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Most people want
to feel that they have some positive impact on the lives of others. To
make a difference in the world, however, isn’t that beyond the reach of
anyone? Is our planet so small that any single influence can have much
impact on it?
Maybe so. Yet influences have a way of spreading
like ripples on a pond. If an idea can change not only people’s minds,
but also inspire them sufficiently to change the very way they live, it
will have that ripple effect. Alexander the Great didn’t do it, but
Buddha did. The Renaissance didn’t do it, but Jesus did. Yes, it can be
The change must come from within ourselves. And it
must come from the heights of that inner being. It cannot come from
emotion, or opinion, nor even from sincerely held belief.
How many public figures declaim on behalf of good
causes! Yet how many of them significantly change anything? Think of
the fads that are embraced by millions, that fade into nonexistence
like waves on the ocean that rise, then fade back tracelessly into the
vast body of water from which they rose.
To make a significant difference, we must realize
first that it isn’t we, individually, who can make the difference.
Truth is what always wins in the end.
There is the story of Billy Sunday, the evangelist.
When he died, he appeared before the gates of heaven, but St. Peter
told him he couldn’t come in since the evangelist’s name was not
recorded in the book of good deeds. “But what about all those people I
converted,” expostulated Billy Sunday, “and sent to heaven?”
“You may have sent them,” St. Peter replied, “but none have ever
Again, there is the story of Tansen, chief musician
in the court of the great Indian emperor, Akbar. The emperor often
exclaimed to Tansen, “No one anywhere sings as well as you do!” Tansen
replied, “Your majesty, there is one far greater than I: my own
For a long time, Akbar dismissed this answer,
thinking it merely an expression of humility. After some time, however,
he asked Tansen to let him hear his teacher sing. “He would never agree
to come to your court, your majesty,” Tansen replied.
“To hear him, I must take you to him. Nor will he
sing if he recognizes you as the emperor. You must go disguised as a
The emperor agreed to go in disguise with his
musician. The teacher, however, though glad to see his pupil again,
refused to sing for his supposed friend. Finally, Tansen tricked him by
singing a melody he’d learned in his student days, deliberately making
a mistake in what he’d learned. At this point, what could the teacher
do but correct his pupil? He sang the melody as it should have been
The emperor was astounded. When they left, he
exclaimed, “You were right! I never imagined a human being could sing
with such a heavenly voice. How is it that you, whose singing seems
humanly perfect, haven’t the power to perform with such sublimity?”
“Your Majesty,” replied Tansen, “the difference is
simply this: I sing to please you, but my teacher sings only to please
To make a real difference in the world, then, we
should serve no one but truth, and God. Anything less will be but a
wave. It may rise for a time, but very soon it will sink again and be
Swami Kriyananda is a direct disciple of Paramhansa
Yogananda, author of Autobiography
of a Yogi. Swami Kriyananda will soon be in the United States
for what may be his last visit. He is 80 this spring, and lives in
India, sharing the teachings of his guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, in the
birthplace of Yoga. He is doing just a few public programs this year,
including one in San Francisco on June 3, 2006. For information call
530-478-7607 or visit www.swamikriyananda.org.
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