Going Within, Right Now: The Mission of Paramhansa Yogananda’s Biography

Sometimes, we wait and wait for a book to come out, wondering if it ever will, even questioning what an author is thinking by not writing it. Seems that once again, divine timing and Yogananda’s guiding spirit led Swami Kriyananda to write and present Paramhansa Yogananda: A Biography at the best possible time — when its message was most needed by souls trying to find greater peace and spiritual growth in a trying world climate that is making both difficult.

This summer of 2012 certainly has fueled the arguments of end-of-the-world theorists and global warming experts. We’ve seen record heat, record drought, record crop failure, probable record fires, terrible wars in Afghanistan and Syria, political and social divisiveness in our country, a “recovery” from the recession that feels to some more like trudging through quicksand, and other trials and tribulations from all corners of the world. How can we attain, expand and spread love, peace and divine union in such an apparently deteriorating environment?

During the 1930s, Paramhansa Yogananda asked and answered a similar question in Los Angeles and Encinitas. At that time, the ominous clouds of war and tyranny increased out of Germany and Japan and this nation suffered from – you guessed it –extreme weather, economic depression and wholesale crop failures caused by the Dust Bowl that wiped out agriculture in the Great Plains.

Yet, what are all of these events but stark reminders that our greater joy and happiness must always come from within, from our connection to God and the greater reality of our divine heritage? Or that ultimately, the only environment that will bring us joy is the one within our hearts and souls? How do we find a place of harmony with all life, when our loved ones are being taken from us, our environment and homes are being flooded or burned away, or the noisiness of a contentious society taxes our minds and emotions and makes it harder to enjoy quiet serenity?

The current natural, political and social events give all the more reason why Swami Kriyananda’s next two public events, in Portland and the San Francisco Bay area, will be especially significant. He will be showcasing his acclaimed, award-winning book, Paramhansa Yogananda: A Biography, at both events. On August 30, he will appear at Portland’s Newmark Theater to talk about the crucial topic of Living in Harmony with Life. Two weeks later, on September 16, he will appear at Smithwick Theater on the campus of Foothill College in Los Altos Hills to present Paramhansa Yogananda: The Untold Story.

If you have not heard Swami speak, either at all or recently, these are two talks that bear attending. He will speak of his direct experience with Yogananda, and cite passages from Paramhansa Yogananda: A Biography that pertain to the topics at hand. He’s infused the book with more than 60 previously unpublished accounts, nearly all of which have direct life application. More than that, Swami Kriyananda will wrap the full extent of his nearly 65 years as a disciple of Yogananda around his collective audiences to show how the principles of harmony, detachment, abundant joy, purpose, prayer and meditation can be incorporated into their lives beginning the moment they leave the theater.

The talk in Los Altos Hills on September 16 will be a delight for anyone who wants to know more about the life of Paramhansa Yogananda. The Smithwick Theater audience will be filled with stories, surprises, some laughs, some tears, and plenty of inspiration. To wit: When Swami wrote Paramhansa Yogananda: A Biography, he brought out the part of the story Yogananda did not include in his landmark 1946 spiritual classic, Autobiography of a Yogi — the direct lessons and impact Yogananda had on his disciples and the countless people whose lives changed through contact with the great guru. He also detailed what I thought was one of the most fascinating aspects of Yogananda’s mission and the book: Yogananda’s final years, when he wrote most of his material (some with Swami’s editing assistance) and counseled his closest disciples on how to move forward with the work.

That same sentiment applies to Paramhansa Yogananda: A Biography, and the purpose for Swami’s talks in Portland and Los Altos Hills. When we take today’s world events and overlay them with Yogananda’s guidance and wisdom, and Swami’s presentation of it, we will find simple steps and principles to take that will result in greater harmony, peace, love and joy in our hearts and lives.

Mukunda’s Amazing Meditation

This is one of my favorite stories in the biography. It’s an excerpt taken from Chapter 2 of the biography, where Yogananda (“Mukunda” in the story) is still a little boy, and plays a trick on his family after meditating for two days straight.

Mukunda’s meditations were not what one might expect of a little boy. For one thing, he would often meditate for long hours—seven, eight at a time. As he told me, “I would practice Hong-Sau (a meditation technique) for seven hours at a time, until I went breathless.” For another, he often had extraordinary visions.

He told himself, however, “Some day I must have a really long meditation. After all, what are seven or eight hours—out of a twenty-four hour day? Don’t people work that long merely to supply their material needs?”

One morning Mukunda awoke with the thought, “A whole year has passed. And still I haven’t fulfilled the promise I made to myself! Will a long meditation always wait until ‘tomorrow’? Why not today? Why not this very morning?”

He sat down for meditation. Forty-eight whole hours passed. To Mukunda, they seemed more like forty-eight minutes. During a part of that ecstatic period, his body rose above the ground in levitation.

At last he returned to the pandemonium of this bustling world: the sounds of servants at their household chores; the voices of family members in the rooms below; the hubbub of people’s voices in the streets, and the noise of traffic outside. This cacophony invaded his ears discordantly, though it could not disturb his inner peace. In the passageway to the kitchen he met the cook—the same one, perhaps, whose hand he had stuck to the wall. This faithful servant had for many years been suffering from a pain in his back. Mukunda touched him, and the man was instantly healed.

It was lunchtime. Mukunda’s family members were seated Indian fashion on straw mats around the dining room floor. They had paid scant attention to Mukunda’s absence of two days. They knew he liked to meditate, and left it at that.

Mukunda now joined them. While he ate, he was conscious of a transcendent detachment from everything. Looking up at one point, he noticed Bodi, the wife of Ananta (Mukunda’s older brother), regarding him curiously. Bodi, like Ananta, had never approved of what they both considered Mukunda’s “religious fanaticism.” Smiling inwardly, Mukunda thought, “Let me have a little fun with them all, especially with Bodi!”

Withdrawing his consciousness partially from the body, he returned a little bit to the complete inwardness he had experienced scarcely half an hour earlier. His body, suddenly deprived of energy, fell silently backward to the floor. Bodi uttered a frightened cry. Quickly she stepped over and felt his pulse. There was no heartbeat. The rest of the family, terrified, gathered around the inert form.

The family doctor, frantically summoned, requested that the boy’s body be carried to a couch. After careful examination, he pronounced the dreaded verdict: “He’s dead.”

Bodi looked around her solemnly. “This,” she declared, “is what comes of too much yoga practice!”

The rest of the family uttered loving encomiums for this dear child, now lost to them forever.

Present in the room was a maidservant who was much-loved by the family; they used to call her “Maid Ma.” Maid Ma had served them for many years with an almost motherly devotion. But she would sometimes argue hotly with Mukunda for bringing his friends to the house, in ever-increasing numbers. Now she added her encomiums to those of the rest.

“Alas! though it’s true he was mischievous, for all that he was a good boy.” Then, disconsolately, she cried, “O Bhagavan (Lord)! now I won’t have anyone to fight with anymore!”

Mukunda could contain himself no longer. “Oh, yes you will!” he cried.

“You!” shouted Maid Ma. “I knew you were only playing!” She picked up a broom and, in mock anger, threw it at him.