In a recent letter to a person interested in the book, God Is for Everyone, Swami Kriyananda wrote, “It is a book, written by a great spiritual teacher, Yogananda, during the 1920s, pleading for a new look at religion, and at interreligious harmony. The book argues powerfully that religion alone is the real force behind civilization; that religion alone, when rightly understood, can give humanity what it really wants in life; and that religion alone deserves to the called ‘the science of all sciences.’”
A loving effort
It’s important to understand how God Is for Everyone came to be written. It is the loving effort by Swami Kriyananda to give substance to his Guru’s concepts of how to make God a dynamic concept. Yogananda’s original book, The Science of Religion, was ghostwritten in 1920 by one of his disciples, Swami Dhirananda, at a time when Yogananda was not yet fluent in English.
Meditating on The Science of Religion a few years ago, Swami Kriyananda felt that the ideas could be presented with greater attunement to Yogananda’s consciousness. He began to think of stories and illustrations that Yogananda had used which would enhance its message. From this blending of the Master’s teachings with the disciple’s understanding and experience came the book, God Is for Everyone.
A meaningful concept of God
God Is for Everyone has a dual purpose. First, it tries to present a concept of God that will motivate people to love Him and want to know Him. Second, it undertakes to show the common goal of all religions, which is to uplift the human spirit, not to polarize mankind into dogmatic intolerance.
The search for a meaningful concept of God begins by exploring the question: What is the goal of life? Distilling the myriad varieties of human undertakings down to a simple and essential one, Yogananda tells us that mankind is driven by a two-fold desire: to avoid suffering and to find happiness. Through countless experiences and many past lives lost to our conscious memory, we are driven from one desire to the next in a ceaseless effort to accomplish this goal.
At first we begin by merely avoiding pain and seeking pleasure. Eventually we begin to realize that the fulfillment of material desires in pleasure is merely counterfeit happiness—a passive state, dependent on the external world for its gratification. Happiness, by contrast, is an active state that is produced by our own will power and right attitudes.
“Happiness springs from within the self,” Yogananda writes. “It doesn’t depend on outer conditions. Nothing outside ourselves, therefore, can define or qualify our happiness except as we allow it to do so. Once this unalterable truth is realized, happiness becomes our permanent possession.”
A permanent escape from suffering
As we progress in understanding, even the state of normal human happiness fails to bring us a permanent escape from suffering and a lasting state of well-being. We exert our will to be happy under all conditions, but subconscious patterns and adverse circumstances block our attainment of a permanent state without pain.
Eventually we realize that what we thought of as happiness was really the soul’s native state of bliss directed outwardly to the senses and the world of relativity and change. True happiness, or bliss, is eternal and unchanging—it transcends all darkness and duality.
We are all seeking God
Finally, as our consciousness becomes even more refined, we begin to see that the true goal of life is the search for bliss and the avoidance of its loss. Here, at last, is the universal goal. And though the journey to this understanding is long and arduous, ultimately everyone must reach it.
The scriptures tell us that the very nature of God is ever-existent, ever-conscious, and ever-new bliss. Thus God Is for Everyone fulfills its first purpose by giving us a concept of God that will motivate us to seek Him—for God is the very bliss that everyone seeks!
The essence of all religions
To fulfill the second purpose of the book—to show the commonality of all religions—Yogananda discusses the universal inner essence of religion. This he defines as the science of working with the subtle energy flows that influence our states of awareness and uplift our spirit into direct experience of God.
“The true purpose of religion,” Yogananda writes, “is to teach the law as it applies to one’s spiritual life. No matter what religious tenets one holds, if he would know God, he must direct his feelings upward from the heart to the spiritual eye, and focus them there in the expectation of bliss.”
Yogananda thus distills the essence of all religions to that which is common to them all: the inner movement of energy that lifts us from the perspective of duality to the “single eye” of divine vision. This ultimate quest must be pursued individually and at best can only be aided by a religious institution.
As we learn how to work with this energy, which is present in every atom of creation, we can retrace our steps from suffering and sorrow, past pleasure and happiness, to our true nature: bliss.
Civilization’s driving force
After The Science of Religion was published in 1920, Paramhansa Yogananda spent the remaining thirty-two years of his life sharing the philosophy and techniques of yoga, which is the name given in the East to this exploration of consciousness. Once someone asked Yogananda, “Is this teaching a new religion?” “No,” he replied. “It is a new expression.” Similarly we can say that God Is for Everyoneis a “new expression” of The Science of Religion, one that helps to fulfill Yogananda’s divine mission.
“True religion is a science,” Yogananda writes in the conclusion of the book. “It shows how to find permanent freedom from all sorrow in the attainment of Conscious Bliss. True, spiritual religion offers the only workable solution there is to humanity’s deepest needs, and for this reason deserves to be considered the science of all sciences. It is, indeed, the driving force behind all civilization.”
The truths presented here are even more important today than when they were first written over eighty years ago. They are humanity’s guiding light, showing us how to live at peace within ourselves and with our fellowman. Truly God is for everyone.