The Presence of God

(Excerpts from BHAKTI YOGA By Brother Mokshananda)

Another application of Bhakti Yoga is the practice of the presence of God. This is a wonderful way to sustain the awareness of God's nearness; it consists of bringing, the mind back to the thought of Him as often as possible.


(a) Japa Yoga

One of the best-known ways of doing this, called Japa Yoga in India, is to take an affirmation, prayer, or devotional chant—or simply the name of God—and silently repeat it over and over again.

Paramahansa Yogananda said:

Every thought we think sets up a particular subtle vibration. When you mentally utter the word 'God,' and keep on repeating that thought within, it sets up a vibration that invokes
the presence of God.

As we persevere in the practice of the Presence, we become increasingly aware of God when we are outwardly active as well as when we are meditating. In nature, for instance, the advanced bhakti yogi enjoys not only the harmony and beauty expressed in flowers and sunsets and other natural wonders, but also experiences an awareness of the Divine Life and Intelligence and Love underlying all creation.


(b) Think of God as Your Environment

Thinking of God as our environment is an excellent way to practice the presence of God. From time to time during the day, we can remind ourselves that everything that exists is a manifestation of the Infinite.


Paramahansa Yogananda said:

As you look upon creation, which appears so solid and real, remember always to think of it as the thought of God, frozen into physical forms. You can condition your mind to this realization in little ways each day. Whenever you see a beautiful sunset, think to yourself:

"It is God's painting on the sky."


As you look into the face of each person you meet, think within:

"It is God who has become that form."

God has become that form

Apply this trend of thought to all experiences:

"The blood in my body is God;
the reason in my mind is God;
the love in my heart is God;
everything that exists is God.


Most people do not see the divine unity in creation because they are concentrating on the outer show produced by maya, the cosmic delusion that appears to divide the One Consciousness into myriad forms. So long as our consciousness is bound to the body and the little ego, we are caught up in all the experiences that are part of this world of duality—pleasure and pain, health and sickness, life and death—and we forget we are linked with the Divine. But by cultivating a sense of detachment from the cosmic drama, the devotee feels and concentrates on the unity inherent in the dualities of maya. If we expand our consciousness for even a few minutes each day in deep meditation, we will see the world around us with new eyes. We will begin to feel God's presence in ourselves and in all creation, bestirring us to strive to attune ourselves with His harmony rather than with our own selfish viewpoint.

Paramahansa Yogananda said:

A vast cosmos of the different forces of nature is tied together by God's directing power. Everything works in mutual harmony with the Divine Plan. We are a part of that universal scheme—just as important as the sun and the moon and the stars. We have to do our part; we must play the role that is assigned to us by the Divine, not what we want to play. When you use your own willfulness in opposition to the will of God, you spoil this drama. You do not contribute your share to fulfill the great plan of this universe. Why not say: "Let me do what God wants me to do." I think you will be much happier, much more peaceful, much better off.

There will be greater joy in your life when you strive to please God, not self. When you awaken in the morning, affirm:

"Lord, I offer this day unto You. The little ego no longer holds sway in this body; You alone dwell here."

As soon as you begin to find God within yourself, you will also behold Him in others. Then you can't hate anyone, because you see Him enshrined in all body temples. It is a beautiful way to live.


(c) Learning to Love the Divine In Others

This brings us to a third way of practising the presence of God: When we look at another human being, we can remind ourselves what he really is. Ordinarily, we focus on the outer appearance and behavior of people—their idiosyncrasies, their quirks, their habits, the clothes they wear, the way they comb their hair, and so on. But have you ever looked at someone and thought,

"This is a soul, a child of God.
This human being is an expression of the Infinite

By doing so, we acquire a more understanding perspective: "This person has feelings, just as I do. He has thoughts and opinions and aspirations that are as important to him as mine are to me. The life energies of God in that person are manifesting in the services he performs—in the things he does for me, the dishes he washes, the money he earns, the joy he brings me."

Now, you may rationalize that it is easy to think well of other people when they are good, but what about when they are bad? What about when people aren't very nice to us? That, admittedly, is more difficult. But trying to see the Divine in everyone is a very effective way to create harmony in our relationships. If we practice this, then even if we don't enjoy being around a particular individual (or perhaps can hardly stand him!), we will eventually establish a rapport with him—first in our thoughts, then in our actions. It is amazing how people's attitudes toward us change if we spiritualize our feelings toward them. As we sow, so do we reap. According to the law of karma, the law of cause and effect, the attitudes we direct toward other people come back to us. If we want to get along with others, we should not treat them as though they were objects in our environment, but as human beings who are children of the Infinite. When we are in harmony with our fellow beings, we can more easily sustain the devotional awareness of God's presence in our daily lives.


(d) Feeling God's Presence In Activity

Another way of concentrating on the presence of God is to feel Him as the power of activity. Through mastery of the Energization Exercises taught by Paramahansa Yogananda in the Self-Realization Fellowship Lessons, we become conscious of this aspect of God. We can feel that there is more to the body than the various physiological processes, and we realize that the divine energy within this physical form is the true source of its life and abilities.

As we walk or work or perform any other activity, we should try to feel that behind the little body is the power of the Infinite. Realize that without that Divine Vitality we couldn't do anything. It is He alone who empowers us.

Paramahansa Yogananda said:

It is when you persistently, selflessly perform every action with love-inspired thoughts of God that He will come to you. Then you realize that you are the Ocean of Life, which has become the tiny wave of each life. This is the way of knowing the Lord through activity. When in every action you think of Him before you act, while you are performing the action, and after you have finished it, He will reveal Himself to you. You must work, but let God work through you; this is the best part of devotion. If you are constantly thinking that He is walking through your feet, working through your hands, accomplishing through your will, you will know Him.

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