Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The 3 Kings and the Autobiography of a Yogi

GEORGE HARRISON: Musician, Lead guitarist - Beatles, Singer.

“ The moment I looked at that  picture of Yogananda,” George later said, “ His eyes went  through me.”

He had heard stories about men in the caves up in the Himalayas who are ancient and wise, people who could levitate…. Mystic stories that permeated his curiosity for years.

In 1966 George Harrison visited India: While I was in India with Ravi (Shankar), I kept saying, 'I want to know about the yogis of the Himalayas'...he and his brother, Raju, gave me.... Autobiography of a Yogi. It was an Indian copy- English text, but from India. I looked at the cover and Yogananda just zapped me with his eyes, and that was it- it was all over!

Then I read the book- and it gave me goose bumps. With some things you read you think, 'Well, I'm not sure about that.' But with Autobiography of a Yogi I was totally convinced about every word in the book; somehow his pureness and his heart just flowed out of it.

George Harrison is known to have carried with him a briefcase filled with copies of Autobiography of a Yogi, which he gave (and autographed) to anyone interested.

I keep stacks of Autobiography of a Yogi around the house, and I give it out constantly to people. When people need regrooving, I say read this, because it cuts to the heart of every religion.

He eventually composed numerous songs, including My Sweet Lord, which express Eastern mysticism more keenly than perhaps any other work by a popular Western artist. In many ways he was more Indian than many Indians, said Shankar.




The Final Gift :

The story of Sri Paramahansa Yogananda in this narrative begins with a small brown box that Marc (Steve's biographer) received at the end of the memorial service for Steve Jobs at Stanford.

“I knew that the box would be good, as Steve was very mindful and conscious of everything that he did, and he would have planned this, from the caterer, to who will speak during the ceremony, to the box that was handed. And whatever was inside the box was the last thing Steve wanted all of us to think about.” 

The box contained a copy of ‘The Autobiography of a Yogi,’ by the legendary Indian guru, Paramahansa Yogananda. His message was self-realisation, actualise yourself. Steve went to India, visited ashrams, was in quest for realisation, recounted Marc. Steve was a very spiritual person. 

Like most yogic journeys Steve’s journey was neither linear nor simple. But his interest in India and yogic life can be inferred from the fact that one of his most prized possession was the “Autobiography of a Yogi” by Yogananda that he read multiple times.

 This one book in particular stayed with Jobs his entire life, and Isaacson noted that it was the only book Jobs had downloaded on his iPad 2. Autobiography of a Yogi, the guide to meditation and spirituality that he had first read as a teenager, Isaacson writes, then re-read in India and had read once a year ever since.



(The image on the left is Elvis's personal copy of the Autobiography of a Yogi)

During the filming of Harum Scarum Elvis was delving into Autobiography of a Yogi, which, along with The Prophet and The Impersonal Life, became one of his favourite books.

Elvis was impressed by Yogananda’s tales and also by the universalism of his approach. One day, on a break during the filming of Harum Scarum, he looked up from reading the book and said:
“Lawrence, I think I’m ready to be initiated into Kriya Yoga; will you initiate me?”
To the stunned Geller, this was much like saying he thought now would be a good time for the Pope to name him a cardinal. Geller knew how demanding the training was because he had been through the two-year program himself. 
“You wouldn’t want me to break my sacred vows, would you?”
A devilish gleam came into Elvis’ eyes.
“The hell I wouldn’t.
I explained that he would have to go through successive stages of meditation for a prescribed period of time and study a series of lessons from the Self-Realization Fellowship headquarters. I told him this was not something to be entered into lightly, and those of us who had been initiated had promised not to encourage anyone to shortcut the requirements.
Seeing the concerned look on my face, he laughed reassuringly. “I’m only kidding. Well, half-kidding. I really want to know what Kriya Yoga is all about. How ‘bout that lady at Self-Realization you’ve been telling me about; think she’d help me?”
Geller called the SRF headquarters in Los Angeles and made arrangements for Elvis to speak with its head, Sri Daya Mata. 
SRF Headquarters - Mt Washington
Elvis loved the sylvan setting, and he had an immediate rapport with Daya Mata. In her features and demeanor she reminded him of his mother. The more she described the aims of the Fellowship, the more excited he became. He said he was ready to turn his back on his career and join a monastery or start a commune. She advised him to go slow that his development must be evolutionary. They discussed the process of training and meditation, and she gave him her personal lesson books to study. He accepted them gladly, but he had the unbridled enthusiasm of the novice. 
Once we were in the limousine, Elvis said, “These are her personal books of the lessons. She wants me to read one lesson a week until I go through the whole thing once. Man, I swear to God, Larry, I haven’t felt this good in I don’t know how long. You were right; Daya Mata’s something else—she’s like a saint.”
Then he acknowledged he had asked her for a “short cut” to be initiated into Kriya Yoga. “I love her! You know what she said to me? She said, ‘I don’t care if you are Elvis Presley. It doesn’t matter who you are, how much money you have. You’ve got to be ready; otherwise, it’s not going to work. Not only is it not going to work, but I can’t go against what is right.’”
Elvis came there often, and like others who know Daya Mata called her Ma—short for Daya Mata and for mother. Elvis thought of her as his “spiritual mother.” She saw in him an essence that was more deeply spiritual than he knew.

Priscilla Presley recounts a revealing incident in her book Elvis by the Presleys. One evening Elvis and Priscilla visited Sri Daya Mata.
“Beyond talking of joining a monastery, he wanted to form a commune. He wanted to devote his life to helping others fulfill themselves through devotional discipline. In fact, he wanted to be a leader of the Self-Realization Fellowship. In this regard, Daya Mata was especially wise.
‘This higher level of spirituality,’ he’d tell her, is what I’ve been seeking my whole life. Now that I know where it is and how to achieve it, I want to teach it. I want to teach it to all my fans-to the whole world.’
‘You say that now, and I know you mean it.’ (Daya Mata would say). ‘But tomorrow you will wake up and remember that you’re an entertainer. That’s wonderful work. And in your case, it’s doubly important because of the bond between you and your fans. But the work of the entertainer is different than the work of the spiritual teacher. It’s neither worse not better. Simply different. The inner peace you seek can be yours no matter what your work.’”
Elvis listened. He had enormous respect for this woman. Part of him understood what she was saying. But part of him—the impatient part—wanted another answer. He wanted instant evolution. Accustomed to having everything he wanted when he wanted it, it was emotionally difficult for him to see why this would be any different. At the same time, he was able to be completely honest with Daya Mata. She was perhaps the only one who understood the enormity of Elvis’ fears. She understood because he told her. The pressure of staying in the limelight, retaining his popularity and pleasing his fans—not to mention placating the manager who helped establish his fame—was gut wrenching."
Throughout the rest of his life Elvis maintained his connection with Daya Mata, frequently calling her for advice and guidance. When his marriage to Priscilla ended in 1972, he asked if he could see her privately.
“There’s no hiding from her, Lawrence, that’s for sure,” he told me later. “The minute I walked into her room she knew exactly where I was at. We just sat together for a while, first not talking at all, and then meditating. She knew I was hurting without my saying a word, and she didn’t judge me or ask me questions; just held my hands. It was so beautiful, like she was giving me love and strength with her eyes and her touch. ‘Course she didn’t let me off scot-free. She said my mind and my spirit would be fine, as I meditate and grow calmer, but she was concerned that I was neglecting my body. I promised her I would work on it but, let’s face it, that’s one area where I need some serious help. I’d like to see her again, but I know she’d come down heavy on me for not doing what she wanted me to.”
Over the coming months he returned to the site often for solace. 

Elvis often walked around the mirrored lake at the Shrine to the World Peace Memorial. He reverently kneeled at the stone sarcophagus containing a portion of the ashes of the martyred Gandhi. He also liked to visit the Fellowships fourteen-acre retreat by the ocean in Encinitas, where Yogananda had written most of his autobiography. (George Harrison, another admirer of Yogananda, also liked to visit the retreat when in Los Angeles.)


  1. Yup, that book changed my life. I knew about these celebrities and Self-Realization Fellowship, but it's nice to see all the stories in one place. Elvis's accounts are really inspiring. SRF feels like home to me and I respect it even more whenever I learn of a famous person's association with it, but SRF never mentions it.

  2. Thanks! Very inspiring!
    one correction: Elvis also liked to visit the Fellowship's fourteen-acre retreat by the ocean in Encinitas, Ca

    1. Yes, i thought so that it should be Encinitas, but the book from where i read said that its was Pacific Palisades.. so i wasn't sure if he meant Encinitas or Lake shrine.

    2. Perhaps add (sic) after the Pac Palisades entry so readers know it was an error in the book?


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