When Swami Kriyananda wrote the Festival of Light, a ceremony we read each Sunday at Ananda centers, he included an allegory depicting the journey of the soul. It ends with these thrilling words about the purpose of life:

[Evolution] had but this for its design: The birth of life,
And, with life’s birth, the dawn of self-awareness:
Passage through dim corridors of waking consciousness
To emerge at last into infinite light—
Into perfect Joy!

O Children of Light, forsake the darkness!
Know that, forever, you and He are one!

The theme of the evolution of consciousness is woven repeatedly throughout the great teachings of India. First there is the long, more-or-less automatic, evolution through the reincarnations prior to reaching the human form. This passage through the dim corridors of waking consciousness reaches its pinnacle in the higher animals, who can sometimes demonstrate extraordinary intelligence.

We had a remarkable dog in our family named Nipper. I grew up in Decorah, Iowa, and across from our house was a large park used for picnics by the residents of the town. Many Sundays would find Nipper entertaining large crowds. He had learned how to climb the steep ladder of a ten-foot slide and then slide down. This he would do repeatedly until a big audience had gathered to cheer him on. My brother and I would lurk on the outskirts of the group, secretly proud of our dog, but too embarrassed to publicly reveal our relationship with this shameless exhibitionist.


Even more remarkable is the story of Koko, a gorilla who could communicate through sign language. She had a vocabulary of more than a thousand words, and understood twice that many. Koko helped people break down the delusion that only humans have intelligence, compassion, and love. Here is a link to a video showing some of her extraordinary interactions, and another to one of her with the actor/comedian, Robin Williams.

The next major phase of evolutionary development comes when we reach the human form. Now we have an advanced nervous system and, more importantly, an astral spine, including the chakras, which gives us the capacity to achieve enlightenment. With our heightened abilities comes also both the gift and the curse of free will. Our job now is to choose to expand our consciousness and, eventually, dissolve the ego—the sense of separation from God. To accomplish this, we must develop the extraordinary powers of our mind and will.

Paramhansa Yogananda said, “When the ‘can’t’ disappears from your mind, divine power comes. You have to pour forth will power continuously through constructive actions. When you persist, refusing to accept failure, the object of will must materialize. In that kind of will lies God’s answer, because will comes from God, and continuous will is divine will.”

This determination of mind and will enables us to fulfill the objects of our desire. At first, being centered in the ego, we seek possessions, pleasure, and power. But as our consciousness evolves, so also does the focus of our desires. Master says that after countless lives we feel an “anguishing monotony”; our search turns inward, and our yearning is for God alone. While it is good to be energetic in our efforts, it is also good to relax and enjoy the process. Divine Mother is lovingly watching over us as we progress from crawling to toddling, walking, running, and, finally, soaring into the skies of awareness.

Meditation, of course, is central, but so is living in joy, love, and service throughout the day. Eventually the self-doubts fade, the “cant’s” disappear, and we actually live the immortal lines that Swamiji wrote: “O Children of Light, forsake the darkness! Know that, forever, you and He are one!”

In God’s love and joy,

Nayaswami Jyotish