When you die, the question that God will ask you is, “Do you love me?” It couldn’t matter to God whether you’ve been a Hindu or a Jew or a Christian. It isn’t a matter of how long you meditate, or how many prayers you do. It’s a matter of the devotion, the energy, and the consciousness that you bring to your search for God, says SWAMI KRIYANANDA
When Paramhansa Yogananda was a young monk, a sceptic once said to him, “Someday all you swamis will be very disappointed, when you wake up and discover that there is no God.” Yogananda replied even-mindedly, “Well, you may be right. But meanwhile we’ll at least have had the satisfaction of knowing that we’ve done some good.”
It was a wise answer. The important thing is not how we define our beliefs, but how we live them. God isn’t concerned with the outward form of our approach to Him, but whether we love Him in our heart.
We all want more happiness, less sorrow; more love, less meanness of heart; more charity, less narrow-mindedness and selfishness. These are universal desires. We all want to find happiness and avoid unhappiness.
Moreover, we learn by trial and error. Over time, as we experience the results of our actions, we begin to want to avoid those things that bring us sorrow, and to seek those things that give us happiness.
People sometimes worry that science has undermined religion. In some ways, of course, it’s true. But what science has done is wonderful. It has said that without experiment, which in religious terms would be direct experience, you can’t claim to know anything.
People used to say that the earth was flat, but their belief didn’t make it so. People also used to say that the earth was the centre of the universe, but they eventually found that it wasn’t so. Again and again, experiment has proved that certain dogmas, beliefs, and suppositions simply weren’t valid.
And so it is in our search for truth. We must approach the search for truth scientifically, which is to say, experientially. When I meditate, I feel great joy. I feel God’s love. That’s what makes it worthwhile to me.
If love were only an intellectual belief, it would mean nothing. But I feel so much in love with God that I want to do whatever I can to know Him more fully. We all want to experience God’s presence in ourselves. When we experience His presence, others can feel it, too.
This is India’s great contribution to spiritual teaching ― to judge by your own personal experience. The Indian teachings don’t depend on an institution declaring what ought to be, but on people ― great masters ― who have experienced the truth.
It’s wonderful in India to see Hindus pass in front of a church and bow in reverence. They know that the same God they love is being loved and worshipped also in that church.
This is what religion in this modern, scientific age should be all about. It’s a matter of living the principles and the teachings. And it always comes back to the individual. Yogananda used to say, “You have to individually make love to God.”
In his discussions of the modern age, Yogananda said, “The religion of the future will be self-realisation.” He wasn’t talking about building an organisation. He meant that, in the future, every religion will understand that the true purpose of religion is to help you in your personal relationship with God, and in your private devotion.
Why do the great masters come to live here on earth? Not to create institutions. No! They come to help us realise individually that what we’re seeking is within ourselves.
The scientific age will bring people the understanding that religion is about experiment and experience. Many more people will come to God in this age than previously, because they will understand that religion is a matter of individual effort, not fixed and brittle concepts. In the old, materialistic age there was the tendency to box things into fixed definitions. A definition is not the truth. I can say, “God is love” and yet live a life totally contradicting this principle. It’s what we do that matters.
Our goal in life should be to become like the great yogis. It’s entirely false to say, “They are so great. We could never be like them.” The great ones don’t come to show us how great they are, but to show us what we are.
To reach that level of realisation, we need to meditate. We need to practice yoga. We need to develop our devotion to God.
In future there will be more recognition that religious authorities don’t necessarily know the truth. He alone knows who has experienced it. Sometimes the most ignorant person will be the one who deserves the most respect.
The future of religion will move more toward simplicity of the heart, and away from official dogmas and creeds.
When I was in college, people used to come to me with all sorts of learned theories, wanting to know my opinion. I would say, “If it doesn’t feel right in your heart, don’t accept it.”
The true centre of your being is in your heart. This is the seat of intuition, and if you want to know if anything is true, try to feel whether it resonates with your heart.
In the future, the true expression of religion will be the individual’s love for God ― God first, God second, God all the time. Then, with His love, you can love all.
But don’t think that the mere feeling of love is the answer. When you feel great love in your heart, that energy can go downward as well as upward. It’s good to love outwardly, but unless that love is based in an upward flow toward Spirit, it will take you into delusion.
We need to love all with God’s love, and to love Him in all. In future, people will understand that this is what life is about.
When you die, the question that God will ask you is, “Do you love me?” It couldn’t matter to God whether you’ve been a Hindu or a Jew or a Christian. The most important thing Yogananda taught us was how to love God. It isn’t a matter of how long you meditate, or how many prayers you do. It’s a matter of the devotion, the energy, and the consciousness that you bring to your search for God. This is the true religion of the future, and for all eternity.
Swami Kriyananda (born J. Donald Walters) was only 22 when he became a direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda, the author of Autobiography of a Yogi. At Yogananda’s request, Swami Kriyananda devoted his life to lecturing and writing, helping others to experience the living presence of God within. He founded the Ananda community.