The Mission of Paramhansa Yogananda
by Swami Kriyananda
From a speech in India, January 10, 2004
I had the opportunity to meet and live with a great Master from your country. I'm sure that many of you have read Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda. I read it when I was a young man of 22 in New York. I'd been seeking truth in all possible ways except the right one. I looked for it in science, in the arts, in political systems.
Always I tried to avoid thinking of God because I believed, as modern science teaches, that you can't prove God, so why think about Him? I tried to find fulfillment without Him and, thank God, I failed.
It was in a mood of extreme desperation that I came upon Autobiography of a Yogi. That book so changed my life that I took the next bus from New York to Los Angeles, a journey of four days and nights, to meet him.
"I want to be your disciple!"
I had been a very arrogant young man. I never thought I'd say such words to anybody, but when I met Yogananda my first words to him were, "I want to be your disciple." He must have seen how desperate I was, because that same day he gave me the vows of discipleship and accepted me in the monastery.
That was in 1948, and for these past fifty-six years I've been sharing his life and teachings, as he instructed me to do, through lecturing and writing books.
For everyone the goal is the same
I've just finished writing a book called, Conversations with Yogananda, and I'd like to read two passages from it. The first one is:
A professor from Columbia University came to lunch with the Master in his third floor interview room at Mt. Washington. At a certain point in their discussion the professor asked: ‘Do your teachings help people to be at peace with themselves?' ‘They do indeed,' the Master answered, ‘but that is the least that they do. We teach people above all how to be at peace with their Creator.'
Ultimately we all have to make peace with our Creator. We have to understand who we are, where we've come from, and what the purpose of life is.
The goal of life for everyone is to seek God, whether they know it or not. We are all children of God. And the beautiful thing is that this is true of the lowest beggar, the most vicious criminal, the most brutal dictator.
In living with Yogananda I found that he saw in all people the same one God. He had the same love for everybody. He didn't look at anybody with judgment. You might ask, "In his greatness did he look down on us?"
The difference between the Guru and the disciple
This next passage in Conversations with Yogananda answers this question: He was asked, 'How do you distinguish between yourself and your followers?'
All are waves on the same one ocean,' the Master replied, 'composed, as ocean water is of the same substance: Spirit. Some of the waves are higher than others. Some waves don't want to distance themselves from the ocean. All waves, no matter how high, are in essence one and the same. The difference between the Guru and the disciples, then, lies only in their respective closeness to the ocean: in how conscious each one is of his own essential reality.'
This is how it was living with him. He was not somebody up there looking down on us. He was our own Selves.
I'll never forget the time when I had given someone advice. When I next saw Yogananda, he corrected the advice I'd given. I was amazed that he knew what I'd said even at a great distance from him. He said, "I know every thought you think."
How did he have that ability? Because he was in everybody. It's not like a wave that is higher than others. Rather there's no wave at all. A Master has no sense of separation from God.
The religion of the universe
Yogananda was one of the greatest ambassadors of Indian culture that your country has ever sent to the world. The Sanatan Dharma of Hinduism, which he taught, is the religion of the universe.
You might call your religion Christianity, or Islam, or Buddhism, but all true religions have the same purpose to give you the understanding that the goal of life is to find who and what you are as bliss. Yogananda came to show us that motivating all life from behind is the soul's desire for bliss.
The "blessings" of Western civilization
Over forty years ago when I lived here, I realized that India would have to experience worldly prosperity. You would inevitably have cars, televisions, and all the so-called "blessings" of Western civilization. I also knew it would be a horrible thing, but I believed India would have the power to come through it. I see that it has.
I see that young people in India today are realizing that we don't find happiness in these things. India can't get away from itself. There is a power in this country, a joy that wells up out of the soil. As Yogananda said in his poem My India, "I am hallowed, my body touched that sod."
God is the joy we seek
This is why India is the guru of the world. Truth is eternal. What the great rishis and yogis have left in the soil of this country is a power that will ultimately change not only your lives but the lives of everyone.
When you travel the world, you see that people everywhere are seeking happiness, and it comes back to this same truth. God is not dead, as some people proclaim. He is alive. He is the joy, the bliss we all seek.
This is the goal of every one of us. The same God that's in Yogananda or Jesus Christ or Krishna is in you. Underneath all that you've been seeking in life is that One Universal God.
This is what Yogananda came to show us. Because of his great humility many people in this country who have read Autobiography of a Yogi, think of Yogananda as a simple devotee who visited other saints. If I have a mission, it is to get him and his message known in this country.
Yogananda's message is the path of Kriya Yoga. He was the representative of a line of great gurus who, through Lahiri Mahasaya of Benares, brought this great message down from the heights.
Yogananda showed us how to bring the teaching of Kriya Yoga into daily life, and how to bring the Divine Reality into everything we do. This was, to a large extent, Yogananda's mission to the world, and to a large extent that's why I am here. I've come to India now to show that the practicality he gave to the Indian teachings is as real here as anywhere.
Another aspect of Yogananda's mission was to develop spiritual communities. Nearly every time he talked in public, he spoke of the importance of such communities to the world today.
Why not live with people who share the same values? Why not be surrounded by friends who love God? Then the people living around you actually help in the realization of your ideals.
This is what we've experienced at the Ananda communities in America and Italy. Ananda has been in existence now for 35 years, and the love for God, harmony, and cooperation there are an inspiration to all who come.
I would love to introduce such communities in India. I think they can be established here more easily because you naturally understand these concepts.
This world is only a school
But remember we're not here to bring perfection to this world, for this world is only a school. The goal is not to make civilization perfect, but to use the teachings of civilization to achieve perfection in ourselves.
The highlight of my life was meeting and being with my Guru. It was like being in the presence of God. Behind everything he said or did was a message to realize the bliss of our own being. He saw all of us as potential gods filled with divine bliss.
What these great masters are, not only can you achieve, you must achieve. You are eternal, although you've lived in this world wandering in delusion. That search can go on forever, but there is something that never leaves you the longing for the bliss of God. Someday you will awaken and know yourself as a child of the Infinite Lord. I bow to that Lord in all of you.