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The Story of the Course

In America in 1946, Paramhansa Yogananda penned the spiritual classic Autobiography of a Yogi, which has become the most widely read autobiography of all time. Yoganandaji had left India to share with the West the ancient teachings of yoga—translated for modern times. One of his first books, The Law of Success, illustrates how to use meditation, positive attitude, and affirmation to achieve success in daily life. In it he writes, “It is not your passing inspiration or brilliant ideas so much as your everyday mental habits that control your life.”

Swami Kriyananda, a direct disciple of Yoganandaji, has come to India to bring back his guru’s teachings. In 2005, Swamiji wrote Material Success Through Yoga Principles, a year-long course that demonstrates how to incorporate yogic teachings into business and establish the right mental habits for success.

Swamiji’s writing draws on his sixty years of working for his guru: he has built eight flourishing communities in America, Europe, and India; he has written over 90 books and 300 pieces of music; he has delivered thousands of lectures to millions of listeners. In each of course’s 26 lessons, Swamiji illustrates the yoga principles, and their practical applications, with success stories from his own life.

Here is the story of how the course came about:

I was confined in a hospital by a severe case of pneumonia. It was February 2004, just a few months after I returned to live in India, after an absence of almost forty years. One of the doctors came to my bedside and, to my surprise, began asking my advice. (I was expecting him, as a doctor, to be advising me.)

"Sir," he said, "can you help me? I believe in yoga principles, and I do practice a few pranayams, occasionally. But I am beset by material worries. I have a son in college overseas; that alone is enough to be a financial worry to me, but I have other worries also. How can I fulfill my earthly responsibilities without, occasionally, cutting corners ethically?" I could see in his eyes the evidence of his inner struggle.

Many people in India, I realized, face the same predicament. Nor is the problem by any means unknown elsewhere. What makes it so poignant in India is that here people realize they are going against their own lofty traditions. Those Indians who are sensitive cannot but suffer for it. Yet the problem of earning a living in an age of disrupted values faces people everywhere on earth: How to win out in the face of rampant dishonesty and untruthfulness on all sides?

I tried to tell him that I knew, from my own personal experience, that it is possible to succeed even better by resolutely following yoga principles. I think, however, that in our brief conversation, especially because I was lying helpless in bed, very weak, and by no means a radiant example of vibrant success at that moment, I was at a disadvantage for appearing wholly convincing!

The next day my condition worsened. I was so weak, I found it hard to speak; in fact, I slept most of that day. All the time, however, I was also pondering that man's question, and asking God what I could say to help him. Suddenly, as I was having lunch, the answer came to me: I would write a correspondence course! I would call it, Material Success Through Yoga Principles. (Editor's note: Read Kriyananda's answer to the doctor in the excerpt from Lesson Five.)

A book wouldn't do for what I felt was needed: Readers could easily open a book and skim back and forth through it, merely, without practicing anything. They needed lessons that could be read only one at a time, so as to absorb each one of them more deeply.

I went back to sleep. After some time, Keshava, a man from our local ashram, came over to sit nearby in case I needed help. This young man (as I still consider him!), used to be, some thirty years ago, my secretary at Ananda Village in America.

"Keshava," I said, rousing myself from sleep. "Find a pen and a piece of paper." When he'd located these items, I went on, "Please take a little dictation."

Speaking slowly, I dictated the introduction to this new course of lessons. When I'd done so, I continued, "Let's see if I can think up one or two titles for the subjects to be covered."

The titles came slowly, like rocks, snow-covered, being exposed gradually in hot sunlight. To my astonishment, the ideas kept coming. Within about half an hour, I had all the twenty-six titles, and knew what I would say in each lesson. My pneumonia was forgotten: I was enthusiastic, and, suddenly, full of energy!

The course would consist of twenty-six lessons: two of them to be sent out monthly — bi-weekly, that is to say — for a year.

A Lifetime of Experience in 26 Lessons.

I was no outsider to the subject of these lessons: I'd had to build Ananda Sangha by my own efforts — without help from parents or rich sponsors. My father showed no interest in my project, and considered it impractical and visionary; in fact, he never gave a dime to Ananda.

As for wealthy donors, I've never been one to court wealth. It takes success, however, to get people to support a worthy project. The dilemma is that, without such support, no worthy project can come into existence. Though a monk, I had to learn the hard way how to bring my dreams to economic fruition, and to do so dharmically — that is to say, while adhering strictly to right, spiritual principles.

No, it wasn't easy. I would rather have failed completely, however, than take any of the shortcuts my doctor friend was hinting at. I gave yoga classes, never charging more than was reasonable for the common man earning normal wages as a clerk or secretary. Fortunately for what I was trying to accomplish, I was a popular teacher. The money I earned met all my needs as they arose.

Bit by bit, other people got behind what I was doing. Today, Ananda Sangha is a world-wide spiritual organization, with members in 25 countries, and eight flourishing communities with a total of about a thousand residents in them.Over the years, our integrity has been tested countless times, and each time we have emerged only the stronger and the more committed to truth and God.

The point I'm making here is that I know what I'm talking about when I say that the path of dharma, or righteousness, is the best and straightest path to true success! Following this path does not in any way put a brake on the achievements one is seeking in life.

As the Sanskrit saying puts it, "Yata dharma, tata jaya: Where there is adherence to truth and right action, there lies victory."

It took me a year and half to write these lessons. I have tried to make the rhythm of the sentences, and the choice of words such that they would stimulate the reader with success vibrations. The secret is one I have learned over a lifetime of writing: I try to write magnetically, steeping my mind in the consciousness I want to convey. As my Guru taught me, "Give your vibrations, and not only information and ideas."

I am amazed at the inspiration and practical wisdom God and Guru have given me through this endeavor. I really doubt that there has ever been anything like it before. Yet it is all my Master's teachings, like a field of diamonds buried deep underneath the ground, and needing only to be mined and brought up into the light of day.