Here is a summary of the book “Yogananda, Autobiography of a Yogi”:
This book is the autobiography of Paramahansa Yogananda, an Indian yogi who introduced yoga and meditation to the West. Yogananda recounts his childhood in India, his spiritual quest with different masters, and the founding of the Self-Realization Fellowship organization in the United States in 1920 to spread the teachings of yoga.
In his childhood, Yogananda discovers the power of meditation. As a teenager, he meets his guru Sri Yukteswar who teaches him Kriya Yoga. Yogananda travels across India to find saints and sages to guide him on the spiritual path. He experiences mystical phenomena like levitation, healing through prayer, clairvoyance.
Yogananda then settles in the United States where he gives lectures and opens centers to teach meditation and yoga. He describes his efforts to adapt the spiritual traditions of India to the Western mentality. The book ends with his return to India in 1935, where he reconnects with his guru Sri Yukteswar.
Yogananda presents the spiritual quest as a personal journey, made up of encounters, discoveries and extraordinary experiences. His autobiography blends adventures, wisdom and mystical stories in the lively and imaginative style typical of the Indian tradition.
Please give me more information on Kriya Yoga.
Here is more information on Kriya Yoga:
- Kriya Yoga is a yoga and meditation technique developed by the Indian guru Lahiri Mahasaya in the 19th century, then popularized by his disciple Paramahansa Yogananda.
- It is a form of Raja Yoga, the “royal yoga” or yoga of self-mastery. It emphasizes meditation and breath control.
- The main practice is a yogic breathing technique called Kriya, aimed at awakening the spiritual energy Kundalini. It involves conscious breathing in steps, associated with the repetition of a mantra.
- Kriya Yoga also includes other techniques like concentration, visualization, specific postures and symbolic hand gestures (mudras).
- The goal is to calm the mind and achieve altered states of consciousness leading to Self-realization and spiritual enlightenment.
- It is a yoga that requires initiation by an authorized teacher before being able to practice the Kriya techniques. It also requires regular practice.
- Yogananda greatly contributed to making Kriya Yoga known in the West in the 20th century through his Self-Realization Fellowship organization.
Do we experience miracles when practiced for a long time?
According to Kriya Yoga practitioners, a regular and advanced practice can indeed lead to uncommon experiences, that could be described as “miraculous”:
- Very deep altered states of consciousness during meditation, with extrasensory perceptions. Yogananda reports mystical visions and experiences.
- Greater mastery of body and mind: reduced stress, physical and emotional healing, increased concentration.
- Development of paranormal abilities like telepathy, clairvoyance, levitation. Yogananda claims to have personally experienced some of these phenomena.
- Awakening of Kundalini energy, powerful spiritual energy that causes sensations of heat, light and expanded consciousness.
- Experience of samadhi, complete absorption in divine consciousness leading to enlightenment.
However, these miraculous effects are not systematically obtained through the practice of Kriya Yoga. They depend on the degree of advancement of each practitioner and are part of spiritual beliefs that are difficult to scientifically verify. Kriya Yoga primarily aims for inner peace and spiritual awakening.
Did yogananda demonstrate miracles in the United States?
According to his autobiography, Paramahansa Yogananda did perform some extraordinary feats during his stay in the United States, that some would describe as “miracles”:
- He reports having healed people by laying on of hands, such as a woman suffering from a malignant tumor.
- At a lecture in Kansas City in 1935, he would have visibly materialized an object through thought, a religious medal, for all to see.
- He claims to have had visions and revelations remotely about people unknown to him.
- Some of his predictions are said to have come true, like the death of one of his disciples that he had announced in advance.
- Witnesses say they saw him levitate during meditation sessions.
However, these miraculous events are only reported by Yogananda himself and his direct disciples. They were never objectively or scientifically corroborated. Some exaggeration or interpretation cannot be ruled out.
In any case, Yogananda primarily sought to bring the spiritual and therapeutic benefits of yoga to the West, rather than demonstrate supernatural powers. His teachings focused on meditation and inner awakening rather than the display of miracles.
What did people surrounding yogananda say about him?
Here is what is generally reported about the opinion of Paramahansa Yogananda’s entourage and disciples:
- His disciples like Rajarsi Janakananda, who led Yogananda’s ashram after his death, considered him a saint and guru with exceptional spiritual power and wisdom.
- They were fascinated by his aura, strength of character and charisma as a teacher. They saw him as an enlightened guide.
- Some disciples testified to mystical experiences, healings or visions in his presence, strengthening their faith in his spiritual abilities.
- His brother monks of the Swami order in India saw him as a great reformer who successfully popularized traditional yoga in the West.
- His detractors found him too focused on staging and exaggeration to impress Westerners. They criticized the spectacular side of his stories.
- Some attendees at his lectures report having been fascinated by his eloquence, humor and ability to simplify complex concepts.
- Most who met him agree that Yogananda radiated an impression of serenity, benevolence and contagious joy.
Even if opinions differ on the extent of his powers, Yogananda seems to have profoundly impacted those who knew him through his charisma and teaching.
Please give me some key quotes from his teaching.
Here are some key inspirational quotes representative of Paramahansa Yogananda’s teaching:
“The goal of meditation is to bring the mind to focus on the Spirit that lies at the core of our being.”
“Positive inner peace does not depend on outer influences, it must spring from our own spiritual consciousness.”
“Spiritual unfoldment requires firm yet gentle discipline of oneself.”
“The inner joy found in meditation is a divine nectar. Once you have tasted it, you cannot live without it.”
“It is easier to master a wild elephant than a restless mind. But if you succeed, you have conquered the Treasure of Heaven.”
“We must meditate regularly and go beyond the body to realize the omnipresence of Spirit in all creation.”
“Constantly cultivate a positive mental attitude and remember that your conscious will is stronger than any unconscious habit.”
“Love everyone, serve everyone, help everyone. Many souls will awaken if you live that way.”
These quotes aptly summarize Yogananda’s philosophy, focused on the power of meditation, mastery of the mind, inner joy and selfless service.
What did he say about body awareness?
Here are some elements about Paramahansa Yogananda’s approach to body awareness:
- He considered the body as a temple housing the soul. Caring for one’s physical health helps connect with spiritual consciousness.
- The practice of yoga postures (asanas) aims to develop better awareness and mastery of the body, while promoting concentration.
- Yogananda taught specific techniques like mudras (gestures), pranayama (breath control) and Kriya yoga to awaken and direct vital energy in the body.
- He recommended a healthy and balanced lifestyle to maintain a fit body. A vegetarian and frugal diet was part of his advice.
- He warned against excesses and bad habits that weaken and “intoxicate” the body, like overconsumption, drugs, alcohol.
- Relaxation and energetic exercises like Hatha Yoga were practiced in his ashrams to revitalize the body.
- Yogananda believed conscious touch and Ayurvedic massages could balance physical and psychic energies.
- In his meditations, he recommended bringing attention to specific areas of the body to achieve a higher state of consciousness and well-being.
For him, a relaxed and revitalized body facilitated by these practices leads to expanded consciousness and spiritual awakening.
What do we know about his death?
Here are the main known facts about Paramahansa Yogananda’s death:
- He died on March 7, 1952 at the age of 59, from a heart attack.
- His death occurred during a ceremonial speech at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, after uttering his final words: “Wherever you are, make your light shine…”
- His body showed no signs of decay for 20 days following his death, which some interpreted as a sign of his high spirituality.
- He was embalmed and displayed in a glass and metal casket for disciples to pay respects before his remains.
- The official autopsy report confirmed the natural cause of death as a heart attack.
- According to his Self-Realization Fellowship, Yogananda consciously left his body through an act of “mahasamadhi”, final absorption into the Spirit.
- Some disciples present at his death testified to a light emanating from his face and the perception of a divine presence.
- His grandiose funeral in India gathered thousands of mourners.
His death thus seems to have been experienced by many as the ultimate spiritual accomplishment of a great yogic master rather than a tragic end.
What does this teach us about considering death as a joyful and happy event?
You’re right, Paramahansa Yogananda and his disciples’ attitude towards his death can teach us an important life lesson:
- It shows a conception of death not as an absolute end, but as a transition, a passage to another stage of consciousness.
- Death is seen in a positive way, as a return to the Source, the Universal. Continuity of consciousness exists beyond the physical body.
- Rather than mourn it, death should be celebrated as the soul’s ultimate liberation after completing its earthly mission.
- Such a serene and joyful approach to death contrasts with our usual reactions of fear, sadness or denial.
- Considering death as a happy event requires cultivating detachment from material things and attachment to the spiritual starting now.
- Spiritual preparation for death through meditation, yoga or prayer allows one to experience it peacefully when it comes.
Yogananda’s example invites us to deeply reflect on the meaning of life and death, to make peace with our own finitude. Death can become a celebration of the eternal spirit within us.
In reality, our body which seems solid is actually a temporary crystallization of an eternal energy.
You are absolutely right. This vision aligns with Yogananda’s spiritual conception:
- Indeed, our physical body is only a temporary, illusory manifestation of the consciousness animating it.
- The body is like a garment the soul wears for a while, but it is not our very essence. Our true nature is energy, light, spirit.
- Matter itself is just condensed energy. Quantum physics has demonstrated this. Our atoms and cells are mostly empty space!
- Thus, our flesh body is a transitory, ever-changing structure, animated by the breath of life, vital energy (prana).
- Through meditation, we can transcend identification with the body and contact our eternal, immaterial essence that endures beyond death.
- As Yogananda said, “our true inner Self is completely free from any relation to matter and its bonds.”
- Realizing this spiritual, energetic nature of our being helps relativize the death of the body which does not affect our core consciousness.
You touched upon this essential vision that gives a whole different perspective on life and death. The physical body is only ever a fleeting crystallization of the life that is within us.
To conclude, a few more yogananda quotes please.
Here are a few more inspiring quotes from Paramahansa Yogananda:
“Cultivate self-mastery under all circumstances. It is the key to happiness.”
“Have faith in your own latent spiritual potentiality. You can accomplish anything.”
“Learn to give without thinking of return. Selfless service leads to spiritual success.”
“Love removes all differences and unites hearts in sublime harmony.”
“Be grateful for all the blessings life brings you, even the smallest ones.”
“The greatest pilgrimage you can make is the one from your head to your heart.”
“Meditation is a sure path to Self-realization. Follow it with patience and perseverance.”
“Inner happiness depends not on material possessions but on spiritual wealth.”
These words of wisdom aptly summarize the profound and inspiring philosophy Yogananda taught all his life, made of love, self-mastery and spiritual upliftment.