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All About Town – Celebrating the 125th Birth Anniversary of Paramahansa Yogananda

By Theresa Puskar –

Yoga Uniting East and West
Chicago, IL

“The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. The dawn of the east brings activity to the world, and the dusk of the west brings rest, calm, and peace. The unification of the two creates balance and harmony on the earth.”
— Paraphrased from Paramahamsa

Paramahansa Yogananda

Prajnanananda’s May 12th teaching
On May 12th, I had the pleasure of attending a celebratory event, commemorating the 125th birth anniversary of renowned Kriya Yoga master, Paramahansa Yogananda. It was held at the Fourth Presbyterian Church in downtown Chicago, and was the initial event that set off a weekend of festivities. The theme of the event was Yoga Uniting East and West. The featured guest of the evening was Paramahamsa Prajnanananda, who is the present Kriya Yoga master following Paramahansa Yogananda’s lineage.

When he introduced the topic, he referred to the east as “activity,” and the west as “rest, calm, and peace.” He then spoke of how the balance between east and west would create a sense of harmony in the world. I immediately thought to myself, “Really? Where is the rest, calm, and peace in the west today?” Then, that wise higher-self voice in my head responded with an analogy of the ocean: “While there may be massive stormy waves above, deep within, there is a vast, tranquil place. You first must have the courage to get into the water. Once there, you must muster up the strength to fight the tumultuous surface waves in order to dive into the depths. Only then will you experience the calmer waters below.” Now that made sense. Perhaps the external unrest that many of us feel is a call to action, or more, a call to inaction; an invitation to sit and observe the existing peace within. During the past several months I’ve been doing just that. I meditate almost daily, and limit my exposure to the chaos, fear, and hopelessness that is broadcast daily on the media – and I think it’s working. I’m feeling a much greater sense of ease, calm, and optimism.

“Remain calm, serene, always in command of yourself. You will then find out how easy it is to get along.”
— Paramahansa Yogananda

When I arrived at the event, there was a flurry of activity. That being said, I noted the calm and gentle sense of flow that permeated the place. I mistakenly arrived one hour early, so I had an opportunity to get a front row seat, and sit in quiet contemplation while waiting. What influenced me throughout the evening was the way I felt. The connection to Paramahamsa Prajnanananda that I experienced, overpowered anything that was said. As luck would have it, prior to being called to the stage to speak, he was seated in the front row, about three feet directly across the aisle from me. As I gestured a request to take his photo, I felt something I’ve never experienced before. As he smiled back at me and nodded in response, I felt an immediate and direct warmth and connection. It was as if he knew me – inside and out. I wondered if all who met him felt that same powerful sense of immediate connection, warmth, and knowing.

Like his predecessors, Paramahamsa Prajnanananda reached Nirvikalpa Samadhi, which is the breathless state of purest bliss and realization. During this state there is no pulse, no breath, or thought. One experiences complete union with creation and is absorbed in divine love. It is the state of the realized masters. As I sat in the calm connection in his presence, I couldn’t help but wonder whether the peace I was experiencing resided within me, or if it was rooted in his heightened energy. I anticipate that both energetic dances were in play.

“When we must live in this world, we are not alone. Thus, we must think of others and ourselves. We should use our skill, talent, and whatever we have in a constructive way, making positive contributions to family, friends, community, humanity, or ultimately to God’s creation. Thinking like this improves our quality of living, it improves our attitudes about how to live in the world, and it helps us to help others.”
— Paramahamsa Prajnanananda

Paramahamsa Prajnanananda is the author of the book, “Know Your Mind.” In it, he takes us, his readers on a fascinating journey into our own minds. According to critics, he has the remarkable ability to write about the complexities of the mind in a manner that is easily understood. While this may be one of the things he is most revered for, after meeting him, my heart was so moved by his heart. In the quote above, he speaks about the importance of selflessness. There is something that has continued to gnaw at my psyche ever since seeing Marianne Williamson speak last year. One of her messages was that we would find great power and purpose in asking our divine, “How might I serve?” When I spoke to her afterwards, I told her how significant those words were to me, especially as I was getting ready to embark on the next phase of my career. I realized that just about all of my thoughts revolved around, “What am I most interested in doing? How can I optimize my work, so that I can make a good, steady income? What hours do I want to keep? How can I create more recreation time in my life?” It was all about me and how I plan on serving myself and meeting my own needs. There was little thought in how I might serve others. Since then, while I don’t claim to be anywhere near sainthood, I note that when I focus on others, I experience a much greater sense of wellbeing, a profound internal sense of equilibrium.

“Let my soul smile through my heart and my heart smile through my eyes, that I may scatter rich smiles in sad hearts.”
— Paramahansa Yogananda

While doing my research on these two powerful spiritual teachers, I was struck when I came across the above quote by Paramahansa Yogananda. I realized that the feeling I got in my short, but sweet connection with Paramahamsa Prajnanananda was rooted in the power of his smile; the smile that emanated through his heart and his eyes. As I reflect, I think to myself, what if each of us focused on smiling through our hearts and our eyes to everyone we met, with the sole intention of feeling complete love for ourselves and for others? In the words of the late Louis Armstrong song, “What a Wonderful World” this would be!
As you journey through your life, I encourage you to join me in taking more time for ourselves, and sitting in stillness to experience the peace within. Once we quiet our minds, I have faith that we will likely discover just how awesome we really are! I leave you with these final words from Paramahansa Yogananda: “You must not let your life run in the ordinary way; do something that nobody else has done, something that will dazzle the world. Show that God’s creative principle works in you.”

To learn more, email: TempleOfHarmony@Kriya.org, or call 815-267-8977.

I will be performing my solo show, BEAUTY, BOLLYWOOD AND BEYOND once again on Friday, July 28th at 7:00 pm. I will also be offering a corresponding workshop on July 29th from 10:00 am – 12:00 pm, both at Soderworld. For ticket information, please call 630-455-5885.

Theresa Puskar, our All About Town contributor, is a writer, trainer, speaker, minister and inspirational audiobook producer. She is the author of a solo show, Beauty, Bollywood and Beyond, along with The Terri Series – seven children’s books that focus on bullying, honoring diversity, celebrating creativity, non-judgment of emotions, finding alternatives to technology-based entertainment, discovering a non-judgmental God, and overcoming fears. She has also recorded a powerful experiential audio program, How to De-Clutter Your Mind and Live a Heart-Centered Life. To place an order, or learn more about her ministry, visit her website: theresapuskar.com.

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