Greetings gurudev,

Why did yogananda portrayed himself as an average student who use to get minimum passing marks in examination? I mean sure enough his intuition was so developed that he could have outsmarted professors!

Thanking you,

—pushkar, india


Dear Pushkar,

Your question is a common and a good one: to what extent does an avatar have access to all knowledge, including the mundane and why can’t an avatar simply know or do anything he wants or needs?

In Yogananda’s life story, Autobiography of a Yogi, he tells the story how his guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar was unable to intuit the location of a lantern, saying, “I’m not even a very good ‘Sherlock Holmes!'”

An avatar goes through the stages of childhood, adolescence, adulthood an old age much like you and I. Illness, aging, defeats and failures, frustrations, triumphs and joys…..all these befall the avatar because such a one accepts the limitations of human birth and the play of maya in human life.

When our teacher, and founder of Ananda, Swami Kriyananda (a direct disciple of Yogananda) asked Yogananda your question, saying: “What does an avatar know in his human life? Does he ALWAYS have a direct line to all power and knowledge?”

In reply, Yogananda only said “One never loses his sense of inner freedom.” What this implies is that an avatar does not act from desire or karma but in freedom. But the freedom includes having to learn a language; to walk; to do his lessons. Freedom is not the same as omniscience. It is freedom, rather, from desire.

Jesus Christ, on the cross, cried out to his guru, “Why have you abandoned me?” Yogananda taught that in this instance Jesus’ divine connection (like a cell signal) was temporarily lost. In this he experienced not so much physical suffering from the crucifixion but, rather, the loss of His divine contact.

The avatar does not come like SUPERMAN, able to perform tricks and show his powers. What good would that do for you and me?

Instead the saints (and avatars) show us how to handle the challenges of human life; to make decisions; to depend on divine grace (getting his diploma, e.g.); to overcome obstacles.

This willingness to take on the hardships and limitations of human life is what the great saints and masters down through ages willingly accept for the salvation of those who will “receive them.”

Since an avatar has no karma of his own compelling him to do this or that, the efforts he exercises create good karma that accrues mostly to his close disciples, but also to some degree to many others and, indeed, in the case of world teachers like Jesus Christ, Buddha, Krishna, and Yogananda (and many others), to the entire human race.

May these thoughts enlighten your mind with a deeper appreciation of God’s grace through the agency of the sat guru!

Nayaswami Hriman