Param hansa yogananda was one of the most significant spiritual teachers of the twentieth century. His Autobiography of a Yogi, published in 1946 and printed in more than 20 languages, has touched the hearts of millions and remains the best-selling spiritual autobiography of all time. Great teachers work through their students, and Yogananda was no exception. Kriyananda writes in the introduction to the present volume. "After I'd been with him a year and a half, he began urging me to write down the things he was saying during informal conversations." The Essence of Self-Realization, nearly 300 sayings rich with spiritual wisdom, is the fruit of that labor of love. A glance at the table of contents will convince the reader of the vast scope of this book. It offers as complete an explanation of life's true purpose, and of the way to achieve that purpose, as may be found anywhere.
"As a bright light shining in the midst of darkness, so was Yogananda's presence in this world. Such a great soul comes on earth only rarely, when there is a real need among men." -The Shankaracharya of Kanchipuram
Born in India in 1893, Paramhansa Yogananda was trained from his early years to bring India's ancient science of Self-realization to the West. In 1920 he moved to the United States to begin what was to develop into a worldwide work touching millions of lives. Americans were hungry for India's spiritual teachings, and for the liberating techniques of yoga.
In 1946 he published what has become a spiritual classic and one of the best-loved books of the 20th century, Autobiography of a Yogi. In addition, Yogananda established the headquarters for a worldwide work, wrote a number of books and study courses, gave lectures to many thousands in most major cities across the United States, wrote music and poetry, and trained disciples. He was invited to the White House by Calvin Coolidge, and he initiated Mahatma Gandhi into Kriya Yoga, his most advanced technique of meditation.
Yogananda's message to the West highlighted the unity of all religions, and the importance of love for God combined with scientific techniques of meditation.
I lived with Paramhansa Yogananda as a disciple for the last three and a half years of his life. After I'd been with him a year and a half, he began urging me to write down things that he was saying during informal conversations. We were at his desert retreat, where he was completing his commentaries on the Bhagavad Gita.
At first, I found myself in some difficulty. I knew no shorthand, and my handwriting was daunting to read, even for me. The Master, however, true to his own teaching that one should concentrate on light instead of on darkness, paid no attention to such insignificant handicaps. He kept on urging me.
"I don't often speak from a level of gyana [impersonal wisdom]," he said. His nature usually found expression in divine love.
My enthusiasm grew as I realized that nowhere else had I ever read or heard teachings so profound, so clear, and so convincing.
"Write that down!" he would call out to me over the years that followed, during conversations with the monks or with visitors. Sometimes, in explanation, he would add, "I've never said that before."
My penmanship being what it was, I could never hope to keep up with him. As weeks passed, however, I discovered that he had bestowed on me an extraordinary blessing. I was able to hear his voice afterward, as if speaking the words in my mind as I wrote them down. So remarkable was his blessing that, years later in India, I was able to verify my memory of words, and even of whole sentences, that he'd uttered in Hindi or Bengali, both of which languages were unknown to me when he was alive.
Even today, the memory of his words and of his voice rings clearly in my mind, rich with wisdom, divine love, and the fullness of spiritual power-frequently combined with a delightful sense of humor. His conversations were sprinkled with anecdotes; they sparkled with metaphors, and contained the deepest insight into all levels of reality, human and divine, that I have ever had the great blessing to encounter.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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