The deeper teachings of yoga state that “We are a soul, and have a body,” but how do yogis respond when confronted with death—with their own time of passing?
In Transitioning in Grace (based on the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda, author of the classic Autobiography of a Yogi), Nalini Graeber presents true accounts of how longtime yogis and meditators have left their bodies. Some struggled with pain or illness. Others passed suddenly or unexpectedly. Most of these accounts are inspiring; all have something to teach about the transitioning experience.
More than just a collection of uplifting stories, this work can serve as a handbook for individuals helping family or friends to leave this world—for those soon to make the transition themselves—and for all thoughtful souls who recognize the wisdom of gaining important insights into early preparation for “Life’s Final Exam.”
Included in these pages:
• How to prepare for death
• A yogic “astral ascension” ceremony (funeral/memorial service) that can be adapted for your particular needs
• A description, by a great master of yoga, of what we experience during the moments when we leave our bodies
• A simple meditation technique that can help greatly to bring calmness to the event
• Stories, descriptions, and poetry/song lyrics that offer helpful insights and inspiration
Foreword by Asha Nayaswami
1. How to Die with Grace—Tushti
2. What Is “A Yogi’s Approach to Death and Dying”?
3. Happy’s Story—Seeing God as the Doer
4. Rich—Learning to Let Go
5. What Is True Healing?—Danny and Tim
6. Into God’s Love—Haanel’s Conscious Exit
7. Vairagi—Releasing the Grip of Ego
8. Detach Yourself—Maria and Bella
9. Marilyn—Overcoming Fear with Compassion
10. The Best Time of Life—Sandra’s Story
11. A Sudden Tragedy and Johnny’s Gift
12. Bob and Shannon—We Are Not the Body
13. When Death Is Unexpected—David and Lila
14. Linda—Focusing on the Light
15. AUM and the Power of a Dream—Lorne’s Story
16. Garrett-Arjuna—What Really Matters?
17. Karuna-Cliff—Perfecting Divine Friendship
18. The Courage to Love—Andy’s Story
19. Brindey and the Power of Forgiveness
20. Paula’s Farewell Party
21. “The Final Exam” by Swami Kriyananda
22. “What Happens at Death?” by Paramhansa Yogananda
23. A Simple Meditation Technique
24. An Astral Ascension Ceremony and Memorial Service
25. “The Dying Youth’s Divine Reply”
by Paramhansa Yogananda
About the Author
“Some say we don’t really learn how to live until we have looked death in the face. Those who’ve had near-death experiences have a different perspective from the rest of us.
“In my case,” Brindey went on, “death is not yet in my face, but it is in the room. It is hovering nearby; I can feel it. The reality of death at this time in my journey is helping me see what is important and what isn’t.
“Whereas in the past I might have been tempted to quibble or argue with those who see the world differently than I do, I now have no energy for it; there’s no part of me that wants to go there. It just doesn’t matter.”
I was listening to my friend Nayaswami Brindey, whose story appears later in this book. Her words made me ponder an essential question: As I draw closer to the end of my life, what are my priorities?
Dr. Atul Gawande, the famous physician-author, looks at this question in his book Being Mortal. According to one study, those who are conscious of having a limited amount of time remaining are more likely to value relationships with close friends and family. Their focus is on everyday pleasures, on the here and now, rather than on career goals; those who see a long life stretching out in front of them usually hold opposite values. They seek to gain skills and resources that will enable them to create a brighter future and to expand their network of friends and connections. Spending time with family is, to them, a lower priority. It’s a matter of perspective and how much time we perceive ourselves to
have. Have you given thought to where and how you will want to spend your time?
What Is “A Yogi’s Approach to Death and Dying”?
In my experience “A Yogi’s Approach to Death and Dying” is understood primarily in the heart—by example, rather than through attempts at definition.
My main bond with Tushti had been through Ananda Sangha, a worldwide movement based on the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda. Even though Tushti and I never lived in the same community at the same time, we were deeply connected through our mutual commitment to a yogic lifestyle, and through a powerful community network of friendship and prayer.
At the end of her life, Tushti had the capacity to experience a joy that spoke volumes about her way of life before and during her final illness. What was the source of that joy? It was a life dedicated to meditation: for Tushti, in particular, this meant the path of Kriya Yoga.
What Is Kriya Yoga?
Kriya Yoga is an advanced meditation technique that greatly accelerates one’s spiritual progress and helps one to feel the joy of his or her own higher self—a joy with no outward cause. Kriya was made widely known by Paramhansa Yogananda in his Autobiography of a Yogi. According to Yogananda, it is the most effective technique available to mankind today for reaching the goal of union with the Divine.
Kriya, controlling the mind directly through the life force, is the easiest, most effective, and most scientific avenue of approach to the Infinite. In contrast to the slow, uncertain “bullock cart” theological path to God, Kriya may justly be called the “airplane” route.
Practice Kriya night and day. It is the greatest key to salvation. . . . Once you feel the inner joy it bestows, no evil will be able to touch you. It will then seem like stale cheese compared to nectar.
Is there anyone who doesn’t want more joy in his life? I encourage you, the reader, to take advantage of the resources listed in the back of this book and explore the possibility of learning more about meditation and Kriya Yoga for yourself.
In Paramhansa Yogananda: A Biography, Kriyananda explains the science of Kriya Yoga:
“The Kriya science begins with the physical symptoms accompanying emotional reaction. In this reactive process, when one is delighted by, let us say, a sudden and unexpected gift, he tends instinctively to take a quick, sharp breath. When, on the contrary, one meets with a sudden setback, the automatic tendency of people is to blow the breath out. Exultation is accompanied by inhalation, followed perhaps, by a glad cry. Gloom or disappointment is accompanied by a heavy sigh.
“If you think about it, you will see that your actual reality lies not in outer things, but in your inner reaction to them. . . .
“Kriya Yoga is scientific because it cooperates with Nature, and uses natural law to accomplish its objective. It is not a magical process, nor is it a ritual of self-purging by flagellation or the propitiation of higher beings. . . .
Elsewhere in that book, Kriyananda wrote:
“Kriya Yoga helps us to bring our emotional reactive process to a state of inner balance. We can enjoy the world, but our enjoyment, now, is something we give out to the world: it is not determined for us by the world.”
Achieving this state of emotional balance is, however, only the first step. In the channel of the spine one has, as Kriyananda wrote, “the opportunity, and also the divinely appointed duty, to raise his consciousness. His negative pole at the base of the spine must be united with the positive pole at the top of the head. When this union finally occurs—and the process, from our human point of view, is very slow—he becomes united not only personally, but cosmically. Self-union, inwardly, means also objective union with God.”
The Kriya technique, which is usually taught through initiation, can take us all the way to divine union and soul liberation.
Besides being a technique of energy control, or pranayama, Kriya is also a comprehensive spiritual path, one which includes right attitude and right living, and, perhaps most important of all, an inner connection to the enlightened masters whose lives are described in Autobiography of a Yogi.
In this book we refer primarily to Kriya Yoga as a spiritual path. The Kriya Yoga path includes Kriya and other techniques, but with different emphases, according to one’s condition and stage of life.
Because meditation techniques are far more challenging when the body is in pain or unwell, it behooves us to practice these techniques while we are still relatively healthy, and to start preparing even now for the end of life: the “final exam.” When the body begins to shut down, or becomes less capable of practicing meditation, what will draw to us the grace of God and the great ones, is an inner attunement to the higher Self, coupled with attitudes of devotion, service, and kindness. The stories that follow provide ample testimony to that grace.