Rajarsi Janakananda kneels beside Yoganandaji’s body
see companion article “The Miracle at Forest Lawn” ~ Yogananda’s Incorrupt Body
both articles are from the Memorial Edition of SRF magazine, May 1952 (photos added)
By PARAMHANSA YOGANANDA’S perfect and selfless life, and by his death and its phenomenal sequel, the Heavenly Father has given the world an example of the value of yoga. This devotee of God was indeed well named Yogananda—”divine bliss through yoga.” The yogic techniques for God-realization anciently developed by India’s sages constitute the highest science known to man.
Other devotees of God, Christian saints who manifested bodily immutability not through yoga but through extraordinary powers of single-hearted aspiration toward the Divine, were St. John of the Cross and St. Theresa of Avila. The body of St. John, who died in 1591, was exhumed in 1859 and found to be in a state of incorruptibility. The body of St. Theresa, which lies in a church at Alba in Spain, has for four centuries remained intransmutable. The site has witnessed innumerable miracles.
see mention of Teresa of Avila here SRF and Other Religions; Need for SRF/YSS Organization–Daya Mataji
Paramhansa Yogananda was a world teacher, a universal guru [‘Jagadguru’]. His difficult mission on earth was to awaken the nations to the soul-revealing possibilities of yoga. During his ministry of more than thirty years in America and abroad, he himself bestowed Kriya Yoga initiation on tens of thousands of students, and gave certain preliminary yoga techniques to hundreds of thousands of others—those who attended, in one large American city or another, his yoga classes.
Yogananda was a fearless spiritual warrior, a pioneer for a new and better age. When he arrived in the West in 1920, few Americans had any knowledge of yoga, whether theoretical or practical. Today vast numbers of Westerners look reverently on the science of yoga because Yogananda came to live among them and to teach them its sublimity.
Besides personally instructing students in yoga, the compassionate guru worked long and devotedly to serve truth-seekers in distant cities and countries, those who could not meet a great master face to face. How many nights he sat at his desk, writing out a new lesson for a beloved family of SRF members! Whether near or far, they were permitted to receive weekly lessons on the right conduct of life and the well balanced development of man’s threefold nature—physical, mental, and spiritual. The simple Kriya Yoga instructions, also, are sent to SRF members after they have completed a period of study of preliminary teachings.
Master was a tireless teacher. He left no avenue unapproached in his efforts to accomplish his task. Whether training disciples, lecturing, sitting in silent meditation, teaching classes, traveling at home or abroad, attending meetings or social functions, writing books, publishing magazines, sending lessons by mail, granting interviews, founding centers, or living in every respect an ideal life, Paramhansaji had but one humble desire—to please God by serving humanity.
Master’s life-span embraced a period of two World Wars and the ushering in of a new era, the Atomic Age. A spiritual awakening must take place in the hearts of men, lest they perish ignominiously by misuse of the prodigious atomic energies—energies that the Lord permitted scientists to discover for more useful ends, surely, than wholesale slaughter. A lasting spiritual understanding in the minds of men, by which alone war can be averted, cannot be brought about merely by outward means such as talks, conferences, and so on, but by yoga—”union” in consciousness of man with God, of the creature with his Creator.
To arouse that understanding in the minds of many Americans was a task that only a great yogi could have accomplished. Hindu teachers in this country who had never received training in India under a great master were unable to shed any light for Westerners on the ancient science. Societies purporting to be repositories of the Eastern wisdom had long instilled a fear of yoga into the minds of their students. Truth-seekers were bewildered, having before their eyes no example, until 1920, of a great master, a fully accomplished yogi.
Freedom for India’s Soil and Soul
During Yoganandaji’s lifetime India won, through nonviolence, her political freedom. But what of the freedom of India’s thought to circulate freely in the world without tragic misrepresentation? More than any other man Paramhansaji purified the Western misconceptions of the ancient Indian teachings.
India’s towering spiritual culture, based on man’s most ancient and imperishable scriptures, the Vedas, was fostered only by yogis, God-united sages. The most famous of India’s sacred books, the Bhagavad Gita, is one long hymn in praise of the divine science of yoga. There Lord Krishna says: “The yogi is greater than body-disciplining ascetics, greater even than the followers of the path of wisdom (Jnana Yoga) or of the path of action (Karma Yoga); be thou, 0 disciple Arjuna, a yogi!” (VI:46)
Paramhansaji has written in his Autobiography of a Yogi (chapter 24): “Yoga has been superficially misunderstood by certain Western writers, but its critics have never been its practitioners. . . . A yogi engages himself in a definite, step-by-step procedure by which the body and mind are disciplined, and the soul liberated. Taking nothing for granted on emotional grounds, or by faith, a yogi practices a thoroughly tested series of exercises that were first mapped out by the early rishis (sages). Yoga has produced, in every age of India, men who became truly free, true Yogi-Christs.
“Like any other science, yoga is applicable to people of every clime and time. The theory advanced by certain ignorant writers that yoga is ‘unsuitable for Westerners’ is wholly false, and has lamentably prevented many sincere students from seeking its manifold blessings. Yoga is a method for restraining the natural turbulence of thoughts—thoughts that otherwise impartially prevent all men, of all lands, from glimpsing their true nature of Spirit. Yoga cannot know a barrier of East and West any more than does the healing and equitable light of the sun. So long as man possesses a mind with its restless thoughts, so long will there be a universal need for yoga or control.”
The Two Stages of Samadhi or God-Union
Yogananda has given (Autobiography of a Yogi, p. 246) the following explanation of the two authentic stages of samadhi (divine communion): “In the initial states of God-contact (sabikalpa samadhi) the devotee’s consciousness merges with the Cosmic Spirit; his life force is withdrawn from the body, which appears ‘dead,’ or motionless and rigid. The yogi is fully aware of his bodily condition of suspended animation. As he progresses to higher spiritual states (nirbikalpa samadhi), however, he communes with God without bodily fixation, and in his ordinary waking consciousness, even in the midst of exacting worldly duties.”
Only completely liberated masters, those with an outward mission to perform on earth, can remain for years, as did Yoganandaji, in the perfect nirbikalpa state of samadhi.
Sabikaipa means subject to time (kalpa) or change; some karmic link remains between the devotee’s consciousness and prakriti (Nature, the outer world of phenomena that is unreal because transitory). Nirbikalpa means timeless, changeless, seedless, indissoluble.
Master seldom entered the sabikalpa state. When he did so, it was merely to set an example for the benefit of disciples around him who had not yet attained even that first state of samadhi—ecstatic trance or bodily immobilization at the sight of God.
Master’s Awe-Inspiring Samadhi in 1948
In June 1948 Paramhansaii passed through a series of the most awe-inspiring states of samadhi that his close disciples ever witnessed.* The Hindu scriptures teach that the Impersonal Brahman, the Supreme Spirit, assumes any desired form at the plea of a true devotee. In June 1948 Yoganandaji conversed like a child with the Lord in the aspect of the Divine Mother of the Universe. As She appeared before his inward vision, he poured out his heart to Her, pathetically mentioning many of his little griefs that he ordinarily never referred to in the presence of his disciples. The Mother comforted him tenderly. He asked Her many questions; She used his voice to reply aloud.
The trembling devotees in the room feared the imminence of his mahasamadhi (“great samadhi” or a yogi’s final ecstatic exit from the body). Later he confided that he had hoped at the time that the Beloved Mother would take him. “It was all so perfect!” he said wistfully.
But the Lord apparently had greater plans for the symbolic scenes of His devotee’s departure. The public nature of Yoganandaji’s death and also its supernatural aftermath appear to be parts of a divine design by which the attention of the world will be drawn more forcefully to the science of yoga.
Very gradually after June 1948 Master clothed his inner state of irrevocable God-union with the outward nature that was dear and familiar to his disciples. He told them at that time: “I shall always be in this state of nirbikalpa samatlhi, but no one will be able to tell.”
Biltmore Hotel, venue of Yogananda’s Mahasamadhi; he is standing at the top center of photo
Why Perfect Masters Disappear from this Earth
We know from the new Testament that after the crucifixion Christ materialized his physical form, convincing even “doubting Thomas” of its corporeity. We read in Autobiography of a Yogi (page 350) that “at the morning hour of ten, on the day after the body of Lahiri Mahasaya had been consigned to the flames, the resurrected master, in a real but transfigured body, appeared before three disciples, each one in a different city.” In the same book (chapter 43) we read of Sri Yukteswarji’s bodily manifestation after death to comfort his grieving “son” Yoganandaji and to tell him of life on the high astral planet of Hiranyaloka. (Sri Yukteswarii now dwells on Hiranyaloka as a savior.)
No disciple of Master’s who knew him well doubts for an instant that Yoganandaji, too, will reappear on this earth in flesh and blood before those whom God chooses.
It is extremely rare, the Hindu scriptures tell us, for fully emancipated saints to remain for long periods in physical encasement. The ancient Mahavatar Babaji (he who sent Yoganandaji to the New World to disseminate knowledge of the hitherto jealously guarded yogic science) has not yet left his body; nor will he do so, he assures us through his disciples, until the end of the present world cycle. That permanent physical manifestation is a command given to him by God. Nevertheless, such an avatar of deathlessness always remains secluded in the world’s highest mountains—the Himalayas. …
Man’s Treatment of Prophets Does Not Make a Proud Record
Once accustomed to the presence on earth of a deathless master, the majority of men would soon fail to pay him the respect that the Lord wishes His perfect devotees to receive. Therefore He removes His saints, by death or by impenetrable seclusion, from the miscomprehending public gaze.
Today thousands of conscience-stricken students of Yoganandaji are receiving spiritual purification through deep remorse that they never appreciated the incomparable Master while he yet lived and moved among them—accessible to all, ever sweet and loving and kind and generous, eager to share his wealth of wisdom. Today, on all those humbled hearts, is he not raining down his forgiveness and unchangeable blessings?