Change, while constant, can be challenging to our spirit. Change that bodes ill for cherished hopes and ideals is even more difficult to dismiss. Thus millions of people were shocked, “shaken and stirred,” with the election results.
In Autobiography of a Yogi, Paramhansa Yogananda describes the Hindu version of the universal, if ancient, belief that humanity goes through cycles of progressively higher, and then lower, awareness over thousands of years. Suffice to say (for the benefit of our topic), humanity is currently engaged in a struggle between an emerging and globally aware consciousness and many centuries of ignorance and blind belief based on superficial differences such as birth, status, wealth, religion, gender and race.
As the informed intensity and energy of science and technology empowers both the tribally circumscribed peoples and the globally-embracing peoples, we see the stakes getting higher and higher. Weapons are increasingly destructive; communication, increasingly all pervasive; ideas, good, bad, true or false, loving or hateful, rapidly spread.
But Yogananda indicates that our advancing age, though not especially spiritual, is nonetheless a subtler and aware one. When all races, nations, religions, and culture are intermixed throughout the world, how can prejudice based on superficial characteristics (rather than the nature of a person’s character and merits) be sustained?
When humanity is busy uncovering the secrets of nature, how can we fail to illuminate the secrets of our own, human nature?
In Chapter 33 of the autobiography, Yogananda writes, “[Babaji] is in constant communion with Christ; together they send out vibrations of redemption, and have planned the spiritual technique of salvation for this age. The work of these two fully-illumined masters — one with the body, and one without it — is to inspire the nations to forsake suicidal wars, race hatreds, religious sectarianism, and the boomerang-evils of materialism. Babaji is well aware of the trend of modern times, especially of the influence and complexities of Western civilization, and realizes the necessity of spreading the self-liberations of yoga equally in the West and in the East.”
But the upliftment of society to a more universal view of the diversity of human culture won’t come automatically. Nor does it happen by the efforts of a mere handful of super-humans, saints, or avatars. Many hands are needed to usher in the miracle of higher consciousness.
Near the end of Yogananda’s training and life at Sri Yukteswar’s ashram, Sri Yukteswar one day surprised Yogananda by asking him:
“ ‘Why are you averse to organizational work?’
“Master’s question startled me a bit. It is true that my private conviction at the time was that organizations were ‘hornets’ nests.
“ ‘It is a thankless task, sir,’ I answered. ‘No matter what the leader does or does not, he is criticized.’
“ ‘Do you want the whole divine channa (milk curd) for yourself alone?’ My guru’s retort was accompanied by a stern glance. ‘Could you or anyone else achieve God-contact through yoga if a line of generous-hearted masters had not been willing to convey their knowledge to others?’ He added, ‘God is the Honey, organizations are the hives; both are necessary. Any form is useless, of course, without the spirit, but why should you not start busy hives full of the spiritual nectar?’
“His counsel moved me deeply. Although I made no outward reply, an adamant resolution arose in my breast: I would share with my fellows, so far as lay in my power, the unshackling truths I had learned at my guru’s feet. ‘Lord,’ I prayed, ‘may Thy Love shine forever on the sanctuary of my devotion, and may I be able to awaken that Love in other hearts.’”
Thus by example and by the life and leadership Yogananda provided to his American students and his close disciples, and from the lessons given to us down through the ages, much work and much sacrifice is needed to give birth to a new world, transcended of narrow-eyed prejudices and resultant violence.
We must see that the current and seeming setback in the advance of higher awareness is but a goad to our individual and group commitment to work for the spread of high ideals through sustainable and harmonious living. Discouragement defeats our will.
If you’re inspired to read Autobiography of a Yogi, I’m excited to give it to you! Dec. 1st we celebrate 70 years of the original Autobiography of a Yogi. Ananda is giving away a free audiobook or e-book of the original autobiography, and a free livestream Celebration of Yogananda, webcast from Bodhi Tree live in Los Angeles on Dec. 1, 7-9 p.m. PST.
Join Joan Borysenko, Yogi Cameron, Philip Goldberg, Elizabeth Rohm, and Nayaswamis Jyotish and Devi, as they share how the Autobiography of a Yogi inspired their spiritual path.
Livestream viewers will also enjoy the world premiere of The Spark, the documentary short film that reveals how Yogananda and his autobiography ignited a spiritual revolution in the West.
It is not enough to hold hope and faith in the privacy of your heart and hearth. If the fate of so many nations whose citizens remained passive in the face of wrong is to be avoided, if the destiny of America to lead by its example in manifesting its founding ideals is to mature, then each and every one of us should vow, as Yogananda did, to “share with my fellows the unshackling (and universal) truths” that we are all children of the one God!