The following are excerpts from the article “Be Nourished by the Soul” by Sri Daya Mata, who served as third president and Sanghamata (“Mother of the Society”) of SRF/YSS from 1955 until her passing in 2010. The full article by Daya Mata can be read in the digital version of the Spring 2020 issue of Self-Realization magazine, which is available on the Self-Realization page on our site; and also as one of the many past articles in the extensive online library of articles and audio content available to subscribers of Self-Realization magazine.
Humankind has to embrace the art of balanced spiritual living, and it has to learn to get along as one global family. The pressures we feel and the anxieties that plague us in this era of exploding technological advances will sooner or later compel us to learn these lessons.
Paramahansa Yogananda foresaw this years ago, and told us many times: “The day is coming when the world will have to get back to simple living. We must simplify our lives to make time for God. We must live more with the consciousness of brotherhood, because as civilization evolves into a higher age, we are going to find that the world becomes smaller. Prejudice, intolerance, must go.”
Jesus said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Science has brought the nations so close to one another that the once vast world is now more like a household, with each member interlinked and dependent on the others.
Considering how difficult it is for even a small family to stay together amidst the disuniting trends of our times, is there hope for unity in the world at large? There is hope — for individual families as well as for relationships among the global family of nations — if we make time to nurture those goals and values that are conducive to real peace and spiritual understanding….
We are more and more realizing, particularly in the Western world, that the goals we have pursued do not satisfy our souls. Over the next generation or so, we will see this same understanding emerge in those developing nations where Western materialistic values are being overly idolized and imitated.
The True Purpose of Life
We have accomplished much in improving the outer conditions of life, but we have neglected the most important accomplishment — to improve and change ourselves, to know ourselves, to understand why we are born, to realize our true purpose in life.
“The goal of life is to know truth,” Paramahansaji said. “We may think we have other goals, and we may have lesser goals; but eventually, in one life or in another, man comes to the realization that he has but one goal to achieve, and that is to know himself in truth as the soul, the atman, made in the image of God; and to know Him who is Truth: God.”…
Meditation Aligns the Outer Life With Inner Values
Meditation helps us to align our outer life with the inner values of the soul as nothing else in this world can. It does not take away from family life or relationships with others. On the contrary, it makes us more loving, more understanding — it makes us want to serve our husband, our wife, our children, our neighbors.
Real spirituality begins when we include others in our wish for well-being, when we expand our thoughts beyond “I and me and mine.”…
Most shun meditation not because they truly have no time, but because they do not want to face themselves — a definite result of the interiorization of meditation. There is too much they do not like in themselves, so would rather keep the mind busy on externals, never thinking too deeply about the self-improvements they need to make. Get away from such mental laziness. Mental sloth, Patanjali pointed out in his Yoga Sutras, is one of the major obstacles that hinder our spiritual progress. It makes us say, “Well, tomorrow I will think of You, God. Today I am just too busy with the worries You have given me.”…
The tragedy of complacency is that most persons do not begin to do something about bettering their spiritual condition until their hearts are wrung with torment, sadness, frustration, suffering. Only then do they turn toward seeking the Divine. Why wait and go through such anguish? It is so simple to feel God now if we make but a little effort in meditation.
Live With Delight
How marvelously different and fulfilling is the balanced life in God shown us by Paramahansa Yogananda: “Divine Mother, teach me to live with delight. May I enjoy my earthly duties and the countless beauties of creation. Help me to train my senses to observe and appreciate Thy wondrous world of Nature. Let me savor with Thy zest all innocent pleasures. Save me from negation and unwarranted kill-joy attitudes.”
This particularly appeals to me: “Let me savor with Thy zest all innocent pleasures.” People have the notion that when you seek God, you have to be oh so solemn! But such false piety is not of the soul. The several saints I have met and associated with, including Paramahansaji, have been joyous, spontaneous, childlike. I do not mean childish — immature, irresponsible; I mean childlike — one who can enjoy the simplest pleasures, who lives with delight.
The Real Pleasures of Life
Today in Western civilization people do not know how to enjoy simple things. They have become so jaded in their tastes that nothing satisfies: overstimulated outwardly, starved and empty inwardly, they take to drink or drugs to escape. The values of contemporary culture are unhealthy, unnatural; that is why it fails to produce many truly balanced individuals and families that do not go to pieces. And it is not only in this country; that value-sickness is spreading in all countries, even in India.
Let us get back to the simple pleasures of life. Have you ever on your day off, for example, taken a drive up into the mountains, or out into the desert or some other quiet place, had a picnic, sat quietly, and thought about God? These are real pleasures; what joy they bring once you have cultivated the sensitivity of appreciating the Lord’s presence in the beauty of nature.
Just looking out over the ocean, or at some other natural panorama — even beautiful grass, beautiful trees — I get such a thrill from it. That we all can do.
You might say, “Well, it would be terribly boring.” But just try it once instead of going to a movie, from which you usually return restless and moody. You wanted to enjoy it, but it did not make you happy. Instead, seek natural places of beauty and solitude and listen to the still voice of God speaking through His creation. What peace it will bring to you!
If you would like to learn more about the practical methods and guidance that Paramahansa Yogananda has given for leading a life of spiritual simplicity and abundant peace and joy, you may visit our page on the Self-Realization Fellowship Lessons, the home-study course Paramahansaji established to provide his personal instruction in the science of meditation and art of balanced living.