Site Map
Yogananda and Fast Thinking
Section › 4   Set    Search  Previous Next


Reservations   Contents    

Prefer proficient thinking, advance carefully, and you may be able to alter many circumstances. The Chinese Dharmapada:

Though one might recite a thousand words,
If their meanings be improper,
It's better to recite one with essential [meaning],
Hearing which, thoughts will come to cease.

Though one might recite many sutras,
What's the use if one does not understand?
[It's better] to understand one dharma verse,
Practising which one may attain Enlightenment.

- The Chinese Dharmapada 16. 1, 3, slightly modified (Dhammajoti 1995)

Adding to it: "Study both claims and clams before you eat them." There are good reasons for it. Handling help can be had, and the careless may fare badly.

Yogananda about Fast Thinking

Yogananda A deep thinker puts forth about fifty thousand [thoughts a day]. I have found that by concentrating it is possible to produce as many as five hundred thousand thoughts in a day." (Yogananda 1982, 330)

No evidence? Discard the claims and put them away. That is a solution. Or risk downfalls through credulity. That is a bad solution.

It is the same with mushrooms - in unfamiliar places, be careful by what you pick up and carry home in the basket. Some are so poisonous that they kill the inexperienced. All unfamiliar ideas are not bad, and all mushrooms in the wild are not bad either, but some are. How can you know which are edible and good to you without experience? You consult far and wide and take part in a practical course. The seriously interested may get an education too, a formal education.

Even though the simple solution above is not as elaborate and complete as desirable to a studied person, it may help against becoming a victim of poison and duping - Consider that talking big and without good evidence was a good part of the oratorial Yogananda's domain, and freaking gullibility may have to be addressed also.

A court trial and a lesson

You do what you can - face the facts: Yogananda's claim of thinking 500 000 thoughts in a day are without excellent proof. Should we trust an unverified claim? "Don't count my word for anything," said Yogananda (Dietz 1998). Besides, there was a court trial in California where the judge James MacLachlin came to the same conclusion about Yogananda words as Yogananda himself, and found Yogananda's money charges against a former fellow worker false and untrue, and judged against Yogananda. [A court case where Yogananda failed]

We need to decide who we will trust. How can we heed Yogananda's words about not counting his words for anything if we should not trust him? It may be a conundrum . . . .

The rest of this article shows very basic ways a researcher handles great-looking claims in more elaborate ways.

Being fastidious about evidence is good

What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Not only what a person does and says, but also the "wheels" he sets in motion. Yogananda's organisation once quoted Emerson's "An organization is the lengthened shadow of a man" in the Self-Realization Magazine decades ago. Yogananda set up an organisation, one day regretted it as as a great blunder, and former monastics there find it is a cult (◦SRF Walrus Backup; Singer 2003). Between 2000 and 2005 about fifty disgruntled SRF monastics [monks, nuns, novices] stopped being affiliated with SRF and left the SRF premises (Parsons 2012:171; Williamson 2010).

The guru Paramahansa Yogananda came to the West in 1920 and remained for some thirty years until his death in 1952. He talked much, at times claiming much that was and is free from proof and evidence.

Interestingly, he rallied against some common adaptations to life as well - his freaking opinion-guidelines on sex, work, sex, sleep, clothing and diet are flaunted dogmatically as flawless guidelines in Self-Realization Fellowship, where unsound dogmatism has got out of control. One may end up as a goof of invaded privacy and sabotaged freedoms as a devoted member.

Against being dogmatically lorded over, we may gain much by fastidiously asking for proof. Otherwise we risk being taken in, being all too gullible and inexperienced in the ways of plumbing the schemes and nets about. Good people find it hard to believe that others are scheming when they tell impressive things and resort to rituals, ceremonies also. To some, that is regression, to others it may not be so. Compare George Gurdjieff's stand. [A summary]

How to deal with great-looking claims from the mouths or pens of seeming authorities? Expert handling is derived from how researchers behave.

If someone claims a lot, or something, deal with it. First, believe nothing, or as little as you can live with, and do take to heart that the burden of proof rest on the claiming one. It is not all right to let it be the other way round.

If no judicious and relevant proofs are given, the fit thing is not to believe, but not to automatically discard the claims either. Just put them in the large, figurative drawer labelled "Unverifed claims", or "Unsubstantiated claims so far" or at best "The evidence is inconclusive". All these three possible labels tell you would do well not to believe the claims in that drawer.

And why so? Because much untoward sets in through belief that is not verified, not substantiated, not well documented. Belief is rather often a culprit - that is, when people believe different (mutually exclusive) things about one and the same thing, beliefs that cannot all be true and well reconciled, then most of the beliefs are misleading, and culprits.

To avoid becoming a victim of believing firmly, stop believing. It has its ups and downs, depending on how indoctrinated you have become. He may not be the most indoctrinated fellow who considers that he might be so.

So there are some initial steps in handling claims. Find out who firm claims serve by checking who benefit, where the money tends to go, or prestige, for example. It might even help against getting indoctrinated, if sound scepticism is developed and adhered to. There are many books for students about similar issues, including fallacies of arguments. A list is at the bottom of this page: [Being matter-of-fact may be developed]

Oftentimes great-looking and bad-bossy saviour claims serve others, maybe to your long-range detriments or harm if you fall victim to them or plots that are linked to them. Cults serve that fare far and wide, so there is good reason to beware.

So ask if a claim or tenet is interesting, relevant and valid. If you memorise these three, you may save yourself lots of problems and live well. Buddha advocates this approach: Sayings against dumb believing.

Further details

Yogananda A deep thinker puts forth about fifty thousand [thoughts a day]. I have found that by concentrating it is possible to produce as many as five hundred thousand thoughts in a day." (Yogananda 1982, 330)

Study the claims. Are there things that may be interesting, relevant and valid, or may something of interest be derived from them, something valid or relevant? Good research or good study often seek to address these basic issues.

If the claim seems interesting, then ask for evidence, good evidence. In the sciences, evidence is at times by counting, at times by stating something rather obvious, and almost always by drawing in other notable research works on the subject, to take part in the common, scientific enterprise. If no proof is given, try to shelf the claim at once, for it may be time-consuming and irritating and costly to try to prove the claims of others. It is better to let others deliver proofs. While they try, years may pass, years that we can use to our benefit.

If we get extremely interested, we start to handle the claims to reach a verdict, a solution or some explanation. As fair research is often interfered with by extreme interests, it can be hard to gain the needed neutrality and matter-of-fact proficiency that delivers. And then we do as best we can, and go as far as we can, guessing as little as we can, and stating the facts if we find any.

And then there is time to consider - tossing and turning the claim a bit may fit in some cases.

Yogananda told in effect that he could think approximately 5,8 thoughts per second for 24 hours on end, or faster still if he found he needed a nap during those hours. He also had to count his thoughts somehow to know how many he had thought. Thus, there is more to his undocumented claim than what meets the eye - and "undocumented" is a serious word. It signals: "Put it away in a drawer" somehow. Then be free, believing nothing if others have provided no good proof of anything - yet leaving some room "on top" for the unexpected, unreckoned with. That could be wise in a way too.

Thoughts that matter are thoughts to mind. What is thought? Malcolm Rae holds that thought is patterned awareness, which may be helped by biomagnetic devices too.

Ide What is thought?

It is a proportion, or a complex of proportions. Thinking is the activity of manipulating proportions and complexes of proportions, and a thought is a "crystallised pattern" of proportions at any moment in that process. (Tansley 1977, 68)

Psychologists are open to the mystery that thoughts in the mind are reflected through patterns of neuron networks somehow. Be that as it may, quality thought and health-serving thought could well be needed, not mere thought-bulk. One quality thought may take the mantra meditator to the other side. That is a deep secret of Sri Vidya or mantra-meditation. If you learn a proper mantra to meditate on aptly, it could be good for you and you could "get far, far, although you are here (Brooks, 1992)

With Transcendental Meditation, or TM, you may get help to develop too. See the research into the averaged effects of TM. Average statistics suggests "it tends to help. Odds are for it and not against it." Learn to gauge the odds and adjust expectations. [Effects of TM: Research findings] And learn how to go for good thoughts rather than many thoughts. [More]


The goodness of mantra meditation like simple Transcendental Meditation rests on replacing vagaries and other thoughts with one selected thought, and make good use of it so as to transcend (go beyond) thinking altogether.

Beginners in TM are instructed to sit comfortably and think-repeat one thought for about 20 minutes twice daily. Many benefits of the practice are well documented. Some find them delightful.

So "Simplify well!" could be a fit design principle. It has many variants and many exceptions. "Keep it simple, scientist, or KISS . . ." can be more or less aligned to it. "Keep it short and simple", "Keep it simple and straightforward" and "Keep it small and simple" all suit the acronym KISS.

And then there is Occam's Razor - a problem-solving principle. It states that among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected.

Assume litte, go for evidence that matters, and your goings may get good.


In the words of the Kaushitaki Upanishad: 'It is not thought which we should want to know: we should know the thinker.' (Mascaró 1965, 18)

Yogananda does not say his "500 000 thoughts a day" means many different thoughts. Yogananda could have thought "1-2-3-4-5-6" on and on, once a second, and after 24 hours it could have added up. By thinking a repeated series of numbers or syllables he could think and hold count of his thoughts more easily. Otherwise he would have more work to do . . .

A few simple thoughts that will save a person may be of more value than 500 000 that never amount to much, for example.

Such givens had better be taken into account - and also that thought of good quality often takes time, even lots of time - and good study too -

Quality ideas should favour quality living.

Rudolf Steiner and the power of thinking

Great meditation takes a person to the well-spring of thought, says Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. How? Think a sound often, and it may "lift you up" - if the sound is well chosen, that is.

Now what is meant by 'thought'? In common language, the word 'think' covers numerous and diverse psychological activities. Why not discern between fit, good, savourly, proficient thinking and other forms of thinking while we are at it? To be able to think one clear thought must be better than fifty thousand foolish ones. Hence, we should take the quality of the thinking into account too, and focus on the helpful, rewarding ideas to the preference of the rest of them, so that we can do well in the long run. Isn't that a nice idea? And what is more, one does not fail if one learns to ride on some thoughts (sounds) back home and go on positively from there. That is deft use of thinking. Maharishi is far from the only one to advocate good use of one's thinking ability for spiritual ends. Dr Rudolf Steiner is another, for example. [Wikipedia, s.v. "thought", "idea"]

Dr Rudolf Steiner He who is unwilling to trust to the power of thinking cannot, in fact, enlighten himself regarding higher spiritual facts. [Rudolf Steiner, Theosophy]

As we have been into above, Yogananda talked of "much" (quantity) to the preference of "good" (quality) at other times too. Here is another example from his mouth:

Yogananda If I had a thousand mouths, I would speak through them all to convince you. (Yogananda 1982, 111)

He did not have a thousand mouths, and did not get it either. By that he probably escaped much tooth-ache and dentist treatment.

But 'convince' has a bad taste to it among rational beings, and sound scientists. "Present the relevant facts, arguments, probe well, and conclude as tentatively as may be fit," may be a better approach than stupidly trying to convince. 'Convince' means such as (1) "to make somebody and/or yourself believe that something is true", and/or (2) "to persuade somebody to do something".

Compare with Einstein: The sculptor Jacob Epstein tells this story:

Einstein When I was doing Professor Albert Einstein's bust he had many a jibe at the Nazi professors, one hundred of whom had condemned his theory of relativity in a book.

"Were I wrong," he said, "one professor would have been enough." (Fuller 1970)

Thus, what helps many not be to impress-convince others to make them conform believers in something or someone, but to present ideas fit for rational handling and careful consideration.

The way of scientists if things go well: practical, handy solutions

A scientist tells it is good to present given facts or measures, and hope that others are able to deal with the material as fit the best and most shapely premises, find out what fair facts or data allow for, and be tentative if the data do not allow for any clear-cut conclusion yet. If things go well, some practical solutions may be reached eventually. Study Einstein:

Einstein Einstein once declared that his second greatest idea after the theory of relativity was to add an egg while cooking soup in order to produce a soft-boiled egg without having an extra pot to wash. [More Einstein anecdotes]

Advocating sound measure

Back to the "much and many" of Yogananda:

Ancient Greeks advocated sound measure, metron. At times it suggests being balanced. If you have a thousand mouths with false teeth in all of them, you may not need to go to the dentist so very often. But if the teeth are your own and most of them are in need of treatment, you may come to realise that one mouth is a cause of much pain anyway.

There is another good lesson here:

An evangelist was exhorting his hearers to flee from the wrath to come. "I warn you," he thundered, "that there will be weeping, and wailing and gnashing of teeth!"

At this moment an old woman in the gallery stood up. "Sir," she shouted, "I have no teeth."

"Madam," returned the evangelist, "teeth will be provided." (Fuller 1970)

Even though Yogananda once said that God could give you a third set of teeth (but will He?), he himself did not get a new tooth after he broke one on a visit to India. Instead he got a gold tooth, his biographer Sailendra Dasgupta tells:

On his return trip to India in 1935-36, in Gorakhpur, Yogananda "bit into a sugar-cane and accidentally cracked a tooth from the lower mandible [jawbone]. Everyone became flustered by this and Swamiji was eventually taken to the finest dentist in the city, who pulled the broken tooth out and replaced it with a gold one. No news was sent to Calcutta about this. After Swamiji returned to Calcutta, the gold tooth caught the writer's eye, and when he asked about it, Swamiji put his right index finger on his lips and said, "No negative talk!" Later he fell into a pensive mood and said, "God told me, 'Just like this, one day I'll snatch your life away from you." (Dasgupta 2006, 83)

It stands out that God did not even give him one third tooth. Beware of those who do not do the walk, and get ample reasons to say, "Me and my big mouth."


Paramahansa Yogananda and Fast Thinking, good thinking, mantra-thinking, Literature  

Brooks, Douglas Renfrew. Auspicious Wisdom: The Texts and Traditions of Srividya Sakta Tantrism in South India. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1992.

Dasgupta, Sailendra. Paramhansa Swami Yogananda: Life-portrait and Reminiscences. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, 2006.

Dhammajoti, K. L., Bhikkhu. The Chinese Version of the Dharmapada. Kelaniya, Sri Lanka: University of Kelaniya, the Postgraduate Institute of Pali and Buddhist Studies, 1995.

Dietz, Margaret Bowen. Thank You, Master. Nevada City, CA: Crystal Clarity, 1998.

Fuller, Edmund. 2500 Anecdotes for All Occasions. New York: Wings, 1970.

Mascaró, Juan, tr. The Upanishads: Translations from the Sanskrit. London: Penguin, 1965.

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.

Singer, Margaret Thaler. Cults in Our Midst: The Continuing Fight Against Their Hidden Menace. Rev. ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003.

Speake, Jennifer, ed. Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs. 6th ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015.

Tansley, David. Dimensions of Radionics. Bradford: Health Science, 1977.

Watson, Burton, tr. The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu. New York: Columbia University Press, 1968.

Williamson, Lola. Transcendent in America: Hindu-Inspired Meditation Movements as New Religion. London: New York University Press, 2010.

Yogananda, Paramahansa. Man's Eternal Quest. New ed. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1982.

Yogananda, Paramahansa. Journey to Self-realization: Discovering the Gift of the Soul. New ed. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 2000.

Harvesting the hay

Symbols, brackets, signs and text icons explained: (1) Text markers(2) Digesting.

Paramahansa Yogananda and Fast Thinking, good thinking, mantra-thinking, To top    Section     Set    Next

Paramahansa Yogananda and Fast Thinking, good thinking, mantra-thinking. User's Guide   ᴥ    Disclaimer 
© 2008–2018, Tormod Kinnes, MPhil [Email]