Paramahansa Yogananda’s message was as ancient, as brilliant, and ever-new as the sun: Arise! Awaken to your divine Self. It’s a new day. There’s another way to live…
Paramahansa Yogananda, great yoga master and beloved sage who brought Kriya Yoga to the West in 1920, remains a beacon of light for millions who have read his spiritual classic, Autobiography of a Yogi, or in some other way encountered the vast treasure of Vedic teachings he unlocked and left open for us.
I’ve stopped counting the number of people who tell me how his book opened their eyes to higher Reality, impelled them onto the spiritual path, and changed the trajectory of their life. Imagine! For some, just seeing the book on the shelf—its rich ochre color with the soul-deep gaze of Paramahansaji shining out from the cover—is an irresistible call to awaken to another dimension of being. I’ve heard people describe it getting their attention by literally falling off the shelf, drawing them from across the room, or being the one book of all books that a friend handed to them, saying “just read.”
For others like me, the introduction to Paramahansa Yogananda’s life and teachings came from his living legacy—one of his disciples passing on the flame that he kindled in the heart. Meeting my guru, Roy Eugene Davis, who lived, studied, and trained with Yogananda, was my introduction to that soul fire. How does light like that become kindled in the soul? How does a life like Yogananda’s transform from seeker to sage? What can it tell us about our innate spiritual power and potential?
Making the months-long journey across the wide oceans as a twenty-seven-year-old teacher of yoga’s universal how-to-live principles, Paramahansa Yogananda put himself, and the principles he stood for, to the test. How he lived them, how he developed (as prophesized in his infancy) into a “spiritual engine” that would bring many souls to God, shines before us as a path of Self-realization, open to any who would make the intentional, life-transforming journey of living by higher purpose.
That’s the first life-transforming lesson I learned from him.
Live intentionally with higher purpose. When you do, you will discover an invincible, grace-bestowing Power within you that will draw to you whatever is needed for fulfillment of your divine purpose.
Our lives are powered by purpose. When we bring the intention to live a spiritually conscious life to forefront of our awareness, it galvanizes our vision and our action. Recognizing that we are here to awaken saves us from the ever-present delays of distraction and sets us on a steady course of purposeful engagement.
To be guided by higher purpose requires us to be willing to learn, discover how to cooperate with the Infinite and make course corrections along the way.
Lesson Two: Stay Open
A purposeful life is like a great steamship coursing through the waters of the world. Although it’s path is straightforward, the journey is marked time and again by course correction. Every new encounter can expand our awareness—if we are willing to learn. Staying open is being willing to learn.
Whenever I read Yogananda’s autobiography, I am struck by his willingness to lay bare his soul—to let us eavesdrop on his heart’s longing to know God, reveal his awkward attempts along the way, the sometimes-stinging course corrections given to him by his beloved guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar, and his indefatigable persistence on the path.
How can we develop if we are not willing to enter the fires of transformation? How can we progress without becoming a learner, a disciple of the way?
Along the way, we experience the mix of joys, sorrows, insanity, and profound compassion that permeates our world. How do we walk through it, engage with it, and serve without losing heart? Without getting distracted by either pain or pleasure? The third lesson I learned from Yogananda is the answer.
Lesson Three: Decide to Be Happy
Nothing need change for us to know and affirm the soul’s natural joy. We don’t have to ignore suffering. Instead, we can bring our awakened, compassionate heart to those around us once we decide to be happy.
My lifelong inherited commitment to suffering caused me to strongly question the great yogi’s teaching on happiness. Why should I be happy when so many suffer? Was I to shut my eyes to the reality around me? Ignore what I was feeling? Even as I write this, I can inwardly hear Yogananda’s voice declaring: Life is joy. Live in joy! That is your nature.
I was making the great mistake. I worried about denying my feelings when all the while I had been denying my true Self. I was denying the joy of my soul.
Once we decide to live from our innate wholeness, we can be happy for no reason. This empowers us to love unconditionally. Which is, of course, the goal.
Lesson Four: Make Love Your Aim
To contemplate the divine omnipresent Reality as Love is to consider it as our primary inheritance. We are That Divine Love which is all in all, the unifying power and presence, the life of our life, the heartbeat and breath of every living thing.
Paramahansa Yogananda concludes his moving autobiography with the assertion that “God is Love; His plan for creation can be rooted only in love.”
To make Love our aim is to ever reach beyond the confines of the small self that insists on being separate and alone, and instead embrace the oneness of all that is. It’s as simple, and as profound, as living by the Golden Rule. Do it. Do it every day and don’t give up.
Lesson Five: Be Steadfast
Unwavering dedication to the goal of a Self- and God-realized life is a decision to live in the soul, to anchor our awareness in the true Self. Steadfastness on the path is refusing to put off the soul life. It is returning, again and again, to the truth of our being.
When I consider the many lessons I have received from Yogananda’s life, the commitment to be steadfast on the spiritual path comes shining through.
How often do we put off the deep urging of the soul to stop our frantic search for fulfillment and come home to our innate wholeness? Come home to live in the soul! Turn attention and awareness within and invite the inner light of Supreme Consciousness to illumine our thoughts and guide our actions.
Start there. Live from there. Be steadfast.
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