From a seminar given in Turin, Italy, February 18, 1999
In one sense, living with a great master like Paramhansa Yogananda was a normal experience. He was human like you or me. In another sense, though, it was not at all normal. I was always amazed in his presence, because he made us believe that we each had the potential to become like Jesus Christ.
Even Jesus said, "That which I have done, you must do, and also greater things, as I must return to my Father!" All the masters have come, not to impress us with their greatness, but to give us faith in what we ourselves can become. It is the sounding board of a violin that allows its music to fill a concert hall. The strings alone barely make a sound. In the same way we all are part of a much greater reality which gives us strength.
If you are swimming in the ocean, a large wave may approach you and threaten you. From the deck of a ship, however, you see many waves and they don’t seem so high. From an airplane, you do not even see the waves, just the ocean, which can resemble a calm mirror. In our lives we are preoccupied with the little things that affect the ego.
It seems so important when someone says an unkind word to you, or when you lose a coveted opportunity. When you think not only of your little self, but of your greater Self – that reality of which we are all a part – you cannot imagine how much strength can come to you. I have read philosophy and theology books which tried to explain the miracles of Jesus, saying that they were not possible.
Living with a master, I have seen with my own eyes that miracles are but little things to a master. Yogananda performed many miracles without even letting them be known. They were normal for him for the simple fact that we are all part of a cosmic energy. With this energy you can put yourself in tune with any ray of truth you wish and understand many things.
For example, when I wrote a song for the Psalm of David, a Jewish friend told me, "I know that you’ve never been in a synagogue, but this is just the kind of music that a cantor sings in a synagogue." How can we know these things? We are all part of the same reality. By meditation, and by the techniques that put you in tune with this vast truth, you begin to understand how others think, and how to succeed in whatever you feel guided to do, in any field.
Channeling does not mean calling with an empty mind and demanding, "Please give me something!" That which you wish to channel comes from within you, not from others or from information you have gathered.
At university I took a course in Greek, but almost never went to class. The professor said, "For some students here, it may not be worth their trouble to come to the exam." Everyone turned to me and laughed. The night before the exam I still hadn’t studied, and in my desperation I made a very important discovery: Instead of thinking, "But this Greek is too difficult," I said to myself, "I am a Greek!"
With this thought it then became only a question of recognition. In this way I absorbed as much as my mind was able to absorb that evening. As it turned out, only two students passed that exam and I was one of them – not for any special talent, but for this principle.
Saint Teresa of Avila said, "I don’t want to hear any of my nuns say, ‘I am not a saint,’ because you have come here to become saints." It’s true that you haven’t yet arrived at this goal, but that isn’t the important thing. Don’t hypnotize yourself with the mistakes you have made. You are as much a child of God as any master who has ever lived. You have the capacity for infinite love.
I saw that Yogananda was always very serious about this. He saw in each of us the ability to become what he was. We’re hypnotized by the thought that we are weak, we are too human, we are full of jealousy, full of pettiness – but this is not the truth. As a youth I had the desire to become a poet and playwright. I sat down and wrote, "Page One, Chapter One…" and then…nothing. Finally I said to myself, "Why flood the world with my ignorance?" and I left this ambition and decided to seek God and truth. When I meditated a little I saw that inspirations come so quickly that it is difficult even to hold onto them all, because they do not come from me but from another source.
Yogananda taught us that we live surrounded by an ocean of energy. How do we attune ourselves with this energy, and how do we attract this energy? The great composers understand that they receive inspiration from a much greater source, while the not-so-great think that they create music with the mind. You can be original in creativity if you act from your center, from your heart. When a lover says, "I love you," it is ever new, because it comes from the heart. Whatever you speak from your point of origin is original, even if the words have been used thousands of times before.
Seek inside yourself the fountain of inspiration, and you will see that God expresses Himself in a new way through each person, each flower, each cloud. There are two steps to follow: First, be aware of this fountain of inspiration, and then use will power to put it into action. Yogananda taught us exercises for recharging the body with energy, using willpower. I have seen many times that this energy is always available to be drawn upon.
Once, I was building a house at Ananda’s first retreat. I needed to do a very difficult job with my hand. After 500 times I could not close my hand one more time. Then I thought that the snows of winter were about to arrive and it was necessary to finish the job. With this thought, and using Yogananda’s technique, I continued to work. After the tenth time, the work suddenly became easier, and I was able to continue another 500 times without difficulty.
There is potential energy in each of us and, by use of the will, you will never get tired. This energy gives you great power. True strength is not merely physical, but is a strength that is moral and spiritual.
Once, three men with guns approached Yogananda and told him to give them all his money. He responded, "Okay, I am not attached to money. But I have wealth you cannot take from me: You can have it only if I give it to you." Yogananda then gazed at them with love and they started to tremble, saying, "We can no longer live the way we have been living. What have you done to us?" He changed their lives.
More important than mere strength is an energy of love and joy. If you can go among people and share a little joy, this is the greatest gift you can give. Yogananda gave us the possibility to understand that we can accomplish whatever we put our mind to.
What we do is not important, but the spirit in which we do it is very important. You can give a sermon just walking down the street with a beautiful smile, saying nothing; or in the office writing a business letter. There is no need to say, ‘this is spiritual,’ or ‘that is not spiritual.’ Spirituality depends on your attitude. You can be a lawyer, businessman, secretary, cook, nurse, waitress if you do it with the consciousness, "I offer my life to Him."
The moment has come to sanctify the world, and the responsibility is yours. You need to change. Don’t think that you can leave religion to the priests: You are potentially a saint. Even if you were in hell, you would be a saint in hell. The essence of your soul is always pure.
The Indian saint Anandamoyi Ma was illiterate. However, she was so wise that whatever scholar came to ask her questions on the scriptures left amazed, because what she said was so correct and deep. The more you go into your center, the more people will look at you and understand, "He has found something that I also want." Share that which you feel inside, but don’t pride yourself on it, because it comes from God.
The path of life is narrow. There is room for either the ego or for God to walk it; there is not room for both. Why not let God act through you? Afterward you will feel a great joy and freedom. The thought will come, "How beautiful – I didn’t do it, God did it!" When you pray with sincerity to be a channel for God, He will give you many inspirations and will help you when someone comes to you with a problem.
In my life, I have had to give personal advice for the last fifty years. Sometimes I will be asked a question to which I don’t know the answer. I then let the question go and respond, "I don’t know." But in very act of saying I don’t know, I do know, as my mind is then relaxed and the inspiration comes to me. Likewise, I never prepare a public talk, because I have seen that God knows better than I what to say. This has never failed: The inspiration has always come to me.
When you launch yourself with faith and trust, He gives you wings. Gradually trying to fly, you will fly; and the more you do so, the more inspiration will come to you. What you do should be rewarding; you should feel, "This is what I want to do with my life." You will see that there is joy even in the little things. God is found in every grain of sand. God is shining in you, and God can shine even more, the more you try to attune yourself to Him in inner silence.