“Will I ever leave the spiritual path?” a disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda once asked him. “How could you?” the Master replied. “Everyone in the world is on the spiritual path.”

can-one-fail-spiritually-yogananda-quote

Photo by Nayaswami Jyotish

In the broadest possible terms this statement is true, because everyone is striving to find happiness and avoid suffering. The main difference between a truth-seeker and a materially minded person is where they look for their happiness: within or without.

The questioning disciple eventually did leave the ashram. Perhaps the Master foresaw this and was consoling him for what lay ahead. In any case, the question is an important one for us: How do we fail spiritually, and can it be avoided?

Take Small Steps with Joy

We heard a story told by a well-known track coach who worked with world-class athletes. He noticed that when these runners would be one-hundredth of a second over their record time, they would be upset for the entire day.

One day, a group of elderly librarians asked him, “Will you help us get started with an exercise program?” He suggested that they begin by walking around the track. To his surprise, they were utterly delighted by being able to walk a quarter of the way. Realizing he had been working with the wrong people, he began training those who found joy in the smallest accomplishments.

To succeed spiritually, try to see the path as a joyous journey, not an impossibly steep ascent. Meditate not for joy, but with joy. Set goals for yourself that you can meet, and move forward step by step to freedom.

Trust Your Own Sincerity

A devotee once said to Swami Kriyananda, “I feel insincere when I sing the chant ‘I Want Only Thee, Lord,’ because I know that there are still many things other than God that I want.” Swamiji replied, “Try inwardly chanting, ‘I want to want only Thee, Lord.’ In this at least, you are sincere.”

We are a house divided: Part of us knows that happiness lies within, but another still seeks fulfillment in the world. Don’t let your lower tendencies convince you that you are a half-baked devotee, or discourage you from seeking God. Define yourself by your aspirations rather than by your present state, and hold firmly to the thought, “I may have stumbled along the way, but my intentions are sincere.

“Give Me Thy Failure”

Finally, these words from the Bhagavad Gita provide the best answer to our question, “How can we avoid spiritual failure?”:

Clasp Me with heart and mind! so shalt thou dwell

Surely with Me on high. But if thy thought

Droops from such height, despair not!

Give Me lower service! seek to reach Me, worshipping with steadfast will;

And, if thou canst not worship steadfastly,
Work for Me, toil in works pleasing to Me!

For he that laboureth right for love of Me

Shall finally attain! But, if in this thy faint heart fails,
Bring Me thy failure!

If God accepts even this, it is not possible spiritually to fail.

With joy,
Nayaswami Devi

22 Comments

  1. Dear Nayaswami Devi!
    I still have a photo with You, when Ananda celebrate 30 Years 1998. summer in Assisi, when You and Yotish have lecture Patanjali yoga sutras. Little talk with you was great inspiration and honor to me…Thank you so much for all your effort to spread Masters teaching around the world…:))
    “The soul loves to meditate, for in contact with Spirit lies its greatest joy.” Yogananda
    There is an Indian saying that has become Ananda’s fundamental principle: “Where there is dharma, or right action” (that is to say, action in tune with truth and spiritual ideals), “there is victory.” When we put principles first in our life, everything goes as it should, and there can be no failure. As the Bhagavad-Gita says, “Oh, Arjuna, know this for a certainty: My devotee is never lost.”
    With divine friendship,
    Devotee from CROATIA

  2. I find these weekly newsletters to be inspirational and much appreciated!
    The “Give me thy failure” quote reminded me of Francis Thompson’s poem “The Hound of Heaven” which never fails to move me when I read it.
    Om shanti
    Ian

  3. Magnificant, Devi! By the last paragraph the picture of me kneeling before the Lord offering up my failures, which I have a plentiful supply of, made me weep to think how great His love for us is that He would accept our worship that way.
    AUM AuM AUM
    Pat

  4. Dear Nayaswami Devi Ji,
    Thank you very much for a lovely and encouraging article. How joyful it is know that God accepts our failures too ?.
    “I may have stumbled in my path but my intentions are sincere” Thank you Devi Ji for sharing this.
    Aum,
    Prem

  5. The Gita is so beautiful and fathomless. Is that Arnold ‘ old translation? It captures the mercy and grace of an infinitely compassionate and living God. A wonderful message to begin the day with. Great subject, great message.

  6. Dear Devi – This was inspiring. I’ve often reminded myself of that selection from the Bhagavad Gita.
    Your mention of the coach of world-class athletes reminded me of studies that were done in the early 1970s by two sports psychologists at San Jose State.
    They wanted to study the factors that were preventing athletes of the second tier from rising to championship status. What they found confirms what the Bhagavad Gita suggests for dealing with our failures.
    In almost every case, the second-level athletes routinely beat themselves up severely for their mistakes. On the other hand, the top-tier athletes noticed their mistakes, without blame, studied their mistakes for ways they could improve, and turned away.
    This actually became a principle teaching of coaches working with elite athletes. As an outstanding example, if you look at videos of Pete Sampras, perhaps the greatest male tennis player ever, you will clearly see him practicing this principle in EVERY match. When he made a mistake, Sampras would perform the same little routine. He would turn away from the court, collect himself, and turn back again as if the game had just started. In this way, he learned to center himself in the process, not in temporary successes or failures. Sampras’s demeanor was amazingly calm and focused. There are MANY examples of athletes at the world level who’ve learned this principle. It is a key to their success – as it is in every field.
    Thank you for the morning inspiration! It made my day.

  7. Beautiful words of divine wisdom! Thank you Deviji! I shall pass this on to all of my extended spiritual family. The only family there is! In gratitude, Kim Clarity

  8. I love your posts just wonderful reminders of how the spiritual path works on a daily basis and do my best to practice
    each one.
    Blessings always, Yvonne

  9. Dear Devi ji,
    Thank you . Wonderful article.You made it easier to understand and relate to it .Its always a joy to read such articles.

  10. Blessings Beloved Souls. Thank you Devi for this reminder, I’m getting quite a few of those lately. I just read Master’s article on “Remember Only GOOD Things” It’s comforting to know that God’s Love is always with me/us, it’s inspiring to know that I/we are that Love already. How can we fail?
    Blessings. Be safe, have fun. Namaste, navi

  11. Estimada Nayaswami Devi :
    Que lindo recibir sus mensajes, y que bien vienen cuando pienso que el camino espiritual esta estancado .
    Namaste!

  12. Thank you Devi for this so clearly described answer to this topic! I have found reading Jyotish’s and your book, “The Touch of Light” to be one of the more recent great joys I have had. The topics are so expansive and so wonderfully explained with stories, and examples and in such a clear and understandable way. My sister who is just beginning to touch into spirituality is now reading it, and it is helping us to begin to talk better together about the spiritual path. That means a lot to me.
    God bless you both for this great work you are doing!
    nivritti

  13. Blessings Devi,
    Thank you for so clearly expressing these teachings!
    Meditate with Joy! (supports maintaining a high energy state)
    Trust your own sincerity! (hugely important!, God knows our heart. “To thine own self be true”)
    Give God any failure! (for ultimately it IS all God’s, anyway! Yipee!)
    ~~~Peace, Josette

  14. Respected Sacred Brothers on this Planet
    Namaskar
    “Will I ever leave the spiritual path?” My journey on this beautiful planet for 69+ years experienced many go, stop,, again start since childhood.
    Got the almighty blessing to be in centre 3 times
    With desire to understand Body, soul and what is happening till date.
    May be in big debits and related liabilities. Search is on. Reading such articles from master and following path keep up but breaking journey became also….

  15. Respected Devji,
    Your such type Article increase more & more faith toward God

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