"I mention this to assist those who try for truths in this sport of loyalties and submissions and the like." [From the text]
Self-Realization Fellowship, SRF, is a California-based international church. The former editor of Yogananda's autobiography, Tara Mata (Laurie Pratt), reportedly told a former vice-president of SRF: "We are a sect." [Kriyananda. ◦A Place Called Ananda, ch. 14.]. The fellowship and its founder, Paramahansa Yogananda, are also referred to in a governmental Belgian report on movements, although the inclusion is no proof at all that SRF is a sect. [◦Belgian list of movements, including cults and sects]
To decide whether a religious society is a galling cult or acceptable in the large society, apply the duck test if you please: "If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it might as well be a duck." What is documented may be good. And see what SRF has tucked away, for example Yogananda - the SRF guru - writing for dictatorship in his own magazine in 1934, when the worst was yet to come. Alas, foresight was missing.
Years of research, and it may still be difficult to get and weigh evidence and reliability of sources. For tackling these tricky matters, take as long a step back from slogans and parading phrases as can be, and see what is set at work, what is set to operate. Some mental reserve from the beginning could be to your own good also. There is much bias and untrue partiality in sectarian outlooks - and scaring.
A cult business may not be worse that the society that carries it. However, one of the founding articles of the SRF Church state "that human life is given to man . . . not for physical pleasure" and so on (Article II:14). Should we rule out creature comforts like sex in our everyday lives to please the catching guru? Or should we quietly dispense with his aims and ideals for Self-Realization Fellowship - those that don't please or suit us - and later stick to that "we do not find fault with Paramahansa Yogananda's guidelines. Since we believe that . . . his wisdom is flawless."?
Such things have been done by the SRF management. In the 1950s they revised the SRF aims and ideals that Yogananda was behind. They revised them only a few years after Yogananda's passing, and forged his signature too, from Paramhansa to Paramahansa. Forgery is not just a mark of early Christianity - (See Bart D. Ehrman. Forgery and Counterforgery, 2013). SRF may not be quite there yet. It may be hard to say, but they have already made Yogananda another Christ, at least. Something like it happened in the early church when a healer and preacher from Galilee eventually was presented as God himself long after his death. Beware of such a tendency to aggrandize from behind; learn from past offences instead. (Barn D. Ehrman. How Jesus Became God., 2014.)
But there is more, a lot more. The SRF magazine has published at least ten Christs on Yogananda's word - his father Bhagabati and other yogis that Yogananda knew about. Christs, all, he says [Source].
But what did he mean by it? That is the question. It is not an "oil-anointed" king of Jews - but that is the Old Testament understanding of messiah (See 1 Samuel 8; 10:1) . Messiah is a word that was translated into Christ and given greater meanings after Jesus was buried. Yogananda was not a Jew, he was a Bengali, and made little of Matthew 24:4-5 - its warnings against false christs or false messiahs. Well-well. So what was Yogananda up to by terming yogis and gurus christs and christlike souls? He wanted to get better accepted by Americans in the 1920s already, tells Marshall Govindan.
After Yogananda's banquet death, SRF leaders "doctrinated" their guru Yogananda upwards, so to spea, soaring high above the Mussolini-praiser, dictatorship-hailing, and master of deception in a court of law where the "judge, James MacLachlin, concluded in the light of . . . evidence that all charges by Swami Yogananda against Dhirananda were false and untrue." That's serious. But if you yourself have behaved well enough in court, good for you!
Did you find skeletons in the SRF closet here? There is more: The guru's guidelines are not without faults, for example his "Hard work has never hurt anyone." To the contrary, hard work has harmed millions, statistics tell. Here are some psychodynamic ideas for us to chew on: A post mortem idealisation of a demagogy-fond guru along with a forged signature and much else that looks suspect above unskilled, could reflect id gone "amuck" - to go into vicarious aggrandisement among the old clergy. We should beware of unfulfilled lives - or people not up to being themselves - and the repercussions or walloping estrangements it could bring.
SRF teaches kriya yoga, but you have to sacrifice freedom to learn it there. Others teach kriya more considerately, without oaths in the name of Jesus, made to last for this life and future lives. Learn to consider and judge for yourself.
❋ Welcome old and new truths. Adhering skilfully to the sort may sustain health unless others don't run amok for it.
Dr. Philip Zimbardo, a specialist on cults, thinks that the large
society might be easier if it were more caring, and in some ways more cultlike. Yet there are more possible benefits in being cult-free than cult-ridden, I would say. It is also a matter of personality and cult profile - how well they match, and how many benefits the cult holds. But when a cult says one thing but does not live up to it, the table may be set for some heart-tearing conflicts. And then it is not fit to say, "So far, so good."
Having "the highest kriyas" is one issue below. Another one is 'modifications', and a third might be 'misleading people'.
If a monastic in Self-Realization Fellowship advises others to drive a stake through a book, for example Kriya, the True Path by Swami Satyeswarananda, it may not help. But the advice could reflect competition and some non-sunlit attitudes. And as with other kinds of competitions, much may seem at stake. Interestingly, Satyeswarananda makes very little of SRF, and explains the reasons why he thinks the way SRF spreads kriya yoga is far from the way of the SRF gurus before Self-Realization Fellowship was set up by Yoganananda, then a swami, and definitely not given the title of paramhansa.
Swami Satyaswarananda is one of those who point out that Yogananda altered the Kriya system substantially, especially with regard to the more advanced kriya methods. Yogananda's biographer Dasgupta, says similar things [Psy]. Yogananda altered the techniques, and in so doing he left out formerly essential parts with their bindings and injunctions.
During the last decades, other organisations than SRF and other swamis than those of Yogananda's line stand up and teach kriya yoga, publish many books - in short. The kriya world experiences fractions, up to dozens of them. Part of the claims for authority are grounded in "blood lines" and their splitting clans: Who was a direct disciple of whom, and for how long were they together, and what possible changes could they have made, and what bad might be said of them without fit evidence? I mention this to assist those who try for truths in this sport of loyalties and submissions and the like.
What is worth looking for, the elevated stand of the person in charge of a transmission line or something like that, is not easily detected. The sort you should be looking for, is able to energise your inner sides and slowly or speedily usher a new life into your system, in part depending on what you may contain at the time. An ordinary mind have little or no chance to detect such a benign guru at first glance, and maybe not for the rest of his or her life either, for some gurus will not show off - although a smart guy may find out things from looking at their traces somehow. For the lack of contact with good gurus, many write on Internet boards - but that is not the full story of course.
Also, the ones you choose to join, turn into those you may belong to for the rest of your life, as you seek Union (Yoga) with the Self and further.
SRF members experience loyalty conflicts when it comes to reading Yogananda-critical literature, as can be seen on SRF-related discussion boards. Satyeswarananda has been found to speak disparagingly of Yogananda's methods. There are disparaging comments - with appeals to Vedic Tradition and Vedic people - that conservatives would laugh out loud about SRF methods of meditation and how they are taught in SRF in the footsteps of Yogananda. So, according to Satyeswarananda, Vedic, the tradition, being concervative in it, Babaji, and Self is good, but those who start meditating in the SRF way are held up to ridicule. Here are some toned-down details:
Satyeswarananda says that those who cannot make proper postures and cannot abandon the expectation of the results of the practice, should not try Yoga discipline. Those who recommend liberally to practice otherwise, for example, sitting on a chair, spine erect, resting the feet set on the floor [an SRF way], are not practicing yoga or Kriya at all, he deems. But that view seems too strict for beginners, all in all, for there is hope in progress.
COMMENT: Buddha teaches the truth, however: It is the fit method that brings benefits, not necessarily what one expects or believes or not as long as it does not lower or damage one's meditation practice. In short, "Whatever you expect or not between meditation sessions, may not harm your good practice in the long run anyway." Compare: [Bhumija Sutta]
You will perhaps find that questions like these matter: "Says who, without furnishing valid evidence? On what grounds? Promoting what?"
If you can sit or lie a bit with your spine unmoved for some minutes, you may meditate. Then meditation may be quite all right, at least for a start. But the swami holds that if you ask any Vedic person whether one can practice Yoga or meditate through the Yoga discipline sitting on a chair resting the feet on the floor, the person would LAUGH . . .
COMMENT. How well founded is that laughter? It could be a fool's laugh. Persevere in good beginner yoga instead of asking that sort of negative Vedic jerk. Attend a yoga class, ask advice of mature adults too, and read into good books on yoga. There are a lot of them. Some go on from there. In this life, we have all been beginners at some time.
The swami goes on, telling that to conservative people it will appear RIDICULOUS if they hear that Yoga is taught in a group for the masses.
COMMENT. That is a clear reference to the SRF way. Some enjoy it and communicate so too. Satyeswarananda tells nothing encouraging to these Yogananda followers. He does not seem to invite them to open up, but seems more bent on stripping away faith in their guru's ways, and with no show of delicate regard for their feelings and never considering that Yogananda's ways could represent betterments.
The swami rallies on: If Vedic people hear about practicing Kriya yoga in the West sitting on chairs in churches who claim the practice is Pure Kriya, they will say, "Practicing Kriya Pranayam sitting on a chair and claiming the practice Pure Kriya! Those Westerners are really crazy. Let them fool themselves for this incarnation."
COMMENT. I would not disparage and denounce all who do kriya as Yogananda designed it, solely on the grounds of some other ways of thinking and doing, as suggested here: [Link]. .
Going far in debasement looks like the swami's deal. "Being laughed at" forms part of his argument. The question is, however, whether such laughing is justified. Further, the swami's presentation looks like mocking, and lacking a lot in love and justification too. Say "no, thank you" to stiff-necked scoffing rooted in traditional conformism, for it leaves out key issues of validity, proof, and relevance. There is no good proof that neither has the perfect view in the matter. Nor is there proof that modified, simplified kriya is less valuable - or better - than the kriya it takes off from. The traditionalist Satyeswarananda claims much against modified kriya, but he lacks clear and basic proof about its effects, for one thing. 
The swami further supplies notions of some possible dangers on the SRF path, after Yogananda gradually turned less conservative Hindu in America: Yogananda talked down on creativity in a caste-fixed perspective in early years, and later glorified creativity in talks and sermons. Yogananda changed his mind, or rather, grace and light blew in, so to speak. In the long run he found some innovations helpful.
Satyeswarananda equals devoted SRF devotees with crazy fools, but do they "fool themselves" in such matters, as he says? I would say others have fooled them to begin with - to the degree they are fooled. After all, to be misled into follies is a danger in cult country.
So many Christs!Yogananda stated in the 1929 teachings of Kriya that twelve Kriyas were the same as a year of natural spiritual evolution. Then later in his Autobiography he said that one Kriya was the equivalent of one year of natural evolution - twelve times better than what he originally envisaged.
Later on Satyeshwarananda started writing books, saying that Sri Yukteswar did not have the higher Kriyas, so Yogananda did not have them. That would need to be substantiated better, for the Autobiography of a Yogi [Ay] says Yogananda had many kriya teachers, not just Sri Yukteswar. He was taught by his father, "Bhagabati Christ", and his Sanskrit tutor too, to name two of them. And yes, Yogananda includes his railroad adminstrator of a father among those who were allegedly raised to christlike status by Shyama Lahiri,
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. But Master possessed a transforming power; at his touch a great light broke upon my being, like the glory of countless suns blazing together. - Yogananda, Ha 105; [Link]
The Swami also holds that SRF has disobeyed the injunction of Shyama Lahiri and Babaji prohibiting anyone from forming an organization around Kriya Yoga, and that Yogananda commercialised kriya yoga after reaching the masses with his message. He also removed "Khecharimudra [tongue-lifting] - which is a precondition for practicing the Thokar, Omkar Kriyas and Brahmayonimudra - [and thereby] completely changed the Kriya practice and reduced it to something else which would be an unproven, new approach with uncertain or crazy fatal results." 
Now, modifications of kriya by SRF and others are derided on Satyeshwarananda's Sanskrit Classics site on his page called "Kriya Modifications" there. What is true is that Yogananda changed Kriya and his mind too, in the course of his ministry. It is also known that Lahiri Mahasaya permitted some of his disciples to spread kriya.
Satyeswarananda claims that the SRF kriya initiation dupes and dooms initiates from day one: "The question doesn't arise to be initiated by a long gone dead person!" He claims the right way to practice kriya is to abandon the expectation of results and continue the practice that is received personally from the living lips of a guru, as he says. Much contrary to this view, Yogananda excels in glorified vistas about results. Cosmic Consciousness, become a Christ, Infinity, and so on, gain a million years development, are solid parts of his fellowship's kriya hype. 
Satyeswarananda and Yoganiketan both publish Lahiri works and works of others. Satyeswarananda books teem with interpolations, since much of the text is not easy to understand otherwise.
It was mentioned on the folded-in SRF Walrus discussion board that Satyeswarananda wanted to be left alone. There are many who want that, and many different ways to accomplish it.
Satyeswarananda has taken pains in presenting other kriya forms than those Yogananda settled on. The swami's traditional contributions allow for a more nuanced picture of what goes on in SRF and of things Yogananda did. Alternative perspectives can be helpful many a time . . . . Perhaps cult-engulfed ones find it too hard to get into his works, since he throws an unflattering light on their guru's methods and thereby themselves too, and they are oblivious of one of Yogananda's orientations: "Our best friends are those who criticize us the most . . . who never condone our faults."
The swami has published very much, and some of it is online for free these days. His footing is not the same as that of SRF in all ways. [◦More]
A few more Yogananda quotes on the delicate and tactful art of offering critique, and the bad alternative called flattery:
How to read Yogananda literature, according to himself
Criticize books with intuitive perception. Keep your mind busy . . . 
COMMENT: During his last years the guru said he assimilated the content of books by sensing a their vibrations by reading just a few pages (Yogananda 1993:19). He also said he detected the vibrations of lots of future civilisations, but that is not reflected in his unskilled, dogmatic handling of Bible phrases: Textual Bible criticism is largely missing in the guru's commentaries. That is odd, for Yogananda wrote in Whispers from Eternity (1949) that he was able to see the glistening future thoughts of mankind, and did not take into account the growing textual criticism. He and future SRF could have needed it. All the same, Yogananda wrote that he "stood in the land unveiled, and found streams of rushing, glistening thoughts, felt rippling thoughts of millenniums – of born and unborn civilizations . . . All futurity danced in me." (1949, No. 212).
If you are good at critizising books by laying hands on them or get the future civilizations into your awareness without overload and great depressions, go ahead. But perhaps you need to test your developed skills first, before you publish much. Reality-checking, the pages you say you get to, and such things, ought not to be overrun. [More]
This is to show that this writer has learnt to criticise books and keep his mind busy, just as Yogananda said. Book references are at bottom of the page. The art of good criticism is a quite demanding field when it comes to referencing, for example.
As for laying your hands on books and absorb them an alternative way, I suggest you test what is best for you, to read a book, lay your hands on it a while, or sleep on it at a desk or under your pillow, for example. Tests may show the assimilation, if the assimilation is discernible to you or testers. It is very easily done and can rout out misconceptions before false, ensnaring ideas take hold.
Be that as it may, here is Yogananda's way:
I read very little, because it is not necessary. By the time I get through a few pages of a book, I know from its vibrations whatever truth it contains. [Dr 18-19]
He might have thought he did not need to read a book to comment it, but did he manifest decent learning and fit study in well-nigh goring Khayam's thought in the Rubaiyat? Proper handling of the matter seems up to utterly different than the guru's.
The vibrations "in the ether are the concepts for every invention man has created," Yogananda goes on to tell. The discoverers of these ideas may say that they have invented this or that, but they haven't really done so, but uncovered past, future or present vibration-ideas, he goes on to tell. [Dr 19]
The aether (ether) is not much in vogue as a construct today. In early physics it was considered a "medium", and in other circles a "fifth element" too. In early modern physics, the concept was used to explain that electromagnetic or gravitational influences were propagated. These aether theories are considered to be scientifically obsolete. But, interestingly, there are caveats to those ideas too. For example, Einstein noted that his own model, which replaced the ether theories of his time, could itself be though of as an aether, as it implied that the empty space between objects had its own physical properties. [Wikipedia, s.v. "Aether (classical element)"]
There are many things between heaven and earth, said Shakespeare. Perhaps the aether is one of them - depending on what we understand by it, and its defined variables.
To offer understanding criticism is risky because of bigots
"Defamation of others . . . for the sake of one's own benefit is a sign of ego and inner weakness, a desire to make oneself appear taller by cutting off the heads of others.
Yogananda on flattery and criticism
"Flattery may be good when it encourages a person to right action . . . Besides the sweet words of flattery from others, our own inner thoughts often excuse our harmful faults and hide big psychological tumors . . . Many people willingly lose money, time, health, and even character for the sweet deceptive words of parasitic so-called friends.
A dead teacher
"Once there was a Master who had a disciple who criticised everything the Master did. He died, and his disciples came running joyously to their Master and said: "Master, that man who is all the time troubling you, he is dead." Then the Master began to weep. The disciples said: "Why do you weep; you should be glad you are rid of this terrible man?" The Master replied: "No, I am sorry, my teacher is dead." His criticism acted like a warning." 
Compare a "best critic":
"A saint used to have a friend who constantly criticized him to the great displeasure of his disciples. One day a disciple came exultingly crying: "Master, your enemy, the constant fault finder, is dead." The master began to weep and said: "Oh, I feel helpless. My best spiritual critic is dead. My heart is broken."" 
Ingested cocaine, flattery and untruth harm the soul, says Yogananda
"If people want to eat cocaine, opium, cobra poison, or to indulge in a flattering religion which is afraid to even constructively criticize, or to hear only those lectures which gloss over and explain away their faults, should the business men, religious leaders and lecturers reason, let us give the people what they want, let us sell them poison, flattery and untruth, let us thus kill their souls and choke their mentalities of progress, it doesn't matter since we are getting rich? . . . The law of honesty should be the policy." 
We are told from SRF sources that Yogananda often floated in the lake at Lake Shrine in Pacific Palisades for an hour at a time, sometimes with his back up and other times otherwise.
One of the SRF Sisters there used to check if he was OK when floating for long. Well, he did not die from drowning, but a massive heart attack, doctors tell. It is a benign way to get out of here, really - fast and rather painfree. [Sob]
Yogananda classifies kriya yoga under Raja Yoga He could have said Tantra yoga and kundalini yoga too [Cy; Kta]. Kriya yoga is a set of methods, which Yogananda made changes of in his day. The basic level method is a form of pranayama (control of the life energy, also called vitality, or prana). Learn it here for free, as you will: [Link]
In the yoga system of Patanjali the third step is asana, or posture for meditation, often used in hatha-yoga. Asanas can help steady the mind and promote health. Mudras and some yoga postures form part of kriya yoga.
The fourth step is pranayama, breath control for fixing the mind in deep concentration. Kriya yoga contains a pranayama technique with many variants.
The fifth step is pratyahara, interiorization of the mind. Many guru followers may have problems with attaining this "switching".
The sixth step is dharana, handy focusing through upliftment of mind.
The seventh step is dhyana, deep meditation, Zen, when the mind is deep-going or undisturbed.
The eighth and final step is samadhi, unification. This is the result of reaching.
Steps of Patanjali can be quite misleading: One should learn to dive inside by a good method, get interiorised by it, and go on to the pleasant stages of meditation. Yes, methods of the "sixth stage" tend to the interiorisation ("fifth stage"), and go further. Many do not learn this, or do not put reasonable weight on this stage of the meditation process, and hence "put the cart before the horse" somewhat. They go on breathing and meditating without getting amply interiorised in meditation, and some have floundered for years in this way.
To practice yoga through desires, for example to merge with God, does not lead to the highest level of self-realization, says gurus like Lahiri Mahasaya and others in his tradition. Yogananda, full of devotion, is an exception. He teaches both kriya and devotion with problematic mix-ups in his explanations too. One should focus on methodical, accurate practice first and foremost. Then progress may shine through after some time.
There is mantrayana, the mantra way, where you mentally repeat a chosen sound that works well for you. Milarepa recommends it. "Devote yourself to Mantrayanic study and practice," sums up the message. [Milarepa, cf. Tm 234]
Guru Dev, Shankaracharya Brahmananda, tells things about how to choose the sounds to meditate on. The TM [Transcendental Meditation] movement has incorporated his thoughts in the practices. Mantra-yoga is one of the oldest forms of yoga and mind enlightenment. By repeating one's guru-found mantra the mind can be purified and start developing, is the teaching. Go for it as wisely as you can.
Q: How about the other SRF techniques of contemplation, the Hong Sau and Om techniques?
A: Nissen: "Read about the methods and try to peel off marketing tricks before you start practising. You do not have to subscribe to anything or anyone to learn and practice Hong-So along with the inflowing and outflowing breath. It is free, and online. [Link]
In TM, Transcendental Meditation, one also repeats a mantra (sound) mentally, but not aligned to the breath, and the mantra is given from among several more or less congenital ones. There is much research on TM. [◦Link]
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi spread TM throughout the world and thereby:
Today there are more than 600 scientific studies of the various benefits of Transcendental Meditation, independently conducted at 200 universities and institutions in 33 countries. These studies, published in over 100 scientific magazines, report of improvements, such as increases in memory and concentration, stabilization of the autonomic nervous system, reduction of drug abuse, and a decrease in prison violence and health problems.
Make use of the best methods. They take the mind inwards quite effortlessly.
Much depends on individual efforts.
When people say "God did it", it may be wise to suspect ulterior motives.
Confusing the organization with the teachings and techniques of kriya proper is not fit.
There are many individual stories of experiences with meditation on the Internet. Some seem to be rather typical of many, but is that so sure? Statistics is needed to get counts of percentages and the like. Still, in qualitative research, individual stories are treasured and not treated as irrelevant problems. Instead they are considered (possible) resources (a reservoir or data bank) to tackle and make good of by proper methods. Varied material can be looked on as a benefit, according to good methodology. What we come up with depends in part on the processing of information at hand.
Ehrman, Bart D. Forgery and Counterforgery in Early Christianity: The Use of Literary Deceit in Early Christian Polemics. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. ⍽▢⍽ Dr Ehrman examines over fifty examples of early Christian forgery that some folks base bits of faith on. "Arguably the most distinctive feature of the Christian literature is the degree to which it was forged."
Ehrman, Bart D. How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee. New York: HarperOne, 2014.
Ay: Yogananda, Paramahansa. Autobiography of a Yogi. 1st ed. New York: Theosophical Library, 1946.
Cy: Satyananda Saraswati, Swami. A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga and Kriya. Munger: Yoga Publications Trust, 1981.
Dr: Yogananda, Paramahansa. The Divine Romance. New ed. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1993.
Ha: Yogananda, Paramahansa. Autobiography of a Yogi. 12th ed. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF), 1981.
Kta: Satyananda Saraswati, Swami. Kundalini Tantra. 8th ed. Munger: Yoga Publications Trust, 2001.
Psy: Dasgupta, Sailendra. Paramhansa Swami Yogananda: Life-portrait and Reminiscences. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, 2006. Pdf: yoganiketan.net and at Google Books, partial view.
Sob: Self-Realization Fellowship. Paramahansa Yogananda in Memoriam. Los Angeles: SRF, 1958.
Tm: Evans-Wentz, Walter Y, ed. Tibet's Great Yogi Milarepa. 2nd ed. London: Oxford University Press, 1969.
Wfe: Yogananda, Paramahansa. Whispers from Eternity. Ed. Kriyananda. 1st ed. Paperback. Nevada City: Crystal Clarity, 2008. Online.
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