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.

The Bigger Picture Of Paramhansa Yogananda: A Biography

Recently, presenters and attendees from throughout the world gathered at The Expanding Light Retreat at Ananda Village for the Yuga Cycles of Time & Our Awakening Consciousness conference. Throughout the weekend, the conference focused on our current time of accelerating energy, magnetism and awareness — known as Dwapara Yuga, “The Age of Energy” — and the ways in which we can utilize the lessons of ancient wisdom to move forward.

Among the featured speakers was Swami Kriyananda, winner of the 2012 International Book Award for Paramhansa Yogananda: A Biography, a book published by Crystal Clarity Publishers. He spoke again on the book and its messages and implications in late June at the Ford Theater in Los Angeles, then enjoyed a very special question-and-answer session at the Biltmore Hotel — where Yogananda’s mahasamadhi, or conscious exit from his body, took place sixty years ago last March.

Nearly a century ago, Paramhansa Yogananda became the first realized Indian yogi to move to America. After a decade of nearly incessant touring, he developed his work and mission from his Los Angeles headquarters. Yogananda’s work and his epic 1947 book, Autobiography of a Yogi, presaged and planted seeds for today’s busy yoga community, which includes 15 to 20 million practitioners.

But was there more? Was there a mission after Yogananda’s passing, which came in 1952? Swami Kriyananda has tirelessly continued Yogananda’s work for the 60 years since the master passed, with the understanding — given to him by Yogananda — that the path of self-realization is also the principal path of Dwapara Yuga. Briefly, the Indian sages divided the cycle of time into four periods, or yugas, coinciding with the Ancient Greeks’ knowledge of the gold, silver, bronze and iron ages. We are currently in ascending Dwapara Yuga, having moved upward from the darkest age, Kali Yuga, beginning in 1700. Dwapara is an age of energy, intense activity, growing awareness and consciousness.

At the Yuga Cycles Conference, Kriyananda elaborated on the way in which Yogananda sewed seeds for future growth with his disciples and in his works. He also emphasized, in both Paramhansa Yogananda: A Biography and his talk, how Yogananda was by all means the avatar, or way-shower, of Dwapara Yuga for the western culture.

“I refer to Yogananda as the avatar of Dwapara Yuga. He’s showing a new way for ancient Indian teachings,” Kriyananda told a standing room-only crowd at the conference. “In Dwapara Yuga, religion will no longer be a matter of churches and sermons. It will be a matter of communion with God. Churches will be a part of this. Your Church is your body. Worship Him with spirit and truth in your own body. You have to experience truth. It’s not enough to dogmatize it.

“The religion of Dwapara Yuga, the mystical aspect of Dwapara Yuga, will be going within, taking everything in even-mindedly. It’s a matter of freeing the inner self to be even-minded and cheerful in all circumstances.”

In the book, Swami Kriyananda describes specific ideas Yogananda embraced for creating more spiritually-centered communities, education that emphasized the development of the entire student, and the central purpose of meditation and yoga in raising and coalescing the body’s vital energy in order to perform works befitting our times. While bits and pieces of Yogananda’s larger vision have made it into a variety of books, this is the first time it has been rolled out as a way of moving forward through the coming years, decades and centuries of Dwapara Yuga.

While many people will (justifiably) search Paramhansa Yogananda: A Biography for the delicious and inspiring anecdotes that Kriyananda has saved for this life work, his 140th book, the larger view of this book is a good one to take: as a model of living and a source of deep inspiration in a time where consciousness, energy, awareness and magnetism are all increasing.

Paramhansa Yogananda: A Biography and the International Book Award

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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!”

Discovering Yogananda’s Living Legacy

Written by perhaps Paramhansa Yogananda’s most candid disciple, this colorful biography invites all truth-seekers to “tune-in” to the yoga master’s living legacy. Swami Kriyananda’s writing boldly captures Yogananda’s life, work and illumined state via intimate stories and personal experiences. Compared to the Autobiography of a Yogi’s portrayal of incredible saints and scientific yoga teachings, this unique biography conveys the spirit of Yogananda’s powerful presence, his expectations for the future of his work and his wishes for humanity.

This book will thrill anyone desiring a direct look at Yogananda’s personality, spiritual magnitude, his immense influence upon western civilization and ambitious spiritual world-mission. Yogananda was rarely forthcoming in his autobiography about his own greatness and spiritual power. In this respect, Kriyananda does a tremendous complement to his Guru’s work, clarifying and putting into perspective the thoughts, words and deeds of one of the world’s most influential spiritual leaders during the first half of the 20th century.

Included are rare accounts of Yogananda’s youth, revealing the child-saint’s propensity for heartfelt mischief, deep meditation and miraculous acts. Stories include pranks Yogananda played on those critical of his spiritual fervor and discipline, such as the time he fastened a disrespectful cook’s hand to a wall using sheer willpower, instantly earning his respect. Another time, he dropped dead at the family breakfast table, only to rise hours later in order to tease those who had been rebuking his “excessive” yoga practice. Kriyananda displays these incidents vividly, to refute those doubting the authenticity of Yogananda’s incredible life, and so that those who never knew the master personally are still able to establish a deep personal connection with him.

Kriyananda’s portrait is uncompromising and complete—a rare depiction of the actions and essence of a spiritual avatar, or fully enlightened being. Readers will discover a rich tapestry of anecdotes, quotes and experiences illustrating Yogananda’s quest to bring the best of India’s spiritual heritage to the west.

I was touched by the urgent and relevant tone with which Kriyananda explains Yogananda’s legacy: his yoga teachings, call for a cooperative communities movement, educational ideals and perspectives on important topics like health, religion, government, war, business, balanced living and right attitude. He not only conveys Yogananda’s stances on the subjects, but also their relevance today. Kriyananda masterfully weaves together inspiration, practical lessons and expansive principles in a way that left me feeling deeply aware of my own responsibility and potential to follow in Yogananda’s footsteps.

The author’s own life and selfless service models a need for all to participate in the wave of global upliftment in which Paramhansa Yoganada himself was only the cusp. Swami Kriyananda found Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi in 1948; he took a bus from New York to Los Angeles shortly after reading the book to become his student. While Yogananda was alive, Kriyananda helped him with a massive editing project—a new translation of India’s epic, the Bhagavad Gita. After Yogananda’s death, Kriyananda went on to found Ananda, and other intentional, cooperative communities, to help fulfill Yogananda’s dream for “world brotherhood colonies.”

Swami Kriyananda was one of several students who came to Yogananda late in the master’s life. Many of these latter disciples would go on to pioneer small communities, yoga centers and programs that expanded upon Yogananda’s teachings. Individuals today making similar kinds of pioneering efforts, working to initiate positive change in the world, will find invaluable aid and encouragement from this great work. Ultimately, Kriyananda says, the legacy of a master like Yogananda lies not with any individual, organization or teaching, but in a universal effort to uplift all of humankind.

Author/educator Kamran Matlock is a teacher at Ananda’s Living Wisdom Schools. He writes for Wordjourneys.com and The Legacy Series commemorative publications about progressive education, culture and consciousness. His education blog is at Kamranmatlock.wordpress.com.