Two Greatest Commandments (1)

Excerpts from writings by Paramahansa Yogananda


Love God — Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself

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. - (Luke 10:27)

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)


Know God

Excerpts from The Second Coming of Christ 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. - (Luke 10:27)

This, Jesus declared, is the foremost of all cosmic laws ordained by the Spirit for soul upliftment and liberation; for through the portal of man's love God enters into oneness with him, a union that liberates him from the bondage of delusion. To love God supremely is to receive from Him eternal contentment and fulfillment, with freedom from all human desires that irresponsibly provoke continuous births and deaths with their unforeseen miseries. …


For God to command that man love Him above everything else might seem unbecoming of an all-powerful Deity. But all avatars and saints have known in their hearts that this is not to appease some quixotic whim of God, but is rather a necessity through which the individualized soul can make a conscious connection with its Source. God can live without man's love; but as the wave cannot live without the ocean, so it is not possible for man to exist without the love of God. The thirst for love in every human heart is because man is made in God's image of love. So the avatars and saints call upon mankind to love God, not because of compulsion or commandment, but because the ocean of His love surges behind the little wave of love in every heart. …

Though one must love God in order to know Him it is equally true that one must know God in order to love Him. No one can love anything of which he is entirely ignorant; no one can love a person who is completely unknown to him.

But those who meditate deeply do "know," because they find proof of the existence of God as the ever new Joy felt in meditation, or the Cosmic Sound of Aum (Amen) heard in deep silence, or the Cosmic Love experienced while concentrating devotion in the heart, or the Cosmic Wisdom that dawns as inner enlightenment, or the Cosmic Light evoking visions of Infinity, or the Cosmic Life felt during meditation when the little life is joined to the greater Life in everything.

Any devotee who even once has sensed God as any one of His tangible manifestations in meditation cannot help but love Him when thus touched by His thrilling qualities. Most people never really love God because they little know how lovable the Lord is when He visits the heart of the meditating devotee. This actual contact of the transcendental presence of God is possible to determined devotees who persist in meditation and continuous soulful prayers. ...

That system of spiritual culture whereby one learns to "love God with all your heart" is known in India as Bhakti Yoga—union with God through unconditional love and devotion. The bhakta realizes that whatever is in a person's heart, that is where his concentration is —on the thing he loves. As the lover's heart is on the beloved and the drunkard's is on his drink, so the devotee's heart is continuously absorbed in love for his Divine Beloved.

To "love God with all your mind" means with focused concentration. India has specialized in the science of concentrating the mind one-pointedly through definite techniques, so that during the time of worship the devotee is able to keep his whole attention on God. If while offering prayerful devotions the mind is constantly flitting to thoughts of work or food or bodily sensations or other diversions, that is not loving God with all the mind. The Bible teaches: "Pray without ceasing" [I Thessalonians 5:17] India's yoga science gives the actual methodology to worship God with that fully concentrated mind.

To "love God with all your soul" means to enter the state of superconscious ecstasy, direct perception of the soul and its oneness with God. When no thoughts cross the mind, but there is a conscious all-knowingness, when one knows through intuitive realization that he can do anything just by so ordering it, then one is in the expanded state of superconsciousness. It is the realization of the soul as the reflection of God, the soul's connection with the consciousness of God. It is a state of exceeding joy: the soul's crystalline perception of the omnipresent Spirit reflected as the joy of meditation.

To love God with all the soul requires the complete stillness of transcendent interiorization. This cannot be achieved while praying aloud, moving the hands this way and that, singing or chanting, or doing anything else that activates the sensory-muscular apparatus of the body. Just as in deep sleep the body and senses become inert, that inner withdrawal is characteristic also of superconscious ecstasy—only ecstasy is much deeper than sleep. Ten million sleeps do not describe the joy of it. That is the state in which one can know the soul, and with that true Self wholly adore Him who is Love itself. ...


Thou Art Dearly Loved by Me

The mastery of life energy that enables one to love God with all one's strength begins with posture (asana, training the body to maintain with ease and without restlessness the correct posture for motionless meditation) and breathing exercises for life-force control (pranayama, techniques to quiet the breath and heart). By such practice, the heart becomes quiet, effectively switching off the energy from the senses and stilling the restless breath that keeps man tied to body consciousness. The yogi is able to focus on God without the intrusive pull of the flesh. The mind, disconnected from sensations, becomes transcendentally interiorized (pratyahara). The devotee can then use that free mind in a communion of love for God. When the devotee can love God with an inwardly concentrated mind, he begins to feel that love for God in his heart, exquisitely permeating every nuance of his feelings with the presence of God. The God-saturated heart then feels the Beloved Lord in the deepest recesses of the soul where the little love meets and is enfolded by the Great Love. The feeling of God in the soul expands into realization of God in His everywhereness (the samyama of yoga: dharana, dhyana, samadhi). ...


In India's greatest scripture of yoga, the Bhagavad Gita, the Lord speaks in words that parallel the scriptural commandment cited by Jesus:

"Again listen to My supreme word, the most secret of all. Because thou art dearly loved by Me, I will relate what is beneficial to thee. Absorb thy mind in Me; become My devotee; resign all things to Me; bow down to Me. Thou art dear to Me, so in truth do I promise thee: Thou shalt attain Me!" — The Gita XVIII:64-65

The First Commandment leads the devotee into observance of the second great spiritual law, "like unto it." As one strives to feel God within, he has also a duty to share his experience of God with his neighbors: "Thou shalt love thy neighbor (all races and creatures anywhere with whom one comes in contact) as thyself (as you love your own soul) — because you see God in everyone." Man's neighbor is the manifestation of his greater Self or God. The soul is a reflection of Spirit, a reflection that is in every being and in the vibratory life of all animate and inanimate cosmic decor. To love parents, relatives, associates, countrymen, all races of the earth, all creatures, flowers, stars, which live in the "neighborhood" or range of one's consciousness is to love God in His multifarious tangible manifestations. Those persons yet unable to love God as His subtle expressions in meditation can nurture their love for Him as manifested in nature and in all beings they contact or sense in any way.

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