Awake and ready
It was the habit of Paramhansa Yogananda to begin his talks by calling out to the audience: “How do you feel?” They would respond: “Awake and ready!” And if they did not sound awake and ready he would ask again and again until they replied that they were AWAKE AND READY. He was teaching a great lesson: those who are to succeed in spiritual life must be just that: awake and ready–at all times. Jesus demonstrates this in the next two verses:
“The Logos did not care to rest; he said, Why wait in this luxurious room? I need not rest; my Father’s work upon me presses hard. I would go on and learn my lessons all. If there are trials, let them come, for every victory over self gives added strength” (Aquarian Gospel 49:1, 2).
I need not rest. There is no time for slacking off in spiritual life. When I was a child we used to sing in church: “I cannot be idle; no time for delay. My resting shall be ‘over there.’” At other times we sang: “I will press the battle on till the victory is won….” I really did not know what I was singing, but later on after finding and studying the teachings of Yogananda I did. About the same time I read the poem “Uphill” by Christina Rossetti which opens:
Does the road wind uphill all the way?
Yes, to the very end.
Will the day’s journey take the whole long day?
From morn to night, my friend.
There is a great work to be done–the passage from humanity to divinity–and it is an all-consuming endeavor. One of the reasons we need not rest is the fact that it is the spiritual quest alone that brings peace and refreshment to the soul that is weary and ragged from “enjoying” the world. But only the persevering sadhaka understands how he can keep pressing onward while at the same time being still and at rest.
In the Bible we find Jesus’ words: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). In his incarnation as the Master of the Essenes, Isaiah, he had said: “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31). This is the blessed secret of the divine quest.
My Father’s work upon me presses hard. A sign of spiritual maturity is a sense of spiritual urgency–the Goal must be found and found as quickly as possible lest death once again sweep us away before reaching full realization. Those who mosey along the way have spiritual senses dulled by involvement with the follies of the world. Most of them in time eventually sit down for a rest and never get up again. To them Jesus says: “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:15, 16). Those who stroll along leisurely are convinced that they are “moderate” and “following the ‘middle way,’” when in actuality they are like a scale in balance: at zero. And very likely to stay there. Jesus says he prefers us to be either cold or hot–on the way or out of the way–because definition is necessary in any endeavor. The middle-way types are not really anything at all except smug in their mediocrity. To them Jesus further says: “Thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17).
In the Gita Krishna puts it this way: “Therefore I tell you: be humble, be harmless, have no pretension, be upright, forbearing, serve your teacher in true obedience, keeping the mind and the body in cleanness, tranquil, steadfast. Master of ego, standing apart from the things of the senses, free from self; aware of the weakness in mortal nature, its bondage to birth, age, suffering, dying. To nothing be slave, nor desire possession of man-child or wife, of home or of household; calmly encounter the painful, the pleasant. Adore me only with heart undistracted; turn all your thought toward solitude, spurning the noise of the crowd, its fruitless commotion. Strive without ceasing to know the Atman, seek this knowledge and comprehend clearly why you should seek it: such, it is said, are the roots of true wisdom: ignorance, merely, is all that denies them” (Bhagavad Gita 13:7-11). Now that is the Yoga Life.
I would go on and learn my lessons all. There is no place for minimalism in spiritual life disguised as moderation. The wise know that unless they learn all that is necessary and develop all the requisite virtues–through discipline–they will not manage at all. As Mirabai, the great poet/musician saint of India wrote: “I have sold everything in the marketplace of this world and bought my Khanaia [Krishna]. Some laugh at me and say the price was too great, and some say that the price was too small. But Mira only knows that it was everything she had.” It is a great relief to give all in the search for God. And an absolute necessity, too.
If there are trials, let them come, for every victory over self [ego] gives added strength. This is a basic fact. The life without conflict and struggle is a stagnant life. That does not mean that we have to be miserable and under tension all the time, just that we take all problems that arise as a chance to learn and strengthen ourselves. Our coping with the troubles that arise from outside us have the power to transform us inwardly. Those that come from within can be the hardest to deal with, but they are the most valuable, for we are engaging in a spiritual housecleaning that will bring great and permanent blessings.
There is simply no place for cowardice or passivity in spiritual life. That is why in all religions the greatest number of mystics and masters come from the countries that were once great empires. Unless a person has a marked drive toward conquest and mastery there is no real success in anything–not even in winning the internal kingdom of Spirit.
“And then the guide led on, and in a chamber, dark as night, was Jesus placed and left alone; and days were spent in this deep solitude. And Jesus slept, and in the dead of night a secret door was opened, and, in priest’s attire, two men came in; each carried in his hand a little flickering lamp.
“Approaching Jesus, one spoke out and said, Young man, our hearts are grieved because of what you suffer in these fearful dens, and we have come as friends to bring you light, and show the way to liberty. We once, like you, were in these dens confined, and thought that through these weird, uncanny ways we could attain to blessedness and power; but in a luckful moment we were undeceived, and, making use of all our strength, we broke our chains, and then we learned that all this service is corruption in disguise. These priests are criminals just hid away. They boast in sacrificial rites; they offer to their gods, and burn them while alive poor birds, and beasts; yea, children, women, men. And now they keep you here, and, at a certain time, may offer you in sacrifice. We pray you, brother, break your chains; come, go with us; accept of freedom while you may.
“And Jesus said, Your little tapers show the light you bring. Pray, who are you? The words of man are worth no more than is the man himself. These temple walls are strong and high; how gained you entrance to this place?
“The men replied, Beneath these walls are many hidden ways, and we who have been priests, spent months and years within these dens, know all of them.
“Then you are traitors, Jesus said. A traitor is a fiend; he who betrays another man is never man to trust. If one has only reached the plane of treachery, he is a lover of deceit, and will betray a friend to serve his selfish self. Behold, you men, or whatsoe’er you be, your words fall lightly on my ears, could I prejudge these hundred priests, turn traitor to myself and them, because of what you say when you confess your treachery?
“No man can judge for me; and if I judge till testimony all is in I might not judge aright. Nay, men; by whatsoever way you came, return. My soul prefers the darkness of the grave to little flickering lights like these you bring. My conscience rules; what these, my brothers, have to say I’ll hear, and when the testimony all is in I will decide. You cannot judge for me, nor I for you. Be gone, you men, be gone, and leave me to this charming light; for while the sun shines not, within my soul there is a light surpassing that of sun or moon.
“Then, with an angry threat that they would do him harm, the wily tempters left, and Jesus was again alone.” (Aquarian Gospel 49:3-22).
Ajahn Fuang Jotiko, a master in the Thai Forest Tradition, said that people in the world are like those that step in excrement and then spend their time trying to get everyone else to step in it to cover up their mistake. The worst are those that have fallen away from a spiritual ideal and resent those that have kept faith with those ideals. In their attempt to pull down others to make them “twofold more a child of hell” than themselves (Matthew 23:15), they stop at nothing. Many of them get on the “anti-cult” bandwagon and hold forth at length on websites that warn of the terrible evils to be escaped by abandoning all ideals and becoming like them: embittered failures with not a shred of self-respect left.
I well know the glare of sullen hatred that ex-monks direct at those still faithful to their ideals. Their desperate, grim clutching at their wives (usually not the first in a chain of marriages subsequent to abandoning monastic life), is a familiar sight, also. How anxious they are to get others to share in the shame and degradation they pretend is freedom. “Oh, I used to be like you,” they declare with either angry contempt or smarmy solicitude. “You need to wake up and face yourself before it’s too late.” They are the blind that would lead others into blindness, the judas goats of the mayic world.
The words of man are worth no more than is the man himself. This is a valuable principle. The teachings of a worthless teacher are also worthless, because there is no vibration of truth behind them. I have been fortunate in hearing and speaking with holy men and women whose words affected me profoundly for good. There was one saint that I always went to see when I found myself slacking off. She did not even need to say a word to me. When she walked in the room I knew that nothing mattered but finding God and my laziness evaporated. Toward the end of his life, Swami Sivananda sat through most of the morning and evening satsangs in silence, often with eyes closed, but oh! “Did not our heart burn within us” (Luke 24:32) as we sat in his presence?
Some real crooks speak a lot of truth, but their words convey the vibration of crookedness, not truth. On the other hand, the halting words of a simple, pure-hearted soul can lift us beyond the illusions of this world.
No man can judge for me. This is absolutely so. There is no virtue in mindlessly believing any “authority” in spiritual life just because they say something. Certainly we may assume that they know what they are talking about, but everything must be tested against our own experience and insight. We are not as dumb as manipulators would have us think. As Paramhansa Nityananda said, we are born with a brain, not a book–and not with some institution or teacher attached to us. The wise should be honored and taken seriously, but first we have to find out if they really are wise. In the end it all comes to our understanding. Blind faith is blind folly. The most poisonous are those renouncers and denouncers like the false priests that came to Jesus to lead him away from truth.
“Again the white-robed priest appeared, and led the way, and Jesus stood again before the hierophant; and not a word was said, but in his hands the master placed a scroll on which the word suggestive, JUSTICE, was inscribed.
“And Jesus was the master of the phantom forms of prejudice and of treachery” (Aquarian Gospel 49:23-25).
And so must we all be.
Read the next section in the Aquarian Gospel for Yogis: Here Comes the Ego