,” “Om Divine Mother,” or “Om Christ.”
The joy of silent communion
Try also not to be with people who take your mind outward. Be with those people who remind you of your inner Self—who inspire you in a divine way by bringing you more into an impersonal consciousness, and more toward this inwardness.
When two devotees who have this inward consciousness are together, they can be flowing in bliss and never say a word. I remember seeing Yogananda walking hand in hand with Rajarsi Janakananda on the grounds of Mt. Washington, neither of them saying a word, but both of them flowing with bliss.
When you are with friends and feel that flow of bliss, you’ve touched the hem of divine love. This kind of soul contact is the most precious thing that can happen between people. When your communion is on that level, whatever you say or share outwardly is only an echo of what you feel inside.
In that kind of soul contact there’s no attachment. It becomes attachment if you think of it as something outside yourself, but it’s not attachment if it’s something you experience from within.
In other words, its not attachment to want to be with Yogananda if what you experience from being with him is a deepening of inner joy; that leads to freedom. But if you want to be with him merely to get personal attention—a smile or a pat on the head, that’s attachment, and binding.
Spend time in seclusion
It’s important to spend time in seclusion. Learn to see the periods when you can be alone as the most precious of all. The worldly person never wants to be alone. The devotee, however, knows that the greatest bliss comes when we are alone.
One of the most blissful times in my life was when I was in seclusion in the Himalayas. I meditated for long hours each day and didn’t see or talk to anyone. In the afternoons I would take long walks with Yogananda, or Babaji, or Divine Mother. After a very short time I was so full of bliss that I didn’t ever want to leave.
Finally the time came when I had to leave to fulfill my duties, and the pain of having to end that period of seclusion was intense. I knew that I could remain there for the rest of my life and be very, very blissful.
Losing that bliss
That bliss lasted quite a long time, and it’s very interesting what took me out of it. I became interested in the Bhrigu Sangita, a document in India thousands of years old with descriptions of the lives of people then unborn. My interest in it was on many levels but it was an outward interest, and I found my mind being taken outside that constant flow of bliss.
Periodically, devotees become fascinated with various kinds of phenomena. Don’t get too interested. Always remember that the spiritual path is only about the inner search.
“The children were throwing stones!”
There’s a lovely story that Swami Vivekananda told of a yogi he met who was a nagasadhu, or “sky clad one.” He didn’t wear any clothes, and his hair was matted.
One day this yogi, who lived in a forest ashram, went for a walk in the village. The village boys began to tease him because he was different. When the yogi calmly continued walking, the boys ran after him and started throwing bricks and stones.
Laughing happily, this yogi arrived back at his ashram and said, “Oh, we had such a good time today. The children were throwing stones, and we were all laughing.” He didn’t even stop to think that the stones were being thrown at him.
Isn’t that beautiful? He had no sense of self or ego. There was no personal involvement; the incident was just “something that happened.” Try to think of everything you do in that impersonal way, without self-involvement.
Share more on the vibrational level
The more you can relate to one another in this impersonal way, the more you will be content to be together in silence. Try to be with those who value the vibrational exchange between you and don’t need to speak a great deal.
Married couples should try to develop the kind of love where your communion is more an interchange of vibrations. The more this happens, the more the emotional upsets that come so easily into human relations, and especially into marriage, will diminish.
Everything else is a dream
Let everything you do remind you that you are a child of the Infinite. Never allow yourself to think that you are only a limited human being with faults. You may indeed have faults to overcome, but these are just weeds in your garden—they are not you. You are a child of God. Everything else is but a dream.