Discover the transformative journey of spiritual awakening and its profound impact on inner peace and daily life.
The teachings of Lahiri Mahasaya, as echoed by Paramahansa Yogananda, illuminate a path of spiritual awakening amidst our daily responsibilities.
I’ve been reflecting on three commitments of the spiritual life that have supported me and this work through the years—an approach to life that can help us meet the auspicious potential of our time. Live simply. Love abundantly. Awaken fully.
I began this series with a quote from Lahiri Mahasaya, the paramguru of Paramahansa Yogananda—his guru’s teacher and the guru of his parents, affirming this world as a favorable place for spiritual practice—confirming that we can awaken fully while tending to our responsibilities.
He knew that because he did it. He awakened fully while working two jobs, raising five children with his wife Kashimoni Devi, volunteering in the community, offering a meditation group, teaching, and initiating others into Kriya Yoga.
He knew that spiritual awakening is not only possible but is unavoidable because it is the revelation of our essential Self.
Waking up is recognizing the truth of our being by discerning the nature of Absolute Reality, having an intuitive sense of it, and a direct experience of it—an experience that is beyond words and thoughts.
Spiritual awakening is not something we acquire, earn, or create. It is a natural revelation of our deepest knowing that arises from the soul, the divine Self. That thou art, proclaim the Vedic seers. The Christian scriptures offer: You are made in the image and likeness of God.
John Philip Newell, a Celtic spirituality teacher, and author wrote:
God is the flow of life deep in all things. The deeper we move in any created thing, the closer we come to the ‘divine brilliance’ from which all life flows. 
Once, while speaking on the sacredness of life and the divinity of every human being, John contrasted that viewpoint with original sin—which teaches that what is original in us is opposed to God, rather than of God. After his talk, a woman carrying a copy of his book approached him with such vigor he thought she might hit him over the head with it. Instead, she showed him what she wrote in the book: I knew it! I knew it! I knew it!
That was my experience, too, when my teacher, Roy Eugene Davis, explained the truth of our divine nature. I knew it! One omnipresent Absolute Reality is expressing as all that is. God’s life is our life. That thou art.
I recognized that truth, and I felt it—in my heart, my soul, and in my bones. It was like coming home.
We belong only to God and are restless like a river until we find our way to the ocean of divine Reality. When we’re ready to hear the truth of our existence, we recognize it and wake from our slumber of separation. We are reminded of the truth. But then what?
We make a turn and begin to live into the truth of our being.
We study, meditate, practice spiritual disciplines, and live more intentionally.
We focus on the soul life.
Through our right efforts and the support of divine grace, we awaken fully. Until then, as noted in the Gita, even a little practice of yoga removes great fear. No effort is ever lost, and no obstacle can prevail. (2.40)
Over time, our discernment becomes clearer, our body and nervous system are finely tuned, emotions are balanced, intuition grows stronger, energy is more vigorous, creativity more abundant, and insight deepens.
Like the rising of the sun, the light of the divine Self grows stronger and brighter in us. It is a gradual process, but when we are steadfast, we see continual progress. There are setbacks now and then, but they don’t last. Just as the Gita verse says: Once sincerely on the awakening path, no obstacle can long prevail.
When we are ready and hear the truth of our existence proclaimed, we recognize it and wake from our slumber of separation. Then, how shall we live?
Spiritual awakening is a continual process. Every day, we can experience greater peace, joy, and insight. Swami Satchitananda wrote:
All our various spiritual practices should bring some benefit right away to the body, mind, and to our society. Don’t think that after twenty years, peace will come to you! Instead, feel the presence, the beauty, and the benefit of your practices, little by little in your everyday life.
Each day, you should feel a little healthier physically, more peaceful, and be living a more useful life. The essence of all the spiritual practices is to make you physically easeful, mentally peaceful, and socially useful. And you can only be useful to people when you are also easeful and peaceful. 
The awakened life is cultivating peace every day—living simply, loving abundantly, and awakening fully.
One of the great barriers we erect against awakening fully is mistaken ideas about what it is. We think it is not for us or that it is incompatible with functioning in this realm. The scriptures and the sages tell us otherwise. Sri Yukteswar told Yogananda, Divine perceptions are not incapacitating! Being awake in the world is living by the guidance of the soul. It is insightful and skillful living that brings freedom from sorrow.
Hemaleka’s husband is sitting with his eyes closed in deep samadhi. After a while, he opens his eyes and sees her. Right away, he attempts to return to that ecstatic state and starts to close his eyes. She grasps his hands and gently asks him: My beloved, tell me about your experience. What do you see with your eyes closed? What is lost when they are open? Please tell me.
He says he has found the highest peace, free from the world of sorrow. He explains that once he was ignorant of the vast joy within and looked for happiness in the world. But now he knows! He tells her that even you, who know about this joy, abandon it to engage in useless activities.
She smiles and says to him, My dear, you are the one who doesn’t know the supremely holy state. Once that is known, all confusion is gone. That state is as far removed from you as the moon is from the Earth. What you know is next to nothing.
That joy doesn’t depend on closing or opening one’s eyes! It is not attained by doing or not doing something. Nor is it realized by any coming or going. How can that which is Whole—inherently full and complete—possibly be attained by doing anything, going anywhere, or closing our eyes?
What can I say about the magnitude of your delusion? Here’s the essential truth. As long as the knots of ignorance are not cut, true joy will escape you. Uproot the very tight knot “I am not this” and everywhere recognize the whole world in the Self.
Listening to his beloved wife, he realized that the Self is the Whole, the fullness which is everywhere. 
He awakened fully.
Live simply. Love abundantly. Awaken fully.
 John Philip Newell, Sacred Earth Sacred Soul: Celtic Wisdom for Reawakening to What our Souls Know and Healing the World (New York: Harper Collins, 2021), 85.
 Sri Swami Satchitananda, “The Divine Light in You”, Integral Yoga Magazine, accessed online, September 25, 2021, https://integralyogamagazine.org/the-divine-light-in-you/
 Tripura Rahasya Story, “Open Eyed Ecstasy”, adapted from a selection in Teachings of Yoga, trans. and ed. by Georg Feuerstein (Shambhala: Boston, 1997) 182.
© 2023 Ellen Grace O’Brian