Lola Williamson writes in Transcendent in America: Hindu-Inspired Meditation Movements as New Religion that the widely known Paramahansa Yogananda (1893–1952) experimented with fortune-telling, calling a spirit to enter his brother, and hypnotised him. The guru Yogananda was keen on hypnotising others too. (2010, 71, 57)
What does the Old Testament decree that the circumcised ones are to do with spiritists? It says: "A man or woman who is a medium or spiritist among you must be put to death. You are to stone them." (Lev 20:27) Jesus vouches for this handling in Luke 16:17 and Matthew 5:17-18: The Law of Moses is valid down to its tiniest detail, he teaches (Matthew 5:18-19).
The Law does not say the spiritist among the Hebrews had to be a Hebrew himself. As for Jesus and his teachings, he emphasises in Matthew 10:1-8; 15:24 that his teachings and ministry, salvation and Kingdom are for Jews only. Luckily for Yogananda - a Hindu swami among American Christians - he was not stoned to death or executed as a war-magic criminal or persecuted for witchcraft either. Besides, the prominent Bible scholar Geza Vermes states:
During his days of preaching, Jesus of Nazareth addressed only Jews, "the lost sheep of Israel" (Matthew 10:5-8; 15:24). His disciples were expressly instructed not to approach gentiles or Samaritans (Matthew 10:5-8). On the few occasions that Jesus ventured beyond the boundaries of his homeland, he never proclaimed his gospel to pagans, nor did his disciples do so during his lifetime. The mission of the 11 apostles to "all the nations" (Matthew 28:19) is a "post-Resurrection" idea. It appears to be of Pauline inspiration and is nowhere else found in the Gospels (apart from the spurious longer ending of Mark [Mark 16:15], which is missing from all the older manuscripts). Jesus' own perspective was exclusively Jewish; he was concerned only with Jews. (Vermes 2012)
"Spurious" means false.
The non-Jewish Yogananda survived and maintained his spiritist interests later too, Lola Williamson sums up. (2010:71).
As a youth, Mukunda [Yogananda] learned how to hypnotize others and was also able to induce spirit-possession. He often used his brother to accomplish his experiments with fortune-telling, calling a spirit to enter his brother, who would then answer Mukunda's questions about what another person was thinking or about future events or how to heal a person. At times, the experiment backfired when the spirit refused to leave. Mukunda apparently took pride in his occult talents and, when asked to prove himself, used his younger brother in an unpleasant way. To demonstrate his hypnotism abilities for officials at a nearby school, Mukunda asked his brother to eat dirt, telling him it was sweet and delectable. "I began to devour the clod with the greatest pleasure and said,'It is delicious!"' his brother reported. Then Mukunda told him it was dirty and distasteful and his brother immediately vomited everything he had just eaten. . .
There is more uncanny Yogananda in Sailendra Dasgupta's Yogananda biography Paramhansa Swami Yogananda: Life-portrait and Reminiscences (2006).
The story of the cook
Once when Yogananda was still named Mukunda Lal Gosh and lived in his father's home, he became angry with the family's cook from Orissa. He took the cook's left palm and put it up against the wall, extended from his body, and counted "1,2,3,4,5,6." In an instant the cook's hand became locked to the wall and could not pull himself off no matter how he tried. He begged, "Please release my hand!"
But the sorcerer boy said, "Stand here just like this." Then he went out to play with his mates and forgot about the whole thing.
Evening came. The work in the kitchen area was at a standstill. People in the household started to wonder where their cook was, and finally found him up against that wall. The cook tearfully said who had done it to him.
The news went to the father of the sorcerer. He cried out, "Where is that dastardly son of mine?"
(Dasgupta 2006, 22. Retold by extracts, mostly)
Before Yogananda went to America he was living at the Ranchi Brahmacharya School. One night he screamed out from his room. He said that a cot penetrated through his closed door and a horrific being was seated on that cot. From that time on a student would sleep in a separate cot in Yogananda's room. Yogananda said that if he slept alone, he saw many different beings, and some of the times he woke up in fear. (Dasgupta 2006, 112)
So, the student's mere presence prevented a ghost from entering through the door when it was closed, a feat that Yogananda himself was unable to do -
For many years Yogananda feared ghosts. But the worst ghosts Yogananda met might have been unrecognised to him and many more, if his aged guru diagnosed it right.
A ghoul on Yogananda's back - a revealing tale
When Yogananda was in his forties, a Bhihnu Charan wanted Yogananda to stop his heart at a gathering of millionaire merchants to demonstrate an extraordinary and inhuman ability and thus clear the way for financial funding. After the attempt, Bishnu Charan disappointedly said that Yogananda had "ruined everything. He wasn't able to stop his heart from beating."
Nothing about this failure was made public at the time. However, one evening Yukteswar commented about his disciple Yogananda, "He has a disease – where a ghoul comes and sits on his back. First there was Basu-ghoul, and now Bishtu [Bishnu]-ghoul is sitting on his back."
Hearing this directly from Yukteswar's mouth, the writer of the Yogananda biography was completely dumfounded – speechless. However, he does not tell how much that was required for that. It should be taken into account if the Yogananda biographer was an easily baffled man.
(Dasgupta 2006, 83).
Ghoul: a malevolent spirit or ghost; a person interested in morbid or disgusting things . . . In Muslim legends, ghouls are evil demons thought to eat human bodies, stolen corpses or children, and then taking the form of the person most recently eaten. Such demons chould change their shape but had one unchanging feature: donkey's hooves for feet.
The essence of Yukteswar's diagnosis of his famed disciple is that Yogananda was a possessed soul, and not in a good way. Two unanswered questions in one: "Did Yogananda have a ghoul on his back for the rest of his life, or did the ghoul have him?"
Before reaching a conclusion, consider that Yogananda and SRF teach that Yukteswar is infallible, although simple facts speak against it. [Yukteswar's Eden lore]
Was Yogananda ever set free from any guru-diagnosed demon-possession? I lack sources that tell of it. Why take Yukteswar's Yogananda diagnosis to heart? May it be of value that Yogananda writes in the SRF published Man's Eternal Quest (1982) that Yukteswar was a master in every way, and in Autobiography of a Yogi also that the words of Yukteswar obliged or bound the cosmos? Not if it is demon talk, or untrue talk, but they uphold such a silly faith in SRF. They believe there are goblins in heaven too. (Yogananda 1982, 99; 1998, chap 17 etc and chap 43, p 355). Maybe we should say, "- in one or some of them"? Also, in the SRF published book, The Holy Science, Yogananda writes of Yukteswar's "unerring spiritual insight" (Yukteswar 1972, v). And SRF announces in the wake of Yogananda that Yukteswar is a Jnanavatar, "Divine Wisdom Incarnated. (1971, 499-501)
It comes to the fore through Yukteswar's diagnosis of the then famous Yogananda that the worst ghosts may not be the ones you fear the most, but those on your back as they eat into you, so to speak. Look for the donkey hooves on the suspects . . . and make sure. In folktales Old Nick (the devil) is likewise found out by a hoof.
The ideas that Yogananda was possessed by a demon, or that a demon had eaten him while pretending to be him since, are they not valid for SRF people? How may they cross the diagnosis by a "master of unerring insight" all along as if it does not matter?
Back to Yogananda, or should we say an old ghoul?
Yogananda was an eager hypnotist. Hypnotism to control others and make them believers and so on, is not recommendable in Indian spiritual disciplines, but regarded as bad, or not good enough. By applying his will power, looking at others, and by touching other's bodies Yogananda used hypnotism on young boys. As a swami of the Ramakrishna Order says with reference to that look: "One has to be very careful [and not look directly at a hypnotism-eager guru]."
Who are the Ghosts?
"It takes one to know one" has its uses, but so has "You don't have to be ill to be a doctor." We often need to balance the different outlooks around.
Jesus said to angry ones who would stone him, "Ye are gods?" (Jn 10:34-36). There are also ghosts around, tells Yogananda. Below is some more of what he tells about that.
A Summary of Yogananda's Hollywood Talk on Ghosts
In a Hollywood talk in 1945, Paramahansa Yogananda (1893–1952) tells that not a few persons have claimed to have had various experiences with ghosts, devils, witches, and vampires. A woman he knew, believed a vampire was sucking her blood away each night, and died prematurely.
There is another world, and those who live in it, are "ghosts". There are also tramp souls who occasionally succeed in entering and taking possession of an unstable and weakened person's body and mind. But such tramp souls cannot stand the high vibration of Giant Mind deep inside, that is Essence, also called spirituality. Therefore, attune inwards to get it better.
When you die, you may wake up inwardly and see that you are encased in a luminous body, one of light and energy (the astral body), and may roam around. You rejoice to find that you can hear, you can see, you can touch, and that your new form has no bones and no flesh that can be hurt. Good behaviour on earth draws one to one of the higher spheres of light, peace, and joy. Evil deeds attract one to a lower, dark sphere. Further, "If you concentrate deeply at the spiritual eye you can view with inner vision that luminous world in which are living all the souls who have gone on to the astral plane," says Yogananda.
Essentially we are mind-and-body encased souls that are clothed with central functionings on the mind level, an emotional gamut, and the physical body. The way inwards is a way out too. Then,
When souls shed the astral body and go into a mental form in the causal [mental] world [level of being] they are not non-entities, but they do become truly invisible. When all causal desires are overcome, one becomes a liberated or free soul.
Here comes the clou:
Before you took on this physical form you were a ghost, and when you die you will become a ghost again. We are also ghosts when we sleep, for in sleep we are not aware of ourselves as a physical body at all. Since you are a ghost when you are asleep, and you will be one after death, why be afraid of ghosts? . . . that is what you are going to be.
Added Yogananda Sayings
At night and when we die we become ghosts. We must learn to know our ghostly nature, our invisible, powerful nature. - Yogananda (1982, 269-82, passim)
Your will is invisible, your central sense of "I" and meanings, all the higher aspects of yourself too; invisible to ordinary vision, but still exist. "Ghost" is not a perfect term for these sides of ourselves, but if it serves to take your fear away or tone it down: good. Yogananda concurs:
Your being has two sides - one visible, the other invisible. - Yogananda (1982, 167)
The good idea is an optimal field of tissues and energy, and why not an optimal physical body too?
Dasgupta, Sailendra. Paramhansa Swami Yogananda: Life-portrait and Reminiscences. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, 2006. Also: Google Books, partial view.
Vermes, Geza. From Jewish to Gentile: How the Jesus Movement Became Christianity. Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR) 38:06, Nov/Dec 2012.
Williamson, Lola. Transcendent in America: Hindu-Inspired Meditation Movements as New Religion. London: New York University Press, 2010.
Yogananda, Paramahansa. Autobiography of a Yogi. 13th ed. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF), 1999.
Yukteswar, Swami. The Holy Science. 7th ed. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF), 1972.
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