The Balanced Life: Curing Mental Abnormalities
By Paramhansa Yogananda
(Published in East-West Magazine, November-December 1925)
Look at the misproportioned figures on the left in the above picture — the first one with a peanut-sized head and a body as fat as a balloon, the second figure with one arm developed like that of a Sandow, but with the physique of a dwarf, and the third one with a top-heavy head fitted to a frail Lilliputian body. Would it not be a very amusing or pathetic spectacle (according to your mood) if you suddenly beheld a crowd of such people?
Behold the group on the right side of the picture. These people are normal so far as their outward physical form and appearance is [sic] concerned. But they are mentally unsound and deformed. As clothing hides scars, sores, and some deformities, so also the neat-looking garb of human flesh often covers serious mental maladies.
If you were confronted with a vast crowd of average people, well-dressed and physically healthy, and if you were gifted with the power to see their mental bodies, what a surprise and heartache you would have. Their mental bodies, with reason as the head, feeling and senses as the trunk, and Will as the feet, you would observe to be abnormal, diseased, and deformed. You would see some people with a tiny head of small sense, attached to a bulging trunk of sense-appetite. Some would possess a withered body of feeling and pep, with the arm of business faculty very much over-developed in proportion. Another perhaps has a large Socratic brain, but his trunk of sympathy and feeling is shrunken and dried up. Still another, normal in head and body, would be seen to possess a pair of impotent, paralytic feet of will and self-control. And so on.
Such multitudinous psychological deformities and pathological mental bodies, under-developed in some directions and over-developed in others, lie concealed within man, causing suffering to his soul and hampering his expression on the material plane.
It would not be out of place here to name a few of such psychological diseases so that, invisible and supreme cause of all havoc in human life though they are, they may yet be detected and brought into the distinct consciousness of the unconscious sufferers, who may learn their nature, silent growth, and symptoms, and thus guard against their secret onslaughts and all-destroying powers.
This disease is prevalent among those that are mentally and physically idle under the pretext of being too busy with spiritual things. These sufferers neglect the great and small duties of material life in the name of serving God, and thus invite the devil of mischief to dwell in them. They suffer from pessimism and lack of appreciation for all things good and beautiful in the material life. This is a contagious disease and all spiritual aspirants must guard themselves against it by keeping their blood of energy warm and immune with constant, healthful, worth-while activity.
This results from indiscriminately swallowing a lot of mental patented medicines in the form of pseudo-spiritual books and lessons by quack spiritual doctors. This disease kills not only the real hunger for Truth but also destroys the power to discriminate between good and bad teaching. He who eats all the time and eats anything that he can get, will not only over-eat but will eat poisonous food along with the good, thus inviting first spiritual indigestion and finally spiritual death. The long-continued over-study of all sorts of philosophical principles and treaties [sic] without ever trying to assimilate them and test them out in one’s own practical experience results in doubt, indifference, and disbelief in all spiritual laws
SOWING MENTAL “WILD OATS”
Those afflicted with this disease lead a purposeless life through having too much time or money on their hands and lacking a true aim or understanding of life. They are whim-led, doing anything that comes into their heads, filling life with cheap novels, exciting movies, or other unproductive pastimes. They do not realize their malady until some terrible shock or nervous break-down overtakes them..
MENTAL COLD OF DESPAIR
You don’t know when you are going to catch it, and suffer from its outbursts of despondency, intolerance, and impatience.
This disease consists in harboring constant chronic worldly worries which are usually neglected and passively yielded to instead of being fought and routed.
It causes its victims to be one-sided in the pursuit of happiness. They begin to think that money is happiness, or fame is happiness, or health, or power. They sacrifice everything else-youth, reputation, peace of mind, etc., on the altar of their all-consuming ambition and learn too late that the balanced life alone, observing all the laws of nature and of God and combining activity with calmness, can bring happiness and fulfill man’s natural destiny. The sufferers of Psychological Insanity become “money-mad” or obsessed with some one ambition until their perspective on life is warped and distorted. One man, for instance, was very successful in his business and amassed a million dollars, but before he could use it, he died of a complete nervous breakdown and excessive worry. Others, to gain fame, sacrifice their self-respect and sincerity. Sufferers from this disease of one-sidedness miss their true goal and can never derive real satisfaction from the possession of their longed-for object, since man’s nature is many-sided and demands all-round development.
This ism-fanaticism among so-called spiritual people results from the clinging to some untested dogma or opinion of man without putting it to the test of experience, and causes paroxysms of anger and hatred against the laws of tested Truth and liberal rational thought. This religious madness leads to disobedience of God’s simple laws of mental efficiency, material prosperity, and physical health.
Physical diseases being tangible, painful, and repugnant arouse our active resistance and we seek to remedy them by exercise, diet, medicine, or some definite method of cure. But psychological diseases, though the root cause of all human woes, are not prevented or attended to promptly and are allowed to devastate and wreck people’s lives.
SPIRITUAL PRINCIPLES SHOULD BE TAUGHT
Educators, physical culturists, preachers, reformers, doctors, and law-makers will hasten the progress of true civilization only when they themselves first learn and then teach others how to harmoniously develop all the factors of life and of man’s nature. This is the true education and all-round human culture that all the world is seeking.
Educational authorities deem it impossible to teach spiritual principles in public schools because they confuse them with the variety of conflicting forms of religious faith. But if they concentrate on the universal principles of peace, love, service, tolerance, and faith that govern the spiritual life, and devise methods of practically growing such seeds in the fertile soil of the child’s mind, then the imaginary difficulty is dissolved. It is the greatest mistake to ignore this problem just because it is seemingly difficult.
Many college graduates after leaving their universities are often found with a top-heavy, book-inflated head and are unable to walk straight in the path of life due to their legs of Will and Self-control being almost paralyzed through disuse. They tumble headlong into the pit of wrong marriage, sex misuse, inordinate dollar-craving, and business failure. They had not been taught any other use of their college-sharpened mental blades of smartness except to hurt themselves. Many young men seem to take pleasure in doing those things which react to their own disadvantage and suffering in the end. Last year  in America young men ranging in years from 15 to 30 stole one billion dollars by the “hold-up” method. Who was responsible? We, all of us. They also are vicious who do not prevent the spread of vice and teach others to be virtuous through their example. Schools, colleges, and society have not scientifically tried to prevent crime by eliminating its true mental cause.
Why not take the proper educational steps to avoid this annual theft of one billion dollars and use some of those millions for creating “How-to-Live-Schools,” where the art of living and a balanced development of all human faculties would be taught? We hope to have such a “How-to-Live-School” for all-round development at our Mount Washington Educational Center in Los Angeles as soon as funds are available and proper interest has been aroused for the work. In the meantime, we plan to work along such lines as far as possible.
SCHOOLS AS GARDENS
I consider properly organized schools as gardens where infant souls are grown and nurtured. The gardeners should be well-selected and cooperated with by parents and the public. The teachers should never be neglected, for they are soul-molders. The care and spiritual nourishment of the early life of a human plant usually determines its later development.
I sincerely praise the modern school system of America and its constantly improving methods of intellectual and, to a certain extent, physical training. But I cannot fail to point out its main shortcoming. It lacks spiritual background, and very badly needs to be supplemented by moral and spiritual training. The boy who belongs intellectually to Class “A”, or is a great baseball or football player, often attracts notice and is encouraged by the professors and students; but very few observe or warn him rightly if he is leading a dark Class “D” moral or spiritual life.
But where is such a school which adopts definite measures for developing the whole nature of man, teaching him the true art of life and fitting him to go through the various minor and ultimately the final examination of life? Such schools are urgently needed to teach the following arts and sciences of all-round growth:
CURRICULUM OF THE SCHOOL FOR TRAINING BALANCED SOULS
1. Science of Body for Practical Efficiency
A. Technique of recharging the body-battery from the Cosmic Current by will.
B. Scientific relaxation of energy from the body parts for perfect rest.
C. Conservation of vital energy.
D. Bodily suppleness and agility.
E. Physical endurance (of cold, heat, strain,etc . )
F. Knowledge of what and how much to eat daily,and the value of partial fasting.
G. Regular habits of eating and sleeping.
H. Value of sitting erect and thus keeping the cerebro-spinal axis, diaphragm and lungs in proper position and action.
I. Moderation in some sport, such as swimming, tennis, baseball, etc.
J. Cleanliness—daily bath for keeping the body pores open.
K. Sex hygiene—relation of sex-control to good memory, long life, mental inspiration and matrimonial happiness.
2. Mental Engineering
A. Art of building bridges over the river of difficulties between failure and success.
B. Psycho-physical methods of keeping the sense employees of sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell, well-trained, regulated, reliable, busy and free from rebellion, governing them with ease and obtaining their willing cooperation.
C. Art of keeping the mental life free from the bacteria of fear, despondency, melancholia, greed, lack of initiative, anger, worry, idleness and boredom.
D. Art of injecting the tonic of cheerfulness into the body.
E. Knowledge of the superiority of the mind over the body, obtained through practical experience.
F. Developing will power for carrying out plans made by noble ideas, and for resisting the lure of temptations.
G. Art of training the will so that it makes it its own business to be better without the necessity of being goaded by commands.
H. Understanding of the fundamental importance of the will throughout life.
I. Art of choosing the right life-companion and of keeping one’s matrimonial life smooth through consideration, tact, love and fidelity.
J. Art of creating spiritual children and of rearing them beautifully.
K. Art of concentration (positive and negative). Art of training the sub-conscious mind and of learning during sleep.
L. Art of keeping the mind strong and immune from diseases.
A. Art of regulating self-ambition so it does not conflict with the interests and requirements of society.
B. Art of converting the greed to possess into the desire to share.
C. Methods of fostering social service. Art of inventive ability to serve mankind and lighten labor or improve on existing conditions.
D. Art of working to better laws through right education and intelligent understanding and cooperation.
E. Art of graciousness, noble bearing, and genuine interest in the problems of others.
F. Art of cooperation, and knowledge of the absolute interdependence of man’s destiny and universal laws of being.
G. Value of self-sacrifice and good will for all.
H. Law of individual life as related to social life.
I. National and international interest and patriotism,
Applied Spiritual Science
A. Law of sincerity in thought, word and deed.
B. Art of seeking personal happiness through the happiness of others.
C. Relation of man to God.
D. Art of converting self-ambition into ambition for all.
E. Art of merging the little self into the Self of All.
F. Law of protecting the wealth of inward peace from the robbers of worry, unfavorable circumstance, disease, etc.
G. Art of being supremely happy always and of making others so.
H. Freedom from all habits, and performance of right actions through discrimination and free-will.
The above Arts and Sciences are those which should be taught in a “How-to-Live School” to children whose minds are still plastic and whose forces as yet unguided into any definite channel. Adults too may master the subjects, if they will exercise willingness and patience while the good habits are displacing the undesirable ones.
After a thorough training, the students of such a school will undergo ceaseless examination throughout life, and the various diplomas won will be health, fame, efficiency, wealth and happiness.
The issue of the final examination at the end of this earthly sojourn will only be determined by the sum total acquirements and mental and spiritual diplomas won at the various examinations throughout life. And those successful in this last Great Examination receive a Diploma of lasting efficiency, free conscience and blessings, engraved eternally on the parchment of the Soul. This rare reward is incorruptible by moths, beyond the reach of thieves and the eraser of Time, and is awarded for honorable entry into the Fellowship of Truth.
“The ideal of right education for youth had always been very close to my heart. I saw clearly the arid results of ordinary instruction aimed at the development of the body and intellect alone. Moral and spiritual values, without whose appreciation no man can approach happiness, were yet lacking in the formal curriculum. I determined to found a school where young boys could develop to the full stature of manhood.” Paramhansa Yogananda in Autobiography of a Yogi (Original Edition) p. 24
He founded what he termed the first How-to-Live School in Dihika, India in 1917 and then moved it to Ranchi in 1918. Education for Life and the Living Wisdom Schools are based on that model.