In May 2004, I attended an aviation conference in Las Vegas. I was staying at a stunningly beautiful resort outside the strip, and I remember having breakfast the morning before the first day of the event, thinking to myself, how very blessed I am to stay in such wondrous places – all around the world! I recall having a plate of fruit in front of me, sipping a cup of coffee, feeling so eternally happy. It was a moment of supreme joy.
That night, I went to bed early so that I would wake up refreshed for the conference. In the middle of the night I suddenly awoke from a vision of someone in my room.
I sat up in my bed, and gazed into the eyes of a wise, spiritual man. He was dressed in a long white nightgown of some sort, and had dark long hair. I still remember his eyes, they were so full of wisdom and love. There was a higher knowing there. He was communicating to me through his eyes.
I remember feeling urged to remember something. Then still standing up, he began gliding – about 10 cm or so above the floor, and after a few moments his body began dissolving – slowly evaporating into air.
My first introduction to Paramahansa Yogananda
A couple years passed, and in 2006 I suddenly felt a strong inner calling to read the Bhagavad Gita. I didn’t even know what it was. I drove down to a small spiritual bookstore, asking for it. The owner passed me a copy interpreted by Paramahansa Yogananda, “God Talks with Arjuna”, and as he handed it to me, he smiled and asked me “You do know what the Bhagavad Gita is don’t you?”. I smiled, and nodded happily. I still don’t know why I felt the need to convey I already knew it. Because I really had no idea what it was.
The Bhagavad Gita is a spiritual masterpiece, and by many thought of as the Hindu Bible. Bhagavad Gita means “The Song of God”. As I began reading it, I recall asking myself why there were so many references to war – in a spiritual scripture. It didn’t occur to me at the time, that the stories were allegorical. The armies and enemies in the text represent the internal opposing forces we face internally on our path of self-realization. This I came to understand as the years went by, as my own spiritual studies and practices deepened.
One day I found a picture of Paramahansa Yogananda in a bookstore, and instantly felt drawn to it. I later found this picture is known as “The Last Smile”. It was taken just an hour before his mahasamadhi (which is a yogi’s final exit from his body), in Los Angeles, 1952. ¹
Ten more years passed, and I had by now blossomed into my spirituality, and embraced a devotional path of self-work, personal growth, spiritual practice, spiritual observance and sacred studies. When I heard that the movie about Yogananda’s life “Awake” was being released, I was really excited to go and see it.
My daughter and I viewed it at a small cinema together, and as the moving pictures of Paramahansa Yogananda appeared in front of my eyes, my heart was filled with wonder and love.
I may never know for sure, whether it was a dream, or if I was awake – but I could feel it was him. This was the man who appeared by my bedside at that resort many years ago!
Back in 2004 I didn’t know who Yogananda was. Even thought I felt drawn to his books and pictures over the years, I still didn’t make the connection. I even read the Autobiography of a Yogi several times without drawing the parallel.
It wasn’t until I saw Yogananda in the movie, that I really saw him. It may have been someone else, or it may have been an extraordinary dream, but in my heart, I will always cherish this experience as a very sacred moment in my life, and my heart is telling me it was Yogananda.
My heart bows in gratitude for the spiritual path I have embraced, for living a life in love, and having an inner devotion to awaken a little more for each day.
Thank you Paramahansa Yogananda for illuminating the world with your beautiful teachings of Kriya Yoga.
About Paramahansa Yogananda
- Yogananda’s childhood name was Mukunda. He was born in India, and raised by a devotional family, disciples of Sri Lahiri Mahasaya.
- Yogananda became a devotional follower of Sri Yukteswar – who in turn was a devotee of Lahiri Mahasaya (was was a devotee of Babaji – and before that Bhagavan Krishna).
- He changed his name to Yogananda upon entering the Swami Order, with Sri Yukteswar, and Sri Yukteswar later blessed him with the name Paramahansa in 1935, to supersede his former title, to reflect that he had now achieved self-realization. Hours later Sri Yukteswar transitioned.
- Yogananda is widely recognized as the father of Yoga in the West. He received the calling to go to America during a meditation. He sought out Sri Yukteswar, and his response was yes, saying “it’s now or never… English or no English, your words on yoga shall be heard in the West” (p.400).
- Yogananda felt unsure, and prayed for a divine confirmation. Just then it knocked on his door. It was Babaji who appeared – he had materialized into form, to convey the following message: “You are the one I have chosen to spread the message of Kriya Yoga in the West. Long ago I met your guru Yukteswar at a Kumbha Mela; I told him then I would send you to him for training” (p.402).
- During his life-time Yogananda was blessed with many incredible visions, experiences, and sacred teachings. One of my favorite books – is his own life story infused with spiritual insights and reflections – portrayed in the beautiful book, Autobiography of a Yogi.
Yogananda left India in 1920, as an Indian delegate to the Boston congress, sailing on a ship for two months. When the passengers found out who he was, they asked him to speak on he “The Battle of Life and How to Fight it”. Yogananda was trying to organize his ideas into a lecture in English, and found that his thoughts around English grammar were playing havoc with him. He trusted his Master’s assurances, but as he appeared before his audience – he suddenly found nothing to say. Not one word. It was all blank. He endured this silence for 10 minutes, and then prayed to his Master, Sri Yukteswar. That moment, he suddenly heard “You can! Speak!” (p.404). Yogananda then began to speak, his thoughts once aligned again with the English language. He spoke for 45 minutes, and received warm praise for his audience!
His address to congress in Boston on October 6, 1920, was highly received, and he began holding many public lectures, and traveled around the country, teaching Kriya Yoga, and initiating Kriya Yoga. In 1925 he established an American Headquarters on Mount Washington Estates in Los Angeles, and founded the spiritual organization, the Self-Realization Fellowship.
What is Kriya Yoga?
- Kriya Yoga is an ancient pratice, that was lost for many centuries. The sage Patanjali speaks of it already in the Yoga Sutras. It was revived again by Babaji. Babaji’s disciple Lahiri Mahasaya was the first to teach Kriya yoga in our modern times – followed by Sri Yukteswar, and ultimately Yogananda – who was chosen to spread it in the West.
- Formerly Kriya Yoga was only available to a faithful few, but now it is open to all spiritual seekers worldwide through Paramahansa Yogananda’s Self-Realization Fellowship.
- Kriya Yoga is a “union (yoga) with the Infinite through a certain action or rite (kriya)”. “A yogi who faithfully practices the technique is gradually freed from karma or the lawful chain of cause-effect equilibriums” (p.275).
- Kriya Yoga is a method of yoga that focuses on 20 centers in the body, decarbonating the blood and recharging it with oxygen – which serves as a rejuvenation for the brain and spinal centers. ¹
- In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali writes: “Kriya Yoga consists of body discipline, mental control, and meditating on Aum” (p.277).
¹Paramahansa Yogananda (1946), Autobiography of a Yogi, Los Angeles, CA: Self-Realization Fellowship
Life is full of illuminating beautiful surprises!!
Love & Gratitude,
Anna-Karin Bjorklund is a writer and dream expert based in Newport Beach, California. An intrepid world traveler, she has lived in five countries and loves exploring different cultures and connecting with people. Her latest book: a memoir based on a spiritual journey to India and the philosophical remnants of stepping into her power and finding the path of self-love, comes out in November, 2017. She is also the author of Dream Guidance: Interpret Your Dreams and Create the Life You Desire! Anna-Karin loves sharing her passion for dreams and personal growth with audiences near and far, and has made media expert appearances on Fox & Friends, and the Steve Harvey TV Show on NBC, and been interviewed by Women’s Running Magazine, Money Magazine, Daily Worth, Marie Claire UK and other media outlets.