Friday, November 2, 2012

How Can I Know God?

The Indian scriptures state that “God cannot be proved.” Jesus said “No man hath seen God.”

But neither tradition is remotely atheistical and great saints of East and West have faithfully told of their experiences of mystical union with God in many forms and in many ways.

When I was a boy I read the lives of the Christian saints but I despaired for the fact that they all lived long ago. “Where is Jesus Christ now” I wondered? “Why are there no saints living today” I cried! But no one could answer me.

Most orthodox faiths pray to or praise God, Christ or others but few affirm that we can know God. Fewer instruct their adherents in how to know God. Instead we are counseled to obey the scriptures, go to church or temple, be good, help others and, with a little luck (grace), we will go to heaven and receive our reward!

Admittedly that’s a lot like what happens on earth. We are taught to study hard, work hard, and, if we are very good, we will be successful, we will be liked and respected, and if we save our money we can retire and live happily ever after at our cottage by the sea.

Hmmmm……makes you wonder, don’t it?

It might work that way on earth, or, it might not. It depends. So why would we believe that line in regards to something we don’t know and can’t see: heaven?

One of my favorite chapters in “Autobiography of a Yogi” contains a story wherein Paramhansa Yogananda has this mind-blowing experience of cosmic consciousness given to him by his guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar. 

Sometime afterwards however, he begins to doubt and question his experience. One day he asks his guru, “When will I find God?” His guru chuckled merrily saying, “What did you expect to find, a venerable personage sitting on a throne in some antiseptic corner of the universe?”

Then, consolingly he explained to young Mukunda (Yogananda’s birth name) that God is the joy born of meditation and the adequate response to every need.

God is not limited to these manifestations (God is infinite and all pervading, eh?) but certainly that quiet, bubbly life giving joy one can feel in and as a result of deep meditation is as tangible as the fingers of my right hand. Further, a life of faith yields in every circumstance the subtle and hidden guidance, comfort, and insight of the divine hand.

It was a stunning revelation to me when I first read Yogananda’s autobiography that God could be known as joy, as peace, as a deep and pure love in my heart, as an expanding light or an expanding sense of power or calmness. No more would I have to pine away thinking God as “other” and beyond the pale of possible knowing.

Later as a disciple of Yogananda and as my attunement to him (and his life and teachings) grew, I began to see that in knowing him, and in feeling his presence in subtle but consistent ways, by this too, I had the direct perception of God’s presence. For as Yogananda said to his disciples, “I killed Yogananda long ago. No one dwells in this form but He.”

Many people like to imagine or feel God’s presence in nature, in kindness, and in creativity. This too is possible, certainly, and saints have so testified.

How can we distinguish our desire and active imagination or subconscious promptings from the real deal?

That takes practice, calmness, and intense self-honesty. But it is not as difficult as you might think. To know God, we must be still and very quiet; humble and reverent; we must ask that He come to us; we must be open to His coming in any form but especially open to His coming in the form of those whom he sends: those Christ-like saviors who in every age descend for the upliftment of mankind.

To “worship God in spirit and in truth” means also that we must act in God-like ways: charitably, without ego, unselfishly, acting in moderation and self-control, and actively seeking His will in everything we do.

As Krishna promises devotees everywhere, “Even a little practice of this inward religion will free you from dire fears and colossal sufferings.” And as St. John the Apostle wrote in the first chapter of his gospel, “As many as received Him gave He the power to become the sons of God.”

Meditation is the science of religion. If we will learn a tried and true technique and follow the counsel given above in attitude and in activity, we WILL KNOW GOD. Paramhansa Yogananda said, “The time for knowing God has come!” The means he brought from India for this is the technique he called Kriya Yoga.

For more information on Kriya Yoga, you can begin at our website:

Blessings and joy to you,
Nayaswami Hriman