A swami in Miami
The swami Yogananda (1893-1952) arrived in Boston in 1920. He stayed there for some years, before disciples bought a little hotel in Los Angeles in 1925. It served as a headquarters. From 1925 he also toured the United States extensively to give lectures and classes. It was not all beer and skittles. In 1928, in Miami, the police ordered the lecturing, class-giving swami out of town, and that's far from all -
An article in a newspaper at the place wrote of a Yogananda "love cult" where women paid good money to be taught yoga. That his fellowship was called a love cult in a Miami newspaper was not appreciated by Yogananda, so rebuffs followed.
The issues at stake here suggest we cannot trust newspapers always, in all respects -
In this case Yogananda protested in a published article: (1) He defied the idea that he ran a love cult. (2) Someone he knew had been hit on the nose in Los Angeles (attestedly), but not himself. (3) He thought that the (Miami) Daily News had too grossly distorted something else he had said in an interview and put a word in his mouth, a word he did not even know the meaning of. (4) He pointed out that only few of his lessons were given privately. (5) He referred to his accomplishments and cited a character witness. (6) Yogananda said that in Miami he had suffered from false reports and injustice.
Aftermath side of the story: "Miami Only City Objecting to Him, Yogananda Asserts". Article (jpg)
The newspaper phrase "objecting to him" covers much ground:
The few newspaper articles are quite revealing. A Yogananda historian might say 'Hooray' to that (and perhaps not in the Australian English and New Zealand English sense of the word: 'goodbye').
At any rate, in 1928 there were quite a number of Miami wives who paid 25 dollars each to attend his lectures and classes and husbands who wanted to say goodbye to him, and violently too.
Suppose a guru has travelled a long way and then finds it best to enlighten Americans about Kasmir women:
[T]he Miami newspapers called me "leader of a love cult" . . . The women of Hindu Kashmere, India, who come from the same Aryan stock as American women do and are just as white and beautiful, would have offered materials for a "love cult". (Yogananda, in the "Miami Only . . ." article.)
Take a look at his arguments. "Would have," or "if" and better . . . Were all American women around 1928 of "Aryan stock", Indo-Iranians? Obviously not.
Also, there are so many Chinese women that "Chinese women may be the most beautiful - to the Chinese at any rate." That follows from a more or less averaging "plenty-of-them" view.
The cultural movement Black is beautiful was started in the United States in the 1960s . . . What is at bottom of this could very well be: "Colour is a natural lot / more often than not."
Gross visualisations and Yogananda affirmations are not first-class help, but more like baby steps, or preliminary exercises. However, fair, advancing meditation could improve one's self-confidence, health, and intelligence . . . Some good achievements may help too. [◦Sampled research findings] Good self-help books offer tips as well.
Speaking of mighty assertiveness: A superintendent of a hospital for nervous and mental diseases testified in court that (1) a woman had entered his hospital on January 31 1928; (2) and she refused to eat unless assured that her food "had come in contact with the swami"; (3) She "imagines she's a lion, and attempts to roar and conduct herself as a lion does;" (4) She said the swami told her he was a lion and held Miami in his grasp. [Some newspaper article (jpg)]
All is not bleak and bad - there are soundness-helping meditation methods. Professor Jaan Suurküla:
Hospital admissions for psychiatric care were 150-200 times less common among the 35,000 people practicing Transcendental Meditation in Sweden, than for the population as a whole. . . .
Now, as a swami teaching assertiveness, would you be proud of a lioness case and say, "Good!"? Or would you say, "She came to be cured of sleepwalking"?
Be a little careful as to what you practice. To teach others to roar and act like lions, stupidly may bring only little help and much wasted time, at worst there is a case in wait.
There is a yoga pose called "The Roaring Lion" or "The Lion Pose (Simhasana)", by the way.
No "love cult" achievement
There is a simile that Yogananda picked up along the way, about a leonine Self. "I am a lion"-teachings are found in Yogananda's book Whispers from Eternity. He was at making non-rhyming blank verse from the 1920, as evidenced in Songs of the Soul (1983, xiii-xvii). In this SRF published book it is documented how later versions of Yogananda blank verse or "sections" were changed by one of his editors.
Here a little from Yogananda's Whispers will do. A "classic Yogananda":
Make Me a Lion of Thy All-Conquering Wisdom
Time is much likely better spent in meditation that transcends ballyhoo, hue and cry in higher states of awareness. Instead of many wordy outpourings and concepts of others, better learn to attune to your Self. Also see:
Don't take my word for anything. . . . find out for yourselves. Don't get hung up on words . . . please remember. - Yogananda, in Dietz 1998
The effects of what you choose you repeat silently depend in part on just what you repeat and the details and schedule that go into it. Affirmations are common, but research into the effects of silent repetitions is of more recent date. As the Chinese Dharmapada tells, it is better to recite one significant word than to recite thousands that are not - so find the one word that if well and mentally repeated makes thoughts go away so you cross over and reach Enlightenment. (16:1-3, abstracted, In Dhammajoti 1995)
Buttered phrases don't bring God as easily as they bring weariness
Flatterers do not help us. - Yogananda (1982:100).
Help us with what? and how? But gold helps far and wide. Many others than Yogananda and his fellowship go for "gold". It has its dangers, though.
Still, gold brings affluence, and seeking it can too, provided the means are okay, and basically in step with dharma (what is lawful, what is righteous and more). However, if the "cure" is not better than the disease, take care. Yogananda, looking for money, as revealed in his ◦SRF Church charter (filed 29 March 1935), told he wanted Americans to improve and get more self-assertive, but lots of drivel made ritualistic often falls short.
Much and unsound drivel drives away good use of one's time, for one thing. Self-Realization Fellowship has published Yogananda books - some too bulky, other quite large, and some thin and tiny. You may think Yogananda books are just right, but there is another side to the story: Some of his books are of a kind that makes you wonder why they are sold.
He writes he was sent to the West at the behest of his guru and other gurus to spread liberating techniques of yoga. He did that too, but at a price. He also talked and talked in town after town, and wrote bible-like poetry, affirmations and capsules - paragrams, as his fellowship published them as.
If wordiness squeezes away time that could be far better spent, for example in deepening meditation, it is hardly a good thing. If that sort of wordiness weakens the time for your mission, and its impact - to spread techniques and the good forms of yoga lifestyle that go along with them - there is a deflection, small or large. And if the wordiness serves to give yoga a bad reputation, as with Yogananda in Miami newspaper articles in 1928, there could be other areas of improvement too.
❋ Affirmations come at a price if they prevent sound and deepening meditation.
The value of lojong also depends on the value of axioms that are meditated on
There are some sayings that help a meditator, but a lot who do not. It may be hard to know the difference. It is also possible to meditate on good sayings to improve one's mind up to a level. In Tibetan Buddhism it is called lojong. If you focus on insignificant sayings, not helpful sayings, time and effort has not been well spent. There was a woman who gave ear to Yogananda's so-called autobiography in her car, saying she had been through it a hundred times or something. Then she quit. She quit SRF, Yogananda, and probably quit reading and listening that book too. [Lojong]
Aside: If you want to learn what is in a book, you can learn all-round study methods to improve the yield and benefits of learning a thing. It is really simple. You focus on the main things and fill in also, using carefully spaced repetitions, and so on.
❋ Lojong may work well if we steer out of insignificant sayings to dwell on. Such mind-training has been known since the Middle Ages.
Who wants not quite good enough thought-seeds sown in infirm minds?
First, Yogananda talks as presented in an SRF trilogy (so far) are rarely structured for in addition to digressing at length, he "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," according to SRF. (Yogananda 1982 xi-xii)
A great idea is to tell first what is contained in a talk, then tell it and finally sum up the good points one might find. Such structuring has not been done full well by the publishers yet.
Second, verbal outpourings indiscriminately for a general audience may be of little meditative value and contain few really good ideas, generally valid or reliable ones to build further on. There is a danger that the good thought-seeds of Yogananda - yes there are some! - drown in the verbiage. They could be singled out, as SRF has done in part by making sections and headings. If the SRF editors would assist Yogananda-learners further, they could add some pinpointed end lessons too behind each sections; that could help also, and is one of the easier things to do. At any rate, good ideas to meditate on are said to be auxillary to deep meditation, and not the best meditation helpers in the world. Suitable mantras are taught to be best for many.
Third, the issue of metaphoric affirmations: Allegories or metaphors are not the "real things", not what they seek to allude to by tricks of language. Yogananda frolicked in giving out "not-real things" in his day. However, metaphors and allegories can backfire for two reasons: One, in the wrong heads such ideas may lead to hospitalisation from calling forth twisted ideas (A Miami newspaper episode below). Two, figurative ways of communicating have a common default weakness: they tell in masked ways of something that is not the "real thing, not the main thing, and hence figurative talk may be understood poorly too.
The inner Self comes to the fore in deep meditation, not by allegories and metaphors and lots of herding. And some "get hit" for it. Yogananda was struck in the chest till he lost his breath, he writes in his autobiography.
Aside: "There is a proper way to do it, and all the others," we can surmise. And to make "a thousand changes" in an autobiography for many decades after the author is gone, may not look like a proper activity. [Learn the details]
The sage Manu teaches this about prayers or meditative thoughts and mantras:
Consider it a suggestion of what is the valuable turn.
In the older days of Yogananda's fellowship, many disliked that prayers and sermons and poems by Yogananda were gathered and made into a course that one had to subscribe to in order to learn yoga and meditation from his fellowship. They preferred that he kept the kriya yoga teachings as they had been from the start, without all the added "glamour". So these points are not new. (cf. Dasgupta 2006, 54)
❋ Wonderful ideas rarely bring about hospitalisation when carefully and well communicated.
❋ The difference between copious veneration of Yogananda and learning valuable lessons from his outpourings, is seen in how they are taken, that is, in how he is studied. There are up to very helpful study methods around. Tony Buzan's general study approach is rewarding to many.
❋ In a non-classy setting the need to choose the good from the bad and the best from the good, is paramount. Good discernment is tall.
❋ Yogananda said it himself, that if one uses only a tenth of the techniques he handed out, self-realisation would be had. Those are his words, according to one of his monks. The proper handling of his material is to select the very best tenth of techniques and verbiage. This percentage - a tenth - corresponds roughly with the percentage of key words or key phrases in a text also.
Like fish inside a shallow pool,
Set-backs come when ritualistic talk and customs fail. And many gains could be had by taking one's life back from a sect's hold. Yogananda led American ladies to do what he didn't himself. He said,
I don't pray.
He did not say it with a line-break, but there are end rhymes in it that way - Regardless of what Yogananda affirms there, he led congregations in prayer. How sour it may be to lead public prayers when you say you don't pray - all in a Yogananda way . . .
We cannot all be like him - let us look into Whispers from Eternity - a book with flowing phrases and "answered prayers" by Yogananda. A gentle reminder:
To believe all you hear, may contain future dangers.
❋ Study the best and learn from the best to become one of them - that is a lot.
Yogananda's Dreamy University
As discussed earlier, fit and fair study that yields degrees is better than lots of unsound drivel.
You should not flinch from the real student idea, but stick to your part and ask for the best study methods for you, in your conditions. But former guru followers may not have much of a choice if they weep too much, and feel so troubled by their former membership that they do not manage to focus on textbooks. Still, a general counsel stands: Learn from the professionals and then learning gets better, and then the lot in life unless you find your whole life damaged. At any rate, solid improvement is to be hoped and not feared. For the lack of a jolly good education some suffer terribly. [More on study methods]
Unsound Instructions and Others
All realities seem unreal . . . the material universe is not real. – The body is unreal. - Yogananda, 1982, 182, 421]
Fair and sound evidence that it is so, is not found.
To menace others suggests trying to take their dignity or worth away. To imply they are unreal is like "You mean nothing to me!" and so on. Is Yogananda menacing or not? SRF contains a farcical mental universe - a body of teachings - to tackle as you accept the guru's repeated words: It is all unreal, quite like a movie.
It is better to get an education. A sound one. An accredited one.
Further reading: [Link].
Dasgupta, Sailendra. Paramhansa Swami Yogananda: Life-portrait and Reminiscences. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, 2006.
Dhammajoti, Kuala Lumpur, Bhikkhu, tr. The Chinese Version of the Dharmapada. Kelaniya, Sri Lanka: University of Kelaniya, the Postgraduate Institute of Pali and Buddhist Studies, 1995.
Dietz, Margaret Bowen. Thank You, Master. Nevada City, CA: Crystal Clarity, 1998.
Sparham, Gareth. The Tibetan Dhammapada: Sayings of the Buddha. Rev. ed. London: Wisdom Publications, 1986.
Yogananda, Paramahansa. Man's Eternal Quest. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1975.
Ay: Yogananda, Paramahansa. Autobiography of a Yogi. 1st ed. New York: Theosophical, 1946.
EB: Encyclopaedia Britannica on-line or yearly DVD suite.
Falk: Falk, Geoffrey D. Stripping the Gurus: Sex, Violence, Abuse and Enlightenment. Deepstep, AL: Million Monkeys Press, 2009.
Ms: Yogananda, Paramhansa. The Master Said. Los Angeles, CA: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1952.
Pa: Yogananda, Paramahansa. Autobiography of a Yogi. 11th ed. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1971.
Say: Yogananda, Paramahansa. Sayings of Yogananda. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1958.
Scp: Yogananda, Paramahansa. The Science of Religion. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1953.
Ssh: Buzan, Tony. Buzan's Study Skills: Mind Maps, Memory Techniques, Speed Reading and More!. Harlow, UK: Pearson Education, 2011.
Uy: Buzan, Tony. Use Your Head. Harlow: BBC Active / Pearson, 2010.
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