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Echinacea detail from a photo by Andrew Butko.

Going Churchy for No Good Reason at All

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

Yogananda's blunder 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."

Seeing that the questioner was a little bit taken aback, he added, "I never say that people are my disciples. God is the Guru. They are His disciples." (Paramhansa Yogananda. The Master Said, 1952:6).

Churchlike formalism came by steps and stages. In 1925 Yogananda bought a 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 compadre 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. Many think well of him, the church and fellowship he started. There are several weighty points to take into account behind the current facades. Don't you think these points are severe?

  1. Much for dictatorship. The guru was openly for Mussolini and dictatorship. [More].

  2. Yogananda admitted that starting SRF was a big blunder. He regretted having started SRF. It is in a letter where he tells of it as a big blunder. Can such a confession affect those disciples who have toiled there? Not necessarily. [◦Some more]

  3. Disciples drove away Mom. His close disciples drove away the Divine Mother from him one Christmas Night (Yogananda 1952:19-20)*. They did more to the fellowship's male vice president - they drove him out and sued his new society too. Besides, one third of the SRF monastics left a generation later.

  4. Some failed guru projects. His sayings of having an "all-accomplishing will" and his failed undertakings do not match well. During the Christmas Night happening he wanted God Mother to stay, but no. The company we keep amounts to something. Much in life depend on others and one's main circumstances.

  5. Jesus included against Bible statements. His original guru line - those who sent him to the West, also called parampara (succession of gurus) - did not include Jesus. He still talked of having taken Jesus on board as a guru of SRF, blatantly disregarding the Bible sayings of Jesus, that his teachings, Kingdom and that salvation were for Jews only (Matthew 15:24; 10:1-8; Vermes 2012), and lots of his warnings. The Jesus-Yogananda fellowship looks like an all-unfit invention. It took shape after Yogananda had been about five years in the USA, to make a Christian public more accepting, Marshall Govindan writes.
    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 Govindan. [◦Link]

  6. Allowing for good paradoxes: contradicting oneself might do harm. Many Yogananda teachings do not add up. [More]

* SRF's 1952 version of how it happened illustrates that the company one keeps means a lot:

Yogananda 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.

Big mistakes - who are they?

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 to others. SRF might be good for some others; it is possible.

The next question is: How true was his admission at the time he made it; and then later on, in the light of "many things change"? How valid was and is his admission of mistake for how many percent of the guru's monastic followers, lay followers, and so on? And 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 people, 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, 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 the swami's principal 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 cancel it (if he was all infallible as SRF tells)? Well, at least he admitted 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 all of us there are excellent karmic reasons to remedy harsh mistakes as soon as we can, before their effects rise over your head and the heads of others, so to speak. Maybe there is time for rectifying 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 will spread from neglects and wrongdoings. Both these approaches combined could be better still. Making plentiful, good karma is fit, says Buddha.

The guru found that he had started an organisation he repented having started, and did not seem to remedy a lot - did not close down his organisation. Could he have repented all in vain?

Still, a founder's repentance may not mean that all organisations work for bad, or that Self-Realization Fellowship is bad for everyone. It became a thorn in the flesh of Yogananda it seems, but he has passed away and the fellowship goes on. A bit organisational psychology, professional counselling and management theory might perhaps have helped it - who knows? What we do know is that for a few years after 2000, one third of the SRF members left the premises because the organisation climate was not good, and the organisation kept on in the same tracks anyway. Former disgruntled members of SRF credit [its] top-down mentality with creating an unhealthy organization. (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: 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.

So it should not be the starting of an organisation that is the great problem, but how it is like, how it works, and what fruits it yield. If my organisation took me or others downward into dogmatic cermonialism, rituals and other lower outlets for humans, I think I could have repented starting it. If, on the other hand, it shielded tender sprouts and saplings to help the grow well and stand erect too, that would be a good thing. "Fair play is a jewel".

An organisation that tends to undermine the founder and advance its monasticism above him, or en par with him, becomes a problem to the founder and perhaps "most others" also. Sleekness and attention to details are hardly the best marks of an editor of some substance. 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.

I exploded, "Master, I can't do that. Your office would have a fit!"

He said, "You divine nincompoop, whom are your following, the office or me?"

[Dietz 1998, chap. "Mt. Washington"]

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]

Worse

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 keep to the very best methods he taught and not go for recruiting others.

Non-violent and fair newcomers should have been dissuaded from entering. If they do not enter, they do not aggravate the effects of Yogananda's great blunder, and that could well be to their own future benefit. Is that not possible to the Lord? As for wicked 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:

  • You get many conflicting teachings sorted a bit, with a view to help.
  • You also get explained why so many of his teachings are too foolish and fall short one way or another.
  • You get encouraged to be free enough to live a good life, and told how to to learn kriya yoga without bonds. After all, the basic kriya yoga method is public knowledge, and known as ujjayi.

Some who initially thought the guru's flowing oratory was fair, have since tried to get over him. [SRF Walrus]

Crystallised

Some things crystallise over time:

  1. After some years in America, Yogananda went public in purporting that his brand of yoga, called kriya yoga, is the thing for Christians, brings salvation, that Jesus is one of the SRF gurus, and much jangle. However, many deep guru claims go against gospel statements by Jesus and, further, do not stand inspection otherwise too. The late Father Matheo, a Catholic professor, concluded that Yogananda's and SRF teachings are heretical.
  2. Should SRF, headquartered in California, be labelled a cult or sect? Opinions differ. The society's late editor-in-chief, Tara Mata, reportedly said, "We are a sect" to the then SRF vice president, Kriyananda, and similar views are vented by former SRF monastics and other SRF members the SRF Walrus. But one had not take the words from scribbling, anonymous persons for it; it is far better to get to main criterias for cults and check. Some criteria carry more weight than others - allow for that too as you count the scores and see what you come up with. There are "mild" cults and more severe cults around, that is, cults can be graded - at least tentatively - from tense and tight to mild or diffuse. [Cult signs and more].
  3. The fellowship, SRF, proclaims Yogananda to be Love Incarnated, and you find fellowship claims that they think his guidelines are infallible. A Canadian, Geoff Falk, has written about ◦his SRF experiences. "Each one of the SRF line of leaders/gurus . . . are regarded by obedient SRF devotees as being infallible . . . I, too, once foolishly viewed them thusly." The notarised SRF statement is better evidence than a disgruntled member's statements, though.

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:

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)

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]. All of us, as Paramahansaji used to say, are a little bit crazy, and we do not know it. [Former SRF President, Sri Daya Mata [On; "Qualities of a Devotee"]

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.

To top

Rubbing It In

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 Mt 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. (Deut 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 Deut 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 Mt 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.

Buddhism

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]

Contents


Yogananda and SRF blunders, Literature  

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.

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

On many pages are simple markers, brackets and some symbols. What they stand for and how they are used for academic harvesting is shown on the page that the 'Gain-Ways link below will open.

Yogananda blunders and misc., To top Section Set Next

Yogananda blunders and misc. USER'S GUIDE: [Link]  ᴥ  Gain-Ways: [Link]
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