The entire spiritual path is a matter of removing the obstacles between you and God, between you and Truth. These obstacles are karmic tendencies such as anger, greed, and worldly desires, including desires from the past that haven’t yet been fulfilled.
Paramhansa Yogananda told the story of how he had helped a youth named Jotin overcome his anger. Jotin had lost a number of jobs because of losing his temper too readily. Every time a boss scolded him, Jotin would become angry and slap him. Yogananda had previously taught Jotin to meditate, and Jotin now sought his advice on how to rid himself of anger. Yogananda told him that, while meditating, he should offer the habit upward, surround it with divine energy, and “let that energy wash away the habit you wish to destroy.”
Every day, for weeks, Jotin practiced this simple technique. One day he told Yogananda gratefully, “Mukunda, I have overcome my anger.” Yogananda decided to test Jotin to determine whether the change was firmly established. Recalling the many enemies Jotin had made, Yogananda told a few of them to do everything they could to make Jotin angry. They all gave it a good try, but Jotin never faltered for a moment. He had, indeed, overcome his anger.
People often think of goodness as a sort of sweetness, a kind of passive kindness, but it’s much more than that. There is power in goodness. One of the things that I didn’t like about the movie and the book, The Lord of the Rings, is that they depict the evil people, but not the good ones, as having power. They present the view that by being good, you’re rather bumbling, but nonetheless stumble onto the right path. Frodo and all the good people in that story are sweet, innocent, and often foolish.
Like The Lord of the Rings, the Ramayana is an epic, but Ram, Hanuman, and the other heroes are portrayed as having great power. The truly good people I have met are the saints, and they are not weaklings by any means!
One of the things that astounded me about living with Yogananda was his power. He had great power, which I’ve seen in all great saints. Behind their sweetness, behind their love and forgiveness, is power. My Guru was the sweetest person I’ve ever met, but he also possessed great power and he never compromised that power. He wanted to make us strong, and he inspired us to understand that if we wanted to become strong, we had to be willing to take charge of our own lives.
Calmness: a deeper form of peace
There are eight different aspects of God. Two of them are peace and calmness; many people think of them as one and the same thing, but they aren’t.
Peace is the cessation of restlessness, and it is the aspect of God we experience first. It’s very healing, like “a weightless waterfall” as Yogananda described it, and is wonderfully releasing and freeing. But calmness is the power of the soul which helps you to cut through delusion. That calmness comes when you go deeper into peace.
It was calmness which enabled Buddha to say, “I will sit here under this bodhi tree until I solve the mystery of life.” And he sat there for forty days and forty nights. How many people have that kind of resolution?
Many people are taken aback by the fiery and powerhouse personality of the Yogananda after when listen to his voice and understand his personality, because in the Autobiography of a Yogi, the author sounds like a gentle and sweet person. It’s a contrast hard to come to terms with. He could be very tough when needed.
He demonstration of this physical power in many ways, once by pushing over six burly cops over six feet tall single handedly. Calmness does not mean lack of activity, Meditative does not mean lack of participation in the world. Being sweet does not mean lacking physical strength. In fact, the former promotes latter. It is hard for most people to appreciate and absorb the dynamic at play, and the mind is willing to accept the first conclusion. Worse still is the media laden times in which we live, with calm, bearded, shloka / mantra chanting, saffron robed nincompoops pretentending to be saviours of humanity. At best, it’s a storytelling exercise which is cocaine to the masses.
In fact, the correlation is negative between the dress you wear and your spiritual realisation. If you wear shirt/trousers or a common dress you are more spiritually advanced than if you have a beard and a saffron/white robe.