Paramhansa Yogananda: A Biography and the International Book Award

Click here to view the video trailer.

Last week, we received wonderful news: Swami Kriyananda’s book, Paramhansa Yogananda: A Biography, won the International Book Award for Best New Spirituality Book.

Since we are in the middle of promoting this book for three major events directly ahead — the Yuga Cycles Conference at The Expanding Light Retreat, at which Swami Kriyananda spoke about aspects of the book on May 26 ; Book Expo America, which is June 5-7 in New York; and Kriyananda’s book appearance at the Ford Theater in L.A. on June 24 — my first response was, “Perfect timing!” Let’s face it: you can’t pay the New York Times Book Review for ads and receive more serendipitous timing.

Then I sat back and thought about what this book has meant in my life: as an author; an educator at Ananda College who utilizes the Education for Life method (which Kriyananda initiated); as someone who first welcomed Yogananda’s teachings (that merge essential Christianity and essential Vedic truths) into his life more than 30 years ago; and as one who counts among his dearest friends many deep and wise souls who live and work at Ananda Village in Northern California (which Kriyananda founded). Never mind my admiration for Kriyananda’s prolific nature; Paramhansa Yogananda: A Biography is his 141st book. All of these books extend the yoga master’s teachings into the 21st century, and into every corner of our lives, societies, and communities. So for starters, the International Book Award serves as sort of a Lifetime Achievement Award for an incredible 86-year-old man who has given his entire adult life in service to God – and touched countless thousands of souls in the process (or millions, if you count the 4 million books he has sold).

When I contemplated how Yogananda’s teachings, Kriyananda’s books, and the many ways in which I have worked with Ananda over the past 23 years (including two stints at Crystal Clarity Publishers, 20 years apart), have helped define my life, I asked myself a question: Where would I be without them? There are all sorts of possible answers, but few – if any – will add up to anything close to the mixture of God, joy, creativity, nature, happiness and serviceful spirit that is part and parcel of my daily life.

Then there is the book itself. Many of you have probably read or heard about Autobiography of a Yogi, the book Yogananda wrote in 1947 that remains the best-selling spiritual autobiography of all time. It has changed countless lives; Kriyananda read it in 1948, dropped his life as he knew it, and took a bus to L.A., where, after one interview, Yogananda received him at his headquarters in L.A. In one sense, Paramhansa Yogananda: A Biography tells the rest of the story, one that, for whatever reason, only Kriyananda has been willing to share. For starters, there are more than 60 stories that have not appeared in Autobiography of a Yogi, Yogananda’s other works that he wrote in his lifetime, or in compilations that have appeared since. Secondarily, Kriyananda offers a bird’s eye view of Yogananda’s approaches to many different spiritual and everyday life situations, creating a glowing narrative of this God-realized man’s enormous compassion and strength that Yogananda was too humble to write himself. That’s what good biographers do.

But then Kriyananda reached out and touched everyone: he shared what Yogananda did the past few years of his life. Yogananda ended his public speaking engagements, each of which drew up to 7,000 people during the 1920s and 1930s, and wrote books and instructed his closest disciples to carry his mission forward. As one of his editors, and the leader of the monks, young Kriyananda belonged to that inner circle — and was tasked to get the word out. Yogananda had a mission and a vision for bringing souls and society into a future age where energy would accelerate, communication would become faster and more global, and spiritual magnetism would grow to become the law of the land. In the Vedic cycles of time, this is known as Dwapara Yuga. Yogananda envisioned and spoke of communities of like-minded souls (like Ananda), education that emphasized the inner as well as outer development of the student (like Education for Life), and lives lived simply, with complete devotion to God.

Here we are. Here, in my opinion, is why this book bears such significance that it claimed the International Book Award. It is also why I, as a multiple book author dedicated to focusing on the highest ideals and potentials of my Ananda College students, clients, friends and others, feel so honored to be working on the promotional team for Paramhansa Yogananda: A Biography.

Finally, to Swami Kriyananda: Congratulations on a wonderful achievement. You have written 141 books in your life and helped provide deeper purpose and meaning to the lives of countless people … and now, the book world salutes you. To put it in one of your favorite languages, “Bravissimo!”

Yogananda’s Teachings for Today: An 11-Book Extravaganza

During the past 12 months, Crystal Clarity Publishers has embarked on a tremendous publishing mission to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the mahasamadhi, or conscious passing, of beloved Indian yoga master Paramhansa Yogananda: To present the most complete, 360-degree collection of works available pertaining to Yogananda, his work and the larger vision of his mission for these times. Building on a few already popular books published by Crystal Clarity, the idea was to expanding the offerings into a collection that provided all-encompassing value for readers and aspirants to a more purposeful and spiritual life.

Now, the greater work has come together in an outstanding collection of 11 books – many of them new in 2012 – that provide everything from deep spiritual truths to vital information for leading a spiritual life in an increasingly busy world. Written by Autobiography of a Yogi author Paramhansa Yogananda and his direct disciple of more than 60 years, Swami Kriyananda, these books merge India’s rich spiritual heritage with modern times through a combination of practical and profound discussions.

The 11 titles in the series include:
Autobiography of a Yogi, by Paramhansa Yogananda. The reprint of the original 1947 classic, the top-selling spiritual autobiography of all-time.
Paramhansa Yogananda: A Biography, by Swami Kriyananda.
The Essence of the Bhagavad Gita, by Paramhansa Yogananda, as explained to Swami Kriyananda.
The Essence of Self-Realization, conversations with Yogananda recalled by Swami Kriyananda.
The New Path, the acclaimed memoir by Swami Kriyananda, in which he shares his 60-plus year walk to fulfill the larger vision and mission of his guru, Yogananda.
• The Wisdom of Yogananda Series, a six-book collection featuring writings, sayings and lessons presented directly by Yogananda. Individual titles include: How to Be Happy All the Time, Karma and Reincarnation,Spiritual Relationships, How to Be a Success, How to Have Courage, Calmness and Confidence and How to Achieve Glowing Health and Vitality.

“Swami Kriyananda has spent the past 50 years writing the wisdom of Yogananda from the time and discussions he had with the yoga master,” Crystal Clarity Publisher Skip Barrett says. “These 11 books cover an incredible amount of ground, and also show Yogananda’s tremendous impact on the lives of millions, and of modern society, in a way that he could not show in Autobiography of a Yogi — because, in many ways, his work was just beginning when he wrote that book.”

These works bear witness to the flourishing of Paramhansa Yogananda’s mission to uplift humanity through a blending of eastern and western virtue. Kriyananda’s effort to make his Guru’s work accessible and more widely known have produced a definitive body of literature clearly expressing Yogananda’s insight, personal presence and wishes for humanity.

Paramhansa Yogananda’s most famous work, Autobiography of a Yogi, helped launched a spiritual revolution in the west. Crystal Clarity offers the original, unedited text, still resonant with the master yogi’s personal vibration—right down to his signature. Perhaps no other book has uplifted and expanded the consciousness of so many; it remains the best selling spiritual autobiography of all time.

One of Yogananda’s lifelong undertakings, The Essence of The Bhagavad Gita, is a modern day revelation of India’s best-loved scripture. Translated with fresh perspective and a down-to-earth practicality, this spiritual classic expresses universal themes, such as how to triumph over all pain and suffering and how to attain union with the divine. This rare book possesses the power to change people’s lives and transform future generations.

An immense compliment to Yogananda’s autobiography is Swami Kriyananda’s newest book, Paramhansa Yogananda: A Biography with Personal Reflections and Reminiscences. Kriyananda takes a candid look at the arch of Yogananda’s profound and eventful life. The yoga master’s true spiritual stature and greatness radiates through inspirational stories and entertaining narratives.

In what has been called the “sequel” to the Autobiography, Kriyananda’s own autobiography, The New Path, further exemplifies the vibrancy of his guru’s presence. This extraordinary narrative also tells the inspirational story of an American’s spiritual quest to discover the inner path that leads to soul-freedom and lasting happiness.

The Essence of Self-Realization, meanwhile, is a rich presentation of direct lessons and sayings from Yogananda to Kriyananda explaining life’s true purpose, and the way to achieve that purpose. This comprehensive work brings to life Yogananda’s rich spiritual wisdom and covers a vast scope of life’s obstacles and opportunities. It remains as rich, resonant and relevant as the day it was released in 1990.

Many of the books in the series, most especially Paramhansa Yogananda: A Biography, will be featured June 5-7 at the Book Expo America convention in New York, the nation’s largest and most prestigious booksellers exhibition. In addition, Swami Kriyananda will make a public appearance at the Ford Theater in Los Angeles June 24 to discuss the book, as well as his nearly 64 years of direct service to Yogananda’s mission and vision.

Fearlessness

“Smile because you are fearless; smile because fear is ashamed to cause you apprehension and failure” –Paramhansa Yogananda

I’ve just about finished reading Paramhansa Yogananda: A Biography, and one story stood out to me in particular. Yogananda was giving a talk in New York and he accused some very wealthy people of taking advantage of the poor. As he was walking home, someone came up behind him and put a gun to his back. The stranger said, “Why did you say such things against those people?” The Master explained that everyone is a child of God and God does not want one of His children to take advantage of the others. Yogananda gazed at him with spiritual power and the man fell to the ground and cried, “What are you doing to me? I can’t go back to my old ways!” He then ran away, terrified.

My first thought on reading this story was “Wow! I wish I could that!” Can you imagine being able to scare away dangerous criminals with just a look, not to mention teaching them a lesson at the same time? What a useful tool this would be! In my opinion, the reason Yogananda was able to stand up to the man was because he was completely fearless. He was so immersed in Bliss and the knowledge that he was immortal that nothing could shake him. That was what the other man saw in his eyes that so disarmed him. He thought he was in control because he had a gun, but Yogananda knew no gun could ever harm his soul.

When I was growing up, I took martial arts classes down the street from my house. After years of classes, I was finally able to test for my black belt. I was terrified I would forget everything and just freeze. I practiced daily, but my exhaustion came more from anxiety than from the exercises.

Finally, the big day came. I was panicked. However, as I sat there watching the others test, the fear slowly fell away. I thought, “I do this every day, why is today any different?” The only difference was that people were watching, which shouldn’t really make any difference. The only real obstacle keeping me from my black belt was fear, which was only in my mind. When the moment came, I performed just as I had in my living room, and I gratefully accepted my black belt.

When you can stand up to your fear knowing that you are an immortal child of God, then nothing can defeat you. Of course, Yogananda has great spiritual power and we may not all be able to take someone down with a look, but the principle is the same. There are many obstacles to overcome on the yogic path, or any path for that matter, but if we stand up to those obstacles without fear then we can find the strength to overcome them. The story about Yogananda confronting the accoster in Paramhansa Yogananda: A Biography makes that abundantly clear.

The Yogi Behind the Autobiography

I’m currently reading Paramhansa Yogananda: A Biography, a new book about Yogananda written by Swami Kriyananda, a direct disciple of Yogananda. As I sit on my bed and read of all these touching, dramatic, and humorous stories of Yogananda’s early years and interactions with so many different personalities, I reflect on my own relationship with him as my guru– as many of us do who were born long after he left his body. He’s never physically sat in front of me, looked into my eyes and said, “Will you always love me as I love you?” as he did to Dr. Lewis, his first disciple in America. Does this mean that our relationship is only one sided, that however much love I feel for him, he no longer exists and cannot return my love except in my own imagination?

Not at all! His love is very real and I feel it every day. Just because our interactions all take place inside of me, it does not make them imaginary, as I’m sure anyone who has lost a loved one can attest. The physical presence of my guru may be gone, but the real Guru, even when he had a body, could only be truly experienced in the heart. The word “guru” literally means “dispeller of darkness”. Can a true dispeller of darkness be taken by darkness? Not likely! The true guru is that place inside ourselves that gives us direction and encouragement. He’s the one who’s with us no matter where we go or what we do. It does help though, to have a physical form to relate to, since we ourselves are in a physical form, but it is certainly not the only way he can communicate with us.

Bearing this in mind, I’d like to share the story of how I came to know that Yogananda was my guru. About a year and a half ago, I visited a place called The Expanding Light, which is in Ananda Village, a spiritual community founded by Swami Kriyananda. I had read Autobiography of a Yogi, Yogananda’s beloved book, but it perplexed me. The world that Yogananda described just didn’t seem to fit into my own vision of reality. When I went to Ananda, I learned more about him and his teachings, but still I never considered that I would ever dedicate my life to him.

Two weeks after I got back, my friend sent me a quotation by a famous swami in India that said something like, “Before you can find your guru, you must first serve your parents. It is most important to serve your mother, then your father, then your guru will appear and you can serve him.” Then the idea suddenly popped into my mind: “I know! I’ll make my parents some Pad Thai!” It may sound ridiculous now, but at the time it seemed perfectly logical to me that this was the best way to get my guru to reveal himself to me. I went right to the store, got everything I needed, and set to work. While I prepared the food I listened to Autobiography of a Yogi audiobook.

Suddenly I felt this great energy filling my heart. I ran over to a picture of Yogananda that I had on my altar and knelt in front of it. I stared at his picture as it all suddenly became clear to me that this was my guru. Soon after this, I took the vow of discipleship and it has only gotten better since then. This story goes on much longer, but my point is that a disciple’s relationship with the guru is not dependent on the guru’s physical form. The real relationship with him is in the heart.

This is what impresses me so much about this new book that Swami Kriyananda has written. Swami tells many wonderful stories, and with them, draws the reader into the drama of Yogananda’s life, while at the same time never letting the reader forget that Yogananda was never himself captivated by the drama. Swami makes it clear that Yogananda knew, at every moment, he was fully free and unaffected by any of his life’s circumstances. By contrast, in Yogananda’s own book Autobiography of a Yogi, Yogananda writes as if he were a humble seeker of God who has been fortunate enough to encounter so many great saints, while never mentioning that he is much greater than most of them. Swami tells the stories that Yogananda left out, the stories that really show him to be a true yoga Master.