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Know Yourself and Get Glad

Cults in our midst

It seems there have been a whole lot of self-appointed messiahs and gurus throughout time, summarises Dr Margaret Singer in her Cults in Our Midst (2004), adding that these types only get substantial followings in periods of breakdowns in the structure and rules of the prevailing society. They attract only modest followings in eras when a society is functioning in a way that conveys structure and a sense of social solidarity, she tells further (2004, 29).

However, when segments of society cannot see where they fit in, what the rules are, or what the socially agreed-upon answers to life's big questions are, then, like a dormant disease, the ever-present potential cult leaders take hold and lure followers to their causes. (Singer 2004, 29)

Determined self-designated gurus seem to have the only and sure way of life. They induce people to follow them by touting a special mission and special knowledge. The special mission is to preach the contents of a supposedly "secret" learning, which the leaders assert can only be revealed to those who join them. (Singer 2004, 29-30)

Cult leaders usually claim a special mission in life. Whether the lure is warmed-over ancient lore or the most avant-garde secrets of the universe. To step into the elite sphere usually means leaving behind family and friends and forsaking most of the ordinary world. In return, followers are told that they will be let in on the special knowledge, and are recruited as followers. So people at a loss and who look for direction, become victims of the manipulations and exploitations of the skilful con artists. Masses of people are showing they are vulnerable and susceptible to the cults' lure. (Singer 2004, 30)

Many seem to sell their independence and a large part of their happiness to be members of something bigger than a family. That could be a mistake, but we are not all alike. Still, "Do not fall away from happiness," teaches Buddha.

Encouraging prospects:

To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one's family, to bring peace . . . If a man can control his mind he can find the way to Enlightenment, and all wisdom and virtue will naturally come to him." (Buddhist thought, in Kyokai 2004, 80)

A word of warning:

Charity bestowed on those who are worthy of it is like good seed sown on a good soil that yields an abundance of fruits. But alms given to those who are yet under the tyrannical yoke of the passions are like seed deposited in a bad soil. The passions of the receiver of the alms choke, as it were, the growth of merits." (Buddha, as rendered in Carus 1915, 97)

Accordingly, it should more worthwhile to caution against an undemocratic yoke than to sow good and fair seeds in those under it and upholding it by their passions (id-linked hanky-pankies, neuroticism, authoritarianism, or whatever). Probably.

Use the many following points in a check-list and tick off

To develop the understanding further, sort the answers into five groups instead of two, and you will most likely be rewarded with a more nuanced picture - and hence better understanding of what might be at work against your deep happiness-and-great-freedom, Self-actualisation and happiness hand in hand.

Happiness wells up from deep within. If this spring gets stifled - by repressions, subservience and "guru clogging", unfairness - whatever - then things are not working all right. SRF-members and other sectarians - who have pledged devotion and loyalty to the SRF gurus no matter how mistaken they might be or how badly they act, have been heedless, to say the least.

Right involvement means a lot

Some former group members and similar may blame their group for much badness, without considering what enticed them to join it. Self-inspection may work well in such cases, but you never know. Some were fooled to enter also.

Authoritarian groups and setting tend to produce authoritarianism in members, if they were not so from the start.

Run through a set of opportune questions and see how many "yes" points you may grant yourself. Don't swerve from looking twice and looking better if it gives help for life. The reason why thinking twice could help some, is that straight answering requires honesty, and it may take a life-time to retrieve it, if possible at all, after rigid sect involvement. If you write down your points you may not forget or push them aside so easily, so writing them down is recommended.

  1. Have enough control of your own, from first to last. The unhappy clique may take up vicarious bragging. Great claims without a shred of evidence, or contrary to evidence, may be detected too. Heaven as conceived of by many, is such an item - streets paved with gold fit the poor, and on and on. The greatness of unseen but often spoken of angels is better than that of bats, and so on. Maybe the poor braggart is lagging behind too. There is reason to suspect that the better conditions here, the less need for drumming up quite collective fancies too.

    It matters to do better than sallow gold-hankering ones, and might-greedy ones, and business-rigidity lovers.

  2. Ascertain how far you have a say in the group of your desire before you're hopelessly bound to it.

  3. Does the leader of the group or cell claim infallibility or wisdom? There is evidence that Self-Realization Fellowship, SRF, claims flawless wisdom on behalf of their dead guru, who is worshipped as an avatar, a divine descencion, a Christ. There is a book by Canadian Geoffrey Falk that touches on such matters. And yes, there are sectlike streaks in Self-Realization Fellowship.

  4. Do you get confused too? It hardly makes it easier at first for a cult member to find out how far the founding, holy guru or Führer talked and wrote against himself on significant subjects. Self-contradictions abound in the Bible, and in guru sayings too. [Link]

    Then there is the Bhagavad Gita authority in SRF. The guru and his gurus counsel daily reading of it. It says that demons teach the same as Yogananda and many other gurus in SRF, that the world is illusory. That makes some of the claimed gurus in SRF demons [Link]. Jesus used to cast demons out of people, according to the gospels.

    But demons may be OK in Hinduism if they stick to fine standards. The story of Prahlada from one of the Hindu puranas, the Srimad Bhagavatam, is an example of it. He was the son of a demon king who tried to kill him by various means, but Prahlada did not misbehave. His evil father was then killed by the man-lion, Narasimha, one of the incarnations of Vishnu. And Prahlada became the new demon king - [Dimmitt and van Buitenen 1978, 312-20]

    He who knows he is confused is not in the worst confusion. The man in the worst confusion will end his life without ever getting straightened out. - The Chuang Tzu, chap 12, section 14; Watson 1968, section 12]

  5. Are you permitted to question teachings, to accept just some parts? Buddha allows it. [Link]

  6. Is there a strong emphasis placed on recruiting new members? "Go east, west, south and east to spread the message," said Yogananda from his hotel balcony, in SRF's Golden Anniversary Booklet (1970).
    In actual practice, core things of SRF are in the hands of nuns and monks. They have other things to do. Among them is keeping Mata-monastic control over it and Yogananda writings, which they publish.

  7. Do group leaders [harass or] make sexual advances?

  8. Must you clear what you say about the group? Are you told what to say about the group? Are you free to come and leave as you will? In SRF you may come as you wish. And on the surface level you may be allowed to leave - and yet -

    Paramahansa Yogananda quotation "There is only one guru uniquely the devotee's own. But if you turn away from the emissary of God, He silently asks: 'What is wrong with you . . .?' . . . He who cannot learn through the wisdom and love of his God-ordained guru will not find God in this life. Several incarnations at least must pass before he will have another such opportunity." - Paramahansa Yogananda, SRF magazine, spring 1974, p 6. From a talk at the Headquarters, 17 Oct. 1939.

  9. Are indecent and threatening prospects aimed at former members and those who express a desire to leave? Consider the authoritarian and dogmatic tone of it.

  10. Are leaders honest about the activities? SRF wears a Christian facade of Jesusism, which fails for many reasons. Some reasons given: Among other things you swear unconditional allegiance to Guru Jesus who is credited with saying, "Do not swear." A fit Jesusian does not swear at any time, on his word. Swearing is not fit, nor are shallow facade-making and pretences and upheld inconsistencies. [See Wikipedia, s.v. "Jesusism" for more]

  11. Is there a high degree of secrecy? Yes. The core methods of SRF are guarded secrets, although they may be learnt from other lines freely nowadays, happily [see Satyananda 1981; 2001]. But Jesus (one of the SRF gurus, it is claimed in SRF), says one should not do such things, but give away freely what was had freely.

    Buddha too says in the Maha-parinibbana Sutta, (Digha Nikaya 16), 2:32, that he gives his teachings open-handedly. "I have set forth the Dhamma without making any distinction of esoteric and exoteric doctrine; there is nothing, Ananda, with regard to the teachings that the Tathagata holds to the last with the closed fist of a teacher who keeps some things back."

    It could be decent to adjust accordingly, at the very least for adherents of Jesusism, unless they are asleep.

If you consider that "yes" is a fit response to half of the questions above, try not to get into a further, subservient role in that setting (group). The group appears to have traits that mark authoritarianism, which cults express in their own ways, openly or secretly indecently, as the case may be.

Gross Self-Contradictions Suggest Neurotics

The suggestions below pertain to SRF only:

  • Are you allowed to dress and behave all on your own most often? -- Not as a monk or nun or novice unless you start your own order - which Nayaswami Kriyananda, a former SRF vice president - has been up to very recently.

  • Can any member stay pertinent, handsome and neat as she or he likes? -- Maybe and maybe not. If you are a monastic, the rules are set, like all of them or not. If you are a lay member of SRF, it might depend how far you are from a centre and its enculturating influences, if any. "Far from court, far from care," is a proverb to bear in mind.

  • Do your leaders deride frank and common guys? --

  • Is there any unfit secrecy policy; or unsociable fractional strides? -- Yes, as for the kriya teachings. Fractional strides in SRF are probably repressed, if any. But around 2002 one third of all SRF monastics left. Earlier, after sister Daya got the leadership, many kriya yoga initiators left the organization too, writes the Yogananda biographer Dasgupta. (2011)

  • Do alarming dictates from above cause problems in sexual and other quite personal matters? Here is a handful:

    • SEX. Yogananda's "have sex once a month, more or much less" to married couples can ruin a marriage. It has done so. He also advocates no sex at all for singles among his devotees.

    • WORK. "Hard work has never hurt anyone," according to Yogananda, who died of a heart attack at fifty-nine. [Work with untimely deaths and harm in its wake]

    • CLOTHING. His foolish regulations of going about hatless, barefooted or in sandals even in winter, may not come in handy.

    • FASTING. His dieting guidlines with plenty of unnecessary fasting are dated nuisances.

    • SLEEP. His sleep guidelines are incomplete and skewed. Yogananda's "five hours of sleep at night are enough," do not suit long sleepers. How much sleep we need is in part individual, and sleep deprivation is nothing to go for. To function well, many need 7 1/2–8 hours a night (average), and even more. Better see for yourself than develop a neurosis due to dictates: [Sound sleep and Yogananda]

    • FALSE, GREAT CLAIMS. A guru who says there is a way if the will is applied, should be able to demonstrate it himself. Yogananda did not succeed in all he wanted to accomplish. Facts are had: [False Yogananda claims]

    • FALSE PROPHESIES. Yogananda said, in short, that Europe would be devastated, Russia annihilated, and England finished before the year 2000 CE (Cf. Kriyananda 1973, ch 6). Guess how cult members react to failed prophesies. The answer: "They remain cult members," may hit the mark in so many cases. [Yogananda prophesies, gullibility and life lies]

Being lorded over, also in the private life, spells being deprived of autonomy. Governing others by a low faith works against fair and fit fact-findings and may form neurotics also.

Fares are Good if They Bring Lots of Good Opportunities

Learn how to live well and hope for conditions that follow suit. You can hardly have the one without the other.

Stay away from silly fares in order to breed good opportunity also.

  1. Stay away from silly networks for your own good - the sooner the better.

  2. Go for candid, good fares where you're allowed to accomplish things on your own. If you go for candid, good fares fairly often, fairly well, you could thrive better and accomplish some rewarding things on your own, eventually.

  3. Hold on to good chances and neat opportunities the day you can. It's better to take to what is normal winner truths that hearsay canon - and not waste opportunities either.

Stick to What Helps You on and Up

What about a Balanced Mate and Good Ideas?

  1. Stick to carefully faceted and smart thinking that is good for you and note that much that's conform through law can be at variance with religious instructions fairly often. Laws can protect people from unbalanced missionaries.

  2. Balance neatly. Some good ideations (ideas) help.

  3. Find a cosy mate and don't be overtly short-sighted. He who talks down on woman, forgets Mother. (Norwegian).

Some monks and nuns and simillar are allowed to have many children in their settlements. [see Pevsner 1972; and Nyingma Buddhism]

It is unwise to leak out your own basic frivolity; keep it well guarded. Much nobility shows the way here. What do you think?

Be still very fit for bland, local applications if fit and systematic. Think well in deep, private matters; it may be the best you can do.

Maybe your basic grounding is too scarred for you to cope well.

To Have Assets to Help You Remain Sincere, Is Good

  1. Best sincerity is in congruence with one's footing and good grounding. Often you can allocate much more better. It could pay to go for that. There are many sorts of beginner's problems, and we have all been beginners.

  2. Have your strong marks and sides. it could be that at times the best we are allowed to deal in is systematic presentation. Tidy, quite independent living is worth going for. And good things can take time.

  3. Preserve good assets and gain new ones, such as appliances that matter. The good life is well composed, well aligned, and hardly marked by flares of anger.

Don't Let Weird Teachings Be Your Lot throughout Life

  1. Study basic subjects first-hand. You don't have to become a recruit of anyone to learn excellent yoga at home. Yogananda was an orator who talked big and used the Bible to promote his kind of yoga - in part with astoundingly wrong bible teachings into it. The late Catholic professor Mateo finds he teaches heresy, for one thing. The triune God of Yogananda is his accommodation of one of the Hindu trinities to Christianity, and not the other way round. You can read into it for yourself: [More].

    To study well, stay awake if the weird mist comes from the hills of dwarfing. Find better things to do than worship Kali, the man-slaying goddess-mother of Yogananda.

  2. Good teachings stand the light of day - and clever inspection. One should not get into complementary patterns with fools, but avoid their company, teaches Buddha.

  3. Much trusted gurus may get too puffed up and far too whimsical-categorical. Trust no neurotic with highly distorted talks of how illusions are reality.

Cults Considered and "Fever Lessons"

To obey is "always" an option for a small being. Maybe to get neurotic too.

Recruitment of new cult members under the flag of original quack Christianity had better be stopped. Hopefully those who haven't been initiated may feel free to leave.

The boss who started the church that came to be called a cult, may at times call those who leave "quitters or traitors", without finding fault with his own inconsistent sermonising and bullying.

Many cults claim their self-contradictory guidelines to be infallible or God's will and things like that.

It is easy to be fooled by telltales. But it tends to show up in the long run and in retrospect what the fixed aims of a movement really are, beneath the fine-looking facades and subterfuges. Greed for power, dominance over people, and much wealth and splendour may come to the fore in time - things like that.

At first, there were no mishmash SRF Lessons of various Yogananda outputs. You got methods. Some were parts of the kriya yoga system in Yogananda's own line of gurus, and others were added. What is more, he removed several of the vital, original ones, for they were difficult. It means that the methods SRF offer, have been mixed. Some others in his line did not welcome his changes or amputations, if you will (Dasgupta 2011, 101; 109-10). And as Yogananda also made many changes to how kriya yoga is to be spread in his own line, the SRF ways of distribution kriya yoga are not welcomed by anyone. [◦:Article about violations]. Also, when the Lessons were expanded, many older members did not like it, and for good reasons. What about:

Yogananda Don't take my word for anything. - A Yogananda word, in Dietz 1998

It appears to be excellent counsel to a woman disciple. Yet, there is a knack to it after all: Are the quoted words included among all the other words by Yogananda? That is the question . . .

Now, contrary to such a fit and fair view of the SRF Lessons, an eager SRF adherent who later rose to become a soap star, once said, "Master said all you need to know is in the SRF Lessons." Well, it is not like that. They lack much.

In many cloisters those who have the roles of superiors, dissuade flourishing correspondence with men and women of the world, for the influence is thought to be unhealthy. But it could be the other way round. It depends in part on social climates.

In all cases, "fevers" might need to be controlled. Worth resides inside the seeker too, as the Self. It tends to be overlooked in a cultish group.


Cult detection, probing cultish dealings, sect basics, sectarians at a glance, Self-Realization Fellowship, Literature  

Carus, Paul. The Gospel of Buddha: Compiled from Ancient Records. Chicago: The Open Court Publishing Company, 1915.

Dasgupta, Sailendra. Paramhansa Swami Yogananda: Life-portrait and Reminiscences. Rev. ed. Bloomington, IN: iUniverse, 2011.

EB: Encyclopaedia Britannica, or Britannica Online.

Dietz, Margaret Bowen. Thank You, Master. Nevada City, CA: Crystal Clarity, 1998.

Dimmitt, Cornelia, ed., and J. A. B. van Buitenen, tr. Classical Hindu Mythology. Philadelphia: Temple University, 1978.

Kyokai, Bukkyo Dendo. The Teachings of Buddha. New Delhi: Sterling Paperbacks, 2004.

Kriyananda, Swami, ed. The Road Ahead: World Prophecies by the Great Master, Paramahansa Yogananda. Nevada City, CA: Ananda Publications, 1973.

Pevsner, Nikolaus. An Outline of European Architecture. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1972.

Satyananda Saraswati, Swami. Kundalini Tantra.8th ed. Munger: Yoga Publications Trust, 2001.

Satyananda Saraswati, Swami. A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga and Kriya. Munger: Yoga Publications Trust, 1981.

Singer, Margaret Thaler. Cults in Our Midst: The Continuing Fight Against Their Hidden Menace. Rev. ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003.

SRF. Self-Realization Fellowship: Golden Anniversary. Los Angeles: SRF, 1970.

Watson, Burton, tr. The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu. New York: Columbia University Press, 1968.

Added: Books on Social Psychology

What goes on in groups influences the lives of many. Some ways and some groups help, and others hardly so. It might be good to know about ingroups and other flocks, and group dynamics as a help to improve one's standing in life. "Group psychology" is treated in many books on social psychology. Many are well laid out. One way or the other, any of these might be rewarding:


Aronson, Elliot, Timothy D. Wilson, Robin M. Akert. Social Psychology. 8th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Educaton, 2013.

Baron, Robert A., and Nyla R. Branscombe. Social Psychology. 13th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Educaton, 2012.

Baumeister, Roy F., and Eli J. Finkel, eds. Advanced Social Psychology: The State of the Science. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Delamater, John D., and Daniel J: Myers. Social Psychology. 7th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2011.

Gilovich, Thomas, Dacher Keltner, Richard E. Nisbett. Social Psychology. 2nd ed. New York: Norton and Co., 2006.

Rohall, David E., Melissa A. Milkie, Jeffrey W. Lucas. Social Psychology: Sociological Perspectives. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Educaton, 2014. -- Rewarding

Stroebe, Wolfgang. Social Psychology and Health. 3rd ed. Maidenhead, UK: Open University Press, 2011. -- Health perspectives rule.

Harvesting the hay

Markers, brackets and other symbols on several pages are for easing the reading and handling: (1) Graphic representations explained. (2) Digesting.

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