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Yogananda on Christianity and Yoga

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



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.

Guru loyalty

The guru also stressed "faithfulness" to him - to God in him, with perhaps sinister 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]

To this: This looks like a hard teaching against several Human Rights. Considering that Yogananda's own guru, Yukteswar, said to him, in step with a very 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).

Something to take into account: God is Truth, Sat, Hindu scriptures tell. If the lower end of a cone does or says things that do not harmonise with Truth "higher up" and above that cone (guru), where is the loyalty to be put, all in all? We should not forsake Truth for the sake of false teachings.

Another point: Yogananda claimed he had been Arjuna, who was somehow enlightened in a most likely later-added chapter of the Bhagavad Gita. And he says he became a lawyer too:

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]

There are alternative 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. He may thus be ranked among the eighty who did not write Shakespeare's plays, not all of them . . . In his biography he also says he had been a vicious, murderous desert marauder too, one that made him shiver while speaking about it. (Dasgupta 2006:112).

Alarming points: In none of his later-claimed incarnations the "reborn Arjuna" (Yogananda) appears to have taught kriya yoga. He was not what is called "good company" in some of them either. It means you could risk a whole lot in many coming lives if you link up to him if or when he appears as another ruthless, vicious greedy tyrant, for example.

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 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 from a former, ill-sworn oath (the SRF kriya pledge), in part the name of Jesus who said "don't swear at all".

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.

Changed kriya yoga

The guru changed some of his methods for attaining self-realization. Earlier, few came to the fore and told that his modified kriya yoga methods were talked of as twelve time as efficient as the kriya yoga handed over to him: the methods he was purported to spread among scientists and able people in the West. Yogananda dropped many parts of the original methods, parts that the other kriya yogis think are vital and not to be dispensed with. Yogananda added a few things instead. He even claimed that his modified kriya yoga was so much better - There could be other opinions about that. [More] [Also]

"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). Adi Shankara, on the other hand, says devotion as piousness lies in being intent on the Self, which is helpful.

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

Now there is as significant difference between offering help for realizing the "I" or selfhood on the one hand, to a "You-Thou"-focus (filled with id) on the other hand. Relative to that, in the 1920s the guru talked for great selfishness. Then, in or after Depression times in the 1930s, he started to talk for unselfishness instead, making a sort of U-turn. Now, the regularly expanded sense of "I" way could give neat help. Both Vivekananda and Ramana Maharsi seem to agree on that, for example. The other way - the way of dualism - smacks of up to great punishment, for it may dwarf and thwart normal id development. Yogananda chose the second way of "O Thou God" rather often toward the end of his life, whereas his presentation of going for self-knowledge, atma-jnana, was far more pronounced in his first years. See what forsaking the best to accommodate to what is in vogue at a place may do as years go by.

Ask: "Who drove away the Divine Mother from him?

- not by letting the dogs out. Many speeches were digressions at length, and said to be in part responses to unspoken thoughts among listeners. 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." The subjects of the lectures at the SRF temples "were set and announced in advance. But sometimes his mind was working in an entirely different vein when he began to speak. Regardless of the "subject for today"." [Ak xi-xii] He was like a child too. That is a compliment [Spa 20]. And if disciples surrounding him had been kinder and more spiritual, they would perhaps not have driven away the Divine Mother from him, which they did in 1948 at the headquarters, it says in the same book. During the Christmas meditation in 1948 he suddenly cried to her: "Don't go! You say the subconscious material desires of these people [the awed disciples] are driving You away? Oh, come back! Come back!" [Spa 74].


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 all my obligations here - organization, buildings, plans, people - and hasten to obey Him. Running the world is His responsibility. He is the Doer, not you or I." [Spa 100] The guru meant: "God would hasten to obey God and leave - as the Doer". Anyway, we are told by SRF that Yogananda did not really hasten when he was called, but got more than one extension during his last years. There were things he wanted to finish, books to dictate, and so on. Besides, in 1945 the guru also affirmed: "I was never born, I never died," (Daily Deliberations, July 1, East-West (Magazine) Vol. 17-1, July-August-September, 1945), and also quoted Adi Shankara in Whispers from Eternity, writing "No death ... have I." Yogananda passed away in 1952.

Are you ready to get confused? Confused people are herded -

The Yogananda Lecture

The following, slightly edited passages is a medley of Yogananda utterances in his "Occidental Christianity and Yogoda", which was published in his magazine East-West, Volume 1-6, September 1926 - October 1926. Some of his teachings are ill founded.


A Yogananda It lies in our power to make ourselves narrower or wider . . . Some choke the channel of their lives with the mud of accumulated ignorance . . .

There are others who keep on . . . widening and deepening the channels of their lives by [sound measures of proficient] self-discipline and culture [and skills].

We must remember each channel is finite and has its limitations . . . Great Souls serve to widen the channels of smaller lives and inundate their shores with their Wisdom. [Yogananda]

A narrow mind may not benefit from getting narrower. Unsuitable and unsavoury discipline may limit a person.

Self-discipline can be tall or low, deranging or right, beneficial or harmful, balanced or unbalanced. Self-discipline that takes freedom away, may suits those who benefit from taking it away from a person.

The art of living and its favourable disciplines are for getting ample wealth (artha); by righteous means (dharma); enjoying a lot as life progresses (kama and more); and for gaining greater freedom (moksha - great inner freedom first and foremost). These four great life-goals in Sanatan Dharma need to be balanced in a way that suits the unfolding individual also.

Thus, unfree discipline errs. Not enjoying one's discipline may turn out bad. Getting half enslaved by guru-regulations may not go well with all. Freedom that progresses handsomely, gains better conditions for freedom too.

Buddha shows many forms of wealth or blessings worth considering. [Mangala-sutra]

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. There are good sides and downsides to both approaches. In unifying the best sides of both of them, good things may be had. Bhagavad Gita teaches swadharma, (from swa, self, and dharma, law, righteousness, duty, religion) what is right for oneself, the mode of life and duty that is natural to us. "Better is one's own duty, though devoid of merit, than the duty of another well discharged (Bhagavad Gita 3:35)."

Another point is that the teachings and Kingdom of Jesus were exclusively for Jews only. He made one recorded exception in Samaria, though. (Matthew 15:24; Still some laws and regulation are for all, says Buddha, Yoga morality of five do's and five don'ts, ancient Egyptians, and some Judaic Commandments - if we drop leaving the huge sacrificial output and parts of slavery and its trade and regulations, including the command to keep the Canaanite a slave forever (Lev 25:46). To avoid killing, stealing, and bearing false witness are among them.

A Yogananda God cannot be accused of partiality and still be Divine. [Yogananda]

"I do as I please about that," might be God's retort. What Yogananda means to say, looks like, "Divine Partiality is an impossible idea." Thereby he discards the biblical outlook about chosen people, showing grace to liked ones, and so on.

A Yogananda We must choose the ever-widening interpretations until man-made interpretations no longer limit us. [Yogananda]

The most fit interpretations help on and up and are at last plausible. Still, 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. Lahiri Mahasaya teaches the same - yogis had better puncture a tiny star within a golden ring that can be seen between the eyebrows as a result of prolonged kriya practice, or better: "When that star bursts, a door reveals . . . the door of the heart [Ut 57]." Misleading concepts lead astray, away from your heart and Self. You cannot reach "Infinity," actually, but you are free to be yourself and even better, your Self. So stay with your heart, and drop misleading yogi teachings for your own good. That should be fair.

Yogananda coaxes eloquently, and if "the tongue goes where the tooth hurts [French]", it suggests it is wise to inspect his ideas just to check if there is some "unfinished business" in you that makes you fall for a well coated Yogananda submission. For example, is your relationship with your mother good? If so, you may not fall for his "Cry for the Divine Mother and She will come." Quite unnecessary practices run counter to time well spent in deep meditation, and can be called uncalled for. Also, they might endanger health.

A good point is that vicarious relationships and intimate, basic relationships you are told to cultivate, suggest transfer of needs through mental constructs using "the Divine", and contemplation may help you away from that sort of tangle and mess.

Do not let any "them" coax you and later exhort and put conformism-pressure on you to do as serves them, on behalf of your personal development.

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] Does he seem to gainsay himself? Only seemingly. A recorded message resounding in empty churches, and people getting away from those places, including SRF churces, doing yoga, should be possible to combine too. Should Yogananda have established churches so that people got away from them?

In Scandinavia, just about two percent attend church services, according to a recent European Social Survey (ESS). We have come far, thus. [1] - The proverbs "A castle of bone is more than a castle of stone" brings a relevant perspective along with a saying by Paul in a similar vein: The quality of the life in the castle, whichever sort, matters.

A Yogananda Churches have become form-bound, lacking in the spirit of meditation and real God-communion. Today, most of the congregation are somewhere else at the time of prayer." [Yogananda]

If they are away to their greater benefit, that is good for them. Yogananda also talked of a time when people would gather under the trees instead - and what about picnics? What is the most rewarding for children and grown-ups? Is it discreet pulpit-yawning or getting freer and healthier from a trip in the countryside or something different?

Congregations of first Christians did not gather in such buildings that Yogananda later went for, but in private homes. 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 Westerners need not give up their banks and business, and go to the jungle. Occidentals cannot always follow literally the precepts given by Jesus [who says in the Gospel of Matthew that his teachings are for Jews only (Matthew 15:24; 10-5-10; Vermes 2012)], yet they can avoid luxury, and satisfy only their real needs. It is necessary to accept the Western spirit of progress and development.

A balance must be struck. [Yogananda]

To balance rest and work for upward-onward progress is a fit dynamism. There are other balances to cater to also. Also, both rest and work aspects can be refined, and in more than just one way. Colossal help is had by such as deep rest in transcendental meditation combined with effective work assisted by good steering (management) on top of good schooling and decent equipment - all in a workable life rhythm, which tends to be individual. Let us hope associates are fit and fine too.

A Yogananda The church-goer has never been taught the art of directing his mind and of withdrawing the mind [in a far more rewarding way than just falling asleep during sermons].

The only worth-while change, the only permanent advance, is the inner evolution of the man toward spiritual perfection. [Yogananda]

"Soul growth" may be rare, then, but it may not be all that permanent. Some have fallen from attainments and parts of their accrued merits and good karma, others have been wronged, tortured and killed, for example. There are sound reasons for bulwarking for inner attainments and enjoy the happy calm of one's home life.

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

Proof of what? 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 hard "gospel truths", do they satisfy the sick, some of whom may infest a whole flock?

A Yogananda Show the scientific methods by which the utility and truth of the church and creed may be proven and demonstrated. [Yogananda]

First, you don't need a church to meditate and benefit from regular meditation. Second, Yogananda's banal PR-looking stress on "science" later gave way to exhortations stressing meditation and devotion. Subsequent inconsequences talk with two tongue: In one passage he tells his yoga method is scientific and works like maths, in other passages he discards that view and says devotion too is needed - and so on. His faulty advertising may come back to haunt others - [More]

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

It depends on what truth that is or what soul that is. The guru may mean this: "To deep and sound meditation and its peace, and through such peace: great joy in time perhaps."

A Yogananda Show each man that the most interesting thing in the world is the Bliss-God within, and give him the key to enter into this realm of unparalleled joys.

In finding God we have found deep Bliss - The Universe is but a part of Him!" [Yogananda]

It sounds good. There is no denying of that. But what if there is a difference between joy and bliss - what if joy is of awakening and kriya-bliss a burning "thing" (a fire rite, says Yogananda) and that playing with fire backfires a lot also? One had better learn to deal adequately with things that burn.

FINALLY. If you take the editor's comments to heart, maybe these Yogananda statements will not uproot you or drive you insane. There is much human folly around. Some of it pretends to be divine.


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.

Harvesting the hay

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