Verses on Devotion
Will exposure to an ardent cult change you to make your inborn capacity for devotion directed to "that gilded boss" and make you serve your group by giving up freedom, money and dedicate your partner to the gurus too - offering money or tithe and letting the group inherit your property? Outward-turning devotionalism may get such results, and one of its long-range results may well be a cult. Some cults are nastier than others.
Outward-turned devotion is hard to deal with, and cults deal in it. Adi Shankara, on the other hand, says that true devotion is inward-turning towards the Self. You do not need a cult for that, but you do need to be yourself fair and square.
The ultimate Reality, or Self
"Sages worship Brahman with devotion as the ultimate reality within their own selves, the essence of all organs." (The Hymn to Hari, v. 42) [Shankara sayings] Also: "Chief among the causes of Freedom is devotion, the intentness of the soul on its own nature. Or devotion may be called intentness on the reality of the Self." (Crest-Jewel of Discrimination, from v. 31 and 32, tr. Charles Johnston, emphasis added) [More]
There are different translations of the Crest-Jewel's svasvarupanusandhanam bhaktirityabhidhiyate. Here is Achyarya Pranipata Chaitanya's translation: "A constant contemplation of one's own Real Nature is called devotion." John Richards has "It is the search for one's own true nature that is meant by devotion. (v. 31)" He adds: "Others say that devotion is inquiry into the reality of one's own nature (from v. 32).
Prabhavananda and Isherwood: " Among all means of liberation, devotion is supreme. To seek earnestly to know one's real nature – this is said to be devotion. / In other words, devotion can be defined as the search for the reality of one's own Atman." (p. 36-37)
Forgeries and comments
Compared to this Atman teaching, Yogananda's Glossy Gospel Opinions tend to fall short, but his "who are liberated in God preserve their individuality throughout eternity" is not in the ordinary Bible. Not at all. (Yogananda, commenting on Matthew 18:2-4 in The Second Coming of Christ (1986:3, 21-23).
These three Yogananda quotations go well together:
Who are liberated in God preserve their individuality throughout eternity. - Yogananda The Second Coming of Christ (1986:3, 21-23)
But compare and behold; Yogananda also teaches:
To bring into being a diversified creation, the Lord had to bestow on everything the appearance of individuality." - Yogananda (in SRF 1957, 8)
"It is so" is not like "it seems so." Here is Yogananda's way out:
Don't take my word for anything. . . . please remember. - Yogananda (in Dietz 1998, "Master's Teachings")
Yogananda may get known as a lousy source to quote, just to make it clear. If you seek above marring, often misleading words and other concoctions by "devotion profiteers" and crazy folks, the solution is to learn the art of meditation and do it well.
It could be good to know that he guru that is credited with The Second Coming of Christ introduces thoughts that are not in the gospel verses themselves.
Getting on a wrong track makes a guy stupid, but the stupid may get old too. The Tibetan Dhammapada and other Dhammapada versions tell that what is at stake, is focusing in meditation, opposed to getting distracted and confused, which is presented as "stupid":
Sagaciousness brings the path
It may not be very wise not put much faith in second-hand sources, and not at all in forgeries. There are forgeries in the gospels, the Jesus scholar Geza Vermes maintains (below). Bart D. Ehrman affirms it too. Yogananda does not point out any forgeries for us; he makes use of verbiosity instead.
Consider, further, that the main gospel teachings are not for all, but only for ill, depraved ones of the Jews, according to gospels themselves in several places. (Matthew 9:13 and Luke 5:31-32; Matthew 12:12; John 10:2-6; Matthew 5:18-21 and Leviticus 16).
To check Bible passages, just copy the references one by one, paste them into your search slot and . . . If you do not succeed at first try, search for gospel name and chapter number only, such as John 10. There you may find the chapter verses you are after.
The swami-governed US Church that Yogananda founded and got registered on 29 March 1935, aims to teach and preach Jesuanism, but its founder and managers are neither Jews nor traditional Christians, but swami-monks and swami-nuns of a sort.
If you should come across a cult that preaches one thing and lives another, it may be time to run!
As for Yogananda's opinionated commentary: he uses gospel parts to spread his own creed, and omits mentioning such vitally important matters that eminent Bible scholars have divulged. Yogananda could have applied a sound measure of bland textual criticism instead of fat phrases over and over.
The guru claimed to know Jesus directly. That is not a superb guarantee that his outlooks are right - and some of them do not agree with gospel teachings either, if it matters! For example, Yogananda teaches the soul is immortal, while Jesus of a gospel says the soul can be destroyed.
Also mind Yogananda's repeated statements:
"We are all crazy. (Yogananda 1982, 425)"
The guru and a long-time SRF Mother President, did they know or not or what?
It also matters to know there are two published works of his commentaries: one contains about 2.84 times more words than the other, and the wording differs somehow. Here are some examples:
To pose as an eminent interpreter may not be a problem; what matters is what comes out of it for good or for bad or "between good and bad" or a mixture of things like that - also taking into account the goings "in the beginning, in the middle stretch, and in the long haul".
Yogananda versions differ. Suppose the first Yogananda text is full of errors - spelling, syntax and views? Original errors competing with later-edited, not-genuine Yogananda utterances tend to complicate matters. [Examples of such complications]
One Yogananda book with purportedly original Yogananda text is published by Amrita in Dallas, Texas, and a 2.8 times more wordy version of the same text is published by Self-Realization Fellowship in Los Angeles, California. Is bigger better in such cases?
Then comes the question: "Is original truly original if that "original" was edited by others than Yogananda?" It depends. For example, is it good to be close to a failing source, and is it better than getting it edited to get smoother? It depends on the quality of the source and of the fitness or quality of the edited work.
Study and get to facts and discern better from it
A former SRF president, the nun Daya Mata (Rachel Faye Wright), writes about how Yogananda's book Second Coming of Christ came into being:
In 1932 . . . the Guru found time . . . to begin including commentaries on the Gospels . . . in the magazine he had founded a few years earlier [The first issue appeared in 1925]. Each installment consisted of a few verses . . . along with [Yogananda] explanations. (Yogananda 2004, xv)
"You say explanations, I say marring opinions." - In the same place Daya Mata tells "it happened that Yogananda would send letters to the magazine by mail," and many of them contained gospel opinions to be installed in it. "Not infrequently, the copy was mailed to the magazine staff from whatever faraway city he was lecturing in." (ibid.)
The "faraway city" was supposedly far from Los Angeles, but in the USA. It might be New York, but perhaps not Miami, where he was not received very well by many husbands and the police. [More]
A stare that matters, regardless of the interpretations?
The blank stare of Yogananda
And here is how another Yogananda disciple, the SRF editor Tara Mata, describes how Yogananda arrived at many gospel interpretations:
He will come to a passage which is so obscure that it defies all possibility of plain interpretation. He will look blankly at me or one of his other secretaries for a while, close his eyes, and presently out will come the whole plain meaning [of what defied plain interpretations, as she had just claimed]. He gets it entirely from inspiration [right or wrong so] (Yogananda 2004, xvii)
Getting a second opinion help some. The Canadian Geoffrey Falk tells that Tara Mata was no good judge of what was plain:
Yogananda's long-time editor-in-chief Tara Mata . . . bought some books on Hindi, read through them, and went on to "translate" the entire Autobiography of a Yogi into Hindu. However, it proved to be several hundred pages of gibberish. She refused to acknowledge that, and so did the SRF leaders.
To repeat: Blank stares or closed eyes do not guarantee fit or fully satisfactory gospel interpretations. Besides, what the long-time SRF editor Tara Mata considered plain, might be nonsense backed up by SRF for a long time. We can stick to that to our benefit from the very beginning and be warned of futility.
Forefront SRF advocates of modesty were training others in humble modesty or loyalty that served the organization, SRF. And many SRF monastics found out that the actual living fell short. One third of them left SRF between 2000-2005 (Parsons 2012, 170).
Big books and great books - there is a difference there
The next questions to consider are: What is the genuine Yogananda in a book that has grown to get about 2.85 times bigger after he once dictated or wrote it, or both? Is a 529 000 words long book necessarily better than Amrita's book of 186 000 words? Is bigger likely to better when it comes to texts? Not necessarily. It depends. Those who like big books and many words, may say so. And those who like more plainly authentic stuff might consider otherwise.
Be that as it may, the exact opening line (above) is is not in the SRF-edited, forty-seventh discourse, for all its edited enlargements and rephrasings (Yogananda 2004, 912 ff). However, the SRF editor and publisher have added other phrases and ideas that may seem more helpful to a monastic breed, such as "obedience, humbleness, meekness". So what? Yogananda himself said:
Don't take my word for anything. . . . There will be as many interpretations of my lectures as there are listeners. - Yogananda (Dietz 1998, "Master's Teachings")
It is a paradox: If you take his word for anything, you don't. And if you don't take his word for anything, you do.
Then what about "his" SRF-edited words? Should we really take then for anything, or is it wrong? Here is a tip: Study the goings, doings and sayings. If they do not match well, or in all cases, beware of hanky-pankies - as there is a good chance that genuine goings or honesty have been forsaken. See how Jesus wanted to handle fakers in his day - he condemned hypocrites. Was it tactless?
Hailing many of their guru-founders words, SRF editors dumped several of them anyway - They did and did not take Yogananda's words for anything, as he had told his disciple Margaret B. Dietz to do or don't . . . SRF editors were faithful to some of his words, and edited away others as they pleased. They have done similar things with guru's ideals and even forged his signature, counting a genuine Paramhansa signature as - well - not quite good enough for them. Good enough for him, yet not good enough for Daya Mata once she held the reins.
A biblical perspective
There are differences and mirth among swamis too.
SRF is an American and swami-governed church that has as one of its aims and ideals to "reveal the complete harmony and basic oneness of original Christianity as taught by Jesus Christ and original Yoga as taught by Bhagavan Krishna." If there had been such oneness it could be good, but SRF and the four gospels contain widely different teachings about the Father, the soul, and reincarnation, for example. Better be warned: [More]
Are we then in another street than the Jesus street in dealing with SRF? Are SRF'ers quack Jesuans also? Do they qualify for standing up as lip-service Jesuans only, and have all SRF male members been circumcised? That may be hard to to decide, but wait till after you learn how reliable the gospel sayings are too, and what a bible scholar like Geza Vermes summarised a year before his death.
During his days of preaching, Jesus of Nazareth addressed only Jews, "the lost sheep of Israel" (Matthew 10:5-8; 15:24). His disciples were expressly instructed not to approach gentiles or Samaritans (Matthew 10:5-8). 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. (Geza 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)
Bible scholars have written books to study. Based on what the gospels say, it is good to realised that many SRF people do not behave as Jesuans in every way. Are they common fakers, then, preaching gospel things, praying aloud in public, carefully ritualistic, but Jesus requires better from the real followers, according to the gospel of Matthew.
Trust reviewers - which reviewers? - and better
If trust you must, trust that SRF is hard on the original Yogananda. It shows up in book after book, where they edit him away or rephrase him to make his statements look good. So they do not count their guru's word for much, and yet go on to serve SRF in ways that serve its leaders, those on top. They are perhaps not as humble and modest as is half-ritually thought. See what ends an organisation's attempts to appear favourable (its impression-management) tends to serve. SRF has changed Yogananda words, at times from edition to edition. [Book reviews]
But as Yogananda himself says, "Don't take my word for anything." One question is if you are up to it. Another and better question: Why bother to read Yogananda at all as long as there are better things to do?
Getting informed should be better than guessing to one's harm
Something is lost in editing Yogananda, but there may be gains for readers too - added words, removed words and phrases, and bettered phrases, and so on. Some added words are purportedly by Yogananda, long gone, and other added words are footnotes for elucidations. [SRF-editing is exposed in details and with examples]
Kriyananda, a former vice president of SRF, warns:
Since Yogananda's passing [in 1952], so many changes have been made to his writings, teachings, and his stated mission, aims, and ideals that his legacy is threatened. [◦Link]
Can a threat to a legacy for good or bad or something between good and bad? Yes! Much depends on how whimsical Yogananda's legacy was in the first place. He used to digress at length during lectures, seldom preparing for them but by jotting down a few notes, tells Daya Mata in Man's Eternal Quest. She writes how Yogananda
seldom made even the slightest preparation for his lectures; if he prepared anything at all, it might consist of a factual note or two, hastily jotted down. Very often, while riding in the car on the way to the temple, he would casually ask one of us: "What is my subject today?" . . . and then give the lecture extemporaneously. (Yogananda 1982:xi-xii)
So we might benefit from taking into account how that legacy was in the first place, and whether SRF's changes are menial to it. Also consider how greedy and authoritarian Yogananda was, advocating dictatorship and much else (below) .
Do better than guess you are facing one more American cult in the forming. Study the facts and findings of well qualified others. Lola Williamson (2011) shows how a devoted facade is not all there is to SRF. It may well be what is behind the facade that matters the most, all in all - the real content, that is, the package, not the glossy wrapping-paper.
Disagreements about how the organization should be run and how Yogananda's words should be interpreted have existed throughout SRF's history, occasionally erupting into organizational crises. (Williamson 2010:75)
In SRF they formed committees but did not solve underlying problems. Take into account how they behave, and not just what they say or write and want you to welcome and believe in.
Two main problems unless you stop reading a goading Yogananda
To revert to the quoted passages on top of the page: "Dear to all" is probably an exaggeration in any case. Besides, being loved by evil ones is hardly a lot.
Here we see two deep problems with Yogananda: he and his different editors do not discern much and well. And different editors render him differently. In the heavily SRF-edited counterpart, a discourse 47, much is different. One had better take the SRF's edited changes into account - they signify one does not get the original Yogananda.
Was there ever a "childlike, nonattached, dear to all and worriless, laughter-filled" Jesus who whipped money-changers, cursed a fig tree who did not bear fruit out of season, and said he came to bring war? If so, that is not being dear to money-changers and all.
Face the gospels instead: Jesus of the gospels was far from dear to all and worriless while praying in an olive garden right before he was captured and executed. And Yogananda ritually worships him on the strength of common agreements among Christians in the USA of his time. - That is not sweet at all if it goes against the gospels far and wide. It seems much like ritual hypocricy. Jesus does not favour it; he condemns the hypocrites a lot too.
Those who are taken in and get on board the romanticising train of Yogananda thoughts, may end up much disappointed and maybe maladapted too, after periods of far too little sleep at night - hard work in SRF, little pay for it, little sleep was advocated by Yogananda - A risk of undermining yourself has been pointed out. About one third of the SRF monastics left the fellowship's premises between 2000 and 2005 (Parsons, 2012, 170). Many have taken pains for years to tell why. Maybe you should listen to them, as "the other party is to be heard" too. [◦SRF Walrus Backup]
Consider what good unconditional loyalty to a "gilded" dictatorship-loving false prophet and necromancer might do you
Calm reserve offers room to consider and reconsider. If you have jumped on a bandwagon taking you to some very bad place, try to get off fast if you can.
"Gilding the guru" may be a work of marred id (libido)
The guru advocated dictatorship in his own magazine in 1934 (Self-Realization Magazine 1934).
The guru experimented with necromancy. (Williamson 2010:71)
Yogananda also revelled in false and odious prophecies. He prophesied a third and fourth World War before 2000 CE; Europe would be devastated by then, and Russia annihilated. Japan would be swallowed up by China, America would survive, and "England is finished. Finished. Finished!" All of it before 2000 CE. (Kriyananda 2011:125-26. Extracted; 1973, ch 6). [Failed Yogananda prophesies and gullibility]
A professor of the Catholic Church, "Father Mateo", says Yogananda brings heresy "to town": "His theology cannot be squared with Roman Catholic doctrine. He teaches . . . all religions are equally true . . . He also seems to teach the . . . heresy of salvation by human effort alone." (The article)
In sum: It may not feel good to learn of such things that SRF tends to hide only after you are sworn in as a church member (read: underling) and hear "he is love incarnated, worship him" regularly, and are sworn to unconditional loyalty to him and other unmet or idealised ones. Better learn about many fooling tricks than fall victim to many of them.
The lickspittle may have gone a long way in failing to watch out carefully for loss of one's own proper authority.
To extract unconditional loyalty to four, five or six unmet gurus, is it right? Who do extracted pledges serve, really? Uncommon loyalty demands may hide or mask something.
Luckily, there are fuller kriya yoga systems around than Yogananda's kriya. At least Satyananda Yoga does not do not bind members hand and foot to a former dictatorship-eager guru (Yogananda).
Some get outsmarted and some get too outsmarted. He is not the most outsmarted who knows he has been outsmarted.
There is also Yogananda's ideal that followers in his self-sufficient communities are to go hatless all year round.
Your first allegiance should be your Self - Be on the alert against being led astray.
Yogananda recoursed to Black Magic (Kriyananda 2011:131; also see Kriyananda 2004, No. 189; Dasgupta 2006) - and there is a risk of being swindled.
Consider possible losses before you swallow every shiny bait.
Chaitana, Achyarya Pranipata, tr. Sri Sankara's Vivekachudamani: Devanagari Text, Transliteration, Word-for-Word Meaning, and a Lucid English Translation. Scottsdale, AZ: advaitin.net, nd. Online.
Dasgupta, Sailendra. Paramhansa Swami Yogananda: Life-portrait and Reminiscences. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, 2006. -- A fellow disciple of Yogananda has written of him, after serving as his secretary in India. The book contains a wealth of information and customary display of reverence or politeness signified by the ending '-ji' and things like that. You may like it!
Dietz, Margaret Bowen. Thank You, Master. Nevada City, CA: Crystal Clarity, 1998.
Falk, Geoffrey D. Stripping the Gurus: Sex, Violence, Abuse and Enlightenment. Toronto: Million Monkeys Press, 2009. -- Not too kind.
Kriyananda, Swami. Conversations with Yogananda: Recorded, with Reflections, by His Disciple Swami Kriyananda. Nevada City, CA: Crystal Clarity, 2004, No. 189.
⸻ . Paramhansa Yogananda: A Biography with Personal Reflections and Reminiscences. Nevada City, CA: Crystal Clarity, 2011.
⸻. Yogananda for the World. 3rd ed. Nevada City, CA: Crystal Clarity, 2012. -- Trying hard to show what Yogananda told and what SRF has worked up.
Mata, Daya. "Only Love". Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1976. -- It did not speak to me.
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. -- Fine in its way. Written by a sagacious lawyer.
Prabhavananda, Swami, and Christopher Isherwood, trs. Shankara's Crest-Jewel of Discrimination (Viveka-Chudamani). 3rd ed. Hollywood, CA: Vedanta Press, 1978.
Satyananda Saraswati, Swami. A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga and Kriya. Munger: Yoga Publications Trust, 1981. -- A daunting and detailed text for the supple and eager ones.
⸻. Kundalini Tantra. 8th ed. Munger: Yoga Publications Trust, 2001. -- A corollary to or enlargement of the Course (above).
SRF (Self-Realization Fellowship Publishing House). The Master Said: A Collection of Paramhansa Yogananda's Sayings and Wise Counsel to Various Disciples. Los Angeles, CA: Self-Realization Fellowship Publishing House, 1952. -- It has the advantage of escaping the SRF editing after the guru's death.
SRF (Self-Realization Fellowship). The Master Said: Sayings and Counsel to Disciples by Paramhansa Yogananda. 2nd ed. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1957.
Vermes, Geza. "From Jewish to Gentile: How the Jesus Movement Became Christianity." Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR) 38:06, Nov/Dec 2012. -- A renowned Jesus scholar sums up.
Williamson, Lola. Transcendent in America: Hindu-Inspired Meditation Movements as New Religion. London: New York University Press, 2010. -- An excellent gift.
Yogananda, Paramahansa. The Second Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of the Christ Within You. 2 Vols. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 2004.
⸻. The Divine Romance. 2nd ed. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 2002.
⸻. Man's Eternal Quest. 2nd ed. Self-Realization Fellowship. Los Angeles, 1982.
Yogananda, Paramhansa. The Second Coming of Christ: From the Original Unchanged Writings of Paramhansa Yogananda's Interpretations of the Sayings of Jesus Christ. Vol. 3, 1986.
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