I had the good fortune to live for three and a half years with one of the greatest channels of our times.
He was not widely known as a channel, perhaps because he didn’t need to go into unconsciousness, nor into any abstract mental state, to give utterance to what came through him. He simply “tuned in,” and the answers were always there.
And the answers were right. They worked for people. His counseling revealed deep, intuitive insight into the problems, motives, and secret thoughts that people had thought they’d tucked away where no one would ever reach them.
He saw things in people’s past that even they had forgotten. He saw far back in time, also, beyond the portals of this life, and helped people thereby to understand problems in the present lifetime that, until then, had left them confused, perplexed, or resentful.
And he saw things in their future, as well. People couldn’t bring themselves to believe all the predictions he made, but they proved right nonetheless.
He spoke — from personal, visionary experience, and not from book learning — of countless mysteries of the universe: of how it was made, and why. He told us of life on other planets, and predicted a time of inter-stellar travel — which he said was a reality, despite its seeming impossibility according to the known laws of modern physics.
He described — again, from direct experience — levels of reality that are much too subtle to be perceived by the physical senses.
He spoke of the ages of civilization on earth and of the implications for mankind of having entered, as we now have, a new age.
He revealed to our imagination a divine creation so marvelous, so infinitely vast and complex, so inspiring in its beauty and lofty purpose that I think not all the books in the world could equal what we heard from him in person.
And yet, he was not generally known as a channel.
He could see people in the astral world, converse with them, receive messages from them. He could tune in to high souls and let them speak through him. From what he told us, and from what seemed to us truly our own experience with him, God Himself used his voice to teach us and guide us.
And yet — there was nothing ritualistic about his channeling, nothing portentous, nothing to make us feel that we had the rare blessing of being given ringside seats at some special and extraordinary event. He was so natural in everything he said, so unaffected, so seemingly casual that, not infrequently, his most amazing statements almost passed unnoticed — only to be remembered later on with awe.
He never required special circumstances to do his channeling, nor any special environment. I never saw him lie back, close his eyes, and offer up his mind and body to be used as an instrument by another entity while remaining personally unaware of everything that was being said through him. His channeling came to him as effortlessly as did breathing.
He didn’t take on a new personality, or succession of personalities. Normally, his voice never changed while channeling — though there were a few rare exceptions. Never did it assume the tones of someone speaking as if from afar, or unaccustomed to human company, nor did it labor ponderously over the syntax of human speech.
What he channeled, moreover, was never spoken condescendingly. I never heard him use expressions such as, “You people of earth,” or, “As you would say in your parlance” — as though mentally to dissociate himself from the rest of us.
On the other hand, whatever came through him was spoken with dignity, for he himself was a man of dignity. There was no frivolous attempt to descend to our mental level in order to establish a bond of communication with us.
Finally, and most important, he never created a situation where we were forced to go to him for any insights we received. He constantly urged us to go within, to receive the answers we sought in our own inner silence — to become channels ourselves, instead of depending outwardly on another.
This man was a saint. Indeed, he was a master, for he had realized God. His channeling was the result of his constant inner communion with God, as well as with other great saints who, like him, had merged their consciousness in God.
This man’s name was Paramhansa Yogananda.
As a great master, Yogananda is well known to spiritual seekers throughout the world — even behind the iron curtain. He is also regarded with the deepest respect, love, and admiration by other saints and recognized spiritual leaders in many lands.
I became his disciple in 1948 and lived with him until his passing in 1952. Since his passing, I have remained with him in spirit and in discipleship. I have taught in many countries and written many books to further his earthly mission. And I can say without hesitation that his presence has continued to guide, teach, and inspire me inwardly.
There is something entirely vicarious about receiving truths, however beautiful, that touch only the mind. That is why great masters if they have felt divinely led to help humanity, have incarnated here on earth in human form — that they might touch not only human minds but also human hearts and souls.
Paramhansa Yogananda’s commentaries on the Bhagavad Gita are among the most profound spiritual treatises I have ever read. After completing them, he told me that his method of writing had been to tune in to the soul of Byasa, the author of the Bhagavad Gita.
“I asked him to use me as his channel,” he explained, “that everything I wrote about his great Scripture would be what he himself intended.”
I was with Yogananda while he dictated much of this work. And I observed his method of channeling. He didn’t sit back, close his eyes, and slip into subconsciousness. Far from being unconscious, the state he entered was very much more than man’s normal, outward consciousness.
He would lower his eyelids, go within, and gaze up into the spiritual eye. Stilling his mind at that point, he would pass quickly into superconsciousness. And then he would speak.
When he lectured, it was the same way, though before the public he had eye contact with his audience, and often gazed at an individual as he spoke words of comfort or advice intended especially for that person. If people complimented him afterwards on his talk, he would reply with perfect sincerity, “God did it, not I.”
Before lecturing, he would remain silent and withdrawn, and tune in to higher guidance. During the lecture itself, one could sense that he always kept a part of himself withdrawn, consciously held open to the higher Self as it flowed through him. So inspired was he at such times that even the tones of his voice rang with the bliss of God.
What is the difference between the higher Self I’ve referred to, and God? None, essentially. It is God in us. For this higher Self (always written with a capital “S”) is not actually a thing, like the ego. It is simply an opening onto the Infinite. It is that opening through which God flows into us.
The lower self (written with a small “s”) is the ego. This part of us is like a stained glass window, by the colors of which the infinite Light shining through man is transformed. Dense ego-consciousness acts like dirt or heavy pigmentation on the window. The denser the ego, the more both the color of the glass and the light behind it become obscured. The purer the ego, on the other hand, the purer its color, and the clearer the light that shines through it. If we want to advance spiritually, we need to allow ever more light to pass through the window of our egos. And that is what is known as channeling.
This is why, in channeling, we needn’t reach out beyond ourselves. What we must do is go within.
Perfect channeling occurs when the window is removed, as the ego is removed when one attains perfect enlightenment. Once this happens, the sunlight of divine grace can flow freely through the opening of our consciousness, uncolored by any human prejudice or other defect.
Paramhansa Yogananda taught us always, whether lecturing, writing, or serving others in any other capacity, to maintain a consciousness of inner upliftedness and attunement with God. I have found that this is the way to transmit not only divine inspiration, but even information that one doesn’t yet possess consciously oneself.
When writing my book, Your Sun Sign as a Spiritual Guide, there were many occasions when the despairing thought came to me, “I’ve taken on more than I can handle!” And then I would calm my mind, focus it on the point between the eyebrows (the spiritual eye), and pray, “Give me the answer I need.”
The answer always came. In two or three cases I received obscure explanations, for which at the time I could find no corroboration anywhere. Later, however, I found them substantiated by writers who described them as having appeared in very ancient texts. In this way, the whole book came to be written.
Yogananda one time, while writing, used the word “noil.” Editors assured him the word didn’t exist, at least not in the way he had used it. “But I know it exists,” he assured them, “otherwise it wouldn’t have come to me!” He insisted they look in other dictionaries. Eventually they found it — in a dictionary several centuries old!
It mustn’t be imagined that everything that one says while serving, or trying his best to serve, as a channel must be God’s perfect truth — even if that is what one is trying to channel. I remember a lady coming to me many years ago, after a lecture, and complimenting me on my talk.
“God is the doer,” I replied, wanting to give Him the credit for anything I might have said that inspired her. “Oh — really?!” she exclaimed in amazement — as though to say, “I knew your talk was good, but I didn’t realize it was that good!” We must affirm the reality, that it may become ever more real. The more consciously and willingly one lets God flow through him, however, the more perfect will be his channeling.
It is important to understand what function the human will plays in channeling. During one of my early lectures, the thought came to me, “If I really want God to use my voice, why don’t I simply stop speaking, and let Him take over?” I stood there in silence for at least two minutes. Try pausing that long, when you have a room full of people sitting there uneasily, waiting for you to speak! A friend of mine, thinking I must have frozen because of fear, admitted to me later that he’d become so nervous that he found his forehead bathed in perspiration.
At last I decided that the experiment had been sufficient, and that God wasn’t going to use me as a passive instrument. I therefore resumed the lecture, seeking inspiration for it in the process of talking, as before.
A prayer that Yogananda taught us to say was, “Father, I will reason, I will will, I will act, but guide Thou my reason, will, and activity to the right path in everything.” What he was saying was that guidance comes during, and not always before, our expression of it. In the very expression, we attract its flow.
Practice is necessary for perfection in any art. This is certainly true for channeling. The more you try sincerely to be a channel for inspiration, the more clearly you will find yourself being used as a channel.
I remember a garden party at which Yogananda spoke many years ago in Beverly Hills. Normally, any speech given at such an event is naturally kept light and inconsequential, perhaps humorous, in keeping with the spirit of the occasion. What was our surprise, then, and I imagine also his, when the words that burst forth were words of such divine power as I have never heard spoken, either before or since. God’s power was present, in total indifference to the worldly expectations of man!
A true teacher will teach those who have a need for his teaching, and will assume responsibility for teaching them to the best of his ability. Most of all, he will endeavor to help them not only with words, but with his vibrations, with his magnetism. Always, he will seek to affect their entire being, not only their intellects. He will seek to uplift them by his magnetism, thereby awakening their own latent spirituality.
That is why, when true masters want to help mankind, they don’t stoop to selecting a passive channel through which to speak. They incarnate on earth and share men’s sufferings, that they may show them an example of how to overcome suffering. They share men’s struggles, that men may be inspired themselves to struggle — but in the right way, to victory.
They assume deep spiritual responsibility for those whom they feel divinely guided to help. If a disciple errs, they don’t hesitate to tell him so, and to keep on prodding him until he overcomes his error.
Their wisdom isn’t filtered by personality traits and prejudices of their own, for they have none. They have no personal likes and dislikes, no attachments, no desires. They are channels in the truest, divine sense. Nothing they say is ego-motivated. Their every inspiration comes from God, and from those high souls who, like them, are merged in God.
Most important of all, they never try to make people dependent on them for their channeling. Their students are never left with no other recourse than to come to them for counseling. Masters seek ever to make people dependent only on the divine within them. They teach their students to become their own channels.
And what more important message could they give us than this: “As we have done, so must you do, too, if you would be students worthy of our ministry?”