As a full-fledged doubter, I’ve decided to take up the challenge to examine my thoughts for twenty-four hours to find proof of God. How should I go about it so that I will get a true result? If nothing happens, I don’t want to wonder if I didn’t do it right.
I admire your determination to accept this great challenge – which you found in Autobiography of a Yogi.
For those unfamiliar with that book, Paramhansa Yogananda describes an occasion when a skeptical scientist visited his master’s ashram.
“My guru [Sri Yukteswar] ordinarily was gentle and affable to guests; his welcome was given with charming cordiality. Yet inveterate egotists sometimes suffered an invigorating shock. They confronted in Master either a frigid indifference or a formidable opposition: ice or iron!
“A noted chemist once crossed swords with Sri Yukteswar. The visitor would not admit the existence of God, inasmuch as science has devised no means of detecting Him.
“‘So you have inexplicably failed to isolate the Supreme Power in your test tubes!’ Master’s gaze was stern. ‘I recommend an unheard-of experiment. Examine your thoughts unremittingly for twenty-four hours. Then wonder no longer at God’s absence.’
“A celebrated pundit received a similar jolt. With ostentatious zeal, the scholar shook the ashram rafters with scriptural lore. Resounding passages poured from the Mahabharata, the Upanishads, the bhasyas of Shankara.
What Sri Yukteswar actually seems to be saying is that if the chemist watches his thoughts for a day, he will understand that it is he himself who prevents God from being real to him, since he never elevates his thinking to the realm where God exists, but spends his mental energy on the material plane. Naturally, then he believes that God doesn’t exist.
I am sorry that we disagree in our interpretations – you seem to think Sri Yukteswar is saying “Examine your thoughts and you will find God.”
In either case, there are no detailed instructions. Perhaps if you pay attention to your thoughts for twenty-four hours, you will at least see that you are creating your own doubts. Perhaps that will be helpful.
An atheist once challenged Swamiji, “Can you define God in such a way that I, too, can accept the possibility that He is real.” Swamiji suggested, “Why don’t you define God as the highest potential that you can imagine for yourself.”
The man replied thoughtfully, “Well, I can live with that definition.”
The problem is that doubts cloud the way we see reality. Even worse, they keep us from taking action. And if we never take constructive action, our consciousness can never change and our perceptions will remain clouded. A self-perpetuating cycle of misery!
I suggest that you make no effort to resolve the bigger questions, but think only of what you can do today, in this hour to expand your consciousness, to soften your heart, to help others. Don’t think about where this is leading, but dwell on the happiness that right action brings you in the moment.
Any steps that you take in this way will begin to clear your consciousness and your perceptions. In time, your doubts will then be resolved by your own direct experience. God comes to us when we expand our awareness. This is why, when we grow larger in our hearts, we feel His bliss – as love, joy, wisdom, and fulfillment.
I will pray for you.