The church society Self-Realization Fellowship was formally registered as a church in the state of California in spring 1935. The society publishes many SRF-edited books that are said to be by the monk Yogananda of the swami order Giri - and sends swami monks and nuns lecturing in cities too. If the number of monastics (monks, nuns and novices) that left the SRF premises between 2000 and 2005 indicates anything of what goes on among lay students (non-initiates) and sworn-in members, the society has been shrinking, as its former vice president Kriyananda has written. But such figures are not furnished by SRF.
The fifty monastics or so that left SRF, were about one third of all its monastics at the time. They got a hard time adapting to the world outside "the SRF walls" - the SRF ashrams and other centres.
Some try to be up to living on after their SRF experiences. Some have got problems. Those with a lot of problems may get in trouble, losing valuable assets and the like. There is good reason to keep an eye on where one's money and other assets go, and quite early, in case there will come an unforeseen for a rainy day or thousands of such days later.
Some think problems are opportunities that call for good solutions, and that good solutions manage to bring much of value with them. Maybe, but why not suspect that such very lucky cases are rare, few and far between? Rather than squander the boons and blessings, learn how to manage well - that is, be a life manager to get greater goods! Seeing this, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi agreed to have and American university. It is an accredied university today, named ◦Maharishi University of Management, MUM. The word 'management' in the title stands for managing one's life through deep meditation and quality education together. Decent self-management and self-cultivation are like brother and sister in this.
"Were the Wise Men of Matthew Gospel not Wiser if they ever existed?"
The fates of many who have left SRF or Yogananda do suggest a grip that could become very dangerous. A cult's misty tentacles into men and women may cause long-time harm. What else there could be to the Yogananda grip may remain much shrouded so far.
If you believe everything you are told by Yogananda, you get a lot of trouble - for there is much that does not make sense, for example his "Hard work has never hurt anyone." Actually, it has. Statistics shows it clearly. Follow the link and find documentation of it. Hard work has harmed millions. Better realise what are the facts of life and not be taken in by the guru whim, even if it hurts a little to get rid of an old, bad piece of faith.
So beware of Yogananda.
One problem with Yogananda is that he said Jesus was behind the spreading of kriya yoga. Between the lines: the words in the gospels that Jesus taught for Jews only, that his Kingdom and salvation were for Jews only, and that salvation was only from the Jews - are they big words that mean nothing?
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)
"Something is rotten in the state of Denmark" - Shakespeare, in Hamlet
Incidentally, Yogananda claimed it was he who had been Shakespeare. As you will see if you read further, he also claimed three in his line of gurus had been the three wise men in the Bible. The first two chapters of Matthew tells of it. There could be problems with the Nativity story and Yogananda's credibility:
Had the salvation that the New Testament speaks of become too moldy with time, so that Jesus had to go to India and ask a secret yogi there for salvation help, and got kriya yoga? If so, it implies that the Biblical salvation of the Holy Spirit entering a human, is not good enough. And to croak that in a church may be considered worse that swearing. Just be alerted to it and take proper care.
It is a matter of which guru or saviour you trust and stake your life on, for the stories of the Bible and by Yogananda do not match in all respects. We do not do well enough if we trust two different stories about the same thing - in this case: salvation. Go for getting well integrated instead and "lift yourself".
Yogananda says this and that, and if the fellowship "buys it", they think they are served by it. The footfolks go on and get their minds filled with rubbish or better, and get cramped, especially if the cultish teachings deviate much from truth, significant facts, general scholarship, all right science and common customs. A very sad side to this, if it happens, is that the Yogananda of SRF makes fools of persons. It may be far better to go for something different from plots that make followers fearful, cramped and much unable to handle life too.
A "good one". Paramahansa Yogananda (1893-1952) tells that when Jesus was born, three of his nearest gurus in the SRF line of gurus came to visit him. They were the wise men, says he, and without a shred of good evidence of it. Do not ignore biblical sayings and sound bible research that go against Yogananda yarn. Let us look into it a little:
The wise men that Mattew writes about in the first two chapters of his gospel, were they three, were they so wise after all? They caused a king they visited, to start killing off infants to get rid of a future competitor, says the gospel of Matthew in its first couple of chapters.
Then do we trust the wise men were so very wise? And do we trust a star in space could move the way the story star did to them? A star is a sun, and shines in all directions, not only on one stable. It does not take on the role of a moving spotlight. That is a given. The gospel writers were not talking of an actual, non-scorching, moving searchlight star.
The best question is last: Is the nativity story in the first two gospels of Matthew just fabricated, a folk tale that was current at the time, and dressed up in new feathers in Matthew? You may not think so, but the Jesus scholar Geza Vermes does, after years of research. He writes:
A contemporary of Matthew, the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (37–c.100 CE), reports, and later rabbinic literature confirms, a folk tale which was in circulation in New Testament times. It relates to the birth of Moses and his miraculous escape from the hands of Pharaoh of Egypt. (Vermes 2010:84, 85)
The tale of wise men and a wandering star in the first two gospels of Matthew (from about 80-90 CE) is a folk tale. It is missing in the Gospels of Mark and John, and appearing in a radically different form in Luke, where there is no mention of a star, wise men or Herod, nor of the murder of the innocents and Jesus' escape to Egypt. (Vermes 2010:84). Matthew's Gospel was written for Christians who were not Jewish. [More Bible criticism]
Stuff and nonsense has many forms
Bible studies aside, Yogananda's disciple, Swam Kriyananda writes: "I had been with my Guru for just a month when he invited me to his desert retreat at Twenty-Nine Palms, California, where he was dictating his revised correspondence-course lessons. During one evening's session he stated during dictation: 'The three wise men who came to honor the Christ Child after his birth in Bethlehem were the line of gurus who later sent me to the West: Babaji, Lahiri Mahasaya, and Swami Sri Yukteswar.'" 
Similar Yogananda statements are in the Self-Realization Magazine from a few decades back, plus a Yogananda claim that he was there too - in Bethlehem, that is. If - if there were any wise men, and the nativity tale was fact-based instead of folk-tale based.
Tradition has it that the so-called wise men were three, but the Bible does not give any number. If they were just parts of a canonised folktale, as Dr Vermes says, how many they were, is less important.
Over and above wrong, false or undocumented claims by crazy fellows, one may get lovely methods of meditation (higher yoga). Some say it is worth a try.
In works of Shyama Lahiri (aka Lahiri Baba, Lahiri Mahasaya, etc.), published by Sanskrit Classics in San Diego, Shyama Lahiri goes into his past lives, and never mentions he was one of the so-called wise men of the Bible. Why did he not confess he had unwittingly served a tyrant's plan to kill a child and by that, heaps of little children? Could it be he did not tell of it because he had not been a fabricated wise man at that time?
Further, the shortsighted Herod informers in the first two chapters of Matthew may be called only so-so wise for putting a tyrant on the track of Jesus. Herod became furious, and gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under. There was weeping and great mourning - but if it happened in a folktale it is not as bad as if it were real. [See Matthew 2:1-119]
The men of the folk tale in Matthew were not led by an ordinary wandering star in the heaven, for stars in the sky do not move as described in the gospel. Our sun is a medium star, for example. A star shines uniformly over the side of the earth that turns toward it, and burns it to cinders at a close range. The temperature on the surface of a star like our sun is some million centigrades. Soon after and along with the burning and scorching, the earth would have been clashed with and been swallowed up in the sun, according to present-day knowledge.
Thus, the not too wise men in an old folktale - if Dr Vermes has concluded well enough - were not led by a real, wandering star with focused, non-harmful light, and Yogananda could have been a reborn ox, donkey etc., in another tale of distant future times. But solid proof is lacking. We also lack good evidence that in another past life he had been a vicious, murderous marauder - even though he said he had been so, shivering. However, in reincarnation research much unverified claims tend to be given very little weight, if at all. (Dasgupta 2006:112)
It is wise when dealing with the fanatic or fantastic to ask for evidence to avoid being taken in and outsmarted from there on by steps and degrees. And are there other explanations from good sources? In this case Dr Geza Vermes' tells the first couple of chapters in the gospel of Matthew is a folktale, and his telling so is a fact (Vermes 2010:87). [More by Dr. Vermes].
Stand sincerity and live well
There are many sorts of regressions and calculations, but there should also be room for nuances. And yet, what people like to call humility is often the outward garb of social, strategical calculations. Where calls for humility smell of demands for conformity, those involved may not have progressed very much in life. Sincerity can work well, however, depending on where you are and those you are with, and so on. There is much to consider, such as:
"It matters not what religion an ill man is of."
"Twin fools, one doubts nothing, the other, everything."
These American proverbs may help in enlarging our horizons; there is that hope. There is much to be said for faith too; mere guessing is not exactly it. And we could do well if we live up to, "Put no faith in tale bearers."
"Open your eyes to the facts," is fine too, if you can stand it.
Dasgupta, Sailendra. Paramhansa Swami Yogananda: Life-portrait and Reminiscences. Bloomington, IN: iUniverse, 2006.
Fuller, Edmund. 2500 Anecdotes for All Occasions. New York: Wings, 1970.
Vermes, Geza. The Authentic Gospel of Jesus. London: Penguin, 2005.
Vermes, Geza. "From Jewish to Gentile: How the Jesus Movement Became Christianity." Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR) 38:06, Nov/Dec 2012.
Vermes, Geza. The Real Jesus: Then and Now. Minneapolis, MI: Fortress Press, 2010.
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