Recently, I have been hearing a lot of people talk about the book, Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahamsa Yogananda. I always want to chime in with my two cents but then I realize I only half-heartedly read the first few chapters upon my mother’s request back in 2011. At the age of 18, I had no particular interest in spirituality. However, my mother had a love affair with it and Hinduism. She did all she could to instill that same passion in me but I only saw it as something that would interfere with my life rather than enhance it. At the same time though, I felt a strange social obligation to maintain some semblance of my Hindu identity so I would play along and pretend to be interested in it.
I have this distinct memory of one particular incident when I was in my early teens. I was maybe 13 or 14 years old and was part of the youth group at our local temple, which I saw no purpose for other than socializing. Anyway, they were hosting some kind of meditation session at someone’s home guided by a well-intentioned but underqualified woman. My mother insisted I attend so to appease her, I went. I just remember sitting on the floor going through a series of diluted meditations and kriyas. The last one we did we had to put our hands in shambavi mudra, blocking all our senses (pictured below if you don’t know what I am talking about) and hum as loud as we could. At the end of this session, everyone gathered in the kitchen to debrief. They were all giving the teacher positive feedback but I just felt confused. I had no idea what we were doing but it did not seem to work for me. Was this light-headed feeling I had supposed to be the so-called “peacefulness” they were all talking about? If so, I wanted no part of it.
About a year later, there was a similar incident that left me feeling equally unsettled about the idea of spirituality. My mother had dragged me to some event at the temple (again). There was a discourse by some (enlightened?) guru. It was basically an hour of her berating us about how we can never truly be happy and that God is the only one who can make us truly happy. This may or may not be true but her delivery of this message was seriously lacking. I felt like I was being chastised for something I didn’t even know I did.
Needless to say, I was very turned off from anything related to spirituality so you can only imagine what my response was when my parents invited me to a discourse by Swamiji a few years later. Not to mention, I was 16 years old at the time and I had every intention of acting like it. You’d think I was staring in my own after school special with the amount of attitude and angst I had. I know, hard to believe since I’m just a ray of sunshine now. Anyway, I’m getting off on a tangent here; the point of this blog isn’t to relive the trials and tribulations of my teenage years.
So, in attempt to keep the peace in my house, my parents didn’t press the issue much further by trying to make me come to the discourse.
It wasn’t until I graduated high school that my parents really started insisting that I meet Swamiji. By that point, I had watched a few satsangs and warmed up to the idea of it, though I had no real intention of becoming His follower. In an attempt, to prepare me for this trip to India and the ashram, my mother gifted me with Autobiography of a Yogi and all but begged me to read it. I, of course, didn’t even open it till I arrived at the ashram. I spent my two days there partially reading this book and others I found in the Jnanalaya (library). During this stay, I met Swamiji for the first time. I definitely can’t say I felt an instant connection. I couldn’t really understand it. All I knew was that His presence was undeniable.