Legacy YM

Chapter 24 - I Become a Monk of the Swami Order

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"Master, my father has been anxious for me to accept an executive position with the Bengal-Nagpur Railway.
But I have definitely refused it." I added hopefully, "Sir, will you not make me a monk of the Swami Order?"
I looked pleadingly at my guru. During preceding years, in order to test the depth of my determination, he
had refused this same request. Today, however, he smiled graciously.

"Very well; tomorrow I will initiate you into swamiship." He went on quietly, "I am happy that you have
persisted in your desire to be a monk. Lahiri Mahasaya often said: 'If you don't invite God to be your summer
Guest, He won't come in the winter of your life.'"

"Dear master, I could never falter in my goal to belong to the Swami Order like your revered self." I
smiled at him with measureless affection.

"He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the
Lord: but he that is married careth for the things of the world, how he may please his wife."1 I had analyzed the lives of many of my friends who, after undergoing certain
spiritual discipline, had then married. Launched on the sea of worldly responsibilities, they had forgotten
their resolutions to meditate deeply.

To allot God a secondary place in life was, to me, inconceivable. Though He is the sole Owner of the
cosmos, silently showering us with gifts from life to life, one thing yet remains which He does not own, and
which each human heart is empowered to withhold or bestowman's love.

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The Creator, in taking infinite pains to
shroud with mystery His presence in every atom of creation, could have had but one motivea sensitive desire
that men seek Him only through free will. With what velvet glove of every humility has He not covered the
iron hand of omnipotence!

The following day was one of the most memorable in my life. It was a sunny Thursday, I remember, in July,
1914, a few weeks after my graduation from college. On the inner balcony of his Serampore hermitage, Master
dipped a new piece of white silk into a dye of ocher, the traditional color of the Swami Order. After the
cloth had dried, my guru draped it around me as a renunciate's robe.

"Someday you will go to the West, where silk is preferred," he said. "As a symbol, I have chosen for you
this silk material instead of the customary cotton."

In India, where monks embrace the ideal of poverty, a silk-clad swami is an unusual sight. Many yogis,
however, wear garments of silk, which preserves certain subtle bodily currents better than cotton.

"I am averse to ceremonies," Sri Yukteswar remarked. "I will make you a swami in the bidwat
(non-ceremonious) manner."

The bibidisa or elaborate initiation into swamiship includes a fire ceremony,
during which symbolical funeral rites are performed. The physical body of the disciple is represented as
dead, cremated in the flame of wisdom. The newly-made swami is then given a chant, such as: "This atma
is Brahma"2 or "Thou art That" or "I am He." Sri Yukteswar, however, with
his love of simplicity, dispensed with all formal rites and merely asked me to select a new name.

"I will give you the privilege of choosing it yourself," he said, smiling.

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"Yogananda," I replied, after a moment's thought. The name literally means "Bliss (ananda) through
divine union (yoga)."

"Be it so. Forsaking your family name of Mukunda Lal Ghosh, henceforth you shall be called Yogananda of
the Giri branch of the Swami Order."

As I knelt before Sri Yukteswar, and for the first time heard him pronounce my new name, my heart
overflowed with gratitude. How lovingly and tirelessly had he labored, that the boy Mukunda be someday
transformed into the monk Yogananda! I joyfully sang a few verses from the long Sanskrit chant of Lord
Shankara:

"Mind, nor intellect, nor ego, feeling;
Sky nor earth nor metals am I.
I am He, I am He, Blessed Spirit, I am He!
No birth, no death, no caste have I;
Father, mother, have I none.
I am He, I am He, Blessed Spirit, I am He!
Beyond the flights of fancy, formless am I,
Permeating the limbs of all life;
Bondage I do not fear; I am free, ever free,
I am He, I am He, Blessed Spirit, I am He!"

Every swami belongs to the ancient monastic order which was organized in its present form by
Shankara.3 Because it is a formal order, with an unbroken line of saintly
representatives serving as active leaders, no man can give himself the title of swami. He rightfully receives
it only from another swami; all monks thus trace their spiritual lineage to one common guru, Lord Shankara.
By vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience to the spiritual teacher, many Catholic Christian monastic orders
resemble the Order of Swamis.

223

In addition to his new name, usually ending in ananda, the swami takes a title which indicates his
formal connection with one of the ten subdivisions of the Swami Order. These dasanamis or ten agnomens
include the Giri (mountain), to which Sri Yukteswar, and hence myself, belong. Among the other
branches are the Sagar (sea), Bharati (land), Aranya (forest), Puri (tract),
Tirtha (place of pilgrimage), and Saraswati (wisdom of nature).

The new name received by a swami thus has a twofold significance, and represents the attainment of supreme
bliss ( ananda) through some divine quality or statelove, wisdom, devotion, service, yogaand through a
harmony with nature, as expressed in her infinite vastness of oceans, mountains, skies.

The ideal of selfless service to all mankind, and of renunciation of personal ties and ambitions, leads
the majority of swamis to engage actively in humanitarian and educational work in India, or occasionally in
foreign lands. Ignoring all prejudices of caste, creed, class, color, sex, or race, a swami follows the
precepts of human brotherhood. His goal is absolute unity with Spirit. Imbuing his waking and sleeping
consciousness with the thought, "I am He," he roams contentedly, in the world but not of it. Thus only may he
justify his title of swamione who seeks to achieve union with the Swa or Self. It is needless to add
that not all formally titled swamis are equally successful in reaching their high goal.

224

Sri Yukteswar was both a swami and a yogi. A swami, formally a monk by virtue of his connection with the
ancient order, is not always a yogi. Anyone who practices a scientific technique of God-contact is a yogi; he
may be either married or unmarried, either a worldly man or one of formal religious ties. A swami may
conceivably follow only the path of dry reasoning, of cold renunciation; but a yogi engages himself in a
definite, step-by-step procedure by which the body and mind are disciplined, and the soul liberated. Taking
nothing for granted on emotional grounds, or by faith, a yogi practices a thoroughly tested series of
exercises which were first mapped out by the early rishis. Yoga has produced, in every age of India, men who
became truly free, truly Yogi-Christs.

Like any other science, yoga is applicable to people of every clime and time. The theory advanced by
certain ignorant writers that yoga is "unsuitable for Westerners" is wholly false, and has lamentably
prevented many sincere students from seeking its manifold blessings. Yoga is a method for restraining the
natural turbulence of thoughts, which otherwise impartially prevent all men, of all lands, from glimpsing
their true nature of Spirit. Yoga cannot know a barrier of East and West any more than does the healing and
equitable light of the sun. So long as man possesses a mind with its restless thoughts, so long will there be
a universal need for yoga or control.

The ancient rishi Patanjali defines "yoga" as "control of the fluctuations of the
mind-stuff." 4 His very short and masterly expositions, the Yoga
Sutras,
form one of the six systems of Hindu philosophy.5 In
contradistinction to Western philosophies, all six Hindu systems embody not only theoretical but practical
teachings. In addition to every conceivable ontological inquiry, the six systems formulate six definite
disciplines aimed at the permanent removal of suffering and the attainment of timeless bliss.

The common thread linking all six systems is the declaration that no true freedom for man is possible
without knowledge of the ultimate Reality.

225

The later Upanishads uphold the Yoga Sutras, among
the six systems, as containing the most efficacious methods for achieving direct perception of truth. Through
the practical techniques of yoga, man leaves behind forever the barren realms of speculation and cognizes in
experience the veritable Essence.

The Yoga system as outlined by Patanjali is known as the Eightfold Path. The first steps, (1)
yama and (2) niyama, require observance of ten negative and positive moralitiesavoidance of
injury to others, of untruthfulness, of stealing, of incontinence, of gift-receiving (which brings
obligations); and purity of body and mind, contentment, self-discipline, study, and devotion to God.

The next steps are (3) asana (right posture); the spinal column must be held straight, and the body
firm in a comfortable position for meditation; (4) pranayama (control of prana, subtle life
currents); and (5) pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses from external objects).

The last steps are forms of yoga proper: (6) dharana (concentration); holding the mind to one
thought; (7) dhyana (meditation), and (8) samadhi (superconscious perception). This is the
Eightfold Path of Yoga6 which leads one to the final goal of
Kaivalya (Absoluteness), a term which might be more comprehensibly put as "realization of the Truth
beyond all intellectual apprehension."

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"Which is greater," one may ask, "a swami or a yogi?" If and when final oneness with God is achieved, the
distinctions of the various paths disappear. The Bhagavad Gita, however, points out that the methods
of yoga are all-embracive. Its techniques are not meant only for certain types and temperaments, such as
those few who incline toward the monastic life; yoga requires no formal allegiance. Because the yogic science
satisfies a universal need, it has a natural universal applicability.

A true yogi may remain dutifully in the world; there he is like butter on water, and not like the
easily-diluted milk of unchurned and undisciplined humanity. To fulfill one's earthly responsibilities is
indeed the higher path, provided the yogi, maintaining a mental uninvolvement with egotistical desires, plays
his part as a willing instrument of God.

There are a number of great souls, living in American or European or other non-Hindu bodies today who,
though they may never have heard the words yogi and swami, are yet true exemplars of those
terms. Through their disinterested service to mankind, or through their mastery over passions and thoughts,
or through their single hearted love of God, or through their great powers of concentration, they are, in a
sense, yogis; they have set themselves the goal of yogaself-control. These men could rise to even greater
heights if they were taught the definite science of yoga, which makes possible a more conscious direction of
one's mind and life.

Yoga has been superficially misunderstood by certain Western writers, but its critics have never been its
practitioners. Among many thoughtful tributes to yoga may be mentioned one by Dr. C. G. Jung, the famous
Swiss psychologist.

"When a religious method recommends itself as 'scientific,' it can be certain of its
public in the West. Yoga fulfills this expectation," Dr. Jung writes.7
"Quite apart from the charm of the new, and the fascination of the half-understood, there is good cause for
Yoga to have many adherents. It offers the possibility of controllable experience, and thus satisfies the
scientific need of 'facts,' and besides this, by reason of its breadth and depth, its venerable age, its doctrine and method, which include every phase of life, it promises undreamed-of
possibilities.

227

"Every religious or philosophical practice means a psychological discipline, that is, a method of mental
hygiene. The manifold, purely bodily procedures of Yoga8 also mean a
physiological hygiene which is superior to ordinary gymnastics and breathing exercises, inasmuch as it is not
merely mechanistic and scientific, but also philosophical; in its training of the parts of the body, it
unites them with the whole of the spirit, as is quite clear, for instance, in the Pranayama exercises
where Prana is both the breath and the universal dynamics of the cosmos.

"When the thing which the individual is doing is also a cosmic event, the effect experienced in the body
(the innervation), unites with the emotion of the spirit (the universal idea), and out of this there develops
a lively unity which no technique, however scientific, can produce. Yoga practice is unthinkable, and would
also be ineffectual, without the concepts on which Yoga is based. It combines the bodily and the spiritual
with each other in an extraordinarily complete way.

"In the East, where these ideas and practices have developed, and where for several thousand years an
unbroken tradition has created the necessary spiritual foundations, Yoga is, as I can readily believe, the
perfect and appropriate method of fusing body and mind together so that they form a unity which is scarcely
to be questioned. This unity creates a psychological disposition which makes possible intuitions that
transcend consciousness."

The Western day is indeed nearing when the inner science of self-control will be found as
necessary as the outer conquest of nature. This new Atomic Age will see men's minds sobered and broadened by
the now scientifically indisputable truth that matter is in reality a concentrate of energy. Finer forces of
the human mind can and must liberate energies greater than those within stones and metals, lest the material
atomic giant, newly unleashed, turn on the world in mindless destruction.9


Chapter1 - My Parents and Early Life
Chapter2 - My Mother's Death and the Mystic Amulet
Chapter3 - The Saint With Two Bodies
Chapter4 - My Interrupted Flight Toward the Himalayas
Chapter5 - A "Perfume Saint" Displays His Wonders
Chapter6 - The Tiger Swami
Chapter7 - The Levitating Saint
Chapter8 - India's Great Scientist, J.C. Bose
Chapter9 - The Blissful Devotee and His Cosmic Romance
Chapter10 - I Meet My Master, Sri Yukteswar
Chapter11 - Two Penniless Boys in Brindaban
Chapter12 - Years in My Master's Hermitage
Chapter13 - The Sleepless Saint
Chapter14 - An Experience in Cosmic Consciousness
Chapter15 - The Cauliflower Robbery
Chapter16 - Outwitting the Stars
Chapter17 - Sasi and the Three Sapphires
Chapter18 - A Mohammedan Wonder-Worker
Chapter19 - My Master, in Calcutta, Appears in Serampore
Chapter20 - We Do Not Visit Kashmir
Chapter21 - We Visit Kashmir
Chapter22 - The Heart of a Stone Image
Chapter23 - I Receive My University Degree
Chapter24 - I Become a Monk of the Swami Order
Chapter25 - Brother Ananta and Sister Nalini
Chapter26 - The Science of Kriya Yoga
Chapter27 - Founding a Yoga School in Ranchi
Chapter28 - Kashi, Reborn and Rediscovered
Chapter29 - Rabindranath Tagore and I Compare Schools
Chapter30 - The Law of Miracles
Chapter31 - An Interview with the Sacred Mother
Chapter32 - Rama is Raised From the Dead
Chapter33 - Babaji, the Yogi-Christ of Modern India
Chapter34 - Materializing a Palace in the Himalaya
Chapter35 - The Christlike Life of Lahiri Mahasaya
Chapter36 - Babaji's Interest in the West
Chapter37 - I Go to America
Chapter38 - Luther Burbank -- A Saint Amidst the Roses
Chapter39 - Therese Neumann, the Catholic Stigmatist
Chapter40 - I Return to India
Chapter41 - An Idyll in South India
Chapter42 - Last Days With My Guru
Chapter43 - The Resurrection of Sri Yukteswar
Chapter44 - With Mahatma Gandhi in Wardha
Chapter45 - The Bengali "Joy-Permeated" Mother
Chapter46 - The Woman Yogi Who Never Eats
Chapter47 - I Return to the West
Chapter48 - At Encinitas in California
Chapter49 - The Years - 1940 - 1951

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