For our annual Inner Renewal Week starting next week we will focus on various writings of Paramhansa Yogananda and Swami Kriyananda, including Autobiography of a Yogi, Conversations with Yogananda, and The Essence of the Bhagavad Gita. But reading and discussing books is all too often merely an intellectual exercise, even when it is inspiring. We want to take a different approach. We will take the teachings, examples, and stories of these “scriptures” as practical guides on how to live. After all, unless we integrate good advice into daily life it does little to change us. Here are a few strategic gems in the Autobiography.
Make the search for God a central focus of your life. Yogananda starts his great opus with this immortal sentence: “The characteristic features of Indian culture have long been a search for ultimate verities and the concomitant disciple-guru relationship.” This states the theme of the book and shows us the right goal for our lives. Swami Kriyananda begins each of the vows he wrote by declaring that the spiritual search should direct our lives, and he makes the point more strongly, the deeper the level of commitment involved. In the vow of complete renunciation for nayaswamis, he expresses it this way: “From now on, I embrace as the only purpose of my life the search for God.”
Expect miracles. Autobiography of a Yogi is filled with stories of miracles. Yogananda says that, even from birth, he had clear memories of past lives, and complete awareness. And he says it with humor: “The beguiling scope of an infant’s mind! adultly considered limited to toys and toes.” He is subtly giving us yet another guide for how to live: with humor, laughter, and joy.
Then he moves on to rarer occurrences, of masters who can manifest themselves in wheat fields and hotel rooms, levitate, bilocate, and be in constant conversation with Divine Mother. He convincingly follows the example of Jesus, who said, “Unless you see signs and wonders, you will not believe.”
It may seem that miracles happen only to Yogananda and other great souls. Have you and I seen miracles? Yes, absolutely! If we but peer behind the curtain of outward appearances, miracles abound in our lives. Yogananda states that we couldn’t live for a minute without the constant flow of grace from God. Sometimes God makes His grace more obvious. Many times on a birthday or special occasion for Swami Kriyananda I have seen a rainbow appear, sometimes in a clear blue sky. It has become a semi-expected sign of blessing at those times.
But the greatest miracle of all is the inner transformation that takes place when we make the spiritual quest a true goal of our life. One time Devi was lamenting to Swami Kriyananda that she didn’t think she had made much progress. “How can you say that!” he replied forcefully. “You are a completely different person than you were when you came to Ananda.” I have been blessed with a life where I see ordinary people gradually becoming transformed into saints. What greater miracle can I expect?
These blogs are too short to be able to discuss at length so many other themes in the Autobiography. But here, briefly, are a few for you to consider as guides to your life:
Fill your life with love: love of family, love for your guides, and, most importantly, love for God.
Seek to be in the presence of saints. If you don’t happen to have any living in your neighborhood, as Master did, then start with books. If you are sincere, you will be led to living saints.
Meditate, pray, chant, and let the very flow of your breath be filled with a yearning for eternal verities.
I have read Autobiography of a Yogi many times, perhaps you have too. Now is the time to take a step beyond reading it and begin living it.
To learn more about Inner Renewal Week this year, visit Ananda.org.
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