I once had a very interesting conversation with Yogananda about my earthly father. I wanted to know where he stood spiritually. I told Yogananda that my father was very honest, honorable, and kind—that he had many virtues, but that he didn’t seem to think about God or seek any spiritual values.
Strength of character is not enough
And Yogananda’s single comment was, “The road to Hades is paved with good intentions.” That was a rather harsh answer but a true one, because if you don’t include spiritual realities in your life, sooner or later something will come along that you won’t be able to transcend.
My father was very courageous. He had great strength of character and will power. But in the last year or so of his life, he experienced illness that left him totally incapacitated. If he fell down, he was incapable of lifting himself up. He simply had to wait until someone came. Once he had to wait for quite some time.
I could never have imagined my father weeping but he would weep at his own helplessness. What my father lacked was spiritual strength. He had strength of character, but it didn’t bring him to a level of wisdom that enabled him to meet successfully the tests he encountered later in life.
Saints are outstanding examples of spiritual strength. Their inner joy is so great that they simply don’t care whether their bodies are well or not. Yogananda, St. Francis of Assisi, and St. Teresa of Avila—they all had that strength.
Your life will always fluctuate
There’s a point beyond which your human strength fails you unless you also have spiritual strength. Don’t think that your life will always be on an upward curve. It cannot be.
Creation exists on a principle of duality. There will always be opposites. Every plus must be balanced by a minus, every gain, canceled out by a loss. Things will always fluctuate from one extreme to the other. Inevitably, the time will come when things will stop going right for you. The actions of the past, or the mass karma of the people around you, will hit you. And unless you have learned to live calmly at your center, you won’t be able to meet those tests successfully.
You can’t do it on your own
Spiritual strength comes from being in tune with God. You won’t gain this strength merely by affirmations or trying to live a good life. You can’t do it on your own. You have to let God do it. Jesus said, “Whosoever will save his life, shall lose it; but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.” (Luke 9:24).
“Lose his life for my sake” doesn’t mean only being a martyr. Not many of us get a chance to be martyrs. Jesus was also speaking of the ego. You have to reach the point where you can offer your ego up to God and allow Him to transform you into Himself.
In meditation, after becoming calm, you need to offer your heart to God with the attitude that your life belongs to Him, that you want only Him, and that you want nothing for yourself. You need to say, “God you take charge of my life and work through me.”
In this type of calm, determined self-giving lies the secret of spiritual strength. It requires meditation, devotion, and humility. And it doesn’t happen overnight. You have to offer yourself repeatedly. But as it says in the Bhagavad Gita, even a little bit of the practice of this inward religion will free you from dire fears and colossal sufferings.
An aura of protection
The more you can give yourself inwardly in this way, the more you know that everything works out for the best, and that things happen as they should. An aura of protection will surround you and things won’t touch you in the same way.
The greatest tragedies aren’t anything once you have that divine attunement. Yogananda said that the martyrs who died in the Roman arena, under the gladiators and lions, with their faith in God unshaken, didn’t even feel pain.
When you have divine attunement, you have security—you have strength. When you have Him, your problems are just nothing because you know that He is everything.