Paramahansa Yogananda, and the legacy of India’s mission to enlighten America


Having been in the trenches with many different gurus in my 20s, I’m not as much troubled by the power that some gurus hold over their flock as I am by the willingness of some individuals to completely surrender power over their lives to somebody (anybody!) else, and the general institutional insanity that arises from the inner circles clustered around the big-name gurus.

I saw this first hand not too long ago at an event for Amma, the hugging saint. To me, her message is simple - anyone can hug another person. The way she does it is heroic, but she does not claim that her hugs are anything other than regular hugs.

Nevertheless, I met many people at the event who claimed that she passed some kind of special energy to them during her hug. There were also tables set up selling various trinkets, with the profits going to her charity, which is fine. However, I was not so comfortable with them selling clothes she had worn for a fairly high price.

I found it strange and disturbing that so many people were willing to credit her with supernatural powers when to me her whole message is that we possess in very ordinary ways the ability to help and transform others’ lives.

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Seems to me that you’ve just described the genesis of religions in general.


I have a hard time accepting Steve Jobs as some kind of spiritually enlightened trailblazer. The man was and is responsible, through the manufacturing and proliferation of often unneeded consumer crap, for a lot of suffering. Ask any of the people working 7 days a week manufacturing that shit, getting screamed at in board rooms and sacrificing their family lives, or the permanently vacant staring into a tiny screen while life passes them by if any of Steve Jobs’ masturabatory embrace of enlightenment trickled down to them.


I was going to agree with you, but then I remember that you endorse tailgating. I hate Apple sweatshops, but I hate tailgating taxicabs even more! So this is a tough choice for me.

I first read Autobiography of a Yogi back in 1974, because singer Jon Anderson had written about it in the liner notes for the fantastic Yes album Tales From Topographic Oceans.

I remember it as being mostly harmless; a fairly action-oriented, Classics Illustrated introduction to Hindu philosophy and yoga. Light on the philosophy, and heavy on all kinds of amazing! and miraculous! events surrounding Yogananda’s early years. I’m really not knocking it; I just remember it not being particularly deep.

Other books I read afterwards are deep, clear lakes, that have lasted me a lifetime. The Gita and Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras are starting points for more serious and rewarding reading. But by all means, if the association with Jobs peaks your interest, check out Autobiography; just remember that it’s more of a palate cleanser than a meal.

And please, check out Yes’s Tales From Topographic Oceans. It’s structured around a vast compendium of yogic literature, and it’s wonderful; 40 years later, it’s still one of my favorite albums, and I continue to learn from it.

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What is the apparent paradox of distributing a yoga book at one’s funeral, exactly? How does this entail logical contradiction?

Actualize yourself …new official Foxconn slogan

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Article never really answers this question “But who was Yogananda—and what was it about one simple meditator that created such a global impact?”

Maybe because Yogananda was apparently able to bend space and time to his will thanks to Einstein or something.

Can’t wait for the Boing! Boing! writeup when Oprah dies and hands out a copy of “The Secret” at her funeral.

Then quit squatting in the goddamn passing lane grandma! /honk /speak a foreign language /kill a baby seal (according to Travis Kalanick)

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the man who made the device you are now reading this on possible…

Did the author realize this might be read by unenlightened consumers of internet browsing devices?

The takeaway here is easy to miss. With our ‘modern’ world of technology, science and endless distractions and especially with our disdain of people and ideas that existed previously, it’s easy to think that this one human life we have is all that there is. Easy to think that karma and reincarnation are simply textbook examples of primitive man thinking wrongly and studied as curiosities in courses on ancient religions. What’s really difficult is to understand that the truth of our spiritual nature has been deliberately hidden and suppressed for many, many generations. Yogananda was right, karma and reincarnation exist and our bodies do act as a barrier in realizing these truths. Unfortunately the suppression of these truths are a much bigger barrier. The good news is that the truth cannot be hidden for long. As Steve Jobs would surely counsel us - never be afraid to think things through for your own benefit and satisfaction and, never, ever, believe anything anybody tells you without figuring it out for yourself.

In the sixties I was a roadie for a hippie rock band. On the road in L.A. we decided to eat at the Yogananda devotees’ restaurant, because it offered organic, vegetarian etc. We got kicked out for our long hair, even though a poster of the subject of the restaurant, with hair even longer than ours, hung just under the cash register.

It’s not about Jobs, it’s about Yogananda. Jobs was just a prominent “disciple”…

It’s not necessarily for whole social groups, you know. A person may have their own personal guru, and not necessarily a spiritual one. The word is used for any mentor in anything. We have gurus in music, dance, mathematics, architecture,… And of course, yoga and philosophy. They’re all treated the same way, as you say, a surrogate parent figure.

The way you guys understand the word - both in pop culture and in articles like this - is very much more limited than how we use it back home…

Interesting: know what else Yogananda, Steve Jobs, Elvis and George Harrison had in common? They all died before they were 60.

Lived in a few ashrams in India and saw how these gurus create a cult like following. They create enough peer-pressure such that no one dares question anything they say while they claim they have all the secrets of the universe.

Lots of sexual abuse and draining of all your money. They do work with and shift energy making others think they are making ‘miracles’. Some are simply possessed. A lot have their ‘sixth’ sense well developed and can sense your thought/emotions. People fall for their mastery of using this to make you think they can see into your soul. A lot of very, very dark energy and witchcraft. I recommend to stay away…look what happened to Jobs. His physical body withered away…

Yogananda was little more than a marketer of and panderer to the superstition made fashionable by the Theosophists and Swami Vivekananda before him, whose legacy he emulated yet ultimately failed to top. He’s implicated as having fathered several children with close female devotees, and his org has pretty much languished under the weight of the folk theories he promulgated while alive.

The idea that “our bodies do act as a barrier in realizing” essential truths about the nature of being is itself a Vedic folk theory which has become the primary barrier to the recognition of said truth.

Folks interested in learning all about Ammachi (Amma, or Mata Amritanandamayi) should read this book first:

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