Yukteswar's Holy Science: Its Foundations
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The premises of Yukteswar's book Kailvalya Darsanam: The Holy Science are studied further down. There is some factual information about the premises of the text: (a) the Gospels; (b) the Book of Revelation; and (c) the Samkhya (Sankhya) philosophy of India. I also present a first little study of the possible relevance of the very few Bible passages Yukteswar included in his book. There is also some necessary background information.
Some knowledge of these basics are needed for making heads and tails of dealing adequately with the somewhat foolish work.
The yogi Swami Yukteswar wrote a book called Kaivalya Darsanam: The Holy Science in the 1890s. The basic ideas and program of the book were enjoined on its author by another yogi, called Babaji - it means "revered father". Babaji said politely, "Will you not write a short book on the underlying basic unity between the Christian and Hindu scriptures? Show by parallel references that the inspired sons of God have spoken the same truths, now obscured by men's sectarian differences." [Ay, chap. 36]
Complying, the swami-to-be, Yukteswar, chose to select passages from the Samkhya philosophy of Sanatan Dharma ("The Eternal Religion, Eternal Righteousness", that is, Hinduism), and season the text with 18 selected passages from the Gospel of John and 14 from the Book of Revelation in the Bible, and four more passages.
A complication: The very ancient Samkhya philosophy used to be atheistic, with no room for a God. However, Samkhya with a God in it came to be developed in time too, and it is this theistic Samkhya that Yukteswar uses. Thus, Samkhya differs from Samkhya . . . or, "There is Samkya and there is Samkhya - there is no basic unity, not even there."
Yukteswar served in part as a mouth-piece of an outlook and program that is under the weather in that the two main conclusions of his book were grafted onto him. He did not appear to have enough consideration or freedom to think for himself and think twice, which is much treasured by scientists and scholars, and some tell is necessary. And the cramped ideology of what he was enjoined to tell does not hold water, of course. For one thing, there is no basic unity even among Hindu scriptures. If you have not made heads and tails of that simple fact, you are as good as waylaid. And besides, even though the six orthodox philosophy systems of Hinduism have in common that they accept the divinity and immense authority of the hoary Vedas, do Christian scriptures do that? No, far from it. [Wo]
❖ Incredible mission, incredible solution.
Author: Yukteswar (1855-1936), a Hindu swami and kriya yogi in the line of Babaji and Lahiri Mahasaya. Sides to his life are laid bare in the famous Autobiography of a Yogi by his disciple Paramahansa Yogananda. There are other works that show sides to Yukteswar too. One, called Paramhansa Swami Yogananda is by Yukteswar's disciple Sailendra Dasgupta [Psy], and another book by Dasgupta is the work Kriya Yoga and Sri Yukteswar.
Identity: The book was made at another's behest, its overall scope was ordered, and the end results show it is a work of theistic Samkhya philosophy first and foremost, as common, atheistic Samkhya leaves out a "God". Christianity is hardly covered at all; and not on its own inherent premises. Some thirty Bible passages are used as scanty highlighting end quotations of some of the book's many sections. If these end quotations were removed, most of the value of Yukteswar's work could still remain. This goes to show it is far from any Christian piece of work. The work is accepted by some Hindus, largely unknown among Christians and very little understood among Americans.
Readers: Yukteswar's book was first published among Hindus, folks who knew him and spread his little book somewhat too. They wrote in well-mannered ways of it, but not very much, as far as I know. Yukteswar handed over the book to his disciple Yogananda when Yogananda was sent to the West to spread kriya yoga and its bonds. Yukteswar asked him to let the book serve as his teaching-foundation the West. Arriving in Boston in 1920, Yogananda set up Self-Realization Fellowship now seen as a cult by many. Headquartered in Los Angeles, they publish the book too, and thereby spread it among Americans and others, perhaps mostly on the West Coast.
Background: The author was an Indian who turned swami after writing the book. The book reflects theistic Samkhya, whereas Samkhya normally is without any "God". The book was written as a bridging attempt between Hinduism and Christianity, but on Samkhya terms, and not particularly Christian terms. It reflects the ancient, syncretic, mixing fare typical of Hinduism, whereas Christianity wants to be an exclusive religion.
When the book was written, India was governed over by the British, and was not split up at the time. Yukteswar had got formal education in the British-governed educational system at that time. Swami Yukteswar, born in the Serampore suburb of Calcutta, got his education in an English school, and after he had passed the Entrance Examination of the Calcutta University, he got admitted in a College for higher studies. However, his formal education was cut off one day when he had been attending a lecture in a class on Physics. The teacher was explaining the functions of the human eye, and Yukteswar could not understand just how an inverted image formed on the retina could not be seen as erect, but upside down. He stood up and asked the teacher, and asked him again, and then the teacher got irritated and said, "First go to the Medical College, then come to my class." The teacher remark provoked Yukteswar to drop the class and the College for good. However, he got permission to attend classes on such as Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Physiology, Anatomy at the Calcutta Medical College. He attended various classes in the Medical College for about two years. [Cb; Ky; Yb]
Serampore, where he grew up and settled, was a centre of Christian missionaries back then,, and people had respect and affection for them. As a native of Serampore, Yukteswar came in close contact with them and became friends with some of them. As a result he became conversant with the teachings of Jesus, and with how Christian evangelists thought and lived. [Ky, "Kriya"]
And then, after he had become a disciple of the kriya guru Lahiri Mahasaya and been initiated in the then secretive kriya yoga system, he was asked to write a book that is rooted in wrong assumptions, namely a thought-up "underlying basic unity between the Christian and Hindu scriptures" and that "the inspired sons of God have spoken the same truths." Such misleading outlooks need to be refuted. For one thing, Hindu scriptures do not agree among themselves as to whether there is one self or many selves, and second, Christianity does not stand for atheism, unlike ancient Samkhya. There is room for much debate in between those extremes, though. Suffice to say for now that Yukteswar's theistic Samkhya work covers a narrow terrain of Hinduism, and he barely scratches on Christianity.
Other literature to check up: Hindu scriptures are many and of somewhat different outlooks. A survey: Samkhya philosophy is enumerative in that it seeks to show how the world is made from the material level and subtler, finer ones. Good proof of the various claims is missing; that is one of the hallmarks of general, all-round philosophy. If good proofs of tenets are secured, they should be part of the scientific enterprise. An Introduction to Indian Philosophy contains some material on atheistic Samkhya. Wikipedia hosts an article on Samkhya too. You could say Yukteswar explores the general stands and outlooks of Samkhya, and throws in very little from the Bible. This is fairly way documented (below). The book is a religious-philosophical treatise, as among other Yukteswar works is a commentary on the Bhagavad Gita (online).
Of criticism and critics: Criticism of Yukteswar's book has been sparse. This is likely to be due to its gnomic style, lack of references in apart from a few dozens of Bible passages, and the abstruse nature of its subject chosen. For one thing, you need to know about Samkhya to evaluate it fitly. Among Hindus in India, the comments are not very many. After the book was made known through its American publishers, Self-Realization Fellowship, glowing praise of it has surfaced among comments on Amazon.com for some time.
There is a little downside to some of the praise: There is a difference between saying you like a book for some reason or other, and hailing its author as divine, faultless and all that. There were readers who first said they did not understand it, and then went on to hail Yukteswar as Divine Wisdom incarnated, with the typical signs of reverence that are established in the cult of SRF and its circles by now. Loudly to praise something you do not understand, that is foolish. "It is difficult to grasp in many places but his wisdom and clarity are unmatched," is a mild variant and "You really get the feeling that here is someone who knows the answers to the most difficult questions, the thorniest problems" is another. A third says the book "is so small, yet so rich with wisdom that I must frankly say that most of it went over my head and probably will for a long time to come. The faultless spiritual vision of Swami Yukteswar pierces many mysteries."
Some advocates of the book dislike that Yukteswar's old calculation error, where he applies Manu's cycle of 24.000 to the Platonic Year of 25.770 years without discerning the difference (!), comes out in the open. For each Platonic Year he gets 1.770 years further off the "mark" - that is not truly helpful. However, a faith is verily involved and quite drowns sobering information. See for yourself.
With these highlights in mind, it may be easier to evaluate the Amazon synopsis furnished by the publishers, Self-Realization Fellowship:
"This . . . treatise explores parallel passages from the Bible and the Hindu scriptures to reveal the essential unity of all religions [the aim was there, but the carrying out is of Hinduism]. Swami Sri Yukteswar, the revered guru of Paramahansa Yogananda, outlines the universal path that every human being must travel to enlightenment [, a claim that Christians may say is false.] He, also, explains [idiosyncratically] the vast recurring cycles of civilization, affording [his idiosyncratic] understanding of history and the ever-changing panorama of turbulent world events. [Not] Truly a book uniting East & West - [Hardly] showing explicitly the underlying parallels between the Bible and the Bhagavad-Gita. Provides a concise [and error-ridden] explanation of the recurring cycles of civilization [to the degree there are any]. THE HOLY SCIENCE and its author Swami Sri Yukteswar, the guru of Paramahansa Yogananda, are featured in the best selling spiritual classic, Autobiography of a Yogi."I dare say that what is put in brackets above, makes the synopsis far better.
Christian and Hindu scriptures, what do they have in common?
You might do worse than reflect on whether or to what degree there is an underlying basic unity between Christian and Hindu scriptures. Here it is, in a nutshell:
Both kinds of scriptures consist of words, which consist of sounds and syllables. Both alone and when put together in strings of sequences, they are capable of carrying meanings. If not concrete meanings, then maybe figurative ones that may or may not be arrived at through the arts and skills of interpreters and scholars and knowledge of the backgrounds in each "camp".
Yukteswar was told to claim "same truths" and not "doze off on top of books". In turn he seemed to ignore much that normally is vitally important to a well studied person: freedom to decide for himself; freedom to change his view in the face of mounting evidence, and freedom to correct the mistaken notions he was asked to write about. It is common practice to sleep on matters to arrive at better decisions. You should remain awake to that human liberty; it is part of the Human Rights legacy. During sound sleep the brain functions are refreshed, whereas loss of sleep makes us unable to think for ourselves. It comes by degrees, Jim Horne explains in Sleepfaring. [Sjs 75-76]
Yukteswar is presented as an accomplished yogi by disciples. He accorded with Babaji's notions completely, and although he did not had much confidence in himself for the task, he set out to write a book to abide by what he had been told to do.
How did he compose his little book? How did he structure it to get to grasp with his given task and its tough problems? Apart from his astrology-founded Introduction and his Conclusion, he offers Samkhya thinking: He most often starts his chapters and sections with Sanskrit verses, elaborate on them, and may or may not add a few Bible passages to compare with. An approximate check shows he uses 85 Sanskrit sutras, 34 passages from the New Testament, and 2 from the Old Testament - give or take a couple of passages: When Yukteswar uses several verses from the same Bible chapter, with or without the use of ellipses, I have counted them as one passage only.
Chap 1: 13 Sanskrit sutras + 17 New Testament passages
Chap 2: 22 Sanskrit sutras + 2 Bible passages
Chap 3: 33 Sanskrit sutras + 13 New Testament passages
Chap 4: 12 Sanskrit sutras + 6 New Testament passages
IN SUM: 85 Sanskrit sutras and 36 Bible passages.
Yukteswar's Bible passages: 18 passages from the Gospel of John, 14 from the book of Revelation, 2 from two different Letters, and 2 from the Old Testament.
According to Felix Just there are 7956 verses in the whole New Testament . It suggests how representative or not Yukteswar's verses could be unless they hit the mark of what the Christian message of salvation is about very, very well. There are reasons to say they do not: One reason is that both John and Revelation are not very typical of the whole New Testament. Another and still better reason is that there are far too few Bible passages in Yukteswar's slim text to capture the whole gamut of New Testament outlooks. Third, Yukteswar does not mention themes of the gospels on their own terms, that Christians seek to sort out in several books. One such book is What Jesus Said About It by Henry Koestline [We].
A tentative fraction: 36 passages with a few verses in each, in average yields 140 verses. The figure is approximate. 140 (Yukteswar's selected verses) divided by 7956 (the whole Christian message of the Bible), shows that he makes use of barely 0.2 percent of all the Bible verses, give or take.
Such a low, low percentage raises questions about the validity of Yukteswar's selected passages. How representative are they for Christianity, how well do they get to the said core issues for Christians? What commands are there, are there any rules of discipleship? Any disclosure? What faith is talked of? Is there room for forgiveness? What kind of judgement is spoken of? Kingdom, love, prayer, salvation? These issues matter to many.
Statistics have developed since his time. Various ways of sampling exist: Random samples, stratified samples, and so on. Yet when it comes to qualitative estimates of the worth of different Bible words, statistics hardly fit. In such cases, trained Bible scholars may help us to judge the relative validity and perhaps also usefulness of this and that Bible saying.
To sum up, Yukteswar chose some passages from John and not quite as many from the Book of Revelation, and used them to "season" his explanation of Samkhya. In some places the relevance of his appended, unexplained Bible passages hang in a thin thread. Observe, for example, that the Gospel of John reflects a Christian tradition that is different from that of the other gospels. It was rejected as heretical by many individuals and groups within the early Christian movement, and was used extensively by the Gnostic Christians. It is the gospel least referred to by many liberal Christians. They typically regard John as containing few or none of Jesus' actual sayings. Conservative theologians on the other hand erroneously and dogmatically believe the gospels are error-free text. 
As for his Sanskrit passages, he has dropped giving any reference to the sources of them.
In Yukteswar's book, the sutras and Yukteswar's elaboration of and comments to them is the main thing and Christian passages are more or less secondary stuff, as shown by this: The value of his book may be experienced as just as good without them. Yukteswar settled on seasoning his elaboration on just one form of Hindu philosophy, Samkhya, with New Testament passages that capture neither the length, breadth and depth of the New Testament nor the Christian tradition. The slender book he once wrote, has those flaws compared to his whole task and all the variegated Hindu literature and the whole New Testament.
The overriding prospect he was given to carry out, that mission, as he called it, is not of this world, and that is the main thing. [Ay, Hos 4]
Basic, relevant information offers help
Yukteswar might have done better if he had not rallied in wrong directions from the onset, but he did not appear to have free will in the matter: Babaji asked him politely to write the book, etched out how he wanted it, and what to arrive at, such as "basic unity", "same truths". And then Babaji told, "Whatever the Lord has made me say is bound to materialize as truth." It appears that Babaji did not ask, but claimed divine authority to "sweep Yukteswar away" accordingly. But for all he claimed, there is no such basic unity and not the same truths, and that is it. [Autobiography, chap. 36; Au 294].
Now for a survey:
❖ Do you want to end up all alone? Could that be the good goal of Christian salvation, really?
If you deal with a mess, first try to get to grips with the main facts and issues in it.
Common Christianity consists of an unclarified mixture of Jesusism and traditional Christianity. Jesusism has the gospels as its anchorage, and the much freer Christiany uses them and all the other material in the New Testament for some reason, although in very unclarified ways at times. However, Christianity's essential four requirements are spelled out in the Apostolic Decree, in Acts 15:23-29. [Cf. Wikipedia, s.v. "Council of Jerusalem"]
In the light of this basis of Christianity, see how "good Christians" commonly have treated adulterers and compare with how they have treated lovers of blood pudding. Have you noted any difference so far? You never hear of US congressmen who get scandalised for eating blood pudding . . . It seems odd in the light of the Four Requirements of that Apostolic Decree, doesn't it? And if it does not seem odd, isn't that odd as well?
The Apostolic Decree makes it clear that a Christian is required to eat no blood food, and not to commit adultery. These two old requirements stand out as vital - but common church practice is much different, as a result of sabotage, one may conjecture. [See for example the material on Blood sausages and "Good Christianity" on-site. Also: [Wikipedia, s.v. "Jesusism" and "Apostolic Decree"]
The Trouble with Jesusian Christianity
Yukteswar was asked to work on Christian scriptures, and not just the Jesusian ones (gospels). Salvation in Christianity means a man or woman is made acceptable to God by the Holy Spirit falling on him or her, and not by "lifting up the son of Man" by meditation, as Jesus was into. There was no 'Christianity' at the time of Jesus, though, only follower-Jews. The males of the harsh "Deal of Jesus" who even drove away most of his chosen seventy disciples, were without foreskin and without the descended Holy Spirit, but not without enforced sabbath rest . . . [Wikipedia, s.v. "Jesusism"]
Jesusism as it is anchored today, was not even born when Christianity was growing strong. All the apostles and the Holy Spirit agreed to enjoin only four requirements on non-Jewish followers, the Christians, but all the gospel teachings of Jesus went unmentioned by them in that Apostolic Decree. It should come as no wonder, since the gospels most likely were composed several decades after the Apostolic Decree. So early Christians got saved without having gospels to believe in. That point may be overlooked rather easily. [Acts 15; cf. Wikipedia, s.v. "Apostolic Decree"]
Yukteswar includes a bit from the Gospel of John in his "unity book", and that is okay if the other gospels are not vital to the Christianity of all the apostles and the Holy Spirit behind the Apostolic Decree. The written gospels came later.
There were many more gospels and obscure thoughts circulating in the first few centuries than the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. All of the original copies of the four gospels in the Christian Scriptures have been lost. The gospels in the New Testament come from hand-copied replications removed from the originals. The oldest known surviving part of a gospel dates from about 125 CE. It consists of about 50 lines from the Egerton gospel -- one of the 40 or so gospels that never made it into the official canon.
The four well-known gospels were canonised after Bishop Irenius (ca. 185) in Lugdunum (now: Lyons) had chosen to promote just them. There were also the Apocryphal gospels in circulation in the early church, the Non-canonical gospels, the Jewish gospels and the Gnostic gospels. So any canonised gospel literature was not found during the first few centuries. By the turn of the 400s, the Catholic Church in the west, under Pope Innocent I, recognised a biblical canon including the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. [Wikipedia, s.v. "Gospels"]
Several early and more or less oral sayings, collections and accounts preceded the "canonical" Gospels. Some Christian scholars maintain that the gospels are inerrant descriptions of the life of Jesus, while other scholars conclude that the gospels provide no historical information about the life of Jesus. As for the Book of Revelation, that Yukteswar also found fit for his purpose, see Fact Sheet 1.
Yukteswar chose Samkhya
Yukteswar settled on adding some passages from the Gospel of John and the little-understood Book of Revelation to his Samkhya exposition in response to what he was told to do by the very secretive yogi Babaji, to write about "the underlying basic unity between the Christian and Hindu scriptures". However, where is such a basic unity? At best, in the mind. But such an idea had better correspond with given facts or good data.
To come around, Yukteswar selected a variant of the Samkhya philosophy as his key Hindu scripture basis, but without even telling of the sources of the Sanskrit verses and lines he has used. I mention this most of all because the ancient Samkhya of the rishi (seer) Kapila is one of six orthodox Hindu philosophies is generally regarded as atheistic, but with a later theistic variant, which Yukteswar uses. Samkhya teaches salvation through knowledge of the dualism of matter and souls, and gives a list of parts of the process.
Yukteswar makes use of theistic Samkhya, blissfully avoiding atheistic Samkhya. Hoary Samkhya does not allow for God, unlike theistic Samkhya. Samkhya further tells there are "many souls or Selves", whereas Advaita Vedanta says there is One. Advaita is the Hindu philosophy that most gurus adhere to, by the way. The idea of basic oneness in Hindu scriptures looks like a mirage.
Another of the six orthodox philosophical systems in Hinduism is called Yoga Philosophy. It is closely allied to Samkhya, but accepts there is a God. Accordingly, Yukteswar may be said to expound Yoga Philosophy too, since the Samkhya and Yoga Philosophies are very much similar [Wo]. Christianity, on the other hand, is sharply focused on a sheep-catching or sheep-making God of chosen ones.
Enumerative, theistic Samkhya and the Yoga philosophy are two of the six orthodox schools of Hindu philosophy. They do not agree with all the other six schools (darshans) about ultimate verities. The difference between Samkhya and Advaita as to whether there are many selves or One, has been pointed out already. Another point that should not be overlooked, is that one and the same darshan (philosophical system), may contain many different views, as shown above for atheistic and theistic Samkhya. Vedanta also contains subsets of schools with differing views. [Wikipedia, s.v. "Vedanta"] Also, there are many, many more scriptures of Hinduism than its six orthodox philosophies and their at times differing variants, or "schools". Compare: Hinduism: Literature
Thus, Yukteswar chose Hindu Samkhya philosophy to add Christianity passages to, but there are many Hindu philosophies that do not agree with Samkhya. Yukteswar settled on interpreting figurative Revelation passages as it suited his mission. If such an approach was street-smart, was is smart enough, all in all?
❖ Consider to what degree freedom to think for oneself and settle on one's own conclusions is needed in satisfactory research and higher study.
❖ The bulk of Yukteswar's message is rather common yoga lore, and attuned to the Samkhya philosophy of Hinduism.
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Au: Yogananda, Paramahansa. Autobiography of a Yogi. 13th ed. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF), 1998.
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Dg: Pagels, Elaine. De gnostiske evangelier: Evangeliene kirken ikke ville bruke (The Gnostic Gospels: The Gospels the Church Would not Use). Oslo: Cappelen, 1980.
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Ins: Prabhavananda, sw: The Spiritual Heritage of India. 2nd ed. Vedanta. Hollywood, 1969.
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Ky: Dasgupta, Sailendra B. Kriya Yoga and Sri Yukteshvar. Np: Yoganiketan, 1998.
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Pa: Yogananda, Pa.: Autobiography of a Yogi. 11th ed. Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF). Los Angeles, 1971.
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Scf: Yogananda, Pa.: Scientific Healing Affirmations. Self-Realization Fellowship. Los Angeles, 1958.
Scp: Yogananda, Pa.: The Science of Religion. Self-Realization Fellowship. Los Angeles, 1953.
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Sjs: Horne, Jim. Sleepfaring: A Journey through the Science of Sleep. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.
Sob: Self-Realization Fellowship: Paramahansa Yogananda in Memoriam. SRF. Los Angeles, 1958.
Thd: Zukav, Gary. The Dancing Wu Li Masters: An Overview of the New Physics. London: Rider, 1979.
Viom: Jolly, Julius tr: The Institutes of Vishnu. Banarsidass. Delhi, 1965.
We: Koestline, Henry. What Jesus Said about It. New York: Signet, 1970.
Wo: Chatterjee, Satischandra and Datta, Dhirendramohan: An Introduction to Indian Philosophy. 7th ed. University of Calcutta. Calcutta, 1968.
Xm: Radhakrishnan, S. ed: The Cultural Heritage of India, Vol. 3. Rev. ed. Ramakrishna Institute. Calcutta, 1953.
Yb: Satyananda, Swami. Swami Sri Yukteshvar Giri Maharaj. A Biography. Portland: Yoga Niketan. 2006. Online pdf. www.yoganiketan.net.
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