Many people are deeply concerned about the overuse of natural resources, increasing global warming, and the vastly uneven distribution of wealth. The root causes are greed and competition, attitudes that won’t change until there is an expansion of consciousness. Paramhansa Yogananda came, in part, to help correct these attitudes by emphasizing high thinking, simple living, and the search for God.
Fortunately, time is on our side. As we move more fully into Dwapara Yuga, the age of energy, we can see the first glimmers of a global shift from competition to cooperation. As devotees, we fortunately don’t have to wait for the world to change. By cooperation and concern for others, we can find the happiness we are seeking right now.
A new consciousness of unity
A hallmark of the dark age of Kali Yuga was that life seemed to be little more than a brutal struggle for survival. This perception continued into the Industrial Revolution, coming as it did toward the end of Kali Yuga. Commerce was driven by the thought that success came through ruthless competition; Darwin’s doctrine of the “survival of the fittest” gave a “scientific” rationale to this competitive worldview.
But this old paradigm is slowly breaking down. With the advent of Dwapara Yuga, people are beginning to realize that all life is connected and that survival of the fittest is a misconception. Higher knowledge reveals that this world is nothing more than God’s dream. How can God be trying to “out-compete” Himself? How can God survive by being “fitter” than God? Even to think in those terms boggles the mind.
As devotees, our role is to become agents of change toward greater global cooperation, especially at work, where competition is still highly rewarded. A first step in this direction is to become more aware of the largely unnoticed connections that already exist.
A vast web of connections and cooperation
Imagine that you are in a supermarket buying a box of cereal. That simple product represents the cooperative efforts of millions of people –– farmers, truckers, builders, plant workers, shippers, business people, and government employees. A vast unseen web of connections underlies virtually every product you use.
Within our own bodies we find also an intricate network of cooperative activity. There are billions of physical cells in the body –– forming the blood, liver, heart, muscle, bone, and brain –– all working to maintain life. Our bodies are also made up of least ten times as many “foreign” bacteria cells as body cells. Our very lives depend upon the connections and cooperation between these billions of different cells.
Recently I (Nayaswami Jyotish) worked in the Permaculture Garden at Ananda Village. I found the experience enormously enlightening primarily because the garden is based on a conscious plan that enables different species to cooperate and help each other.
There are hundreds of plants in the garden. Some dig deep into the soil for minerals, thereby producing nutrient-rich leaves, which the gardeners harvest and use to help fertilize other plants. A few flowering species are there to attract bees, which both pollinate and provide honey. Some plants have multiple purposes: to provide nutrients for the soil, shade for other plants, to produce fruits or berries, and even medicines for their human “caretakers.”
What we see in a permaculture garden is a beautiful example of the web of connections and cooperation that links different species together. Enhancing our awareness of the underlying unity of everything will help us bring more cooperation into our lives. From a practical standpoint, there are a number of ways we can do this.
Learn to see God through others
The deepest sense of connection comes from learning to see God or Guru not only in everything, but through everything. There’s a very touching story of a young disciple of Satya Sai Baba that beautifully illustrates this consciousness.
One weekend the boy went home from the ashram to visit his family. When he returned, Satya Sai Baba asked him, “Did you see your family?” The boy answered, “Oh Baba, all I saw was you.” Satya Sai Baba said, “Well, didn’t you see your mother and your father?” The boy replied, “Oh Baba, all I saw was you.” Satya Sai Baba then asked, “What about your brothers and sisters? Didn’t you play with them?” Again the boy said, “Oh Baba, all I saw was you.”
Persisting, the guru asked, “Well, didn’t you see any of the friends whose company you enjoy?” The boy answered, “Oh, Baba don’t tease me anymore. All I saw was you.”
If we see God or our Guru in the faces of others, we will naturally feel a deep sense of connectedness with everyone. Even to hold a fraction of that consciousness radically changes the nature of our relationships. We should consciously try to see God acting through other people. When we can maintain the consciousness that God is everywhere, life becomes very sweet.
Create a magnetic upward flow of energy
Another important principle is to create a positive flow of energy up the spine to the spiritual eye. This upward flow of energy through the chakras creates a magnetic field that connects us with others. A downward flow, on the other hand, increases our separation and disunity.
If we find ourselves slipping into a negative or complaining attitude, we should work first on controlling the flow of energy rather than on trying to convince the mind to be more positive. When the energy is flowing in a downward direction, our thoughts will automatically follow the direction of energy and give us perfectly good reasons to be negative and critical of others. First feel the energy in the heart and make it positive. A little moment of appreciation works wonders! Then direct the heart’s feeling upward to the spiritual eye. We will find that our thoughts turn positive as soon as the life-force begins to flow upward.
This upward direction of energy will also make us magnetic. People are attracted or repelled primarily depending on the magnetism we generate. Positive magnetism will attract positive people. People with negativity, with a “carping spirit,” will attract people who want to hear negative things.
Swami Kriyananda recently discussed how the colors of the aura reflect the energy people are radiating. Some people radiate beautiful pure colors. Others radiate colors that are dark and muddy. But everybody is always radiating colors. An upward direction of energy will purify the colors and expand the aura.
Become channels of divine friendship
Once you can produce a positive flow, consciously let it stream out to those around you. Become a wellspring of kindness and support. One of our main guidelines at Ananda is that “People are more important than things.” When we make the welfare of people our main priority, we generate the positive magnetism that causes the right things to happen, and in the best possible way.
When Ananda bought East-West Bookshop in Menlo Park, California, the first managers had no experience selling books and questioned their ability to run the store. Swami Kriyananda told them they could gain the necessary knowledge in time, but that the most important thing was to treat their customers as friends, and to serve them and love them in God. Because of that attitude of divine friendship, East-West Bookshop continues to flourish today.
In the 1970s, Swami Kriyananda named the first monastic order at Ananda Village, “Friends of God.” By that name he meant not only being friends with God, but also being God’s channels of friendship to everyone in the world. He meant that we should see even total strangers as friends. If we can learn to use friendship as our primary way of relating to all people, friend and stranger alike, we will become harbingers of Dwapara Yuga and help the world move toward a more unified view of life.
A beautiful, harmonious flow
The deep sense of connectedness to God and other people that we gain in meditation is a large part of what produces an attitude of unity. It’s very important to carry that uplifted peace and harmony into our work and service. Yogananda said that meditation should be active service and that service should be active meditation.
If we can approach our work with a deep inward consciousness, our outer and inner life will begin to meld together into a beautiful, harmonious flow. The particular area of our work is not nearly so important as the quality of consciousness with which we work. Make it fun, joyful, cooperative, and holy.
From an October 20, 2011 talk at Ananda Village.
Related reading: 30-Day Essentials for Career by Jyotish Novak