It is good to celebrate noteworthy events, and this is one of those milestones. You are reading blog number five hundred! Writing five hundred in a row hasn’t always been easy or convenient, but sharing a Touch of Light has been one of the greatest blessings of our lives.
This week also marks another long-standing tradition. We are just finishing Inner Renewal Retreat, a decades-long annual event designed to reawaken and reenergize our spiritual commitment. This year’s theme, “Living in God’s Light,” covered four pillars of the spiritual path: sadhana, service, self-offering, and attunement. The recorded classes will be available soon, but for the thousands of you around the world who couldn’t attend, let me recap a few of the most important points from the three sessions Devi and I did during the week.
Day 1, Sadhana: We talked about increasing the light within through sadhana, especially meditation. The conscious mind, limited by the senses, is ill equipped to recognize our hidden spiritual nature. The purpose of sadhana is to help us awaken in superconsciousness. But to accomplish this we must withdraw the life-force from the body and the senses so that we can see our true reality behind the fringes of a restless mind. “Be still and know that I am God.”
We gave a fun demonstration of magnetism, illustrating that, like our spiritual reality, many forces in nature are hidden from us.
Day 2, Seva: Paramhansa Yogananda defined his path as a combination of meditation and service. In this class we discussed thirteen different principles of service from an upcoming book of mine. Here are a few that will give you a sense of the subject, and something on which to meditate.
- Seva is a means to dissolve the ego.
- We are channels for the Divine to serve through us.
- The attitude with which we serve is more important than what we do.
- Serving with willingness, joy, and enthusiasm increases energy and magnetism.
- Offer the fruits of service back to the Divine from whom they come.
Day 3, Self-Offering: People typically pick up this subject from the wrong end. They think about self-offering in terms of things they must give up. Seen this way, self-offering seems to be self-denial. There is a charming true story about an exchange Yogananda had with a famous Hollywood actor, Herb Jeffries, who was a follower.
The actor said, “Religion keeps telling me, ‘You shan’t do this, you shan’t do that.’ I’m not interested in what I shan’t do. I want to know what I can do.”
Yogananda replied, “Do you smoke?” “Yes,” the actor said. To his surprise, Yogananda said, “You may continue.”
Next, Master asked, “Do you drink alcohol?” “Yes, I enjoy a good drink,” was the reply. Again, Master said, “You may continue.”
Then Yogananda asked, “Do you enjoy the company of women?” “YES! Indeed I do.” And yet again, “You may continue.”
Herb, relieved but confused, looked at Yogananda curiously. Master concluded, “You may do all of these things, but I have to warn you that if you take up my teachings, the desire to do them will fall away.”
Here, then, is the essence of self-offering: All we can ever offer are limiting desires and attachments. We can no more give God our actual possessions than we can give our bank account to the sun. God will never take anything from us until we willingly offer it to Him. But He lovingly awaits the hour when we realize that all those desires, possessions, and attitudes that we cling to so fiercely are the very things that obstruct our true happiness.
The goal of life and of all spiritual practice is to dissolve the ego. All God wants from us is our love, which we offer to Him through sadhana, service, self-offering, and attunement to the guru.
As Paramhansa Yogananda puts it, “Those who are immersed in body-consciousness are like strangers in a foreign land. Our native country is Omnipresence.” And: “The purpose of human life is to find God. That is the only reason for our existence. Job, friends, material interests—these things in themselves mean nothing. They can never provide you with true happiness, for the simple reason that none of them, in itself, is complete. Only God encompasses everything.”
Each week we end our Sunday service with these words from Swami Kriyananda’s Festival of Light:
Lord, we offer up the little light that is in us
Into Thy blazing light of Infinity.
Grant us the grace to know Thee.
And make us ever-increasingly
Pure channels of Thy love to all.
May we all merge into that infinite light and bliss.
In the light,
Listen to Jyotish as he reads the blog, then expands on it, often adding special behind-the-inspiration stories and answers to common spiritual questions. Subscribe to the podcast or download the audio recording by right-clicking here. Or listen to it here (9:54):