Yukteswar's Great Ideas
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Yukteswar talks of constituents of the cosmos, and uses the ancient Hindu philosophy of Sankhya (Samkhya) to that end. Ordinary Sankhya is an an atheistic system, says Gavin Flood, but theistic tendencies of Sankhya were developed in the 1500s or around there, even though it was acknowledged also then that the system did not need the idea of a Lord anyhow. [Ith 235]
Sankhya tells there are many separate selves, and that when such a self (at first without an object) draws to itself subtle material, "spiritual awareness" is first formed. Next a deep ego consciousness arises, and from it what it takes to speak, grasp, move, procreate, evacuate), and also a matrix of it all: the mind itself.
The title and last part of Yukteswar's book talk of liberation as a certain inward "aloneness", or separatedness. There are added meanings to Sankhya's term kaivalya (liberation), such as transcendent self and witness self in our daily mind. The inward Self is hardly ever found through severe outward-directed activity. [Ith 234] Adi Shankara describes it:
There is a self-existent Reality, which is the basis of our consciousness of ego. That Reality is the Witness of the state of ego consciousness and of the body. That Reality is the constant Witness . . . your real Self. That Reality pervades the universe . . . Its nature is timeless Awareness . . . This is your real Self, the Supreme Being . . . It is unwavering. It is Spirit itself. [More]
What this Page is About
Below are central parts of Yukteswar's message in his book The Holy Science [Hos] and some comparisons. Yukteswar asked his disciple Yogananda in 1920, when Yogananda was on the brink of leaving India for Boston onboard "The City of Sparta", to use this book as the pillar of his Self-realization yoga teachings in the West, the Yogananda biographer Sailendra Das Gupta tells in Kriya Yoga and Sri Yukteswar. Here is the gist of some passages in chapter 1 of the book:
One day Yogananda had a vision that he was lecturing before a large gathering of American men and women, and the same evening he went by train to Calcutta, where he got a delegate membership to a Conference of the Worlds Fellowship of Faiths to be held in Boston.
In the book, Yuktesswar writes,
The highest aim of religion is Atmajnanam, Self-knowledge [Hos 6] . . . God, the only Substance in the universe, is therefore not comprehensible by man of this material world, unless he becomes divine by lifting his self [Hos 22; cf. Net xxiv].
And Yogananda started a "Self-Realization Fellowship" the same year, in 1920, when he lived in a hotel room without a bath in Boston.
I would like to add a comment at this place: The bible translator George Lamsa goes into the aramaic concept of barnasha, son of man. The term has four meanings. The lowest is the habit-governed everyday person, the less conscious side to man. Man can be enabled to lift himself, so to speak, by going inwards, as in Transcendental Meditation, TM. [Net xxiv]
"There are indeed exceptional personages [who] can grasp today what ordinary people can not . . . those exalted ones . . . require nothing of it [his book]." [Hos 18-19]
. COMMENT. Have you spent some thought on how "ordinary people" may feel about reading things like that? First, Yukteswar says their world is nothing(ness), and that they are are unable to understand God. So why bother to read his Samkhya-Yoga delineations if it is nothing, as part of the outer world? If you want to help people, teach them to meditate: that should work better, although there comes no guarantee along with it, only more or less well-founded statistics that may indicate how good your odds are.
"Directing his attention inward he can comprehend within him the . . . Force and Feeling, the sole properties of his Self - the Force Almighty as his will . . . with enjoyment . . . and the Feeling Omniscient as his [enjoying] Consciousness [Hos 22-23]."
COMMENT: He: Being. Feeling, Consciousness: Chit. Force: Ananda. Thus Yukteswar expounds Sat-Chit-Ananda by other words.
COMMENT. Well, now, did the intellectual power of man start to develop after AD 499? Instead of arguing futilely, ask for evidence. The burden of proof lies the one who proposes something, in this case Yukteswar. Also, do not mistake hailings and railings with good evidence. Some appear to do.
Scriptural mentions and notions may not be all right, says Buddha in his ground-breaking Kalama Sutta. Therefore seek to learn the good things if you can, based on hard-won experiences of others most of all. Such gist could help you so as not to flounder, and make living far better if you are up to it.
Yukteswar says further, in essence:
The Word, Time, Space, and the Atom [monad] are one and the same. These four ideas are the four beasts of the Revelation and give rise to confusion . . . [Hos 24-25, rendered]
COMMENT. That Time is a Revelation Beast, time will show - and in Space somehow, somewhen, since time and space form a continuum, according to physics . . . But I'm not quite sure that Yukteswar has caught the New Testament's meaning of the Four Beasts. The reason? Yukteswar says the throne is the Atom or Monad: "Atoms . . . are the throne of Spirit" [Hos 25], and Revelation says the four beasts surround the throne. So in the quotation above he says in effect that the Atom is around the Atom (throne). Can a surrounding throne be the throne it surrounds now? That is a problem with Yukeswar's Samkhya adaptation of Revelation to Samkhya.
Another complication is that Yukteswar voices the dualistic Samkhya view of many Atoms, anus, monads; it is not just one. Many atoms, many thrones, accordingly - or are "the innumerable atoms, "one and the same", as he says [Hos 24]?
A third difficulty lies in this: Yukteswar says about the four beasts - Word, Time, Space, and Atom (monad) - that they are not only "one and the same", but also "substantially nothing but mere ideas" [Hos 24]. Accordingly, they are not "things". Ideas are not things.
Consider, too, that Yukteswar tells that in Swarloka, the source of all matters, fine and gross, man perceives the luminous astral form around his Heart, Atom, the throne of Spirit the Creator, provided with five electricities and with two poles, Mind and Intelligence, of seven different colors as in rainbows.
You may soon enough come to wonder: "Some insects and animals perceive ultra-violet light, and snakes infra-red light. The man who allegedly "understands the true nature of the universe," won't he see nine colours in the rainbow?"
Or maybe you start to wonder why someone would spend a lot of time to describe "one and the same" by enumerating said twenty-five gradations of it into mere nothingness.
"Seeing is believing," a proverb goes. Another: "Everyone to his liking."
Still another problem arises from Revelation 3:21, where someone else than the individuality (Yukteswar's Atom) sits on the throne, which the individual was supposed to be ,according to Yukteswar [cf. Hos 43].
Revelation runs like this:
Before the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal. In the centre, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come."
From these verbatim Bible verses and Yukteswar's exposition, some topics arise for consideration. One of them is: The throne Yukteswar speaks of, is yourself, your individuality. In Yukteswar's exegesis the throne is the Atom, man's individuality, and in the middle of it and around it are many eyes and flapping wings and songs day and night. On the practical side of it, let us hope all that intuitive massing is not enervating, although it might be difficult for all those who are not "divine ones" to grasp how beasts may mass a lot where there is neither air nor organs . . . [Hos 24, 25]
The twenty-four elders according to Yukteswar, are "twenty-four principles . . . nothing more than the development of Ignorance" The Bible's "Ignorance elders" worshipping the one on the throne - is that bad Ignorance too? [Hos 32]
Kutastha Chaitanya is Omnipresent Holy Spirit, and is called the Holy Ghost which shines on the individual parts of Darkness. Ignorance is repulsion and does not comprehend the Spiritual Light. [Hos 26, rendered]
The Holy Spirit of the gospels is different from what Yukteswar tells. Evidence is here: [Link]. Ignorance is hardly repulsion. If you are ignorant of a system of Hindu philosophy, how can it be repulsive to you? In Advaita, avidya, ignorance, is a certain limitation. In Adi Shankara's philosophy avidya cannot be categorised either as 'absolutely existent' or as 'absolutely non-existent'. [Wikipedia, s.v. "Avidya"]
And so on. So far as the world is a realm of nothingness, as Yukteswar and the other four immediate gurus of Self-Realization Fellowship say, is may be pointed out that being given a direction to turn and go, is inevitably part of that illusion too, and making plans may not be good at all. To strip away mountains as illusions, that is "success a la Yukteswar". However, maybe the mountains, standing there, tell another tale.
And to get rid of your flesh as mere nothingness, is not the way to go either, still according to Yukteswar, as shown in Autobiography of a Yogi: "Master [Yukteswar] was not solicitously attached to his body, but he was cautious of it. The Divine, he pointed out, is properly manifested through physical and mental soundness. He discountenanced all extremes. To a disciple who wanted to fast for a long period, my guru said laughingly, "Why not throw the dog a bone?" [Au 104].
A ripe fruit, should it be eaten, or discarded as nothingness? Yukteswar speaks for natural living and penance, hand in hand,. But if you try to punish yourself (penance) for eating a fine orange (natural living), it may not work out for you, no matter how you live out Yukteswar's teachings. Much depends on just how you do it - what sort of penance too.
By the way, I once spent some days in Californa with a Californian who wanted to do penance for former misdeeds by fasting on oranges, lots of oranges, and only oranges, and started to look like "skin and bones," as we say. It was extreme, so I thought it might be good to inform a Brother Bhaktananda of Self-Realization Fellowship about the fellow, since the skin-and-bone guy was a member, and Bhaktananda was in charge in SRF's Hollywood centre along Sunset Boulevard, the orange guy was "attached" there, and I was a visitor at the time. Perhaps you should know that the founder of SRF was Yukteswar's disciple Yogananda, who instituted massive fasting on orange juice regularly - but the orange guy went far, far beyond the Yogananda scheduce. Bhaktananda commented, "He'll have to learn the hard way."
Do not be mistaken: Some gurus at times teach one thing (nothingness) and live quite another (be cautious of the body, and sound). What to do?
If you adhere to the simple reality and sound balance, you may also find that much also depends on you, that real success is of integrity somehow, and what man needs above mere happiness is essential worth. So when Yukteswar says "The highest goal is freedom from unhappiness [Hos 50]," I quite disagree. It is worth.
Moral stands need to be cultivated, and some good courses to adhere to in life help too. On top of it there are body postures to train oneself in, control of life energy (prana-yama), and the inward-turning stages of deep meditation). [cf. Hos 71-72]
The Seven Lokas
Yukteswar tells of seven spheres [lokas, realms, spheres, planes] in the "big nothingness" of the realm of illusion. The really Incomprehensible is even beyond that again, he says. Accordingly, there is no need to freak out over vacuums or vacuum, heavens or heaven.
Bodhidharma says sunyata means outward-turned Essence. Hence, the concept of emptiness is too empty.
"The particular meanings of "emptiness" vary with the particular context and the religious or cultural tradition in which it is used," says the Britannica. [Ebu "emptiness"].
By the way, Northern Buddhism enumerates eighteen degrees of the Voidness, starting with Internal Voidness; External Voidness; Internal and External Voidness in union; Voidness of Voidance itself. Next on the list is Great Voidness; Real Voidness; Compounded Voidness; Uncompounded Voidness; and Boundless Voidness. Voidness number 12 is Natural Voidness. Number 13 is Voidness of Phenomena and so on. There are voluminous works and commentaries devoted wholly to the expounding of these eighteen degrees of the Voidness, informs W. Y. Evans-Wentz. Well, would you know! [Tiy 206n]
These are great teachings by Shankara: "Study of the scriptures is fruitless as long as Brahman [God] has not been experienced. And when Brahman has been experienced, it is useless to read the scriptures."
"Piousness suggests intentness of the soul on its own nature, or "intentness on the reality of the Self", he says too, and "The learning of the learned may bring enjoyment but not freedom Freedom is won by a perception of the Self's oneness with the Eternal, not by rites and sciences." [Shankara teachings]
Five Sheaths, Koshas
Yukteswar also teaches that the Son of God is covered by five sheaths, koshas. He is "screened by five coverings".
The origin of the koshas, often visualised like layers of an onion, is the Self, is the teaching of Advaita. The teaching of koshas, sheaths, are generally well supported yoga teachings. They are also tersely described by Ramana Maharsi. [Cf. Wikipedia, s.v. "Kosha"]
On page 24 Yukteswar says the World, Time, Space and Atom are one and the same, and on page 35 he says the Atom (Heart) is composed of these four ideas. What kind of teachings is that? "The atom is composed of the Atom and three more one-and-the-same ideas"? It is Yukteswar's teaching. The "Atom Heart" covering contains all ideas, might be added, and why not "A perfectly Self-contained Heart may serve you all right"? Inside the Heart is that Nameless Reality.
Hay and Honey
"Make hay when the sun shines [Proverb]." Why? "Supreme wealth, Paramartha, is the ultimate goal. [Hos 52, 51]."
The question is what hay is gathered, how it is stored, and such topics apply to wealth too. At a time it may just lie in a barn, properly ventilated, protected from direct sunlight and so on, so that it deteriorates less. But if it is not used, then what? The same applies to onions. If that is what you have grown, store them in a cool place to make them last longer, or let them sprout next year, and so on. After some time you could get rich on onions, and then comes added problems if you sell a lot and buy diamonds instead. They stand storage, but typically come with new dangers, including lurking thieves, gold-diggers, and that sort of hazards.
Something similar applies to wealth in general. It is coveted, many desire it, and not everyone is honest, fair and fit. Not even "honey" may be honest with you. It often shows up through costly divorces. Some marry upwards, and for wealth, and soon divorces for wealth too, where laws allow it.
Loving well is turning love away from others, Yukteswar divulges. Love expels germs of diseases. It makes healthy and helps one understand. And heart love is the thing, and directing one's love away from anybody into the Supreme. [Hos 56-58]
It means: "Stop loving them." Also implied is that free and spontaneous love can be good, and being truthful is above tanning [cf. Hos 61].
"The power of love has been beautifully described" - Yukteswar. [Hos 97]
Eating and drinking: What to choose?
Pigs treat us as equals. [Sir Winston Churchill]
Yukteswar makes this point: "man is, in all probability, a frugivorous animal." [Hos 64-65].
Yukteswar does not tell that by the yardsticks he uses. that pig is much like man, or the other way round. Nuts, roots and vegetables are included in a fit pig diet too, and supposedly likable pizzas, for "pigs eat them; potato and vegetable peelings too". However, a tip lies embedded in this question: "I feel strangely drawn to eat much marzipan, but don't like raw almonds. What shall I do?" The pig would probably grunt and eat the almonds, and you may cook and grind them and add some healthy sweetening. Voila!" So do not make do with just asking, "What would the pig eat?" Man has a wider adaptation range; he can cook food too,. Yes, man has learnt to prepare many sorts of food that are more or less uneateble when raw, and cocoa beans show it too. Many who delight in chocolate, don't want raw cocoa beans. Much depends on the processing, in other words. [Wikipedia, s.v. "Marzipan"]
"In men of all races we find that their senses of smell, sound, and sight never lead them to slaughter animals," says Yukteswar [Hos 65]. He does not find it fit to tell that in Vedic India people used to eat meet. Encyclopaedia Britannica also informs: "In ancient India, killing people in war or in capital punishment and killing animals in Vedic sacrifices were acceptable to many people who for other reasons refrained from eating meat." [Ebu "Hinduism"]
No rule without some exceptions, then.
Yukteswar also talks for milk: "Milk is undoubtedly the food of the newborn babe." [Hos 66] And Jesus says - correct me if I am wrong, "Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. [Matthew 18:3]." Also, Luke tells how people were bringing babies to Jesus, who said, "The kingdom of God belongs to such as these. [Luke 18:15-16]."
Become like children, Milch trinken." Along with extensive lacto-vegetarianism, Hindus also venerate the cow that gives food without having to be killed." [Ebu "Hinduism"]
"From these observations the only conclusion that can reasonably be drawn is that various grains, fruits, roots, and - for beverage - milk, and pure water openly exposed to air and sun are decidedly the best natural food for man . . . well chewed and mixed with saliva . . ." [Hos 66].
COMMENT: I somehow feel confident that Yukteswar does not want everybody to chew water. And feel free to include raw or steamed or cooked vegetables to it too, to make another delightful soup, as your liking directs it, even if the raw food in the ground hardly appeals to you.
He Does not Advocate Very Much Sex
Interestingly, he also says, "In the sexual desire everyone has a very accurate thermometer to indicate the condition of his health." He holds that "sexual desire in its normal state makes man quite free from all disturbing lusts." "The sexual organ . . . is in a sense the root of the tree of life." He also says "Man well instructed in the proper use of sex can keep his body and mind in proper health and can live a pleasant life throughout." [Hos 68]. Let us hope that.
Yukteswar does not say bluntly you should abstain from sex if you are unmarried, but to go for proper use of sex, whatever that might be. However, his disciple Yogananda teaches that unmarried persons had better adhere to strict celibacy, and married couples should refrain from sex most of the time. A row of Yogananda quotations about sex are gathered here: [Link]
Seven Golden Candlesticks and What They Mean to Yukteswar
There is much reference to chakras (padmas, lotuses, whirls and vortexes of inner energy) in yoga works, particularly in Kundalini works. Sir John Woodroffe's The Serpent Power [Spo] goes deeply into this difficult terrain. A books that is a summary of Sir John's book, is the slender Kundalini Yoga. The latter leaves out juicy details. [Kuo 38-39].
Yukteswar taught kriya yoga, which is at bottom Kundalini Yoga (serpent yoga), and sometimes loosely referred to as Raja Yoga. In Yoga and Kriya and Kundalini Tantra Satyananda explains how kriyas are done, in detail. [Cy; Kta] [Link]
The chakras are linked to the spine, without being physical. Each comes with a root mantra, and associated qualities and sounds (represented by lotus petals - see figure). Besides ascent is marked by increased awareness, which is at the heart of it. From bottom and upward the seven main chakras are:
In chapter 1, "Mahabharata Imageries", in the book Kriya Yoga and Sri Yukteswar by Sailendra Bejoy Das Gupta, the battle scene of the Bhagavad Gita is likewise used figuratively to tell of the secret lotuses of every man and women. Yukteswar adds in that book also that without experiencing these things first-hand, there is no adequate understanding of them. Anyway, it in his ascent teachings, Yuktewar draws on an unseen, non-carnal spinal channel called sushumna ("the narrow way"), and "circles", chakras of energy and consciousness that are like parts of it somehow [Bhg, ch 1, v. 15-18, commentary]
In Zen, knowledge of chakras is not thought much of. The chakras are not physical, and there are no naked statements in Revelation as to what most of its visionary images mean. In the book of Daniel (chap. 7), which Revelation is thought to draw on, interpretations of four beasts are supplied. "The four great beasts are four kingdoms that will rise from the earth." [Dan 7:17]
In another vision a shaggy goat was the king of Greece, and the large horn between his eyes was the first king. Despite the explanations furnished in the vision, when Daniel woke up he found his goat-vision was beyond understanding. [Dan 8:20-21, 27]
We may note in passing that the term "son of man" was also applied to Daniel himself. So in a certain tradition is was not reserved only for Jesus.
The giant problem of drawing in more or less obscure bible allegories and adapt them well and reasonably, is that of substantiation and a lesser problem is that of relating your take to other interpretations. This said, yoga methods and allied, cool teachings do not depend on many misrepresentations or biblical comparisons. Good yoga is capable of sitting on its own bottom.
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. Online. [oaks.nvg.org/pv6bk12.html]
Bhg: Yukteswar, Swami. Srimad Bhagavad Gita: Spiritual Commentary. Portland, Mn: Yoganiketan, 2002. On-line. [www.yoganiketan.net].
Cy: Satyananda Saraswati, Swami. A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga and Kriya. Munger: Yoga Publications Trust, 1981.
Dmt: Huang Po. The Dharma of Mind Transmission: Zen Teachings of Huang Po, tr. John Blofeld. New York, NY: Grove Press, 1958.
Ebu: Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica 2010 Ultimate Reference Suite DVD. London: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2010.
Hos: Yukteswar, Swami: The Holy Science. 7th ed. Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF), Los Angeles, 1972.
Ith: Flood, Gavin. An Introduction to Hinduism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.
Kuo: Pandit, M. Kundalini Yoga. 5th ed. Madras: Ganesh, 1972.
Kta: Satyananda Saraswati, Swami. Kundalini Tantra.8th ed. Munger: Yoga Publications Trust, 2001.
Ky: Dasgupta, Sailendra B. Kriya Yoga and Sri Yukteshvar. Portland, Mn: Yoganiketan, 1998. On-line: [www.yoganiketan.net].
Net: Lamsa, George, tr. The New Testament. Philadelphia: Holman Bible Publishers, 1968. Later edition is ◦Online.
Spo: Avalon, Arthur (Sir John Woodroffe). The Serpent Power: The Secrets of Tantric and Shaktic Yoga. 7th ed. New York: Dover, 1974.
Tb: Osborne, Arthur ed. The Teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharsi in His Own Words. New ed. London: Rider, 1971.
Tiy: Evans-Wentz, Walter Yeeling, ed. Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines. 2nd ed. London: Oxford University Press, 1967.
Szi: Nishijima, Gudo Wafo, and Chodo Cross, trs. Master Dogen's Shobogenzo. Book 2. Windbell Publications, London: 1996.
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