He [Yogananda] was realistic, and worked with the world as it is, and with people as they are. He had not been sent to serve a society of monks or hermits. The world he served included people at every stage of life. His mission, in fact was to uplift society as a as whole, and not only handful of disciples. . . he saw it as his mission to help all who humbly asked for help in their divine quest.
I found the Master on the lawn outside, listening to one of the chants as it was played back over a loudspeaker. What lighting flash glimmers in Thy face seeing Thee, I am thrilled through and through. The master began almost to dance, his arms outstretched to the side, his eyes closed. He was swaying back and forth in ecstasy. Play it again, he requested, then again and again. All of us, on that occasion, were deeply moved.
Afterward, as he was leaving, he said quietly, I see all of you as images of light. Everything the grass, the trees, the bushes everything I see is made of light. You’ve no idea how beautiful it all is.
This is an unparalleled firsthand account of Paramhansa Yogananda and his teachings written by one of his closest disciples. Yogananda is one of India’s most widely Kinwn and universally respected spiritual masters. His Autobiography of a yogi has helped stimulate a spiritual renaissance in his native land.
More than half a century ago, in a hilltop ashram in Los Angeles, California, an American disciple sat at the feet of this Master, faithfully recording his words, as his guru had asked him to do. Paramhansa Yogananda knew this disciple would carry his message to people everywhere.
Kriyananda was often present when Yogananda spoke privately with other close disciples; when he received visitors and answered their question; when he was dictating and discussing his important writings. Yogananda put Kriyananda in charge of the other monks, and gave him advice for their spiritual development. In all these situations, Kriyananda recorded the words of his Master, preserving for the ages wisdom that would otherwise have been lost, and giving us an intimate glimpse of life with Yogananda never shared by any other disciple.
These conversations include not only Yogananda’s words as he spoke them, but the added insight of a disciple who has spent more than 50 years attuning his consciousness to that of his guru. Through these conversations, Yagananda comes alive. Time and space dissolve. We sit at the feet f the master, listen to his words receive his wisdom, delight in his humor, and are transformed by his love.
Paramhansa Yogananda, born in India in 1893, lived in the United States from 1920 until his passing in 1952. For years he toured America conducting spiritual campaigns which filled the largest halls in most of the major cities. He introduced thousands of people to the eternal truths of Sanatan Dharma, which he called self-realization. Many also took initiation into an ancient technique of meditation called Kriya Yoga. Yogananda became known as India’s Spiritual Ambassador to the West.
Yogananda founded Yogoda Satasanga Society in India, and Self-Realization Fellowship in the United States. In addition to his classic Autobiography of a Yogi, his Spiritual legacy includes music, poetry, and extensive commentaries on the Bhagavad Gita, the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, and the Christian Bible, showing how the principles of self-realization are the unifying truth behind all religions.
Swami Kriyananda (J. Donald Walters) was initiated by Yogananda as a disciple in 1948. His guru guided and trained him for a life of editing. Writing and lecturing. Until 1962, Kriyananda served his guru through the societies his guru founded in the United States and India. In India, Kriyananda became known as the American Swami, at tracing crowds of several thousand to his lectures in Delhi, Calcutta, Patiala, Ranchi and other cities.
Kriyananda is the founder Ananda Sangha, a worldwide organization for the dissemination of Yogananda’s teachings. Ananda includes seven communities in the United States and Europe, based on Yogananda’s ideal for world brotherhood colonies. About 1000 people live in these communities. Kriyananda has written 79 books which have been translated into 27 languages, and composed over 400 pieces of music, which have won international awards.
Kriyananda divides his time between the United States, Europe, and India, where he is now building a work for his guru Paramhansa Yogananda.
It has taken me over fifty years to publish these conversations. For all that time, the note book containing them were my most precious possession, and their protection my first care. In the Sierra Nevada foothills of California, where I resided for many years, forest fires are a major threat. I resided for many years, forest fires are a major threat. I therefore kept in mind always that, should my home ever be threatened by fire, my first duty would be to save this material. Everything else was secondary. I kept the note books locked securely in a safe. When, eventually, I moved to Italy in 1996, I brought the note books along with me, taking the loving care of them that a father would devote to his only, delicate child.
Now at last that responsibility has been discharged. You would certainly be justified, dear reader, in asking me, “what on earth took you so long?” My Answer, however would be equally justified: it takes time to excavate a diamond mine. Discipleship is a long-term commitment. To convey to others the wisdom of a great master requires a certain maturity in the disciple also.
I’ve been a disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda’s since 1948. I was twenty-tow when I came to him. In May of 1950, he bagn urging me to record our conversations. I couldn’t, however, contemplate publishing them soon; I was hardly more than a boy then. The spiritual value of his words, however, was not limited to the time when they were spoken. The conversations are as immediate today as they were then, over fifty-three years ago. Indeed, they will remain so thousands of years from now. Meanwhile, my memory, fortunately, remains fresh; I have not has to depend exclusively on my notes, and have even added material to them, from memory. I present them here as clearly as if they had occurred yesterday. I believe, friend, that you will find many new insights in these pages. Some of them may be unexpected by you, for the life and actions of my great Guru followed no well-worn rut, and were never ruled by convention that he considered pointless. He was a way-shower, not an institution.
Some of this material has already appeared in two others of my books, namely, The Path and The Essence of self-Realization. A few other sayings have appeared also in print, notably in the book A Place Called Ananda. The first of those three, The Path, was published in 1978. I gave it an autobiographical form, to help others to know something of what the life of discipleship was like under that great master. The reason I made it an autobiography was that I felt incompetent, still, to write about him with any authority, and wanted to give discerning readers a chance to separate whatever they might deem unworthy of the Guru from the imperfect instrument who was trying with his pen to do him justice. I hoped also that others would find in my own search for truth, leasing as it did to the feet of Paramhansa Yogananda, answers to their won spiritual seeking. To my great satisfaction, this latter hope has been realized in many thousands of readers.
There remained much material that was not used in The Path, or that I quoted there only partly, in the hope of using the rest of it again later to better advantage. My thought was, let me advance further on the spiritual path; perhaps in another twenty years I’ll be able to present this material with greater wisdom.
In February, 1990, I abstracted selections from those notes for a second book, which I titled, the essence of Self-Realization. The material I chose was limited to that theme. If, therefore, a quotation contained other teachings which weren’t relevant to the subject, I omitted those portions. I some cases, that material has been included here in its entirety. There remained much more material, covering a wide range of topics. Most of it leaving out any conversations that might hurt or offend living persons appears in this volume.
A quarter of a century has elapsed since The Path was written and published. Since then, I have prayed for guidance as to when I should release the rest of the material for publication. Always the response I felt intuitively was, “The time will come. Be Patient.”
As one’s life slips by, increasing age forces on him awareness that his time on earth is growing steadily shorter. How long would this body live? Hundreds of years might be desirable for a work of this nature, but if I put it off too long it would have to be finished by some-one else, and under the considerable disadvantage of not having even known the Master. I had to accept that my position for undertaking this labor was unique, however incompetently I did it. In 1996, I passed my Biblically allotted threescore and ten years. Increasingly, the completion of this book was becoming a top priority. To be fair to these conversations, I couldn’t simply toss them out disjointedly, without any commentary or explanation. They needed to be presented in their proper setting, and not left dangling in midair, like an abused participle.
A gemstone’s beauty is enhanced when it is set in a piece of jewelry. Thus too, the clarity of these sayings would be enhanced if the reader could know, wherever possible, to whom the Master was speaking, when he spoke, and where and why, the perceptive reader, moreover, would have no difficulty in detecting any artificial mise en scene in this regard. Here again I was, in most cases, the only one who know the whole “picture”.
Recently, the guidance came to me at last to begin this work. Though I saw it as a labor of love, the magnitude of the challenge had always, I confess, daunted me. Not lonely did I expect it would take at least two years not so very long a time, perhaps; others of my books have taken longer. The really daunting part, for me, was that I had no idea how to arrange these accustomed, when writing, to develop a theme gradually. My mind resisted that idea of simply scrambling groups of unrelated thoughts together randomly. Yet randomness proved, in the end, the best way. Indeed, it was the only possible way. The conversations were simply too varied, and in many cases too brief, to be put in any sequence.
To my astonishment, the work simply flowed. Much of it entailed, of course, simply transferring to my computer what existed already in my notebooks. I found, however that apart from grouping a few of the conversations together I could leave the sequence more or less as it was already, or heed an inner guidance that said “why not put this one here, and that one there? Without effort on my part. It has taken me hardly two months to finish the entire book.
Throughout these pages I’ve referred to myself, when necessary, in the first person. This method seemed to me simpler and clearer than the common, and perfectly legitimate, third-person device. To help the reader to distinguish when the first person refers to me and not to Paramhansa Yogananda, I’ve occasionally inserted parenthetically the name by which he himself used to call me, “walter”.
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