Our History and Lineage
Golden Lotus, Inc., a Michigan non-profit organization which owns and operates Song of the Morning, was founded in 1970 by J. Oliver Black. Song of the Morning Ranch is the result of Mr. Black’s desire to carry out the wishes of his Guru, Paramahansa Yogananda, to establish a yoga retreat where the timeless science of yoga could be taught as a full and practical way of life. Here, Yogananda’s teachings of the balanced development of body, mind and soul are developed through a retreat center, a World-Brotherhood Community, and what will eventually be a Yoga University, where pursuit of a direct, personal relationship with God will be taught side-by-side with intellectual and physical development.
Mr. Black, a man of joy and vitality, was one of Paramahansa Yogananda’s closest lay disciples, serving for more than 40 years as a Minister of Self-Realization Fellowship of Los Angeles, California. The title of “Yogacharya,” bestowed on him by Yogananda, means “Yoga Teacher.” Through his untiring efforts at the Detroit SRF Meditation Service at the Detroit Institute of Arts, and at Song of the Morning Ranch in the Pigeon River forest in northern Michigan, he attracted thousands to the science of Yoga. Yogacharya made his conscious exit into eternity in 1989, at the age of 96, while sitting up meditating. Joyful in living, as in dying, he was a true devotee of God and Guru to the end.
From 1991 to 2004, Bob Raymer, also a spiritually advanced direct disciple of Yogananda, served as the spiritual director of Golden Lotus, Inc. Mr. Raymer was a close friend of Yogacharya, and under his spiritual direction many hearts were opened to experience the path of love and devotion to the Divine. Bob Raymer left his physical body in November of 2008.
Today Song of the Morning Ranch is first and foremost a yoga retreat of excellence that serves as a place of relaxation and spiritual refreshment for “all truth thirsty souls.” Our retreat center conducts meditation services and provides members and guests with an environment in which to learn and practice timeless spiritual techniques and principles anchored in the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda.
The Kriya Yoga Masters
The kriya yoga masters’ names are reverently invoked during each regular meditation session at Song of the Morning.
"Heavenly Father, Mother, Friend, Beloved God; Jesus Christ, Bhagavan Krishna, Mahavatar Babaji, Lahiri Mahasaya, Sri Yukteswar, Paramahansa Yogananda; Saints and sages of all religions ... we bow to all of you."
Jesus Christ and Bhagavan Krishna are generally recognized in the West and East, respectively, as supreme avatars (divine incarnations). Krishna, enlightened king of ancient India, is estimated to have lived about 3000 B.C.
In 1861 Mahavatar Babaji, a secluded Himalayan master of high spiritual attainment, initiated Lahiri Mahasaya into kriya yoga (advanced meditation techniques taught by the SRF masters) at a remote location in northeastern India. Those who visited Lahiri Mahasaya (1828-1895) at his Banaras, India home had their lives profoundly transformed. “All knew they had received the silent blessing of a true man of God” (Autobiography of a Yogi). Lahiri Mahasaya’s disciple, Swami Sri Yukteswar (1855-1936), recognized as a preeminent sage and yogi, continued the spread of kriya yoga from his chief ashram in Serampore, India.
For more information about Kriya yoga, go to www.yogananda-srf.org.
Paramahansa Yogananda (b. 1893) began his training with his guru, Sri Yukteswar, in 1910 and became a monk of the swami order in 1915. Yogananda came to the West upon accepting an invitation to speak in the United States at the Congress of Religious Liberals in Boston in 1920. He subsequently taught and lectured throughout the country and founded Self-realization Fellowship (SRF). His writings are voluminous and display a rare quality of presenting the deep wisdom of the East, including the art & science of yoga, to English readers in a way that is undiluted yet easy to understand. Paramahansa Yogananda taught, healed, and initiated thousands into kriya yoga before his passing (mahasamadhi) in Los Angeles in 1952. His prayers, poems, affirmations and chants are included during meditation sessions at Song of the Morning.
Autobiography of a Yogi
An essential read for every spiritual aspirant, Autobiography of a Yogi was written by Yogananda and recounts his remarkable story of heartfelt seeking and devotion to the Divine. One of our long-time Song of the Morning community members, George Johnston, describes the power of this text:
"In Autobiography of a Yogi, Paramahansa Yogananda helps us understand many truths in the ancient Hindu scriptures and how they parallel those taught by Jesus. Yogananda knew what Jesus meant by the “kingdom of God,” for his love of God and ability to enter the inner stillness and silence of deep meditation enabled him to experience God’s blissful realms of peace, beauty, oneness, love, and light—the kingdom that Jesus said is not of this world, but within, and counseled us to seek.
"Through unceasing pursuit of God, Yogananda attained liberation. His life shows that if we seek the guidance and help of God and a true guru, practice self-discipline and meditation, and cultivate love for God, we too will find happiness, wisdom and inner peace. We will discover and eventually unite with our higher Self and God, and thus find liberation, as he did. His autobiography vividly portrays the spiritual treasures that await those who live in love and meditate on God. It has inspired countless devotees around the world to seek God in stillness and silence within.”