In a cosmic sense, we can say that God’s will is everything that happens. God, after all, created delusion, and it’s His will that perpetuates this world. Even so, it’s His will, on one level, that accounts for all the evil in the world.But that aspect of God’s will that perpetuates creation is not what we usually speak of. We’re speaking of the aspect that loves us deeply and wants to draw us hack to His love; that responds to the highest in us and draws the highest from us.In a general way, this aspect of His will is the same for everyone, but it will also be different, depending on what we, individually, need to work out in order to become free.
There is a very strange story that Paramhansa Yogananda told from his early years in India. When he was a young man, many people looked to him for political leadership and hoped that he would lead India in a revolution against the British. Having been a great warrior in past incarnations, he had that kind of magnetism.
He told them, “No – God will free India in my lifetime by peaceful means.” He could see what would come in the future.But to one man who sought his help, Yogananda said, “It’s your karma to do it. Go ahead.” This man went ahead but was later caught and executed.I asked Yogananda, “Why, if you knew that India would be freed by peaceful means, did you tell him to do that?” He replied, “It was his karma. He had to go through that in order to grow.” The masters aren’t very concerned about death because they know there is no death. If in the process of learning your lessons, you have to leave this body, that’s not important. They see it as going from one play to another.Knowing God’s will is a very complex and subtle matter. It involves many levels of understanding, and gradual growth toward deeper sensitivity, attunement, and wisdom.
For example, you might feel motivated to campaign for someone to become president. That’s not the highest goal. But if you weren’t capable of anything higher, it wouldn’t be wise of God to say “Don’t do it.”He would say, “Go ahead.” And then you might think, “Oh, God wants me to do it.’ But that may not be the case. Many times God allows or even wills for us to do certain things as stepping stones to the highest. It may be God’s will for you to be president of an organization. For another it may be to write books, paint paintings, or go into business.
But all of these are just to help you learn certain lessons. His real will isn’t any of those things. What He really wants is for you to reach the point where you realize that none of that really matters. God’s highest will is the same for everyone, that we merge back into Him. Subsidiary to that is whatever will take you in that direction. Some people say, “Well, if it’s God’s will that I unite my soul with Him, then it must be God’s will that I meditate and not do any work.” This seems to make sense, except that there are many things you have to work out before you can meditate properly.
As Yogananda put it, you have to be intensely active for God before you can attain the actionless state. You not only have to meditate, you must also do many things that will bring the rest of your life into alignment with that meditative frame of mind. I once met a wealthy man who, unfortunately, saw these two aspects of his life as opposite to each other. He told me that his real life began after he came home from work and could meditate. That’s when believed he could really live for God.
Unfortunately, this was a wrong understanding. We should incorporate our spiritual life into everything we do. When you can take care of your family, work at the office, and so forth, and do it all for God, then you begin to advance on all fronts. Everything you do then gives you the power you need to make that final thrust of merging into the Infinite. God is not going to appear on a cloud and tell you His will. So how are we to know? Paramhansa Yogananda gave us an important key, when he said, “Seclusion is the price of greatness.”
For you, it may mean literally going into a time of seclusion, but it certainly means the ability to pull back from the world, from what everyone else is saying, and go within and consult your heart. The more you can become centered and non-attached in your heart, the more you will know what to do. Attachments cloud the issues and prevent you from seeing the right path.When I was a young monk in my master’s ashram, I managed to buy a harmonium. It was a very precious “find” for me, because I loved to spend hours chanting, and at that time in Los Angeles harmoniums were rare. When I returned with it to the ashram, I saw my Guru standing there. And I said, “Master! Master! Look what I have!”
Of course he saw this big wave of attachment and excitement. So he looked at the harmonium, played it a little, and said, “How nice – I’m buying it!” I thought he wanted it for himself. But the truth is that he wanted to buy it for me. He didn’t tell me so, because he wanted to teach me a lesson. And I said instantly, “Oh, no, sir, I’m giving it to you!” Had I been calmer and able to listen carefully to what he was saying, I would have been able to accept whatever he wished to give me.To be sure that you’re following true intuition, first get clear within yourself. Be sure that you aren’t attached. But once you have a feeling you can trust, don’t hold back. Even if the guidance you receive isn’t a complete answer, it’s important to follow it, because the more you follow it, the more the guidance will come. And if in your sincere desire to follow God’s will, you make a mistake, God will correct that mistake.
It’s better to use your energy in a mistaken way than not to use it at all, to keep the energy flow strong. Otherwise, if you’re too cautious, you block the energy and the intuition won’t flow.It’s that energy flow, perhaps more than anything else, that will gradually guide you in the right direction. But always listen, and don’t presume. If you keep listening, you will know when the guidance will shift. Often, the first feeling is temporary, and then other “fine tuning” come into the picture later.
Follow your intuition with common sense. In evaluating the guidance you receive, always make sure it’s in tune with what the great ones say. Throughout history, those who have found God have never disagreed with each other. None of them has ever said, for example, “God isn’t love; God is hate.” Any guidance you receive that is not in tune with these realities is highly suspect. Once you’ve acted on the guidance, the reactions of other sincere seekers can provide helpful corroboration. If the people who seem to be in tune with God’s will are responding to you in a positive and harmonious way, you can take it as an indication that you’re doing the right thing. And if you’re doing something right, the outward results should be harmonious.
Remember always to follow that aspect of God’s will which leads you toward freedom from the ego and union with Him. What God really wants is that you know Him.