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Yogananda Was Born and Died, but Said Otherwise

"I was never born, I never died." - Paramahansa Yogananda affirmation, 1945
Not Paramahansa Yogananda in Encinitas
Yogananda taught the world is illusory, and with it, his appearance, fellowship and teachings too, alas.

Baffling Paramahansa Yogananda Param(a)hansa Yogananda's affirmation from 1945, his autobiography of 1946, and his passing in 1952 do not work well together.

During the guru's thirty-odd years in the United States, he became one of the most prominent advocates of yoga in its history. Large portions of Yogananda's influential autobiography is on-line here: [Link]

The guru founded what became Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) after he came by boat to Boston on 19 September 1920. On Christmas Night that year he got his first US follower, a Boston Rosicrucian that was also a dentist. The fellowship was headquartered in a hotel with eighteen rooms atop Mount Washington in Los Angeles in 1925, and became an American church in 1935, and later drifted sectward, it seems to me. Between 200 and 2005 about one third of the monastics of Yogananda's Fellowship Church left the premises. Many of them were disappointed with their conditions, fare, monastic supervisors and leaders. "He knows where the shoe pinches who wears it", is a saying.

  • Kriya yoga is freely taught outside Yogananda's SRF. Another page contains some information the matter.
  • Changes in the guru's teachings have been detected and spelled out. There are disagreements about how long-term useful his changes were. Disagreements are in part due to attitudes, in part to facts or effects. There has been very little research on the effects of kriya yoga, and quite likely no fit research at all into the effects of Yogananda's modified kriya yoga. The guru's hype about his kriya goes unverified so far.
  • Some organisations and persons publish Yogananda material outside of SRF, because large parts of that material are in the public domain today, and some are published by others than SRF.

The Yogananda-founded fellowship may have cult streaks nowadays, at least according to former members, and also to some Christian organisations in the United States. But not all meditation teachings are a big mess. Maharishi says:

Here is ... a cordial invitation for you all ... Why suffer when you can enjoy? ... let the days of misery and peacelessness be over. [Maharishi Quotations]

Yogananda's Sovereign Christ Teachings

Yogananda says there are many christs around, and names several christs in his line of kriya yoga as he finds it fit. He also claims his fellowship of many christ-masters is perfectly in harmony with the teachings of Jesus. But no, Jesus of the New Testament warns against other Christs than himself. And Yogananda's faith-filled fellowship says the yogi's guidelines are without flaw, for they have removed some of them . . . My foot! Check Matthew 4:18; 23:28; 24;4,5,11; John 10:9,10,11; Matt 23:8 in the matter - and other passages - so as to draw your own conclusions about hypocrites and deceptive christs, and so on.

Be smart It can be easy to check Bible passages online, even if not fun. For example, write Matthew 23:28 in the search box of your browser, and see what appears. To view a whole chapter, use such as Matthew 23. Among Bible versions, NIV is an OK one. - And so on with other Bible passages as you please.

The fishers know that fished fishes are happy to get a bite of bait, but soon they stop living, as a quite general rule. Yogananda, man-fishing in America, first said he brought death, but later changed it to "tremendous happiness". In the light of this and the last point above, how allied is his fellowship to Jesuanism and its call for a right judgement [John 7:24]?

We may consider something else Yogananda said for the sake of knowing better how to deal with discrepancies on such a great scale:

Paramahansa Yogananda citation Constructive doubt is intelligent questioning, and fair, impartial examination. Those who cultivate this attitude never prejudge an idea. Nor do they accept as valid the unsubstantiated opinions of others. They keep an open mind, and base their conclusions on objective tests. They seek above all to verify those conclusions by their own experience.

This is the proper approach to truth. [Paramahansa Yogananda]

Going for Clarity of Thoughts

When negative forces predominate, a well-timed retreat is necessary in order to stay on the path to success ... the best tactic often is to keep still, lay low, and hope that the moment passes ... Be extremely careful ... the withdrawal can be effected quickly and smoothly ... The key is [in part] taking advantage of the element of surprise." [From the Book of Changes (I Ching), hexagram 33]

In the light of this and life happenings too, clumsy ballyhoo on top of swindling won't solve all things full well, as "Timing is critical, as is positioning after realignment. Considerations of personal security are critical."

It is hard to give other than general hints, blunderbuss counsel, to unmet, involved persons. However, a cool retreat might bring on recuperation from victimising slogans or demagoguery and to the essential conditions that are hinted at in hexagram 30, for example, "The great man continues the work of nature in the human world. Through the clarity of his nature he causes the light to spread farther and farther and to penetrate the nature of man ever more deeply." The tricky part is how: Specifications may not fit all and sundry, as all people are not alike. Conditions differ too.

Fit Passages

Yogananda's yoga teachings are said to actualise the Christianity of Jesus. There are alarming snags in such a stand. Also, the guru found it fit to interpret many Bible passages to make them suit his sort of Hinduism. You find plenty of thought-evoking evidence here: [Link]

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Yogananda's Christ-Inflation: Big Titles on Lots of Legs?

How many Christs?

The gospel of Matthew warns agaubst false Christs and false prophets that do great signs and miracles to deceive. (Matthew 24;24,26)

All the same, Yogananda felt free to mention many male christs - relatives and many acquaintances. Here are some of them:

Paramahansa Yogananda citation "Babaji ... Yogi-Christ of modern India". [Pa 305 and opp. 304]

"Prophets like Christ and Lahiri Mahasaya". [Pa 283n] (2)

About Babaji and Christ: " ... these two fully illumined masters ... one without a body". [Pa 307]

"Yukteswar, a modern Yogi-Christ". [Pa 194] (4)
      "Lahiri Mahasaya ... and many other Yogi-Christs had blessed the soil." [Pa 95]

"Babaji ... deathless guru". [Pa 346]

Jesus did not say, "If anyone tells you, "There he is, emerging from a deep mine" - believe it," but we won't go into that here. We won't develop an all-round gloomy outlook either. However, in searching for reliable knowledge, it is often good to ask things like:

  1. What are the relevant biblical characteristics of a christ (messiah), if any? There are books about how a healer from Galilee was canonised after his execution, and the Hebrew messiah concept (king), was torn out of its original context until it grew and soared like a balloon high in the sky. Geza Vermes has something about it here: [Vermes summaries]. (cf. Ehrman 2014)
  2. How many of the necessary characteristics are observed in guru christs?
  3. How right does it appear to be to try to reconcile the contrastive and opposed claims of Jesus and gurus, trying for a unity that seems absent in the first place (impossible too)?
  4. Is a man gone bad because someone else and hardly himself wants him to be known as a Christ, firmly linked to "original Christianity as taught by Jesus?
It can be hard to tell.

Bluntly, idolising titlephrenia can be hard to sell outside the customary, old traditions. A strong urge to show off by great titles may go against the American wisdom proverb: "Big names often stand on small legs." [Ap] Part of luxurious or exotic-looking flaunting customs may smack untidy to persons who think that "empty barrels could make a lot of noise and havoc as they are kept rolling", or that "balloons don't go deep". We don't think Yogananda should have come on so hard in Christian terms, because "fair play is a jewel."

Words such as these too (see near top) should mean a lot if you decree to be in unison with original Christianity as taught by Jesus, while much of what you actually form or live out, speaks a lot to the contrary.

We should be able to play fair. And that should be thought fit by gurus too. Here is a hard one: In the Bible, Jesus doesn't talk of having more than one master, himself. What is more, he never ever goes for guru christs or yogi christs like Mahavatar Babaji. Jesus refers to one Christ, one Master, and mentions false Christs and false prophets are like hungry wolves. Because Paramahansa Yogananda taught Jesus is one of many Christs and gurus of SRF, and also claimed to teach "original Christianity as taught by Jesus Christ" it appears he talked mud in the name of the Lord, and it helped him to gain a formidable following ...

How do you deal with teachings by gurus who are called Christs by Yogananda and thus equal to Jesus many times? That is a problem.

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Guru Teachings

"Establishing dogmas on top of your cranks and coercive impulses could bring on an unproductive fare"

It would be wise not to let Yogananda's cranks, propagated and transmitted to SRF and further, get the best of you and ensnare you. For example, you do not have to cry copiously for Divine Mother as told by Yogananda through SRF, to be a success in yoga.

In science and otherwise, pay attention to methods, that is, to how ideas are had and tentatively verified in the first place (it corresponds to basic research too). How great-looking ideas are applied or made use of may be interesting after that (applied and mastered principles).

Also, neither lore nor individual searches must be strictly ritualised and dogmatised, the guru minds "in his right mind".

Paramahansa Yogananda citation I wanted never to be so dogmatic that I would stop using my reason and common sense. When I met my guru ... he said: "Many teachers will tell you to believe; then they put out your eyes of reason and instruct you to follow only their logic. But I want you to keep your eyes of reason open; in addition, I will open in you ... wisdom.". . .

I had steadfastly refused to join any society because I didn't find in them demonstrable truth. But when I found my guru and this path, and saw through my own experience that it worked ... [Yogananda, Ak 113-14]

No more blind believing. - Paramahansa Yogananda [Ak 456]

This signifies that "You can see for yourself." In the light this, learning to "halfway suspect" in a scientific and polite way and inspect should be nothing to be afraid of, nothing vicious. If you don't have to believe blindly, you are free to inspect. Learn to inspect well. Good yoga is essentially of methods - doing things of yoga and contemplation (meditation) rather like an athlete who trains himself or herself year in and year out, perfectioning many details, and not really putting much value in faith alone. I can recommend a sane method -

Enjoy God, is a Yogananda teaching

Jesus said "I am the life", etc. And Solomon said: "I commend the enjoyment of life, because nothing is better for a man under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany him in his work" (Ecclesiastes 8;15). It looks good when it happens. Compare with Yogananda's:

Paramahansa Yogananda citation India mastered the scientific art of God-realisation. I have come to teach you India's spiritual science. ( ...)

A state of joy. That state is God. ... Without being happy you will not even be able to find Him. ... The happier you are, the greater will be your attunement with Him. Those who know Him are always happy, because God is joy itself. - Paramahansa Yogananda [Ak 110]

Strictly speaking, it was not "India" who mastered such things, but God - according to the guru's dictum that "God is the Sole Doer." [See Ak] Two more of the gurus of SRF teach that.

The guru equals God with deep inside knowledge (gnosis); ample, fine gladness; the essential deep, inner life; a certain love (prem); and a subtle light is at times into it. In "The Mystery of Life and Death", Yogananda speaks of "lightless but all revealing soul-light" on the other side of the portal of death also. [1]

Paramahansa Yogananda citation "The purpose of life is to attain ... tremendous happiness." - Paramahansa Yogananda [Ak 445]

"I don't take life seriously at all." - Paramahansa Yogananda [Ak 219]

"Don't be like those who, day in and day out, take life so seriously they are afraid even to smile. ... enjoy life." - Paramahansa Yogananda [Ak 353]

"In ... eternal joy ... nothing else matters". - Paramahansa Yogananda [Ak 439] [More Yogananda quotations on joy, fun, love, the devil, and the greatest enemy]

Thus, at least in public, the SRF gurus could stand for "have fun far and wide if you're up to it", and without sinning, we may add. Rise to poke fun if you are in the right place at the right time, to make your best qualities recognised and appreciated in tune with rationality and major ancestors too - It might improve one's lot and lead into handy deals too, in time, maybe lovable encounters too.

Backwards Teachings - Don't Believe Them

Paramahansa Yogananda citation The Lord can turn the motion picture of creation backward ... in an eternal now. - Paramahansa Yogananda, [Say 57]

Breathe in while you say such as "Won lanrete", and then reverse it too - The guru decrees that God can play the world backwards. Implicitly, Yogananda finds that "It ain't over when it's over". Or perhaps it should be "revo s'ti nehw revo t'nia ti".

Stay with the guru's idiotic reversal idea: Think of how eating would be, and a toilet visit. The food would come out of your mouth, and your evacuations into your rear end, straight from the WC water! You start in life by being senile, perhaps, and end as a newborn baby. The end is sure: into a vagina that closes after you - and for some: into a belly incision that likewise closes!

But in between the start and end of life you walk backwards without seeing. You don't notice impedients in your path and act to avoid them; you avoid them and only then see them. Your free will seems out of function all along. Major life aims will be reversed, and you no longer have to strive to become like a little child to stay in tune with Yogananda and Jesus, for sooner or later childhood and its ready laughter (with the inward breath) will come to you too. Those who learnt how to laugh awkwardly on the inward breath might now laugh differently one more time. But there is more: Those who were rewarded in this life, would have their rewards and status withdrawn in the reversed scenario that Yogananda speaks of. Oi-oi-oi.

Still, be warned: In this country you are hardly free to teach thoughtlessly, loud-mouthed and long and rather alone. If you're not expected to be an immigrant, you might be fetched and carried off to some funny farm. Better be on your guard. [More]

But let us put such inferior concerns aside, so that we can link up to basic ideas that Rudolf Steiner promoted. He said:

Steiner This beholding of our experiences in backward direction has a special value for spiritual training: it helps us disengage our thinking from its accustomed habit of holding on to the outer, material and sense-perceptible events ... The pupil needs this liberation if he is to make his way into the supersensible world. He will find too that by this freedom his thinking and ideation are strengthened, and in a thoroughly healthy manner. It is accordingly good also to review other things in backward order — a play, for example, a story, a melody, and so on [Rudolf Steiner, in Occult Science - An Outline, its chapter 5: "Knowledge of the Higher Worlds"]

Yogananda Stability

Gari Melchers. Mother and Child, c.1920. Modified section
A mother could handle what Yogananda could not.

"You must stand unshaken amidst the crash of breaking worlds," said Paramahansa Yogananda from the balcony of his Mount Washington Center to a gathering below. He used a loudspeaker. [Mas].

Another time Yogananda was asked by a mother to hold her new-born baby just a little. He did, but suddenly he couldn't hold it any more, he just couldn't do it. He almost dropped it and had to hand it back at once.

"This child was a cruel murderer in a previous life," he explained. And so was he! he had said on other occasions [Ak 222; Psy 111-12].

A mother could manage what he could not one day. So-oo?

Yogananda did not say he had to stand unshaken, only that others had to.

"Don't do as I do; do as I say" has its variations.

Soap-operatic canon may disappoint, and it has its twists and turns.

Some things are easier said than done.

We may all have some ups and downs - perhaps.

Weaklings quotes

This life is not for weaklings. - Yogananda.

You may have come across this guru saying and wondered what he meant by it, considering how weak he felt about holding a baby for a little while. Was he up to it?

Yogananda said more about weaklings too, statements that have been recorded by his fellowship, dated, and placed in a wider context. But first consider that what someone actually does, can speak louder than the words that come out of his mouth. So consider how a guru behaves while you are trying to track down what he could have meant by this or that saying.

One problem is that isolated sayings - fragments - typically lend themself to widelyvaried interpretations. That holds true for Yogananda's weakling quotation above too, unless we find more "meat" around such a bone, or better: other bones to connect with the one found, which in this case is the Yogananda saying about weaklings above.

Such off-hand detective work reminds quite a lot of guessing how an animal could have looked like when you have a good bone from it only. If you have more bones than one, you may feel safer that you are not completely in the dark, and not dangerously amiss either.

In his autobiography, Yogananda paints a glorified picture of his guru Yukteswar - calls him a very advanced kriya yoga christ disciple of Lahiri Mahasaya. So we may study Yukteswar's doings and sayings there, through what could be biased Yogananda eyes. And Yogananda has his angle, which is to inspire awe by big words far and wide, after all. He and his monastic followers surely made much of what common Americans thought highly of. Moreover, the guru changed some of his traditional Hindu attitudes to reach them and adjusted to the guru's Christianity by so many words, and faultily too. You will find some simple word analyses helpful to detect such patterns of communication on his part.

A Yogananda quotation about Yukteswar: "I often reflected that my majestic master could easily have been an emperor or world-shaking warrior had his mind been centred on fame or worldly achievement." [ch. 12, last paragraph]

Another quotation deals with how Yukteswar treated Kumar, who was a young villager who came to him for yogic training. First, Yukteswar was very lenient with Kumar and showed an attitude of unwonted indulgence to this favourite of his. Later Kumar deteriorated, Yogananda tells, and:

Master summoned me and brokenheartedly discussed the fact that the boy was now unsuited to the monastic hermitage life.

"Mukunda [Yogananda], I will leave it to you to instruct Kumar to leave the ashram tomorrow; I cannot do it!" Tears stood in Sri Yukteswar's eyes. [ch 12.]

That is not standing unshaken among the crash of breaking worlds either. Furthermore, it does not have to be true that Yukteswar behaved as a weakling toward the villager Kumar - Much of significance might not have been adequately revealed or presented by Yogananda in the matter. And if the portrait that Yogananda paints of his guru seems ambivalent, inconsistent, and even tut-tut, so be it. There is also a biography on Yogananda to compare with. It is written by a fellow Yukteswar disciple. It contains other revealing incidents. A few of them are here [Link] [Psy]

One more SRF guru shows other standards than the one Yogananda talked for from his balcony.

Yogananda reveals more of how little composedly he and his guru behaved earlier too, even long after they had been given kriya yoga - Yogananda describes how he begged and moaned on the floor in front of a distressed Mahendranath Gupta: "I fell moaning to the floor ... Abandoned in some oceanic desolation, I clutched his feet ... Shamelessly gripping his feet, deaf to his gentle remonstrances, I besought him again and again." [Autobiography, ch 9]

That is not standing unshaken. And to revert to Yukteswar, once he could not compose himself when a friend of his died. He trudged back to his own guru, half-dazed, and when he arrived there, he blurted out something before he broke down and moaned openly. He was advised, "Yukteswar, control yourself. Sit calmly ..." [Autobiography, ch 32]

Certainly Yogananda and Yukteswar did not tackle all these incidents measuredly; did they? A question remains: What is a weakling? The dictionaries tell that a weakling may be one of weak character or weak mind. It may be a softy who is insipid and foolishly, weakly excessively sentimental. An antonym among several is "stalwart".

Now for Yogananda pep talks:

Paramahansa Yogananda citation If you cannot renounce at least some of your bad habits, moods, and materiality for Him, you are a weakling; and God cannot be attained by weaklings. Mental strength is absolutely necessary in order to find God. [Dr 235]

Only weaklings give in to environment. [Dr 316]

It is wrong to say we are mortals, whereas we are essentially made of immortal stuff. It is the Truth that we are Gods and it is wrong to call ourselves weaklings. [Yogananda, East-West, March—April, 1929, Vol. 4—2, "Spiritual Recipes".

This spirit cannot be had by weaklings. It is possessed only by the valiant. So be powerful. Before disease and poverty strike you down, make the most of the opportunity you have now ... God doesn't expect you to do spectacular things, but He does want you not to be a lazybones. ... Whatever your present circumstance, make the best of it. [Dr 100]

COMMENT. These guru intermezzos coupled with words by Yogananda may give some people impressions that remind of spitting against the wind of contrary evidence given. Anyway, Yogananda says God cannot be attained by weaklings, and weaklings give in the environment. Many would say that adapting to one's environment - its climate, and much else - reflects human intelligence, shows smartness. And there may be upright and good ways of doing it, such as digging a good and sustainable well to get crops and more food in arid or semi-arid areas - but we will not go into all that.

Make the best of Yogananda's teachings too, as part of your environment. There is a difference between adjusting sensibly to the environment and giving in to it. Selling yourself means you are on thin ice. The problems come when there is little of worth to sell.

And if you think yourself a weakling, remember the examples of Yogananda and his guru. Yogananda said that weaklings could not "reach God", but he did. One could not hold a baby, and the other could not himself dismiss a boy from training when it was called for, and so on. After you take such standards into account, there seems to be no need to call yourself a weakling - that would be wrong at any rate, says Yogananda above.

Was Yogananda William the Conqueror?

To have been a cruel despot is nothing to boast of. Yogananda said he had been William the Conqueror, but we have no fit evidence that an incarnating Yogananda had actually been William. We have cult-looking claims he was, based on what the guru had "dreamt' he had been, so to speak.

We need to found our lives without dropping a likable and maturing fare. It is better than blind belief.

The ability to stand alone and trust yourself is often undervalued. Scientists need to be much independent in order to maintain unbiased thinking and so on. The need to be firm and much self-assured is there. A certain deep trust is like a riverbed that ideas may gradually come to course through in time. The better part of those ideas might suit you and help you.

The baby killer story should be sipped along with other stories that reflect what truly has happened. For example, Yogananda claimed he had been William the Conqueror in a past life, that is, a despot of grievous sins, stained from rivers of blood and inflicting many injuries on others, according to old sources and historians.

The Former William became Me, said the Yogi
William the Conqueror: Medley
Medieval Snorre on William the Conqueror
What Cult Members and Others Say

If you mur, "The barbarious, mutilating king should neither back up nor feel superior to - eh - other murderers," you have shown a bit independence right there! Self-esteem enough for one's own judgements appears to be quite a problem to some.

Contents


Paramahansa Yogananda elucidation, Literature  

Ehrman, Bart D. How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee. New York: HarperOne, 2014.

Ak: Yogananda, Paramahansa. Man's Eternal Quest. Los Angeles: SRF, 1975.

Ap: Mieder, Wolfgang (main ed.), Stewart A. Kingsbury, and Kelsie E. Harder: A Dictionary of American Proverbs. (Paperback) New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Ay: Yogananda, Paramahansa. Autobiography of a Yogi. 1st ed. New York: Philosophical Library, 1946.

Dr: Yogananda, Paramahansa. The Divine Romance. New ed. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1993.

ED: Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica 2015 Ultimate Reference Suite DVD. London: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2015. - Or Britannica Online.

Ha: Yogananda, Paramahansa. Autobiography of a Yogi. 12th ed. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF), 1981.

Mas: SRF: Self-Realization Fellowship: Golden Anniversary. SRF. Los Angeles, 1970.

Pa: Yogananda, Paramahansa. Autobiography of a Yogi. 11th ed. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF), 1971.

Psy: Dasgupta, Sailendra. Paramhansa Swami Yogananda: Life-portrait and Reminiscences. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, 2006. Pdf: yoganiketan.net and at Google Books, partial view.

Say: Yogananda, Paramahansa. Sayings of Yogananda. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1958.

Tq: Cohen, M.J. The Penguin Thesaurus of Quotations. Penguin Books. London, 1999.

Notes

  1. Swami Yogananda. "The Mystery of Life and Death". Los Angeles: SRF: East-West (Magazine), 3-6 September - October 1928.

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