A Time of Unprecedented Opportunity
We are on the eve of a great change. The world is not on a downward swing as many think. The challenges now facing the world are bringing the lessons needed to move civilization toward a new dawn. Paramhansa Yogananda long predicted such a time.
He predicted that there would be worldwide economic instability, hardships, and other upheavals—things that sound very negative if they didn’t presage extraordinary spiritual opportunities for us individually, and also for society as a whole. These difficulties, he said, will bring about a widespread change in values, away from materialism toward simplicity and a greater dependence on God. He prophesied three hundred years of peace, with prosperity becoming relatively equal throughout the world.
For devotees, such a time presents an extraordinary opportunity for service and spiritual growth, greater than any in recorded history. Especially because of the difficulties, and because there is so much to be learned, there is an opportunity to accrue great good karma, even to be freed from all delusion, if we think in terms of being instruments for the Light.
I read a book by a woman who regressed people to the time before they were born and asked them, “Why did you choose this particular time of upheaval and suffering that we are likely to experience?” She found that not one spoke of suffering. Every single one spoke of opportunity. This is one of the most wonderful times in the history of mankind to be alive.
A new wave of consciousness
Understandably, no one wants to hear predictions of doom and disaster. I don’t insist that you accept this view of the future. I do consider it my duty, however, to share with you what I consider to be more than likely developments. The events Yogananda predicted are already unfolding. The change from one yuga to the next is often the normal time for such things to happen.
With the start of Dwapara Yuga in 1900, a new wave of consciousness entered the world—one that emphasizes energy and flow; that sees religion not as fixed and dogmatic but as based on individual experience; that sees the world as one community, not just separate little countries all fighting for their own rights.
Opposing this new Dwapara Yuga consciousness are old Kali Yuga institutions and ways of thinking. This opposition has been building up for over a century and it’s coming to a head. We need to be prepared for upheavals and hardships, and one of the best ways to prepare is to band together with like-minded friends and start communities.
Paramhansa Yogananda’s urgent message
Paramhansa Yogananda had a vast mission. It included not just the enlightenment of a few disciples but the upliftment of an entire civilization. An important step toward the accomplishment of that mission was the creation of cooperative spiritual communities—“world brotherhood colonies,” as he put it. In his last years, Yogananda repeatedly urged his listeners to start such communities.
“Band together,” he would cry, “those of you who can do so, in small spiritual communities where you can grow your own food, produce your own vegetables and eggs, and, if possible, have your own fresh milk! Live simply, close to God, and with other people who love God.” Such communities, he said, would serve as models for the new age, when countless similar self-sustaining communities will popularize voluntary cooperation over competition as the true key to lasting prosperity and inner fulfillment.
Yogananda’s message went beyond simply presenting people with an attractive idea. There was urgency in his plea because he foresaw the challenges and hardships that awaited mankind. A community is the best insurance possible when there’s hardship, because a group of people can support one another in ways that individuals living separately cannot. I offer this as a fact, but not as an inducement to join Ananda; I want people to join Ananda because they love God, and want to find God.
I believe these communities are the wave of the future. Many of them will form for the selfish reasons I’ve given because they’re valid reasons. Today anyone who is truly aware of human directions believes we’re in for very hard times. Friends have been sending me articles which advise people to think seriously of living close to the land, where they can grow their own food and live simply. We no longer need to rely on prophecy alone to instill a sense of urgency.
Why a spiritual focus?
In the 1960s, hundreds of communities were started in a great “back-to-the-land” movement. Why did most of them fail? They failed because the people involved didn’t put spiritual principles first in their lives, but concentrated on outward material goals: solar energy, new economic systems, revolutionary architectural concepts. Their idea of heaven on earth was of some system where everything material would function perfectly. Given this materialistic approach to the ideal of finding a new way of life, they were bound to fail.
One of the most persistent human delusions is the belief that good systems will produce good people. It’s people, not systems, that need perfecting. Good systems will function well if the people running them have the good will to make them work. If people have good will, even bad systems can be made to limp along somewhat successfully.
It’s people who make communities and, more than that, it’s people in tune with a divine state of consciousness. For a community to succeed, you have to love God. You have to dedicate yourself to a principle that transcends the potential pettiness of human nature.
Love of God is the first and most important ingredient in a community’s success. One thing that love of God accomplishes is that it opens the heart to wisdom and joy. Without love and joy, judgment and intolerance will surely enter the scene, sooner or later. Judgment, whether of others or oneself, is discouraging and keeps one from rising in inner freedom.
When you live with people who have God as their ideal, you find that it’s much easier to raise your own consciousness. One very important thing you learn is self-giving and sharing. If you want to find God, a self-giving life is essential.
Choose one spiritual teaching
If you start a community, it certainly doesn’t have to be an Ananda community. I hope that long into the future Ananda will be inspiring the start of other communities, but not supervising communities. Try, if possible, however, to spend some time in one of our Ananda communities—live among us for at least a few weeks. Successful community living is a matter in which understanding must come largely by osmosis. It cannot come only through the written or spoken word.
Without the strength and inspiration that come from affiliating with an already-functioning network of communities like Ananda, the wisest thing may well be to “think small.” Paramhansa Yogananda himself recommended to most people that they pool their resources with a few friends.
It’s important that a community agree on certain basic spiritual principles and dedicate itself to one spiritual teaching. During Ananda’s first years, when people in the kitchen at the Ananda Meditation Retreat were cooking with onions, someone would come in and say, “Oh, Krishna doesn’t like onions.” After this went on for a while I said, “Listen, this is not Krishna’s kitchen. It’s Yogananda’s kitchen and Yogananda liked onions.”
You don’t want to have to tiptoe in your own “living room.” If there were lots of people living at Ananda Village who didn’t believe in reincarnation, out of consideration and respect, in their presence we wouldn’t be able to talk about something central to our beliefs.
The social pattern of the future
Paramhansa Yogananda said that the idea of communities would spread worldwide and become the social pattern of the future. During hard times, the Ananda communities will offer an answer on how to live simply and put God first. In more than 40 years of existence, the Ananda communities have demonstrated that people can live by high ideals, love all, and have communal harmony.
It’s by having communities where people can see spiritual truths being practiced by a number of people that this way of life becomes convincing to people. Ananda offers an example that can be useful to people wherever they live. From all over the world people write and say that their lives are more meaningful because of what Ananda is doing. This is a model that can change the world in a positive way.
When you can’t live in a community
What if you can’t live in a community or start one? Place your faith in God above all, but God expects you to use common sense also. Since it’s evident that there is a likelihood of hard times ahead, it would be wise to make a few preparations, at least, for the possibility of upheavals.
But don’t concern yourself too fearfully with creating a situation, or finding a place, of perfect safety. Your very fear might attract danger like a magnet. Do what seems reasonable to you, then leave the results in God’s hands. Be sensible, however, and don’t expect to be protected by faith alone—unless, indeed, your faith is so strong, and focused so one-pointedly, that all your energy flows toward God.
Wherever you live, try always to be a channel for the Light. How do you serve the Light? By giving joy, not sorrow; peace, not nervousness; love, not hatred. It’s people who love God and think of God who are keeping this country and world afloat. If it weren’t for such people, this world would plunge into even greater darkness.
So don’t be afraid. When you love God and act sensibly, He takes care of you whatever happens, wherever you live. Even if you’re going in the wrong direction, He’ll correct you. This is something Paramhansa Yogananda promised. I know it’s true because I’ve seen that protection again and again in my life, and in the lives of other devotees.
From a July 4, 2009 talk at Ananda Village; books and publications; and the following recording, “Preparing for Challenging Times.” To order a CD or MP3 of these talks, click here or call Treasures Along the Path (530) 478 7656
|To view Swami Kriyananda’s talk, “How To Overcome Worry,“click here:
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