God Is For Everyone: Inspired by Paramhansa Yogananda

Overview

The core of Yoganandas teachings, this book presents a concept of God and spiritual meaningthat will broadly appeal to everyone, from the most uncertain agnostic to the most fervent believer. Clearly and simply written, thoroughly nonsectarian and non-dogmatic in its approach, God Is for Everyone is the perfect introduction to the spiritual path. This book brings fresh new insightto ourselves and our most sacred practices.
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Overview

The core of Yoganandas teachings, this book presents a concept of God and spiritual meaningthat will broadly appeal to everyone, from the most uncertain agnostic to the most fervent believer. Clearly and simply written, thoroughly nonsectarian and non-dogmatic in its approach, God Is for Everyone is the perfect introduction to the spiritual path. This book brings fresh new insightto ourselves and our most sacred practices.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781565891807
  • Publisher: Crystal Clarity Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/1/2003
  • Pages: 227
  • Sales rank: 833,623
  • Product dimensions: 6.46 (w) x 7.98 (h) x 0.69 (d)

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Chapter One Religion: a Universal Need

This book has been written to demonstrate that religion is a pragmatic necessity for everyone: that God is deeply relevant to every life, and is by no means the side issue so many people have tried to make Him.

If we accept that He exists, it surely goes without saying that He cannot be some minor, or merely local, deity. In the vast universe that modern astronomy has revealed to us, God can only be thought of as infinite. To describe infinity adequately, however, would be impossible. Language derives from shared experience; it is not adequate for describing cosmic verities. The clearest human comprehension could never conceptualize a state of consciousness that is infinitely large and at the same time infinitesimally small, and that confounds reason altogether by being, for all that, neither large nor small! The Bible describes the futility of any such attempt. “My thoughts,” says Isaiah speaking for the Lord, “are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.” (Isaiah 55:8) Mere thought cannot span the abyss separating finitude from infinity.

Nevertheless, there is something in human nature that feels itself imprisoned by finitude. Deep within us we long to embrace infinity; this “something” will never be satisfied until we have unraveled the mystery of our existence. For despite Darwin’s disparaging verdict, man is more than animal. Everyone must wonder sometimes, surely, at the strange twists and turns of life and ask himself whether some higher reality may not exist: a Reality wise, kindly (or so he hopes!), and forever aware.

Most people think of God, if at all, only vaguely. They may imagine Him obscurely as somehow omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent. They may think of Him more personally (though still vaguely) as “all-merciful,” or “all-wise.” They may endow Him mentally with a form of some sort. In any case, they generally separate Him from daily reality as they know it.

This book offers an alternative to such abstractions. What purpose is served, indeed, by holding God at a distance? Theological definitions may persuade us to bow in reverence before Him, but they cannot inspire us to love Him. People who are religiously inclined may consider it excessively familiar to think of Him as their very own. Yet if He created us, how can He be anything but our very own? Why do we today, heirs that we are to an ancient tradition, address Him still in the familiar form, “Thou”? Somewhere in the past, God’s closeness may have been more generally accepted. Today, in any case—in English, at least—“Thou” is no longer used. Even when addressing family members and close friends it seems to us strangely formal, if only because antiquated. Indeed, one wonders whether even in olden times the familiar address to God was not more often an affirmation, offered by saintly preceptors, than a reflection of the way most people thought of Him. For it was also common in the past to think of Him as the almighty Lord—hardly a concept to inspire intimacy!

It is easier, in a sense, to visualize God in the starry heavens than in our own homes. The stars, so remote from our humdrum earthly existence, suggest to our minds infinite stillness, harmony, and wisdom. By contrast, our homes are often scenes of strife and rivalry. Yet if God’s omnipresence includes the very stars, He must also be right around us—even (as Jesus Christ put it) inside us. Moreover, could we view the stars up close we would see them as blazing furnaces where violent explosions erupt without cease—scenes of anything but stillness and harmony!

In any case, we cannot be forever contemplating the heavens. To the extent that we hold God aloof from our daily realities, we alienate Him from the life we know. We need a concept of God that will bring Him into our kitchens, our bedrooms, our living rooms—yes, even when those living rooms are crowded with guests. If God is everywhere, He must be quite as near as He is far away. We should make Him our immediate reality. We should seek His guidance and inspiration in our most intimate thoughts and feelings; relate to Him when the world is most demanding of our attention; seek His influence in every lightest undertaking. We should listen for His laughter behind the silliest jokes, and ask Him to infuse with His love our tenderest sentiments! If we don’t see our need for Him simply in order to exist, we reduce Him to a mental abstraction: useful in mathematics, perhaps, but without any closer, more personal significance.

Ultimately, God alone can satisfy every personal need. In our dealings with other people, He is our conscience. In our labor, He is the satisfaction it gives us. When we read a good book, or listen to uplifting music, He is our inspiration. In everything we do from the performance of duty to the most trivial pursuit, He is there: watching, joining in if we invite Him to, and giving us our strength. To ignore Him means to go stumbling blindly through life, unaware that there are innumerable pitfalls before us.

People distance themselves from God when they think of Him as an abstraction. Perhaps they think that belief will “save” them, but without love what, indeed, could salvation be? Theological definitions provide no comfort for the heart. They are like antique chairs placed about, to be seen but not sat upon! Again, they are like precious chinaware, stored away safely in cupboards but rarely used. People remember God during times of suffering—but otherwise? In urgent need they may take Him out of His cupboard, dust Him off, and examine Him with greater care. Usually, however, they consider themselves well enough off without Him as they go trudging wearily from crisis to crisis, their brows furrowed in anxiety.

We need a concept of God that will motivate us to love Him. He is, whether we know it or not, our own nearest and dearest. The question is: Do we perceive ourselves as being near and dear to Him?

What I plan to do in this book is introduce a concept of God that will inspire everyone with the desire to know Him. For we alone are to blame if we think Him far from us. How we relate to Him is crucial to our happiness. To define Him with hairsplitting exactness may puff up our pride, but it offers no nourishment for our souls. Even to long for God, though the feeling seem to us one-sided, is incomparably more fulfilling for the heart than any pursed-lips acknowledgement that, “it is possible—indeed, I believe I can assert with a modicum of confidence—that something must actually exist up there, in regions subtler than any with which humanity is presently familiar.”

The theologian presents “proofs” and syllogisms—to what practical purpose? Even he, however, must smile indulgently when he sees his little daughter playing with dolls. Will he accuse her of lavishing affection uselessly on inanimate objects? Let us hope not! Wise and learned he may be, but as a human father he must recognize her affection, though offered only in play, as an aid in preparing her for motherhood, later on.

In her childish games she may also learn something else: the importance of loving without any thought of return. The ability to love selflessly is a sign of maturity. Whether the love is wisely given is another matter—a lesson perhaps reserved for higher schooling in life.

In religion, similarly, the most important thing is to love selflessly.

A materialist in India once remarked to me scornfully: “Someday you and everyone who dedicates himself to living for God will be very disillusioned, when you wake up to find that He doesn’t exist.”

“You may be right,” I replied with a smile, “but at least we’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that we’ve done some good!”

Ultimately, the main beneficiary of every good deed, and the main victim of every harmful deed, is one’s own self. Obviously, the question of God’s existence is important. More important to us first, however, is to develop in understanding. Whether He exists becomes meaningful primarily to the degree that we are aware of His presence. Our first need is to develop sensitive awareness. The love of that little girl for her dolls is requited, in a sense, for love is itself her reward. As the poet Tennyson put it, “It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” Where true love is concerned—not passion, and not desire—neither subject nor object really matters. What matters is love itself.

In religion, similarly, when people claim that they accept Krishna, Rama, Buddha, Jesus Christ, or someone else as their “personal Savior,” the important thing is the depth and purity of their love. The correctness of their worship is secondary. Whom they accept is less the issue than the vital question, Are we, ourselves, acceptable to God? God doesn’t need reassurance that people find Him acceptable! What He wants is their love—in reciprocation for the love He has ever given His human children. If the way one worships Him is incorrect, but the love of the heart is selfless, He Himself will correct the error.

Whenever I hear the expression, “Praise the Lord!” the image comes to my mind of the Lord as a rich, pampered lady craving flattery as her social due! God doesn’t need praise! His nature is ever impersonal, though in His compassion for each individual He is very personal. In the impersonal sense, He is like a radio station: He broadcasts on the waveless “wavelength” of superconsciousness. We need to tune our mental “radios” to His frequency. Otherwise, we may receive one of the many other programs that broadcast also on the “airwaves” of consciousness: selfish ambition, desire, arrogance, sectarian intolerance—the innumerable states of consciousness that are the distortions of delusion. Unless our motives are pure, we may find ourselves attuned to such an aberration, and only delude ourselves that we are receiving “inspiration.”

How to distinguish between false and true inspiration? This point will be explored as we proceed further in these pages. As you’ll see, it always depends on whether the program one listens to has the effect of enclosing one’s consciousness in egoic limitation, or of expanding it toward infinity. Egotism is limiting, whereas humility and heartfelt generosity are endlessly expansive.

Every human being must discover what, to him, seems most deeply meaningful. The more self-honestly he addresses this question, the sooner he will find his way out of the dark passages in the cave of confusion and emerge into the light of clear understanding.

If you consider your own greatest need to be for money, visualize yourself as possessing it in superabundance. Ponder, then, the consequences of that excess. Would you be, in actuality, its possessor, or would you not rather be possessed? An excess of wealth is suffocating to happiness. Is suffocation what anyone deeply desires? Your long-lasting desires lie beyond hoarded wealth. Far more satisfying than a life of gloating over heaps of inanimate jewelry and gold is the innocent enjoyment of simple things. This has been the discovery of everyone who has been in a position to make the comparison. Be pragmatic in your seeking! Be, as I said, completely truthful with yourself. In the following pages, we’ll explore the ramifications of these thoughts.

This book has another purpose also. It is to emphasize the commonality of all true religions. For the aim of them all is to uplift the human spirit, not to polarize it with bigotry and intolerance. Too long have religious representatives argued in defense of their respective dogmas. The time has come for them to seek ways of making their religions influential for universal harmony. The pages of history are stained red with the blood of countless atrocities—the consequences, all too often, of clinging to untested beliefs. This unscientific attitude must change, as people’s perception of global realities becomes increasingly transformed by the speed of modern travel and communication. All the nations, and the followers of every religion, need to ask themselves, “How fundamental, really, are our differences?”

God is one. Truth is one. Scientists everywhere accept the proofs of any hypothesis as conclusive. Simple experimentation has replaced people’s earlier, false notions of reality with demonstrated facts. An example is the seeming substantiality of the human body, which is now known to consist of mostly space. If people everywhere could be persuaded, similarly, to submit the substantiality of their religious beliefs to testing, they would find their dogmas to be but the outer forms of an essentially formless reality. Many religious differences would then resolve themselves in common agreement, through the human counterpart of scientific experimentation: the test of direct, universal experience.

Even the various beliefs in divine revelation would resolve themselves in common understanding, once people could be brought to recognize that those revelations are but manifestations of truth, not definitions of it. Truth is forever abstract: It can assume numerous expressions. As gas conforms to the shape of its container, so truth expresses itself according to the “shape” of people’s own capacity for understanding. Angels, if one accepts them as a reality, exemplify this truth. Although their bodies of energy move as effortlessly through solid matter as through the air, they are sometimes depicted, and have even appeared, to possess wings—perhaps for the sake of people who could not imagine human-like bodies in flight. The essential truth of such higher-than-earthly beings, however, is not in their outer form, but in their angelic consciousness.

Ram Proshad, a great poet-saint of Bengal in the eighteenth century, showed his own awareness of this fact. Though a devotee of God in personal form, and frequently blessed by visions of God as the Divine Mother, he sang in one of his well-known songs, “Oh, I’m aware that a thousand scriptures declare Thee to be nirakara (beyond all form). Nevertheless, appear to me as the Mother I adore!”

Even people’s different opinions about God need not conflict with one another. A study of the lives of those who have deeply lived their religions—the true saints, that is to say, who have appeared from time to time in every religion—reveals many points that they had in common. They have shown an appreciation for divine aspiration in whatever form it takes. And they have gently disapproved of the narrow-mindedness of unenlightened people who, in their religious zeal, lacked this discernment. The difference between living in the consciousness of God’s presence within and merely engaging in busy service to Him suggests the possibility that a more enlightened understanding may someday inspire in humanity everywhere a spirit of religious friendship and cooperation.

Human nature—unlike inert matter, which demonstrates more-or-less consistent reactions—is infinitely complex and is by no means always predictable. The presence of consciousness in the lowest life forms makes even their reactions not completely predictable, for every action begins at their ever-imperceptible, living center.

Differences of religious belief are inevitable, and are even desirable. No two human beings are exactly alike. Not even two eyes, two voices, two thumbprints are identical. The variety of human nature should inspire us to appreciate, and never judge, one another. Only the egotist wants to be surrounded by mirror images of himself. What a world it would be, without this infinite variety! What a world, if everyone had but one ambition: to become a streetcar conductor! Religious differences, once it is accepted that divine aspiration exists everywhere, ought to increase people’s appreciation for truth in its manifold manifestations. Its outward expressions, like the facets of a diamond, display brilliance and beauty from whatever angle they are viewed. If God and truth are one, the sincere desire for understanding must ever lead to a revelation of that oneness, even as it gives an appreciation for their endless variety of expression. Even language expresses the same concepts variously. The English word, love, means essentially the same thing as the French word, amour, and as the Sanskrit word, prem. Each has shades of meaning that are particular, but all of them express universal feeling in the heart. What, if not spiritual pride, can induce people to denounce one another in the name of the same God?

Every religion in fact teaches the same basic principles. God may be approached variously, but no religion worthy of the name tells its votaries to hate, steal, or be indifferent to others’ sufferings; to suppress others ruthlessly because the opinions they hold are different from one’s own. Emperors, in their lust for conquest, have been known to demonstrate such behavior, but the wise? Never! No one ever pairs wisdom with contractive attitudes like bigotry, cruelty, and intolerance. There is a well-known saying, “Handsome is as handsome does.” One may say with equal verity, “Wise is as wise does.”

Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam—every true religion, in fact—is no merely cultural phenomenon. Its purpose is rooted in the divine will to uplift human consciousness. Could any religion take out a divine patent on what, in the last analysis, simply IS? Humanity has a common Father/Mother: God. “He” is variously called Dieu, Gott, Bog, Jehovah, Allah, Ishwara, Jagadamba. Universal truths, similarly, are true everywhere. Religion is no mere ornament of civilization: It is the fundamental need of every human being. Religion when rightly understood offers hope and inspiration to all. Its forms are relevant to particular cultures and particular human expectations, but always in such a way as to uplift people’s consciousness. Never could truth endorse one culture exclusively. Its timeless light refines people’s understanding beyond their immediate level of attainment.

What I have written so far, then, is not a plea for syncretism. In other words, it is not a proposal that religious teachings be compromised in the name of interreligious harmony. Only in higher awareness, never in compromise, will it be possible for the universality of truth to be realized. Oneness must be a thing experienced: It cannot be voted into existence.

Here, then, is the purpose of this book: to encourage people everywhere to seek a meaningful inner harmony with God, and outward harmony, in that same consciousness, with their fellowman. The noble plant of truth can flourish only in the soil of spiritual harmony. In desert wastes of dogmatism it must wither and die. When the plant is nourished by “living waters” of true inspiration, to paraphrase the words of Jesus Christ, it will suffice for every human need.

The religions of the world are only denominations in the one, universal religion of Truth. Their classifications into Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, and all the rest are superficial, despite every sectarian claim to the contrary. Insofar as evidence is actually available, sectarianism is itself disproved. When one lacks solid evidence for what he believes, his tendency is to argue vociferously. As the evidence accumulates, however, his reasoning faculty is encouraged; finally, it prevails. Dogmatic claims are only images of truth. They are as distorted as reflections of the sky in tiny bubbles. Truth itself, meanwhile, soars high above mere beliefs. It is rooted in the cosmos, transcending all limiting perceptions.

Belief is hypothesis, but faith is the result of direct experience. The time has come in the evolution of thought—conditioned as we now are by scientific methodology—to focus on actual experience and on the wisdom derived from that experience, and to ignore as superstition all the unsubstantiated claims with which orthodox religion is so rife.

Faith is wisdom. And wisdom is the awareness of man’s relationship to cosmic verities.
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Table of Contents

Contents
Preface
1. Religion: a Universal Need
2. A Brief History of Religion
3. The Goal of Life
4. Pleasure Is Counterfeit Happiness
5. Happiness Is Counterfeit Bliss
6. The Source of Inspiration
7. Religion and Spirituality
8. The Refinement of Awareness
9. The Return to Zero
10. The Science of Religion
11. The Nature of Bliss
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