[Editor's Note: If you have never read Autobiography of
a Yogi, then you have missed one of the greatest books in print which
elucidates a greater understanding of the true nature of man and his relationship
to God. Paramahansa
Yogananda led an incredible life devoted to spiritual growth and enlightenment.
His growth in spiritual awareness allowed him to access dimensions of higher
consciousness that led to extraordinary insights which he skillfully committed
to paper so that others might benefit from this cosmic knowledge. Yogananda
understood that all true religions approach God with the same purpose in
mind and that all great spiritual teachers down through the ages were relating
the same story about God and man's relationship to Him. Yogananda's own
teacher and mentor, Sri Yukteswar (1855-1936), wrote a magnificent little
book in 1894 titled The Holy Science which adroitly demonstrates
that the much ballyhooed 'differences' between eastern and western religious
thoughts do not exist. At the core, all men of good will and sincere conviction
arrive at the same conclusions about God and His creations. If you ever
visit a Self Realization Fellowship center such as Encinitas, you will always
find six portraits on any chapel altar or meditation space. In the center
of that group will always be a portrait of Jesus. Yogananda wrote a great
deal about Jesus and penned many prayers, poems, and songs to Him. Jesus
appeared to Yogananda and communicated information to him on a number of
occasions. More than anything else, Yogananda knew that Jesus came to earth
and suffered the agony of the cross to restate the age old spiritual message
that God is Love and man's duty is to love one another, to love God, and
to do no harm to others...Ken]
By Paramahansa Yogananda
March 24, 2005
Forward courtesy of Jack Lancaster
Autobiography of a Yogi
(Original 1946 Edition)
by Paramhansa Yogananda
At Encinitas in California
"A surprise, sir! During your absence abroad we have
had this Encinitas hermitage built; it is a 'welcome-home' gift!" Sister
Gyanamata smilingly led me through a gate and up a tree-shaded walk. I saw
a building jutting out like a great white ocean liner toward the blue brine.
First speechlessly, then with "Oh's!" and "Ah's!", finally
with man's insufficient vocabulary of joy and gratitude, I examined the
ashram-sixteen unusually large rooms, each one charmingly appointed.
The stately central hall, with immense ceiling-high windows,
looks out on a united altar of grass, ocean, sky-a symphony in emerald,
opal, sapphire. A mantle over the hall's huge fireplace holds the framed
likeness of Lahiri Mahasaya, smiling his blessing over this far Pacific
Directly below the hall, built into the very bluff, two solitary
meditation caves confront the infinities of sky and sea. Verandahs, sun-bathing
nooks, acres of orchard, a eucalypti grove, flagstone paths leading through
roses and lilies to quiet arbors, a long flight of stairs ending on an isolated
beach and the vast waters! Was dream ever more concrete?
"May the good and heroic and bountiful souls of the saints
come here," reads "A Prayer for a Dwelling," from the Zend-Avesta,
fastened on one of the hermitage doors, "and may they go hand in hand
with us, giving the healing virtues of their blessed gifts as widespread
as the earth, as far-flung as the rivers,
as high-reaching as the sun, for the furtherance of better men, for the
increase of abundance and glory.
"May obedience conquer disobedience within this house;
may peace triumph here over discord; free-hearted giving over avarice, truthful
speech over deceit, reverence over contempt. That our minds be delighted,
and our souls uplifted, let our bodies be glorified as well; and O Light
Divine, may we see Thee, and may we, approaching, come round about Thee,
and attain unto Thine entire companionship!"
This Self-Realization Fellowship ashram had been made possible
through the generosity of a few American disciples, American businessmen
of endless responsibilities who yet find time daily for their Kriya Yoga.
Not a word of the hermitage construction had been allowed to reach me during
my stay in India and Europe. Astonishment, delight!
During my earlier years in America I had combed the coast
of California in quest of a small site for a seaside ashram; whenever I
had found a suitable location, some obstacle had invariably arisen to thwart
me. Gazing now over the broad acres of Encinitas,1 humbly I saw the effortless
fulfillment of Sri Yukteswar's long-ago prophecy: "a hermitage by the
A few months later, Easter of 1937, I conducted on the smooth
lawns at Encinitas the first of many Sunrise Services. Like the magi of
old, several hundred students gazed in devotional awe at the daily miracle,
the early solar fire rite in the eastern sky. To the west lay the inexhaustible
Pacific, booming its solemn praise; in the distance, a tiny white sailing
boat, and the lonely flight of a seagull. "Christ, thou art risen!"
Not alone with the vernal sun, but in the eternal dawn of Spirit!
Many happy months sped by; in the peace of perfect beauty
I was able to complete at the hermitage a long-projected work, Cosmic Chants.
I set to English words and Western musical notation about forty songs, some
original, others my adaptations of ancient melodies. Included were the Shankara
chant, "No Birth, No Death"; two favorites of Sri Yukteswar's:
"Wake, Yet Wake, O my Saint!" and "Desire, my Great Enemy";
the hoary Sanskrit "Hymn to Brahma"; old Bengali songs, "What
Lightning Flash!" and "They Have Heard Thy Name"; Tagore's
"Who is in my Temple?"; and a number of my compositions: "I
Will be Thine Always," "In the Land Beyond my Dreams," "Come
Out of the Silent Sky," "Listen to my Soul Call," "In
of Silence," and "Thou Art my Life."
For a preface to the songbook I recounted my first outstanding
experience with the receptivity of Westerners to the quaintly devotional
airs of the East. The occasion had been a public lecture; the time, April
18, 1926; the place, Carnegie Hall in New York.
"Mr. Hunsicker," I had confided to an American student,
"I am planning to ask the audience to sing an ancient Hindu chant,
'O God Beautiful!'"
"Sir," Mr. Hunsicker had protested, "these
Oriental songs are alien to American understanding. What a shame if the
lecture were to be marred by a commentary of overripe tomatoes!"
I had laughingly disagreed. "Music is a universal language.
Americans will not fail to feel the soul-aspiration in this lofty chant."2
During the lecture Mr. Hunsicker had sat behind me on the
platform, probably fearing for my safety. His doubts were groundless; not
only had there been an absence of unwelcome vegetables, but for one hour
and twenty-five minutes the strains of "O God Beautiful!" had
sounded uninterruptedly from three thousand throats. Blasé no longer,
dear New Yorkers; your hearts had soared out in a simple paean of rejoicing!
Divine healings had taken place that evening among the devotees chanting
with love the Lord's blessed name.
The secluded life of a literary minstrel was not my role for
long. Soon I was dividing every fortnight between Los Angeles and Encinitas.
Sunday services, classes, lectures before clubs and colleges, interviews
with students, ceaseless streams of correspondence, articles for East-West,
direction of activities in India and numerous small centers in American
cities. Much time was given, also, to the arrangement of Kriya and other
Self-Realization Fellowship teachings into a series of studies for the distant
yoga seekers whose zeal recognized no limitation of space.
Joyous dedication of a Self-Realization Church of All Religions
took place in 1938 at Washington, D.C. Set amidst landscaped grounds, the
stately church stands in a section of the city aptly called "Friendship
Heights." The Washington leader is Swami Premananda, educated at the
Ranchi school and Calcutta University. I had summoned him in 1928 to assume
leadership of the Washington Self-Realization Fellowship center.
"Premananda," I told him during a visit to his new
temple, "this Eastern headquarters is a memorial in stone to your tireless
devotion. Here in the nation's capital you have held aloft the light of
Lahiri Mahasaya's ideals."
Premananda accompanied me from Washington for a brief visit
to the Self-Realization Fellowship center in Boston. What joy to see again
the Kriya Yoga band who had remained steadfast since 1920! The Boston leader,
Dr. M. W. Lewis, lodged my companion and myself in a modern, artistically
"Sir," Dr. Lewis said to me, smiling, "during
your early years in America you stayed in this city in a single room, without
bath. I wanted you to know that Boston possesses some luxurious apartments!"
The shadows of approaching carnage were lengthening over the
world; already the acute ear might hear the frightful drums of war. During
interviews with thousands in California, and through a world-wide correspondence,
I found that men and women were deeply searching their hearts; the tragic
outer insecurity had emphasized need for the Eternal Anchorage.
"We have indeed learned the value of meditation,"
the leader of the London Self-Realization Fellowship center wrote me in
1941, "and know that nothing can disturb our inner peace. In the last
few weeks during the meetings we have heard air-raid warnings and listened
to the explosion of delayed-action bombs, but our students still gather
and thoroughly enjoy our beautiful service."
Another letter reached me from war-torn England just before
America entered the conflict. In nobly pathetic words, Dr. L. Cranmer Byng,
noted editor of The Wisdom of the East Series, wrote:
"When I read East-West I realized how far apart we seemed
to be, apparently living in two different worlds. Beauty, order, calm, and
peace come to me from Los Angeles, sailing into port as a vessel laden with
the blessings and comfort of the Holy Grail to a beleaguered city.
"I see as in a dream your palm tree grove, and the temple
at Encinitas with its ocean stretches and mountain views, and above all
its fellowship of spiritually minded men and women, a community comprehended
in unity, absorbed in creative work, and replenished in contemplation. It
is the world of my own vision, in the making of which I hoped to bear my
little part, and now . . .
"Perhaps in the body I shall never reach your golden
shores nor worship in your temple. But it is something and more, to have
had the vision and know that in the midst of war there is still a peace
that abides in your harbors and among your hills. Greetings to all the Fellowship
from a common soldier, written on the watchtower waiting for the dawn."
The war years brought a spiritual awakening among men whose
diversions had never before included a study of the New Testament. One sweet
distillment from the bitter herbs of war! To satisfy a growing need, an
inspiring little Self-Realization Church of All Religions was built and
dedicated in 1942 at Hollywood. The site faces Olive Hill and the distant
Los Angeles Planetarium. The church, finished in blue, white, and gold,
is reflected amidst the water hyacinths in a large pool. The gardens are
gay with flowers, a few startled stone deer, a stained-glass pergola, and
a quaint wishing well. Thrown in with the pennies and the kaleidoscopic
wishes of man has been many a pure aspiration for the sole treasure of Spirit!
A universal benignity flows from small niches with statues of Lahiri Mahasaya
and Sri Yukteswar, and of Krishna, Buddha, Confucius, St. Francis, and a
beautiful mother-of-pearl reproduction of Christ at the Last Supper.
Another Self-Realization Church of All Religions was founded
in 1943 at San Diego. A quiet hilltop temple, it stands in a sloping valley
of eucalypti, overlooking sparkling San Diego Bay.
Sitting one evening in this tranquil haven, I was pouring
out my heart in song. Under my fingers was the sweet-toned organ of the
church, on my lips the yearning plaint of an ancient Bengali devotee who
had searched for eternal solace:
In this world, Mother, none can love me; In this world they
do not know love divine. Where is there pure loving love?
Where is there truly loving Thee? There my heart longs to be.
My companion in the chapel, Dr. Lloyd Kennell, the San Diego
center leader, was smiling a little at the words of the song.
"Tell me truly, Paramhansaji, has it been worth it?"
He gazed at me with an earnest sincerity. I understood his laconic question:
"Have you been happy in America? What about the disillusionments, the
heartaches, the center leaders who could not lead, the students who could
not be taught?"
"Blessed is the man whom the Lord doth test, Doctor!
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
lay in the heart of America. With slow emphasis I went on, "But my
answer is: Yes, a thousand times yes! It has been worth-while; it has been
a constant inspiration, more than ever I dreamed, to see West and East brought
closer in the only lasting bond, the spiritual!"
Silently I added a prayer: "May Babaji and Sri Yukteswarji
feel that I have done my part, not disappointing the high hope in which
they sent me forth."
I turned again to the organ; this time my song was tinged
with a martial valor:
The grinding wheel of Time doth mar Full many a life of moon
and star And many a brightly smiling morn- But still my soul is marching
Darkness, death, and failures vied; To block my path they
fiercely tried; My fight with jealous Nature's strong-
But still my soul is marching on!
New Year's week of 1945 found me at work in my Encinitas study,
revising the manuscript of this book.
"Paramhansaji, please come outdoors." Dr. Lewis,
on a visit from Boston, smiled at me pleadingly from outside my window.
Soon we were strolling in the sunshine. My companion pointed to new towers
in process of construction along the edge of the Fellowship property adjoining
the coast highway.
"Sir, I see many improvements here since my last visit."
Dr. Lewis comes twice annually from Boston to Encinitas.
"Yes, Doctor, a project I have long considered is beginning
to take definite form. In these beautiful surroundings I have started a
miniature world colony. Brotherhood is an ideal better understood by example
than precept! A small harmonious group here may inspire other ideal communities
over the earth."
"A splendid idea, sir! The colony will surely be a success
if everyone sincerely does his part!"
"'World' is a large term, but man must enlarge his allegiance,
considering himself in the light of a world citizen," I continued.
"A person who truly feels: 'The world is my homeland; it is my America,
my India, my Philippines, my England, my Africa,' will never lack scope
for a useful and happy life. His natural local pride will know limitless
expansion; he will be in touch with creative universal currents."
Dr. Lewis and I halted above the lotus pool near the hermitage.
Below us lay the illimitable Pacific.
"These same waters break equally on the coasts of West
and East, in California and China." My companion threw
a little stone into the first of the oceanic seventy million square miles.
"Encinitas is a symbolic spot for a world colony."
"That is true, Doctor. We shall arrange here for many
conferences and Congresses of Religion, inviting delegates from all lands.
Flags of the nations will hang in our halls. Diminutive temples will be
built over the grounds, dedicated to the world's principal religions.
"As soon as possible," I went on, "I plan to
open a Yoga Institute here. The blessed role of Kriya Yoga in the West has
hardly more than just begun. May all men come to know that there is a definite,
scientific technique of self-realization for the overcoming of all human
Far into the night my dear friend-the first Kriya Yogi in
America-discussed with me the need for world colonies founded on a spiritual
basis. The ills attributed to an anthropomorphic abstraction called "society"
may be laid more realistically at the door of Everyman. Utopia must spring
in the private bosom before it can flower in civic virtue. Man is a soul,
not an institution; his inner reforms alone can lend permanence to outer
ones. By stress on spiritual values, self-realization, a colony exemplifying
world brotherhood is empowered to send inspiring vibrations far beyond its
August 15, 1945, close of Global War II! End of a world; dawn
of an enigmatic Atomic Age! The hermitage residents gathered in the main
hall for a prayer of thanksgiving. "Heavenly Father, may never it be
again! Thy children go henceforth as brothers!"
Gone was the tension of war years; our spirits purred in the
sun of peace. I gazed happily at each of my American comrades.
"Lord," I thought gratefully, "Thou hast given
this monk a large family!"
1 A small town on Coast Highway 101, Encinitas is 100 miles
south of Los Angeles, and 25 miles north of San Diego.
2 I translate here the words of Guru Nanak's song:
O God beautiful! O God beautiful!
In the forest, Thou art green,
In the mountain, Thou art high,
In the river, Thou art restless,
In the ocean, Thou art grave!
To the serviceful, Thou art service,
To the lover, Thou art love,
To the sorrowful, Thou art sympathy,
To the yogi, Thou art bliss!
O God beautiful! O God beautiful!
At Thy feet, O I do bow!
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