In 1972, I read Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda and, like so many others, felt immediately uplifted and blessed. Here was a safe harbor and, more personally, here was the divine friend of my dreams, the guru who beckoned me so lovingly to follow in his footsteps to final, joyful freedom.
For days I immersed myself in Yogananda’s book. Layer after layer of darkness, uncertainty, and confusion fell away. A blissful glow permeated my consciousness. But now what? How actually to follow in Yogananda’s footsteps? How to practice these magical arts that so powerfully drew me?
An answer to a prayer
In the summer of 1974, I learned that a place existed where one could actually live, and study intensively, the ancient teachings of yoga, as brought to the West by Paramhansa Yogananda. A few weeks later, having hitch-hiked from North Carolina to Ananda Village, I discovered, to my joy, that I could take a course of lessons (then called Fourteen Steps to Perfect Joy), and that these lessons addressed all the questions that had arisen for me in reading Autobiography of a Yogi.
Every two weeks, when a lesson would arrive, I would pore over the lesson with the fervor of a fairy tale apprentice secretly absorbing the hidden teachings of his master’s book of magic. Yoga postures, breathing techniques, healing techniques, guided meditations, affirmations, visualizations—I took detailed notes, and did my best to carry out Kriyananda’s instructions until I had experienced at least some of the blessings of each practice.These lessons, now the single volume, The Art and Science of Raja Yoga, were the answer to my prayer.
Based on Yogananda’s Yoga Sutras classes
The Art and Science of Raja Yoga is based on a series of classes Yogananda gave on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the great Indian master of yoga. From my first exposure I’ve had the feeling that if I want to know God as Kriyananda knows God (and I do!) then these lessons lay out with crystal clarity how to achieve that goal.
Kriyananda offers these sacred teachings to the student in the humble spirit of a true disciple acting as a channel for his guru, Paramhansa Yogananda. “I pray,” Kriyananda writes in his farewell to the student, “that you turn to Him, and receive into your heart the grace that has flooded in me.” To this day I am profoundly grateful to Kriyananda for so lucidly and powerfully making available to all of us the essence of Yogananda’s teachings on Raja Yoga, the supreme path to God, and doing so in such an eminently practical way.
After forty-two years on the path, I still feel closest to the Yogananda, most open to his grace, when I reverently study these profound lessons. At the very end of the course, the section titled “Signs of Spiritual Progress,” Kriyananda leaves us with these words, a divine promise that has buoyed my spirit to this day:
Compare yourself not with others, but only with your own self. Do you love God more now than you used to? Are you developing even-mindedness? Are you more inwardly contented and joyful—or at least happy? Are you renouncing self-will? Do you want to serve and please only God?
If your answer to these questions is yes, and if you can add to your answer the wish to grow daily in these sublime virtues, know that God and Guru must be well pleased with you. Offer yourself into their arms. They will bear you surely and swiftly to the Divine Shores.