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Natural Awakenings Atlanta

Awaken Your Infinite Potential

An Introduction to the Kriya Yoga Teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda

by Brother Ishtananda

We all have infinite potential because we are a part of an unlimited Cosmic Consciousness. Call it what you want—God, Spirit, a Higher Power—everything in creation, including each one of us, is a product of this Consciousness. Just as a drop of ocean water contains all the constituent elements of the water in the entire ocean, so our consciousness has all the essential qualities of that One Consciousness.

The science of yoga—and the saints of every religious tradition—tell us that the qualities of that Divine Consciousness include omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence, pure unconditional love and boundless bliss. Why is it that we don’t experience these divine qualities in ourselves?

We all live in two environments: an outer one and an inner one. Our outer environment of people, places and things is very obvious to us, and this is what we put most of our attention on. It is the inner environment—our mind, feelings and state of consciousness—that determines the degree to which we can realize our divine potential, however. No matter how difficult our outer circumstances may be, they can never keep us from realizing our true, unlimited nature if we do the work to create the proper inner environment. That means learning to take control of our inner environment rather than letting it be at the mercy of constantly fluctuating outer circumstances.

The minds of most individuals who don’t practice meditation or some other inner discipline are often agitated. The yoga tradition gives a vivid illustration: It compares the mind to a drunken monkey who has been stung by a scorpion. Many persons go through life with their minds intoxicated by the delusions of this world. They are “stung” by material desires and go hopping madly about from one thing to another trying to fulfill them. How difficult it is to control such a mind! But it has to be calmed and controlled if we are going to penetrate beyond the superficial restlessness of the ordinary mind and contact our higher Self and its true, divine nature. What is that nature? An inexpressibly satisfying bliss, peace and uncon­ditional love, awaiting our discovery just behind the noise of our ordinary thoughts and emotions.

Anyone who has tried to meditate knows that to calm and control the mind is no small matter. It can be done, but we need a method. Paramahansa Yogananda said, “No matter how full of worldly restlessness the ungoverned mind has become, through Kriya Yoga practice it can be purified and brought under control.”

Paramahansa Yogananda’s Kriya Yoga teachings provide principles on how to live in the outer envir­onment so that one can begin to attain that state of tranquil consciousness that leads to the realization of our true potential. But in addition to his “how-to-live” teachings, his main mission was to disseminate to the world a synergistic system of pranayama, or life-force control, techniques for stilling the restless “monkey mind” so that we may commune with Spirit dwelling in our souls.

Through the steady practice of the definite and scientific techniques of Kriya Yoga, we are able to quiet both body and mind, and withdraw our energy and attention from the usual turbulence of thoughts, emo­tions and sensory perceptions. In the clarity of that inner stillness, we come to experience a deepening interior peace and attunement with our soul and with God. That is how we begin to experience—in the “droplet” of our own individual consciousness—all the qualities of the unlimited ocean of Divine Con­sciousness, right within ourselves. There is no higher or more satisfying achievement that life can offer.

Brother Ishtananda has been a monk with the Self-Realization Fellowship monastic community founded by Paramahansa Yogananda for over 45 years. He serves as ashram administrator at their Hidden Valley Ashram in California, as a minister for the SRF San Diego Temple and as minister counselor for the SRF Atlanta Center.

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