BROTHER BHAKTANANDA entered the ashrams of Paramahansa Yogananda in 1939; for sixty-six years he was known for his exemplary life of simplicity and his devotion and dedicated service to Guru and God.
Brother traveled throughout the United States, Europe, and India giving lectures on the SRF teachings and initiation in Kriya Yoga. Through his temple services, Convocation classes, public lectures, talks published in Self-Realization magazine, and individual spiritual counseling, he inspired countless members and friends with his compassionate understanding and heartfelt reminiscences of his years with Paramahansa Yogananda.
In Memoriam: Brother Bhaktananda (1914 – 2005)
excerpts (see below for entire article)
During the memorial service at Forest Lawn, Brother Achalananda quoted a letter Sri Daya Mata had written to Brother Bhaktananda in 1994 to mark his eightieth birthday:
“I remember one occasion when Gurudeva said to Tara Mata: ‘Michael is a faithful, loyal, loving devotee who will be steadfast through all the years to come. He follows me with deep devotion.'”
“Indeed he was, and indeed he did,” Brother Achalananda said…
Bro. Bhaktananda, seated, with (l-r) Dr. Lewis, Rajarsi Janakananda, Oliver Black
At a service held at Mt. Washington for SRF monastics, Brother Anandamoy paid tribute to his fellow-disciple of so many years:
“I remember when I heard Bhaktanandaji speak for the first time. Believe it or not, after all these years I still remember what he talked about. There were just two points. The first one was: develop an ever deeper devotion for Master. And the second point: practice the presence of God during the times when you are not meditating.
“Later on, I realized these were his favorite subjects. He spoke about them again and again over the years. And one time a man said to me about Bhaktananda: `You know, he always speaks about the same thing. It’s old hat!’
“I replied to him: ‘It’s old hat for those who do not practice it. But for those who do practice, they can hear it again and again and again. They never get tired of it, because it is the essence of our spiritual life.’
“Bhaktanandaji often quoted that story in Autobiography of a Yogi in which Master went to the Kalighat Temple in Calcutta as a boy. And there he met that saint who told him: ‘God alone is simple; everything else is complex.’ Bhaktananda was the embodiment of spiritual simplicity; I have never found another disciple who better exemplified this quality. He often said, ‘The more we simplify our lives, the easier it is to draw closer to God.’
“I was present one time when Master talked to a few of us monks about Bhaktananda…And Master praised Bhaktananda’s devotion. A rather intellectual person was present, who apparently thought Bhaktanandaji somewhat unsophisticated…that man said: ‘But Sir, his devotion is a very simple kind, isn’t it?’ And Master replied: `Ah, that is what God likes!'”
Beloved Brothers Bhaktananda and Bimalananda
“He was always patient,” wrote one [SRF devotee]. “I felt I could ask him any question and he always had time to answer it. I can never forget all he did for me. He transformed deep spiritual truths into practical formulas for daily living. Above all, his humility is what impressed me the most.”
Another wrote, “…I attended and served at Hollywood Temple for the better part of twenty years. We lay disciples truly respected Brother Bhaktananda. He was never personal with anyone, as far as I could see. But there was an underlying feeling of love and friendship with him, as well as an underlying strength. I never saw him nervous. I never saw him get angry, not even irritated. I really never saw him react in a negative way to anything. I did see him get firm and forceful with people at times, but not really that much. He simply did not need to. Even though he did not show it outwardly in his personality, under the surface there was real power and strength, more than in anyone else I have been acquainted with.”
Brother Ishtananda: “In the early years someone once complained to Paramahansaji: ‘There are no young men in the work that are on fire for God.’ And the Master replied: ‘You don’t know Michael. He may not be our most eloquent speaker, but he lives the life; he will draw souls to this work.’ And because Brother did ‘live the life,’ his life became an eloquent testimony to the effectiveness of Gurudeva’s teachings.
“If we could have Brother with us here today…there is one thing that I know he would say to us—those three simple words that he said so many thousands of times, to so many thousands of devotees: ‘Master bless you. Master bless you.’