The Self-Realization Fellowship World Convocation took place this year August 5–11 at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. Some 4,000 people from across the United States and more than 45 other countries attended the annual weeklong event to immerse themselves in the Kriya Yoga teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda. A special highlight of the week was the Friday night satsanga with SRF’s president, Brother Chidananda, which was livestreamed to thousands around the globe. Another special feature of this year’s Convocation was the availability of simultaneous translation into Spanish of all the major events for the hundreds of Spanish-speaking SRF members who were able to attend.
Surprise Visit From Brother Chidananda on Opening Day
The week of inspiration began with a surprise visit by Brother Chidananda, who came to the opening session on Sunday, August 5 to personally welcome the participants.
“What a special joy,” he told the audience, “to be able to join you and to officially inaugurate this 2018 Self-Realization Fellowship World Convocation....I greet you in the name of God—our Father, Mother, Friend, and Beloved—and in the joy and unconditional love of our great Guru and Paramgurus. My prayer is that Their love and joy flow out, embracing each one of you, enfolding each one of you, permeating your heart, opening your minds, filling you with Their light and inspiration.”
Paramahansaji’s Teachings Presented In Depth by SRF Monastics
Throughout the week Paramahansa Yogananda’s Kriya Yoga teachings were explored and practiced in depth during classes, group meditations, and one-on-one personal counseling sessions conducted by SRF monastics. The evening classes covered such topics as “Spiritual Courage: Living Our Spiritual Ideals in the Material World,” “Spiritual Generosity: The Art of Selfless Giving,” and “Faith: Learning to Express the Unerring Intuition Within Us.” Daytime sessions during the week consisted of reviews of the meditation techniques and Energization Exercises central to the spiritual path taught by Paramahansaji, a class geared toward teens and young adults, and question and answer sessions that delved into common issues facing spiritual aspirants in today’s world.
Every morning and evening thousands attended group meditations led by monastics and also joined kirtans(devotional chanting) and longer meditations during the week.
Hundreds of Spanish-speaking SRF members enjoyed the availability of simultaneous translation into Spanish of all the major events.
Spiritual counseling with SRF monastics was available throughout the week to Convocation participants.
Monks play traditional Indian musical instruments as they lead devotional chanting during a kirtan.
Pilgrimages to Locations Associated With Paramahansaji’s Life
Constituting one of the central features of Convocation are the pilgrimage tours to the locations associated with Paramahansa Yogananda’s life—most of them being ashram centers that he founded, and where he lived and communed with God. Daily shuttles carried visiting devotees to the SRF International Headquarters (Mother Center), Hollywood Temple, the Lake Shrine, and Paramahansaji’s crypt at Forest Lawn Memorial-Park. On the Sunday following Convocation hundreds of devotees made a pilgrimage to the SRF Encinitas Ashram Center.
Nuns greet members on pilgrimage to the SRF Hermitage and Meditation Gardens in Encinitas.
Devotees at the Mother Center during a pilgrimage tour.
Monks host members during pilgrimage tour to the SRF Hollywood Temple.
SRF’s vice-president, Brother Achalananda, leads a satsanga during pilgrimage tour to the SRF Lake Shrine.
Satsanga With Brother Chidananda
On Friday evening, August 10, Brother Chidananda held a satsanga (informal spiritual gathering) attended by a capacity audience and also viewed live by thousands around the world. In his remarks Brother Chidananda touched on several themes, including his gratitude for the many expressions of support during the past year, the projects that currently are in progress (foremost among them being the new and expanded edition of the SRF Lessons), and the difficulties that people in general face in today’s world. He also led the assemblage in several short periods of guided meditation and affirmation.
Following are some excerpts from Brother Chidananda’s remarks. See the full video of Brother Chidananda’s satsanga.
Pranams and loving greetings, beloved ones of God and Guru. I am so pleased to be here at the end of this wonderful week of our 2018 Convocation. What a week you have had: the meditations together, the wonderful kirtan chanting, the classes, the pilgrimage tours, hearing the gems of divine wisdom from our guru, Paramahansa Yogananda, and the joy of fellowship among all 4,000 of you divine souls gathered here. What a joy, what a vibration that creates....
You have had a week of instruction, and I am not going to give another class, but rather just want to come here and bring you the love, the joy, the encouragement, and the divine blessings of our great Guru….
Let me just take a moment to thank you....It has been very deeply moving and humbling to me to receive so many gestures of support since I was asked to take on this role of the presidency....With our Guru’s grace and his blessing and the support of all of you, SRF and YSS are moving forward into the next phase of the fulfillment of his divine mission. That is the faith and the vision—that is the realization—that he has planted in my heart during this past year....
We are on the cusp of a whole new awakened age, a more enlightened age....To each one of you who has been drawn to this path of the great ones, of Christ and Krishna, of our Paramgurus and our divine gurudeva, Paramahansa Yogananda, these teachings bring us into the new age here and now. There is no waiting. As our Guru said, “Follow the truth that God has sent through Self-Realization Fellowship and you will be forever blessed.” I think each of you who has participated in this Convocation had a taste of that this week....Even if we experience just a little bit of that peace, a little bit of that calmness, a little bit of that divine light that filters into our minds, into our feelings, into our hearts—to that extent we are glimpsing that higher age which is to come….
Dear ones of God and Guru, sitting here I feel what each of you has gained this week. Remember that beautiful verse in the Bhagavad Gita, where God is speaking to the devotee and says so beautifully: “To those who meditate upon Me as their Very Own, ever united to Me by incessant worship, I supply their deficiencies and make permanent their gains.” My prayer is that God and Guru make permanent those gains....
Self-Realization Fellowship’s next World Convocation will take place August 4–10, 2019, at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles. More information will be available on our website in early 2019.
Testimonials About the 2018 Convocation
I am new to the path and this was my first Convocation. It was wonderful to be amongst so many devotees from around the world congregated in one spot for the same purpose. It was a very special experience.
I received tremendous benefit from all the talks given by the monastics. The sessions on the Energization Exercises, meditation and the Kriya ceremony were comparable to the strike of a match or a flash of lightning to my daily practices. My [meditation] techniques received just the corrections they needed and during that week my struggle with focusing on the spiritual eye vanished. The impact of Convocation was at a very deep level....You all made me feel so welcome. I will be coming again and again.
—K.P., New Jersey
I want to thank all of you for the live stream last night of Brother Chidananda. I live quite a ways from a temple. This was just like being at Convocation in person. It was so powerful and uplifting.
—P. M., California
How beautiful it is that Convocation just gets better year after year. Indeed the vibrations are so high, the Westin Bonaventure and Biltmore hotels become temples of Master’s divine love, and one does not have much thought for food or sleep— just chanting, meditating, serving, divinely loving.
—Members of the SRF Meditation
Circle in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
My wife and I are longtime Kriyabans. We attend the SRF World Convocation annually. While each Convocation is perfect, this year’s Convocation seemed even more so, if that is possible. We enjoyed all the classes, especially the satsangas. The three satsangas where monastics answered questions submitted by devotees were especially moving, and Brother Chidananda’s Friday evening satsanga was a very beautiful experience. What a blessing that it was livestreamed worldwide!
—M. F., Colorad
Please know how wonderful the livestream is for those who are physically far away. It is a brilliant way for you to connect with us all and join us all together.
—K. C., U.K.
It was a joy to hear the nuns’ kirtan. Whenever I hear them Divine Mother’s presence seems so tangible.
—C. S. R., Tampa, Florida
I've been coming to Convocation every year since 1989, and the talks are always amazing, but this year both the talks and the whole vibration of the gathering were beyond description. Brother Chidananda’s opening and closing talks were so high that I felt a hush within everywhere I went. It lasted for a long time after I went home, in spite of a bunch of challenges, and I still go to YouTube and watch his Friday night talk when I have time. It puts me right back there. So powerful and loving and beautiful and kind. We are so lucky to have this beautiful path.
—S. S., U.K
Convocation is the highlight of our year and the pilgrimages so deepen the sweet and beautiful connection with Master in such a sweet and tangible way. Each year we come away from Convocation with a deeper commitment and inner sense of belonging, the blessing of having such a great sacred wonderful Guru and the link with the Masters.
Coming to Encinitas on pilgrimage—where Master walked and prayed and communed with God and left such high vibrations—is such a blessing. Encinitas grounds are shimmering with divine light during these sacred pilgrimages and it is so special and so blessed to bow at Master’s feet in the Hermitage at the entrances of his rooms and in the retreat chapel.
—T. J. H. and J. J. H., U.K.