Jesus said, No prophet is accepted in his own village; no physician heals those who know him. (31)
For the last forty years I never read or hear these words without thinking of Anand Maharaj, an outstanding yogi I became friends with in northern India. Anand Maharaj was unique among the yogis of my acquaintance. He was insistent upon living in the most simple manner, and was the most unassuming person I have ever met. Although possessed of vast yogic knowledge and power, he kept it completely hidden. Only those of equal development, or those to whom he gave a glimpse of his real stature, had any idea of his inner attainment
He told me that he had left home to be a yogi when he was only twelve years old. For some time he wandered around India, sometimes staying in a place a few weeks or so. Because he was obviously a spiritual prodigy, he was shown great respect and even love. This was pleasant, but he realized this it was also a terrible danger, for in such circumstances the yogi can end up admiring and loving his ego. He said that he pondered a long time over this dilemma and finally decided that the wise thing would be to return to his home village and live in the forest outside it.
He did so, and his surmise was right. Everyone, including his family, sneered at him calling him lazy, a fool and a fraud. Having no money or possessions, he begged for his food as monks have done for thousands of years in India. No one would give him anything, but he resolved that he would not leave even if he starved. Eventually the people grudgingly began to give him scraps to eat, and things continued in this way until he became an adult. When he felt that he had learned the lessons of humility and detachment he left that place. Then, with the perversity of human nature, representatives of the village came and begged him to return, even promising to build him an ashram. Since this was exactly what he did not want, he refused and vowed never to return. When I met him some decades later he was still keeping to his resolution of total simplicity of life and renunciation.
The meaning of this verse is somewhat filled out by the following from the Gospel of Saint Matthew: “Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house. And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief” (Matthew 13:57-58).
We do control our life, however weak and directionless we may think we are. Such a belief about ourselves makes it so, practically speaking, and it is true about others and their influence in our lives. Over and over again in history we find accounts of people who attain greatness and the admiration of all, but their families and those who knew them earlier refused to honor them and claimed they were still what they were perviously. Parents continually reduce their offspring to childhood, not matter how successful they might be. I knew a man in his sixties whose mother treated him like he was five years old, and the moment he walked in the house he reverted to five-year-old behavior. I have known gifted people who just could not show their abilities before their parents or families, but became mentally and emotionally paralyzed. Many great musicians have not been able to perform if they knew their parents or families were in the audience. The rejective attitudes of those close to us can bring us to a halt. This is the negative side of mind power.
When people asked Anandamayi Ma: “What are you?” she would reply: “I am whatever you think I am.” Yogananda records a similar statement in Autobiography of a Yogi:
“A woman chela once asked the guru [Lahiri Mahasaya] for his photograph. He handed her a print, remarking, ‘If you deem it a protection, then it is so; otherwise it is only a picture.’
“A few days later this woman and Lahiri Mahasaya’s daughter-in-law happened to be studying the Bhagavad Gita at a table behind which hung the guru’s photograph. An electrical storm broke out with great fury.
“‘Lahiri Mahasaya, protect us!’ The women bowed before the picture. Lightning struck the book which they had been reading, but the two devotees were unhurt.
“‘I felt as though a sheet of ice had been placed around me to ward off the scorching heat,’ the chela explained.”
Because readers might not understand, Yogananda did not exactly relay the words of Lahiri Mahasaya regarding his photograph. He actually said: “If you think it is God [Bhagavan], then it is God.” And it proved to be so, for he was God in human form.
“According to your faith be it unto you” said Jesus (Matthew 9:29); and it is the same with unbelief and denial: nothing will happen. It is our choice.
Read the next article in Gospel of Thomas for Yogis: Spiritual Strength