Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) was Paramhansa Yogananda’s boyhood home. It is the backdrop for many of the stories in his Autobiography of a Yogi. When Swami Kriyananda moved to India in 2003, it was natural to expect that the people of Kolkata would be hungry for his presentation of Yogananda’s teachings. Surprisingly, however, Ananda had only moderate success there.
This April, our four monks decided to change that.
One of the challenges we have teaching meditation classes in other cities is the cost of travel. Airfares are high, a fact keenly felt when traveling in a group of four. The monks solved this by taking the overnight train from Delhi to Kolkata.
Upon arriving, they took the city by storm! Having already advertised in several newspapers, they spent two days postering the city–two long, hot, days!
Their efforts were rewarded with an excellent turnout: 150 people came to the free lecture, and 70 came to the meditation workshop the next day.
The conclusion of the classes was hardly the end of their work. They next began the equally vital task of spending time with the Ananda members in Kolkata. Part of Ananda’s foundation is divine friendship and spiritual community. The monks spent time chanting, meditating, and dining with Ananda members.
They also led pilgrimage groups to various places connected with Yogananda’s life, including his boyhood home, his guru’s ashram, and the famous Dakshineshwar temple. They also spent time with members of Yogananda’s family, including Sarita Ghosh (pictured above), who is married to the son of Yogananda’s nephew.
With fond farewells they boarded the train back to Delhi. They had hardly arrived home when they began putting in place plans for the next visit.
They completed a second tour of Kolkata at the end of May. Again they had large turnouts for the public classes. This time they added a new element of service.
Yogananda emphasized the importance of daily meditation, and the monks decided to help the Kolkata Ananda members strengthen their practice. They spent a week meditating with different groups five times a day–a first in Ananda’s history.
The people of Kolkata now have the opportunity to drink deeply of Yogananda’s teachings, thanks to the efforts of these four young men. In their example we see how a small group of focused and energetic people can bring positive change to a city, and indeed, the world.