Paramahansa Yogananda's vivid childhood memories of being a yogi during previous lifetimes in the Himalayas are well substantiated by his own life. His earliest inclinations revealed him to be spiritually precocious child, with divine qualities that were skillfully encouraged by his mother's loving care. As he grew the acceleration of his spiritual yearning and practice led him to many amazing and wonderful Hindu Saints and Yogis who further aided him in his aspirations. When as a youth of 17, he finally met his Guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar, (his Master whom he had often seen during his meditations), the recognition, joy, and empathy between Master and disciple was immediate and enlightening.
For the next several years he quickly grew towards Self-Realization under the wise and compassionate direction of his God-realized master. Upon graduating from University and his Guru's training, Yogananda, an outstanding, natural born teacher, promptly applied his skills in the field of educating children, a dire need in India at that time. This new curriculum was more concerned with developing the whole individual rather than only the intellect. His successful educational work moved ahead quickly with these many new and unique ideas for the proper education of youth, (which were later applauded by Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore, and Luther Burbank, etc.), and with the generous support of a local Maharaja. It was just as his new vocation quickly began gathering steam, that the next major phase of his life's work was quickly thrust upon him.
The Call to America:
Following a prophetic vision and a letter inviting him to speak at the upcoming Congress of Religious Liberals in Boston, USA (Sept 1920), he carefully accepted this major new career direction as God's will. It was soon confirmed by a personal visit from Mahavatar Babaji that the young Swami Yogananda had been sent years earlier to His Master for training to eventually spread the timeless knowledge of the science of Kriya yoga meditation beyond the shores of India.
When Paramahansa Yogananda arrived in America Sept 20, 1920, the "New World" was ready to receive these advanced teachings that had previously been reserved for monastics and chelas in ashrams. Science, literacy, communication, and new Spiritual insights had just begun breaking down the dark ages of Roman theology and dogma when Yogananda (preceded by Swami Vivekananda in 1893) arrived on the scene. Many who for decades had only heard about India's great souls and read her enlightening Bhagavad Gita and other scriptures, were now blessed with the living presence of one of these Self-realized beings. Without any personal ambitions, he came to serve and save those who wanted to learn and grow, and help raise the consciousness of humanity. Yogananda is truly a living example of that perfected being spoken of in the Holy Scriptures.
A Lasting Legacy:
Paramahansa Yogananda quickly adjusted to his newly adopted homeland, and with little previous experience in the English language he soon became a prominent and successful speaker on America's spiritual scene. His main lecture tours were conducted between 1925 and 1936 to overflowing audiences, and during this time his organization was steadily growing. He later gave more attention to local matters and writing.
It was Paramahansa Yogananda who finally succeeded in giving the world outside of India a full, effective, clear and lasting introduction to the Sanatana Dharma and the Science of Yoga meditation, including Babaji's Kriya yoga. He was followed by many other Indian teachers and Gurus, as a serious interest in Yoga and meditation made great inroads in the West. His main mission in all of this was to build a lasting bridge of World Brotherhood based on raising the spiritual awareness between the East and West. He began this healing process by sharing the balanced, liberating teachings of the Sanatana Dharma, Kriya Yoga, and other advanced meditation techniques that create greater harmony in all humanities relationships, both personally and globally. The teaching he shares is a synthesis of Original Yoga from the Bhagavad Gita and Original Christianity from the New Testament. This prolific legacy left by the master is no less than a major global spiritual dispensation, which had its roots in India over 140 years ago, and has already benefited the lives of untold millions.
Yogananda's personal secretary for several years, Richard C. Wright, said that not only did average people hold a profound respect for Yogananda, but some of the world's spiritually great persons as well. This impressed many very deeply.
On the Master's return visit to India in 1935-36, his mentors expressed their approval of his work by giving him India's high spiritual title, "Paramahansa". During this world tour he was able to verify much of the data needed for his forthcoming autobiography, while reorganizing the work which he began before coming to America. His stay in India was heavily demanding with many public lectures, satsangas, and other organizational duties as well. It was also during this historic trip, when Mahatma Gandhi asked that Yogananda initiate himself and his staff into the sacred science of Kriya Yoga.
The outstanding success of his world mission was mainly the result of various factors, including his God-centered life and service to humanity, and the divine love and power many persons say they felt in his presence and in his writings. With a number of competent, spiritually attuned staff, through His divine influence and presence millions of lives are being changed for the better, and inspired towards a more harmonious way of living spiritually centered lives.
Yogananda's global ministry was accompanied by many divine healings and serious tests of faith. The success of which he credited entirely to the One Infinite Spirit and his predecessors. Other than explaining the nature and purpose of his mission, and the source of his wisdom, he never made any grand claims about himself. It will be left to history to further testify to the full value of his loving service to humanity, and the true value of this sacred legacy. (John 7:18 - "He that speaks of himself seeks his own glory, but he that seeks the glory of Him that sent him is truthful, and no unrighteousness is in him"). It is especially when one makes a more extensive study of Yogananda's life that all this becomes overwhelmingly evident.
The "Autobiography of a Yogi" is just the beginning of this amazing story! History has never before left the world such a detailed life record of a prophet of this stature. Many have written about their inspiring, enlightening, and life transforming experiences with Yogananda before and after his passing, and doubtless more will be revealed in future. The completeness, quality, and originality of his approach and legacy are truly indicative of an extraordinary being. There was little in the spiritual life and teaching he left untouched. That of which he spoke was clearly demonstrated in all areas of his life. Equal to any previous major spiritual dispensation the world has ever seen. All this gave his followers and successors a solid foundation with which to carry on with this mission.
In the 140+ years since its quiet beginnings in India (1861), when Kriya yoga was introduced to the masses by Lahiri Mahasaya, this divine lineage has produced an impressive record of great souls and public service. Including many of those who stayed on to aid Yogananda's work through SRF. Yogananda carried out his mission par excellence, not requiring Babaji to send any others to duplicate or confuse this work. His reputation was impeccable, and he always kept his word. Many readers claim that the vibrations of his ever-living presence can still be felt through his writings and recordings, as he spiritually touches and guides their lives. I also give my personal testimony to his constant spiritual presence, guidance, and protection, which began in my life long before ever reading his works, perhaps even before I was reincarnated this time.
His Writings and Talks:
Yogananda's best known work, "Autobiography of a Yogi", was first published in 1946, and has appeared on best-seller lists as recently as 1997 (LA Times). This spiritual classic of the 20th century gives the reader new insights and inspiration to seek Truth, to experience deeper awareness and love. It transfers the emphasis of religion from external ritual to an awareness of the inner reality. From theory to a rewarding practice with wonderful results and experience that will meet our needs under all conditions. Just reading this book is in itself a powerful consciousness-raising experience.
Beginning with the beautiful portrait of a devout Hindu family, the author continues with living presentations of the lives of many modern yogis and saints whom he met during his own spiritual quest. Thus describing as never before the full significance and function of the Master-disciple relationship, and its importance as the vital key in one's search for Self-Realization & salvation.
Yogananda's vivid and detailed descriptions of his experiences in Samadhi (cosmic-consciousness) are no doubt the most believable and articulate in the history of spiritual literature. Yogananda also gives a very accurate overview of the trend and purposes of world religious history, with a sensible and balanced view, making this book an ideal reference work for those studying comparative religion. Few readers come away unchanged after drinking from this fountain of living water. This was the first time the profound teachings of the Sanatana Dharma, its yoga philosophy, and Kriya yoga were written about in such detail in English, by a fully accomplished Yogi.
This book is correcting many of the strange misconceptions Westerners have about Hinduism and Christ's teachings, bringing many to see spiritual matters with new hope. Only the poorly informed are still under the false impressions that all Hindus worship idols, that the Hebrews were the first to recognize one God, that Jesus was the only Son of God, that there is only one way, and that the earth is flat.
The wealth of spiritual guidance and inspiration for every day living, and the powerful vibes of the author's presence in this work are difficult to fully describe in a brief essay. But one of the outstanding qualities of his writing was his innate skill in explaining profound matters in the simplest everyday commonsense terms, making the search for God and truth attractive, meaningful, and practical. He also placed great emphasis on using the scientific approach to understand religion so they could both work together for the good of all. He promoted meditation as the greatest practice, to commune with God as the ultimate reality, which greatly develops the intuition, and fulfills every aspect of our lives.
After the publication of the original edition of the Autobiography of a Yogi, the author Paramahansa Yogananda made many major changes to this book, such as the addition of the 49th chapter, the removal of 80% of a page on world brotherhood colonies, the addition of many new and important footnotes, as well as a number of other grammatical and spelling corrections. He also appointed an Editor-in-chief and her successor (monastics whom he personally trained for this task, and both of whom had been in spiritual training with the Guru for many years, and were well aware of His wishes for the future of His work), to carry the editing and publication of all His writings, which he bequeathed solely to the Self-Realization Fellowship. Further changes since 1952, have made the most recent editions more fully reflect the deepest intentions and truest teachings of the Author, which give more reliable direction to all readers and serious devotees.
The Self-Realization Fellowship was founded by Paramahansa Yogananda in 1920 as the instrument for the world wide dissemination of his teachings. It should be noted here that the Self-Realization Fellowship is not a Cult.
He clearly stated that after his departure the Self-Realization Fellowship Teachings would be the Guru, and through these teachings others would be in tune with Him and the great Gurus who had sent Him. Also stating that the SRF would always be headed by a leader of deep spiritual realization. His comment about the teachings does not diminish the importance of the personal Guru-disciple relationship, which is an eternal relationship and integral to success on the spiritual path.
The Self-Realization Fellowship lessons, an extremely comprehensive and complete course in its field, are sent to interested seekers at a cost that barely covers printing and mailing, and are accompanied by excellent ongoing personal guidance and counseling. Personal instruction of the Kriya yoga and other meditation techniques are given by monastics who make frequent visits to major centers around the world.
One of the final declarations about his mission was,
"If you follow the Self-Realization teachings I have brought to you from the masters of India, you can find God in this life."
(Page 6, Self-Realization Magazine. Summer, 1998).
© by Fred W. Parente - 1998, all rights reserved, all writings in the above article, except those quoted from other publications, are the ideas and opinions of the author only and may not necessarily represent the opinions, concepts, beliefs or statements of any particular organization or group. For any comments or questions regarding this article, please e-mail the author, Fred W. Parente: astral (at) execulink.com
Paramahansa Yogananda Links and ResourcesThe following organizations are known to be genuine sources for the original Kriya Yoga techniques:
All Yogananda devotees will find more photos, articles, and links at this site: The OM page
|Further reading on other Yoga Masters and Self-Realized Persons:|
|Contemporary Yoga Masters
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
|Sri Ramana Maharshi|