“Yama-niyama [first two steps of moral ‘do’s and don’ts’ of the Eightfold Path of Yoga of Patanjali, “the greatest exponent of Yoga,”] are the foundation on which the yogi begins to build his spiritual life. They harmonize body and mind with the divine laws of nature, or creation, producing an inner and outer well-being, happiness, and strength that attract the devotee to deeper spiritual practices and make him receptive to the blessings of his guru-given sadhana (spiritual path). God Talks With Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita
[Patanjali’s] Yoga Sutras considers the “magic” of moral purity (the “ten commandments” of yama and niyama) to be the indispensable preliminary for sound philosophical investigation. …The cosmic order (rita) that upholds the universe is not different from the moral order that rules man’s destiny. He who is unwilling to observe the universal moral precepts is not seriously determined to pursue truth. Autobiography of a Yogi
“The Ennobling Qualities of the Soul” by Sister Priya, devotee notes, excerpts
“Well, here we are again,” Sister began, “one year older, and hopefully one year wiser.” (Laughter from the audience)
Sister told of a cartoon she once saw of a man in a tiny boat in a vast ocean with shark fins circling and surrounding him. The man is saying, “What did I do to deserve this?” and the answer coming from above was, “Do you want a list?” (Laughter from the audience)
…[But] always remember the personal element – the ever-present and unconditional love and help of God and guru. Babaji and Christ planned this special dispensation as the spiritual salvation for this age. Lahiri Mahasaya said, “Whenever anyone utters with reverence the name of Babaji, that devotee attracts an instant spiritual blessing.”
In Master’s interpretation of the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter XVI, we are given the 26 soul qualities that make man God-like. Study them, for your own freedom and joy.
There are three types of behavior – three gunas, or qualities. The first is sattvic, which is the spiritual quality. The second is rajas, the active quality. The last is tamas, the ignorant, evil quality. One of these gunas predominates in every person. The predominant guna may change in a person during the course of their life. Master said that at this time, the planet is predominately rajasic. For the most part, people are active and absorbed, but it is generally somewhat selfish activity. It is all in how we choose to behave – that is what we become. Those who are seeking God – divinely inclined persons – are manifesting more and more of the sattvic quality, and it is the sattvic which leads man to Self-realization.
The 26 ennobling qualities are:
fearlessness, purity of heart, perseverance in acquiring wisdom and in practicing yoga, charity, subjugation of the senses, performance of holy rites, study of the scriptures, self-discipline, straightforwardness, noninjury, truthfulness, freedom from wrath, renunciation, peacefulness, nonslanderousness, compassion for all creatures, absence of greed, gentleness, modesty, lack of restlessness, radiance of character, forgiveness, patience, cleanness, freedom from hate, absence of conceit.
These twenty-six qualities are all divine attributes of God; they constitute man’s spiritual wealth.
Sister said, “Even to repeat them is peace-producing, isn’t it? – because they are within us – all of them. Study them and incorporate them into your daily living. This will help us to avoid unnecessary reincarnation.”
Beloved Bro. Bimalananda and child
These twenty-six soul qualities are a wonderful resource for child rearing. With these teachings, children will be better guided. All SRF families should take one quality a week – talk about it with their children – let them practice that quality – and then come back and talk about it.
However, these pearls of wisdom should not be cast before mentally rebellious and unappreciative people.
Some Qualities Explained
FEARLESSNESS is the impregnable rock on which the house of spiritual life must be erected. So how to be fearless? Fearlessness means faith in God; faith in His protection, His justice, His wisdom, His mercy, His love, His omnipresence. He will protect us if we put ourselves in his protection. We can trust his justice. He created mercy. He is always aware of us and we have only to turn to Him and ask for His help. If we do that we can no longer be overwhelmed by what happens in our life. Try it for a year – see what freedom and fearlessness it brings. Even in death, affirm, “I am ever safe in the fortress of Thy loving care.” Remain tranquil in that faith.
PURITY OF HEART means transparency to truth. One’s consciousness should be free from the distortions of attachment and repulsion to sense objects. Likes and dislikes for externals taint the heart with gross vibrations. Jesus said: “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” With that undistorted vision, they see God. We need not be influenced by anything less than the truth. Always seek the truth.
STEADFASTNESS in seeking wisdom and in practicing yoga is essential for reaching liberation. That is the key – never give up. “A saint is a sinner who never gave up.” Abraham Lincoln experienced many failures in his life, but persevered in the good, and now he is considered to be one of our two greatest presidents. God will show us the way to serve.
ALMSGIVING or charity expands the consciousness and links the soul to the presence of God within all other souls. All we have been given is on loan from God. Jesus said “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” By ‘rich man’, Jesus meant one who is selfish and does not share his wealth.
To give money to people who would use it for drugs or other evil is wrong, harmful, weakening. But the discriminative devotee who wisely shares his wealth, knowledge, and spiritual treasures to the benefit of those who are needy, worthy, and receptive fits himself for liberation.
SELF-RESTRAINT is the power to control the senses when they are excited by the pleasant sensations of sight, hearing, smell, taste, or touch. He who succumbs to temptations will remain entangled in sense objects, far removed from soul knowledge. Every indulgence in any form of sense-lures reinforces the desire for that experience. Repetition leads to the formation of nearly unshakable bad habits.
With every effort to resist, we will strengthen the ability to do so. Any time we say “no”, we become stronger – we will be closer to overcoming. Every time we ask God and guru to help us, we are closer. A devotee who is master of his senses is ready for emancipation.
RENUNCIATION– the word seems to denote some lack, but Master’s definition is much more enticing: “Renunciation is the wise path trod by the devotee who willingly gives up the lesser for the greater. He relinquishes passing sense pleasures for the sake of eternal joys. Renunciation is not an end in itself, but clears the ground for the manifestation of soul qualities. No one should fear the rigors of self-denial; the spiritual blessings that follow are great and incomparable. To engage in actions without desire for their fruit is true tyaga (renunciation). God is the Divine Renunciant, for He carries on all the activities of the universe without attachment to them. Anyone aspiring to Self-realization – whether he be a monastic or a householder – must act and live for the Lord, without being emotionally involved in His drama of creation.”
STRAIGHTFORWARDNESS denotes sincerity. The eyes that see God are honest and artless. He who is free from deceit may gaze on the Utter Innocence. The aspiring devotee strives to be free from guile and crookedness. To regain the shahja or natural state of his true being he makes himself as open and candid as the sun.
Master never gives up on anyone. He promises us more than the moon and the stars, and without even meeting him in the flesh, because of his sincerity and straightforwardness, we know we can trust him.
FORGIVENESS in the man of God consists in not inflicting, or wishing to inflict, punishment on those who harm or wrong him. He knows that the cosmic law will see to it that all injustices are rectified; it is unnecessary and presumptuous to attempt to hasten its workings or to determine their form. Retribution at the hands of the immutable law of karma has for its proper and far-seeing purpose the eventual spiritual redemption of the sinner. Even if justice does not seem to prevail, the karmic law will not fail to balance the scale.”
Evil persons, after death, go to astral realms where they are not given the same freedom of those who are good.
A passage in the Mahabharata says, “One should forgive, under any injury. It hath been said that the continuation of the species is due to man’s being forgiving. Forgiveness is holiness; by forgiveness the universe is held together. Forgiveness and gentleness are the qualities of the Self-possessed. They represent eternal virtue.”
But total forgiveness is not easy. Jesus said that we should forgive seventy times seven – that’s four hundred and ninety! Sister said, “I remember thinking that four hundred and ninety seemed a bit unreasonable, but then I decided by then it would have become a habit.” (Laughter from the audience)
God says, “How many times do I forgive you every day?”
GENTLENESS is characterized by spiritual patience. God is ever gentle with His erring children and, unoffended, remains quiet when they revile or ignore Him. All men who are in divine attunement are kind and forbearing. A gentle person attracts friends on earth and also, more importantly, attracts the Lord, the Friend of all Friends. A spiritually patient man does not feel ill will toward anyone, even the most evil.
Make these twenty-six soul qualities your lifetime study. Incorporate them into your own being until there is no room for the negative opposites. If you are having trouble meditating, check your conscience – check your adherence to Yama/Niyama and to these soul qualities.
The greatest thing in life is to live in the castle of your own clear conscience, knowing you are pleasing God.” ( Paramahansa Yogananda The Divine Romance)
Follow the teachings, use the techniques – and let us determine that we will never, never, never, ever give up!
[left to right] Sister Priya, Mukti Mata, Uma Mata
Sister Priya, a Self-Realization Fellowship nun for more than 40 years, is a senior spiritual counselor and minister at the SRF International Headquarters. She has traveled all over the United States and Europe to share Paramahansa Yogananda’s teachings with thousands.
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