I was watching a video of a Kumbha Mela and I saw a sadhu that had held his arm above his head until it had withered. I also saw a man who had stood for seven or so years. All of these seem to me to be extreme objective proof of one's devotion and sincerity. My question is to the effect of what Yogananda thought about these "locals" that he must have been familiar with. I would also say that if these people can't find god, who can?
Thanks for your question. There are indeed countess things like that that happen in India, ways of denying the small self in hopes of going beyond the body to experience the Divine.
I haven’t heard specific things that Yogananda said. Swami Kriyananda has said that you see some people like that in India whose practice of such techniques works for them and tney become radiant. Others it does not do much for.
My feeling is that Yogananda felt he was bringing the cream of Yoga to America with Kriya Yoga, which has four basic practices (Energization Exercises, Hong Sau, AUM, and Kriya) each of which helps move the practitioner in a very specific way toward Self-realization.
As Yogananda said (I paraphrase): You can face a wild tiger in the jungle, but it is more challenging to face the mind in meditation.
At this time, you and I have the opportunity to explore and practice the techniques specifically designed for Self-realization: the path of Kriya Yoga. While those other yogis may be admirable, I would recommend taking advantage of the path Yogananda has brought to the West. You can explore more about Kriya Yoga on ananda.org.
In divine friendship,