This blog post from Sri Mrinalini Mata, who served as the fourth president of Self-Realization Fellowship/Yogoda Satsanga Society of India from 2011 until her passing in 2017, was excerpted from her article “The Science of Spiritual Study and the Art of Introspection,” which appeared in two parts in the 2016 Fall and Winter issues of Self-Realization magazine.
There was a group of us younger disciples living here in Encinitas [in the ashram]; and on Sunday mornings, when Master [Paramahansa Yogananda] would give his lectures every other week at the San Diego Temple (alternating with the Hollywood Temple in Los Angeles), we would attend.
He encouraged us to make notes while he was giving his lectures or classes. And then, during the week, we would gather every evening in the Hermitage drawing room, or around the dining room table, and we would compare notes.
Each of us would repeat from memory as much as we had gathered from his service, and we would discuss it. After that, each of us would reproduce the teaching he had given in our own writing, in our own thoughts. And we would introspect to see how we could apply that teaching in our own life.
So we would spend a whole week, or two weeks, on one class, on one service of Master’s. That taught us not only how to assimilate the Guru's wisdom and guidance, but how to learn to apply it.
Sometimes when Gurudeva would come back to Encinitas the following week, he would walk into the room while we were having our study discussion. Naturally, we were shy of expounding our “wisdom” in front of the Guru!
But he would sit down and say, “No, no, go ahead; just go on.” And he would be so pleased when we would try to express what we had learned. He would question us, just like a professor in school, asking: “Now what did I say about this?” or “What did I say about that?” “What does that word mean that I used?” — just to see how much we had absorbed.
We didn’t get it all, I can tell you! So when we would attend the services, he would have us younger ashram residents sit in the front row of the temple. And while he was speaking, perhaps after making some deep or intricate philosophical point, he would interrupt his talk and look down at us from the speaker’s platform and say: “Did you get it?”
The rest of the congregation must have wondered, “Who is he talking to?” or “What have those little kids down there got to do with what he is saying?”
He was fulfilling two roles, you see: he was being the guru with his little learning chelas at his feet, plus the jagadguru — the world teacher — who was dispensing these truths for the masses.
When Master was with us, he guided us. He told us by a few words, or even just a silent but meaningful glance, when we were going wrong. He told us what we should do in order to behave rightly.
He is no longer here in the physical form to point these things out to us. But, as he said to us, “When I am gone, the teachings will be the guru. Through the SRF teachings you will be in tune with me and the great Gurus who sent me.”
And I realize now how very truly manifest those words are, because when we have thoroughly assimilated Paramahansaji’s teachings in his books and in the SRF Lessons, we find that they are a source not only of constant inspiration, but of personal guidance and counsel for us.
We find that when we are really in need of guidance, when we are really in need of protection from some force of maya that is trying to delude or tempt us, the Guru’s words in his teachings will come to our aid if we have made them a part of us.
At the link below you can learn more about the Self-Realization Fellowship Lessons, Paramahansa Yogananda’s comprehensive home-study course on the science of meditation and art of balanced spiritual living. Paramahansaji envisioned the Lessons as the very core of his teachings — presenting the techniques of Kriya Yoga meditation and a complete way of life — so that seekers could absorb his wisdom directly from his instructions and receive his personal guidance on the spiritual path.