How is your meditation practice going?

“How’s your meditation practice going?” I was asked this question by a devotee one morning after Sunday service at Ananda Sangha Delhi. I was 19 years old. I had only recently read the Autobiography of a Yogi and found Ananda Sangha to learn Kriya Yoga as taught by Paramhansa Yogananda.

My Struggles with Habits & Self-Control

I replied to the question with a pinch of embarrassment. “My practice is going fine but I have this silly habit of binge-watching movies. I know it’s harmful but sometimes I can’t avoid it. It’s a huge distraction and is affecting my meditation.”

My fellow devotee consoled me and advised me not to worry. “Watching a movie once in a while is certainly okay. Moreover, negative habits will fall away on their own after some time,” she added.

It was beyond my understanding how a habit could just fall away on its own! Yet, that’s exactly what happened. That habit just started to wither away. Patterns of behavior that seemed compelling to me were no longer attractive. I was amazed!

I had been interested in popular self-help books since my teens. Every book I read stressed the importance of willpower and self-control to overcome personal limitations. Naturally, I thought I had to wage a war against my lower tendencies and I always felt like a lone warrior surrounded by enemies without adequate weaponry.

Kriya Yoga: My Inner Transformation

Now, for the first time, I felt that I wasn’t fighting alone. Just like Arjuna had Krishna as his charioteer in the Bhagavad Gita, I had a Higher Power helping me to rise above limitations. It opened my eyes to the power of Divine Grace.

These experiences were intensified after I received Kriya Yoga initiation. My practice changed me (and continues to do so) from within. Before, I was trying to fix myself from the outside and now, Kriya is fixing me from the inside. I had previously struggled to break free of certain negative habits without much success but with regular Kriya practice, those habits dropped like ripened fruit from a tree.

Stories of Lives Changed by Grace

I am not the only one who has had such experiences. Many meditators and kriyabans (those who practice Kriya Yoga) find that their lives are completely changed to the point where they hardly recognize their past selves at all! A large part of this inner transformation is the victory over self-limiting desires and tendencies.

Paramhansa Yogananda had a student who had a dramatic experience along these lines. He was an alcoholic. His addiction notwithstanding, he was determined to learn and practice Kriya Yoga – but with a little twist. Since he could not leave whiskey alone, he would do his kriyas with a drink in one hand and his rudraksha beads in the other. This went on for quite a while, until one day he no longer needed that bottle anymore. He became a spiritual alcoholic and God’s bliss was the only intoxicant he needed.

God doesn’t mind your faults, He minds your indifference!

We might feel spiritually discouraged, faced with the myriad faults and tendencies we have yet to overcome, but heed these words of Paramhansa Yogananda:

God doesn’t mind your faults, He minds your indifference!

We do not need to worry about all of the things we need to transcend and neither should we feel guilty about past bad actions. Instead, we can focus on these things – loving God and bringing His light into our lives through meditation and right spiritual living.

I once heard a story about a disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda. He had a pernicious habit of eating large amounts of ice cream. He knew it was not good for him and wanted to overcome it. Yet, as with any other habit, the urge to eat ice cream was overwhelming.

But the disciple came up with a brilliant idea – the next time he had the urge, he would go ahead and get the ice cream but keep the photo of his Guru right in front of him. Then he would enjoy the ice cream while looking at his Guru — and while the Guru was looking at him! As you can imagine, this did not go on for a very long time.

After a few rounds of this experiment, the ice cream seemed to lose its tempting power. What was earlier so attractive, now seemed a little silly. Thus, he was able to break free from the hold that the habit had on him.

Trying to Prove My Worthiness

In my efforts to improve, I have often been deluded to think that I have to make myself worthy of God’s love and grace. I have learned that God’s grace is ever-present to help us rise above delusion. When we open to His grace by doing our spiritual practices and being in tune with the Guru, we cooperate with that Divine Power.

Becoming Receptive to the Divine Within

Ultimately, I discovered that no progress is possible without God’s grace and that His grace is not reserved only for a chosen few. We need only to open the curtains if we want the sunlight of His grace in our lives. Once God’s light enters our consciousness, all darkness is banished forever.

You cannot drive sin out of the mind any more than you can beat darkness out of a room with a stick. By concentration on delusion, indeed, you may only increase its hold on your mind. Bring in the light of God, however, through deep meditation and devotion, and the darkness will vanish as though it had never been.  -Paramhansa Yogananda

May we all be ever more receptive to His shining presence in every moment, and in every atom of creation.

One Comment

  1. Shivendra,
    Thanks for this inspiring post. Opening to God’s grace is so simple but being steeped in maya, I need constant reminders

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