The bamboo piece
Yogananda: "Amidst uncomprehending criticism from my relatives, I left India on . . . boat. It cruised along Burma and the China Sea to Japan. I disembarked at Kobe, where I spent only a few days. . . . On the return trip to India, the boat touched at Shanghai. There Dr. Misra, the ship's physician, guided me to several curio shops, where I selected various presents for Sri Yukteswar and my family and friends. For [brother] Ananta I purchased a large carved bamboo piece. No sooner had the Chinese salesman handed me the bamboo souvenir than I dropped it on the floor."
The souvenir was sharply and symbolically cracked. Yogananda wrote on the bamboo surface: ". . . now gone."
My companion, the doctor, was observing.
"Save your tears," he remarked.
What Yogananda told the bridegroom on the wedding-night, and how he fell in love
When they returned home, his thin sister Nalini, who was betrothed to a young Calcutta physician, and then married. Yogananda had told her bridegroom on the wedding night that she was a skeleton for his observation.
Later she asked him to help her get plump, since Yogananda had been thin earlier, and now plump. "Train me." She gathered together an armful of medicines and poured them down the roof drain.
As a test, he told her to adhere to a vegetarian diet in spite of numerous difficulties.
After some months he asked: "How plump do you want to be – as fat as our aunt who has not seen her feet in years?"
"No! But I long to be as stout as you are."
He said that in one month she should weigh as much as he. (He was just a bit above 5 feet tall).
The new roundness made her husband fell in love with her. Their marriage turned out to be happy, due to much and good fat.
❋ "Not too little, not too much, that could suit a loving touch."
Further complications set in. Yukteswar says things
Yet, one day a plump Yogananda, learnt that she had got typhoid fever and found her reduced to a mere skeleton again. This time she was in a coma. Blood dysentery has set in. And then the blood dysentery disappeared.
"She will recover," the brother said. "In seven days her fever will be gone."
From a week later she recovered swiftly. But her legs were paralysed. The brother-monk went to Yukteswar for help.
"Your sister's legs will be normal at the end of one month." He added, "Let her wear, next to her skin, a band with an unperforated two-carat pearl, held on by a clasp. . . . Yes, do that."
"Is this an astrological analysis?"
Yukteswar smiled. "There . . . Each man is a part of cosmic man; the inward eye penetrates even to the universal pattern of which each man is an integral and individual part."
A month later, Nalini's paralysed legs were completely healed. She asked her brother to thank Yukteswar, and at that time he said.
"Your sister has been told by many doctors that she can never bear children. Assure her that in a few years she will give birth to two daughters."
She got them, too.
'Science' and science
Some use 'science' and 'scientific' as words with naggingly meagre content. If so, suspect demagogy the sooner the better.
'Science' has an archaic meaning of knowledge of any kind. And if Babaji and others in his lines of kriya yoga uses the term 'science' like that, the archaic use had better be explained, so as to avoid misunderstanding. For in our times (e.g. 2018) the meaning of 'science' is different, and it could pay very well to discern between the outmoded meanings and updated meanings, for starters. If not, there is a risk of being taken in by Yogananda's claim that "kriya yoga is scientific" , and by steps become a propaganda-ridden cult-member. So it may pay to get wise about 'science', in time.
In our days, 'science' means more than just "a body of knowledge of any kind". Today, a science involves systematic study of what characterises the subject of study - in this case it is breathing in and out in one or more regulated ways. Add stringent observations and experiments to that, and voila! kriya yoga may be told of as a science in one of the basic meanings of the term 'science': It could be a branch of knowledge or a body of knowledge in a field (an area) - where the main focus area is a certain way of breathing (with or without additions). Such a science goes for gathering, sorting and organising a special body of information or facts. A coming science may get or develop its own special terms, or jargon - which may be added.
So, kriya yoga as a science in the common sense of the word 'science' today, could well boil down to "breathe in and out; add thoughts that matter to it; apply fit measurements; and then statistics to it; and see if many are willing to accept it as a science in its own right." We are hardly there yet -
There will also be a need to demarcate, that is, to set the boundaries or limits of a kriya science, or separate or distinguish from other areas. Ask to such ends, "What distinguishes the science of kriya from the science of yoga(s) and the science of breath(s)?" For there are many yogas around, and many ways of breathing, and several of them are overlapping. Georg Feuerstein enumerates forty types of often overlapping yogas in chapter 12 of his Deeper Dimensions of Yoga (2011), for example.
Needs to be solved:
Being free with claims
Yogananda's "the science of kriya yoga" is in part a slightly hidden claim that kriya is a science. The ones that claim, are the ones to deliver proofs of their claims. For the lack of good evidence, keep the claims at bey. This suggests "Neither believe nor disbelieve blindly to your loss". Or "Neither accept nor discard a claim without fit evidence."
To study alternative claims (alternative hypotheses, alternative proposals) is fit for basic research as well - for example: "Kriya yoga is an art too."
Alternatively, "the art of kriya yoga"
Most often, there is something disctinctive about an art. "The art of breath" is within "the life-long art of living" as well. Book titles that start with "The art of . . . " or end with ". . . Art" are many. "The Art of Seeing", "The Art of Pencil Drawing," "The Art of Drawing People", and "The Story of Art", "Egyptian Art" and so on, far and wide.
There are also books about what characterises art in itself, its history in various ways, art by regions, art in special areas, like "Medieval Art" and how to teach art.
Although there are hundreds and thousands of books related to art, there is something more interesting than reading about it, just as it may be far more interesting to sing or play music yourself than just to read about music. Ernst F. Schumacher is quoted in a roundabout way that "An ounce of practice is generally worth more than a ton of theory." It is much the same with gardening, in that a practical touch crowns the reading, if any. "An ounce of tasted orange rides above "fruit in theory". The proportions are rarely "an ounce to a ton". They could be better; they could be worse. There is the problem of wrong practice. In such a case to stop on the theory level and not go further into harmful practice is good.
So far, so good? Where it is not fit to investigate a claim, discarding it bluntly is an error. Yet the scientific mind refrains from believing in claims that are free from evidence. Yukteswar and Yogananda both say that stand for science. Well, fit ways of dealing with claims are part of it.
So-called science could well be a subterfuge
Judged from the lack of evidence and severe inconsistencies in the basic premises that Yogananda and Yukteswar state, stating a preliminary verdict is simple: "So-called kriya science is not scientific. It might be called 'the art of subterfuge' just as well, or instead.
First, Yukteswar claims that a certain amount of kriya breaths equal 12 million years of natural development, crowned by the Acme of human life, which to him is termed Kaivalya, or Aloneness (Yukteswar 1972). You should wonder where he gets all that from, as evidence is absent. Also worth noting: humans are not known to have lived on Earth for 12 million years, so how can Yukteswar prove his natural-development claim? The bet is he cannot.
Second, Yogananda goes to America and changes the claim: He says the same amount of kriya breaths as Yukteswar speaks of, equal "only" one million years of natural development, crowned by "cosmic consciousness". This claim, too, seems too far-fetched to be of any substantial value. [Lots of soapy scams]
The reasons for not accepting Yogananda's claim are many: One: it is not attested in even a moderate way. Two, both Yukteswar and Yogananda and their two gurus state in different places that the world is illusory. Those four guru claims contain the same illogic as is shown in a story about twelve men of Gotham,, where each forgot to count in himself. So when for example Yogananda goes on and on to tell the world is an illusion, a dream only, and so on, repetitions are no good proof that it is so. Further ask, "Where is he, his gurus and their illusion teachings as parts of the world, if the world is unreal?" Again, leave it to those who launch an outright stupid claim to prove it, even a good bet is they cannot. Note as well: In an illusory world, development has to be illusory too. Also mind there is no proper evidence and no valid proof of anything in an illusion.
Third, Yogananda's claims of development in a world illusion spell illusory development. Neither the twelve million postulated years of development for Fulfilment (Yukteswar) nor the one million years of postulated development for reaching "cosmic consciousness" (Yogananda) add up. Such an inconsistency is also marred by the four SRF gurus' message that the cosmos is illusory (but neither they nor messages in the world are unreal.
We need to investigate the surfaces too. Bother false and insane teachings may do harm to many who succumb to them. Yogananda nonsense can serve as a trap to catch gullible guys and so on.
Suggestion: Don't claim a lot without good evidence, and refrain from using terms that do not (yet) comply with what marks adequate scientific handling - all of that could be wise. Also worth nothing: The door is open for research on kriya yoga as a subject shared by several other disciplines. EEG studies show in part some interesting things about it. There are other ways to study the kriya yoga of Yukteswar too, and some such ways may well be combined (cf. Kasamatsu and Hirai. 1969)
Fit research failed Yogananda too
Yogananda might have instigated effective investigations into kriya yoga. He could have focused on and ardently encouraged research on it and its effects. But the sad fact is that he did not follow up many of his repeated of "science" and "scientific" with proper scientific activity by and large. As a result, information about his simplified kriya may be all lacking. SRF says letters from members back up their claims that it is good, but there are fallacies with that approach. It is fit for a scientific mind to doubt whether their anecdotal evidence (letters from members) is of much value unless statistically sorted, maybe grouped into several layers and sorts, and evaluated both qualitatively and quantitatively. In such ways, letters may be used if there is a will and a way.
Such findings are interesting.
Simple breathing and several claims without backup
Among other things, kriya is Sanskrit for such as act, work, do, act, react; undertaking, practice, religious rite or ceremony, activity, doing, means and the sign Aries, and the word has many other meanings (Sanskrit Dictionary for Spoken Sanskrit). In ancient Sanskrit texts the word 'kriya' supposedly does not refer to kriya yoga. A good sign it is so, is that most translations of old Sanskrit texts where the word 'kriya' appears, translates it into something else than 'kriya yoga', which perhaps was unknown to many then. Judged from chapter 34, the term 'kriya yoga' and the use of 'kriya' for 'kriya yoga' went public with Shyama Lahiri as late as from the autumn of 1861.
Now, the writers in the kriya yoga line of Lahiri may read 'kriya yoga' into the term 'kriya', (do, act etc.) in several old Sanskrit texts. They are thereby "skating on thin ice or ice that may not be there". It is because it suits them to give the term 'kriya' a meaning that seems not to have been there in the first place. If so, it reflects a need to give kriya yoga scriptural prestige. [From ancient works]
Mystique around an old word aside and plain facts to the fore: The core kriya yoga method is the simple pranayama method called ujjayi. It is one of the public, common pranayama methods of hatha yoga.
Don't believe everything you are told
Learn how to avoid lots of fallacies and you may
Yogananda says kriya yoga is simple. The basic breathing method of it, ujjayi, is easy. But what is added to it by some transmission lines may be strenuous and time-consuming.
"Elijah, Jesus, Kabir and other prophets were past masters in the use of kriya or a similar technique, by which they caused their bodies to dematerialise at will."
There is no accurate, Biblical evidence of it all.
"The kriya yoga which I am giving to the world through you in this nineteenth century," Babaji told Lahiri Mahasaya, "is a revival of the same science which Krishna gave, millenniums ago, to Arjuna, and which was later known to Patanjali, and to Christ, St. John, St. Paul, and other disciples."
Is it? There is no Biblical evidence of the claim. For the lack of good proof, don't resort to believing a lot, for believing as others tell, could be to your long-time harm, for example as a sectarian.
"Forgotten" but used continually in many traditions . . .
Kriya yoga is referred to by Krishna, India's greatest prophet, in a stanza of the Bhagavad Gita: "Offering inhaling breath into the outgoing breath, and offering the outgoing breath into the inhaling breath, the yogi neutralises both these breaths . . ."
That Gita verse needs a biased interpretation to be understood as speaking of kriya yoga, or kriya yoga only. Besides, a description of how core kriya yoga is done, shows that what is described in the Gita verse hardly applies to it at all.
Yogananda holds that "due to priestly secrecy and man's indifference, the sacred knowledge gradually became inaccessible," but where is the evidence? To claim a lot without good evidence is risky business. It appears that Yogananda repeatedly seeks to impress on a rather loose foundation. [Agree?]
In the book Transcendent in America Lola Williamson (2012) points out:
According to SRF tradition, these techniques, other than the energization exercises, were known in ancient India but were forgotten. In actuality, the techniques have been used continually in many yoga and tantra traditions throughout India . . . (Williamson 2010:58, emphasis added)."
As the Yogananda biographer Dasgupta writes,
"Behind every effort by Yogananda was the root purpose of attracting men and women to kriya yoga, no matter what the means." (2006, 101, emphasis added) .
Dasgupta could quite easily be taken to mean that Yogananda was an unprincipled guy. And yes, Yogananda was found to make false and untrue charges in a law-case. That is documented. [More] He fought for money but without good evidence - to the contrary, simply put.
Here Yogananda goes again. A deflated balloon is hidden -
"St. Paul knew kriya yoga or a technique very similar to it, by which he could switch life currents to and from the senses. He was therefore able to say . . ." writes Yogananda.
What did he say? The updated NIV translation has: "I face death every day – yes, just as surely as I boast . . ." (1 Corinthians 15:30-34, passim).
"Face death and boast" every day are not good pastimes. "Trust a guru of false and untrue money charges in court if you must, but seek to make sure," might help some.
Watch out for spiritual boasters of no known limits
"Kriya yoga is an instrument through which human evolution can be quickened," Sri Yukteswar explained to his students. Quickened to what? To see all that live are of a golden, shining egg, maybe?
He who can be perceived, who is subtile, indiscernible, and eternal, shone forth, desiring to produce beings of many kinds from his own body.
A fine point from the following verses is that humans are created. The Self-existent Lord has become males and females. Human beings live in a succession of ages, yugas. Duties of people differ.
Also, The Manu Samhita goes on to tell tha the most excellent beings are animated, intelligent humans. The learned intelligent ones are even better, those who recognise and keep this knowledge and act on it and know the Spirit of all. (96-97, contracted)
Yogananda claims get tiresome for lack of evidence that they matter. A suggestion is within reach: Stop reading proofless, grandiose claims; do it to your own benefit as soon as you can and stick to it. This is no detriment in yoga, for higher yoga is for rising beyond claims. It is called transcending.
Before venturing further: Statements are either true or not true, and statements are either verified or not verified. Among claims that go unverified, some might be true anyway. In cases where we cannot say if a claim or conjecture is biased, unfair, untrue and so on, we are dealing with "insufficient evidence" for concluding well. If so, we reserve our judgement, keep conclusions at bey (in suspensio) as best we can. It is all in the art of dealing with claims and assertions. It helps a scientist.
Then, for the lack of clear evidence, we have a right to judge probabilities. We may ask, "How likely is this and that? Under which circumstances, possibly?" Statistics is amply used in this area of activity. Findings are often uncertain, but within reasonable margins a tentative conclusion may be forthcoming, even where the evidence is "inconclusive".
For the lack of certain evidence and probably evidence, it may help being reserved. The Confucian Analecs say: "In matters which he does not understand, the wise man will always reserve his judgement." (Analects, chap. 1)
Yogananda: "Before I had joined the monastic order, Sri Yukteswar had made a most unexpected remark.
"How you will miss the companionship of a wife in your old age!" he had said.
Yogananda: "The boys responded wonderfully." We still ask for good evidence that they did. Grades may help in determining such things.
Yogananda: "In the [school] I had to play father-mother."
"One day my father arrived . . . I had hurt him.
"Son," he said, "I can feel for you!"
Yogananda's pet died
Yogananda: "We had many pets, including a young deer. I allowed it to sleep in my room. One day I fed the pet earlier than usual. Later one of the boys gave the baby deer much milk."
"In tears, I prayed piteously to God, and later the deer stood up and walked a little. But that night the deer came to him in a dream, saying:
""You are holding me back. Please let me go; let me go!"
"All right," Yogananda answered in the dream.
He awoke at once, and cried out.
The well fed deer dropped at his feet, dead.
Yogananda: "The deer's life was over. All sorrow left me."
The baby deer showed it was too disgusting to go on as Yogananda's pet; have you thought of that? Other beings, however, sought his company:
The Ranchi school grew. Branch schools were established at Midnapore, Lakshmanpur, and Puri.
Pranabananda "with two bodies" came visiting in one body. A young lad sitting beside Yogananda side asked him.
"Sir," he said, "shall I be a monk?"
Pranabananda answered, "When you grow up, there is a beautiful bride waiting for you."
The boy did eventually marry.
The body of Pranabananda showed definite ageing.
"I have left Varanasi permanently," he said, "and am now on my way . . ."
Months later Yogananda met one of Pranabananda's close disciples. He told that Pranabananda had established a hermitage near Rishikesh. One day he helped with the cooking of great amounts of food. The hermitage fed about 2000 guests. After the feast, he said in a whisper "I shall be reborn shortly."
While the bewildered crowd thought he was meditating, the disciples touched him, but the body was no longer warm.
To be born is a fate that many share, and some marry
During a picnic lunch under a tree, one youth asked Yogananda if he would become a monk.
"You will be forcibly taken away to your home, and later you will marry."
His parents arrived to take him away, and some years later he married.
The boy Kashi was about twelve years old. He asked Yogananda: "What will be my fate?"
"You shall soon be dead."
"Will you find me when I am reborn?" He sobbed. For weeks afterward he pressed Yogananda doggedly.
"Yes,"Yogananda promised. "I will try."
Kashi's father arrived in Ranchi. He wanted him to see his mother and then return. Kashi saw no choice but to go.
During the few days the boy had been away, he got contaminated food, contracted cholera, and passed on.
Yogananda: "How was I to tune in with him, among so many vibrating lights of other souls? . . . The slightest impulse sent by Kashi would be felt in my fingers, hands, arms, spine, and nerves."
Walking with a few friends one morning in the crowded Bowbazar section of Calcutta there was response. "I am Kashi; I am Kashi; come to me!"
The thought became almost audible.
"It looks as though I have located Kashi!"
I began to turn round and round.
"Ah," I exclaimed, "Kashi's soul must be living in the womb of some mother whose home is in this lane."
It was Serpentine Lane he spoke of. At a certain house there he knocked at the door. The door was opened by a servant. Her master came down the stairway from the second floor.
"Please tell me, sir, if you and your wife have been expecting a child for about six months?"
"Yes, it is so."
The astonished man believed Yogananda's story.
Later, the parents had named their child Kashi. Yogananda in time directed him to a Himalayan master.
A man unhypnotised by flattery
Yogananda rendered: "I met Rabindranath soon after he had received the Nobel Prize for literature. He mixed colloquial and classical expressions. His songs showed little regard for the accepted literary forms.
"When a trainload of pandits came to congratulate him with the Nobel Prize, he said, 'Is there possibly any connection between my award of the Nobel Prize, and your suddenly acute powers of appreciation? I am still the same poet.'"
Yogananda abstracted: "Tagore and I discovered – outdoor instruction, simplicity, ample scope for the child's creative spirit."
Tagore told, "I fled from school after the fifth grade." That is why he opened a school under the shady trees and the glories of the sky.
The following day, after lunch, Yogananda bade the poet farewell.
"Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way . . .
Addes: A tough look
Believing greatly, you risk getting much confused. Example:
Yogananda comments in a note on this verse in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras: Tapah svadhyaye svara pranidhanani kriya yogah - Yoga Sutras 2.1. Yogananda holds: "In using the words KRIYA YOGA, Patanjali was referring to either the exact technique taught by Babaji, or one very similar to it."
There are reasons to say this Yogananda interpretation goes against the same verse in Demystifying Patanjali (2012), though: "Accepting pain as purification; study of the scriptures and introspection; openness to the divine will and guidance, and acceptance of them: these constitute the practice of yoga." (p. 86, emphasis added)
In his commentary to the verse, Venkatesananda says: "Kriya means action." Translators tend to translate it similarly, as "action, work, doing, rite" and much else, depending on the context. "Kriya yogah" is, simply put, a work to do, what to do, aimed at cleansing the soul (tapah). If ascetism (tapa) is painful, it fails.
I approach this work after struggling hopelessly . . . I do not know Sanskrit as such . . .
What are we faced with here? Yogananda and his close disciple Kriyananda do not see face to face in everything. Moreover, Kriyananda says, "I have worked with five different, well-known translations, several of which were based on other well-known commentaries." (p. 12). He translates the Yoga Sutras' 'kriya yogah' into 'practice of yoga', he too. There are lots of translations where 'kriya yogah' is translated into 'practice of yoga'. Perhaps none but ardent kriya yoga proselytes read 'Babaji's kriya yoga' into the Yoga Sutra verse; and it has to do with the the context.
Now, Yogananda's "retro-claims" that Patanjali's words 'kriya yogah' refer to "either the exact technique taught by Babaji, or one very similar to it." To prove it should have been his problem, and supposedly not yours or anyone else unless you are an editor. Most translators refrain from backing up kriya yoga by back-translating a term for a pranayama-grounded system (kriya yoga) that was made public from 1861, grafting it onto ancient texts. Rather, they use one of several accepted or common translations of the word, rather. ◦The Sanskrit Dictionary of Spoken Sanskrit shows them.
"The Hindu scriptures" - but not all of them - "declare that those who habitually speak the truth will develop the power of materializing their words," writes Yogananda and all his helpers. NOTE: Some scriptures may do it.
Yogananda writes of Manu. Find a translation: [Manu Samhita] (Bühler 1984)
Bühler, Georg, tr. 1984. The Laws of Manu. Delhi: Banarsidass (Reprint from Oxford University's 1886-edition).
Dasgupta, Sailendra. 2006. Paramhansa Swami Yogananda: Life-portrait and Reminiscences. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, or Britannica Online.
Feuerstein, Georg. 2011. The Deeper Dimensions of Yoga: Theory and Practice. Boston: Shambhala.
Kasamatsu, Akira, and Tomio Hirai. 1969. "An Electroencephalographic Study on the Zen Meditation. " Psychologia, Vol 12: Kyoto: 205-25.
Kriyananda, Swami. 2012. Demystifying Patanjali: The Yoga Sutras (Aphorisms). The Wisdom of Paramhansa Yogananda. New Delhi: Ananda Sangha Publications.
Niranjanananda, Swami. 2009. Prana and Pranayama. Munger, Bihar: Yoga Publications Trust.
Roberts, Moss, tr. 2001. Dao De Jing: The Book of the Way. Laozi. Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press.
Satyananda Saraswati, Swami. 1981. A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga and Kriya. Munger: Yoga Publications Trust.
⸻. 2001. Kundalini Tantra. 8th ed. Munger: Yoga Publications Trust.
Smith, Carolyn D. et al., eds. 2003. Hilgard's Introduction to Psychology. 14th ed. Belmont: Thomson Wadsworth.
Venkatesananda, Swami. 2001. Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Rishikesh: The Divine Life Society.
Yogananda, Paramahansa. 1998. Autobiography of a Yogi. 13th ed. Los Angeles, CA: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1971.
Harvesting the hay
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