On the 19th July, IYA team including Prof Kambhampati Subrahmanyam, Sri DR Kaarthikeyan and Ravi Tumuluri visited Rajarajeshwari Temple and paid their respects to Sri Sri Sri Jayendra Puri Mahaswamiji, the present pontiff of Sri Kailash Ashrama Mahasamshtana. Sri Sri Sri Tiruchi Swamigal was the…
Pioneering the spread of the ancient Kriya Yoga science
Sri Sri Paramahansa Yogananda narrates an incident in his spiritual classic, Autobiography of a Yogi, which changed the whole course of his life. Once his Guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar asked him: “Why are you averse to organizational work?” To this he replied: “It is a thankless task sir. No matter what the leader does, or does not do, he is criticized.”
His Guru countered him by posing this question: “Do you want the whole divine channa (milk curd) for yourself alone? Could you or anyone else achieve God-communion through yoga if a line of generous-hearted masters had not been willing to convey their knowledge to others?” He added, “God is the Honey, organizations are the hives; both are necessary. Any form is useless, of course, without the spirit, but why should you not start busy hives full of the spiritual nectar?”
His Guru’s words moved him deeply. Paramahansa Yoganandaji writes: “Although I made no outward reply, an adamant resolution arose in my breast: I would share with my fellows, so far as lay in my power, the unshackling truths I had learned at my guru’s feet. ‘Lord,’ I prayed, ‘may Thy love shine forever on the sanctuary of my devotion, and may I be able to awaken Thy love in all hearts.’”
That divine sankalpa eventually blossomed into two sister organizations: Yogoda Satsanga Society of India (YSS), established in Ranchi in 1917; and Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF), established in Los Angeles, USA, in 1920.
Hailed as Premavatar and Jagadguru, Sri Sri Paramahansa Yogananda (1893–1952) transformed the lives of millions through his non-sectarian teachings of Kriya Yoga, for the dissemination of which he established these two organizations. His life story, the Autobiography of a Yogi, introduced this yogic science as a divinely ordained technique of liberation to seekers across the globe. Available in 50-plus languages, this first-hand account of an extraordinary life, captured the hearts of readers regardless of culture and country. Those who were deeply influenced by this book include, among millions others, the Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, Beatles’ George Harrison, and cricketer Virat Kohli (to name just a few). This modern-day scripture remains the quintessential guidebook on yoga, spirituality, and the science of Kriya Yoga.
Yogoda Satsanga Society of India—a growing spiritual community
The holiest of spiritual relationships is that which exists between a God-realized guru and his true disciple. Sri Sri Paramahansa Yogananda was the last of a line of four enlightened masters—Sri Sri Mahavatar Babaji, Sri Sri Lahiri Mahasaya, Sri Sri Yukteswar Giri, and Sri Sri Paramahansa Yogananda—who sent forth the Yogoda Satsanga message as a divine dispensation.
In 1917, Yoganandaji founded the Yogoda Satsanga Society of India (YSS) with the view to disseminate the ancient science of Kriya Yoga, a form of Raja Yoga. Through his books and the Yogoda Satsanga Lessons, he committed India’s ancient science of religion to the written word with the irrefutable authority of God-realization. His words of wisdom, and the many hermitages, temples, and centers he founded, continue to inspire and guide those drawn to this sacred path.
In 1920, serving as the delegate from India, Yoganandaji lectured at an international congress of religious liberals in Boston, America. In the same year, he founded Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) in the United States to spread the Kriya Yoga teachings in a practical and accessible manner. He introduced the West to yoga and meditation through public lectures, his writings, and through the many SRF centers he established. The West proved receptive to Yoganandaji’s scientific temper and his inclusive teachings available to all seekers regardless of religious affiliation. Hundreds of SRF centers and meditation groups exist across the world to provide places for God-seeking souls to come together for group practice of the Self-Realization techniques of meditation and divine communion.
Today, the spiritual and humanitarian work begun by Yoganandaji continues under the guidance of Sri Sri Swami Chidananda Giri, President, YSS and SRF, as he faithfully carries out Yoganandaji’s aims and ideals for the spread of Kriya Yoga worldwide. At present, YSS has 200-plus Dhyana Kendras and mandalis across the country, four ashrams, and several retreat centers for intense sadhana practice. YSS also has meditation centers in Nepal and Sri Lanka.
Pioneering the spread of the ancient Kriya Yoga science
Kriya Yoga is an ancient science that hastens human evolution, and enables man to unite his soul with the omnipresent Spirit. It was the deathless Yogi, Mahavatar Babaji, who revived the long forgotten science in the present age. The Kriya Yoga that Babaji bestowed on Lahiri Mahasaya (1828–1895) in the 19th century is the same science that Krishna gave millennia ago to Arjuna, and that was later known to Patanjali and Christ. An ideal householder yogi, Lahiri Mahasaya gave kriya diksha (initiation) to thousands regardless of their religion, caste, or creed. He also blessed Yogananda when he was but an infant in his mother’s lap and had prophesied, “Little mother, thy son will be a yogi. As a spiritual engine, he will carry many souls to God’s kingdom.” Sri Yukteswar Giri (1855–1936), the foremost disciple of Lahiri Mahasaya, trained and transformed a young Mukunda Lal Ghosh into Paramahansa Yogananda, ready to serve humanity.
Regular practice of Kriya accelerates the ascent of consciousness and hastens the evolution of the soul. The Kriya Yogi learns to withdraw the life force (the body’s vital energy) from the senses and direct it toward the cerebrospinal centers thus awakening the sleeping kundalini. Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita (Ch 5, V 27-28), “The meditation expert (muni) becomes eternally free from external phenomenon by concentrating his gaze between the eyebrows; and by neutralizing the uneven currents of Prana and Apana flowing within the nostrils. Such a yogi transforms his sensory mind, his intellect and frees himself from the Karma of fear, anger, and desire.”
Kriya initiation from a God-awakened guru, or from someone authorized by such a Guru, is essential to fulfill the law of Guru-disciple relationship. To quote the Autobiography of Yogi, “Kriya Yoga is the real ‘fire rite’ oft extolled in the Gita. The yogi casts his human longings into a monotheistic bonfire consecrated to the unparalleled God. This is indeed the true yogic fire ceremony, in which all past and present desires are fuel consumed by love divine. The Ultimate Flame receives the sacrifice of all human madness, and man is pure of dross. His metaphorical bones stripped of all desirous flesh, his karmic skeleton bleached by the antiseptic sun of wisdom, inoffensive before man and Maker, he is clean at last.”
Meditation techniques are taught step-by-step in the YSS Lessons, and YSS sannyasis conduct classes on these techniques periodically to demonstrate their correct practice.
Aims and Ideals of YSS
Among the aims and ideals set forth by Paramahansa Yogananda, the first one is: “To disseminate among the nations a knowledge of definite scientific techniques for attaining direct personal experience of God.” Yoganandaji in his own life experienced the truth that God realization forever destroys the artificial limitations placed upon the soul by the ignorance bound ego. YSS teachings help man to reclaim his divine heritage and gain liberation from the bondage of Maya delusion and the threefold suffering of physical disease, mental inharmony, and spiritual ignorance.
Yoganandaji’s monumental commentary on the Bhagavad Gita (God Talks with Arjuna) and the words of Jesus Christ in the New Testament (The Second Coming of Christ) reveal the hidden metaphysical truths of the scriptures. YSS aims to reveal the underlying unity of the teachings of Krishna and Christ and to advocate a cultural and spiritual understanding between East and West. Yoganandaji’s teachings point out that the principles of truth are the common scientific foundation of all true religions; and that science and religion can be united through realization of the unity of their underlying principles.
In the Autobiography of a Yogi, Yoganandaji says, “Babaji is ever in communion with Christ; together they send out vibrations of redemption and have planned the spiritual technique of salvation for this age. The work of these two fully illumined masters—one with a body and one without a body—is to inspire the nations to forsake wars, race hatreds, religious sectarianism, and the boomerang evils of materialism.”
Yoganandaji used practical methods to awaken divine yearning in all hearts. Among the goals of YSS is to encourage ‘plain living and high thinking’; to endeavor to overcome evil by good, sorrow by joy, cruelty by kindness, ignorance by wisdom; and to spread a spirit of brotherhood among all people by teaching the eternal basis of their unity: kinship with God.
The Four Ashrams of YSS — an expanding spiritual nucleus
The four ashrams of YSS in Ranchi, Dakshineshwar, Dwarahat, and Noida act as spiritual hives where devotee-bees can gather to partake of the honey of God-realization. The ashrams are a haven of peace and a culmination of the unceasing effort, generosity, and commitment of devotees.
In one of his talks, YSS/SRF President, Swami Chidananda Giri referred to the sacredness of YSS Ranchi Ashram thus: “… that power of yoga, that knowledge of the liberating path of Raja Yoga meditation, of Kriya Yoga meditation, from this very ashram began to expand and spread to the world at large.” It was in the Ranchi ashram in 1920 that Yoganandaji had a divine epiphany of his mission… an event now memorialized in a magnificent marble clad ‘Smriti Mandir’ in the ashram precincts. Many illustrious personages including Mahatma Gandhi have visited the Ranchi ashram.
The Yogoda Satsanga Math, the registered headquarters of YSS, is situated in Dakshineswar, Kolkata. Acquired by YSS in 1939, it is set in serene environs fronting the Hooghly river. Visiting devotees from India and abroad often take a trip to Yoganandaji’s family home at 4, Garpar Road, located in the city. In 1920, shortly before Yoganandaji left for America, Mahavatar Babaji had visited him in this very home and assured him, “You are the one I have chosen to spread the message of Kriya Yoga in the West. Kriya Yoga, the scientific technique of God-realization, will ultimately spread in all lands, and aid in harmonizing the nations through man’s personal, transcendental perception of the Infinite Father.” That day, July 25, is celebrated as Babaji Smriti Divas.
The Yogoda Satsanga Sakha Ashram at Dwarahat, Uttarakhand, was inaugurated in 1983. The surrounding Himalayan region is hallowed with memories of Mahavatar Babaji. Babaji’s cave area in the Pandukholi mountain is where he initiated Lahiri Mahasaya into Kriya in 1861. This blessed moment heralding the revival of Kriya Yoga is of significance for the entire human race. Every year, on Babaji Smriti Divas, a yatra is conducted from Dwarahat ashram to Babaji’s cave.
The fourth ashram is the Yogoda Satsanga Sakha Ashram in Noida, inaugurated in 2010, situated close to the Delhi-UP border.
The spiritual activities in the ashrams include daily practice of Energization Exercises, group meditations, Sunday satsangas, counseling services by resident sannyasis, amongst others. Special programmes are held to commemorate the Avirbhav and Mahasamadhi anniversaries of the YSS Gurus. Immersive retreats, including the periodic Sangams, are conducted regularly and offer periods of silence and sadhana to the devotees. The sacred Kriya diksha (initiation) ceremony is often the highlight of the Sangams.
During monastic tours, trained YSS monks conduct retreat programmes, provide spiritual counsel, and hold classes to explain the teachings of Yoganandaji and help members deepen their practice of the meditation techniques.
Transformative Power of the YSS teachings
More powerful than ingrained habits or karma is the influence of the Guru in the lives of devotees. Yoganandaji said that after his passing, his teachings would be the Guru. His omniscient love, infinite compassion, and changeless loyalty to every disciple transcends the boundaries of time and space. His living presence and intercession is tangibly felt by all who are receptive and in attunement.
● Yogoda Satsanga Lessons
The Yogoda Satsanga Lessons are a progressive home-study series on the liberating yoga science and methods taught by Yoganandaji. It is no ordinary correspondence course; the Lessons are a direct link to the lineage of the great Gurus, and are imbued with their blessings and contain the highest yogic techniques of concentration and meditation.
The YSS Lessons contain powerful methods of pranayama and meditation which allow even a beginner on the path to experience God as peace and joy. Such personal communion with the divine elevates the sadhak’s consciousness, and fosters faith and understanding in the Divine. Regular and prolonged practice of these techniques brings about health and well-being at all levels – physical, mental, and spiritual.
Swami Sri Yukteswar ji explained in these words how Kriya Yoga works: “Kriya Yoga is an instrument through which human evolution can be quickened. The ancient yogis discovered that the secret of cosmic consciousness is intimately linked with breath mastery. This is India’s unique and deathless contribution to the world’s treasury of knowledge. The life force, which is ordinarily absorbed in maintaining heart action, must be freed for higher activities by a method of calming and stilling the ceaseless demands of the breath.”
Describing how Kriya hastens the evolution of man, Yoganandaji says: “The Kriya Yogi mentally directs his life energy to revolve, upward and downward, around the six spinal centers (medullary, cervical, dorsal, lumbar, sacral, and coccygeal plexuses), which correspond to the twelve astral signs of the zodiac, the symbolic Cosmic Man. One-half minute of revolution of energy around the sensitive spinal cord of man effects subtle progress in his evolution; that half-minute of Kriya equals one year of natural spiritual unfoldment.”
In addition to detailed explanation on the practice of advanced techniques of meditation, the self-study Lessons offer a wealth of practical guidance for living a harmonious life in a world of duality. These lessons are available in print and also accessible via a digital app.
● Positive Affirmations
The powerful affirmations elucidated by Yoganandaji teach one how to directly access and apply the remarkable healing powers hidden within every human being. In Scientific Healing Affirmations, he writes, “Sincere words or affirmations repeated understandingly, feelingly, and willingly are sure to move the Omnipresent Cosmic Vibratory Force to render aid in your difficulty. Appeal to that Power with infinite confidence, casting out all doubt; otherwise the arrow of your attention will be deflected from its mark.” Be it an affirmation for healing, or for awakening will power or for developing devotion, hundreds of thousands of people have profoundly benefitted through the practice of these healing affirmations.
● Worldwide Prayer Circle
As part of the Worldwide Prayer Circle started by Yoganandaji, YSS sannyasis offer prayers for all who request prayers for physical, mental, and spiritual healing and are joined by other YSS members. Devotees offer prayers daily for world peace and harmony.
● The YSS Online Dhyan Kendra
The launch of the YSS Online Dhyana Kendra in 2021 extended the scope of the YSS teachings to a larger audience and enabled devotees to join online offerings including day-long retreats, commemorative and weekly meditations, kirtans etc remotely, regardless of their location.
Philanthropic Service: Joy in helping others
YSS performs a number of charitable activities and relief work all over India. By channeling such activities through YSS ashrams, kendras, and mandalis, YSS is able to directly deliver substantial humanitarian aid to those affected by calamities such as floods, droughts, cyclones and pandemics.
Every year a number of scholarships and educational aids are given to students from economically poor sections studying in YSS schools and colleges; special scholarships are also awarded to meritorious students in professional courses.
YSS conducts free medical camps, provides free medical treatment, supplies ration to orphanages and old-age homes, thereby rendering aid to thousands of families and fulfilling the ideal of ‘serving mankind as one’s larger Self’.
A Lasting Legacy
Thus, Yoganandaji set into motion the blessed role of Kriya Yoga in the East and West as a definite, scientific technique of Self-realization for the overcoming of all human misery. His words of prophetic benediction are all the more relevant in today’s uncertain times.
One of the aims of YSS is 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 Yogoda Satsanga temples for God-communion, and to encourage the establishment of individual temples of God in the homes and in the hearts of men.
Yoganandaji ends his Autobiography of a Yogi, with these words, “Lord, Thou hast given this monk a large family!” Yoganandaji’s mission of spreading the science of Kriya Yoga has come to fruition in the thousands of Kriya Yogis spread all over the world, inspired by his God-centered life and teachings.