All of life is bound together by a common purpose. From the lowliest worm to the most exalted saint, all are seeking the same goal: bliss. This search may take many forms—from finding a juicy leaf to union with God—but this shared desire for true happiness motivates us all.
People do themselves a disservice when they put great saints on a high pedestal beyond their own attainment. The masters are not different from us in kind, but in degree of awareness. They’re our spiritual parents who have walked before us on the path to bliss, and they’ve come to show us how we, too, can get there.
In Autobiography of a Yogi, Paramhansa Yogananda writes of the deathless Himalayan master, Babaji: “Only one reason, therefore, can motivate Babaji in maintaining his physical form from century to century: the desire to furnish humanity with a concrete example of its own possibilities.”
Our own possibilities: this is what we should bear in mind when we become discouraged about our spiritual progress. Swami Kriyananda once told us about a letter he’d received from someone who was downhearted that while Swamiji had done so much in his life, he himself had been able to accomplish so little. Swamiji was quiet for a while, then added strongly, “He shouldn’t feel that way about himself. He needs to understand that I’ve just been at it longer.”
By putting saints in a special category, we blind ourselves to the fact that they, too, have had tests and flaws that they’ve overcome by perseverance. Remember that the great ones have stood on the exact spot where we stand now. With determination and hard work, however, they’ve surmounted the obstacles that stood between them and bliss.
In Swami Kriyananda’s autobiography, The New Path, he tells this story from Yoganandaji’s life: “Bernard [one of the monks], upon whom Master had been urging some difficult undertaking, remonstrated one day, ‘Well, Sir, you can do it. You’re a master.’
“‘And what do you think made me a master?’ the Guru demanded. ‘It was by doing! Don’t cling to the thought of weakness, if your desire is to become strong.’”
If we face our tests with confidence and strength, these same challenges become our greatest tools for spiritual growth. Then we can see our limited human consciousness not as a barrier, but as a bridge to divine accomplishments.
This, then, is the gift of the great souls who have walked before us on the spiritual journey: They show us that we, too, can find the bliss we’re seeking. They have given us techniques, tools, right attitudes, as well as their examples of courage and strength to guide us on.
In Swami Kriyananda’s play, The Jewel in the Lotus, one of the characters is a saintly sadhu wandering in the Himalayas, who tells a small group of his followers: “A true guru comes to this earth, not to show people how different he is from them, but to inspire them with a sense of their own divinity.”
We are one with all life in our shared quest for bliss. We are one with the great masters in our shared innate divinity. It is up to us now to claim these inherent aspects of our being as our own, and finally to reach the end of our soul’s journey.
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