Why a biography of Paramhansa Yogananda, when he himself wrote a world-famous account of his own life in the book, Autobiography of a Yogi?
The answer is, quite simply, that he wrote his book in a spirit of such humility that the reader could only intuit the author’s spiritual greatness from his perfect attitude toward every life situation. I myself read Autobiography of a Yogi in 1948, and was so overwhelmed by that perfection that I took the next bus across the country: New York to Los Angeles. I had already been seeking God almost desperately. The first words I addressed to Yogananda when we met were, “I want to be your disciple.” He accepted me at that very meeting, and I was blessed to live with him as a close disciple for the last three and a half years of his life.
Will this book be a hagiography (the biography of a saint, often expressed in idealizing or idolizing terms)? That depends. I will spare no pains to share with you the very real greatness that I beheld in my guru. But if, to you, hagiography implies a work of fulsome praise, filled with glowing adjectives and numerous legends that might more properly be assigned to the category of myth, then this work will definitely not be such. I will share with you what I know, what I heard from the Master’s own lips (yes, he was indeed a spiritual master, and he himself would never use that word lightly), what I myself experienced, and what I sincerely believe because I heard it from others who were close to him, and whose words were, in my opinion, believable.
The advantage of this book is that it will be written from firsthand knowledge. I am not a historian. No doubt real historians will get into the act someday, as the world-impact of Yogananda’s life becomes increasingly known to the world. This book will lack the historian’s perspective, but it will be much more intimate than anything he could offer.
My sincere opinion is that Yogananda’s life will have a major impact on the world—that, indeed, it will change the very course of history. I hope by the end of my account to have convinced you that I have at least sound cause for this belief.
I will not repeat here stories that appear in Autobiography of a Yogi, though I may refer to some of them. I omit them because the charm with which Yogananda tells them deserves to stand alone: To retell them would be to do him an injustice. There are many other stories, however, that never found their way into his book—stories about himself that he would not tell publicly because he couldn’t, and simply wouldn’t, speak glowingly about himself. Indeed, although his book was an autobiography, it was in some ways almost more about other people than about himself. His book, too, is mostly a book of reminiscences about others.
The purpose of this book, then, is to tell you how Yogananda was perceived by others, and especially by me. I want to show you that Paramhansa Yogananda’s life was much more than that of a humble devotee who had the good luck to meet many great saints, and to “stumble,” so to speak, onto the highest levels of realization. The truth is, not every devotee, on entering the spiritual path, can expect to be blessed with anything like such lofty spiritual experiences!
Yogananda was a towering giant among saints—one of those few who come from age to age, having been sent by God with the divine mission of guiding mankind out of the fogs of delusion into the clear light of divine understanding. In the best-known Indian scripture, the Bhagavad Gita (“The Lord’s Song”), the statement appears, “O Bharata (Arjuna)! Whenever virtue (dharma, or right action) declines and vice (adharma, or wrong action) is in the ascendant, I (the Supreme Lord) incarnate Myself on earth (as an avatar, or divine incarnation). Appearing from age to age in visible form, I come to destroy evil, and to reestablish virtue.” (IV:7,8) I might add that this is not the first time that this great soul, whom we know as Paramhansa Yogananda, appeared on earth.
Often and often he told us, “I killed Yogananda many lifetimes ago. No one dwells in this temple now but God.” And the incredible depth of his compassion for suffering mankind is evident in these lines from a poem he wrote, named, “God’s Boatman”:
“Oh! I will come back again and again!
Crossing a million crags of suffering,
With bleeding feet, I will come,
If need be, a trillion times,
As long as I know that
One stray brother is left behind.”
That compassion is what I saw in his eyes every time I gazed into them deeply. It was no mere sentiment. It was the expression of his soul, as he reached out with yearning to help everyone who came to him with a desire to be lifted toward final liberation in God.
Chapter One: His Beginning Years
On January 5, 1893, a baby boy was born to a Bengali couple in Gorakhpur, a city in the north of India. Mukunda Lal was the name they gave him. His family name was Ghosh. He was the second of four sons and the fourth of eight children. From early childhood his mother knew his life’s destiny was to live for and to serve God. He once told me that she saw him one day talking with a few little girls. “Mukunda,” she called to him, “come away from there. That is not for you.” He understood, and came away.
He was a child of extraordinary will power. The following episode must have occurred when he was not much beyond the age of two. Late one evening he woke his mother to say, “Mother, I want some sandesh (a Bengali sweetmeat).”
“The shops are closed, Dear,” was her reply.
“But I want sandesh! And I want it now!”
“What are we to do?” she asked her husband.
“I don’t think it is good to thwart this little one’s will,” was his reply.
“I don’t think we can thwart it!” she said.
The two of them went out into the night. Reaching the candymaker’s shop, they called out to him in his quarters above. Grumbling, he at last came down, opened the shop, and sold them a few cuts of sandesh. Mukunda was satisfied, and so also were his parents—to be able to go back to sleep! (It is, I might add, a practice in India to allow little children up to the age of two to have their own way whenever possible. Discipline usually begins at the age of three.)
Gorakhpur was the home of a sage known as Gorakhnath. My guru told us the following story about him. Gorakhnath, by his yogic powers, lived to the ripe old age of 300 years. In that long space of time he developed all the eight siddhis (spiritual powers) mentioned by Patanjali, the ancient and supreme authority on the science of yoga. When Gorakhnath saw that the time had come for him to leave his body, he gazed through the spiritual eye to find someone fit to receive from him the gift of those powers. He saw a young man, in yoga pose, seated on the banks of the Ganges. Here, he thought, was a fit recipient. Gorakhnath materialized before the young man and declared, “I am Baba Gorakhnath!” No doubt he expected to be greeted with awe and wonder.
“Indeed,” said the youth, not greatly impressed. “And what may I do for you?”
“I have realized that the time has come for me to leave this body. Before I do so, I want to give to someone I consider worthy the eight siddhis of yoga I have developed. Will you accept them?”
The young man said nothing, but Gorakhnath gave him eight pellets of mud. “I have condensed my powers,” he explained, “into these eight pellets. All you need to do is hold them in your right hand, and meditate on what you feel emanating from them. The powers will then become yours.”
The youth took the pellets in his right hand, gazed at them a moment, and then asked, “Are these mine to do with as I please?”
“Certainly,” the old sage replied. “I have given them to you. They are yours now to use as you like.”
Turning toward the river, the young man threw into its flowing water all the eight pellets, which dissolved and disappeared.
“What have you done!?” cried the old man. “It took me three hundred years to develop those powers!”
The young man gazed at him calmly. “In delusion yet, Gorakhnath?”
At these words the old man suddenly realized that, in his search for yogic powers, he had to that extent forgotten God. Offering himself up wholly now to the Lord, he merged back into the Infinite, a free soul.
Mukunda was not interested in powers. He was a complete bhakta (saint of devotion). His brother Sananda once told me, “When Mukunda merely heard the word, God, tears of longing would stream down his cheeks.”
Once, when the child was old enough to have learned how to write at least rudimentary Bengali, Mukunda wrote a letter to God, telling the Lord of his love for Him. Addressing the letter to “God, in Heaven,” he posted it trustingly. Thereafter, day after day, he waited for a reply. “Lord,” he prayed daily, “why haven’t You answered me?” At last he was granted a vision. Shining before him in letters of light was God’s answer. It filled the child’s heart with deep satisfaction and gratitude.
Always, throughout his life, Mukunda tried to get people to understand that God is not some mere abstraction. Though the Lord has created billions of universes, He is also very human in the way he relates to His human children. And He likes above all to see in them an attitude of childlike trust. One time, many years later, and not long before his death, Mukunda—who by that time was known by his monastic name, Paramhansa Yogananda—spoke of one of his disciples, Horace Gray, a very simple monk who found it difficult even to speak: he was spastic. “Horace will get there in this life,” the Master remarked. “His devotion has pleased God.” Another disciple, trying to reconcile this prediction with Horace as he knew him, remarked, “But it must be a very simple kind of devotion isn’t it, Sir?”
With a blissful smile the Master replied, “Ah, that is the kind which pleases God!”
Childlike though Mukunda certainly was, he also had a strong sense of justice, and a strong will. His will power inspired his companions to do what was right even when it took great courage to do so.
In his school there was a boy, Mukunda’s senior by several years, who found pleasure in bullying those smaller and weaker than himself. One day, as this boy was inflicting a brutal beating on a child much smaller than himself, Mukunda marched up to him and cried, “If you want to fight, fight me!”
“Why, gladly!” replied the bully with a leer. He turned from the little one and sprang at Mukunda.
The other boys gathered in a circle to watch this unequal battle. Privately they sided with Mukunda, but they didn’t dare say so out loud.
The bully lifted his adversary above his head, then dashed him to the ground, momentarily stunning him. He stooped over and lifted him up again. This time, however, Mukunda saw his chance. With both arms he grasped the bully about the neck and squeezed. The much bigger boy, finding it difficult to breathe, did everything he could to shake Mukunda off. Repeatedly, he beat the smaller boy’s head against the ground until he’d rendered him almost unconscious. Still Mukunda held firm.
“Do you give up?” Mukunda demanded between clenched teeth.
At last the bigger boy had to cry, “Yes! Yes! Let go my throat! I give up!”
Mukunda released his hold. The other stood up and inhaled great lungful of air. Once he had regained his breath, however, he broke his word and leapt a third time at Mukunda. This time, the other boys intervened.
“Mukunda has beaten you fairly!” they cried. “If you try again to beat him, we will all jump on you.”
From then on, realizing he’d only be outnumbered, the bully never tried to beat Mukunda again. But from Mukunda’s courage the boys received a bracing lesson on the importance of standing resolutely for the cause of justice.
Another time, in Bareilly, a large group of boys surrounded him menacingly. He himself, in telling me the story, said “Fifty boys.” Laurie Pratt, however, his chief editor, said to me, “Fifty boys is inconceivable. He must have said fifteen.” Well, fifty is the number I heard, but I agree that, under the circumstances, even fifteen would have been a difficult number for him to count at that moment. Surely, then, he gave whichever number he did only to indicate a large group.
Their leader challenged Mukunda: “Why have you been avoiding our company?”
“Frankly,” Mukunda answered, “I don’t like the language you use.”
“We speak as we are!” retorted the leader angrily. “Who are you to be uppity with us? We’re going to teach you a good lesson!”
A second boy shouted, “Yeah! We’ll massacre you.”
A third joined in, “We’ll break every bone in your body! When you crawl home to your mother, she won’t even recognize you!”
Mukunda backed against a tree and cried fiercely, “How brave of you all, to menace me in this number! And, yes, in these numbers, you can do all that you say. But I tell you this: I’ll ‘massacre’ the first boy who dares to lay a hand on me!”
Much foot shuffling ensued. Finally their leader said, “We didn’t really mean it, Mukunda. We’d rather be friends.”
Mukunda then concluded, “If it’s friendship you want, then friends let us be.” He and their leader walked off, arms about each others’ shoulders.
Chapter Two: His Teenage Years
Mukunda’s father held a high position with the Bengal-Nagpur Railway company. Owing to that position, he could give his son free passes even to distant cities. Mukunda sometimes took advantage of this offer, traveling with a small group of friends.
Dr. Nagendra Das, a boyhood friend of his, told me, “Wherever we stopped, groups of boys would gather around Mukunda in a very short time, drawn by his magnetism.” Indeed, Mukunda’s—and later, of course, Yogananda’s—power to win friends wherever he went was extraordinary.
Mukunda used to meditate in the attic room of the family home, at 4 Gurpar Road. The male cook teased him one day that he would tell Mukunda’s older brother, Ananta, on him. Mukunda replied quite seriously, “Don’t tease me about a thing like that. If I wish, I can discipline you.”
“Oh, sure!” mocked the cook. “So tell me, little one, what can you do to me?”
“I can stick your hand to the wall.”
“Just try it!” laughed the cook.
Mukunda took the cook’s left palm and placed it against the wall, extending the attached arm out from the body. Suddenly the cook found that his hand wouldn’t move. Try as he would, it remained stuck to the wall.
He pleaded to be released, but Mukunda answered gaily, “You’ll have to stand there awhile. That is your punishment for making fun of my spiritual practices!”
It was some time before Mukunda, returning, released the cook, who at once fell to his knees and begged for forgiveness.
Mukunda’s meditations were not what one might expect of a little boy. For one thing, he would often meditate for long hours—seven, eight at a time. As he told me, “I would practice Hong-Sau (a meditation technique) for seven hours at a time, until I went breathless.” For another, he often had extraordinary visions.
He told himself, however, “Some day I must have a really long meditation. After all, what are seven or eight hours—out of a twenty-four hour day? Don’t people work that long merely to supply their material needs?”
One morning Mukunda awoke with the thought, “A whole year has passed. And still I haven’t fulfilled the promise I made to myself! Will a long meditation always wait until ‘tomorrow’? Why not today? Why not this very morning?”
He sat down for meditation. Forty-eight whole hours passed. To Mukunda, they seemed more like forty-eight minutes. During a part of that ecstatic period, his body rose above the ground in levitation.
At last he returned to the pandemonium of this bustling world: the sounds of servants at their household chores; the voices of family members in the rooms below; the hubbub of people’s voices in the streets, and the noise of traffic outside. This cacophony invaded his ears discordantly, though it could not disturb his inner peace. In the passageway to the kitchen he met the cook—the same one, perhaps, whose hand he had stuck to the wall. This faithful servant had for many years been suffering from a pain in his back. Mukunda touched him, and the man was instantly healed.
It was lunchtime. Mukunda’s family members were seated Indian fashion on straw mats around the dining room floor. They had paid scant attention to Mukunda’s absence of two days. They knew he liked to meditate, and left it at that.
Mukunda now joined them. While he ate, he was conscious of a transcendent detachment from everything. Looking up at one point, he noticed Bodi, the wife of Ananta (Mukunda’s older brother), regarding him curiously. Bodi, like Ananta, had never approved of what they both considered Mukunda’s “religious fanaticism.” Smiling inwardly, Mukunda thought, “Let me have a little fun with them all, especially with Bodi!”
Withdrawing his consciousness partially from the body, he returned a little bit to the complete inwardness he had experienced scarcely half an hour earlier. His body, suddenly deprived of energy, fell silently backward to the floor. Bodi uttered a frightened cry. Quickly she stepped over and felt his pulse. There was no heartbeat. The rest of the family, terrified, gathered around the inert form.
The family doctor, frantically summoned, requested that the boy’s body be carried to a couch. After careful examination, he pronounced the dreaded verdict: “He’s dead.”
Bodi looked around her solemnly. “This,” she declared, “is what comes of too much yoga practice!”
The rest of the family uttered loving encomiums for this dear child, now lost to them forever.
Present in the room was a maidservant who was much-loved by the family; they used to call her “Maid Ma.” Maid Ma had served them for many years with an almost motherly devotion. But she would sometimes argue hotly with Mukunda for bringing his friends to the house, in ever-increasing numbers. Now she added her encomiums to those of the rest.
“Alas! though it’s true he was mischievous, for all that he was a good boy.” Then, disconsolately, she cried, “O Bhagavan (Lord)! now I won’t have anyone to fight with anymore!”
Mukunda could contain himself no longer. “Oh, yes you will!” he cried.
“You!” shouted Maid Ma. “I knew you were only playing!” She picked up a broom and, in mock anger, threw it at him.
On another occasion Mukunda remarked to a friend, “People never see God because they never try to see Him.”
“Never try! But thousands go every day to the temples. Don’t they try?”
“Never sincerely try,” Mukunda returned, his smile remote from this world.
“But if God longs to come to mankind, as you’ve so often told us, can’t He quite easily do so when they at least pray to Him, even if not with deep concentration?”
“It isn’t that He won’t come,” Mukunda replied. “Rather, it’s that they won’t meet Him on His level. Instead, they insist that He come down to theirs. But why should He come to them? He knows that most people only want to argue with Him! There is no room in worldly hearts for His perfect bliss. People are more concerned with their worldly desires than with the pure longing for His love.”
“Are you saying, then, that if we sat down this very night and called to Him from our hearts, He would come?”
“Why not? Of course He would!” was the firm reply. “Why should He refuse us, whose only ‘ulterior’ motive is our love for Him?”
“Tonight!” his friend cried. “Why not tonight?”
“Agreed,” said Mukunda.
Later, they went to Mukunda’s attic room and sat on little mats in lotus posture.
“Do you think we might see God as Lord Krishna?” Mukunda’s friend asked.
“Again, why not? Sri Krishna will surely come to us tonight!”
They began to chant. Later, chanting done, they practiced Kriya Yoga, then Hong-Sau (watching the breath), then simply called to Krishna in the silence, summoning him with their hearts’ love to appear before their inward gaze. Hours passed. The night sky grew dim. They chanted, then meditated some more. Still Krishna had not appeared.
“I’m afraid he won’t come now,” Mukunda’s friend finally said.
“He will come!” was the adamant reply.
Still later: “Mukunda, the dawn is breaking. He hasn’t come yet. I’m growing sleepy!”
“You sleep if you like,” Mukunda whispered reproachfully, “but if I die trying I will call to him until he comes!”
Suddenly, within his inner temple, he beheld a wondrous vision: Krishna walking on soft clouds of gold! Krishna, his sweet smile a gift of heavenly peace!
“I see him!” cried Mukunda. “I see him, the moon of Gokula!”
“It can’t be true. You’re imagining it.”
“You shall see him for yourself!” Mukunda reached out and gently struck his friend on the chest over the heart.
“I see him too!” his friend cried. “Oh, I see him too!”
What bliss welled up in both their hearts that wondrous morning!
Mukunda’s education was somewhat different from the norm. That is to say, though he went to class, he received more revelations inwardly than from his teachers. Usually he preferred to sit at the back of the classroom, where he could close his eyes without the teacher’s notice, and listen to the truths that came to him from within. In one classroom, however, the teacher ordered him to keep his eyes open and pay attention. Mukunda tried, but didn’t always succeed.
“Come sit in the front row before me!” the teacher ordered.
“I did so,” Yogananda told me many years later. “But now the teacher took it for granted that I’d keep my eyes open. Right in front of him, I found it actually easier to close my eyes and meditate.”
One day in school he slipped a note to the boy seated next to him. God had instructed him to write this note, so he did.
“I am your guru,” said the note.
“The boy looked over at me reproachfully: ‘Bad boy!’ was his only comment, whispered under his breath.
“I smiled. That night, this classmate had a divine visitation. God showed him the truth of what I had written him. Thrilled, he tried to seek me out the next day. But I hid from him. Hours passed before we met again.”
Mukunda worshiped God especially in the form of Mother. Westerners have scoffed at Hindus for what they consider “idol worship.” In reality, it is not idol worship, but “ideal worship.” Idol worship means to seek the things of this world: wealth, power, fame, and the like. None but the completely ignorant in India imagine that God is anything but infinite. Still, as God is everywhere, so a spiritual image is a part of that great reality, and can help us to focus our attention on Him. Infinity is a difficult concept to bring into focus. In fact, there are many instances in India’s long history of God actually enlivening a stone image. There is an account, for example, from the life of Trailanga Swami, a great saint of Benares who also, like Gorakhnath, lived for centuries. He had an image in his temple—it may have been of Kali, but I no longer remember. A devotee of his begged him repeatedly to bless him through that image.
One evening the two of them were seated together in the next room. The image itself walked in, sat down, and conversed with them on lofty topics. After some time, the “idol” left the room and returned to its customary position. The divine power left it.
Trailanga looked at the devotee calmly and asked, “And now, what have you got?” That passing phenomenon had been inspiring, certainly, but had it changed the devotee to the extent of giving him God? As my guru was wont to say, “The path to God is not a circus!” The important thing is that we change ourselves. In this respect especially, Buddha was completely right.
Nevertheless, visions can be a consolation, certainly, though they are no guarantee that the visionary is a saint.
Mukunda, as I said, worshiped God especially in the form of Mother of the Universe. Because his friends knew this was the focus for his devotion, they would happily bring him news of any new Kali temple they found in the vicinity. One day they came to him bearing tidings of a new temple.
Mukunda smiled. “You all go, if you like. This evening I prefer to stay home.”
“Stay home! But why?”
Mukunda only smiled. His friends went to the temple, prostrated themselves before the image it held of the Divine Mother, and chanted a few devotional songs. Their hearts were uplifted, but the upliftment lasted only for that evening.
At home, Mukunda went up to his attic room. Temples, too, have value, primarily as aids to bringing people’s devotion to a focus. But Mukunda’s devotion had long since achieved that focus at the point of superconscious ecstasy in the forehead—that is to say, in the frontal lobe of the brain behind that point.
“Mother with lotus feet!” he prayed. “Mother with hair spreading out over all creation! O Mother, come to me! Mother, your smile twinkles in a million stars. O Divine Mother, tear asunder this veil of darkness which hides You from me!”
Long he called to Her. Years earlier, when he had lost his earthly mother, his aching love for her had been redirected to the Divine Mother of the Universe. (Wise Child! Instead of grieving over our earthly losses, we should direct our love to God, where every pain becomes a blessing.) And now at last that Mother of all mothers had appeared to him!
“Kali!” he whispered. “Mother Kali, You have come! Oh, how beautiful You are! Mother, may my life be a song of constant love for Thee!”
The Divine Mother smiled. “Your prayer is granted, My child. Though you shall have to travel far, and bring many souls to My all-sheltering arms, in your heart of hearts you will always be at rest in My formless presence. And as often as you call to Me, whenever you desire it, so often shall I appear before you in this form.”
Mukunda (Yogananda) called Kali, when seen in vision, “beautiful.” But certainly the images presented of Her are anything but that. She is depicted with four arms, a garland of skulls, her hair unkempt and straggling out in all directions, her tongue lolling out of Her mouth, standing (as if in triumph, as the Westerner would perceive her) on the prostrate form of Her husband, Shiva. All this, however, is deeply symbolic. The English thought of Her as the goddess of death, the form worshiped by Thuggees (a band of criminal assassins). Yogananda explained this symbolism to us:
“Kali represents Mother Nature. Her four arms symbolize Creation, Preservation, and Destruction, the fourth depicting the gift of salvation to those who go beyond Nature to the heart of Infinity. The garland of skulls signifies Her divine omnipresence in all human minds. Why skulls? Because all human life is temporary. Her hair streaming outward signifies God’s energy reaching out through all Creation. In Her dance, the rhythmic steps signify the vibratory nature of Creation. Her husband Shiva is depicted as lying prostrate, because God the Father, the Eternal Spirit, is beyond Creation, beyond all vibration, alive in the vibrationless void of Brahman (Spirit).
Kali’s dance ceases when Her light footsteps touch the breast of the Infinite. The reason She is shown with Her tongue out is that She suddenly realizes She has gone too far! Finitude cannot penetrate into the heart of Infinity.”
In India, one bites his tongue, sticking it out a little beyond the teeth, when he is conscious of having made a mistake. Even in Western countries, this is a common, instinctive gesture.
Needless to say, many Indians, too, fail to understand this deep symbolism, and assume that Kali’s tongue is lolling out in blood lust; that her streaming hair suggests almost a harridan raging about to find whom she may devour next. The garland of skulls suggests to them, again, blood lust. And the four arms seem to serve no purpose at all. Her position, standing on Shiva’s breast, is taken for a posture of victory.
Indian images of God are often deliberately not beautiful, in order that the devotee may not be deluded into thinking that any image can ever define the Infinite. The images of Kali are certainly not beautiful. Yet She has been worshipped by many great saints and masters, including Yogananda and Sri Ramakrishna.
Ram Proshad, a great poet-saint of the seventeenth century, worshipped Kali also. One day he was mending a fence on his property, when his daughter came and helped him. He’d been singing. His daughter asked him, “To whom are you singing, Daddy?”
“I am singing to my Divine Mother Kali. But she’s very naughty! Though I often sing to Her, She never comes to me.”
“If She never comes, Daddy, why do you keep on calling? Isn’t it all a useless waste of time?” With a light laugh, his daughter then ran away.
Later that day, his job finished, Ram Proshad went indoors. There he told his wife how their daughter had been helping him. The wife replied, “That isn’t possible. She’s spending the whole day on the other side of town with some friends.”
When their daughter returned that evening, he questioned her. She answered, “Daddy, you can ask anybody. I wasn’t here. I was far away, on the other side of town.”
And then Ram Proshad realized that it had been his Divine Mother, coming to him in the form of his daughter, and teasing him by saying, “If She never comes, why do you keep calling to Her?”
So you see, Kali comes in many forms, and rarely, if ever, in the form one beholds in the temples. She can also be infinitely kind, friendly—even teasingly playful! Her eyes, however, though childlike, reveal also the deep, ego-free calmness of Infinity.
Lord Jagannath, depicted in the great Jagannath temple in Puri, is shown with both his arms truncated. The image itself is not at all beautiful, and has been deliberately marred by those truncated arms. The purpose of that disfigurement is to show that the Infinite Lord can never truly be captured in human form.
Interestingly, Bokhara rugs in Persia (Iran) always contain a flaw too, placed there deliberately. The purpose for this disfigurement is to state that perfection can never be captured in outward form.
Temples themselves are symbolic of the human body, wherein the devotee is counseled to sit in meditation and “go within.” Otherwise, God is omnipresent; He cannot be localized in either space or time.