I watched the film, Awake, The Life of Yogananda, just a couple weeks ago. The theater was full, sold out in fact. “How wonderful is this?!” I thought, because so often it feels as if this journey I am on is a solitary one. Apparently, it is not. Here was a theater full of people venturing out on a windy, wet, cold November evening to watch a documentary about a spiritual leader. This told me that I am truly not alone: Many of us are walking, seeking, meditating, pondering. We are looking for something, and sometimes I just want to shout, “Show me, damnit!” I may be alone in this internal ranting; certainly, the serenity of other meditators suggests that that is so.
Yogananda Paramahansa (1893-1952) brought the philosophies and teachings of Kriya Yoga to the West, teachings that can be used for self-realization and enhanced success in life, but also beyond that to a unity with spirit (however that may be defined by the individual). Because his teachings are not centered around any specific religion but are instead a scientific approach utilizing yoga and meditation, he reaches people of all faiths in this country and around the world, as well as, of course, in India, his home country.
You have only to look into the Yogananda’s eyes to see that there is something ineffable there.
The documentary reminded me that sometime around about 17 years ago, I began the Yogananda’s Self-Realization Fellowship home study course in meditation. Every evening, I sat alone with the lessons, meditated, and worked on understanding both method and meaning. At the four-week juncture, I knew I needed to spend more time on the lessons. I was beginning to skim, to write down short answers to the lessons’ questions, a sure sign that my attention was flagging. And, sure enough, this is when I faltered. I felt it coming on, as so often this barrier has popped up in my attempts at meditation.
A weekend of music festivals occurred, a birthday celebration, a trip, and, well, I lost the thread of the Yogananda’s lessons. I never did go back, though when I moved out of the house some four years later, I stumbled on the notebooks from SRF. They went the way of so many things when you move out of a house that has been your home for 20–plus years. They ended up in the recycle. I ended up in a new house, new adventures, new job, and I had not thought much about the Yogananda in the years since, until the movie.
The film reminded me of those early SRF lessons, as well as my awe of friends who were followers of the Yogananda. They seemed to have a knowing. By this, I mean that they deeply knew their place in this world and the next, and they were satisfied. They had experienced an Awakening, which I admired. I thought then, and I still wonder now, don’t we all aspire to such an achievement? Don’t we all want to own that feeling of comfort? Don’t we all want to at least whisper, “Show me!” — and have an answer in response?
The documentary, Awake, The Life of Yogananda, has been winning awards and accolades all over the world. It is showing in limited release. Here in Portland, it played in an independent, older theater (the Hollywood Theater), not one of the cineplexes where you’ll find the current blockbusters. You’ll have to look for this film in your town’s listings, but it’s worth the search.