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Paramahansa Yogananda teachings considered through a picture of a dreaming polar bear
"I want to see a sea of gold - What drives could be at the back of it?"

Paramahansa Yogananda stings Vision: (1) Something seen in a dream, trance, or ecstasy, especially a supernatural appearance that conveys a revelation. (2) An object of imagination. (3) A manifestation to the senses of something immaterial. (4) Something brought on by imagination; (5) Etc. [Source: Merriam-Webster Dictionary]

Yogananda's Visions

Be careful what you wish for, lest it come true (Adage).

In his book Man's Eternal Quest, Paramahansa Yogananda writes of some of his visions of Krishna and Jesus. On one occasion in Boston he wanted to see Krishna and Jesus hand in hand on a sea of gold, and then saw them that way, he says.

Gold becomes liquid at 1064 degrees Celsius. Yogananda does not add that he heard gruesome cries like "Hot! Hot!" and smelt burning feet also. However, he writes that his memorable vision came on his request at a time when he wanted to quit the work in the United States. But he was not allowed to do it, for a voice told him he could not leave, and asked to placate him somehow, "What do you want to see?" He said, "I want to see Christ and Krishna hand in hand on a sea of gold."

Then Yogananda saw them like that; he had that vision. However, doubts came and he thought he might be hallucinating. Then the friend he was meditating with suddenly cried out that he saw "Krishna and Christ, on a sea of gold!" Yogananda does not say his friend heard "Hot! Hot!" or "Cold gold!" or could smell burning flesh, so his vision may have been of "cold sea gold" throughout. Granted that, the sea of gold in his vision was not real, hot, melted gold.

Yogananda was told in his vision that the room he lived in would smell well for some time afterwards, he writes. Visitors would notice it too. The voice said: "When I leave, the room will become filled with the fragrance of the lotus, and whoever comes shall notice it."

Each person who later visited Yogananda in that room would ask, "What is this strange fragrance of flowers that I smell?" It so happened, he asserts. He considered the lovely smell as a fine back-up to his vision. It could be. (1982, 233)

Not unlike the famous guru who saw what he had wanted to see, we are naturally interested in sorting out several possibilities when inner images and scenes appear. If someone else tells he had a vision, how valuable a vision was it? And to whom? And is there a chance it was not a vision, but something else? Here is help to ponder:

Sorting Some Error Possibilities

Someone tells he had a vision. You strum a "chord of alternatives" to feel well and assured, or to try to rule out chances of error just to be a bit more on the safe side. You consider such as:

  • A real vision took place. It could take place. That a genuine vision took place is a great hypothesis to evaluate in the light of likeable counter-hypotheses. Some are below:

  • The teller faked. Acting as a ventriloquist should not be taken as the very best proof of having a vision.

  • The teller had trained himself for inward sights, he commanded the vision; so it was no grant. In an ancient yoga primer Patanjali tells how we may train ourselves to see in vision just what we want to see. This is one of the extraordinary powers that yoga may bring some, according to hoary yoga literature. There is a good chance Yogananda had many such powers. He taught how to produce visions, at any rate. The twelfth Yogoda Lesson of his early ministry includes "The science of producing dreams and visions". His lessons from that time were further described as "simple, easy to grasp and to apply in one's daily life . . . practical and unforgettable". What if his vision came about because he had learnt and trained himself to see what he decided to see? Krishna and Jesus walking on a sea of [hot] gold, for example?

    Some visions can be understood tentatively in this way as we try to find better and better understanding and explanations. This general approach should be all right in general: We look for common sense explanations first, and if they don't serve to clarify the phenomena in question fair enough, if they are not overly limited and limiting, and if they do not rule out doing relevant justice to subtler realms of existence. By that general, wide approach we may better maintain integrity and calm, and perhaps widen our cogent, rational world view as an ongoing project.

  • Another possibility: "Things are not as they appear": If the vision is a mask or show only, is there anything real inside it? This suggests that in some cases a mental sight (vision) of Krishna could be a vision of someone else in disguise or someone who had changed his appearance to look like Krishna. It is one of the powers of yoga, as revealed in old yoga literature. Interestingly, in Hinduism there are lots of stories on how gods and persons change their appearance and look like anyone they want. Hence, there is a chance (theoretically, at least) that some trickster or monster (whatever) played God and Krishna for Yogananda (above) to keep Yogananda going, maybe confused enough to win a large following instead of leaving the country.

  • Sleep deprivation: Loss of sleep may erase the borderline between dreaming and waking, so that images interrupt waking consciousness unduly. Severe loss of sleep may also bring on mental disturbances and diseases, or accelerate some of them.

  • The teller hallucinated. Daydreaming can become violent and fulfil strong inner drives in borderline cases. Some people see what their inner drives or urges manifest. Some recurrent nightly dreams illustrate that point. Or what is seen during intoxication. Often there are potent inner tendencies that pave their way out like that.

  • Freaks and drug users or mentally deranged persons: Drugs may evoke hallucinations, and psychopaths can have a solid, even laming influence, great will power and hold sway over naive guys, as some of their characteristics - visions or no visions.

In yoga literature there is more about visions and how to live with them. In the Bible too.


YOGANANDA One night while I was engaged in silent prayer, my sitting room in the Encinitas hermitage became filled with an opalblue light. I beheld the radiant form of the blessed Lord Jesus. A young man, he seemed, of about twenty-five, with a sparse beard and moustache; his long black hair, parted in the middle, was haloed by a shimmering gold.

His eyes were eternally wondrous; as I gazed, they were infinitely changing. With each divine transition in their expression, I intuitively understood the wisdom conveyed. In his glorious gaze I felt the power that upholds the myriad worlds. A Holy Grail appeared at his mouth; it came down to my lips and then returned to Jesus. After a few moments he uttered beautiful words, so personal in their nature that I keep them in my heart. (Yogananda 1998, 413) [The issue discussed]

Power words
"I've got the POWER!" - and fervently and infinitely changing expressions.

Some caveats

Before getting mixed up, take into account Yogananda's:

  1. "I don't pray. That may seem a strange thing to say." (1982:121). However, Yogananda also wrote a book of what he called answered prayers, Whispers from Eternity.

  2. "A powerful mind, versed in the art of visualization, (conscious dreams), can in a vision or a dream see [such as Jesus], shake hands with him, weigh him on a scale, and behold him as tall and slight. Then what is the difference between the real physical body of [say, Jesus] and the dream-conceived, visualized body of him? One can say the former is . . . visible to all and the latter . . . visible to only one person." - From Yogananda, "The Missing Link Between Consciousness and Matter", East West, June, 1932 Vol. 4–8. He speaks of "Henry Jones" there.]

There is more: It would appear that it was an SRF editor who made up and inserted "he uttered beautiful words, so personal in their nature that I keep them in my heart. (Yogananda 1998, 413)." Yogananda did not say that, Kriyananda tells in his Paramhansa Yogananda: A Biography with Personal Reflections and Reminiscences. (2011, 287). The "personal part" part was made up by the long-time SRF editor Tara Mata, Kriyananda tells. Is bad English sacred? Anyway, Kriyananda cites the editor through, ". . . so sacred that I keep them in my heart." Mind that 'personal' in one book is "sacred" in another, but it does not stop there. Yogananda:

I beheld a wonderful light, and Jesus Christ appeared above me. The Holy Grail passed from his lips to mine, and I heard his voice say, "The cup from which I drink, thou dost drink." (according to Kriyananda (2011, 286-87)

Look at the language: 'Heard his voice say' means 'heard him say'. 'Holy Grail' means cup with mysterious overtones to it. "Thou dost drink" means 'drink'. We end up with something like, "Drink from the [floating] cup I drank from." Did Jesus take a cup with him when he ascended to heaven? If so all the grail-finders around have been mistaken. Most of the Grail-claimers have been mistaken anyway.

"Manyone" - for example a schizophrenic - may say he saw Jesus in a nightly vision - or was it a dream? - and that he spoke in outmoded English also. That may remind of something Thomas Szasz wrote: "If you talk to God, you are praying; If God talks to you, you have schizophrenia. If the dead talk to you, you are a spiritualist; If you talk to the dead, you are a schizophrenic." (WP, "Thomas Szasz")

To furnish more pork on the bones that Szasz just gave:

1. Yogananda tried to communicate with spirits, calling one to enter his little sister, for example. [Much more]

2. And on some other occasions he told, "We are all crazy (1982:425)" - things like that. [Many more Yogananda quotations illustrate more] - [A Men of Gotham story]

That brings us to:

  • "Some say 'grail', and mean hail." [Grail follies].
  • The story of Yogananda's vision contains old-fashioned language. Old-fashioned, religious-smacking language . . . to some it is awkward language. [Compare Plain English].
  • Jesus of the first gospels warns ahead of time against ravenous wolves bent on other things than sheep welfare - he warns against false christs. "Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Messiah [King of Jews],' and will deceive many (Matthew 24:4-5)." To overlook the warnings and Romans 16:17-27 against smooth deceptions of the hearts of the unsuspecting, could amount to a serious mistake.
  • Jesus of the gospels say his teachings and salvations are for ill Jews only - as simple as that (see it documented in various passages further down).

Just abstaining well from any words of smooth-talking deceivers may be well in step with the quick solution in Romans 16:17-27: "Turn away from them."

Here is a Yogananda-given clou of his verbal efforts - but only after decades of sermons, talks, and books of his - books that in so many cases are far from top helpful:

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

Jesus of the Gospels upheld slavery (Matthew 5:17-19) and worse, including a low "righteousness" called cruel, unfair sacrifice of victims. See the evidence: [Link].

But here is hope: Jesus says his teachings and ministry and salvation are for Jews only, but not sound Jews . . . (Vermes 2010:37, 41; Matthew 15:24; 10:4-10). That leaves out Yogananda. The renowned bible scholar Geza Vermes sums up:

Fl. During his days of preaching, Jesus of Nazareth addressed only Jews, "the lost sheep of Israel" (Matthew 10:5-8; 15:24). His disciples were expressly instructed not to approach gentiles or Samaritans (Matthew 10:5-8). On the few occasions that Jesus ventured beyond the boundaries of his homeland, he never proclaimed his gospel to pagans, nor did his disciples do so during his lifetime. The mission of the 11 apostles to "all the nations" (Matthew 28:19) is a "post-Resurrection" idea. It appears to be of Pauline inspiration and is nowhere else found in the Gospels (apart from the spurious longer ending of Mark [Mark 16:15], which is missing from all the older manuscripts). Jesus' own perspective was exclusively Jewish; he was concerned only with Jews. (Vermes 2012)

To clarify such vital matters still further against life lies and so on:

Hm Jesus reserve his teachings and salvation for Jews (Matthew 15:24; 10:5-8; Vermes 2012), but only ill (read: depraved) Jews: those of sound moral and spirit are not called by him, and the healthy do not need him (Mark 2:17; Matthew 9:12-13; 12.11). Jesus further puts his sheep on a path to perdition in that he teaches his sheep what is opposed to sound self-preservation. Thereby eyes, limbs, property, fit living-conditions and life itself soon enough are at risk (Matthew 5: 29-30; 39-42). Finally, marring losses come to those who call him 'Lord, Lord' without doing as he tells. (Luke 6:46)

For Gentile followers, all the disciples and the Holy Spirit dispensed with all but a few laws for Jews. And not a word by Jesus for ill Jews was included in the Apostolic Decree from 50 CE either (Acts 15:19-29; 21:25). The four requirements for all Gentile Christians include no to eating blood sausages (blood food) and wrangled chickens and other poultry (choked animals)

The neat point: Why bother to visionise someone who said his teachings were for Jews only, and therefore not for "gentiles", such as almost all Christians? Heed the Scriptures: [Real demands of Jesus]

Note how Yogananda hailed Mussolini and dictatorship till events ran him over in the matter. We could aim for solid and better views. [Link]


Visions of Paramahansa Yogananda, Self-Realization Fellowship and Yogananda, Literature  

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

Kriyananda, Swami. 2011. Paramhansa Yogananda: A Biography with Personal Reflections and Reminiscences. Nevada City, CA: Crystal Clarity.

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

Yogananda, Paramahansa. 1982. Man's Eternal Quest. 2nd ed. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship.

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

Vermes, Geza. 2010. The Real Jesus: Then and Now. Minneapolis, MI: Fortress Press.

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

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

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