One of the monks in Paramhansa Yogananda’s ashram became very emotional in his fervor.
In the midst of group chanting, he would cry out and roll on the ground, calling to God.
Some of the monks were quite put off by this. But when mentioned it to Yogananda, he said, “Ah – if only you all had that kind of fervor!”
We need to understand what’s important to God. We may have our ideas of what the spiritual life is about. But God doesn’t care about our ideas. Nor does He care about the feelings and images we have of ourselves – including the self-image we try to project to the world.
He accepts us exactly as we are. And what we are is a vibration that we’ve generated by our consciousness. Our consciousness shapes our actions and our thoughts, feelings, and what we feel is important in life.
A disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, the great Bengali saint of the 19th century, brought a group of dancers, singers, and actors to visit the ashram. Entertainers were considered of low caste, but Ramakrishna embraced them and gave them his heart.
After they left, some of the master’s more narrow-minded disciples wondered aloud he would welcome such low-class people.
The great yogi said, “The God they are worshipping now is dance and music.” And he added blissfully, “Ah – but they know how to worship!”
This is what pleases God. It isn’t the careful, well-organized way we present our self to the world. It’s when we give our heart.
Now, this certainly is not an age when we can live extreme lives of pure renunciation and devotion. The complexity of the modern world can seem overwhelming sometimes.
I look around my house, and the thought comes: “How can I simplify?”
How can I keep less food in the fridge? How can I clear out my cabinets? How can I spend less time cooking?” Faced with an endless stream of emails, phone calls, and material objects, the aspiring heart rebels. The mind seeks an escape – “I could be a better devotee if I had less to do. I would love God more if someone would do the cooking, and if I didn’t get so many emails.”
It’s easy to be distracted by all of the “irons in the fire.” And the temptation is to put those things mentally in a separate box from our spiritual life.
But can we really imagine that the conditions we’ve created for ourselves are outside of the will of God?
Some years ago, I got into a difficult situation with friends. I saw that they wouldn’t be able to escape their suffering, and I wept for their pain. And because I couldn’t do anything to help, the thought finally entered my mind, “Do you think this could be happening outside of God’s will?”
Do you think that the entirety of God’s creation is a manifestation of His satchidananda – His ever-conscious, ever-new bliss – except for this little square where you’re standing? Is this little piece of the cosmic structure a forgotten hole that isn’t satchidananda – not God?”
Of course not! So the natural conclusion is, “Why am I rebelling? Why am I sad that my life is this way? If this is where God has placed me, and if it’s what He’s asking of me, what kind of a response is rebellion?”
It’s not so unlike when you give a child a doll, and she cries, “This is purple! I want a pink one!”
Swami Kriyananda’s father returned from a business trip. He opened his suitcase and handed each of his sons a little toy boat. And immediately they began to argue about whose boat was better.
Finally, the father said, “Oh, I made a mistake,” and he switched the boats. And of course they immediately began arguing again.
There’s a natural, uncanny inclination to rebel against our situation. Because, let’s face it, it isn’t hard to imagine how almost any circumstance could be better.
But it isn’t the answer. “I’d be a better person if my circumstances were different. I’d have more time for loving God if someone would do the cooking.”
A classic spiritual question is whether we have free will. Yogananda answered it very simply: “We have one choice: to think of God, or not to think of Him.”
Let’s assume it’s true. And for the sake of argument, let’s assume that Divine Mother is every bit as present when we’re cleaning the house, taking the children to school, shopping for groceries, and cooking.
How could God not be there? How could anything be outside of God?
We need to turn within and see if we are in tune with the divine energy that is continually trying to express Itself through us. Or if we’ve allowed ourselves to sink into dullness, full of grumbling, while we wait for our problems to be magically solved so that we can begin to pursue our “real” spiritual life.
Swami said, “We spend so much of our life waiting to be rescued from the conditions we’re in – imagining that something will come and rescue us from them.”
The desire to be rescued is an expression of our soul’s desire to be healed of every suffering and liberated in God’s bliss. But there’s really no difference between ourselves and all of God’s creation, and if there’s anything we aren’t fully embracing in this life, to that extent we’re separating ourselves from God.
I remember a time when I was frightened about something I had to do. I prayed for Divine Mother’s comfort, and I was puzzled when She didn’t answer.
I prayed, “Why aren’t You comforting me?” And a picture flashed in my mind of someone to whom I hadn’t given very much compassion.
It was someone who had struggled in his life, and I didn’t feel much connection with him. I thought it would be okay if I turned my heart in other directions. And now I heard Divine Mother say, “If you close your heart to any of My children, how can I open My heart to you?”
I was urging a friend to be more conscientious in her attitude toward her work. I felt I’d earned a right to speak strongly, because I’d been trying to get her to understand this point for years. But she kept giving excuses, one after another. We were laughing, because we were friends. But I kept escalating, and she kept rejecting, excuse after excuse.
Finally, she said, “I’m scared when I do that.”
I said, “Oh, now you’re telling the truth! Let’s work with what’s true.”
It isn’t our weaknesses that God objects to. It’s our fear of opening ourselves to Him. How can we help but be imperfect? We’ve lived many lives, and this is as far as we’ve gotten. And God can’t hold us responsible for where we are, or for not doing more.
I said to someone, “If a child is four and behaves like a four-year old, will you be furious with him? What can he do? He’s four. Soon he’ll be six, then nine. And if he’s nine and behaves like a four-year-old, you can say, ‘You’re too old for this. You’re a big boy now.’ But when he’s four, you can’t say ‘Be a teenager.’ It’s impossible.”
And here we are, at whatever spiritual age we’ve reached, and we are exactly what we are. When we merely sit hoping to be rescued, without putting out an effort of our own, and when we hand Divine Mother a list of reasons we can’t do better, there’s nothing She can do to help us. But when we have the courage to say, “Divine Mother, I’m scared. This frightens me,” She is instantly sympathetic. “Oh, you’re frightened,” She says. “Take My hand, and I’ll help you get through it.”
The spirit and divine presence of God and the masters is with us, but not when we close our hearts, because then they simply can’t get in.
God bless you.