“Image courtesy of Self-Realization Fellowship, Los Angeles, Calif.”
May all the sons and daughters of the world be filled with that motherly affection which is the reflection of the Divine Mother’s unconditional love; and may they give that unconditional motherly love to one another, that we have peace and heaven on earth.
— Paramahansa Yogananda
Mother’s Day is not only a special occasion to honor our earthly mothers, but an opportunity to cultivate a spiritual connection to Divine Mother — an expression of God in the feminine, personal aspect, embodying unconditional love.
Paramahansa Yogananda, a world spiritual teacher and key figure in bringing Yoga to the West, loved the celebration of Mother’s Day. Throughout his years in America from 1920 to 1952, he took much joy in the national celebration of Mother’s Day, and would present a fresh flower to each mother attending the temple services he conducted on that day.
On one Mother’s Day, he said, “On this day we worship the Divine Mother of all souls, and also Her Presence as incarnated in the millions of earthly mothers. God as Divine Mother ever watches over Her human children, peeping through the caring hearts of all true mothers.” But he didn’t stop there. He expanded the notion, reminding us to grow our capacity to perceive this supreme love everywhere, in ourselves and in the world: “Mother’s Day is not only to commemorate the unconditional love of the mother,” he said, “but also to see the One Universal Mother in the temple of all motherly hearts.”
Yogananda’s devotion to the Divine Mother began with his love for his own mother. In his spiritual classic Autobiography of a Yogi, he wrote, “I loved Mother as my dearest friend on earth. Her solacing black eyes had been my refuge in the trifling tragedies of childhood.” After his mother’s death, it was an anguished prayer to Divine Mother that prompted Her to reply, “It is I who have watched over thee, life after life, in the tenderness of many mothers. See in My gaze the two black eyes, the lost beautiful eyes, thou seekest!”
While one may relate to God as formless (as Light, Love, or Bliss, for example) Paramahansa Yogananda often encouraged spiritual seekers to relate to God in personal terms, such as Friend, or Father, or Mother. And it was the relationship with Divine Mother he favored most: “God’s unconditional mercy is expressed in the mother,” Yogananda explained. “The mother’s instinctive love and forgiveness, no matter what her child has done, shows us that God will ultimately forgive the sins of all human beings. That is why I like to relate to God not as the grim Deity of some prophets, but as the Mother Divine waiting to forgive all and take them back after their freewill wanderings on the error-strewn pathways of incarnations.”
He went further to say, “More than in any other relationship, we may rightfully and naturally demand a reply from Spirit in Its aspect as the Divine Mother. God is constrained to answer such an appeal; for the essence of a mother is love and forgiveness of her child, no matter how great a sinner he may be. The relationship between mother and child is the most beautiful form of human love that the Lord has given us.”
The benefits of cultivating this relationship with Mother Divine are expansive: “If you develop the motherly aspect of God,” Yogananda observed, “you will feel love for all the people of the world.”
In his The Divine Romance, Yogananda recounts that, while growing up in India, he visited the great saint Master Mahasaya who was known for his devotion to God as Cosmic Mother. Although only a young boy, he was already fervently seeking God with a prayer that possessed his heart day and night: “Mother do you love me?” He recounts pleading with the saint to intercede on his behalf: “Please, please, sir, ask Divine Mother if She loves me.” The humble saint interceded, and later that night Yogananda went into deep meditation and Divine Mother appeared. Yogananda heard her answer sweetly, “Always have I loved thee. Ever shall I love thee.” In recalling this moment, Yogananda wrote, “Oh, what joy I felt, such great ecstasy! I experienced a oneness with the Love in everything.”
How can we experience that oneness with Love? What does it take? What did Yogananda say? It takes persistent yearning, longing, a real soul call from the heart. If we mentally repeat God’s name — a prayer, a chant, an affirmation — with enough repetition it goes into the subconscious, and that’s good; the mind will keep revolving that thought. But to be most effective, it needs to go deeper. It has to be a call from the heart.
Yogananda counseled, “When you sit to meditate, pray to God unceasingly. Tear the silence with your longing. Cry to God as you would cry to your mother or to your father: ‘Where are you? You made me; You gave me intelligence to seek You. You are in the flowers, in the moon, and in the stars; must You remain hidden? Come to me. You must! You must!’”
He added, “With all the concentration of your mind, with all the love of your heart, tear at the veils of silence again and again. As constant churning brings hidden butter out of milk, churn the ether with the ladle of your devotion and it shall produce God.”
When we faithfully practice, often when we least expect it, Divine Mother responds, and then we realize how very near She is.
Excerpts from Autobiography of a Yogi and other writings by Paramahansa Yogananda are reprinted with permission (Self-Realization Fellowship, Los Angeles, California. All rights reserved.)
Sister Nandini, whose name means “One who gives joy, one who enjoys bliss of Brahma,” has been a nun of Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) since 1981. She currently resides at SRF’s international headquarters in Los Angeles, overseeing the society’s Membership Services area. She also leads temple services and retreats around the world. Paramahansa Yogananda founded SRF in 1920 to disseminate his Kriya (Raja) Yoga teachings, which include scientific meditation techniques to experience God directly. Yogananda.org.