Paramahansa Yogananda's Book, "A World in Transition"
The subtitle of Paramahansa Yogananda's A World in Transition is "Finding Spiritual Security in Time of Change." In this collection of insightful essays, the great guru and others offer reassuring counsel for outsmarting changes that keep us nervous, frustrated, and dissatisfied in this turbulent, changing world.
News Reports Always Include Violence
The world is always turbulent, and it is always changing. The study of history teaches that some historical eras are more turbulent than others; nevertheless, some degree of turbulence is always present. Although most people probably hope to die peacefully in their sleep, preferably at an advanced age, news reports continue to affirm that many meet violent deaths.
The state of the world is not all turbulence and violence, however. There is much peace and tranquility to be experienced. And no doubt it is true that most of us would claim that our spirituality is the place we go for that much-needed calmness. But how is it that violence and calmness seem to exist together in this world? And just how can we claim one and not the other? Or are we destined to be helpless victims of other people's violent tendencies?
Placing Violence in Perspective
In A World in Transition, the great spiritual leader Paramahansa Yogananda offers some important truths that help us place in perspective our consternation about the turbulent nature of life in a changing world.
In the first article "The End of the World," Yogananda says, "In spite of all the ruthless, desecrating ways in which man has wrought destruction in God's creation, still we will find that evil destroys itself, and that the power of God marches on in the face of every opposition."
This powerful statement proclaims that regardless of how badly mankind mismanages affairs, through the power of goodness that mismanagement will be opposed and things will ultimately be right. If evil destroys itself, then we have no need to live in constant fear. With "the power of God march[ing] on in the face of every opposition," we are secure.
God's power of goodness protects us, so we truly have no need to doubt. In this same article, Yogananda says that the literal end of the world comes about in two forms, partial and complete dissolution. The good news is that "It will be a long, long time before we can expect complete dissolution." But through various cataclysms, the world has already seen partial dissolution, an example being Noah's flood.
Kriya Yoga and Nonattachment
More important, however, than the literal end of the world is the metaphysical end of the world, which is possible for all of us through the practice of Kriya Yoga, or some other spiritual technique, and learning nonattachment to the physical world, and also of evolving into desirelessness. The guru says, "For your own happiness you must strive to live free of worldly desires. If there is anything that you can't do without, you have a terrible lesson to learn."
Becoming desireless and nonattached is an essential part of our spiritual education.
The second article in A World in Transition is Sri Daya Mata's "Guidance and Encouragement for the Years Ahead," in which she says, "Don't be discouraged by this doom and gloom; it will pass. The more we take our minds away from the body's attachments to this sphere, the more we can lift our consciousness into that divine kingdom."
Know Better in Order to Feel Better
In the Foreword to A World in Transition, Dr. Robert Muller, former United Nations Assistant Secretary-General, who found renewed hope for world peace through Paramahansa Yogananda's Autobiography of a Yogi writes, "As we enter a new century, a new millennium, I pray that the spirit and teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda will bless every reader with a similar rebirth of hope, and beautiful enlightenments of heart and mind, thus contributing to an evolutionary advance of humanity into a global spiritual age."
The book has five parts. The titles illustrate the balance between the physical world and the spiritual world:
Part I: The New Millennium: End or Beginning?
Part II: The New Harmony Between Science and Spirituality
Part III: The New Religion
Part IV: The New World
Part V: The New Humanity
Finally, in the epilogue, Paramahansa Yogananda says, "Periodically throughout history, the world has gotten into a mess. During times of war, it becomes a torture chamber for millions of human beings. True happiness, lasting happiness, lies in God having whom, no other gain is greater."
Like all publications of the writings of Paramahansa Yogananda and those of his close followwers, A World in Transition offers practical understanding based on hard science as well as inspiring and uplifting abstract ideas that just make us feel better. However, this great guru wanted us to "know" better, as well as feel better.
Life Sketch of Paramahansa Yogananda
The great guru/poet Paramahansa Yogananda was born on January 5, 1893, in Gorakhpur, India. His name at birth was Mukunda Lal Ghosh. Always a spiritually advanced child, at age 17, he met his guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar, under whose guidance he flourished and became the spiritual giant and sacred engine that leads souls back to their eternal abode in the arms of the Divine Creator.
Paramahansa Yogananda came to the United States in 1920 to speak in Boston at the International Congress of Religious Liberals. His speech was so well received that he quickly gathered a following. By 1925, his organization, Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF), was well established with the purpose of disseminating and maintaining the purity of his teachings of yoga. He has come to be known as the “Father of Yoga in the West.”
The following is an excerpt from the introduction to Paramahansa Yogananda’s biography on the Self-Realization Fellowship Web site:
In the hundred years since the birth of Paramahansa Yogananda, this beloved world teacher has come to be recognized as one of the greatest emissaries to the West of India’s ancient wisdom. His life and teachings continue to be a source of light and inspiration to people of all races, cultures and creeds.
Publications of Paramahansa Yogananda
Paramahansa Yogananda's in-depth work, Autobiography of a Yogi, has become a spiritual classic worldwide. Many devotees have been drawn to the teachings of this yogi through that autobiography, and many of their stories about how they came to find that work include some of the most inspiring "miracles" of modern American culture.
Such world-renowned figures as Dennis Weaver, Steve Jobs, George Harrison, and Elvis Presley were influenced by the Autobiography of a Yogi and the teachings of the great guru. Weaver even became a lay minister and spoke often at many of the SRF temples in California.
In addition to the autobiography, the great guru has published many collections of his talks, in both written and oral forms. His audio collector's series of ten of his informal talks includes the following titles:
1. Beholding the One in All
2. Awake in the Cosmic Dream
3. Be a Smile Millionaire
4. The Great Light of God
5. To Make Heaven on Earth
6. One Life Versus Reincarnation
7. Removing All Sorrow and Suffering
8. In the Glory of the Spirit
9. Follow the Path of Christ, Krishna, and the Masters
10. Self-Realization: The Inner and the Outer Path
These inspirational talks reveal much information about the great guru that appeals to his devoted followers. Just listening to a God-realized voice offers an uplifting spiritual experience.
The Poetry of Paramahansa Yogananda
For my commentaries on the poems of the great guru, I rely on his marvelous collection titled, Songs of the Soul, the version published in 1983 with its most current printing 2014. Two additional collections of his poems are extant, Whispers From Eternity and Metaphysical Meditations.
Because the "poems" of this great guru function on levels that ordinary poems do not, they are often used in devotional services held by groups of devotees of the SRF teachings throughout the world in the Readings Services as well as their Special Commemorative Services.
Paramahansa Yogananda's poems are more akin to prayers than to the poetry of ordinary poets, whose subject matter often dramatizes only human emotion in its relationship with creation and other human beings, instead of with the Creator; the great guru's poems always invoke the Creator's presence whether directly or indirectly.
The great guru's organization, SRF, also continues to publish collections of his works. Many of his talks have appeared in the series of essays that include Man's Eternal Quest, The Divine Romance, and Journey to Self-realization.
The guru has also bestowed on the literary world three important translations of extant perennial works that have been grossly misunderstood in some cases for centuries. His new translations along with his explanatory commentaries are correcting that misunderstanding.
In Wine of the Mystic: The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam — A Spiritual Interpretation, he shows how that poet's God-realized effusions put on display a man in love with his Creator and not the wine sopped Epicurean that has been misapplied to the work.
In the guru's in-depth translation and commentaries on the ancient Bhagavad Gita, titled God Talks With Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita — A New Translation and Commentary, the great spiritual leader offers not only the poetic translation of the work but also the relevance for humankind of the psychological and spiritual instruction offered in the ancient poem.
Most importantly for Western culture, Paramahansa Yogananda has offered a full explanation of the phenomenon known as the "Second Coming." Titled The Second Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of the Christ Within You — A revelatory commentary on the original teachings of Jesus, the work explains the true meaning of many of Jesus' words long misunderstood and mischaracterized, such as "The Kingdom of God is within you" and "I and my Father are one."
Of all the publications offered by SRF and the great guru, it is the Lessons that remain most vital. One could dispense with all of the other books, audio tapes, poetry, and other commentaries if one possesses those lessons.
The Lessons begin by offering physical exercises that prepare the physical encasement to sit quietly and still while performing the more advanced exercises that lead to Kriya Yoga practice.
The Lessons contains six steps that can be completed in three years, but each student is free to progress at his/her own pace. The Lessons include instruction in the following techniques: 1. Energization Exercises. 2. Hong-Sau Technique of Concentration, and 3. Aum Technique of Meditation.
After completing the first two steps, the devotee may apply for the Kriya Yoga technique.
Kriya Yoga Initiations
The Kriya Yoga technique features four initiations for a total of twenty lessons. The First Initiation, featuring lessons K1-9, includes the technique of Kriya proper, on which all of the other initiations are based. The Second Initiation contains four lessons, K10-14, and the Third and Fourth include the remaining lessons K15-20.
All of the Lessons, including the Kriya Yoga Initiations, include many explanations based of science, as well as on the life experience of Paramahansa Yogananda. These marvelous works are presented in such way to hold the student-devotees' interest with little stories, poems, affirmations, and prayers that enhance the purpose of each lesson.
In addition to all of the works mentioned above, Paramahansa Yogananda has published many others, including his Cosmic Chants, which offers musical notations as well as the lyric for each chant.
An annotated list of the works of the great guru is offered on the Self-Realization Fellowship Web site under the title, "The Complete Works of Paramahansa Yogananda."
© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes