Friday, January 5, 2018

125 years ago: The birth of New Age pioneer Paramahansa Yogananda

And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:
For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
Genesis 3:4-5

On January 5, 1893, Paramahansa Yogananda, one of the major early figures of the New Age Movement, was born Mukunda Lal Ghosh in Uttar Pradesh, India. He began his career in his native India, founding a school in 1917 that became the Yogoda Satsanga Society of India. He moved to the United States in 1920, initially as India's delegate to an International Congress of Religious Liberals in Boston, where his address The Science of Religion was warmly received.

Swami Yogananda founded the Self-Realization Fellowship later in 1920, which is what he's best remembered for. With the exception of a long trip abroad in 1935-1936, Swami Yogananda spent the rest of his life in the United States, advocating the breaking of spiritual barriers between East and West. His Autobiography of a Yogi (1946) became a bestseller and remains an influential work of the New Age Movement. Swami Yogananda died on March 7, 1952 at the age of 57 as he concluded a speech at a dinner for Indian Ambassador to the United States Binay Ranjan Sen, and his wife at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles.

Self-Realization Fellowship's Aims and Ideals "As put forth by Paramahansa Yoganada" will look familiar to anyone with any knowledge of the New Age Movement:

To disseminate among the nations a knowledge of definite scientific techniques for attaining direct personal experience of God.

To teach that the purpose of life is the evolution, through self-effort, of man’s limited mortal consciousness into God Consciousness; and to this end to establish Self-Realization Fellowship temples for God-communion throughout the world, and to encourage the establishment of individual temples of God in the homes and in the hearts of men.

To reveal the complete harmony and basic oneness of original Christianity as taught by Jesus Christ and original Yoga as taught by Bhagavan Krishna; and to show that these principles of truth are the common scientific foundation of all true religions.

To point out the one divine highway to which all paths of true religious beliefs eventually lead: the highway of daily, scientific, devotional meditation on God.

To liberate man from his threefold suffering: physical disease, mental inharmonies, and spiritual ignorance.

To encourage “plain living and high thinking”; and to spread a spirit of brotherhood among all peoples by teaching the eternal basis of their unity: kinship with God.

To demonstrate the superiority of mind over body, of soul over mind.

To overcome evil by good, sorrow by joy, cruelty by kindness, ignorance by wisdom.

To unite science and religion through realization of the unity of their underlying principles.

To advocate cultural and spiritual understanding between East and West, and the exchange of their finest distinctive features.

To serve mankind as one’s larger Self.
When it comes to self-realization, it's hard to top this:

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!
For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.
Isaiah 14:12-14

As Hindu guru-turned Christian apologist Rabi Maharaj (whose autobiography Death of a Guru (1977)--aka Escape Into the Light--is must and fascinating reading) put it, the Devil was the first one who was into self-realization.

The reader will notice that "original Christianity" is equated with Hinduism. On the contrary, Jesus never encouraged "self-realization" among his followers, but focused their attention on who He was and is:

When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?
And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.
He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
Matthew 16:13-16

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