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Kriya Oaths

"Do not swear at all." (Matthew 5:34-36)

Don't be bound by anything. That philosophy will save you. - Yogananda (2002:26)

There are a few things to emphasise:
  • Refrain from swearing a lot, and from swearing if you can. An oath is for binding you. Being bound may become unwelcome sooner or later.
  • Don't promise things you have little or no control over if you treasure your word. Do not promise what you cannot or should not deliver.
  • Know where your best interests lie, and be circumspect. To be saved from being oath-tied can be for much future good.

Jason Pollock. One. 1950. Minute detail fronting the article on kriya yoga pledges.
"Don't swear any kriya oath to save yourself!" What does it mean? [1]

Sworn in and made a "special serf" through it
One may put oneself in harm's way by swearing. That is an old lesson to grasp. The effects of having been deceived or bound through false play makes so many hearts ache and even break. Watch out that no one deceives you or seduces you. After all, that is how Jesus sees it. (Matthew 24:4)

There are different kriya yoga traditions. Let us talk more around "Watch out that no one misleads you, leads you astray, seduces you, deceives you (Matthew 24:4)." Yogananda and the Self-Realization Fellowship he started and one repented he had started - in a ◦hand-written letter - claim they are in perfect attunement with Jesus, who told followers not to swear: "Do not swear at all (Matthew 5:34-37; also see 15:24; 10:5-9)" However, SRF's Kriya Pledge is still there.

Hypocricy and talking with two tongues runs wild in some circles. Have nothing to do with mean plotters.

There are other kriya oaths than the SRF kriya oath, where the inexperienced, too eager beginner in kriya yoga is made to swear unconditional loyalty and devotion to many unmet gurus, even for lifetimes on end. That suggests unreserved subservience. To trade away lots of human freedom, including the freedom to change your mind in the face of facts - is it really a wise deal?

That the kriya swearing is taken to be a pledge for lifetimes as an underling comes to the fore in a Yogananda talk that SRF published in its magazine in 1974. The effects may be worse that you have thought of.

Yo There is only one guru . . . if you turn away from the emissary of God, He silently asks: 'What is wrong with you . . .? Now you shall have to wait long, and prove yourself, before I shall respond again.' 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, Spring 1974 SRF magazine, p 6. From a talk at Mother Centre, 8/17/39.

Such claw teachings are out of step with ideal gospel teachings of "giving freely", for example. What to about a sect's contract fraud? (Cf. Matthew 10:9) In wise and classy Hinduism one has the freedom to change gurus.

Those who wake up a bit, find perhaps, "Hey, that many-lives clause was not in the contract I signed!"

SRF surface deal: You are free to leave (Human Rights Laws are valid).

They say it, but do hardly mean it, for they write that "sooner or later, every Truth-seeker will unfailingly find his way back to his God-given guru". The alarming or shady stand is in a notarised letter. Thus, the "real deal" is: Yogananda will not let anyone go, once in those "claws"! Many lives! That is what they really think. [They claim infallibily on behalf of Yogananda too]. However, that guru brought false and untrue charges to court in a case that he lost on 22 October 1935. [A lesson?]

It could be good to ask a fine lawyer how to refuse a fraudulent or double-bottomed deal, or how to deal with it otherwise, or get help not to get insane.

Consider how little Yogananda and other SRF gurus accommodate to fair deals here and keep up binding folks, and why not stop hoping they will improve?

Now, if SRF does not inform about Yogananda's suspect lives-binding in advance of any kriya initiation, but on the surface of things appear to be normal - or quite normal - or at least normal-looking -, consider how mismanaged or swindled you are. Contract fraud should not be called "as the gospel's Jesus wanted it" by swearing.

Better be careful so that no one seduces you than wake up in pains later. Try to study and see what you are in for. It may be much unwelcome to find out of the many-lives binding after you are sworn in and start to find out that SRF has "gilded a dictatorship-hailing guy", and how menial and unwelcome many of his guidelines are. Many Jews learnt a lesson about such things after Hitler rose to power in Germany. Some escaped to other countries, but millions did not. They were set to work and killed.

And basically, to be oath-bound by your tongue (an oath) or placed in the role of of a serf or spirit-slave is not good.

The SRF guru Babaji, is claimed by Yogananda to be in constant communion with the gospel's no-oath Jesus - but Babaji has seemingly allowed that Yogananda and SRF extract bad oaths from followers all the same. Let us say there is something wrong somewhere where they worship six said guru through portraits and paintings, and words like "Fraud!" escape the lips.

A broader view might help

And take in a wider view if you can: Yogananda said he had been a vicious, murderous desert marauder, and enlightened as Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita. What if he becomes another William the Conqueror type the next time around, or a vicious, maiming tyrant over spirit-serfs or slaves - Such prospects may spell "discarded" too. So there could be very good reasons not to promise what you cannot fathom too. (Dasgupta 2006:112)

Just consider possible sad consequences of promising a lot, and then make efforts that the worst scenarios do not happen. The best step is to refrain from being sworn in, neither by priest or devil. Before you commit yourself a lot, consider for example of giving up essential parts of human freedom, as someone who is sworn in to obey gurus: Consider how unlikely it is that you know you have the power to stay true to your word after swearing the SRF kriya pledge below.

The forgotten thing: the ego in good people is good

The ego in psychoanalytic thinking is a dear, irreplaceable personality instance. [EB "ego"].

For most part Yogananda teaches the dangerous "kill the ego", although a sane egohood is needed.

Now, If you mistakenly thinks that killing your I-sense is being loyal to all the SRF gurus, like Babaji, you are mightily mistaken, for Babaji Nagaraj teaches:

Always keep close to the "I" that is nearest to the heart and never slacken the vigil over the straying of your mind. . . . Let the small "I" grow bigger and bigger . . . Let the heart, the Inner Man in the heart guide you, rather than emotion and intellect. Try to get nearer and abide by that "I" . . . Build up your individuality . . ." (Neelankantan, Ramaiah and Nagaraj 2003:26-27, passim)

"A person must be something. That something, to be anything of worth, must be useful and pleasant to himself . . ." (Neelankantan, Ramaiah and Babaji 2003:32)

Be pleasant to yourself; do not let Yogananda and evil confuse-guide you.

Sivananda and Satyananda

Many teachers of kriya yoga relate to Babaji, but their oaths are different. Besides, some do not have oaths at all. In Satyanana Yoga you can learn kriya yoga without any oaths, by learning kriya from publicly available books (Satyananda 1981; 2001). This line of kriya goes back to the illustrous Swami Sivananda (1887-1963), and through him to Babaji in the mid-1920s, says Sivananda's disciple Satyananda in Early Teachings of Swami Satyananda Saraswati (1988:89).

When Sivananda was young, his name was Kuppuswami. Later in life he got a guru who ordained him as a swami. Sivananda wrote 296 books, but said, "An ounce of practice is better than tons of theory." A fine man!

Sivananda's disciple Satyananda also writes how Sivananda one day in 1956 taught kriya yoga to him in ten minutes.

Sivananda called him and asked, "What . . .? You don't practise kriya yoga?"

No, Satyananda did not. On this, Sivananda took him to his room and in ten minutes he taught him kriya yoga. Sivananda went on to give him 108 rupees and said, "Now you can go. This ashram is not the place for you." (Satyananda 1988:89)

He did not say, "Machines are becoming more important than man in the world of man," but see what is taking over in the guise of progress.

Sivananda wanted Satyananda to take the word yoga "from door to door and from shore to shore and from home to home." After Sivananda died in 1963, Satyananda started teaching kriya. And some of the kriya practices that Satyananda teach, were never taught by Sivananda, but culled from other sources.

Satyananda kept moving for many years, and taught kriya to many people, and today it is given freely through books, with no swear-strings attached.

Odd demands

"Each sect magnifies its own view," says Ramakrishna. (in Gupta 1942:489)

In a field of many odd claims and cloven hoofs against Human Rights, it is quite impossible to know how you will feel through the years.

What is reproduced below is a part of Yogananda's kriya oath from 1921, when he had been in the United States for half a year. At that time there was not any demand that you should love six gurus. That was conveniently added later by steps and stages. Krishna was the last one, appearing as late as around 1970. Yogananda dictated the following on 10 January 1921.

I promise and swear to act according to the following rules.
  1. . . .
  2. I will never reveal it to anyone without your permission.
  3. I will try my utmost to follow your general advice . . .
  4. . . .
  5. If I divulge without your permission extreme misery will overtake me according to natural laws. [COMMENT. Know better natural laws than that.]
  6. I will in every way help to spread this cause . . . I will help others to get this divine knowledge if I myself think I enjoy it . . . [SOURCE: Rosser, Brenda Lewis. Treasures Against Time - Ttp 380]

There could have been other versions at that time. "In every way" looks like driving a hard bargain. There is no limit; a guru is given all power thereby. Better take care than freak out and swear in the name of no-swear Jesus.

Glimpses into another Interesting Pledge

This pledge was dictated to V. T. N. Neelankantan by Babaji on 6 December 1952 at 10:30 a.m., we are told in a book that Neelankantan published in the early 1950s.

"Every member of Kriya Babaji Sangah must contemplate on these and dedicate himself or herself in similar fashion:

(i) I will be a balm to the sick, their healer and servitor,

I will quench with rains of food and drink the anguish of hunger and thirst. In the famine of the age's end I will be their drink and food.

"I will be an unfailing store for the poor and serve them with manifold things for their need.

(ii) My own being and my pleasures I surrender absolutely and entirely to Kriya Babaji indefinitely such that all creatures (on earth) may gain their end.

(Explanation: The stillness lies in surrender of alt things and my spirit is fain for the stillness. If I must surrender all it is best to give it for fellow-creatures.)

(iii) I will be a protector of the unprotected, a guide to wayfarers, a ship, a dyke and a bridge for them who seek the further shore, a lamp for them who need a lamp and a bed for them who need a bed.

-Aum Tath Sath Aum.

(in Neelankantan, Ramaiah and Babaji 1953:li-lii)

Are there problems with that pledge?

Surely! Included in the promise to be a bed, does the promise-giver insist on becoming a mattress too? What is a bed without a good mattress? It is something, not someone.

Beware of serving yourself into something of reduced stature.

You pledge to surrender your being and pleasures so that all others gain their ends, bed that you become. It looks wiser and better to get your ends and succeed well rather than to surrender and be a bed and be drunk and eaten.

It matters to look through a contract carefully before signing it. Consider that a hint.

There are many metaphors in the pledge above. To pledge through figurative terms is not much stupid if you are free to define the terms. "Be a balm [just a little bit, as I understand it]", "be drink and food [barring cannibalism, and only sustainably]", "be a bed for those [mittens] who need a bed" and so on. Figurative terms can mean a lot of things, and maybe you are not free to determine what they are to mean. What then? How many beds or how big a bed is bed or bad enough? Good things in life are not easily won, for most part. We might do a lot better than to give up on them or resign from them easily. In sum: a wooly give-up-all pledge could suit "door-mats of guilt" most of all. Others may get far better deals of living than that, and why not be among them? It makes sense.

To give up yourself to another who allegedly has given up himself, where does that take you? Since some gurus in the kriya tradition - including Yogananda and Babaji - say they have dissolved themselves, where are they? Yogananda is recorded by his direct disciple Kriyananda to have said, "I killed Yogananda a long time ago." He lived on to tell that . . . (Kriyananda 2006: chap. 38)

Where is the gain?

Good hearts can be fooled. Buddhism does not hold dumb service to be of great value, but sagacious, discrete service can be and bring merit. Buddhism tells there are fine things to do, such as being educated and learn a profession well. You can then support some others, even some monastics if you feel for it and if they are not unworthy of your decency.

This hinted at, Buddha also allows for giving teachings to "all and sundry" for the case of the few who get able to derive benefits from the teachings. To know what to give to whom, when to give, how to, and so on, requires at least reflection for those who are not yet awake enough to ken it from deep within. "Follow your good heart," can also work well, provided you are not cheated. [More]

Hinduism, also known as Sanatan Dharma, holds there are four main goals in life, and artha, wealth, abundance, is one of the four.

If you feel drawn to serve, as some do, first go within and serve as guided from God. That may work. If, on the other hand, you should think it is better to serve some others and their work for God, you may end in troubles, because you gave way and fell short in sticking to the Source inside somehow. It is easily done, and regrettable.

There is a risk of getting manipulated and swindled by oaths or gifts with strings.

Good beginner questions

While you go for being as classy as you can, from your background, try to defend what is good for you and not succumbing to harmful influences with facades that were made to look good. Look into long-range consequenses too.

Back to promising to be a "bed": "Why not also "I will be a river bed for those who need a river bed"?"

Have we considered who determines the metaphors at any time and their most valid meanings? Is it ourselves? We ordinarily do well to know for certain beforehand, before a lot of binding is effected. A man is bound by his word, the proverb goes. It means your integrity, Sat might be manipulated by giving a silly oath, so much may be at stake also.

Beginner questions are often great, as it may be good to know about future fares and fruits (consequences) - beforehand. Forewarned, forestalled. Consider Babaji's "balm-and-bed pledge" and decide wisely if you can.

Also study how Buddhism minds good self-help.

Old, very old

To make my life a success
there was a need to be me -
just myself in my own right.

The fruits and berries of thankful endeavours might be growing self-sufficiency.

"Safety First"

Jesus in the gospels teach that healthy people do not need him, that he is just for ill ones, and they have to be Jews. Further, a human is worth more than many sheep, he suggests. If Babaji is in communion with Jesus, as Yogananda teaches, beware. Better be healthy than a follower of sacrificing agents is sound moral. Buddha teaches that in somewhat different words and outlooks, but it amounts to the same. He speaks of four sorts of people, and the best folks abstain from sacrificing others and themselves. And this knowledge is a boon against demands for self-sacrifice for this and that great cause of others, isn't it? [Apannaka Sutta shows more]

Kriya yoga initiation and practice work to your loss if you get deranged from them.

Beware of who or what you pledge yourself to. By the way, you can learn ujjayi pranayama for free in freedom. It matters to know that one delicate variant of it is the basic kriya yoga method. Satyananda Yoga shows it.


Kriya yoga oaths and pledges, Babaji pledge, early Yogananda pledge, Literature  

Dasgupta, Sailendra. Paramhansa Swami Yogananda: Life-portrait and Reminiscences. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse. 2006.

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

EB: Encyclopaedia Britannica: the same as Britannica Online.

Gupta, Mahendranath. The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. Tr. Swami Nikhilananda. New York: Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 1942.

Kriyananda, Swami. The New Path: My Life with Paramhansa Yogananda. 2nd ed. Nevada City, CA: Crystal Clarity, 2006.

Neelankantan, V. T., S. A. A. Ramaiah and Babaji Nagaraj. Babaji's Death of Death (Kriya). Mylapore, Madras: 1953.

Neelankantan, V. T., S. A. A. Ramaiah and Babaji Nagaraj. The Voice of Babaji: A Trilogy on Kriya Yoga. Eastman, Quebec: Babaji's Kriya Yoga Order of Acharyas, 2003. ⍽▢⍽ In 1953, Neelakantan published recorded a series of verbatim talks given by Satguru Kriya Babaji . . . . "They were originally printed in three volumes . . . Includes the fascinating accounts of the meetings with Babaji in Madras and in the Himalayas by authors V. T. Neelakantan and Yogi S. A. A. Ramaiah."

Rosser, Brenda Lewis, comp. Treasures against Time - Paramahansa Yogananda with Doctor and Mrs. Lewis. Borrego Springs, CA: Borrego Publications, 1991. (Rev ed 2001).

Satyananda Saraswati, Swami. Early Teachings of Swami Satyananda Saraswati. Paperback ed. Bihar School Of Yoga, Munger, Bihar, India, 1988.

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.

Yogananda, Paramahansa. Autobiography of a Yogi. 1st ed. New York: Theosophical, 1946.

Yogananda, Paramahansa. The Divine Romance. 2nd ed. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 2002.

Yogananda, Paramahansa. The Yoga of the Bhagavad Gita: An Introduction to India's Universal Science of God-realization. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 2007.


NOTE 1. The painting on top of the page is a detail of a large painting by the American artist Jackson Pollock (1912-56). He explored sheer handling of paint assumedly without ulterior motives. Pollock had been captured by Surrealism, but soon learnt to put his canvas on the floor and dripped, poured or threw his paint on it to form many a tangle of lines and drops like the one shown. By surrendering to childlike impulses the extreme form of painting called "Action painting" and Abstract Expressionism was a fact. It was influenced by Chinese art and Zen mysticism.

NOTE 2. In the case of future link rot, try ◦Internet Archive's Wayback Machine to retrieve pages in question. Searching for a direct quotation on Google may also work well at times.

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