Paramhansa Yogananda said, “God is just behind the thoughts with which you pray, just behind your love for Him.”

We must keep the thought that He is always with us. Surely, at times He seems very far away. But the great masters who have found God have returned for one reason only: to tell us that we, too, can find Him.

In this world, suffering is inevitable

This is our only job in life. So why waste time? Yes, you can wait as long as you like, but you won’t enjoy it because in this world, suffering is inevitable.

I have a relative who is very happy, a fine person, and sattwic in nature, yet not at all interested in God. But if you’re not moving toward God, you’ll eventually fall from that sattwic level into all the delusions of rajas and tamas.

The trouble with sattwa is that you feel, “I’m good, I’m a noble person, I’m a generous person.” You have to understand that it’s not enough to be good. When someone said to Jesus, “Good man,” he said, “Why do you call me good? There is only one that is good. And that is God.”

No matter how good you are, never think of it as your goodness. Always feel that you are manifesting the Divine Light. That way, God can do everything through you. But if you think of yourself as doing it, you’ll eventually crash.

We all fall from our ideals

The question for today, however, is what can devotees do when they become ensnared by delusion and fall? We all fall from our ideals in one way or another. So it’s important to know that we can rise, and how to rise. Whether a fall is dramatic or only a slip depends primarily on your attitude— especially your courage and devotion.

We all make mistakes. It’s important that you not allow your mistakes to be your self-definition. To tell yourself, “I am weak! I am no good! I am evil!” is perhaps the greatest wrong you can inflict on yourself, for it may delay your salvation for incarnations. We are all equally children of God. No matter how many times we’ve blown it, we can still rise.

God will never abandon you

Yogananda said that as long as you say “I’m not giving up,” you can rise, but once you say, “I give up,” it will be true for this life. Then you’ll have to come back again as a squalling baby. Why waste all that time?

The beauty of reincarnation is that at least we forget our mistakes and can try again. Yogananda once picked up a little baby and almost dropped it because he saw that it had the soul of a murderer. But that murderer had been reborn, to give him a chance to improve. You cannot be so evil that God abandons you. It’s not possible.

Michelangelo’s painting in the Sistine Chapel depicts God condemning the evil to eternal hell. In the painting, all of God’s energy is directed toward these poor sinners. But that’s not God’s attitude at all! God wants you no matter who you are or what you’ve done.

No eternal damnation awaits the fallen soul. A fall into delusion will cause suffering, but it cannot destroy the soul.

Once a sincere longing for God arises in your heart, your salvation is assured, and soon, relatively speaking, even if you later fall spiritually. Nothing can cancel out that final destiny.

You deserve God as His child

There’s a beautiful true story of an Indian man who tried his best to hurt Yogananda. Yogananda saw this man two or three days before he left his body. Looking at him with deep love he said, “Remember, I will always love you.” The man was visibly shaken. There’s a photograph of that meeting and you can see how shaken he was.

God will always love you. The masters will always love you. Your higher Self will always love you. So why not live in Him?

The effort it takes is the only effort worth putting out. Yes, you can more easily become successful in a worldly sense—and if not easily, at least in a few incarnations. Once you’ve reached that success, it’s a barren desert. The fulfillments of this world are exactly like reaching out for a dream. You clutch it. Where is it? It doesn’t exist.

Karmically, you deserve nothing except what you’ve created for yourself in the past. But you do deserve God for one reason only–you are His child. He will never be satisfied, and your own higher Self will never be satisfied until you say, “Okay I’m tired of wandering like a prodigal son in the land of delusion, I want you.”

God will give you the strength

Finding God seems like such a big effort when you think of what the saints went through. But Yogananda said that if you will do only a hundredth part of what he did, you can find God. We think we couldn’t possibly have that kind of devotion, sincerity, and intensity of effort. But when you lift one hand to Him, He reaches down with two to lift you up.

God will give you the strength. It is not with your strength that you will find Him. Your strength involves ego. It’s from Him that we gain that strength. So never feel that, “Well it’s too much for me.”

Put one foot in front of the other

In Autobiography of a Yogi, Yogananda describes a vision he had of standing in a dusty, dirty crowded market place with dogs running around and people haggling over goods. Every now and then, someone would stop in front of him and look past him. A look of inexpressible yearning would come over that person’s face. Then, he or she would say, “Oh, but it’s much too high for me.” And they’d go back to the dirty village.

Finally, Yogananda turned around and looked, and he saw this beautiful mountain with a lovely garden. It was an absolute contrast to what they were experiencing in this village. His first thought was, “It’s so high!” But then he thought, “I can at least put one foot in front of the other.”

And you, too, can at least put one foot in front of the other. If you can’t meditate twenty-four hours a day, meditate twelve. If you can’t meditate twelve, meditate six. If you can’t meditate six, meditate fifteen minutes. If you take five minutes brushing your teeth, take another five meditating on God.

Gradually the power comes

It doesn’t matter where you begin, or what kind of a step you take. But if you start somewhere, even if it’s only a small step, you’ll find that bit-by-bit that power comes into you to do more and more, until finally you can no longer resist it.

Once that happens, life is so wonderful and everything not of God is “un-wonderful.” So love God. That’s the answer to everything. Devotional love is what lifts the soul out of ego consciousness into oneness with the Divine.

From June 17, 2007 talk during the Joyful Arts Festival at Ananda Village.

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