Paramhansa Yogananda’s mission was to help usher the whole world, with greater understanding and spiritual insight, into Dwapara Yuga, the new Age of Energy in which we live. “Someday,” Swami Kriyananda wrote, “I believe he will be seen as the avatar of Dwapara Yuga.”
It was a world-changing mission, and therefore his teachings needed to be revolutionary. In some cases what he taught was well known in India but created a revolution in the West. Others of his teachings were completely new to this age. Let’s look at some of both.
1. Only God exists. God is both beyond and within all manifestation. He dreams this world into existence, and every atom and star is created from His consciousness. The goal of life is to awaken from the dream and realize our unity with Him. Why revolutionary? This ancient Vedic teaching is new to the West, which views creation as wholly separate from the Creator.
2. Daily meditation, stilling the mind, is the way to see behind the dream. Meditation consists of withdrawing outwardly directed prana (subtle energy or life-force) and focusing it at the spiritual eye, concentrating on God or on one of His qualities: light, sound, joy, peace, calmness, love, wisdom, or power. Why revolutionary? When Yogananda came to America in 1920 almost no one meditated. Now millions do so daily.
3. Prana keeps us alive, keeps us healthy, makes us magnetic, and allows us to succeed. All aspects of life are improved when we learn to control it, for to control energy is to gain control also over all things material. Yogananda taught the techniques of Kriya Yoga and the Energization Exercises to help us gain this control. He often said that the true altar is not in any church, but in our central nervous system. Why revolutionary? The importance of life-force is only now entering the fringes of science and the healing arts.
4. Karma and reincarnation. Every thought, feeling, and action creates a wave of energy that is destined to return to us: As we give, so shall we receive. The results of our own past actions create the circumstances and events of life. The way to free ourselves from this karmic cycle is to accept life, control our reactive processes, be even-minded and cheerful, and dissolve the ego. Why revolutionary? Appreciation of the importance of karma is beginning to sweep the world and change behavior.
5. We don’t need to leave the world. Yogananda’s mission was, in part, to help us see God in every person and activity. Why revolutionary? In the past, sincere seekers avoided worldly activity and withdrew to caves or monasteries.
6. The desire to be happy and to avoid pain is the universal motivation behind every action. Over lifetimes our definition of what makes us happy evolves. At first happiness is sought in laziness and sensuality, then in ego-centered accumulation of possessions or power. Gradually this evolves into an altruistic desire to help others and, finally, the yearning for Self-realization, which alone brings the joy we have always sought. Why revolutionary? People everywhere seek things, imagining that happiness lies outside themselves.
7. Spiritual communities provide the optimal environment for the pursuit of happiness and God. Why revolutionary? The spiritual community movement is only now starting with the Ananda communities as forerunners.
Paramhansa Yogananda’s revolutionary teachings need to be applied both culturally and personally. While these seven points only scratch the surface of what he taught, each is worth a meditation or two to see how they might apply to your life.
In the light,