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The pre-resurrection teachings of Swami Yukteshwar
on July 22, 2015
“The Holy Science” is a book by Sri Yukteshwar, the guru of Paramahansa Yogananda. His famous disciple mentions Yukteshwar in “Autobiography of a Yogi”, and actually claims that he was “resurrected” by appearing in a physical body after his death and cremation!
“The Holy Science” is short, but badly written or perhaps badly edited, so reading it requires a considerable amount of patience. On many points, Yukteshwar's message sounds like “Hinduism 101”, more specifically the Yoga of Light and Sound (Surat Shabd Yoga), best known in the West in its bastardized Eckankar version. Liberation from samsara is reached by meditating on the universal sound current Om or Aum. God is impersonal, all creatures are trapped in the wheel of existence and reincarnate until liberation is achieved, and the guru (called “Savior” by the author) plays a central role in the process. An ascetic lifestyle based on vegetarianism and mental equanimity is the prerequisite for yogic practices which eventually makes the practitioner merge with the Divine. Since creation is an emanation from Brahman, our true Selves are one with God already, but we don't realize it, thinking our separation is the natural state.
Like many other modern Hindus, Yuketshwar argues that all religions are really one, and that the message of the Vedas is the true essence of all spiritual traditions. This reasoning is similar to, say, Vivekananda, who was a contemporary of the author. What makes Yukteshwar unusual (I think) is his elaborate attempt to correlate the Hindu perspective with Christianity in particular, a path also followed by Yogananda (some of whose books look like old fashioned “family bibles”). Unsurprisingly, Swami Yukteshwar's Bible exegesis is strongly allegorical, for instance identifying the seven churches of John's Revelation with the seven chakras, or comparing John the Baptist with Krishna's consort Radha (who is also used as an allegorical figure). Yukteshwar says in his book that he wants to explain the timeless message of the sages to an educated Western audience. Apart from ample Bible quotations, “The Holy Science” also contains “scientific” speculations concerning astronomy.
On one central point, Yukteshwar strays from Hinduism as traditionally conceived. He doesn't accept the idea of four descending yugas or time-periods, nor the claim that we currently live in the worst of them, the Kali Yuga. Nor does he accept that the yugas are of very long duration. In Yukteshwar's reinterpretation, the yugas are short and ascending. The Kali Yuga will end in 1899 (the book was published five years earlier) as the solar system enters the much better Dwapara Yuga. Yukteshwar also implies that all humans will reach higher forms of spiritual self-realization as the yugas continue to ascend. My guess is that the author adapts himself to the idea of Progress prevalent in the West, or even to Theosophy! Unless I'm mistaken, Rudolf Steiner also said that the Kali Yuga ended circa 1900.
Despite the almost hopeless stylistic deficiencies (and the spelling errors in the Kindle edition), I nevertheless give “The Holy Science” three stars. This, apparently, is Sri Yukteshwar's message before his resurrection…