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The Experience of Meeting Paramahansa Yogananda

“As I looked into his face, my eyes were almost dazzled by a radiance — a light of spirituality that literally shone from him.”

Dr. Binay Ranjan Sen

Dr. Sen was the former Ambassador of India to the United States and Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. He wrote this in 1990 as a Preface to Finding the Joy Within You by Sri Daya Mata.

Nearly forty years ago I had the great good fortune to meet Paramahansa Yogananda, that divine soul whose spirit and teachings are so beautifully conveyed in this volume of talks by his foremost living disciple, Sri Daya Mata. The experience of meeting Paramahansaji is etched in my memory as one of the unforgettable events of my life. It was in March of 1952. I had taken up my duties as India’s Ambassador to the United States late in 1951, and was on an official tour visiting the different parts of the country. Upon my arrival in Los Angeles, the uppermost thought in my mind was to meet Paramahansaji, whose teaching of Self-Realization was exercising a great spiritual influence not only in the United States, but in many other countries of the world.

Even though I had heard much about Paramahansaji and his work, I was not really quite prepared for what I found at the Self-Realization Center on Mt. Washington. From the moment I arrived, I felt as if I had gone back three thousand years to one of the ancient ashrams we read about in our holy scriptures. Here was the great rishi (illumined sage) surrounded by his disciples, all clad in the saffron robes of the sannyasi (renunciant). It seemed an island of divine peace and love in a sea buffeted by the tumult of the modern age.

Paramahansaji was at the door to greet my wife and me. The impact of seeing him was incalculable. I felt uplifted in a way I had never known before. As I looked into his face, my eyes were almost dazzled by a radiance — a light of spirituality that literally shone from him. His infinite gentleness, his gracious kindliness, enveloped my wife and me like warm sunshine.

In the days that followed, the Master gave every minute he could spare to be with us. We spoke much about India’s difficulties and about the plans our leaders were making to better the conditions of her people. I could see that his understanding and insight extended to the most mundane of problems, even though he was a man of Spirit. In him I found a true ambassador of India, carrying and spreading the essence of India’s ancient wisdom to the world.

The last scene with him, at the banquet in the Biltmore Hotel, remains permanently engraved in my mind. Those events have been described elsewhere; it was truly a scene of mahasamadhi. It was immediately clear that a great spirit had passed in a way that only such a one could. I do not think that any of us felt like mourning. It was a feeling above all of exaltation, of having witnessed a divine event.

Since that day my work has taken me to many lands. In South America, Europe, and India, people who have been touched by Paramahansaji’s divine light have approached me and asked for some words about this great man, having seen the widely published photographs of the final days of his life during which I was present. In all of those who came, I felt an urgency, a longing for some sense of direction to guide their lives in these troubled times. I began to see that, far from dying out with the Master’s passing, the work he started was shedding its light on ever greater numbers of people around the world.

Nowhere does his legacy shine with more radiance than in his saintly disciple Sri Daya Mata, whom he prepared to carry on in his footsteps after he would be gone. Before his passing he told her, “When I am gone, only love can take my place.” Those who, like myself, were privileged to have met Paramahansaji find reflected in Daya Mataji that same spirit of divine love and compassion that so impressed me on my first visit to the Self-Realization Center almost forty years ago. In her words recorded in this volume we have a priceless gift of the wisdom and love that radiated from the great Master into her life, and which indelibly touched my own.

As our world moves toward a new millenium, we are threatened by darkness and confusion as never before. The old ways of country versus country, religion versus religion, man versus nature, must be transcended in a new spirit of universal love, understanding, and concern for others. This is the eternal message of India’s seers — the message brought by Paramahansa Yogananda for our own time and for generations to come. It is my hope that the torch he left, which is now in the hands of Sri Daya Mata, will light the way for millions who are seeking direction for their lives.