Site Map
Paramahansa Yogananda's Claimed Past Lives
Section › 17 Set Search Previous Next


Reservations Contents  

Introduction to Yogananda's "Past Lives"

Good use of reason leads far beyond wrong beliefs

If you imagine something without knowing it is true, it is belief, which may become alarming or dangerous and not take you anywhere after camouflaging or smothering your reason.

However, good reason can free you to adopt the measures and activities that will free you wholly or in part. Good use of reason and good development of such delicate prowess is quite indispensable when you are not meditating.

Ask not for a locked faith; aim higher and better instead.

The guru Paramahansa Yogananda (1893-1952) taught much the same. [Gurus speak for reason and discernment]

Now, some devotees of Param(a)hansa Yogananda (1893-1952) have taken to romanticise Yogananda's said, past lives they hear and read about - the Yogananda who said he had been the wife-sharing Arjuna, the brutal tyrant William the Conqueror and a vicious, murderous desert marauder that made Yogananda shiver when he told it (!) [Psy 112].

Some things they believe about Yogananda as a reborn Arjuna in SRF circles

Durga Ma (born Florina Alberta Dufour, 1903-93) was a happy woman disciple of Yogananda. One day in 1951 Yogananda said to her: "I remember you had asked me years ago if I was Arjuna." She exclaimed, "You were Arjuna." He smiled his, "Yes." She then asked him if Rajasi [Yogananda's successor as head of SRF] was with him at that time. He answered, "Yes, he was one of the twins, . . . Nakula. He was my favorite brother . . . Krishna was my guru and Babaji, being Krishna, is still my guru."

She then asked him if she was also with him at that time. He looked at her and said, "Sure, you were. . . ."

[Durga Mata. A Paramhansa Yogananda Trilogy of Divine Love, "My Life and Service to My Guru," Beverley Hills, CA: Joan Wight Publications, 1992/93 and 1997, p. 54.]

Ask before group duping sets in: "Where is the evidence?" Lots of people believe too easily to their own future harm. We do well to consider the evidence without much prejudice to fall by. The fact is that SRF managers have cut many a caper about Yogananda's teachings after his death, and have even forged Yogananda's signature. [The SRF letter] [Autobiography changes made by SRF]

Then, is it too bad to become a narcissistic, romanticising guru follower? If that is the level you are able to reach to as a human, it is the lot. But there is an alternative to blind believing: keeping claims "at arm's length", in suspense, at bey, making space for the growth of sound reason. You may gain a lot from that. You may also gain a lot from considering the vicious dog Brutus.

Fierce and vicious - then reborn as an animal?

The bad karma or a mutilating tyrant and vicious, murderous desert marauder could propel rebirth as a dog, for example - provided several karma-and-rebirth thoughts in scriptures are true, and why not Yogananda himself on such a serious issue? Could sworn-in members of Self-Realization Fellowship benefit from a Mean and Bad Dog, and get liberated? Scriptural warnings that there are bad rebirths and hells in store for those who behave badly are many. The Laws of Manu:

Those who committed mortal sins (mahapataka), having passed during large numbers of years through dreadful hells, obtain, after the expiration of (that term of punishment), the following births. (ch 12, v 54)

The slayer of a Brahmana enters the womb of a dog, a pig, an ass, a camel, a cow, a goat, a sheep, a deer, a bird, a Kandala, and a Pukkasa. (ch 12, v 55)

Men who delight in doing hurt (become) carnivorous (animals). (ch 12, v 59)

For stealing grain (a man) becomes a rat . . . for stealing condiments a dog. (ch 12, v 62)

The fright of being turned into a bad dog!


Now let us think a little, for example: "Is stealing grain always worse than killing many of the priestly caste"? Or, "Is stealing grain always worse than stealing condiments?"

Some rats swim in milk and are treasured where dogs are treated as unclean animals - but common attitudes to rats and dogs in the West tend to be different.

Check how fair the killed brahman is. Further, if an executioner does the work, how much of the blame and bad karma goes to the one or those who ordered him to do it?

And evaluate how much grain has been stolen. There is a difference between stealing a few and a whole village's yearly supply. The possible harm may increase with the amount, and so on.

Now we have started to qualify and evaluate the amount of thefts - and the possible or presumed goodness and of killed brahmans. When it comes to effects, there is a marked difference between stealing little or much, and between killing unworthy guys and others, and killing under special conditions: Killing a stealing, raiding brahmin in self-defence when he goes at war against your kin, should it really, really, be so bad when you do not take delight in killing? Your lawyer might plead along such a line; rhetorically, perhaps.

But alas, who knows what goes on where murky goings are guided by a devil?

Another thing is that Manu teaches you may make amends to escape the bad rebirths. A prescibed atonement may not be top effective, though. Prepare for that.

There is also a chance that doing good to worthy ones also goes into the future lives and counterbalances the theft of one gram of condiment, for example . . . In other words, there is good hope that atonements and balancing (doing many good works) are influences on a future fare too. Buddha advocates doing much good, and teaches that a life well lived matters in a wider perspective as well. [Buddha's karma teachings]

Smart enough to gain a middle ground

Yogananda No more blind believing. - Yogananda, Ak 456]

Buddha goes against follies of blind belief in the Kalama Sutta. To become a victim of past lives you merely hear of, could later prove foolish. So is blind belief in essential karma-rebirth-teachings, for that matter, especially if they are not perfectly right in their marrow or essence. It could also get very problematic if details look questionable to you, and cause and effect and the relative weight of the crimes tend to be out of step, somehow. "Doing time" is through embodiments, the Manu Samhita tells. A wise advice is to make good use of being born as a human. That boils in part down to try not to waste your time, learn to meditate, and to use fair opportunities well too. The Buddhist Middle Path serves such wide ends. Yes, meditating well may help a lot, and so could skill, aplomb and doing good too, for some reasons or others.

Do lots of good if you have believed stupidly and acted badly (that is, if you have broken moral basics): it is in some of the expiation teachings of Manu, and is a general teaching of Buddha on building good karma too.

He left no valid proof

As for beliefs in Yogananda's asserted, former lives as a vicious, murderous desert marauder and the mutilating, greedy William the Conqueror (Psy 111-12), you don't have to believe that - on Yogananda's word against blind believing - for he has left no valid proof. And that is the point, and great gullibility is a recurrent problem. That he shivered when he told he had been a vicious, murderous desert robber in a previous life, is not as important to handle as the lack of valid proof of that previous life. [Psy 112]

In cases where someone claims to have been this and that person formerly, there is an alterative to goof belief. It is keeping the claims at bay, in suspense, not settling for any faith in the matter at all. For "Twin fools: one doubts nothing, the other everything." We have neither solid proof or disproof. There is one more principle: For grown-ups, the burden of proof rests on the claimant, in this case Yogananda. But he left no valid proofs of anything there.

When an authority figure says something is so-and-so, many take his word for it, they believe in authority utterances, then. It is risky business, and history shows it again and again. A middle ground between blind belief and just as blind disbelief may be called good sense if it favours scientific explorations. The good side to such research is that the results may favour us. Tought cults are not good at that. [Top]

Visiting England

There is evidence around that Yogananda claimed he had been William the Conqueror, for "he could tell of rooms in Westminster before entering those rooms" - something like that:

In 1935, when he and his party were visiting England during the journey back to India, Yoganandaji and Richard Wright were at the palace at Westminster. Yoganandaji said to Wright, "You walk behind me. Immediately after I enter the palace, I will tell you which room is where before we ever get there; you'll see, everything will match up!" Wright said later that Swamiji was right every time about the location of the different rooms. Swamiji himself was there at the telling of this event, and Wright was bearing witness to Swamiji's description of the incident. There was no sense of any kind of "but" in Swamiji's behavior at all! [Psy 111-12]

Try to look behind the surfaces of events to get more informed; it often pays. What about this time? Yogananda's room descriptions as rather loose evidence of presumed past life memories must be coupled to the fact that the palace has been rebuilt twice since the 11th century, and what stood there when Yogananda visited is a replacement, the New Palace. The only medieval structures of significance to survive were Westminster Hall, the Cloisters of St Stephen's, the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft, and the Jewel Tower. [Source: WP, "Palace of Westminster"]

Satyeswarananda adds another caveat: "A yogi who has a bit of yogic power can easily predict these kinds of things; although a real Yogi would not . . . be involved in such insignificant event". [N1]

Ian Stevenson's Strivings to Document Reincarnation

To get informed is a good thing in the face of claims that call for blind belief (stupidity). How well may it be documented that life goes on after that, and that at least some reincarnate? Various methods exist. One is to recall former lives, either in hypnosis (not recommended) or through deep meditation (best). Others tell from earlier lives without such props or means.

Some researchers have in fact been able to verify things told by such "innocents". One of them is Ian Pretyman Stevenson (1918-2007), M.D. He researched reincarnation claims, near-death experiences, and survival of the human personality after death, among other things. His research presentation was addressed to the academic and scientific community, and covers over 3,000 study cases, and provides evidence suggestive of reincarnation. But he could not detect any evidence of a physical process by which a personality could survive death and travel to another body. [◦Link 1] [◦Link 2] [◦Link 3].

"Professor Stevenson's methodology involves listening to stories, comparing and contrasting variants of stories, and constructing long, detailed narratives that attempt to "capture" the complex experience of his informants, who claim to remember incidents from past lives. In this sense Stevenson's work is similar to that of ethnographers and cultural anthropologists. Stevenson's informants are children spontaneously remembering recent quite ordinary lives, as opposed to adults remembering under hypnosis romantic or heroic lives in the distant past. In addition, birthmarks that occur at the sites of injury in the previous life constitute an important part of Stevenson's evidence." [Wikipedia, sv. "Old Souls"]

"In interviewing witnesses and reviewing documents, Dr. Stevenson searched for alternate ways to account for the testimony: that the child came upon the information in some normal way, that the witnesses were engaged in fraud or self-delusion, that the correlations were the result of coincidence or misunderstanding. But in scores of cases, Dr. Stevenson concluded that no normal explanation sufficed. [Washington Post article by Tom Shroder, of February 11, 2007 [◦Link]

A book by Stevenson, Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation (2nd ed. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1980), on spontaneous recall of information about previous lives by young children, contains twenty cases of children who begin to talk about specific memories of them having a previous life. "The book also describes the interview process, which includes taking possessions from the dead person and requiring the children pick the objects out amongst a field of random objects. Dr. Stevenson required the children to do much better than chance.

The book also discusses various alternative hypotheses including fraud, information gained from others, extra-sensory perception, motivation and capacity of parents to deceive, and even spirit possession. In Dr. Stevenson's final conclusion, reincarnation stands as the best scientific hypothesis for explaining results presented." [Wikipedia, sv. "Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation"] You can read the book online at Google Books [◦Link]

Even though Stevenson has been at this line of research for decades, his findings may not be convincing to all - or very many - (and so on). "Proponents of Dr. Stevenson's work sometimes cite him in a non-scientific manner and extend his theories beyond the bounds of scientific discourse. As an example, Carol Bowman makes extensive use of Dr. Stevenson's theories to promote a form of child therapy that emphasizes the past lives of the child." [Wikipedia, sv. "Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation"] [◦Link]

At any rate, it would be good for many with an interest in the field of "remembered past lives" to learn how to tackle the sources of error involved. They are many. It is an interesting field. Says Dr. Carl Sagan, scientist, teacher and skeptic, and a founding member of a group that set out to debunk unscientific claims: "At the time of writing there are three claims in the ESP field which, in my opinion, deserve serious study: . . . that young children sometimes report the details of a previous life, which upon checking turn out to be accurate and which they could not have known about in any way other than reincarnation. I pick these claims . . . as examples of contentions that might be true." [Wikipedia, sv. "Reincarnation research"]

Dealing with Complications

There is research, and then there are old claimants and gratification-seekers or flatterers.

Many Yogananda admirers believe him stupidly, blindly

Yogananda believers openly disregard his "No more blind believing." Ak 456]. That is their problem, or one cult problem. Furthermore, a widely shared problem is a problem still.

"Yogananda was Arjuna of the Gita, was William the Conqueror, was William Shakespeare," writes an anonymous author in the book Dwapara Yuga and Yogananda [Dyp 61]. Another writer, James Donald Walters, also known as Kriyananda, a former vice-president of Self-Realization Fellowship, states:

Once I asked Master [Yogananda] a question with regard to William the Conqueror. [AD 1027-87] [Master said he was William the Conqueror in a previous lifetime.] I asked, "... Can an avatar not realize he has attained that stature?" Master said, "You never lose your sense of inner freedom" - a very wise answer.

One could say that an avatar incarnates . . . to fully express his realization. Before they fully express that consciousness, they go through different experiences to show us how to react to what we have to go through to achieve freedom.

William killed lots of good people, abused his wife-to-be, and confessed on his death-bed,

The Scream by Edvard Munch, detail I tremble . . . when I reflect on the grievous sins which burden my conscience, and now . . . I know not what I ought to do. I . . . am stained from the rivers of blood I have shed ... It is out of my power to count all the injuries which I have caused during the sixty-four years of my troubled life. [Confession made by William on his deathbed in 1087] [More]

Does that show how to react to happenings in life? Geoffrey Falk talks of the same subject:

Yogananda claimed to be the reincarnation of William the Conqueror [. . .] and of William Shakespeare.

. . . (These questions regarding previous incarnations are not openly touted by SRF, but they are well known behind the scenes, and never directly denied by SRF ministers.)

Falk also states:

Before being officially accepted to live at Hidden Valley (HV) as a resident volunteer, one is required to sign a pledge affirming that he will regard his supervisors at the ashram as vehicles of God and Guru, and obey their instructions accordingly . . . Yogananda claimed to be the reincarnation of William the Conqueror . . . - and of William Shakespeare. [(12/8/01 7:37 pm)]

William the Conqueror in historical sources, works by historians, and encyclopedias, was a murderous tyrant in his days: [Link]

VENTURE Yogananda claimed to have been William Shakespeare. A possible complication to the value of his claims is that some Shakespeare researchers recently have come to the conclusion that Shakespeare's works were written by his distant cousin Sir Henry Neville. What then?

Trust Your Way into Eddies of Living

The issue on this page is the guru Yogananda's claim that he had past lives, remembered some of them, and told about them to disciples. Some of these disciples, in turn, seem to pat their own backs by the guru's "memoirs". The results of that again do not seem particularly ennobling.

The quotations and rendered quotations that follow, is evidence. It is admittedly only second-hand evidence of guru memoirs at best, although Yogananda tells of past lives in his famous Autobiography of a Yogi too [Link].

"Hearsay evidence" is not as classy as first-hand evidence or scientific studies if our aim is to gather evidence of past lives - but it is not. We use it as evidence of rumours and attempts to use William to support a long dead guru's claims of this and that, and what comes out of it. I once suggestively called at least one Yogananda discussion board a "backwater" - an indication of little overall foreward-motion in them.

To investigate the possibility of former lives demands a particular methodology, such as the designs (over-all patterns) employed by Dr. Ian Stevenson. If we are to play fair in such a field of outlets, we have to learn how to study the main problems of "remembered past lives" first and foremost. That should come first of all, methinks.

Let this essay serve as a reminder that cult membership may capture one's thinking. Members and others swallow tales of past lives naively, even against Yogananda's "guideline" of "No more blind believing [Ak 456]." Scared ones may develop blind belief instead of being told a better way, that of rational handling, without leaving out suspicion. The next lesson may be "No more cheating." For cheating has its price.

Conformity has Its Price at Times

A main point is that the handed over Yogananda often talks with several mouths. One result is confused disciples, another may be neurotic wrecks. Still, the guru sometimes wanted to expose how ridiculous it was just to believe in tales of past lives without a shred of evidence to support it.

Aspiring Queens of Scots

In New York a woman told Yogananda of a wonderful man who had told her wonderful things about herself, including that she had been Mary, Queen of Scots, in a former life. Yogananda did not believe her. A few days later a student came to see him and said excitedly that she had been told by a psychic that in a past life she was Mary, Queen of Scots. Yogananda now called the first woman into the room and placed the two women face to face, asking, "Which one of you is the real Mary, Queen of Scots?" [Ak 222-23]

He did not believe the women blindly.

But then again it comes to the fore that Yogananda himself tells of past lives of himself, disciples, and others. Good evidence of them seems missing. Yogananda did not go for proving his ideas of his past lives, even though he had ample time and resources to do so. You might consider it inconsistent and hold it against him. For disciples today have a loyalty obligation to him. Their minds are formed in a cult way - its dogmatism is not good for one's personal development. Below is some evidence - not of past lives of anyone, but of what tales of past lives can lead into if many people believe as told.

Opposed to that, show some good sense.



See How They Romantisise Yogananda

Why Is Cattle a Confused Lot?

It takes two to tango (Proverb).

But sometimes all it takes is being captured in the first place, and then made dumber afterwards. Try to understand what may happen in the dwarfed minds of certain guru followers, or perhaps "farm cattle", figuratively:

After a while my brain becomes a lump of mashed potatoes trying to figure it out . . . [needthestar]

The quotation is from a follower of the Hindu monk who claimed the world is illusory, yet he came in the name of Jesus and Krishna and so on, but never complying a lot to Christianity, for one thing. I chose this and the following clippings from the SRF Walrus discussion board to study cultish beliefs among SRF-related people. Not a few in those circles believe as told - in part stemming from SRF dogmas. On the other board they may treat particular beliefs as facts, without questioning them at all: karma, reincarnation, and such things. Gullibible belief has its downsides, though. For example, when guru followers discover his sayings of having been a murderous marauder in one past life, and a brutal tyrant in another previous existence, and how far he failed when he foretold of a third and fourth World War before 2000 CE.

All the same, it seems some of the followers cling to a fixed idea or hope, namely the decency of Yogananda, and take to unverified assertions along such lines. As a result the "Great William-Yogananda myth or farce" is put into play with a marked degree of aloofness from the rigors of science -

We should all try not to dwarf the minds of gullible guys. For children have gullibility in common - an id thing, suggestedly. It may be time to go into some quotes in the matter. It is a bit fun:

LoThe William-Yogananda myth has been made by devotees that were told . . .

A. That Yogananda was William and that they look alike, some take for granted, devoid of adequate evidence

[Yogananda's guru] Sri Yukteswar, during Master's life as William, was the Italian priest Lanfranc, his spiritual mentor. Lanfranc wrote what some historian called 'one of those obscure medieval treatises'". [ugizralrite (10/31/03 4:18 pm)]

Comment: The poster evidently takes for granted that Yogananda (called Master) was William - he believes as told by the boss, and adds another personage to the gallery of reborn ones, all without proof.

Some guru hailers seem to want to see mainly the said good sides of William, including facial features. We don't have any witness accounts of how his face looked like. He was just above average and grew fat as he got older, contemporary accounts tell.

William was tall and had weight problems. People tended to make fun of him because he was fat. There's definitely a resemblance between him and Yogananda, especially in the way they carried themselves (barrel chests out) and in the eyes. [/i][etzchaim (11/2/03 8:43 am)][/i]

Dawnrays, you say "thanks for clarifying" whenever someone writes something that verifies what you want to believe. [Etzchaim]

Comment: There are no mentions from the time of William that warrants the bogus similarities "Etzchaim" dream up. She seems to have studied a painting of William, not knowing it was made 500 years after his death. Therefore, it is vain to muse and fuss about any likeness between Yogananda and William based on such items. But here is a contemparary description of William:

In later life William became very fat. In 1087 William was told that King Philip of France described him as looking like a pregnant woman.

William went to war against King Philip of account of that. But here is a more detailed quotation:

According to a brief description of William's person by an anonymous author, who borrowed extensively from Einhard's Life of Charlemagne, he was just above average height and had a robust, thick-set body. Though he was always sparing of food and drink, he became fat in later life . . . William was . . . fierce and despotic, generally feared; uneducated, he had few graces but was . . . shrewd.

Thus, when Yogananda adherents talk of William as tall, don't believe it. When they talk of William's eyes, we have no evidence of them or other facial features either. But when they talk of him as fat later in life, that is what the old sources say - and Yogananda was just a bit above 5 feet tall.

The general SRF scuttlebutt, and I believe the accounts of Kriyananda, is that PY was Arjuna [of the Bhagavad Gita] in the far past, so the warrior experience is there, . . . [Is it? Yogananda lived and died a monk.] [ranger20 (11/4/03 11:28 am)]

Comment: The freedom to be a despot is talked of - Note the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Version E, entry for 1087:

King William and the chief men loved gold and silver and did not care how sinfully it was obtained provided it came to them. He (William) did not care at all how wrongfully his men got possession of land nor how many illegal acts they did.

Ugize wrote: Big Boy, N Paulsen says, "I was beside him in this battle, and was of such stature I could look him straight in the eyes while standing beside him as he sat astride his horse."

A man so tall that standing he can look another man, atop a horse, straight in the eye! How is it possible?

[One or more of these: (a) Uneven ground; (b) Small horses; (c) Long legs. Some hulks of Scandianvian descent were over 2.30 m, like Ivar Boneless,]

Or Wm the C was a dwarf riding a pygmy pony. [stermejo (11/1/03 3:1pm)]

Yogananda . . . Didn't he once say that he loved England? . . . If it was P.Y. he certainly played it to the fullest...burning, slashing and pleased . . . [needthestar (11/4/03 5:36 pm)]

Comment: Does gullibility's outlets get better than this? Being informed is great help, generally.

B. Some think aloofness from children and compassion to foes should be favoured by kriya yoga. Think twice.

"One more characteristic was to emerge prominently as William grew older, especially after he had become King of England, his greed for gold:
      'Into avarice did he fall

And loved greediness above all'.

"So wrote an English monk who 'had looked upon him, and once lived at his court....He was a very stern and violent man, . . . no one dared do anything contrary to his will. He had earls in his fetters, who acted against his will. He expelled bishops from their sees, and abbots from their abbacies, and put thegns in prison, and finally he did not spare his own brother, who was called Odo' [and Otto]." - From "William the Conqueror" by David Walker, quoted by [etzchaim (11/3/03 2:16 pm)]

Comment: Greed is a trait that could be carried on to future lives . . . Many gurus is the West have been exposed as greedy, fooling people too.

"SRF is definitely out of line as far as their expectations and there is no doubt about it. I speak from first hand experience and yes, . . . They are classically obsessive/compulsive for one thing. They are extremely obsessed with cleanliness, order and quiet almost beyond belief (hence their dislike for children). [dawnrays (10/30/03 10:04 am)]

Comment: William was a ruthless tyrant. Yogananda spellbound some and bound some of them through the SRF loyalty pledge. Perhaps only few dare get out of it for the lack of the not longer so secret golden key that makes the guru prison door swing open. "Don't leave God's emissary foolishly" is a part of the key. Do it wisely, then . . . But who is there to leave when (a) Yogananda says "I killed Yogananda long ago" and repeatedly that (b) the world is an illusion? Who is leaving who in what and when in that case?

If Yogananda had said that is one of his former lives he was Fenrir, the horrible wolf of Norse mythology, one that became hailed as loving and compassionate through gentle breathing (kriya) over and over, devoted followers could have swallowed that too. And some would say; "This points to the effectiveness of special breathing which accelerates a big, bad wolf's evolution drastically" and things like that. So beware of what guru followers agree they need to say in their confusion.

LoThey discover that their guru had been a villain. That can't be good

C. "I . . . had always thought of William as one of history's leading villains. And now I discovered he was my own guru!"

"'Why should a fully liberated soul like our Master play such worldly roles?' raises a question that many people must have asked. I know he himself said he was a general in Spain during the Spanish efforts to drive the Muslims out of Spain. And he also said that he was William the Conqueror: a real shocker for me when I first heard it, as I'd been raised under the English schooling system and had always thought of William as one of history's leading villains. And now I discovered he was my own guru! [ugizralrite (10/31/03 4:18 pm)]

Comment: You are being let in on that Yogananda had told insiders he was a general in Spain, and William Shakespeare. And present in the stable when Jesus was born. And his disciple John. And Arjuna of the battlefield, and a successful lawyer, even!

"When it is accepted that maybe, just maybe Yogananda wasn't perfect, the tendency is for the baby to be thrown out with the bath water. [etzchaim (10/30/03 12:56 pm)]

"Admit that William may have done some things that were wrong . . . when he didn't get what he wanted and felt insulted, he behaved badly . . . [etzchaim (10/31/03 8:12 am)]

Comment: In this particular society, a loyalty oath to one's gurus is also there, and Yogananda indicates what may happen to someone who takes his leave: Colossal sufferings for lifetimes. These things are explained in more detail elsewhere: [Link]

Yo There is only one guru uniquely the devotee's own. But if you turn away from the emissary of God, He silently asks: 'What is wrong with you, that you foolishly leave the one I have sent to help you learn the divine science of the soul? Now you shall have to wait long, and prove yourself, before I shall respond again.' He who cannot learn through the wisdom and love of his God-ordained guru will not find God in this life. Several incarnations at least must pass before he will have another such opportunity. - Paramahansa Yogananda, Spring 1974 SRF magazine, p 6. From a talk at Mother Centre, 8/17/39.

Fear and pain may ensue. It hardly corresponds with Original Christianity on the one hand, or with Original Hinduism (whatever that may be) on the other hand, for in Hinduism one has the freedom to change gurus.

D. "Past lives, past lives" is the tune a lot of followers have to pay to play.

Yo I remember another life centuries ago, when someone I loved very much [Duke Robert, the son of William?] was inimical to me and hurt me; but I triumphed over him. I met him again in this life, and again he became treacherous [Swami Dhirananda?] But I have tried only to help him. He shall pursue me no more.... I also recall my own past incarnations, beyond all doubt. In the Tower of London, for example, I found many places that I remember from a past life, places the present caretakers didn't know anything about. - Paramahansa Yogananda, idem, page 277. [ugizralrite (10/31/03 4:18 pm)]

Yo "In this one incarnation I can sleep and dream that I am in England as a powerful king. Then I die and dream I am born a devout man. And 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. But that has lost its enchantment." - Paramahansa Yogananda, idem, page 167. [ugizralrite (10/31/03 4:18 pm)]

Comment: "I remember" - anyone can say that. And if you trust a bird-catcher, you may get caught. As for finding places in the Tower of London, regular documentation is wanting. Besides there are many alternative explanations, if the guru told of the places correctly. For example, he could have transferred his consciousness [!] to someone who knew those places, just as when he tells his consciousness was transferred to a dying captain in 1915:

Yo As I closed my eyes in meditation, my consciousness was suddenly transferred to the body of a captain in command of a battleship. The thunder of guns split the air . . . a stray bullet ended its swift flight in my chest. I fell groaning to the ground . . .

"At last the mysterious footstep of Death has caught up with me," I thought. With a final sigh, I was about to sink into unconsciousness when lo! I found myself seated in the lotus posture in my Garpar Road room.

Hysterical tears poured forth . . . I rocked to and fro, inhaling and exhaling to assure myself that I was alive. Amidst these self gratulations, again I found my consciousness transferred to the captain's dead body by the gory shore. Utter confusion of mind came upon me. [Ha 271-72]

That is what he tells. He could have transferred his conscousness to one or two Williams and Towers guards too for what we know, theoretically speaking. I point to a possibility the guru claims. Now, was it he or someone else who remembered? Who can tell for sure. Researchers have to keep their eyes open for alternative explanations, even the remote ones.

Yo "I recall many of my past incarnations.... Quite a few people have heard me mention a previous life in which I lived for many years in England. Experiences of that life come clearly to my mind. There were certain details about the Tower of London that I remembered very well, and when I went there in 1935 I saw that those places were exactly as I had seen them within. From childhood I knew that in one incarnation I had lived by the ocean. As a little boy I used to see in my mind's eye many places and events of that incarnation.... From childhood I was interested in creating buildings.... This interest was prominent because I had done much building during my incarnation in England. So many experiences I recall from other lives!" - Paramahansa Yogananda, in "The Divine Romance," pages 152-3. [ugizralrite (10/31/03 4:18 pm)]

"William was a big man . . . Those beasts are HUGE. [etzchaim (11/3/03 9:48 am)]

Comment: Many, many male children and many girls like building toys. Maybe one half of the population can say, "From childhood I was interested in creating buildings.... This interest was prominent because . . ." Add your own reasons - but remember it is as natural for little children to play with building sand castles and build with other materials, as it is for beavers to build their huts and dams.

LoAlluring looks into alleged past lives of Yogananda have lost their enchantments

E. "After a while my brain becomes a lump of mashed potatoes trying to figure . . ."

"I experienced in a vision the Battle of Hastings as King William conquered England. . . ." Norman Paulsen, in "The Christ Consciousness", p. 108. [ugizralrite (10/31/03 4:18 pm)]

Comment: In SRF "anything goes" concerning claimed past lives of top-dogs.

"Abbot George Burke, in "An Eagle's Flight," as asserting . . . that he [Yogananda] was John, "the beloved disciple"" [ranger20 (11/4/03 11:28 am)]

After a while my brain becomes a lump of mashed potatoes trying to figure it out logically . . . [needthestar (11/4/03 5:36 pm)]

Comment: Mere claims and assertions by guru followers and others are not quite enough. The proof is not overwhelming.

F, G. "In retrospect I wonder" [why] "he ripped a good portion of [his wife-to-be's] clothes off and hit her, in public"

Master had told Daya [Mata, contemporary president of SRF] that she was one of his daughters when he was William the Conqueror. One couldn't help feeling that there was a certain regal quality about Daya Mata, as also about Virginia, her sister, who now bears the name Ananda Mata, and who also was closely related to Master during that lifetime. I came to believe, though Master had never told me so, that I was Daya's youngest brother, Master's son, in that incarnation. Many other disciples had asked Master if they were with him then, and what role they had played. He was pleased to answer them. But even during the time when many monks were asking him this question, it never occurred to me to do so, though I felt I must have been close to him, and had always felt an affinity with that period of English history. In retrospect I wonder whether he didn't prevent the question from arising in my mind. At any rate, once the thought of having been his youngest son entered my mind, I went to the Los Angeles public library and . . . discovered there many facts that went far towards supporting my theory, characteristics and episodes that were subtly reminiscent of similar ones in my present life. - Sw. Kriyananda, in "A Place Called Ananda", chapter 4. [ugizralrite (10/31/03 4:18 pm)]

Dhirananda was Duke Robert, the son of William, during that incarnation. He burned with jealousy then, and his jealousy continued to burn strongly in the present life. [ugizralrite (10/31/03 4:18 pm)]

Being a monk is not always the correct or right choice for one's life. [dawnrays (10/30/03 7:0 am)]

Comment: Maybe you smell, "I want to pass as regal or great by past lives," in parts of this. But regal qualities are fairly often invented. Some get trained in assuming regal poses also, and become halfway prisoners of etiquette and banquets throughout life. In history, many regents were idiots. They are on top of what started as a very bullying system, historically. Today the system gives them a representative role for most part, and very little political power.

More important, retrospects don't help if there are no facts to begin with.

Twenty-six unfortunate citizens were lined up and their hands and feet were cut off, partly for vengeance, partly to terrify the garrison. The savagery was successful. William was rarely driven to that point of anger again . . - From "William the Conqueror" by David Walker, quoted by [etzchaim (11/3/03 2:16 pm)]

Comment: The results of mentally combining a ruthless warrior and a soap crooning guru can be astounding.

The heads did roll . . . Normans who were loyal to him. Those that weren't found their heads rolling. When his intended spurned him, he ripped a good portion of her clothes off and hit her, in public. They married, though, and . . . she had 9 children with him . . . [etzchaim (10/30/03 12:56 pm)]

William was . . . a great and also a very spiritual man who . . . never missed a day's mass in his life, and whose only close friends were saints. . . . avatars do enter into the unfolding drama of history. . . . They may play these roles for the sake of their disciples, to help them in their evolution and also to prepare them for roles . . . in future lives, in serving God. [ugizralrite (10/31/03 4:18 pm)] (7) [/i]

Comment: William is here called spiritual because he went to mass. Being spiritual is not exactly the same as observing the rituals while killing and maiming helpless or innocent others.
      One had better take "A follower can be fooled, deeply fooled" into consideration. As observed elsewhere, some facets of Fascism are observed in cults.


  1. The William-Yogananda myth has been made by devotees that were told . . .
  2. They discover that their guru had been a villain in that incarnation too, not just a vicious, murderous desert marauder, as his biographer speaks of. [Psy 11-12]. That can't be all good. Neuroticism may follow.
  3. Get out of the cult before you get too cramped. If not, "After a while my brain becomes a lump of mashed potatoes trying to figure . . ." The guru did teach how to "delve into your own past by focusing on memories". No accounts of past lives from these quarters are well documented.
IN NUCE Many Yogananda tales abound in lack of proper evidence, including some in his autobiography. A cult may favour narcissistic plots by degrees. And blind belief tends to stultify areas in the deeper mind.

A Little More on William

Historical page on William the Conqueror, Part 1

Historical page on William the Conqueror, Part 2


1. Researchers find so-called hard facts by explorations in the realm of senses, but a dying person leaves that realm behind, at least "for a while". It means that death-explorations have to be different, if first-hand. To experience the other side first-hand is not so bad. A problem is how to document the assumed findings well. That shows up rather often.

2. Those who say they remember things from past lives and tell from them so well that it seems plausible, may be few and far between.

3. There is a body of scriptures and other books that tells of reincarnation and karma - of these widely shared beliefs. A problem: Which texts tell the truth? Blind faith is not good at finding out such things.


Paramahansa Yogananda Past Lives, Literature  

Ak: Yogananda, Paramahansa. Man's Eternal Quest. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1975.

Ap: Mieder, Wolfgang (main editor), Stewart A. Kingsbury, and Kelsie E. Harder: A Dictionary of American Proverbs. (Paperback) New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Ay: Yogananda, Paramahansa. Autobiography of a Yogi. 1st ed. New York: Theosophical, 1946. Online. [A version]

Dyp: Richard, Poor. Dwarpara Yoga and Yogananda: Blueprint for a New Age. The Noble New/, 2007.

EB: Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica 2008 Ultimate Reference Suite DVD. London: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2008.

Op: Simpson, John, and Jennifer Speake. The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs. 3rd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Pa: Yogananda, Paramahansa. Autobiography of a Yogi. 11th ed. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1971.

Psy: Dasgupta, Sailendra. Paramhansa Swami Yogananda: Life-portrait and Reminiscences. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, 2006. - Google Books, partial view.

Say: Yogananda, Paramahansa. Sayings of Yogananda. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1958.

Top: Brown, J. A. C. Techniques of Persuasion: From Propaganda to Brainwashing. Harmondworth: Penguin, 1963.


N1. - accessed 1 Nov. 08. Address later changed, and its content changed somewhat.

Paramahansa Yogananda Past Lives, To top Section Set Next

Paramahansa Yogananda Past Lives SRF USER'S GUIDE: [Link]
© 2002–2017, Tormod Kinnes, MPhil. [Email]  ᴥ  Disclaimer: [Link]