“You won’t be confirmed, Philip!”
My mother was appalled at the thought that I might not become a member of the Catholic Church.
At the age of sixteen, I missed some of the Church classes required for confirmation because I had gone on a ski trip. Because of my absence, the local priest threatened I would not be confirmed.
“So what?” I responded to the priest and my mother.
Certainly, I could have been more respectful in my response, but at least I was honest in expressing my indifference. This wasn’t me being a rebellious teen (I could tell the difference!). Rather, I didn’t see the point of “confirmation” to a Church body. What was the purpose of outwardly following rules and religious institutionalism without any corresponding inner meaning?
I’m reminded of a Harry Potter movie that Dharmadevi and I recently watched. An evil woman Dolores Umbridge becomes headmaster of the magic school Hogwarts and rather than allowing the young magicians to experiment and actually practice magic, she begins to institute rule after rule slowly trying to sap their spirit and individuality. She wants them to read only from magic textbooks rather than expressing their innate joy and creativity through experiential learning. She creates so many rules that they cover an entire massive stone wall at the school!
“Too many rules kill the spirit,” said Paramhansa Yogananda. That’s exactly how I felt about getting confirmed. It was devoid of any spiritual value. I was not motivated to follow the rules out of fear (a God of “hellfire and brimstone” is characteristic of Kali Yuga).
Now as we enter into the new age of energy (Dwapara Yuga), relying too heavily on rules becomes like leaning on a stick. If you lean too hard, it breaks. Aren’t we seeing the breakdown of institutions of all types?
More and more people are yearning for direct experience of God within their own selves. Paramhansa Yogananda called this inward religion of the new age “Self-realization”.
The rise of the individual’s influence over the institution is one of the hallmarks of Dwapara Yuga. This is why Yogananda stressed that we are connected not to a printing press (or a Zoom meeting!) but a living link to a line of great Self-realized Masters. The very first sentence of his perennial spiritual classic, Autobiography of a Yogi, talks about the individual journey to God through the “disciple-guru” relationship.
In other words, the true teaching is individual. Organizations are a means to an end. They are the hive, but God is the honey. And each one of us individually “must make love to God” as Yoganandaji said.
Eventually, I did get confirmed by the Church. Though my real confirmation came a few years later. When I learned to meditate and felt God’s presence through inner communion, I knew this was the deeper confirmation.
God’s resounding joy in our hearts, Divine Light in our minds, and Bliss in our souls — this is the only confirmation we ever need!