Paramhansa Yogananda once said a very interesting thing to a group of us: “When I see that I’m to reincarnate again, and I see the personality that I have to assume, it feels a bit uncomfortable at first, like a hot overcoat on a summer day. But then I get used to it.”
When Yogananda spoke this way about his body and personality, he was not speaking of himself in his expanded consciousness. So often when we talk about a great master, we emphasize the personality and forget the underlying reality that animates him. It’s important to hold the thought that Yogananda wasn’t that personality. He’s as much here today as he is in the astral world, or anywhere in space, because he’s one with the Infinite.
Get rid of self-definitions
We have all been through many incarnations. I tremble to think of how many. Even after we achieve human birth we still have many more incarnations to go through before we realize our true nature.
Our job as devotees is to get rid of the countless little self-definitions that limit us. As we reduce these, we finally discover that we too are one with the Infinite. This is the state of cosmic consciousness. When Sister Gyanamata, Yogananda’s most advanced woman disciple, reached that state at the moment of death, her last words were, “Ah, too much joy!” You, too, will ultimately find such joy, which you’ve been seeking for many lifetimes.
The upliftment of the whole world
It’s helpful for us to discuss why Paramhansa Yogananda came to the world at this time. He came to help all of us, surely, but he also came for the upliftment of the whole world. In the Bhagavad Gita, it says, “Whenever darkness increases and virtue declines, I incarnate myself on earth as an avatar to re-establish dharma.”
I don’t know how many lifetimes Yogananda has come back as an avatar, but as he said, “It’s been a long time.” He’s had many missions, and his special task always seems to be to overcome the opposition to a new movement in history. He told us that in a past lifetime he was the divine warrior, Arjuna, and in another, William the Conqueror.
In this lifetime, Yogananda was divinely ordained to play a very difficult role. Like William the Conqueror, he came to a whole new continent where he was completely unknown and opposed by many. He came as a Hindu to a basically Christian America, but he had so much power and joy that he took the country by storm.
Yogananda’s mission was to change world consciousness. He needed an indomitable spirit of conquest to be able to bring God’s message to the world for this new age of energy—the age of Dwapara Yuga. The model he set on all levels of life has been so all encompassing that I think in the future he will be called, “The Avatar of Dwapara Yuga.”
An emphasis on energy
All of Yogananda’s teachings are centered in the concept of energy: the Energization Exercises, the many techniques for drawing energy through breathing and from the food we eat. In India during higher ages, prana was understood as energy, and pranayama meant not just control of the breath, but “control of subtle energy.”
Yogananda taught that the breath accompanies the flow of energy in the astral spine—the upward moving energy in the ida causes the inhalation, and the downward flow in the pingala causes the exhalation. This control of prana as energy is the essence of Kriya Yoga. Fundamental to all Yogananda’s teachings is this emphasis on energy.
How to live with joy
So much of religion in the Dark Age, or Kali Yuga, was based on the consciousness of sin. Yogananda came to change this consciousness by showing us how to live with joy.
He brought the awareness that you are not a sinner—you are a perfect being! Your destiny is not to go to hell, as so many people believe, but to become one with God. Your most important job in life is to think of God and understand that He is your own highest reality.
Yogananda emphasized that it’s not a consciousness of sinfulness that will make us grow—it’s joy. We should never beat ourselves up over the mistakes we’ve made. It’s much better simply to say, “All right, I made a mistake. Now I’m going to dust off my hands, and try again.”
Another new expression of energy brought by Yogananda was the ideal of spiritual communities or, “world brotherhood colonies,” as he called them. At every single Sunday service that I heard, he spoke about building communities and tried to get others enthusiastic about the idea.
Yogananda told me I had a great work to do, and part of that has been building communities. When people visit our communities, and see the joy in the eyes of our people, they say, “I want to join this, or do something like it.” That’s the way you can change people—not by telling them what to do, but by doing something so attractive that they will do it on their own.
The war between the angels and asuras
There’s a war going on now in heaven between the angels and the asuras, or demonic forces. We can see that asura energy in the increase in violence, terrorism, and adharmic activities in this world.
The whole world seems to be saying, “God is separate from our daily lives.” He’s not! He created this world, and He has come anew to the world today through Paramhansa Yogananda. In time, Yogananda’s teachings will bring a change in people’s consciousness that will bring peace, happiness, and beauty to the world.
Many people think you just can’t be happy, you can’t be kind—that it won’t work to live that way. But in the nearly forty years since we started Ananda, we have had enough experience to declare emphatically: it does work.
At Ananda we have spiritual communities that are like families. I don’t like to stress this aspect of it, because it sounds as if I were trying to win people for mercenary reasons, but the truth is that it’s the best possible insurance you can have—to live with people who love and support you. Our highest concern is, and has always been, the individual. One of the guidelines I’ve used in building Ananda is, “People are more important than things.”
I invite all of you in India and everywhere to think seriously about this concept. Together we can create communities that are supportive of everybody and help people to live more in God.
An energy-based system of education
The system of education that we’ve developed in our communities is also based on Yogananda’s principles of energy and consciousness. We provide a school environment where children are happy. By teaching them how to direct their energy in positive, harmonious ways, they stand out as examples of calmness, understanding, and wisdom.
On top of that, they excel academically. They score in the top five percentile in national scholastic tests given throughout the country.
The former superintendent of schools in Sacramento, California toured our “Living Wisdom” school at Ananda Village and said, “If these principles were used in all our schools, it would change the world.” Yogananda very strongly wanted to create such schools that had a balanced approach to the children’s physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs.
No spirit of competition
When Yogananda spoke of the benefits of living in communities, he said: “If a thousand people work against each other competitively, each one has nine hundred and ninety-nine enemies. But if they work in a cooperative society, each will have nine hundred and ninety-nine friends.”
At Ananda there is no spirit of competition. In fact, I never appoint someone a leader if I see he wants to be a leader—I appoint those who want to serve.
That spirit of service, again, is something Yogananda brought. He said business should be done as a service to others, thinking in terms of what you can give, not what you can gain. In Ananda’s businesses, we work in this spirit, and by treating our customers as friends, they return to our shops again and again.
Change the world by example
How can we change the world? By example! By doing it ourselves, and not wasting time telling everybody else how they should be.
If we commit ourselves to living Yogananda’s teachings and creating models for others, we can change the world with the consciousness that he brought. His mission to our age was to bring divine consciousness into every conceivable aspect of society. To me that mission was who he really was.
Each master who comes into the world is one with the same Truth. There is no rivalry in God, and God expresses Himself differently through each one. When Yogananda was asked if he had brought a new religion, he replied, “It is a new expression.” God has blessed the world with a new expression of timeless truths, and all of us must work together to do our part to fulfill the great mission that Paramhansa Yogananda brought.