A New View of Swami Sri Yukteswar
We know a lot about Sri Yukteswar’s personality in his final incarnation on earth, but what was he like in past lives? Was he, perhaps, gentler and more approachable? And how might that knowledge affect how we attune with him today?
Paramhansa Yogananda said that he had been William the Conqueror in a past life, and that Sri Yukteswar had been William’s great counselor and ally, Archbishop Lanfranc.
In Blessed Lanfranc: The Past Life of Swami Sri Yukteswar, Guru of Paramhansa Yogananda, Richard Salva highlights scores of fascinating similarities (and important differences) between these two famous incarnations of a great spiritual master.
Through historical evidence and personal experiences, this book resurrects Sri Yukteswar’s image from one that can be daunting, to another much more kindly to every seeker.
Part One: The Holy Sage
1. His Early Life
2. The Conversion
3. A Monk of Bec
4. “A School for Boys”
5. Man of Wisdom
6. Spiritual Master and Avatar
A Lack of Ego
Lanfranc and the Popes
Miracles and Spiritual Powers
7. Lanfranc and William
A Sacred Relationship
Their Mutual Mission
Church Councils and Popes
Acting on William’s Behalf
8. Lanfranc and William’s Sons
9. “Peerless Interpreter of the Scriptures”
Bible Interpretations and Other Christian Teachings
Defending the Church
A Pair of Controversial Booklets
10. What Did Lanfranc Look Like?
11. Abbot of St. Stephen’s
In the Background
12. Archbishop of Canterbury
The Acts of an Archbishop
That Primacy Issue
A Light in the Midst of Darkness: Doing Dharma in Kali Yuga
13. Lanfranc and Contemporary Saints
St. Maurilius of Rouen
St. Margaret of Scotland
14. A Lanfranc Miscellany
15. “When Wisdom Died”
Part Two: Where to Find Lanfranc
16. He Is Risen
17. Where to Find Lanfranc
Another View of Sri Yukteswar
18. Canterbury and Harbledown, Kent, England
19. St. Stephen’s Church and the Monastery for Men, Caen, Normandy
20. Bec Abbey, Normandy
In The New Path: My Life with Paramhansa Yogananda, Swami Kriyananda, Yogananda’s direct disciple, published this revelation vouchsafed by his great guru: “He told us more than once that in a former life he had been William the Conqueror.”
Later, in Paramhansa Yogananda: A Biography, Swami Kriyananda recorded another past-life insight, also shared by Yogananda: “Sri Yukteswar in that life was Lanfranc, William’s close friend, priest, and advisor.”
This volume was written to explore the significance of this latter statement, and to search for connections between Archbishop Lanfranc and Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri, as may be found in their histories.
As his exalted disciple, Paramhansa Yogananda, declared, Sri Yukteswar was a gyanavatar, or “avatar of wisdom”—an incarnation of God, manifesting on earth the divine qualities of keen discrimination, perfect sagacity, and luminescent mental clarity.
A spiritual master has submerged the wave of his ego in the ocean of God’s infinitude. It takes an ego (the soul identified with the physical body) to create karma which may return to haunt that ego in future lifetimes. However, a spiritual master creates no new karma—or, at least, no karma connected to him. All of his actions are like writing on water: no personal karmic trace remains. No egoic desire compels a master’s actions; they are solely a manifestation of the will of God.
However, a spiritual master who is not fully liberated may still have to pass through the karmic repercussions of many thousands of past lives in which he acted from ego. His experiences are, by and large, a sweeping up of karmic tailings, without creating any new karma in response to the old.
An avatar like Sri Yukteswar has passed beyond all such concerns. His karmic slate is spotless. Nothing remains from the past to involve him. Yet, it may be that others have karma in relation to him. Although this dynamic cannot compel a liberated soul to return to earth (people’s karma with avatars might also be expiated through the agency of others, through visions, or through transcendence in deep meditation), this interplay of being an egoless instrument of the finishing of other’s karma, and acting as a pure instrument of God’s will, while working to fulfill a particular divine mission, may be said to comprise, to a large extent, the events and experiences of an avatar’s life.
When considering the will of God manifesting through an avatar’s actions, it may be surprising to learn that the Lord at times has taken a hand in directing the course of history through various instruments—and especially through His avatars. Many historians have pointed out how William the Great’s conquest of England profoundly changed the course of world history; and how a single day-long conflict—the Battle of Hastings, in which William defeated Harold Godwinson—had large and long-lasting repercussions.*
* This tiny-battle/great-historical-turning-point dynamic is especially intriguing, as most everyone would say that no one in 1066, including William, Lanfranc, and their followers, could have dreamed that what they were doing would have such a centuries-long and world-transforming impact. Yet, if Yogananda’s words were true, it would be surprising if William and Lanfranc had not had a very good idea of the long-term importance of all that they were doing.
“Deeply satisfying. Worthy of the towering figures whose lives arise—with all their power to inspire—from its pages. A meticulously researched and sensitive portrait.”
—Catherine Kairavi, author of Two Souls: Four Lives
“Helps us witness the power behind William the Conqueror’s throne.”
—Biraj Palmer, meditation instructor
“Sri Yukteswar is really brought to life in this book. His presence is right there for you.”
— Suzanne Kripamayi Caughlan, yoga instructor
“I love this book. An amazing blend of historical research and spiritual insight. Blessed Lanfranc really brings Sri Yukteswar to life in a way I have never experienced before. A great service to all who seek to understand the mission of the masters, and to be in tune with each of our gurus.”
—Asha Praver, spiritual teacher, counselor, author of Swami Kriyananda: As We Have Known Him