Autobiography of a Yogi Critique
"When in doubt, win the trick." - Edmund Hoyle. Yogananda resorts to many weasel words.
There are autobiographies and said autobiographies, like Book on Yogis: A Collaborative Effort by P. Yogananda (dead 1952) and SRF editors.
Marshall Govindam writes in an article :
While romantic autobiographies and polished biographies written by devotees usually avoid mention of the humanness if not failings of their cherished subjects, such accounts do more damage than good. . . . This is why . . . the author has attempted to avoid varnishing the truth of things, and to recount the . . . problematic.
"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 registered church in California. The editors there have not changed the title yet, and 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, for example. Thus, we may see for ourselves the many changes that SRF made in later editions after they bought the copyright from the first publisher 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"? There is good sense in retitling it if branding is overruled. Book on Yogis, edited stepwise for decades after Yogananda's death is more accurate. After all, such a title alternative is not misleading and unfair. Yogananda had originally thought to name it "Yogi-Christs of India," by the way. (Further down there is more on how the book came to be, and by whom). Yogananda sought to make a catchy title and was free with the word "Christ". For the reckoning, there are at least two large Yogananda publishers around. They are SRF and Ananda Sangha. Many others find the autobiography to be a propaganda work though all its editions. Who or what does it speak well of? Word counts may offer initial help in sorting out such things. [Autobiography word counts]
Furthermore, the SRF publisher 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 from 2000 and into 2005. (Parsons 2012, 171)
Many have had tough experiences through this book, after seeing that ideals it advocates, have been shovelled away by Self-Realization Fellowship. Such disharmonies have disappointed many folks and made a former SRF vice president, Kriyananda, write good wake-up calls (2010; 2012).
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 the present digest version, information is added to the text to make it serve the reader, and it has angered some. Among the digest's features: information to compare with from a Yogananda biography, and pinpointing of unsupported claims - apart from word counts and deliberations on top of them.
Some of the most telling sides to the Autobiography may well be:
Yogananda founded an US church in California in late March 1935. That was right before he left the States for India and thereby escaped a court case where he in time was found guilty of false and untrue money charges (!). It is not in the Autobiography, but in court documents. A savoury moral is seldom had by false charges.
His fellowship, SRF, publishes later editions of the Autobiograpy, and is understood to be a cult by a lot of former SRF monastics who should know better where the shoe pinches than outsiders. The publishers have edited Yogananda's autobiography heavily. The book may serve as a gateway to guru submission, and SRF group adherence and submission. Leader submission is a great mark of a cult.
The yogi author of the book, a Hindu monk, also presents notorious hinduism-twisted constructs of the most common Christian faith and its scripture to prop up the ideas of 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. Such infiltration work has led a Catholic professor, Father Mateo, to charge the guru with heresy.
SAY NO TO KRIYA CRAWLING TO YOUR LOSS . . . There are things to be aware of concerning a famed, quite innocent-looking book that deals with the fantastic, exaggerates much, and contains many far-out claims, but not proper evidence. Let the handy acronym AIR-BOC give a handle as you seek fair, unbiased information about strange issues in a book that was written to impress and spread a breathing method called kriya yoga that most often comes with strings attached. However, core kriya yoga, ujjayi, is free and available in detail here: [Link].
It pays to relax when it comes to Yogananda goadings. Much of what Yogananda writes about it goes unverified, parts looks hugely exaggerated, and quite much of his kriya system differs substantially from the kriya system his own gurus taught. One is advised to see through the guru's hype and avoid submitting to him and other unmet ones to learn kriya as well. Basic freedoms are saved thereby. That is one fine reason, granted that Yogananda publicly hailed dictatorship in his East-West magasine of February 1934, and the SRF claim of extreme, unconditional submission to him and five more said but ill-matched gurus. Anyone who learns kriya through SRF has to make a kriya oath to that end, against gospel sayings such as 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 traditional meditation methods that Yogananda in time added to kriya are publicly known methods, and at least some of them have been so for centuries. 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. Hence, there are alternatives to SRF-submission.
SYRINGES. The Autobiography of a Yogi has its syringes of a sort. They may inject "sand in your system" - things like:
COMPARE WITH A YOGANANDA BIOGRAPHY. A Yogananda biography, named Paramhansa Swami Yogananda: Life-portrait and Reminiscences (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 sinister unpleasantries from his readers, including tense quarrels with his guru (Dasgupta 2006, 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!'" (Dasgupta 2006, 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. (Dasgupta 2006, 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 (Dasgupta 2006, 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." (Durga 1992/93, 151)
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, possibly in the hope of benefitting more.
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)
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) titles later on, and Rachel Faye Wright became SRF's nun-president for fifty-five years from 1955 and until her death in 2010.
LATER SRF-EDITING OF YOGANANDA'S AUTOBIOGRAPHY. As pointed out, a recurrent 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 toward limiting through four decades.
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 . . .
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 (Kriyananda 2012) contain many similar points. The first book may not be easy to get to today, but Yogananda for the World covers about the same ground, 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.
Kriyananda himself was SRF's vice president for some years until 1962, when SRF's Board of Directors asked him to resign. He should have insider knowledge of that circle. (WP, "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 at least twenty-eight significant deletions have been made. He also sees forty-eight insertions of SRF's name. Some of them promote the organisation. 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 Autobiography.
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, Yogananda is quoted to write "Kriya is for everybody." 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: A former SRF president [Daya Mata when she was old] "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 April 2018):
There exist quite old SRF documents that show that Yogananda had devotees to help him. Tara Mata was one of them. Yogananda was not fully proficient in English - Learning a language may not finish throughout a life, and depends a lot on interest.
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 the points he fixed for faithful followers are to live without normal creature comforts (and without nut allergies, presumably). In a reworked SRF charter of 1954, SRF quite silently removed some of them:
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 a facade. In reality, they have removed some of his guidelines, for example some in the original SRF Church registration documents from late March 1935.
Fair play is different, and should not be handled as a mere trifle or nuisance. Kriyananda and others have delved into that side of how SRF has come to work its way.
So, by now we have learnt by Kriyananda that the late Daya Mata signed under oath that the "Yogi Book" was written by a Yogananda committee." (Yogananda for the World, Chap. 16). Moreover, SRF-editors 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. Another title, Book of on Yogis: A Collaborative Effort by P. Yogananda (dead 1952) and SRF editors, could serve transparency editing much better.
There is more to professional editing than being generally reliable or fair. A book that is presented as an autobiography and seeks to influence by propaganda that in the end could serve dumb submission of gullible guys, does it really have to be fluent and well edited? It could be that lack of editing standard actually work better. So Kriyananda and his helpers deserve many thanks.
A good look into the book should help a person get aware of such things, but some of them build up over decades. So it may help to be forewarned by experienced men and women out of prison. - Another look that could help is into the publisher. It has shown up that SRF dealings can become tough, also for many in high places in the org. Lola Williamson (2010) has documented recent controversies inside SRF neatly. Excerpts:
SRF is hierarchical in its approach with the Board [of management] essentially controlling the decision-making process. (Williamson 2010:75) A labyrinth of difficulties beset the organization. . . . SRF hire[d] outside communication and organizational consultants to offer advice on how to handle the situation. They also suggested that SRF hire counselors and psychologists to deal with the festering psychological problems that some of the monastics seemed to be experiencing. . . . The end result was that a large number of monastics left SRF from about 2000 to 2001 [and] the communication consultants were let go, the existing committee members replaced by others content with the status quo, and the psychologists relieved of their duties. (Williamson 2010:76) [More]
About one third of the SRF monastics left the premises between 2000 and 2005, writes Jon Parsons in another good book (2012, 171)
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 ◦SermonIndex.net, 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." (Kriyananda 2010, 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. The New Testament definitely speaks of other entities than Yogananda by these words. I won'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 draws the "Heresy" card]
Quoting Ralph W. Emerson, SRF once wrote in its magazine that an organisation is the lenghtened shadow of a man. To the degree that Yogananda's lengthened shadow has become a cult, the organisation and its fellowship seems "shadowy" authoritarian. Yogananda's enormous stress on devotion, submission and veneration are factors of authoritarianism. (Cf, EB, "Hinduism: The history of Hinduism")
SRF'S NOTORIOUS 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. The drummed up gurus teach differently on vital subjects, as has been shown, but SRF repeats stubbornly they are in complete harmony. They are a church for that. But a feigned or 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). By such teachings the Gita finds him to be a front demoniac. He could be just another illusion, though.
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 out things like that.
If you want to stick to freedom from authoritarian submission, there are other societies that teach kriya yoga without strings attached. In Satyananda's Yoga, Kriya Yoga may be learnt in courses or from books, for example. Survey the pros and cons if you can. [Comparison]
GREAT CONFUSION INTO THE BARGAIN IS POSSIBLE TO SOME. The publishers, SRF, teaches that the teachings of their six drummed-up gurus are in harmony. Krishna and Jesus are among them. They were added to the four others on the list some years afterwards - Krishna as late as in the 1970s. (Yogananda, 1998, 432)
Each of the four holds the world is illusory. It does not make sense. Further, the six gurus are not in complete harmony. Example: Jesus teaches the soul can be destroyed (Matthew 10:28; Luke 12:4-6; Matthew 5:29), whereas Yogananda teaches it is immortal [e.g, in Yogananda.'s Sayings of Paramahansa Yogananda (1980, 25). One may add to that, "Faked harmony and dreamt-up harmony are not the best forms of harmony."
Now, since Yogananda repeatedly teaches the world is an illusion, a dream only, his appearance, his ideas and SRF's teachings can be nothing more than dreams. The tidings are that some unfounded Yogananda notions may entangle and influence minds for a long time, even though 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 called Mateo. [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.
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? The biographer Dasgupta also reveals that the adult Yogananda, afraid of ghosts for years (Dasgupta 2006, 112), tricked 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. (Dasgupta 2006, 40-41).
Others did not have to be called in to make a finer impression on the maharaja than the one-pupil school deserved. 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, writes Dasgupta (Ibid).
NO CULTIST REVIEW. Guru hailing does not necessarily make guru or bizarre hailer great. Many of the 225 reviews of the Autobiography on Amazon.com 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 accomplished research and its findings as well as subjective experiences. A few research studies have been done on kriya yoga, but none by Yogananda's fellowship.
Wrong claims are troublesome in Yogananda circles and his wake. Some Yogananda followers wrongly 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 the organisation he had started too. A hand-written letter by him shows how little he had come to think of SRF when writing it: [◦Link]. There is an additional Yogananda letter that tells more of it (A digital copy may be found).
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." (Dasgupta 2006, 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 led others to believe this and that until events proved his words wrong. Take a look into Yogananda's major world prophesies and see how false they are. Many have been doctrinated by statements on his part and ill-placed trust in him (called gullibility). To be taken advantage of is what membership in a cult is for. Citations:
[A] half-minute of kriya equals one year of natural spiritual unfoldment . . .
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. (Shriyukteshvar 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).
Soap: In science circles, man and woman are not known to have not lived on earth for twelve million years. How can anyone prove Yukteswar right? SRF and Yogananda have put on the market a simplified kriya and a hype that goes unverified 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" a simplified kriya that benefits monastic SRF managers that studiedly have placed themselves far above lay members, says Kriyananda (2010). They also live the lie that they represent "original Christianity as taught by Jesus," while blatantly ignoring that ◦there was no monasticism in early Christianity, and no Christianity of Jesus either. Christianity came into being as late as around 50 AD, Acts 15:109-29; 21:25 show.
If SRF really were Jesuans and not masquerading, they would sell all their properties and give to the poor (cf. Matthew 5:39-42; Mark 10:21, etc.). And SRF has had time and enough millions donated to get research done on kriya and its other methods.
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:
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)
To clarify these matters still further:
Jesus reserve his teachings and salvation for Jews (Matthew 15:24; 10:5-8; Vermes 2012), but only depraved Jews: those of sound moral and spirit are not called by him, and the healthy do not need him (Mark 2:17; Matthew 9:12-13; 12.11). Jesus further puts his sheep on a path to perdition in that he teaches his sheep what is opposed to sound self-preservation. Thereby eyes, limbs, property, fit living-conditions and life itself soon enough are at risk (Matthew 5: 29-30; 39-42). Finally, marring losses come to those who call him 'Lord, Lord' without doing as he tells. (Luke 6:46)
Jesus in the gospels tells that his teachings, salvation and kingdom are for ill (read: depraved) 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. Too 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 (the ill, immoral among) 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. From 2000 to 2005 about one third of all the SRF monastics left SRF (Parsons 2012, 171), and many of them in tears, distress, dismay, and great dissatisfaction - it is evidenced on the SRF Walrus board A backup site for its first years is still around (2018) [◦SRF Walrus Backup]
SUMMARY. In addition to the above there may be several helpful observations in the digest, hopefully. One such observation could well be that dangerous Kali was the worshipped as the favourite Divine Mother of Yogananda. "Kali's "iconography, cult, and mythology commonly associate her with death, sexuality, violence," says Encyclopaedia Britannica ("Kali"). To delight in violence, sex, and death - it is best to avoid that lot a lot and stay on the safe side, if "The worshipped woman - divine or otherwise - may be taken to reflect the worshipper, and much too."
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. Some knowledge offers help.
To be going along a fine and fit path, by living well and so on - that matters. Although some measured reserve may often be fit, to let the happy ones shine forth involves a good way of living.
The doings and statements of SRF, Yogananda, and his glowing adherents and disgruntled former ones, could require clarifications. Yet narcissists may not believe much of it.
We may enjoy many classy tales that are presented just as tales.
Bhattacharya, Jogesh Chandra. 1964. Yogiraj Shri Shri Lahiri Mahashay. Kadamtala, Howrah: Shrigurudham (Ghosh).
Dasgupta, Sailendra. 2006. Paramhansa Swami Yogananda: Life-portrait and Reminiscences. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse.
Durga Mata. 1992/93. A Paramhansa Yogananda Trilogy of Divine Love. Beverly Hills, CA: Joan Wight Publications.
EB: Encyclopaedia Britannica, i.e, Britannica Online.
Kriyananda, Swami. 2001. A Place called Ananda. Rev. 2nd ed. Nevada City, CA: Crystal Clarity.
⸻. 2010. Rescuing Yogananda. Nevada City, CA: Crystal Clarity.
⸻. 2012. Yogananda for the World. Rev. ed. Nevada City, CA: Crystal Clarity, 2012.
Parsons, Jon R. 2012. A Fight For Religious Freedom: A Lawyer's Personal Account of Copyrights, Karma and Dharmic Litigation. Nevada City, CA: Crystal Clarity.
Shriyukteshwar, Swami. 2002. Srimad Bhagavad Gita: Spiritual Commentary. Portland, MN: Yoganiketan.
Vermes, Geza. 2005. The Authentic Gospel of Jesus. London: Penguin, 2005.
⸻. 2010. The Real Jesus: Then and Now. Minneapolis, MI: Fortress Press.
⸻. 2012. From Jewish to Gentile: How the Jesus Movement Became Christianity. Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR) 38:06, Nov/Dec.
Williamson, Lola. 2010. Transcendent in America: Hindu-Inspired Meditation Movements as New Religion. London: New York University Press.
Yogananda, Paramahansa. 1946. Autobiography of a Yogi. 1st ed. New York: Philosophical Library.
⸻. 1980. Sayings of Paramahansa Yogananda. 4th ed. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship.
⸻. Man's Eternal Quest.2nd ed. Los Angeles: SRF, 1982.
⸻. 1998. Autobiography of a Yogi. 13th ed. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship.
Harvesting the hay
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