Having purchased our tickets weeks ago, last night my Beloved and I went finally to see the “Awake – The Life of Yogananda” film. Here’s a link to learn a little more about it. The only place locally that would be playing it is the Keystone Art Cinema Theater and even at that there were only planned to be four screenings of the film. Last night was the third of the four, the last of which is set for around the end of the first week in February.
I hope this won’t come as any kind of spoiler alert, but the movie is exactly what you would think – a film about the life of Yogananda. Kind of documentary style and kinda not. It’s only around 90 minutes, and surprisingly well made. The movie is an excellent timeline of his life, starting quite naturally with his birth and ending very shortly after his physical death. The movie is a mix of interviews with everyone from Daya Mata to someone who was once a secretary for Yogananda to Krishna Das. Such a wide variety of people came into the movie. The local SRF group here set up a table outside of the actual theater and were holding a free raffle for two books – the autobiography and one called India Unveiled. Once the seating was all packed, a man who leads the local group stood before the entire audience and said a little about the film. He also explained that Yogananda often, before speaking to any group or teaching something, would ask the crowd if they are “awake and ready.” He would ask them repeatedly until a response of “awake and ready” was given with sufficient gusto.
There are parts of the movie that show some of the current SRF (Self Realization Fellowship) monks journeying through parts of India as they retrace their guruji’s steps. There’s mention of his lineage going back to Mahavatar Babaji, Lahiri Mahasaya, and Shri Yukteshwar. There’s also mentioned of a sex scandal that involved his best friend from childhood swami Dhirananda, which I didn’t know about before the movie. I also didn’t know that Yogananda has spent some time in Indianapolis speaking and teaching (hatha?) yoga. For anyone interested in seeing scenes “live” from India, the movie delivers this, too. And as icing on the cake, my wife Alanis Morissette’s song, “Still” is played in the last minutes of the film – a song which is Brahman described in music, if ever I’ve heard such a thing.
Obviously, there’s constant mention of his autobiography, and rightly so. That book has – and continues to be – transformational for many seekers of Light. It was instrumental in my own development years ago. Strangely, I was doing some “modeling” (which I won’t go into here for private and somewhat scandalous reasons) and a man I came into contact with – who I recognize as the first non-Indian Hindu I ever knew – gave me a copy of the autobiography. I read it as quickly as I could. This was the beginning of Hindu me. It was around this time that I had started looking into Hinduism as my home and had just acquired my very first Ganesha murti and an image of the Divine Mother. This was so long ago that Indiana didn’t yet have it’s own Hindu temple – we all met at the India Community Center on the city’s west side. Without going into many details, I had some of my very first mystical experiences around this time and I remember some of the scenes from the autobiography really resonating with me and my experiences.
Yogananda was certainly my first Indian guru and watching the movie not only felt like a nice homage to this teacher of mine but also felt like a return to my roots. It was such a touching film that I feel inspired to contact the local SRF community and see if I can make some friends. I’m not sure I will, though. I can certainly suggest, for those who relate to the SRF or consider Yogananda their guru and read and follow his teachings, that this movie is a “must see” and I think I’m putting together a group of local Sahaj Marg abhyasis who have expressed interest in this that we can go see it together.
Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti