FIRST PUBLISHED BY RAMADHAR & HOPMAN, NEW DELHI 1967
REVISED EDITION FIRST PUBLISHED IN GREAT BRITAIN I970
BY VINCENT STUART AND JOHN M WATKINS LTD
45 LOWER BELGRAVE STREET LONDON SWI
\u00a9 1967 BY GOPI KRISHNA
\u00a9 1967, I97O COMMENTARY BY JAMES HILLMAN
MADE AND PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN
BY ROBERT CUNNINGHAM AND SONS LTD
LONGBANK WORKS ALVA
SBN 7224 0115 9
his character itself. Only since Goethe's 'Dichtung und Wahrheit' can we talk about real autobiographies, since only the
author himself can report adequately, if at all, about the inner process of his maturing and about the ways of his feeling.
Therefore, autobiographies have commanded the literary field in the West during the past century, when men have been
apt and able to introvert in a systematic way and thus to explore the vast field of their inner life. Such efforts have
recently found their highest pitch in the psychologist C. G. Jung's fascinating account of the ups-and-downs of his inner
development even to the very depths of his unconscious.
In India we find beginnings of such autobiographical statements as early as the Upanishads and again in our own time, partly influenced by Western trends. Autobiographies by Yogis have been extremely rare, partly because the Yogi is well aware of the importance of keeping and living with a secret and partly because he properly shares the secret only with God and not with the people in his surroundings who are less aware of the subtle workings of inner tendencies.
Only in a few instances have great men of wisdom in India revealed themselves to us in self-descriptions, like
Yogananda, Ramdas and Sivananda. In most cases it has been Westerners who, because of their search for stimulation
from a foreign way of self-introspection, have discovered and published the achievements of the Indian masters of
Yoga, so did Paul Brunton reveal Ramana Maharishi to the West and also to India, and so Romain Rolland became
fascinated with Ramakrishna, Friedrich Heiler with Sadhu Sundar Singh, Annie Besant with Krishnamurti, Jean Herbert
with Ramdas. Now James Hillman and F. J. Hopman have discovered Gopi Krishna, whose sensational autobiography
they help to publish and to interpret in the psychological way.
It remains for me, as an historian of world religions, to introduce this book by putting it into the framework of Indian
religious history. For Gopi Krishna is of unusual interest, first as an example of a most thorough-going mixture of East
and West, and secondly as a self-taught prophet of an original kind. Gopi Krishna's approach appears as a great surprise
because in his book, except for the last chapter, there is no mention of spirituality, religion and metaphysics. Gopi
Krishna's endeavours appear as a historical laboratory in which he, the author, develops genuinely in himself what
others have developed before him. But he re-mains independent of his fore-runners, who frequently have wound up in
sterile intellectual formulae. By contrast, this self-taught, Guru-less author remains genuine in all his discoveries.
Being exposed to Gopi Krishna's experiences is like meeting a space traveller who seemingly for no purpose has landed
on a strange and unknown star without the standard equipment of the professional astronaut, and who simply reports
about the bewildering landscape around him, colourfully, truthfully, without really knowing exactly what he has found.
We have here, in this wholly unintellectual personality, a classical example of a simple man, uneducated in Yoga, who
yet through intense labour and persistent enthusiasm, succeeds in achieving, if not Samadhi, yet some very high state in
Yoga perfection, based entirely on his inner feeling development and not at all on ideas and traditions. Gopi Krishna is
an extremely honest reporter, to the point of humbleness. Since he does not claim great powers and achievements, one is
even more willing to accept his detailed descriptions of inner changes as exact reports. Thus, one of the consequences of
his autonomous training is the aliveness of his account.
To understand the amazing unusualness of Gopi Krishna's account one might try to imagine in turn the feelings of an
Indian Yogi reading the records of a Westerner, who, as a layman, reports about his strange encounters with God and
Christ without the background of theological knowledge and discipline and yet trying to find his own way through the
labyrinth of his emotions without the guidance of any psychology but with an old-fashioned body of religious
concepts\u2014a bewildering picture indeed.
Lacking the guiding hand of a master, it is Gopi Krishna's fate to be thrown from one despair into another, hectic
ups-and-downs, the daily bread of this sensational experience. Like Faust, Na Ro Pa and many others, he finds a
solution several times in his life only at the point of death. Even commonplace events take on an enormous character
and lead him into depressions and dangers almost to the point of ruination. His own analysis of that situation is that the
awakened Kundalini went up into the Pingala instead of into the Sushumna where it rightfully belongs. Where does all
this lead him? To constant light-awareness, shimmering halo-consciousness but interrupted repeatedly by years of
relapse and illness.
The comforting aspect of these often quite negative experiences is however that Gopi Krishna is never driven to pride,
but remains aware of his own helplessness in front of the stunning events of his inner life. In best Indian tradition he
does not ever feel himself to be the maker or creator of his own thoughts and feelings; he does not assume any false
leadership in the course of his development but confesses to be nothing but a victim of positive and negative forces. He
is buffeted by them and feels like a 'dumb and helpless witness to the show' (p. 151).
All this proves that Gopi Krishna's is a typical explorer's mentality. Everywhere we meet a certain detachment, boldness,
curiosity, independence and acceptance of everything that happens inwardly. He is equally interested in positive and
negative events. Never do we find any anticipation of fixed results, but like one of the early alchemists he remains ready
One of the chief results of the publication of Gopi Krishna's experiments may well be a thorough overhauling of
Sanskrit-English lexicography. In view of his detailed testimony it becomes clearly impossible to treat the whole realm
of Kundalini-experi-ences as something belonging to the Western concept of either biology or psychology. The Indian
concept of the Sukshma Sarira, which is after all the main subject of Gopi Krishna's reports, cannot possibly be
translated into a Western vocabulary which, thus far, divides itself into the two fields of eitherphysis orpsyche. By now
it is probably well-known that the formerly usual translations of Brahman with God and Atman with Spirit or Soul bar
any possible understanding of Indian philosophy. It is as yet less known that the translations of Sukshma Sarira with
subtle body, electric or astral body, are equally misleading. So are all other translations of this term into the vocabulary
of Western anatomy, when reference is made to the spine and to the organs and glands of the physical body. The
vocabulary of the Kundalini-Yoga-system refers neither to those facts which in the West are considered to be
psychological nor to anything within the realm of the physical body as it is observed from the outside. The realm of
inner body feelings, which are so elaborately described in Yoga texts, has never been adequately systematized by
Western observers and has therefore never led to the creation of a vocabulary in Western languages which would make
it possible to translate Indian texts pertaining to this field of experience. Only in the totally unscientific language of
laymen do we occasionally have unsystematic attempts to describe this realm, particularly in cases of illness.
Gopi Krishna himself is terribly handicapped by this lack in our English language and his elaborate descriptions should at last lead to a re-study of the Yoga vocabulary. It is particularly regrettable that modern Indian scholars in their often all too pointed eagerness to assimilate their own tradition to Western standards have as yet neglected to point out the incompatibility of these two voca-bularies and do, involuntarily, thus contribute to a genuine mis-understanding of Yoga.
The author's own final conclusions, which he adds as a kind of afterthought in the last chapter, and which introduce the
idea of evolution beyond man's present state and abilities, are strangely parallel to Sri Aurobindo's philosophy. This is
understandable since they are both derived from the world of Tantra, which fascinates modern man so much,
undoubtedly because of its secretiveness and of its being so hard to approach. Gopi Krishna gives us here an easy, quite
novel and fascinating approach to one of the least-known and most frequently misunderstood aspects of India's great
ONE morning during the Christmas of 1937 I sat cross-legged in a small room in a little house on the outskirts of the
town of Jammu, the winter capital of the Jammu and Kashmir State in northern India. I was meditating with my face
towards the window on the east through which the first grey streaks of the slowly brightening dawn fell into the room.
Long practice had accustomed me to sit in the same posture for hours at a time without the least discomfort, and I sat
breathing slowly and rhythmically, my attention drawn towards the crown of my head, contemplating an imaginary lotus
in full bloom, radiating light.
I sat steadily, unmoving and erect, my thoughts uninterruptedly centered on the shining lotus, intent on keeping my
attention from wandering and bringing it back again and again whenever it moved in any other direction. The intensity
of concentration interrupted my breathing; gradually it slowed down to such an extent that at times it was barely
perceptible. My whole being was so engrossed in the contemplation of the lotus that for several minutes at a time I lost
touch with my body and surroundings. During such intervals I used to feel as if I were poised in mid-air, without any
feeling of a body around me. The only object of which I was aware was a lotus of brilliant colour, emitting rays of light.
This experience has happened to many people who practise meditation in any form regularly for a sufficient length of
time, but what followed on that fateful morning in my case, changing the whole course of my life and outlook, has
happened to few.
During one such spell of intense concentration I suddenly felt a strange sensation below the base of the spine, at the
place touching the seat, while I sat cross-legged on a folded blanket spread on the floor. The sensation was so
extraordinary and so pleasing that my attention was forcibly drawn towards it. The moment my attention was thus
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