What were Paramhansa Yogananda’s favorite books? Did he listen to Beethoven, Mozart, etc.?
—Sukhmandeep Singh, India
My answer comes late. To make up for it I will make it a little more detailed.
If Yogananda took a book into his hands it was usually the Scriptures. He explained: ‘There are three Bibles which I read and from which I draw my outer inspiration: the Christian Bible, the Hindu Bhagavad Gita, and my Whispers from Eternity, which were given to me by God.”
These books he read very slowly, a little at a time, meditating on the truth expounded, recommending that we do the same: “Read only spiritual books which contain Self-realization. Such books as the Bhagavad Gita (the Hindu old and new Testaments) and the Christian Bible should not be read as you would read a novel. Read a passage, think about its meaning, then meditate on its truth. Then try to live the truth in life.”
The only novel he ever read, as far as I know, was Maria Corelli’s (she was a mystic) The Life Everlasting, a book which Swami Kriyananda later rewrote, publishing it as Love Perfected, Life Divine.
Apart from the Scriptures, Yogananda had a very particular relationship with books. He read extremely little, simply because he had access to the divine Source of information: “Through meditation and intuitive perception I get more intellectual truths than through reading books.” In other words, the entire cosmic library was at his disposal, through deep meditation.
The way he read was different than the one of most of us: “I read very little, because it is not necessary. By the time I get through a few pages of a book, I know from its vibrations whatever truth it contains.” Pretty amazing, isn’t it? Padre Pio’s way of reading was actually the same: he only needed to touch a letter to know what it contained.
This being said, Yogananda did suggest good books to all of us, who are not yet ready to read the cosmic library. Good books are, he said, “your best friends.” He highly praised Shakespeare, recommending to read a few lines of his works every day. He also highly praised Thomas Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ.
Couples, he said, would do well to read elevating books together: “Husband and wife should balance their first love by self-control and by reading and discussing good books together.”
About your second question: did Yogananda listen to classical music, Mozart, Beethoven, and the others?
The Master is known to have especially enjoyed The Blue Danube by Johann Strauss, which reminded him of the astral world. He sometimes played it during his all day Christmas meditation.
In his Autobiography of a Yogi he especially praises Bach: “Bach, among Western composers, had an understanding of the charm and power of repetitious sound slightly differentiated in a hundred complex ways.”
Several of his students were famous in the world of classical music: Amelita Galli Curci and Vladimir Rosing, who both were opera singers. Yogananda at least once visited Amelita Galli Curci’s performance.
The famous symphony conductor Leopold Stokowski too became his student.
Yogananda occasionally sponsored open-air concerts at his Lake Shrine. Large crowds attended, attracted by a series of well-known concert artists and by the beautiful, starlit setting. Above all he saw these events as a means of drawing people to the spiritual path.
In short: Yogananda seems to have seen books and classical music in the larger context of Self-Realization. They are both transmitters of vibration and consciousness. “Choose wisely,” he might have told you.
Joy to you,