On or around March 7 of each year and around the world, disciples of Paramhansa Yogananda commemorate his dramatic death on that day in 1952 at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles at a banquet he gave in honor of the recently appointed ambassador to the United State from India. But the commemoration is more than a remembrance: it is a celebration. For in life and in the manner and circumstances surrounding his death, Yogananda demonstrated his realization of God as the sole reality of life.
By his foreknowledge (which he communicated to numerous close disciples and friends), and by his actions that evening, and by the testimony of officials of Forest Lawn Mortuary as to the subsequent incorruptibility of his body, he taught us that death is not the final curtain of life. In the great tradition of saints and sages since time immemorial, he upheld the promise of our soul's immortality. As St. John the Apostle writes in the first chapter of his gospel, "To as many as received him, gave he the power to become the sons of God."
On the playing fields of earthly life, duality and maya (delusion) hold sway, the opposites of life and death vying alternatingly for supremcy. With our mortal eyes hypnotized by the seeming reality, though ever changing, of human life, we cannot see the unchanging Spirit hidden and eternal. Paramhansa Yogananda was sent by Jesus Christ and by Babaji (masters of west and east) to remind us that we are more than a physical form: we are children of God, made in the image of God, as light, as joy! Yogananda, as so many before him, demonstrated this power to those with eyes to see. Time and again he showed his ability to know their thoughts, the power to assist them in untying the knots of their karmic destiny, and in at least two dramatic instances, the power to bring the living back from the dead. It was not to show his power but our own potential that that God-realized souls are empowered to perform such "miracles.".
St. Francis praised God while wracked with pain; He sang with joy upon his deathbed; the Sufi mystic, Omar Khayyam, revealed the secrets of life, death, and destiny through the veiled imagery of the tavern of meditation, the bliss-intoxication of wine, and the divine romance of the soul with God; Swami Sri Yukteswar, Yogananda's guru, resurrected in flesh and blood, months after his burial; Lord Buddha achieved enlightenment under the Bodhi tree, and discovered the secret of how to overcome suffering; Moses gave his people the law that led to the Promised Land of divine attunement; Jesus proved the victory of unconditional love from the cross, the love of God appearing in human form and the victory of Spirit with his bodily resurrection. In the lives of these and many other great saints and avatars, we see the testimony of the redeeming power of God's love and the promise of our soul's immortality in God.
This is what we celebrate! And although the struggles of mortal existence will never cease upon this playing field of duality, we also celebrate the beginnings of a new age of increasing awareness of life's threads of connection and unity with an ever growing number of souls on earth. Growth in education, knowledge, life span, health, travel, communication, economic, governmental and social interdependency and cooperation and general awareness of other races, nations, and religions cannot but offer hope for a better world. This increase in awareness has its source in the divine energy being offered to souls on this planet.
But at times, and for now, contact among nations produces as much heat as light. But the devastating and mounting cost of competition, exploitation, greed, prejudice and war dictate that these trends cannot triumph (or we shall perish). A balancing is needed and a higher level of understanding is all but assured, though the cost to achieve it is most certainly going to be great for there are many, still, who resist the rising tide of harmony and connectedness.
Yogananda sometimes spoke in terms of world unity. There are those who are threatened by such concepts as an affront to national sovereignty. But his vision was of a world of united hearts, not a one-world government. He recognized that each nation had specialized in its language, customs, dress, cuisine and attitudes on behalf of other nations, and that the faith traditions of earth suited the needs and temperaments of different people. Rather, therefore, than achieving unity in an outward, organizational sense, he saw unity as flowering from within people as a sconsequence of greater awareness and understanding. Hence, cooperation would supplant competition. Peoples and nations would work together to solve mutual problems and create a better, though never a perfect, world. He forsaw no mere utopia but a higher age of awareness, suitable and necessary for the evolving circumstances of our planet.
Disciples of Paramhansa Yogananda and sincere, committed devotees everywhere are the light-bearers of this new age and level of consciousness. It is valuable and helpful that individual souls understand the nature of their discipleship to life, to God, to Guru. For we are not alone in this world or in this life. It is not a time to remain apart from others of like-mindedness. Communities, both real and virtual, must form that this light become visible to all and that it be a guide out of the labyrinth of conflict that threatends to engulf our planet.
The message of our Oneness in God and the promise of our soul's immortality is a universal and timeless message but it needs repetition and context at the dawn (and throughout) each evolving age of consciousness. In celebrating Paramhansa Yogananda's life and mission, we celebrate our own and honor that of all world teachers and of the divine love which is the source and goal of creation.
Blessings to you,