Just like the nutty "proof" that his body rotted slower than a mere mortal when he "left his body", that is, when he DIED like the rest of us mere mortals will.
In an article which appeared in the Rational Enquirer, The Skeptics’ Newsletter for Western Canada, Leonard Angel, a professor of philosophy at the University of Columbia, recounts how he investigated the miracle which is reported in almost every Yogananda publication put out by the Self Realization Fellowship (SRF), the society founded and organised by Yogananda to propagate his teachings:
“After Death the Body of Paramahansa Yogananda Manifested a Phenomenal State of Immutability.” The story in Self-Realization Magazine (Los Angeles) May 1952 issue; and in the national news weekly Time, August 4, 1952 reported that:
“The great world teacher demonstrated the value of yoga (scientific techniques for God-realization) not only in life but in death. Weeks after his departure his unchanged face shone with the divine light luster of incorruptibility. Mr. Harry Rowe, Los Angeles Mortuary Director, Forest Lawn Memorial-Park (in which the great master is temporarily placed) sent Self-Realization Fellowship a notarized letter from which the following extracts are taken:
The absence of any visual signs of decay in the dead body of Paramahansa Yogananda offers the most extraordinary case in our experience...No physical disintegration was visible even twenty days after death...No indication of mould was visible on his skin, and no visible desiccation (drying up) took place in the bodily tissues. This state of perfect preservation of a body is, so far as we know from mortuary annals, an unparalleled one...At the time of receiving Yogananda‘s body, the mortuary personnel expected to observe, through the glass lid of the casket, the usual progressive signs of bodily decay. Our astonishment increased day after day without bringing any visible change in the body under observation. Yogananda's body was apparently in a phenomenal state of immutability...No odour of decay emanated from his body at any time...The physical appearance of Yogananda on March 27th, just before the bronze cover of the casket was put into position, was the same as it had been on March 7th.”
Professor Angel was impressed, but not convinced. He obtained a copy of Yogananda’s death certificate from the Los Angeles Department of Vital Statistics which confirmed that Yogananda had died on March 7th, the certificate of death being received by the registrar on March 11 1952. However, the certificate also bore the signature “Kenneth I. Johnson”, and the number 2641. It was contained in box #21, above which were the words “Signature of embalmer.”
Confirmation that Yogananda had in fact been embalmed was found in the full text of Harry Rowe’s letter in a little booklet entitled Paramahansa Yogananda, In Memoriam, put out by the Self-Realization Fellowship. It reads,
“Paramahansa Yogananda’s body was embalmed an the night of March 8th, with that quantity of fluid which is customarily used in any body of similar size.”
So what was the miracle?
According to the full text of Harry Rowe’s letter the astonishment was only due to the fact that the funeral home staff had not used any creams in addition to the embalming fluid - a creamy pore-sealing emulsion that temporarily prevents the outward appearance of mould.
A check with two independent licensed embalmers elicited the following comments,
“I’m sure we’ve had bodies for two or three months with good preservation. This is not unusual. Creams are not necessary”, and “...that preservation for 20 days through embalming is not unusual. We can keep a body a month or two without interral…an embalming fluid with a lanolin base will have humecant which prevents dehydration, which is the major concern...a heavy glass lid as is described by Mr Rowe as being present on the casket, would prevent a great amount of air circulation, and that in itself would prevent most desiccation, so that would account for it.”
Far from being “a demonstration of yogic powers”, “a phenomenal state of immutability” or “a miracle through the grace of the Heavenly Father”, it seems that any perception that a miracle had occurred was simply the result of misleading selections taken from a misleading letter.
-- excerpt from "Incorruptibility: Miracle or Myth?", Harry Edwards, November 1995
The statement of the director of Forest Lawn, Harry T. Rowe, is accurate, but incomplete. Mr. Rowe also mentioned that he observed a brown spot on Yogananda's nose after 20 days, as sign that the body was not "perfectly" preserved. In any case, the SRF's claim that lack of physical disintegration is "an extraordinary phenomenon" is misleading. (One wonders how much digging into the mortuary annals they did. Very little, I imagine.) The state of the yogi's body is not unparalleled, but common. A typical embalmed body will show no notable desiccation for one to five months after burial without the use of refrigeration or creams to mask odors. According to Jesus Preciado, who has been in the mortuary business for thirty years, "in general, the less pronounced the pathology [at the time of death], the less notable are the symptoms of necrosis." Some bodies are well-preserved for years after burial (personal correspondence, Mike Drake). Some, under extraordinary conditions, are well-preserved for hundreds, even thousands, of years.
-- excerpt from "Incorruptible Bodies", Robert Todd Carroll