Over the years, people would sometimes remark that Swami Kriyananda seemed very independent.
No doubt, Swamiji had a powerful will. And if a person didn’t know where his powerful volition was coming from, it may have appeared that he was simply being headstrong, doing only what he wanted personally.
This is very untrue. His inner strength of will may have made him seem independent, but he was never guided by personal whims.
In reality, what people saw as independence was an all-consuming determination to do whatever God asked, regardless of others’ expectations, or how they might try to influence him.
His loyalty to doing the Guru’s will may have looked like independence, but it was, in fact, the opposite.
Paramhansa Yogananda remarked that true freedom is the ability to do what you have to do, not what you want to do.
Why do we have to do anything? Because life demands it? Because God wants it? God makes it clear which directions will lead us to ever-increasing happiness. But He never imposes His will. We are always free to choose the path that leads to happiness or suffering.
God doesn’t want our slavish obedience. The divine rules that the masters teach are intended to give us the happiness we are all truly seeking.
How can we break out of our littleness and begin to align our will with God’s wisdom? Having known ourselves throughout our lives as this little self, with its memories of childhood, its relationships, and its desires and expectations, we naturally come to imagine that it defines us. Even so, we may catch occasional glimpses of our true reality. But it’s the masters who come with the power to awaken us permanently from this delusive ocean of suffering.
Yogananda had a disciple named Norman who had a huge, strong body. One day Master looked at Norman, and in a loud, stern voice, he shouted, “Get out!! Get out!!”
Norman was taken aback – he wondered, “Am I being thrown out of the ashram?” Master said, “Get out of delusion! Get out of that body. Don’t allow yourself to be this small thing that you think you are. This is not your truth.”
So many things in our lives aren’t remotely relevant to what we actually are. Some things seem especially close to us, like the person we marry, the job we’ve held for many years, whether we live or die, and whether the people we love are well and happy.
These things have their reality. But if we could see them with God’s eyes, we would understand that they are just bubbles floating on the surface of the cosmic ocean.
When we pray to Master, are we praying to his body? Or are we praying to his infinite cosmic Self? What we truly long to know is the bliss in which Yogananda had merged his human self. We are all trying to understand that in every least movement of our thoughts, actions, and feelings this little wave does not exist except as the ocean of spirit.
This is how our prayers and meditations, and our devotion help us. They take us beyond the little reality that surrounds us outwardly and seems so real, and into the true reality of God’s bliss – “in the land beyond my dreams,” as Paramhansa Yogananda put it, “where no clouds come, and golden dreams dwell.”
This is why renunciation is necessary. This is why self-discipline is necessary. This is why we need to live simply, and separate ourselves from the distracting, intoxicating streams of ordinary outward life. It’s why we need to stand somewhat apart and begin to peel away our attachments to the things we think we need.
In Hope for a Better World, Swamiji boils down the vast subject of economics and turns it completely on its head.
He asks, “What is wealth?” And he offers the answer: “Wealth is having what you want.”
That’s all. Wealth is having what we truly want, which we can only find deep within ourselves.
What do we truly need? We need peace of mind, a clear conscience, an expansive heart, health and energy, and the ability to do what life demands of us.
Yet we’ve become persuaded that we need all of these other things in order to be fulfilled.
Where does value come from? It comes from the amount of happiness we have. It doesn’t matter where we live, or what we own, or what we lack outwardly, as long as we have a consciousness that fulfills us.
I watched a film about a U.S. Army company that fought heroically in World War II. The son of one of those soldiers said that his father wanted no words engraved on his tombstone. He wanted it to state only his Army rank and company. The ability to transcend severe conditions and give himself fully to a cause that he believed in was the defining factor of his life, and it was what he wanted to be remembered for. It was his consciousness that gave him the pride and satisfaction that he enjoyed and valued.
Will we make outward things our value? Or will we answer the call of the masters? When Maya’s veil falls over us, God comes to us and says, “My child, what are you doing? Come back to me. I am your own.”
From a talk at Sunday service, January 26, 2003