To start being Spiritual, I would say start looking at the heart. Don’t look for examples of Religion and Spirituality. They are very different from each other. Spirituality is your inner consciousness. Religion is your outer behaviour.
Spirituality begins when you start thinking what is true. How can I find what life is all about? Do I fit in? You don’t have to think of God right away, unless you already naturally do. But if you will think deeply what is true, you will find that gradually you will be led to the inevitability of their being a Cosmic Consciousness which is the truth, of which we are all a part. It begins with anything that will uplift your heart. Turn it upward towards higher consciousness.
If we look at ourselves, there are some things that bring our energy downward. Like hatred, anger, jealousy, greed, lust. These things take the mind down. When we think of serving other people, about high ideals; like when we think of beauty, our consciousness goes upward. When the energy is moving upward, you feel more joy, more freedom more fulfilment and this is all the direction of Spirituality.
I especially recommend that people read “Autobiography of A Yogi”, because that was the book that brought me to Yogananda – to my Spiritual teacher. I really didn’t know anything about Indian teachings, until I read that book. It absolutely changed my life. Once I read it- he was a vegetarian, so I gave up eating meat. He was a monk, so I decided to be a monk. I took the next bus across the country from New York to Los Angeles and became his Disciple.
It is a blessing to be born into a Religion, but a misfortune to die in one I think that if you are in a Religion, maybe you’re a Christian or a Muslim or a Hindu or a Buddhist. You are separating yourself from other people. It’s good to be born into a Religion, because that means that you are getting a training or an upbringing which is somewhat God related. But to die in it means to be today in the narrow walls of one religion. You have to go beyond Religion and attain Spirituality.
To know if Spiritual teacher is a true Guru, you have to go with what you can understand. Nobody can go beyond what he can understand. So if one person inspires you, then follow him, until you find somebody who inspires you more deeply. But there comes a time, when you know that this person is going to lead you to God and he has everything that you could possibly want and that would be what we would call your Guru.
A Guru’s role is to help you. The Guru, it says in the Bible, as many as received him to them he gave the power to become the sons of God. To receive Jesus, does not mean simply to sign a large line of becoming a Baptist or whatever it might be. It means to receive his consciousness into yourself.
We have to free ourselves from ego. We have to get rid of this sense of separateness. We have to get rid of the sense of Religion, the separateness of ego, the separateness of nation, consciousness and race. We need to separate all Consciousness that divide human beings.
We have to understand that everything is a manifestation of God. So we must get over the thought of ego, the thought that I am an individual. God dreamed your ego. When you have attained the realization that He is everything and He is your higher self, you will be free.
Your lower self is that part of you that says I like eggs for breakfast. We need to forget.. ..I am an American or I am a Frenchman or I am an Indian. All these things that define us as individuals, they are wrong. We are not that individual. We are the infinite who has dreamed that particular role.
To get rid of ego consciousness is to realise that God is our true self. Guru is the one who has attained that state and can pass that view of reality onto you as you cannot, using your own ego, as your ego is already infected by the disease of limitations.
You know that you are accessing the Higher self when you feel more free in yourself. It’s a freedom that is self expanding; not self-confining to you. It’s a freedom also that has joy and bliss in it. But when that bliss is a freeing kind, self expanding kind, it comes close to defining the Higher self. You have to experience it. It cannot be defined.
The greatest gift that you can give to God is the gift of your own ego and your own desires. When you feel in your heart the desire to know him, then you will know what it is to really love him. God loves us that way, he loves us with that condition. We have to love him unconditionally, no matter how he treats us. He will give us tests and trials. So we have to prove ourselves to him.
Living for God, Yogananda said, is Martyrdom. But when you really love God, then you find a great freedom inside.