Lahiri Mahasaya often said: ‘If you don’t invite God to be your summer Guest, He won’t come in the winter of your life.’
To allot God a secondary place in life was, to me, inconceivable. Though He is the sole Owner of the cosmos, silently showering us with gifts from life to life, one thing yet remains which He does not own, and which each human heart is empowered to withhold or bestow-man’s love. The Creator, in taking infinite pains to shroud with mystery His presence in every atom of creation, could have had but one motive-a sensitive desire that men seek Him only through free will. With what velvet glove of every humility has He not covered the iron hand of omnipotence!
No man can give himself the title of swami. He rightfully receives it only from another swami; all monks thus trace their spiritual lineage to one common guru, Lord Shankara. By vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience to the spiritual teacher, many Catholic Christian monastic orders resemble the Order of Swamis.
His goal is absolute unity with Spirit. Imbuing his waking and sleeping consciousness with the thought, “I am He,” he roams contentedly, in the world but not of it. Thus only may he justify his title of swami – one who seeks to achieve union with the Swa or Self. It is needless to add that not all formally titled swamis are equally successful in reaching their high goal.
Sri Yukteswar was both a swami and a yogi. A swami, formally a monk by virtue of his connection with the ancient order, is not always a yogi. Anyone who practices a scientific technique of God-contact is a yogi; he may be either married or unmarried, either a worldly man or one of formal religious ties. A swami may conceivably follow only the path of dry reasoning, of cold renunciation; but a yogi engages himself in a definite, step-by-step procedure by which the body and mind are disciplined, and the soul liberated. Taking nothing for granted on emotional grounds, or by faith, a yogi practices a thoroughly tested series of exercises which were first mapped out by the early rishis. Yoga has produced, in every age of India, men who became truly free, truly Yogi-Christs.
Like any other science, yoga is applicable to people of every clime and time. The theory advanced by certain ignorant writers that yoga is “unsuitable for Westerners” is wholly false, and has lamentably prevented many sincere students from seeking its manifold blessings. Yoga is a method for restraining the natural turbulence of thoughts, which otherwise impartially prevent all men, of all lands, from glimpsing their true nature of Spirit. Yoga cannot know a barrier of East and West any more than does the healing and equitable light of the sun. So long as man possesses a mind with its restless thoughts, so long will there be a universal need for yoga or control.
Excerpts from the book by Paramhansa Yogananda “Autobiography of a Yogi”