“Those who join us are not connected to some printing press, but to a line of God-realized masters.”
— Paramhansa Yogananda
Our Spiritual Roots
Yoga and meditation are household words in America today, and are practiced widely for the many health benefits they offer. But this is not their original purpose. Yoga and meditation are ancient spiritual practices that help spiritual seekers experience the meaning of Jesus’s teaching, “The kingdom of God is within.” Until recently, these techniques were not taught to the public, but were transmitted, often in secret, from a spiritual teacher to sincere students.
Yoga is quite possibly the most ancient science known to man. Stone carvings depicting human figures in meditation have been unearthed in the Indus Valley, where the findings date back more than 5,000 years. Yoga means “union” and is believed to originate as long as 8,000 years ago. The earliest known texts are the Upanishads (400 BC), the Bhagavad Gita and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (200 BC).
Most people think of yoga postures when they hear the word “yoga.” But postures are a small part of the science of Raja Yoga, a comprehensive approach to the spiritual life that develops personal character, inner strength, and a calm, compassionate heart. Raja Yoga brings awareness not only of the underlying unity of all things, but of our own essential identity with this deeper reality.
The Sanskrit word for spiritual teacher is “guru.” Yoga teachings are passed from guru to disciple, usually through a lineage of teachers often going back many hundreds of years. Why a guru?
For Ananda, that teacher is Paramhansa Yogananda, perhaps best known as the author of the spiritual classic, Autobiography of a Yogi. His extraordinary stories of saints and miracles are startling testimony of our capacity for direct, personal communion with God. Written in 1946, it has been translated into 19 languages and is used in colleges as a textbook in Yoga and Indian philosophy.
Yogananda came to America in 1920, and was the first of India’s yoga masters to make his home in the west. He was a tireless lecturer, extolling the benefits of meditation and yoga to millions of Americans over the next 32 years. He taught the mystical, original teachings of Christ, and emphasized the underlying unity of all religions. He described his spiritual teachers in his Autobiography, including many remarkable details of the life of Swami Yukteswar, Lahiri Mahasaya, and Babaji, who instructed Yogananda to bring the ancient teachings of India to the West. Those teachings include Kriya Yoga and other techniques of meditation, breath, and energy control, which help calm the mind and develop inner, spiritual awareness.
Yogananda passed away in 1952, but he trained a close disciple, Swami Kriyananda, to continue his work. Kriyananda carried out one of Yogananda’s most cherished dreams: the founding of spiritual communities. There are nine Ananda communities and teaching centers in the world today.
At his guru’s request, Swami Kriyananda has focused on teaching and writing, helping others to experience the joy and living presence of God. He has lectured on four continents in seven languages over the course of nearly 60 years of discipleship. Millions of Indians watch his daily discourse on the Aasta Television Channel. His books have been translated in 28 languages.
Swami Kriyananda has helped the modern world understand the ancient teachings of Raja Yoga as intensely practical and immediately useful for people in every walk of life. His books and teachings cover nearly every field of human endeavor including business life, leadership, education, the arts, community life, and science. He has written extensive commentaries on the Bible and the Bhagavad Gita—all based on Yogananda’s teachings.
Though in his early 80s, Kriyananda continues to write and lecture at a pace that leaves his students and friends fairly breathless. He makes his home today at Ananda India near New Delhi, where he and a group of 40 Ananda teachers are establishing a new center for Yogananda’s teachings. His lectures in India and America are posted regularly as streaming video or MP3.
For more information please visit Ananda.org