The Devotee's Dilemma.
The Great One has said, "
"If you contact God within yourself, you will know that He is in everyone, that He has become the children of all races. Then you cannot be an enemy to anyone. If the whole world could love with that universal love, there would be no need for men to arm themselves against one another. By our own Christlike example we must bring unity among all religions, all nations, all races. "
— Paramahansa Yogananda in Man’s Eternal Quest
"Wherever different minds meet in the spirit of fellowship, there we find a great harmony, peace, happiness, understanding, and cooperation in life’s activities. With so many troubles plaguing this earth of ours...never before was there a greater necessity for peace than now." From talks by Paramahansa Yogananda -" A world without boundaries"
How does one participate in the world without becoming entangled,
misdirected, and falsely programmed by its popular and complex ways?
Can one extricate oneself from this mayic labyrinth while still
participating in the daily activities of the world? Yoga is the way!
One of the great tests of any inspired spiritual programme/method/dispensation
is its ability to work for you under any and every possible situation in this world
without doing harm to others, or yourself!
It should increase your creativity and self-empowerment, your sense of being
healthy and whole, expand your consciousness, awareness and Self-realization.
To really understand your faith, it helps to know how things really work......
Self-deception has got to go.
There are two primal & powerfully deep needs that must be met during our human journey through the many lifetimes we spend on this planet - maintaining/sustaining our sense of individuality - and fulfilling the need to belong/to experience community. Unless both of these aspects of human nature are addressed and supported, balanced growth may elude the spiritual aspirant/seeker of truth. Such unbalances, if not corrected, will lead one at times away from truth, going in unrewarding circles. There may in truth actually be an eternity to reach your goal - but how long do you want to wander aimlessly? Even though it is often said that getting there is half the fun, at some point one surely wants to know they are really moving forward.
Community is more than just an organization.
Community is the loyal/loving participation of faith and
interacting with other parts of your own vast essence who
appear as other beings and objects in this relative world,
for we are not even separate beings at all.
This is the field upon which we work out and create our karma.
Upon this complex field of human experience we eventually
come to learn that the golden rule is not about someone else,
it is about how we interact with other aspects/areas of our own
spiritual being. Community can be experienced without
becoming a member of a spiritual commune.
The master put that idea on hold - are you listening?
Community should be looked upon as ones greater Self,
a real extension of your own unlimited living consciousness.
Spiritually, properly participated in, Community can be
a powerful aid in ones Sadhana, a catalyst to accelerated growth.
An essential aspect of one's experiencing on this divine
Self-Realization Fellowship Kriya Yoga path.
Yogananda has often described using our relationships with family,
community, and nations, as an experiential practice of expanding
our limited ego consciousness into infinite Christ Consciousness.
This Consciousness which was so fully expressed in the lives of
"the Great Ones" - Jesus, Krishna, socrates, Adi Shankara, Babaji,
Paramahansa Yogananda and many others.
Combined with the devoted regular practices which
devotees are encouraged to do, some kind of
Community experience at some level will keep our
development balanced, healthy and moving forward.
A valid deterrent to fanaticism and tunnel vision.
This can begin essentially with attending your local meditation group/circle or center. Supporting/assisting the way you believe in any way you can, either alone or together
with other devotees as well. Just being there will enrich your inner spiritual life and
outer relationships greatly.
I have seen so much growth, good, and healing take place in the lives of persons who do so.
Lives I have had the privilege of observing over a period of time.
The greatest problems in isolated communities stem from politics and other negative human
reactions. The best leaders are those who are secure, mature, competent and who do not
seek power over others just to be powerful. Such a person wishes to serve all.
Paramahansa Yogananda, a living truly modern God-Realized Yogi/prophet, must be credited for giving us some of spiritual history's clearest and most vivid teachings about the real "Christ, Kristos, Kristna, Kutustha Caitanya etc" as actually meaning a universal principle of infinite consciousness, rather than simply an exclusive personality vaguely recorded in world history [according to the common popular teachings on this subject.] That exclusive orthodox concept was created in circa 325 AD & 381 AD for political reasons/purposes and has little to do with the intended teachings of scripture.
Instead, Yogananda has presented us not only with outstanding academic evidence of the true meaning of "God's only begotten Son," but above all the full demonstration of this consciousness from his own life and works. [read more about this whole metter in "The Yoga of Jesus" from SRF Publishers LA USA.
His living legacy is clearly changing Americas [and the worlds] religious outlook and evolutionary momentum. The Master, Paramahansa Yogananda, founded Self-Realization Fellowship/YSS for the distinct purpose of carrying on this living legacy to enhance and accelerate mankind's evolution. Through continuing excellence and wise spiritual leadership by the Self-Realization Fellowship - this legacy is enhancing the lives of millions worldwide. No particular path is/was ever meant for everyone, but for those who have really made SRF their path, there are many positive results reported.
The Master shares with us every possible aid and means available to attain Self-Realization/salvation, for the sincere/enthusiastic devotee who is beginning to truly understand the purpose and direction of our existence and the nature of Reality -God.
And the way to know our true Selves as that Reality in which we are all one.
Not metaphorically-but in actuality. Kriya yoga is a powerful way!
This is an important matter for all Devotees to think about, as many of us arrived here on this wonderful path after a long independent singular search[recently or in a past life] which has left
us rather leaning to a shyness of organizations/groups. Now that we have been introduced to a truer direction for our spiritual lives with discipline and grace, it should be safe to also rediscover that greater part of ourselves that we are blessed with knowing through our meditations and other spiritual practices. The problem earlier was one of an unbalance in the way of community, depending too much on unrealized authority figures to guide us. Now, with the sure guidance of a true Guru it is a good time to work with Him and His great Community which does not separate itself from the larger community of persons with varied beliefs and cultures.
Sometimes there are periods of our lives wherein we must be left to our own resources to mature on this path seemingly without too much influence of other devotees. It is the process of finding ourselves, of maturing and fulfilling our personal Karma, while coming to our own understanding of our relationship with the great saviors of this path. So one might be located where it is difficult to associate with other devotees in groups. This too is for the development of the individuality of the devotee. When the time comes that you really feel the need to meet with others in Masters presence, life will create the setting/opportunities for this to happen. Never doubt it, the Mother and the Guru are helping us all along the way. They are fully and far more "living" than almost anyone you will ever meet in this relative unreal world. They who are helping you the most, in so many ways, are in the Real, invisible non-sensory world. Keep watching and listening to your inner guidance s for those glimpses of wisdom to show you your best way. Sometimes through personal associations or various life opportunities, even through a book! This voice in the silence speaks also in the din of all your busy life's activities.
These are truly the beginnings of learning and living in the Eternal NOW. It is one of the constant blessings of the effects of your deepest meditations manifesting in the light of day. The constant inspiration of attunement! Community is one of the great testing grounds of where you are really at.
It is greatly to one's advantage to work with others when possible within the structure of community [organization or meditation groups] while at the same time nurturing ones personal sadhana - spiritual path to maintain balanced and steady development. Ones personal association with the "group" in an organized community large or small is what Yogananda referred to as "company of the wise."
This was Yoganandas final message on "Spiritual Communities."
Working with others - but not in communal isolation from the
world community at large or society in general. The ideal place
is near/with your local SRF Temple or meditation group.
Yogananda also clearly stated that one of the purposes of Self-Realization Fellowship/YSS was to encourage all persons to have a little space or room in their home as private meditation area, where they could daily commune with God in silence using the very effective techniques of Yoga meditation.
This is for developing our creative independence and intuition and higher consciousness.
I highly recommend learning these techniques from Yogananda's Self-Realization Fellowship.
They have an excellent correspondence course and other support services for all devotees/students.
Or you can take advantage of their free online meditation program at their web site.
There is a strange and distracting tendency for the devotee of this type of path - that when during ones initial search it is found that being more independent leads one closer to the truths one is seeking, keeping free of organizations feels very beneficial. However, this proves to be a temporary phase that if maintained too long will be counter productive to the devotee. Community is important and very necessary as is the guidance and blessings of a true living Guru. Humble yourself and be involved and supportive part of the time. Everyone benefits tremendously from meeting together in His name.
Walking in nature trails can be so invigorating and peaceful - just ignore the bugs!
Working with community will strengthen/balance ones discipline and growth, as well as expand your consciousness from your meditating anchor - ignore the egos, the gossip and the politics! "Take the sugar and leave the sand behind " as the Master once said. He gives us so much sugar to work with, results will come if you reread the lessons and apply their ideas with devotion.
The larger type of spiritual community [or commune] is a very risky venture for the
novice devotee to become involved in. Good leadership is extremely rare, and the
lifestyle may develop into constricting political style one does not bargain for.
Leaving such a lifestyle can be traumatic, difficult, and costly.
Although Paramahansa Yogananda spoke of the great ideal spiritual
communities long ago, He put this idea on hold by telling us the
most desirable way for devotees [for now] would be to become part
of a local temple community while living your normal life in a normal
secular community as most persons in the world do now.
This was His latest word on the matter, and as wonderful as the former
ideal is, few people are ready for such a lifestyle presently, and the
required great spiritual leadership to guide such a venture is also
so very rare. Many persons with power still tend to be too abusive
and/or incompetent subtle dictators. Don't become their victims.
When community takes a negative/dangerous turn beware!
This can happen from the holding of erroneous ideals to the abuse of bad leadership.
Such as in exclusivism and fanaticism and politicized teachings .
It has been the evil results of such directions that have given some
persons the view that religion is the cause of wars and many other
problems in human societies.