Enlightenment Experience of Sri Paramahansa Yogananda (In His Own Words)

Sri Paramahansa Yogananda (1893-1952) is considered one of the preeminent spiritual figures of modern times.

He was an Indian yogi and guru who introduced millions of westerners to the teaching of meditation and Kriya Yoga through his book, Autobiography of a Yogi.

Enlightenment Experience of Paramahansa Yogananda

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Paramhansa Yogananda’s enlightenment experience happened in his younger age, by the graceful touch of his guru- Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri.

But before this ultimate divine experience; (…It was only six months since Yogananda started living with his Guru in the hermitage.)

Young Yogananda felt a growing frustration with hermitage duties and college studies. He desperately wanted to experience uninterrupted divine communion.

So, Yogananda decided to leave the hermitage and seek solitude in the Himalayan mountains. When he asked his guru for permission, Swami Sri Yukteswar replied: “Many hillmen live in the Himalayas, yet possess no God-perception. Wisdom is better sought from a man of realization then from a man of realization then from an inert mountain.

Ignoring his Guru’s plain hint that he (Sri Yukteswar), and not Himalayan solitude, was his teacher, Yogananda repeated his request.

Sri Yukteswar did not utter a word again, but young Yogananda took his Guru’s silence for consent and left the hermitage the following day.

After several incidents (detailed explanation in his autobiography), Yogananda’s travels ended not in the lofty mountains but in the Himalayan presence of his Master, Swami Sri Yukteswar!

Yogananda’s enlightenment (‘An experience in cosmic consciousness’ as he mentioned it) happened very soon with the graceful touch of his compassionate Guru Swami Sri Yukteswar, just a couple of days after returning to his Guru’s hermitage.

Image Source- Owlcation

This post is about Sri Paramahansa Yogananda’s enlightenment experience (an experience in Cosmic Consciousness) precisely as he shared it in his book “Autobiography of a Yogi.”

The extraordinary event unfolds as a conversation between young Yogananda (Mukunda) and his guru Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri….

“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 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 can not 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 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 are not vexed, though you must have been inconvenienced by the many unfinished tasks I left behind.”

Yogananda, “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 ardours of my heart into the incompressible reaches of cosmic love.

A few mornings later, I made my way to Master’s empty sitting room. I planned to meditate, but disobedient thoughts unshared my laudable purpose. They scattered like birds before the hunter.

“Mukunda!” Sri Yukteswar’s voice sounded from a distant inner balcony. I felt as rebellious as my thoughts. “Master always urges me to meditate.” I muttered to myself. “He should not disturb me when he knows why I came to his room.

He summoned me again; I remained obstinately silent. The third time his tone held rebuke. Sir, I am meditating,” I shouted protestingly.

I know how you are meditating,” my Guru called, “with your mind distributed like leaves in a storm! Come here to me.” Snubbed and exposed, I made my way sadly to his side.

Poor boy, the mountains couldn’t give what you wanted.” Master spoke caressingly, comfortingly. His calm gaze was unfathomable. “Your heart’s desire shall be fulfilled.

Enlightenment Experience

Sri Yukteswar seldom indulged in riddles; I was bewildered. He struck gently on my chest above the heart. My body became immovably rooted; breath was drawn out of my lungs as if by some huge magnet!

… Soul and mind instantly lost their physical bondage and streamed out like a fluid, piercing light from my every pore. The flesh was as though dead, yet in my intense awareness, I knew that never before had I been fully alive!

My sense of identity was no longer narrowly confined to a body but embraced the circumambient atoms. People on distant streets seemed to be moving gently over my remote periphery.

The roots of plants and trees appeared through the soil’s dim transparency; I discerned their sap’s inward flow.

The whole vicinity lay bare before me. My ordinary frontal vision was now changed to a vast spherical sight, simultaneously all-perceptive. Through the back of my head, I saw men strolling far down Rai Ghat Road and also noticed a white cow who was leisurely approaching…

When she reached the space in front of the open ashram gate, I observed her with my two physical eyes. as she passed by, behind the brick wall, I saw her still..!

All objects within my panoramic gaze trembled and vibrated like quick-motion pictures. My body, Master’s, the pillared courtyard, the furniture and floor, the trees and sunshine, occasionally became violently agitated until all melted into a luminescent sea, even as sugar crystals, thrown into a glass of water, dissolve after being shaken.

The unifying light alternated with materializations revealing the law of cause and effect in creation. An oceanic joy broke upon the calm endless shores of my Soul. I realized that the Spirit of God is exhaustless Bliss; His body is countless tissues of Light…!

A swelling glory within me began to envelop towns, continents, the earth, solar and stellar systems, tenuous nebulae and the flowing universe. The entire cosmos, gently luminous, like a city seen afar at night, glimmered within the infinitude of my being..!

The sharply etched global outlines faded somewhat at the farthest edges; I could see a mellow radiance, even-undiminished. It was indescribably subtle; the planetary pictures were formed of a gross light.

The divine dispersion of rays poured from an Eternal Source, blazing into galaxies, transfigured with ineffable auras. Again and again, I saw the creative beams condense into constellations, then resolve into sheets of transparent flame.

By rhythmic reversion, sextillion worlds passed into diaphanous lustre; fire became firmament. I cognized the centre of heaven as a point of intuitive perception in my heart.

Irradiating splendour issued from my nucleus to every part of the universal structure. Blissful amrita, the nectar from immortality, pulsed through me with quicksilver-like fluidity.

The creative voice of God I heard resounding as Aum, the vibration of the Cosmic Motor. Suddenly the breath returned to my lungs, and with a disappointment almost unbearable, I realized that my infinite immensity was lost.

Once more, I was limited to the humiliating cage of a body, not easily accommodative to the Spirit. Like a prodigal child, I had run away from my macrocosmic home and imprisoned myself in a narrow microcosm.

My Guru was standing motionless before me; I started to drop at his holy feet in gratitude for the experience in cosmic consciousness which I had long passionately sought.

He held me upright and spoke calmly, unpretentiously. “You must not get overdrunk with ecstasy. Much work yet remains for you in the world. Let us sweep the balcony floor; then we shall walk by the Ganges.

I fetched a broom; Master, I knew, was teaching me the secret of balanced living. The Soul must stretch over the cosmogonic abysses while the body performs its daily duties.

When we set out later for a stroll, I was still entranced in unspeakable rapture. I saw our bodies as two astral pictures, moving over a road by the river whose essence was sheer light.

It is the spirit of God that actively sustains every form and force in the universe; yet He is transcendental and aloof in the blissful uncreated void beyond the words of vibratory phenomena,” Master Explained.

“Saints who realize their divinity even in the flesh know a similar twofold existence. Conscientiously engaging in earthly work, they remain immersed in an inward beatitude. The Lord has created all men from the limitless joy of his being. However, they are painfully cramped by the body; God nevertheless expects that souls made in his image shall ultimately rise above all sense identifications and reunite with him.”

The cosmic vision left many permanent lessons. By daily stilling my thoughts, I could win release from the delusive conviction that my body was a mass of flesh and bones, traversing the hard soil of matter.

I saw that the breath and the restless mind were like storms that lashed the ocean of Light into waves of material forms- earth, sky, human beings, animals, birds, trees. No perception of the infinite as One Light could be had except by calming those storms.

As often I silenced the two natural tumults, I beheld the multitudinous waves of creation melt into one lucent sea, even as the waves of the ocean, their tempests subsiding, serenely dissolve into unity.

A master bestows the divine experience of cosmic consciousness when his disciple, by meditation, has strengthened his mind to a degree where the vast vistas would not overwhelm him. The experience can never be given through intellectual willingness or open-mindedness.

Only adequate enlargement by yoga practice and devotional bhakti can prepare the mind to absorb the liberating shock of omnipresence.

It comes with a natural inevitability to the sincere devotee. His intense craving begins to pull at God with an irresistible force.

The lord, the Cosmic Vision, is drawn by the seeker’s magnetic ardor into his range of consciousness.

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