In 1920, Mahavatar Babaji, the great master who resurrected Kriya Yoga for the modern age, met with Paramahansa Yogananda at 4 Garpar Road in Calcutta. Babaji told the young monk: “You are the one I have chosen to spread the message of Kriya Yoga in the West. Long ago I met your guru Yukteswar at a Kumbha Mela; I told him then I would send you to him for training.”
Describing the training under Swami Sri Yukteswar that enabled him to enter the exalted states of cosmic consciousness through Kriya Yoga, Paramahansaji wrote: “Sri Yukteswar taught me how to summon the blessed experience at will, and also how to transmit it to others when their intuitive channels are developed.”
This transmission of divine consciousness and blessing — which is initially experienced in greater or lesser degree depending on the receptivity and advancement of the disciple — is an essential ingredient in the dissemination of Kriya Yoga. As Babaji instructed, Kriya is given not as a mere philosophical teaching but as a spiritual initiation (diksha) in the context of the sacred relationship between a disciple and a true, divinely ordained guru.
At the end of his Autobiography of a Yogi Paramahansaji wrote: “Hundreds of thousands, not dozens merely, of Kriya Yogis are needed to bring into manifestation the world of peace and plenty that awaits men when they have made the proper effort to reestablish their status as sons of the Divine Father....May all men come to know that there exists a definite, scientific technique of Self-realization for the overcoming of all human misery!” Following are brief accounts from some of the thousands of Paramahansa Yogananda’s disciples in SRF/YSS whose lives have been uplifted by his worldwide dissemination of this holy science of the soul.
Dr. M. W. Lewis
Dr. Minott W. Lewis, a Boston dentist, met Paramahansaji a short time after the Guru’s arrival in America in 1920, and became the first American disciple to receive from him the sacred initiation in Kriya Yoga. During the many years that he served as a vice‑president and well‑beloved minister of Self‑Realization Fellowship, he often shared the story of his first meeting with Paramahansaji. The following narrative incorporates details compiled from several of Doctor’s talks given over the years.
In late 1920, not long after Paramahansa Yogananda had arrived in America, the young swami was invited to speak at a Unitarian church in the Boston area, where Dr. Lewis’ longtime friend Mrs. Alice Hasey was a member of the congregation. Mrs. Hasey (to whom Paramahansaji later gave the name Sister Yogmata) knew of Dr. Lewis’ interest in spirituality, and strongly suggested to him, “You should meet Swami Yogananda.”
An appointment was made for Christmas Eve at Unity House, where the Master had a room. When Doctor left his home to keep this engagement he thought he would be gone just a short time. He told his wife, Mildred, that he would be back soon to decorate the Christmas tree.
On his way to Unity House, Doctor recalled parental warnings against being deceived or misled by charlatans who pose as religious teachers; his frame of mind was skeptical.
Paramahansaji received Dr. Lewis warmly. The young dentist had many spiritual questions on his mind, and Paramahansaji gave him satisfying answers. Many years later, Doctor said of this occasion, “I was ‘from Missouri,’ and I had to be shown. Worse than that, I was from New England, and I had to know!”
On that Christmas Eve in 1920 he said to Paramahansaji: “The Bible tells us: ‘The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.’ Can you explain this?”
“I think so,” the Guru replied.
Doctor was still doubtful. “I have asked many persons,” he said, “but no one seems to know the meaning.”
“Can the blind lead the blind?” Paramahansaji responded. “Both would fall into the same ditch of error.”
“Can you show me these things?”
“I think so,” the Master reiterated.
“Then, for heaven’s sake, please show me!”
The Guru asked Doctor to sit cross‑legged on the floor, and sat opposite him. Looking directly into Doctor’s eyes, Paramahansaji asked: “Will you always love me as I love you?”
Doctor replied in the affirmative. Then the Guru said, “Your sins are forgiven and I take charge of your life.”
“With these words,” Doctor later recounted, “I felt a great load lifted from my shoulders. It is a fact. I felt a great relief — as though I had been freed from mountains of karma and delusion. A great weight lifted, and that weight has been lifted ever since. There have been many trials — plenty of them — but that load has never returned.”
Continuing the story, Dr. Lewis said:
“The Master then placed his forehead against my forehead. He told me to lift my eyes and look at the point between the eyebrows, which I did. And there I beheld the great light of the spiritual eye. The Master did not suggest that I see anything. He did not in any way influence me through suggestion. What I saw came in a natural way.
“I was fully conscious, fully awake, fully alert, and I saw the spiritual eye because the Master stilled the waves of my mind and allowed my own intuition of the soul to show this to me. As I looked further in the great golden light, the whole spiritual eye formed, with its inner dark‑blue center representing or manifesting the Christ Consciousness within me, and finally the little silver star in the center, the epitome of Cosmic Consciousness.
“Of course, I was overwhelmed at having found someone who could show me the inner reality that is within each and every one of us. I realized that he was not an ordinary person, but one far different from the ordinary run of men who profess to know about such spiritual things.
“We talked for a few minutes, and then he once more pressed his forehead against my forehead; and it was then that I saw the great light of the thousand-rayed lotus [the highest spiritual center, located in the top of the brain] — the most exquisite thing that can be seen, with its many, many rays of silver leaves. At the bottom of the thousand-rayed lotus I could see, outlined in denser light, the walls of the large arteries at the base of the brain. And lo and behold, as I watched, little sparks of light inside the arteries were bobbing along, striking the walls as they passed before my vision. These were the blood corpuscles, each with its little spark of astral light manifesting as it carried out its duty in God’s play of light.
“Paramahansaji showed me the great light of God, and told me: ’If you cling to this path and regularly meditate, this vision will be your own always.’ And so I followed his advice. I never missed in my practice of Kriya Yoga. Gradually the light of God came in. What I received, I received from the Master. He lifted me from the uncertainty of delusion into the light of Reality. When that experience comes it changes the heart. Then we feel the real brotherhood of man and the Fatherhood of God.”
Experiences of other SRF/YSS Kriyabans
By the glory of God I was initiated into Kriya Yoga twenty years ago. Getting up after 4 a.m. for meditation, before I wake up the family at 6 a.m., is the most peaceful time of the day, and I deeply enjoy especially my morning meditation. I would like to share my insight that the distance to God is proportional to devotion. The more I ever longed to be with God, the clearer He showed Himself to me.
A year ago, the breath just stopped, the spine straightened from the bottom to the top and the whole body froze in time, whereas the mind was overwhelmed with bright light and endless joy.
I can only confirm the truth of the quote of Sri Yogananda on the SRF website: “The first proof of God’s presence is an ineffable peace. This evolves into joy humanly inconceivable.” Praise to my guru Sri Yogananda and all the spiritual beings that guide us, glory to God!
— N. K., Namibia
One evening after I’d been meditating twice daily for the first six months I announced to my wife that I was going to bed rather than meditate because I was feeling so tired. Without hesitation my wife grabbed my shirt collar with both hands, and her face only inches from mine, she announced to me that I would go meditate before sleeping. In great surprise I remarked that I thought she opposed my involvement with SRF, thinking me to be getting involved in a cult. She explained, “You have become, in these six months, the husband I’ve always wanted. I won’t let you go back to the way you were. Go meditate!”
Imagine! That was 33 years ago, and my meditations (and my marriage) have only gotten sweeter and sweeter. I’ve been on the path long enough to have had the words of Master’s teaching, in so many areas, become real in my life and thinking. For me the words “a thousand years or until tomorrow” are a joyful promise knowing that day by day the Master is helping me increase my knowing of the soul as the true Self of all.
— D.C.H., Texas
Tara Mata was an advanced Kriya Yoga disciple who served as Paramahansa Yogananda’s editor on Autobiography of a Yogi and other works by him from 1924 until her passing in 1971. Not long after Tara Mata had met Paramahansaji in 1924, she wrote the following article about a “man” who was blessed with the experience of cosmic consciousness. Though she humbly avoided identification with the person mentioned, the experiences Tara Mata describes were her own. (Her full account is published as a booklet entitled Forerunner of a New Race, available from Self-Realization Fellowship.)
Most people believe that divine knowledge comes to only a few chosen ones, and that the average man can approach no nearer to God than his “faith” will take him. Realization that there is a definite way to contact God, a technique usable by all men in all circumstances [Kriya Yoga], has come as such a liberating shock to a number of Self-Realization students that they feel they have undergone a new birth.
I have one such case in mind — a man who, as soon as he had heard the Self-Realization message, was swept up into cosmic consciousness....This man was possessed of intense religious faith and aspiration. Though well-read in the sacred scriptures of the world, especially those of the Hindus, he knew that this intellectual knowledge was barren and stony; it did not feed the soul-hunger within him. He did not wish merely to read about spiritual food, but to taste it. Under the even tenor of his days there yawned a black abyss of despair — despair that he was worthy of any direct contact with God, since no such experience was given to him. He finally came to doubt, not God, but the possibility that he would ever be able to have more than an intellectual comprehension of Him. This conviction struck at the roots of his life, and made it seem a worthless and meaningless thing.
Into this dark night of his soul came the light of Self-Realization. After attending a few of the public lectures by Paramahansa Yogananda, and before taking the class lessons, this man felt the heavy weight of despair lifting from his heart. Returning to his home one night from the last of the public lectures, he was conscious of a great peace within himself. He felt that in some deep fundamental way, he had become a different person. An impulse urged him to look into a mirror in his room, that he might see the new man. There he saw, not his own face, but the face of Paramahansa Yogananda, whose lecture he had attended that evening.
The floodgates of joy broke in his soul; he was inundated with waves of indescribable ecstasy. Words that had been merely words to him before — bliss, immortality, eternity, truth, divine love — became, in the twinkling of an eye, the core of his being, the essence of his life, the only possible reality. Realization that these deep, everlasting founts of joy existed in every heart, that this immortal life underlay all the mortality of humanity, that this eternal, all-inclusive love enveloped and supported and guided every particle, every atom of creation, burst upon him with a surety, a divine certainty that caused his whole being to pour forth in a flood of praise and gratitude.
He knew; not with his mind alone, but with his heart and soul, with every cell and molecule of his body. The sublime splendor and joy of this discovery were so vast that he felt that centuries, millenniums, countless eons of suffering were as nothing, as less than nothing, if by such means this bliss could be obtained. Sin, sorrow, death — these were but words now, words without meaning, words swallowed up by joy as minnows by the seven seas.
He was aware, during this first period of illumination and during the weeks which followed, of a number of physiological changes within himself. The most striking was what seemed a rearrangement of molecular structure in his brain, or the opening up of new cell-territory there. Ceaselessly, day and night, he was conscious of this work going on. It seemed as though a kind of electrical drill was boring out new cellular thought-channels. This phenomenon is strong proof of Bucke’s theory that cosmic consciousness is a natural faculty of man, for it gives evidence that the brain cells which are connected with this faculty are already present in man, although inactive or non-functioning in the majority of human beings at the present time.
Another important change was felt in his spinal column. The whole spine seemed turned into iron for several weeks, so that, when he sat to meditate on God, he felt anchored forever, able to sit in one place eternally without motion or consciousness of any bodily function. At times an influx of superhuman strength invaded him, and he felt that he was carrying the whole universe on his shoulders. The elixir of life, the nectar of immortality, he felt flowing in his veins as an actual, tangible force. It seemed like a quicksilver, or a sort of electrical, fluid light throughout his body.
During the weeks of his illumination, he felt no need of food or sleep. But he conformed his outward life to the pattern of his household, and ate and slept when his family did. All food seemed pure spirit to him, and in sleep he was pillowed on the “everlasting arms,” awakening to a joy past all words, past all powers of description.
He had previously suffered from chronic catarrh; now his body was purged of all sickness. His family and friends were aware of a great change in his appearance and manner; his face shone with a radiant light; his eyes were pools of joy. Strangers spoke to him, irresistibly drawn by a strange sympathy; on the streetcar, children would come over to sit on his lap, asking him to visit them.
Experiences of other SRF/YSS Kriyabans
I have practiced Kriya Yoga for 45 years. For more than 20 years, my meditations were dry, but I kept on with my twice-daily practice. Now, in my later years, I am blessed beyond the ability of words to convey.
Recently in deep meditation after practicing Kriya, I asked the Master, “What is Cosmic Peace?” There was silence; I went deeper in meditation, and gradually I felt a wave of blissful peace ascending from the lower spine upward toward the higher spinal centers, and spreading all over the body — perception of peace never known before. In that wave of peace I felt that all the atoms of this body were resonating with vibrations in perfect harmony with all the vibrations of the universal Dharma. In this light of blissful peace I felt the body was melting away, and my soul was ascending and expanding in waves of love. In ever deeper meditation my soul entered an even higher level of blissful peace, a state of vibrationless, perfect, sweet tranquility, and I knew that for a brief instant I was Home. In this experience, I cognized the answer of my Guru to my question, “What is Cosmic Peace?”
— S. B., Georgia
The whole universe was to him bathed in a sea of love; he said to himself many times, “Now at last I know what love is! This is God’s love, shaming the noblest human affection. Eternal love, unconquerable love, all-satisfying love!” He knew beyond all possibility or thought of doubt that Love creates and sustains the universe, and that all created things, human or subhuman, were destined to discover this Love, this immortal bliss that was the very essence of life. He felt his mind expand, his understanding reach out, endlessly widening, growing, touching everything in the universe, binding all things, all thoughts to himself. He was “center everywhere, circumference nowhere.”
The Atom-Dance of Nature
The air that he breathed was friendly, intimate, conscious of life. He felt that all the world was “home” to him, that he could never feel strange or alien to any place again; that the mountains, the sea, the distant lands which he had never seen, would be as much his own as the home of his boyhood. Everywhere he looked, he saw the “atom-dance” of nature; the air was filled with myriad moving pinpricks of light.
During these weeks, he went about his daily duties as usual, but with a hitherto unknown efficiency and speed. Typed papers flew off his machine, completed without error in a fourth of his customary time. Fatigue was unknown to him; his work seemed like child’s play, happy and carefree. Conversing in person or over the telephone with his clients, his inward joy covered every action and circumstance with a cosmic significance, for to him these men, this telephone, this table, this voice was God, God manifesting Himself in another of His fascinating disguises.
In the midst of his work, he would suddenly be freshly overwhelmed by the goodness of God who had given him this incredible, unspeakable happiness. His breath would stop completely at such times; the awe which he felt would be accompanied by an absolute stillness within and without. Underlying all his consciousness was a sense of immeasurable and unutterable gratitude; a longing for others to know the joy which lay within them; but most of all, a divine knowledge, past all human comprehension, that all was well with the world, that everything was leading to the goal of cosmic consciousness, immortal bliss.
This state of illumination was present with the man for about two months and then gradually wore away. It has never returned with all its pristine force, though certain features, especially the sense of divine peace and joy, return whenever he practices the Self-Realization meditation techniques.
|“Practice of Yoga Brings the Grace of God in the Highest Way”
Gyanamata was one of Paramahansa Yogananda’s most advanced Kriya Yoga
disciples, whose wise and loving counsel to devotees is compiled in the
book God Alone: The Life and Letters of a Saint. After her passing in 1951, the Guru told his other disciples that Gyanamata had achieved complete liberation. Paramahansaji recounted:
[Two days before her passing] she asked me for nirbikalpa samadhi;
but I said, “You don’t need that. I saw you in God. When you reach the
palace, why do you want to go in the garden any more?”...
She had worked out her own karma
completely in her last life and in this life, and she was drawn by the
grace of the Heavenly Father to eternal freedom in this life without the
higher ecstasy. This does not mean that Gyanamata did not have the
highest ecstasy (nirbikalpa samadhi). She had it in her past
life. But — even as it says on the little placard in her room: “God
Alone” — in this life God’s grace alone lifted her pain-unruffled,
successful soul to omnipresent liberation....
All devotees should remember that only
constant practice of yoga brings the grace of God in the highest way,
for Krishna told Arjuna: “O Arjuna, greater than the path of wisdom, or
action, or any other, is the path of yoga. Therefore, be thou a yogi,
From Self-Realization magazine, Summer 2011