Yogananda’s teachings and Buddhism


Please excuse my English. Buddhism helps me to practice yama and niyama. I would like to know if there are uncompatibilities between Yogananda's teachings and buddhism, and what they are. Thanks very much.

—José Franzone, Argentina


Hello José,

Yes, Buddhism does help one to practice yama and niyama. If there were more true Buddhists, this world would be a better place.

There are layers of answer to your question, depending on where you are in your own spiritual quest.

First, there are many fundamental differences between modern Buddhist teaching and Yogananda’s teaching. I won’t go into many of them, but perhaps the most significant one is that most modern Buddhism is atheistic, whereas Yogananda emphasized that one’s relationship with God is what it’s all about. In light of this apparent contradiction, must one of these be a false teaching?

Not at all. Swami Kriyananda often points out that the Buddha himself was not atheistic; he was correcting a common misunderstanding of his era: people had become too passive in their spiritual lives, expecting God to do everything for them. Therefore he emphasized the importance of self-effort, and did not emphasize God at all. Many of his later followers took that to mean that Buddha said there was no God. So that’s one possible incompatibility to think about-not with Buddha, perhaps, but with modern Buddhism.

Second, it’s true that you can ignore this difference, and conduct the spiritual experiment to find out for yourself whether there is a God. Neither Buddhism nor Yoga depends on belief; both are about experience. However, if one’s relationship with God is as important as Yogananda said it was for spiritual growth, and if you believe in (or better still, love) God, then it would be best to work directly on deepening that relationship. In that way you will be better able to receive God’s grace. After all, we need all the help we can get!

Another aspect of this is that each spiritual tradition has its own unique power to lift the seeker into higher states of awareness. Buddhism has such a power, Yoga has such a power, and so do other great traditions. However, in order to benefit from that power, the seeker must sensitively attune to it. This takes effort, practice, and skill, because the world’s many distractions conspire to make it difficult, even when we follow only one tradition. Spreading our efforts among two different “types” of spiritual power may seem like a good idea, but in the end it dilutes our ability to tune in to either.

It’s fine to sample many paths and practice their various teachings. It’s important to see if they work for you, and which one you best resonate with. But once you find your own, follow it with all your heart. Buddhism is a true path; you won’t go wrong with it. Yoga, and Yogananda’s teaching in particular, is also a true path. Choose one or the other. Trying to follow more than one path will weaken your efforts to follow either. Honor all, but follow one-that’s the time-honored key to the ultimate Truth, Love and Bliss.

Blessings on your quest,