Although spirituality is often identified with religiosity, they differ in several important ways. Spirituality is conscious aspiration, and is therefore individual. It demands not only personal involvement but serious personal effort. Its ideals challenge the integrity of all who aspire to the truth. True spirituality requires integrity.

Integrity means never being willing to engage in a wrongful act.

Willingness to engage even occasionally in a wrong act will lead, in the end, to either failure or a complete loss of one’s sense of self-worth. I’d say that the worst failure of all will be the loss of your own integrity. Money in the bank is trivial by comparison.

Let nothing tempt you ever to compromise an ideal. Morality is not a question of convention. The Ten Commandments are engraved in human nature on tablets of light. The true reason why theft, violence, murder, and other crimes are wrong is that they first hurt the perpetrator himself, condemning him to ever deeper dungeon levels in the rock fortress of his egotism.

Integrity means to seek truth within yourself.

Of all the songs I’ve written my favorite is “Walk Like a Man,” primarily because of its message: to go on alone. In fact, not until a person has the integrity to seek truth within himself, and not in agreement with majority opinion, is he truly a free enough agent to work in intelligent cooperation with others, as opposed to a sort of mindless, lockstep togetherness.

Integrity was what my father showed during a visit to America, when I was nine. We went to a circus in Michigan. Outside, we paid the price of admission. Once we went inside, the management tried to make us pay again for the privilege of seats. Everyone there meekly paid the extra price. My father, however, refused this insult to his integrity. He, and all of us, stood throughout the performance.

Every day you may find yourself having to choose between a right and a wrong action, to make a statement in some way connected with truth, or to act in accordance with your highest ideals, even though doing these things makes you unpopular. Mentally imagine yourself with the moral force to stand up against injustice. Imagine yourself in many different situations also, taking a stand — not angrily, but firmly — against injustice of all kinds. Only with such mental vigor can you achieve true success.

Integrity means to be always sincere.

Integrity means to be always sincere. I remember seeing a woman at a party flashing a charming smile at someone. I could see her when she turned away. That smile became in an instant a contemptuous scowl. The other woman could not see that scowl, but I could, and the memory has lingered all my life. Such insincerity is the very opposite of what I mean by referring to its opposite, sincerity.

Integrity means never to put your needs ahead of others’.

After my separation from Self-Realization Fellowship in 1962, I supported myself primarily through the income I received by teaching yoga and meditation classes. My principle, always, when I gave classes and somebody came and said he couldn’t afford them, was to say, “Take them anyway.” I never put my need ahead of their need. Sometimes I might say, “Perhaps you could make cookies for people to eat between the hatha yoga and the raja yoga classes.”

Not insisting on payment for classes was not for the sake of those taking the classes; it was for my own integrity. The attitude of the true devotee is not to think, “What am I going to receive?” but, “What can I give?” I would let anyone take the classes even if he said he couldn’t afford to pay anything. Interestingly, somehow, in every instance in which I allowed someone to take the class series free of charge, I learned later that he could have paid for the classes easily. Even so, I never changed my practice of not insisting on payment.

Integrity means to respond with gratitude when tested.

Many years ago, certain people tried to undermine me by false accusations. Reflecting on Sri Yukteswar’s counsel always “to render grateful service,” it seemed to me that the only way to preserve my integrity was to respond with gratitude — if not to them, then to life itself, for helping me to grow spiritually no matter how people had treated me.

I made up my mind, indeed, to respond not only with gratitude, but with love. Since then, my firm adherence to Sri Yukteswar’s teaching has brought me peace of mind, and a steady increase of inner joy. Moreover, I have been able to accomplish all that my Guru told me to do.

Integrity means never to surrender your will to anyone.

Twice when I was a child, bullies much larger and stronger than I attacked and beat me. Both times I won against them by refusing to admit defeat. I never surrendered my will to them and afterwards, they always avoided me.

There may be times when others accuse you falsely of betrayal or of other wrongful acts, but it is to yourself you must remain true. Never surrender your will to anyone. Let people say about you what they will, but always remain strong in yourself. If you can preserve your will unbroken, you will always, in the end, come out victorious.

Integrity means to be unfailingly true to others.

When my parents died, they left me a fair amount of money. I reflected that my father had never given any money to Ananda. I didn’t want his soul to be uneasy if I gave my inheritance to the community. However, I would not have been at ease had I kept the money for myself. I therefore settled on a compromise: I would spend the money for a house for myself that would also be the spiritual center of the whole community.

We built a beautiful main building, chapel, reception center, and two gardens, but before my home could be started we ran out of money. The community said to me, “Since you have built all this for us, we will build your home for you.” And so it happened that my downstairs apartment, where I live, was given to me as a gift by the community. I hope, and in fact believe, that my compromise satisfied my father also.

Integrity means to be loyal to your chosen path.

Always be loyal to your chosen path. Many of the great world teachers have made statements which, to the beginner’s understanding, appear conflicting, but which are not at all contradictory when you are able to go into them more deeply. These teachers are all saying basically the same thing, but because they put it in different ways, their teachings seem, to our limited understanding, to be different. This is part of the realm of relativity — that you cannot say anything without excluding some other things that are perhaps equally true.

For the spiritual seeker, integrity requires that you follow one spiritual path, and one guru. Otherwise you have your feet in two boats, and you can easily fall in the middle and drown, which would mean abandoning the spiritual path. I’ve seen this happen to devotees who read too much of different spiritual teachings.

Integrity requires an expansive outlook.

A person whose ego is unhealthy is preoccupied with himself: with his complexes, problems, and worries. He concentrates on how others treat him, not on what he can do for them. His contractiveness robs him of his native ability to enjoy life, and becomes ultimately a prison from which he can imagine no escape. Few of us live wholly in either of these modes of consciousness. Sometimes, and in certain ways, we are expansive, but at other times, and in other ways, we are also contractive.

Contractiveness tempts the mind with suggestions that, if we will only withdraw mentally into ourselves and hide from the world, we shall escape the trials and circumstances that threaten us. Unfortunately for those who succumb to this temptation, withdrawal and self-enclosure afford false security. Any attempt to banish the “barbarians” into outer darkness only makes our problems loom all the larger and more menacing, as we ourselves grow ever smaller.

I remember a fellow disciple who, after a year of doing Kriya, became deeply depressed when he discovered he had been doing something wrong in his practice. We should be ready, even on the very last day of our lives, to see some fundamental way in which we might be able to change right now and be free. We must have the courage and integrity to be able to reexamine ourselves — even our most cherished or calmly assumed convictions — at any point, and ask, “What is true?” Not: “What do I think is true?” but what really is true.

Integrity means, above all else, self-integration.

Integrity implies much more than honesty and truthfulness. It involves the full integration of your whole being with your higher aspirations and beliefs. Integrity thus includes fearlessness, kindness (in consequence of fearlessness), inner relaxation, and cheerful acceptance of whatever comes.

Inner wholeness implies outer harmony. A person of integrity will not only be completely honest and truthful, he will be faithful to the principle of really caring for the well-being of others. He will be true above all to himself.

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Clarity Magazine

Sharing the Teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda


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