March 22, 2017, marked the 100th anniversary of Yogoda Satsanga Society of India (YSS—the name by which Paramahansa Yogananda’s work is known in India).
Some 1,500 devotees participated in a five-day event held March 19–23 in Ranchi to celebrate the centennial. The program included a series of classes on the science of meditation and “how-to-live” principles of spiritual living as taught by Paramahansaji, daily group meditations each morning and evening, extended periods of kirtanchanting, and initiations into the ancient science of Kriya Yoga.
YSS began in 1917 as a small ashram and school for boys in the village of Dihika, West Bengal. One year later Paramahansaji and his students moved to Ranchi (now the capital of the State of Jharkhand), where he established the ashram that today functions as the hub of a thriving spiritual society. Headed by the monastic order Paramahansaji founded, YSS today has thousands of lay members and hundreds of meditation groups throughout India. In 1920 Paramahansaji, at the behest of his line of gurus, brought the science of yoga to the United States, where he founded Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) for the worldwide dissemination of his teachings. (Please see the Spring 2017 issue of Self-Realization magazine for an in-depth look at the beginning of the Guru’s work in India.)
Earlier this month, the Government of India issued a postage stamp commemorating YSS’s centennial. The Prime Minister of India, Sri Narendra Modi, honored Paramahansaji and his organization by personally conducting the stamp release in New Delhi.
Benediction From the SRF/YSS Sanghamata
Sri Mrinalini MataThe Ranchi function was opened March 19 by Swami Vishwananda, a member of the SRF/YSS Board of Directors who had traveled from the International Headquarters in Los Angeles to be present. He shared some words from Sri Mrinalini Mata—president and sanghamata (“spiritual mother of the society”) of SRF/YSS—who had telephoned earlier that day to convey her love and blessings on all the participants. Next, her written message to inaugurate YSS’s centennial year was read to the assemblage (see full text below), followed by an inspirational talk from YSS General Secretary Swami Smaranananda.
A Pilgrimage to the YSS Birthplace
A pilgrimage from Ranchi to Dihika on March 21 was a highlight. About 1,200 devotees made the four-hour trip aboard a special train that YSS had arranged in conjunction with India’s state-owned railway company. Another 500 devotees joined them in Dihika, where YSS now has a meditation center and retreat on the original site of Paramahansaji’s first school. The festive daylong event included processions to and from the train stations, group meditations and devotional chanting aboard the train and at the Dihika center, inspirational talks by Swami Smaranananda and Swami Vishwananda, a delicious meal served to the devotees, and time for them to relax and enjoy the center’s scenic one-acre grounds. As a memento, each one received a first day cover of the YSS centennial commemorative stamp.
Jharkhand’s Highest Official in Attendance
YSS observes each March 22 as its “Founder’s Day,” and this year’s special centennial observance featured an evening event at which the Chief Minister of Jharkhand, Sri Raghubar Das, was the guest of honor. Following a talk by YSS General Secretary Swami Smaranananda and a group meditation, the Chief Minister spoke about the importance of Paramahansaji’s organizational work, both within India and abroad, in helping to attain a much-needed balance between material progress and spirituality.
The event’s final day focused on the highest aspect of Paramahansa Yogananda’s teachings, as a large of number of devotees received initiation into Kriya Yoga during ceremonies conducted in English and Hindi. As the day drew to a close, YSS monks bid farewell to the departing devotees, who returned home spiritually renewed and grateful for having had the opportunity to participate in a momentous event in the history of Paramahansaji’s spiritual work.
A Message From Sri Mrinalini Mata on the Occasion of the Centennial of Yogoda Satsanga Society of India
Dear Ones, My heart rejoices as together we celebrate this auspicious centennial year commemorating the founding of our beloved Gurudeva Paramahansa Yogananda’s Yogoda Satsanga Society of India. I send loving greetings and divine blessings to all of you, and will be joining you in spirit—following closely the many beautiful events that have been planned and prepared with such love and care to honor our revered Guru and what his work has brought to India and to the world. When I think of how Guruji’s Yogoda Satsanga Society has grown from a small “How-to-Live” school for boys in Dihika, to an organization encompassing large ashrams, a vibrant and growing monastic order, and more than two hundred meditation centers throughout India—as well as numerous educational institutions and charitable services—I feel his tremendous joy. Know that during this jubilant anniversary he is pouring out his divine love and blessings to all devotees—indeed, to all India—and his boundless soul-appreciation to each one whose efforts have contributed to this growth.
In the hundred years since the humble beginnings of YSS, Gurudeva has come to be recognized by India and the West as a true incarnation of divine love—an epoch-making Jagadguru born for a world-changing mission. It was his God-ordained task to spread the sacred science of Kriya Yoga, a special dispensation for the modern age to hasten our soul progress and the upward evolution of humanity. Just three years after the founding of his first “How-to-Live” school, Guruji had a vision at Ranchi which revealed that it was time for him to go to America to undertake this momentous task. Though he was destined to live thereafter in the West, India was ever in his all-embracing consciousness and heart. In his poem, My India, he wrote: “I love India because there I first learned to love God and all things beautiful.” In India he began his mission, and with words of tribute to his beloved homeland he left his mortal form—and his spirit and India inspired work will ever live on.
Despite Gurudeva’s countless responsibilities in establishing his work in the West, his loving concern for the welfare of YSS and his chelas in India remained unchanged. When in 1935–36, God granted him the opportunity to return to India, he gave lectures throughout the country and did everything he could to provide for and secure the future of YSS. Many times I heard him express his hope to return to India again. But when, near the end of his life, he saw that this was not what Divine Mother willed, he charged Sri Daya Mataji with the responsibility to take care of his work there just as he would have done. With all her heart she fulfilled that sacred trust, becoming for the devotees a veritable reflection of the all-loving Mother Divine and inspiring them by her total attunement of consciousness with Gurudeva. It was from that lofty plane that she guided the YSS work in full accord with Guruji’s ideals and wishes for more than fifty years, nurturing the growth of the society into what we behold today. We are also grateful for the invaluable help and support given to her by Hansa Swami Shyamananda, whose dedication played a vital role in her efforts, and by the many other faithful YSS devotees—too numerous to name here, but enshrined in our hearts.
It was my privilege to accompany Daya Mataji on several of her trips to India. I cherished as she did the pure, sincere devotion to God, which is India’s special heritage, reflected in the wonderful YSS devotees we met. Those visits and other later trips to Guruji’s homeland are among my most treasured memories, engraved forever on my heart and mind. I relive them often, and not a day goes by that I do not send deepest prayers for Gurudeva’s chelas there, for the work of Yogoda Satsanga Society and all who are doing so much to further his mission. When I look at the photographs of YSS activities, I am thrilled to see the throngs of beautiful souls who are so enthusiastic about going deep in their practice of his teachings—who come together regularly to meditate and absorb his wisdom, and who serve his work joyously in countless ways. A handful of devotees has become a vast spiritual family united in God and Guru’s love.
Gurudeva is as interested in the welfare and progress of his chelas now as he was in the days when he walked among us, and what pleases him most is to see how each of you is progressing by earnestly practicing his techniques of meditation and by living your lives to please the Divine Mother. He rejoices when he beholds you growing in spiritual understanding and developing an ever deeper and sweeter inner relationship with God, because he wants for you the highest. The supreme tribute you can offer him is to become the kind of devotee who increasingly exemplifies the divine ideals of God-love and service on which he founded this work 100 years ago.
So many lives have been touched by Paramahansaji’s message because he speaks the unifying language of the soul—the language of divine love and eternal truth. His teachings and the magnetism of his great love for God transcend all barriers of cultural, racial, national, and religious differences. Gurudeva told us that the influence of YSS/SRF would begin as a gentle zephyr and gradually become a mighty wind that would help to sweep away the darkness from the lives of God’s children. During this centennial year we celebrate not only the beginnings but the increase of that force for good; and in the century ahead its spiritualizing effects are destined to gain even greater momentum. Guruji founded his YSS/SRF organization to embody his ideal of the unity of East and West and to be a perpetual, pure channel for his love and wisdom, and I pray that he bless the efforts of all of you who are building your lives around that sacred legacy. The inner transformation those efforts bring, and the joyful enthusiasm I have seen in your faces, is the greatest testimony to the ever-living power of these divine teachings; and will continue to energize his work throughout the years to come. Jai Guru!
Unceasing blessings in God and Gurudeva,
Sri Mrinalini Mata