The Ananda Course in Self-Realization - Step 1
by Jyotish Novak
A Course in Yoga
You are about to embark on a marvelous journey, a journey to the unexplored center of your own self. Along the way you will discover you have strengths and potentials you only dimly suspected.
Yoga is an ancient science, so ancient, in fact, that its roots are lost in the dim reaches of time. We know that it goes back at least seven thousand years because of prehistoric stone tablets found at Mohenjo Dao in India depicting people in yoga postures. There is a continuous tradition several thousand years old of scriptural writings on yoga. And yet it is not merely some hoary philosophy left dusty and tattered by the passage of time. It is a living tradition! it has been practiced continuously and refined over centuries. In India every generation has had its saints and sages. In our century there have been several great yogis who have reached the highest possible state of awareness: Self-realization.
The Sanskrit word yoga means union. In one sense this union implies a complete integration of our own self, a total clarity of consciousness. In more expanded states, the yogi experiences a state of union with every atom of creation. In a spiritual sense, the yogi achieves a state of union in which the individual soul merges into God.
But long before you experience these profound states you will find extraordinary benefits from practicing the lessons in this course. Physically, you will experience increasing vitality, flexibility, and strength. Mentally you will be able to work with more clarity and concentration. Your emotions also will benefit - you'll become more even-minded, learn to overcome negative moods, and develop attitudes which bring true happiness and well-being. You will rediscover a sense of peace and harmony with the world around you, and your capacity to give and receive love will expand until it embraces all places and every living thing. Finally, you will find a joy so profound that it will seem to form the very fabric of creation itself. Great truths lie within you at this very moment. You have only to still your restless thoughts to find all this and more.
Paramhansa Yogananda and the Ananda Tradition
The material in this course is based on the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda. He was one of the first yogis, and perhaps the greatest, ever to live and teach in the United States. Yogananda come to America in 1920 in order to address the Council of Religious Liberals in Boston. He stayed on to write, lecture, and give classes in yoga. Within a few years he became an enormously popular figure. His classes were so well received that crowds had to be turned away even at America's largest auditoriums, such as Carnegie Hall in New York. But Yogananda was far beyond being enamored of popularity. He came to this country not for fame but simply to offer the soul-liberating teachings of yoga. In the mid 1930s he moved to Los Angeles and established a center to spread these teachings. It was here that he wrote his classic book Autobiography of a Yogi, a book which has introduced millions to the wonders of yoga.
Ananda was started by Swami Kriyananda, a direct disciple of Yogananda. Kriyananda lived with Yogananda from 1948 until the great master's passing in 1952. Charged by Yogananda to do his utmost to make these teaching available, Kriyananda has spent his life teaching, writing, and working in countless ways to serve his guru. He has written over sixty books and more than 350 pieces of music, but perhaps his greatest work was the founding of Ananda World Brotherhood Village. Ananda is widely considered to be one of the most successful spiritual communities in the world. It has grown to include nearly a hundred meditation groups throughout the world, as well as five branch communities. More than 750 resident members live a life based on yogic principles. Ananda has become a living laboratory to test the effectiveness of the teachings presented in these lessons.
How These Courses Are Organized
The Ananda Course in Self-Realization is designed to give you complete instruction and groundwork for the practice of meditation, yoga postures, and the yogic path.
The Four Stages
There are four stages to the Ananda Course in Self-Realization. First comes seven lessons entitled Lessons in Meditation. In this stage you will learn the basic techniques of meditation as taught by Paramhansa Yogananda. You will also learn the Energization Exercises, his unique contribution to the science of yoga. Each lesson contains sections on "Principles," "Techniques," "Routine," and a homework assignment called "Do This Now." A typical student takes a week or two to complete each lesson.
The next part of the course is The Art and Science of Yoga: 14 Steps to Higher Awareness (Raja Yoga). Here the emphasis shifts to a much deeper understanding of the philosophy of yoga and a thorough presentation of hatha yoga, the yoga postures. Each of the lessons contains seven elements: Philosophy of Yoga, Yoga Postures, Breathing, Routine, Healing Principles and Techniques, Diet, and Meditation, where some of the techniques learned earlier are reviewed and placed in their broader context. By the end of this stage you will not only have a complete background in the science and art of yoga, but you will understand how it can be applied to all aspects of your life.
Stage three, Discipleship, gives you the opportunity to learn about the guru-disciple relationship and, should you choose, to become a disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda. You are then eligible to learn his advanced technique of AUM meditation.
Finally, stage four, Kriya Preparation, prepares you for initiation into Paramhansa Yogananda's most advanced technique, Kriya Yoga. Paramhansa Yogananda described Kriya Yoga as the "jet airplane" path to God.
This course is designed to let you proceed at a pace that feels natural and comfortable. But it will require effort on your part. Meditation and deeper spiritual states must be experienced, not merely read about. They can't be appreciated by mere reading any more than an orange can be tasted by only studying its qualities. How much effort is involved? This you must decide for yourself. But any effort you make will pay dividends very quickly. From the very start you will feel more relaxed, more cheerful, and more at peace with yourself. All areas of your life can improve with a surprisingly small amount of effort - less than half an hour per day to start with.
Ananda is a dynamic organization with many teachers who have lived and taught these practices for 25 years or more. If you have any questions about the course material, or simply want to talk to someone, we are here to help you.
May these lessons bring you great joy!
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