Sample from the Spring 2004 issue of Integral Yoga Magazine

By Swami Yogananda Sarasvati

…I first met Sri Gurudev in 1967 on his second visit to Paris. I was about 19, and had been teaching Hatha Yoga for a year or so. When Sri Gurudev entered the hall, I felt at once that this holy man was above the earthly plane, even though his feet were on the floor. His majestic presence, his sparkling eyes, his penetrating voice, his inspiring words and his peaceful closing chants all had a tremendous effect on me.

That evening, I was blessed to have dinner in his company. He addressed me at one point and said, meaningfully and very affectionately, “You can call me Swamiji.” At that moment, an uncommon relationship entered my spiritual life, enriching it with strength and insight. In those early days, Sri Gurudev used to visit Europe once or twice a year, and during one of those visits in 1969 he imparted mantra diksha to me spontaneously. This was the starting point of a deeper relationship with him.

It was during this year that a great change took place in my life. I became aware that spiritual achievement meant rising above worldly mindedness. However, I was not yet established in steady wisdom. Sri Gurudev sent these words to me: “Do not be discouraged by difficulties and obstacles. Be bold and walk ahead proudly. Let every failure be a stepping stone for your future success. Then a drawback is not a drawback at all… All who come together in this world must someday part. Do not brood over the past, but move forward with strength and resolve. Fear not. I will guide you.”

This straightforward message had a deep effect on me, and with Sri Gurudev’s blessings, I undertook a pilgrimage to Rishikesh. One day, while walking along the Sadhak lane on the banks of the Ganges, I came across a young Sannyasi who appeared suddenly from the lane corner and arrested my attention. He was holding a stick and a water-jar. His walk was fast and powerful, and his hair and beard were flowing. I could feel his freedom. He looked at me, smiled, and took my hand gently. Then we walked together. Every day I would cross the Ganges and spend time with him.

Meeting with this Sannyasi was decisive in my final bend for the life of complete renunciation. I wrote to Sri Gurudev on the spot, and asked to give up worldly life to him. He replied to me that Sannyasa will come. He concluded his letter saying: “When next I am in Paris, I will see if you are ready for Sannyasa.” His last words were: “May you be blessed with Peace and Joy and Realization of the True Self,” which sounded fine, though I wasn’t too sure he would deem I was ready for the final step…

Read the rest of this article in the Spring 2004 issue of Integral Yoga Magazine.