A swami in Miami, or "love cult" injustice
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 Miami newspaper 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 always trust newspapers in all respects . . . In this case Yogananda protested in a published article:
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.
"He was a lion and held Miami in his grip"
The cat may look like a lion, but that does not make it a lion. (African)
On the front page of Miami Daily News of Feb. 8, 1928, it says that two woman followers went insane "as a result of the Hindu's cult teachings," according to relatives. One woman was hospitalised and described as "violently insane". (more: further down) [Seeing is believing: Newspaper article (jpg)]
Yogananda writes that the "Miami papers called me "leader of a love cult" . . . "the women of Kashmere, India . . . are just as white and beautiful" as American women and "would have offered materials for a 'love cult' . . . Praise does not make me better." (in the "Miami Only . . ." article.)
There are many shades of pigmentation; there are pink people, light brown, medium brown, dark brown and so on. All are not black that are called black by a misnomer, and all are not white that are called white either.
One's colour is due to pigmentation; may be called "skin deep"; and probably protects against cancer caused by UV rays as well. (Wikipedia, "African Americans > Great migration and civil rights movement"; "Demography of the United States")
At any rate:
Colour is a natural lot
Mild tanning often helps in the far north.
In The Roaring Silence (2013) it is pointed out that "Dzogchen is the direct experience of enlightenment. (BC)" and "the natural simplicity which is "the lion's roar of reality." Further, the roar "is simply a roaring silence." (Ib. 15, highlighting added)
In the gradual approach of Dzogchen, also called Great Perfection, visualisations are first steps only, quite preliminary exercises.
However, fair, advancing meditation could improve one's self-confidence, health, and intelligence . . . Some good accomplishments may help too. [◦Sampled research findings] Good self-help books offer tips as well.
In the book The Fearless Lion's Roar (2015), Nyoshul Khenpo Jamyang Dorje writes in the third chapter that "We cannot discover the self-originating wisdom of the Great Perfection (rdzogs pa chen po'i rang byung ye shes) by searching through books."
A word to the wise -
Now, as for assertiveness through affirmations: A superintendent of a hospital for nervous and mental diseases testified in court that
a woman patient had entered his hospital on January 31 1928 and refused to eat "unless assured that her food had come in contact with the swami". [She] imagines she's a lion, and attempts to roar and conduct herself as a lion does. She said, [this] witness testified, that the swami told her he was a lion and held Miami in his grasp.
There is a well researched, soundness-helping meditation method to be found. 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"? Or "row away from there" altogether?
Be a little careful as to what you practice. To teach others to roar and talk and act like lions, stupidly, may bring only little help and much wasted time. At worst there is a case in wait.
But wait, there is a yoga pose called "The Roaring Lion" or "The Lion Pose (Simhasana)." It may be beneficial in a well composed program of yoga poses.
There is a also a tale about being lion who had been raised by sheep, and later found another lion and changed its ways. Yogananda picked up this tale along the way, and thought the lion was a leonine Self.
"I am a lion" is also found in Yogananda's non-rhyming book Whispers from Eternity. He had been at writing blank verse from the 1920 (cf. Songs of the Soul. 1983, xiii-xvii).
Here is a little from Yogananda's blank verse book Whispers from Eternity. A "classic Yogananda, one may say, but his chief editor until 1971 changed large parts of it after Yogananda had passed away. The edition from 1949 is the last edition Yogananda liked (when he walked on two feet):
Make Me a Lion of Thy All-Conquering Wisdom
Although Yogananda thought highly of his first editions of Whispers, ranking the collection with the Bible and the Bhagavad Gita, time could be far better spent in deep meditation. [Yogananda for the World: Changes to Whispers from Eternity].
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)
Going for "gold" has its dangers. 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, better take more care.
In Yogananda's ◦SRF Church charter (filed 29 March 1935), he aims at teaching how to use "the unlimited power of God and Cosmic Energy" (2d). You cannot get more assertive than that. But the kriya "bridle oath" he made, stands in the way of many Human Rights - those facets of assertiveness. Other aims he devised in the charter - such as "human life is given . . . not for physical pleasure" may be found to have a morbid ring to them - unpleasant and far from healthy, that is.
Self-Realization Fellowship was formed by Yogananda. He said was sent to the West to spread liberating techniques of yoga. He did that too, but learning his and SRF's kriya yoga as an initiate costs freedom, such as the Human Right to change one's religion. "They take freedom away in the name of cosmic," sums it up.
If affirming bible-copying phrases rob time that could be better spent, for example in deepening meditation, the affirmations are not time well spent, but could be "enemies of great good" if you are ready for rising above many words toward higher sides of life and yoga-meditation, that is. One is to watch out for deflections.
⦾ Child play is fit and wise for a child. Lots of affirmations had better not come in the way of 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.
⦾ The Patanjali Yoga Sutras 3.4 ff take us to much older and deeper ways of training or practising meditative focus. The method is called sanyama.
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].
Carducci, Bernardo J. 2002. Shyness: A Bold New Approach. New York: Quill/Harper.
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.
Henderson, Lynn, and Philip Zimbardo. 2010. "Shyness, Social Anxiety, and Social Phobia." Chap. 3. in Stefan Hofmann Patricia DiBartolo, eds. Social Anxiety: Clinical, Developmental, and Social Perspectives. 2nd ed. Amsterdam, NL: Academic Press / Elsevier. -- A 3rd edition was published in 2014.
Ngakpa Chögyam and Khandro Déchen. 2013. Roaring Silence: Discovering the Mind of Dzogchen. London: Shambhala.
Nyoshul Khenpo Jamyang Dorje. 2015. The Fearless Lion's Roar: Profound Instructions on Dzogchen, the Great Perfection. With commentaries on Jigme Lingpa's The Lion's Roar and Longchenpa's Resting at Ease in Illusion Tr. David Christensen. London: Snow Lion.
Rubin, Kenneth H., and Robert J. Coplan. 2010. The Development of Shyness and Social Withdrawal. London: The Guilford Press.
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.
Yogananda, Paramhansa. 1949. Whispers from Eternity: A Book of Answered Prayers.. 5th rev. ed. Los Angeles, CA:, Self-Realization Publishing House.
Zimbardo, Philip G. 1982. "Shyness and the stresses of the human connection". In L. Goldberger and S. Breznitz (Eds.), Handbook of stress: Theoretical and clinical aspects (pp. 466-481). New York: Free Press.
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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