“In sleep, you do not know whether you are a man or a woman,” he said. “Just as a man, impersonating a woman, does not become one, so the soul, impersonating both man and woman, has no sex. The soul is the pure, changeless image of God.”
Sri Yukteswar never avoided or blamed women as objects of seduction. Men, he said, were also a temptation to women. I once inquired of my guru why a great ancient saint had called women “the door to hell.”
“A girl must have proved very troublesome to his peace of mind in his early life,” my guru answered causticly. “Otherwise he would have denounced, not woman, but some imperfection in his own self-control.”
“Do not allow yourself to be thrashed by the provoking whip of a beautiful face,” he told the disciples. “How can sense slaves enjoy the world? Its subtle flavors escape them while they grovel in primal mud. All nice discriminations are lost to the man of elemental lusts.”
“Just as the purpose of eating is to satisfy hunger, not greed, so the sex instinct is designed for the propagation of the species according to natural law, never for the kindling of insatiable longings,” he said. “Destroy wrong desires now; otherwise they will follow you after the astral body is torn from its physical casing. Even when the flesh is weak, the mind should be constantly resistant. If temptation assails you with cruel force, overcome it by impersonal analysis and indomitable will. Every natural passion can be mastered.
“Conserve your powers. Be like the capacious ocean, absorbing within all the tributary rivers of the senses. Small yearnings are openings in the reservoir of your inner peace, permitting healing waters to be wasted in the desert soil of materialism. The forceful activating impulse of wrong desire is the greatest enemy to the happiness of man. Roam in the world as a lion of self-control; see that the frogs of weakness don’t kick you around.”
The devotee is finally freed from all instinctive compulsions. He transforms his need for human affection into aspiration for God alone, a love solitary because omnipresent.
“To seek the Lord, one need not disfigure his face,” he would remark. “Remember that finding God will mean the funeral of all sorrows.”
“Do not confuse understanding with a larger vocabulary,” he remarked. “Sacred writings are beneficial in stimulating desire for inward realization, if one stanza at a time is slowly assimilated. Continual intellectual study results in vanity and the false satisfaction of an undigested knowledge.”
“If one busies himself with an outer display of scriptural wealth, what time is left for silent inward diving after the priceless pearls?
“Wisdom is not assimilated with the eyes, but with the atoms,” he said. “When your conviction of a truth is not merely in your brain but in your being, you may diffidently vouch for its meaning.” He discouraged any tendency a student might have to construe book-knowledge as a necessary step to spiritual realization.
“The rishis wrote in one sentence profundities that commentating scholars busy themselves over for generations,” he remarked. “Endless literary controversy is for sluggard minds.
But man does not easily return to simplicity. It is seldom “God” for him, but rather learned pomposities. His ego is pleased, that he can grasp such erudition.
Amazing it was to find that a master with such a fiery will could be so calm within. He fitted the Vedic definition of a man of God: “Softer than the flower, where kindness is concerned; stronger than the thunder, where principles are at stake.”
There are always those in this world who, in Browning’s words, “endure no light, being themselves obscure.” An outsider occasionally berated Sri Yukteswar for an imaginary grievance. My imperturbable guru listened politely, analyzing himself to see if any shred of truth lay within the denunciation. These scenes would bring to my mind one of Master’s inimitable observations: “Some people try to be tall by cutting off the heads of others!”
The unfailing composure of a saint is impressive beyond any sermon. “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that rules his spirit than he that takes a city.”
I often reflected that my majestic Master could easily have been an emperor or world-shaking warrior had his mind been centered on fame or worldly achievement. He had chosen instead to storm those inner citadels of wrath and egotism whose fall is the height of a man.
Excerpts from the book by Paramhansa Yogananda “Autobiography of a Yogi”