The following account is from a speech given on January 3, 1937 at Self-Realization Fellowship International Headquarters, Los Angeles. The occasion was a banquet to celebrate the return of Paramahansaji from his eighteen-month tour of India and Europe. Rajarsi Janakananda (1892–1955) was Paramahansa Yogananda’s first spiritual successor as president of SRF/YSS.
Just five years ago I had the great privilege of meeting Paramahansa Yogananda for the first time. I had always been interested in truth and religion, although I had never accepted any church. My life was business; but my soul was sick and my body was decaying and my mind was disturbed. I was so nervous I couldn’t sit still.
After I had met Paramahansaji and had been with him a little while, I became aware that I was sitting very still; I was motionless; I didn’t seem to be breathing. I wondered about it and looked up at Paramahansaji. A deep white light appeared, seeming to fill the entire room. I became a part of that wondrous light. Since that time I have been free from nervousness.
I found that I had discovered something real, something immensely valuable to me. I had had to be sure. Not until my experience of the healing light did I realize that I had found entrance into a spiritual realm previously unknown to me.
The beautiful thing in these teachings is that one doesn’t have to depend on blind beliefs. He experiences. He knows he knows, because he experiences. Ordinarily man is conscious only of his thoughts and of the material world that he can smell, taste, touch, see, and hear. But he is not conscious of the soul deep within him that makes it possible for him to think and to cognize the outer world through his senses. He doesn’t know anything about That which is behind the scenes, just behind the thoughts and senses. One should learn to realize the presence of this Life, the real Life; and attain the union of his own consciousness with that Life.
Before I met Paramahansaji the thought had not occurred to me that man could be conscious to a fuller extent than I was at that time. Yet, having enjoyed the things of the world, I had come to a point of distress; because, as I said a moment ago, my soul was sick and my body was not well. Nothing seemed to satisfy me. If you have had an opportunity to observe the rich, those with vast possessions, you have found that most of them are discontented and unhappy. Wealth without wisdom cannot give joy. All of us are seeking joy in life; in everything we do we are seeking happiness.
On the path of Self-Realization one becomes alive again. He actually lives. He feels the divine Life within him. He experiences the union of his individual soul with the universal Spirit. The Self-Realization path as taught by Paramahansaji is scientific. It is a combination of yoga — a science that is practiced within one’s own being — and devotion to God. Together, yoga and devotion will bring man to a realization of his own divinity.
Religion can have but one purpose: knowledge of one’s own life as the omnipresent Life. That attainment is Heaven. From my own experience I am firmly of this opinion: without making a successful effort to achieve soul realization, man cannot win salvation or final freedom in Spirit.
America is rich in material accomplishments. And India is rich in the wisdom of Spirit. A combination of the two will lead to an ideal world civilization.
One who lives in the material world alone, in the consciousness of materiality, is attached to possessions. Attachment develops slavery. We become slaves to habits and possessions. It is not possessions that make us slaves, but ignorance and attachment.
One with material attachments is never free. He has placed his faith in things that he is bound to lose. Only one possession is lasting: Spirit. Take the Spirit out of anything and it has no attraction at all. Life is truly Spirit.
Two things stay with us when the body goes: life and consciousness. We can get rid of everything except life and consciousness. Those are eternally with us. Self-Realization Fellowship teachings show one how to develop a proper consciousness — an awareness and inner experience of Spirit.
Paramahansaji doesn’t ask his students to accept anything as a matter of belief only. “Practice Kriya Yoga,” he says, “and discover for yourself the glories of the soul within.”
A master is like an angel of God. In our beloved Paramahansaji we have one who is the very embodiment of love and unselfishness. He is the possessor of divine joy. His contact goes back to a chain of illumined masters. To the Western mind this statement may sound a little strange, but it is true. The masters are linked, one with another. They have contact with the Spirit, and through their powers that Spirit is transmitted to other men. What a blessing it has been for us that India (a country that many people think of as a land of snake charmers) sent to our shores a master who can help us to achieve God-consciousness.
Those who commune with Spirit know a beauty, a sweetness, that is not experienced in any other way. How heavenly it is to enjoy the company of a saint! Of all the things that have come to me in life, I treasure more than all else the blessings Paramahansaji has bestowed on me.
I must admit I was prejudiced at first. Once I was one of those who thought of Hindus as snake charmers. Now I revere India as the land whose saints developed the highest of all sciences — yoga, the techniques for soul-exploration.