We recently honored, with a celebratory satsang, the 75th anniversary of the publication of Paramhansa Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi. I was asked to speak about one of my favorite chapters in that amazing book, “An Experience in Cosmic Consciousness.”

For me, as for so many others I have met, the Autobiography changed my life. I had been searching my entire life for meaning, and for an understanding of the possibilities of awareness. My college studies in psychology didn’t answer my questions, nor did science in general, nor, for me at least, did religion. I despaired of finding answers until someone suggested I read Yogananda’s great work. It is no exaggeration to say that reading the book, and that chapter in particular, not only changed my life but shaped my entire future.

As I was preparing for my talk, I did something most of us rarely do: I not only read that chapter but studied it, thought about it, and meditated on it. I was amazed at the insights that flowed and the depth of teaching that is contained there. Those few pages really summarize the whole of spiritual evolution. One of the most important points was how life-changing it was for Yogananda to feel his guru’s unconditional love.

supernova nasa for self realization samadhi steps of paramhansa yoganandaThe chapter begins with Yogananda returning shamefacedly after having left the ashram to search for God in the Himalayas. Sri Yukteswar accepted him back, not with rebuke, but with the unconditional love of the guru for his beloved disciple. “A blissful wave engulfed me,” Yogananda wrote. “I was conscious that the Lord, in the form of my guru, was expanding the small ardors of my heart into the incompressible reaches of cosmic love.”

That expanded heart prepared him for the experience of cosmic consciousness that would come a few days later. As I read the chapter a new understanding came to me of the steps needed to experience samadhi.

First, there must be a deep, lifelong yearning for union with God. Even as a young boy, Yogananda sought out saints and spiritual experiences.

Next, there must be the intense practice of meditation and other spiritual techniques. As Yogananda has explained, this prepares our nervous system for the tremendous flow of energy that comes with Self-realization. If we aren’t prepared, that power would burn our nerves and brain.

Then, most importantly, our hearts need to expand to hold at least a tiny cup of the infinite vastness of Divine Love.

It is amusing and confusing to see how the actual experience came to Mukunda (Yogananda’s boyhood name). One assumes that such a state comes as the culmination of a long, ever-deepening meditation, as it did for the Buddha. But not for Yogananda:

A few mornings later I made my way to Master’s empty sitting room. I planned to meditate, but my laudable purpose was unshared by disobedient thoughts. They scattered like birds before the hunter.

“Mukunda!” Sri Yukteswar’s voice sounded from a distant inner balcony.

I felt as rebellious as my thoughts. “Master always urges me to meditate,” I muttered to myself. “He should not disturb me when he knows why I came to his room.” He summoned me again; I remained obstinately silent. The third time his tone held rebuke.

“I know how you are meditating,” my guru called out, “with your mind distributed like leaves in a storm! Come here to me.”

[Yogananda made his way, again shamefacedly, to his guru.] “Poor boy, the mountains couldn’t give what you wanted. . . . Your heart’s desire shall be fulfilled.” . . .

He struck gently on my chest above the heart.

And then there followed the experience in cosmic consciousness that fulfilled his life’s longing, changed mine, and started a worldwide spiritual revolution.

This chapter is very comforting. Like Yogananda returning shamefacedly to his guru, many struggle with the feeling that they have disappointed God—that our meditations are not deep enough, or that we have not done adequate service. But the Lord, as Sri Yukteswar demonstrated, has nothing but unconditional love for us. When we can accept that, the small ardors of our heart will begin to expand into the incompressible reaches of cosmic love.

With love and joy,

Nayaswami Jyotish

P.S. You can watch my longer talk on this chapter here.

You might also enjoy this PDF printout of the Steps Needed to Experience Samadhi. Click on the image below to open and print.

steps to experience samadhi based on teachings of yogananda of self realization.

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  1. I just finished my meditation. Yes mine also. I too experience these scattered thoughts, maybe after about an hour my mind will find one pointedness. I am in harmony within me since I started meditation.
    It is as always I love reading your spiritual reading columns. Sometimes I miss reading them due to my busy schedule.

    Namaskar & much love ❤️

  2. Thank you so much Nayaswami Jyotish. You have no idea how much these articles and podcasts mean to me, and I’m sure many others. It really enhances my days. May Giruji bless these newsletters and all Ananda teachings so you can reach as many people as possible.

    Much love
    Love and light to you all

  3. I don’t reply often enough.
    These blogs are priceless; tiny gems week after week showing us the way in the most simple and loving form.
    Thank you both, and may God and Gurus bless you both with all you need to continue serving as you do.
    AUM and Prem

  4. Please can the text be a darker shade. It is a little difficult to read. Thank you

    1. Dear One, You can advance to “leave a reply for this blog” and the letters there will be readable. I had the same problem this solved it. Have a blessed day🙏🏻

  5. Namaste,
    Thank you for your words. They inspire, share understanding, and keep me motivated and invigorated as I work towards
    my meditative goals.

  6. Sri Yukteswar’s acceptance and Master’s feeling of his unconditional love is touching.. As soon as the heart understands the transformation is immediate. I remembered this incident in Swami’s life just before meeting Master –
    “the moment I accepted the thought of my possibly not being ready spiritually, the situation changed dramatically.”

  7. Dear dear Jyotish 💙listening to your voice uplifted my heart so very much and I feel you are here with me and Devi too hugging me with God 🤗thank you🙏🏻

  8. What do you think about Oprah saying that God is the Universe?
    The universe is physical but we have never been told what God is in a physical presence.

    1. Oprah was just taking a shot into the semi known ; for some depth, the following:
      The woman saint said in answer to , “What is God”? “IT is everything that is…. and ….IT is everything that is not”.
      All light , energy, sound and matter is Divine Mother….. not God against the devil…. all of that is God… and now comes our incredible decision of how to choose thought , speech and actions…….. and , of course, God , beyond creation, the Father of all that lies beyond all , … Both are God , and hence, we are a part of the genetics of God. What we decide is how we become part of the great existence. Live well and Love well. Enjoy…. means to bring in Joy..

  9. Thank you Jyotish. Your reminder of going deeper for meaning and understanding are key, as is the ideal of unconditional love. I am grateful and gratified for this life and this path and for a true Guru and truly Divine friendships. Namaste

  10. Dear Nayaswami Jyotish Ji,

    Thank you for this wonderful blog. Enjoyed reading it.

    The steps that you have called summarised are very useful. I get the understand the importance of the techniques and how it relates to what Master says – “Only adequate enlargement by yoga practice and devotional bhakti can prepare the mind to absorb the liberating shock of omnipresence. It comes with a natural inevitability to the sincere devotee”

    Thank you again for sharing this blog


  11. Dear Jyotishji,


    Thank you for this wonderful blog. The beautiful steps you’ve enumerated, how the Guru always shows unconditional love, utmost need for developing devotion…

    So grateful,


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