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Posts Tagged ‘Self-Realization Fellowhsip’

awake 2“AWAKE: THE LIFE OF YOGANANDA” My rating: B (Opens Nov. 7 at the Tivoli)

87 minutes | MPAA rating: PG

Few religious figures of the 20th century are more compelling or intriguing than Paramahansa Yogananda (1893-1952), the yogi who at the age of 26 received a divine calling to bring the spiritual lessons of his native India to America.

“Awake: The Life of Yogananda” — directed by Paola di Florio and Lisa Leeman — is a well-made overview of Yogananda’s life and beliefs, filled with fascinating photos and film clips that seem always to capture the guru with a mysterious Mona Lisa half-smile.

Arriving in Boston in 1920, Yogananda immediately began collecting devotees. But it was not until he moved to Los Angeles five years later that his ministry really took off, attracting celebrities like opera star Amelita Galli0-Curci and millionaire industrialists like oil tycoon James Lynn.

Yogananda’s genius was to dump the baggage of “religion” and promote his system of self-realization as a science.  Not relying on a particular creed or dogma, his approach allowed individuals of all religious backgrounds to integrate their beliefs with yogic practice that would, ultimately, rewire their brains.

He lectured incessantly. He pioneered a mail order program of study. And he founded the Self-Realization Fellowship, a center for yogic learning that still flourishes today on a Eden-like hilltop overlooking the Pacific. His Autobiography of a Yogi has been hugely influential and has sold steadily for decades.

Yogananda’s emphasis was on yoga and meditation as a pathway to godliness, not as some sort of physical workout.  As one of the many talking heads in the film explains, “It’s not set up to give you flat abs…although that’s a nice byproduct.”

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