For some reason, every time I want to see something on Youtube, the video is preceded by a 10-15 second ad on quitting cigarettes. These ads end with the motto “Live Tobacco free.”—A good motto for all of us, and especially for us as yogis. The practice of kriya yoga is enhanced if we have strong lungs and a good respiratory system, and so living tobacco free is certainly something worth striving for.
Paramhansa Yogananda taught us that Divine Mother can teach us spiritual lessons through almost anything—Even cigarettes! As it turns out there are several instructive stories on this topic from the life and teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda and Swami Kriyananda.
Below are four such stories involving cigarettes, and amazingly enough, they teach us significant lessons on the diverse yet important topics of affirmation, bringing the guru’s consciousness into all aspects of our life and hiding nothing from him, reincarnation and avoiding false visions.
Beneath all this inspiration and humor, of course, is a gentle nudge from our Guru to resolve to “live tobacco free,” and to make that resolution a reality by the use of our will-power and attunement to God & Guru.
I. Cigarettes & The Power of Affirming Success
A story from the life of Swami Kriyananda from the book Money Magnetism (know more)
Many years ago, when I was twenty, I had the habit of smoking a pack or so of cigarettes a day. Shortly before I turned twenty-one, I decided to give up this unpleasant, yet at the same time too pleasant, habit. Unfortunately, as often as I gave it up I went back to it again. To refrain from smoking at the start of the day was easy enough. After lunch, however, while drinking coffee, I couldn’t resist the thought that lunch wasn’t really complete without a cigarette.
And so my case soon resembled Mark Twain’s, who said, “Smoking is the easiest habit in the world to give up. I’ve done it a thousand times!”
Now then, if I’d felt, every time I broke my resolution, that I’d failed, my sense of failure might well have grown to the point where I might even have defined myself as a failure.
Instead, however, what I told myself after every failure was, “I haven’t yet succeeded.”
Thus, my affirmation became one of latent, though not yet actual, success.
After a year, as I went to bed one evening I found that all those affirmations of delayed success had gathered together at last into a definite resolution. I told one of my roommates, who happened to enter the room at that moment, “I’m giving up smoking.”
“Is that so?” he replied mockingly. “I’ve heard that one before!” With a light laugh he left the room.
But this time I was finally sure of myself. The next morning I awoke without the slightest desire for a cigarette. For two weeks thereafter, I kept my last remaining package of cigarettes in my breast pocket, passing them out to my friends. Never, from that day to this one, have I had the least desire for a smoke.
Failure, you see, comes only when we accept it as failure. We can just as easily, instead, make every failure a steppingstone to success. It’s all a matter of how we look on failure. Instead of telling ourselves, “I’ve failed!” we should say, “I haven’t yet succeeded.”
II. The Boy Who Became a Saint
A story from the life of Paramhansa Yogananda from How to Awaken your True Potential (know more)
In my school in India, there was a boy who was brought in by his parents. We used to take only children under twelve years of age, but he was much older. I told him he could stay on one condition—that he was willing to be good.
I had a heart-to-heart talk with him and said: “You have made up your mind to smoke, but your parents do not want you to smoke. You have succeeded in defeating your parents, but you have not succeeded in defeating your own misery. You are hurting yourself.”
My arrow had struck home, and he began to weep. He said, “They are always beating me.”
I said: “Think of what you are doing to yourself. Come on, I will take you, on one condition—that I will not be a detective, but your friend. As long as you are willing to correct your mistakes I will be your helper, but if you tell lies, I will do nothing for you. Lying destroys friendship. Do not lie to me.”
I accepted him and said, “Anytime you want to smoke, I will get you cigarettes.”
One day, he came to me and said, “I feel a terrible desire to smoke.” I offered him money, and he could scarcely believe his eyes. He said, “Take back the money.” He did not want it. I was pushing him to go and buy the cigarettes, but he would not go. At last, after this tug-of-war, he said, “You will not believe me, but I no longer want to smoke.”
The result of all the teaching and discipline was that he finally became a saint. I roused his spiritual consciousness. The greatest of all spiritual consciousness lies in the inner effort to go upstream toward lasting happiness. Very few people are making the effort. However, you can make a constant effort to become good, even if your sins are as deep as the Atlantic Ocean. Through a few incarnations you have been a human being, but through eternity you have been a child of God.
III. Smoking in the Astral World?
From The Essence of Self-Realization Chapter “The Lesson of Reincarnation” (know more)
Newcomer: “What causes the ego to reincarnate?”
Yogananda: “Desire. Desire, you see, directs energy. As long as a person desires the things of earth, he must come back here, where alone his desires can be fulfilled. If he longs for cigarettes, or motor cars, or money, the astral world can’t provide those things. He will have to return to earth, where such things can be obtained.”
A disciple: “Must every desire conceived on earth be fulfilled here also?”
Yogananda: “Not pure desires—not, for example, the longing for beautiful music, expansive scenery, or harmonious relationships. Such desires can be fulfilled better in the astral world than on this imperfect material plane.
“In many cases, the desire to create beauty here on earth is due to deeper-than-conscious memories of the beauty and harmony one experienced in the astral world.”
IV. Cigarettes, Jesus & False Visions
From Intuition for Starters by Swami Kriyananda, Chapter “How to recognize False Guidance.” (know more)
The False Guide of the Subconscious:
The subconscious mind also can masquerade as a source of true guidance. If you allow yourself to be influenced by the subconscious, you’ll experience a kind of reality, but it will prove false and misleading, like the cloudy, distorted images in a dream. Some of our dreams can seem very real, but the real test comes when we try to integrate our subconscious experiences with the objective world around us. They never quite match up.
One of the foremost exponents of the science of yoga, Patanjali, who’s been the recognized authority on the subject for thousands of years, states that “false visions” are one of the major obstacles to tuning into superconsciousness. We must keep the mind concentrated and energetic when asking for guidance, because a passive mind will be overly receptive to subconscious images. Just beneath our conscious awareness, the subconscious mind is constantly conjuring up impressions that have no reasonable basis.
People may imagine they see visions and be convinced that they’re real, but such images aren’t necessarily superconscious phenomena: they can be merely hallucinations.
Somebody once told me that he’d had a vision of Jesus Christ coming to him in the flesh. I asked him, “What did he do?” “Well, we sat down and had a cigarette together,” he answered. The subconscious mind can do extraordinary things, because obviously such a great soul would not appear just to have a smoke with someone.