|Self-Realization Fellowship minister BROTHER ABHEDANANDA, a devoted SRF monk for more than 60 years, passed away peacefully at the Self-Realization Fellowship Encinitas Ashram Center on April 20, 2016. In his multifaceted service to Paramahansa Yogananda’s work over many decades, Brother Abhedananda inspired countless souls in many lands through his wise counsel and ministry, his deep understanding of yoga and meditation, and his complete dedication to God.
Brother Abhedananda was born on June 30, 1926, in Strasbourg, France, and was named Bernard Tesniere. His father was a distinguished university professor of linguistics; his mother was a high school teacher. It was in 1950, while he was a medical student at the University of Montpellier in southern France, that he saw a copy of the Autobiography of a Yogi, which had just been published in French, in a bookstore window. He later recounted that as he looked at Paramahansaji’s eyes in the photo on the book, this thought strongly impressed itself in his mind: “He knows what he’s talking about. He will lead you to God if this is what you want.” Shortly thereafter, Brother wrote a letter to Paramahansa Yogananda, expressing how happy he was about what he had read and how he sincerely wanted to embrace the monastic path as a disciple in the SRF ashram. Paramahansaji replied — on what happened to be Brother’s birthday (June 30, 1950) — with a letter that included this passage:
Dear One, your letter deeply touched me. I am happy that my autobiography has stirred greater longing for God in your heart, for only by the pursuit of Him does one find at last the fulfillment for which the soul struggles through incarnations. Your wish to forsake all and dedicate your life to God is indeed commendable….
Paramahansaji also asked Brother to complete his medical studies before entering the ashram, while at the same time making time for daily meditation and studying the teachings. Brother obediently followed the Guru’s instructions, graduating as a Doctor of Medicine in 1953; and traveled to the United States to enter the Self-Realization Fellowship monastic order in 1954 — two years after the Guru’s mahasamadhi.
Paramahansaji’s far-seeing guidance proved to be of great value, since over his years in the ashram Brother Abhedananda’s expertise not only with medicine, anatomy, and physiology but also with languages enabled him to render great service to the SRF work. He wrote articles on yoga for Self-Realization magazine, and aided SRF’s editors (Tara Mata, Mrinalini Mata, and Sahaja Mata) by providing scientific background on many facets of Paramahansaji’s teachings. His classical education before entering the ashram had taught him Greek, Latin, English, and German in addition to his native French; and in subsequent years he also developed a working knowledge of Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and Sanskrit. In addition to playing a key role in the French translation of SRF publications for decades, he traveled extensively to serve SRF centers and groups in Europe and Latin America, where his linguistic talents as well as his deep knowledge of the SRF teachings made him a wonderful and much-loved representative.
He received his final vows of renunciation (sannyas) from Sri Daya Mata in 1970, at which time he took the monastic name “Abhedananda” (“bliss through identity with the Absolute”) in the Giri branch of the ancient Swami Order. Over the years, he fulfilled various responsibilities in the Self-Realization work — serving initially at the Mother Center and later in Encinitas, where he assisted Brother Premamoy in the spiritual training of young postulant monks and served as a minister at the San Diego SRF Temple.
Brother Abhedananda standing far right
Until the end of his life, Brother exuded the sweetness and spirituality born of lifelong dedication to God and Guru, and he never lost that twinkle in his eyes which was his special trademark. SRF/YSS president Sri Mrinalini Mata paid tribute to this loyal and dedicated monk in these words to the SRF monastic community:
“The sincere desire to do Gurudeva’s will, with which Brother Abhedananda began his relationship with Master, characterized his life and service throughout the years, and allowed God and Guru to use his skills in many ways. Though he never met Master in the physical form in this life, he surely received an even greater blessing for unhesitatingly obeying his guru’s request [to finish his medical studies]. With what joy Guruji has now welcomed him in the realm of light beyond this world, as a beloved disciple whose unwavering loyalty and dedication have withstood the test of time….
“Those who live purely for God and Guru, as he did, touch the lives of others and leave behind spiritual footprints for them to follow. I join you in sending to Brother Abhedananda’s soul our eternal love and gratitude, and pray that his example encourage you on the path to God that we are walking together, which will lead us ultimately to a joyful reunion in Him.”
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