In writing this book, I have felt rather like Arjuna being counseled by Krishna (as we read in India’s scripture, the Bhagavad Gita). Arjuna didn’t want to slay his own kith and kin (who, in the Mahabharata, symbolized his own negative qualities), but Krishna urged him to fight in the name of right action. I have nothing, personally, against my brothers and sisters on the path. I want simply to correct what I perceive as wrong actions and directions.
The important thing now, as I near the end of this book, is to consider the question: What practical steps, if any, might be taken to solve, or at least to improve upon, the problems I have presented in these pages? Is it possible, even this late in the game, to rescue Yogananda from the prison in which people’s recollections have incarcerated him? Facts are facts, but sometimes even the bleakest facts can be converted into blessings.
Let us consider, then, whether anything might be done to bring the facts presented here to the best possible conclusion. What I offer are simply suggestions. Many others may present themselves to you.
a) The first point to consider is this: Do organizations have to be uncharitable? Surely the answer is: Not at all! If it is possible to be less charitable, it must be equally possible to be more so. Ananda Church of Self-Realization and its World Brotherhood Colonies are outstandingly loving and supportive of others, regardless of anyone’s beliefs. The first principle at Ananda is: “People are more important than things.” The second one, fundamental also, is: “Where there is adherence to truth, there lie victory, happiness, success, and fulfillment of every kind.” (The wording in the Sanskrit is: “Yata dharma, sthata jaya.”)
b) The human ego has two potential directions of development. It can shrink inward upon itself; or it can expand outward by serving God—by loving Him, serving Him, and serving the needs of others. The goal of the spiritual life is transcendence of ego-consciousness, which separates us from God and delays indefinitely our ultimate destiny: union with Him. The ego cannot be transcended by ignoring the demands it makes of us. Attempting to acquire humility by self-abasement or self-criticism produces few, if any, positive results. Humility cannot even be acquired: It is a natural quality of the soul. The best way to overcome ego-consciousness is to expand one’s self-awareness by giving outwardly to others; by making oneself a channel for God’s expansive love; and by including everything and everyone in one’s own expanding bliss.
For example, the secret of remaining humble when lecturing is not self-deprecation, but self-forgetfulness while giving outwardly to others in a spirit of sharing. It lies in thinking of the needs of others, rather than concerning oneself with the impression one is making on them. As for me, I have never seen myself as teaching anyone. My feeling has always been that I am only sharing.
In order to conquer desire, try to give more, outwardly, to others, to share your fulfillments with them.
When receiving praise, respond from your heart: “God is the Doer.” Amusingly, once when I said that to a lady who had praised a talk of mine she replied in amazement, “Really!”—as if to say, “I knew it was good, but I didn’t realize it was that good!” Obviously, I give the credit to God only for whatever level of good I myself have attained. As Yogananda used to pray, “I will reason, I will will, I will act, but guide Thou my reason, will, and activity to the right path in everything.”
When people deprecate or insult you, on the other hand, thank them for trying to help you. Then thank God also, and ask Him to help you remain humble.
c) God’s nature is bliss. For an organization to serve with an expansive spirit, it is important that its members also work with bliss. In other words, be happy in yourself. Never work with the thought of merely achieving happiness someday: work now with happiness. Be happy now!
d) Self-importance is the death of wisdom. It is most easily combated by a light touch of humor. Learn to laugh at yourself, especially. Never feel that rejecting humor demonstrates proper spiritual dignity. True dignity means to be centered in the inner Self, and to act always from that center. It doesn’t mean to be stern. What it means, rather, is to remain inwardly relaxed and natural, centered in the inner Self. Regardless of whether life’s circumstances sweep you left or right, up or down, forward or backward, try always to maintain your centerpoise. Self-importance increases inner tension, and thereby reduces one’s degree of happiness.
e) I have emphasized the importance of keeping a sense of humor. Remember always, too, that the underlying reality of everything is bliss. Seek bliss at the heart of everything. Laugh with bliss!
f) A temptation on the spiritual path is to tell oneself that one’s service to God is important. Never forget that life itself is, essentially, a dream. You will enjoy the dream more, once you learn not to take any of it too seriously.
g) Never consider any position of authority to bestow power over others. See even the highest post as an opportunity to serve others, not to be served by them. People will be far more willing to follow you if they know that your desire is to help them, rather than to be helped by them. In applying Ananda’s basic principle, “People are more important than things,” it is important to keep referring back to this thought always. At Ananda, we never use anyone, not even for a worthy objective. Our first consideration, always, is a person’s spiritual needs. People will work far more willingly if their well-being is given top consideration. If there is a job that needs doing, but no one can be found who might be helped in the doing, we prefer either to delay the project or to abandon it altogether. I might add that I myself have applied this principle very strictly in my own work with others.
h) How is one to decide in advance whether an act is righteous or unrighteous? The answer is: Visualize the results; then consult your heart. If the act promises greater, more expansive, and selfless happiness, the promise itself suggests good karma. If, on the other hand, the very thought of that act could be a threat to anyone else’s true happiness, realize that this very fact suggests bad karma. The saying, “The end justifies the means,” is true only if that end is seen as benefiting everybody concerned. If its results threaten the well-being of even one person, eschew that action like the plague!
i) Nothing that anyone does can make a person more or less important in God’s eyes. It is one’s attitude that God watches, not his actions.
j) Obedience in a monastery should be given above all to truth itself. Freedom from ego can never come through disregard for this principle. Superiors who make unreasonable demands of others in the name of disciplining them, and who demand mindless obedience, only increase their own egotism. They get bad karma, moreover, for weakening others’ will power. The primary duty of a superior is to encourage wisdom (which is to say, right understanding) in those working under him. It is supremely important for him to see his high position as a means of helping those lower than himself on the organizational ladder to keep climbing upward in their development.
k) It is natural for organizations to expect loyalty of their members. It is important, therefore, to encourage people to be loyal above all to the truth as they themselves perceive it. The saying, “My country, right or wrong,” is dangerous. Organizations—as much so as people—are capable of making mistakes. Never follow blindly any organizational request made of you, or any decision reached by others. A dharmic organization will always keep itself open to correction. The dharmic individual will prefer even dismissal—or, if not that, then demotion—to acquiescence, if a directive is not dharmic.
All parties, however, should be generous toward one another, and also lenient—as long as the intentions seem good. Remember, it is difficult to change anyone, including oneself, overnight. This fact is as true for organizations as it is for individuals. Even if someone greatly needs correction, the better part of wisdom is to understand that change often takes time. Often, indeed, the greater the need for change, the greater the time required to bring it about.
l) It is important for leaders never to show personal favoritism. True leadership, though always friendly, must at the same time be both impartial and impersonal. A leader must discipline himself never to show greater appreciation to those who think well of him than to those who offer worthwhile, but possibly non-supportive, suggestions. Indeed, it sometimes happens that a person’s critics turn out to be his greatest friends. In practical terms, what all this means is that one should always consider the merits of an idea over the question, “who offered the idea?”
m) Welcome disagreement, if intelligent. Never dismiss it with a wave of the hand merely because it seems, to you, inconvenient. It is usually better to meet an idea with reason than with emotion. And remember again: Never, in any decision you make, show favoritism.
n) Remember this also: right decisions are seldom reached on a basis of personal likes and dislikes. One should always seek solid, objective support for whatever decision he makes.
o) At the same time, it is important to realize that clear intuition is more insightful than logic. If, on consulting your heart, you perceive there any sense of nervousness or uncertainty, or if the guidance you feel is more emotional than intuitive (note, for example, whether it comes with a touch of excitement), view it with suspicion. It is usually best to be sensible, simply; that is to say, consider every new idea impartially. Yet give supreme importance, always, to that deeper wisdom which arises from the soul.
p) In the above context, be very careful to avoid past karmic influences. Those suggestions can be very subtle, but they can also be very deceiving.
Tara Mata many times told Daya Mata before they dismissed me, “Who knows what karma lies between Kriyananda and me?” She should have heeded her deeper feelings on the matter: they were a warning.
Interestingly, many years later, a young man came all the way from New York to California with the sole purpose of telling me about a vision he’d had recently. In the vision, he said, Tara Mata had appeared to him. She admitted to him that she had allowed herself to be influenced by a memory she’d carried over from a former lifetime.
“Two thousand years ago,” she said, “at the time of the Adi, or first, Swami Shankaracharya, Kriyananda and I both were disciples of that great master. [I myself have often wondered whether our guru was not also that great master.]
“I was Kriyananda’s younger brother. Kriyananda in that lifetime betrayed our guru and set himself up as a rival teacher, taking students away from the Master, who had placed him in charge of the monks. I felt deep anger toward Kriyananda. That prejudicial memory was what influenced me to insist on his dismissal in this life.”
I believe this vision may actually have been true. We all have had many faults, and, during the countless incarnations it takes to find God, commit countless wrong deeds. All our bad karma must be neutralized before final liberation in God can be attained. Master himself told me that my greatest fault in the past was spiritual doubts. “You were eaten up with them,” was the way he expressed himself to me. In this lifetime, fortunately, there remains only enough of a suggestion of doubt in my heart to help me solve other people’s doubts.
That young man, having traveled all the way from New York to California for the sole purpose of sharing his vision with me, said that Tara regretted the manner in which she had treated me in this life, and asked me to embrace him on her behalf, to show that I’d forgiven her. Of course, I did so. My visitor then left immediately, not even participating in a satsang that was being held at that moment downstairs in my living room. He returned at once to New York.
q) Yogananda told me in 1949, when placing me in charge of the other monks, “Don’t make too many rules. It destroys the spirit.” The best rule any organization can make is, “The fewer rules, the better.” It is a temptation for organizations to produce rules, like confetti! The result, always, is a diminished application of free will to any new undertaking. Rules establish guidelines, but the guidelines, from then on, require no further testing or consideration. The problem is, they are very often applied to new situations unthinkingly.
r) Never mistake eloquence or cleverness for wisdom.
s) Never mistake self-assurance for Self-, or soul-assurance. Wisdom is often self-effacing, even diffident. Trust people according to their proven wisdom. Don’t rely too much on their self-confidence. Self-esteem, though praised by psychiatrists, is a dangerous ideal.
t) Take occasional breaks from serious activity. The search for God is the most serious activity of all, but even so, time should be set aside for fun, laughter, and relaxation. Since God is Bliss, one can (and indeed should) keep a sense of His presence even while enjoying life.
u) Never make the mistake of thinking that seniority in an organization automatically bestows wisdom. Wisdom is of the soul, and comes from many incarnations of experience, with its gradually unfolding insight. “The last shall be the first,” Jesus said. True authority depends not on when you came to a religious work: It comes from the eternal soul. In its own context, this is true for every kind of work, even the most worldly. True authority comes with experience.
v) Never draw attention to your own superior spirituality, intelligence, or competence. All souls, in their inner essence, are spiritual, and are therefore perfect. All of them, equally, are children of God.
There was a certain cartoon I saw many years ago: two monks, one of whom, looking down his nose at the other, protested, “But I am holier than thou!”
w) Never believe that you have overcome a delusion until the very thought of it no longer enters your mind. As long as there remains the slightest fear of that delusion, know that you are not yet free from it. Remember, once a delusion is truly overcome, it will simply cease, for you, to exist. You will then wonder why you were ever enslaved by it, and may well ask yourself, marveling, “What was all the excitement about?”
x) A truly spiritual person is childlike, but not childish. Be open and non-judgmental toward everything and everybody.
y) The fruit of right meditation is inner joy. If your spiritual practices make you solemn or dour, know from this fact alone that there is something amiss in your spiritual efforts.
z) The most important quality on the spiritual path is deep, selfless, heartfelt devotion and love for God.
All of the above qualities were things I learned from observing them in my Guru, Paramhansa Yogananda.