“You don’t have to try” played on the speakers as I sat in the dentist’s chair recently. Although in all fairness the song was about not trying to be someone else, it concerned me to hear those words.

Because “You don’t have to try” was the repeated refrain of the song, it seemed to me that these words would be the ones to stick in the mind of the listener and possibly exert a negative influence. I thought to myself how important it is to try—even to try very hard.

But what exactly does it mean to try?

The Importance of Self-Effort

In life and in the practice of meditation, self-effort is very important. It is the mechanism by which we put ourselves in cooperation with the universe itself. Positive energy put forth with direction creates a magnetism that draws to us what we need. If we remain only passive, the fullness of life will pass us by.

A disciple of Yogananda’s, Debi Mukerjee, once said to Yogananda, “Give me devotion.” Yogananda replied, “No—that is like asking for money so that you can do what you want. First, you have to earn it, then you can do what you want.”

At a Christmas meditation one year, Yogananda spoke from the depths of his divine communion, addressing some of the disciples with words of encouragement and guidance. To Walter, the name that Yogananda used for J. Donald Walters (later Swami Kriyananda), he said, “You must try hard, for God will bless you very much.”

Never Give Up

The masters are fully aware of our past karma and see in us our divine potential. It is our responsibility to put forth all the energy we can to attune to their consciousness, following closely the individual path they have outlined for us. Swami Kriyananda said, “The legacy of Paramhansa Yogananda is the consciousness that makes us as he was.” That is a valid statement of any true spiritual teacher.

To give up means we have lost faith in the power of the Guru to help us and in the power of his presence to comfort and guide us. In a beautiful letter, “Never Lose Courage,” Yogananda shares the Guru’s potential closeness with us as well as behaviors and attitudes which magnetize success. He writes,

That is the secret of victory over delusion and all troubles. Be cut to pieces, but never give up. Be a divine leech – suck at the blood of wisdom even though torn to bits. A smooth life is not a victorious one. And I will give you lots of good karma, so you will get through. I will not only ever forgive you, but ever lift you up no matter how many times you fall.

Trying Too Hard

In The New Path, Swami Kriyananda describes a time when he was trying to meditate deeply with long hours of practice. In fact, he was achieving deeper states of inner stillness.

One day, determined to meditate until his goal of attaining full superconsciousness was achieved, he meditated for nine continuous hours. Finally, exhausted, he admitted defeat. Now, discouraged, it took him months to regain the confidence to try to again meditate deeply. Yogananda told him he was trying too hard and that he should place more emphasis on relaxation.

Find That Perfect Balance

We must each find a personal balance between self-effort and relaxation: trying very hard to be receptive to God’s transforming power while also relaxing enough to see that He is already with us and eternally with us.


  1. Amen. Much Love and gratitude I needed this today.

  2. Thank you Maria after over 30 years of trying I still do not have this even close

  3. This is such an important message, Maria, and so very well put. Thank you.

  4. Thank you very much for good message. Yes, one needs to see God around us everywhere, in everything more relaxly.

  5. thank you maria. Very inspiring. As it is well said in Gaurdians of of the Galaxy (i think) ” Never give up , Never say die” !

  6. Jai Guru. HE takes care of everything when we are sincere in our efforts.

  7. Always such wonderful positive help, words from the guru and so blessed to hear them ?

  8. Thank you from my heart dear Maria for your inspiring, positive and timely post! Just beautiful!

  9. Thank you Maria for sharing insight and inspiration to always try our best. This post hit a chord for me as I am forced to listen to ‘worldly’ music at my work every day. The song mentioned in this article is actually one of the more encouraging in that venue. Aye Vey!

  10. Your message came at a particular time. Just perfect actually, Guru’s blessings and karma is ever present. Is it not?

  11. I remember quite clearly a guru from India (in the Vedanta line) writing about self-effort and divine grace. And while I conceive of everything as resulting from divine grace, it’s good to be reminded (as I understand it) that self-effort is a moment within the context of divine grace. I find it a bit odd that there have been gurus who say that effort is not necessary, but even the stilling of the mind takes some initial effort and intention. As I see it.

  12. Thank you Lou for adding your testimony to the need for self effort in order to magnetize grace. Joy to you, maria

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.