HISTORY OF SWAMI YOGANANDA'S WORK
Swami Yogananda came to this country in 1920 as the delegate from India to the Seventh Congress of Religious Liberals in Boston, Mass.
Before leaving India, the Swami was asked by his father (who had undertaken to bear the expenses of Swami's journey to America) when he expected to return. "In about four months—if the Americans don't need me," Swami replied. Due to the "if", we have kept him with us, for we have needed him greatly and have appreciated his efforts for America's spiritual welfare for the last five years.
Thru the financial assistance of his father, and the enthusiasm of a few devout students, the Swami started a small Sat-Sanga (Fellowship with Truth) Center in Boston. He lectured before many clubs, colleges and associations. A small summer-school was established near Waltham for students —mainly thru the cooperation of Sister Yogmata. The work grew and Swami sent for his beloved associate, Swami Dhirananda, to come to America and help in the spread of the message of Yogoda and all-round human education. Mrs. J. Southwick helped greatly in the work of the Center.
In 1924, the call of God, for which the Swami had been patiently waiting, came for the further extension of the work.
Swami came to New York in 1923, aided by Dr. M. W. Lewis of Boston, and in one lecture at the New York Town Hall sowed the seeds of interest in his work. He was invited by the management of the Pennsylvania Hotel to become their guest, and he gave lectures and weekly classes there.
In early 1924 Swami visited Philadelphia and spoke there in the Public Library to a capacity house from which several hundred were turned away. He left a large enthusiastic class in Philadelphia, including Mr. Leopold Stokowski, the internationally-known Conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra.
Swami felt every city to be like a big human mind that vibrated differently. New York said, "How much have you got?" Boston said, "How much do you know?" Philadelphia said "Who are you?" One Philadelphian did actually ask this question of Swami and he replied: "I come from a very high family headed by the Almighty Father." And Philadelphia was well satisfied, if the thunderous applause of the audience was any indication, and asked no further questions of lineage.
About this time Swami felt an inner call to further extend the work, and saw in his mind's eye the West of America and especially Los Angeles, swept by his teachings. Accordingly, he started out to cross the continent in a Maxwell automobile, accompanied by three students who alternated at driving the car. The little party of four was very harmonious, and the three boys did all in their power to make Swami comfortable through-out the long transcontinental journey. By leisurely travelling and camping, Swami managed to see and study America and Americans very closely and enjoyed each minute of the trip.
Finally Denver was reached and the good Maxwell took Swami up the famous Pike's Peak road and Swami wrote his poem about the ride, beginning :
"Ne'er did I expect to roam,
On wheels four,
Where thousand clouds do soar."
Swami spoke to a cultured audience of 3,000 people in the Denver City Auditorium, where the city organist played "The Song of India" when Swami entered for the lecture. A large class of Yogoda students was formed. The city of Denver vibrated to Swami the love for Nature and health-giving life.
Swami then proceeded to beautiful Colorado Springs, and thence to Yellowstone Park, which he considers "the greatest Nature-made, man-protected Park in the world." "All scenic marvels are here," the Swami wrote. "Lakes, rivers, mountains and the hot springs—heaving, smoking, hissing, boiling everywhere. The Turquoise Springs, as blue as their name, and the Old Faithful Geyser, shooting its hot waters several feet into the air at regular intervals —have deeply enthralled me with their beauty. I am reminded of our Indian forests when I see here the wild bears, bison and deer roaming about freely. A little greedy wild bear came up to the Maxwell and put its two little front paws against the car and ate from my hands."
From Yellowstone, Swami went to the Coast and boarded a ship for Alaska, about whose beauty he had often heard. Swami said of Alaska, "If it were possible to hold a beauty contest of all Nature's grandeurs and scenes of loveliness, it would be difficult to choose between Alaska and her Hindu sister, Kashmir, for the Queen's throne. If regal Kashmir with her floating gardens and lotus lakes, guarded all around by snow-crowned kingly ranges of the Himalayas, is the epitome of the world, as the geographers say, then Alaska alone is worthy to vie with her for beauty and diversity of scenic glory."
Swami described the journey to Alaska by steamer as
"A voyage thru the garden-valley
Laid on the barren sea,
Surrounded by snow-capped island hills,
And draped with the lace of ever-green ferns."
After seeing Ketchecan, Anchorage and other Alaskan towns, and collecting specimens of walrus ivory, a gold nugget and a polar bear skin for his museum collection, Swami departed for Seattle, where he spoke to two thousand people each night. Devoted students cooperated to get together a large and enthusiastic class for Yogoda.
Proceeding to Portland, Swami lectured to huge crowds at the Multnomah Hotel and had a large class of students. In Portland for the first time Swami gave his public divine healing meeting and prayer affirmations which have proved so popular everywhere.
In late October, 1924, Swami and his staff of three young men reached San Francisco, and lectures were given to packed houses in the Scottish Rite Auditorium. Classes of several hundred students were given in San Francisco and Oakland.
Finally, in January, 1925, Swami arrived at his goal and final destination of Los Angeles. The Great Divine Power seemed to have roused the whole city to receive the message of Yogoda, for truly Los Angeles gave Swami a royal and hearty welcome. Clubs, colleges, societies, educational centers, churches and newspapers extended him every courtesy and Swami's days were filled to overflowing with engagements to speak, write and be interviewed everywhere. Then, when the free lectures began at the Philharmonic Auditorium, which seats 3,000, the whole city turned out to hear Swami speak, and thousands were turned away each night. Swami gave several classes and had about 1500 students, and also a Special Advanced Course which Swami gave in Los Angeles for the first time in America.
One day during his Los Angeles stay, one of his students casually mentioned Mount Washington. Swami's soul was strangely stirred at the mention of this place and suggested that they drive up there on the following day. When he entered the grounds of the Mount Washington Hotel site, he strolled about, and then touching the bars surrounding the tennis court, he exclaimed to his companions. "This place feels like ours!" Today it is "ours," for thru the kind and willing cooperation and donations of his thousands of students throughout America, this property was purchased for the American Headquarters of Sat-Sanga and Yogoda. On Easter morning, Swami gave a beautiful and impressive Easter Sunrise Service on Mount Washington.
After Los Angeles, Swami took a short vacation to view the unrivalled grandeur of the Grand Canyon of the Colorado, and then proceeded to Long Beach and San Diego where he met with great response, then on to Fresno, and then a second series of lectures and classes in San Francisco, Portland and Seattle. He spent September, 1925 in Spokane, Washington, who gave him a royal welcome. Everywhere the message of Yogoda has aroused spontaneous attention and has been supported by leading citizens of each city where the Swami has lectured.
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