The little boy was orphaned at an early age when both of his parents were killed in a tragic accident. Fortunately, he was taken in by his loving grandparents, who raised him in the tradition of his people: the Cherokee.
Thus begins The Education of Little Tree, a beautiful book which describes the ways of these indigenous people, and their reverence for the Great Spirit and for all of creation.
As the boy grew to maturity, he was trained by his grandparents in both practical and spiritual skills. Then the time came when his elderly grandmother knew her life was coming to an end. As was the Cherokee tradition, in her final moments she looked into her husband’s eyes and said, “Next time it will be better.”
No regrets, no apologies, no clinging to what was, but simply the assurance that all souls are forever joined in spirit and are evolving towards higher consciousness.
This practice reflects the wisdom of the Indian masters, who tell us that life is a school to teach us the lessons our soul needs to find freedom. We move from incarnation to incarnation until we realize who and what we really are. Yoganandaji described the soul’s journey as an ascent up “the spiral stairway of wakefulness.”
What can we do to prepare for our next incarnation? First, look at the unfulfilled desires and ambitions to which you’re clinging. Ask yourself, “Do I really want these? Will they bring me lasting happiness?” If the answers are “yes,” then put out the energy to achieve them, and move on. If not, work to weed out their roots, which can entangle your consciousness.
Introspect and look at the negative mental or physical habits that hold you back. It takes honesty, persistence, and energy to overcome these, but with determined effort you can change any aspect of your life.
Don’t identify with your faults, but understand that these are just reflections of actions you performed in the past. They are karmic patterns you yourself set in motion, that now you can change. As Sri Yukteswar said, “Everything in future will improve if you are making a spiritual effort now.”
The ideal is to do your best, and to remain objective and non-attached. Every challenge you face in life is a lesson placed there for one purpose: to teach you something you must learn in order to find freedom. Don’t waste time on things that are empty distractions and ultimately slow your spiritual progress.
It’s important also not to dwell on past mistakes or failures. Keep affirming the virtues you want to develop, and take these goals forward into your next life. Once Swami Kriyananda was asked by his guru, Yoganandaji, to be in attendance at the deathbed of one of the Master’s students, a dignified man and a retired architect. In the last moments of his life he muttered remorsefully, “I’ve done many bad things in my life.”
Afterwards Swamiji came to Master and recounted what had happened. Yoganandaji replied, “He shouldn’t have said that. He will take this attitude of regret and guilt into his next incarnation.” Master went on to say that even if you are dying of a terrible disease, if you can affirm, “I am well” at the end, you will take that thought into your next life and have a healthy body.
So, how do we plan for our next incarnation? Right now take stock of your life: Eliminate what’s holding you back, and strengthen, or at least affirm, what will take you forward. Ask God to show you the soul lessons you need in this life, so you can quickly learn them. Always live in the thought that inner freedom is very near.
If you do these things, you may be surprised to find that your present life, too, is transformed. There may indeed be no compulsion to reincarnate at all. As Yoganandaji said, “When your schooling is done, and the end comes, and people are crying at your passing, you can rejoice and say, ‘Beloved One, Master Death is opening for me the gate to freedom. I have had enough schooling now. I shall go out no more.’”
With joy and freedom,
Listen to the weekly commentary for this blog, with 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 (5:51):
Download the audio recording of this week’s blog by right-clicking here. Or listen to it here (5:46):