Have you ever played the telephone game? One person whispers a message in another person’s ear and they pass it along through the chain of participants. At the end of the line, the last person repeats the phrase and usually many laughs ensue because it has changed in ridiculous and substantial ways. This game makes it clear how messages can easily be changed through the filters of personal hearing and understanding. Add to that the barriers of time and distance, and you begin to get a sense of how teachings can be altered radically from how they were originally offered. This becomes especially important when considering the teachings of self-realized masters.
Even devoted and well-meaning disciples of gurus throughout the ages have contributed to the difficulty in preserving Truth as given by one of pure conscious awareness. In the case of the yoga master, Swami Paramahansa Yogananda, author of the spiritual classic, "Autobiography of a Yogi," and renowned teacher of Kriya yoga, we are fortunate to have a legacy of writings set down directly by him in English and preserved by an organization dedicated to maintaining the exact words he wrote. This is a boon to any seeker on the path to self-realization because inherent in the spoken or written words of a master is their darshan, or "blessing," that cannot be found in the interpreted or translated words offered by another who comes later. For this reason, Yogananda took great strides to personally document all of his teachings and he taught on every subject under the sun!
Bringing the East to the West
Yogananda came to the United States in 1920, sent by his guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar, to teach. For the next 32 years, he lectured and taught India’s ancient science and philosophy of yoga and meditation to thousands of eager students. He is known as “one of the greatest emissaries to the West of India’s ancient wisdom.”
True devotees of his, study and honor his writings directly, benefiting from his energetic presence within them just as they would from sitting at the feet of a living master. Although some of his students have gone on to reinterpret his writings, it is wise for sincere seekers to look to the source rather than through the filter of another ego-based mind, however well-meaning it may be. To understand the basic principles for which Yogananda stood, one can begin with the “Aims and Ideals of Self-Realization Fellowship” as set forth by Paramahansa Yogananda. This overview of his mission is included in many of his books and are as follows:
- To disseminate among the nations a knowledge of definite scientific techniques for attaining a direct personal experience of God.
- To teach that the purpose of life is the evolution, through self-effort, of man’s limited mortal consciousness into God Consciousness; and to this end, to establish Self-Realization temples for God communion throughout the world, and to encourage the establishment of individual temples of God in the homes and in the hearts of men.
- To reveal the complete harmony and basic oneness of original Christianity as taught by Jesus Christ and original yoga as taught by Bhagavan Krishna; and to show that these principles of truth are the common scientific foundation of all true religions.
- To point out the one divine highway to which all paths of true religious beliefs eventually lead; the highway of daily, scientific, devotional meditation on God.
- To liberate man from his threefold suffering: physical disease, mental inharmonies and spiritual ignorance.
- To encourage "plain living and high thinking"; and to spread a spirit of brotherhood among all peoples by teaching the eternal basis of their unity: kinship with God.
- To demonstrate the superiority of mind over body, of soul over mind.
- To overcome evil by good, sorrow by joy, cruelty by kindness, ignorance by wisdom.
- To unite science and religion through realization of the unity of their underlying principles.
- To advocate cultural and spiritual understanding between East and West, and the exchange of their finest distinctive features.
- To serve mankind as one’s larger Self.
Continued Learning Direct From the Guru
If these mission statements are in line with your values, you may request Yogananda’s weekly spiritual lessons and meditation techniques from his organization, Self-Realization Fellowship, for a nominal fee to cover postage. Written by Yogananda himself, these lessons cover every aspect of life and practice. Studying the master’s words and learning his yoga techniques directly comes with his diksha ("consecration" or "initiation") for your spiritual growth and evolution.
(Continue reading in The Message of the Gurus.)