Her stigmata crashed into my karma

Therese Neumann

I was 27 years old, and what I remember is that everyone in my monastic community, except my younger Indian monk-friend, Kabir, believed that saints could get stigmata–manifest the wounds of Christ crucified on their bodies. My other monk-friend, Brahmachari Jake, who worked in the ashram gardens and an ex-Catholic like me, snickered and said, “Don’t you know that a true saint has the power to work out on their own body the ailments of others?” My brother monk, Kabir, replied in a irritated voice, “Jake, stigmata only happens to Catholics, not to Hindus or yogis”.

Kabir’s comment provoked my wonder. Why don’t Hindus or yogis get the stigmata?

Therese Nuemann and Yogananda, 1935
Therese Nuemann and Yogananda, 1935

That evening after meditation, I grabbed off my bookshelf a dog-eared, marked-up copy of Autobiography of a Yogi and turned to Chapter 39 Therese Neumann, the Catholic Stigmatist. I read about Parmahanasa Yogananda’s his visit in 1935 with Neumann. Apparently every Friday, since 1926, she experienced the stigmata: blood oozed from wounds on her head, breast, hands, and feet. Her younger brother Ferdinand, told Yogananda that Therese had the power, through prayer, of working out on her own body the ailments of others.1

I read dozens of biographies (mostly hagiographies) of bleeding, stigmatic saints. My “research” convinced me stigmata was a miraculous sign of a true saint. (The Mt. Washington Monks’ Library contained dozens books on Catholic saints, stigmatists St. Francis, Padre Pio, Therese Neumann, and Catherine of Siena–all Catholics. My monastic order, it seemed, was as much Catholic as Hindu).

As a former Catholic-sinner, I’d “progressed” to newer-age notions of Hindu-karma. [Read my post From Christian-Catholic to Hindu-Yogic God].

In Hindu-Yoga tradition, a guru-saint takes on the karma (disease or sins) of her disciples to speed the devotee’s spiritual evolution. The guru willingly takes on the burden of another soul’s karma out of her compassion and desire to spiritually liberate the disciple.

Last week while listening to a radio show I was reminded of the banter above with Kabir and of the Christian-Hindu-Yoga rationalizations in the ashram for why a perfected, divine master would get physically sick.

The radio show was Stuff to Blow Your Mind podcasts- Stigmata: Madness or Miracle? and Stigmata Patient Zero

Why don’t Hindus get the stigmata? Probably religiously interpreted states of consciousness are culturally driven. Christian saints may get the wounds of crucified Christ on their body. Whereas, Hindu tradition holds that yogi Siddhas (liberated, divine humans) are able to enter the bodies of others. Christians may receive into their own body the stigmatic body of Christ. Whereas, Hindu-Siddhas take possession of other beings bodies. Both, yogi Siddhas and Catholic stigmatists only get sick to heal others and to liberate a devoted flock of followers.

In East and in West, religious interpretations of normal and abnormal phenomenon can be down-right strange.

Read my posts of the seldom discussed, in the West, supernatural powers of yogis: Yogic Bodily Possession and Shankara: The King and the Corpse

1 Therese Neumann, the Catholic Stigmatist, Chapter 39, Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda


  1. Pingback: Monasticism | Skeptic Meditations
  2. David R

    It’s likely that the spiritual eye is a physiological phenomena only. That said, the fact you saw it in your forehead (I presume you were answering my question there about lifting your eyes) suggests something else.

    You don’t take what people say with either too much scepticism or too much gullibility. This is the way I think. The reason is because if you were sceptical of everything all the time it would assume a non-trustworthy position of paranoia wherein everything you saw or read or heard was simply a lie or delusional. Normal healthy human beings do not operate this way.

  3. SkepticMeditations

    Hey David R: I never said religious interpretations were simple. You did. I didn’t realize that your initial comment about atheist stigmata was meant to be taken seriously. Anybody can claim anything, but we shouldn’t take unsubstantiated claims too seriously. Not my claims either. And, yes, while I was cycling my inner vision of the “spiritual eye” was in my forehead. Don’t try to make that mean anything. I don’t interpret “visions” as anything out of the ordinary. I dream nearly every night, but I don’t believe my brain fantasies are some alternate reality.

  4. David R

    If it was a simple case of religious interpretation then why do people that don’t believe in this stuff get it anyway? And what do you even mean by saying that there are non-theists that have holes in their heads? What is that supposed to mean? Forgive me for sounding negative here, but your reply seems to be very kind of antagonistic.

    On a different note, when you were cycling up a mountain and you saw the spiritual eye, did your eyes lift upwards to see it?

Leave a Reply