Part 1: In UK
Yesterday marked my one year anniversary since I moved, from Los Angeles, into the spiritual community of Ananda Village, in the foothills of Northern California. This is the story of how reading the Autobiography of a Yogi made that happen.
It all probably started with this Facebook post of mine, of June 28, 2013. It read:
“The moments we’re realizing that we’re all just one, that we’re actually sharing and feeling every laughter and pain every person that we know in our lives is experiencing, everything becomes so simple, so peaceful. Everything becomes okay… Anxiety, jealousy, hate, depression, and all those things seem to wash away so quickly.”
Now that I’m writing this, I realize something incredible. You have to realize that before this date, I had never shared any posts like this before. I wasn’t into sending words of inspiration or wisdom to anyone. This sort of thing was simply not in my consciousness! It was so out of my character that my friends were joking with comments like “Are you about to achieve nirvana?”
The incredible thing that I just discovered is that I had started reading the Autobiography of Yogi book probably a few days before this post. I hadn’t even gone more than a few pages into it, and in the beginning I was not even becoming interested in it. I was quite suspicious about what I was reading and why I was taking my time reading it.
But something deep in my being was shifting, quite ahead of my own conscience and mind noticing it! I must have had a hint of expansion in consciousness from the little ego self towards the Infinite, to have shared a message like this. I wasn’t using psychedelic drugs. From somewhere deep inside me I have always felt that those aren’t the way. What Yogananda said about his Autobiography of a Yogi was that “he put his vibrations in it.” His vibrations had apparently been working on me, on the very first few days of reading it, even though I had no idea I even liked what little I had read from the book at that point!
Now some context. I shared this post from UK, where I was visiting my buddy. I was supposed to be in Morocco that summer, with my same buddy, to visit my then girlfriend and tour the country. But Divine Mother had finely orchestrated this period of my life. A few weeks before my soulfriend had sent me an email from Morocco to tell me she felt it was time for us to go separate paths. Naturally, it wasn’t appropriate for us to keep our travel plans to visit her country. So I had extended my stay at UK with my buddy.
Though I was still feeling hurt by the unwanted separation, I was having a peaceful and expansive time in UK. I didn’t do much. Just read, meditated (had just picked it up inspired by my soulfriend who had done the same), and hung out with my friend. What was happening was that I was beginning to get out the black hole of my mind, which had been violently spiraling for some weeks, trying to figure out all the “why”s. Now I was having a taste of feeling the light. And lightness.
Part 2: A Book with Vibrations of a Master
And so I made it back home to Los Angeles, with a feeling that something was opening up in me. An expansion was occurring. I couldn’t wait for the moments to resume reading the Autobiography of a Yogi book. I can’t remember how fast I finished it; must have been a few days or weeks only. I remember texting my sister telling her that “it is the first book I’m crying my way through.” I hadn’t cried before in my adulthood; maybe once or twice that I can remember. What was happening to me?
You see, life had never made much sense to me before, in my whole thirty some years in this lifetime. It’s just that I had made a habit of forgetting all that was wrong by focusing on a goal I had set my mind to achieve, and waiting for times when things were well and happy. Then I would forget the sufferings and tell myself maybe it’s not so bad. Until the next time life showed its scary side, that is. And then crash again…
But that’s no way to live, my friends, I see now that I have learned a different way to know and go about life.
At the beginning I read the miraculous accounts in that book with suspicion and I wasn’t sure if this book was going to be any good. But soon something shifted in me. Somehow all intellectual resistances and barriers seemed to wash away, and I knew, from a deeper place, that what I was reading was the truth. It was the vibrations of the master which were working on me, transforming me from inside out.
And so Autobiography of a Yogi answered all life for me. It felt that the things I was reading in that book weren’t unknown to me before, I had just forgotten them. Hearing them, all at once, I remembered with my whole being that I had known them as the truth, beyond mere intellectual understanding.
That book told me that miracles aren’t against nature. It’s just that there are deeper subtler laws underneath the physical ones that the common science just hasn’t caught up with. It told me that life itself isn’t the purpose. Rather, it is a show of light and shadow for the purpose of entertainment and more importantly soul awakening from life. To see beyond all the seeming world. Yogananda, the author, used the image of the person in the cinema, tracing back the projector light beam to its source in the back of the room, while everyone else is mesmerized by the drama unfolding on the screen. It told me not only of esoteric knowledge, but about the practical and scientific yogic technique of Kriya yoga meditation, which was brought from the ages specifically for people from all walks of life, not only yogis in the caves, to significantly speed up their spiritual progress towards Samadhi, the state of being one with God.
Part 3: Back in L.A.
As I picked up my life back in Los Angeles, just having devoured the Autobiography of a Yogi book, I found my perspective on every aspect of life renewed.
Yoga isn’t about stretching on a yoga mat; that much we’re just catching up with in this modern world. But Yoga also isn’t just about the state of oneness with the cosmic consciousness either. It is an art and science which works at every level of existence, from mundane to the absolute Infinite. A perfected yogi perfects existence from the physical and material, energetic, and mental levels, all the way to the topless top.
No days felt the same as before. I had just finished graduate school at UCLA and started a job, two blocks from campus, which was an opportunity of a lifetime. My career mentor, who is a pioneer in the field of Computer Science, had gathered a handful of eclectic international computer and design researchers, secured an exorbitant amount of government and private company funding, and told us to work on whatever projects we wanted. I was being paid outrageously well just to show up and do what was my hobby and would do for free. I came up with cool research work to bring ideas from the field of artificial intelligence into the field of programming languages. Got papers published and presented them internationally.
But do you remember when you were a kid, when perhaps a toy you really liked had to take the back seat or stay in the closet, because you had just gotten a shinier one from your favorite uncle? This is what was gradually happening to me. My newly found passion, yoga and meditation, was fading in from the backdrop, making my cool awesome job and awesome projects to aid humanity rather drab looking, as each day passed by.
After searching online for Yogananda locally, I had come across a meditation class from a group called Ananda in West Hollywood, which claimed a connection to Yogananda. Curious, without looking much into who this group was, I just showed up for the class.
By the time I had finished the Autobiography of a Yogi book, I knew about the concept of disciples and devotees of a guru. But it hadn’t occurred to me that, in this present day, many many more souls, just like me, right here in my city, must have been affected by the same book and guru, and formed a community. It turned out that they had.
I never forget the moment as I entered the door of the private house, which was at the time serving as Ananda’s LA ashram. As I entered in, a man, which I knew later to be Narayan—one of the directors of that center—seemed to me to push away other people from a far distance just to approach and greet me. His greeting was so friendly and naturally kind, that for a moment I wondered “do we know each other?” And although perhaps not in this life, it did and always does feel to me that we have been friends, perhaps gurubais (devotees of the same guru) in past lives.
This is how Ananda, and that group of people I met, felt to me that very first day I visited that large Los Angeles suburban house: Home. And everyday after that (and I kept going more and more often) whether there or later in other centers and finally at Ananda Village, it has felt the same to me: as a soul’s home.
I say soul’s home also because now it’s clear to me that I was inwardly guided there. Here’s a side story.
Soon I learned that Ananda is a community of disciples of Yogananda, which was formed in the late 60s by an American direct disciple of his called Kriyananda. Yogananda, who left his body in the 50s, had established his own organization, which is called Self Realization Fellowship (SRF), with a headquarter right there in Los Angeles, of all places. Ananda was formed a decade or so after Yogananda’s passing, as a separate organization. SRF, being Yogananda’s official and original establishment, is still more well-known to the world than Ananda.
Before I knew any of this, when I wanted to pick up the audiobook of the Autobiography of a Yogi on audible, I saw that there were two versions: A more popular orange cover one (later I found out to be one released by SRF) and a blue cover one. The orange version was narrated by Sir Ben Kingsley. The blue version by a fellow named Kriyananda. Now, in my head, I thought “Hmmm, Ben Kingley is a cool actor, but that second guy sounds Indian, so maybe this version is more authentic!” Only later, half way through the book, I discovered that the audiobook was read by Kriyananda, not an Indian but an American man, and a direct disciple of the guru Yogananda. By listening to the Autobiography of a Yogi, not only was I tuning into Yogananda, I was also attuning to his disciple who was meant to be my spiritual guide, through his voice.
Although the reasoning in my head was false, I believe a deeper force guided me to connect with Kriyananda, who founded the Ananda communities. Similarly, although I lived in Los Angeles—the headquarter of Yogananda’s SRF establishment—seemingly through happenstance I ended up going to a meditation class offered by a small Ananda group in this city. This, also, was not a coincidence. (There are none.) A guru’s guidance was at work to bring me to my spiritual home and family.
Part 4: Master Says: “Open Your Heart to Me, and I Will Enter and Take Charge of Your Life”
One of the sweetest, most potent paragraphs in the Autobiography of Yogi for me is when, after years of disheartenment upon losing his mother at the age of 11, the young Mukunda (Yogananda) finally hears the solacing voice of Divine Mother:
“It is I who have watched over thee, life after life, in the tenderness of many mothers! See in My gaze the two black eyes, the lost beautiful eyes, thou seekest!”
“Her words brought final healing to my suppurating wounds,” Yogananda tells us. He speaks of a “final” healing, not the kind of temporary alleviation from pains, which most of us seek and experience. Rather than the passive and evanescent waiting-to-see-if-ego-is-satisfied kind of healing, it becomes “final” with the power of active and utter conviction and internalization of this truth.
And it was with these words of Divine Mother, through the writing of my guru, that I felt I was in turn brought final healing from the separation I had suffered from my love. I understood, deeply, that what I missed was present right within me. I just have to close my eyes at any time, tune in, and the sweetness that I felt she exuded is right here for me to feel. That is because the source of all is accessible from within. Individual souls are just channels and reflectors of that which we seek.
And so my goal became to feel and expand the love I felt to everyone and everything, rather than caging it in for some event in the past. With the help of meditation that was now part of my daily routine, I started to become alive, and awake.
Having found my guru and my spiritual home and family at the Ananda center in the city of Los Angeles, I participated in every class and event offered there and sucked in every book they had available around the teachings of Yogananda. My source to the guru was Swami Kriyananda, Yogananda’s direct disciple and founder of Ananda communities, and the voice on the Autobiography of a Yogi audiobook.
After finding the Ananda center near my home and discovering that the magical Kriya Yoga that Yogananda talks about in his Autobiography is actually available to receive, in this day and age, and even nearby my home, I naturally dived in head-first. I jumped in taking the Ananda Course in Self Realization, which includes 1) Ananda Course in Meditation 2) The Art and Science of Raja Yoga 3) Discipleship and 4) Preparation for Kriya.
Kriya yoga, more specifically “The Kriya Yoga of Lahiri Mahasaya of Benares”, isn’t just some technique to learn by watching a YouTube video. It has to be properly bestowed upon through the spiritual soul-connection of guru and disciple. Only through attunement to the guru, its real powers come to life. “Kriya yoga plus devotion,” Yogananda said, “works like mathematics. It cannot fail.” But when that connection is truly made, Kriya starts to transform every aspect of one’s life. A lot of times after receiving the Kriya initiation, as the guru is willingly invited to take charge of one’s life, changes and transformations start to come more and more quickly and frequently. Peoples lives turn upside down, always in ways that are good of the soul.
And that’s what happened to me. Around October 2013 I took discipleship to my guru, and in November 2014 I had my Kriya initiation. A tsunami of changes was soon to come my way. I left my job and a year later, after a few visits to Ananda Village for yoga and meditation teacher trainings, guru’s guidance brought me back in November 2015 to make Ananda Village my home.
Read the full blog:
How I Came to Live in a Spiritual Community Called Ananda Village