Recently we saw a remarkable documentary called March of the Penguins, filmed in Antarctica.
The lives of penguins in one of the harshest places on the planet are, as you might imagine, rather limited. Survival and reproduction pretty much sums it up. But even with that small “script,” the film was beautiful and moving.
Penguins, like all creatures, are just like us: egos on a long spectrum between delusion and Self-realization. Penguins are farther down the spectrum, so they have less awareness than we do. But their awareness is not fundamentally different from ours – it is only a matter of degree.
The human nervous system is capable of perceiving infinity; the nervous system of animals is not. Human beings are the highest species, Paramhansa Yogananda said, because we have a unique potential for realizing God.
In the movie, when seals attack the penguins, we cheer for the penguins. But if it had been a movie about seals, we might have sided with them.
(Photo: Yogacharya Oliver Black. Yogananda said that Mr. Black was second in Self-realization among his disciples, after only his chief disciple, Rajarsi Janakananda.)
No one was doing anything wrong. Each was acting as God intended. Yogananda said, “Spirit is center everywhere, circumference nowhere.” How we feel about the play, however, depends on our perspective. Again, Yogananda said, “Circumstances are always neutral. They seem to be positive of negative depending on the sad or happy attitudes of the mind.”
There is an odd story about Yogananda and one of his advanced disciples, Yogacharya Oliver Black.
The two were walking one day, when they came across a stream of ants. Carefully and deliberately, Yogananda stepped on the ants. Mr. Black was horrified. The master turned to him calmly and said, “Oliver, it was their time to go.”
Swami Kriyananda reports that the master gave Mr. Black this experience to cure him of a too-sentimental attitude toward lesser creatures.
Paramhansa Yogananda was as much in the ants as in his own body. He was as much on the astral and causal planes as he was in the material world.
From our point of view, it might seem terribly important that the ants continue their lives as ants. But from the point of view of omnipresence, isn’t it inevitable, in fact, desirable, that the divine consciousness be freed to manifest in a higher way? Who would want to be an ant forever?
Lack of compassion is not a spiritual quality. Everything is a manifestation of God. But this also means that every experience comes from God, no matter what frightening form it may take, from our human perspective. And each experience has an equal capacity to bless us.
These attitudes are building blocks of our spiritual life. Our likes and dislikes cause us endless suffering and bind us to delusion.
Swami Kriyananda said, “The only thing that holds us back from realizing our oneness with God is a little veil of delusion that says, ‘I want this,’ and ‘I like that’ The more you get rid of such desires, the more you see that it is simple to be omnipresent.”
Blessings and joy,