“A living light, shining powerfully in the middle of darkness, such was Yogananda in this world. Such a great soul hardly appears on Earth, when people really need it only.”
On the 5th of January 1893, in the North-east of India, close to the Himalaya Mountains, at Gorakhpur, Mukunda Lal Ghosh was born, the one who will be known as Paramahansa Yogananda. Yoganagda remembers his father Bhagabati Charan Ghosh, as a good man, serious and sometimes severe, a valuable mathematician and logician who let himself be guided especially by the intellect. His mother, Gyana Prahba Ghosh, is described as a queen of hearts who raised her children in an atmosphere filled with love.
In his book that went round the world “Autobiography of a yogi”, Yogananda tells the miraculous moments that sprinkled his childhood, marked by images from another life in which he was a solitary yogi on the snowed up peaks of Himalaya mountains. One of the first miracles is his healing with a picture of Lahiri Mahasaya. As a boy, on the times when he lived in Iehapur, he got sick of Asian cholera. The state of his health was terrible. The doctors stated that there was no healing. Then his mother begged him to contemplate the portrait of Mahasaya. Meeting his mother’s desire, a miracle took place. “Suddenly a blinding light surrounded my body and spread into the room. The symptoms of the illness disappeared and I felt healed”, he says. Since early childhood, Yogananda proved a strong will and mental concentration. Once, when his sister Uma calls little Mukunda a “liar” he said clearly and aloud: “Through the force of my will I declare that not later then tomorrow I will have a huge furuncle on this arm”. The next morning he had indeed an impressive furuncle on the arm that needed a surgical intervention.
The meeting with the master
As a youngster, Yogananda has met with many wise men and saints looking ardently to find his spiritual master that would lead him to achievement. Until the meeting with his master from 1910, Sri Yukteswar had to wait 17 years of life. Sri Yukteswar who will initiate Yogananda in Kriya Yoga, had been himself initiated on this remarkable yogi path by Lahiri Mahasaya. Mahasaya was a disciple of Babaji, who is said to have had lived in India since many centuries.
The description of the first state of Samadhi
Yogananda will reach the experience of the cosmic conscience, helped by his master, at an early age already. Yogananda describes his first Samadhi state in the following words: “My body seemed turned to stone, the air left my lungs, like he was aspirated by a giant whirlpool; soul and spirit, detached from the connection with the physical body, blenched from every pore like a bright fluid. My body seemed stiff. Still, in the intense lucid state that I had, I knew that I was more alive then ever. The feeling of my identity was no longer limited to the physical body, but it included all the surrounding atoms.
People found in the distant streets seemed like crossing slowly the suburbs of my being. I saw the roots of the plants and trees in the soil, that became transparent for me and I was watching the intense circulation of the pith. The enclosures appeared entirely in the face of my inner vision. My visual field, became spherical, allowed me to embrace everything at one look. Behind me, I have seen people getting off from Rai Ghat Street and I saw a white cow approaching slowly; she reached the opened door of the ashram, piercing my usual visual field. After she entered through the door I continued to see her clearly through the brick walls. In my global vision, objects vibrated and flickered as if they were some cinematographic images. My body and my master’s body, the pillars from the courtyard, the furniture, ceiling, trees and the sunrays stirred more and more, until they melted in a luminescent ocean, like the sugar melts in the water it immersed into. The unifying light alternated with the materialization of forms, these metamorphosis revealing to me the law of cause and effect in Creation. An oceanic joy was shed on the calm and unlimited shore of my soul. I understood that the Spirit of God is inexhaustible happiness, His body being weaved from infinity of rays. A splendid brightness sprang from the bottom of my being, amplifying and involving cities, continents, Earth, Sun, constellations, stellar agglomerating, until the last galaxies. The whole cosmos, illuminated like a city that you see in the night from the distance, glittered in my unlimited body. The blinding light from beyond the net contours of the objects blurred easily at the extreme edge of my vision; there I perceived an immaterial radiation, a uniform brightness, from an inexpressible subtlety. The image of the planets was made from a more brutish light.
The divine sheet of rays sprang from an eternal Source, weaving galaxies that were transfigured by wonderful auras, by an ineffable splendor. I saw again the creative rays condensing in constellations and transforming in translucent flames. Through an inverse, rhythmic movement the myriad of worlds dissolves in a diaphanous brightness; the entire firmament was forming only one flame. I knew that in the middle of this celestial vault was situated in a center of intimate intuitive perception in my heart. So many splendors radiated from the core of my being, piercing the intimate structure of the Universe.
Amrita, the nectar of immortality, was flowing through me like quick silver. I heard the creative voice of God, resonating under the form of the sound AUM, the cosmic vibration. Suddenly the breath came back in my body. With an almost unbearable discontent, I realized that I had lost my cosmic immensity. Once more, I was limited at the shell of the physical body that the Spirit could not easily accommodate with. Just like a “spending son” I ran away from my universal dwelling to close myself in the narrowness of my own microcosm.”
Entering the Swami order
For years, Mukunda wanted to become a monk in the Swami order, but the master refused him repeatedly. However, in 1915, Sri Yukteswar accepts his request and so at only 22 years old Mukunda becomes a monk in the Swami order. Receiving the privilege from his master to choose his own name, he will choose Yogananda; his name signifies happiness (ananda) and it is obtained through divine union (yoga). Yogananda tells about his decision to become swami: “It seems to me inconceivable to put God in second place in my life. He, the unique master of Cosmos, pours His gifts on people life after life. There is only one offering the man ca give to Him: his love that he is free to give or not. The Creator who takes infinite precautions to hide the mystery of His presence in every atom of creation can only have one reason for doing it: the wish that the humans search for Him only through their free will. He covers the “iron hand” of his Omnipotence with the velvet glove of humility.”
The first institution founded by Yogananda was a school for boys called “Yogoda- Satsanga Brahmacharya Vidyalaya” in 1917. In this school, modern education was knitted with the yoga practice and instructing into spiritual ideals. Visiting the school, Mahatma Gandhi wrote: “This institution impressed me profoundly”.
In 1935 when Yogananda returned from America, the school from Ranchi would be recognized by the government. His dream of building a permanent centre of yoga education became true!
Today the Yogada Satsanga school building from Ranchi includes art, commerce, music and science colleges, school for boys and girls, and also more clinics in different cities of India. Basically, this further contributes to the propagation of Yogananda’s Kriya Yoga teachings all over India.
Leaving to America
In 1920 Yogananda left for America being invited to represent India in an international congress of religions in Boston. Just before leaving, the mahavatar Babaji offered him his blessing and confirmed his mission in this world: “You are the one I chose to spread the message of the science Kriya Yoga in the West. Many years ago I met your guru, Sri Yukteswar at Kumba Mela. Then I have announced him that I would guide you to him to instruct you.” Also in the same year of he left for America he will put the bases for “Self-Organization-Fellowship”, with the purpose of sharing to the whole world the science of the ancient India and Yoga philosophy. This organization still exists today in the centre of Los Angeles and has meditation centers and temples all over the world. The present leader of the organization is Sri Daya Mat, a direct disciple of Yoganadji. In 1927 he is the first official received at the White House by the president Calvin Coolidge, who became interested by his activity, finding about it from the papers columns. Among his disciples there were also great personalities from extremely different domains, like science, art, business, as the horticulturist Luther Burbank and soprano Amelita Galli-Curci or poet Edwin Eastman. In the years to come Yogananda travelled to lecture conferences in front of thousands of people, and opened yoga classes attended by thousands of Americans along years. In 1964 Yogananda published the story of his life in “The autobiography of a yogi”, a book that became best-seller even since its publication and was translated in 18 languages, remaining also today a best-seller.
Returning to India
In 1935 he began a tour round Europe and India. Back to his native country, he held conferences through cities all over the subcontinent. He met Mahatma Gandhi who asked for the initiation in Kriya Yoga, but also great spiritual masters like Ramana Maharishi and Ananda Moy Ma. In the same year his master offered him the title of Paramahansa, which literary means “Supreme Sun”, this title being given only to those who have reached the permanent union with the Divine.
Paramahansa Yogananda entered the state of mahasamadhi (abandoning definitely the body consciously) in Los Angeles, on the 7th of March, after keeping a discourse at a banquet in the honor of his Excellency Binay R.Sen, the ambassador of India in the USA. The great teacher of the world has proven the value of the yoga science not only during his life but also in death. Weeks after he left the physical plan, a divine light of immortality remained unchanged on his face. For 20 days there was no trace of physical disintegration. On the 27th of March, at the moment when the coffin was closed his body looked intact as in the night of his death.
Excerpt from the famous work “The autobiography of a great yogi”, By Swami Yogananda, translated by Gregorian Bivolaru
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