Thoughts and Inspiration

April 17, 2014

Yogananda’s “Direct” Disciples


Direct disciples of Paramhansa Yogananda are those who met and studied with Yogananda during his incarnation. The responsibility of Yogananda’s teachings fell on the shoulders of these followers after his mahasamadhi (conscious passing at physical death) in 1952. Generations to come are indebted to these disciples to the degree that they have protected and passed on the complete example of Yogananda through preservation of all physical writings and personal objects. The future is also indebted for the personal stories that have been shared openly. Finally, generations are indebted for any examples of enlightenment displayed by the direct disciples.

Yogananda with Norman Paulsen & others

My primary assumption in writing a biography is that Paramhansa Yogananda is actually a “Premavatar” or an incarnation of Divine Love. In order to increase general understanding of not only an “Avatar,” one who has returned after being freed from the compulsion of physical incarnation, but also a “Prem-Avatar” – one who has returned as an incarnation of Divine Love, Yogananda’s entire life must be viewed from a critical perspective as well as from a position of respect and awe.

Warning: Any who worship one of Yogananda’s direct disciples as “guru” or consider them above reproach, may not want to read this post.

All of creation operates by law. True laws are universally applicable. Relative laws apply only to specific scenarios. An Avatar who returns to conduct a world mission, as Yogananda did, comes back with one purpose: To serve the world in the greatest way possible and tolerable while incarnate. An Avatar looks for those consciously on the path of liberation who need the most help. The Divine One then spends as much time as possible serving them directly.

An Avatar does not incarnate to serve the souls who least need spiritual help. If One incarnated with liberated souls who were already in tune with Spirit, that would be self-serving – a function of the little ego. For example, the Avatar does not say “Here’s how I want to grace the world and I’m taking my closest buddies with me.” Instead the One surrenders to the greater Will by saying “Incarnations are limited and I surrender that little will of self-expression to the greater will of Absolute Conscious Energy, or God.” The entire life example of Yogananda is one of complete surrender.

Direct disciples may be advanced souls but more likely they are sincere individuals who need the specific lessons offered by close physical proximity to an Avatar or to an incarnation of their guru. The succession of gurus in the various lineages of Lahiri Mahasaya could each fill a volume. However, the lineage of Lahiri Mahasaya – Sri Yukteswar – Yogananda was an example of the guru-disciple relationship for the masses. Why this succession of gurus does not continue as part of this lineage is, perhaps, a topic for a future post.

Yogananda’s direct disciples were/are individuals who needed the lessons offered by physical interaction with an Avatar. One who associates with, pledges loyalty to and follows the guidance of a Divine Incarnation has the potential for complete liberation through that interaction.

However, physical manifestation is governed by the law of duality. There is an on-going dance between positive and negative poles that keeps the whole in equilibrium.

In the dance between the positive pole of the Divine Incarnation’s influence and the negative ego-pole of the direct disciple, the negative pull is as strong as the positive pull in order to maintain equilibrium. Four significant traps for the direct disciple are discussed briefly, including:

  1. A special blindness caused by physical proximity
  2. Egoistic reactions about one’s worth relative to others
  3. Confusion regarding one’s role to the Avatar and his work, both while the One is incarnate and after the One has left human form
  4. The loss of inner attunement.

First, there’s a unique sort of ignorance that may impact those in the immediate presence of an Avatar. The One’s consciousness focuses on different specifics as necessary but the clarity and size of Cosmic Consciousness is beyond the understanding of an unenlightened human. The cosmic state of the Divine Incarnation causes others within the immediate aura (subtle sphere of influence) to see with absolute clarity everything that is contained within their very limited vision. I call this a “special blindness.”

For example, special blindness may cause one disciple to be harshly critical of the faults of another because the direct disciple can neither see the past causes nor the future lessons that fault is bringing to the other. Special blindness is to know something with absolute certainty but to completely miss the larger context of that knowledge. It might be similar to editing a single page in a long novel – changing the descriptions for maximum impact and altering the verb tenses to increase the pace – yet the editing places the single page outside of and with an inferior quality compared to the rest of the book.

Second, most traditions often emphasize the importance of direct physical contact with a Divine Incarnation. As if self-effort and personal responsibility fly out the window by recognizing a Divine Incarnation, some religious sects are based entirely upon this faulty reasoning.

Close proximity to a Divine Incarnation does not make the disciple enlightened. It is a unique opportunity that has been earned for both good and bad reasons from the individual’s past. If someone says, “But s/he is a direct disciple we have to trust them.” My favorite, appropriate response is “Actually, they were such poor students in our earth school that our heavenly parents sent them a tutor.” Of course, a tutor will increase any student’s chance for success.

It’s important to remember that there were thousands of direct disciples during Yogananda’s incarnation and many of them succeeded in achieving the highest state, even though their examples may not have been documented. By opening the inner world, any student today can seek out these individuals for their love and supportive guidance.

Third, until a disciple is enlightened and achieving the highest “samadhi” state of consciousness on a daily basis, there is a confusion concerning the individual’s role as related to both the person and the work of the Divine Incarnation. While the One is incarnate, the disciple needs to embrace the instructions of the Avatar without question for their fastest progress. Asking for clarity in regards to that instruction, instead of rejecting the instruction, is appropriate. For example, the Avatar says, “Jump.” The direct disciple may ask, “How high?”

After the Divine Incarnation leaves the physical form, until the direct disciple is experiencing samadhi daily, the individual ego will continue to misguide their efforts as they relate to the One’s “mission.”

Fourth, inner attunement is paramount for a successful relationship with the Divine Incarnation. Most direct disciples confuse congenial physical intimacy with inner attunement. This mistake causes the disciple to misunderstand the Divine Will as expressed through the Avatar.

Inner attunement is a key to liberation. For everyone. There are countless documented examples of saints and mystics and even successful artists and scientists who have increased their understanding through attunement with ideas of someone who is no longer incarnate. One who develops the peaceful concentration, the respect and the love required for inner attunement, may quickly apply that skill to focus on the Absolute, or God.

Direct disciples have an important role both supporting the Divine Incarnation while physically present and relating a complete picture of the Avatar’s example after the One has left form. However, until the direct disciple experiences the highest form of concentration on a daily basis, their thoughts and actions are subject to the same laws of duality that apply to all humans. Future students and disciples of Premavatar Paramhansa Yogananda should carefully consider the context of the thoughts and actions of his direct disciples when incorporating their opinions and examples into one’s own understanding.

Researching and writing a biography of Paramhansa Yogananda requires placing events from his life in a thematic context as well as a literal context. This is one, in a series of posts, regarding the the impact and meaning of Yogananda’s example.

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