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Yogananda on Christianity and Yoga

Selections from and comments on Yogananda's lecture "Occidental Christianity and Yogoda", published in his magazine East-West, Volume 1-6, September 1926 - October 1926.


Exhortations and loyalty

Don't take my word for anything. - Yogananda. (Overriding proposition)

Yoga themes and topics of the late Paramahansa Yogananda (1893-1952), drifted from self-development, self-knowledge, self-realization and self-effort, to God-talks and intense exhortations like "Meditate! Meditate!" - for followers and listeners. To the degree meditation is pleasant, a delight, exhortations may be awkward and far from needed. In such cases they could hinder, not help, as being pushed and being exhorted tend to create resistance.

The guru also stressed "faithfulness" to him - to God in him, with reincarnation overtones:

A Yogananda If you turn away from the emissary of God, He [decides] "Now you shall have to wait long . . . Several incarnations [perhaps of dire fears and colossal sufferings] at least must pass before he will have another such opportunity. [Source: SRF Magazine, spring 1974, p 6.] [More]

That is a strange teaching, and against several Human Rights. Considering that Yogananda's own guru, Yukteswar, said to him, in step with common yoga practice, that his disciple was free to leave him if he did not find he benefitted from his training.

A Yukteswar saying "If you don't like my words, you are at liberty to leave at any time," Master assured me. "I want nothing from you but your own improvement. Stay only if you feel benefited." (Autobiography of a Yogi, 1998:106).

Another point worth noting: Yogananda claimed he had been Arjuna, who was not top enlightened in a most likely later-added chapter of the Bhagavad Gita. Why? He saw Krishna at the Centre and not his Self, or inner I-ness. Self-realisation is being oneself as the centre - Yogananda of many claims says he became a lawyer also:

I die and dream . . . then I die again and am born as a successful lawyer. Again I die and am reborn as Yogananda. . . . I used to find such pleasure in discovering my past incarnations. [Dr 169]

"Such pleasure" might be misleading: In the Autobiography of a Yogi he also says he had been a vicious, murderous desert marauder, one that made him shiver while speaking about it. (Dasgupta 2006:112). Or did he shiver with delight?

There are several ways of taking credit without good evidence. Now, there are other claims by Yogananda about past lives too. He had been William the Conqueror, he said - if so, a brutal, greedy tyrant of Scandinavian origin, a murderer and mass-molester of the English. And then he told he had been William Shakespeare. . . .

In none of his later-claimed incarnations the "reborn Arjuna" appears to have taught kriya yoga, and was bad company in some. We could risk a whole lot in many coming lives if we link up to him if or when he appears as another murderous, greedy one. He was a "Kali man", the biographer also tells. Kali was once thought to be murderous too.

Kali, (Sanskrit: "She Who Is Black" or "She Who Is Death") in Hinduism, goddess of time, doomsday, and death, or the black goddess (the feminine form of Sanskrit kala, "time-doomsday-death" or "black"). Kaliís iconography, cult, and mythology commonly associate her not only with death but also with sexuality, violence, and, paradoxically, in some later traditions, with motherly love. (Wendy Doniger, Britannica Online, "Kali")

What a person worships - his favourite goddess - tends to reflect on himself or herself. It might be a life-saver just to stay away from "Black death, violence (and perhaps paradoxical love on top)" for what you know.

In Journey to Self-Realization (2000), there is a Yogananda talk, "Preparing for Your Next Incarnation" (p. 254 ff). Consider this, then: If the karma of a lawyer, mutilating tyrant and murderous marauder combine so that Yogananda is reborn as a vicious, murderous dog some time, there may be no benefit and much trouble ahead from a former, ill-sworn oath (the SRF kriya pledge) with a claimed reach over incarnations.

To fall for rhetoric through gullibility and inexperience together - thinking too well about unsound, unfair or Gamy ones - may lead to stiff, harsh and stultifying bargains, a cult, and being subjected to heavens know what.

"Scientific devotion"

Yogananda's presentation of "selfward" methods was given less prominence for talk of "godward" methods. The methods were at first referred to as scientific and and capable of taking the practitioner to self-realization in time through mathematics. Later there appeared a need for "right attitude" and devotion too, and saving grace. Such sides to mathematic went unmentioned in his early teachings. - Now, mathematic works whether one has devotion or not, and devotion directed to others may form cults (historically speaking). <

You-focus became more prominent in the guru's public speeches

Adi (the first) Shankara says devotion as piousness lies in being intent on the Self. From this: There is first-class piousness and something second-grade that is often termed devotion.

There is as significant difference between offering help for realizing the "I" or selfhood on the one hand, to a "You-Thou"-focus (of largely and wrongly turned id) on the other hand. Relative to that, in the 1920s the guru talked for great selfishness. After Depression times in the 1930s, he started to talk for unselfishness instead. Yet the regularly expanded sense of "I" way could benefit a guy. The devotion type that dwarfs and thwarts normal id development may not.

See what forsaking the best to what is in vogue among Americans may do against liberating yoga as years go by.

Disciples drove away from him the Divine Mother"

In her preface in Man's Eternal Quest, the late Daya Mata tells Yogananda never or seldom prepared for lectures, that he "seldom made even the slightest preparation for his lectures." [Ak xi-xii] He was like a child also [Spa 20]. If disciples surrounding him had been kinder and more spiritual, they would perhaps not have driven away the Divine Mother from him in 1948 at the headquarters, it says in the same book. "You say the subconscious material desires of these people [the awed disciples] are driving You away? Oh, come back! Come back!" [Spa 74].

Confused jumbles

In Sayings of Paramahansa Yogananda, he is quoted to say: "If God were to say to me today: Come home! without a backward glance I would leave . . ." [Spa 100].

Compare an affirmation from 1945: "I was never born, I never died," (Daily Deliberations, July 1, East-West (Magazine) Vol. 17-1, July-August-September, 1945).

Further, he quoted Adi Shankara in Whispers from Eternity, writing "No death ... have I."

Yogananda passed away in 1952.

Confused people are herded -

The Yogananda Lecture

From Yogananda's East-West [Magazine], Volume 1-6, September 1926 - October 1926.


A narrow mind may not benefit from getting unsavoury discipline.

A Yogananda "There is no use in following the life of Jesus . . ." [Yogananda, abr.]

A rabbi on his death-bed repented that all life he had striven to live according to Moses and not so much as he himself had wanted. Still some laws and regulation are for all, says Buddha. It matters if all drop the command to keep the Canaanite a slave forever (Leviticus 25:46) - a command Jesus vouches for in Matthew 5:19-21 - and avoid killing, stealing, and bearing false witness. It could be fine.

The most fit interpretations of this and that help on and up and are at least plausible. Yet, for mature development, concepts and interpretations had better be transcended in deep meditation, preferably as part of the daily schedule.

The human idea of 'Infinity' tends to suggest "failure to comprehend". The goal of yoga is not to "expand the mind into Infinity", contrary to repeated Yogananda statements, but to transcend (get beyond) the thoughts and notions. You cannot reach "Infinity," actually, but you are free to be yourself and even better, your Self. And to stay with your heart is fit for a long, long time.

Yogananda coaxes for a well coated grand submission. Perhaps all may not fall for his "Cry for the Divine Mother and She will come." Daily crying spells are counter to time well spent in deep meditation, and might endanger health for grown-ups.

A Yogananda This is the message that will again fill the empty churches. [Yogananda]

In another place he says, "The science of yoga will take hold in this country . . . The entire trend will be away from churches . . . (Yogananda 1982:394-95]

"Away from the churches" . . . He started his own church. He got it formally registered in California in late March 1935. A recorded message resounding in empty churches, and people getting away from those places, including SRF churces, doing yoga, should be possible to combine as well as the two tales of how Judas died - by hanging (Matthew 27:5); by falling and bursting open (Acts 1:18).

"A castle of bone is more than a castle of stone" brings a relevant perspective.

Congregations of first Christians did not gather in such buildings that Yogananda later went for. Yogananda's church, SRF, say they represent "original [self-molesting, poverty-embracing and bully-yielding (see Matthew 5)] Christianity as taught by Jesus Christ," by the way. [More]

A Yogananda Direct proof can satisfy the heart of man. [Yogananda]

There is gospel "proof" that a Christian is a "sickly sheep", and that healthy people do not need Jesus [Matthew 9:12; John 10:27, etc.], who, by the way, declared his teachings and Kingdom were for Jews only [Matthew 15:24 etc.] Even if these are "gospel truths", do they satisfy the sick, some of whom may infest a whole flock?

A Yogananda Truth that can be tested and experienced individually, can satisfy the soul." [Yogananda]

It depends on what soul that is. What is made ill may not get all right again through experiments.


Yogananda lecture with comments, Literature  

Vermes, Geza. From Jewish to Gentile: How the Jesus Movement Became Christianity. Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR) 38:06, Nov/Dec 2012.

Yogananda, Swami. "Occidental Christianity and Yogoda." In East-West, Volume 1-6, September 1926 - October 1926.

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

  1. . VG. "Nesten ingen nordmenn går i kirken". September 9, 2009.

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

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