Paramahansa Yogananda's Collected Talks and
Essays present in-depth discussions of the vast
range of inspiring and universal truths that have
captivated millions in his Autobiography of a Yogi.
Readers will find these talks alive with the unique
blend of all-embracing wisdom, encouragement,
and love for humanity that have
made the author one of our era's
most revered and trusted guides
to the spiritual life.
For all who have ever sought
to understand the enigmas of life,
for those who have held within their hearts an uncertain hope about the reality
of God, and for seekers who have already turned
toward the Supreme in their quest, this anthology of talks offers practical guidance and illuminating insights.
The first time I beheld Sri Sri Paramahansa Yogananda, he
was speaking before a vast, enraptured audience in Salt Lake
City. The year was 1931. As I stood at the back of the crowded
auditorium, I became transfixed, unaware of anything around
me except the speaker and his words. My whole being was
absorbed in the wisdom and divine love that were pouring into
my soul and flooding my heart and mind. I could only think,
"This man loves God as I have always longed to love Him. He
knows God. Him I shall follow." And from that moment, I did.
As I felt the transfiguring power of his words on my own life
during those early days with Paramahansaji, there arose within
me a feeling of the urgent need to preserve his words for all the world, for all time. It became my sacred and joyous privilege,
during the many years I was with Paramahansa Yogananda, to
record his lectures and classes, and also many informal talks
and words of personal counsel-truly a vast treasure-house of
wondrous wisdom and God-love. As Gurudeva spoke, the rush
of his inspiration was often reflected in the swiftness of his
speech; he might speak without pause for minutes at a time,
and continue for an hour. While his hearers sat enthralled, my
pen was flying! As I took down his words in shorthand, it was
as though a special grace had descended, instantly translating
the Guru's voice into the shorthand characters on the page.
Their transcription has been a blessed task that continues to
this day. Even after such a long time-some of my notes are
more than forty years old-when I start to transcribe them,
they are miraculously fresh in my mind, as though they had
been recorded yesterday. I can even hear inwardly the inflections of Gurudeva's voice in each particular phrase.
The Master seldom made even the slightest preparation for
his lectures; if he prepared anything at all, it might consist of a
factual note or two, hastily jotted down. Very often, while riding in the car on the way to the temple, he would casually ask
one of us: "What is my subject today?" He would put his mind
on it, and then give the lecture extemporaneously from an inner
reservoir of divine inspiration.
The subjects for Gurudeva's sermons at the temples were
set and announced in advance. But sometimes his mind was
working in an entirely different vein when he began to speak.
Regardless of the "subject for today," the Master would voice
the truths engrossing his consciousness at that moment, pouring forth priceless wisdom in a steady stream from the abundance of his own spiritual experience and intuitive perception.
Nearly always, at the close of such a service, a number of people would come forward to thank him for having enlightened
them on a problem that had been troubling them, or perhaps
for having explained some philosophical concept in which they
were particularly interested.
Sometimes, while he was lecturing, the Guru's consciousness would be so uplifted that he would momentarily forget the
audience and converse directly with God; his whole being would
be overflowing with divine joy and intoxicating love. In these
high states of consciousness, his mind completely at one with
the Divine Consciousness, he inwardly perceived Truth, and described what he saw. On occasion, God appeared to him as the
Divine Mother, or in some other aspect; or one of our great Gurus, or other saints, would manifest in vision before him. At
such times, even the audience would feel deeply the special
blessing bestowed on all present. During such a visitation of
Saint Francis of Assisi, whom Gurudeva deeply loved, the Master was inspired to compose the beautiful poem, "God! God!
The Bhagavad Gita describes an enlightened master in these
words: "The Self shines forth like a sun in those who have banished ignorance by wisdom" (V:16). One might have been over-
awed by Paramahansa Yogananda's spiritual radiance, were it
not for his warmth and naturalness, and a quiet humility, which
put everyone instantly at ease. Each person in the audience felt
that Gurudeva's talk was addressed to him personally. Not the
least of the Master's endearing qualities was his understanding
sense of humour. By some choice phrase, gesture, or facial
expression he would bring forth an appreciative response of
hearty laughter at just the right moment to drive home a point,
or to relax his listeners after long and intense concentration on
a particularly deep subject.
One cannot convey in the pages of a book the uniqueness and
universality of Paramahansa Yogananda's vivid, loving personality. But it is my humble hope, in giving this brief background,
to afford a personal glimpse that will enrich the reader's enjoyment and appreciation of the talks presented in this volume.
To have seen my Gurudeva in divine communion; to have
heard the profound truths and devotional outpourings of his
soul; to have recorded them for the ages; and now to share them
with all-what joy is mine! May the Master's sublime words
open wider the doors to unshakable faith in God, to deeper love
for that One who is our beloved Father, Mother, and Eternal
This volume of talks by Sri Sri Paramahansa Yogananda is for
all who have ever known disappointment, dissatisfaction, discouragement, sorrow, or an unfulfilled spiritual longing. It is for
those who have sought to understand the enigmas of life; for
those who have held within their hearts an uncertain hope about
the reality of God and the possibility that He could be known;
and for seekers who have already turned toward God in their
quest. May it be, for each reader, a ray of divine light on the path,
bringing new life and inspiritation and a sense of direction. God
is all things to all people.
Man's Eternal Quest is a book about God: about God's place
in man's life; in his hopes, will, aspirations, accomplishments.
Life, man, achievement-all are but manifestations of the one
omnipresent Creator, as inseparably dependent on Him as the
wave is dependent on the ocean. Paramahansaji explains why
and how man was created by God, and how he is immutably a
part of God, and what this means to each one personally. Realization of the oneness of man and his Creator is the whole
essence of Yoga. An understanding of man's inescapable need for
God, in every aspect of living, removes the otherworldliness
from religion and makes knowing God the basis of a scientific
and practical approach to life.
As a man of God, and as an authority on the ancient divine
science of Yoga, Paramahansa Yogananda has received the highest
credentials from his spiritual contemporaries, and from readers of
his works in all parts of the world-the literary and general public as well as his followers. That he has also received the ultimate
commendation from the Supreme Authority is amply attested to
by the manifest blessings of God on his exemplary life, and by the
infinitely beautiful, uniquely edifying responses he received from
God in vision and divine communion. This comment in Review
of Religions, published by Columbia University Press, is typical of
the acclaim received by Paramahansa Yogananda's earlier work,
Autobiography of a Yogi: "There has been nothing before, written
in English or in any other European language, like this presenta-
tion of Yoga." The San Francisco Chronicle wrote: "Yogananda
presents a convincing case for yoga, and those who' came to scoff'
may remain to pray." From Schleswig-Holsteinische Tagespost,
Germany: "We must credit this book with the power to bring
about a spiritual revolution." Of Paramahansa Yogananda himself,
Swami Sivananda, founder of the Divine Life Society, Rishikesh,
said: "A rare gem of inestimable value, the like of whom the world
is yet to witness, Paramahansa Yogananda has been an ideal representative of the ancient sages and seers, the glory of India." His
Holiness the Shankaracharya of Kanchipuram (1894-1994),
revered spiritual leader of millions in South India, wrote of
Paramahansaji: "As a bright light shining in the midst of darkness,
so was Yogananda's presence in this world. Such a great soul
comes on earth only rarely, when there is a real need among men.
We are grateful to Yogananda for spreading Hindu philosophy in
such a wonderful way in America and the West."
Sri Sri Paramahansa Yogananda was born in Gorakhpur, Uttar
Pradesh, on January 5, 1893. He had a remarkable childhood that
clearly indicated his life was marked for a divine destiny. His
mother recognized this and encouraged his noble ideals and
spiritual aspirations. When he was only eleven, the loss of his
mother, whom he loved above all else in this world, made firm his
inherent resolve to find God and to receive from the Creator
Himself the answers yearned for in every human heart. He became
a disciple of the great Jnanavatar (incarnation of wisdom) Sri Sri
Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri. Sri Yukteswarji was one of a line of
exalted gurus, with whom Yoganandaji had been linked from
birth: Sri Yogananda's parents were disciples of Sri Sri Lahiri
Mahasaya, guru of Sri Yukteswarji. When Yoganandaji was an
infant in his mother's arms, Lahiri Mahasaya had blessed him
and foretold: "Little mother, thy son will be a yogi. As a spiritual
engine, he will carry many souls to God's kingdom." Lahiri
Mahasaya was a disciple of Sri Sri Mahavatar Babaji, the deathless
master who revived in this age the ancient science of Kriya Yoga.
Praised by Bhagavan Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, and by Patanjali
in the Yoga Suttas, Kriya Yoga is both a transcendent technique
of meditation and an art of living that leads to union of the soul
with God. Mahavatar Babaji revealed the sacred Kriya to Lahiri
Mahasaya, who handed it down to Sri Yukteswarji, who taught it
to Paramahansa Yogananda.
When in 1920 Paramahansa Yogananda was deemed ready to
begin his world mission of disseminating the soul-liberating
science of Yoga, Mahavatar Babaji told him of the divine responsibility that was to be his: "You are the one I have chosen to
spread the message of Kriya Yoga in the West. Long ago I met your
guru Yukteswar at a Kumbha Mela, I told him then I would send
you to him for training. Kriya Yoga, the scientific technique of
God-realization, will ultimately spread in all lands, and aid in
harmonizing the nations through man's personal, transcendental
perception of the Infinite Father."
Paramahansa Yogananda began his mission in America as a
delegate to the International Congress of Religious Liberals in
Boston in 1920. For more than a decade he travelled the length and
breadth of America, speaking almost daily to capacity audiences
in all the major cities. On January 28, 1925, the Los Angeles Times
reported: "The Philharmonic Auditorium presents the extraordinary spectacle of thousands ... being turned away an hour before
the advertised opening of a lecture with the 3000-seat hall filled
to its utmost capacity. Swami Yogananda is the attraction. A
Hindu invading the United States to bring God .... " It came as no
small revelation to the West that Yoga-so eloquently expounded
and clearly interpreted by Sri Yogananda-is a universal science,
and that as such it is indeed the" essence" of all true religions.
In Los Angeles in 1925, Paramahansa Yogananda founded the
international headquarters for Self-Realization Fellowship, the
society he had started in India in 1917 as Yogoda Satsanga Society
In the late 1930s Paramahansaji began to withdraw gradually
from nationwide public lecturing. "I am not interested in crowds,"
he said, "but in souls who are in earnest to know God." Thereafter, he concentrated his efforts on classes for serious students,
and spoke mostly at his own Self-Realization Fellowship temples
and the international headquarters. The selections in this volume
are talks given primarily during this period.
Paramahansa Yogananda had often voiced this prediction: "I
will not die in bed, but with my boots on, speaking of God and
India." On March 7, 1952, the prophecy was fulfilled. At a banquet
in honour of the Ambassador of India, B. R. Sen, Paramahansaji
was a guest speaker. He delivered a soul-stirring address, concluding with these words from a poem he had written, "My India":
"Where Ganges, woods, Himalayan caves and men dream God-
I am hallowed; my body touched that sod!" He then lifted his eyes
upward and entered mahasamadhi, an advanced yogi's conscious
earth-exit. He died as he had lived, exhorting man to know God.
The Guru's talks in the earliest years of his ministry were
recorded only spasmodically. But when Sri Sri Daya Mata became
a disciple of Paramahansa Yogananda in 1931, she undertook the
sacred task, faithfully recording, for the generations to come, all
of her Guru's talks and classes. This volume is but a sampling: under the direction of Paramahansa Yogananda, many transcriptions
-particularly those containing private instruction and meditation
techniques and principles given to Yogoda Satsanga/Self-Realization class students-were compiled along with some of his writ-
ings into a series of Yogoda Satsanga Lessons; other talks appear
as a regular feature in Yogoda Satsanga annual-series booklets.
Second and third anthologies, The Divine Romance and Journey
to Self-Realization, are companion volumes to Man's Eternal
As most of the talks set forth in this book were presented
before audiences familiar with Yogoda Satsanga/Self-Realization
teachings, some clarification of terminology and philosophical
concepts may be helpful to the general reader. To this end, many
footnotes have been included; also a glossary explaining certain
Sanskrit words, and other philosophical terms, and giving information about events, persons, and places associated with the life
and work of Paramahansa Yogananda. It may be noted here that
unless otherwise indicated the quotations from the Bhagavad Gita
in this volume are from Paramahansa Yogananda's own translations, which he rendered from the Sanskrit sometimes literally
and sometimes in paraphrase, depending on the context of his talk.
For most Gita quotations in this edition of Man's Eternal Quest,
we have used the definitive version given by Paramahansaji for his
comprehensive translation and commentary: God Talks With Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita-Royal Science of God-Realization
(published by Yogoda Satsanga Society of India in 2002). In talks
where he was rendering a Gita passage more freely in order to
emphasize a specific point, the paraphrase has been retained and
noted as such in the footnote citation.
Sri Sri Paramahansa Yogananda could have said, with Jesus,
"Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I
am not come to destroy, but to fulfill" (Matthew 5:17). Paramahansaji honoured all religions and their founders, and held in
respect all sincere seekers of God. Part of his world mission is "to
reveal the complete harmony and basic oneness of original Yoga
as taught by Bhagawan Krishna and original Christianity as taught
by Jesus Christ." (See Aims and Ideals, Page 465.) Far from introducing a divisive dogma to the world, Paramahansaji showed that
the practice of yoga establishes an inner attunement with God
that constitutes the universal basis of all religions. Abstractions
of theoretical religion pale before actual experience of God. Truth
cannot be wholly proved to any seeker by anyone else; but by the
practice of yoga, the aspirant can prove truth for himself through
his own experience.
God is; and each man who will seek Him sincerely will know
Him. Man can have no life or power to act, think, or feel without
borrowing that power from God. Therefore, Paramahansaji pointed
out, knowing God is not only a privilege and a divine duty, but a
practical necessity. Why should man grovel in self-insufficiency
when he can tap the Source of all power and fulfillment?
The wisdom in this volume is not the studied learning of a
scholar; it is the empirical testimony of a dynamic spiritual personage whose life was filled with inner joy and outer accomplishment,
a world teacher who lived what he taught, a Premavatar whose sole
desire was to share God's wisdom and love with all.
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