Are the teachings of our major religions really different—Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam? In focusing too narrowly on the details are we missing the point?

Many paths lead to one truth is central to the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda, an Indian saint who came to American in 1920. Today, saying “We’re all one; it’s all the same,” could be a politically correct superficial statement or a plea for rationality and compassion.

Yogananda came to America in a time of great strife and lived here through World Wars and the Great Depression. Why? To unite original Christianity as taught by Jesus Christ and original Yoga as taught by Krishna. To bring the universal truth to us, in profound compassion for all our struggles.

In 1968, a junior in high school and a big fan of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I was politically enthusiastic to change the world through non-violence. I dug deeper and began to hear the deeper spiritual teachings on which Gandhi and Dr. King drew their inspiration.

Then a friend gave me Autobiography of a Yogi, with the excited recommendation: “This guy (Yogananda) is in Cosmic Consciousness all the time!” All I could say was “Wow, man!” as I stared at Yogananda’s picture on the cover.

Voraciously, I read the autobiography, only stopping briefly for food, water, and sleep. It struck me, unlike so many books, this was a first-hand account of the spiritual life, spiritual practices, and spiritual states attained by the author.

In the university setting, professors wrote books about their observations and reflections on different religions. ParamhansaYogananda‘s explanation of the unity of religion was based on his inner experience of a universal state of consciousness attained by all the founders of the world’s great religions throughout time. It was not an observer’s perspective, it was a personal account of Yogananda’s realization of the all-pervading, infinite One Spirit.

The quickest way to have this experience of the infinite One Spirit, Yogananda offered, is through the practice of Kriya Yoga. In Autobiography of a Yogi he called “Kriya Yoga the jet airplane route to God.” Anyone, of any religious tradition, can practice Kriya.

After 45 years of practicing Kriya Yoga in meditation and the living joyful, vibrant life it has shaped, I believe Kriya and Yogananda are highly relevant and needed today.

Today, more than ever, we need to see through our particular differences to the core truths, to experience the infinite Oneness, to be compassionate in the face of tragic violence or, as Yogananda said, to “stand unshaken amidst crashing worlds.”

You may also enjoy watching The Spark, a documentary short film that reveals how Yogananda and his Autobiography ignited a spiritual revolution in the West. Autobiography of a Yogi was published in 1946.

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