An excerpt from The Science of Religion
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the arrival in the West of Paramahansa Yogananda, who set foot on American soil on September 19, 1920, after sailing into Boston Harbor aboard The City of Sparta from his native India. He had been invited to America as the Indian delegate to an International Congress of Religious Liberals convening in Boston.
Since his arrival in America exactly 100 years ago, Yogananda has come to be regarded as the father of Yoga in the West, introducing millions to the timeless science of yoga meditation through his bestselling spiritual classic, Autobiography of a Yogi, and his many other works.
As part of the anniversary commemoration of this historic occasion, Self-Realization Fellowship, the society he founded the same year as his arrival in the West, has released a special centennial edition of Paramahansa Yogananda’s The Science of Religion, an amplification of his maiden speech in America delivered to the Congress delegates on October 6, 1920. This seminal book includes a detailed discussion of the scientific basis of yoga, and underscores the universality of the world’s religions and explains why the answers to the ultimate questions of life lie in the direct personal experience of a Higher Reality.
This newly released edition also includes a new foreword with additional historical detail about Yogananda’s arrival in America and the 1920 Congress of Religious Liberals in Boston.
Here is some wisdom from this book:
I have tried to show in this book that as God is one, necessary to all of us, so religion is one, necessary and universal. Only the roads to it may differ…. It is illogical to say that there are two religions, when there is but one God.
Religion necessarily consists in the permanent removal of pain and the realization of Bliss, or God. And the actions that we must adopt for the permanent avoidance of pain and the realization of Bliss or God are called religious.
Religion is really nothing but the merging of our individuality in universality. Therefore in the consciousness of this blissful state, we ascend the steps of religion. We leave the noxious atmosphere of the senses and vagrant thoughts and come to a region of heavenly Bliss.
In the teachings of all religions, whether it be Christianity, Mohammedanism or Hinduism, one truth is stressed: Until man knows himself as Spirit — the fountainhead of Bliss — he is limited by mortal concepts and subject to the inexorable laws of nature. Knowledge of his true being brings him eternal freedom.
Savants of different ages and climes have suggested methods adapted to the mental frame and condition of the people among whom they lived and preached. Some have laid stress on prayer, some on feeling, some on good works, some on love, some on reason or thought, some on meditation. But their motives have been the same. They all meant that body consciousness should be transcended by the turning back of the life‑force inward, and that the Self should be realized, as the image of the sun appears in calm, unruffled water.
Now, being blessed and reflected spiritual Selves, why is it that we are utterly unmindful of our blissful state and are instead subject to physical and mental pain and suffering? The answer is that the spiritual Self has brought on itself this present state (by whatever process it may be) by identifying itself with a transitory bodily vehicle and a restless mind. The spiritual Self, being thus identified, feels itself sorry for or delighted at a corresponding unhealthy and unpleasant or healthy and pleasant state of the body and mind. Because of this identification, the spiritual Self is being continually disturbed by their transitory states.
When I say that to attain Bliss is the universal end of religion, I do not mean by Bliss what is usually called pleasure, or that intellectual satisfaction which arises from the fulfillment of desire and want and which is mixed with an excitation, as when we say we are pleasurably excited. In Bliss there is no excitement, nor is it a contrast consciousness: “My pain or want has been removed by the presence of such and such objects.” It is a consciousness of perfect tranquillity — a consciousness of our calm nature unpolluted by the intruding consciousness that pain is no more.
What does Universal Religion say about God? It says that the proof of the existence of God lies in ourselves. It is an inner experience. You can surely recall at least one moment in your life when, in prayer or worship, you felt that the trammels of your body had nearly vanished, that the duality of experience — pleasure and pain, petty love and hate, and so on — had receded from your mind. Pure Bliss and tranquillity had welled up in your heart and you enjoyed an unruffled calm — Bliss and contentment. Though this kind of higher experience does not often come to all, yet there can be no doubt that all men, at some time or other, in prayer or in a mood of worship or meditation, have enjoyed a few moments of unalloyed peace.
The spirit of inquiry is in all. Everyone in the world is a seeker after truth. It is his immortal heritage; and he seeks it, blindly or wisely, until he has fully reclaimed it. It is never too late to mend. “Seek, and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you.” (Mathew 7:7)