Why Did Yogananda Express Grief?


When Sri Yukteshwar ji died, it is mentioned in Autobiography of a Yogi that Paramhansa Yogananda was heartbroken and wanted to meet him. He was praying to God to save him. He was feeling uneasy as well. My question is why was he getting affected by drama/play when he is self-realized? He can meet him in non-physical ways so why did his physical death impact him so much?

—Saksham Sobti, India


Dear Friend,

Your question is one many have asked: How can an enlightened soul express grief (or pain) and yet be liberated (Self-realized, an avatar, etc.)?

Swami Kriyananda, founder of Ananda and a direct (personally trained) disciple of Yogananda, frequently encountered this natural question. It applies also to the suffering of Jesus Christ on the cross so long ago.

Yogananda himself in his commentaries on the life of Jesus also addressed this question. The response is not easy to express for it is somewhat nuanced (subtle).

A Self-realized soul who returns to human form for the good of other souls takes on human life in a very real way: such a one can laugh and cry with the rest of us. At the same time, such a soul does not incarnate by force of past karma and lessons needing to be learned. Such a one is “free” in his/her heart and mind from delusion.

However, the avatar is neither a puppet of God nor is merely play-acting. While one whose soul is free in God has access to cosmic consciousness that doesn’t mean that at all times that soul is in samadhi! Even though in nirbikalpa samadhi a saint can still function in the body, that doesn’t mean the saint is always immersed in samadhi. Sri Yukteswar once chuckled that he wasn’t a very good “Sherlock Holmes” when Yogananda asked him to use his powers to find a kerosene lamp that had been misplaced.

For, you see: such a soul acts in the stream and flow of grace. “I killed Yogananda long ago. No one dwells in this form but God.” By this, he meant that his actions and thoughts flow from superconsciousness not from ego consciousness. The human drama thus plays out according to what the divine Playwright writes. If expressing grief at the loss of a loved one is the appropriate act (presumably for the benefit of giving the right example to others, for instance), then grief it is. If demonstrating to onlookers that the pain of crucifixion is real and not fake as a god-man, then pain is felt and expressed. It is also true, however, that Jesus Christ, Krishna, Buddha, etc, could transcend pain should the soul within him so prompt him to do so. As Jesus said he could have summoned a legion of angels to spare him from the suffering but instead, he said, “Thy will be done!” (“I and my Father are one!”)

If at the time of Sri Yukteswar’s death, Yogananda was prompted inwardly to go into samadhi then of course he would feel no grief. But that was not the drama he was prompted to play. The avatars show us how to act in this world and that our natural human responses have their place in our lives when we demonstrate that we live for God alone.

Does this explanation offer you some insight?

Nayaswami Hriman