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Avatar Animals - Misfits?

Avatar means about "someone divine descended into a human form (or lower), wholly, partly or by some qualities". An avatar animal is said to be better than most animals, then. In this article the fabled Paramahansa Yogananda (1893–1952) tells of an avatar squirrel – and a lion that stopped being a vegetarian when it came through being sheepish.

To develop much and far beyond your group's conform ways and perhaps "Nature's dog-eats-dog design", could make us seem like misfits. That is a danger for deviating guys, both plus deviants and minus deviants, as Abraham Maslow understands these things (1987, Chap. 11). See for yourself. May editorial "freaking" be OK? It depends. If there is fit and well measured self-assertiveness, it had better stem from your depths. People who are happy to learn ◦Transcendental Meditation tend to get more self-assured.

On the other hand, assertiveness had by pep talks and self-help books offer, contains a drawback in it: being other-directed, such as by a coach. Pure self-awareness and self-assertiveness from within may still be within reach, but other-directed assertiveness tastes of otherness. That is to say, prefer the source within if you can find it and make it flow on your behalf.

As for repeating suggestive phrases like "I'm a lion," someone who is not a lion could be just as well off without repeating it a lot. There is a really bad newspaper article or two from Miami that go into the effects of the swami Yogananda's affirmations got in Miami.

Also consider that lions are gang killers and that squirrels are nest-building rodents. Humans who want to emulate or be them what is the matter with them?

What follows is a Yogananda story which looks suspiciously similar to the fable The Plover who Fought the Ocean. The main difference is that while the fable is a fable, Yogananda claimed his tale was a true tale.

Master Squirrel


Once an old hermit lived on a brink by the sea at a place where a mother squirrel fostered her young. The hermit was so fond of this company that he was reborn as a female squirrel to look after youngs, he too (this has gone too far already).

Great waves took the holy squirrel's nests and cubs one day she was away looking for eggs and other food for them. She saw that the big sea had taken them, and started to threaten the sea. "Bring me back my children, or I will dry you up with my bushy tail," she said.

The sea gave no particular reply. So the squirrel mother started to dry the ocean by soaking her tail in the sea and letting the water drip off on dry land – again and again. Little did she consider that the water would seep and run down into the sea again. But the sea got so alarmed by the squrrel's determination that it swelled up a huge wave where the cubs were floating, and put them all beside her on the brink – and lo, they were all alive and well again, after being drowned and gone for many days. (#1.1)

[The story is in Swami Yogananda's Praecepta Lessons, 1934, and also in Crystal Clarity ◦Magazine, December 15, 2010]


In ordinary cases the one who is bereaved has to learn to face the facts. Several stages of recovery has to be passed through, usually step by step. Master Squirrel may have been in denial. At any rate he did not come to terms with what had happened.

Yogananda claims that the squirrel was holy and an incarnation of an unnamed, liberated sage. This Yogananda-claimed sage did not mind becoming a squirrel either, according to Yogananda. Do you have to believe him? Not according to:

Yogananda Don't take my word for anything . . . please remember. - Yogananda, (in Dietz 1998, "Master's Teachings")

Do not stoop below what you are, by romantic drivel that hardly holds water.

Invincible Lion of the Self

A cub of the Divine Lion, somehow I found myself confined . . .
day after day I bleated.
I know now that I am a lion of cosmic power. . . .
I shake the error forest with reverberations . . .
I bound through the jungle . . .
devouring the little creatures . . .

[Excerpted from Whispers from Eternity, 8th ed. 1959: 226-27]

Don't be mistaken: Yogananda recommends vegetarianism.

There are some problems:

1. Another fable in the background

The post mortem edited Yogananda outpouring looks a lot like the Indian fable about a lion cub that was reared among sheep and thus became docile until another lion smelt it. Assert: "A fable is a fable is a fable" until you are pleased.

2. Substantially post mortem edited

The book Whispers from Eternity, which the fragments are taken from, was first published in 1929. His fellowship, SRF, made huge changes to some of his poems and other texts after his death. [Much, much more]

3. A consequence: Diseased (The Lion Woman in Miami)

Sound measure is appropriate. An article appeared in the Miami news in 1928: A superintendent of a hospital for nervous and mental diseases told a court of law in Miami that a woman entered his hospital on January 31 and refused to eat unless assured that her food "had come in contact with the swami" [Yogananda]. The superintendent testified that she "imagines she's a lion, and attempts to roar and conduct herself as a lion does." She said the swami told her he was a lion and held Miami in his grasp.

Yogananda said she came to his meetings on request of her husband who asked that she be cured of sleepwalking. When the "cure" is not better than the disease, beware - Yogananda told he wanted Americans to improve and get more self-assertive. Then he should have told the woman the truth: that he was not an animal, and that she was a woman. That helps proper assertiveness too. [More]

The Value of Sane Authenticy

The idea of individuation is held by notable psychologists like Carl G. Jung, who in turn inspired Abraham Maslow. Carl R. Rogers keeps a similar goal for good development, and refers to the fully functioning person.

"A burning bush" said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM [or I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE]. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: "I AM has sent me to you.'" [Exod 3:14]". "I am" and the sense of "I" are twins of a sort, in that you cannot feel your "I" without being that I. However, Yogananda teaches differently, saying individuality is something everything has only seemingly. He advises against believing him blindly too.

Yogananda Don't take my word for anything. . . . please remember. - Yogananda (in Dietz 1998, "Master's Teachings")

Everything in creation has individuality. - Yogananda (in SRF 1957, 5; cf. 85)

In the ultimate experience, one does not lose his Soul or individuality. - - Yogananda "The Second Coming of Christ", East-West, September, 1933 Vol. 5-11.

To bring into being a diversified creation, the Lord had to bestow on everything the appearance of individuality. - Yogananda (in SRF 1957, 8)

However, being is not seeming. Being genuine counts a lot.


Buddhism advices against killing. Some have the choice. It is a part of this "song" about animal avatars and such things that the ancient text Manu Samhita preaches that ill-behaved persons may degenerate into specific animals for specific sins.

Lions are gang killers marked by ambush and slaughter. Beasts and birds of prey in the wild may not have it. Wild animals who swerve very much from the over-all plan for their species may get a whole lot of trouble, looked on as oddballs until they come to a glorious end - if they are lucky or avatars.

On the other hand, pet animals may profit from the help they get from humans, and may not have to kill their food themselves.

Swerving from all-natural - pros and cons

Swerving from common behaviour patters might bring progress, boons, blessings, but is risky in a conform setting, and animal settings are marked by brutal ranking business and pecking-based order. Group animals – lions are – hardly have much leeway today, and the same goes for conform humans. Lions kill in gangs, as if by nature compelled. How can a lion evolve away from that while on earth? And by not doing what is deemed natural?

Good ones could try to live out what is handy and a little unnatural in certain basic, regulated ways without doing themselves harm. In the long run it could help inner development. If so, even if it is not totally in accord with natural living, it allows for having houses and homes, utensils and other goods, and fine food too. Even cows, sheep, goats, buffalos and so on may be milked . . . Just because it is very common does not mean it doesn not go against "raw" natural designs somehow, in some way or other.

Development-aiding deviations from nature's main designs are hardly any "either-or" ways, but more of "both-and" ways, and many of them can be gentle enough to last throughout life. Buddhas gentle Middle Way of avoiding extremes is an example of how to think, talk and act so as to foster fit development along with adaptations to nature that are OK.

Tenable efforts may be had through a system

Sound ways of "going against raw nature" can be cultivated. However, "If it is not the least pleasant, drop it for now." Another: "If it is not tenable, drop it." A third: "If it jolts being peaceful and modest, drop it," and so on. Besides, Buddha's basic teachings do not take freedom away, and not self-help efforts either.

Fit schooling and many other forms of tapas (penance) are not excluded from sound means and ways that can amount to assist growth in spirit, which is by and large the big goal of ascetism. Yet if tapas makes us loose all zest in life, it is too severe.

A danger to deal with

What helps spiritual development of awareness, may not be part of what common people regard highly or venerate, for to be truly spiritual can look like "freaking out". Abraham Maslow has found a bit similar features surrounding outstanding persons, in that they are not all very much accepted by those around them, their non-conform moral may be experienced as a threat by others, and further. Maslow has written books about outstanding individuals, also called plus deviants. [More]

A good idea: "Freaking" cleverly and beneficially from what others may say is "natural" or "normal" might assist individual expression and spirituality, and neither "groupies" nor wild animals may be able to do it for a long time. For one thing, deviating from one's group is a danger, and not hunting for prey may be lethal to meat-eaters. It is quite ruthless in the wild. A group member who deviates, may find the group stops communicating with him or her, tries to drive him or her out, attacks and goes even further. There is a risk of shrinking stature, which may or may not be combatted.

Solid skilfulness is advocated by Buddha in the Gentle Middle Path of avoiding extremes. Sound education can be fine. Good learning methods assist a fuller or better use of the mind. But as "Every little helps" but little, it is best to focus on what helps most. That would be taking up a good way of meditation, aligned to a group or sangha.

What does Yogananda say?

It is all right to doubt Yogananda, he teaches. Being skilled in doubting helps a scientist and yogi [Get the edge of doubting]
Yogananda The ancient rishis discovered that man's earthly and heavenly environment, in a series of twelve-year cycles, push him forward on his natural path. The scriptures aver that man requires a million years of normal, diseaseless evolution to perfect his human brain and attain cosmic consciousness. [1998, 211]

"Hasten your evolution by proper diet, healthful living, and reverence for your body." [SRF 1957, 51]

The purpose of life is the evolution, through self-effort, of man's limited mortal consciousness into God Consciousness. [SRF's Aims and Ideals, Yogananda 1998, 432]

"Evolution is a suggestion of God in the human mind . . . Actually everything is taking place in the present . . . The Lord can turn the motion picture of creation backward or forward." [SRF 1957, 57]

Do not accept blindly everything that you read. - Paramahansa Yogananda (1982, 389)


  1. A woolly "appeal to ancient authority" looks like a piece of demagogy: Yogananda hardly shows just what ancient seers (rishis) he refers to, and just what sources he draws on, if any.
  2. Yogananda quotations about evolution mean he thinks "a million years of normal, diseaseless evolution" is unreal? That guru teaches (1) that evolution is real, but (2) only seemingly so. (3) How could Yogananda talk of a million years of evolution where his own teacher figured twelve million years? (4) How long have humans lived on earth?

    At any rate, What is real is not seemingly so, for one thing. It is a matter of definitions if not understanding.

  3. We had better not accept blindly what Yogananda says - and for the sake of higher goings. If not, we risk getting Yogananda-befuddled. Many students are helped to grow critical thinking, discern fallacies and so on. [Reasoning may be trained: a book list]


Avatar animals, evolution, Yogananda teachings, Literature  

Dietz, Margaret Bowen Dietz. Thank You, Master. Nevada City, CA: Crystal Clarity, 1998, "Master's Teachings".

Maslow, Abraham. Motivation and Personality. 3rd ed. New York, HarperCollins, 1987.

Yogananda, Paramahansa. Autobiography of a Yogi. 13th ed., Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1998.

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

⸻. Whispers from Eternity. 8th ed. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1959.

SRF (Self-Realization Fellowship). The Master Said: Sayings and Counsel to Disciples by Paramhansa Yogananda. 2nd ed. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1957.

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