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(2/6/02 8:54 am)
Bernard and Yogananda, Part Two
I apologize for the brevity of this section of Bernard's story. But I couldn't see that it made sense to attach it to either the beginning or ending of it, and, perhaps when you've read the whole thing, you will agree.

This part concerns a certain role that Bernard came to play during the years that he was with Master. This role sheds a light on Master's work here in America that is very unusual, seldom mentioned, and needs some background to help explain it.

In the latter years of his life, some people tried to belittle Master by saying that he had "lost his powers." Master responded to these reports by remarking, "I don't know that I had any powers." Meaning that whatever he had done, had been by divine decree and not of his own will. However, the fact that people made those statements hints that they had been used to Master displaying at least some of his yogic powers in public.

In the excerpt from Hilda's book that Devotee copied and posted, we read of Master astonishing his audience by the amazing things he could do with his physical form. If Bernard's story is true, Yogananda didn't limit these demonstrations to himself, but included others.

As to why Master felt these demonstrations to be necessary—I don't know. Maybe it was just a nod to what America was used to. A way of generating excitement and openness to his teachings from people who had a wide variety of spiritual avenues available for their perusal. And, perhaps, a tangible and highly visible way of demonstrating some of the benefits that would come from practising the yogic teachings that he was sharing.

And perhaps it is pertinent that Master quoted on the title page of his autobiography the biblical phrase: "Lest ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe."

At any rate, Bernard said that Yogananda used to open his public lectures by having his disciples give demonstrations of what we might call unusual spiritual abilities.

Most of you have probably heard the story of how Master had given a certain disciple the power to assume even difficult yoga postures when, beforehand, he had had trouble with them. The disciple he helped that way was Kriya-nanda, who Master had demonstrate the poses for guests and visitors in the early '50's..

It appears that, in earlier years, Yogananda gave similar abilities to other young yogis in his train. In Norman Paulsen's Christ Consciousness book, there is an interesting photo showing a group of young men sitting on the grass at Encinitas in lotus posture with Master standing to one side with his arms outstretched, as if blessing them, or infusing them with his spiritual power.

Bernard said that, before Master's lectures, he and others of these young men would come out onto the stage and perform various yogic feats, including the bloodless piercing of their cheeks with needles, and so on.

But there was one demonstration that Master had Bernard perform that was very unusual and had to do with Bernard's physical condition.

Bernard was very thin and frail, and he suffered from what I believe is called "scoliosis" or double curvature of the spine.

In Kriya-nanda's book The Path, we read how Master tried to encourage Bernard to transcend his limitations through strenuous and heavy physical labor. This treatment helped Bernard for a time. And then a certain woman took pity on him and asked Master not to burden Bernard in that way any more. Master ignored the request, but when Bernard, influenced by that woman's point of view, made the same request, Yogananda reluctantly agreed. Kriya-nanda then wrote that Bernard's considerable improvement halted after that point.

However, it appeared that strenuous work was not the only avenue through which Master attempted to help Bernard go beyond his infirmity.

Bernard said that, among the other yogic displays that Master had the young men perform, was that of the stronger and more able-bodied among them holding onto the ends of a thick blanket while Bernard, with his shirt off and his condition visible to all, sat in the middle of it. They then proceeded to toss Bernard high into the air and catch him in the blanket!

Master, of course, sent his own "blanket" of peace and protection to the whole proceedings from backstage.

This activity always got a rise out of the audience. But Bernard, while telling the story, amazed his current audience as well.

Kriya-nanda, who was seated next to him on the lecture platform. stared at Bernard in sheer disbelief.

"You're kidding!" he exclaimed, "That really happened?"

While laughing and nodding their heads, Bernard and Norman (who had been a weightlifter, and one of the main blanket holders in his day) energetically confirmed the story.

Kriya-nanda had been part of SRF for fourteen years—vice president and on the board of directors during the last part of that period of time—and he had never heard a hint of such a thing.

As, I assume, most of you haven't either.

Until now. :)

        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *

End of Part Two.

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