The Wisdom of Swami Sri Yukteswar

Paramahansa Yogananda as a young man








In Autobiography of a Yogi, Paramahansa Yogananda recalls when, as a teenager, he followed his own whim instead of the wisdom of his guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar. An excerpt:









“Please permit me to go to the Himalayas. I hope in unbroken solitude to achieve continuous divine communion.”

I actually once addressed these ungrateful words to my Master. Seized by one of the unpredictable delusions which occasionally assail the devotee, I felt a growing impatience with hermitage duties and college studies. A feebly extenuating circumstance is that my proposal was made when I had been only six months with Sri Yukteswar. Not yet had I fully surveyed his towering stature.

“Many hillmen live in the Himalayas, yet possess no God-perception.” My guru’s answer came slowly and simply. “Wisdom is better sought from a man of realization than from an inert mountain.”

Ignoring Master’s plain hint that he, and not a hill, was my teacher, I repeated my plea. Sri Yukteswar vouchsafed no reply. I took his silence for consent, a precarious interpretation readily accepted at one’s convenience.



In the next chapter, Yogananda wrote about his guru’s reaction to his return from the Himalayas. An excerpt:

“I am here, Guruji.” My shamefacedness spoke more eloquently for me.

“Let us go to the kitchen and find something to eat.” Sri Yukteswar’s manner was as natural as if hours and not days had separated us.

“Master, I must have disappointed you by my abrupt departure from my duties here; I thought you might be angry with me.”

“No, of course not! Wrath springs only from thwarted desires. I do not expect anything from others, so their actions cannot be in opposition to wishes of mine. I would not use you for my own ends; I am happy only in your own true happiness.”

“Sir, one hears of divine love in a vague way, but for the first time I am having a concrete example in your angelic self! In the world, even a father does not easily forgive his son if he leaves his parent’s business without warning. But you show not the slightest vexation, though you must have been put to great inconvenience by the many unfinished tasks I left behind.”

We looked into each other’s eyes, where tears were shining. A blissful wave engulfed me; I was conscious that the Lord, in the form of my guru, was expanding the small ardors of my heart into the incompressible reaches of cosmic love.

What a wonderful way to be in the world! To let all expectations of others fall away and simply be happy when they are happy. Of course, this approach with loved ones may lead to all sorts of problems unless they act with integrity and pure intentions. Still, it’s an ideal worth aspiring to!

By the way, I absolutely love the way that Swami Sri Yukteswar expresses his wisdom—succinctly, precisely and with a large dollop of dry humor. Oh, to have been in his ashram for even a day!

Swami Sri Yukteswar and Paramahansa Yogananda in India in 1936





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2 Responses to “The Wisdom of Swami Sri Yukteswar”

  1. elisanicholas Says:

    I just love, love, love the stories Yoganandaji tells of his youthful exploits, and I love that you, my Facebook friend, are inspired about his life just as I am! He is brutally honest and self-effacing in his autobiography, which I find so endearing and encouraging. If anyone is hesitant to read it, thinking, “Oh, this yogi is just going to brag about how great and holy he is,” he or she’s got it the opposite way! He was just as human as you and me, and never for a moment hesitates to admit he made so many mistakes. In fact, he purposely shares them with us to let us know, “Yes you too must pursue your spiritual path, and be OK with not being perfect. Love is all that matters.”

    Also, his passionate spiritual endeavors taught me the importance of bhakta, not to be in my head all the time, but be in my heart, as the head should be the servant of the heart, and not vice versa.

    There’s so much more I could write about how this man has inspired my life. It feels too personal for me to even write about on my own blog. It feels that close, like he’s still alive, around me everyday.

    I’m so glad he has touched your heart as he has touched mine!

  2. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Very well said, Elisa. I especially like your comments about imperfection and the importance of bhakta. And I am glad that you feel so close to Yogananda. As he said, to those who think him near, he is near. So think him near and hold him dear!

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