15 Quotes from the Master Who Brought Meditation & Yoga to the West

There is good reason to believe that Paramahansa Yogananda was what is referred to in spiritual circles as a ‘Living Master’. As with all gurus, his life and the organizations he built were not without controversy, yet the accounts of those closest to him and the legacy he left behind paint a portrait of a man who lived what he taught, and taught what he lived.

According to his autobiography, he was able to recall memories from the earliest moments of infancy (and beyond), possessed incredible control over his mental and physical processes and, at the time of death, is said to have left his body at will, otherwise known as mahasamādhi.

Paramahansa, which translates as “supreme swan” and is a title in India meant to describe the highest spiritual attainment, differed from ‘spiritual teachers’ in the same way that all true masters do – in that he reincarnated already awakened with the sole purpose of being of service to humankind. His mission? To bring yoga and meditation to the west.

Born in India in 1893, Yogananda had met his guru (recognized, in silence, from a past life) by the age of 17 and had established The Self Realization Fellowship in LA, California by the time he was 27. At the time of this writing, the Fellowship has over 500 temples, retreats, ashrams, centers, and meditation circles around the world. In 1946 he wrote the seminal Autobiography of a Yogi  which went on to become one of the top-selling spiritual texts of the 20th century, and was a favourite of everyone from George Harrison to Steve Jobs, the latter of whom actually had the text handed out to all of the attendees of his memorial service. 

From the book: “The society means to foster a spirit of greater understanding and goodwill among the diverse people and nations of the global family and help those of all cultures and creeds to realize and express more fully in their lives the beauty, nobility, and divinity of the human spirit, which mission it intends to fulfill through worldwide service.”

Here, then, are 15 quotes from the kind and masterful soul of Paramahansa Yogananda.

  • One must never give up hope of becoming better. A person is old only when he refuses to make the effort to change. That stagnant state is the only “old age” I recognize.
  • You should be able to succeed in any profession or do anything you put your mind to. 
  • You may control a mad elephant; You may shut the mouth of the bear and the tiger; Ride the lion and play with the cobra; By alchemy you may learn your livelihood; You may wander through the universe incognito; Make vassals of the gods; be ever youthful; You may walk in water and live in fire; But control of the mind is better and more difficult.
  • If you program yourself with theoretical knowledge, you will become a walking Victrola, able to repeat lofty phrases and to be considered a learned being, but your knowledge will be unsupported by your own realization or spiritual attainment…  Do not use your God-given reason to become more and more mixed up in the labyrinth of matter and in the egoistic limitations of the intellect; with the power of discrimination, study and apply truth until it becomes your own intuitive realization.  When you develop your intuition, you will feel the presence of God and His omniscience within you. That is called esoteric reason…
  • Untrained warriors are soon killed on the battlefield; so also persons untrained in the art of preserving their inner peace are quickly riddled by the bullets of worry and restlessness in active life… The schools should educate young students in this art, and in how to develop calmness and concentration.  The American home is breaking up because these things are not taught – neither at home nor in the schools.
  • Watch your consciousness. Develop the habit of self-examination, of watching and analyzing your thoughts and behaviour. When there are tell-tale signs of bad habits or inclinations, that is the time to discriminate and resist with will power.
  • When you transform your consciousness into divine consciousness so that you feel for everyone else’s well-being as you feel for yourself, when all the world becomes your greater self, you will become completely dissociated from the sufferings of your little body. You will behold creation as a sort of dramatic experience in which nothing can hurt you.
  • When you truly want to be released from this earth dream, there is no power that can stop you from attaining liberation. Never doubt it! Your salvation is not to be achieved – it is already yours, because you are made in the image of God; but you have to know this.  
  • All paths are paths to God, because, ultimately, there is no other place for the soul to go. Everything has come out of God and must go back to Him.
  • The rishis of ancient India, having penetrated to the Original Cause of Being, declare that God is perfect, that he needs nothing, for all is contained within Himself; and that this world is God’s Lila, or divine play. The Lord, it seems, like a little child, loves to play, and his Lila is the endless variety of ever-changing creation.
  • The true basis of religion is not belief, but intuitive experience. Intuition is the soul’s power of knowing God. To know what religion is really all about, one must know God.
  • Emotional sensitivity is the cause of suffering. Do not be so sensitive. 
  • Simple living does not mean poverty or poverty consciousness.
  • One should seek and associate with the highest diamond like mentalities.  Take time to find true friends. Good souls attract good souls.  Live like gods, and you will attract godly friends.  Live like animals on the sensual plane, and you will attract animalistic companions.  Do not mix closely with those who lower your ideals and create materialistic nervousness in you; but at the same time do not exclude anyone from your love.
  • …each life is a master novel written by God.
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Kyle McMillan is the founder and managing editor of Wisdom Pills. He is a freelance writer and maintains a personal website, metanoia, as well.