Paramahansa Yogananda
Top 20 Spiritual Tips (3)

 

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9. Concentration is Essential for Spiritual Progress

Concentration is a state of
complete one-pointedness and
stillness of consciousness.
The nature of creation is motion;
the nature of Spirit is motionlessness.

"Be still, and know that I am God"
(Psalms 46:10).
Concentration is therefore essential
to divine communion. (me)

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When a yogi again and again fights his restlessness and distractions, and with ever-increasing intensity tries to feel divine communion in meditation, he will form a good habit of calm interiorization. In time this habit will displace the mortal habit of restive sensory bondage and will lead ultimately to realization of Divinity. ...

The cure for restlessness is continuous effort to be peaceful regardless of success or failure. Strong, die-hard restive habits at last are destroyed by the gradual strengthening of the good habit of practicing interiorized calmness in meditation. (bg)

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Learn the art of concentration so that when you put your mind on a particular thought your attention does not become restless, hopping from one idea to another. (jt)

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To be able to concentrate is essential for spiritual progress;

without concentration
you shall never find God.

Learn how to shut out of your consciousness all sounds and other earthly distractions. As soon as your consciousness is right, God is there. He isn't hiding from you; you are hiding from Him. (me)

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Their thoughts immersed in That (Spirit),
their souls one with Spirit,
their sole allegiance and devotion given to Spirit,
their beings purified from poisonous delusion
by the antidote of wisdom
—such men reach the state of nonreturn.
—The Bhagavad Gita V:17

'The state of nonreturn’ is referred to in the Bible: "Him that over-cometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out (shall reincarnate no more)." [Revelation 3:12]

Devotees who use their power of discrimination to free themselves from identification with the drama of creation and behold in it only the play of the cosmic light and the shadows of delusion;

who concentrate on the cosmic beam and not on the shadows;
who perceive their souls as rays of the Cosmic Sun;
who are continuously absorbed in It;
who have destroyed delusion by wisdom
—those sages attain liberation.

...Inherent in this verse [V:17] is another interpretation intended for guidance in the sadhana (spiritual practices) of the meditating devotee, according to the following rendering:

Thinking on That,
merged in That,
established in That,
solely devoted to That,
they go whence there is no return,
their sins dispelled by wisdom.

 

Thinking on That [The First Stage of Concentration]:

Holding the attention on the object of meditation;

for example, keeping the mind concentrated on the inner sound of the great Aum (Amen), the universal cosmic vibration that is the manifested creative consciousness and power of God.

The thinking state implies duality of experience: two poles, one upward toward Spirit and one downward toward matter.

 

Merged in That [The Second Stage of Concentration]:

Filled with the universal Aum vibration, excluding the intrusion of all thoughts born of the sentient mind.

This second stage of concentration
transcends the "thinking state";
it is oneness with the object of meditation
experienced through the pure intuition of the soul.

The merged state of concentration brings the devotee in direct touch and friendship with the Spirit through Aum. It is a blissful state filling the devotee to overflowing with confidence and faith in God. But the merged state in the beginning is not stable and abiding. Unless it is oft repeated and the habit correspondingly formed, it is liable to disappear and be lost whenever the devotee is beset by the bad habit of mental restlessness in meditation, or when he resumes his material activities after his meditations. Hence, this state is transitory because bad habits reappear as soon as new good habits and experiences complete their debut and make their exit.

Devotees whose bad habits are strong easily become discouraged when confronted with the apparent unstability of spiritual experiences. Doubts arise, and the faithless may relegate spiritual experiences to the realm of impractical mysticism. The fault lies in the practitioners' lack of perseverance to make permanent their spiritual gains, the attainment of the third or established state of divine communion.

 

Established in That [Third Stage of Concentration]:

Permanently and continuously abiding in the state of divine oneness, regardless of one's external activities (the nirvikalpa state).

Having mastered these three stages of concentration,
thus changing the focus of the consciousness
from matter to Spirit,
the devotee no longer harbors any desire save
devotion to God and to live for Him alone.

In such devotees, all sins (past and present karma) are dispelled by the wisdom-light of God-realization, even as the accumulated darkness of night vanishes with the coming of the dawn. These devotees are released thereby from the dizzying whirl of the wheel of birth-death-rebirth. They "go no more out" from the presence of God. (bg)

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10. Be the Changeless Witness

The true seer perceives his soul as the silent witness, aloof from the body—the microcosm created by the cosmic vibratory force, Prakriti or Mother Nature. She alone is the performer of all physical and mental activities. The soul is actionless, the reflection of the transcendental, nonvibrational God the Father beyond creation.

A man who sits in a cinema watching simultaneously the image on the screen and the imageless beam of light overhead knows it is the film, and not the beam, that is the direct cause of the changing pictures of shadows and light.

Similarly, the yogi who perceives the pure cosmic beam of God realizes that intelligent Nature alone is responsible for creating the cosmic film of relativity and triple qualities. The cosmic beam itself is changeless, unaffected.

The devotee should therefore concentrate on the blessed and sustaining light of his soul and not on the film of Nature's gunas that produce the delusive appearance of the body and all its activities. (bg)

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God sent man to earth to be entertained by the bodily dreams, not to obscure his consciousness of immortality by being identified with the body. It is therefore foolish for one to grieve about the bodily changes of which the soul, the Self, is the changeless witness. (os)

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No cruelty exists in God's plan, because in His eyes there is no good or evil— only pictures of light and shadows. The Lord intended us to view the dualistic scenes of life as does He Himself—the ever joyous Witness of a stupendous cosmic drama.

Man has falsely identified himself with the pseudo soul or ego. When he transfers his sense of identity to his true being, the immortal soul, he discovers that all pain is unreal. He no longer can even imagine the state of suffering. (os)

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Affirmation:

"I am the Changeless, I am the Infinite. I am not a little mortal being with bones to break, a body that will perish. I am the deathless, changeless Infinite."

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11. Oneness is the Goal

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. (os)

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He who has realized oneness with God possesses all knowledge contained in Him. Knowing the Lord as Beginning and End of all beings and worlds, a true Brahmin has knowledge of the hereafter and of the workings of nature on this plane of existence. (bg)

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Patanjali goes beyond all personalities and dogmas. He states that Yoga is the heart of all religions; it is the science of religion, by which the true principles of religion can be proven with exact and known results. Yoga fulfills the purpose of religion: achievement of oneness, or union, with God—the ultimate necessity of every soul. (dr)

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To regain the blissful realization of its oneness with God, the soul of man must retrace its downward course, ascending by the sacred spinal route to its home in the higher cerebral centers of divine awareness. This is accomplished by the practice of guru-given scientific techniques of yogic meditation, such as may be learned from the Self-Realization Fellowship Lessons. (me)

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That state of oneness with God is granted by Him only when He is convinced the devotee does not want anything else. As long as there will be a single desire in the heart for other than God, then even though He will be near the devotee, He will not be fully manifest to him. (sc)

SRF AUMJnana, or true knowledge, is the soul's realization of "Aham Brahmasmi (I am Brahma)," or "Tat tvam asi (Thou art That)."

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To be with God is to be richer than Croesus.
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. (os)

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12. Develop Evenminded Calmness

O Flower among Men (Arjuna)! he who cannot be ruffled by these (contacts of the senses with their objects), who is calm and evenminded during pain and pleasure, he alone is fit to attain everlastingness!
— The Bhagavad Gita II:15

The basic principle of creation is duality. If one knows pleasure he must know pain. One who cognizes heat must cognize cold also. If creation had manifested only heat or only cold, only sorrow or only pleasure, human beings would not be the irritated victims of the pranks of duality. But then, what would life be like in a monotone existence? Some contrast is necessary; it is man's response to dualities that causes his trouble. So long as one is slavishly influenced by the dualities, he lives under the domination of the changeful phenomenal world.

Man's egoistic feelings, expressing as likes and dislikes, are entirely responsible for the bondage of the soul to the body and earthly environment. His cognizing intelligence is a mere registrar of experiences, in a disinterested, academic way; it records the events of a dear one's death or the birth of one's child alike in the same honest, prosaic manner. Whereas intelligence simply informs human consciousness about its loss of a dear friend, feeling marks and classifies this experience as distinctly painful. Likewise, the birth of a baby, cognized by an interested human consciousness, is classified by feeling as a distinctly pleasurable experience.

These psychological twins, man's feelings of pleasure and sorrow, have a common father: they spring from desire. Fulfilled desire is pleasure and contradicted desire is pain or sorrow. They are inseparable: Just as night inevitably follows day as the earth revolves on its axis, so pleasure and pain revolve on the axis of desire—the one ever alternating with the other.

Desire is produced by indiscriminate contact with the objects of the senses. Expressing as the likes and dislikes of the ego, desire creeps into the consciousness of one who is not watchful enough in governing the reaction of his feelings to his various experiences in the world. It is a condition the ego imposes on itself, and is therefore detrimental to man's evenmindedness. Whatever has its origin in desire is a disturbing element, for desires are like stones pelted into the calm lake of consciousness. Attachment to pleasure or aversion to pain both destroy the equilibrium of the inner nature. ...

This is why the Gita teaches that the excitation of pleasures should be avoided as avidly as one seeks to avoid the unpleasantness of pain.

Only when feeling is neutralized toward both opposites does one rise above all suffering. It is very difficult, indeed, to hurt an ever-smiling wise man. (bg)

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Practice evenminded calmness all the time.

Become a king, an absolute monarch, of your own mental realm of calmness. In calmness, the mind is wholly free of emotional agitations. Unless the mind is calm, God will be obscured. So let nothing disturb your peaceable kingdom of calmness. Night and day carry with you the joy of "the peace of God, which passeth all understanding."* (Philippians 4:7) (jt)

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He who is free from hatred toward all creatures, is friendly and kind to all, is devoid of the consciousness of "I-ness" and possessiveness; is evenminded in suffering and joy, forgiving, ever contented; a regular yoga practitioner, constantly trying by yoga to know the Self and to unite with Spirit, possessed affirm determination, with mind and discrimination surrendered to Me—he is My devotee, dear to Me.
—The Bhagavad Gita XII:13-14

These manifold qualities epitomized in a yogi endear him to God. To please the Lord and attain Him, the yogi is steadfast in regular and intensive practice of the science of God-union (Knya Yoga). By the self-restraint (interiorization) of yoga, he dissolves his restless physical ego, with its sense of "I, me, and mine," in the perception of his true Self. When in ecstasy he determinedly keeps his mind and discrimination surrendered to the pure intuitive perception of Spirit in the vibrationless sphere, he is able even in the human state to feel the omnipresence of the Lord.

The yogi who perceives the same Spirit pervading all creation cannot entertain hatred for any creature. Instead, he is friendly and compassionate to all. He recognizes God even in the guise of an enemy.

Possessing the evenminded blessedness of Spirit,
a yogi is unruffled by material sufferings and pleasures.

Finding the joy of the Divine, he is ever contented under all conditions of physical existence. He attends to his meager bodily necessities, but is wholly detached from any sense of my body or my possessions; he considers himself to be serving God in his own body and in the bodies of all who cross his path. (bg)

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Whether a yogi meets gain or loss in the course of performing dutiful actions, he remains evenminded. Both success and failure are bound to come at various times in response to the inherent duality in the structure of the body, mind, and world; the devotee who constantly reminds himself of his soul has little temptation to identify himself with the physical and mental phantasmagoria. (bg)

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