Special Commemoration Services are celebrated each year in Self Realization Fellowship to honor the birthdays (or special dates) and mahasamadhis of the line of SRF gurus. Mahasamadhi means "great ecstasy" which is the the union of the soul with the infinite during a "God realized" yogi's final exit from the body.
These services are primarily intended for SRF members and other devotees who regularly attend SRF services. However, all are welcome. The services are an opportunity for devotees to express their appreciation and love to the guru being honored and participate in the service with sincerity and reverence.
Those who attend are asked to bring a flower as a symbolic offering of devotion and a donation in an envelope as a symbol of loyalty.
Paramahansa Yogananda said: “Commemoratives of a God-realized soul should not be belittled as merely a social ceremony. It is a deeply spiritual occasion on which the vibrations of blessing from an illumined master are stronger than on other days in the year, because in the astral world, also, a celebration is taking place. Devotees who attend these ceremonies with the right attitude will reap spiritual benefits and will find their high resolutions strengthened.”
The SRF Line of Gurus
One of the essential goals of Paramahansa Yogananda’s mission was “to reveal the complete harmony and basic oneness of original Christianity as taught by Jesus Christ and original Yoga as taught by Bhagavan Krishna; and to show that these principles of truth are the common scientific foundation of all true religions.”
To the public at large, Jesus propounded a simple philosophy of faith, love, and forgiveness. He spoke often in parables, pregnant with timeless morals. But to his close disciples he taught deeper truths, truths that have their correspondence in the deepest metaphysical concepts of the more ancient yoga philosophy. When his disciples questioned Jesus, “Why speakest thou unto them in parables?” he answered, “Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but them it is not given....Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand” (Matthew 13:10, 11, 13).
The full understanding of Jesus’ original teachings — including the fact that he bestowed on his disciples the esoteric techniques of yoga meditation — is revealed in Paramahansa Yogananda’s in-depth commentary on the Gospels: The Second Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of the Christ Within You. In his Introduction to that work, Yogananda wrote:
“Jesus Christ is very much alive and active today. In Spirit and occasionally taking on a flesh-and-blood form, he is working unseen by the masses for the regeneration of the world. With his all-embracing love, Jesus is not content merely to enjoy his blissful consciousness in Heaven. He is deeply concerned for mankind and wishes to give his followers the means to attain the divine freedom of entry into God’s Infinite Kingdom. He is disappointed because many are the churches and temples founded in his name, often prosperous and powerful, but where is the communion that he stressed — actual contact with God? Jesus wants temples to be established in human souls, first and foremost; then established outwardly in physical places of worship. Instead, there are countless huge edifices with vast congregations being indoctrinated in churchianity, but few souls who are really in touch with Christ through deep prayer and meditation.
“To reestablish God in the temples of souls through revival of the original teachings of God-communion as propounded by Christ and Krishna is why I was sent to the West by Mahavatar Babaji....
“Babaji is ever in communion with Christ; together they send out vibrations of redemption and have planned the spiritual technique of salvation for this age.”
Bhagavan Krishna lived many centuries before Christ. Revered throughout India as an avatar (incarnation of God), the historical facts of Krishna’s life are interwoven with a maze of legend and mythology.
The sublime teachings of Lord Krishna are enshrined in the Bhagavad Gita. In his highly acclaimed two-volume commentary on the Gita, Paramahansa Yogananda has written:
“The Bhagavad Gita is the most beloved scripture of India, a scripture of scriptures. It is the Hindu’s Holy Testament, or Bible, the one book that all masters depend upon as a supreme source of scriptural authority....
“So comprehensive as a spiritual guide is the Gita that it is declared to be the essence of the ponderous four Vedas, 108 Upanishads, and the six systems of Hindu philosophy....The entire knowledge of the cosmos is packed into the Gita. Supremely profound, yet couched in revelatory language of solacing beauty and simplicity, the Gita has been understood and applied on all levels of human endeavor and spiritual striving — sheltering a vast spectrum of human beings with their disparate natures and needs. Wherever one is on the way back to God, the Gita will shed its light on that segment of the journey....
“Krishna is the divine exemplar of yoga in the East; Christ was chosen by God as the exemplar of God-union for the West....The Kriya Yoga technique, taught by Krishna to Arjuna and referred to in Gita chapters IV:29 and V:27–28, is the supreme spiritual science of yoga meditation. Secreted during the materialistic ages, this indestructible yoga was revived for modern man by Mahavatar Babaji and taught by the Gurus of Self-Realization Fellowship/Yogoda Satsanga Society of India.”
There are no historical records relating to the birth and life of Mahavatar Babaji. Paramahansa Yogananda has written in Autobiography of a Yogi that the deathless avatar has resided for untold years in the remote Himalayan regions of India, revealing himself only rarely to a blessed few.
It is Mahavatar Babaji who revived in this age the lost scientific meditation technique of Kriya Yoga. In bestowing Kriya initiation on his disciple Lahiri Mahasaya, Babaji said, “The Kriya Yoga that I am giving to the world through you in this nineteenth century is a revival of the same science that Krishna gave millenniums ago to Arjuna; and that was later known to Patanjali and Christ, and to St. John, St. Paul, and other disciples.”
Shortly before Paramahansa Yogananda left for America in 1920, Mahavatar Babaji came to Yoganandaji’s home in Calcutta, where the young monk sat deeply praying for divine assurance regarding the mission he was about to undertake. Babaji said to him: “Follow the behest of your guru and go to America. Fear not; you shall be protected. You are the one I have chosen to spread the message of Kriya Yoga in the West.”
Read more about Mahavatar Babaji:
Lahiri Mahasaya was born on September 30, 1828, in the village of Ghurni in Bengal, India. At the age of thirty-three, while walking one day in the Himalayan foothills near Ranikhet, he met his guru, Mahavatar Babaji. It was a divine reunion of two who had been together in many lives past; at an awakening touch of blessing, Lahiri Mahasaya became engulfed in a spiritual aura of divine realization that was never to leave him.
Mahavatar Babaji initiated him in the science of Kriya Yoga and instructed him to bestow the sacred technique on all sincere seekers. Lahiri Mahasaya returned to his home in Banaras to fulfill this mission. As the first to teach the lost ancient Kriya science in contemporary times, he is renowned as a seminal figure in the renaissance of yoga that began in modern India in the latter part of the nineteenth century and continues to this day.
Paramahansa Yogananda wrote in Autobiography of a Yogi: “As the fragrance of flowers cannot be suppressed, so Lahiri Mahasaya, quietly living as an ideal householder, could not hide his innate glory. Devotee-bees from every part of India began to seek the divine nectar of the liberated master....The harmoniously balanced life of the great householder-guru became the inspiration of thousands of men and women.”
As Lahiri Mahasaya exemplified the highest ideals of Yoga, union of the little self with God, he is reverenced as a Yogavatar, or incarnation of Yoga.
Paramahansa Yogananda’s parents were disciples of Lahiri Mahasaya, and when he was but a babe in arms his mother carried him to the home of her guru. Blessing the infant, Lahiri Mahasaya said, “Little mother, thy son will be a yogi. As a spiritual engine, he will carry many souls to God’s kingdom.”
Lahiri Mahasaya established no organization during his lifetime, but made this prediction: “About fifty years after my passing, an account of my life will be written because of a deep interest in Yoga that will arise in the West. The message of Yoga will encircle the globe. It will aid in establishing the brotherhood of man: a unity based on humanity’s direct perception of the one Father.”
Lahiri Mahasaya entered mahasamadhi in Banaras, September 26, 1895. Fifty years later, in America, his prediction was fulfilled when an increasing interest in yoga in the West inspired Paramahansa Yogananda to write Autobiography of a Yogi, which contains a beautiful account of Lahiri Mahasaya’s life.
Swami Sri Yukteswar
Swami Sri Yukteswar was born on May 10,1855, at Serampore in Bengal, India. Sri Yukteswar was a disciple of Lahiri Mahasaya and attained the spiritual stature of a Jnanavatar, or incarnation of wisdom.
Sri Yukteswar recognized that a synthesis of the spiritual heritage of the East with the science and technology of the West would do much to alleviate the material, psychological, and spiritual suffering of the modern world. These ideas were crystallized by his remarkable encounter with Mahavatar Babaji, the guru of Lahiri Mahasaya, in 1894.
“At my request, Swamiji,” Babaji said to him, “will you not write a short book on the underlying harmony between Christian and Hindu scriptures? Their basic unity is now obscured by men’s sectarian differences. Show by parallel references that the inspired sons of God have spoken the same truths.”
Sri Yukteswar recounted: “In the quiet of night I busied myself over a comparison of the Bible and the scriptures of Sanatan Dharma. Quoting the words of the blessed Lord Jesus, I showed that his teachings are in essence one with the revelations of the Vedas. Through the grace of my paramguru, my book, The Holy Science, was finished in a short time.”
It was to Swami Sri Yukteswar that Paramahansa Yogananda came as a youth. The great guru told his young disciple that, during their meeting in 1894, Mahavatar Babaji had informed him: “You, Swamiji, have a part to play in the coming harmonious exchange between Orient and Occident. Some years hence I shall send you a disciple whom you can train for yoga dissemination in the West. The vibrations there of many spiritually seeking souls come floodlike to me. I perceive potential saints in America and Europe, waiting to be awakened.”
After relating this, Sri Yukteswar told Yogananda, “My son, you are the disciple that, years ago, Babaji promised to send me.”
Under Sri Yukteswar’s spiritual training and discipline, Sri Yogananda was prepared to begin his worldwide mission in the West. Sri Yukteswar named Paramahansa Yogananda sole heir to his spiritual mantle and ashram properties.
Swami Sri Yukteswar entered mahasamadhi on March 9, 1936, during Paramahansaji’s visit to India after fifteen years in America.
As described above, Paramahansa Yogananda was personally blessed by Mahavatar Babaji, Lahiri Mahasaya, and Swami Sri Yukteswar — all three of the paramgurus in his spiritual lineage — to carry out the mission of disseminating Kriya Yoga worldwide.
In Autobiography of a Yogi he wrote: “The founding in the West of a Self-Realization Fellowship organization, a ‘hive for the spiritual honey,’ was a duty enjoined on me by Sri Yukteswar and Mahavatar Babaji.” Read a brief description of his life’s work in accomplishing that mission.