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Lesson Two




Let me be Christian, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, Mohammedan, or Sufi: I care

not what be my religion, race, creed, or color, if only I can win my way to Thee!
But let me be none of these if that identity enmeshes me in an enclosing net of
religious or social formalities. Let me travel the royal high road of realization
which leads to Thee. If I am traveling on some bypath of religion, lead me onto
the one common highway of realization which leads straight to Thee.
Send me the sunshine of Thy wisdom, that it lead me to the morning of
my growing powers; and send me the moon of Thy mercy to guide me rightly, if
ever I am lost in the dark night of sorrow.


The Teachings of Patanjali

Sutra One: Now comes the subject of Yoga.
Thus begins the only book on yoga that is universally recognized as a
scripture. It was written by a great master of spirituality who lived thousands
of years ago. Almost nothing is known about Patanjali. He is believed to have
been married, and he lived, obviously, in India. The rest is, as far as I know,
The particularly difficult aspect of his teaching, however, for us who live
today, is that he so condensed his explanations as to make them almost
incomprehensible! In modern times, we are fond of words, and use them
expansively. Adjectives and adverbs are the entre and dessert of present-day
writing. If a writer can tell us that a certain scene included a sunset, he wont
miss the opportunity. If he can describe that sunset as glowing, multi-hued,
radiant, etc., and tell us that it made him feel transformed, tranquil, peaceful,
and suffused with happiness as he watched it, he will almost certainly seize
the chance.
The spiritual teacher in India thousands of years ago would have
considered the sunset itself quite irrelevant, related as it was to mere sensory
knowledge, and just another aspect, therefore, of the delusion he wanted his
students to transcend.
Patanjali, for most people in our times, reads rather like a shopping list!
And yet his is the only yoga scripture which everyone accepts as authoritative.
For the modern reader, his succinctness can cause one to tear out the hair!
Fortunately, Paramhansa Yogananda, a modern master, had the same
profound insights as Patanjali. All liberated masters have attained the same
level of realization, however much their followers may squabble about their
relative merits. Yogananda explained Patanjalis teachings with simple clarity.
There is a widely circulated printout of classes my Guru gave on the subject.
Those classes, however, were sometimes confusing, for he departed often from
his subject to address particular questions in the minds of his audience. The
essence of all he taught elsewhere, however, includes Patanjalis teachings. He
spent many hours, moreover, with me alone in the desert, discussing the finer
points of these teachings. What I present here are not my thoughts, but those
of my Guru.
Now comes the subject of Yoga. That word, now, he explained,
contains the essential meaning of this sutra, or verse. It implies that, in order
to learn about yoga, one must first be schooled in the principles of Shankhya.
One must, in other words, understand the universal need for the higher
consciousness which will be provided by yoga practice.
The teachings of Shankhya are as ancient as those of yoga. In them, the
true nature of human life is explained: not the day-by-day existence we all
share, with breakfast, lunch, and dinner; the need for work to support
ourselves; the urge most people feel for marriage, sex, the satisfaction of


producing children; the need for the pleasure of having possessions, for others
esteem, for sensory indulgence, and for self-reassurance.
What the Shankhya teachings point out is that no fulfillment can ever
last very long. Too many fulfillments in life require, moreover, a commitment of
energy that binds people to an ever-turning wheel. Every fulfillment is followed
by disappointment; every success, by failure; every triumph, by some kind of
defeat. It is like a childrens playground swing: forward movement must be
followed by an equal backward swing.
The farther the swing moves forward, moreover, the farther it must swing
back in the opposite direction. The greater the outer fulfillment, the greater
also the outer disappointment. Ones happiest moments are balanced by ones
most miserable. If one is luckythat is to say, if ones karma is goodhis
happiest moments will all the sooner result in his most miserable. The very
afternoon of the day on which he received his long-awaited promotion, he may
learn that he has cancer. Usually, karma is intermixed and complex. The
cancer will be discovered years later, and will be attributed to some completely
unrelated cause.
Thus, people go bumping on through life, never understanding why so
many wrong things happen to them, priding themselves for the wrong reasons,
and blaming others for every misfortune or unhappiness, though in reality the
misfortune was brought on by themselves.
The nature of unhappiness is that it creates the thought that ones
misery will never end. Suffering does end of course, and because there is
always a dim light at the end of that tunnel, people reach out for it in hope
that one illness preserved by Pandora when she closed her box.
Get away, Krishna cries in the Bhagavad Gita, from My ocean of
suffering and misery! Ordinary human beings are spiritually blind. In their
ignorance they blame God. They think God is cruel, indifferent, angry with
them for embracing error, and coldly callous to their subsequent, inevitable
One wonders why people continue to cling to the wheel. But the answer
is recognized by everybody: there is always hope! They have known enjoyment
and success: perhaps they will know them again. And in fact these things do
come back. People cling by choice to the wheel. Their clinging is not Gods wish
for them.
Shankhya tell us why we should get off that wheel. Clinging to it will get
us nowhere. It could not possibly be otherwise.
The deeper why of it, however, is not explained by Shankhya. A saying
of this philosophy is, Ishwar ashidha, God is not provedthe point not being
that God doesnt exist, but rather that knowledge of the world through the
senses cannot prove His existence. Shankhya is directed toward proving that
sensory knowledge is inadequate for any true understanding. (The labors of
science will always be, therefore, futile!)
Elsewhere in the Indian teachings, it is made clear that what we call God
is, in fact, Infinite Consciousness. That Consciousness, the Supreme Spirit, is
without substance, and without any kind of movement. Its nature is

Satchidananda: ever-existing, ever-conscious, ever-new Bliss. The evernewness of that state inspires the manifestation of Itself from time to time as
Cosmic Creation. This it does by setting Itself superficiallyat the surface, so
to speak, of the Infinite Ocean of Awarenessin motion.
The Christian New Testament, the Gospel of Saint John, begins with the
sentence, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the
Word was God. The meaning of this sentence is no different from what I have
written already. The word of human speech is the vibration of mans
consciousness. And the Word of God is the vibration of Divine Consciousness.
Truth, whether in the East or the West, cannot but be the same. The Cosmic
Vibration, AUM, is what the Bible calls the Holy Ghost.
In Christian tradition we learn that God is a Trinity: Father, Son, and
Holy Ghost; three in one and one in three. The mystery seems impossible of
solution. But it is explained quite simply in the Hindu traditionas simply as
anything cosmic can be explained in human terms!
God the Father is the Supreme Spirit: Sat. God the Holy Ghost is AUM.
The Son is not Jesus Christ, but the Christ Consciousness, Tat, or the
Kutastha Chaitanya: the unmoving consciousness of Spirit reflected (so to
speak) in every point of Creation.
For there cannot be two infinite realities. The vibration necessary to
produce Creation cannot exist as a separate reality from that of the evermotionless Spirit. In that vibration itself there would have to exist also the state
beyond movement. And so it does. For at the central point between each
oppositional movement, there would have to be a point of rest where those
opposites are canceled out. That point of rest is the reflection of the state of
stillness beyond Creation: the Supreme Spirit itself. This still reflection is the
Christ ConsciousnessTat in the Sanskrit terminology. Thus, we have the
three in one and one in three! Jesus, the man, was not the son of God. But in
meditative awareness he was one with the Christ consciousness. He himself (be
it noted) used both expressions: son of man, and Son of God. It was in that
higher state only that he could say rightly, I and my Father are one.
By his example, and also by the example of all who, by perfect inner
stillness and purity, have attained that high state of consciousness, we may all
become aware that we are, all of us, products of Gods consciousness.
All the talk in churches about our being the children of Adam and Eve,
and born in sin, is itself a sin! Sin means error. It means to think we can find
fulfillment in acts and attitudes that will in fact keep us bound to delusion: our
worldly existence. This whole universe is a dream. It has no actual form,
substance, or reality of any kind. It is Gods dream! Our greatest sins are only
errors, committed in misunderstanding. We ourselves may sin, but we are not
sinners. No sin can define our reality. A saint, Yogananda used to say, is a
sinner who never gave up!
Our very existence came from God. And our destiny is to return to Him
to merge back in Him. This is Sanaatan Dharma, the Eternal religion. There
cannot, in the entire universe, be another. Religions that call themselves


Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, and the like are misnomers. There can only be one
Truth, and that truth is this religion. It depends not on beliefs, but on actual,
vivid, personal experience. In the end, this experience must come to every soul.
Creation can exist only because of the principle of dwaita, duality: action
and reaction; up and down; pleasure and grief; fulfillment and disappointment.
The underlying reality of all these opposites is the unmoving Spirit, whose
nature is perfect bliss.
Back, then, to Patanjali. We see clearly from the above that nothingno
outward state of consciousness, no outward state of existence, no outward
fulfillmentcan ever endure for long. The ancient Greeks had a saying, Panta
rhe, All is flux. No human fulfillment can endure. Success cannot but
alternate with failure; happiness, with sorrow; pleasure, with pain.
Remember my analogy of the swing? The farther in any direction the
swing of your reactions and emotions, the farther it must swing back in the
opposite direction. The greater your personal awareness of fulfillmentany
outward fulfillment, whether it be of the body and the senses, the emotions, or
the mindthe greater will have to be your disappointment.
Is there an answer? Surely, from everything I have written, the answer is
obvious. Live more at your center within! Be always inwardly calm. Never allow
anything to upset you. Dont give in to excitement over any gain. Be always
even-minded and cheerful. When tests come to you, accept them serenely in
the certainty that things will sooner or later turn out for the bestonly to
worsen again? Well, yes, of course. The wheel of your life will keep on turning,
but you will be the less likely to fall, the closer you stand at the center.
Always remember, it isnt any particular thing, condition, or
circumstance that can ever make you either sad or happy: It is your selfyour
reactions! A sunset may thrill you with its beauty, but it is never sunset that
provides the thrill. A turtle might see the same event and wonder only if it was
something good to eat. The more you cultivate your own ability to enjoy, the
more you will delight in everythingeven in watching crowds of people as they
bustle through the citys streets.
I had an interesting dream not long ago. Some enemies of mine had
determined to burn me at the stake. They tied me to a post, piled fagots under
me, and set them afire. I remember thinking at the time, This pain wont last
long, and then Ill be free from my body altogether. My consciousness will
survive. Surely, because Ive tried to live a good life, I will be happy. What,
then, does this little bit of suffering matter? I will accept it calmly.
While I was thus thinking, my enemies (as can happen in dreams) sat
down at a banquet table nearby. Laughing happily, they feasted, quaffing one
another in merriment with toast after toast.
At just that moment, friends of mine came and released me before the
flames could rise high enough to burn me badly. At this point I awoke, happy
to realize that I had been no more relieved by my friends saving me than
wretched when my enemies tied me to the stake. This attitude, I realized, is
what we should hold always, toward no matter what befalls us. Ours should


not be so much an attitude of indifference as one of waiting to see what God

has in store for us.
For indifference falls short of the true mark. I once met a sadhu (one who
has totally embraced the spiritual life), who was a hundred and thirty-two
years old. That fact alone shows that he must have made notable spiritual
progress. He told me, You should never enjoy anything.
What, I asked, not even a beautiful sunset?
No, he replied severely, nothing!
And I thought, What a dry attitude!
Yogananda taught us to enjoy everything with the joy of God. Even lifes
harshest experiences do you ask? Even dirt and garbage?
One time when Yogananda was a boy he saw a pile of putrid rice on the
street. A passing cow sniffed at it and backed away hurriedly.
I can eat that rice! Master exclaimed to a companion. God is in that
rice as much as in everything else.
If you eat it, scoffingly cried his friend, I will eat it!
Remember your words! Master answered. He then stooped down and,
picking up a handful of the rice, ate it with every evidence of relish. Horrified,
his friend bolted as if for his life! But Yogananda (Mukunda he was called at
that time) took up another handful of the rice and gave chase. Overtaking his
friend, he insisted, You must keep your promise! He thrust the handful of rice
into the boys mouth, who immediately threw up everything in his stomach.
I must make it clear that I am not asking you to eat putrid rice! All Im
asking is that you accept with an even mind whatever happens in your life.
Whatever comes, it cannot but change in time to its opposite.
Death is the fear most people hold supreme in their hearts. Yet what they
see when people die is only their vacated bodies. We are not this body. The
body is but the vehicle through which we express ourselves on earth. After
death, our consciousness becomes liberated from this heavy burden. We
become free to experience a new and lighter reality.
My own father didnt believe in life after death. When he died, however, I
distinctly felt his presence. It had the same enthusiastic, energetic outlook I
remembered so well from my childhood days.
When a person dies, he no longer has a body to experience pain, hunger,
and disease. Whether or not he is joyful depends on how he has lived. If he has
lived a kindly life (as my father did), he will be happy. On the other hand, if he
lived viciously, he will experience the pain he inflicted on others as well as the
pain of the vicious attitude itself. While he remained in his physical body, there
was always that protectingthough at the same time confiningwall of matter
surrounding him, within which he could huddle. At death, that protection
disappears. A persons emotions are released and expand into their true
Thus, if one has been kind to others, he will experience love and
happiness to an intensified degree. But if he has been unkind, he will
experience a grayly shriveled existence, cut off from his surroundings and

It is important, along with the teaching that we should enjoy all things
with the joy of God (from within, in other words, from the higher Self), for us to
love allagain, with the love of God. Human love is possessive. Divine love is
self-giving. Human love thinks in terms of what it might receive from others.
Divine Love seeks satisfaction in giving.
Why should these statements be true? Because all of us are, in essence,
children of God. It is our ego-consciousness that makes us see ourselves as
separatenot only from God, but from one another and from everything else.
Ego-consciousness is the source of all our suffering. When we draw anything to
ourselves, the result is that we narrow our consciousness and thereby submit
ourselves increasingly to our own suffocating littleness. But when we give of
ourselves, we expand our self-identity and embrace a larger, freer reality.
To be ready for the spiritual path, you must have reachedor must try to
reachthe understanding that this world is not for you; that only God can
satisfy your every need.
Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy mind, with all thy
soul, and with all thy strength, and love thy neighbor as thyself. Your
neighbor is, in the highest sense, yourself. To hurt him is to invite the same
hurt to yourself. To make him happy is to increase your own happiness. These
truths are easy to test! Why not make the experiment?
Why doesnt everyone realize their truth? The answer is quite simple: It
takes a long time to reach high levels of maturity. And a very long time is
always necessary. One lifetime is simply not enough. Not nearly enough!
Is it possible that we have lived before? Is it likely that we will live again?
These questions must wait to be answered in the next lesson.


Nothing Works
A certain lover of God was frail and sickly. His frailty kept him from
meditating as deeply as he would have liked. When death came, as it must to
all, an angel appeared before him and asked, Is there anything you would like
in your next life?
Yes! cried the devotee. I would like to be reborn with a healthy, strong
Is that all you want? the angel asked.
Yes! the devotee replied with certainty.
In his next life, that prayer was granted. Alas! however, he was born
poor, and never had the means of satisfying his robust appetite.
When death came this time, the angel appeared and said, I see you still
have a desire.
Yes! cried the devotee. In my next life I would like not only a healthy
body, but also money with which to enjoy my good health.
In his next life, accordingly, he was born to both health and wealth.
Buthe was lonely! This time, when death came, he asked for health, wealth,
and someone with whom to share his good fortune.
Thus, in this new life he was given health, wealth, and a beautiful wife.
But alas! she died after one year. He spent the rest of his life worshiping her
gloves, her dress, her jewels.
When death came this time, the angel asked, What now?
In my next life I want health, wealth, and a beautiful wife who lives a
long life.
And in his succeeding life he got all that. This time, however, his wife
lived too long. He tired of her, and at last went off with his beautiful young
secretary, who cared only for his money. She took that, and ran off with her
handsome young lover.
This time, when death came and the devotee still looked unsatisfied, the
angel came and demanded, So what is it this time?
Nothing! I want nothing! I see that, with every fulfillment, there is
always a catch. I want only one fulfillment now: the joy of union with my
Infinite Beloved. Then, even if I am sickly, poor, and bereft of human love, I will
find complete and eternal fulfillment in God.
I will seek in my higher Self for every fulfillment.