About Paramahansa Yogananda:
Paramahansa Yogananda was, and still is, one of the world’s most revered spiritual leaders. Born Mukunda Lal Ghosh, he introduced westerners to meditation and the teachings of Kriya Yoga. Yogananda was born in 1893 in Gorakhpur, India and passed away March 7, 1952 in Los Angeles, CA.
His autobiography, “Autobiography of a Yogi,” published in 1946, chronicles his early life. In this, Yogananda tells his story of relentless pursuit of enlightenment and finding his guru, as well as his divine mission in bringing Kriya Yoga to the west. It is a spiritual masterpiece and was included in the 100 best spiritual books of the 20th century.
His younger brother, Sananda, described Mukunda’s (Yogananda) awareness of the spiritual as far beyond ordinary. As a youth he was in constant pursuit of India’s sages and saints, hoping to find his guru who would guide him in his spiritual quest. His many stories of different people and personalities he encountered as a youth are so entertaining it makes his autobiography fun to read. His seeking ceased when, at age 17, he met his guru, Swami Yukteswar Giri.
Yogananda and Sri Yukteswar Giri
Swami Yukteswar Giri educated Yogananda in the ways of Kriya Yoga and told him of its lineage. Sri Yukteswar was Yogananda’s guru (teacher). Lahiri Mahasaya was Sri Yukteswar’s guru. Mahavatar Babaji, the great Avatar, was Lahiri Mahasaya’s guru. It is said Jesus Christ also went to India to confer with Mahavatar Babaji. In Kriya Yoga, this is the lineage of guru and disciple — Mahavatar Babaji -> Lahiri Mahasaya -> Sri Yukteswar -> and Paramahansa Yogananda. Yogananda is the last living guru as his written word and he, from the realm beyond, remain as guru. Interestingly, Sri Yukteswar had told Yogananda that it was Mahavatar Babaji who had sent him to Yogananda, as Yogananda was to have the special purpose of bringing God Realization and Kriya Yoga to the world outside of India.
Sri Yukteswar insisted that Mukunda (Yogananda) complete his education as he would need it for his special mission to the west. Yogananda did so and graduated with a degree equivalent to a current day Bachelor of Arts in 1915 from Serampore College. Yogananda, during this period, also spent a lot of time in Sri Yukteswar’s ashram in Serampore, and in that same year he took formal vows into the monastic Swami order and became Swami Yogananda Giri.
In 1920, Yogananda sailed to the United States. He was India’s delegate to an International Congress of Religious Liberals that were convening in Boston. It was also in 1920 that he founded the Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) to spread his teachings of meditation and philosophy of Yoga worldwide. For several years, he lectured and taught on the east coast of the US, and in 1924 began a cross county speaking tour. Thousands came to hear his lectures. In 1925, he established an international center for the Self-Realization Fellowship in Los Angeles, California. Yogananda lectured, and wrote extensively. He took up residence at the SRF hermitage in Encinitas, California which had been gifted by his devoted American disciple, James Lynn (Sri Rajarsi Janakananda).
James Lynn (Sri Rajarsi Janakananda)
The last four years of Yogananda’s life he spent in seclusion at his desert ashram in Twentynine Palms, California. During this time he continued to revise his books and finish his writings. He told others, “I can do much more now to reach others with my pen.”
On March 7, 1952, Yogananda attended a dinner for the visiting Indian Ambassador to the US at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles. At the conclusion of the banquet, Yogananda spoke about the contributions of India and America to world peace. He expressed his hope for a united world as he ended his speech. Yogananda then read from his poem, My India, saying, “Where Ganges, woods, Himalyan caves, and men dream God — I am hallowed; my body touched that sod.” After speaking these words, he lifted his eyes and slumped to the floor. His disciples say that he entered mahasamadhi (mahasamadhi is the act of consciously and intentionally leaving one’s body). Interestingly, it is said that Yogananda had been hinting beforehand that it was time for him to leave the world. His official cause of death was heart failure.
Yogananda’s funeral was attended by hundreds at the SRF headquarters in Los Angeles. His remains are interred at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in the Great Mausoleum in Glendale, California. His tomb in the Great Mausoleum, Sanctuary of Golden Slumber, Mausoleum Crypt 13857, is accessible to visitors.
One of the most amazing stories of Yogananda following his death, is the statement by Harry T. Rowe, the Los Angeles Mortuary Director of the Forest Lawn Memorial Park, where Yogananda’s body was received, embalmed, and interred. Yogananda’s body was embalmed twenty-four hours after his passing. In a notarized letter he wrote, ‘The absence of any visual sign of decay in the dead body of Paramahansa Yogananda offers the most extraordinary case in our experience… No physical disintegration was visible in his body even twenty days after death… No indication of mold was visible on his skin, and no visible drying up took place in the bodily tissues. This state of perfect preservation of a body is, so far as we know from mortuary annals, an unparalleled one… No odor of decay emanated from his body at any time…’ He continued saying, “The physical appearance of Paramahansa Yogananda on March 27th just before the bronze cover for the casket was put into position, was the same as it was on March 7th. He looked on March 27th as fresh and unravaged by decay as he had looked on the night of his death… the case of Paramahansa Yogananda is unique in our experience…”
Some of Paramahansa Yogananda’s Goals and Teachings:
To teach scientific techniques for attaining direct personal experience of God. Meditation and Kryia Yoga is the vehicle. Kriya Yoga is union (yoga) with the infinite through a certain action of rite (kriya).
To teach that the purpose of life, via one’s own direct effort, is the evolution of man’s limited mortal consciousness into God consciousness.
To reveal the complete harmony of original Christianity as taught by Jesus Christ, and original Yoga as taught by Bhagavan Krishna. The common principles of truth form the foundation of all true religions.
Yogananda taught, the true basis of religion is not belief, but rather direct experience of truth. Intuition is the soul’s power of knowing God.
Paramahansa Yogananda explained that all creation is but the “dream” of God, the Cosmic Dreamer, and that we are dreamers along with–within–Him. God is dreaming the cosmos and we are dreaming our little lives within His dream. The purpose of this dreaming is the development and evolution of our finite consciousness within His infinite consciousness. Our many lives are just dreams within the dream, and in that sense definitely real–but not as they appear to be. We dream mortality but are always immortal; we dream materiality but are always spirit. It is a “pretend game” of the children of God so they can come to share in the life and consciousness of the Father.
Nature, with her infinite variety and inexorable laws, is an evolute of the Singular Reality through a cosmic delusion: maya, the “Magical Measurer” that makes the One appear as many embracing their own individuality—forms and intelligences existing in apparent separation from their Creator. Just as a dreamer differentiates his one consciousness into many dream beings in a dream world, so God, the Cosmic Dreamer, has separated His consciousness into all the cosmic manifestations, with souls individualized from His own One Being endowed with the egoity to dream their personalized existences within the Nature-ordained drama of the Universal Dream.
We all came from God and our ultimate destiny is to return to Him.
Everything is One, but when that One Infinite Spirit differentiates itself into many, it has forms and many names. But Spirit, the great One Reality, cannot be named.
Man’s life is a paradox. He is the soul, made in the image of Spirit, which can be satisfied only with divine pleasures; yet bodily incarnate, he is familiar only with sensory experiences. Placed as he is between the material and the spiritual, he must use his endowment of discrimination to distinguish between the real soul pleasures and the illusory pleasures of the senses. Krishna says: “If you want to know the joy of heavenly consciousness vibrating in every cell of the ether, do away with sense attachment!”
Firmly holding the spine, neck, and head erect and motionless, let the yogi focus his eyes at the starting place of the nose (the spot between the two eyebrows); let him not gaze around in various directions. When the yogi concentrates long enough with half-open eyes at the point between the eyebrows, and when the gaze is without any restless motion, he will be able to see a steady light surrounded by other flickering lights. He should not be diverted by this glimmering halo of the spiritual eye, but should steadfastly look at the center of the eye until he feels his mind completely absorbed within it. In time, he will see the perfect formation of the spiritual eye: a dark opal-blue globe within a quivering ring of golden flame. Gradually, by deep concentration, an extremely brilliant white star occasionally glimmers in the center of the blue globe. The star is the gateway through which the consciousness must pass to attain oneness with Spirit. It requires time and calm practice to steady the light of the intuitive astral eye. It takes deeper and longer practice to see the star. It requires greater realization to hold the perception of the star. And it takes mastery in meditation to march the consciousness, valiantly triumphant, through the starry gate of light. …By deeper concentration and meditation, the spiritual eye of intuition opens, and through the wisdom star the yogi becomes united to the Christ-Krishna Omnipresence; and thence, in deepest ecstasy, he reaches the Cosmic Consciousness of Spirit.
Meditate regularly, and you will find a joy inside that is real. You will then have something you can compare to sense pleasures. That comparison will automatically make you want to forsake your sorrow-producing bad habits. The best way to overcome temptation is to have something more fulfilling to compare it with.
Yogananda warned his students: “Do not think you are spiritually advanced just because you have heard a lecture or read a book on cosmic consciousness, or because you fancy yourself to have attained it, or even because you have experienced astral visions (entertaining and enlightening, but still in the domain of matter).” You can know all matter to be thought only when you are able to withdraw life force and consciousness to the medullary plane, and can enter the spiritual eye—doorway to the highest states of consciousness. …Entering the door of the spiritual eye*, he ascends to Christ consciousness (union with God’s omnipresence in all creation) and cosmic consciousness (union with God’s omnipresence in and beyond all creation).
Never count your faults. Just think whether you love God enough. He doesn’t mind your faults. He minds your indifference.
“He who sees everyone in himself, and himself in everyone, thus seeing the same God living in all, he, the sage, no more kills the Self by the self.”
The lowest of men, perpetrators of evil and misguided fools, whose discrimination has been stolen by maya (delusion), follow the path of demonic beings, failing to take shelter in Me. Men without wisdom consider Me, the Unmanifest, as assuming embodiment (like a mortal being taking a form)—not understanding My unsurpassable state, My unchangeable unutterable nature.
After many incarnations, the sage attains Me, realizing, “The Lord is all-pervading!” A man so illuminated is hard to find. But righteous men, their sins obliterated, and subject no longer to the oppositional delusions, worship Me steadfastly. The aforesaid Unmanifested, the Immutable Absolute, is thus called the Supreme Goal. Those who attain it. My highest state, undergo no more rebirth.
The Divine Beloved has no favorites. The Mother loves all Her children equally, just as the sunlight falls equally on the diamond and the charcoal lying side by side. The diamond reflects the light, but the charcoal cannot. My Beloved’s grace, love, blessings, wisdom, and joy shine equally upon all Her children. The diamond mentalities reflect Her light; the charcoal mentalities have yet to be refined. That is all.
“Self-realization is the knowing—in body, mind, and soul—that we are one with the omnipresence of God; that we do not have to pray that it come to us, that we are not merely near it at all times, but that God’s omnipresence is our omnipresence; that we are just as much a part of Him now as we ever will be. All we have to do is improve our knowing.” —Paramahansa Yogananda
If you would like to learn and know more about Paramahansa Yogananda, you should get a copy of his autobiography, “Autobiography of a Yogi,” and read it today! After doing so, if you are further interested, you can request Self-Realization Fellowship Lessons by going to the website: www.yogananda-srf.org. The biographic movie, “Awake,” about Yogananda’s life is also very good and tells his life’s story.
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