This year, 2020, marks the one hundredth anniversary of the launch of Paramhansa Yogananda’s world mission. The scope of his accomplishments in one lifetime was remarkable. Arriving in Boston in 1920, barely speaking English, he truly took America by storm. Within a few years of landing in the West, he was filling the largest auditoriums from coast to coast—from New York to Boston, from Kansas City to Salt Lake City, and from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

In January 1925, for example, he began a two-month lecture series in Los Angeles, filling the three-thousand-seat Philharmonic Auditorium to overflowing. For the many weeks of his lectures, people lined up around the block trying to hear this magnetic, charming, enlightening man from India.

And this was just the tip of the iceberg. The tens of thousands he initiated into Kriya Yoga; the greater number he taught to meditate; the uncounted healings and miracles he performed; the ongoing inspiration he left behind with his writings, especially Autobiography of a Yogi—all of these fill my heart with awe and wonder at what he was able to accomplish in the short thirty-two years of his mission.

Yet for me, thinking even about all of this doesn’t satisfy an inner longing to know him. In my heart I still call out, “I wish that I had met you. I wish I could have sat at your feet just one time and listened to the wisdom you shared. I wish that I had heard your uproarious laughter, overflowing with God’s joy. I wish I could have seen your smile even once, and felt the love flowing from your eyes.”

Whispers of consolation come to me from his own words: “To those who think me near, I will be near.” But how do we think him near, so that the longing to be in his presence is satisfied?

Paramhansa Yogananda said to those who think me near, I will be near.Swami Kriyananda suggested many ways. He told us to gaze at Yogananda’s image in photos, especially his eyes. Then, he said, try to hold the memory of his eyes with you throughout the day. Try to see them in the eyes of others, in the beauty of nature, and even in the suffering we see around us.

But Swamiji also related how Master corrected one of the disciples, who was always taking pictures of him and covering the walls of his room with them. “‘Why do you keep on taking photographs of this physical form?’ Master demanded of him one day. ‘What is it but flesh and bones? Get to know me in meditation if you want to know who I really am!’” So, yes, gaze into his eyes, but don’t stop at that. Try to feel reflected there his underlying consciousness—the infinite love, joy, and depth—and try to awaken it within yourself.

Swamiji suggested as well that we tune in to Yogananda’s outstanding characteristics and try to feel the consciousness behind them. Some that he mentioned are Master’s complete absence of ego; his deep, impersonal respect for everyone; his ability to understand others from within them and not, as most people do, from the outside; his delightful, impish sense of humor; and his completely positive attitude towards everyone and everything.

Pick one or a few of these qualities that especially resonate with you, and try in meditation to feel these aspects of him within yourself. Then let these qualities permeate your actions throughout the day, so that you feel it is Yoganandaji laughing through you at something amusing, or responding positively to some setback, or loving someone that others have rejected.

I wish I could say to you, “Yes, do all this. From my own experience I know that it works.” In truth, I am trying as hard as I can to feel my Guru’s living presence within me. But I can invite you to join me in the quest to draw him closer. With his grace, the day will come when we fully experience these words from one of his poems:

“With only mists of dreams between,
Someone beside me stood unseen—
And whispered to me, calm and clear:
‘Hello, playmate! I am here!’”

As Master arrives on the shores of our consciousness and transforms our countless restless thoughts, may we help launch the next hundred years of his mission.

In his love,

Nayaswami Devi

P.S. You might also enjoy this video message from Jyotish and me, in honor of Yogananda’s 100th anniversary.

Subscribe to the Touch of Light podcast. Download the audio recording of this week’s blog by right-clicking here. Or listen to it here (5:44):

15 Comments

  1. DITTO!
    Rereading his inspiring words also makes me feel close to the great Master.

  2. Thank you for the uplifting reminders and inspirations.

  3. Such a beautiful letter, Devi! Thank you for being so real with us. When I reached the last line, “Hello Playmate!”, I burst into tears.
    Sending you and Jyotish our love and our prayers.

  4. I wish I had met him too,
    and I’m grateful for those who I have met at Ananda, and for your lovingly written blogs.

  5. I’ve often thought about meeting him, but I was only 2 when he left this world, had I met him back then, likely I’d not have remembered. But now, every day we can remember him, and stand in his astral light when we read his words, closing our eyes and letting them soak into our being, we know that he is so near, and so dear, that the tears well up and we know that, love,,, never dies.

  6. I love this, Devi. For myself, many of the suggested ways work.
    When I was living and working at the Ananda Meditation Retreat, I went away for several days on a trip. When I returned, I would swear that Master virtually leaped out from his large photo in the temple, filling me with so much love I thought I would swoon!
    Also amazing to me is the feeling I get when I go into Swami Kriyananda’s Moksha Mandir. I had very few face to face encounters with him while he was still living; these were precious to me, of course. However, none of these could even remotely compare to the deep peace, resounding joy and great love I feel when I step into his Mandir. I feel more connected with him than ever before… and I never want to leave that sacred space!
    It is abundantly clear to me that our Masters are ever present, and more accessible in their subtle forms than the physical ones they inhabited but briefly. I am eternally grateful for these experiences and the understanding that I can, indeed, tune into their loving presence in my life whenever I feel the longing for this connection. Jai Guru!

  7. Dear Nayaswami Devi Ji,
    Thank you for this blog and the wonderful suggestions to invite Master in to our daily activities and feel his living presence.
    The last lines of your blog ‘may we help launch the next hundred years of his mission.’ – Master has sent us – his chelas – now to carry his mission forward and serve his work… reading these lines gives a deep sense of joy and satisfaction.

    In Master’s love
    Prem

  8. Thank you Dear Deviji,
    these words ““With only mists of dreams between,
    Someone beside me stood unseen—
    And whispered to me, calm and clear:
    ‘Hello, playmate! I am here!’”
    have always been a powerful reassuring force of God and Guru’s presence with me always, thank you for sharing this wonderful inspiration with me. Jai Guru.

  9. Yet for me, thinking even about all of this doesn’t satisfy an inner longing to know him. In my heart I still call out, “I wish that I had met you. I wish I could have sat at your feet just one time and listened to the wisdom you shared. I wish that I had heard your uproarious laughter, overflowing with God’s joy. I wish I could have seen your smile even once, and felt the love flowing from your eyes.”
    Thank you for this ??

  10. Your writings are inspiring. You are appreciated. In reading this article, especially what master had to overcome during those times in order to deliver his message, It reminds me that people sometimes get stuck on the story about the amazing journey the masters take and forget to enjoy the gifts delivered. Happily enjoying the fruits of his labor ?.

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