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Date Posted: 12:05
Author: ketch - 4 Dec 2001
Subject: The alleged forgery of Yogananda's signature
One of the most often repeated allegations against the leadership of SRF is the charge that they altered their guru’s signature by inserting an extra “a” in his title between Param and hansa. That the normal way of spelling of the title was changed from Paramhansa to Paramahansa after Yogananda’s passing is not in dispute. Whether or not SRF were correct in changing the spelling is another matter. For the purposes of this post our concern is with the evidence that the signature was altered.
The argument that the signature was altered is put forward at http://www.yogananda-dif.org/forgPY.htm
This is an anonymous website, and we are given no details of the person making these allegations, or what their knowledge or credibility is.
The claim that the signature was altered seems to rest upon the following grounds.
1. The claim that SRF did not possess a copy of Yogananda’s signature with the silent “a” present. This is based on the assumption that Yogananda never signed his name in this manner.
2. The claim that the first letter “a” in Yogananda is identical to the third “a” in Paramahansa.
3. The claim that the start of the third letter “a” does not appear to flow smoothly from the previous letter, as if it has been inserted at a later date.
Regarding the first claim, it is very unlikely that the anonymous person making the allegations has seen every copy of Yogananda’s signature in the possession of SRF. The claim rests upon the assumption that Yogananda never wrote his title with the silent letter “a” present. This assumption however is incorrect. Yogananda did on occasion write his signature with the third “a” present. An example of this, from a non-SRF publication can be found in the book “Treasures Against Time” by Brenda Lewis Rosser. It is on page 184 in the first edition, in a letter from Yogananda written at Encinitas, California in 1945. The letter is not reproduced, but is printed, so we cannot see the actual signature, only how it is spelt. It may be noted that the author is very careful to always print the name in the exact way it is written, e.g. P. Yogananda, P.Y., Paramhansa Yogananda, S. Yogananda etc., so we can be reasonably sure that the spelling is accurate.
To help examine claims 2 and 3 here is the gif file from Yoganada-dif.org. It is said to be taken from the 1959 edition (8th edition) of “Autobiography of a Yogi”.
For the purpose of clarity here is the same image, but enlarged.
It can be seen that the two letters which are claimed to be the same are similar, but not identical.
Some examples of the differences:-
1. The letter “a” in question contains three loops, i.e. there are three enclosed areas where the white background can be seen within the pen marks. In the first of the two letters, the two minor loops, those at the bottom and right hand side of the letter are significantly larger than they are in the second of the letters in question.
2. The large loop describes a more oval shape in the first “a”. In the second it is more triangular.
3. At the top of the letter the pen creates two bulges. This is more pronounced in the first of the two letters.
4. On leaving the letter the pen describes a more horizontal movement in the first letter. In the second the movement is downwards then horizontal.
This is certainly not an exhaustive list.
On the third claim, that the letter “a” in Paramahansa does not appear to flow smoothly from the previous letter, it can be seen that there are two blotches at the end of the letter “m”. However similar markings also occur elsewhere, e.g. between the a and n in “hansa”, suggesting that they may simply be due to the nature of the pen being used.
The differences noted above may simply be the results of the copying process, or the scanning process used to digitise the signature, however they may also be due to the way the letter has been written. All we really have here is an example of the same person writing the same letter in a similar manner on two occasions, which is hardly surprising.
There does not appear to be any evidence that a handwriting expert has ever expressed the opinion that the signature has been altered. Given the resources available to SRF’s opponents who would like to prove the signature a forgery, it would be surprising if the signature had not been submitted to experts at some time.
The burden of proof in this matter must lie with those who claim the signature is altered. The evidence available seems far from conclusive.
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