At an honoring celebration fit for royalty, over 5000 Yogananda devotees from across the world gathered on Sunday in Pasadena to offer their final blessings to current Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) President, Sri Daya Mata. Born Faye Wright to prominent Mormon parents in Salt Lake City, Daya Mata met Paramahansa Yogananda in 1931 while the great swami and writer of Autobiography of a Yogi was touring the United States doing lectures.
“As I stood at the back of the crowded auditorium,” said Daya Mata, “I became transfixed, unaware of anything around me except the speaker and his words. My whole being was absorbed in the wisdom and divine love that were pouring into my soul and flooding my heart and mind. I could only think, ‘This man loves God as I have always longed to love Him. He knows God. Him I will follow.’“
Regarded as one of the most inspiring yogis to ever come to America from India, Yogananda founded SRF and initiated thousands of people into the ancient technique of Kriya Yoga including famous botanist Luther Burbank, Ananda founder Swami Kriyananda and even Mahatma Ghandi. His lessons on Kriya Yoga, Meditation and Spiritual Living are still offered by SRF through the mail and services led by his monks and devotees can be found on Sunday mornings all over the world.
An amazing orator, eloquent writer and uber-advanced God-realized yogi, Yogananda left his body in 1952 after taking maha samadhi at the Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. Following the 5-year tenure of Rajarsi Janakananda (SRF’s first President), Daya Mata took over and served for 55 years as President of SRF.
Yogananda’s mission in coming to the West was to unite the spiritual faiths under the same banner of Truth through love and the cultivation of peace. Sri Daya Mata’s life served this mission and she emulated the beautiful selfless example of the ancient Guru-disciple relationship. My own mother, a 35 year member of SRF, said to me recently about Sri Daya Mata, “She could’ve made it more about her, but what she was, was the perfect disciple. Inspiring, humble and a follower of the teachings. It wasn’t about her or about her interpretation of Yogananda’s teachings…it was all about her Guru.”
On the December day of this sacred gathering that would pay respect to Daya Mata’s life of service after her passing at the age of 94, the temperatures inexplicably rose to over 90 degrees in some parts of L.A. and it will go down as one of the warmest days winter days on record for Southern California. Much like Yogananda’s body staying in perfect condition for 3 full weeks after his passing, this day showed something a bit special…like Nature was happy and was celebrating her life, too. Love was literally in the air!
As Yogananda said to Daya Mata just before his passing, “When I am gone, only love can take my place. Be so drunk with the love of God night and day that you won’t know anything but God; and give that love to all.”
Om Sri Sri Sri Daya Mata Ki Jay!