The Spread of Self-Realization Fellowship (Yogoda Sat-Sanga) over the Earth
Yogoda Math, beautiful hermitage of the Self-Realization Fellowship at Dakshineswar on the Ganges. Founded in 1938 as a yoga retreat for students of East and West.
This issue is devoted to a review of the progress of the Self-Realization Fellowship (Yogoda Sat-Sanga) in America and India. In this article I wish to touch briefly on many points connected with the work. I had the great privilege of accompanying Swami Yoganandaji on his recent world-tour, and of meeting in India his great Master Swami Sri Yukteswarji.
I was a guest at the Eastern headquarters at Ranchi, and will describe it, as well as Swamiji’s triumphal reception throughout India and in London. I shall also outline the present activities and recent celebrations at Mount Washington Estates in Los Angeles and at the new Yogoda Dream Hermitage in California, and shall end with a description of Swami’s stirring plan for an ideal Yogoda World-City.
The Master’s Call
In 1935, after fifteen years of spreading India’s message in America, Swamiji was recalled to India by a vision of his Master. He left this country amid obstacles that he predicted would be removed through God. He had very little money when he made his plans to start for India. But he was presented with a car to be used on his trip. Two secretaries, Ettie Bletsch and myself, accompanied him. He travelled all over Great Britain, and lectured to an overflowing audience in Caxton Hall, London. His tour took him to Scotland, where he was a guest of Sir Harry Lauder. He visited Theresa Neumann, the great soul of Konnersreuth, Germany, who has not eaten for many years and who bears the stigmata of Christ upon her hands, feet, head and breast. He then went on to France, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, Italy, Greece, Jerusalem and Egypt, all by auto.
Arrival in Calcutta
Welcomed by Mayor
From Port Said he sailed for Bombay, arriving there amidst great rejoicing and received by a committee of many prominent people. Upon his arrival at Howrah Station, Calcutta, he was received by hundreds who milled about the station platform. He was garlanded, in the India fashion, by the Maharajah of Kasimbazar (son of the last Maharajah who was co-founder of the Ranchi school). Amidst the sound of conch-shells and drums, the Swami and his party were driven to the home of his earthly father, where a great reception, organized by his brother Bishnu and devotees of the Calcutta Yogoda Students’ home, was tendered him. Such a meeting, everyone weeping for joy at the homecoming of the beloved son and teacher, is rarely witnessed. He was returning after sixteen years in America, when they had given him up as practically lost to them.
Swami Yoganandaji spoke in Albert Hall, his great Master present by his side. Deafening applause resounded during and after his speech. The meeting was presided over by the Maharajah of Santosh, and attended by many notables, including the Mayor of Calcutta who, on behalf of the citizens of that great city, received and welcomed the Swami back to his homeland.
Lecture at Calcutta University
Swamiji was a speaker at the Indian Philosophical Congress under auspices of the Calcutta University, his own alma mater, where he received his A. B. degree.
Swami Yogananda and his brother Bishnu and nephew Bijou and Mr. Buddha Bose gave wonderful demonstrations of Yogoda feats and physical culture feats in a reception given to Swami Yogananda and European officials and Eastern potentates. Many princes and maharanees attended.
Ranchi School Made Permanent
Swamiji was overjoyed to see again his “first child,” the Brahmacharya Vidyalaya at Ranchi. But due to the recent death to the late Maharajah of Kasimbazar, patron of the school, it was in a very precarious state, kept alive by the loyal efforts of Swami Yoganandaji’s beloved disciple, Swami Satyananda, and a few selfless workers and teaches. With the help of St. Lynn and many other students of America and India, Swami Yoganandaji was able to permanently establish the Eastern Headquarters of Self-Realization Fellowship (Yogoda Sat-Sanga) at Ranchi. This town, which is 200 miles from Calcutta, is one of the healthiest places in India. The property consists of 25 acres of the finest orchard land in India, with 300 mango and countless other fruit trees.
Guest Quarters for Americans
Free guest-quarters for American Yogoda students and travellers have been provided for by Swamiji. Anyone travelling to India may avail himself of this opportunity by writing to the Los Angeles Headquarters for a letter of introduction to the Ranchi headquarters.
The first American Yogoda students to visit Ranchi were Mr. and Mrs. F. F. Downs, Cincinnati students, who spoke of the Ranchi Headquarters as “the eighth wonder of the world.” Mrs. Downs’ letter, published in Inner Culture, described Ranchi thus:
“The days we spent there are among the happiest of my life. The atmosphere of peace, harmony, brotherly love which prevailed was remarkable. The dear little boys would quietly come to my room each day with flowers, or a fruit . . . I just fell in love with these dear boys, the best-mannered youngsters I have ever seen in my life . . . Many of the friends from the village came to call and all expressed their deep devotion for Swamiji Yogananda.
“The work this school is doing to build mentally, spiritually and physically is remarkable and I only wish we had hundreds of such schools for our youth in the United States . . . The property is most picturesque, with the fruit orchards, playgrounds, and gardens will laid out. They were all happy that a new dormitory for the boys will be built soon . . . I have a vision of the development of this school. Hope some day such a school may be at Mt. Washington Center also.”
A Modern Dairy
The Ranchi Headquarters, now endowed, has a modern dairy, and dormitory for students. The hermitage is being extensively reorganized and modernized. A lessons department, in the charge of Brahmachari Santananda, for sending out each fortnight the unique Praecepta teachings, has been organized to inspire the spiritually-thirsty intelligentsia of India. Beautiful mimeographing work is being done on the Praecepta at Ranchi.
Great progress in every way is being shown under the able leadership of the Ranchi directors, who are Prabhas Chandra Ghose, vice-president and acting president in Swami Yogananda’s absence. Swami Satyananda, secretary, Bishnu Charan Ghosh, Prokas Chandra Das, Sananda lal Ghosh, Ananda Mohun Lahiri, Prokash Chandra Ghosh, Ramkishore Babu, all directors.
The Brahmacharya Vidyalaya offers high school education with Yogoda training to boys. The students have a vegetarian diet with an abundance of good, fresh milk from their own dairy. A very fine gymnasium has been organized by Bishnu Charan, renowned pioneer physical culturist of India and brother of Swami Yoganandaji. This gymnasium, in the charge of Kristo Kali, a wonderful soul and disciple of Bishnu Charan and Swami Yogananda, is doing very fine work for the building of strong, healthy athletes in the school as well as for outsiders, to whom the gymnasium is open. The high school at Ranchi receives both residential students and day scholars.
High School and Hermitage
This Yogoda Sat-Sanga (Eastern Headquarters) is divided into two departments:
1. Yogoda Sat-Sanga Ashram (Hermitage) with Praecepta department. Yoga training classes held by Swami Satyananda (principal of the Brahmacharya Vidyalaya and disciple of Swami Yogananda) and classes for training workers and teacher who will spread the technique of Self-Realization, as taught by Lahiri Mahasaya and made adaptable by Swami Yogananda under the name of Yogoda teachings, all over the world. The Eastern Headquarters has been renamed recently to operate under the name of “Lahiri Mahasaya Shama Charan Mission.”
2. The Brahmacharya Vidyalaya and students, who are given high school education combined with Yogoda training and self-discipline. Every year many students pass the matriculation examination, and go to the colleges in Calcutta, staying at the Yogoda Students’ Home in that city.
Mission Work and Christian Missionaries
Attached to the Shama Charan Mission and the Self-Realization Headquarters is a Yogoda Oraon Munda Boys’ School and a wonderful Yogoda Girls’ School for the upliftment of village aboriginal tribes. The Christian missionaries at Ranchi have been doing some fine work in educating them and giving them industrial education and lessons in hygiene and cleanliness. So also Shama Mission plans to do good in its own way to some of the countless aboriginal tribes.
Yogoda Girls’ School
A Yogoda Girls’ School has been opened at Calcutta under the efficient management of Prokash Chandra Das, Tulsi Narayan Bose and Sister Radha Rani.
New Temple Planned for Yogoda Students’ Home
The Yogoda Students’ Home at Calcutta, headed by the noble, self-sacrificing souls, Sailesh Chandra Mazumdar, Sailendra Bijoy Das Gupta (Khitish) and Swami Sebananda (Sudhir), is doing admirable work in training teachers and continuing the studies of the Ranchi ex-students at Calcutta. Training college students in Yogoda teachings is systematically and thoroughly carried on here. They have Saturday night meetings. Swami Yoganandaji dearly loves the alumni of Ranchi and their Students’ Home, and is planning a permanent home and temple to be specially built for them.
Noni (Bami) personally looked after Swami Yogananda during his stay in India. A very good publicity manager of the Yogoda Cause and a selfless worker, he is a brother of Swami Satyananda. He organized the Yogoda senior soccer team which won in the finals at Ranchi, India.
Centers All Over Bengal, India
There are Yogoda Sat-Sanga Centers in Serampore and Chatra, headed by the most spiritual Moti Babu, a great disciple of Swami Sri Yukteswarji. Moti Babu has honey-combed Bengal with a number of Yogoda Sat-Sanga Centers. Sri Yukteswarji also started Ashrams and Yogoda Sat-Sanga Societies all over Bengal and India, in Khukurdaha, Jhinkra, etc. Swami Yogananda was received with great pomp and a half mile of procession, at Jhinkra. He talked to thousands and initiated hundreds of men and women into Kriya—Lahiri Mahasaya’s technique of Self-Realization.
Christlike Disciples Spread Work
The teachings of Lahiri Mahasaya have been spread by his Christ-like disciples Swami Sri Yuktewwarji, Swami Pranabananda, Swami Keshabananda, Sri Panchanon Bhattacharya, Sri Kumar Nath Bhattacharya, Sreemat Bhupen Sanyal Mahasaya, Swami Kebalananda (Shastri Mahasaya), Sri Ram Gopal Babu, Panchcori Lahiri, Ducori Lahiri, Bindya Bhakat and Bhagavati Charan (Swami Yogananda’s earthly father) and many others.
The Puri Ashram
The Puri Karar Ashram where the body of Swami Sri Yukteswarji is interred is fast becoming an inspiring shrine and a useful school. It is situated on valuable property at Swargadwar, Puri. A temple will be built there in time, to commemorate the place which contains the body of Swami Sri Yukteswarji.
Swami in Mysore
Other Yogoda Sat-Sanga Centers have been established in Bangalore, Bombay and many other places. In Bangalore and Mysore Swami Yogananda was the guest of H. H. the Yuvaraj of Mysore. Thousands listened to the Swami at Bangalore and Mysore. Hundreds joined his classes. Swami Yogananda talked to three thousand people in the biggest Puttanam Chetty Auditorium at Bangalore, and spoke in the Mysore University and Medical Clinic, where he gave remarkable divine healing demonstrations. He had audience with the good Maharajah of Mysore.
Maharishi and Paul Brunton
While in South India, Swamiji visited the Maharishi of Arunachala and met his famous disciple, Paul Brunton, who has written several books much praised by Swamiji, including “A Search in Secret India.” Swamiji was pleased to note the wonderful spiritual development and open-mindedness which Paul Brunton has attained under the guidance of the great Maharishi and his very advanced disciple, Yogi Ramiah.
When the time came to leave India again, Swamiji set sail for London, where he had promised many that he would return to give Yogoda teachings.
Swamiji’s London Classes
Swamiji had the largest classes in London ever given by an Oriental teacher and received the cooperation of Kedar Nath Das Gupta, beloved leader of the World Fellowship of Faiths in London, and of Rev. Dr. Arthur Porter, Unitarian minister. All the proceeds from the Yogoda classes in India and London were donated by Swamiji to the Yogoda cause. His success in London, where he was continually interviewed and photographed by newspaper and news-reel representatives, received the following comment from a columnist in the London Star, September 24, 1936: (see article “Comments Abroad”)
Mr. Wright, Secretary
(spoke at the Yogoda Banquet)
Mr. Richard Wright, secretary-disciple and companion to Swamiji on the recent trip to India, was called upon to say a few words regarding his impressions of that land. He spoke as follows:
“There are many aspects of India that one could analyze but to me the most outstanding impression that one carries away from India is the great love the people have for a Supreme Power. You will find that in ordinary conversation, even with young people, no matter if they are just children in school, the thought dwells on God, on the philosophy that has been handed down by the great Rishis (savants). And coming from the West one cannot help but be lifted up. Fortunately I was taken freely into the Indian life, for few westerners have had that opportunity. You cannot realize the great friendship that these young Indian boys can express.
“It would be of some interest perhaps to tell you of the wonderful meditations we had on Saturday evenings with the ex-students of Ranchi. On these particular Saturday nights friends and devotees used to gather from all over Calcutta, sit cross-legged at Swamiji’s feet (the harmonium in front of him)-many young men and old men drinking in every word he uttered, and really diving in with his chanting. This spirit didn’t last only one hour but everyone was sitting with rapt attention chanting and meditating all night long and not just a few hours. I am deeply indebted to Swamiji for the privilege of having been taken into such an atmosphere.”