The Lives and Former Lives of Paramhansa Yogananda and his disciple, Swami Kriyananda
by Catherine Kairavi
Part One - William: Conqueror or Reformer?
Chapter 1: The Past Revealed
This book will explore an astonishing statement made by Paramhansa Yogananda, a universally revered spiritual teacher of modern times. It was, to the best of my knowledge, the first time that a Self-realized master (one who has been liberated from all the egoic desires which compel man to reincarnate) revealed that he had been, in a previous incarnation, a historical figure about whom a great deal is known: William the Conqueror.
Yoganandas Autobiography of a Yogi, one of the worlds most widely read and translated of spiritual classics, has convinced millions of rational, modern minds of the existence of spiritual truths, and of the universal value of the teachings of India, including the twin teachings of karma and reincarnation. Even those of us who at first had to back burner a few of the miracles we encountered in Autobiography of a Yogi found ourselves accepting innumerable, completely new possibilities regarding the nature of God, Creation, and mans place in the greater scheme of thingsall entirely because of the purity and personal spiritual authority that come through so palpably in the character of Paramhansa Yogananda.
What Yogananda shares with his readers in Autobiography of a Yogi has struck a deep chord in virtually all who have read it. As the master himself very often said, One cannot learn spiritual truths: one can only recognize them.
Even those who entertain deep reverence for Yogananda, however, have had difficulty with the question, How can someone of his spiritual stature have willingly played out such a life as that of William the Conqueror, a life that called for spectacular bloodshed? It is safe to say, certainly, that there isnt one reader of Yoganandas autobiography who, on hearing for the first time that Paramhansa Yogananda was William the Conqueror, has reacted with the thought, Well, that does make sense!
Even if you yourself know nothing about Paramhansa Yogananda, you have probably formed some notion of William the Conquerors role in history, and of the manner of man he was. If you were schooled under the English system, you may have been taught that William, duke of Normandy, was one of the great villains of history. And although most Americans have only vague notions about the Conqueror, they, too, would readily agree that words like fierce and merciless fit what they do know about the Norman warrior who defeated Harold Godwinson at the Battle of Hastings, subdued all of England, and, as a result, changed the course of Western civilization.
In these pages, I shall investigate the manner of man he was. Was he a warrior driven by ambition for territorial conquest? Or was he a deeply pious leader, dedicated to the greater good of humanity, whose decisions can only be understood by appreciating the loftiness of his vision?
I shall also investigate the history of his youngest son, Henry, whoalone among those who walked in the footsteps of the Conquerorunderstood the Conquerors vision and brought it to completion. The life span of William was not enough to instill in his kingdom and duchy all the dreams he held of a stability that would endure beyond the Middle Ages, and usher in a new age of expanding knowledge. In investigating Henrys life, I shall attempt in addition to discern whether he might not, in this lifetime also, have joined Yogananda to bring that masters vast mission to fulfillment.
Using essentially the same facts as those available to every historian, let us see whether we cannot find Williams deeds and motivations to have been consonant with the life and teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda, and Henrys, with the role of one of his disciples.