Were we to perceive the underlying oneness of all beings, rather than what makes us different, so many of the problems that we face would be eliminated. The same light dwells at the core of every being and each one of us can share that light with all.
What we need now is a guide to help us enter into the light more completely—a unique spiritual teaching for the world that shows the underlying oneness of all true religions.
A Guide to Steer Us Towards the Light
Paramhansa Yogananda came to the West from India in 1920. He entered on the scene speaking hardly any English, wearing ochre robes and an ochre turban, and carrying a heart full of compassion. The message he brought was that of Self-realization—union of the individual soul with Infinite Spirit. In addition to this, he added emphasis to the importance of souls seeking Spirit together in fellowship.
Yogananda showed that our inner growth is supported by our determination to realize Spirit in one another through our daily interactions. Many souls, seeking Spirit together, seeing Spirit in one another, can help to create a more peaceful, harmonious, and happy world. Yogananda called this expression of fellowship “world brotherhood.”
“Toward realization of the world’s highest ideal—peace through brotherhood—may yoga, the science of personal contact with the Divine, spread in time to all men in all lands.” –Paramhansa Yogananda, Autobiography of a Yogi
Yogananda came at a time of great struggle—World War II, economic depression, and so much more. Yet he brought a message of hope by showing that regardless of outer circumstances, true and everlasting joy can be found within. We find this joy through the ancient and liberating practice of yoga. In truth—each one of us are beings of light meant to carry the message of joy in our hearts and into the world, no matter what hardship or chaos surrounds us.
At the time Yogananda wrote his bestselling Autobiography of a Yogi, it carried a revolutionary wave of spirituality that could be brought into all hearts and homes. The universal spiritual truths and depth within its pages helped it to become one of the most well-known spiritual autobiographies of the 20th century. George Harrison of The Beatles was known to give out copies of Autobiography of a Yogi to anyone who came into his home in need of its message, and Steve Jobs requested that everyone at his funeral have a copy of Autobiography of a Yogi—the one book on his iPad. To this day, it remains a spiritual treasure to millions around the world seeking answers for how to approach life in ways that are practical yet profound, scientific yet open-hearted.
Now it seems, more than ever, that people are open to the universal spiritual teachings of yoga, meditation, and selfless service; and that they are seeking a revolutionary way of life in which each and every moment of the day becomes an opportunity for self-growth.
There is also an increasing awareness that now is the time to discover the way to truly and lastingly make the world a better place—not by wishful thinking, but by cultivating our inner light, and acting as channels for the light.
We Are Not Alone in Our Efforts
The uplifting influence of people uniting their energy to share light is much greater than individuals striving to do it alone. Such is the importance of fellowship.
There is a story that Swami Kriyananda, a direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda, shared about the importance of unity and fellowship as a source of strength:
There were six sons surrounding their father as he lay in bed at the hospital, preparing to pass from this world. He wanted to leave his sons with a message that he felt would help them move forward together after he left. With several small sticks in hand, he offered one to his first son and asked him to take that stick and break it. The son easily did so. He then offered a stick to another son, asking him to break it. Again, the son easily did so. Then he held the remaining bundle of sticks and, handing it to the strongest son, asked him to break the whole bundle. The son could not. Together, the bundle of sticks were too strong to be broken.
Even in our most basic everyday interactions with one another, we can deepen our fellowship and gain strength—a strength that is much needed in times of challenge. Below are some of the ways that we can live in the spirit of world brotherhood, and how we can consciously support one another in being channels of light:
1. Welcome everyone into your temples, and into your hearts
“Your religion is not the garb you wear outwardly, but the garment of Light you weave around your heart.” —Paramhansa Yogananda
The Pope recently washed the feet of 11 Muslim, Christian, and Hindu youth refugees at an Easter Week Mass in Rome, declaring them all children of the same God. It is time for us to rise to a new level of unity, where we see each other as an extension of our very own Self. Learn to see loved ones, coworkers, strangers, and even self-proclaimed enemies, as souls united in Spirit. As long as we limit one another to the little box of our own perceptions of reality, there can be no peace and harmony. Allow each person in your life to rise and expand into their higher Self and give them the space to find their path to freedom—whatever form their journey takes.
2. Offer yourself more completely in service into the Light
Serving in a united group toward a common goal not only increases the magnetism of energy supporting the success of that goal, but it also unites those involved along the way. It brings about cooperation, willingness, positivity, and selflessness, which attracts a positive response in kind from the universe. Our every action can be visualized as a wave of light helping to heal the darkness in this world.
Those who are a part of Ananda—a worldwide movement dedicated to sharing Yogananda’s message with the world—practice a daily prayer for peace and harmony. In doing so together, they strengthen their bonds with one another, their own sense of inner peace, and help to light the flame of peace in the hearts of many others.
Our service—no matter how small or large—is a gift to ourselves and others. It is the spirit with which we perform our duties that matters most. Yogananda said, “God watches the heart.” The end result does not matter as much as the sincerity with which we give. When we give sincerity, we truly give ourselves. It is a gift that all of us can give.
3. Practice meditation
“Fifteen minutes of [the practice of meditation] every day, engaged in by thousands, or even millions, of people throughout the world could uplift the whole planet.” —Swami Kriyananda, Demystifying Patanjali
We know the power of meditation to help bring out our own inner light, but imagine the power of multitudes meditating together to increase the light of the world. Including group meditation in our lives is a wonderful way to give our meditations more length, depth, and energy than ever before.
One thing that has stuck in my mind for years is Swami Kriyananda’s encouragement to “truly meditate with one another.” This applies to anything we do together. We may be in the same room, doing the same thing, but we are not truly together until we consciously tune into one another. It would help us to feel ourselves merging with one another in the light of Spirit, and sending rays of that one light out into the Cosmos, thereby drawing more souls into its uplifting influence.
Ananda has locations all around the world where groups of people meditate together, and live the ideals of kindness and brotherhood. When souls come together in this way, their efforts are amplified, their hearts are gradually purified, and the light is spread far and wide.
4. Share a Smile
Smiles are a simple way to touch others deeply. Share the divine joy of your soul with those in need. A single smile sends out a ripple of positivity that can break through hardened hearts, and wash away tears of sadness hiding beneath the surface. The giver and receiver are both enriched by the process.
Surely, each one of us can recall the delight of giving a smile to someone—even when we ourselves felt disheartened—and the upliftment that comes when we watch that smile transform someone’s state of mind. Or when such an act of simple kindness brought a stranger out of the daily “grind” to feel that someone else really cared. A smile a day is something anyone can do to share light.
5. Surround yourself with a strong, positive environment
“Environment is stronger than will,” Yogananda often emphasized. Through the rising and falling tides of life, it is spiritual community that can keep our lives harnessed to the Light. Ananda has seven communities of people already living together harmoniously—a harmony based on their dedication to shared ideals and an aspiration for yoga, or union with Spirit. Paramhansa Yogananda called these communities world brotherhood colonies, and wrote about their importance in the 1946 original edition of Autobiography of a Yogi.
One such community is Ananda Village in rural Nevada City, California, with about 250 residents. It encompasses pre-kindergarten through high school education, a natural foods market, small businesses, a yoga retreat center, and homes. The village will soon celebrate its 50th year.
Even if we cannot live amongst those with similar aspirations, what we can do is share with those close to us with heightened love, uplifted consciousness, and respect. By doing so, we bring out the best in one another. We must embrace the opportunity—the responsibility, to help one another usher in the light ever-more completely.
Paramhansa Yogananda once told a group of disciples attending the annual eight hour Christmas meditation at his ashram in Los Angeles, “I see you all as beings of Light.” What he saw was the true expression of each soul, no matter how many layers by which it was covered. It then encouraged those present to live up to this truth, and to act from their soul nature.
Whether between friends or amongst a community, there is always support and encouragement to make it through our personal battles with darkness and turn toward the light. By strengthening one another, we all become stronger in our ability to uplift the vibration of the planet.
Each moment of fellowship can bring a renewed inspiration to go deeper on the path, to be kinder, to love one another more deeply and without expectation or the need for anything in return. In times of darkness, we must do our best to become channels of light, and vow to help each other in moments of trial to fulfill our true destiny: realization of the Self.
The light of Spirit shines within us all.