The Tree of Knowledge
Meet Your Tests with Courage
A monastic disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda once had a dream in which his fellow disciples were running in a race. He understood the race to be toward soul liberation. In this dream each runner, at some point, fell to the ground. Some devotees got up right away, while others took longer. What was important, the disciple said, was that everyone did get up eventually, and kept moving toward the light.
To progress on the spiritual path, we have to keep moving toward greater soul freedom no matter what challenges we face. As we evolve from finite awareness, identifying with one tiny body and personality, to soul-thrilling, infinite consciousness, we must expect challenges along the way. Certainly over our millions of incarnations, we have developed a few soul-negating attitudes and limitations. When we finally become aware of these limitations, we must meet them, and overcome them, with courage.
Discouragement, Paramhansa Yogananda said, is the greatest test of Satan for the devotee, because discouragement paralyzes our will and prevents us from moving forward on the path. We must keep our minds calm and be like a tractor that moves “easily over the ups and downs in the field of life.”
In the following excerpts (below) from the book by Paramhansa Yogananda How to Have Courage, Calmness, and Confidence, he tells us how to live as a confident child of God, and embrace the path as a spiritual warrior, with a heart filled with courage and determination. May you feel the presence of God through every test and challenge, and may the joy of your soul shine ever brighter with God’s light.
Meet everybody and every circumstance on the battlefield of life with the courage of a hero and the smile of a conqueror. Give little weight to the trials that beset you. Eventually, you will pass beyond every shadow of bad karma, beyond all tests and difficulties, and will behold at last the dawn of divine fulfillment.
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Tears and sighs on the battlefield of life are the liquid cowardice of a weak mind. Those who give up the fight become prisoners within the walls of their own ignorance. Life is nothing if not a continuous overcoming of problems. Every problem that waits for a solution at your hand is the religious duty imposed upon you by life itself.
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Avoid associating with those who always complain about life. They may ruin your newly awakened spirituality, which is like a tender plant growing within you. Avoid such people and try to be happy always, no matter how you are situated.
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Change — even change for the better — is often approached with apprehension. “In giving up something,” people think, “will I be left with nothing?” It takes courage to renounce the known for the unknown. It is not easy even to renounce a familiar pain for an unknown, and therefore uncertain, happiness.
The mind is like a horse that for years has pulled its delivery wagon. The horse grows accustomed to its daily route, and cannot be convinced easily to walk a new one. The mind, too, will not lightly abandon its old habits, even when it knows they cause only misery.
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The sincere seeker… takes heart at the thought of the hard work before him. A true warrior, though afraid, plunges courageously into battle when the strength of his arm is needed.
A true alpinist, though apprehensive of the sheer cliff he faces, sets out resolutely to conquer it. And the sincere truth seeker tells himself, “I know what an arduous task it must be to achieve perfection, but I will give it all I have. With God’s help, success, surely, must be mine!”
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Karma is best worked out by meeting life’s tests cheerfully and courageously. If you still fear something, that karma has not yet been worked out. To dissipate it, don’t try to avoid the tests you have to face. Rise above them bravely, by dwelling in God’s joy within.
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Sorrow has no objective existence. If you constantly affirm it, it exists. Deny it in your mind, and it will exist no longer.
Always remember that your real nature is eternal bliss, and nothing else. The one thing that will never leave you is the joy of your soul.
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Every worldly man seeking success must keep his mind calm to meet the constantly changing circumstances of his life. He must be able, like a tractor, to move easily over ups and downs in the field of life.
The moral aspirant should not be overjoyed when he is victorious over a mighty temptation, nor should he be discouraged if he finds himself suddenly a prisoner of temptation. The resolute, even-minded moral individual moves steadily forward until he reaches his goal of complete self-mastery.
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When a spiritual devotee, after a few years of deep meditation, acquires a divine joy, he should not be over-confident in the lasting quality of that experience, until he reaches the final beatitude.
Many devotees become self-satisfied with the superconscious joy of the soul and with beholding a few astral lights. They do not make further deep efforts at meditation, and thus fail to unite their consciousness with the omnipresent joy and light of Spirit.
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A devotee who meditates regularly but finds himself the victim of a sudden explosion of subconscious restlessness should not be discouraged nor stop making renewed efforts at deeper meditation and God-contact. Until one is anchored in the Infinite, he must valiantly race his mental ship of concentration on the calm or rough seas of inner experiences until he reaches the shores of unending communion with the Infinite.
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God answers all prayers. Restless prayers, however, He answers only a little bit. If you offer to others something that isn’t yours to give, won’t that be an empty gesture? Similarly, if you pray to God, but lack control over your own thoughts, that prayer will have no power.
Thoughts and feelings, both, must be focused when you pray. Otherwise, God will meet your little trickle with another trickle of His own! He will dole out His answers to you in a teaspoon. Too often, prayer is more like the halfhearted mumbling of a beggar than the confident, loving demand of a friend.
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Carry your love of God deep in your heart before you sleep. Cradle it there, so that when you dream you may dream of Him resting on the fragrant altar of sleep. Actually, God embraces you on His bosom as peace and joy when you sleep. You are sleeping locked in His arms of tranquility. So, before you fall asleep, remember that you are going to embrace Him in sleep and dreams.
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