Daily Excelsior dt: 05th Jan 2023

Paramahansa Yogananda

The doyen of kriya yoga

By Brij Mohan Sharma

Paramahansa Yogananda hardly needs any introduction. As a man of God and as an authority on the ancient science of yoga, he has received the highest credentials from his spiritual contemporaries and from the literary and general public from all parts of the world. In the words of Swami Vivananda, founder of Divine Life Society, "Paramahansa Yogananda was a rare gem of inestimable value, the like of whom the world is yet to witness.'' The Shankaracharya of Kancipuram says "As a bright light shining in the midst of darkness, so was Yogananda's presence in the world. Such a soul comes on earth rarely, when there is a real need among men. Binay R. Sen, one of our Ambassadors to USA observes "If we had a man like Yogananda in the United Nations today the world would be a better place than it is''. The object of reproducing the above observations is not to eulogise Paramahansa Yogananda, but to convey the readers some idea of the esteem and regard in which he was held for the hurculean labours of his life. He was indeed a great yogi and seer who, just like his immediate predecessor Swami Vivekanandaji, took the wisdom of East to the West. Both these spiritual giants not only spread the message of yoga and vedas in the West but also breathed a new life into these important Indian granths which had become inactive and sluggish due to their unused state. It goes without saying that this action of our revered saints has definitely influenced the human thought in a big way. Paramahansa Yogananda ji was a disciple of Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri who, in turn, was a disciple of famous Lahiri Mahasaya of Banaras who, in turn, was a disciple of Mahavatar Babaji, the ancient but Still Living master in the Himalayas. In 1861, the deathless Mahavatar Babaji gave Kriya Yoga initiation to Lahiri Mahasaya thereby restoring to the world the ancient technique of salvation. Babaji told him "The Kriya Yoga that I am giving to the world through you in this nineteenth century is a revival of the same ancient science that Krishna gave to Arjuna...'' Paramahansa Yogananda was the last in the line of Kriya Yoga gurus. He was born on January 5 1893 in a Bengali family. Although a graduate from Calcutta University, his mind was dedicated to a deeper study than that of school and college text books. From his very childhood, he had one desire- "GOD-REALISATION''. On the very first page of his 'Autobiography of a yogi', a known spiritual classic, he writes: "I find my earlier memories covering the anachronistic features of a previous life in which I had been a yogi amid the Himalayan snows. These glimpses of the past, by some dimensionless link, also afforded me a glimpse of the future. To authenticate his somewhat astounding and exciting revelation, he goes on to elucidate : "My far-reaching memories are not unique. Many yogis are known to have retained their self-consciousness without interruption by the dramatic transition to and from 'life' and 'death'. If man be solely a body, its loss indeed ends his identity. But if prophets down the milleniums spake with truth, man is essentially a soul, incorporeal and omnipresent''. Thus, his consanguineous impulse for the Ultimate led him to his guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar. In the latter's peaceful hermitage, Paramahansaji received his spiritual training. Sri Yukteswar was a strict disciplinarian but the young disciple's devotion to his Guru was no less dedicating and filial. He never flagged in his challenging assignment. In July 1915 the young yogi joined the monastic order. He was given a monastic name 'Yogananda' (Bliss through yoga). In 1930, his guru bestowed on him a higher spiritual title that of 'Paramahansa' (supreme swan), as by that time Yogananda ji had attained unchangeable state of Nirbikalpa Samadhi (irrecovable God union). In 1920, Yoganandaji was commanded by Mahavatar Babaji and his own Guru to go to rest and spread to all peoples the knowledge of the self-liberating yoga techniques. Serving as a delegate from India to an International Congress of Religious Liberals, Yoganandaji gave his first speech in America on October 6, 1920, Massachusetts. His subsequent series of lectures and classes eventually took him all over the United States. His teachings were received with unparalleled enthusiasm. Millions of Americans attended his lectures in large available auditoriums. Hundreds of thousands received personal instruction in scientific yoga techniques in various classes he conducted in America during his ministry of thirty-two years. It came as no small revelation to the West that Yoga- so eloquently expounded and clearly interpreted by Paramahansaji - is a universal science and as such it is indeed the essense of all religions. Yoga is a system of scientific methods for reuniting the soul with the Spirit. Yoga teaches us how to rise above the delusion of separation and re-unite our oneness with God, which is, undoubtedly, the aim and essence of all religions. In Los Angeles in 1925, Paramahansa Yoganandaji founded the international headquarters of 'Self-Realization Fellowship'', the society he had formed in India as 'Yogoda Satsanga Society of India.'' Kriya Yoga means 'union' (yoga) with the Infinite through a certain action (Kriya). In order to preserve its sanctity, the actual Kriya Yoga technique cannot be made public through articles and books. One has to get formally initiated to learn this scientific technique. Briefly speaking, 'Kriya Yoga is a simple psycho-physiological method by which human blood is decarbonized and charged with oxygen. The atoms of extra oxygen are transmuted into life current to rejuvenate brain and spinal centres. By stopping the accumulation of venous blood the yogi is able to lessen or prevent the decay of tissues. Kriya Yoga has nothing in common with the unscientific breathing exercises. Attempts to hold breath forcibly in lungs are unnatural and definitely unpleasant. Kriya Yoga converts the breath into mindstuff and with spiritual advancement one is able to cognize the breath as a mental concept, an act of mind which helps him to progress to higher spiritual state. In sum, the whole essence of Kriya Yoga (scientific technique of meditation) is the realization of oneness of man and his Creator. The masters of India have always said 'First know Him, then whatever you desire to know, He will reveal to you. Now, if almost all the religions of the world preach the necessity of finding God, of brotherhood among men, and all have a moral code, then what creates the difference among them? It is the bigotry in men's minds. So, the moment we practically perceive the truths underlying various religions, there will be no more difficulties over dogma. What is Religion ? An American author O P Deldoc has beautifully defined religion in an article, published in 1894. He says "There is but one religion, one philosophy, one God over all. Religion is love, not love of self but love of God and all his creatures. Religious people preach for it, fight for it, die for it, do everything but live for it...'' Yoga is not the sole property of a particular faith, rather it is a universal science that belongs and unites all of us. Far from introducing a divisive dogma to the world, the practice of yoga establishes an inner attunement with God that constitutes the basis of all religions. Paramahansa Yoganandaji, therefore, suggested and advised that we should begin to build world unity by having a common worship centre of all religions; not electicism but respect for all religions as constituting various paths of God. Such worship centres should be dedicated to One God that all religions worship, and should be constructed everywhere in the world. This should destroy for ever the narrow divisions in the houses of God; and men will come to known that they all are children of one God. Let us behave on earth not with conflicting customs and beliefs but as children of one Father. Man can have no life or power to act, think, or feel without borrowing that power from God. Knowing God is not only a privilege and a divine duty, but a practical necessity. Therefore let us all resolve, without wasting any time, to seek Him, to know Him and to Love Him from the core of our heart. (The author is a former public servant)