Compilation of talks given by Sri Daya Mata that were originally printed in Self-Realization magazine. Sri Daya Mata served as president and sanghamata of Self-Realization Fellowship from 1955 until her passing in 2010.
Throughout history, the human race has gone through so many crises, and these predicaments will continue to come and go. This world revolves in an upward and downward cycle that continually repeats itself. Right now, the consciousness of society as a whole is progressing upward; after reaching its apex thousands of years hence, it will come down again. Progression, regression; there is constant ebb and flow on this plane of duality.
With these evolutional cycles, civilizations rise and fall. Consider the highly advanced past civilizations, such as those of India and China. From the ancient Sanskrit epics of India, for example, we see that during the time of Sri Rama, thousands of years before the Christian era, technology was highly advanced, as evidenced by his marvelous aircraft. And greater still were the mental and spiritual powers of those who lived in that Golden Age. But eventually, civilization began to decline, until in the Dark Ages such advancement became obscured. What caused this? I was thinking about that yesterday after my meditation, in light of what is happening in the world today.
During the downward part of the cycle, people in general become increasingly ignorant of the spiritual side of their nature, until all that is noble disappears. Then the fall of that civilization is not far behind. This same process can happen to nations in the ascending phase of the cycle as well. If man’s moral and spiritual evolution does not keep pace with the upward progress of knowledge and technology, he misuses the power he has acquired, to his own destruction. Indeed, this is the nature of the world crisis we are facing today.
Man’s consciousness has evolved enough for him to unlock the mystery and marvelous power of the atom, a power that may one day perform tremendous things that we cannot even dream about now. But what have we done with that knowledge? The primary concentration has been on the development of instruments of destruction. Modern technology has also given us freedom from many of the time-consuming tasks that were once necessary for physical survival. Often, however, the leisure time man has gained is not used to advance his mental and spiritual natures, but to engage in an endless pursuit of material and sensual pleasures. If man thinks only in terms of his own sensuality, ruled by his emotions of hatred, jealousy, lust, and greed, the inevitable result is inharmony between individuals, turmoil within societies, conflicts among nations. Wars have never cured anything; instead, they snowball into greater holocausts — one confrontation breeding another. Only by the evolution of wiser, more loving human beings will the world become a truly better place.
Someone asked me how we can best deal with the negation and darkness that are so prevalent in the world today. I prayed very deeply about that, and my mind went back to the divine experience that I had in India thirty years ago during a pilgrimage to Mahavatar Babaji’s cave.
My companions and I were spending the night in a little hut on the way to the cave. In the middle of the night, I had a superconscious vision in which I saw that the world was going to face a very difficult time, a period of great turmoil and unrest and confusion. I cried out, and the others asked me what was wrong. I didn’t want to talk about the experience then; but I knew it had deep meaning, not merely for Daya Ma but for the world. In this vision there was a huge dark cloud spreading out over the universe; its ominous darkness was horrifying to see. But in the next instant, I saw the great, divinely loving, all-blissful light of God pushing back the black waves of that cloud. And I knew then that all would eventually turn out well.
We are now passing through the troubled times foretold in that experience. It is happening in every nation — wars, famine, incurable diseases, economic crises, catastrophic disasters, religious and civil strife. Worst of all, there is a growing sense of fear and helplessness in the face of advancing chaos.
Why are these afflictions upon us? Our situation is not unlike that of the ancient Egyptians, who were stricken by plagues and calamities for having defied the Divine Will, as is recorded in the scriptures. We tend to think that such occurrences happened only in biblical times, but this is not so. We have plagues today, many of them. We blindly think, “Oh, these can’t be the result of our having transgressed. It’s just a coincidence.” It is not a coincidence.
[A talk by Sri Daya Mata entitled “A Promise of Light” was given at the 1993 SRF World Convocation as part of the celebration of the 100th anniversary of Paramahansa Yogananda’s birth. The link below will take you to our Weekly & Special Services page, where you can scroll down and find “A Promise of Light” among the collection of talks.]
Ask yourselves: “How far have we wandered from truth?” “Thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not commit adultery; thou shalt not steal....” These laws of truth have been expounded in the Ten Commandments, in the teachings of Christ, and, much earlier, in the Eightfold Path of Yoga — the first two steps of Patanjali’s Yoga are yama and niyama, the principles of right behavior we should embrace and the principles of wrong behavior we should shun.
These are divine laws, a part of the universal absolutes, which have been set before mankind by our beloved God. He created this world in the most scientific and mathematically precise manner; every aspect of it is governed by law. He makes His laws clear to us through revelation to great souls such as Jesus and the rishis of ancient India. He put forth these laws that we might have guidelines to help us learn how to behave in order to put our lives in tune with God.
Down through the ages have come great lovers of God with their divine messages. In early times we had the principles expounded by Moses; for example, “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” He pointed out the inexorability of the divine law that what you sow, you must reap. Centuries later came Jesus Christ, bringing a teaching of great compassion. At that time humanity needed to learn something of forgiveness and mercy; there had been too many years of vengeance in “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” Christ sought to balance the exacting, uncompromising emphasis on law by teaching forgiveness, sharing, divine love. His influence has continued down to the present time.
Now we have entered another era — a time, Paramahansaji has told us, when Mahavatar Babaji in communion with Jesus Christ has sent that which will enable humanity to go beyond merely hearing and talking about the teachings of Christ, or merely reading or reciting from India’s great scripture, the Bhagavad Gita, for mankind is hungering for something deeper.
That “something” is direct communion with the Divine Beloved. Not one of us is outside of that Divine Awareness. We are all made in His image. Regardless of our color, our creed, our beliefs, we are all a part of Him; each one of us has within us that spark of the Divine. Scripture tells us: “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?”
What is that spirit of God within us? It is the soul, the atman; the very essence of what we are. But how many of us know ourselves as divine souls? Most people have wandered so far away from that realization that they have no remembrance of the Divine for even one minute out of the day. Their consciousness has become jaded through abuse of the senses. The sense of taste has become jaded by alcohol, greed, wrong eating habits. The eyes have become jaded by the sensuality we behold in our daily lives. The ears have become jaded by all of the evil things we hear. And tongues have become jaded because they spew foul words reflecting dark thoughts.
We are the creators of the conditions that confront us. They are the sum total of immoral behavior and the decline of ethical standards in all walks of life.
The survival of civilization depends on observance of standards of right behavior. I am not talking about man-made codes that change with changing times, but about timeless universal principles of conduct that promote healthy, happy, peaceful individuals and societies — allowing for diversity in a harmonious unity.
It is sometimes hard for us in our ordinary consciousness to grasp the immensity of the truths behind God’s structured universe. But those ultimate verities do exist, and there can be no compromise with the exacting laws by which the Lord upholds the cosmos and its beings. Everything in the universe is connected. As human beings, we are related not only to each other, but to all nature as well, because all life comes from one Source: God. He is perfect harmony; but the wrong thoughts and actions of man have a desultory effect on the manifestation of His harmonious plan in this world. Just as when you try to tune in a radio station, static may prevent you from receiving the program clearly, so man’s “static” misbehavior disturbs the harmony of the forces of nature. Wars, natural catastrophes, social turmoil, and the other problems we are facing today are the result.
We must change. That was the message of Paramahansa Yogananda; that is why this work he founded will grow on and on and on — because it can and will help people to change.
Afflicted by suffering, people commonly say: “Why did God do this to me?” He didn’t do it to us. We must take responsibility for ourselves, for our own actions. When we hit a stone wall, the wall doesn’t mean to hurt us; but we may break our knuckles, or our head! We cannot blame the wall for that. We may lament, “But I didn’t know that wall was there; otherwise I wouldn’t have run into it!” That is why God created divine laws and set them forth as guidelines in all the great religions of the world. To each of us He is saying, “My child, these are the absolutes you must follow.” He knew that we were weak; He knew that we were frail. He knew we had lost contact with Him — and that our vision and discrimination had been clouded — by our becoming too much immersed in this material world. So he gave those laws through the prophets and rishis to help us know when we are doing wrong. We suffer when we transgress those eternal divine principles.
We must get back to them. We must realize, as Christ said, that our kingdom is not of this world. It is beyond this mundane kingdom — it is where the divine ones are, where the great saints and masters are. How many times I saw Paramahansaji in his room suddenly become very quiet and withdrawn. Some of us were privileged on those occasions to sit at his feet and meditate with him. After he had opened his eyes, he would speak of that other world: “You see this finite world? It is so imperfect. If you could only see, as I see, that great world beyond this one — filled with God’s light and joy.”
My dear ones, your kingdom, too, is not of this world. Let us not lose our awareness of our real kingdom; let us not spend all of our time and attention on the things of this world, because one day we must leave it.
So when you ask me: “How do we face the ‘doom and gloom’ in this world?” I say to you: Don’t accept it! It doesn’t exist as such unless you allow it to exist as darkness in your own consciousness. Make the effort to change the center of your awareness. How often each day do we think of God? How often do we turn inward to God? It is so wonderful to live always in the consciousness of His presence, to live always with the thought, “I love You, my God.” What a thrill that is. “I love You, and because I love You first, I feel love for all mankind. I can forgive those who misunderstand me because I love You. I want only to do good in this world because I love You.” That is the way we ought to live our lives.
Don’t be discouraged by this “doom and gloom”; it will pass. In this world many civilizations have come and gone. There have been unnumbered crises like those we see today — more than we could possibly know or remember, though our souls have traveled through many such periods during our long journey of incarnations. But this is not all there is. There is something better for us beyond, in that other world. The more we take our minds away from the body’s attachments to this sphere, the more we can lift our consciousness into that divine kingdom.
We begin by trying to spiritualize the senses. Look only to the good, try to think only good. It doesn’t mean we become Pollyannas; it means we have the will, strength, devotion, and faith within us to say: “My God, I am Yours. And I will do whatever I can in my little corner of the world to cheer and uplift others — whether it be my family, my neighbors, my community, whomever I can reach. I will do the best I can, even though I myself may be struggling.”
Our Guru often said: “Real saints are those who, even in the midst of their own sufferings, bring cheer and healing into the lives of all who come to them.” That is the attitude of a true lover of God. No matter what he or she is going through, no one who comes to that individual will go away feeling downtrodden, discouraged, a failure. We are all God’s children; and we have, each one of us, that power by which we can conquer life’s difficulties. But we must believe in it, we must exercise it — and we must strive always to be cheerful.
“A saint that is sad,” Paramahansaji quoted, “is a sad saint!” He himself was most joyous, all the time — even in the midst of the tremendous struggles he went through to build this work of Self-Realization Fellowship/Yogoda Satsanga Society. To serve God isn’t easy; in this world, life isn’t easy! But let us live with joy, with cheerfulness, and with the determination that we will conquer, we will be all right, because the Divine is behind us.
Don’t ever be a moody person; don’t ever be one who spreads negative thinking. Remember: This world is created through the law of duality; there are two sides to everything — a positive and a negative — and each human being has the choice to align his consciousness with one or the other. No one wants to be around a stinkweed. It is negative and depresses us. But, as our Guru used to say, everybody loves to gather around a rose, which gives off a sweet fragrance. Be a positive human rose.
Make up your mind to be positive, to be cheerful, to be joyous. I promise you that if you do that, you will find good coming your way, because thought has the power to attract. If our thoughts are habitually negative, we attract negative circumstances. If we live and think positively, we attract positive results. It’s as simple as that: Like attracts like.
At the end of that vision I described, the darkness threatening our world was pushed away by the spirit of God through increasing numbers of individuals living according to spiritual principles. Spirituality starts with morality, the rules of right behavior that are basic to every religion — such as truthfulness, self-control, faithfulness to marriage vows, noninjury to others. And we must straighten out not only our behavior, but also our thinking. If we persist in thinking a certain way, those thoughts eventually become actions. So to change ourselves we have to begin with our thoughts.
Thought is a force; it has immense power. That is why I believe so deeply in the Worldwide Prayer Circle that Paramahansa Yogananda began. I hope you are all involved in it. When people send forth concentrated, positive thoughts of peace, love, goodwill, forgiveness, as in the healing technique used by the Worldwide Prayer Circle, this generates a great power. If the masses were to do this, it would set up a vibration of goodness that would be powerful enough to change the world.
Our role is to do everything we can to put our lives in attunement with God, that by our thoughts, our words, and our exemplary behavior we may reach out and exert some spiritual influence on the rest of the world. One’s words have little meaning unless they are manifested in one’s life. The words of Christ are as powerful today as they were two thousand years ago because he lived what he taught. Our lives also must quietly but eloquently reflect those principles we believe in. As our Guru often quoted, “Reform yourself and you will have reformed thousands.”
You may say, “But there is so much in the world that needs correcting; so much to be done.” Yes, the needs are formidable; but the world’s troubles will not go away merely by our trying to correct the outer things. We have to correct the human element that is the real cause of these troubles, and we must begin with ourselves.
You can tell a person a thousand times not to smoke, but if he has made up his mind that he likes cigarettes, nothing you say is going to change his habit. Only when he begins to cough and suffer the negative effects of smoking does it hit home and he realizes, “This is affecting me; now it’s becoming something I have to think about.” Similarly, your words alone may have little power to influence an inharmonious person to be more peaceful. But if that person senses a spirit of harmony and well-being flowing from your own peaceful nature, that is something tangible; it will have a beneficial effect on him.
The peace and harmony so urgently sought by all cannot be had from material things or any outer experience; it is just not possible. Perhaps by watching a beautiful sunset or going to the mountains or seaside you might feel a temporary serenity. But even the most inspiring setting will not give you peace if you are inharmonious in your own being.
The secret of bringing harmony into the outer circumstances of your life is to establish an inner harmony with your soul and with God....
As more of mankind strives for that state, the crises that threaten our world will diminish. But we have to realize that this earth will never be perfect, because this is not our permanent home; it is a school, and its students are in different grades of learning. We have come here to go through all of life’s experiences, good and sorrowful, and thereby to learn from them.
God is eternal, and so are we. His universe will go on and on in its ups and downs. It is for us to put ourselves in harmony with His laws of creation. Those who do so continue to evolve upward regardless of their outer circumstances or of the particular world cycle they are born in; and by the refinement of their consciousness, they find freedom in God.
In the ultimate sense, the salvation of each one of us rests totally with ourselves — how we face life; how we behave; whether we conduct our lives with honesty, sincerity, regard for others, and above all, with courage, faith, trust in God. It becomes simple if we concentrate on love for God. We will then want to do good, and to be good, because we find peace and wisdom and joy pouring into our consciousness from that One whence we have come.
How often Paramahansaji had us affirm with him that our lives are to be lived in the joy that is God:
From Joy I have come. In Joy I live, move, and have my being. And in that sacred Joy I will melt again.
Hold on to this truth, and you will see how that Joy inwardly sustains you no matter what comes into your life. That Joy becomes more real to you than the ever-changing events of this kaleidoscopic world.