Paramahansa Yogananda and Me

I DO GRANT THE TITLE OF THIS POST is … naughty. But I was paid to write advertising copy for the Beauty Industry 20 years ago so I can still swing a a headline into my favour rather well – it’s called unadulterated Artistic Licence. It’s not something I should admit, so I think I’ll move on …

But, actually, I do have a unique story about my energetic connection with Yogananda. I finished ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’ on 5th January 2010, and I remember this date because it was the great guru’s birthday and I was in the Dordogne, France with my family after our house had almost burned down in London and we had to vacate at the cost of the insurance company. I remember I loaded up the car, and departed with dog, son and effects and headed to the coast for the ferry. My effects always include my books – all of them – and those that do not make it into the roof-rack are sent on by courier at eye-wateringly outrageous cost- but this time, the insurance cover was paying which greatly alleviated my sore wallet.

Yogananda was a Bengali, as were so many of the great Indian gurus of the 19th and 20th century. And although he died in 1952 and I was born in 1956, after I had finished his autobiography, I had the strongest feeling that somehow there had been a connection, albeit tenuous. I have the stubbled nose of an old investigative hack, and so I relentlessly pursued my hunch until I found what I was looking for.

In that same year, 2010, I made a massive tour of Kolkata (formerly  Calcutta) and Dhaka (formerly Dacca, East Bengal which became Bangladesh). This I undertook to establish the roots of my father, Abu, (1922-2003) who had been born in West Bengal into a Bengali family and orphaned at the age of 11. His father, my grandfather, was born in Bengal as it was then before division in 1905 by the British, and he died in Chittagong aged 28 of double-pneumonia in 1924 when my father was 2. I am told by a relative he was reciting Shakespeare on his death-bed in 1924.

My grandfather, Golam, was an outstandingly brilliant English scholar. I have no idea why a Bengali would have such an incredible love and understanding for English at that time, but he was offered a job in his early 20s in the Indian Civil Service (the ICS). This was a highly elite department run by the British Raj for civil management. Only a few Indians were offered ICS positions and as a rule, they had to be sent to England for a few years to polish their written and spoken tongue. You can imagine how outstanding they must have been to be awarded a British job in the ICS in the early 1900s!

The  famous guru, Sri Aurobindo from Pondicherry, also came from a family whose father was in the ICS, but the entire family had to relocate to London via Manchester for a few years while the father became what we, as native English speakers, would deem completely fluent. It was around the same time.

My grandfather was not sent to London. He was given the job on the spot! But now we come to the point of this story – Golam was the first graduate in English of Calcutta University, and he won the prestigious Gold Medal for Distinction in addition. I also believe he was their first Muslim graduate.

Yogananda speaks of his time at Calcutta University which he’d endured as a mandatory torture inflicted upon him by his guru, Yukteswar, in order for him to earn an A.B., (this is today’s B.A.), in order to give him credence in the west for his future spiritual mission via the Council of Religions in Boston. This is where Vivekananda had first spoken some 20 years earlier. Yogananda also mentions that President’s College was the elite college for brilliant scholars (Yogananda was not by any means a scholar); now, my grandfather was at President’s  College at the same time as Yogananda! There is a 2 year age difference, but then I recalled Yogananda did not attend school for 2 years because of an illness – so, these two men walked around the same campus at the same time!

When I went to Kolkata University in 2010 to ask the warden to dig out the archives for my grandfather’s accolade, I walked around the campus thinking about this – about the rise of Eastern Spirituality in the west brought over by Yogananda and the heritage of the Indian swamis. I also saw my tenuous connection to PY (Yogananda) and how the die was cast that I was born in the west to an orphaned Bengali in 1956. What kind of cosmic intelligence is organising that?

Nassim Haramein has recently proven the Unified Field. This can be seen on YouTube under The Black Whole. You see, we are all connected. It is one cosmic soup which I experienced when I was a young girl as I disappeared regularly into indescribable bliss of spontaneous samadhi. My question was always “What am I supposed to be doing? Who am I and Why am I here?” A Eurasian child at that time in racist Britain? –  that was some decision of Cosmic Intelligence!

You see, I because I have the energies of both East and West in me – I understand things that do not need deciphering – especially those oriental teachings from the early 20th century – the time of my father and grandfather. These energies entrained to become something else,  with a clear understanding of eastern ways of being, and yet, completely western by education and deportment.

Recently, I was listening to an Indian teaching a spiritual concept via stories and parables and I found myself thinking,” Oh God, get on with it – get to the point,” because it was all too slow and discombobulated – Indians love language especially when they can speak English well! (I found  also, particularly reading Nisargadatta that I had lost the plot in boredom- but of course, he was illiterate and had foreign translators. He taught predominantly to Indians); and yet also, the western teachers who teach with direct clarification, but lack the warmth and depth (and magic!) of the easterners. There are charlatans, of course, on both sides of GMT – that we all know. I’ve come across so many and walked out of innumerable a gathering.  I have to say, I understand by energetic resonance the language of both the global hemispheres rather than by vocabulary, because the latter is just sound anyway with a consensual acceptance for meaning.

Here are some photos of that trip in 2010. The shots of me with a Pied Piper queue were taken in the poorest part of Bangladesh when I visited my grandfather and father’s village where still both men are hailed in the highest esteem, as you can see.  I am, of course, the one with the Gucci shades … the villagers all turned out in celebration of my arrival! They are taken from my book which I also enclose here if you would like to read it – it’s a free download, about 10K words long written before 2012 and my surrender.

A portrait of my grandfather Golam Mostapha upon his  graduation is also below taken from my desk here, together with a letter he wrote in 1915 to the British asking for schools in his native village ‘in the most backward part of the Bengal Presidency from an educational point of view’. The graduate he refers to is himself.

The famous Bengali poet, Rabindranath Tagore, once spoke of perfection in the western mind and eastern soul. Yes. Yes. I would agree with that.

With love and joy,


Papa, Who Am I? File formats


Letter to the British in 1915 in pdf format below

Golam Mostapha 10.Nov.1915

Selima Gurtler is a spiritual writer, philosopher, poet and Jnana yogi.

Her modern teachings to Self-Realization and Liberation are uniquely flavoured through the perceptive eyes of her Indian and European heritage.

Free copies of her books are available for download here:

His Holiness the Dalai Lama and His Grace Archbishop Desmond Tutu are patrons of her work.



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