55 Pearls of Wisdom from ‘The Autobiography of a Yogi’

I took to reading this book again after over two decades. A new friend was instrumental in getting me to re-read it and I opened up to this opportunity to see where it takes me. Quite unexpectedly it felt I have been reading it for the first time and the book, with its elegant prose, twists and turns, is unputdownable. The book is an autobiographical account of Mukunda Lal Ghosh’s quest for self-realization and transformation into Swami Yogananda. It is also an account of his miraculous experiences of meeting various mahatmas during his travels across India and the West. In these myriad experiences, one can find pearls of wisdom that can nudge one on the path of self-realization.

This time, however, as I read the book, I thought I shall make a note of insights, bits of wisdom and quotes as they flash their light against my consciousness. Just like each book is unique, so is its impact on the reader. So these are drops of wisdom that fell on me while I treaded the pages of this wonderful book. Without further ado, here is what I take away from this book:

  1. Words spoken with purity and intention can have a profound effect on oneself as well as others. That’s why it is important to be careful with one’s words. Prayers are listened to and answered in some way or another.
  2. There are no coincidences in life. If we are sensitive to our inner and outer worlds, we can connect the dots and life becomes a spiritual adventure.
  3. The mentoring of a Guru is indispensable for spiritual development. When the student is ready, the teacher appears.
  4. Rishikesh and Kashi are lands hallowed by the feet of many masters. Himalayan solitudes nourish wary spiritual travellers in search of a Guru.
  5. Words are only shells. Win conviction of God’s presence through your joyous contact in meditation.
  6. To everything, there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven.
  7. God is simple. Everything else is complex. Do not seek absolute values in the relative world of nature.
  8. The pursuit of miracles is a digression from a serious search for God.
  9. To love God is more important than to love the method to reach God.
  10. All of nature, living or otherwise, exhibits phenomena like fatigue, depression, recovery, exaltation and even death. All of the matter is responsive.
  11. The true laboratory is the mind where behind illusions, they uncover the laws of truth.
  12. With the sword of discrimination, cut through the chains of agency and perceive the single cause.
  13. Attachment is selfish, rooted in desires. Love is unconditional, unbounded, changeless. Attachment is blinding; it lends an imaginary halo of attractiveness to the object of desire.
  14. Face your fears. Look fear in the face and it will cease to trouble you.
  15. Good and positive suggestions should instruct children. They are sensitive, receptive in the early years and what they learn early on remains etched in their minds for a long time.
  16. Be comfortable within your means. Extravagance buys you more discomfort than peace.
  17. Ahimsa, the practice of non-injury in thought, word and deed is the highest virtue.
  18. In shallow men, the fish of little thoughts cause much commotion. In oceanic minds, the whales of inspiration make hardly a ruffle. The self-realized revel in Brahman all the time.
  19. The practice of Yoga is our hike homeward within when the darkness of Maya is silently approaching.
  20. Any spiritual effort today, impacts and improves everything in our future. The vanished past is gone. Anchor yourself, not in the past but the present, in the Divine.
  21. The infinite manifests in us through our physical and mental soundness.
  22. Endure the dualities of pain and pleasure with calmness, while trying at the same time to remove their hold. Imagination is the door through which disease, as well as healing, enters us.
  23. Be sincere. Good manners without sincerity are like a beautiful dead body. Candour with courtesy is helpful and admirable.
  24. With Viveka (impersonal analysis) & Vairagya (Indomitable will), every natural passion can be mastered. Roam in the world as a lion of self-control; see that the frogs of weakness don’t kick you around.
  25. If you consider yourself to be a spiritual person, think about this: What original commentary can you supply, from the uniqueness of your particular life? What holy text have you absorbed and made your own? In what ways have these timeless truths renovated your nature? What is your inner realization? Do not be a hollow victrola, mechanically repeating the words of others.
  26. Do not confuse understanding with a larger vocabulary. Sacred writings are beneficial in stimulating the desire for inward realization if one stanza at a time is slowly assimilated. Continual intellectual study results in vanity and the false satisfaction of undigested knowledge.
  27. If one busies himself with an outward display of scriptural wealth, what time is left for silent inward diving after priceless pearls?
  28. When your conviction of a truth is not merely in your brain but in your being, you may diffidently vouch for its meaning.
  29. The Rishis wrote in one sentence profundities that commenting scholars busy themselves over for generations.
  30. Be softer than a flower where Kindness is concerned but stronger than the thunder where principles are at stake.
  31. It is better to seek wisdom from a self-realized man than from an inert mountain.
  32. The goal of Yoga is to calm the mind so that it can mirror the divine. One can sense one’s intuition only when the mind is calm.
  33. Indian classical music is a subjective, spiritual and individualistic art aiming not at sympathetic brilliance but personal harmony with the over-soul. Sound has the most potent effect on man, offering him a way to remember his divine origin.
  34. Astrology is a study of man’s response to planetary stimuli which can be positive or negative influences on an individual. A man’s astrological chart is a challenging portrait revealing his unalterable past and its probable future results. It is meant not to emphasise fate but to arouse man’s will to escape his universal thraldom. What he has done, he alone can undo. He can overcome any limitations as he created them by his actions because he has spiritual resources which are not subject to planetary pressure.
  35. All human ills arise from some transgression of universal law.
  36. Seeds of past karma cannot germinate if they get roasted in the divine fire of wisdom.
  37. Human life is beset with sorrow until we tune in with the divine will. God alone bears the burden of the cosmos and He alone can give unerring counsel of navigating this samsara.
  38. Shankara said where there is duality under ignorance one sees all things as distinct from the Self. When everything is seen as the Self then there is not even an atom other than the Self.
  39. Great gurus can assume the Karma of disciples. (Christ)
  40. As soon as the knowledge of Reality (true understanding) dawns, there can be no fruits of past actions to be experienced. Just like there can be no dream after waking up, the body is unreal to the awakened person.
  41. If you don’t invite God to be your summer Guest, He won’t come in the winter of your life.
  42. Every Swami belongs to an ancient monastic order which was organized in its present form by Shankara connecting them to an unbroken line of a saintly lineage that traces back to one common guru, Lord Shankara.
  43. Anyone who practices a scientific technique of God-contact is a Yogi.
  44. The Eight-fold path of Yoga leads one to Kaivalya, absoluteness, the realisation of the Truth beyond all intellectual apprehension.
  45. If and when the final oneness with God is achieved, the distinctions of the various paths disappear.
  46. The yogic science satisfies a universal need, it has natural universal applicability. Yoga is a practice of psychological discipline, a method of mental and physiological hygiene. Kriya yoga is the union (yoga) with the Infinite through a certain action or rite.
  47. Nature herself is Maya, she is eternal and inexhaustible in her domain. To tear the veil of Maya is to pierce the secret of creation. Only a true yogi can achieve this feat.
  48. Without suffering one scarcely cares to recall that one has forsaken one’s eternal home. Pain is a prod to remembrance. The way of escape is through wisdom.
  49. The wise devote themselves to realising, rather than merely reading ancient revelations. Through meditation, problems can be solved.
  50. Our eagerness for worldly activity, our extroverted-ness, kills in us the sense of spiritual awe.
  51. Through the use of Kriya yoga, people who cannot bring themselves to see divinity in any man will finally be able to behold the full divinity of their selves.
  52. Vedantins or Yogis are sometimes seen as lacking in Bhakti, devotion but this is not true. The connection the yogis feel with the Paramatman is very strong. External display of devotion is not a true sign of devotion.
  53. Practice modesty. Find the joy in simplicity and few possessions. The tree laden with ripening fruits bends low, while the barren tree lifts its head high in empty boast.
  54. Evil is that which produces misery while good is that which results in true happiness.
  55. Be a citizen of the world. Travel its length and breadth. Seek to know thyself.

Each of us on the quest for self-realization takes a unique route to the same truth. While we tread our routes, there is so much inspiration we can derive by hearing about the journeys of others who have already made it to the summit. Whether in East or West, in person or word, be eager to meet a saint. I recommend this book to all spiritual seekers irrespective of their religious affiliations and personal philosophy preferences. I hope this garland of 55 pearls helps you in your spiritual quest. Never give up on your quest. Seek to be mentored by the realized teachers. Learn about the life journeys of realized men and women. Be relentless in your quest. The truth is One. It is not sectarian, communal or property of any creed. It is universal. It is in You. It is You.

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