In chapter 26 of the Autobiography of a Yogi, Paramahansa Yogananda states (paragraph 14) that, and I quote;

The scriptures aver that man requires a million years of normal, diseaseless evolution to perfect his human brain sufficiently to express cosmic consciousness.

  • Does anyone know to which scripture Yogananda is referring to here?
  • Also, what could Yogananda mean by "perfect his human brain", what would be different in the brain structure or composition or functionality of a highly advanced spiritual adept as opposed to someone of lesser spiritual development?
  • 1
    Really, nobody can answer this? :-( Dec 26, 2015 at 19:47

1 Answer 1


Among the attributes you mention, while there is no reference to "diseaseless" and "brain", there is a popular verse in the Gita that refers to multiple lifetimes , attainment of wisdom and its rarity, in the context identical to that quote. It's possible Sri Paramahamsa Yogananda-ji re-paraphrased it to a more modern context and for effect of persuasion.

Bhagawad Gita, Chapter 7, Verse 19 : http://asitis.com/7/19.html

bahunam janmanam ante jnanavan mam prapadyate vasudevah sarvam iti sa mahatma su-durlabhah

After many births and deaths, he who is established in wisdom surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare.

While explaining the fate one who has failed in Yoga, Lord Krishna mentions continuity across births in spiritual effort and that he/she will take it up further from where they left, till they attain SamSiddhi (perfection ) http://asitis.com/6/43.html

The reference to the perfecting the human brain, may be towards the development of a keen and sharp intellect that , rather unrelentingly, differentiates between the Eternal and the Ephemeral, Nithyam and Anithyam, on a constant basis, referred to as Nithyanithya Viveka Vicharam in Bhaja Govindam, verse 30.

In the Part 2 of the book The Path of Sri Ramana, written by Sadhu Om, the author refers to the entire spectrum of evolution of a human mindset as akin to a school, spanning births. From the stage of animality (the lowest, i.e. kindergarden) , gradually to higher stages, such as bargain prayers, ritualistic worship, multi-god faith, one form and one name (Ekagrata Bhakthi), Darshan of that chosen deity, and eventually, even the withdrawal of the deity so that the focus may turn to the contemplation formless Brahman.


Finally, taking "brain" for its physical meaning, it has been known scientifically using electro encephalogram studies, (definitively, and not speculatively), that meditation and the dwelling on the inner consciousness changes brain activity for the better. To show that it is not a speculation, here is a reference to one of many research journal articles : (PDF)


Swamiji, could also have been referring to "man", in the sense of "Man", that is Mankind, as to the collective evolution of mankind towards a state of consciousness-aware life.

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    Thanks for the reply, doesn't really answer my question though. Yogananda was specific in the "Autobiography" concerning the million year figure, the notion is described in the chapter on Kriya yoga. One revolution of life force around the chakras is supposed to be equal to one year of natural spiritual evolution. Where does the million years of natural spiritual evolution come from, is Yogananda just making this up? I doubt it ! Jan 1, 2016 at 22:13
  • There must be some underlying mathematical relationship between the manifestations of the life forces (pranas)) in the body and the cosmic life forces in the universe that drive our spiritual evolution ( or de-evolution if you are a bad person).. Jan 2, 2016 at 19:06
  • In the same chapter, he mentions that many yogis attain liberation in 12, 24 or 48 years by practice of kriya and if they die midway, they start over from where they left. In the beginning of the chapter, he mentions that only a broad outline of Kriya Yoga can be presented in a book, due to restrictions in ancient yogic practices. He does mention a couple of verses in Patanjali Yoga Sutra that refer to Kriya, but nothing about the source of the 1 million number.
    – Whirl Mind
    Jan 2, 2016 at 23:47
  • @WilliamHird In chapter 11 also he says: Hindu scriptures teach that the incarnating ego requires a million years to obtain liberation from maya. but doesn't say which scripture it is. Feb 1, 2016 at 2:19

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