Otto Neugebauer, the historian of ancient mathematics, told a story about the boy Einstein that he characterises as a "legend," but a legend that seems fairly authentic:
Albert was a late talker, and it worried his parents. At last, at the supper table one night, he broke his silence to say, "The soup is too hot."
Self-Realization Fellowship, SRF, may not have thought about the value of not talking or writing anything by their guru Yogananda, even though he is quoted to say:
Don't take my word for anything. . . . find out for yourselves. - Yogananda, in Dietz 1998
We find out for ourselves by applying ourselves, by thinking things over and by good meditation. Such things may help. But still, one and the same saying can be understood differently by different folks. For example, SRF has published lectures and dictated works by the swami Yogananda (1893–1952) - book after book. "Don't take my word for anything" might wisely ride above that. Instead of dropping just some Yogananda words we may one day go beyond (transcend) them all. That is much.
Yogananda on smiling -
Your smile must spread . . . over the whole universe. (Yogananda, 1982:326).
As it is said, "There's a right way to do it, a wrong way to do it, and the way they do it in the Army."
You may feel the universe is not all that big, or that there is a long way to go for a smile to spread over the universe. You could get awfully disappointed if your mouth-pulling smile-training merely stretches the skin of the mouth area only until you get ugly and disfigured, but with no smile that spreads over the whole universe from your face. After much of such training you may find too late it was plain wrong to end up as an extremely grinning Cheshire Cat - such a fellow.
Being forewarned counts a lot.
As for the long series of articles that follow in several collections and as single pages, if everything about Yogananda and his fellowship SRF had been in order (see quotations above), I might have written other books and articles than against getting hung up in SRF-edited Yogananda words and Yogananda-words edited by others as well. There are many reasons other than a "Don't take my word for anything." [Aligned]
"Not polyandric at all!"
Some who read that Yogananda said he had been the archer Arjuna in the old Mahabharata scripture of which the Bhagavad Gita is a part, may imagine that Yogananda was for polyandry, since Arjuna was a wife-sharer. He shared a wife with his four brothers. But after learning about Yogananda's no-sex guidelines, some could end up disappointed and burst out "But this is not polyandric at all!" [Yogananda on sex: A rude awakening].
The Mahabharata's Arjuna was a polyandric, a wife-sharer, and had wives on his own too: Krishna's sister Subhadra, Ulupi and Chitrangada are mentioned among Arjuna's wives in that epos. Other sources say Arjuna had eight wives in all.
In a Tamil retelling of the Mahabharata, Arjuna married eight women. One of them was Alli (Ali). She was a warrior woman who refused to marry him, but the infatuated Arjuna did not take no for a no. He sought Krishna's help and was turned into a snake, slipped into Alli's bed at night and frightened her to become his wife.
But the soul that became Yogananda refused to get married even when his own father entreated him. Yogananda wanted to be a monk instead. Those who try to find some reliable, red thread of consistency from one claimed past life to another claimed past life, may not find it. Better be warned. Also: Yogananda's teachings are not polyandric. In a talk he says unmarried people should have no sex, and married couples just a little.
It may not help if you marry in a haste, for married people that adhere to Yogananda guidelines are taught lots of "moderation". A wife of such a follower said she hated Yogananda because he had ruined her marriage. [Yogananda's no to sex for the unmarried]
The forewarned may avoid serious disappointments
There may be other disappointments in store also, such as Yogananda's praise of Mussolini and dictatorship in the mid-1930s. The World War II made him stop that even before a fleeing Mussolini was captured and executed by a firing squad on 28 April 1945 and his body was taken to Milan and hung upside down at a service station to confirm the dictator was dead. Yogananda's strong praise of Mussolini and dictatorship indicate an authoritaran bent. Better beware. It is not told so much of in SRF, and may be far worse than you think at first, for he also had an interest in Adolf Hitler, an Austrian that Yogananda wrote favourably of in his forties. Hitler came to kill himself in a bunker.
Many seem to associate the guru Yogananda with "Make love, not war", for his SRF has polished a public image of him as "love incarnate". Yet the SRF guru said he had influenced Hitler to expand the World War II eastwards, if two sources have got it right: (Kriyananda 2011:131 and 2004, no 289). Better get forewarned than soul-tied through gullible heed.
Belief in a deceitful person . . . or a false doctrine seems to be a sheer wastage of man's good energy. - Yogananda (1997:304)
Belief could get you in trouble in Canada too. False doctrine is of less worth than seeing things well for oneself, according to Yogananda. Good schooling and good training often helps. Consider this an old friend's helping advice.
Reading may not be so bad
Why look into things that are not all too pesky? One interesting aspect of it could benefit your brain functioning and health. To your health!
[A]ccording to new research, reading books might be vital to your health.
Further, reading may help against cognitive decline:
A study at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in China shows that engaging, mental pursuits including reading and playing games may substantially reduce the risk of developing cognitive decline as a senior citizen. The investigation involved 15,582 men and women in Hong Kong. All were 65 or older.
The participants who said they involved themselves in intellectual activities every day had a substantially lower risk of being diagnosed with dementia.
The study was not designed to prove cause and effect. Yet the outcomes of it suggest that an active brain may remain more healthy and highly functioning. Benefits may be had by reading, playing games, a healthy lifestyle and more.
(Source: Beth Levine. "Read More So You Can Worry Less About Dementia". Baseline of Health Foundation. 9 June 2018)
From the corners of his eyes
Yogananda one day came to regret he had started Self-Realization Fellowship, and wrote: "I have performed an absolutely foolish act by starting an organization." (Cf. Satyeswarananda 2008, 821, emphasis added).
He had started Self-Realization Fellowship as a registered church in late March 1935. But did he shut down SRF after realizing it had been foolish of him to start it? It is still standing, headed by nuns and a monk.
Some church-founder find it best to marry, shut down dozens of ashrams and stop being religious-looking, whereas ensnaring Yogananda did not. For example, after tens of thousands had been initiated in techniques, and hundreds of DLM [Divine Light Mission] centres had been opened worldwide - even with dozens of ashrams - Prem Rawat married when he was sixteen, and from the early 1980s began to discard direct references to religion in his speeches and closed the ashrams where many celibates had lived. (WP, "Prem Rawat")
Yogananda, on the other hand, largely disinterested and disappointed with the society he had founded, retired to a secret hut at a desert fringe most of the time in his later years. To say he had painted himself into a corner makes some figurative sense: he was disappointed with all men but one follower after thirty years of efforts in the United States. Except SRF's next leader, "every man has disappointed me," he said. (Novak 2005, Chap. 6; Dasgupta 2006, 102-3)
He did not say "every woman," though.
Devious dealings and schemes abound
Now, tens of thousands of disappointments suggest that the Americanised guru had not been realistic or firm in the first place. How so? There is a clue to find in the Yogananda biography: "Behind every effort by Yogananda was the root purpose of attracting men and women to Kriya Yoga, no matter what the means," writes his biographer (Dasgupta 2006, 101). In another passage Yogananda looked at his biographer from the corners of his eyes and said, "Look, I want to throw the net far and wide, so that at least a couple of big fishes can be caught (Dasgupta 2006, 79)."
Means could be decent. What about farming? Cattle may little know what fate waits them in the months before Christmas, for example. However, what waits the cattle in the long haul, or most fish in a guru's haul?
Cheating and lying are not fit means in many religions, but a fisher does not say that to lure others by devising shiny baits to gulp down is lying . . . Is being fisher-inconsiderate and faking to human fishs good? Bringing false charges in a court case does not look divine either. Yogananda once did against a formerly "beloved associate," Swami Dhirananda. Yogananda had sent for him from India. In time, Dhirananda sued him and won the case.
The guru's friend
One may say that Yogananda got one fish that did not disappoint him, but not a couple. Moreover, his method of fishing stinks - stinks fish -
There is more to fishing than just getting fine-looking bait, angling or throwing your net for long. A fisher knows he must be able to take well care of his catches or much inherently valuable goes to waste. But sometimes he catches so much so that the net breaks. What if large catches of medium fishes and smaller fish get bad for the lack of proper care?
Moreover, the methods for attracting large catches can make for troubles or disappointments if you end up with just one big fish after thirty years of efforts, and big fish was what you were after.
Huge amount of disappointments might suggests a nearly completely unrealistic mind, or not a realistic mind. A realistic mind-set may amount to help us keeping healthy. Be as solid in your dealing as you can.
From one recognised big error -
One may also say that "From one big error lots of bad things may grow", grow and spread: he had started a church and thereby paved the way for many grave disappointments. Some of them were perhaps according to "Flock seek, flock troubles find," or "Harm seek, harm find." From Dasgupta's book it stands out he did not seek out only bad guys to get seriously disappointed with, for he was after "a couple of big fishes", no matter what the means.
What may we slowly "engineer" from the recognised and recorded ways and mistakes of the founding guru of SRF who died of a heart attack at 59?
Adopt what is good and discard what is bad. Wise folks will be very careful about how they act, and by that sensible measure many can avoid future troubles or alarming danger. Besides, wise men and women will try to correct their own faults first, to avoid failing for the lack of being well corrected. (cf. de Lange 2013, 240).
Dasgupta, Sailendra. Paramhansa Swami Yogananda: Life-portrait and Reminiscences. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, 2006.
de Lange, William, and Kyoko Suzuki, ed. A Dictionary of Japanese Proverbs. Warren, CT: Floating Worlds Editions, 2013. ⍽▢⍽ About a thousand proverbs. Some of them are translated for the first time.
Dietz, Margaret Bowen. 1998. Thank You, Master. Nevada City, CA: Crystal Clarity, "Master's Teachings."
Kriyananda, Swami. 2004. Conversations with Yogananda: Recorded, with Reflections, by His Disciple Swami Kriyananda. Nevada City, CA: Crystal Clarity, No. 189.
⸻ 2011. Paramhansa Yogananda: A Biography with Personal Reflections and Reminiscences. Nevada City, CA: Crystal Clarity.
Novak, Devi. Faith is My Armor: The Life of Swami Kriyananda. Nevada City, CA: Crystal Clarity, 2005. ⍽▢⍽ But which faith it is makes a difference. Lots of people make mistakes by their faiths - or being taken in, for example.
Satyeswarananda, Swami. 2008. Mahamuni Babaji and His Legacy. San Diego, CA: Sanskrit Classics.
Yogananda, Paramahansa.1997. Journey to Self-realization: Discovering the Gift of the Soul. New ed. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship.
⸻ 1982. Man's Eternal Quest. 2nd ed. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship.
Harvesting the hay
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