“Read a little. Meditate more. Think of God all the time.” — Paramahansa Yogananda
It is the book that launched a thousand seekers. Paramahansa Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi is considered to be one of the most influential spiritual works of the 20th century. And for good reason. As with the scent of a perfumed rose teasing your nostrils, the sensitive reader will feel inexorably drawn to the promise it makes: Oneness with God is within our reach.
Yogananda felt a spiritual calling from a very young age. He found his master when he was 17. Thus began his education in the art and practice of Kriya Yoga. In Kriya, energy within the body is manipulated to help bring about a spiritual transformation. The claim is that mere moments of Kriya practice equate to years of traditional spiritual training. Great marketing pitch.
Few people realize that Yogananda spent the majority of his life in the United States. He was chosen by his master to bring the Kriya Yoga teaching to the West. It was a resounding success and by his death he had initiated 100,000 disciples into the practice.
So, what happened? Was the United States blessed with 100,000 enlightened masters due to Kriya’s miraculous powers of spiritual upliftment? We would live in a different world if that were the case. There is no short-cut to spiritual attainment. No magical secret practice that lets you jump ahead in line. There’s just work to be done.
All marketing claims aside, Yogananda was a wonderful synthesis of Eastern tradition and modern Western thinking. He tirelessly advocated for the introduction of efficient means of production to India while at the same time introducing ancient Indian spiritual knowledge and practices to the Western mind. It was a laudable effort. We salute him for it.
My body became immovably rooted; breath was drawn out of my lungs as if by some huge magnet. Soul and mind instantly lost their physical bondage and streamed out like a fluid piercing light from my every pore. The flesh was as though dead, yet in my intense awareness I knew that never before had I been fully alive. My sense of identity was no longer narrowly confined to a body but embraced the circumambient atoms. People on distant streets seemed to be moving gently over my own remote periphery. The roots of plants and trees appeared through a dim transparency of the soil; I discerned the inward flow of their sap. Read the rest of Paramahansa Yogananda’s enlightenment story.