Posted by: Mike Ferruggia | September 22, 2010

Paramahansa Yogananda

So, I finally bought the book I’ve wanted for a very long time; every time, and I mean every time I’ve walked into a bookstore, I’ve picked it up, read passages, fondled it, but always put it back. Last week, I went with the intention of buying The Autobiography of a Yogi, and I bought it.

I’m in the process of reading it, and am enjoying seeing the unfolding path of a spiritual man. I’ve been wanting to reconnect with many of the ideas of spiritual yoga and hinduism because they are such an intimate part of the contemplative practice of tai chi chuan kung fu. As an amateur, I will say that the spiritual practice of yoga is pretty much the ancestor of everything else, of buddhism, of tai chi, of kung fu(I know the history here gets muddled, but you get the idea, I hope).

The other book that holds a special place in my home is Thought Power by Swami Sivananda. It is an amazing text, one that transcends the truths of all faiths and religions and spiritual practices.

My work is to approach that idea of mindfulness, of awareness, of the presence of God, the Universal Mind of God, of the life force that is the source, of the numenous, of the divine. The holiness and saintliness spoken of in Yogananda’a text is what I seek. I admit I am skeptical of “miraculous” powers, whether they be stories of catholic saints bilocating or hindu swamis levitating, or of magical amulets appearing and disappearing. But they, in a sense, are neither here nor there(that’s a mystical statement!). It is the deeper truth I am interested in, aroused in me by my human intuition, and by direct experience of various spiritual practices, from the liturgical rituals of the catholic church growing up, the deeper understanding and experience of the Eucharist, the years of centering prayer and meditation and contemplation, or the sublime practice of tai chi chuan kung fu, which, in its movements, places and connects you in the flow of God himself.

Tai chi, like yoga, isn’t always practiced with the spiritual dimension involved. But if you infuse your practice with this awareness, it can be very fruitful in bringing you closer to the sublime intuitive experience of the divine.

A lot of yoga and tai chi is energy work, which we tend to forget amazingly enough, and it is also a lot of mind work, mind intent. I admit, I have allowed a lot of my meditation time to devolve into mere periods of fantasy and daydreaming, which is a lot of fun, but really not good. The focus and attention of the mind should be on the divine, on God, on the Christ(I use the term Christ in a universal sense and not just the christian understanding), on the source.

Final thought: I’ve been introduced to a term from Yogananda’s book which i need to explore a bit–the superconsciousness. A lot of my practice has been work with the subconscious mind, but I’m not sure if any of my work has corresponded to this idea of a superconsciousness. We’ll see.



  1. Paramahansa, for whom my heart swells and thumps.

    Near me is his first Self Realization Center, called Lake Shrine, after the beautiful lake with swans that you can stroll around. Some of Gandhi’s ashes are enshrined there, also. Sometimes, when I want to feel closer to Paramahansa, I just drive up there and take around the lake, or sit in the lake-side temple.

    One of my favorite books by him is The Divine Romance, which is actually a collection of his talks. It always brings solace.

    I always considered that all other spiritual books are something of a “lead-up” to Paramahansa!

    But I too, love Sivananda, and Thought Power is one of my favorites.

    In an off the wall turn of questions, I’ve been wondering lately, what the possibilities would be of finding an honest-to-goodness Tai Chi/Chi Gong master, right here, in the big city. I imagine that, like a true master in any field, they are few. Do you have any thoughts on this?

    • I was very fortunate, I suppose, to find my 2 teachers, first Susan Rabinowitz at the Toaist Arts Center in New York who taught me excellent basics of stance, posture, and internal understanding. I wanted more of a martial understanding and literally cried when I saw video of Master Leungh Shum. It was how I imagined Tai Chi to be but rarely saw. I found his school in New York, learned excellent form and martial use of tai chi. He has many student who have gone on to become masters themselves and if you go to the website, you will see his authorized list of masters and sifus under his lineage, and there are quite a few in California, though I don’t know if any are close to you.

      They are authentic and legitimate, but while you would learn exellent and correct posture and form, they don’t explain what’s going on much, I assume a remnant of old teaching style where you just follow the teacher. They do give excellent correction, but at Susan’s school, you really got an understanding of what was going on and she explained a lot, particularly internal anatomy.

      So to make a long explanation longer, how do you find a good teacher? Check them out. Do you get a good vibe from them? Does your intuition tell you they are teaching correctly. The catch 22 of tai chi is that a lot of well meaning people love it so much they want to start teaching right away, and begin passing on bad postures and bad alignments and it all becomes just a class to enjoy and pass the time.

      As a rule, stay clear of anyone who claims to have magic powers or special chi abilities. These things are very subtle and very advanced and very nuanced.

      Finally, I don’t think one teacher is enough. I’ve studied many masters on tape, read hundreds of books, and after a while you can separate the drek from the good stuff.

      Oh, and here’s another hint. If someone only knows a short form of either yang or wu style and not a long form, well, maybe they don’t know enough. If you find a school where they teach the long forms, they’ve put in some time and effort…

      • ‘Thought Power’ is one of the most amazing, life changing books I have read. It is life changing if you will let it in…

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