As you probably know, Swami Kriyananda, the founder of Ananda, recently passed away. Since that fateful night, I have felt drawn to re-read some of Swami’s books. One in particular, Paramhansa Yogananda: A Biography, stood out to me. As I went over all those touching, charming stories, I reflected on my own relationship with Yogananda as my guru, and what it meant to love someone who no longer has a physical form. Yogananda never sat in front of me, looked into my eyes and said, “I give you my unconditional love”, as he did to Swami. Does this mean, though, that my relationship with him is only in my imagination?
Not at all! Just because our interactions all take place inside of me, it does not make them imaginary, as I’m sure anyone who has lost a loved one can attest. The physical presence of my guru may be gone, but the real Guru, even when he had a body, could only be truly experienced in the heart.
Bearing this in mind, I’d like to share the story of how I came to know that Yogananda was my guru. While I was in college I read many books from different spiritual paths. I had read Autobiography of a Yogi, possibly the most famous book on yoga in America, but it perplexed me. The world that Yogananda described just didn’t seem to fit into my own vision of reality.
Sometime in the winter of 2010, a friend sent me a quotation by a famous swami in India. It said something like, “Before you can find your guru, you must first serve your parents. First serve your mother, then your father, then your guru will appear.” The the idea suddenly popped into my mind: “I know! I’ll make my parents some Pad Thai!” At the time it seemed perfectly logical that this was the best way to find my true guru. I went right to the store, got everything I needed, and set to work. While I prepared the food I listened to the Autobiography of a Yogi audiobook.
Suddenly I felt this great energy filling my heart. I ran over to a picture of Yogananda that I had on my altar and knelt in front of it. I stared at his picture as it all suddenly became clear to me that this was my guru. Nothing but Yogananda’s grace could have given me such a revelation. Soon after this, I took the vow of discipleship, and it was the best decision I’ve ever made.
This story (and others) is why I know that Yogananda and Swami are still with us. It might even be that they are more with us than they were when they were here physically. Before they were limited by the restrictions of a human body, but now their spirits are free and omnipresent.