Why Go To India




“Thou taught’st me first to love

The sky, the stars, the God above;

So my first homage — as ‘til meet —

I lay, O India, at they feet!”

— From the poem, “My Native Land,” by Paramahansa Yogananda



Over the years, from time to time, devotees have asked this interesting question: “Why do we need to go to India? Didn’t the Master bring the best of India to America? Didn’t he bring to the West all that we need to find God?” While it is certainly true that a pilgrimage to holy Mother India is not a requirement for spiritual advancement, who would question the benefits of meditating in the places where our divine gurus have lived? How often, in America, would we spend six weeks relaxing, meditating and visiting holy places? Who would deny the spiritual benefits of visiting the Encinitas Hermitage and retreat grounds, or the holy environment of the Mother Center? Though not a “requirement” for spiritual advancement, tremendously beneficial such pilgrimages may be indeed.


Paramahansa Yogananda, both in his youth and during his return to India in 1935-36, delighted in visiting holy shrines, tirthas (pilgrimage centers) and personages. In his Autobiography of a Yogi, the Master speaks highly of the value of pilgrimage: “Wandering day after day over the Holy Land, I was more than ever convinced of the value of pilgrimage. To the sensitive heart, the spirit of Christ is all-pervading in Palestine.” What to speak of the holy land of India, where not only the Lord Jesus Christ lived for many years but also Bhagavan Sri Krishna, Mahavatar Babaji, Yogavatar Lahiri Mahasaya, Jnanavatar Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri and our own Gurudeva, Premavatar Sri Sri Paramahansa Yogananda lived and played out all or a portion of the lila of their earthly incarnations!


As the Mahabharata says, “Sojourns to holy places, which are meritorious and which constitute one of the high mysteries of the rishis, are even superior to sacrifices,” (Vana Parva, 2.240). This is indeed the land of sages and saints. We, in the West, scarcely have any conception as to the sheer number of avatars, sages, saints, yogis and saintly devotees who have graced this great land from time immemorial. During the “dark ages,” India and her savants preserved the Sanatana Dharma, the “Eternal Religion,” which we now see spreading in all lands. In his moving poem, “My India,” Paramahansaji speaks of Mother India just a though She were a personification of the Divine: giving darshan of Herself. Divine incarnation that he ways, the Master, speaking of India, could say, “I am hallowed, my body touched that sod.” Why, one might wonder, would one country among all nations display such an unbroken lineage of sanctity? The Master says, “In India, hundreds of young men are crazy for God, as hundreds here are crazy for money and power, (The Divine Romance). Why India? You may find, as many of us have, that India is far more even than the holy vibrations imparted by Her many saints. They came for Her. She does, indeed, give darshan of Herself.



Gurudeva, Paramahansa Yogananda, tells us that this great country is not only for those blessed to have been born within Her geographical boundaries:


“Where the snow-crowned golden Himalayas

Keep their watch where the sages bloom,

It is there I would be, in the land of the free,

Every breeze bearing God’s perfume.

It is there India gives of Her rarest;

It is home sweet home for all”

— From the song, “I Love You, India,” by Paramahansa Yogananda


“Hail, mother of religions, lotus, scenic beauty, and sages!

Thy wide doors are open,

Welcoming God’s true sons through all ages”

— From the poem, “My India,” by Paramahansa Yogananda


“Better than heaven or Arcadia / I love Thee, O my India!” (from “My India”). The Master loved India so profoundly that one cannot help but imagine that he must be deeply touched and thrilled when his devotees come to see those very places where he and the other great masters lived and to experience for themselves the true spirit of India which meant so much to him. His Autobiography will come alive! It is little wonder — though a great wonder it truly seems! — that God and Guru pour a constant stream of blessings, guidance and protection on those devotees who undertake

such a pilgrimage.