The Soul Qualities
That Make Man God-like (1)
Excerpts from God Talks with Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita
by Paramahansa Yogananda
Twenty-six Divine Qualities
The Blessed Lord said:
Fearlessness, purity of heart, perseverance in acquiring wisdom and in practicing yoga, charity, subjugation of the senses, performance of holy rites, study of the scriptures, self-discipline, straightforwardness;
Noninjury, truthfulness, freedom from wrath, renunciation, peacefulness, nonslanderousness, compassion for all creatures, absence of greed, gentleness, modesty, lack of restlessness;
Radiance of character, forgiveness, patience, cleanness, freedom from hate, absence of conceit—these qualities are the wealth of a divinely inclined person, O Descendant of Bharata.
— The Bhagavad Gita XVI:1-3
Chapter XVI cites the sattvic or good qualities that lead devotees to Self-realization, and points out the tamasic or evil tendencies that unfit men to attain divinity.
These twenty-six qualities are all divine attributes of God; they constitute man's spiritual wealth. A God-seeker should strive to obtain all of them. The more he manifests these virtues, the more he reflects the true inner image of God in which he is made. He ever holds before his aspirations the criteria of the Supreme Perfection. Christ said: "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." (Matthew 5:48)
Every motivation is good that brings forth a flower of God’s manifest qualities and understanding. If anyone hurts you and you forgive him, you are leading yourself to the kingdom of God. If anyone is quarrelsome and you give understanding, you are taking yourself to the kingdom of God. If someone is suffering and you reach out with aid and compassion, you are moving into the presence of God. (from Expanding Your Consciousness For All-Round Success by Paramahansa Yogananda)
1. Fearlessness (abhayam)
Fearlessness is mentioned first because it is the impregnable rock on which the house of spiritual life must be erected. Fearlessness means faith in God: faith in His protection. His justice. His wisdom, His mercy, His love. His omnipresence.
The spiritually intrepid devotee is mightily armed against any foe that obstructs advancement. Disbelief and doubt, delusion's first line of attack, are summarily routed by undaunted faith, as are desires and all of their enticements that bluff with threats of unhappiness if not embraced.
Fear robs man of the indomitability of his soul. Disrupting Nature's harmonious workings emanating from the source of divine power within, fear causes physical, mental, and spiritual disturbances. Extreme fright can even stop the heart and bring sudden death. Long-continued anxieties give rise to psychological complexes and chronic nervousness.
Fear ties the mind and heart (feeling) to the external man, causing the consciousness to be identified with mental or physical nervousness, thus keeping the soul concentrated on the ego, the body, and the objects of fear. The devotee should discard all misgivings, realizing them to be stumbling blocks that hinder his concentration on the imperturbable peace of the soul. (…)
For the unenlightened, the best advice is caution along with courage—fearlessness in spirit without rashly exposing oneself to unnecessary risks or to conditions that may arouse apprehensions. Everyone is given ample opportunities, without willfully creating them, to demonstrate courage and prove the power of faith.
Death is perhaps the ultimate challenge of faith in mortal man. Fear of this inevitability is foolish. It comes only once in a lifetime; and after it has come the experience is over, without having affected our true identity or diminished in any way our real being. (…)
To be fit for Self-realization,
man must be fearless.
2. Purity of Heart (sattva-samshuddhi)
Purity of heart means transparency to truth. One's consciousness should be free from the distortions of attachment and repulsion to sense objects. Likes and dislikes for externals taint the heart with gross vibrations. The heart or chitta should not be influenced by the pairs of opposites; only thus may it enter the divine bliss of meditation. Jesus says: "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God." (Matthew 5:8)
Steadfastness in seeking wisdom and in practicing yoga (jnana yoga vyavasthiti) is essential for reaching liberation. In his daily life the devotee should apply the guru-given or scriptural wisdom and should immerse himself in the peace born of the regular practice of yoga techniques. Wisdom guards the devotee, by right reason and perception from falling into the pits of ignorance and sense pleasures.
4. Almsgiving (dana)
Steadfastness or charity is meritorious. It expands the consciousness. Unselfishness and generosity link the soul of the open-handed giver to the presence of God within all other souls. It destroys the delusion of personal ownership in this dream drama of life, whose sole Possessor is the Cosmic Dreamer. The bounty of the earth is merely on loan to us from God. That which He has given into our keeping is judiciously used when it serves the needs and removes the suffering of one's self and others. The true devotee spontaneously from his expanded heart wishes to share with others his possessions, knowledge, and soul insight.
His unselfishness is the natural outreach of those who love God and realize His immanent omnipresence. Jesus wept for the ignorant, the poor, and the afflicted because he saw God suffering in them. Those whose feelings have become universal with love and compassion give their lives and their all in service to God and His children. (…)
5. Self-restraint (dama)
Self-restraint is the power to control the senses when they are excited by the pleasant sensations of sight, hearing, smell, taste, or touch. A devotee who is master of his senses is ready for emancipation. He who succumbs to temptations will remain entangled in sense objects, far removed from soul knowledge. Every indulgence in any form of sense-lures reinforces the desire for that experience. Repetition leads to the formation of nearly unshakable bad habits.
6. Religious rites (yajnas)
Religious rites are enjoined by the Vedas and other great scriptures. A devotee, according to his state of development, may perform the symbolic physical rite of pouring clarified butter into fire, or the mental rite of burning wrong desires in the flames of wisdom, or the yogi’s spiritual rite of consuming human restlessness in the fire of soul ecstasy. In the ultimate, the whole of one's life should be a yajna, with every thought and act purified by a devout heart and offered as oblation to God.
7. Right study of the scriptures (svadhyaya)
Right study of the scriptures leads to emancipation. A true devotee does not suffer with mental indigestion as does one who gorges himself on scriptural lore without understanding its meaning and without assimilating it into his life. Theoretical study is helpful when it inspires a devotee to practice the holy teachings. Wisdom thoughts are faithful guides and protectors when they become one's constant companions. (…)
does not come from what one knows intellectually, but from what one becomes as a result of that knowledge.
There must be a rational connection between one's learning and oneself, so that a truth becomes such an integral part of the being that it cannot be dislodged by contrary temptations or doubts. This is intuitional learning, or realization.
8. Self-discipline (tapas)
Self-discipline includes celibacy, restraint of appetite, and various methods of training the body to withstand cold, heat, and other discomforts without the usual mental agitation. If practiced with discrimination and right resolve, these mortifications help the devotee attune his body and mind to spiritual vibrations.
Self-discipline is different from self-torture. The aim of tapas is not served by startling exhibitions, such as "fakirs" on beds of sharp nails. The profound purpose of tapas is to change in man his "bad taste" in preferring transient sense pleasures to the everlasting bliss of the soul. Some form of self-discipline is necessary to transmute material desires into spiritual aspirations. By tapas and meditation the devotee gives himself a standard of comparison between the two kinds of pleasures: physical and mental on the one hand, and spiritual on the other. (…)
Austerity, self-denial, renunciation, penance: all are means, not ends. The real goal is to regain through them the infinite realm of Spirit. As a poor man is glad to discard his rags when he becomes rich, so the successful God-seeker, entering the world of bliss, jubilantly casts away all shabby material attachments.
9. Straightforwardness (arjavam)
Straightforwardness is a quality of honorable men. It denotes sincerity. The eyes that see God are honest and artless. He who is free from deceit may gaze on the Utter Innocence. (…)