"You're saying that Yogananda wrote all this? Shame, shame!" Saying this, he listlessly sank back into his easy chair. [Psy 71]
Don't be taken in by words. It was Yogananda's own guru who agitatedly said "Shame, shame!" over something Yogananda had written. Now, there are many shames. All of them have not been swept under the carpet by the author's publisher, SRF, either.
How a book was made: What is wrong with a book launched as an autobiography when it contains propaganda? It was designed to make people want to learn a form of yoga called kriya yoga. SRF, which also publishes edited Yogananda books, tie people who learn it hand and foot by a bad oath in the name of Jesus and so on. You may not know how bad that is till you read "Do not swear an oath at all." (Matthew 5:34)
And what is wrong with an autobiography that is co-written by a staff and editors even long after the author (Yogananda) is dead? It takes away trust that the book is much of an autobiography. The author got help in writing it (a staff), and help in forming it further for decades after his death. Not much of an autobiography.
Yogananda wrote his influential autobiography with the help of many of his followers, and the first edition of the work was published in 1946. Later editions are from 1956 and onward, and contain some thousand editorial changes and a remade spelling of Yogananda's title: from Paramhansa to Paramahansa. Even his signature was forged to comply with the SRF-made change in the spelling of that title, from the 1958 edition and onwards. But there seems to be no note left by Yogananda that he wanted an orgy of successive changes made to his autobiography after his death.
So later editions of this "autobiography" contain many SRF-added insertions and changes.
What it contains. "Book by a yogi, written with the help of many others even long after his death" is a truth-telling title. So far, the title has not been corrected, and maybe SRF never will. And as for book content, it does not seem good in all respects. The book was made to influence, and influence others it has. Many get romantic, idealised notions of this and that, whereas facts may be different, or missing. We have an aftertaste: it plays on faith in miracles by stories. What is more, the same stories told by others, may not be so fanciful, romantic, overblown and maybe imagined. A Yogananda biographer, Sailendra Dasgupta wrote that Yogananda did not discern so well between reality and what he imagined. "Yoganandaji was a man who lived in the world of imagination and spiritual [?] feelings. Towards the end, he often did not perceive a difference between the two." (Psy 99)
Sailendra Dasgupta wrote down his Yogananda biography (2006) about twenty-five years after the autobiography. The biography is translated into English. Some more enlightening points from the biography are included here, for example that Yogananda "was devoted to Mother Kali as his Divine Supreme Goddess [Psy 26]." His "Divine Mother" stands out as Kali here and there. Further, Kali's "iconography, cult, and mythology commonly associate her with death, sexuality, violence," says Encyclopaedia Britannica. [sv. "Kali"].
Dasgupta wrote the manuscript of his Yogananda biography during four months in 1983 and 1984. He had been Yogananda's Bengali language secretary when Yogananda visited India in 1936-36, and was with him almost all the time every day and attended to him at that time. Yogananda referred to him as "My Indian personal secretary". [Dasgupta 2006:11]
Dasgupta also pertinently tells "That Yogananda has claimed to be an avatar [a descent of divinity], should not overshadow the Indian outlook that every being is a child of the Eternal, be it guru or disciple." Yogananda's eyewitness and secretary Dasgupta also found that events Yogananda told of in his autobiography lacked accuracy. He also found that emotionalism was put into play thus.
At times Yogananda cursed others. [Dasgupta 2006:56] Curses are a possibility with yogis. Even more interesting, perhaps, are details that Yogananda left out, probably for the sake of a suave impression on Western readers. I give a few examples below. Still more is interspersed in the text. [Dasgupta 2006:7]
On these pages you get added material, debating issues.
Yogananda and his Guru Did Not Aways See Eye to Eye
Yogananda's autobiography fails to go into all the times his guru Yukteswar absolutely did not approve of his doings. For example, it appears that when Yogananda's guru Yukteswar wished to leave his home, an ashram and savings to an institution directed by Yogananda, they decided to form a legal deed which would connect all their branches of India and America under one institution. The responsibility of preparing the paperwork was given to an attorney. The organization was to have Yukteswar as its founder and Swami Yogananda as its president.
On the day the deed was to be witnessed and signed, they went to the attorney's office. Many witnesses were present. At the time of signing, Yogananda said: "I was really the one who did everything . . ."
Yukteswar was shocked, marched out of the attorney's office and went back home by car, saying, "That is not self-will; that is unlawful conduct." He let Yogananda get away with "unlawful conduct", but it did not please him. The result: Yukteswar's desire of leaving all his belongings to Yogananda was never carried out, no matter what impression Yogananda's autobiography gives. On the day the deal was off, Yukteswar gave up all hope of a future for his institution, we read. [Dasgupta 2006:85]
You may come to read panegyric statements by Yogananda about Yukteswar, that he had foresight, a marked will, that his guidance was unerring, and obliged the cosmos, and the like. Yet Yogananda caused him lots of trouble. Yogananda tells that Yukteswar was of "unerring spiritual insight" [Hos v], was Divine Wisdom Incarnated [Pa 499-501], a master in every way [Ak 99], one whose words obliged the cosmos [Pa, ch. 17 etc.]. But did Yukteswar's words oblige panegyric Yogananda about teachings of the kriya effects as he did? No, not even that. [[More]
So, when Yogananda speaks of Yukteswar and "his unfailing guidance was with him" and the biography shows it was not there, is Yogananda joking above the heads of Westerners? Or is it another cause for Yukteswar to groan "Shame, shame!"? The two of them did not always go well along together, neither could they get a deal for their societies.
Yogananda was sent to the West, far away to a foreign land. That is a challenge. An "autobiography" does not solve the accommodation problems involved in that.
Also, in San Diego lives a yogi that says Yogananda violated the rules of kriya yoga by how he promoted it, by the fellowship and church he set up, and further. It is well worth a look: [More]
"You Say Tomato . . . and Paramhansa"
There are some misgivings about Yogananda's later-added title, Paramhansa. A later change of "Paramhansa" into "Paramahansa" was SRF-made a few years after his death in 1952. They even dared to forge his signature from Paramhansa to Paramahansa. That is fraudulent and should be abandoned. How Yogananda "got the Paramhansa title" in the first place deserves mention:
It was almost nightfall. Before going upstairs, Yogananda went to a drainage spot and began to urinate into the drainage passage. This caught Yukteswar's attention and he joked, "Yogananda has become a 'paramhansa' [great swan, or great soul]!" After urinating, Yogananda quietly said to a man there, "Did you hear? Yukteswar called me a 'paramhansa!'" Later the man laughed and said, "You'll see. Yogananda will one day use this title!" [Dasgupta 2006:84].
Until then he had been known as "Swami Yogananda". But in his autobiography he made it known that Yukteswar had bestowed the title of "paramhansa" on him while he was in India. Strangely enough, close friends and associates there were not aware of this happening, and Yukteswar himself never mentioned it to anyone. Dasgupta could not understand why Yogananda did not inform about his paramhansa title during his first publich speech in America afterwards either.
Dasgupta also tells that Yogananda, at the time he wrote his autobiography, "lived in the world of imagination and spiritual feelings . . . Towards the end, he often did not perceive a difference between the two. [Dasgupta 2006:99]"
Did Yogananda hallucinate? His SRF writes about his final years: "He slept little or not at all; such . . . had been his practice for many years." Ordinarily, in such cases the ability to discern between the conscious and subconscious fails to function, sleep research demonstrates, and many hallucinate even after some weeks of sleep deprivation. [SRF 1958:18] [Sleep research findings]
The "autobiography" was written when Yogananda - swami at least - was in such a state of imaginations and less than ideal sleep patterns. Adding to that: He died of heart failure before he was sixty.
Did Yogananda Meet the Guru Called Babaji?
And as for the autobiography scene where Yogananda meets Babaji, an article written by and a speech of his on the 1st of January 1937 shows that at least up till that time he had not seen Babaji directly, says his biographer Dasgupta. And Yogananda did not again come to India. "Yoganandaji was a man who lived in the world of imagination and spiritual feelings [and] he often did not perceive a difference between the two. In any case . . . there is no believable evidence that the propagated picture of Babaji Maharaj was drawn from having seen the Divine Master directly," writes Dasgupta. [Dasgupta 2006:99]
Did Yukteswar Resurrect?
In Bombay, after Yukteswar was dead, Yogananda tells how Yukteswar appeared before him and taught him things about the beyond. In the biography, what is a full chapter in the autobiography, centres on this:
The pain of not being able to fulfill Yukteswar's last wishes gnawed at Yogananda from within. His heart was heavy-laden. As he was going to sleep at night at his hotel, suddenly, like a dream, he saw Yukteswar physically appear in his room. Yogananda looked at Yukteswar's face and said, "Why are you so disappointed?! Are you offended so much?!"
In a public speech on January 1, 1937, after he went back to America, it seems that Yogananda described the event as the resurrection of Yukteswar. A professional in the psychological sciences might say that the vision reflected Yogananda's troubled state of mind, writes his biographer. [Dasgupta 2006:93]
Here is another scene where Yukteswar - seemingly from out of the blue - appears in a hotel room after his demise. It this case he chases away the devil that attacked Yogananda and made his heart stopl, all according to Yogananda in SRF's own magazine.
Now, do not be surprised at this: "People generally believe what they want to believe deeper down. It has to do with human libido at work. It is better to be cautioned than fooled a lot.
Hopefully, added information clarifies obscure Yogananda content or throws light on it and increases the real value of devotional outpourings of the Americanised guru who insisted, "I often say that we are all a little bit crazy and we do not know it." [Yogananda 2002:270]. Could he really know that he did not know if he did not know?
By W. Y. EVANS-WENTZ, M.A., D.Litt., D.Sc., Jesus College, Oxford; Author of The Tibetan Book of the Dead, Tibet's Great Yogi Milarepa, Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines, [also The Great Liberation] etc.
"I have had the pleasure . . .
I am glad, indeed."
W. Y. EVANS-WENTZ (Excerpts)
The books edited by Walter Yeeling Evans-Wentz are treasures. He is wrongly presented as the author of the Tibetan books. He was their editor. Lama Kazi Dawa-Samdrup rendered/translated them into English. It is stated in the books themselves.
I am deeply indebted . . . PARAMHANSA YOGANANDA, October 28, 1945, Encinitas, California
What do we find when we scratch below the surfaces? Yogananda was indebted before 1945 too, and court cases drained Yogananda and his fellowship. There is a quite long list of litigations. Yogananda escaped one of the cases by going to India in 1935, after giving a sworn-in, false testimony in the court case to get money that he owed, from him. [Truth would out]]
Jon Parsons explains in his book A Fight for Religious Freedom (2010) that when Yogananda returned to India in 1935 after 15 years abroad, he had been sued for 8,000 dollars he had signed he owed, but had failed to pay for five to six years.
Yogananda knew the suit was coming, and on March 29, 1935, had filed papers incorporating the Self-Realization Fellowship Church as a non-profit California corporation. Yogananda signed a General Assignment in a short time, giving the new corporation all his personal property at Mt. Washington, where the SRF headquarter is. He also signed a Last Will and Testament. His personal property now belonged to the church. Now no one could touch the assets that had been assembled over the years. "Where nothing can be fetched, even the emperor has lost his right" (A saying).
Three days later Yogananda gave his sworn deposition in the case, and was soon aboard a train to New York, leaving behind the lawsuit he would lose in his absense. (Parsons 2010:38-41, excerpts)
Many are also indebted to parents and others who paved the way, one way or another.
Yogananda tells that one day his elder sister Uma complained of a boil on her leg, and fetched a jar of ointment. He smeared a bit of the salve on his own forearm.
"Why do you use medicine on a healthy arm?"
"Well, Sis, I feel I am going to have a boil tomorrow. . . . tomorrow I shall have a fairly large boil in this exact place on my arm; and your boil shall swell to twice its present size!"
Morning found me with a stalwart boil on the indicated spot [while] Uma's boil had doubled. With a shriek, my sister rushed to Mother.
Yogananda "I bear the scar to this day."
One night Yogananda cried, "Mother is dying!" and was told she was in excellent health. However, when morning came, she was fatally ill and very soon died. And they boy that became Yogananda collapsed into an almost lifeless state. Years passed.
One may ask, "Was it because of the power of his words again, or was ESP at work in both cases, or one of them?"
[An amulet that was given to Yogananda, later disappeared. Compare an old saying, "All things must pass."]
[One may be enough.]
[Kedar Nath Babu to Yogananda:] "How pleasant to look forward to at least one of the pensions that [at least two-bodied] Swami Pranabananda enjoys! But it is impossible; . . . two bodies are not yet for me!"
Yogananda writes: "I never became a Sanskrit scholar."
[We have to be deep to foster deep suspicions and not get ensnared and duped by tricks.]
Dasgupta, Sailendra. Paramhansa Swami Yogananda: Life-portrait and Reminiscences. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, 2006. - Also: Google Books, partial view.
Parsons, Jon R. A Fight For Religious Freedom: A Lawyer's Personal Account of Copyrights, Karma and Dharmic Litigation. Nevada City, CA: Crystal Clarity, 2012.
Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF). Paramahansa Yogananda in Memoriam. Los Angeles: SRF, 1958.
Williamson, Lola. Transcendent in America: Hindu-Inspired Meditation Movements as New Religion. London: New York University Press, 2010.
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