Director of Ananda Healing Prayer Ministry
My late husband, Timothy, and I were wedded twice. We had a family wedding, and then packed up and moved, sight unseen, to Ananda Village as our honeymoon. It was Spiritual Renewal Week (1978) — a special week of classes all taught by Swami Kriyananda, a direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda. At the end of that week, on Saturday night, we took Kriya Yoga initiation for the first time, with Swamiji. The next morning, at Sunday Service, also with Swamiji, we were married using the marriage vows written by Paramhansa Yogananda, which includes the words: “To bring souls on earth to worship God as newborn souls.”
It was a very special time for us, for we were newly married, newly initiated into Kriya yoga, and we knew we wanted to have a family. During one of the classes at Spiritual Renewal Week, Swamiji told the following story from Yogananda, which he later put into his book, Conversations with Yogananda.
“A couple expressed to me their desire for a spiritual child. I prayed for them, then showed them a photograph. This soul, I told them, would be suitable for them, and was also, I felt, ready to be reborn on earth.
“”Meditate on this soul,’ I said. ‘Concentrate especially on the eyes. Invite him to come dwell in your home. In addition, have no sexual contact for six months; abstinence will increase your magnetism.
“‘When, at the end of that time, you come together physically, think of that person, and think also of God. If you follow my advice in all these respects, that soul will be born to you.’
“They followed what I’d told them, and, some time later, that was the very soul which was drawn into their home.”
– Conversations with Yogananda: Recorded, with Reflections, by his disciple, Swami Kriyananda (J. Donald Walters), Entry #175
Since it was our very first week at Ananda, I assumed that Swamiji taught this often. However, it was another 20 years before I heard him mention it again! I can see why; it’s certainly not everyone’s cup of tea. I was ready for this information because I loved children, and we knew we wanted a family. I was also very motivated to do what I could to draw in spiritual souls, as I mentioned in “When Does the Soul Enter the Body?”
Though young, we had already lived together for some time; we even owned a cute little home in Arkansas. But as we came on to this spiritual path, we no longer wanted to live in accordance with the norms of our generation, rather, we wanted to align our lives with Yogananda’s spiritual ideals. Once we had that realization, we entered a period of celibacy, to pray for guidance. The question was not whether or not we loved each other, for we were happy together. But how do you know when to take a solemn vow of marriage? Suffice it to say, even though I’d had a deep intuition right before I met Tim that I was about to meet “the one,” I still needed a prayerful process to know that it was truly time to trust that inner voice and “jump off the dock,” so to speak, and make it real with a vow.
Also, as we were coming onto the spiritual path, I was surprised to find that I was feeling called to be a nun in a Catholic convent, even though I’d barely been to church since I had left home! When I was a girl, I wanted to be a nun, as a form of dedication to God, and Jesus and Mary. That seemed a long while ago, but that feeling came back at this time. It was not overwhelming, but it was strong enough to get my notice. We were new at meditating, but there were several times that I felt Divine Mother’s loving guidance in this prayerful time. One day, I felt Her grace enter the stillness of my heart with these words, “In this life, to learn unconditional love, be a mother.”
My heart was at peace. I now knew my path…So – by the time we heard Swamiji’s class, we had already been prepared in many ways. We knew about the power of having times of celibacy because of that prayerful time. And we had also found there was a special spiritual power in waiting, perhaps for a month or more, between those special times of coming together as a couple. The mind enters a more sublime state. The practice of meditation, plus a vegetarian diet, gives the body a sense of calmness that makes this more readily attainable. (Fruit is especially calming and uplifting.) We were young and in love, and still very romantic. We would laugh, hug, and kiss, and generally enjoyed being with one another, but we also had this other goal, and so we wanted to save the energy, and we knew that it was worth it.
I mention this because each couple has to find their own way with this process but I couldn’t relate to being a cold fish about it all. There was a still natural sense of joy and affection in those times, yet with a sense of restraint. Sexual freedom and connection are almost worshipped these days (especially in the media) so I feel a bit strange mentioning that your life as a couple, and as a devoted soul, can be enhanced with periods of celibacy, or “moderation,” define it as you will. I also address this topic in a healing visualization in my e-booklet called, “Psalm 23 in the Chakras:”
“He leadeth me beside the still waters” (excerpt: Second Chakra)
…The physical expression of love is an important, tender connection for many couples. It is often best, then, to focus on bringing in greater love, and lessening any sense of lust in the act, rather than to become radical and “renounce” it all prematurely, in the name of spiritual zeal. As a married couple learns the balance between sexual expression and inner stillness, great love can deepen between them, if they are mindful also to find other ways to express their purified love for each other, lest they become too austere. Be deeply kind to one another, always. Seeing the Divine Beloved enshrined in one another’s forms, the couple can both give and receive deeper love. In this way, love can, over time, be transmuted from the second chakra up to the heart center. This process must proceed with self-honesty and compassionate consideration toward the needs of the beloved and of oneself…
So we were ready to ask the blessings of God, Christ, Guru on our marriage, and in our desire for spiritual children. There was a deep blessing, and a powerful opening at my spiritual eye, that accompanied the time of our daughter’s conception. I felt the grace of our Guru perfecting the process, helping to uplift our consciousness because we were still such neophytes on the spiritual path. A special grace, power, and upliftment accompanied the conceptions of our other children as well. In addition, I sensed their basic soul essence and their avenues for growth in this lifetime. This has helped me as a parent.
It is noble to even aspire toward inviting spiritual souls to your family. Ask the blessings of Jesus or Yogananda on your marriage in this way. Ask Divine Mother, too. God’s grace answers such prayers and sincere intentions, and your prayers are a spiritual magnet in and of themselves. This is an important point, and I feel that it must be a large part of the reason that Paramhansa Yogananda put that line in his marriage vows, “To bring souls on earth to worship God as newborn souls.”
That vow registers as a prayer in the ether and helps those couples, I believe, even if they aren’t able to practice the six-month celibate period as stated, above. The principle of conserving your sexual energy to build spiritual magnetism for this prayer, however, is very important. Do whatever seems kind and reasonable for your marriage. Stretch yourselves, but not to the breaking point.
Over the years, I have counseled some couples on this matter, and that is why I stress this directional, rather than absolute, approach. I have seen that it can be helpful to some couples, and more attainable, to have a six-month period of intentional “moderation,” rather than complete celibacy. This can still help build spiritual magnetism for your meditations, and for your prayers to invite a spiritual soul to your family. Some traditions suggest only coming together physically once a month. This will help the process. Again, think about it, and pray about it; ask to be guided on what would be right for you now.
Some very saintly couples are naturally inclined to be celibate, living mostly as “brother and sister” except when coming together solely for the purpose of having children. The parents of Paramhansa Yogananda had such a marriage, as did the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux. So, if your marriage is also in this category, you are in very august company, and you should be able to apply Yogananda’s instructions rather naturally.
The parents of St. Therese of Lisieux, Louis and Zelie Martin, prayed for saintly children, and all five of their children were deeply dedicated to God. This is from her sister, Celine:
“…Not only my father when he was young but my mother also, had desired to enter the Religious Life. With the disappointment of their hopes, they both turned towards the married state, but aimed at realizing in it the maximum of Christian Spirit…After having lived for many months as brother and sister, they then wished to have many children in order to offer them to God…
…Between our parents there was a perfect agreement of heart and mind. My father often spoke to us of our “saintly mother,” as he called her. On her part, she wrote to her brother: “What a holy man my husband is! I wish every woman in the world could have his equal.” – The Father of the Little Flower: Louis Martin (1823-1894), by Celine Martin (St. Therese’s Sister)
Paramhansa Yogananda’s mother confided to his sister that only once a year did they unite together as husband and wife, for the purpose of having children. Otherwise, they each had a private bedroom, which suited their deeply spiritual and meditative natures. He wrote of his parents in Chapter 1: My Parents and Early Life:
…Father and Mother were Bengalis… Both were blessed with saintly nature. Their mutual love, tranquil and dignified, never expressed itself frivolously. A perfect parental harmony was the calm center for the revolving tumult of eight young lives… – Autobiography of a Yogi, by Paramhansa Yogananda
So, my purpose is only to inspire you in your next step. I certainly don’t mean to intimidate you with these wonderfully noble examples. If nothing else simply get a holy picture or statue that reminds you of God’s love, and every time you see it, ask God to bless your family with spiritually inclined children. Even that will help because it gets your energy going in that direction. And then, add in whatever else of what I have said here that you feel able to do while being loving toward your spouse, and yourself.
Some couples go through the heartache of miscarriages or infertility, and simultaneously also want to pray for a spiritually receptive child. This requires special prayers suited to this situation. The couple may be reluctant to practice long periods of celibacy in order to build magnetism to draw a high soul. They don’t want to create an obstacle toward conception. Several needs may coexist at once:
1) The desire for a child, in general
2) The need for the body to be healed in order to conceive
3) The hope for a spiritually inclined child
4) Prayers for guidance on how long to “try”
5) How many options and expenses are worth pursuing
6) When to let go, and simply enjoy the blessings of a peaceful meditative life
7) How to feel that life is always a gift, even when our deepest desires are denied or delayed? How to avoid having this upset our lives, or marriage, or friendships?
8) How to gracefully enjoy the children of your friends and relatives
You may be going through all of this, simultaneously. If so, you must give yourself space to find the right balance for you and your spouse in this situation. Pray your way through this – together and individually. For the most part, men are more easily philosophical about all this. That’s because fatherhood seems an abstract idea and responsibility, yet his loving concern for his wife’s happiness is very real. Strive to remain a source of love, joy, and comfort to each other. Keep it that way, no matter what the process and outcome. Prayer and peaceful meditation will help you very much in this regard.
Couples will vary in what steps they will consider in order to conceive. One young couple asked for prayers because they were going to try in vitro fertilization. The prayers were for the success of the method because this was their only chance, but I also knew that the prayers could help with the magnetism of drawing a spiritually inclined soul to them. It was successful all around and they were blessed with a healthy baby girl. The child is still very young and has a lovely, joyful nature.
Praying to conceive, while also practicing times of celibacy, are not at cross purposes with each other, because physically the process is enhanced with a time of waiting. Often couples are counseled to wait until the woman is more fertile each month, as this allows the husband’s sperm count to increase and strengthen. This waiting period could be spent praying for a spiritual soul to be born to you. Think and pray about what you can offer the child in terms of spiritual guidance and fulfillment. (You can read my article, “Finding God in Your Family” for ideas on that.) Hold this intention and feeling up in prayer, and then leave the results in the hands of the Divine.