One thing is facade (surface) and another is content. Those who cannot discern between surface and content may be fooled for a long time. Who wants that? On the other hand, setting up your own church with a great-looking facade to cover tyranny might bring tax benefits, money in the bank and status in its wake.
Go to Scholars for Good Information and Horses for Neighs
The guru Paramahansa Yogananda (1893-1952) was a Hindu emissary who came by boat to Boston in September 1920 and got a Rosicrucian for a follower there that year, on Christmas Eve into Christmas night.
Some say the yogi founded his Self-Realization Fellowship, SRF (earlier known by several names, such as Sat-Sanga) in 1920. But is that so? We are told God* got a disciple in Boston that year, and founding papers from the early 20's could be missing.
* "Master, Dr. Lewis was your first disciple in this country, wasn't he?" The Master answered, "That's what they say."
Churchlike formalism came later on. In 1925 Yogananda bought a run-down hotel with eighteen rooms on a hilltop in Los Angeles, with the help of friends, and made it his headquarters. However, since Yogananda was not a US citizen, he did not own the place.
In spring 1935, Yogananda had his formerly nonregistered fellowship registered as a church in California, and then left the States for India. In this way he avoided paying back money he owed the former co-worker Dhirananda, who had got severely displeased with Yogananda's behaviour in New York. The hotel remained the headquarters of the fellowship (and church), now with new owners.
Yogananda got quite a following over the years. But be alert to what is at stake if you get awed by smooth, gilded facades and get glimpses into what lies behind them only after you have been enrolled in what former members describe as a cult - an American cult among thousands more cults. In Margaret Singer's estimate there are about 5000 cults in the United States (Cults in Our Midst, 2003, xvii). It is quite a number. Estimates range between 1000 and 5000, depending in part on what is called 'cult', or 'sect'.
Cults seem to attract only modest followings in eras when a society is functioning in a way that conveys structure and a sense of social solidarity (2004, 29). Otherwise, a cult may attract or lure potential followers by touting a special mission and special knowledge, or a supposedly "secret" learning, whether the lure is warmed-over ancient lore or the most avant-garde secrets of the universe. Beginners are led to believe that by joining a cult they enter an elite sphere, vulnerable and susceptible to the cults' lure and/or victims of con artists. (Singer 2004, 29-30)
As for Yogananda's society, SRF, don't you think these points are severe?
* SRF's 1952 version of how it happened illustrates that the company one keeps means a lot:
Every Christmas, disciples and students gathered with the Master at Mount Washington for a long meditation, which usually lasts all day and into the night. During the Christmas meditation in 1948 the Divine Mother appeared to the Master, and the devotees heard him conversing with Her. Many times he said, with a deep sigh, "Oh, You are so beautiful!" He told many of the devotees present Her wishes concerning their lives. Then suddenly he said, "Don't go! You say the material desires of these people are driving you away? Oh, come back! Don't go away!" (p. 19-20)
Thanks to two swamis and former SRF monastics there is proof of many of the points above. Links to such evidence and other references are further down. A special thank goes to an encouraging SRF nun I talked with in Paris on SRF issues, and another one to the one who saved and put online again the first years of the SRF Walrus discussion board.
Yogananda was a bhakti swami. Swami Satyeswarananda has laid bare how he erred - in Satyeswarananda's kriya-grounded opinion.
The swami also exposes how Yogananda once wrote that starting an organization was an "absolutely foolish act" - a great blunder. This is a great admittance: ◦ "I have committed a great blunder by starting an organization.". Satyananda lays bare details as well: According to the swami, Yogananda wrote in a hand-written letter that it was a great blunder to start SRF. A copy of the letter in the Bengali version of Babaji and His Legacy, Chapter 40, "Learning from the living lips of a Guru", page 821: [◦More]
The Yogananda admission of a big blunder does not have to mean much for others: theoretically, SRF might be good for some others if not for him. It depends on what he meant by big blunder - did he refer only to himself? For him and some others involved, or all involved, perhaps?
Also, how true was his admission at the time he made it; and then later on, for many or all involved in the foreseeable future in the light of "many things change" and "the times, they are a-changing"? Could SRF work for good for Yogananda lay followers even if it was a blunder for him, or because it was blunder for him and monastics, and so on? If so, helping others to one's loss is an issue too.
Beneath the tip of the iceberg is about ten times more ice to consider. Beneath Yogananda's confession of a big blunder is more to be alert to as well. So why did he write what he did? What did he think was wrong with his founding of SRF? Questions are queuing. If a topic is worth exploring, one cannot escape considering it from different angles and also considering there are different people around, at least. Here is one: "He regretted starting something that was good for members who were otherwise in for getting too fond of beer, but were SRF-discouraged from drinking it. His guidelines against alcohol might have stopped many from becoming drunks." Hence, there might be no reason to paint everything utterly black!
Swami Satyeswarananda, who has written thirty books and served as a professor of law, voices his critique based on a handed-over tradition. This is his main angling in the matter. [◦Link]
The Great Whistleblower Yogananda found he had been very foolish in starting his fellowship. A question arises: Why wasn't he wise enough to close down his organisation when he regretted having started it? Or why did he not change it to something he could accept better than eating faeces, as he tells in the letter? (If he was all infallible as SRF tells)? Well, it stands out he was capable of doing foolish things. Perhaps he got "third thoughts" after getting second thoughts, and hoped that SRF could be good for something, good for many others, some others, or just one other human, or cattle, and so on. For he advocated a vegetarian diet.
Granted all that, for many there may be excellent karmic reasons to remedy harsh mistakes as soon as we can, before their effects rise over one's head and the heads of others, so to speak. Maybe there is time to rectify some things still, by some "right man for the job". If not, go for making lots of good karma to counterbalance the evils that have spread or may spread from neglects and wrongdoings. Both these approaches combined could be better than just one. Making plentiful, good karma is fit, says Buddha, and although it is a lot, being wise and able to count well, and great skilfulness - both help too. Getting good at meditation is wise for many. However, "Don't believe, make sure," a proverb says - [◦Meditation research findings]
The guru found that he had started an organisation he repented having started, and did not seem to remedy a lot - he did not shut down Self-Realization Fellowship, he just complained and in time got disinterested in it, we are informed. In his later years he retired to a hut on the desert fringle in Twenty-Nine Palms. There he spent a large part of those years, writes his biographer (Dasgupta 2006, 104). Could Yogananda have repented much in vain?
Yet, as has been suggested above, a founder's repentance may not mean that all organisations work for bad, or that Self-Realization Fellowship is bad for everyone. "One man's meat, another man's burden," we may suggest. SRF might have become a thorn in the flesh for Yogananda, but he has passed away and the fellowship goes on. A bit organisational psychology, professional counselling and management theory might perhaps have helped it - However, what we do know is that for a few years after 2000, one third of the SRF members left the premises (Parsons 2012, 171), for the organisation climate was not good, and the organisation kept on in the tracks one third did not like a lot. Lola Williamson writes how former, disgruntled members of SRF credit [its] top-down mentality with creating an unhealthy organisation. (Williamson 2010:75)
A labyrinth of difficulties beset the organization. Some people could not even sit in the same room with others because there was so much bad feeling. . . . 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. Two new committees . . . were formed to execute the suggestions made by the consultants. This was the beginning of a split among the monks and nuns who resided at the Mother Center. . . . The end result was that a large number of monastics left SRF from about 2000 to 2001. Due to the entrenched resistance to change, 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. It may be that so many people needed to talk to the counselors that the leadership became fearful of losing control. They reverted to the old style of dealing with problems (Williamson 2010:76).
A word of warning: "Fair play is a jewel". If it is a jewel, suspect it is rare.
In SRF they formed committees in vain, and did not solve underlying problems either.
For all that are interested in sects and entering one of them, think twice. Initial boons may dwindle and the goings may get sour. It is not that all group living is bad, but some forms of groups are. If, on the other hand, a group, an organisation or a church shield tender sprouts and saplings to help the grow well and stand erect on a good basis too, that could be a good thing. It rarely happens in the West, IMO.
Starting an organisation or more is hardly what is bad, but how it is like, how it works, and what fruits it yield. If your own organisation dragged you or others downward into dogmatic cermonialism, rituals and other lower outlets for humans, it seems fit to repent having joined it. It follows that you do your best to remedy the bad. One third of the SRF monastics tried to "change the system from within," as Leonard Cohen sings in a song, where "They sentenced me to twenty years of boredom." But the life of monks and nuns in SRF was worse than years of boredom, in that it was tearing, hard and stressful underneath. That is well documented.
One third of all SRF monastics were removed or they got out on their own (see Parsons 2012, 171), and later cried in vain at night, some of them. There is evidence of that too, on the discussion board that was set up by one of them. Maybe you find it on the ◦SRF Walrus Backup Site.
It helps not to get deceived. Now for a tale:
Margaret Bowen Dietz
(1914-) Yogananda told his follower Margaret (1914-) to feel free to give Kriya (an advanced meditation practice) or any other part of his teachings
to whomever I thought I should. Truth is free.
She was the guru's follower, lived in his surroundings, and yet an "SRF office" loomed that much in her mind. Later "the office" forged even his signature from Paramhansa - which he wrote -, to Paramahansa, by inserting one more 'a' in it. A clear sign of editorial cheating leads to, "What else?" [More, much more]
Yogananda got much disinterested in his organisation and remote in his last years, SRF literature points out. Remoteness may fall short compared with redressing certain things that seem to have become worse: Yogananda could have tucked in his fellowship to avoid getting more members, and let those he had got, be helped to better ways than actively lure, lure and edit Yogananda to induce other people to become members.
Non-violent and fair newcomers were not dissuaded from entering to their own future benefit . . . As for wicked and cruel persons, a cult that makes them drop having sex and procreate, may not be so unwise.
On kriya-connected Gold Scales pages you get what the guru Yogananda did not accomplish before he died:
Some who initially thought the guru's flowing oratory was fair, have since tried to get over him. [SRF Walrus]
Some things crystallise over time:
Dr Geza Vermes sums up something that appears to put to shame Yogananda's so-called "original Christianity of Jesus Christ" - and his commentary work The Second Coming of Christ, for example. Dr Vermes:
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)
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)
Go to scholars for Bible outlooks and escape being trapped by ceremonial vagaries en masse, for example.
For the lack of proper dealings with old material like the four gospels, SRF has given many people difficulties. What is professed, is clearly wrong in some cases. Jesus for Jews only most likely has nothing to do with SRF, since in the gospels he warns against wrong christs. Besides, in the gospels he is presented in ways that qualify for a diagnosis as a psychopath by today's health standards used by WHO and APA. Who is WHO? It is World's Health Organisation, and APA is American Psychology Association. Their lists are a bit different, but largely in agreement.
"Do not drag Jesus into it": that is a lesson the swami Yogananda learnt too late, if at all. Marshall Govindan says he did it for more acceptance in the 1920's and onwards. In the 1930's he hailed Mussolini and dictatorship too, in his own magazine.
Once again: Yogananda who once wrote that starting SRF was a great blunder, why didn't he tuck it away afterwards, so to speak?
And here is a tip: Just because Yogananda said he and fellowship members around him were crazy, does not mean you should join the crew, so to speak. Try to keep your heart intact.
We are all crazy. [Yogananda, 1982:425].
Words or experience and judgement
One thing that is not encouraged, is foolish and steady overreaching in the name of yoga. There is good yoga and good meditation around too.
If you want advice, consult an experienced man. He may have an ample fund of experiences to draw on, and many of them might have been due to his bad judgement in the first place. The experienced advice may carry a whole lot of sufferings in its bosom, for sure.
"Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment," is the succinct observation. "Mistakes are painful when they happen, but years later a collection of mistakes is what is called experience," is another. The cost of dire mistakes is not always a blessing to oneself, though. They may cause havoc, years wasted, failing health, loss of money and opportunities, and an untimely death. To avoid those things - one or more of them - seek the advice of an experienced guy, or go to a psychoanalyst or something after ignoring or not keeping your ears open to the voice of experience.
What is at stake here, encompasses both experiences and our reactions to them, and also what we in turn make out of them - money, good jobs, or other good things on top of hard experiences we survived for some time. There are many sorts of experiences, and not all are for the telling. Also, what is called recovery is not one thing, really. If you think you are fully recovered, but sour, have you really recovered?
Learn from the mistakes of others and improve your lot. So, it should be wise to seek to learn adequately from the mistakes of others. Then you may be spared a lot, and that matters. And you probably won't have time to make all of them yourself [Lessons from mistakes] . . . Miscalculations may ruin you, in gross outline.
Yogananda teaches the Self is God. Live up to that as you can, and do not fall for tricky demagogy that is eager to get money and other resources from members and others. One third of all SRF monastics left the premises of the Yogananda-church between 2000 and 2005, writes Jon Parsons in A Fight For Religious Freedom: A Lawyer's Personal Account of Copyrights, Karma and Dharmic Litigation (2012, 170). Some of them later warned against giving money to that church on a discussion forum that one of the set up on the Internet, the SRF Walrus. A backup for the first years into 2006 is here: [◦ SRF Walrus Backup].
The trouble with Jesus
Yogananda says "he and Jesus are buddies", that is, he claims that Jesus is one of the six SRF gurus. First they were four, then five with Jesus, and later Krishna was added to that. The idea of "guru Jesus" could be a blunder, and not worth getting indoctrinated by a faith - since that faith goes starkly against significant gospel sayings against having several masters, against false Messiahs, ravenous wolves, and so on. Yogananda's ideas about Jesus are contrary to some central claims of handed-over Christianity.
Jesus' understanding of righteousness includes corrupt sacrifice of one or more innocents to let sinners go on seemingly unladen - the Bible way is one of butchering innocent animals to let culprits go on unhurt there and then - for example Lev 16 -, and to butchering an innocent for the sake of culprits. One may assent to it as great and glorious, or recognise it as corrupt - low and able to make neurotics or worse, at any rate. Those who agree to fundamentally corrupt practice and misname it as glorious and righteous and needed for salvation, may be termed sinners, reformed or otherwise, and perhaps crooked at bottom, which may show up after time.
Jesus vouches for the Law of Moses that institutionalises slavery, butchery of innocent animals, scapegoating and other cruelties in Matthew 5:17-19. The tragedy of it includes that the same law would have his own mother, the pregnant Mary, stoned to death on her father's doorstep for getting with child - the foetus Jesus - without being married. Stoned to death if found out, that is. (Deuteronomy 22:23,24).
The Law would also have Jesus executed for prophesying falsely about the end of the world, but he was gone when the end did not come and he was thus exposed as one more false prophet because the end did not come as he foretold (see Bart Ehrman, Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium (2001). When the end should have come, Jesus had already been executed, and perhaps no one at that time thought of executing him once more, but the Law is there.
Yogananda on his part prophesied about the third and fourth World War before 2000 CE, and "England is finished. Finished. Finished!" and Russia annihilated by then too (Kriyananda 2011, 125-26. Extracted; Kriyananda 1973, chap 6). Yogananda definitely made it to that infamous group that Yahweh would have killed . . . according to the Law, that is. (See Deuteronomy 18:20-22).
Both Yogananda and Jesus admittedly sawed off the branches they were sitting on: they sabotaged their own values, and have caused lots of problems to those taken in.
The placement of trust
It could be good and work for good too to look elsewhere for a better concept of righteousness than what is intimately linked to unjust killing of innocents and perhaps camouflages tyranny against innocents, without eschewing corruption. [Lessons on righteousness]
The "righteous Father" of Jesus (Jn 17:25), had him sacrificed for the sins of culprits, we are told. These culprits, who were they? Jews only, according to Matthew 15:24 and 5:10. The so-called missionary command of Jesus at the end of the gospel of Matthew may be a later-added work of forgery, explains Joseph Wheless, well in keeping with what the renowned bible scholar Geza Vermes has concluded about it too (2012).
This spells: Don't go near those "righteous ones"; you do not know if they will turn on you and make you their scapegoat, like people suffering from the Borderline Personality Disorder. Don't get too eager to follow Jesus as a Jesuan if your foreskin is intact. He did not come to save any other people than circumcised ones - Jews, that is. His commands include self-maiming, voluntary impoverishment, giving way to bullies and so on. [More]
And then he was executed and humiliated. The Jews rejected him almost totally. He got little out of being sacrificed as a lamb - which seems uncalled for since the Law of Moses, which Jesus vouched for to the letter, called for two yearly goats instead. According to Matthew, Jesus vouched for the Law (of Moses) without even the tiniest reservation (Matthew 5:17-21).
The Law of Moses. It is in the five books of Moses, the Torah. There are 613 commandments (Mitzvah) that Jews have counted. This also means Jesus vouches for slavery, which is regulated in the Law too. What is more, in that Law, in Leviticus 16, atonement for the whole people of Israel is said to be had by two goats, the original scapegoats. Jesus getting sacrificed was totally unnecessary according to the Law he guaranteed for. And the vicarious sacrifice by two goats was to be stuck to religiously on a yearly basis for all time, it says.
This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: Atonement is to be made once a year for all the sins of the Israelites. (Leviticus 16:34)
Getting free from guilt by letting innocents suffer is a dangerous practice, and easily corruptive. Further, it could be a great-looking carrot for the infirm, a bait to catch those sorts of persons who go for gains over the dead bodies of others, and want to draw advantages of the unnecessary sacrifice of Jesus - unnecessary because two goat would be able to replace him each year, according to the Law that Jesus vouched for (Lev 16). Conforming to rascal demagogy and idiocy indicates the calibre, since healthy, upright persons do not need Jesus, and corrupt "righteousness" that is equal to sinning and breaking the law far and wide.
Buddha's thoughts go largely against bizarre vileness. Buddhism is a way to end suffering, dukka and get happy. Buddha further shows what marks four types of people, and describes each roughly. May I add: inherent needs for punishment may be directed to oneself or others, or both ways - Thereby we have Buddha's three types of tormenters. The good and non-tormening type is described in the Apannaka Sutta: [Four types of men]
Dasgupta, Sailendra. Paramhansa Swami Yogananda: Life-portrait and Reminiscences. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, 2006.
Dietz, Margaret Bowen Dietz. Thank You, Master. Nevada City, CA: Crystal Clarity, 1998. -- On-line.
Ehrman, Bart D. Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium. Paperback ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.
Mata, Daya: "Only Love" Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1976.
Parsons, Jon R. A Fight For Religious Freedom: A Lawyer's Personal Account of Copyrights, Karma and Dharmic Litigation. Nevada City, CA: Crystal Clarity, 2012.
Satyeswarananda Swami. Babaji O Tnar Parampara (Bengali Version of Babaji and His Legacy). Kolkata: Swami Satyeswarananda Trust, 2004.
Singer, Margaret Thaler. Cults in Our Midst. Rev ed. San Franscisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003.
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.
Williamson, Lola. Transcendent in America: Hindu-Inspired Meditation Movements as New Religion. London: New York University Press, 2010.
Yogananda, Paramahansa. Man's Eternal Quest. 2nd ed. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1982.
Yogananda, Paramahansa. The Divine Romance. New ed. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1993.
Yogananda, Paramhansa. The Master Said: A Collection of Paramhansa Yogananda's Sayings and Wise Counsel to Various Disciples. Los Angeles, CA: Self-Realization, 1952.
Harvesting the hay
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