THEMES: Yogananda-related teachings on maya. – No fair play with Christians.
Yogananda and Self-Realizaton Fellowship (SRF) liken the Hindu concept of Maya to the bible's Satan, saying Maya is Satan. But Hindu scriptures tell otherwise, and the bible too. - On this page are central, corruptive SRF notions laid bare.
SHANKARA (AD 700? - 750?) says Maya is a matrix of names-and-forms (the universe).
The term 'maya' comes from the root ma or "measuring". When one adds the suffix ya to the root ma it can be defined as "relating to measuring". Maya provides actualisations.
Maya is "akin to 'to measure', 'show forth'. Through ideation - imaginative activities - Maya may foster will and coping. Maya shows what food that fits us, including food for thought. Go for constructive activity, and Maya tends to help, just as sound measurements and judgements help man in general.
Figuring, that is the clue in all this. [Maya of Hindu scriptures]
SRF-published teachings on maya in the name of their guru Paramahansa Yogananda (1893-1952) are shown on this page. Further, on the previous page is some Vedic, succinct information about maya from the ranks of notable persons to compare with. A guru's status gets undermined if his fakes, false teachings and errings are exposed, by the way.
"All nature that we behold is the Mother aspect of God, because in nature we find beauty, gentleness, and kindness," said Yogananda [Note 1]. You find other other things in nature too, not just pottery, but stalking, murder, and beer, to name a few things. And, interestingly, Kali worship (that sort of Mother worship) in India included human sacrifice in some places till into the 1600-1700s or so, writes the translator Frederick Eden Pargiter in Markandeya Purana [Ma xii]. The reason why mother Kali (Divine Mother) is depicted with a garland of human skulls, has not been solely figurative everywhere and at all times.
In America, Yogananda frequently invoked the Divine Mother (Kali was a favourite aspect of her to him) without displays of naked skulls, but as selectively as if by whim: Ramakrishna says Mother is Maya. Yogananda says, a bit oversimplified: "Maya is bad, Mother is good! (Let us forget that Maya is the Mother)". Compare his teachings with this: When trolls in folklore are exposed to sunlight they burst.
So, to Ramakrishna, maya itself is God, the Mother of the Universe, identical with the Brahman of Vedanta. [Goa 51]. "When I think of the Supreme Being . . . as active . . . I call Him . . . Maya . . . Personal God." - Ramakrishna [Goa 54].
The future Paramahansa Yogananda (1893-1952) came under the "spell of Divine Mother and Maya" too, as Ramakrishna's devoted disciple and biographer Mahendanath Gupta spent time on him. See what happened when that biographer had greeted him:
I fell moaning to the floor.
The divine Mother (Maya) is not talked down on here. Far from it. The whole chapter is called "The blissful devotee and his cosmic romance", and here it is: [Link] But maya is vehemently talked against in SRF publications, with sordid inconsistency and bungling of concepts. That is not as it should be.
More on Maya
Yogananda holds that the world is maya, that is, an illusion. He is thus a mayavadin, one who professes that the world is maya. He might as well bite his tail. If his teachings that the world is illusory, a dream, maya, were true, so would be all his teachings too, as parts of the world and expressed and found in the world - they would have to be illusory and fit to be disregarded. Are they? You cannot count on them and Yogananda, if it really were as he tells about the world. Also, you had better not count on them if not either. It stands to reason.
So what will you do next? May I suggest you study the evidence before settling on any conclusions, tentative or other ones, if this topic means anything to you. Granted that the maya concepts deals with any human's figuring, it could be wise to think things over about it, if your thinking maya works for you. Study and education frequently helps that. On these pages are dozens of referenced Yogananda quotations about the world, as if just one would not be enough:
There are citations about the subject on other pages on-site too. You can do a Site Search (there is a link on the top of the page) to see if something of interest comes up.
Now Ramakrishna says that maya operates in the relative world in two ways and he termed these "avidyamaya" and "vidyamaya.' Avidyamaya sustains lower planes, but vidyamaya is enlightening, including qualities like kindness. Vidyamaya elevates a man to a better consciousness. With the help of vidyamaya he then gets free of maya, if only for a while. The two aspects of maya are two forces of creation [Goa 51, 52].
Erroneous Yogananda Lore
Maya is a fundamental concept in Hindu philosophy. To some it has come to mean that what creates the grand illusion that the phenomenal world is real and the same as Brahman (God). [EB "maya"]
When it comes to such as maya as a fabric and maya as a weaving agent deep inside, later editions of Paramahansa Yogananda's autobiography contains a sinister footnote [Au 243n] that is missing in the first edition of his autobiography, and some other footnotes against maya too, including
"I am the door: . . . The thief (maya or delusion) cometh not but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy [Au 222n]."
Maya means delusion or illusion in the guru's public writings, as the relative world and the world of Nature, etc. [Au 234 ff]. The famous guru twists bible passages and bungles with Bible concepts to put his understanding of maya into them.
The Old Testament prophets called maya by the name of Satan . . . "the adversary" [Au 243n etc.].
They did not. They called Satan by the name of Satan, and kept maya out of it.
In God's plan and play (lila), the sole function of Satan or Maya is to attempt to divert man from Spirit to matter, from Reality to unreality. [Ibid]
That is quite an SRF definition for the general public. The Bible's view is not exactly that God sports with bible-alien imposing yogis, or with the universe. It is a shame how Yogananda introduces bible-alien concepts into central bible places. Why should he and his misguided followers get away with such sectarian stones for bread?
Christ describes maya picturesquely as a devil, a murderer, and a liar. [Ibid]
No. Jesus refers to Satan and does not say maya in any known place. Autobiography content bungles main concepts from different frames of references repeatedly and thereby produces distorted notions. It is bad, unfair, sickening, and sectarian drivel - it is unfit for folks.
SRF's former vice-president divulges in chapter 30 of his on-line book A Place Called Ananda, that the "Autobiography of a Yogi has been subjected to so many changes that Ananda . . . has felt it a duty to make the first edition once more available to people." [Apa, ch 30. Cf. ch 28 too]
The autobiography footnote we are into, appears in later editions of the Autobiography, for example those of 1971 and 1981 and 1998. The footnote contains an "I" which suggests that Yogananda is the master of the footnote, although it could be due to editorial liberties of the SRF publishers. In many places they have added to the book and changed statements too, as their former vice president tells, and others too. [Notes 2 and 3 (bottom of this page)] [More]
"So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence." - Sir Bertrand Russell, in Science and Religion.
"Canonical" SRF material about Maya (Divine Mother, etc) is now discussed:
It should not be imagined that the truth about maya was understood only by the rishis [Vedic seers]. The Old Testament prophets called maya by the name of Satan (lit., in Hebrew, "the adversary"). - Autobiograhy of a Yogi, Au 243n]
They did not. For one thing, the word 'maya' does not appear in the Old Testament. The term 'maya' is from a cultural setting that is alien to the Old Testament people, Hebrews. They did not use it, and hardly used any equivalent to it either.
It is different with the Greek term figure. To figure well helps to preserve good measures, including sound measure in all things - an old norm for living. The Greek "figure" could be just the same as 'maya', essentially.
Maya comes from ancient Sanskrit roots where it ties in with "mete out", i.e. proportion out etc. In Sanskrit literature, basic meaning(s) took on added, extra meanings, and such a process is rather common in English and scientific vocabulary as well. Words have central cores and people may elaborate or add to them one way or another, often in many directions too. So, "Maya is thus that cosmic force that presents the infinite Brahman (the supreme being) as the finite phenomenal world [Britannica Online: s.v. "maya"]." That is one outlook.
In religious Hinduism 'maya' is either looked on as Divine Mother or something not so good in that context. The phenomenon Ramakrishna saw and experienced Maya as the Divine Mother, the acme of goodness in many Hindu (Tantra) circles.
Judged from the rather long note in Yogananda's autobiography, the editor (or author) is far from that mark in two respects: She/he jumbles concepts from two cultures; and adds negative value to the Sanskrit 'maya' by saying it is 'satan'.
Yogananda and SRF hail his Hindu gurus as Christs. Compare:
The Greek Testament, as an equivalent for Satan, uses diabolos or devil. Satan or Maya [This is mixing concepts.] is the Cosmic Magician who produces multiplicity of forms to hide the One Formless Verity. In God's plan and play (lila), the sole function of Satan or Maya is to attempt to divert man from Spirit to matter, from Reality to unreality [This SRF material ignores much of what Jesus said about Satan too.]. - Autobiograhy of a Yogi [Au 243n]
Jesus warns against false teachers and false Christs. Yogananda hails many yogis and gurus he knew in India, as Christs, many Christs. Interesting.
Christ describes maya picturesquely as a devil, a murderer, and a liar. "The devil . . .was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it" (John 8:44).
Jesus has not referred specifically to maya anywhere.
Maya is "from the beginning" because of its structural inherence in the phenomenal worlds. These are ever in transitional flux as antithesis to the Divine Immutability. - Autobiograhy of a Yogi [Au 243n]
What is from the beginning needs someone of the beginning to bear accurate witness through or by Maya somehow.
Think what befits a human.
Yahweh and apostles on the value of maya
Bible saying: The Lord came down in a pillar of cloud and said, "Listen I reveal myself to a prophet of the Lord in visions, and speak to him in dreams. But with Moses I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles. [Numbers 12:5-8, paraphrased]
Clear guidance from within is the boon - Visions and dreams may need to be interpreted, and to interpret you could need to be educated, for example in the subject of dream interpretations. There are many works on i; at the back are some.
Prophesies and visions and dreams - such maya - are not barred from reborn Christians. [Acts 2:17-18]
Extensive wisdom is much praised in the whole Bible as valuable to man, and coming from God, and maya is wisdom.
Art is made use of by God in designing his tent and utensils - and maya is art -
Extraordinary power(s) can be said to accompany the chosen ones of God in both the Old and New Testament - such prowess may be of maya. [All three highlighted terms are part-definitions of maya from very old times in Monier-Williams' Sanskrit-English Dictionary]
What to learn from these "senerades"? Get a good education, proficient ways of dealing, mate well, go for benefits and all-round thriving. These are boons. Gautama Buddha, son of Queen Maya, speaks for such rich blessings. Compare: The Maha-Mangala Sutta] and [ Vyagghapajja Sutta: Conditions of Welfare]
The author of a rather foolish book entitled Thoughts asked the British actor and playwright Samuel Foote (1720-77) if he had read it.
A writer's own second thoughts may be validly put into his autobiography, but massive additions by editors long after the author is dead, is at least questionable, as in the case of Yogananda's heavily post-mortem edited autobiography in the hands of SRF. [An Autobiography review]
The book in its last editions contains lousy teachings against maya, which is a concept that has changed over time in the long Hindu tradition. There are many nuances to it. In the hands of Yogananda and SRF, some devil has gone into their alarming teachings too.
Apa: Walters, James Donald. A Place called Ananda. Rev. 2nd ed. Nevada City: Hansa Trust: 2001.
Au: Yogananda, Paramahansa. Autobiography of a Yogi. 13th ed. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF), 1998.
Ay: Yogananda, Paramahansa. Autobiography of a Yogi. 1st ed. New York: Philosophical Library, 1946.
Bik: Gambhirananda, Swami, tr. Brahma-Sutra-Bhasya of Sri Sankaracarya. 4th ed. Calcutta: Advaita, 1983.
Daff: Zimmer, Heinrich. Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilization. Princeton, NJ: Bollingen Series / Princeton University Press, 1972.
Dre: Jung, Carl Gustav. Dreams. Translated by by R. F. C. Hull. Princeton, NJ: Bollingen / Princeton University Press, 1974.
EB: Encyclopaedia Britannica. Online or yearly DVD Suite. London: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2015 (e.g.).
Goa: Nikhilananda, Swami, tr. The Gospel of Ramakrishna. Abr. ed. New York: Ramakrishna-Vivekananda, 1974.
Idln: Boss, Medard. "I dreamt last night ." New York: Gardner, 1977.
Ma: Pargiter, Frederick Eden, tr. Markandeya Purana. Calcutta: The Asiatic Society, 1904.
Medm: Hall, Calvin. The Meaning of Dreams. New ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1966.
Mii: O'Neil, Louis. Maya in Sankara: Measuring the Immeasurable. Delhi: Banarsidass, 1980.
Puh: Deussen, Paul. The Philosophy of the Upanishads. New York: Dover (Reprint of Clark's 1906-ed), 1966.
Rap: Gupta, Mahendranath. The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. New York: Ramakrishna-Vivekananda, 1942. Online.
Retr: Hark, Helmut. Religiöse Traumsymbolik. Frankfurt am Main: Lang, 1980.
Say: Yogananda, Paramahansa. Sayings of Yogananda. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1958.
Tp: Walters, James Donald. The Path: Autobiography of a Western Yogi. Nevada City: Crystal Clarity, 1977.
Via: Nikhilananda, Swami. Vivekananda. The Yogas and Other Works. Rev. ed. New York: Ramakrishna-Vivekananda, 1953. Online,
Ycm: Satyananda, Swami. Yogiraj Shyama Charan Lahiri Mahasay. A Biography. Portland, Mn: Yoganiketan, 2004. Online.
Ys: Satyanananda, Swami. Yogiraj Shyama Charan Lahiri Mahasaya. A Biography. Tr. Amitava Chaterjee. Portland, Mn: Sevayatan and Yoganiketan, 2001. Online.
Ysl: Bhattacharya, Jogesh Chandra. Yogiraj Shri Shri Lahiri Mahashaya. Kadamtala, Howrah: Shrigurudham (Ghosh), 1964. Online read-only text at Yoganiketan, Portland, Mn
1. Paramhansa Yogananda. "Is God a Father or a Mother?" Inner Culture magazine, October 1939.
2. Independent: The Daya Dynasty
3. Yogananda Rediscovered:
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