How I Came to Paramahansa Yogananda
In December 1949, I was 18 years old and I headed to Los Angeles, arriving at Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) headquarters. I had taken the SRF lessons by mail for a few months and had written to tell them I’d like to come out there and be one of the residential students. It was two days before Christmas when I arrived, unannounced on their doorstep. Within an hour of my arrival and being interviewed by one of the senior monks, Paramahansa Yogananda came through the room where we were talking. His first question to me was, “How old are you?” And the second was, “Do your parents know you are here.” I assured him that they did and it was all right with them. He then said, “All right. I will see you again soon and he touched me on the head.
I had grown up in Ohio in a farm community just south of Cleveland. I went to church with my family and was a voracious reader. In ninth grade, I began to explore books in the public library on psychology and world religions. In tenth grade, I came across a book on Hatha Yoga and tried to practice postures and meditation. At 18, I saw an advertisement in a physical culture magazine for Autobiography of a Yogi, Paramahansa Yogananda’s book and I ordered it by mail. As soon as I read it, I knew it was for me.
Later that year, when I met the author of that great book in Los Angeles, he was exactly as I imagined—quiet and kind with beautiful eyes. He spoke softly and gently. Two days after my arrival, on Christmas day, I had a private talk with him. I asked if I could stay and become his disciple. He said I could stay. I started a meditation practice, and after two months of regular practice and instruction from Master, he sent me to Phoenix, Arizona along with instructions that I was to come back to California every 60 days to see him personally. In Phoenix there was a small center, with a minister whom Master had ordained and I was to be the assistant—which meant helping mow the grass, help out wherever I was needed and continue my Kriya Yoga studies.
When I would return to California to see Master, I never went to him with questions but rather to have darshan. I would sit with him and he would do most of the talking, which was fine with me. He always said just the right thing and gave the right advice without even my asking. One time, when he asked if I had a question, I did ask him how many saintly people, whom he had met and mentioned in Autobiography, had been spiritually liberated. We were walking together during his exercise session, when I asked this and he answered almost nonchalantly, “Oh not many.” He went on to explain, “Many saints are content to enjoy the bliss of God communion and don’t aspire to go beyond that stage. But you must go all the way.” I understood Master as saying that there are yogis and mystics who get to an attunement with the larger reality and they just hang out there. They don’t inquire, “Is there anything more, what’s beyond this?”
Master had a good sense of humor. He liked being with people and telling humorous stories with teaching lessons. He was always cheerful and optimistic. He could come across as a strong orator in his public presentations. In person, he brought you into his space in a very intimate, confidential way. Privately, he would tell little stories and say to people, “Pray and ask God to come into your consciousness.” Privately, with me, he emphasized liberation of consciousness— going beyond all the other stages. That was my aspiration. He, like Swami Satchidananda, would meet people where they were and then communicate in words and ways they would understand…
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"The whole world
is an ocean filled with waves.
Learn to float on them and
don't get caught in them.
Equanimity, or balance,
is Yoga. Learn to balance
yourself - then you will
- Sri Gurudev