Pearls of wisdom

Reno Meditation Group of Self-Realization Fellowship

<i>Autobiography of a Yogi </i>is one of the main teaching books of the Self-Realization Fellowship.

Autobiography of a Yogi is one of the main teaching books of the Self-Realization Fellowship.

Photo By Nick Higman

I always know I’m doing the right thing when I have to stop and examine my purpose for doing something. This week, Hunter and I visited the Reno Meditation Group of the Self-Realization Fellowship. I was a little hesitant—I was afraid a child might be a distraction in an adult meditation group. But if the group had something “good” to offer, shouldn’t children be exposed to it, at least, superficially? And if I introduce Hunter to loud, Holy Roller varieties of religious experience, shouldn’t he also be introduced to the quiet, introspective ones?

“We’ve been meditating for an hour, so we’re kind of relaxed,” said Joy, one of that day’s leaders of the group, shortly after meeting Hunter and I in the reading room of the business building at the corner of Wrondel Way and Apple Street. The reading room is small, and I tried to convince Joy and Joe, another meditation leader, to pose there for a photo for this article, but they were having none of it. They’re nice but firm.

The Self-Realization Fellowship was founded by yogi Paramahansa Yogananda in 1920. The group follows Yogananda’s teachings. The group’s fundamental values, as far as I could observe, are to know God directly though meditation and live life better through the instruction of various religious leaders, like Jesus Christ and Yogananda.

The sanctuary or meditation room was not large; there were about 30 blue upholstered chairs and probably 20 people present. Potted plants dotted the front of the room. It had a simple altar with six photographs of the luminaries of the Fellowship. To stage right, Joe led prayers and played the harmonium, a tabletop accordion-like instrument.

Joy came to the lectern to read the group’s announcements, plans for a hospitality tea, and a reminder that the local group is wholly dependent on local donations for survival. The service began in earnest after Joy concluded.

“Teach me to dive into meditation, again and again, until I find the pearls of wisdom,” went one prayer. The songs were chants and came from a book like a hymnal, with musical notations and titles. The first was “Oh God Beautiful,” which was followed by a short period of meditation. I lose my sense of time when I’m in meditation land, but I’m guessing the meditations lasted 10-15 minutes.

The readings, which related to the topic “Increasing the Power of Initiative,” came from Matthew in the New Testament and the Bhagavad-Gita. Each reading was followed by commentary and explanatory verses written by the group’s forbearers. The readings were followed by a fairly long commentary by Yogananda, which questioned the purpose of a life led without initiative.

He said many people live only thinking about eating, amusements and sleeping. “When lived this way, what is the difference between man and animal?”

All people have the power of initiative, he said, to create things that have never existed before. This act of creation can come in three ways: Improve what someone else has done, invent something new but of little value, or create something new that will improve the world, like Thomas Edison’s light bulb.

I found myself fixating on aphorisms found throughout the readings: “Do little things in an extraordinary way. Laugh and enjoy life. Initiative is the great inventive power of the spirit. Stay away from one-horsepower people. All the world’s a stage; never mind which part you play, just play your part well. Attune yourself to cosmic power.”

It seems the pearls of wisdom fall for people who are looking for them—no matter the age.