I want to talk about one of the great events of the 20th century—the coming of a soul whose special mission was to show the world a vision of divine unity. That soul was Paramhansa Yogananda, who came as a world savior for this age, and at a time when the human race is at a crossroads.
The advent of new understandings
There are new understandings welling up in society based on the scientific discovery that matter is not solid but is actually a vibration of energy. Theoretically, it’s possible to take a loaf of bread, dissolve it back into energy, and then re-manifest that energy as a bar of steel. It’s possible because the atoms that make up the bread and the bar of steel are manifestations of the same cosmic energy.
We see a similar process in our bodies. The energy from the food we eat takes on different forms as it goes to the nails, hair, eyes, tissues, and organs. Each of these parts is different, yet they’re sustained by the same energy. All of this is conducted by a higher intelligence which revivifies the body, replacing dying cells and adding new ones.
Disunity is becoming stronger
This is such a revolutionary way of looking at things that we’ve come to a great crossroads in our thinking. A tension exists between old perspectives, which saw matter only as solid form, and new views, which see the world more as waves of energy. One expression of the old view is the thought that we are all separate from each other.
Jean-Paul Sartre, the nihilistic French philosopher, said, “To be conscious of someone else is to be conscious of what one is not.” This is the perspective of the materialistic mind, which sees everything as matter and all things as separate—people, races, nations, religions.
In our age, disunity is becoming stronger and stronger. People all over the world are thinking in terms of divisions—countries are seceding from other countries or attacking them; races are affirming their differences from each other; there is opposition among religions, with many saying “mine is the only way.”
There’s less thought of what we can do for our neighbor, and more thought of what we can get for ourselves. Increasingly, we see people so much in confrontation with each other that competition has become more a way of life than in the days of the robber barons.
A new world view
Yet there’s a new world view coming to the fore, which Yogananda came to bring—a view of the underlying unity of all people, and all things, based on the inner realization that we are all one with God.
Yogananda’s vision of the unity of all things doesn’t come from putting two disparate things together. It comes from recognizing that underneath each wave, which seems different in size, shape, and movement, there is the one ocean.
From that inner realization, Yogananda brought a new understanding of the underlying unity between the different seeming religions; between science and religion; and between cultures that seemed so diverse as to be forever incompatible with one another. He was a master of identifying and elucidating those things that would help people understand and build a sense of oneness and unity.
“Our community is the world”
In that spirit, he urged people to build what he called “world brotherhood colonies.” He envisioned these as places where people would come together to help each other, and to work in cooperation—not competition. By God’s will and grace, I’ve been able to do that particular work, and Ananda is the beginning of the fulfillment of his dream.
The spirit that exists at Ananda is one of selflessness and concern for others first. I’ve often told our members: “Our community is not just the people living here. It’s our neighbors, our township—it’s the whole world.” Whether or not you are able to live in one of the Ananda communities, try always to develop that consciousness which sees the veriest stranger as a brother or sister.
See God in others
Once many years ago, when I was part of SRF, I had an interesting experience in this respect. I was going to Europe to visit the SRF centers, and was taking all sorts of things, including a harmonium for the classes I’d be teaching. All these things made my baggage quite overweight.
The man in front of me at the airline counter also had overweight baggage, but much less than I, and he was being charged for the extra pounds. He was very angry about it but the ticket agent was firm. At one point the manager came out, but he too was firm: the man had to pay for the excess weight.
I was next in line and wondered, “What do I do now?” I prayed to Yogananda and Divine Mother. Then I thought, “God is in the ticket agent,” and I stepped forward seeing God in this man. The ticket agent smiled, looked at my baggage, and said, “Well, what have we got here?” Then he said, “Oh, okay” —and allowed all of my baggage to go through without charge!
Over and over I have seen that if you reach out to others, not as strangers but as divine friends, they’ll work with you. Many times you will have made a friend and sometimes a friend for life.
A spirit of universal friendship
This spirit of universal friendship is something that Yogananda manifested throughout his life. He would show tenderness toward a complete stranger because he lived in the consciousness of seeing God in all beings. On at least two occasions, hold-up men accosted him. By looking at these men with love, and seeing them as his own, he completely changed their lives.
There was also the time when a ferocious tiger confronted him in the jungles of India. Yogananda saw God in that tiger and looked at it with divine love. Rather than springing on him, the tiger rolled on the ground and Yogananda scratched its belly as though it were a pussycat.
God: the hub of the wheel
In our limited view, we look at things from the outside, which is like looking at the spokes of a wheel from the rim. All the spokes appear to be separate, but when you look at them from the center, you can see that they all radiate outward from the hub and are integral parts of it. That hub is God, and the spokes are everyone and everything in His vast creation.
I’ve spent many years exploring how to approach life from this underlying central reality of Spirit. For example, in the books I’ve written, I try to show how various fields that seem very separate—leadership, business, music, the arts, education—are all guided by the same central principles. I’ve tried to show how, by bringing God into whatever one is doing, life at every level could be given deeper meaning, and one could succeed at anything he attempted.
The owner of a mall near the Ananda ashram in Gurgaon, India said to me, “Business is on one side and God is on the other; they have nothing to do with each other.” That is wrong! God is in everything and if we live in Him, if we bring Him into what we are doing, we can do everything better because in that attunement, God can flow through us and guide us.
A period of world upheaval
In our lives we need to learn this lesson more than anything else. It seems that the world is building up to a real period of destruction and suffering, and it’s all because we’ve looked at things from the outside.
I remember once in the Hollywood Church, Yogananda talking about the future and saying with a very strong voice, “You don’t know what a terrible cataclysm is coming!” It made us quake in our seats.
What mankind will gain after this period of cleansing is the understanding that we’re truly all one. We’re one human race, and we’re one in God. Yogananda said that after a period of world upheaval, there would be an era of harmony and brotherhood such has never existed in known history.
But the cleansing is upon us, and it’s coming because of these two disparate ways of looking at reality—one that sees all things as separate, and the cosmic view that sees all things as one.
The more we can learn to see life as a flow of unity, the more we’ll be able to find what we’re all looking for: happiness, love, and inner peace. Yogananda came to bring this vision of unity to everyone—a vision that he manifested in his words, in his teachings, and in the example that he set for all of us.