Monday, January 30, 2012

Sri Aurobindo and Paramhansa Yogananda

Paramhansa Yogananda’s KriyaYoga seems to be rooted in Pranayama (specific breathing patterns).
Yogananda does mention Sri Aurobindo twice in his Autobiography. 
I.             Father was a strict disciplinarian to his children in their early years, but his attitude toward himself was truly Spartan. He never visited the theater, for instance, but sought his recreation in various spiritual practices and in reading the Bhagavad Gita.6

 6 This noble Sanskrit poem, which occurs as part of the Mahabharata epic, is the Hindu Bible. The most poetical English translation is Edwin Arnold's The Song Celestial (Philadelphia: David McKay, 75ø). One of the best translations with detailed commentary is Sri Aurobindo's Message of the Gita (Jupiter Press, 16 Semudoss St., Madras, India, $3.50).   :
II.           I looked in admiration at this highborn Englishwoman whose true Christian humility enables her to do the scavengering work usually performed only by "untouchables."
"I came to India in 1925," she told me. "In this land I feel that I have 'come back home.' Now I would never be willing to return to my old life and old interests."
We discussed America for awhile. "I am always pleased and amazed," she said, "to see the deep interest in spiritual subjects exhibited by the many Americans who visit India."4

4 Miss Slade reminded me of another distinguished Western woman, Miss Margaret Woodrow Wilson, eldest daughter of America's great president. I met her in New York; she was intensely interested in India. Later she went to Pondicherry, where she spent the last five years of her life, happily pursuing a path of discipline at the feet of Sri Aurobindo Ghosh. This sage never speaks; he silently greets his disciples on three annual occasions only.
Sri Aurobindo mentions Yogananda in three letters: 

1.   I have received the copy of the "East-West" magazine and the gift-book. It is not at all surprising that Swami Yogananda should have been so successful in America. His propaganda is admirably suited to the practical mentality of a western and especially of an American public and his statement of ideas on subjects like Karma to its present capacity of understanding in these matters. I cannot gather from the magazine what is the nature of the practice or discipline which he calls Yogoda. The name "Satsanga" is that of a religious sect with a special kind of Bhakti Yoga which is now achieving considerable success in Bengal, but the practice here if one can judge from the style and manner of its announcement seems to be very different. I do not think it would have much success in India where there is a long tradition and in spite of much imperfection and error the standards of spiritual life are of a subtler kind. The difficulties we experience here are due rather to a wide-spread inability to go freely beyond ancient ideas and forms. Plenty of money can be had in India for orthodox religious purposes and also, although not on the American scale, for Asramas or other spiritual institutions which take the ascetic form or repeat established and well-understood formulas. But the general mind has not yet advanced far enough from the old moorings to form even an inadequate conception of what I am doing here and it is easily disconcerted by the departure from old forms, a willed absence of the customary paraphernalia and the breaking of traditional barriers and limits.
           - Sri Aurobindo
(CWSA > Autobiographical Notes > To People In America, 1926 – 1927  pp.387-388)
2.    I understand from  what you have written that in America any profit from the sale of literature like the "Arya" publications is not at all probable unless and until a larger demand has been created than is likely for some time to come. A percentage on the sales would bring in only small sums while it might hamper the development of the work. Now small returns would be of very little use to me except for financing petty incidents and details of my work which can be otherwise met. The method and scope I have fixed for the future work to be done is of the large-scale kind and would need even from the beginning sums more like those raised by Swami Yogananda as described by you in your letter. I would prefer therefore that you should concentrate at present on the development of the publications and on getting them known as soon as possible and use the proceeds of the sale of the books for that purpose. If at any time a great demand arose and resulted in considerable profits, the question of a percentage of the sales to be remitted to me or any other arrangement in the matter could then be brought up again for consideration.
- Sri Aurobindo
(CWSA > Autobiographical Notes > To People In America, 1926 – 1927 – pp. 385)
3.   First, let me say, that the absorption of ideas and the remoulding of the mental aims and attitude is one thing and the  remoulding of the inner life and consciousness and eventually also of the outer life, which is the aim of Yoga, is quite another. The first can be done to some extent by the method of dissemination you indicate. But as you rightly see, instructions in Yoga cannot be fruitfully given on the same lines. That can only be given successfully to a few, to each separately as an intimately personal thing which he must assimilate and make living and true in himself according to his own capacity and nature. That is why I am led to believe that the work of Swami Yogananda is not only elementary but can hardly be the true thing — Yoga cannot be taught in schools and classes. It has to be received personally, it has to be lived, the seeker, sadhaka, has to change by a difficult aspiration and endeavour his whole consciousness and nature, his mind, heart, life, every principle of his being and all their movements into a greater Truth than anything the normal life of man can imagine. Those who can do this are not yet many, but some are to be found everywhere, and I see no reason why those in America should be condemned to only an elementary "instruction". The true Truth, the great Path has to be opened to them; how far they will go in it depends on their own personal capacity and the help they receive.
(CWSA > Autobiographical Notes > To People In America, 1926 – 1927  pp. 388)

Book Extract:
“After his travels in the province of Mysore, Swamiji went to other parts of India before returning to Calcutta. Among these destinations was the ashram of Sri Ramana Maharshi  in Tiruvannamalai. This holy place, a pilgrimage site for the spiritually thirsty, had quite an influence on Swamiji. He was particularly affected by Yogi Ramiah, an adept sadhak-disciple of the Maharshi. When the two of them met , at one appropriate moment they both looked into each other’s eyes and became still for quite a while. Swamiji later said, “During that silent exchange as we looked into each other’s eyes, I was almost touching the ‘Eternal-Boundless’.” Richard Wright, acutely perceptive and quick, captured this scene in his camera. After coming back to Calcutta, Swamiji quickly told this writer, “It seems like that disciple is even more advanced than his guru!” There was one particular thing of note regarding his travels in South India. Swamiji did not go to Pondicherry and did not express any particular interest in wanting to see Sri Aurobindo  [ sage in Pondicherry].”

(Paramhansa Swami Yogananda: Life-portrait And Reminiscences
By Sri Sailendra Bejoy Dasqupta, p. 90)

(Courtesy: Shri Sandeep Joshi. He provided me insightful inputs.)

Science of miracles 

Paramahamsa Yogananda demystified miracles
Paramahamsa Yogananda, the founder of Yogoda Satsanga Society, says in the 30th chapter of his book, Autobiography of a Yogi titled Law of Miracles that the Vedic scriptures declare that the physical world operates under the fundamental law of maya. “...which is the principle of relativity and duality. God, the sole life, is absolute unity. He cannot appear as separate and diverse manifestations of a creation except under a false and unreal veil. That cosmic illusion is maya.”

Yogananda explains the manifestation of miracles thus:

“A yogi who through perfect meditation has merged his consciousness with the Creator perceives the cosmical essence as light. To him there is no difference between the light rays composing water and the light rays composing land. Innocent of all personal motives and employing the creative will bestowed on him by the creator, a yogi rearranges the light atoms of the universe to satisfy any sincere prayer of a devotee. For this purpose were man and creation made: that he should rise up as master of maya, knowing his dominion over the cosmos.”

He adds, “Great saints who have awakened from the cosmic maya dream and realised this world as an idea in the divine mind know it to be a manipulatable form of condensed or frozen energy. Thus Christ was able to restore the ear of the servant after it had been severed by one of the disciples. Yet a man of realisation does not perform any miracle until he receives an inward sanction. God does not wish the secret of His creation revealed promiscuously.

“All molecules are held together by God’s will. When he withdraws the will the earth will again disintegrate into energy, and energy will dissolve into consciousness.” 

Paramahansa Yogananda - Interview of a Yogi

by Ritu Khanna
An unusual 'interview' with the great master — Paramahansa Yogananda

Paramahansa     YoganandaAmerican journalist Horace Greeley, editor of the New-York Tribune, interviewed Brigham Young, the leader of the Mormon Church, in Salt Lake City in 1859. History shows that Young was not entirely honest in this encounter—he downsized the number of his wives and the extent of his wealth. Yet there is no doubt that this was the first full-fledged interview with a celebrity.

And, with it, the New Journalism of the 19th century was born. Over the years, the format developed:the Q&A style lent itself to many combinations and permutations, acquiring the status of an art form in the hands of an adept interviewer. Writing from memory or hastily scribbled notes, or with the aid of a recorder, the interviewer gave the reader an insight into the thoughts, character and lifestyle of the interviewed.

This form has been used and abused, but the interview as we know it today has certainly evolved since, say, the days of Greeley and Young or, even earlier, when Socrates used it on the streets of Athens.

My task here, however, was somewhat different. For conducting a face-to-face with someone who has left his body is a feat never attempted before. But then, Paramahansa Yogananda is no ordinary teacher; indeed it would not be hyperbolic to say that he was one of the most significant spiritual gurus of this century.

Secure in the belief that gurus never die, I prepared my questionnaire, covering Yogananda's early years and influences, his beliefs and values, teachings and thoughts. Theft I went seeking answers in his books.

The most well-known of the written offerings of this master who went to the West to teach the practice of yoga and its benefits, seen and intangible, is, of course,Autobiography of a Yogi, a book that has been perceived as a spiritual classic. The golden years of the guru live on in the pages of this book which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

No one who has read Autobiography has remained unmoved by this simple, heartfelt testimony of a yogi, with its coverage of miracles and godmen, of Indian wisdom and practices. Translated into 19 languages, it was the number one bestseller in the non-fiction category in Italy in 1990.

In 1948, American Donald WaIters (now known as Swami Kriyananda) read the book, became a disciple of Yogananda, and went on to write The Path: Autobiography of a Western Yogi in 1977: "The author's photograph on the cover affected me strangely. Never had I met anyone whose face radiated so much goodness, humility, and love… Autobiography of a Yogi is the greatest book I have ever read. One perusal of it was enough to change my entire life...Never before had I encountered a spirit so clearly truthful, so filled with goodness and joy.

Every page seemed radiant with light...For, more than anything else, what this book gave me was the conviction that in Yogananda I had found my guru, my spiritual teacher for all time to come.Yogananda's lessons, laws, poems, affirmations and sayings have been immortalized on paper. And the more I read them, the more alive he became. Here was some one very human, generous in spirit, sincere, endearing and endowed with the ability to laugh at himself. He could give meaning to miracles, yet not hesitate to tell the reader that his nickname in college was Mad Monk."

Yogananda seemed equally at ease writing about spirituality and success; about strawberries and cream and the tenets of kriya yoga ; or of finding the cosmic link between getting rid of mosquitoes and sitting in samadhi, all in one breath, literally.

This 'interview' slowly appeared more real than if it had actually taken place in time and space. But in a sense it has occurred, for Yogananda's words have given it flesh and blood.

Paramahansa      YoganandaLooking back in time, possibly on many a lifetime, from where, in your opinion, did it all begin?

I find my earliest memories covering the anachronistic features of a previous incarnation. Clear recollections come to me of a distant 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...

I was born on January 5, 1893, in Gorakhpur in northeastern India near the Himalaya Mountains. There my first eight years were passed. We were eight children: four boys and four girls. I, Mukunda Lal Ghosh, was the second son and the fourth child. My name was changed to Yogananda in 1915 when I entered the ancient monastic Swami Order.

In 1935, my guru [Sri Yukteswar Giri] bestowed on me the further religious title of Paramahansa. [Sri Yukteswar Giri, 1855-1936, was a disciple of Sri Lahiri Mahasaya, 1828-1895, whose guru is the ageless Babaji who lives in the Himalayas. Babaji is known as the greatest of all avatars, amahavatar; Sri Lahiri Mahasaya was a yogavatar; or incarnation of yoga; and Sri Yukteswar, ajnanavatar or incarnation of wisdom. [Yogananda is known as a premavatar, or incarnation of love.]

Though you graduated from the Calcutta University, it is said that you were a reluctant student and were always more keen to apply yourself to the acquisition of knowledge with an undertone of divinity. You met with seers and swamis, revealing an interest in mastery over the self: What convinced you, then, to complete your studies.

[It was Guruji's prophetic words:] "Someday you will go to the West. Its people will be more receptive to India's ancient wisdom if the strange Hindu teacher has a university degree."

Sri Yukteswar had foretold that in your mind, you had created three institutions adding that your architectural dreams would materialize later; but now where's the time for study.

...incidentally, in his simple way, my guru revealed his knowledge of the coming of three important events in my life. Since early youth I had enigmatic glimpses of three buildings, each in a different setting. In the exact sequence Sri Yukteswar had indicated, these visions took ultimate form. First came my founding of a boys' yoga school on a plain in Ranchi, then an American headquarters on a Los Angeles hilltop, and then a hermitage in Encinitas, California, overlooking the vast Pacific.

Sri Yukteswar is also said to have given you kriya yoga initiation.

The technique I had already received from two disciples of Lahiri Mahasaya—Father and my tutor, Swami Kebalananda. But Master possessed a transforming power; at his touch a great light broke upon my being, like the glory of countless suns blazing together. A flood of ineffable bliss overwhelmed my heart to an innermost core.

What is the science of kriya yoga?

The Sanskrit root of kriya is kri, to do, to act and react: the same root is found in the word karma, the natural principle of cause and effect. Kriya yoga is thus union (yoga) with the Infinite through a certain action or rite (kriya). A yogi who faithfully practices the techniques gradually freed from karmaor the lawful chain of cause-effect equilibrium.

Kriya yoga is a simple, psychophysiological method by which human blood is decarbonized and recharged with oxygen. The atoms of this extra oxygen are transmuted into life current to rejuvenate the brain and spinal centers. By stopping the accumulation of venous blood, the yogi is able to lessen or prevent the decay of tissues. The advanced yogi transmutes his cells into energy.

The kriya yogi mentally directs his life energy to revolve, upwards and downwards, around the six spinal centers (medulary, cervical, dorsal, lumbar, sacral and coccygeal plexuses), which correspond to the 12 astral signs of the zodiac, the symbolic Cosmic Man.

Elijah, Jesus, Kabir, and other prophets were past masters in the use of kriya or a similar technique, by which they caused their bodies to materialize and dematerialize at will.

Kriya is an ancient science. Lahiri Mahasaya received it from his great guru, Babaji, who rediscovered and clarified the technique after it had been lost in the Dark Ages. Babaji renamed it, simply, kriya yoga. Because of certain ancient yogic injunctions, I may not give a full explanation of kriyayoga...The actual technique should be learned from an authorized kriyaban (kriya yogi) of Yogoda Satsanga Society Self-Realization Fellowship.

You constantly write about miracles…but do they really happen?

A 'miracle' is commonly considered to be an effect or event without law, or beyond law. But all events in our precisely adjusted universe are lawfully wrought and lawfully explicable. The so-called miraculous powers of a great master are a natural accompaniment to his exact understanding of subtle laws that operate in the inner cosmos of consciousness.

The law of miracles is operable by any, man who has realized that the essence of creation is light.

Nothing may be truly said to be a 'miracle' except in the profound sense that everything is a miracle. That each of us is encased in an intricately organized body, and is set upon on earth whirling through space among the stars—is anything more commonplace? Or more miraculous?

But then why do saints perform miracles?

Great prophets like Christ and Lahiri Mahasaya usually perform many miracles. Such masters have a large and difficult spiritual mission to execute for mankind; miraculously helping those in distress appears to be a part of that mission. Divine feats are required against incurable diseases and insoluble human problems.

When Christ was asked by the nobleman to heal his dying son at Capernaum, Jesus replied with wry humor: "Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe." But he added: "Go thy way; thy son liveth."

What is the way to God?

The easiest and best way to god is not to be limited only to jnana (knowledge) yogabhakti (devotion)yoga or karma (work) yoga, but to combine them. Work for god, love god alone, and be wise with god. When an ordinary man puts the necessary rime and enthusiasm into meditation and prayer, he becomes a divine man. My Master used to say: "The little cat that goes into the jungle becomes a wild cat. " The little man with small thoughts who goes into the jungle of books becomes absorbed in intellectualizing about god; he doesn't find the nectar of god-realization. But the little man who meditates, who constantly thinks of the joy of god, who constantly prays to him, becomes one with the Infinite.

Start tonight to meditate earnestly. Do not wander aimlessly. Go straight to god.

Who made god?

Many ask that question. Because they live in the realm of causation, they imagine that nothing can exist without a cause. God, however, the Supreme Cause, is beyond causation. It is not necessary that he, in turn, have a creator; how could the absolute depend for Its existence on another absolute?

What is the best religion?


Self-realization is, in fact, the only religion. For it is the true purpose of religion, no matter how people define their beliefs. A person may be Christian or Jewish, Buddhist or Hindu, Moslem or Zoroastrian; he may proclaim that Jesus Christ is the only way, or Buddha, or Mohammed—as indeed, millions of believers do. He may insist that this ritual, or that place of worship, bestows salvation. But it all comes down to what he is, in himself.

Self-realization means realizing your true Self as the great ocean of Spirit, by breaking the delusion that you are this little ego, this little human body and personality.

What would you say was your mission in life?

To awaken people to their need for self-realization, through meditation, and through keeping good company, or fellowship, with other truth-seeking souls. Hence the name of this organization; Self- Realization Fellowship. SRF was sent to bring back to the world the original teachings and science of yoga as taught by Lord Krishna, and the original Christianity of Jesus Christ.

You have written that… while meditating… you had a vision: a vast multitude of Americans appeared before you. And the next day… you received an invite.

"He must be Babaji!" I thought, dazed, because the man before me had the features of a younger Lahiri Mahasaya. He answered my thought: "Yes, I am Babaji." He spoke melodiously in Hindi. "Our heavenly father has heard your prayer. He commands me to tell you: Follow the behests of your guruand go to America. Fear not; you shall be protected."

After a vibrant pause, Babaji addressed me again: "You are the one I have chosen to spread the message of kriya yoga in the West. Long ago I met your guru Yukteswar at a Kumbha Mela: I told him then I would send you to him for training,"

"Kriya yoga, the scientific technique of God-realization," he finally said with solemnity, "will ultimately spread in all lands, and aid in harmonizing the nations through man's personal, transcendental perception of the Infinite Father. "
You then made your home in what you referred to as "the vast alien hospitable land of America".

The founding in the West of a Self-Realization Fellowship organization, a "hive for the spiritual honey", was a duty enjoined to me by my guru Sri Yukteswar and my param-paramguru Babaji. The fulfillment of the sacred trust has not been devoid of difficulties.

A leader of the temple in San Diego once asked you whether your stay in the USA has been worth it...

"Blessed is the man whom the Lord doth test!" I answered. "He has remembered, now and then, to put a burden on me." I thought, then, of all the faithful ones, of the love and devotion and understanding that illumines the heart of America. With slow emphasis I went on: "But my answer is yes, a thousand times yes! It has been worthwhile, more than ever I dreamed, to see East and West brought closer in the only lasting bond, the spiritual."

On March 7, 1952, Yogananda entered mahasamadhi (a yogi's final conscious exit from the body) in Los Angeles after delivering a speech at a banquet held in honor of the Indian ambassador. An extract from a letter to SRF from the mortuary director:

"The physical appearance of Yogananda on March 27th, just before the bronze cover of the casket was put into position, was the same as it had been on March 7th. He looked on March 27th as fresh and as unravaged by decay as he had looked on the night of his death. On March 27th there was no reason to say that his body had suffered any visible physical disintegration at all. For these reasons we state again that the case of Paramahansa Yogananda is unique in our experience."

A few months earlier, a disciple had asked him: "Sir, when we can no longer see you physically, will you still be as near to us as you are now?" After much deliberation, he had replied with deep seriousness: "To those who think me near, I will be near."

And Paramahansa Yogananda remains near us, for his words resound in the hearts of his disciples, in SRF centers the world over, in his teachings, in his writings, in this interview.



PYisLove said...

It seems that Sri Aurobindo did not have the vision and attainment that we have witnessed in the life of Paramahansa Yogananda.
It is true that Yogananda did not teach elementary elements of yoga,
He brought us the greatest wisdom, example and teachings the world has seen in a long time.
the great Global dispensation left by Yogananda required a greater view of existence normally circumscribed in those little ancient ashrams. As noble as some
of them are they simply are not meeting the worlds needs today.
Yogananda's shining legacy is in effect actually changing the direction of western civilization and bringing back the Glory of India and her gifts to the world.

pianomonika said...

Both,Sri Aurobindo and Paramahansa Yogananda were great master.

Anonymous said...

My most beloved masters: Sri Aurobindo and Sri Paramahansa Yogananda.

Thank you for sharing this article.

vishnupada said...

To understand Sri Aurobindo's ATIMANAS Paramhansa Yogananda's Kriya yoga helped a common man a lot.
Thank you for quoting paramhansa Yoganand.

pianomonika said...

Maybe it is this difference between Sri Aurobindo and Paramahansa Yogananda ,that Yogananda introduced more westerners to the teaching of meditation and this in America.
With his book about Kriya Yoga he spoke to many.
Sri Aurobindo had the view, that Yoga cannot be taught in school and classes,it has to be receive personally.
Both were great Master.

tralam said...

I love Aurobindo, his Savitri, and many of his writings contain luminous thoughts. Yogananda himself referred to Aurobindo in a footnote of his autobiography as an "illumined master". It is true that Yogananda did not express interest to visit Aurobindo after visiting Ramana Maharishi.

It appears to me that Aurobindo often comments about things and people from what appears to be an intellectual space, not one of direct perception. Often in his letters to people he would gather some traits about certain public figures or other saints and give some impressions he had about them, as though it was speculative. Also, he would take the time to write "I don't know about him or her" and then still give his impressions from what the letter-writer told him or from something he heard. Yogananda, it is well documented, saw straight into the being of the people he met and was able to distinguish great souls instantly (as in the case of Yogi Ramiah). Yogi Ramiah, likewise, recognized Yogananda for what he was and was enthralled by him and remembered him dearly afterwards (even requested a photo of him).

What I also find odd is that Aurobindo wrote so incredibly much, and on top of that had daily routines of answering letters for (what appears to be) the majority of the day. But those books and letters often contain sort of intellectual explanations and probabilities and defenses, etc., to the point it makes you wonder where the substance is and why he would endlessly reply to letters that way. Was it to be the main help in sadhana he could give, to answer letters for so much time of his life? Like I said, I love Aurobindo, but such material does confuse me. I like to think of him as I always have; that is, a deeply exploring yogi who no doubt was a rishi or other sage from Vedic times (or something similar) who this time had dedicated himself to seed the Earth/matter with the light from within. What I really appreciate from Aurobindo is the luminous translations of some of the Vedic verses, as well as Savitri itself.

Yogananda is often maligned for his "storm the beachhead" approach (much like Vivekananda's) and doing things in group format. But I think many underestimate the spirit that he is and how transparent a representative of an ancient lineage he is. Many within the Kriya tradition have the same criticism of Yogananda's group-oriented approach as Aurobindo had. Within the Kriya tradition, one-on-one transmission is also the method employed. But I think people misunderstand the role Yogananda has to assume, in not only giving certain teachings to the few, but also providing an approachable path to the many. This is why he quotes in his autobiography about what the Babaji said in reference to a Gita verse: "Even a little practice of this dharma will save you from great fear." The purpose of a great world-teacher is always two-fold, this way. You can easily demand of all people to rise to a certain standard first, or you can meet them anywhere they are. This is what Yogananda did.

I think all great teachers and sages have a place here among us, even if their lives and missions did not always completely sync up down here.

Anonymous said...

In reply to "tralam"

That is the difference between Sri Aurobindo's yoga and the yoga of others. In Sri Aurobindo's integral yoga , if we were to conclude, it is "All Life is Yoga" - means everything we do can be done in the most disinterested, yet supremely perfect way. That can be answering to letters, talking endlessly or playing tennis. It is extremely difficult for the yoga of eg Ramana Maharshi to do such things. There the main stress is on silence and meditation. In Integral yoga (of Sri Aurobindo), the stress is not on the selfish motive of self realisation (although that is mandatory) but to ceaselessly continue that same amount of dwelling in the self while doing the most strenuous activity. Like, I am writing an answer to you, if I am practicing Integral Yoga, it should be such that my hands should be guided and even moved by the Divine, and even the spelling mistakes I am correcting right now in my answer should be initiated and guided by the highest consciousness.

As per Sri Aurobindo, any work (of course not immoral or sexual or lower consciousness work) can be turned into sadhana. The final aim is to bring down the truth consciousness in matter, into the most mundane works of life. Integral yoga is totally different my friend. It is not like sit, meditate and care not for everything else in the world. For, everything, is, Yoga.