Awake: The Life of Yogananda
"I was conscious in my mother's womb, feeling the movements in her body, aware of my own helpless state.This bundle of bones, is not I. occasionally, the darkness of the womb would be disappeared, light will visit me. On one side I wanted to express myself as human bing. Yet on the other side, I didn't. Visible man is a shadow. As soon as I change my consciousness, I see everything just as if it were a motion picture."
Steve Jobs apparently had only one book on his iPad. Lo and behold, that book turns out to be The Autobiography of a Yogi.
"Buried during the Dark Ages, Kriya Yoga was revived for modern man by the deathless yogi Mahavatar Babaji. Babaji instructed Lahiri Mahasaya to teach Kriya Yota to others, the transmission of the ancient science from guru to disciples. Unknown to society in general, a great spiritual Renaissance started in a remote corner of Banaras. As the fragrance of flowers cannot be suppressed, so devotees from every part of India began to seek the divine nectar of this liberated master. (year 1893) Day after day, the guru initiated one or two devotees into Kriya Yoga, the science of meditation. Early in their married life, my parents became disciples. Lahiri Mahasaya predicted my birth and that through this body many shall receive the spiritual enlightenment of India. The message of yoga will encircle the globe, he said. It will aid in establishing the brotherhood of man. But when I heard the word of guru, it frightened me. For I knew what that responsibility meant."
Yogananda happens to be a spiritual prodigy, a spiritual genius, which means he had access to a domain of awareness that most people don't have access to. Like mathematical geniuses,he explored a much larger territory in the spiritual domain.
"Sometimes, I used to lapse into the consciousness of my true spirit. Clear recollections came to me of a distant life in which I had been a yogi amid the Himalayan snows."
Throughout the ages, there have been mystics who come with special knowledge, that helps us understand our place in the universe. Yogananda was born at the dawn of the Atomic Age, when modern physics would shatter our most basic beliefs about the nature of reality, and paved the way for an ancient and hidden teaching to be received by many. Yogananda had been told since his infancy by saints and seers that he'd be taking these teaching to the West, but he thought how is it possible. You know it was absurd, because he barely spoke any English. 1920 Yogananda is 27.
"One day, my mind went away from Ranchi. I went to storeroom to meditate, and I fell int an ecstasy. America...Surely, these people are Americans. I had founded a school, following the educational ideals of the rishis, whose forest ashrams had been the ancient seat of learning. Overcoming the restlessness of body and mind by concentration techniques, achieved astonishing results."
Imagine in your own life having a message so strong that it totally changes your life in a moment. He was in love with his country. He was respected by his community. He is seeing his vision manifest where children are learning the art and science of yoga. And then all of a sudden he becomes aware that he has to leave all of it. He never wanted to come to America. That was not part of his dream at all. Let me just go to the Himalayas and live an a cave there. I can do good there. I can pray for people. But his teacher said no, you must go to the West. Go to America.
"Tears stood in my eyes as I cast a last look at the little boys and the sunny acres of Ranchi. I knew henceforth I would dwell in foreign lands. How alone I was here in Boston. Not a soul I knew. I've heard many stories about the materialistic West, a land very different from India. It was somewhat of a daunting experience to go out on the street. My strange dress prompted boyish mockery and cat calls."
There were kids that were throwing stones at him, calling him names. I think he was called a magician at one point, a snake charmer. In 1920, many Americans were still not used to having Jews here and now comes darker skinned swami in orange robe and a turban. It was after World War I. The world was a very different place. It was a very different place. It was a very powerful time. There was this upsurge of freedom. Freedom of sexuality, freedom of expression. Boundaries of known reality were being shattered and penetrated. You had the Einsteinian revolution flowering into quantum physics, and became clear that the world was not what it appeared to be. Western philosophers are talking about the death of God. Yogananda said it's not about the death of God, it's about the reconceptualization of the Divine. Yogananda's first lecture was called the Science of Religion, not Hinduism because using religious terminology in Western people's minds, would place his offerings in a box. But self realization...yoga...those are universal.
"The spine and the brain are the altars of God. That's where the electricity of God flows down into the nervous system into the world, and the searchlights of your senses are turned outwards but when you reverse the searchlights, through Kriya Yoga and be concentrated in the spine, you will behold the Maker. That's what Self-Realization teaches. The technique of meditation, reaching the body battery with cosmic energy for it is not a creed or dogma, but a science of a soul and spirit. How the soul descended from the cosmic consciousness into the earth and the body and the senses ... is the purpose of this work."
Imagine hearing that God is in your spine. In 1920, it was radical. It was a bold explanation of where to go to experience God. Yogananda though of self-realization as a science. He thought of Kriya Yoga as a science. It means that it's a part of scientific process. It's empirical. You can test certain things and your own spiritual practice and self-realization is that scientific process. There simply wasn't a vocabulary for it. The apparently solid body is made up of these whirling atoms and protons and electrons, and those are composed of energy, the basic substance of creation.
"The body is potentially vast and omnipresent. This earth is nothing but movies to me just like the beam of a motion picture, everything is made of shadows and light. That is what we are. Light and shadows of the Lord. Nothing else than that. There is one purposes---to get to the beam."
But the doors of perception don't often open with the intellect. Something very powerful has to happen to shake us out of our comfort zone. When he was 11years old, he and his father were in northern India. The family was temporarily separated, and his mother had gone to Calcutta to prepare for the wedding of the eldest brother. Unknown to them she had contracted Asiatic cholera. He had a dream that night that his mother came to him.
"The flimsy curtain parted, and I saw the beloved form of my mother. "Rush to Calcutta if you would see me..." The wraith-like figure vanished. Mother is dying! I collapsed into an almost lifeless state." The telegram arrived. She had died in a matter of hours. What was the purpose of this? Her solacing black eyes had been my refuge in the trifling tragedies of childhood...Farewell my child. The cosmic mother will protect you...It is I who have watched over thee, life after life, in the tenderness of many mothers. See in my gaze the black eyes, the lost, beautiful eyes thou seekest...I used to dream in my childhood, a tiger used to break my leg at night. Mother used to come running with a candle and say, you are dreaming! Where is it broken? Then I used to laugh. From that time on, I was watchful, even in dreams, to separate the unreal from the real."
Once he cracked open the door his world would never be the same. But it would take time and many tests before he would fully awaken into this new reality.
"Merciful mother of the universe, teach me thyself through visions, or through a guru sent by thee. I hoped to find him at the Himalayan snows, the Master whose face often appeared to me in visions. I gazed searchingly about me on any excursion from home for the face of my destined guru. One day, I wiped my tear-swollen face and set out for the distant marketplace in Banaras. Something told me to look behind. I had seen him in dreams. The face was the one I'd seen in 1,000 visions, holding a promise that I had not fully understood. I came to know him long before I met in this life. It was him. It was my master. He said, I have been waiting."
A true guru is there to lead you to yourself, not to himself, to what we are truly capable of. The spiritual path is farthest from easy. It requires undoing aspects of ourselves.
"My guru cold not be bribed, even by love. The hard core of egotism s difficult to dislodge, except rudely. This flattening to the ego treatment is hard to endure. I sometimes felt that metaphorically he was discovering and uprooting every diseased tooth in my jaw. Many teachers will tell you to believe and then put out your eyes of reason. My guru said, I want you to keep your eyes of reason open. In addition, I will open in you the eye of wisdom. How tirelessly my Master labored, that the boy Mukunda be transformed into the monk Yogananda."
"Three hapy years were spent in Boston. I gave public lectures, taught classs, and addressed clubs, colleges, churches, and groups of every denomination."
But it took Yogananda a few years to realize that he wasn't in the right place for this message to really take off. In 1925, Yogananda arrives in Los Angeles. And on the first night, according to the L.A. Times, over 6,000 people attend his talk. That's double the capacity of the auditorium. Los Angeles. It;s a place of possibility of a new beginning. Ideas of Asian spirituality have permeated in the West Coast in a way that they haven't on the East Coast. People come to Los Angeles often looking for something. So there's this already mind of a seeker. Yogananda does a seven-night speaker series at the L.A. Philharmonic Auditorium. People go just to see the show and because he's exotic and entertaining and a great speaker. And then others really stick around and end up finding that he has really powerful teachings, and he's a very good vehicle for the message. He knew the power of initiative. H didn't get anybody to get this wisdom out. He sent out lessons via mail. Mil order at the time was completely brand new. What Yogananda did was profound for Americans was talk about how you can have a personal relationship with the Divine.
"Sit straight, shoulder blades together, chin parallel to the ground. Concentrate on the point between the eyebrows. The center of thought and will and concentration. And again and again say, 'Reveal Thyself as joy and wisdom and spiritual perception.' Again and again say, 'Reveal Thyself.' "
James Lynn was a wealthy industrialist, and he went on to become a very close devotee and in important benefactor of Yogananda's work around the country. Many who joined his classes stepped forward and wrote checks, trying to keep Yogananda in L.A. He thought, this is the place to establish a center.
" When I saw the large building on the crest of Mount Washington, I recognized it at once."
This became the headquarters of his work. Yogananda called it the 'spiritual White House,and it was a place where he gave classes. He even had rooms available to rent with the idea of starting spiritual community. The first event he held there before the property was even purchased, was Easter sunrise services.
"True Christianity has been lost and forgotten, and what the ancients aught in India has been lost and forgotten. Those ought to be revived as one highway to the infinite."
"The tension exercises charge the body with the life current from the universe. Energy distributed evenly n the body is what keeps the diseases from settling. You don't have to be afraid of germs. If your body is electrified they'll be electrocuted."
Kriya Yoga teaches in the spine are the instruments of higher perception that are normally dormant in most people. Through withdrawing that energy and directing it by concentration into the spine and brain, those instruments of divine perceptions awaken.
"Feel the life currents ascending and descending in the spine. By mastery of the intellignt life currents in the central ervous system, the body and brain can be purified. Go up and down the spine, feeling the centers, and mentally chanting 'ohm.'"
August 15, 1947 - India's Independence
March 7, 1952 - Biltmore Hotel
Yogananda, being one of the most well known Indians in the community, was invited to give one of the key speeches. The night before, when walking down the hall he turned to me and said, "You know it's just the matter of hours I will be gone."
"Lotus scenic beauty, and sages, thy wide doors are open welcoming God's true sons through all the ages where Ganges woods, Himalayan caves, and men dream God. I am hallowed. My body touch that sod." Then he collapsed to the floor.
"A man who has reformed himself sill reforms thousands."
Ravi Shankar- musician
Krishna Das - devotional singer & recording artist
George Harrison - the Beatles
Prof. Hitendra Wadhwa
Pof. Francis Clooney
Varun Sone - Dean of Religious Life
Bro. Bishwananda - monk, Self-Realization Fellowship
Deepak Chopra, MD
Anand Mehrotra - founder, Sattva Yoga
Sri Daya Mata, president Self-Realization Fellowship
Br. Martin/Bro. Chidananda - Self-Realization Fellowship
Phil Goldberg - author, "American Veda"
Mas Vidal - founder Dancing Shiva Yoga
Felicia Tomasko -editor, LA Yoga MagaIne
Stefanie Syman - author, The Subtle Body
James Lynn - oil and insurance tycoon