The world is a mixture of all kinds of different qualities and opportunities—good, bad, and indifferent—and it’s up to us what we make of them. In his book, The Autobiography of a Yogi, Paramhansa Yogananda tells the story of the time when Sri Yukteswar was disturbed because most of the sadhus at the Kumbha Mela, a large religious gathering, weren’t very spiritual.
Then Sri Yukteswar saw the fully illumined master, Babaji, who reminded him that the world is a mixture of “sand and sugar,” of the spiritual and the not-so-spiritual. Babaji told him: “Be like the wise ant that takes the sugar and leaves the sand.”
The world had lots of good and lots of bad—lots of God and lots of Satan. It would be a very wholesome practice in every circumstance to always look for the positive side of things.
Our thoughts affect us on every level
A man who was inclined to be very negative in his attitude, and always finding fault with others, was having many health problems. Finally he saw a healer who apparently had some spiritual power.
As this man was leaving the healing session, he suddenly understood—everything had begun with his negative attitude, which was reflected even in his body. By making his attitudes more positive and accepting, he was able to overcome his physical problems.
You are the product of the thoughts and emotions you express, and they will influence you on every level. They’ll etch themselves in the lines of your face, your hands, and your body. They’ll etch themselves in your movements, your ways of thinking, and your health. Everything will reflect your thoughts, whether positive or negative.
Always refrain from judgment
I was once criticizing someone to my mother and she said, “You shouldn’t judge.” I replied, “But shouldn’t we have discrimination?” I was right— but I was also wrong.
Yes, we need discrimination to see where people are making mistakes, but at the same time we have to refrain from judgment. We should use our discrimination to help us with the only real responsibility the universe has placed in our laps—ourselves.
What other people do isn’t our problem. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t help them. We should do what we can, but we should realize also that they’re blessing us by giving us the opportunity to help. It hurts them—and us—if we harbor thoughts of impatience, anger, criticism, or any other kind of negativity.
Certainly you’ll see wrong in the world—all you have to do is open your eyes and you’ll find something. But seeing life with discrimination is only a first step. Far more important is having a positive attitude and learning to see goodness everywhere.
People justify negative attitudes
It’s very insidious how negative thoughts will come into the mind, and you won’t even know it. People often feel perfectly justified with whatever attitude they may have, because the world has “proven” to them that their attitude is right.
For instance, people will often act unkindly because they expect the world to respond in kind, and sure enough, the world treats them the same way. Then they say, “You see, it’s an inimical world. I’ve never met any good people.” The reason they don’t meet them is because they’re putting out negative expectations.
Our thoughts influence outer events
The kind of thoughts you put out not only affect you personally but also the world around you. The aggregate thoughts of mankind are much more responsible than we know for patterns of weather, drought, and famine.
I once met a Mayan Indian who was a guide in Yucatan. Out of curiosity, I asked him if he’d ever seen a rain dance.
His reply was very interesting: “Well, it’s curious you should ask because some five years ago, we had a serious drought and the crops were dying. I was driving in the jungle and came upon a village where people were doing a rain dance, so I stopped to watch.
“The moment the dance ended, clouds gathered from nowhere. There was such a terrific downpour that everyone had to dash for cover.”
We hear these stories and think, “Well, that’s not very likely.” But the more you try to use your mind with concentration and power, the more you begin to realize that there may indeed be some kind of connection between your thoughts and outer circumstances.
Transcending subconscious thoughts
Our minds are influenced on many levels. Most of our thoughts are like icebergs hidden under water. They exist as subconscious vortices of energy with different levels of vibration, both spiritual and not-so-spiritual.
Sometimes you’ll suddenly have a desire to go out and do something you’ve never done before. This is because a vortex of unresolved energy from the subconscious has been released in the brain. This process happens throughout your life, but you’re usually not aware of it.
Some of the thoughts that get released are more powerful than others. If you’re dealing with a very strong desire, often there’s nothing you can do to resist it. You simply have to ride that horse until it runs out of energy.
But there are other kinds of thoughts toward which you can put out a stronger, opposing kind of energy that will counter-balance the initial tendency. For example, if you’re drawing negative reactions from people, you can work on kindness, forgiveness, love, calmness, etc.
Just as when you’ve got a lot of weights on one side of a scale, and not much on the other, you can keep adding more energy to the lighter side until you’ve tipped the scale in a positive direction.
The practice of Kriya Yoga is very important in this regard in that it enables you to get rid of these vortices of energy much more quickly, even when they are strong. Kriya helps to bring these energies up to the brain where they can be dissipated without our having to act on them.
Seeing beneath the veneer of glamour
You do, of course, have to relate realistically to the world as it is, and indeed the first aspect of discrimination is to see the negative realities under their veneer of glamour.
Recall the story of Buddha. Astrologers had predicted that he would either become a mighty king or he would renounce everything and become a mighty teacher. His father, who wanted him to become a king, tried to convince him that the world was beautiful.
But one day, Buddha, on a ride out from the beautiful palace grounds, discovered an old man, a sick man, and a dead man, and he realized that these conditions were possible for everyone. Experiencing that negative reality made him renounce his worldly heritage and eventually become the Buddha.
If this world didn’t have anything wrong with it, I doubt that people would come onto the spiritual path. Here we see the negative side of life so forcefully—the Mafia, meanness, cruelty, terrible accidents—that we eventually see that this world is too imperfect to improve beyond a very small degree.
We may finally manage to pass a law to have one little thing made better, but so many equally wrong things remain unchanged that finally, after many incarnations, we begin to think that there has to be some other solution. And our hearts and minds begin to turn toward God.
So, discrimination and seeing the negative side of things beneath their veneer of glamour is the first step, and not in itself bad. But once you’ve developed that discrimination, it becomes very important to break out of the prison of rationalistic discrimination that sees only problems and flaws. You don’t get out of those problems by merely seeing them.
God is in the darkness
You get out of those problems by concentrating on the light. See God’s light and goodness everywhere, and the world reflected back to you will be a glorious one of endless beauty and joy.
One evening Yogananda was sitting with one of the disciples on a porch at the Encinitas Hermitage looking at the beautiful lights of La Jolla in the distance.
He said, “How lovely the lights look, but how many of those lights are shining on acts of violence or hatred? All we see is the prettiness. We don’t see the seething mass of emotions and unenlightened humanity that’s hidden by the darkness.” Then he continued, “But when you look even deeper, you can see that God is beneath the human turmoil, trying to find His joy through wrong actions.”
And so it is that all things good, bad, or indifferent are really manifestations of God, spun out of His consciousness. They are all part of the divine dream. Those who embrace evil have lost touch with the essential reality of their being, but that divine consciousness nonetheless remains the essence of who they are.
So try to look beneath the surface, as Yogananda urged. As you do that, you begin to see that it’s God’s light shining behind the darkness of those hearts that have no love. It all depends on how deeply you look.