Written just for fun, this chapter has been constructed upon one sentence in Yogananda’s Autobiography. When describing his birth and infancy, Yogananda writes: “My strong emotional life took silent form as words in many languages. Among the inward confusion of tongues, my ear gradually accustomed itself to the circumambient Bengali syllables of my people.”
Our question, which will lead us as a thread through this chapter, is: Which were those “many languages” resounding in Yogananda’s little ears, due to his former incarnations? Yogananda said he was an avatar. On these pages we are trying to follow the footprints he has left on earth.
Much of this chapter is based on what Yogananda said, but to be frank from the start: a lot of it is pure speculation. It is therefore written exclusively for his disciples— others must surely think it’s sheer madness, or wild fantasy, or Guru-blindness. It is also written in a spirit of “exciting discovery,” and obviously doesn’t claim to be scientific or provable at all. Rather, it’s intended to be on the level of a fun evening entertainment…. a loooong evening, we admit… since the chapter is not short at all!
Following the language thread, we will embark on a long journey through many lands, many cultures, and many languages, crossing many centuries— ever at Yogananda’s side. However little useful: we hope you will enjoy the trip!
The “Beaker” language
Was it the “Beaker language” which Yogananda’s young ears heard inwardly? This was, as historians say, the language spoken on the British Island by the “Beaker People,” in Britain’s Bronze Age, 2500–600 BC.
To Richard Write, when visiting Stonehenge in 1936 (see Swami Kriyananda’s The New Path. Also Bradford, Dr. Lewis’ son, who accompanied Yogananda back from England to America, concurs), Yogananda revealed that he had lived there 3500 years ago — which would be about 1560 BC.
Surprisingly, this happens to be exactly the time of Stonehenge’s “heyday,” which was also the time of its final completion. It had been built in several constructional phases, dated by modern archaeological techniques, beginning in 2950 BC, ending in 1500BC!
Researchers write: “Impressive though it is, what we see at Stonehenge now is only a fragment of what it was in its heyday, when the final phase of construction was concluded.”
Commonly Stonehenge is associated with the Druids, clad in their white robes. However, if historians can be trusted, the Druids came to Britain much later, in about 300BC. If those ancient Druids indeed used Stonehenge for their ceremonies, they must have inherited the site.
Today Stonehenge, situated on the Salisbury plain, in Wiltshire, Southern England, is called a “British Bronze Age monument.” Sri Yukteswar’s Yuga system, however, paints a different picture: Stonehenge was part of a more highly developed civilization than ours. Its construction started about 2950 BC, during the transition period between Treta Yuga and Dwapara Yuga. (The exact changing point was in 3100 BC.) Yogananda’s lifetime at Stonehenge happened a good 800 years before Kali Yuga took over.
In other words: Stonehenge is a remnant of a more highly developed society. In fact, there is, as the American Astronomer Gerald Hawkins wrote in his book Stonehenge Decoded (1963), an apparently indisputable proof that Stonehenge was a sort of fixed computer, giving the exact positions for various astronomical events, some of them occurring at intervals of fifty years or more — far too long a time for any but an advanced society, with carefully preserved records, to keep track of.
Stonehenge also determined the dates of the solstices and equinoxes; it allowed people to foretell eclipses of the sun and moon. And, as its admirers write, the most amazing fact is the precision with which it was built.
But Stonehenge was surely not only an astronomical observatory, but certainly served as an open temple, a sacred shrine for spiritual purposes. It was probably used as such continuously, for thousands of years.
Stonehenge remains one of the great mysteries of our planet, and Yogananda lived in that “land of mystery,” at a moment when it had reached its greatest height. The “Beaker language,” too, remains a mystery. It was, so historians say, completely different to the languages now spoken in Europe. However, the study of Indo-European languages shows that Greek, Latin, Sanskrit, Germanic, Celtic, Anatolian, Indo-Iranian, Albanian, Baltic, and Slavic were all derived from the one common source of the Aryans, who lived in Iran and northern India. Was the “Beaker language” a completely separate phenomenon? The Beaker people originally came from central Europe.
Yogananda said: “Before taking a physical body, I see the personality I am to assume, and feel slightly uncomfortable with it. It is like having to put on a heavy overcoat on a hot day. I soon get used to it, but inwardly I never forget that this personality is not my true Self.” One wonders what personality he took on at Stonehenge. He certainly was a great saint, but that’s all we can say.
By the way… isn’t his unusual structure at “Lake Shrine” strangely reminiscent of Stonehenge? Doesn’t his open temple have a similar “feel” to it?
Surely ancient Sanskrit must have been among Yogananda’s inner “confusion of tongues.”
He shared with several disciples that he had been the great warrior Arjuna, the main disciple of Sri Krishna, who now lives in the Himalayas as Mahavatar Babaji, as Yogananda explained.
Yogananda said that he attained liberation many lifetimes ago. It was, he once hinted, during the lifetime when he had been the warrior Arjuna.
Arjuna (Yogananda) and Krishna (Babaji), together with Arjuna’s brothers, the Pandavas, were victorious in the most famous war of India’s history, the battle of Kurukshetra. Unrighteous kings were conquered, and India (“Bharata”) became united.
During that lifetime, Yogananda said, Rajarsi Janakananda (his foremost disciple) was Nakula, one of the five Pandava brothers (see Durga Mata’s book). Yogananda told Durga Mata that she too was with him at that time. It seems probable that other present disciples once incarnated with Arjuna, too. Yogananda, in fact, explained that a Master usually brings his disciples with him, to help him with his mission.
Swami Kriyananda, according to the ancient “Book of Brighu” was a king of one of India’s kingdoms at that time, and was highly developed spiritually. Yogananda interestingly said that “in ancient times, India was always governed, more or less, by religious kings, from 5,000 BC, down to 637 AD, when India was invaded by foreigners, Arabs, Moguls, Pathans, and English.”
Kriyananda, at the time of the conflict, had relatives on both sides, and decided therefore to retreat into the forest as a hermit, doubting his Guru’s counsel to fight. “Doubt,” Yogananda told him, “has been your greatest flaw.” Having doubted everything possible in the past, and having resolved them, Kriyananda says today, “I can well understand doubts of others, and can help them overcome them.”
The “Book of Brighu,” incidentally, also states that the present one would be his last incarnation. Yogananda told him similarly: “You will find God at the end of your life!”
According to the epic Mahabharata which describes the conflict between the Pandavas and Kauravas, Krishna ‘s death marked the beginning of Kali Yuga. Krishna and Arjuna, then, using Sri Yukteswar’s calculation, died (and lived, therefore) about 2700 years ago, around 700 BC. So we assume Arjuna’s lifetime to have been from about 760–700 BC.
A bit more history: Not long afterwards, around 560 BC, Gautama Buddha was born, an avatar, whose reforms of Hinduism resulted in the Buddhist religion. He had, as Yogananda wrote “many liberated disciples.”
Adi Shankaracharya (Shankara), it is usually taught was born around 700AD. The presently living Shankaracharyas, however, claim to possess records in their “math” (monastery), showing all the representatives of Shankara (the Shankaracharyas) throughout the centuries, leading to Adi Shankaracharya’s birth in 500BC. Yogananda doesn’t solve the dispute in his Autobiography: “A few records indicate that the peerless monist lived from 510 to 478 BC; Western historians assign him to the late eighth century AD.”
Shankaracharya rescued India from the atheistic misconstruction that Buddhists had come to place upon the sublime teachings of their founder. Shankara is known as the foremost exponent of the Advaita Vedanta philosophy: “Only one exists, Sat-chit-ananda, all else is illusion!” He united many conflicting religious sects under one philosophical “umbrella”, which included (unknown to many) both Gyana and Bhakti Yoga, both the “Only One” concept, and the “I And You” relationship, as a step to that One-ness. Shankara succeeded in unifying India spiritually.
Yogananda mentions Shankara many times in his Autobiography, in his talks and writings. He must have felt a deep inner connection with him. When Yogananda became a Swami in 1915, he chanted a hymn of Shankara. Also it was the ancient Srinagar temple of Swami Shankara, which transformed itself in Yogananda’s vision into his Mount Washington headquarters. Yogananda, in addition, told many stories about Shankara’s life, some of which are not generally known. For example, he told the story of a black magician who wanted to execute Shankara; he told how a woman disciple of Shankara died because of her doubts; and he told the story of how Shankara received Kriya Yoga initiation from Mahavatar Babaji.
Yogananda himself, as he stated (in Durga Ma’s book), was in truth a disciple of Babaji. Sri Yukteswar, he explained, was his guru “by proxy.” Could it be that Yogananda and Shankara had been brother Kriyabans, at the feet of Babaji?
If so, Yogananda lived with Shankara, around 700AD. A certain devotee had a vision, in which he saw that Yogananda actually was Shankara. Who can tell?
A sidelight: isn’t it a surprising? Babaji was Yogananda’s real Guru. Then, in a letter to Rajarsi Yogananda wrote that “Lahiri Mahasaya is my astral Guru (very few in the world know this);…it was through his wishes that I met Swami Sri Yukteswarji, my earthly Guru.”
Back to history: The Encyclopaedia Britannica says that agriculture in India dates back to the 7000 BC, and that the first cities were built in 2600BC. Indians, however, traditionally calculate their history in millions of years, and think of history as cyclical movements between higher and lower ages: the Yugas. Sri Yukteswar, as we know, taught that type of history too, but came up with his own unorthodox Yuga-calculations.
If the Indian concept is true, we find ourselves standing in front of a fathomless depth of history: of countless civilizations, adventures, and saints. Arjuna and Krishna, according to Indian tradition, are said to have been, in their earlier lives, the ancient rishis Nara and Narayana. They are said to have lived in Satya Yuga, which according to Sri Yukteswar ranges from 16300–6700 BC (both ascending and descending parts).
And before that? One wonders how far back into unknown history Babaji’s and Yogananda’s incarnations reach, as saints. One disciple of Yogananda, Norman Paulsen, saw himself in a vision with Yogananda in Lemuria, eighty thousand years ago: over 3 yugas ago!
Was ancient Aramaic part of little Yogananda’s inner “words of many languages?”
For his early lessons Yogananda (quite fearlessly!) originally dictated that the three wise men, who came to visit the newborn Jesus, were earlier incarnations of Mahavatar Babaji, Lahiri Mahasaya, and Sri Yukteswar. One finds good references that the three wise men probably came from India in Yogananda’s “The Second Coming of Christ.”
Many times Yogananda came to earth with those great Masters. Was Yogananda around at the time of Jesus too, 2000 years ago, around 0 AD, in ancient Israel? Some of his disciples firmly believe so.
Yogananda in that case would have come as an avatar, since he had achieved liberation as Arjuna. Swami Kriyananda actually once asked him: “Were you Jesus?” Yogananda replied: “What difference would it make? The ocean of spirit is the Reality. If one wave, or another one, becomes aware of its oneness with the ocean, both have attained the same awareness.”
If we knew the answer, however, our “studies” could go even deeper.
Just for the fun of it, let’s assume for a moment that Yogananda was indeed Jesus. In would make it possible to trace Yogananda’s life far back into the past, to the times of Prophet Elisha (Eliseus) of the Old Testament, who according to Yogananda was the former incarnation of Jesus. Elisha lived during the reign of King Achab (875-845 BC).
It’s an intriguing story: in his original Bible interpretations Yogananda wrote that the great prophet Elijah (Elias, John) was more highly developed than Elisha (Jesus), but then he fell, and later, as John, he found liberation through the ordeal of being beheaded. “Sometimes the Guru-Preceptor falls down, only to be lifted up by the advanced disciple, as Jesus uplifted the fallen Elias, or John the Baptist, who could only baptize with water.”
Interestingly also, Yogananda said (in Man’s Eternal Quest) that Jesus attained most of his perfection in his former incarnation as Elisha. And soon afterwards came the time when Arjuna found liberation.
Following this wild thread of thought, we see that the timing would actually make sense for Yogananda’s evolution:
- As Elisha he attained most of his perfection (around 850 BC). He surpassed Elias.
- As Arjuna he found liberation (around 700BC).
- As Jesus he came as an avatar. (0 AD). In this life Elias, now John the Baptist, found liberation too, as Yogananda wrote.
A further interesting fact is that Elijah (or Elias; John) was a Kriya master, as Yogananda states in his Autobiography. He certainly taught it to his disciple Elisha (or Eliseus; Jesus).
This would take us to the following picture:
- As Elisha, Yogananda practiced Kriya.
- As Arjuna he practiced Kriya too, surely, since Krishna taught it (see Autobiography).
- Shankara practiced Kriya and, as we saw, Yogananda might have been close to him, practicing Kriya too.
- As Jesus too he knew Kriya (see Autobiography), and taught it.
- As Babaji’s disciple, whatever these incarnations were, Yogananda must have practiced Kriya.
- Yogananda practiced and taught Kriya.
Do we see Yogananda involved in a long ancient history of Kriya Yoga?
At any rate, Yogananda revealed a very intimate knowledge about Jesus’ life, as one can see in his original Bible interpretations. He described many unknown occurrences, like “although Jesus was so great, he often allowed John, his beloved disciple, to lean on his breast.”
Thinking about the “Jesus=Yogananda” possibility, some may ask how Yogananda could ever be Jesus? When Jesus appeared to Yogananda, did he appear to himself? How is that possible? However, we also know that Yogananda had visions of Krishna, whose soul had already gone on, to live in the body of Babaji. Still Krishna became alive for Yogananda, and communicated with him. Is it possible that an avatar may keep his former individuality alive, even while his soul is gone to another incarnation?
Jesus, according to Yogananda, lived in India and Tibet during his “lost 18 years,” which are the major part of his life. The Bible doesn’t say a single word about all those missing years. Yogananda referred positively to the book The Unknown Life of Christ by Nicholas Notovitch, who found ancient scrolls in a Tibetan monastery which describe Jesus’ life in India. Jesus was called “Isa” then. The script describes Isa’s visit to India during the exact time of his disappearance from Asia Minor. The sacred scrolls also revealed that as Jesus Christ had been visited by the Wise Men of the East, so he paid them a return visit to Tibet, and conferred with the Great Masters.
But more to come: several books have been published which claim that Jesus survived his ordeal on the cross, returned to India, and lived up to a high age in Kashmir, where his tomb “Roza Bal” can still be visited in Srinagar (and many visit it daily).
Some convincing evidence is shown. At the tomb one finds chiseled footprints with markings of nail holes. Also the Kashmiri text Bhavishya Maha Purana (115AD) tells about the king of Kashmir, Shali-Vahana (about AD 80), who met a foreigner, a distinguished person wearing white robe, at Wien, a place near Srinigar. The foreigner called himself Ishvara Putaram (Son of God), Isha Masih (Jesus Messiah), and Kanya Garbam (Born of a Virgin). He said: “I appeared as Isha-Saih (Jesus Messiah). I received the Messiah-hood, (Christ-hood) in the land of the Mleechas (Amalekites, Israel).”
What did Yogananda have to say on the topic?
Nothing. But what makes one suspicious is that in his detailed Bible interpretations, Yogananda never mentions Jesus’ final bodily ascension, 40 days after his appearance to the apostles, even though it is quite an important part of Christian dogma. He talks about everything else: the immaculate conception (being true), about Jesus’ miracles (being true), his crucifixion, about his ascension (in consciousness) through the three worlds to the Father, his miraculous resurrection after three days, his appearance to the disciples for 40 days… but nothing about the bodily ascension afterwards.
Indeed, could a physical body even enter into the astral or causal world, or into the kingdom of God? It would fall right down! But then…. where did Jesus go after he those 40 days?
Isn’t it interesting that both John and Matthew, the two evangelists who actually knew Jesus, similarly wrote about Jesus’ life, his crucifixion, resurrection, and subsequent appearance, but didn’t write a single word about Jesus’ bodily ascension? Wouldn’t such a major event have been treated by them vividly? Only Luke (24:51), a doctor, and Paul’s disciple, and Mark (16:19), a disciple of Peter, mention the ascension briefly, writing what they had heard. The main information about Jesus’ ascension comes from the Acts (1:8-11), whose author is believed to be Luke (even Luke’s teacher, Paul, didn’t know Jesus; and his goal was to stimulate faith in people.)
Secondly, Yogananda wrote in his original Bible interpretations: “In the case of Jesus Christ, [the resurrection] was exceptional because even though in death his soul was separated from his physical body, by an act of will with Cosmic Energy, he rebuilt his dilapidated body and housed his soul there again. In this case, the soul of Jesus Christ resurrected in the same body.”
In other words: Jesus had died on the cross, but he returned to his dead body, revived it, and lived “in the same body.” It was different from Sri Yukteswar’s resurrection, who said: “From the cosmic atoms I created an entirely new body.”
Jesus, Yogananda also explained, “immortalized” his body. Doesn’t that too make one think that Jesus planned to continue his earthly life?
We are basically faced with this situation: Jesus took back his body, and then…. what happened then? What did he do?
Of course, spiritually speaking it is of little importance what Jesus did with his body. He could (and did, according to Yogananda) materialize it and dematerialize it at will, and could instantly enter any level of creation. Jesus was not identified with his body. He said about himself, in the Gospel of Thomas (Acta Thomae): “I am the light that is over all things. I am all: from me all came forth, and to me all attained. Split a piece of wood; I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find me there.”
The same Thomas, however, who was to become the apostle of India, later actually met Jesus in Taxila, India (now Pakistan), according to the Revelatio Thomae (later declared heretic.)
Might Jesus, then, indeed have lived in Kashmir after his physical resurrection? Were many disciples maybe waiting there, whom Jesus had gathered throughout his long earlier years in India?
Yogananda visited Kashmir with Sri Yukteswar, as he writes in his Autobiography. Did they possibly visit Jesus’ tomb “Roza Bal” in Srinagar, when they stayed there? Or was Yogananda just out for sightseeing, as it seems?
Yogananda, we read, visited a Shankara temple near Srinagar, which transformed itself in his vision into his Mount Washington headquarters.
This, incidentally, is a very special temple, much referred to by “Jesus in India” researchers. It is commonly known as the Takht-i-Sulaiman (or Takhat Sulaiman: the Throne of Solomon), a site dating back to 2500 BC, which was rebuilt by Adi Shankara. It has a pillar dedicated to Jesus, which is considered one of the proofs that Jesus lived in Kashmir after he was crucified. The pillar has four inscriptions, two of which are still legible today, one of which mentions Jesus. The inscriptions have been historically recorded. They read:
1) The mason of this pillar is Bihishti Zargar, Year fifty and four.
2) Khwaja Rukun son of Murjan erected this pillar.
3) At this time Yuz Asaf proclaimed his prophethood. Year fifty and four.
4) He is Jesus, Prophet of the Children of Israel.
“Year fifty and four” was of the then valid Laukika Era of Kashmir, coming to 78AD. “Yuz Afal,” translated as “Jesus the Gatherer,” is the same name which is found on the Jesus tomb “Roza Bal” in Srinagar.
Yogananda visited that ancient temple, which carries a dedication to Jesus, and which was rebuilt by Shankara. A coincidental meeting of three Masters? And by the way: he obviously felt a strong attraction to that particular temple, as he visited it again in 1936 (see his letters to Rajarsi from India).
Of course the claim that Jesus survived the cross and then lived in India is only a hypothesis, and apart of course challenges the official Christian teachings immensely. Even if Yogananda had thought it true (as have done Sai Baba and others), would he have ever openly said it? His commentaries and teachings would have been completely rejected by the majority of Christians.
Whatever the answer: do we have to scratch our heads and wonder if we should add ancient Aramaic to Yogananda’s languages?
LANGUAGE 4 and 5
Old French, Old English
Did also old French and English resound in young Yogananda’s inner ear?
He stated to various disciples that he had been William the Conqueror, (Guillaume le Conquérant, 1027–1087AD), who spoke both those languages. Actually the old French language spoken in northern France during William’s lifetime was called “Langue d’oïl.” The nobility spoke “Anglo-Norman.”
Fun: today, when speaking English, we actually have William’s (Yogananda’s) handwriting on it: “The French language of the Norman rulers eventually merged with the Anglo-Saxon of the common people [in Britain] to form the English language.” (Encyclopaedia Britannica)
In an article, Yogananda says these amazing words about his lifetime as William (also on a CD he tells the story):
“I remember 900 years ago I was in the Tower of London; and when I went there in 1936 I began to investigate it. I asked if there was no toilet in a certain part of the tower. The keeper said no, but I remembered where it was, and went to the curator and asked if it was in a certain place at one time, and he said, yes. I had remembered that. I have remembered many things about that incarnation. As a child I used to eat with knife and fork secretly at night lest the family find out. My brother found out and said, ‘What is this heathen habit?’ I don’t remember how I got them, but when he kept on asking I said I was an Englishman before. He was shocked at my reply … Do you know my brother and I, as children, used to plan an invasion of England? And I could have done it too, because I had done it before.”
A bit of Norman history: William the Conqueror was a descendant of the Viking Rollo, who had invaded Normandy in 886AD. After 30 years of war with the King of France, Charles, they made peace. Rollo married the daughter of Charles and converted to Christianity. Normandy became a pretty independent duchy of the King of France. 150 years later William was born and became the 7th duke of Normandy.
William was destined to become also the king of England: the most famous and most discussed medieval king, and probably the most misunderstood of all.
Indeed, it is quite difficult to grasp the greatness of William, hidden behind the strange role he had to play. When reading historical texts, we are informed about outer facts, which often sound appalling, but we can’t easily understand the deeper, divine will behind it, nor the deeper nature of the saint involved. Thus Yogananda wrote in his Autobiography: “Like all biographical sketches, [Sri Yukteswar’s] words had given the outward facts without revealing the inner man.” In truth, with William the divine Light had descended onto earth. It was a Light destined to fulfill an unusual mission.
William was an illegitimate child, and therefore he was branded “bastard” by those who didn’t like him. His father was Duke “Robert the Magnificent,” also called, for wrong reasons, “the devil.” His mother was Herleva, the beautiful daughter of simple tanner, also popularly called Arlette from Falaise. Arlette had had a prophetic dream when she was pregnant with William: a mighty tree grew out of her womb, growing taller and taller, until it covered all of Normandy and England. The dream was superconscious, and proved true. The tree growing was indeed mighty – it was God’s own tree.
It is also told that when William was just born, in the castle of his father in Falaise, his very first act was to grasp a handful of straw, and hold it so tightly that the nurse could scarcely take it away from him. She intuitively understood this to be an omen, and predicted that the baby would grow up and make himself famous by seizing great territories. This prophecy proved to be true too.
Yogananda also, when a little child in his mother’s arms, received a prophecy from Lahiri Mahasaya: “Little mother, thy son will be a yogi. As a spiritual engine, he will carry many souls to God’s kingdom.” Yogananda’s was to be a spiritual role, while William’s mission concerned power, politics, dharma. God intervenes also in the political world: an interesting thought to ponder.
Yogananda was William’s “heir.” He too showed considerable power, not only sweetness. He was lovable, we all know that. Yet he also emanated astonishing power. Just listening to his voice on a recording is enough to make the point. Resounding clearly in that voice is not a gentle lamb, but the mighty roar of a spiritual warrior.
William became the king of England, and changed Europe’s history forever. His life has been described as a blazing comet entering the planet. Michael H. Hart, in his known book The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History places William on rank 68. In the heavenly eyes, William’s life was probably much more highly placed, for reasons hard to decipher. William lived at the crossroads of history, and probably set important tracks for mankind. Historians call the period from 500AD-1100AD the “dark age” of the middle ages. The time after that marks the most enlightened phase of medieval times. Just during the moment of transition towards that higher historical phase William made his appearance. (Indeed, often the years prior to 1066 are called the late “Dark Ages,” and years after 1066 the “Middle Ages.” That year 1066 was William’s pivotal year). “The Norman Conquest,” says H. C. Davis (a foremost historian on the subject), “raised the English to that level of culture which the continental people had already reached,… to make England in her turn a leader among nations.”
English-written history, of course, doesn’t describe William in a favorable light at all. He is rather described as a villain of history, much slandered and sullied. And it is apparent why. We all have our national pride. The English are known for being especially patriotic, a feeling which was deeply offended by William, a mere Duke of Normandy, who was presumptuous enough to invade and conquer their English motherland. In fact, would anybody of us easily swallow that, if it happened to our own country? And would our own historians paint a beautiful picture of such an intruder? Many nasty legends were told about William, and were colorfully embellished over the years. England and France, furthermore, had long been bitter rivals. William thus became widely known as a man of avarice, guile, and ruthlessness.
To understand William we need to understand the times he lived in. He had a divine mission to fulfill for ushering in a new cycle in history. These were cruel times, indeed barbaric. As we said, historians call that period the “dark age” of the middle ages. A normal moral man of that time would today be considered dangerous. Everywhere one found killing, poisoning, cruelty. Had William just said smilingly, “Be in peace, dear brothers, and love each other,” they would have cut off his smiling head right away. He had to use appropriate means for those times, which nowadays are hard to understand.
In modern times, after almost 1000 years, more realistic books have been published about William, by highly respected historians. The best known is William the Conqueror, by David C. Douglas (often quoted from now on). He is very fair-minded, but even though… could we ever expect a historian to see the deeper truth in a divine person, especially after all this time? Who would even be able to recognize and understand such a disguised saint should he appear today, right among us? Very few. Most people would have their strong opinions about him, and most of them probably quite wrong. Who is able to understand the divine plan and scheme of things? Even devotees must sometimes scratch their heads! Saints have power, they proclaim and do uncomfortable things, and are often hard to tolerate. When they are safely dead, yes, then people can handle them better. But when they are alive, many egos rebel.
William claimed the English throne unjustly, English historians declare. Norman history tells a very different tale, of course. Here’s the story of the famous Norman conquest:
In January 1066 the English king Edward (a half-uncle of William, a saint, canonized, and truly loved by his people), childless, had just died. In 1051 he had promised the English throne to William. But Harold Godwinson (Edward’s brother-in-law, and the most powerful earl and minister) claimed that a few days before his death, King Edward had changed his mind and conferred the crown to him (if that is true, nobody will ever know). An authoritative counsel, called the Witan, declared Harold to be the king. Harold, with remarkable speed, had himself be crowned. He had, however, only two years earlier (in 1064) sworn on holy relics that he would uphold William’s claim to the English throne (under pressure, the English say). But Harold broke this promise. He now declared to have higher duties to follow. For Norman eyes this perjury could have no other consequence than the invasion of England. Massive activity followed: William gathered forces, allies, and built huge amounts of ships. He received support for his invasion from Pope Alexander II, and received a papal banner to carry into battle.
According to Orderic Vitalis and William of Malmesbury, Harold’s brother Gyrth tried to prevent him from engaging William in battle, urging his brother not to break the oath which he had sworn to William confirming the latter’s succession. Harold, however, had ignored Gyrth’s advice. Friends and brothers, and even his own mother, tried to stop Harold. Gyrth, told Harold (Orderic Vitalis): “Reflect also, in your wisdom, on the oath you have taken to the duke of Normandy. Beware of incurring the guilt of perjury, lest by so great a crime you draw ruin on yourself and the forces of this nation, and stain for ever the honor of our own race.” But Harold was angered by these advices. (Still Orderic Vitalis): “Holding in contempt the wholesome advice of his friends, he loaded his brother with reproaches for his faithful counsel, and even forgot himself so far as to kick his mother when she hung about him in her too great anxiety to detain him with her.”
These words of strong warning to Harold, from all sides, of refusing wise counsel, sound much like the advice given to Duryodhana, who was the evil and power-hungry enemy of Arjuna and his brothers, the Pandavas, during the battle of Kurukshetra, told in the Mahabharata.
Talking about Arjuna and William, two of Yogananda’s previous lifetimes: of both one reads the same story, that nobody but themselves was strong enough to use their bow. Both were extraordinarily strong, physically. Yogananda was too, as he sometimes demonstrated.
Those medieval times were terrible, but also full with signs and wonders: in April 1066, for one entire week, an unusually bright comet with blazing tail was seen in the sky (depicted also in the famous Bayeux tapestry). It was deemed to be a heavenly omen. Materialists today laugh at those “omens”, but Shakespeare wrote: “When beggars die there are no comets seen. The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.”
So William crossed the English Channel in late September1066 AD to fight Harold, conquered England, and became one of the most famous figures in history for winning the Battle of Hastings. William’s invasion was a massive risk, with everything to lose if he was unsuccessful. At first, actually, things didn’t look very good for William. Strong unfavorable winds didn’t let him cross the ocean with his fleet. William used his time of waiting in frequent prayer. God was ever his polestar. Orderic Vitalis (an English monk-historian) wrote: “Duke William and the whole army committed themselves to God’s protection, with prayers, and offerings, and vows, and accompanied a procession from the church, carrying the relics of St. Valeri, confessor of Christ, to obtain a favorable wind.” When they finally could sail, William lost, due to rough storms, quite some ships and soldiers. Many saw in it an ill omen. But William the Conqueror had an indomitable will which could never be discouraged. “The stronger the will, the stronger the energy,” Yogananda used to teach in this life too.
An incident very revealing of the duke’s character occurred when they were sailing across the Channel. The Mora, William’s ship, lost contact with the rest of the fleet which threw some of the duke’s crew into a state of fear. William’s response was to order calmly dinner to be served. He sat down pleasantly to eat with great relish, as if he were in a room in his house at home. He was a true leader, leading his men in any given situation. In time, the rest of the fleet caught up with the duke’s ship, and the rest of the journey was smooth.
The famous story is told that when William landed at Hastings, the first thing that happened was that he stumbled and fell on the ground. A shock went through the army – they saw another ill-omen. But William at that moment showed his strength, character, and excellent leadership. He rose vigorously and exclaimed with a loud voice: ”So determined am I to conquer this land that, lo, I have grasped it with both hands.” A cheer of victory came from the army.
Yogananda too always had the strong charisma of a leader, already as a boy. As a young man he was approached and asked if we wouldn’t lead a revolution against the English, to free India. But that wasn’t Yogananda’s dharma in this lifetime. He answered: “India will be freed in my lifetimes, with peaceful means.” And so it happened.
As things turned out, it was divinely fortunate that William hadn’t left earlier for the battle. Harold had been waiting for months at the cost for his attack, ready to fight with the most fierce warriors of Europe, as the Saxons were known, with their terrible battle axes. But waiting for months, he finally couldn’t hold his soldiers together. They disbanded. William’s organization was better: the duke, waiting also, on the other side of the Channel, “utterly forbade pillage”, writes William Poitier, one of his biographers. “He made generous provisions both for his own knights and for those from other parts, but he did not allow any of them to take their sustenance by force. The flocks and herds of the peasantry pastured unharmed throughout the providence. The crops waited undisturbed for the sickle without either being trampled by the knights in their pride, or ravaged out of greed by plunderers. A weak and unarmed man might watch the swarm of soldiers without fear, following his horse singing where he would.”
The long time of waiting was fortunate for William also for another reason. At a certain point, Harold had to march North with his army, to fight against King Harald Hardrada of Norway, who was invading England with the help of Tostig, Harold’s own brother. Harold won that battle brilliantly at Stamford Bridge, but also lost many soldiers. Two days after his victory Harold heard that William had landed in England. Harold immediately marched down South to meet William. His soldiers were confident after their recent victory, but certainly they were also tired and less numerous. William, who had expected to fight directly after landing, waited. He actually organized a happy feast for his soldiers, depicted on the famous Bayeaux tapestry.
When Harold was on his way South to meet William the Conqueror, an inauspicious omen was waiting for him. Here is the story (all these stories can be found in appropriate websites or history books): A long time ago, when Harold had been praying to the Holy Cross of Waltham he was miraculously cured from paralysis. Thus he re-founded the church now known as Waltham Abbey. Now, just before the battle of Hastings, he paused here for prayer. But the black Abbey crucifix, the very same one which once had healed Harold of paralysis, this time miraculously bowed its head, refusing to look at him. Quite understandably, this was regarded as a strong ill omen. Harold was marching into his dark fate, and God knew. (Waltham Abbey continued to be regarded as a healing shrine, and here Harold was eventually buried.)
When William heard that Harold was approaching Hastings with his army, he prepared himself spiritually, as Orderic Vitalis writes: “He then heard mass, strengthening both body and soul by partaking of the consecrated host; he also reverently suspended from his neck the holy relies on which Harold had sworn. Many of the clergy had followed the Norman army, among whom were two bishops, Odo, of Bayeus, and Geoffrey of Coutances, with attendant clerks and monks, whose duty it was to aid the war with their gravers and counsels.
When Harold came close, he and William exchanged messages, both telling the other to avoid the battle by retreating and accepting the right of the other. None accepted. William then sent a message to Harold offering to submit their rival claims to the test of law. Harold spurned the proposal. Then William asked Harold to spare the blood of countless soldiers, by fighting a one-on-one battle. But Harold didn’t accept the challenge – small wonder, since William was known to be amazingly strong. So the battle began on October 14.
Harold didn’t attack. He positioned himself to his tremendous advantage on top of a hill, called Senlac Hill, so that the Normans had to fight uphill, while the Saxons had an enormously strong line of protection with their shields. Normans used horses, Saxons didn’t. William fought on a magnificent warhorse, a gift from King Alfonso from Spain.
It was a furious combat from morning to night, and for a long time no side seemed to prevail. At a certain point the Saxons shouted, “William is dead.” The Normans were terrified, and retreated. The Saxons stormed after them. It is a famous moment: William took off his helmet, galloping to the scene, shouting, “I am here, I am here!” At this point the Normans turned around, and attacked. The Saxons, before so solidly arranged for battle, were now quite scattered, and suffered serious losses. Many historians think that this moment was actually pre-meditated, because William used that tactic soon again, and had used it before. His strategies were known to be brilliant. He finally won that battle in that same way: again he had his soldiers attack and suddenly turn around, pretending to escape. The Saxon soldiers, who stood solid and strong until that point, saw victory and stormed after them. In that moment William’s soldiers turned around, and overran the bewildered and unprotected enemies. In all that, William himself was never in the safe background. That wasn’t his temperament.
Another decisive stroke for winning the battle were William’s archers (William’s specialty, a characteristic brought over from his life as Arjuna.)
William of Poitiers, who wrote William’s life and knew him closely, wrote: “Duke William excelled both in bravery and soldier-craft. He dominated battles, checking his own men in flight, strengthening their spirit, and sharing their dangers. William was a noble general, inspiring courage, sharing danger, more often commanding men to follow than urging them on from the rear. The enemy (at the Battle of Hastings) lost heart at the mere sight of this marvelous and terrible knight. Three horses were killed under him. Three times he leapt to his feet. Shields, helmets, hauberks were cut by his furious and flashing blade, while yet other attackers were clouted by his own shield.”
The Normans prevailed. Harold was finally killed by an arrow in his eye. It might even have been William’s own arrow, for he is known to have galloped with some knights toward Harold, when the situation finally allowed it.
One of his knights in a wild gesture of victory cut off the leg of Harold, and waived it in the air. William was disgusted, and severely dismissed that knight from the army. This gesture shows William to be a man of dharma, of right action, even in the midst of war.
14 October 1066 is a day history will never forget, and Hastings is said to have maybe been the most important battle in English history. The victory was William’s. Still it wasn’t a happy day for him. After the battle was won, he, as Arjuna had done after Kurukshetra, returned to the battlefield in the evening, and deeply mourned over the many dead English warriors.
William was crowned in London, in Westminster Abbey, on Christmas of 1066. Until 1071 he had to fight against many rebellions, he reacted in fierce manner, and finally won.
Modern historians tell us that it is extremely difficult for our modern mind to understand these early medieval times and circumstances, and to judge things intelligently: why and how things were done. Our modern yardstick of judgment is not appropriate. It is useless to project onto the people of William’s day our modern sentiments and thoughts. William had no chance other than to act appropriately for his barbaric times.
For example, it is easy to criticize William for cutting off people’s hands. No other king, however, would have been as lenient: the normal procedure under the same circumstances was to kill the offenders right away. To be any more lenient than that would actually have cost him the respect of his enemies, and made it impossible for him to rule. This was, for William, the penalty for assuming the responsibility for such a mission in the first place.
Or one hears about William landing at Hastings, ravaging the countryside. But this (as in all other such cases) was a military strategy, as opposed to simply letting his men loose to scavenge and pillage as they chose. William knew Harold to be impetuous. Knowing full well that his army was now within Harold’s own earldom of Wessex, the duke wanted to provoke an immediate attack. William needed to fight soon, otherwise his provisions wouldn’t last for his big army.
Yogananda was once asked, referring to his tough life as William, with all these bloody battles to confront: “Is it possible, Sir, for a liberated master not to live in a state of samadhi?” He replied: “One never loses the awareness that he is inwardly free.”
William formed the destiny of England. The Anglo-Saxon way of life had finished forever. A new era started. Here are the most important changes:
Loyalty to King
All English land belonged to the crown, and William’s vassals had to swear fealty directly to the crown. Earlier it was Saxon practice that each man swore allegiance to the person of his lord. Now William was making loyalty to the nation, in the form of the crown, supercede loyalty to the individual person of a lord. The earls were very independent before, almost as powerful as the King. Union wasn’t known at all. William thus united England under his crown: all Earls had to swear their loyalty. If they didn’t, they lost their lands to Norman barons.
Now England’s ties lay with France, rather than Scandinavia, as it had been before. England became European. As a system of government, the English is the oldest in the world (discounting possibly the Vatican). William’s insistence on everyone pledging allegiance to the king, rather than to his immediate liege lord, was probably the main thing that saved that system of government from the disintegration that occurred elsewhere throughout the medieval world.
With William, it was also the beginning of a new dynasty, which lasts until today. All the English Kings and Queens, every King Henry, the Queens Elizabeth and Victoria, are all descendants of William the Conqueror and his wife Matilda, including the present Queen Elizabeth II and her son Prince Charles.
New structures of government, laws and taxation regimes were now established in England. However, William also adopted or adapted many Saxon laws and structures of government, thereby maintaining continuity of life. Laws were strict and offered protection. No woman or unarmed man needed to fear anything under William’s reign. His soldiers were commanded to act absolutely righteously. William was rigorous: Odo of Bayeux, William’s half-brother and most trusted advisor, had been left in control of England while William was in Normandy. In 1082 William heard complaints about Odo’s behavior. He returned to England and Odo was arrested and charged with misgovernment and oppression. Found guilty he was kept in prison for the next five years.
Anglo-Saxon churchmen were replaced gradually by Normans. William chose well educated men of good character. Under the administration of Lanfranc (who was Sri Yukteswar, Yogananda revealed), now Archbishop of Canterbury, new monasteries were founded, while rules and discipline were enforced more stringently. Church and lay justice were separated; the bishops were given their own courts, allowing common law to evolve independently. William retained the right to appoint bishops and impeach abbots. He used these churchmen as his major administrators, for they were by far the best educated members of society.
“Landscape” of England
Castles were brought to Britain by William the Conqueror. They weren’t known in England before him, who now built them everywhere, as strategic points to ensure his control. The castles were given to Norman barons to hold for the king. William also built the Windsor Castle. Today, as one of the Queen’s official residences, Windsor Castle still plays a formal role in State and official occasions. The famous Tower of London (‘White Tower’) was built by William: For over 900 years the Tower has dominated the city of London and today is still one of the capital’s most prominent landmarks and a world famous visitor attraction. SRF monks, when visiting London, at times enjoy a visit of the White Tower. It is indeed special to tune into the Master in this way. The most attractive place there is a round chapel where William used to pray.
The Domesday Book
The thing for which William is best remembered, aside from winning the battle of Hastings and making England a European kingdom, is the Domesday Book. The Domesday Book was, in effect, the first national census: William was an innovator! It was a royal survey of all England for administration and tax purposes. William needed proper records so that his new, efficient Norman bureaucracy could do its job, especially when it came to collecting all the revenues due to the crown. Inspectors were sent into every part of England to note the size, ownership, and resources of each hide of land. For the times the Domesday Book represented an amazing accomplishment. It also left exact records behind which give historians a lot of data about Norman English life.
Below is an assessment of William the Conqueror from the famous Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (a collection of annals, written in old English, narrating the history of the Anglo-Saxons, written late in the 9th century and updated until 1154.) It was written by monks in monasteries and abbeys, and describes William both in a positive and a negative light. Interestingly, even though it was written by the English, right during the time when they were being the “victims” under Norman rule, it still gives a more positive assessment about William than what most history books offer us today:
“If anyone would know what manner of man King William was, the glory that he obtained, and of how many lands he was lord, then will we describe him as we have known him, we who had looked upon him and who once lived at his court. This King William…was a very wise and great man, and more honored and more powerful than any of his predecessors. He was mild to those good men who loved God, but severe beyond measure to those who withstood his will. He founded a noble monastery [Battle Abbey] on the spot where God permitted him to conquer England, and he established monks in it, and he made it very rich. In his days the great monastery at Canterbury was built, and many others also throughout England; moreover, this land was filled with monks who lived after the rule of St. Benedict; and such was the state of religion in his days that all who would, might observe that which was prescribed by their respective orders.
King William was also held in much reverence. He wore his crown three times every year when he was in England: at Easter he wore it at Winchester, at Pentecost at Westminster, and at Christmas at Gloucester. And at these times all the men of England were with him, archbishops, bishops, abbots and earls, thanes and knights. So also was he a very stern and wrathful man, so that none durst do anything against his will, and he kept in prison those earls who acted against his pleasure. He removed bishops from their sees and abbots from their offices, and he imprisoned thanes, and at length he spared not his own [half-]brother Odo. This Odo was a very powerful bishop in Normandy. His see was that of Bayeux, and he was foremost to serve the king. He had an earldom in England, and when William was in Normandy he [Odo] was the first man in this country, and him did William cast into prison.
Amongst other things, the good order that William established is not to be forgotten. It was such that any man…might travel over the kingdom with a bosom full of gold unmolested; and no man durst kill another, however great the injury he might have received from him. He reigned over England, and being sharp-sighted to his own interest, he surveyed the kingdom so thoroughly that there was not a single hide of land throughout the whole of which he knew not the possessor, and how much it was worth, and this he afterward entered in his register. The land of the Britons [Wales] was under his sway, and he built castles therein; moreover he had full dominion over the Isle of Man; Scotland was also subject to him…; the land of Normandy was his by inheritance, and he possessed the earldom of Maine, and had he lived two years longer, he would have subdued Ireland by his prowess, and that without a battle.
Truely there was much trouble in these times, and very great distress. He caused castles to be built and oppressed the poor. The king was also of great sternness, and he took from his subjects many marks of gold, and many hundred pounds of silver, and this, either with or without right, and with little need. He was given to avarice and greedily loved gain. He made large forests for the deer, and enacted laws therewith, so that whoever killed a hart or a hind should be blinded. As he forbade killing the deer, so also the boars; and he loved the tall stags as if he were their father. He also commanded concerning the hares, that they should go free. The rich complained and the poor murmured, but he was so sturdy that he took no notice of them; they must will all that the king willed, if they would live, or keep their lands,…or be maintained in their rights. Alas that any man should so exalt himself…. We have written concerning him these things, both good and bad, that virtuous men may follow after the good, and wholly avoid the evil, and may go in the way that leadeth to the kingdom of heaven.”
The Anglo-Saxon Cronicle also says: “His anxiety for money is the only thing on which he can deservedly be blamed; . . .he would say and do some things and indeed almost anything . . .where the hope of money allured him.”
In a nutshell, the Chronicle is saying: William was wise, powerful, great, held in reference, and established safety and order in a dangerous time. But on the other hand he was avaricious, oppressive, wrathful, and made people suffer by taking too much from them.
History in those days was written by monks in their monasteries. They of course have a rather monkish view of life. How can they, from that perspective, understand what it takes to rule? Kings and queens have to act in ways that would be wholly different from the way of the monk or the scholar, which is why the latter don’t often have the karma to be kings or queens.
Modern historians too write of William’s avarice. But they are historians, not men or women whose role it is to rule. They cannot understand from experience how necessary it is for a strong country to have revenues. There is nothing in William’s personal life to indicate an avaricious nature. Rather, he was extraordinary self-controlled—austere, even.
Now let’s look on the other side of the Channel, and let’s hear what the monks of Normandy had to say about William. Two contemporary descriptions of men who knew William have survived. One of these was written shortly after his death by a monk at Caen (from Douglas’ book):
“The king excelled in wisdom all the princes of his generation, and among them all he was outstanding in the largeness of his soul. He never allowed himself to be deterred from prosecution of any enterprise because of the labor it entailed, and he was ever undaunted by danger. So skilled was he in his appraisal of the true significance of any event, that he was able to cope with adversity, and to take full advantage in prosperous times of the fickle promises of fortune. He was great in body and strong, tall in stature but not ungainly. He was also temperate in eating and drinking. Especially was he moderate in drinking, for he abhorred drunkenness in all men, and disdained it more particularly in himself and at his court. He was so sparing in his use of wine and other drink that after his meal he rarely drank more than thrice. In speech he was fluent and persuasive, being skilled at all times in making known his will. If his voice was harsh, what he said was always suited to the occasion. He followed the Christian discipline in which he had been brought up as a child, and whenever his health permitted he regularly and with great piety attended Christian worship each morning and evening, and at the celebration of mass.”
William was famously abstemious in food and drink and he particularly abhorred drunkenness. He was a man of known self-control, also concerning women. Regarding his corpulence in his later years, we must consider the possibility of a medical condition which contributed to it. This possibility makes far more sense than concluding that William suddenly changed the habits of a lifetime, by starting to eat without being able to control himself.
William also furthered art and music. Normandy was the site of several important developments in the history of Western music in the eleventh century. Yogananda recounts an interesting detail: “So many experiences I recall from other times! Although I had never learned anything about music in this life, I have played many Indian instruments and have been told I would make a fine musician. This aptitude is a result of knowledge carried over from the past.”
William of Malmesbury (an English contemporary historian and monk, who considered history a branch of moral philosophy) wrote in his “Historia Anglorum”:
“He was of just stature, ordinary corpulence, fierce countenance; his forehead was bare of hair; of such great strength of arm that it was often a matter of surprise, that no one was able to draw his bow, which himself could bend when his horse was in full gallop; he was majestic whether sitting or standing, although the protuberance of his belly deformed his royal person; of excellent health so that he was never confined with any dangerous disorder, except at the last.”
The best text to study, if we want to understand William (from our point of view) is William Jumieges (who wrote “Gesta Normannorum Ducum”) and William of Poitiers (who wrote “Gesta Guillelmi II Ducis Normannorum“), two close companions and biographers of William. Their texts are usually discredited as being exaggerated and as being merely Norman propaganda. But for us it is more reasonable to think that even these “disciples” didn’t even fully grasp the greatness of William the Conqueror. He was even more, beyond their words of praise and admiration. In fact, few disciples fully understand their master, even if they are 100% devout and loyal.
William the Conqueror surrounded himself with the most saintly souls of his time. It seems to have been a time when saints descended: Lanfranc, St. Anselm, St. Osmund, who was ordained William’s royal chaplain. Would any low-consciousness king seek the company of saints?
The story of meeting between Guru and disciple, Lanfranc and William, is a fun one, and can be found in the internet (find the right pages!). In this life, when Yogananda met Sri Yukteswar, he knew (Autobiography of a Yogi): “This was not the first sun to find me at these holy feet!”
William was a highly religious man. He started what Douglas call an “extraordinary ecclesiastical revival” in Normandy and England, achieved side by side with Archbishop Lanfranc (Sri Yukteswar). Another great player in the team was the famous St. Anselm, disciple of Lanfranc. William built countless monasteries and churches in Normandy and England. Religious life flourished. Building monasteries almost became a fashion with the barons. Douglas writes about this “ecclesiastical revival” as being almost as important as the political achievements of Duke William. Concerning building, Yogananda once said: “From childhood I was interested in creating buildings. My first attempt at construction in this life was the renovation of a little mud hut in Calcutta when I was a young boy. This interest was prominent because I had done much building during my incarnation in England.”
The famous “Simple Prayer” of St. Francis (also called “The Prayer of Saint Francis”, or “Peace Prayer”), by the way, was actually not authored by St. Francis, but by William the Conqueror, or by one of his bishops, maybe even by Lanfranc. The earliest version of it has been found in William’s breviary. (See book by the Franciscan priest Albert Haase, “INSTRUMENTS OF CHRIST, Reflections on the Peace Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi”). After that, the prayer completely disappeared, and surfaced only in 1912, in Assisi. (How? Nobody knows).
Was William cruel, as texts always teach? On the surface it certainly seems so. Douglas writes puzzled that William remains “something of an enigma,” because these cruel sides (which in truth were, as he himself states, strategic measures) are clearly balanced with William’s obvious positive sides, such as generosity, being affectionate and inspire it in others, sincerity in piety, and being surprisingly lenient to dangerous opponents who came into his power. Douglas concludes that in William “there was an element of paradox.” Was there? He was God’s instrument. It must be remembered that God sends not only gentle sunshine on the earth, but also purifying storms and floods.
William, as we said, didn’t have the choice to be sweet and mild. These were tough and dangerous times. From early youth William’s life was fraught with danger, because of envy and opposition, even from within his own Duchy of Normandy. Imagine: he, an illegitimate child, became the duke when he was only eight years old. Of course some barons, hoping for their own power and glory, deeply resented him, and repeatedly tried to kill him. William had to struggle for survival. Three of his guardians were murdered and his relatives had to keep him hidden. Later, the King of France and others challenged him, his life, his Duchy; and still later, after having conquered England, William faced rebellion after rebellion. In the end he was attacked even by his own son, Robert, who wanted Normandy for himself. Again: sweet smiles would only have killed William. In these dark medieval times being a king excluded ahimsa (non-violence) and demanded an iron hand.
Still: in an age where it was common practice to execute one’s enemies, the only time William actually ordered the death penalty was once, for treachery (which Yogananda also in this life called the “greatest sin”.) Doesn’t this fact alone speak volumes about his “cruelty”? Which other king behaved like this, in those days?
William actually legally abolished capital punishment (imagine: in that medieval time)! His law established: “I also forbid that anyone shall be slain or hanged for any fault, but let his eyes be put out and let him be castrated.” The punishment sounds crude and cruel to modern ears, of course, but for those dark times it was probably revolutionary– and convicted criminals were must have been grateful to hang on to life.
William also legally put an end to slavery, which had still been practiced in Saxon England. His laws forbade it. Another fact which speaks volumes about his character. He was a man of dharma, of principles, of righteousness, and absolutely strict in making sure it would be followed.
The sheer energy and one-pointed determination of William scarcely need comment. Throughout his life, he responded to one crisis after another, forever jumping into action. His energy was extraordinary, to say the least. Yogananda too, was a man of energy without end. His “conquest” was the Western world, where he too never stopped until victory was achieved.
How history can become a lie! Even today news in the media may well be distorted. Hearing once one of the horrifying stories which are being told about William, Yogananda exclaimed: “How they distort history! That’s not at all what happened!”
In French historic sources, in fact, William described not only an extremely powerful, courageous and intelligent person, but also a patron of the arts, a wise leader, and a truly great man.
William of Jumieges wrote: “He was strong in body and tall in stature. He was moderate in drinking, for he deplored drunkenness in all men. In speech he was fluent and persuasive, being skilled at all times in making clear his will. He followed the Christian discipline in which he had been brought up from childhood, and whenever his health permitted he regularly attended Christian worship each morning and at the celebration of mass.” If we were able to look into William’s soul, we would see nothing but the shining light of God.
William the Conqueror was a man of generous character, was highly self-disciplined, forgiving, protected his people, and demanded virtue from his soldiers. In an unchaste age, he was completely faithful to his wife Matilda. This self-control certainly speaks for itself, and was not often found often amongst kings – mistresses were common in those days. Orderic Vitalis speaks with reverence of those “wise and eloquent men who for many years lived at King William’s court.”
William and Matilda were known to be deeply devoted to each other, leading a happy marriage. (that too sings a song about William’s nature). Their harmony was not because she was a meek little sheep before him (though her body was very small). She, the Queen of England, was quite strong-willed, and is known to have opposed William at least once. She was the mediator between William and his son Robert, when the two clashed. William and Matilda’s love and devotion to each other is testified in their letters to each other, which still exist. William bestowed power on Matilda, as it was unheard of in his days, when women could never be rulers. Matilda ruled Normandy whenever William was in England. William the Conqueror was more than modern for his times.
Yes, William was a man of enormous power, strength, courage, with an iron fist; but does that alone describe him? It doesn’t. William had a deeply loving side, he cared for people; and had an extremely devotional heart. How could it be otherwise if later he became Yogananda? Similarly: just describing Yogananda as being only sweet doesn’t present the whole picture. Yogananda had also the other side of the coin: incredible power.
When Matilda died, the distraught William built a marvelous bejeweled memorial over her tomb in Caen.
William and Matilda are generally said to have had 10 children, 4 sons and 6 daughters; no illegitimate children are known. (By the way: all daughters and most sons were very religious children.) They were:
- Robert Curthose, 1052/4–1134: Duke of Normandy after William; he was the most troublesome of the children, who even betrayed him, and fought against him.
- Richard: born 1054; he was killed in a hunting accident in 1075?
- Adelaide (or Adeliza, or Alice), c. 1055–?; died a virgin
- Cecilia (or Cecily), c. 1056–1126, abbess of Holy Trinity, Caen
- William “Rufus,”1056–1100, King of England after William’s death
- Adela, c.1062–1138
- Agatha, c.1064–c.1080
- Constance, c.1066–1090
- Henry “Beauclerk,” 1068–1135, William’s youngest son, who later became King Henry I, the king of England and Duke of Normandy.
One possible reason why Yogananda came as William might be the training of his disciples, who had lessons to learn in the rounding out of their characters for their spiritual development. In fact, many of his disciples were with him in that lifetime as William, as Yogananda said.
Agatha is mentioned by the historian Orderic Vitalis, who states that she was betrothed successively to Harold of England (who broke that promise), and later to Alphonso VI, King of Galicia and Leon, Spain, who had asked William for a daughter. But Agatha is reported to have died a virgin- the marriage not being consummated. She must have been only about 16 years old, if recorded history can be trusted. She was buried in the Bayeaux Cathedral, Bayeaux, Normandy, France. Interestingly, Yogananda told Daya Mata that she had been Agatha, and that he had indeed sent her to become the Queen of Spain. But Agatha was intensely monastic by nature, and desperately desired to “marry God alone.” (Story told by Daya herself). She arrived on ship in the Port of Spain, and they discovered her dead in her cabin: she had died praying on her knees, for her release from that ordeal. Her knees must have suffered extremely. So much so, as Daya relates, that the influence carried over into this life, in which she suffers from knee problems. Again Yogananda placed that inward soul into a position of great outer responsibility. This time, however, Daya shouldered her enormous task, though she has often called it, understandably, “a burden.”
Her former lifetime lingered with her, of course. Daya had definitively a regal quality about her. Fittingly (karmically speaking), for her 50 year anniversary of service she was even given a crown by the SRF monks and nuns,. Also outwardly, to the consternation of some, she is known to travel in a queenly car and live in quite a queenly house. Her older sister, Ananda Mata, is said to have had that noble quality around her as well. Was Ananda Mata, then, maybe a daughter of William too? Was she maybe Daya’s older daughter, Cecilia, who, as it is written, was the abbess of “Holy Trinity,” in Caen?
At William’s deathbed, his youngest son Henry, who was to inherit only money, asked him: “But how shall I use this inherited money, with no land on which to spend it?” William pronounced these famous words of prophecy: “Be at peace, for you will end up owning what both your brothers now have.” His prophecy came true, since Henry later ruled over both England and Normandy, successfully carrying on what his father had started. William had obviously deeper than usual vision.
Swami Kriyananda writes about his inner perception to have been King Henry. Kriyananda too emanates a regal aura. He and Daya both said they felt like brother and sister. “I feel you have been close to Master in other lives,” Daya told him, too.
Once these two noble children were quite close: side by side at Yogananda’s feet; then working together as the SRF president and vice-president; traveling for months through India together; and later fighting a lot, as brothers and sisters often do.
Henry, as William had prophesized, had a great role to play for his father (and is of course not treated much better than William by many historians). Similarly, Yogananda told Kriyananda repeatedly, “You have a great work to do.”
About Robert Curthose, Duke of Normandy after William
Dhirananda was, as Yogananda stated, William’s oldest son, Robert Curthose. William was deeply upset and saddened by his beloved son’s betrayal, who had left him and united with the enemy. Robert himself wanted to be the Duke of Normandy, but William refused him. They eventually fought, and William actually was wounded by Robert in battle. Later William and Robert reconciled, and William left Normandy in Robert’s care, after his death. But Robert ruled quite badly- even his father’s work was at stake. Orderic Vitalis wrote: “Wishing to please everybody, [Robert] was too ready to accede light-heartedly to any request.” Nobody judged him a good ruler. Once Henry became King of England, Robert never accepted him as such (since he was William’s firstborn son), and fought Henry, but lost. Henry, to make sure Robert wouldn’t continue to create ever more troubles, put him in jail for the rest of his life. However, he treated Robert “generously, and with honor.” His brother lived, as historians now write, “in considerable luxury.”
Dhirananda in this life again betrayed Yogananda, left him, fought against him in the courts. Karma repeats itself, until we stop it.
About William “Rufus,” King of England after William
He is said to have been a somewhat rough man, but ever loyal to his father. He too suffered much under the British historian’s pen, but has recently been described in a better light. He died hunting, and historians of course have speculated that the accident was in reality Henry’s greedy plot to obtain the throne- a theory which by now has been quite disproved. In Yogananda’s lifetime William Rufus was a certain Mr. Vickerman, a businessman and devoted follower of Yogananda, who lived in New York. He was a highly advanced spiritual person, not part of SRF. Usually history describes Rufus as an anti-religious ruler. In fact, he was only “anti-churchianity”.
Yogananda told his disciple Norman Paulson that he too was present back then: “You were my giant.” Norman has a large body in this lifetime, too. Norman recounts: “In later years Yogananda revealed to me why he called me his “giant returned.”
Norman recounts: “I experienced in a vision the Battle of Hastings as King William conquered England. I was beside him in this battle, and was of such stature I could look him straight in the eyes while standing beside him as he sat astride his horse. I carried a gigantic battle axe which in effect allowed no harm to come to his person (Paulsen, 1984).”
To Jerry Torgerson Yogananda said, “You were good: You used to fight for me.”
Was Tara Mata around in William’s times as well? It sounds like it, since she said, “Even as William, Yogananda never mastered the English language.”
By the way: for those who would like to make a pilgrimage to Normandy, and walk in the footsteps of Yogananda as William, here is a perfect travel book (e-book): Walking with William of Normandy, www.crystarpress.com
Another “by the way”: Omar Khayyam from Persia was a contemporary of William the Conqueror. He lived from 1048-1131, was a mathematician, astronomer, and later became famous through his poetry. Most of all he was a Self-realized seer, as Yogananda said, and “so grossly misunderstood,” just as William. Yogananda in this life wrote commentaries on Omar’s poems. Were the Omar and William connected, somehow?
A third “by the way:” a much more sophisticated and in-depth book about William as an incarnation of Yogananda, and of Henry I as an incarnation of Kriyananda, is Catherine Kairavi’s Two Souls, Four Lives.
Here is a difficult question: why would God want William, an avatar, to conquer England? What was the divine plan behind it? Isn’t it absolutely puzzling?
The answer is simply, God alone knows: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Bible)
But the human mind longs to understand, and tries to come up with a sensible answer. A possible answer, therefore, could be: William united England, a country that had never known unity before, and created in it a power and a union which were never again destroyed. Eventually, England helped to unite the world: it colonized America in the West, and colonized India in the East. Both these actions, of course, were in itself not always praiseworthy, but they set the stage for the world’s future: America and India, Yogananda prophesied, will together lead the nations in Dwapara Yuga. England’s eventual unifying effect is also obvious if one observes the spread of the English language, which is becoming the language of the world, unifying all countries.
Or another answer would be:
The union in England which William created was only the outer platform for the real work which was happening: the religious reformation of that time. This religious reformation and revival was enormous, that’s for sure. (If it was positive or not is still debated amongst some scholars.) Christianity flourished (see Douglas). Was William’s life maybe indeed “one of the crucial steps in the building of Christendom”, as author Hilaire Belloc explains in his book William the Conqueror? Yogananda, as we shall see later, also saved Christianity in Spain from the Moors. In this life as Yogananda he tried to save Christianity from “being crucified,” teaching “original Christianity.” Might he be a hidden knight for Jesus and Christianity?
About the end of the divine drama:
In 1087, while on another “campaign” in Normandy, William was violently thrown against his saddle, suffering inner injuries, which couldn’t be healed. He was brought to Rouen, and lingered for six more weeks.
Now what about the famous death-bed confession of William? What shall we make of it? He is recorded to have said at the end of his life (recorded by Orderic Vitalis): “I tremble my friends, when I reflect on the grievous sins which burden my conscience, and now, about to be summoned before the awful tribunal of God, I know not what I ought to do. I was bred to arms from my childhood, and am stained from the rivers of blood I have shed… It is out of my power to count all the injuries which I have caused during the sixty-four years of my troubled life.”
For one, as Douglas writes, “The scene may have been over-colored by later writers, for the purpose of edification.”
Secondly, it certainly was a hard life for Yogananda/William. He had a mission to fulfill, ordained by God. William’s acts were the tough price he had to pay for accepting this mission. His human heart might indeed have cried and repented, even though he knew that he had done the will of God.
Third: Yes, maybe at his death-bed his human side lamented, just as Christ, in his human side, was able to cry at the door of death: “Father, why hast Thou forsaken me?” Or Joan of Arc, the French saint and heroine, said during her last confession that she had been selfish and cruel. Was she really? It looks as if the last moment is a difficult one even for saints, because the human side surfaces. Even Sri Yukteswar, the lion of wisdom, was not free from it. When he faced his end, “for a moment, Master trembled like a frightened child” (Autobiography of a Yogi). Also Lahiri Mahasaya “trembled as though touched by a lightning current” (Autobiography of a Yogi), when he heard that he would soon leave the body. There is something very human to this moment, it seems, even for the great ones.
William the Conqueror finally realized that his death was imminent. Orderic Vitalis reports: “The wise king ordered all his treasures to be distributed among the churches and the poor.” Those who don’t like him interpret it as an act of repentance. Others see it as part of William’s generous character.
William passed on in a beautiful way, as only a saint can. The night before, as Orderic Vitalis recounts, William passed “in great tranquility.” His incarnation ended in the early morning, on September 9, 1087, at Rouen. His was a Mahasamadhi, a merging in AUM. The bells of church were ringing. William turned his eyes and hands prayerfully toward heaven, invoking Mother Mary and Jesus Christ. At that moment he consciously left his body. One more task for God had been fulfilled. William, incidentally, passed on at the age of 59, just as Yogananda.
A group of the king’s closest friends gathered after his death to share both their grief and their reverence, for the leader and the friend they had lost. All spoke of his generosity, affability and greatness of spirit (see Douglas). Many of these intimate associates of the Conqueror’s, not surprisingly, entered monasteries after his death, for the remainder of their lives. They were yogis, disciples, aspiring saints, and companions of lifetimes. Others aided William’s sons in manifesting the vision he had for the Anglo-Norman kingdom. In this lifetime, again, Yogananda had disciples who were mostly monastic, and others who put most of their energies in his outer mission.
On the very day of William’s death a surprising incident happened far away: some Normans living in Rome and in Calabria affirmed to have mysteriously known about William’s passing. Did William appear to them, just as Yogananda appeared in flesh and blood to his diciples?
William’s body was buried in Caen, in the Church of St. Stephan. What about the story of his body emanating a terrible stench, because it was injured when put forcibly into the stone coffin, so that the service had to be finished hurriedly? The account is given exclusively by Orderic Vitalis, and seems an unlikely story, given the account that now follows, concerning William’s body.
This is a fascinating fact which can’t be found in any British history book— again one has to go to French historians. One of the best researched books is William the Conqueror, by Michel de Boüard, a highly respected professor, author, and historian of medieval Europe. The following information is taken from his book, and can be verified:
In 1522, 435 years after William’s passing, the official historiographer of Caen, Charles de Bras, records the following historic incident: a cardinal, an archbishop, and a bishop came from Rome. They were obviously coming with a special mission, the nature of which is unknown. They were welcomed by the abbot Pietro di Martigny, and asked him to open the coffin of William the Conqueror: the body of William was found in a state of perfect incorruption,
One is wonderstruck. William, as Yogananda, left behind an incorrupt body. Both left the world this miraculous sign of their saintly soul, like a “heavenly signature.”
Of course materialistic minds try to explain such phenomena with special embalming methods. But William’s funeral was actually a hasty, somewhat chaotic affair, without extra-special treatments. And other Kings, treated doubtlessly with the best balms, weren’t kept incorrupt. William is a definitive exception.
As a sidelight: when William the Conqueror’s body was found incorrupt, as Michel de Boüard writes, immediately an artist was called who made a spontaneous painting on wood of William’s likeness. In the years afterwards many paintings of William were made, probably all based on that artist’s sketch.
Over the ensuing centuries William’s tomb was twice desecrated by French rebels – by Huguenots (1562) and Revolutionaries (1793), so today only a thighbone is left. In 1983 scientists determined by the thighbone that William was indeed a tall and sturdy man, especially for that age (people were much smaller back then. If you see the knight’s armors from those days, they seem to belong to children). William’s burial place today is marked by a simple stone slab.
By the way: Edward of England, the King who had promised the English throne to William, knew William well, and was actually his half-uncle. As it happened, Edward had lived for 25 years in Normandy, (1016-41; William was Duke of Normandy from 1035) in exile, since the Danish Viking king Canute the Great (Cnut) had conquered England. Edward (called “the Confessor”) was an extremely religious man. In 1102, 36 years after his death, his tomb was opened and it was found that his body too was incorrupt! Miracles happened there. King Edward was canonized in 1161 by Pope Innocent II, and became England’s patron saint until he was “toppled” by St George.
William the Conqueror and king Edward, then, were “twin incorrupts.” Playing the drama of kingly lives, they seemed to have helped each other. One wonders if they had come down on earth together, as old friends.
King Edward, interestingly, began a divine tradition, generally known but little understood. He, with his kingly touch, was able to heal people from scrofula. William the Conqueror received that healing power, which was then handed down through many generations of kings and queens. God probably smiles at the “expert” historians, who scratch their heads with these unscientific (but recorded) occurrences, as they are able to see only the surface, but not His secret divine workings.
A contemporary of Shakespeare, called John Hayward, a well-known historian, wrote in 1613 about William: “Verily, he was a very great prince: full of hope to undertake great enterprises, full of courage to achieve them: in most of his actions commendable, and excusable in all. And this was not the least piece of his Honor, that the kings of England which succeeded, did accompt their order only from him: not in regard of his victory in England, but generally in respect of his virtue and valour.”
But even John Hayward, who called William the Conqueror “a great prince”, did of course not understand the great God who was acting in and through William. That vision is difficult to achieve, especially in the case of William the Conqueror.
Old Spanish (Castilian)
Old Spanish must have been in the mental mix of Yogananda’s remembered languages!
According to Swami Kriyananda’s book “Conversations with Yogananda,” Yogananda said that centuries ago he had been a military commander in Spain, to liberate the country from the Moors (African Muslim people, of Arab descent), to protect Christianity. (The famous El Cid might immediately spring to mind— but that’s hardly possible, since he lived at the same time as William the Conqueror.)
The Moors conquered the Iberian peninsula in the 8th century. Their presence there lasted more than five centuries, until they were driven out of most of Spain in the 13th century. Toledo was conquered in 1212, then Cordoba in 1236— and by about 1250 the Moors only held the city of Granada in the very southernmost part of Spain.
Studying who was responsible for driving them out, one is intrigued to find out that it was the combined work of Alfonso VIII of Castile, and his grandson, who was a rare King-Saint: Ferdinand III of Leon and Castille, called “Fernando El Santo.” (Not to be confused by the much more famous Ferdinand II, “the Catholic,” who also fought and won against the Moors in their last stronghold in Granada, in the 15th century, and supported Christopher Columbus, but unfortunately also initiated the Spanish inquisition.)
As a historical sidelight: Alphonso VIII married Eleanor, the daughter of Eleanor of Aquitane and Henry II of England. Thus, Eleanor was William the Conqueror’s great great granddaughter. Alfonso VIII’s daughter Berenguela was the mother of Ferdinand III. In short: Ferdinand III was a direct descendant of William the Conqueror!
When Berenguela’s brother Henry died in 1217, she renounced her rights to the throne, in favor of her son Ferdinand III. Ferdinand III thus basically succeeded his grandfather Alphonso VIII, and victoriously continued his battle against the Moors.
King Ferdinand III (1198–1252) was a saint indeed. Many miracles have taken place at his tomb, and pope Clement X canonized him in 1671. As William, he was a conqueror: Through his victory over the Moors, he completed the reconquest of Spain.
Now we come to the most striking fact: Ferdinand III’s body is officially said to have remained incorrupt, still today, and can be visited in Seville. At this point one gets highly suspicious: not only that Yogananda may indeed have been King Ferdinand III, but… is an incorrupt body his heavenly signature for his lives on earth? Can it be something like his secret code?
A further study of Back to King Ferdinand’s life reveals many astounding similarities to William the Conqueror. Here are a few facts of his life:
- In 1217, at age 18, Ferdinand became King of Castile (central independent Spanish Kingdom. Spain back then consisted of several kingdoms). In 1230 he succeeded to the crown of Leon (a northern kingdom), uniting the two kingdoms. “Union,” incidentally, might be a general key word for Yogananda’s mission, in the outer and inner sense (“Yoga”). As Arjuna, he united India. As William, he united England. As Ferdinand III, he united Spain. As Yogananda he united religions, and united souls with God.
- He took as his counselors the wisest men in the State. (William too had the wisest men as his closest friends. Lanfranc is said to have been the wisest man of his time. St.Anselm is said to have been very wise, too.)
- A stern judge when it came to the law, he was gentle and forgiving in his personal life. (William was very strict as well when it came to law, and extremely generous in his private life.)
- He took the greatest care not to overburden his subjects with taxation. (William too took genuinely care of his people.)
- Following his mother’s advice, Ferdinand, in 1219, married Beatrice, the daughter of Philip of Swabia, King of Germany, one of the most virtuous princesses of her time!
- God blessed this union with ten children: seven sons and three daughters. (William too had ten!)
- The highest aims of Ferdinand’s life were the propagation of the Christian faith and the liberation of Spain from the Moor’s yoke. He was victorious, and took away from them all territories, excepting Granada, whose king nevertheless did homage to Ferdinand.
- He united Spain through his conquests. (Just as William united England.)
- In the most important towns he founded bishoprics, reestablished Catholic worship everywhere, built churches, founded monasteries, and endowed hospitals. (William too built many monasteries and churches.)
- He watched over the conduct of his soldiers, confiding more in their virtue than in their valor. (William had done exactly the same.)
- He fasted strictly. (William too was a man of strict self-control.)
- He wore a rough hairshirt, and often spent his nights in prayer, especially before battles. (William too prayed much, especially before battles.) Amid the tumult of the camp he lived like a religious in the cloister.
- Christianity and the happiness of his people were the two guiding motives of his life.
- He reformed Spanish law, and compiled it into a form used for centuries after. (Just like William.) He was an excellent administrator and just ruler, often pardoning those who worked against the crown. (Again, like William.)
- He strove always to use his power to better his people and his nation. (As did William.)
- He founded the University of Salamanca, the Athens of Spain.
- Ferdinand’s firstborn son became king Alfonso X, “El Sabio,” the Learned, or the Wise, whose court was a center of culture. He furthered astronomy, and established the form of modern Spanish. He also wrote 400 pieces of music. Swami Kriyananda went to Seville in 2010, visiting Fernando’s incorrupt body, and was certain that it was Yogananda. His role back then might have been Alfonso X.
Together with Ferdinand III a band of saints seem to have descended from the heavens onto earth:
Ferdinand’s sister Blanche (canonized as well) would become the mother of St. Louis IX of France (1214-1270), who is said to have been the greatest saint among European Kings ever, and the only canonized King of France. It is indeed fun to study his inspiring life: he, the King, washed the feet of the poor during Easter; he fed the needy daily; and with his own hands he served pilgrims a good lunch. After his death miracles happened at his tomb: just as it was the case with his uncle Ferdinand III.
During Ferdinand’s lifetime other great saints were busy on the earthly stage: St. Francis of Assisi (founder of the Franciscan order); St. Anthony of Padua; St. Dominic (founder of the Dominican order); St. Thomas Aquinas.
Ferdinand felt close to these saints and their activities: he was a devout member of the Third Order of St. Francis, which had just been newly founded. He was buried in the great cathedral of Seville before the image of the Blessed Virgin, clothed, at his own request, in the habit of the Third Order.
The question is: did little Mukunda hear Ferdinand’s saintly voice in his inner ear?
Did an older version of standard Spanish language ring in young Yogananda’s mind?
Yogananda said to some disciples: “I have been, amongst other things, a ruler, a poet, a warrior, and a hermit (many times).”
His many lives as a hermit will hardly become known. But the poet? Who was that poet? Poetry came easily to Yogananda, he said, because of that former lifetime. He wrote exquisite mystical poetry.
Many disciples have guessed that Yogananda was the king of poets, William Shakespeare, since he recommended reading a few lines of his works every day. In his original Gita-commentaries he even named Shakespeare together with Christ and Krishna, all being “great luminaries.”
Kamala, in “A Flawless Mirror” writes about a memorable evening with Yogananda, at their family home in Santa Barbara. Yogananda surprised everyone with a spontaneous dramatic portrayal of Anthony’s famous oration in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, from flawless memory! Where did that memory come from? Yogananda certainly wasn’t a book-learner.
The Master (as writes Swami Kriyananda) once told Dr. Lewis that his wife Mrs. Lewis, in a former life, had been Queen Elizabeth I, of England (1533-1603), a contemporary of Shakespeare (1564-1616). This could be seen as a slight hint that others might have been around at that time: Dr. Lewis, and therefore maybe Yogananda.
However, we are taking a different route here (it’s all just for fun anyway, and quite un-provable!): Following the suspicion that Yogananda left as his personal “heavenly signature” his incorrupt bodies, we are lead to the famous mystical poet, St. John of the Cross (1542–1591), whose body is still incorrupt. St. John is, of course, one of the greatest figures in mystical Christianity and was incidentally a contemporary of Shakespeare.
When St John of the Cross (Juan de Ypres y Alvarez) died, he was buried in a vault beneath the floor of a church. When the tomb was opened, nine months later, the body was fresh and intact; and when a finger was amputated to be used as a relic, the body bled as a living person would have done. When the tomb was opened for a second time nine months later, the body was still fresh, despite the fact that it had been covered with a layer of quicklime. At further exhumations in 1859 and 1909, the body was found to be still fresh. The last exhumation was in 1955, when the body – after nearly 400 years – was still “moist and flexible,” although the skin “was slightly discolored.”
St. John was the advisor and confessor of St. Teresa of Avila, who later became, as it is assumed by many disciples of Yogananda, Sister Gyanamata.
In her book, God Alone, Gyanamata describes how someone had seen her in another (apparently saintly) incarnation. Is that how her Teresa-legend grew? Yogananda did say: “Gyanamata has Teresa’s characteristics.” And he also described St. Teresa as being “of our line.”
Teresa died in 1582. Her body, amazingly, is preserved incorrupt too. Again, do we see “twin incorrupts?” Do we see here a heavenly play of divine love? Teresa’s body was exhumed several times after her death, and each time found sweet-smelling, firm, and incorrupt. Her heart, hands, right foot, right arm, left eye and part of her jaw are on display in various sites around the world. St. Teresa’s incorrupt heart and arm are enshrined and displayed at the Carmelite convent in the town of Alba de Tormes.
Yogananda said about Teresa: “After 25 years of suffering, the angels thrust a breath of fire in her heart and St. Teresa said, ‘It seemed I couldn’t endure it and then suddenly I saw Him.’ That is the eternal romance. That is the wave becoming the ocean. The body of Christ became the ocean of Oneness which Teresa felt.” Gyanamata, as Yogananda said, had attained Nirbikalpa samadhi in her previous lifetime. Was that the moment?
St. John was much younger than Teresa (by 27 years), just as Yogananda was much younger than Gyananmata (by 24 years). St. John’s ministry included guiding Teresa herself. He became her director and confessor. She referred to him in a letter as a “divine and heavenly man.” On Nov. 18, 1572, while receiving Communion from the hands of John of the Cross, she received the favor of the “spiritual marriage” (divine union.)
St. John of the Cross is generally known as one of the most important Christian mystics, as an immaculate mystical poet, and a reformer at St. Teresa’s side. His most famous books, “The Ascent of Mount Carmel,” and “The Dark Night of the Soul” are both an explanation of some verses of his poetry, beginning: “In a dark night with anxious love inflamed…” He taught meditation, soul knowledge, and the inner light.
However, we won’t get deeper into St. John’s life, since Yogananda never seems to have mentioned him very much. It seems that if he had been St. John, he might have written more about him. Thus, being happily doubtful, we just include two verses of St. John’s exquisite poetry:
“I was so ‘whelmed
so absorbed and withdrawn,
that my senses were left
deprived of all their sensing,
and my spirit was given
an understanding while not understanding,
transcending all knowledge.
“He who truly arrives there
cuts free from himself;
all that he knew before
now seems worthless,
and his knowledge so soars
that he is left in unknowing
transcending all knowledge.”
Was little Yogananda, then called Mukunda, also hearing Hindi in his little inner ear?
He says at the beginning of his Autobiography, “Clear recollections came to me of a distant life, a yogi amidst the Himalayan snows. ”
Let’s boldly place that “distant life” in the empty slot between 32 AD and 700AD, where no traces of any of Yogananda’s lifetimes can be found. He has been a hermit many times, he said — so we might actually be lucky. Let’s also dare to designate Hindi as his language for that particular lifetime – quite opportunistically, since Hindi was missing from his list of languages.
Furthermore, let’s (again boldly) make him live close to the ocean, as Yogananda once said: “In one incarnation I had lived by the ocean. As a little boy I used to see in my mind’s eye many places and events of that incarnation.” We dress him in an orange robe, since, when his brother Ananta ridiculed him about running away into the Himalayas (“Where is your orange robe? You can’t be a swami without that!”), Yogananda said: “But I was inexplicably thrilled by his words. They brought a clear picture of myself roaming about India as a monk. Perhaps they awakened memories of a past life; in any case, I began to see with what natural ease I would wear the garb of that anciently-founded monastic order.”
Brother Ananta, by the way, was an old acquaintance of Yogananda. In an article “Have We Met Before?”, he states: “All those in my family I knew from past lives.” He even stated, amazingly: “Nobody has crossed my path in this life except for a reason.”
Yogananda was obviously not timid at all! The first thing he does in his Autobiography, on the very first page, is to confront the Western reader with the startling concept of reincarnation. That was in the 40ies, when almost nobody believed or taught it. Back then yoga, orange Swamis, reincarnation, etc. were practically unknown, and were certainly pretty strange.
Another tiny hint of a previous lifetime of Yogananda in India comes from Durga Ma’s book. He often told Durga: “I will take you to India when I go. I will show you the hermitage where you were with me as a sister, not a blood sister, in your previous incarnation.” Once Yogananda took Durga to Phoenix, Arizona, to a Spanish building with a patio in the center, which felt familiar to Durga. Yogananda explained: “It should, for it is almost the exact replica of the hermitage in India where you were with me, that I was telling you about.” He also explained to her that she was “a dancing girl in a temple.” Durga adds: “When I first came to Mt. Washington, he used to give me an apple or a banana to eat. I never knew why for many years. Later he told me the reason. It was because he liked to see me hold those articles with only my first three fingers, and the other two fingers would stick way out. This brought back memories to his mind of my temple duties when I was in an Indian temple, offering incense and flowers on the altar.”
Yogananda told Kamala that she lived in Brindaban in a recent incarnation. Who knows if she was together with Durga, in that “Spanish” hermitage, with Yogananda?
Another very faint hint comes from a talk by Yogananda, where he obviously describes true incarnations of his: “In this one incarnation I can sleep and dream that I am born in England as a powerful king. Then I die and dream I am born a devout man. And then I die again and am born as a successful lawyer. Again I die and am reborn as Yogananda.” The “powerful king in England was William, of course. Was the “devout man” St. John of the Cross, or a hermit life? Who, Yogananda, was the lawyer?
A WILD “SPECULATION PAGE”
It’s getting worse and worse: now we enter into purest and wildest (and totally un-answerable) speculation:
Yogananda said that “in ancient times, India has always been governed, more or less, by religious kings.” (One thinks of King Janaka, King Krishna, King Rama, King Yuddhistira.) As we have seen, Yogananda was a king once or twice in Europe. Wouldn’t he have been a great king in India too?
If so, would he have left behind signs about such a life?
Maybe! In his Autobiography, when Yogananda talks about the famous king Asoka, he actually says little about him. Instead, he refers to Asoka as the grandson of a great King, Chadragupta Maurya. Yogananda goes on to describe Chandragupta, even though Asoka is significantly more famous, and is considered the greatest emperor of the Mauryan dynasty.
Yogananda dedicated space to emperor Chandragupta not only in his Autobiography, but also mentioned him also in his public talks. Why would he repeatedly describe this particular king? As a praise him or to India’s great past culture? Maybe. Or is there more to the picture? Was Yogananda maybe himself King Chandragupta?
Chandragupta (340–297 BC), historians say, united India, and became the first king to rule over a unified, independent India. Standard weights and measures were established, and India’s first coins were minted. Chandragupta’s empire was very tolerant of a variety of religions, including Buddhism and Jainism.
All the following information about Chadragupta is taken from Yogananda’s Autobiography and his talks:
Alexander “the Great” invaded India in 327 BC. Chandragupta met Alexander as a youth. (Was this the reason why Yogananda tried to meet Hitler again in this lifetime, who once was, as he said, Alexander the Great? Alexander was spiritually inclined, and Yogananda wanted to reawaken that interest in Hitler.)
King Chandragupta (king from 321–297 BC), after Alexander’s death, drove the Greeks from India in 305 BC, destroying the Macedonian garrisons left in India.
In the Punjab, he defeated the invading Greek army of Alexander’s general, Seleucus, and conquered the kingdom of Magadha (Northern India.) His kingdom extended from the bay of Bengal to the Arabian Sea.
He then received at his Patna (then Pataliputra) court the Hellenic ambassador, Megasthenes. Megasthenes gives us an account of the times that is well worth reading: The inhabitants, having abundant means of sustenance, exceed, in consequence, the ordinary stature, and are distinguished by their proud bearing. They are also found to be well skilled in the arts, as might be expected of men who inhale pure air and drink the very finest water. All Indians are free, and not one of them is a slave. The Indians do not even use aliens as slaves, and much less one of their own countrymen . . . They live frugally and observe very good order. Theft is a very rare occurrence. The simplicity of their laws and contracts is proved by the fact that they seldom appeal to law. They have no suits about pledges and deposits, nor do they require either seal or witness, but make their deposits and confide in each other. They neither put out money in usury nor know how to borrow. . . Truth and virtue they hold alike in esteem . . .In contrast to the general simplicity of their style, they love finery and ornaments.
The reign of the Gupta Kings has been called the Golden Age. The best authorities agree that the country was never as well governed in ancient times as in the days of the Guptas. The people were happy and honest, and capital punishment was unknown. There was no need for “an eye for an eye; a tooth for a tooth.”
The Emperor Chandragupta decided seven years after his victory over Seleucus to hand over the reins of India’s government to his son. Traveling to South India, Chandragupta spent the last twelve years of his life as a penniless ascetic, seeking self-realization in a rocky cave at Sravanabelagola, now honored as a Mysore shrine.
Chandragupta died in 297 BC, after a glorious reign of 24 years. (He was about 57 years old- more or less like Yogananda).
Chandragupta’s son, Bindu Sara, handed over the empire intact to his own son, Asoka, after 25 years of reign. Asoka upheld the equal rights of animals with men to the King’s care. About 272 BC, he sent missionaries to lands as distant as Egypt and Syria to preach Buddhism. India’s missionaries converted China (one-fifth of the population of the whole globe) and Japan to Buddhism.
LANGUAGE 9, 10, 11
Italian (Latin), Greek, Egyptian
Nothing but pure speculation:
One wonders if Yogananda, when he went to Europe in 1935, revisited some of the places where he had lived before: already we have seen that he revisited Stonehenge; he revisited London (and France), where he had lived as William; he visited Israel, where too he possibly had lived.
What about Italy? In 1935 Yogananda came to visit the shrines of St. Francis (1182-1226), whom he actually referred to as being “of our line.” He also called St. Francis his “patron saint.” According to some rumors amongst disciples of Yogananda, Sri Yukteswar was the reincarnation of the St. Francis of Assisi. Another story says that Francis attained liberation in this lifetime, and was a disciple of Jesus. Who can tell?
And did Yogananda maybe live in ancient Greece with its enlightened teachers, since he also visited the Athenian temples? He wrote: “I was captured by the ancient ruins and their associations in Rome and Greece.” What did he mean with “associations?”
By the way: Yogananda talked highly about Pythagoras, who lived from 580-500BC, at the beginning of Athens’ Golden Age, and taught “All is Number,” immortality of the soul, reincarnation, the soul’s union with the divine, the liberating power of abstinence, and vegetarianism. Pythagoras also introduced the concept of a spherical Earth, 2000 years before Christopher Columbus proved it, and is considered the founding father of cosmology. He founded in Croto (Crotone), South Italy, a philosophical, religious community: the Pythagoreans. Yogananda said: “Pythagoras was one of the great Grecian philosophers. He remembered definitely that he was a herald once in Greece, and that he was once a warrior too. He remembered many incarnations.”
How did Yogananda know “definitely” the particular memories of Pythagoras? None of his writings have survived.
A sidelight: Pythagoras influenced the philosophy of Aristotle, who was the grandfather, teacher and tutor of Alexander “the Great.” Alexander later claimed his divinity. He must have misunderstood something of the noble Greek teaching! Yogananda tells in his Autobiography how the Indian sages later humbled and taught him. Alexander, had, however, obviously some good karma: he was taught by his grandfather Aristotle, had contact with saints, and even brought home with him a “true yogi,” his “Indian guru” (see Autobiography). Later, Yogananda said, he incarnated as Hitler. When he first rose to power, Yogananda, seeing his karma, had actually hopes for him (same as with Mussolini), and later even tried to have an interview with him in Germany in 1935, to get him on the right track again. But Hitler turned to evil ways, unfortunately. The destruction was great. Average people, it seems, can do little good, and little harm. Great people can do great good, and great harm. Karmic consequences are then extremely bitter, of course.
And what about ancient Egypt, in its golden era? Yogananda went to visit the pyramids. He wrote: “The sphinx and the pyramids talked to me much about ancient history.” In general, or was it personally lived history?
If the latter, we would have to add three more languages to Yogananda’s list: Italian (Latin), Egyptian, Greek!
Let’s leave the past now, and ask: what about the present? Which language is Yogananda speaking right now, busily roaming through the high astral realms? Is he with Sri Yukteswar, who has been “directed by God to serve on an astral planet as a savior,” called Hiranyaloka?
Do they then speak the vibration-language “Hiranyalokese?”
And what about the future? When Yogananda wrote in his Autobiography that as an infant he remembered being a Himalayan Yogi in a past life, he added: “These glimpses of the past, by some dimensionless link, also afforded me a glimpse of the future.” Later he confided to disciples something about that future: he would be reborn after 200 years in India (about 2150 AD). He would go to live in the Himalayas — his attraction never seems to have diminished! Again his close disciples would be with him, he said, toward the end of his life.
Also in his poem “My India,” he expressed this desire to be reborn in India: “Not in Heaven or the land of prosperity would I be born— if I have to put on a mortal garb again. A thousand famines may prowl and tear my flesh, yet would I love to be again in my Hindustan… Yet would I there in India love to reappear!”
In his next life, then, about 140 years from today, will English be his language, since it will have become the language of the world?
At any rate, looking at the overarching history of Yogananda’s past and future, we get a staggering picture: Yogananda stated to various disciples that he was an avatar, that he was liberated many lifetimes ago. On an audio tape we can hear him say: “I came liberated!” But not only that. He gave us, in “God’s Boatman,” this incredible promise: “Oh! I will come again and again! If need be, a trillion times — as long as I know one stray brother is left behind.”
A trillion times! Oh Lord! How many Yugas would a trillion lifetimes be, in Sri Yukteswar’s system? If we calculate 50 years for each lifetime, saying that one comes right after the other, we would get over 2000000000 (2 billion) Yugas!!! Can anyone even picture that many years, let alone Yugas?
Looking at this staggering timeframe of the Masters, one is inclined to relax a bit with one’s own little world, which sometimes seems so very big and important.
To end on a humoristic note: Yogananda might be in for a big problem: when he will become an infant in the far future, after many, many lifetimes, won’t all these hundreds of languages create a total “inward confusion of tongues” in his mind? Aha! This might be the real reason why he advocated a single world language.
Overview of Possible Incarnations of Yogananda
- 1500 BC:
- Living at Stonehenge
- Around 850 BC:
- 760–700 BC:
- 340– 297 BC:
- King Chandragupta
- Around 0 AD:
- Jesus, or in his time
- 700 AD:
- With Shankara
- William the Conqueror
- 1198–1252 AD:
- Ferdinand III
- 1542–1591 AD:
- St. John of the Cross
- 1893–1952 AD:
- 2150–? AD:
- Hermit in the Himalayas