Who has not wondered “Why me” when destiny casts a shadow across the path of one’s life? Even without the extremes of human suffering and tragedy, there are the disappointments, heartbreaks, and disillusionments experienced by most people.
After whatever initial response is required in the moment, the first question too often asked is “Why?” Ironically, it’s the most difficult question to answer with any certainty. Even if there may be a specific answer, it generally won’t come until we’ve had some psychic distance (usually in time and space).
The “why” question can sometimes be a manifestation of the stage of denial because stopping to ponder, doubt, rail in anger and to contemplate this question paralyzes taking action and positive steps. (This isn’t always true because in the infinite variety of human circumstances and consciousness there’s virtually nothing that’s always!)
Nonetheless the hurt expressed in the question (and it is a question I hear often) postpones the inevitable and necessary stages of acceptance and redemption. As a teacher of metaphysical concepts in the lineage of raja yoga, the question of “Why has God created us (or this world, or suffering, or . . . . ) is a constant feature on the landscape of my daily life.
Paramhansa Yogananda, author of “Autobiography of a Yogi,” responded to such questions in various ways but one of those responses was “You will know when you will know.” He would counter that the more practical question is “What can do I about it?” On other occasions he would comment that when we achieve our true destiny (oneness with the “Father”), He will reveal all to us and we, like others who have gone before us, will say, “What a wonderful show — the greatest story ever told!”
An example Yogananda would give in this vein was to point out how when reading a novel, play or watching a great classic movie we might laugh and cry with comedy and tragedy, and then, leaving the theatre or putting down the book, we say: “That was a great story. I learned so much!” But, he would point out, how few of us can look at our own life with such a perspective? Are we not simply one out of billions (and billions who have ever walked this one planet, earth)? Even if every life is unique, do we not share essentially the same hopes, dreams, and tragedies, at least relative to our own frame of reference? Are not the crises of last year, last month, or yesterday, all but forgotten today? Yes, but . . . .
And so it is that the human heart, when broken, needs time to heal and time to find perspective. Yogananda once wrote that “the drama of life has for its lesson that it is simply that: a drama.”
But why do we suffer? I mean: in time, we can usually let a hurt go, cant’ we? The pain, at least, subsides, doesn’t it? If we can recover later, why not sooner? But why don’t we?
An animal may suffer but to a large and observable degree not as much as we. A child raised in a wealthy home with comforts will suffer more from a physical injury than the toughened street-wise kid or farmer’s child. Ironically, however, it may be true that the less self-aware we are the less we suffer, but suffering serves as an incentive to probe into the source of our suffering and to search for how to relieve or not repeat it. The street kid or farmer is less likely to go on in life in response to his suffering and do something about it, whether for himself or perhaps for others, or simply in a creative response to a setback, he may accomplish something worthwhile. It is an axiom of modern culture that the artist, writer, scientist, or saint is spurred to his particular form of creative genius by overcoming setbacks or tragedy early in life.
There appears to be in every form of consciousness (but let’s stick with our own, human awareness, for now) a innate impulse to avoid suffering and to seek happiness. This easily verified tendency is directional. It is relative. For one person, this aspect of human consciousness relates the sensory level of pleasure and pain, acquired through food, sex, comforts, survival, and self-defense. For others it takes the form of long-term, delayed gratification: seeking an education, to be successful in business, career, family, or health, or to achieve name and fame, respect, and money. Subtler still would be the inner drive to create beauty, to bring healing to others, to be a peacemaker, problem solver, protector or to accomplish worthwhile goals on a large(r) scale than one's own needs. The spiritual seeker or devotee epitomizes perhaps the most subtle, most elevated human striving, directionally: avoiding the pain of ignorance and delusion and seeking the joy of God.
Thus we, at last, come to my real topic: the promise of the scriptures; the promise of immortality; and the message of saints and sages in all ages. This grand creation of billions of galaxies and our own individual birth and existence is royally endowed with an impulse that goes far beyond mere survival and procreation (whose necessity and usefulness is readily admitted). It is the impulse towards greater consciousness; a dawning self-awareness; and, ultimately, the attainment of untrammeled happiness, unending existence, and knowledge that knows no bounds. In short we seek bliss, immortality, and omniscience.
[The evolutionary biologist observes the instincts of survival and procreation but cannot explain the “why?” Surely lower life forms, and, indeed, humans for that matter, don’t trouble themselves to think in terms of their genes dominating the gene pool for generations to come! To say that we seek to survive is, at its most basic level, a value judgment that exceeds the proper inquiry of science itself! The strictly rational scientist cannot truly say that it is better to survive than not to survive. He can only say that it appears, generally, to be a fact. Besides, another, equally important and unalterable fact is that we don’t survive anyway. Death comes to all beings! Seems, therefore, like plants, animals and humans are being, well, irrational!]
Who planted this seed of striving into our bosom? Could it be the same One who has dreamed us into existence? The dogma-bound materialist must turn his back to us and walk away, but you and I are under no such compulsion. The rishis tell us that as all creation is a manifestation of consciousness (sparks of the Infinite Consciousness, the only reality that truly IS), so we partake of the intelligence, the impulse, the deeper-than-conscious knowing that perfection (bliss, immortality, omniscience) is our native land.
But like the prodigal son in the famous story told by Jesus Christ, we have long wandered in foreign lands of matter attachment. It takes the famine of unhappiness to drive us inward and towards the remembrance of how we once lived in our Father’s prosperous home. This beautiful and poignant story — so familiar and so natural to the human heart — dispels all notion of a vengeful God, ready to cast our souls into the eternal fires of hell. The corollary to this grand vision of life’s purpose must be the one fact that makes it all work: reincarnation!
Hell there certainly is, no doubt about it. We don’t need to die to experience it, either. Look around you. Genocide, suicide, depression, insanity, war, famine and plague! Look within you! The hell of anger, addictions, compelling desires and lusts which can never be quenched and which burn us with their fevers. So, too, the hell of violence which causes unending cycles of abuse, generation after generation. There is, even, we are told, hellish astral regions where souls whose lives on earth were evil, dark or selfish sojourn until their next incarnation.
But the masters come into every age with a message of glad tidings and good news. We are not that sinful, broken, and hurting creature. We are not the body, the personality, our past, our hurts, our desires — we are a child of God. We princes who are dreaming we are paupers. We need first to desire an end to the cycle of birth, death, pleasure and pain! Then we must be blessed by an awakening in order to remember our birthright; then we must summon the will, humility, and courage to begin the journey, long or short, back to our home in God: in our own Self.
Kriya yoga has been resurrected from priestly secrecy and human indifference in response to souls crying in the wilderness and tired of sectarianism, mere beliefs, and religious rivalries. “The time for knowing God has come!” Paramhansa Yogananda declared.
Calmness, meditation, introspection, good works, devotion to the Supreme Lord, and attunement to the Guru who is sent for our salvation: these are the keys to the kingdom, to the secret garden of our own heart. Kriya yoga is an efficacious accelerator of inner awakening. The time is now!