Early in their time together, Paramhansa Yogananda instructed his direct disciple, Swami Kriyananda, that his work in this lifetime would be lecturing, editing, and writing. When I met Swamiji in 1969, he was constantly engaged in these three activities, as well as in the Herculean task of launching the spiritual communities movement through Ananda.
His was not a typical yogi’s life of non-involvement, but one that demanded much of his physical, mental, and spiritual strength. Yet no matter how much energy traveling, lecturing, or other responsibilities required of him, he produced a steady stream of inspiring, beautifully written books.
I remember once discussing with him a writing project that he wanted me to undertake. Unsure of myself, I said to him, “Swamiji, I’m not a very good writer.” Not allowing me any room for excuses, he replied simply, “Then you’d better roll up your sleeves and get to work.”
Observing his life was always a powerful teaching. He was an accomplished writer from his early years, but nevertheless he worked incredibly hard at it. “Sometimes,” he told us, “I’ll edit a new chapter fifty times before I’m totally satisfied with it.”
Once he shared with us a story about writing that he said was a joke on him. He’d received a letter from someone who praised him for his clear, inspiring writing style. The next day, as he began working on the book at hand, he thought to himself, “I’d better do a good job today. I don’t want to disappoint my public.”
But as he tried to write, he couldn’t get into his usual creative flow. Realizing that he was writing to please “his public,” he then laughed, put this thought out of his mind, and started all over again. This time he concentrated on attunement with his guru and the points he wanted to make, and he quickly “got his groove” back.
Swamiji once said that working to win the approval or recognition of others is slavery, whereas working to please only God is freedom.
Overcoming the need for people’s praise is a big challenge for all of us. A friend of mine recently wrote for advice about how to rise above this need, and to serve more with the thought of pleasing God. Here are some suggestions I gave her:
1) If someone praises your service, remember that any good thing we do flows through us from God. Mentally thank God for helping whoever has thanked you.
2) In working with a team, make sure that everyone shares in the credit for what is done, and take as little of it for yourself as possible.
3) In meditation at night, consciously offer to God everything you’ve done that day, and then release it.
4) Repeat regularly these words of Yoganandaji: “Beloved Father, I realize that praise does not make me better, nor blame worse. I am what I am before my conscience and Thee. I shall travel on, doing good to all and seeking ever to please Thee, for thus shall I find my only true happiness.”
In all that you do—even the humblest task—consciously seek to please only our Heavenly Father/Divine Mother. Their approval earns us the lasting joy of ego-transcendence.