Paramhansa Yogananda — The Power of Divine Love
We’re here this evening to pay homage to the life of one of God’s children — an enlightened being with the humility of a child who was one we call “Master.” We use this word not in the sense of our being his servants, but because he was master of himself. Through his example, he can also help us to become masters of ourselves, of our passions and lower nature, in order to discover who we really are. Our goal in life, whether we know it or not, is to fulfill our potential as human beings.
There’s a story of a woman saint in Kashmir, India who used to wear no clothing because she had renounced everything. A scandalized villager once said to her, “Why don’t you wear any clothes?” She answered, “Why should I? I see no men around.” [Laughter] To her rather drastic view, nobody even deserved to be called a human being so long as his or her consciousness was still on the physical plane. Then one day a saint came to visit her, and as soon as she learned he’d arrived, she began rushing around looking for clothing to wear. She explained, “Finally a man has come,” and she had to be modest before him.
This slightly unconventional way of looking at things [laughter] is nonetheless the attitude of divine beings who look around and see that most people aren’t really much above dogs and cats. We have a little more intelligence, but we’re still running around in circles, as kittens do, chasing our tails or little puffs of wool. Most people don’t yet know what life is all about.
One of the things that Yogananda brought to us was the understanding of the real secret of life. There was a very funny cartoon by George Price of a woman in the kitchen of a tenement flat with plaster cracking off the walls, and with children tugging at her skirts in opposite directions. She’s trying to do the ironing, and her husband is sitting on the windowsill in his undershirt playing the tuba. The caption underneath says, “Can’t you play anything except ‘Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life’?” [Laughter] In that song, love is the “mystery of life.”
Most people don’t understand what love really means, or how deeply fulfilling it is. I’m not speaking of love for a person, but of love itself, love for God. It’s not a sweet sentiment or a feeling that makes you weepy — it’s something incredibly powerful. I remember once standing in the doorway saying goodbye to Yogananda, and he looked at me with a power that was overwhelming. I’m near-sighted, so it wasn’t his expression that I saw, but it was a power that came out of his eyes and overwhelmed me. I stood rooted to the spot. The kind of power that he brought is what this world needs today.
I had an interesting experience many years ago when I was in Self-Realization Fellowship. At that time I used to review exams from students of the lessons to see if they’d understood the material. Usually the answers they sent were pretty standard, within a narrow range of response, and I could quickly see whether they’d read the right passage or not. But it was strange, because every now and then, some very unusual answer would be sent in. Within a few weeks this would happen several times, and I would get the same answer from all over the world — Australia, Germany, Italy, and Africa. After this flurry of letters with the unusual answer, it would never happen again. I began to think, “My goodness, there’s literal truth to what Yogananda wrote in Autobiography of a Yogi, when he said, ‘Thoughts are universally, not individually, rooted.’”
A man can perceive a truth; he can’t create it. Somebody asked me yesterday, “I want to be creative. How can I learn to do something original that nobody else has ever done?” I said, “Original means to come from your own point of origin. It doesn’t mean doing something no one else has done, but doing something that is completely true to you.” Think of something common like the simple phrase “I love you.” How many millions of times has that phrase been uttered? Many times, though certainly not always, it has very deep meaning because it’s sincere.
I also mentioned to him the example of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony with that beautiful Second Movement which is fundamentally so simple. If Beethoven proposed it to you, and said, “Hey, I’ve got this hot idea for a tune,” and sang it, you’d have said, “It won’t work. It won’t sell. They won’t like it on Broadway.” [Laughter] The chords themselves are the most basic ones you use when you’re harmonizing — the tonic, dominant, and subdominant — and yet it’s one of the loveliest pieces of music ever written. Why? Because he felt it! And when you feel a thing deeply within it’s going to express that power.
Anything you do sincerely, from your own source within, cannot but be different from whatever has been done before because you are unique. No one will ever be you. No one will ever be able to sing the song that the Infinite has given you to sing. Each thumbprint is unique, and how much more so is each individual consciousness. In the Indian scriptures they say that every atom is endowed with individuality. This individuality is an aspect of Spirit manifesting in nature, and it’s an aspect of who you really are.
When a great master comes into this world, he comes to show us not who he is, but who we are. In trying to find who we are, it also helps us to understand who we aren’t. Most of our self-definitions are false because they’re based on externals. You aren’t a man or a woman, for starters. These are just bodies we put on for a while, because our hormones influence us in certain ways. This is what causes a woman to act like a woman, and a man like a man. There was an interesting case of a male novelist who underwent a sex change operation. He, along with all his readers, noticed that after the operation he wrote completely differently, with a much more feminine consciousness.
Our hormones definitely have an influence over us, but ultimately we are souls which are neither male nor female. You think, “I’m an American,” or “I’m a Japanese,” but this is just an act that you’ve assumed. When you were born, you were brought up in this country, and so you act like an American. I was born in Rumania of American parents, so it was very difficult for me after coming to this country to try to adjust to the American way of looking at things. It took me a long time to be able to work with Americans and help them understand these teachings, and in a way I’m still learning. But it’s been helpful because it’s forced me to become more aware of the process of “Americanization,” and not just take it for granted.
However, I know that’s not who I am. That’s not who you are — you’re something far more. In fact it’s interesting to see how thoughts sweep the world, just as with those people who sent in the unusual answers for the exams I mentioned earlier. We find fads sweeping the world, and suddenly everybody’s playing with the hula hoop, or listening to a new kind of music. Suddenly everybody is all for, or all against, Clinton. [Laughter] You go through enough decades of this, and you see that it’s all just nothing. I never watch television, read newspapers, or listen to the radio anymore. People ask me, “How do you keep up with news?” I answer them, “If there’s anything of importance that happens, people will tell me.” [Laughter] I just don’t find it interesting because it all seems like gossip.
The reality of who you are is something far deeper. When you live in that reality, you begin to feel these deeper currents of consciousness. Each one of us is an example of the inner soul that’s at the center of life, striving to come out and discover who it really is. In a way, the life of any individual is the life of all individuals.
When I wrote my book, The Path, at first I thought, “I’ll never be able to really reach people in a meaningful way because my life has been so different.” Not many people are born outside their own country, or have had all the experiences that happened in my youth. But the most common reaction that I’ve received in letters from people who’ve read The Path has been, “I felt that you were describing my life.” I’m very grateful, because that’s what I’d hoped. If, however, this is true, then I’m sorry for everybody [laughter] because my life initially was so confused. I had it completely backwards.
I wanted to know what truth was, and in my effort to find it, I read a lot and developed all sorts of theories. I tried to find out what the meaning of life was through science, politics, art, literature, music, and all sorts of intellectual means. Finally I began to realize that I was walking through a desert — it was all mental, intellectual, and empty. I began to remember my childhood, and how happy I’d been when I’d been living more in the heart.
Finally I got fed up with how intellectual I was, and realized that every time I tried to change one aspect of myself, a problem would pop up in another area. It was like washing a shirt — you try to submerge all of it under water, but a bubble of air comes up under one part and pushes the shirt up there. So you try to push that bubble down, and another bubble comes up in a different place. No matter where you push the shirt down, a bubble comes up somewhere else. In every way that I tried to change myself, and I tried many ways, I found I was just going around in circles like a dance — forward, backward, forward, backward. I realized that I didn’t have the understanding to know what I really needed to do. I was like Ogden Nash’s poem about the llama: “This poor benighted have not / Don’t even know what he ain’t got.” [Laughter]
I remember, however, there was one thought that was very strong in me. I felt that there had to be some kind of consciousness behind it all, some kind of God. But to me at that time, God was just an abstraction. Then when I read Autobiography of a Yogi, I was so absolutely moved between laughter and tears, between the greatest joy I’d ever known and tears of even greater joy. I took the next bus across America and came to Los Angeles to meet him. Through him, I discovered that the real meaning to life is indeed just like in that song, “Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life.” It is love. When you can love, you have everything — and when your heart is closed, you have nothing.
Yogananda’s way of loving was very different from what you might think. It was not a sweet sentiment or a gentle expression. It was that kind of power that could oppose evil, but with love and respect. Sometimes he scolded us because he was trying to get a thought into our minds to help us understand it properly. At such times I would look into his eyes and see a deep regret that he had to talk to us so strongly. He didn’t enjoy scolding, but even when he did it, he never got angry. You could feel that he had enough love to be able to stand up and attack our delusions head on, and to tell us what we needed to hear.
It wasn’t as though if you’d murdered your mother, and asked him, “Did I do something wrong?” he’d say, “Well, everybody’s got his problems.” [Laughter] No, he’d tell you, “You did wrong.” Why did you do wrong? It’s not because there’s a law in this country against murder, or because there’s a chance that you might go to prison and get executed. You did wrong primarily against your own soul, against yourself.
Master had that kind of power and wisdom in his love that was always working for your true welfare, though living with him was definitely not a mutual admiration society. [Laughter] True, we had plenty of admiration for him, and he had infinite admiration for our soul capacity. But he certainly didn’t admire our delusions, or even what we considered our virtues. To him they were nothing.
I remember telling him once about some spiritual experience I was having. To take me off my high horse, he just said, “That’s nothing.” [Laughter] The real power in his life was that he loved God in you. He was not the friend of your ego. He was the friend of God in you, and that divine spark which, whether you know it or not, always longs to escape from limitation and discover its oneness with the Infinite.
Sometimes he encountered quite serious situations because of his uncompromising dedication to truth. There was a marvelous story about him that occurred many years ago during the Depression. He had given a talk saying that it is wrong for rich people to take advantage of the poor. He said it was a tremendous injustice to make them even poorer in order to become richer, and he even named a few names of wealthy people who had done this. Afterwards his friends told him, “You’d better not go home alone tonight,” but he said, “I’m not afraid. God is with me.” Sure enough as he came to a dark section of the town before entering the train station to go home, a man came up behind him and put a pistol in his back. The gunman said, “Why did you talk that way about those people?” Completely fearlessly, Yogananda said, “All people are God’s children. God isn’t pleased when His rich children take advantage of His poor children.” Imagine talking like this to someone who’s got a contract to kill you. [Laughter] Then he turned around and looked into this man’s eyes with great love — not the kind of love that is approving, but the kind that sears your ego down to ashes. Holding him the power of his love, Yogananda said, “Why do you live the way you do? You aren’t happy. I demand that Satan come out of you!” The man began to tremble all over, and finally he said, “What have you done to me? I was sent to kill you, but I can’t go back to that way of living anymore.” The man’s life was completely changed.
That kind of power is what he brought. It isn’t just a lovely teaching, but something that is life shattering. People read Autobiography of a Yogi, and they get the impression that he was so soft, loving, and sweet. Indeed he was all of those qualities, no doubt about it, but he was also extremely powerful. When people listen to his voice on tape recordings that he made, they are invariably shocked because he talked with so much power. His voice thunders out, “I, Paramhansa Yogananda, am praying with you.”
I remember the lecture he gave in Beverly Hills, which I’ve mentioned in The Path, where he was rallying people to go out and start communities everywhere. He said, “Youths, go North, South, East, and West. . . .” It wasn’t as if he were shouting, but I could feel this power surging through him. He was not even he. He was a wave of that Infinite Consciousness which comes and spreads out on the shore, like waves rushing up onto the beach through rocks; they break up into little streamlets, and then withdraw again.
So that Divine Consciousness comes into this world and breaks up into all sorts of different attitudes and outlooks. Whether you know it or not, you are the product of those diverse attitudes. You are not your personality. It is just an aggregate of all the things you’ve done and the reactions you’ve had. The true you is behind all of that. When you come to understand this, then you see that Yogananda, too, was not as he appeared. He said, “I killed Yogananda long ago. No one dwells in this temple now but God.” He was a manifestation without any ego, without any sense of “I like this,” or “I want that.” To him, it was all the Divine. When I looked into his eyes, it was in a very real way like looking into infinity.
Different saints come on earth with different missions. In one way or another, all of them have love, but they don’t always show it because that may not be their mission. It was Yogananda’s mission to express divine love, and because of that he talked of God in a new way — one that we’re not used to in this country. He spoke of God as the Divine Mother. Now, in truth, God is neither mother nor father, but He’s that Absolute Consciousness beyond creation. However, God does manifest Himself in different ways, so you can say that God is also both father and mother.
He’s unique to each one of us because as we visualize Him, so He will come in the form we hold most dear. If we happen to have some special and unusual reverence for crocodiles, and worship God as a Divine Crocodile, that’s how He will come to us. But, of course, that’s not necessarily inspiring to most people [laughter], whereas the mother aspect of God is something that satisfies a deep longing in the heart.
When we think of God, we’re just not satisfied with the image of a judge or with dry intellectual definitions. The more male aspect is a very important component of humanity, and we certainly wouldn’t be able to function without it. When I read in Time magazine that the extreme feminists are putting down men to such a great extent, I can’t help thinking that that’s like one side of a coin accusing the other of being made of debased metal. [Laughter] It’s ridiculous, because we’re all the same species.
There are two aspects to human nature — reason and feeling. Science has taught us, and unfortunately we’ve bought the lie, that the only way to come to truth is to exclude feeling and be so objective that you’re only intellectual. The truth is that if you get to know any really great scientists, even through their life stories, you find that they were passionate men and women. They were absolutely dedicated to the search for scientific truth. Nor could they have accomplished what they did without deep feeling and enthusiasm for what they were doing. It has been said that no great thing has ever been accomplished without enthusiasm.
Thomas Edison, for example, went through forty-three thousand experiments before he found the right filament for the light bulb. His own co-workers were pleading with him to stop when he reached twenty thousand attempts, but he was sure that a solution had to be there. It was the heart quality that led him forward. It’s only the second-rate scientists who do petty little experiments that go exclusively by intellect, but real scientists are people of deep mystical awe before the wonders of the universe. Awe is expressed in their experiments and their theories. Without that sense of wonder, how could they have discovered the great things they’ve found?
This enthusiasm is a part of the heart quality. We, as human beings, have both heart and intellect, but we can never reach true understanding with only the intellect. The thought that you can mentally analyze people, and therefore understand them, is a fallacy. You can only understand another human being if you approach him with deep compassion and love. You can only understand yourself with love for yourself, not for your faults, but for your real nature. You’ll never find understanding if you just look at yourself analytically, which usually includes judgment — that won’t give it to you. But try to love your own potential, to have respect for who you are as a child of God. This is also a part of the heart quality.
Both that love which unites and the intellect which separates are necessary. But until you can feel your kinship with all life, and understand others from within, you won’t know their true reality. Try to understand why others do what they do, even when they’re doing wrong things, or are trying to hurt you. Try to understand where they’re coming from, and you’ll be amazed at how much compassion that gives you.
In our culture today, this heart quality has been gradually seeping into the sands and disappearing, until we find ourselves in an age which emphasizes only analysis, intellect, and mental definitions. As a result, although we think we understand, somehow we always seem to be just one step away from real truth and understanding. No matter how cleverly we analyze, we’re still just that far from really knowing.
There’s a beautiful story of Krishna as a little boy that illustrates this principle. He was being very mischievous, so his foster mother decided to tie him to a bedpost. She took a string and tied him up, but the string was a little too short to tie him up properly. She got another string and tied it to the first so that it was more than long enough. But somehow when she’d finished, it was still a little bit too short. [Laughter] No matter how much string she added, it still remained too short.
Of course the moral of the story is that you cannot bind the Infinite. But you can also apply this moral when it comes to trying to understand the Infinite with just your own mind. Without that element of intuition, without that element of feeling and love, you can’t really understand anything. You can’t bind any reality of life with a definition. Yes, you can get an airplane off the ground. Yes, you can figure out how many miles it is from here to the sun, but what does it really matter?
To understand how to live your life better, to understand other people, and to understand truth, you can’t do it without heart. To think of God as the mother aspect is a way of helping you to love from your heart and to approach God in an infinite way. Yogananda used to say, “Mother, naughty or good, I am Your child.” In India they say that bad sons there are many, but never has there been a bad mother. I’ve heard many Indians say this sentimentally as a human truth, but the unfortunate fact is that there have been many bad mothers. But there can never be a bad Divine Mother, because she is your own true friend, your highest friend.
So Yogananda brought to this country one of the most important spiritual gifts possible — the idea of worshiping the Divine Mother. I was meditating in Italy a year and a half ago, and the thought came to me that we need to especially emphasize this aspect of his teachings: the aspect of deep, personal love for God, for the Divine Mother. The qualities of compassion and of yearning are what will bring you to God.
You could live next door to the best restaurant in Seattle. You could know everything on their menu, but if you aren’t hungry, you aren’t going to go there and eat. Hunger is what’s needed to make you act. The hunger for God is what’s needed to make you decide, “Yes, I want to give my life for this,” not, “Yeah, it’s a good idea, and I’m sure glad somebody else is doing it.” [Laughter] You need that hunger yourself.
There’s a story of a boy who came to a saint and asked to become his disciple. The saint said, “Come with me,” and he took him down to the river. The saint held the boy’s head under the water, until the boy began kicking furiously. Still the saint held him under, so that he was struggling with all his strength to break free. Finally he let him up. Then he said to the boy, “What did you want most when your head was under water?” The gasping boy replied, “AAir, AAAir!!!” The saint said, “When you want God as much as you wanted air, come back, and I’ll accept you as my disciple.” [Laughter]
We have to long for God. We have to reach that point where nothing means anything except that. That’s why the best thing you can pray for is devotion — the ability to love God more and more deeply. Yogananda came to bring us that. Remember that no matter what you do, God’s on your side. He’s not going to judge you — he’s going to help you in every way He can, but you have to let Him help you. On the other hand, He’ll make you work for it. Even salvation is nothing without the love of God. If you achieve it, perhaps you go to another plane where you don’t have to eat food, or carry around a heavy body, but there still are problems. Without God, you’ve got problems, let’s face it. [Laughter] He’s the only solution. It will get pretty boring even in heaven until you know what it’s really all about.
Think of God as the nearest of the near, the dearest of the dear. Women owe it to themselves and to the human race to bring out that loving and understanding aspect of their nature, just as men owe it to the human race to be wise and emotionally balanced in their thinking. When women today feel the need to be heard, they’re really responding to a current in the Divine Consciousness that is asking the human race to become balanced. Women who try to be like men are missing the point. When either men or women become out of balance in their nature, they become full of flaws — men become cold and hard, and women become overly emotional. Neither is good, yet both sides have a special gift to give others.
Ultimately, we all need to rise above thinking of ourselves as men or women, so that we can find that perfect balance where Divine Consciousness lies. Yogananda was a beautiful combination of masculine and feminine qualities. Anandamoyi Ma, a great woman saint that I knew in India, was in many ways like a man — not in a human way, but in the sense of having reason and feeling well balanced. Whenever she answered questions, it was in such an abstract way that it was sometimes quite astonishing. Her definition of God was, “It is, and It isn’t, and neither is It, nor is It not.” [Laughter] You make something of that one! You’d expect that a male devotee would be more likely to be impersonal, but male saints often become more feminine, in the sense of being very tender, generous, and kind. The two together show what we should be as human beings.
Women become much more decisive in their behavior and in their way of moving and walking. Anandamoyi Ma would sometimes look like a general walking, and yet she also had a motherly, loving quality that was captivating. I’m Master’s disciple, and I’ve never thought of changing my discipleship, but I had the opportunity to be with her, and it was wonderful. I remember the last time I saw her. I was leaving for the train station, and she said goodbye, but I just stood there. She said goodbye again, and still I just stood fixed to the spot. Finally I said, “Mother, I can’t move until you leave.” Then she smiled and went inside, and then I was free to go. I just couldn’t move until she left, because that love was something so real and tangible that nothing else had any meaning or reality.
I used to look at some of her disciples who would be running after her to see what she said or did, or to whom she was talking. To me, her reality, and Master’s reality as well, was best felt sitting in the back of the room and trying to feel their vibration and love pouring over me. Once you feel it, you think, “There’s nothing else that matters. Nothing.”
You could die, or suffer a terrible disease, or lose all your material goods, but the only thing that matters is that love. When you have it, everything seems to go smoothly. I’ve seen again and again that this love is a reality that also manifests itself in the practical world. If I lose that, no matter what I do to make things work, they don’t go properly.
Recently I was in Rishikesh, India where I was meditating and having a period of seclusion. It was a strange time, however. Many people doubt, or even flatly deny, the existence of Satan, but all saints have said that Satan is a reality. He’s not somebody with a red suit and a long tail [laughter], but it’s a consciousness that tries to keep everything in delusion. Anybody who’s tried to combat delusion has found that he’s got a fight on his hands. In Rishikesh, for some reason, that force was trying to attack me. Almost every day I would find a great sense of negativity come upon me. It wasn’t that I was being negative, but a thought force would come upon me saying, “It’s no use. Why even try spiritually?” It was trying to make me feel discouraged, pessimistic, and to bring my consciousness down. I would try to reason through it, and to fight against it, but nothing worked. Finally I found the one thing that did work — just attuning myself to my Guru. As soon as I just offered it up to him, in a split second it vanished, and I would suddenly feel as if the blue sky had returned.
I should explain to you in Seattle that in California we actually have what they call, and you can look it up in the dictionary, “sunshine.” [Laughter] Anyway, it was as if this sunshine burst through the clouds, and I felt completely free. Then the next day there was the same struggle, and again the same solution. But I found that everyday I was feeling more and more joy, until at the end this period, I was just floating in joy.
Don’t worry about the tests and negativity when they come to you, and don’t try to reason your way out of them, because you won’t be able to. Ultimately reason will just take you in circles. Give yourself to the Divine Mother, to the Guru, to God in any form that attracts you. From your heart, say, “I am yours,” and you will see that, again and again, the darkness will vanish. In fact, it will turn out to have been intended as a blessing all along. It will be a blessing, but it has to be first understood as a grace, so that you don’t become angry or bitter.
I get so sad when I see this country going more and more toward anger and bitterness, with everybody wanting to sue somebody else. This victim consciousness that says, “I’m this way because people did this to me,” is so wrong. You’re this way because you made yourself that way — if not in this life, then in another, but you invited it. What will strengthen you is not getting rid of the person or the problem, but changing yourself. When you can become strong enough in yourself, suddenly you’ll find that what happens doesn’t really touch you. People can say all manner of things against you, and you’ll just take it with good humor because you see that it doesn’t matter.
There are certain attitudes that come with grace, and this inner strength is one of them. But another is to live for the Divine Mother and to see Her everywhere — not as a person with a form, but as a consciousness in everything. Think of God behind the rocks and clouds. Think that God is saying something to you personally, and you’ll see that bit by bit, your relationship with Him really will be personal. It could be that way right now if we could open up to that love. Granted that He’s infinite and impersonal, but you are one of His unique creations, and He can relate to you according to your understanding. If you will open your mind and heart to Him, you’ll see that you can have a very intimate rapport with Him that becomes sweet beyond anything you can imagine.
I remember when I was in the Porziuncola in Assisi, Italy, where St. Francis died. I prayed to St. Francis, and all of a sudden I felt this intense sweetness come over me. I had never imagined that human nature could be so sweet, and I said, “Please tell me, how is it possible to have such sweetness?” The answer that was given to me was, “By never judging another human being, by seeing all as your brothers and sisters, by accepting them all as your own, by being humble, but above all, by never judging.” Then I felt that sweetness so strongly that I was floating on a cloud of sweetness for the rest of the day. How wonderful life is when your heart begins to flower.
There’s a lovely song of Ram Proshad, one of the great saints of Bengal, that says, “Your eyes will flow with tears just singing ‘God, God, God.’ A thousand Vedas tell us that my Divine Mother is without form.” He is saying that a true devotee of Kali, or Divine Mother, does not really worship Her in form, but sees Her everywhere. There is another lovely story, which I’ve mentioned in The Path, about the saint Namdev, who found enlightenment when he reached the point where he saw God, not only in the temple, but everywhere.
We need to strive to achieve that state of consciousness so that everywhere we look, we see God, we see the Divine Mother. You can experience this if you get away from singing about Him, which is always in the third person, and start thinking more in terms of singing to Him. Talk to God. Share every thought with Him. Here’s a very interesting experiment to try. Start tonight, try it for a few days, and see if it doesn’t change your consciousness. Talk to God in the second person. Say, “God, where do you want me to go today? God, what do you want me to eat today?” These may seem like trivial things, but to Him nothing’s trivial. What you eat, or whom you see is just as important to Him as asking, “What great mission shall I accomplish?” The really important thing is that you include Divine Mother in your thoughts and in your heart. Share every thought, every impression, every feeling with Her. Then you will see that in a very short time, there comes into your life a divine symphony, and you’ll be floating on clouds of joy.
This was perhaps the main thing that Yogananda came to bring to the world. It isn’t that other saints haven’t talked of the need to love God. But he did it in a unique and particularly strong way because he did it with great power. When you feel the power of that love, it’s shattering. I’ll be honest with you because I don’t want to trick you — that love will shatter all your false preconceptions of what life’s all about. It will show you that life is altogether different from what you thought it was, and that all the things that you thought were so important aren’t at all. They’re just dust.
In contrast, many of the things that you thought were unimportant turn out to be the most important things of all. Let’s say, for example, that you are on your way to a big business conference where you have to sign an important contract. On the way, you meet a beggar and give him a little money. Perhaps you think, “Well, that was nothing. Signing that big contract is the important thing.” Later you wake up and realize, “No, giving the money to the beggar was the important thing because it was a little manifestation of divine love.” The love that you express for other people is more important than anything else you do. The kindness that you express, the humility in embracing their needs along with your own, and above all, doing it in God’s name — these are the things that give life value.
I met a man while traveling once who gave me a hard-luck story and asked for money. I didn’t know if his sob story was genuine, but I gave him most of the money I had in my wallet. Later it turned out not to be true, but at the time I felt if I didn’t give him the money, and he was genuinely in need, I would feel badly. As I gave him the money, he said to me, “I’ll be sure you get it back, because I don’t want you to lose faith in human nature.” I said, “Listen, if I had faith in human nature, I’d have lost it a long time ago. [Laughter] I have faith in God. I’m not giving this to you, I’m giving it to God.” Live more that way. Everything you do, do for Him, and you will find that it comes back to you a thousandfold.
Yogananda’s main message was this kind of love — the love for your own divine potential, first of all, and with that love, the love for other people. In your service, never step beyond that love in the sense that you work with tension, thinking, “I’ve got to do this,” and “I must do that.” Then you get all uptight about it, and that’s not service to God. The greatest service you can give God is the simple expression of divine love.
I remember once years ago, when one of the ministers was in charge of the project of building the towers at the Encinitas Retreat. There was an opening date which was announced in the newspapers, but as often happens, the project was delayed until it looked as if it couldn’t possibly get done on time. They were working all night to try to get it ready, and just at the last moment, the person in charge didn’t show up. Later when Yogananda saw him, he said, “Where were you?” The man answered, “Sir, I was meditating.” Yogananda replied, “Oh, never mind, that’s all right.” [Laughter] To him, even at a time of great crisis, putting God first was the only thing that really mattered. I don’t mean that he approved of being irresponsible, but if it was for God, then he saw that as the highest responsibility.
This is directly opposite to what we usually think, when we say, “I’ll get this done, then I’ll do that duty, then maybe — pant, pant — I’ll have a little time for God.” [Laughter] You don’t get that time. God first. God all the time. Then you will find that everything somehow flows in an amazing way. Without any real effort, you know the answers. You don’t have to work nearly so hard for them because, in that attunement that Infinite Consciousness is expressing through you.
All these different currents that make you what you are today will be effortlessly transformed into higher currents. Now it seems so difficult, but it’s not at all. The difficulty is just having enough faith to try it. Once you’ve tried it, you’ll see that it gets simpler and simpler. It takes courage, faith, and devotion, yet finally it’s nothing, because that’s who you are. Then you will know that your own nature is that divine love. This was Yogananda’s message — one that he taught, but more importantly, one that he lived every moment of his life. Joy to you!
- The New Path: My Life with Paramhansa Yogananda, free online