The valiant spiritual hero is betrothed to virtue and must not be disloyal to her. The spiritual hero who becomes disreputable before the eyes of virtue suffers a pain worse than physical death.

It is infinitely superior to die a spiritual hero fighting the soldiers of restlessness and ignorance than to allow oneself to be the victim of a living death. One who dies resisting restlessness and ignorance by repeated efforts of meditation experiences a state of high spirituality after death.

Such a soul, according to the law of cause and effect, also attracts a high spiritual consciousness in his next incarnation. But, as the Bhagavad Gita declares, if you sacrifice the lasting peace of the soul by ceasing to fight restlessness, you will always stand condemned before your own awakened spiritual perceptions.

Heroic courage is needed

Heroic courage is needed to win in this most challenging of all struggles, the victory of complete Self-realization. Only a spiritual hero can attempt the journey, even with the help of a guru who has already achieved the ultimate victory. Many devotees, after a little effort, return to the life they lived before. Incarnation after incarnation they try, fail, and eventually return. Perhaps they return with renewed will to try again, but many also struggle against discouragement and disappointment.

Discouragement can be fought and conquered by the steady, indomitable pressure of resolute courage. There is nothing masculine or feminine in this great leap of faith. Whether a householder or a renunciate, male or female, the heroism required is the courage implied in the words of the chant, “I will drown myself in the Infinite to find my true Self to be infinite.” If you think, “I simply don’t have that kind of courage,” know that you can develop it, in time.

The Bhagavad Gita says, “He who becomes dishonorable and relinquishes the fight against temptations experiences a living death.” As long as life lasts, the spiritual hero should never submit to defeat nor fly away from a difficult battle with temptation. No matter how many times the soldiers of evil tendencies invade your castle of self-control, you must again and again launch your battles of inner resistance.

Ignore every distraction

There is a story in the Mahabharata, one of India’s great epics, in which Dronacharya, supreme preceptor in the martial arts, asks Arjuna to shoot the head off a bird that has been tied to the top of a tall tree. Arjuna’s cousins and brothers, all students of the same teacher, have already tried and failed to perform this feat. When asked by their teacher, “What do you see?” each of them, in turn, gave different answers. Only Arjuna, his prize pupil, ignoring every distraction, replied, “I see only the head of the bird.” When Arjuna shot the arrow, he hit the mark.

In every undertaking, the way for the devotee to “hit the mark” of spiritual enlightenment, is to ignore every distraction and center all of his attention on the object of success. A strong will can drive away even clouds that obscure the earth’s sun. Not for the spiritual hero, the hand-wringing lament, “Oh, but think of the difficulties I face!”

Diseases of the soul — mental dullness, lack of enthusiasm — can be removed by meditation. Be a hero amidst the challenges of daily life. Whatever you do, do it with all your heart.

Silence the demands of the ego

Delusions are those thoughts which make you think you will find fulfillment in outwardness. Wrong understanding is rooted in ego. The mind is inclined to self-deception, born of wishful thinking and ego-protectiveness. You cannot perceive anything correctly so long as your very ability to perceive is overwhelmed with thoughts of self. The most important thing on the spiritual path is to silence the demands of ego.

What is the best way to do that? You will transcend the ego not by trying to purify and spiritualize every flaw, but by directing all of your energy toward the spiritual eye. The more you concentrate at that center, in meditation and throughout the day, the more you will be drawn toward a state of egolessness. However, until that finality is securely gained, you must be ever-ready to wage war with restlessness. Otherwise you are liable to fall victim again to body consciousness, sense-attachments, and restless thoughts.

A true guru can transfer his magnetism to disciples who tune in to his consciousness, and thereby help them in their effort to direct their energy increasingly upward to the spiritual eye. By rechanneling the energy in their spines, and helping it to flow ever-increasingly upward to the spiritual eye, his magnetism can help to transform every one of their faults into their opposite virtues. That strong upward flow of energy dissolves all obstructing “vrittis,” or eddies of feeling, and carries them up to the spiritual eye.

The practice of scientific yogic techniques, and especially the great, ancient science of Kriya Yoga, can greatly accelerate this process. However, although the guru’s magnetism is essential to this process, you must cooperate with his help by continuing to work on yourself spiritually.

Accept all karmic challenges

When the blows of karma strike you, no matter how heavy the blows, always try to welcome their liberating influence. Since karma is God’s law, you must learn to accept its intricate play willingly — and remain even-minded throughout. Bear those challenges cheerfully, telling God, “I live forever unshakably in Thy joy.”

There are many kinds of karma — good, bad, and indifferent, but never identify with any of them. Never huddle in the dark, moaning, “Oh, it’s my karma!” Even a little spark of deep meditation can ignite the dynamite of eternal goodness within you and explode the karma from many incarnations. When you reach the state of jivan mukta, and rise above the ego altogether, even the strongest karma will pass you by.

Contentment is described in the Mahabharata as the supreme virtue. Contentment, by placing you in harmony with divine law, actually ensures that all your needs will be provided for. Even though your past karma is very bad, if in the midst of failure, loss, and disappointment you determine to remain contented, your needs will be fulfilled. Contentment, when rightly practiced, reflects under all circumstances, an energetic, bright attitude.

Never become discouraged

Devotees who make scant spiritual progress after years of regular but absent-minded meditation often become discouraged. Such souls fail to perceive the depths of their incarnations of accumulated ignorance, and thus cannot compare it with the indifferent spiritual efforts of a few years in a single lifetime. Only those who can delve deeply into the region of the superconscious can know whether their virtuous tendencies outweigh their evil tendencies.

Even if you find yourself overpowered by evil tendencies, always remember that you can increase your virtuous tendencies by communing with God in meditation. If you die fighting restlessness and ignorance, you will have the inner satisfaction while in the astral world of not having succumbed to the onslaughts of delusion.

All evil tendencies, no matter how strong, are only mental grafts and can never destroy the mighty power of the soul. To see one’s weakness as greater than the power of the Self is sheer folly. If in all all circumstances you are able to conquer invading evil tendencies by ever-deeper meditation, you will gain eternal bliss in this life and forever.

Avoid spiritual over-confidence

When a spiritual devotee, after a few years of deep meditation, first experiences divine joy, he should not become over-confident of the lasting quality of that experience. Many devotees become self-satisfied after experiencing the superconscious joy of the soul and beholding a few astral lights, and thereafter fail to make ongoing efforts to meditate deeply.

Do not become overly elated by your first deep superconscious experience of the joy of the soul. Always keep in mind that the soldiers of restlessness can still regain your newly conquered kingdom of peace. Concentrate instead on deepening your meditations and permanently identifying yourself with the soul’s ineffable joy. You have earned this soul joy by waging many wars with restlessness. Be eternally vigilant that you never to lose it by becoming careless during invasions of sense-temptations and other delusions.

The dawn of divine fulfillment

As a devotee on the spiritual path, give little weight to the trials that beset you. No matter how many times the soldiers of restlessness or evil tendencies invade your castle of self-control, repeatedly launch battles of inner resistance. Walk with courage, and calm inner faith. Eventually, you will pass beyond every shadow of bad karma, beyond all tests and difficulties, and behold at last the dawn of divine fulfillment. In that highest of all states of consciousness you will find freedom from every last, trailing vapor of misfortune.

The Essence of Clarity

Sharing the Teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda