Two Greatest Commandments (1)
Excerpts from writings by Paramahansa Yogananda
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.
These two commandments sum up the whole purpose of religion. If you sincerely love God you will do only what is based upon truth. Your love will not allow you to err against Him. Bring in the light, and darkness will vanish as though it had never been. Bring in love of God and the darkness of ignorance flies away. The science of yoga explains the truth behind the first commandment, and gives definite scientific techniques that enable the devotee to attain the divine communion necessary in order to love God so completely. Behind each part of these commandments is a deep metaphysical truth:
"Love the Lord...with all thy heart":
It is God who has given you the power to love your family and friends. Why should you not use that power to love Him as you love your dearest ones on earth? You should be able to say: "My Lord, I love You as the father loves the child, as the lover loves the beloved, as the friend loves the friend, as the master loves the servant. I love You with the strength of all human loves, for Thou art my Father, my Mother, my Friend, my Master, my Beloved." When you truly love God with all your heart, you feel that love for Him day and night.
As I was leaving home to seek God I was inwardly torn by the conflict of loyalties. My father had done everything for me, and the whole family was crying over my imminent departure, but the love of God was stronger, and I was able to overcome the limitations of familial love.
Many human beings say "I love you" one day and reject you the next. That is not love. One whose heart is filled with the love of God cannot willfully hurt anyone. When you love God without reservation, He fills your heart with His unconditional love for all. That love no human tongue can describe.
"...and with all thy soul":
You cannot fulfill this part of the commandment unless you know your soul. You know it in an unconscious way each night, for in deep sleep you are aware only of existing; you have no consciousness of being either man or woman. You are soul. You can consciously know your soul—your true self—by meditation. And when you know yourself as soul you will have discovered the presence of God within you. The moon's reflection cannot be seen clearly in ruffled water, but when the water's surface is calm a perfect reflection of the moon appears. So with the mind: when it is calm you see clearly reflected the mooned face of the soul. As souls we are reflections of God. When by meditation techniques we withdraw restless thoughts from the lake of the mind, we behold our soul, a perfect reflection of Spirit, and realize that the soul and God are One.
"...and with all thy strength":
This aspect of the commandment is highly scientific. It means withdrawing all your strength—all your energies and consciousness—into their source, which is God. Yoga teaches you how to control your life energies and transmute them from body-consciousness into God-consciousness.
"...and with all thy mind":
When you are praying to God, your attention and concentration should be wholly on Him. You should not be thinking about your Sunday dinner or your work or any other worries and desires. The Lord knows your thoughts. Krishna said: "Whenever the fickle and restless mind wanders away—for some reason or for no reason!—let the yogi withdraw it from distractions and return it to the sole control of the Self." [Bhagavad-GitaVI:26] When I pray to God, my mind stays riveted on Him. If you develop that calm intensity of concentration you will find that a time comes when no matter what else you are doing, days and nights pass with your mind inwardly absorbed in God.
"...and thy neighbor as thyself":
The ordinary man is incapable of loving others in this way. Self-centered in the consciousness of "I, me, and mine," he has not yet discovered the omnipresent God who resides in him and in all other beings. To me there is no difference between one person and another, I behold all as soul-reflections of the one God.*
[* The experience of Paramahansa Yogananda here described is spoken of in the Bhagavad-Gita (VI:9): "He is a supreme yogi who regards with equal-mindedness all men—patrons, friends, enemies, strangers, mediators, hateful beings, relatives, the virtuous and the ungodly."]
I can't think of anyone as a stranger, for I know that we are all part of the One Spirit. When you experience the true meaning of religion, which is to know God, you will realize that He is your Self, and that He exists equally and impartially in all beings. Then you will be able to love others as your own Self. (Man's Eternal Quest, p117)