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The Power of Unbelief

Chapter 31 of the Gospel of Thomas for Awakening

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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

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Chapters in The Gospel of Thomas for Awakening

  1. The Open Secrets
  2. Seeking Is More Than Just Finding
  3. Seeking the Kingdom Realistically
  4. The One Goal
  5. From the Seen to the Unseen
  6. What Jesus Wants Us To Do
  7. Eat Or Be Eaten
  8. Fishing Wisely
  9. The Inner Field
  10. Guarding the Flame
  11. What Will You Do?
  12. Who Shall Lead?
  13. The Unspeakable
  14. When Virtue is Vice
  15. Father in Heaven; Father on Earth
  16. Divine Discord
  17. The Divine Gift
  18. The Origin is the End
  19. Original Being
  20. A Mustard Seed
  21. Disciples of Jesus
  22. How to Enter the Kingdom
  23. Unity of Vision
  24. Where is Christ?
  25. Love and Protect
  26. Seeing
  27. The Fasting and Sabbath of the Spirit
  28. How Jesus Saw the World
  29. Hidden Treasure
  30. One
  31. The Power of Unbelief
  32. Spiritual Strength
  33. Speak It Out
  34. The Blind
  35. The Secret of Spiritual Security
  36. Live Carefree
  37. Unashamed Before God
  38. At the Source
  39. The Religion of Ignorance
  40. Within God
  41. Spiritual Gain and Loss
  42. Move On
  43. Challenging the Master
  44. The Source of Good and Evil
  45. Great in the Kingdom
  46. Impossible Duality
  47. Peace That Moves Mountains
  48. Back to the Source
  49. Children of the Light
  50. Here and Now
  51. Seeing Yet Blind
  52. Outer Ritual or Inner Growth?
  53. Infinite Transcendence
  54. “Hate”
  55. True Understanding
  56. Wheat and Weeds
  57. Finding Life
  58. Live and Die Not
  59. “Lest Thou Also…”
  60. Who Will Die; Who Will Live
  61. The Path of Unknowing
  62. Awakened by Death
  63. Turning Ourselves Away
  64. Gullibility
  65. The Rejected is Truly Accepted
  66. All–and Nothing
  67. The Blessings of Persecution
  68. Life or Death Lie Within
  69. Admission
  70. Not a Divider
  71. Seeking the Harvest
  72. Thirsting in Vain
  73. Who Shall Enter?
  74. Unfailing Treasure
  75. The All Speaks
  76. Well-dressed Ignoramuses
  77. True Blessedness
  78. A Duplication
  79. Balancing the Inner and the Outer
  80. Near and Far
  81. Seeing the Unseeable
  82. Seeing Your Unknown Side
  83. Our Forefather Adam
  84. Blessed Homelessness
  85. Doubly Wretched
  86. Onward and Upward
  87. Twofold Life
  88. The Yoke of Christ
  89. Knowing the Unknown
  90. Asking and Hearing
  91. Give Not…
  92. Seeking and Knocking
  93. Right Generosity
  94. The Expanding Kingdom
  95. The Fulfilled Universe
  96. Taking Stock
  97. The Spiritual Family
  98. Three Debts
  99. Father and Mother
  100. Exoteric Religion
  101. Ready for Invasion
  102. Penitential Discipline, Anyone?
  103. Daring to Know
  104. Ending Duality
  105. “I Love You More…”
  106. At the Source
  107. Finding the Hidden Treasure
  108. Having Come to the End
  109. Immortal and Above the World
  110. Body and Soul
  111. Where is the Kingdom?
  112. Male and Female?
  113. In Conclusion
  114. Glossary
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