Excerpts from “Focusing the Power of Attention for Success,” a talk given on July 11, 1940, at the Self-Realization Fellowship International Headquarters. The full talk can be found in Journey to Self-realization, the third volume of Paramahansaji’s Collected Talks and Essays, published by SRF.
The teaching of Yoga does not advise you to fly away from your duties in the world. It tells you to saturate yourself with the thought of God while you do your part in this world where He has placed you.
If you desire a life of seclusion in the forest or in the mountains, thinking that in the freedom from duties there you will find God, you must have the will to sit all day, day after day, in meditation.
Certainly that effort is commendable. But it is much greater to be able to be in the world but not of it — to perform your true duties for the benefit of others while keeping your mind on God. “By forsaking work no one reaches to perfection….O Arjuna, remaining immersed in yoga, perform all actions, forsaking attachment (to their fruits)” (Bhagavad Gita III:4 and II:48).
You must think of greater and lesser duties in proper perspective. And don’t let one duty contradict another. In the Sanskrit scriptures there is a divine law, one of the most beautiful laws ever given to the world: “If one duty contradicts another duty, it is not a true duty.”
If you seek financial success at the cost of health, you are not fulfilling your duty to the body. If you are so crazy about religion that you neglect your material responsibilities, you are not balanced; you have allowed one duty to contradict your obligations to your body and family. If you lose sight of your duty toward God because you give all your attention to fussing about your family, that is not duty.
Many ask, “Shall we first acquire material success to fulfill our worldly obligations, and then seek God? Or should we have God first and then go after success?” By all means, God first. Never begin or end your day without communion with Him in deep meditation.
We should remember that we could not perform any duties without the power borrowed from God. So it is to Him we owe our first allegiance….
To speak of seeking God and material fulfillment together sounds good; but unless you meditate deeply and regularly so that you anchor your consciousness in God first, the world will claim all your attention and you will have no time for Him.
Without the consciousness that God is with you, your material duties usually turn into methods of torture. But if you have God with you all the time, and do your duties with the consciousness of God, you can be the happiest person. “Their thoughts fully on Me, their beings surrendered to Me, enlightening one another, proclaiming Me always, My devotees are contented and joyful” (Bhagavad Gita X:9).
If I had not had the training of my guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar, which gave me that divine consciousness, I would have lost heart long ago, trying to help people and to build this work, and sometimes getting slaps instead of cooperation….
All scriptures teach: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33). But see how people separate from their daily lives the spiritual doctrines they read or hear about in church. When you practice and apply principles of truth, you will realize the practicality of all spiritual, mental, and physical laws.
When you read scriptures superficially, you don’t get anything from them. But if you read truth with concentration, and really believe what you read, those truths will work for you. You may want to believe; you may even think you believe; but if you really believe, the result will be instantaneous.
There are various degrees of belief. Some people don’t believe at all. Some want to believe, others believe a little bit, and some believe until their belief is tested. We are so certain of our convictions, until they are contradicted; then we become confused and insecure. Faith is intuitive conviction, a knowing from the soul, that cannot be shaken even by contradictions.
The practical purpose behind the scriptural injunction to seek God first is that once you have found Him, you can use His power to acquire the things your common sense tells you are right for you to have. Have faith in this law.
In attunement with God you will find the way to true success, which is a balance of spiritual, mental, moral, and material attainment.