Autobiography of a Yogi changed my life. Really, it did. There is a power in that book that is far beyond the ordinary. Paramhansa Yogananda said to Swami Kriyananda on their first meeting, “I put my vibrations into it.”
“The Master would occasionally take some of us to the movies to get away from all the demands on his time,” a direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda once told us. “Then, in the middle of the most exciting parts, he would tap us on the shoulder, point upward to the beam of light coming from the projection booth, and say, ‘It’s all just a play of light and shadows.’”
Many years ago I saw a bumper sticker that said, “Visualize Whirled Peas.” I’m afraid that this image, humorous though it was, is truer today than the actuality of world peace. We seem to be whirling around, splintered into frenetic factions.
Today is January 5, 2016—the anniversary of Paramhansa Yogananda’s birth. There are numbers that convey some of the historical significance of his life: 123 years since he was born; 100 years since he created the Energization Exercises for recharging the body with energy; 70 years since his spiritual classic, Autobiography of a Yogi, was published; and, in 2020, 100 years since he boarded the ship that brought him to America and began his mission to the West.
It was in the fall of 1966 that I found Autobiography of a Yogi, although in truth I think it found me. It was a time of great transition in my life. I had graduated from college and moved to San Francisco a few months earlier, and was just starting out as an independent adult. I was looking for a direction, having felt that my major in college, psychology, was simply not capable of answering the questions I had long been asking. I was interested in awareness, in the scope of human consciousness, and in happiness. More schooling was not going to give me what I was seeking. And yet, where was I to turn? I had long abandoned religion, at least the formalized “Churchianity” I was given in my youth.
“Doctor, please help me. I think that I’m really sick,” the worried patient said. “My body hurts all over: when I touch my arm, it hurts; when I touch my chest, it hurts; when I touch my head, it hurts.”
This morning Devi and I spoke with someone who was feeling overwhelmed and a little guilty because he couldn’t keep up with all the “should do’s” on the spiritual path. I doubt if there is a devotee alive who hasn’t had these same thoughts. On the one hand, there are hundreds of techniques, habits, and attitudes that could be helpful. On the other hand, we have to face the reality of living in this world with multiple responsibilities and limited time.
The troubled young man knelt amidst the crumbling ruins of the chapel and prayed. A few years earlier he had been a carefree youth who enjoyed partying with his friends. Then a war came, and he joined the army looking for adventure. Captured in one of the battles, he was held prisoner for a year and suffered from recurring high fevers.
September 12th is the anniversary of the day in 1948 when Swami Kriyananda first met Paramhansa Yogananda. Those of us who are members of Ananda consider this day as our collective “Spiritual Birthday.” Devi and I are in Italy and will celebrate this sacred occasion by giving a talk to several hundred people at a Yoga Festival in Rome.