Knowing Your Infinite Nature
by Paramahansa Yogananda (Excerpts from SRF Magazine, Fall 2003)
Your Infinite Nature
You are concentrated on the isolated wave of your body and its finite life; thus you forget that infinite omnipresence of God. But when you realize that the life in all bodies, and in all manifestations in nature, is nothing but outbursts of God's consciousness, then you are in His eternal presence. God is ever in the stars, and in the clods of the earth, and in our thoughts, feelings, and will; and when you perceive this, then you realize your connection with Infinity. That is Self-realization: You feel yourself no longer as a little wavelet of life, but as the Ocean itself.
Why do I ask you to be silent, to meditate? ... As you become calm and your meditation deepens, the sensations and awareness of the little body recede. You feel an expansion of your being beyond the boundaries of the mortal form. The vast inner space becomes bigger and bigger; you begin to feel that you are this space, boundless consciousness pervaded with ever-increasing happiness and peace. It is then that you realize you are something much greater than the body.
I will tell you how I live and work in the world. My body and the world are my office; and my inner Self is my home. My mind always dwells within. I live from day to day. There is no consciousness of past or future; I am living in the eternally happy present. It is not a mundane happiness, which becomes boring after a while so that you welcome a little difficulty just for a change. The joy that has come upon me is a thousand million times more intoxicating—ever-changing, ever-new. In that consciousness you feel all the happiness in the world passing through you. Your love is all-encompassing. That is the experience of God's love.
I see people suffering from sickness and poverty and all kinds of misery, and I yearn to bring them all where I am: Whether I laugh or cry at the scenes of this earthly drama, a current of bliss is ever moving underneath my outer consciousness. At first it was different. I would try to be happy, but then some sadness would come inside. But I continued in meditation to make the effort to know God, and now it is happiness all the time. My body and mind respond to what my heart feels. It is filled with divine love no matter whether I talk to people of peace or business—always God's joy bubbling within me. And the wisdom! As soon as I pick up a book I perceive whatever truth it contains, or whether it is only a product of misguided imagination. I do not accept anything just because somebody else has said so. If it is truth, I feel it; and if it is not, I disregard it. The whole library of the cosmos can be found within the soul. I rarely read a book, and yet the things that are given to me overpower me. As I am speaking to you, I am drawing on that inner source of cosmic wisdom. I don't have to try. All I do is put mental obstructions out of the way.
Meditation is the Path to Freedom
The teachings of all great religions lead toward God; but their varied outer observances are bypaths that must eventually bring the seeker to the one inner highway of meditation. Withdrawing the consciousness from the body and finite world and merging it in the Divine is the only way to liberation in God. Jesus meditated. To the crowds he taught moral and spiritual truths—the necessary first steps toward God; but to his close disciples he taught the higher science of meditation for actual union with God.
The Eightfold Path of Yoga — Ashtanga Yoga
It is not the technique of meditation alone that will bring you freedom; your character must be strong and pure. Your whole life and behavior must be in harmony with the laws of truth. The first rules of the yoga path of meditation are
1 - 2. Do's and Don'ts — YAMA and NIYAMA
—certain things you should not do, corresponding to the Ten Commandments ("thou shalt not kill," "thou shalt not bear false witness," "thou shalt not commit adultery" and so on); and also the positive prescriptions you should follow: purity, evenminded contentment, introspection (self-study), devotion to God, and self-discipline.
To progress in meditation, you must be working to free yourself from pride, wrath, greed, jealousy.
You must not be insincere with people; say nothing you do not honestly feel.
Do not selfishly seek anything from others;
if you have no expectations,
then what can people take from you?
No one can hurt me because I have no ambition except for God. I wish anger on no man, and no one can provoke me by a display of anger. So strive to be peaceful, self-controlled, and sincere. Otherwise, the wrong behavior will negate the propitious effects of meditation.
Every spiritual thought you think will be your eternal friend. And every evil inclination you acquire will be your enemy for a long, long time; it will pursue you until you slay it. Remember that. I am pointing out to you the step-by-step methods to God.
First, free yourself from wrong thoughts and habits.
Second, establish good habits and perform good deeds.
3. Posture — ASANA
The third step is asana or posture: The body must be under your control in order to meditate deeply.
4. Control of Life Force — PRANAYAMA
Then comes pranayama (control of prana or life force), techniques for calming the body and mind, breath and heartbeat. Pranayama is the primary art of realization. You cannot find God unless you can master the mortal breath. Breath ties the mind to the sense plane. As your breath becomes calm, your mind goes within. Breathlessness is the way to God. Practice pranayama and you will know how to meditate—how to perceive God and be one with Him.
5. Interiorization — PRATYAHARA
The interiorization of the mind that comes through pranayama is called pratyahara. That is the next step: The consciousness is turned within, away from the senses.
6. Concentration — DHARANA
Then true meditation begins. When your attention is freed from distractions of breath and body and outer sensations, it is able to focus single-pointedly on God. That is called dharana, concentration, the sixth step on the eightfold yoga path.
7. Meditation — DHYANA
In the inner stillness, one hears the mighty voice of Spirit as Aum, the Word or Amen. As you listen to and merge in that great, comforting Cosmic Vibration, the consciousness expands with it into all space. That is dhyana, meditation on the conception of the magnitude of God.
8. Oneness — SAMADHI
And as the concentration and perception of meditation becomes deeper, one reaches the ultimate state, samadhi, in which the meditator, the process of meditation, and the object of meditation (God) merge in oneness. In samadhi, you know by direct experience that God and you are One.
Oneness With God
Most people think of heaven as a glorious land of angels, with streets paved with gold; or as a place of exceeding pleasure with laughing-eyed girls serving banquets on golden platters. Man idealizes according to the nature of his desires—his overall level of consciousness. I think that if a fish could speak to us, his conception of heaven would be a place where there is lots of water and food-filled coral reefs! But the real heaven is more transcendently beautiful than any conception of your imagination. It is oneness with the Infinite Consciousness; indescribable, eternal Bliss. In that heaven of Cosmic Consciousness God is calling us. And man is resisting His call by preoccupation with wrong thoughts and earthly desires. It is for us to attune our thoughts to His resonant voice within.
In Seattle I was sitting by a waterfall, enjoying the sunlight shining on my face; inwardly I prayed, "Lord, what is this light? Is it comparable to the effulgence of Your presence?" As I thought this, a glorious ray of light divine came over me, cool and soothing in its effect—a marvelous thrill of happiness. All the visions I saw in that light came true afterwards. If you persist long enough in meditation, you will find to be true what I am telling you of this wondrous science of God-communion.
In nature, the aurora borealis has the closest resemblance to the light of God. If you remain quiet in meditation for a short time and see a little light, you think, "That is all there is to it." No, it is not. As you spend more time at night and really make up your mind that you must know what lies behind the obscuring wall of material darkness, eventually you will behold vast worlds, infinite life, emerging from the factory of silence. That hidden factory is the source of creation; stars, planets, blades of grass, all beings, all things come from the vastness behind that wall of darkness.
Do not be satisfied with a little light and temporary peace in meditation; and don't be constantly identified with the body if you want to know the greatness of your soul.
To be with God is to be richer than Croesus [a synonym for a very wealthy man]. To be with God is to own the whole universe and be its master. To be with God is to free yourself from misery and fears for all eternity. To be with God is to know all that is to be known. These attainments cannot be had by a mere few minutes of silence. You have to put your whole attention to work.