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Autobiography of a Yogi Critique

Hagar the Humble  Hagar the Listener  Hagar's hm-mm

"When in doubt, win the trick." - Edmund Hoyle.

Self-Realization Fellowship's Yogananda  critique - TEXT There are autobiographies and said autobiographies, like Book of a Yogi: A Collaborative Effort by P. Yogananda (dead 1952) and SRF editors.

"TRUTH WILL OUT". The counsel: "You change the content a lot, alarmingly to some; change the title too to follow suit."

Most who learn about kriya yoga and Yogananda (1893-1915), do so through the Autobiography of a Yogi as published and heavily edited by SRF, which is short for Self-Realization Fellowship, Yogananda's fellowship. It is a church. The editors there have not changed the title yet. Maybe they never will. However, their hard and heavy editing of the book after Yogananda's death has been met with critique and countered by many reissues of unadultered first editions. The first edition from 1946 is in the public domain today. At Project Gutenberg it may be downloaded for free, for example, so you may see for yourself the many changes that SRF made in later editions after they bought the copyright from the first publisher back in the 1950s.

A critique typically voices opinions rooted in personal experience and genuine knowledge, and typically seeks to discern between what is valuable or not as to persons or thing. — Then, a claimed autobiography that is substantially edited by others a long time after the real author's death, isn't that a flawed autobiography, an "autobiography"? I think so. There is good sense in retitling it. Book of a Yogi, as edited stepwise for decades after his death is more accurate. After all, such a title alternative is not misleading and unfair. Further, for the reckoning, I am not involved with the two main Yogananda publishers - SRF and Ananda Sangha. Further, I consider the autobiography a propaganda work, and that goes for all its editions so far. Who or what does it speak well of? Word counts may offer initial help in sorting out such things. [Autobiography word counts]

Furthermore, SRF is a sect, says a former editor there (below). Others say "cult" too, and they include former members, such as monastics that left the SRF premises around 2001. As much as one third of the SRF monastics left the SRF premises at that time.

Many have had tough experiences through this piece of progaganda by Yogananda and his SRF. For example, the book talks for certain ideals that are important to many - but the fellowship has shovelled away some of Yogananda's ideals. Such disharmonies have disappointed many folks.

Now, in reading a book from far away, a book embedding different values and beliefs, there are good reasons to be on one's guard. In this cavalcade, much information is added to shed light on the book of a yogi and disciples, and there is information around it, like word counts and deliberations on top of them.

To someone like me, some of the most telling sides to Yogananda's autobiography are:

  • Impressive and motivational stories.
  • Yogananda speculation, that is, assertions without even a shred of good proof.
  • Abuse of scriptures to "legitimise" Babaji's kriya yoga, which Yogananda changed anyway.
  • Results: a following, especially in California. I will not say "I rest my case" here, but repeat that Yogananda's fellowship SRF - which is also the publishers of later editions of the book, is now understood to be a cult. The cult publishers have edited Yogananda's autobiography so heavily that it may seem incredible to some. I would also add that the book opens up for guru submission, and later SRF submission too, and that leader submission is a great mark of a cult.

The yogi author of the book, a Hindu monk, also presents hinduised abuse of the standard Christian faith and its scripture to legitimise reincarnation (the idea of previous lives), in part by twisting the concepts, in part by misinterpreting, in part by making his own spin on the faith. His infiltration work has led a Catholic professor, Father Matheo, to charge the guru with heresy.

SAY NO TO KRIYA CRAWLING TO YOUR LOSS . . . As you can see, there are things to be aware of, also about a quite innocent-looking book that deals with the fantastic and exaggerates. Let the handy acronym AIR-BOC help you to have a handle on some of those issues as you please as you seek fair, unbiased information about strange issues in a yogi's book. It was written to impress the readers and alert to a breathing method called kriya yoga. Core kriya yoga, ujjayi, is explained in detail here: [Link].

If your interest in learning kriya is awakened, relax. Much of what Yogananda writes about it goes unverified, parts looks hugely exaggerated, and parts differ substantially from the kriya system his own gurus taught. It pays to look through the guru's hype and avoid submitting to him to learn kriya too. There are many fine reasons. One of them is that he publicly hailed dictatorship in his East-West magasine of February 1934, another is the extreme demands on unconditional submission to him and five more said gurus. Anyone who learns kriya through SRF has to make a kriya oath to that end, against gospel sayings that say no to swearing and having other masters than Jesus, and so on. [More]

You do not have to crawl on your belly, swearing, to learn kriya yoga, the hong-so method of watching the breath, and even the method of listening to subtle nadi sounds, the Om technique. Yogananda's cult teaches the three of them. However, they are publicly known methods, and have been so for centuries, some of them. Also, other organisations teach kriya yoga freely, without "gilded ties" and obscurations of what is what. This is to say that several of the meditation methods taught by the church and fellowship that Yogananda set up to his later regret and chagrin, can be learnt elsewhere, without strings attached. Satyananda Yoga teaches kriya yoga and other methods through publicly available books, and there are others who teach some kriya yoga forms too. I just mention that alternatives to SRF-submission exist.

SYRINGES. When I first read the Autobiography of a Yogi in Danish translation it made me enter Self-Realization Fellowship and ignore the syringes in the book. They may inject "sand in your system" - things like:

  • Romantic idealisations of things Indian, through many occult stories written in a greatly devotional frame of mind. Better be warned:
    After five years of effort in America, beginning in 1925 . . . Yogananda began to modify and adapt his teachings to the West . . . to overcome the . . . resistance of Christians who were suspicious of the foreign teachings of a Hindu swami. As a result, Yogananda began to enjoy remarkable popularity. . . . However, . . . most readers of his "Autobiography" . . . are left with many unrealistic expectations. - Marshall Govindam. [◦Link]

  • Swollen Yogananda ideas that are not really backed up, but wrapped in by "the scriptures aver", "the ancient rishis (seers) found" etc. Yogananda has not specified which scriptures says man needs a million years to reach cosmic consciousness. He does not tell just which rishis found that gold, silver, other metals and gems can protect against planetary influences either. He says much else, including that man can become immortal here on earth by the kriya yoga he teaches. But it does not happen to everyone who learns kriya yoga in his tradition or a good one.
  • Unsubstantiated notions of kriya efficacy and the like: Yogananda's autobiography does not tell that he made changes to the kriya methods. He left out parts that are claimed to be essential by others in his kriya yoga tradition, and simplified the kriyas too. Nor does Yogananda tell that he left out the kriya prospects of his own guru and made his own and far more optimistic ones instead. It shows up from the works of Yogananda and his guru Yukteswar that Yogananda claimed his methods worked twelve times faster than the kriyas he was taught himself, and that the evolution they speed up, normally would take a million years. His guru, however, wrote 12 million years. Here is one of the "hidden syringes" that may numb higher mental faculties. [More]

COMPARE WITH A YOGANANDA BIOGRAPHY. A Yogananda biography called Paramhansa Swami Yogananda: Life-portrait and Reminiscences (iUniverse, 2006), by a kriya yogi who knew Yogananda personally and well, throws added light on Yogananda's writings. The Yogananda biography shows Yogananda hid many rather vital unpleasantries from his readers, including tense quarrels with his guru (p. 85). The biographer even questions that Yogananda's guru bestowed on him the title of Paramhansa - it is a Hindu monk title. Swami is another Hindu monk title:

[One] day, Ananda-da – Ananda Mohan Lahiri – was with us. It was almost nightfall. Maharaj ji [Yogananda's guru Yukteswar] was standing on the upstairs veranda and someone was standing next to him. Ananda-da and the writer [Dasgupta] were downstairs. Before going upstairs, Yoganandaji went to a drainage spot, a bit apart from the area, and began to urinate into the drainage passage. This caught Gurudev's [Yukteswar's] attention and he cryptically joked, "Yogananda has become a 'paramhansa' [great swan, or great soul]!" After urinating, Yoganandaji saw Ananda-da standing at the front door and quietly said, "Ananda-da! Did you hear? Swamiji [Sriyukteshvarji] called me a 'paramhansa!'" Later, Ananda-da laughed and said to the writer, "You'll see. Yogananda will one day use this title!" (p. 84)

The Autobiography is filled with stories of the miraculous. However, the Yogananda biographer questions some of the tales. "When examined with an investigative eye, many of the accounts could have been caused by ordinary means, nevertheless, in Swamiji's perception, all happened supernaturally. (p. 101)"

And with reference to an alleged meeting of Yogananda and a secretive yogi called Babaji, the biographer writes:

Yoganandaji was a man who lived in the world of imagination and spiritual feelings. He saw some things directly and some things with the eyes of his feelings. Toward the end, he often did not perceive a difference between the two (p. 99).

It could be well to keep these points in mind throughout Yogananda's book. "Towards the end" was when he wrote and edited his autobiography.

GLIMPSES FROM THE MAKING OF THE BOOK. Yogananda's disciple Durga Mata (Florina Darling) writes that he spent time in Encinitas writing on his book, and that most of the time he wrote longhand. At other times he dictated to Sister Daya's shorthand. Or Daya and her sister Ananda would alternate in taking dictation on the typewriter. "Yogananda liked it when they read the text back to him. The typed text, as Daya Mata recalls, was then given, piece after piece, to Tara Mata for editing." (p. 8)

Yogananda originally intended to call the book "Yogi-Christs of India". At the end of the 1938 version of his Cosmic Chants, he announced:

YOGI-CHRISTS OF INDIA. The product of twenty years of metaphysical research. Stranger than fiction, and yet a record of authentic happenings, and personal experiences of the author. Many amazing stories of the miraculous lives of the great masters and saints of India. True, illuminating and entertaining from beginning to end. Contains an extraordinary description of the Astral World, the true Hereafter to which all mortals repair between incarnations. Will be published in Feb. 1944. (p. 9)

Yoganada used to write without ever reading over the manuscript - a task he always avoided. "I used to write without ever reading over the manuscript - a task I always avoided. But I had to go over and over every bit of my autobiography. The Lord disciplined me." (Yogananda 1982:185). The guru of many had to go "over and over" every bit of his Autobiography and benefitted from discipline, he said. (p. 9). Later, SRF editors too have gone "over and over" the book and made changes.

During New Year's week in 1945, Yogananda was still making revisions. In the last chapter he writes: "New Year's week of 1945 found me at work in my Encinitas study, revising the manuscript of this book." He obviously expected the book to be published in early 1946, for in his magazine (Jan.-March 1946), in a 1946 New Year's message, he urged magazine readers to "spread the message" by sharing with others their copy of Autobiography of a Yogi, or by presenting copies to their friends. He announced how he would use the proceeds of his book: to build the "Golden World City" (World Brotherhood Colony) in Encinitas. (p. 9)

It took nearly one more year before his book was finally printed: His editor, Tara Mata (Laurie Pratt), had to search for a long time before she found a publisher for it, the Philosophical Library in New York. The first edition was published in December 1946. (p. 10)

[◦Autobiography of a Yogi History (PDF), p. 8-10, passim]

A glance through the PDF document tells that the foretellings of Yogananda were at fault. It was not published in 1944, for example. He did not write it all on his own either. There were at least three American woman devotees to help him, the sisters Lucy Virginia Wright (later: Ananda Mata) and Rachel Faye Wright (later: Daya Mata) - and Laurie Pratt (Tara Mata). Each got their mata (mother) names too, and as such Rachel Faye Wright became the SRF nun-president for many decades until her death in 2010.

Yogananda's World Brotherhood Colony (Golden World City) in Encinitas is more like a ghost idea today - an abandoned idea by Yogananda disciples in charge of his church. They had other plans. But in Yogananda's magazine, at the time named Inner Culture (March, 1937 Vol. 9–5) Yogananda delineates how he once wanted his World City, and that he was going to make a supreme effort to do something practical in establishing it. It failed. Neither big words nor his supreme effort was enough: the city is not there! Also, his own fellowship, SRF, has failed to manifest such Yogananda plans aimed at cooperation for mutual good. It is an imperfect world, better be realistic enough to survive.

LATER SRF-EDITING OF YOGANANDA'S AUTOBIOGRAPHY. Another problem with the SRF editions of the Autobiography after Yogananda's passing is heavy editing by others than the author. The SRF publishers has made a thousand changes. Some of them are minor and non-essential; others reflect the drift of Yogananda's fellowship sectward through four decades.

Ananda Sangha:

SRF has never stopped editing this book. They have made changes to the text, as well as adding, deleting, and editing photographs, captions, end pages, footnotes, and publisher's notes. These include . . . changes altering the history of events in Yogananda's life as he told them, changes to direct quotations as he gave them, and insertions of statements of institutional authority which directly contradict Yogananda's own statement of his vision for the spread of his teachings . . . and his name was given a new spelling seven years after his death." [Ananda Sangha India, ◦"Why Read the First Edition . . ."]

The SRF publishers, who bought back the copyright to the book in late 1953, took to an "editing spree" which includes signature forgery. Well-well, at least you escape 'Paramahansa' in this first edition. [◦More]

Yogananda Rediscovered writes:

SRF has made a vast number of changes to Autobiogr[ap]hy of a Yogi since Paramhansa Yogananda died that change such essential elements of his teachings as Kriya Yoga, the monastic vs. the householder life, communities as an ideal lifestyle for householder devotees. A great many of the changes make it seem as if Yogananda himself gave more emphasis to SRF as an institution than he actually did. [◦Link]

Wikipedia's article, "Autobiography of a Yogi", contains some more detail:

Some of the changes made over the years include: significant edits to Yogananda's poem Samadhi, the removal of two poems ("God, God, God," and "The Soundless Roar"), the addition of numerous footnotes, and the editing of countless passages, including direct quotes. Yogananda wrote a note announcing his editing changes for the 1951 edition, the last published during his lifetime. There was no note from Yogananda in later editions to confirm that he wanted changes made to his autobiography after his death . . .

During his lifetime, Yogananda always signed his name with the spelling 'Paramhansa' . . . In the 1959 edition of the Autobiography of a Yogi, seven years after Yogananda died, the publishers altered the signature by copying and pasting an extra 'a' from a different part of the signature.

Kriyananda and his staff deserve much appreciation: Kriyananda's book Rescuing Yogananda (2010, see chap. 10 in particular), and the later Yogananda for the World: Freeing His Legacy from Sectarianism (Hansa Trust, 3rd revised ed., 2012) contain many similar points. The first book may not be easy to get to today, but Yogananda for the World covers the same ground, I think, and is on-line. [◦Yogananda for the World (PDF)].

In both books, Swami Kriyananda (1926-2013), a direct disciple of Yogananda, admires "things Yogananda said", while opposing decisions of certain old SRF "mata oligarchs"* that ran the "SRF business" toward the end of Yogananda's life, and what they successively turned SRF into as its leaders.

  1. Mata: elderly nun etc. called "mother".
  2. Oligarchy: a small group of people who control and run an organisation etc.

Kriyananda himself was SRF's vice president for some years until 1962, when SRF's Board of Directors asked him to resign, so he should have inside knowledge of that circle. [WP, s.v. "Kriyananda"]

Granted that the two Kriyananda books above smack of apologetics of a sort, Kriyananda's findings are like cream - lots of cream. He tells of major SRF changes to Yogananda's legacy, "his writings, teachings, and his stated mission, aims, and ideals". In fact, Kriyananda offers two lists of changes in Yogananda for the World, with counts and comments (chap. 15 and 16). Further, he finds that the number of changes SRF has made in Yogananda's "autobiography" after the author's death is astounding:

The meaning of text passages concerning Yogananda's life and teachings has been altered in at least twenty-eight places, and there has been at least twenty-eight significant deletions. He also sees forty-eight insertions of SRF's name. Some of them promote the organization. Further, a hundred and nineteen mentions of Self-Realization Fellowship were not in the original edition.

SRF has inserted SRF's name so that the meaning of the text is changed, partly to emphasise the organization. Kriyananda; "Over a thousand new lines have been added, sometimes in footnotes, most of them with the clear intention of promoting SRF as an organization, or (in footnotes) of giving the impression that these, too, were written by Yogananda himself – even though they were in fact written by others, and reflected points of view that were not his at all." (Chap. 15, extracts) Only a few of the more than five hundred changes since the first edition were actually made by Yogananda himself. Most of the changes were made, some of them many years later, by SRF . . . for the quite different purpose of aligning statements in the book with more recently formulated SRF policies.

Examples from Rescuing Yogananda: In the first edition Yogananda says, "The actual technique [of Kriya Yoga] must be learned from a Kriyaban or Kriya Yogi" was changed later to read: "The actual technique [of Kriya Yoga] should be learned from an authorized Kriyaban (Kriya Yogi) of Self-Realization Fellowship [Yogoda Satsanga Society of India]."

Another example: "To fulfill one's earthly responsibilities is indeed the higher path, provided the yogi, maintaining a mental uninvolvement with egotistical desires, plays his part as a willing instrument of God." It has become "Fulfilling one's earthly responsibilities need not separate man from God, provided he maintains mental uninvolvement . . ." This later change seems to tone down the status of "worldly" people. The author, Kriyananda, comments: "The change was made . . . because certain SRF center leaders were challenging SRF's right to make many of the changes they were introducing."

Fourteen lines of a Yogananda's poem, "Samadhi," were deleted from later editions of the book.

SRF has also constrained those who receive kriya yoga, to be members of SRF. "Yogananda never imposed any such condition; nor did Lahiri Mahasay," writes Kriyananda, who was a writer and editor of Yogananda himself.

Photos, too, have been "sanitized," to reflect SRF's ideas.

The original Autobiography ends with a strong appeal for "world brotherhood colonies" - that is, cooperative communities. After Yogananda's death in 1952, that entire appeal and other references to such communities, has since been omitted from editions of the Autobiography of a Yogi and from all SRF literature, says Kriyananda.

He finds that changes "reflect a determination on SRF's part to achieve increasing control; to impose its mere opinions."

In Yogananda for the World, "Kriya is for everybody," Yogananda is quoted to write. Seeking control of the dissemination of Yogananda's "kriya for all", in part by meddling with an autobiography and inserting self-promoting texts in it, is no noble part to play. That is not all of it: The former SRF president [Daya Mata] "signed a declaration, under oath, that Autobiography of a Yogi had not been written by Yogananda himself, but by a committee." (Chap. 16).

Active links (of March 2014):

Observed: haughty-naughty

I have seen quite old SRF documents that show Yogananda did have devotees to help him. Tara Mata was one of them. Yogananda was not fully proficient in English (as so many others) . . .

After Yogananda's death, SRF leaders decided that Yogananda - an avatar (Divine descencion), they call him - had failed to spell his own title right for many years, even till his death. He (and SRF) wrote Paramhansa. But after some months into 1957, they found some forgery fit, so they inserted an a into his signature as well. "He who swindles in those things, can swindle in other things, for there is something missing." But there is more:

Yogananda registered the Self-Realization Fellowship as a Church in California in late March 1935. [SRF Church Articles of Incorporation from 1935]Among his points to observe by the faithful followers without normal creature comforts (and without nut allergies, presumably) are:

  • To go for eating nuts (2:4) has been removed from that Church document.
  • "Human life is given to man . . . not for physical pleasure nor selfish gratifications" (2:13) is also gone from the Aims and Ideals of SRF.
  • There is something wrong with 2:15 too.
  • And the "a world spiritual University" (2:18) atop Mt. Washington, LA, was removed in an SRF amendment of 5 December 1954.
  • "To make lasting youth and arrest old age (2d)," whatever "arrest old age" is taken to mean among the synonyms capture, stop, fascinate. Neither the founder nor later leaders in SRF have kept young. "Young at heart" is still an option, though, but maybe out of context.

Things change.

In SRF they have gone further than taking away what managers did not subscribe to, and also find they "cannot find fault with Yogananda's guidelines". That is just a facade. In reality, they have removed some of them, for example some in the original SRF Church registration documents from late March 1935.

Fair play is different from sordid double-play, and should not be handled as a mere trifle or nuisance. Kriyananda and others have delved into that.

So, we are told that Autobiography of a Yogi was written by a Yogananda committee." (Yogananda for the World, Chap. 16). The others kept editing the book for decades after Yogananda's death in 1952. It is a poor autobiography that others than the said author go on and on editing for decades. Author authenticity (if that is found here) should be treasured more than a lovely look too. I suggest Book of a Yogi: A Collaborative Effort by P. Yogananda (dead 1952) and SRF editors. Such a title is not a swindle.

There is still more to professional editing: One has to follow suit contentwise also, and show what is authentic Yogananda, and what is later additions. Just be fair, make it a point not to wallow in the marring haughty-naughty. The book is a piece of propaganda.


A CULT'S TEACHINGS. The publisher of later editions of the book, Self-Realization Fellowship, is recognised as a cult by ◦Watchman Fellowship Expositor and ◦, and not a few former SRF monastics (see the ◦SRF Walrus). Further, the former editor of Yogananda's autobiography, Tara Mata (Laurie Pratt), once said something that the then vice-president, Kriyananda summarised as: "We are a sect." A Place Called Ananda, 2001, chap. 14.)

"What they basically are is sort of an offshoot of Eastern Mysticism . . . it is a religion . . . a form of Eastern Mysticism." - ◦John MacArthur Jr..

There is very much good in "Eastern Mysticisms (EMs)", though: EMs are often fair. And sects may not be worse than a money-driven, cold-hearted large society. But to dress up wrong outlooks as Christian for Christians, that does not suit fair guys. Yogananda give sham definitions of the Father, Christ, the Holy Ghost, reincarnation and soul. It is a sham. The New Testament definitely speaks of other entities than Yogananda by these words. I don't say the guru stands for falsified Christianity in all things, but in lots of things. Feel free to check it for yourself. [Key Concepts] [Father Mateo says "Grrr"]

With Ralph W. Emerson, SRF has said that an organisation is the lenghtening shadow of a man. To the degree that lengthening shadow is a cult, the organisation and its fellowship is "shadowy" authoritarian. Yogananda's enormous stress on devotion, submission and veneration by words and customs in the book, are factors that coincide with authoritarianism and also the rise of cults in Hinduism, historically. [EB, sv "Hinduism: The history of Hinduism"]

SRF'S BAD KRIYA YOGA PLEDGE. Much of the content of the autobiography promotes kriya yoga, which goes greatly unresearched by SRF, despite the hype about it. Some changes in the book from the earliest editions promote the church of SRF by monopolising the transmission of kriya yoga. And to learn the Yogananda's simplified kriya yoga through Self-Realization Fellowship, you have to swear a goofy oath that demands unconditional submission to six unmet gurus on your part, and with no good regret buttons. The drummed up gurus teach differently on vital subjects, as has been shown, but SRF says foolishly they are in complete harmony. A false harmony is not good for you.

Example: The Krishna of the Bhagavad Gita teaches that those who say the world is illusory, are demoniac. [16:7-8]. And Yogananda teaches the world is illusory: "There is no material universe; its warp and woof is . . . illusion." [Autobiography, ch. 30]. That should make him a demoniac, then. It is too hard for me to see the complete harmony of such divergent teachings.

Krishna and Yogananda are "faithfully" presented as SRF gurus - Jesus too, even directly against some of his gospel sayings, such as the one against having more than one master (himself). You do not have to be a believer to point to things like that.

If you want to stick to freedom from authoritarian submission, there are other societies that teach kriya yoga without such strings attached. In Satyananda's Yoga Kriya Yoga may be learnt in courses or from books, for example. [Comparison]


GREAT CONFUSION INTO THE BARGAIN. Also, the publishers, SRF, teaches that the teachings of the six gurus - Krishna and Jesus are among them - are in complete harmony [13th ed. p 432]. Well, they are not. One more example: Jesus teaches the soul can be destroyed [Matthew 10:28; Luke 12:4-6; Matthew 5:29], whereas Yogananda and Krishna teach it is immortal [eg, in Yogananda. Sayings of Paramahansa Yogananda, p. 25; Bhagavad Gita 2:19]. The Bhagavad Gita is a medley of ancient doctrines, actually. [Wy 8-12].

However, since Yogananda repeatedly teaches the world is an illusion, a dream only, his ideas and SRF's teachings can be nothing more than dreams, and his fake harmony is dreamt up too. The sad thing is that some of his notions may entangle cultist minds for a life-time, if not longer, and that the Bhagavad Gita 16:7-8 disclaims those who teach the world is illusory, as demoniacs.

HINDUISATION OF KEY CHRISTIAN CONCEPTS. In the Yogananda universe there is Hinduisation of Christian concepts as well. Yogananda says things about God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit that are not substantiated in the gospels. He drops many hallmarks of the triune Christian godhead too in his "off-hand" theology. [Link] - which has been charged with being heretic by the Catholic Father, Matheo. [Link]

Elliot Miller writes along this vein:

Although SRF's attempts to promote unity between Hinduism and Christianity appear commendable on the surface, such a goal can be achieved only by subtly glossing over significant, irreconcilable differences between the two. In the end, we find Hinduism unscathed by the transaction, while Christianity becomes stripped of its defining and distinguishing characteristics.. [Elliot Miller. Swami Yogananda and the Self-Realization Fellowship: A Successful Hindu Countermission to the West. [◦More]

A cavalcade of undermining twists and tricks have to be dealt with too, but hope is hardly fit for it. Demagogy-inspired hopes may affect one's living if seriously, fervently adhered to.

AT LEAST DISLIKE DICTATOR MENTALITIES. I find fervent, bombastic attempts at glorification and hailing of a guru who in his time hailed dictatorship in writing, to be rather annoying.

Yogananda The average man cannot think clearly . . . He needs the master mind of a Dictator in order to think right and do right." - Yogananda, East-West Magazine, February 1934, No. 6, p. 25.]

Was the dictatorship-fond one thinking clearly? Adding to some ignored sides to Yogananda, the biographer Dasgupta also reveals that the adult Yogananda, afraid of ghosts for years [Psy 112], bluffed a generous maharaja into giving him the means for having a school at Ranchi. The maharaja wanted to see the school Yogananda had started, but it had only one pupil. "Some others had to be called in to present themselves as brahmacharya-students, at least for that day, in front of the Maharaja . . . these youths were dressed up as little brahmacharis." See behind the mask of words: others did not have to be called in to make a finer impression on the maharaja than the one-pupil school deserved. They were rigged up as a result of a yogi's greed, it seems fair to say. The maharaja "was enchanted by seeing the brahmachari-garbed youths" and enthusiastically promised to take up the financial responsibility for the establishing and daily running of the school. Trickery and cheating for great gains - that is uncivil and unbecoming. [Psy 40-41].

Such interesting parts of the "CV" are omitted from Yogananda's autobiography too, and that is quite interesting in a sad way too.

Yogananda's biographer Dasgupta is somewhat equivocal: on the one hand he uses the -ji endings and Master, and Gurudeva labeling and all that. On the other hand he was trained in being true . . .

NO CULTIST REVIEW. Guru hailing does not necessarily make guru or bizarre hailer great. Many of the 225 reviews of the Autobiography on are rather biased and reflect guru cult adherence and very emotional attachments, in part with some guru-fraud.

The proof of a meditation technique lies in research as well as subjective experiences. A few research studies have been done on kriya yoga, but none by Yogananda's fellowship. They did not think they were served by sound research, they wrote me some years ago, when I offered to conduct it on the effects of the methods.

Some Yogananda followers falsely claim the guru was an example of his simplified kriya yoga. However, in his Autobiography he writes he was enlightened by the kriya that a guru gave Yogananda's guru Yukteswar, and a knock on the chest [chapter 14]. And in chapter 12 he writes of the transmission of kriya yoga methods: "Sri Yukteswar chose the following morning to grant me his Kriya Yoga initiation. The technique I had already received from two disciples of Lahiri Mahasaya - Father and my tutor, Swami Kebalananda."

Yogananda changed the kriyas in 1925. Traditionalist kriya yogis did not feel for his changes. It appears that Yogananda lost enthusiasm for SRF too. See if you find a sign of it in a hand-written letter here: [◦Link]. There is one more Yogananda letter that tells more of it (Yes, I have a digital copy).

There are bad reasons for downplaying such information. [More].

YOGANANDA CHANGED KRIYA. Yogananda simplified kriya, and then claimed it was 12 times more effective than the kriya he had been taught, after he had left out what is considered vital parts of the original kriya. He dropped yoga postures, "tongue-lifting", and "thokar-kriya" and "omkar(a)-kriya" as they were to be practiced, according to his guru line. Yogananda mixed methods that Americans were able to practice, and "the possibility of practicing wrongly or being misdirected, has remained." [Psy 109- 10].

Also, Yogananda claimed that man evolves twelve times faster than his guru said, and then went on to call his guru "incarnated wisdom" . . . He was inconsistent. And I suggest you rise higher than blind, gullible belief in other matters too. Citations:

[A] half-minute of kriya equals one year of natural spiritual unfoldment . . .

One thousand kriya practised in eight hours gives the yogi, in one day, the equivalent of one thousand years of natural evolution . . . The kriya short cut, of course, can be taken only by deeply developed yogis. [Autobiography, ch 26]

Yet Yogananda's guru, Yukteswar, says in his commentary to the Bhagavad Gita that one round of kriya equals one month's evolution, not "one year's":

Practicing . . . the kriya of pranayam at one sitting, including its dawn and dusk, 12 times, meaning 14 times, accomplishes the work of one solar year. [Sriyukteshvar, Swami. Srimad Bhagavad Gita: Spiritual Commentary. Portland, Mn: Yoganiketan, 2002, 4:8]."

This means that Yogananda in his fifties said his simplified, "shaved" kriya's efficacy was twelve times better than what his teacher-guru Yukteswar said of the kriya he gave Yogananda. Yogananda also said that man would need "just" one million years to get cosmic consciousness "unaided", whereas his guru said 12 million years unaided:

Now, I will explain . . . how to realize the Kaivalya, or Consciousness-alone, state which in the usual course of time takes 12,000,000 years." [Ibid 4:8].

A problem: Man has not lived on earth for twelve million years, according to latest research . . . But anyway, through SRF we are presented with a Yogananda-simplified kriya and hype that goes markedly unproved to this day. Where is the evidence that outré guru claims are right? As for kriya research, a solid meditation technique stands being researched. Yogananda calls kriya scientific, but that looks like another marketing gimmick of his. Yogananda and SRF use the phrase "scientific" to "sell" its kriya, with himself and SRF holding the upper hands in such transactions, seemingly thinking they are superior to lay members, according to Kriyananda [Ry] They also live the lie that they represent "original Christianity as taught by Jesus," ignoring that ◦there was no monasticism in early Christianity.

Further, in SRF fair and fit investigations must be said to have been refused. SRF has had time and enough millions donated to get research done on kriya and its other methods. By contrast, Transcendental Meditation, TM, has been subjected to hundreds of academic studies, and it shows lots of good, proved effects.

WAS JESUS FOR JEWS MISUSED BY THE GURU OR? . . There is the risk that Yogananda and SRF simply fawned on Jesus by their "original Christianity as taught by Jesus Christ" (SRF Aims and Ideals), claiming Jesus to be one of the gurus in SRF. It goes against gospel sayings. The renowned bible scholar Dr Geza Vermes summarises:

Fl. During his days of preaching, Jesus of Nazareth addressed only Jews, "the lost sheep of Israel" (Matthew 10:5; 15:24). His disciples were expressly instructed not to approach gentiles or Samaritans (Matthew 10:5). On the few occasions that Jesus ventured beyond the boundaries of his homeland, he never proclaimed his gospel to pagans, nor did his disciples do so during his lifetime. The mission of the 11 apostles to "all the nations" (Matthew 28:19) is a "post-Resurrection" idea. It appears to be of Pauline inspiration and is nowhere else found in the Gospels (apart from the spurious longer ending of Mark [Mark 16:15], which is missing from all the older manuscripts). Jesus' own perspective was exclusively Jewish; he was concerned only with Jews. (Vermes 2012; cf 2010:37,41)

Jesus in the gospels tell that his teachings, salvation and kingdom are for Jews only. Incessant Yogananda claims and commentaries about Jesus are contrary to sayings of Jesus in the gospels, and the tenor of his work, as stauch Bible research has dug up. Many Yogananda claims seem tendentious, and some plain wrong. A faith that seeks to be gospel-attuned but goes largely contrary to what learned people say is in the gospels and what Jesus intended for Jews only, may be too sloppy and airy to work for our good. (Cf. Vermes 2005).

GREAT DISSATISFACTION IN THE SRF KRIYA YOGI RANKS. The effects of Yogananda's simplified kriya yoga have been questioned, and the glorious results he proclaim on behalf of it, are missing in many lives. Around 2001 about one third of all the SRF monastics left SRF, many of them in tears, distress, dismay, and great dissatisfaction, as evidenced on the SRF Walrus board. A former Yogananda devotee who should know, writes:

"I studied, mediated and followed a very famous Indian guru during most of my life . . . I knew hundreds of yogis for up to 30 years, but not one of them had ever attained much. I do not mean money, though most of them had little financial success, but happiness. There were drugs, alcohol, affairs, divorces, physical abuses . . . They seemed a bunch of shame driven antisocial beings. I'd never seen anyone enter into the highest state . . . None of these struggling yogi's were better off, if anything, all of them suffered mental and emotional problems."
(As many times before, she now seems to have withdrawn har outpourings. I have them on file, though. I found them here: [◦Link])

The woman's description pertains to Yogananda's close disciples and other kriya yogis in and around the SRF headquarters in California - some of his seemingly closest disciples, that is. I should say that others have not seen all that meanness!

SUMMARY. In addition to the above survey of the lay of the land that the book is within, you will also find clarifying notes in the text, for example that dangerous Kali was the worshipped Divine Mother of Yogananda. "Kali's "iconography, cult, and mythology commonly associate her with death, sexuality, violence," says Encyclopaedia Britannica [sv. "Kali"]. To delight in violence, sex, and death, suggests you have nothing good to live up to. Do not let that become your lot.

With this spiritual best-seller, many issues are to be dealt with to get some profit from reading into it, and without being undermined somehow:

  • Many scenes and stories in the book go unverified. And in some cases there are alternative tales from other sources and biographies of some of the gurus mentioned in the book. For example, the core tale in chapter thirty-four about materialising a palace in the Himalayas, has less fantastic variants, writes J. C. Bhattacharya [Ysl].
  • Less flattering stories of Yogananda and his ways are left out by Yogananda and SRF, but not all are left out in Dasgupta's biography. And Yogananda's old writings show that he advocated dictatorship too, to give an example. Some such writings are on-line, and some are sold as books by other companies.
  • That the publishers, SRF, has edited later editions of the book uncommonly, is a fact. And that the book serves to attract people to SRF and Yogananda, is almost common knowledge. That SRF is classified as a cult, is less known, though.
  • SRF members differ. Some feel that glowing praises and thanks are fit. However, not all who enter his fellowship and learn its simplified kriya yoga get happy and loving year after year from it. Others who "have been there", have left SRF and some also the guru, even against alarming tellings of repercussions for many lives for it, and colossal sufferings to come. Thus, for kriya yogas in SRF there is both a carrot and a whip, and a rider (the guru) too.

Many monastics and others who dropped living in an SRF environment, think that its kriya is fine - although very few seem willing to tell they have attained the end goal through Yogananda's kriya yoga. Only one or two come to mind. To be going along a fine and fit path, by living well and so on - that matters. To let the happy ones shine is a good way of dealing with it, and also to bear in mind that to know those of inner, secret yogi attaiments, one has to be among them, at least to the degree it is true that "It takes one who know one". However, "You do not have to be ill to be a doctor" - to see a lot of "drugs, alcohol, affairs, divorces, physical abuses" when you are positioned to see such things.

The doings and statements of SRF, Yogananda, and his glowing adherents and disgruntled former ones, require many clarifications. With the material I have had at hand, I have done a whole lot to such an end. But the narcissists in SRF do not even publish how many members SRF has; statistics that pertain to vital issues, are largely lacking. Till such data should come up, we may do best to gain some middle ground, proper reserve, and not be overly categorical.

You may enjoy many tales without becoming a freaking believer. There are alternatives to most of the SRF methods and teachings, many are for free, and a lot of these alternatives can serve us far better than cultish submission.


Autobiography of a Yogi critique, Paramahansa Yogananda, Literature  

Vermes, Geza. The Authentic Gospel of Jesus. London: Penguin, 2005.

Vermes, Geza. The Real Jesus: Then and Now. Minneapolis, MI: Fortress Press, 2010.

Vermes, Geza. From Jewish to Gentile: How the Jesus Movement Became Christianity. Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR) 38:06, Nov/Dec 2012.

Yogananda, Paramahansa. Man's Eternal Quest.2nd ed. Los Angeles: SRF, 1982.

Apa: Walters, James Donald. A Place called Ananda. Rev. 2nd ed. Nevada City: Hansa Trust: 2001.

Ay: Yogananda, Paramahansa. Autobiography of a Yogi. 1st ed. New York: Philosophical Library, 1946. Online.

Bhg: Yukteswar, Swami. Srimad Bhagavad Gita: Spiritual Commentary. Portland, Mn: Yoganiketan, 2002. Online.

EB: Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite DVD. London: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Yearly.

Psy: Dasgupta, Sailendra. Paramhansa Swami Yogananda: Life-portrait and Reminiscences. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, 2006. Online at Google Books, partial view.

Ry: Kriyananda, Swami. Rescuing Yogananda. Nevada City, CA: Crystal Clarity, 2010.

Spa: Yogananda, Paramahansa. Sayings of Paramahansa Yogananda. 4th ed. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1980.

Wy: Tuxen, Poul tr: Bhagavadgita. Herrens Ord. Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 1962.

Ysl: Bhattacharya, Jogesh Chandra. Yogiraj Shri Shri Lahiri Mahashaya. Kadamtala, Howrah: Shrigurudham (Ghosh), 1964. Online read-only text at Yoganiketan, Portland, Mn.

Yw: Kriyananda, Swami. Yogananda for the World. Rev. ed. Nevada City, CA: Crystal Clarity, 2012. Also online.

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