Excerpts from writings by Paramahansa Yogananda
Samadhi [spiritual ecstasy; state of God-union experienced as the ultimate goal of meditation] is a joyous experience, a splendid light in which you behold the countless worlds floating in a vast bed of joy and bliss. Banish the spiritual ignorance that makes you think this mortal life is real. Have these beautiful experiences for yourself in eternal samadhi, in God. Auroras of light, skyfuls of eternal bliss will be opened to you.
When through samadhi a yogi awakens from the delusions of maya, he beholds his body, the separately existing images of other human beings, and all material objects to be streaming unceasingly from one Source: the consciousness of God.
Savikalpa Samadhi — "with difference", with a slight separateness from God, devotiees life force is withdrawn from the body, which appears 'dead,' or motionless and rigid.
In the primary or savikalpa ecstasy the devotee perceives only the cosmic beam, without any panorama of creation. Later he sees the cosmic beam manifested as the checkered lights and shadows of the cinema drama of the cosmos.
Nirvikalpa Samadhi — ''without difference", as devotee progresses to higher spiritual states he communes with God without bodily fixation; and in his ordinary waking consciousness, even in the midst of exacting worldly duties.
It requires the higher state of nirvikalpa ecstasy to perceive the partner-dance of the cosmic light and shadows of creation; even as a man who withdraws his consciousness from the plot of a motion picture can observe, by peering closely, the causative commingling of light and shadows. In nirvikalpa the devotee perceives the cosmic light, his own body, and all the scenes of creation to be moving within himself as a series of motion pictures. In this state the present, past, and future are revealed as one; all variety is merged in the unity of the Eternal Presence.
In the state of savikalpa samadhi, the attention and the life force are switched off from the senses and are consciously kept identified with the ever joyous Spirit. In this state the soul is released from the ego consciousness and becomes aware of Spirit beyond creation. The soul is then able to absorb the fire of Spirit-Wisdom that "roasts" or destroys the seeds of body-bound inclinations. The soul as the meditator, its state of meditation, and the Spirit as the object of meditation—all become one. The separate wave of the soul meditating in the ocean of Spirit becomes merged with the Spirit. The soul does not lose its iden-tity, but only expands into Spirit. In savikalpa samadhi the mind is conscious only of the Spirit within; it is not conscious of creation without (the exterior world). The body is in a trancelike state, but the consciousness is fully perceptive of its blissful experience within.
In the most advanced state, nirvikalpa samadhi, the soul realizes itself and Spirit as one. The ego consciousness, the soul consciousness, and the ocean of Spirit are seen all existing together. It is the state of simultaneously watching the ocean of Spirit and the waves of creation. The individual no longer sees himself as a "John Smith" related to a particular environment; he realizes that the ocean of Spirit has become not only the wave of John Smith but also the waves of all other lives. In nirvikalpa the soul is simultaneously conscious of Spirit within and of creation without. The divine man in the nirvikalpa state may even engage in performance of his material duties with no loss of inner God-union. (bg)
The yogi in samadhi meditation consciously suspends the activity of change in the muscles, blood, nerve force, and all tissues, and supports the body by the changeless power of Cosmic Energy from Cosmic Consciousness. (sc)
Deep samadhi meditation is possible only when all bodily functions are stilled. Proper diet and fasting are helpful in conditioning the body for this state of quiet and interiorization. (sc)
Paths of Liberation
In whatever way people are devoted to Me, in that of measure I manifest Myself to them. All men, in every manner (of seeking Me), pursue a path to Me.
—The Bhagavad Gita IV:11
Throughout the ages, the strong motivating force of human love has been expressed in diverse ways—filial, conjugal, friendly, family, serviceful, humanitarian. All human love is borrowed from Divine Love, but by comparison is a meager expression. Dissatisfied with the imperfections of human love, man finally turns toward the perfect love of God. As the love of His children is the one thing the Lord is seeking, it is that devotion, freely given—in whatever form of expression, endeavor, or worship—that brings His divine response. He makes Himself known to a seeker in a measure commensurate with that person's mentality and capacity to receive.
Water may manifest as small or big waves on the ocean; or as surf foam or bubbles; or as raindrops or icebergs—but in these various forms it is water just the same.
By the power of maya or delusion, the Spirit similarly assumes many forms, manifesting Itself as numerous human beings endowed with free choice, working their way through various evolutionary stages—good or evil, bound or free, attached or nonattached, desireful or desireless.
It is only because of restless delusion that men feel themselves apart from Spirit, and do not perceive His immanence within themselves and all Nature. The yogi quiets this movement of duality by the meditation-born consciousness of Unity, realizing thus how all dual manifestations of Nature arise from and dissolve into the oneness of Spirit.
Spirit became the twenty-four attributes of Nature, and through the action of delusion manifests as the infinite variety of combinations of these attributes. No matter how variegated the objects and people of this earth appear, they all come from the one spiritual Source. The conceptions held by human beings concerning this Source, however, are biased by each person's self-created screen of delusion (his personal interactions with Nature's attributes) through which all of his perceptions and thoughts are filtered. Thus arises from the customized needs of different mentalities a man-made necessity for a variety of religions (for various expressions of the one Truth), to which the Lord gives assent and blessing. (God Talks With Arjuna p.452)
Liberation is Achieved with the Scientific Methods
Ascension to liberation is not a simple matter of a few affirmations, prayers, or desultory attempts at meditation. It can only be achieved by persistent practice of scientific methods of penetrating the spiritual eye. No soul, no saint, no Christ or Buddha has resurrected himself—at the time of death or in the highest samadhi states of meditation—without entering this inner door to transcendent consciousness. As soon as one frees the soul from the physical, astral, and idea bodies, he can merge with the Formless Absolute or experience oneness with the Great Light of the universe. That is the light of the Infinite Christ, the God-essence and sustenance of all creation. (The Second Coming of Christ, p.1505)
The yogi reverses the searchlights of intelligence, mind, and life force inward through a secret astral passage, the coiled way of the kundalini in the coccygeal plexus, and upward through the sacral, the lumbar, and the higher dorsal, cervical, and medullary plexuses, and the spiritual eye at the point between the eyebrows, to reveal finally the soul's presence in the highest center (sahasrara) in the brain. (God Talks With Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita by Paramahansa Yogananda, p.1092)
When by Kriya Yoga the devotee enters samadhi, wherein his eyes, breath, and heart are quieted, another world comes into view. Breath, sound, and movement of the eyes belong to this world. But the yogi who has control of the breath t may enter the heavenly astral and causal worlds and commune there with God's saints, or enter cosmic consciousness and commune with God. The yogi is not interested in anything else. The aftereffects of Kriya bring with them the utmost peace and bliss. The joy that comes with Kriya is greater than the joys of all pleasurable physical sensations put together. ...
All great teachers declare that within this body is the immortal soul, a spark of That which sustains all. He who knows his soul knows this truth: "I am beyond everything finite; I now see that the Spirit, alone in space with Its ever-new joy, has expressed Itself as the vast body of nature. I am the stars, I am the waves, I am the Life of all; I am the laughter within all hearts, I am the smile on the faces of flowers and in each soul. I am the Wisdom and Power that sustain all creation." ...
When the divine joy comes, immediately my breath is still and I am lifted into the Spirit. I feel the bliss of a thousand sleeps rolled into one, and yet I don't lose my ordinary awareness. This is universally the experience of those who go deep in the superconscious state. When the profound ecstasy of God falls over you, the body becomes absolutely still, the breath ceases to flow, and the thoughts are quiet—banished, every one, by the magic command of the soul. Then you drink of God's bliss and experience an intoxication of joy that not a thousand draughts of wine could give you. ...
When the Spirit is known, and when we know ourselves as Spirit, there is no land or sea, no earth or sky—all is He. The melting of everything in Spirit is a state no one can describe. A great bliss is felt—eternal fullness of joy and knowledge and love. ...
The advancing devotee progresses through three stages of spiritual awareness, the Sacred Trinity: First he experiences superconsciousness, oneness with the creative power in creation: Aum, "God the Holy Ghost." Next comes Christ Consciousness, merging in the Infinite Intelligence within creation: Tat, "God the Son." Finally, he attains the highest, Cosmic Consciousness, the Truth beyond creation, the ineffable Absolute: Sat, "God the Father." (Man's Eternal Quest p.11, 61, 163, 448)
That individual gains uttermost perfection—the actionless state of realization through renunciation—who keeps his intellect ever detached from worldly ties and passions, who is victorious in regaining his soul, and who is without desires.
—The Bhagavad Gita XVIII:49
That devotee attains the "uttermost perfection" of his individualized incarnate status when he realizes his true Self, the soul, as being of the essence of God's transcendent consciousness, untouched by bodily experiences, even as the Lord is immutable beyond the activities He sends forth through Cosmic Nature. The way to liberation lies through this realization of the Self, by God-communion and by remaining in this God-aware state of the soul while performing dutiful actions. Any individual can reach this supreme actionless state by the renunciation of all fruits of actions: performing all dutiful acts without harbouring in his heart any likes and dislikes, possessing no material desires, and feeling God, not the ego, as the Doer of all actions.
The Self-realized yogi is a prince of peace sitting on the throne of poise directing his kingdom of activity, wholly devoted to God in heart and mind, sacrificing to Him the fruits of all his actions. (Chapter IX, God Talks With Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita by Paramahansa Yogananda)
The Purpose of Life
Devotees who at will can thus interiorize their minds and concentrate fully within the resultant peacefulness will definitely find entry into the kingdom of God-consciousness. That realization gradually unfolds itself as
and visions of the realms of eternal light in which all liberated souls move in God, materializing or dematerializing themselves at will. No one can enter this heaven of Cosmic Consciousness unless through the gates of devout concentration and meditation he can penetrate his consciousness deeply within himself. That is why Jesus said unequivocally, "The kingdom of God is within you," that is, within the transcendent states of your soul perceptions. (The Second Coming of Christ, p.1181)
To escape through wisdom from the oppressive narrowness of the self into the joyous omnipresence of the Self is the goal of human life.
He is a liberated man who sees only the Lord in all creatures and in all creation. So long as a human being lives in ignorance of his true nature, only his body and egoistic mind have reality for him; his soul is as though eclipsed.
He who is conscious of the omnipresence of God does not injure the Self by the self. That man reaches the Supreme Goal.
—The Bhagavad Gita XIII:28
No real difference is present among creatures: all are products of Prakriti and all are sustained by the same Underlying Divinity. Their seeming diversity is rooted in the unity of One Mind. To realize this truth is emancipation, oneness with God.
When a man beholds all separate beings as existent in the One that has expanded Itself into the many, he then merges with Brahman.
—The Bhagavad Gita XIII:30
When by the right method of yoga, divine union, the devotee's all-seeing spiritual eye of wisdom is opened in samadhi meditation, the cumulative knowledge of truth becomes realization—intuitive perception or oneness with Reality. Through this eye of omniscience, the yogi beholds the comings and goings of beings and universes as the workings of the relativities of Prakriti's illusory maya superimposed on the singular cosmic consciousness of Spirit. By dissolving successively in the light of the "One Sun" of Cosmic Consciousness the evolutes of Prakriti from matter to Spirit, the yogi is liberated from all trammels and misconceptions of cosmic delusion. Identified with the pure immutable Kshetrajna (the Evolver-Cognizer of Nature and its domain of matter), the liberated soul can at will consciously dream with Prakriti the metamorphoses of consciousness into "the field" of matter, kshetra, or by choice remain wholly awake in Spirit, free from all nightmares inherent in maya's realm of clashing opposites. (p.898, 900)
The Goal of Human Existence
He who ignores the scriptural commands and who follows his own foolish desires does not find happiness or perfection or the Infinite Goal.
Therefore, take the scriptures as your guide in determining what should be done and what should be avoided. With intuitive understanding of the injunctions declared in holy writ, be pleased to perform thy duties here.
—The Bhagavad Gita XVI:23-24
The goal of human existence is to become reestablished in one's true Self, the soul. In Self-realization, attained by the practice of yoga, the devotee knows through direct divine experience all truth to be known about creation and its Creator. ...
An advanced Kriya Yogi, who in samadhi meditation has withdrawn his consciousness and life force from the realm of the gross body and senses, enters that inner world of wisdom revelations. He becomes aware of the seven sacred altars of Spirit in the spine and brain, and receives all knowledge emanating from them. Thus in tune with truth through intuitive soul-perception, he knows invariably the correct guidance for all aspects of his spiritual and materially dutiful conduct.
The yogi may see his rainbow-hued astral body with its subtle spine of the fiery sushumna and its intertwining nadis of ida and pingala currents. [The ida positive life current and the pingala negative life current are the two primary nadis of the astral sympathetic nervous system feeding into and out of the main current of sushumna.] Within the astral spinal centers, the activities of the elemental creative powers of earth, water, fire, air, and ether may be seen as light rays of various hues and forms. Atop the astral spine is the luminous sun of the spiritual eye: a halo of golden light surrounding a sphere of opal blue, in the center of which is the piercing white light of a star of five rays.
Within this spiritual eye, the yogi may discern his state of karmic purity or impurity according to the reflection there of the spiritualized or materially inclined vibrations issuing from the spinal astral currents. The predominance of the sattvic, or rajasic, or tamasic qualities in his nature indicate themselves in the form of an astral triangle of three points of light seen in the spiritual eye. The top luminous point is sattvic; and when this quality predominates, it is of dazzling white. The left point is the rajasic quality whose characteristic color is red; and if it is the most brilliant point, the rajasic nature is predominant. The tamasic quality is a dark point on the right; and if that darkness is predominant over the other two points in the astral triangle, it indicates the temporary strong influence of the gross delusive quality.
The entire record of the physical, astral, and spiritual qualities of the devotee are classified within this trilogy of lights. If all three points of light are harmoniously even, it indicates a perfect balance or equilibrium in the yogi: the tamasic quality properly maintaining the gross materialization of the bodily instrument, the rajasic quality vitalizing the body through the astral powers, and the sattvic quality guiding the consciousness in proper determinations.
Going beyond these astral phenomena, as the devotee is advised to do, the truly successful yogi fully opens the spiritual eye and penetrates his consciousness through it into the perception of the Infinite. Through the golden light, the blue light, and the central white star he experiences, respectively, the Lord as the omnipresent Cosmic Vibration (Aum, or Holy Ghost); Universal Intelligence (Kutastha Chaitanya, Krishna or Christ Consciousness); and Cosmic Consciousness (the blissful Absolute). (Chapter XVI, God Talks With Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita by Paramahansa Yogananda)