Why Paramahansa Yogananda （一）
Was A Man BeforeHis Time
Yogis, meditators, and spiritualseekers, make a movie date. Awake: The Life of Yogananda, beganscreening in October 2014 and as yoga documentaries go, this unconventionalbiopic is gripping, inspiring—dare we say, epic, even. In fact, Awake hasalready won three awards and received accolades from the yoga glitterati,including Ram Dass, Marianne Williamson, and Russell Simmons.
Co-directed by twoyoga-practicing filmmakers (Oscar-nominee Paola di Florio and Sundance winnerLisa Leeman), Awake explores the life and teachings of SwamiParamahansa Yogananda, the author of the influential Autobiography of aYogi and the founder of the Self-Realization Fellowship. Featuring interviews withscientists, yoga teachers, and direct students of Yogananda, the film becomes akind of who’s who of celebrities, including Deepak Chopra, Krishna Das, the late George Harrison andRavi Shankar.
Awake also captures intimate—andat times heartbreaking—moments of the guru’s life. Through slow-mo, sepia-tonedreenactments, archival video footage, newspaper clippings, audio recordings,photos, and a narrative spun in Yogananda’s own words, the filmmakers hook youemotionally from the get-go.
Above: Monks inNoida, India perform a puja to their guru. “This scene appears in a section ofthe film in which Yogananda as a young boy foresees his future, and isfrightened by the great responsibility that a Guru must carry,” DiFlorio andLeeman explain.
“It’s not easy to make a film about a saint,” DiFlorio andLeeman say. “We’re storytellers, and good narrative usually requires conflict,struggle, and a protagonist with human flaws. We searched for skeletons inYogananda’s ‘closet,’ and while we found certain provocative allegations alongthe way, there was nothing to back them up. As we dug deeper into his life,however, we discovered that he faced major obstacles, many of which the publicwas unaware of…”
Despite being recognized as a ‘spiritual genius,’ the filmmakerssaid, Yogananda endured severe criticism and even racism in the Deep South,from people who felt threatened by him and his message. “Persecution, betrayalsby students and close friends, and even financial ruin ensued,” they said. “ButYogananda rose like a phoenix through the ashes of his demise, not only toregain his own purpose in life, but to inspire others to do the same throughhis example.” And there was their story.
The Renegade 叛教
Quite the renegade of his day, Yogananda tackled social andpolitical issues head on. For example, when he learned only white people wouldbe allowed to attend his lectures in Washington, DC, in 1927, he says in thefilm, “I defied this and founded an Afro-American…center to teach my Negrobrethren.” (Pictured above.)
And when it was still against US law to “mix races,” Yoganandapublicly married an Indian man and an American woman, in an attempt to breakdown social and racial barriers. In doing so, he taught by example hisultimate belief that we are all one.
The Independent Thinker
Yogananda was also a vocal supporter of Mahatma Gandhi. Helectured about him at Harvard. He visited Gandhi’s ashram in Wardha, India in1935. And he even gave Gandhi—at his request—a lesson in Kriya Yoga, an ancientmeditation method he learned from his own guru, Swami Sri Yuketswar, and taughtto his students in India, Britain, and America.
“We discovered thathe was put on a government watch list and kept under surveillance by the FBIand the British authorities, who were probably concerned about the growingindependence movement in India,” Leeman says.