The Secret of Devotion
God Is Our Friend
There is a story of a little girl who had to perform in a school recital. All the parents were there and, as you can imagine, she was very nervous. Then someone shouted from the audience, “Don’t worry, Lisetta, we are all your friends!” That gave her the courage to continue. In this way we need to realize that the masters, God, Jesus – are all our friends.
True religion is not a religion of fear. God wants to attract us by love. It is only our obstinacy that makes us ignore the signs that God is always giving us in our lives. You must not accept the teaching that gives you a sense of guilt and shame, of regret for what you may have done. You must always say, as Yogananda taught us, “Divine Mother, naughty or good, I am your child, and you must accept me.” God wants only this attitude from us. He wants us just to trust Him.
Also at the moment of death, if you can refuse all delusion and think of God, you will find Him. So it is that, if you can leave your body with God’s love, and not reproach yourself for the mistakes you have made, God will take you. He loves you, he is not your judge. He is your lover, your friend.
God watches the heart. Don’t think of what you are or what someone else is. Always try to give love to all. When you walk down the street in the city and see many people, pray for them; they need it. You can never know which heart your prayers and your joy and love will touch. But if you give your love for others from your heart, it will do good in this world, a great good. We must love more in Him and keep in our hearts a love for God in everyone, even when it is not possible to love everyone as people. Is it possible to love someone who is full of hate? No, not as a person. However, God who has created that soul, God who is in that soul, is suffering. That soul seeks what we all want, it seeks happiness, peace. You can love this part of everyone. You can love it in this way: Meditate, feel God’s love, and then expand this love to all, project it to everyone. In this way God attracts you by sweetness and by infinite joy.
If you have decided to live for God, you must do it, even if everyone says, “You are a fool, science has demonstrated that God doesn’t exist.” It is not important if they make fun of you or mock you. If you know that this is the right thing to do, you must do it. I have often seen people on the path who have their feet in two boats. They think they can put together worldly life and spiritual life, thinking they can do well at both. When a moment of decision arrives in life, it is necessary to decide whether to take a difficult step, or to please the world.
The Importance of Devotion
Jesus said that when salt loses its taste it can no longer flavor anything. When the devotee loses devotion, who can give it back to him? Once Yogananda told me, “You will be fine, but don’t lose devotion.” It is the only important thing. Don’t worry about your weaknesses – everyone has them, otherwise they would not be here on earth – but don’t lose your devotion. We need to realize that we are children of God. With His strength, with the legacy that He offers us, we have the strength to overcome everything we want to; there is nothing that can hold us back. If we grasp Him by the hand there is nothing that can take us away from Him. We must hold onto Him, however, because He is very humble. He will never impose His will on us. With great courage we must stick to the decision we have made. Once you have decided, “I love God, I am God’s child,” don’t ever lose this. Yogananda said that God chooses those who choose God. The love that you draw from Him you feel in your heart, and the more you love Him the more you will see Him. God doesn’t count your failings, Yogananda said. He wants only that you love Him enough. Try to love God ever more. Don’t think too much. If there is something you need to correct, correct it, but don’t fight all your battles at once. It is better to choose one at a time, and leave the others, saying, “I know that I have this problem to overcome, but I am not yet strong enough to overcome it; I will let it go until I am strong enough to remove all obstacles from my life.” This strength comes from God, it comes from God’s grace, from superconsciousness. God wants above all that we love Him.
I read the story of a woman who came to serve Jesus. The person who hosted Jesus criticized him because this woman had the reputation of a fallen woman, not worthy of consideration. Jesus, who read his thoughts, replied, “But she loves greatly, and to those who love much, much will be forgiven.”
Don’t ever think how far you are from God. Saint Thérèse of Lisieux said, “I would like to go to hell to be able to love God even there.” What a beautiful prayer! It is beautiful to think, “Wherever I am, I don’t want to lose my love for You, Lord. This would be the worst possible mistake. You can take me wherever You wish, if You give me this grace not to lose my love for You. This is all I ask.”
There are many stories of people who were taken to concentration camps. These stories emphasize how much they suffered and how they became evil. But there is another side, which is that there have been people in the camps who became saints, because they tried to help others. They had a noble character. This means to be generous and charitable to all, even when they hate you; and to always behave with dignity, as an instrument of a higher state of consciousness. When you can be a channel for God like this, instead of being changed by circumstances, you can change circumstances, you can influence others. Those people in the concentration camps inspired others.
There is a beautiful story of two sisters in Holland who were helping Jews and were finally betrayed and brought to a concentration camp. One of the sisters had a very saintly nature. When she died, her whole face, which had been full of wrinkles and physical suffering, returned to the face of a girl, because she was completely in joy, in love, in peace.
All that Remains Is God and His Love
All of life is a preparation for that final exam of death. We must never forget that at that moment we will be given the understanding to know what the right choice is to make. Don’t think what others would say, don’t think what the majority of people would say. The majority is usually wrong! If you choose what is in your heart, you must do it - choose that which is for God and for truth. You will find in the end that even if everyone abandons you, God will welcome you. In the end all that remains is God and His love.
Devotion Is the Key to the Spiritual Path
Sri Yukteswar was a man of wisdom, a saint of gyana. Even he said that you cannot take the first step toward God until the natural love of the heart opens and flowers. One must begin with devotion. It is essential. It is like living close to a famous restaurant and, because you live so close, you know the restaurant, you know the menu, you may know the cook, you know everything. But if you don’t feel hunger, you will not go in. Devotion is hunger. Devotion makes you say, “I want it.” It is not enough to say, “Yes, it exists, it is interesting,” in an abstract manner. This is the important part of the path. Sometimes one begins the path with lots of enthusiasm, and at the beginning some deep experiences can be given. Then people will say, “Oh, but this path is easy!” Then comes the middle part that is necessary to go through. Then, at the end, there comes again – but more strongly – the realization of God, which gives you a sweetness that you can’t imagine. At the beginning God wants to give you a taste of your spiritual potential. However after this encouragement, it is necessary to work a little, like working on a statue with a hammer and chisel to remove everything which does not resemble a saint. When you are able to do this - what appears is the saint. You are that saint, but a saint that is hidden.
While visiting a monastery you may see monks who are old, sad, without life. This happens for one reason: They have lost devotion. They have thought, “But He never comes, maybe when I die I will see Him.” They have lost enthusiasm. Never lose devotion, never lose this heart quality. As Jesus says, God will come like a thief in the night; you cannot know the hour of His coming. Jesus also said, “I have come to give you life.” This life is not only existence. This life means this life of the heart, this life of love, this life of sweetness – to become, if necessary, a martyr for God, when you have that enthusiasm that nothing can prevent you from seeking Him. He will come in His time, but don’t think, “No, maybe tomorrow.” He can come also today, suddenly, you never know. Remember, for example, how He came to Yogananda. Yogananda was meditating, his thoughts drifting like leaves in the wind. Then Sri Yukteswar called him, touched him, and he experienced cosmic consciousness. It can happen like this, He can come when you least expect Him.
The first duty of every devotee is to keep alive the lamp of devotion for God. Don’t let anything extinguish it, because it is the only important thing in life. Everything else is a waste of time. The only truth, the only reality of your life, is your devotion and your love for God. You must always be aware of the fact that He loves you, even when you are convinced otherwise. He loves you. This has been the experience of every saint. When he, or she, reaches the point where he realizes this love, this presence, he knows absolutely that God and His love have always been there. When Jesus appeared to Saint Anthony of the Desert, Saint Anthony had already been praying for many years without having any response from God. Finally it seemed that Satan wanted to destroy him. In that moment he called once again, and Jesus appeared. St. Anthony asked, “Jesus, where have you been all these years?” And Jesus answered, “I was always with you, Anthony.”
This is the promise of Jesus, the promise of the Masters. I asked Yogananda once, “Will you be close to us also after you die?” He answered, “To those who think me near, I will be near.” I have found this to be the truth. Even sometimes when I don’t think of him, he is near. Only a bit of testing is needed to see that this is so. In this scientific era when we test everything, why not also test the teachings of the great masters? Test for yourself if it is true. With a little experience you will see results, as scientists do with experiments. Practice the spiritual experiment of trying to hold onto this love, above everything else you do. This is the art of living, the art of life, and when everything you do initiates from the heart you will see that everything goes well.