“Many have been My births, O Arjuna, and many also yours. I remember all of Mine, though you remember yours not.” These words from Sri Krishna to his disciple in the Bhagavad Gita show a divine memory of the soul’s eternal nature.
Memory, in its highest expression, is much more than remembering what is on a grocery list. It is the soul’s ability to transcend the limitations of time.
Paramhansa Yogananda spoke of the “easy resurrection of memory” through which he brought to mind past experiences with his guru, Sri Yukteswar. With a trained and heightened sense of memory, we can meld past, present, and future into the eternal now. Patanjali, the ancient authority on yoga, described spiritual awakening as smriti, which means “memory.”
The yogic teachings describe three different levels of our awareness. The subconscious mind is the repository of all of our past experiences, impressions, and thoughts. It’s the archives for our memories, not only of this life, but of all of our lives.
The conscious mind is the operating system that responds to the details and challenges of daily life. It’s how we solve problems, make decisions, and plan for the future. The conscious mind draws on memories held in the subconscious to inform its decisions, so they work together.
The superconscious mind is our higher, intuitive faculty that allows us to expand our awareness beyond the limitations of the ego. Through it, we can experience our true Self, and ultimately our oneness with God.
From this description, it’s easy to draw the conclusion that it’s a progression—that all we need to do is focus on the superconscious mind and forget about the “lower” levels of awareness. But it isn’t that simple.
Swami Kriyananda said something in this regard that has always intrigued me. Superconsciousness, he wrote, is found at the thin line between the conscious and subconscious minds, rather like the horizon line between sea and sky.
Here we come to the power and importance of memory. The subconscious is much more than a dreamy, unaware state of hidden compulsions. Rather it’s an intrinsic part of our journey to enlightenment, both because it contains useful lessons from the past, and because it’s not limited to dwelling in the present.
Yoganandaji spoke often about how to develop the power of memory, and how to use it properly. “Memory,” he said, “is that faculty of the conscious mind which, through the help of the subconscious mind, can recall any past conscious experience. Always awake, the subconscious mind is buried beneath the conscious mind, working during sleep and constantly memorizing experiences during the state of wakefulness.”
“In order to perform important duties and recall valuable experiences for daily use, one must be able to work with the material recalled to the conscious mind by the power of memory. The subconscious mind can be trained to recall at will all conscious experiences.”
Here are some ways Master gives to develop our memory:
1) Morning and evening, rap the scalp with the knuckles, then massage it with the fingers as taught in the Energization Exercises.
2) Perform every action with keen attention. Attention is the needle that cuts grooves in the memory cells.
3) Every night, remember in detail everything that happened during the past week. Try also to remember in detail the principal events of the month with regard to your life, your city, your country, and the world.
4) Before going to bed and upon awakening, command your subconscious mind to be attentive to all your activities and to store all valuable experiences.
This brings us to the proper use of memory. Yoganandaji said, “Memory was given to us to keep alive only life’s good experiences and lessons. To remember bad experiences and dwell upon them is an abuse of God’s gift to us of memory.” This doesn’t mean that we suppress bad experiences or ignore past mistakes. Rather, we should move on from painful experiences, and concentrate on filling our memory banks with positive, divine recollections.
As Sri Yukteswar said to a new student who doubted his own worthiness to seek God: “Forget the past. The vanished lives of all men are dark with many shames. . . . Everything in future will improve if you are making a spiritual effort now.”
Ultimately, what is the best use of this divine gift of memory? Remembering God. As I write this today, it’s the seventy-first anniversary of Yoganandaji’s mahasamadhi.
To honor our great Guru, take some time at this very moment to remember his impact on your life. When was the first time you saw his photo? When did you first read his Autobiography of a Yogi? What was your first impression of it? If you’re a disciple, when did you realize that he was your God-given guru? Sit in stillness with these memories, and try to feel the timeless nature of your bond with him.
Recently a friend sent us a description of an experience a direct disciple of Master had with him some decades after his mahasamadhi. Yogananda appeared to him holding a white and gold book in letters of light, entitled The Book of My Life. Master held it, and told him to turn the pages and read from the book. As he turned the pages backward and forward, he saw accounts of his previous and future incarnations, in which his guru was always guiding him.
Though, like Arjuna, we may not consciously remember our past lives, the eternal love between guru and disciple is always there, just beneath the surface. The more we’re able to access the stored memories of our Guru’s presence, and hold the thought of him in our conscious mind, the more quickly we will be able to realize our oneness with him.
With the joy of remembering God and Guru,
Listen to Devi as she 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 (11:38):
Beautiful and timely. Thank you, especially for the reminder to remember encounters with Yoganandaji. 💖
Thank you for this story you share with us. As Child from 12 years old I found the Autobiography in my fathers book case. By seeing the photo on the cover I felt some light touch my heart. And helt the book some months in my room after asking my mother about. I may not read in the book from my mother but by only seeing the Photo and feel the Love in my heart from Master I New he is my Guru.
Thank you. The gift of good memories is empowering. I oftentimes only remember the bad. This is a good reminder to let go of them.
Reading these blogs every week is a joyful experience for me. 🙏
Very inspiring and uplifting message! Thank you, Devi!
Thank you Devi. With you in joy.
The peace, joy, wisdom, and loving spirit of the Master, which in truth is but a disguise of the Divine Source/Father is alive and present in this amazing insight into Who & What we really are.
I look forward to these emails every week. Always worth waiting for! I have been thinking about the dreaming, waking and deep sleep states. Theories as to why the deep sleep state should be a blank? Rather than a freeing from the mind….and it has been making me think too about the fact that dreams hold no memories. At least, I don’t think mine do. I don’t know why this should be or what it means, but I’m finding it an interesting fact to ponder on.
Thank you, Deviji!
Ever since I studied Demystify Patanjali and read “Memory is one more vritti, …” I have been very curious about precisely what Patanjali’s comment means, especially since so many friends and family members seem to have memory challenges. In Divine Grace, over the period since the curiosity first started, a few talks have come up that touched on this topic. I agree with you that so much could be said about this topic. Even a weekend interactive class could help cement the meaning and use of memory and help us practice proper use and understanding.
Thank you, as always, for your guidance in these blogs and talks.
This is beautiful! Thank you for the blessing of sharing his message.
Resonant with reverence, a beautiful message of memory power & purpose and tribute to Master for his Mahasamadhi 🌷
That was beautiful! Thank you very much for this enlightening information…🙏❤️🕯🌎
Thank you, Devi. Perhaps the time spent in remembering this life is also a teacher for us. Particularly, as we enter the later, last decades of this current lifetime. Is it preparing us for another lifetime, perhaps? I recall reading that we have many, many karmas from past lives. Yet the one thoughts/memories present as we exit will be impressed on futures lives.
Blessings, Mary Jo
O Mother Thou art devotion
Thou art love
Thou only reminds us about the one infinite source of consciousness
At thy lotus feet thy child always feel safe and happy.
Thank you deviji for re inforcing our belief with ur simple but powerful messages.
I thank you for this beautiful description of the use of smrithi and the purpose of memory. Thank you for reminding me of the importance of the subconscious and its need . The beauty of guru and discipline bond.
WOW! I have been practicing the skull tapping, as I read that Master recommended, for two minutes, during energization. 2 minutes becomes a long time when standing in front of the clock and waking up my brain cells. It is time well worth the effort. I come away clear and deeply focused. The clue for me is to do this daily, at least once. The other suggested exercises I will begin to practice daily, also.
Thank you dear soul for your loving guidance, consideration and wisdom. In Divine Gratitude, Steve
Thank you for the wonderful insight.
Electronics are rather frustrating.
Yogananda’s birthday was Jan.5. I was also born on Jan. 5 –
in a later year of course. It is an odd personal connection.
At some point I would like to visit California and meet you people.
It will not be soon.
All the best wishes to you. Thank you for sponsoring
this wonderful organization and website. Good luck to you
now and in the years to come.
Love and peace, Sandy
Dear Nayaswami Devi Ji,
Thank you for this wonderful blog!
The pointers and the guidelines to introspection / remembrance are very useful.
Dearest Devi Ji, thank you for this beautiful blog with tips. Thank you for sharing the disciple’s story with the additional part in your audio of how Swami Ramdas said to that disciple “no no you are dead. Yogananda is alive’. Loved your concluding lines “The more we’re able to access the stored memories of our Guru’s presence, and hold the thought of him in our conscious mind, the more quickly we will be able to realize our oneness with him”. Thank you thank you. (wish we had emojis to tag to the comment. here the ‘surrender’ one is apt and always is for the blogs you both write).