I cannot find the word "scyllas." It is not in the dictionary. I looked it up on the internet and it is said to be a monster that lives on one side of this water passage. In the poem, it says scyllas of sarcasm. Wondering what the word along with sarcasm means. So grateful to be able to ask someone.

—Emily Scott, USA


Dear Emily,

There are surprisingly MANY words in the Autobiography of a Yogi that defy dictionary confirmation! There’s even a story of one such word that Yogananda used that his secretaries insisted did not exist until later, after much searching, was found in a very old dictionary. The word suddenly escapes me: well, I think it was the word “noil.” (Don’t ask me anymore! :-) )

I, too, am uncertain of Yogananda’s use of that term “scyllas,” beyond what you have already discovered about the female sea monster of Greek legend. Using that as a starting point, perhaps we could simply state that the meaning of that phrase (“scyllas of sarcasm” in the poem, Samadhi) is a poetic allusion or metaphor describing sarcasm personified as a monster! (Too risky from where I sit to comment on the monster’s gender! Being facetious here!)

If this is correct I cannot imagine using the term in the singular as in “Scylla of sarcasm” as that would be TOO specific a reference to the Greek myth and therefore too confusing a reference (inasmuch as the Greek monster, Scylla, was not known to be especially sarcastic!). It is more impersonal in the plural as a general reference to the devouring aspect of sarcasm: sarcasm (something I know well in my life) “eats” or “stabs” at the life of those towards whom it is directed.

So, absent a more esoteric discovery of another meaning to that word (after all, it is already of ancient legend), it seems perfectly sensible to combine “Scylla” with “sarcasm.” (Admittedly, very few of the English speakers on the planet know to whom that word is referencing!)

Thank you for your inquiry and please let us know if you find some other meaning or history to the word!

Blessings and joy to you!
Nayaswami Hriman
Seattle WA USA