Posts Tagged ‘Swami Sri Yukteswar’

My Interview with Philip Goldberg on His Book, “The Life of Yogananda”

March 30, 2018



Philip Goldberg

Welcome Phil, thank you for joining us today.
Hey, it’s good to be with you, Phil. Double Phil.

Allow me to introduce you. Philip Goldberg is the author of American Veda, which explores how the spirituality of India seeped into the cultural bloodstream of America. He co-hosts a spiritually themed podcast, leads American Veda Tours through India, and blogs regularly for popular media sites. His latest book, and the subject of our conversation today, is The Life of Yogananda, which is a biography of Paramahansa Yogananda, author of the spiritual classic, Autobiography of a Yogi.

(Click here to order your copy of The Life of Yogananda.)

Phil, why did you choose to write a biography of Yogananda, whose iconic autobiography has been read by millions of people?
I’m sure you will appreciate that that is the most commonly asked question I’ve had in the last few years as I worked on the book, and the answer is there’s an awful lot about Yogananda’s life that is not in his iconic memoir. Especially his life after he left India and came to America, where he would spend just about the rest of his life.

I did a page count of Autobiography of a Yogi, and it turns out that less than 10 percent of the book is about his years in America, and there are portions of those years that he summarizes in a sentence or two that in fact lasted four or five years. So there’s an awful lot that people don’t know about Yogananda if all they’ve ever read is Autobiography of a Yogi, and I wanted to fill the gaps.

What do you see as Yogananda’s place in the overall spiritual history of the western world?
It’s immense, actually. You know, when I first read Autobiography of a Yogi, at the risk of giving away my age, it was 1970, and it had a big impact on me and a big impact on my whole cohort of young spiritual seekers that were just then discovering Indian philosophy and the practices that come from the yogic repertoire, like meditation. The Beatles had just gone to India, and not long before that, the whole interest exploded.

Autobiography of a Yogi was probably the most borrowed and most often ripped-off book among that cohort of youngsters doing all that spiritual exploring. Falling in love with India, falling in love with practices like meditation, and with gurus like Yogananda. He was of course long gone by then, but the autobiography was a big deal, and launched millions of (more…)

The Wisdom of Swami Sri Yukteswar

September 12, 2011

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 (more…)

The Great Cauliflower Robbery

March 9, 2011

Swami Sri Yukteswar

Today, March 9, 2011, marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of the mahasamadhi of Swami Sri Yukteswar, the beloved guru of Paramahansa Yogananda. Mahasamadhi is the act of consciously and intentionally leaving one’s body at the time of death. One of my favorite Swami Sri Yukteswar stories from Yogananda’s spiritual classic, Autobiography of a Yogi, is excerpted below. It illustrates beautifully that even God-illumined saints enjoy a good practical joke now and then!


“Master, a gift for you! These six huge cauliflowers were planted with my hands; I have watched over their growth with the tender care of a mother nursing her child.” I presented the basket of vegetables with a ceremonial flourish.

“Thank you!” Sri Yukteswar’s smile was warm with appreciation. “Please keep them in your room; I shall need them tomorrow for a special dinner.”

I had just arrived in Puri to spend my college summer vacation with my guru at his seaside hermitage. Built by Master and his disciples, the cheerful little two-storied retreat fronts on the Bay of Bengal.

I awoke early the following morning, refreshed by the salty sea breezes and the charm of my surroundings. Sri Yukteswar’s melodious voice was calling; I took a look at my cherished cauliflowers and (more…)

Life After Death After Life

December 30, 2009

Paramahansa Yogananda

In chapter 43 of his spiritual classic, Autobiography of a YogiParamahansa Yogananda recalls the miraculous day when his guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar, revealed to him the details of the afterlife.

I found this chapter both thrilling and uplifting. I love the idea that we continue to learn and grow and improve ourselves through countless lifetimes, whether we are incarnated or not.

So which would you prefer, an eternity of playing the harp on fluffy clouds or the worlds within worlds described by Yogananda’s guru?

Here is a long excerpt from that chapter.

“As prophets are sent on earth to help men work out their physical karma, so I have been directed by God to serve on an astral planet as a savior,” Sri Yukteswar explained. “It is called Hiranyaloka or ‘Illumined Astral Planet.’ There I am aiding advanced beings to rid themselves of astral karma and thus attain liberation from astral rebirths. The dwellers on Hiranyaloka are highly developed spiritually; all of them had acquired, in their last earth-incarnation, the meditation-given power of consciously leaving their physical bodies at death. No one can enter Hiranyaloka unless (more…)

Outwitting the Stars

November 25, 2009

Swami Sri Yukteswar and Paramahansa Yogananda

I never had much of an appreciation for astrology. Over the years, a number of people I highly respected spoke glowingly of its value and validity but I just didn’t care enough about the subject to invetsigate it further.

Then one day, I happened to read a chapter in a life-changing book that burned off the fog of ignorance and answered every question I had about astrology. It was written with clarity, precision, wit and wisdom, and I felt the subject come brilliantly alive for me as I read it.

Here is the beginning of that chapter from the spiritual classic, Autobiography of a Yogi, by Paramahansa Yogananda.

It is a dialogue between Yogananda and his guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar.


“Mukunda, why don’t you get an astrological armlet?”

“Should I, Master? I don’t believe in astrology.”

“It is never a question of belief; the only scientific attitude one can take on any subject is whether it is true. The law of gravitation worked as efficiently before Newton as after him. The cosmos would be fairly chaotic if its laws could not operate without the sanction of human belief.

“Charlatans (more…)

Moving Gurus, Part II

November 8, 2009

The image of Swami Sri Yukteswar I keep on my desktop

Seven weeks ago, I wrote about how the photo of Paramahansa Yogananda I keep on my desktop began moving when I clicked on it. It’s the only time I ever saw a photo move in any way.

Until yesterday, that is. I had just committed to deepening my spiritual practice. A short time later, I clicked on my desktop photo of Swami Sri Yukteswar, Yogananda’s beloved guru. To my amazement, Swami Sri Yukteswar’s photo, the only other photo I keep on my desktop, began moving toward me and grew in size about 20 percent before stopping.

Just like when Yogananda’s photo moved, I stared at the screen, transfixed. After about thirty seconds, I regained my equilibrium and restored the photo to its original size. I then began clicking and dragging on the photo to try to recreate what had just happened. Nothing. I kept clicking and dragging, trying to elicit some change. I mean, there’s got to (more…)

A Wonderful Definition of God

January 13, 2009


Swami Sri Yukteswar

I really like this six-word definition of God given to Paramahansa Yogananda by his guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar:

God is that supreme intelligence which governs everything.

But I also like this GOD acronym that just occurred to me:

Governing Omnipresent Divinity

Whatever and whoever God is to you, may you (more…)

“Autobiography of a Yogi” Changed My Life

August 19, 2008

Reading Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda at the age of forty-two was one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life. From the beginning chapter, I felt like I had finally come home. This was the life I had always wished was possible but never dreamed it could be! After finishing it, I sent away to Self-Realization Fellowship, the organization Yogananda founded in 1920, for the three-and-a-half years’ worth of bimonthly lessons on “right living” and follow Yogananda’s teachings today as part of my daily spiritual discipline.

autobiography-of-a-yogi-book-coverI just now finished listening to Chapter 23 in my car. I’ve listened to the audiobook version, read by Ben Kingsley, three times now and it never fails to thrill me. Everything in this book resonates in harmony with who I am and who I wish to become. I was already teaching spiritual classes by the time I encountered this book and was amazed at how much deeper it took me in my knowledge and practice.

Yogananda teaches that direct contact with God is (more…)