The swami Yogananda (1893-1952) was someone interested in communicating with the dead, but that hardly made him Death's Messenger, does it? But there is more: he came to the United States telling others how to die. A Death's Messenger! He says in the book The Science of Religion (1953):
We ought not to fear to practice conscious death, i.e., give rest to the internal organs. Death will then be under our control. [Yogananda 1953:78]
There is a story about a businessman who got influenced by Yogananda, and later killed himself. You should note that Self-Realization Fellowship, the society that Yogananda founded, does not tell the whole story.
A prominent businessman paid a call on the Master and as soon as he was introduced, he said, "I am disgustingly healthy and disgustingly wealthy."
"Became a student" is the same as "learnt the methods of Yogananda and his added teachings, if any." It does not say "became a good and well qualified yogi" either, for that matter.
"There, but for fortune, go you or I," is a line in a song by Phil Ochs (1963). Also, one had better think, "Why cut short any chance of using this life to do still more good work by shooting oneself dead after becoming a student of Yogananda?"
Opinions about possible causes and effects of suicides can differ widely. I for one won't say the teachings or influence of Yogananda ushered the man to kill himself some time after meeting the swami. SRF put a different and rather narrow spin to the businessman's meeting with Yogananda, as you can see.
What should be done with Yogananda?
Opinions differ, but the Law of Moses says that someone who calls up a spirit of a dead person (caption) - Yogananda did - is defiling himself and detestable to God of the Bible (Deuteronomy 18:9-13; Leviticus 19:31).
Should those who contemplate entering the fellowship that Yogananda started, SRF, be told these things in advance or not? Decide for yourself after consulting the Bible and some experts if you can. What do significant passages of the Old Testament say his circumcised ones are to do with a spiritist? The answer that Jesus vouches for is in Luke 16:17 and Matthew 5:17-18: The Law of Moses is good, he teaches (Matthew 5:18-19). The tough Law that Jesus guarantees for, says: "A man or woman who is a medium or spiritist among you must be put to death. You are to stone them." (Leviticus 20:27)
They'll stone you and say that it's the end . . .
Leviticus 20:27 are tough biddings, especially in hot sand dunes with only sand around for miles on end or at the open sea, far, far from land, with no stones on board. Was Yogananda stoned to death? No, he died during a banquet at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles. Perhaps luckily for Yogananda he was a Hindu when he some time earlier made use of his brother in spiritist ways, being neither a Jew nor a Christian. But he maintained those interests later too, Lola Williamson sums up. (2010:71 - see further down).
Fatal for Foetus Jesus - a Law
Jesus is SRF-claimed to be one of the SRF gurus. His vouching for commands about putting people like Yogananda to death did not amount to anything there.
Things depend on who are in control, and whether rules change with time. There are lessons to learn from the ancient couple Abraham and Sara - they were brother and half-sister, a quite common practice where they came from, we are told . . . The Law of Moses that Jesus guarantees for, would have had such persons put to death too, and also Lot and his three daughters who slept with him after they had got him drunk, and then got a lot of offspring. Luckily for all those Bible notables, the Law of Moses came later. Yes, rules change.
King David in the Bible was of the Lot line too, through Ruth. He had a man killed by putting him in the front line during warfare, for David wanted the man's wife for his harem, and had a son with her: Solomon. Was King David executed for anything of this at a time the Law should be valid? And his forerunner, Saul, who conjured up a dead Samuel to get advice from him (1 Samuel 28), was he stoned too? No. Besides, the mother of Jesus, Mary, was she stoned to death with Foetus Jesus in her belly, for getting pregnant without being married, stoned well as the Law required? Compare Matthew 5:18-19 and Deuteronomy 22:20,23,24)
Yogananda was not stoned to death either.
Often, big words and actions do not all match, and proselytes fail to see it all. Corny, you say? Adjust as you find fit, really and nobly fit, that is, and heed good warnings your way to accomplish things far better than - eh - Lot too. That could amount to a lot.
Salvation for Jews only, false messiahs and the spurious lore
One more point: Jesus said in Matthew 10:1-8; 15:24 that his teachings and ministry, salvation and Kingdom were for Jews only, and not Gentiles (Vermes 2010:37,41; 2012). Good to know! Yogananda was not a Jew - but a Hoffmann painting of Jesus on SRF altars may seem out of place all the same by force of his "I'm for Jews alone". Yogananda seems to have included Jesus among the line of gurus for the sake of seeming more acceptable to Christian Americans in his day - Marshall Govindan has written so:
After five years of effort in America, beginning in 1925 . . . Yogananda began to modify and adapt his teachings to the West . . . to overcome the . . . resistance of Christians who were suspicious of the foreign teachings of a Hindu swami. As a result, Yogananda began to enjoy remarkable popularity. . . . However, . . . most readers of his "Autobiography" . . . are left with many unrealistic expectations. - Marshall Govindan. [◦Link]
But there is far more to these matters also.
"For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. (Matthew 24:24, NIV)". Some translations have "false christs" and some "false messiahs." They are to mean the same. SRF gurus are called christs by Yogananda and his fellowship. Yogananda talks of many christs he knew - the question is if the term is misapplied. Then, do yogi christs lead astray because Yogananda appointed them so, maybe including his own father, Bhagabati Ghosh, a railroad official? [Here are christs]
Yogananda - a son of a christlike father, according to himself! Big-sounding words about guru Jesus banding with yogi christs (messiahs) do not quite add up, but talk of a plot - an illusion-play, if you will. Yogananda and the three others of his line all teach the universe is illusory - see? It suggests that what Yogananda taught cannot be really good.
Now compare what the renowned Bible scholar Geza Vermes tells:
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. (Vermes 2012)
"Spurious" means false. Texts that in time went into the New Testament are marred by added forgeries. That the Missionary Command is one such example, affirms Joseph Wheless and explains why it is so. [More]
Forgeries are nothing new in Christianity - it is a tradition
Maybe Jesus was not a good example, for he said a Law was completely valid: the law that would have his mother Mary stoned to death for Jesus Foetus in her belly. It goes a long way towards sawing off the branch you sit on.
Corny, again, and far worse: By vouching for the Law of Jews, Jesus at the same time said yes to cruelties of slavery and did not mention monasticism at all, not with one word. His less than ideal self-maiming beckonings (see Matthew 5) could have escaped the monk Yogananda and monastic followers of his. However, Yogananda was an example of trying to profit from the established religion in the country he came to, ignoring the forgeries in the New Testament as he waffled on, forming his hybrid through slogans - and ignoring what Jesus said in the gospel of Matthew, and perhaps of using "guru Jesus" and high-sounding terms like "Christs" for masquerading purposes too, and redefining terms like Father, Son, Holy Spirit to conform to Hindu lore - Corny, you say? [More]
Bart D. Ehrman has written books about forged writings in the early Church. You are referred to some of them. Titles are here with a few comments on some of them: [More]
Yogananda did not seem to see textual criticism of the Bible coming - neither did he take to heart essential gospel messages (cf. Vermes) that gives "guru Jesus" poor chances of survival . . . blatanty ignoring what "guru Jesus" had said while alive - that his teachings were for Jews alone, and that false messiahs would appear later. That brings us to this: What could Yogananda be a victim of?
Note these sayings: "We are all crazy. (Yogananda 1982:425)" - "I often say that we are all a little bit crazy and we don't know it, because people of the same craziness mix with their own kind (Yogananda 2002:270)." It is repeated by a former leader of the organisation that Yogananda set up (and one day regretted), Daya Mata: "All of us . . . are a little bit crazy, and we do not know it. (1976: "Qualities of a Devotee")
His message: "We are crazy", not "you are crazy", if it means anything - and: "Crazy birds of a feather flock together."
Victim of his own teachings all along, and later victim of his "crew"?
Yogananda further became a victim of his own plots and schemes throughout the years, and a victim of the "soapy-Christian" organisation he once regretted he had started:
He became a victim of signature forgery made by so-called Besserwissers (literally: better-knowers) he had given much love to, so much love that it hurt him, we have been told by SRF monastics. After a short time he was the victim of forgery by followers in charge of the organisation. A victim is a victim.
There is a story that throws light on how little authority Yogananda might have had had become toward the end of his life, in relationship to the group of SRF leaders. His disciple Margaret Dietz recounts an incident:
He told me to feel free to give Kriya (an advanced meditation practice) or any other part of his teachings to whomever I thought I should. Truth is free.
The guru called a disciple names in an attempt to show who was the boss - he fought for his right to give kriya yoga independently (!).
The victim of signature forgery founded SRF when he was Swami Yogananda. His title was later changed into Paramhansa. Some years after he was gone, the third SRF leader, called Daya Mata, decided that it "had to be" Paramahansa. So an 'a' was added "in between there" after the yogi was gone.* Yogananda used Paramhansa. But his organisation did not respect that. See who won when he was gone. Was it gangism, groupism and a poor culture, or was it decent respect? The group in question even forged his signature to get their way. They changed his title as if he did not know how to spell it, through a little bit of corruption (in the sense of alteration of a key word, in this case 'Paramhansa', "supreme swan". A little letter is sometimes revealing. A little story can be too. [More]
* In the case of Yogananda's title, 'Paramahansa' is a result of epenthesis (a vowel is put in between 'param' and 'hansa') in the title as he wrote it himself: Paramhansa. A Sanskrit word for epenthesis is svarabhakti. Both spellings are in common use. 'Paramhansa' is seen in Paramhansa Ramakrishna. [More in WP, "epenthesis"]
Here is something more on that seemingly tiniest of issues so far, written by the Palo Alto lawyer Jon Parsons, in A Fight for Religious Freedom, chap. 7.
In the summer of 1958, after Sister Daya's trip to India, SRF suddenly changed the spelling of Yogananda's title from "Paramhansa" to "Paramahansa." Without announcement or explanation, an extraneous "a" mysteriously appeared in Yogananda's title beginning with the July-August 1958 issue of Self-Realization [the SRF magazine]. I have a copy of the 1958 seventh edition of Whispers From Eternity where the book cover is still printed "Paramhansa" but the title page and dust jacket have the "new and improved" spelling.
The lawyer wonders. Param and Parama are both in use. If you leave out "Yogananda" from a Bing-search, for example, there are slightly more "paramhansa" than "paramahansa" (2015). Param versus Parama - that is not where the problem lies. But a part of the problem lies in implying a guru did not master how to spell his own title, and forge it when he was down and out, so to speak. That is shaming him. Following up in serving the group (the whole SRF society) by saying the guru's guidelines are always right, no matter how many of them they tuck away and fail to live out in the society, contains disguised quackery too. The guess: The SRF society goes on and selects "the acceptable" Yogananda it is served by, and finds older Yogananda output quite embarrassing: how he wrote his title and his hailing of dictatorship and Mussolini in 1934 are among the SRF-embarrassing elements. I think the latter examples are worse.
A Duck Test
Yogananda founded a fellowship and church that slowly got its ways above ideals he had had when founding it. The society has many signs of a cult too. That may not be so bad, but let us call a spade a spade after we have applied the duck test: "If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it might as well be a duck."
Yogananda did not want to start a sect; he wanted his fellowship to be universal, but what he gave rise to, seems like a cult to many, including Tara Mata (Laurie Pratt), a previous editor-in-chief there, and many former monastics.
Lola Williamson (2010) gives a likable overview of central features of SRF in a book - not very sugary, not very salty, but "just about right":
Disciples of Yogananda show tremendous dedication to their daily practices. This may be, in part, because they came to Kriya Yoga in stages, and were not given initiation until they had already shown willingness to maintain a daily meditation routine. To receive initiation into Kriya Yoga, one must receive Yogananda's correspondence course, referred to as the Lessons, for twelve months, and have begun a regular practice of the preliminary techniques taught in the Lessons. Another prerequisite entails making a pledge to God and the six gurus of the Self-Realization Fellowship lineage of "unconditional love, reverence, and loyalty forever'. (Williamson 2010:57)
However, in its latest version of the gruesome pledge SRF has dropped "unconditional love", which is wise, although far from enough. "Unconditional . . . loyalty forever" is the basic problem. Will you go on being loyal to deceiving rascals (possible future incarnations of Yogananda), for example? Williamson, further.
Yogananda . . . said, "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." (Williamson 2010:58)
Should the door be locked for all sorry followers who wake up enough to leave the strangulating-by-oath Yogananda?
Williamson seeks to describe the SRF methods.
According to SRF tradition, these techniques, other than the energization exercises, were known in ancient India but were forgotten. In actuality, the techniques have been used continually in many yoga and tantra traditions throughout India. . . . (Williamson 2010:58)
Isn't that a good point? Basic kriya yoga is a variant of ujjayi, a common method of hatha-yoga (Satyananda 1981, 2001). Further,
The tone of SRF gatherings is decidedly more Christian than in other HIMMs [Hindu-inspired meditation movements in the USA], possibly because the cultural milieu into which Yogananda entered was Christian . . . for the most part they were embedded in Christian heritage. (Williamson 2010:61)
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)
Something similar is stated in Sailendra Dasgupta's Yogananda-biography (2006). He informs that under the Daya leadership SRF and its Indian twin organisation, YSS (of 1917),
went through many changes. Many of the men and women who where older disciples of the order either removed themselves from the central organization or were forced out - not only in America, but in India as well. (Satyananda 2006:106)
Satyananda then names several of them, including SRF's former vice president, Kriyananda. He was forced out. Williamson describes further:
SRF is hierarchical in its approach with the Board [of management] essentially controlling the decision-making process. Former disgruntled members of SRF credit this top-down mentality with creating an unhealthy organization. (Williamson 2010:75)
An authoritarian structure is etched by that. Christian monasteries are known for such features too.
A labyrinth of difficulties beset the organization. Some people could not even sit in the same room with others because there was so much bad feeling. . . . SRF hire[d] outside communication and organizational consultants to offer advice on how to handle the situation. They also suggested that SRF hire counselors and psychologists to deal with the festering psychological problems that some of the monastics seemed to be experiencing. Two new committees . . . were formed to execute the suggestions made by the consultants. This was the beginning of a split among the monks and nuns who resided at the Mother Center. Some viewed the promise of change with exhilaration and hope; and some viewed it with fear. The end result was that a large number of monastics left SRF from about 2000 to 2001. Due to the entrenched resistance to change, the communication consultants were let go, the existing committee members replaced by others content with the status quo, and the psychologists relieved of their duties. It may be that so many people needed to talk to the counselors that the leadership became fearful of losing control. They reverted to the old style of dealing with problems, which, as the SRF catchphrase goes, is to "take it to your altar:' (Williamson 2010:76)
So they formed committees, and did not solve underlying problems. A proverb: "When the devil wanted nothing to happen, he formed a committee." There is a rhyme in it in the Scandiavian languages. A former SRF nun tells,
How people are with one another, especially how the leadership is, creates the particular culture - for better or for worse. Many spiritual groups deeply desire transformation, but unknowingly allow areas of unconscious behaviors to flourish - repression, judgment, rigidity. Anyone stepping outside the "mold" is seen as problematic, and shunned. Sadly, I've witnessed this many times and seen the toll it has taken on a person's faith and well-being. (Williamson 2010:77)
Her points about group climate and leadership styles is confirmed by group psychology. The leader of a group usually has much to say for a group climate. (Sjølund 1974; cf. also Baron and Branscombe 2012, chap. 11 about groups)
In this case, the leader chose to be absent for about thirty years without letting most SRF monastic get aware of it! The story of it leaked out:
Part of SRF's troubles with its neighbors stems from the reclusive nature of its leaders and the often clumsy way the church deals with outsiders. . .
Embarrassing. The aged leader stayed away from almost all fellow disciples for about thirty years without telling them. It seems to be in some contrast to Yogananda's:
Someone came to me crying and saying, 'Why did I ever leave?' I said, 'Wasn't this a paradise compared to the outside?' 'You bet it was,' he said, and cried so long I started crying with him." (Yogananda 1952:27)
Contrast it with a later SRF-edited version also:
A student who had once lived in the hermitage returned one day and said sadly to the Master:
The task of editors include not to create different direct quotations. There are some in these few lines. Think of all the other lines published by SRF that have been heavily edited away from the authentic.
Paradise: a place of timeless harmony.
More strongly worded testimonies appear on the SRF Walrus, a website for devotees of Yogananda who are critical of the SRF organization. (Williamson 2010:77)
The SRF Walrus folded in a year or two after Williamson wrote this. A backup-site catches the early Walrus fire until 2006. [SRF Backup Site]
A former monastic:
Why I left . . . Their inability to believe my assertions, to trust even the most common-sense explanations, to acknowledge SRF imperfections and wrong behavior; their unshakable, dogmatic belief in SRF's faultlessness, to explain everything away to karma, training, and their conclusion that it must have been all my fault .. . is really frustrating. (In Williamson 2010:77-78)
"Far from court, far from care" may turned into "Far from neurotics, far from their cares" too:
Many, upon leaving the SRF monastic order, complain of having little aptitude to deal with the problems of living in the world. This, however, is not true of those who participate in SRF from a distance. (Williamson 2010:79)
The last Williamson-statement above deserves reservations, better research and due consideration. Otherwise it may not be so helpful. For convenience, sort Yogananda adherents loosely into three groups: (1) Loners; (2) groupies and (3) monastics. Those of each group may have their own sorts of problems in addition to the problems SRF membership brings lots of followers in all three groups - such as too little sleep.
If the Loners and Groupies report less problems and troubles than Monastics - victims of intrigues and enervating troubles in SRF's monasteries - good for them! However, if they should report less adaptation troubles and nervous problems than insiders, the reasons might not necessarily be they have got the better deal; only that the feedback lines to SRF or local newspapers are not top. Thereby less remonstrations, of the type "There's no one to talk to, no one to bla-a-ame" (David Samuel McWilliams (1945–2002), in "Four Seasons"). It could also be a blend of isolatedness and developed shyness through lack of essential support.
Hence, long distance SRF'ers in groups or all by themselves may be infected with SRF material sent them and get adaptation problems and other problems from their adherence, and possibly with no one to share their problems with, and not getting good means of communicating they got garbage instead of gold, figuratively pinpointed, that is.
Anyway, SRF material is presented as "golden" although it is of very little real life value. That is what many followers have to lump with. SRF has kept a lid on lots of remonstrations. Ananda Sangha has brought to light some cases. They are many others.
If there have been few reports of adherent problems before the Internet came, the being alone and feeling small and isolated with no one to talk to about SRF-caused problems, can explain it. SRF's explaining away problems too.
The Internet may have helped in removing some alarming adherent problems once it arrived. Many posts on the SRF Walrus Board were by formerly isolated individuals, and not only by ex monastics.
The crucial thing may be how involved with SRF one has been, how deeply devoted to its stuff, and then disillusoned and disappointed thereafter, "run over" by the SRF's topdogs. Distance is, rather, a secondary point.
And yet there is a good chance that "long distance disciples" as compared to monastic disciples have not "renounced the world" so much as SRF-monastics, and have been helped not to "work for SRF and its gurus" as much as monastics who after years behind walls and for low wages wake up crying and then get very disgruntled. There are advantages in being a lay disciple, and a not too SRF-giving one. By keeping one's foremost assets, one's standing does not have to dwindle terribly. But time spent or lost in SRF may not find a good solution. Ex monastics may groan to SRF gurus and Mother, "Give me back my youthful looks, virility, good educational and job opportunities and the time that should be well spent," and then some may eventually realise that cringing is no small problem either. At least that is a firm Buddha's view.
Long distance lay disciples are subjected to several surprising teachingsadminstered by SRF, such as Yogananda directives on crying for God Mom till She comes. A few have succeeded, but they were given many yoga methods to train in - first. A cringing cry-sob practice is not good for getting a Tao (welcoming arms, etc.). Yogananda adherents should have been taught how to maintain happiness instead. And that is a Yogananda teaching . . .
The monastics novices thought perhaps they were entering a paradise, but found something less fit for peace and harmony, one may realise.
Some definitely had difficulties in standing up against the SRF management later, using pen names to voice criticism and psychotherapy to get more (and more) well. It may still go on for what I know.
Jane Dillon's interviews
Dr Jane E. Robinson Dillon wrote a doctoral dissertation (1998) with interviews of SRF monastics in it, in a qualitative study of the Self-Realization Fellowship. I don't think she gives hints of any unrest and SRF screw-up during those years (cf. Williamson 2010). Her work was rooted in ten years of field research. She had interviewed SRF nuns over years, and there may be no clear sayings by any of the interviewed monastics of the skirmish, like: "If I could run away from here, I would!" Sincerity is awfully good; it has helped many a hermit before," I think. The interviewer has to judge the reliability of the interviewed too, and not just render them. It comes down to that.
Dillon found that SRF has emerged as a somewhat conservative, traditional American church, though. Those who were enamoured by pretty words like "paradise climate", cooperative communities, "yogic style" "leaders know what they are doing", and such things, have woken up from illusions - at a huge cost. Better be aware of the discrepancies before you are fooled.
Three years or so after her dissertation was made public, about one third of the SRF monastics left SRF premises - left SRF - in dismay and anguish. Those sides to SRF were not her main issues. Such intense internal troubles worse than gas in the stomach - along with court cases that did not work out very well.
Yogananda the hypnotiser
Might love for Yogananda have been caused by a glaring stare of guru hypnosis? If so, it was humbug love.
A good and able parent supports his children throughout to shield and help them to get able and good themselves. Not just good-looking. He or she helps them to develop in accordance with the libidino-grounded, social development patterns of human life, to the end that they grow capable of keeping their own turf and family if things go well. They get good chances - He or she helps them to get better able to live their own, fulfilling lives too, and do not try to keep them under tight control for the rest of their lives.
Good love thus works fine in a good family, but not that good in a guru-garden with walls and guards and German Shepherds on the alert - A Yogananda University would have been fine. Where did Yogananda's ideas of it go? The same way as his ideas of self-sustaining brotherhood communities of barefoot-walkers and people in sandals - snow or not snow. "Hats should not be worn. All the people should wear sandals or go barefooted," decreed Yogananda. [Yogananda's World University - a flop?] - [Guru communities for people with a healthy circulation]
So one of the problems with SRF is they undermine the guru's credibility by dropping his good ideas. For people who are drawn by ideals of brotherhood, paradise and comminities of barefooted people outside the North and South and icy cold plains may get awfully disappointed, feel screwed-up and reconsider matters.
Now, the fifty monks or so that left and the hundred or so that stayed, had they been drawn by love for Yogananda, or drawn through love for Yogananda? Or did he hypnotise them to serve him for very, very little for long? One may never get a clear answer to the last question, although Yogananda was keen on hypnotising others also. (Williamson 2010:57)
Or did they want to escape hardships in the sluggard society? Motives seem to differ and mingle. For all that, the falls of many from social climbing are telling.
Yogananda the hypnotist
Can you hypnotise a woman to love you madly for long? The effects of the suggestions may be extended (posthypnotically) into the subject's subsequent waking activity. (WP, "Hypnosis")
Lola Williamson writes:
As a youth, Mukunda [Yogananda] learned how to hypnotize others and was also able to induce spirit-possession. He often used his brother to accomplish his experiments with fortune-telling, calling a spirit to enter his brother, who would then answer Mukunda's questions about what another person was thinking or about future events or how to heal a person. At times, the experiment backfired when the spirit refused to leave. Mukunda apparently took pride in his occult talents and, when asked to prove himself, used his younger brother in an unpleasant way. To demonstrate his hypnotism abilities for officials at a nearby school, Mukunda asked his brother to eat dirt, telling him it was sweet and delectable. "I began to devour the clod with the greatest pleasure and said,'It is delicious!"' his brother reported. Then Mukunda told him it was dirty and distasteful and his brother immediately vomited everything he had just eaten. . .
There is more uncanny Yogananda in Dasgupta's biography (2006). He scared a cook by "freezing" his arm, he got afraid of a ghost on a cot and had to have someone sleeping in the same room to prevent it from entering through the door when it was closed, and such interesting things.
Lola Williamson describes how the hypnosis-eager, devotional-minded Yogananda liked to sing of love and God. Ex-monastics and other terribly disappointed members of SRF may have found that an enslaver's love was a bait, and long years of major struggle were crowned with disabling stress and suffering (Dukkha is an encompassing key term for suffering and the like it in Buddhism). (Willamson 2010:71, 57)
Maybe they learnt too late that the guru might as well have hummed a different tune, one that later events actualised well for many ex monastics:
That's what you get for lovin' me
Groupism and its adherents get groupist trouble; others have other troubles
Yes, ex monastics have let others in on how they got troubles at night, sobbing, crying, but not for God in the Yogananda-ordained folly-way.
Good love is different from spirit-possession and faked, half-enslaving, incapacitating "love" for a hypnotist. At any rate, groupism that is not all right is about and "gilding a love-guru as they find opportune" and preach selections of his hodgepodge teachings to conform to a medium-class American church somehow. Kriyananda found that many parts of went against Yogananda's intentions and threatened to choke the guru's better ideals and teachings he had known. Ananda has published much material about it. Compare: [Freeing Yogananda's Legacy from Sectarianism]
It sounds good. If they has put "best" into it and replaced a word with another, it would have been "Freeing Yogananda's Best Legacy from Corruption", but they did not.
There is no definitive meaning of Jesuanism, Jesusism or Jesuism, and no clear ideology even though the gospels are the authority of them. Various groups use the terms Jesuanism. Adherents can be termed Jesuans, Jesusists or Jesuists. Suit yourself. [WP, "Jesuism"]
"Original Christianity - very original
On the social surface of it, SRF and Yogananda want to "reveal the complete harmony and basic oneness of original Christianity as taught by Jesus Christ and original Yoga as taught by Bhagavan Krishna; and to show that these principles of truth are the common scientific foundation of all true religions. ([◦SRF Aims and Ideals, No. 3])
The fawning smells tactics
The SRF aim (No. 3) stems from Yogananda's wrong fawning on the teachings of Jesus.
After five years of effort in America, beginning in 1925 . . . Yogananda began to modify and adapt his teachings to the West . . . to overcome the . . . resistance of Christians who were suspicious of the foreign teachings of a Hindu swami. As a result, Yogananda began to enjoy remarkable popularity. . . . However, . . . readers of his "Autobiography" come away with many romantic notions of the path. They are left with many unrealistic expectations. – Marshall Govindan.
Truth be told
But get to the facts where they are first: There was no original Christianity of Jesus, and no Christian monastics where he came from. Christianity arose only after he was dead (Acts 15), and Christian monasticism arose in Egypt centuries later. Hence, one cannot be a Jesuan monastic according to those established facts.
In the monastics-led SRF they have found it fit to present themselves as Jesuans anyway, with Yogananda interpreting and twisting sayings in the gospels - but a swami-governed fellowship using inconsistent Christianity-decorum may give a lot more for members to swallow in time too. Hold on to facts: The SRF leaders are swamis - all of them.
Jesus addressed Jews
To add to the grand picture: It is unclear what Jesus really said, he is not quoted verbatim in the gospels, able bible scholars find (e.g. Vermes 2005). For all that, the gospels tell that Jesus addressed Jews only and that his teachings and Kingdom were exclusively for Jews - although with one notable exception in Samaria. Otherwise, the apostles of Jesus were strictly told not to seek to persuade non-Jews. And Jesus' message, which was directed towards Jews alone, was centred on the Law of Moses. He upheld it 100 percent - the brutal cruelty of slavery and all that. (Matthew 5:17-19; Vermes 2010).
The scholar Geza Vermes ascertains: Jesus addressed his message to 'the house of Israel' alone and expressly forbade his disciples to approach non-Jews. Further, his Kingdom of God he spoke of, was for Jews only. Gentiles would be excluded. (Matthew 15:24; Vermes 2010:37; 41)
The teachings of Jesus are sinister. For one thing, he stood for the Law of Moses to the smallest detail (Matthew 5:17-19) That Law violates Canaanites by commanding "Keep the Canaanite slave forever" (Leviticus 25:46). It says yes to slavery, and Jesus says "I go for it!" But archeological findings indicate the Hebrews themselves were Canaanites. Then what? Pity those under such a sway at least.
His original commands for Jews were in part self-molesting and self-insulting. ("Matthew 5:39-42)" And one "had to surrrender . . . all one's possessions. (Geza Vermes 2010:23)". Pity those. They lose - in the name of Jesus - the good opportunities life had to offer, to bullies and bandits. The end of the world that the gospel of Mark (chap. 13) preaches, says that the world would end within the lives of some of those alive at the time of Jesus and they would even see Jesus come down in clouds of glory, attributing these words to Jesus. But that end of the world did not come as expected. On the basis of this - sayings in Mark and Matthew or whatever, some conclude, "There is no evidence that Jesus ever predicted the end of the world" . . . That is one way to deal with it.
Another way is to scrutinise the best, available sources, for example the New Testament and the Gospels of Thomas and Peter. After such hard work the bible scholar Bart D. Ehrman proposes that Jesus can be best understood as . . . "a man convinced that the world would end dramatically within the lifetime of his apostles and that a new kingdom would be created on earth". And guess what, the world is still here.
As for what Yogananda might have got out such sayings, there is an SRF-expanded work that suggests: "If you ask a yogi for a commentary, expect a yogi's terms too." See how true it is. He comments Matthew 13:36-43:
. . . His disciples came to him and said, "Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field."
In this context, some translate the Greek word aeon into age, and others to world. SRF's Yogananda says (after SRF-editing):
"He who cultivates the good seed of God-wisdom (the good children) in his own consciousness (the world) finds the body (son of man) attuned with Cosmic Consciousness (the kingdom); even as my body (the Son of man) is attuned, and as I have come to sow my teachings and my life in the field of the world consciousness.
"But the cosmic delusion of Satan implants ignorance, the weeds of worries, anger, fear, mental darkness, in the minds of evil-bent individuals."
That may be so, but good people get and harness evil thoughts too. Besides, Jesus speaks of evil people, such as psychopaths, and their possible fare without any glimpse of redemption mentioned. It is a different mental universe than that of Sanatan Dharma (Vedanta, Hinduism). For example, the Bhagavad Gita says, "My devotee is never destroyed!" (9:31), while Jesus says a soul can be destroyed in hell (Matthew 10:28, Luke 12:4-6; Matthew 5:29).
Here is a conundrum: Shouldn't Yogananda have stayed on the safe Krishna-devotee side? It could have saved many souls . . . as judged from the basic scriptures of his fellowship, scriptures he asserted were in harmony.
Yogananda, continued: "When souls leave this earth at the 'end of the world' - after finishing earthly existence at the time of death, or by otherwise transcending worldly consciousness - they reap the harvest of their good or bad karma. The reapers are the truth-revealing bright angels of soul intuition.
"In the after-death state, the astral-bodied consciousness of souls with evil karma, gathered together in the astral world, will burn in the fire of sorrows resulting from their own ignorance. The Son of man, the visible form of Jesus or any being with Christ Consciousness, will send forth angelic messengers of light, or come themselves, to receive souls in their after-death state. They will gather the astral-bodied souls who offend or create wrong vibrations wherever they are and who are full of iniquity or bad karma, and these astral beings shall be made to realize consciously that the searing fire of their misery is their self-created conflagration of evil and ignorance. They will wail and remonstrate about their errors and the sad state of their astral existence. Those that can draw on their store of subverted good karma and spiritual desire, and will repent and consciously try to embrace righteousness, will shine forth as the sun of wisdom manifested in their soul through contact with the consciousness of God." Those who have ears to hear, let them hear; God is not a God of vengeance but of redemption, who aids souls whether they punish or reward themselves according to their own activities."
"A kind and merciful God would never throw a sinner into an eternally tormenting furnace of fire; even the greatest sinner in the after-death state is an immutable, immortal soul and has a luminous astral body that cannot be burned by any physical fire."
Jesus teaches the soul can be destroyed [Matthew 10:28, Luke 12:4-6; Matthew 5:29], however. And Jesus was clear on that the Law of Slavery was to be upheld, cruel inhuman treatment of others. He was too harsh for most of his disciples too - they left him. It figures.
Yogananda, continued: "Souls encrusted with wicked karma not only can repent and heal the burns of their evil ways in this life by the salve of wisdom and peace found in meditation, but also, in the afterdeath state, they can find redemption when they are awakened by the angels of God and are given the opportunity in their astral existence to repent and resurrect their buried good karma. Evilbound souls usually die in an unconscious transition from the body, but the after-death unconscious state is temporarily removed by angels of God to give souls suffering subconsciously in the fire of their own wicked tendencies a chance to strive toward God-consciousness by astral meditation. If they are overwhelmed by their habitual preference for ungodly mortal ways, that door of opportunity is quickly closed, leaving them closeted in their karmic destiny.
"This parable is ambiguously complex in its broad scope of meaning of "the end of the world," as intended by Jesus. The literal end of the world could refer either to the extinction of the earth after it has completed its aeonic cycles of usefulness to creation; or further, to the dissolution of the entire universe when Spirit ceases Its creative dreamings after trillions of years of manifestation. The vast extent of these two possibilities is hardly relevant, though true in principle, to the warning given by Jesus to evildoers to change their ways.
"The "end of the world" is more usefully understood as applied to that time when the world ends in the consciousness of each individual, temporarily or permanently, as the case may be. This occurs in the following ways: In deep sleep when the superconsciousness of the soul becomes semiconscious, reminding the subconscious of man's essential perfection hidden in the tares of worldly consciousness; in righteous freedom from earthly desires and attachments, breaking karmic bonds that tie man to the world; in death, when the world recedes from one's consciousness, being replaced by astral perceptions; in samadhi meditation when God alone is experienced as the Sole Reality; and in the highest nirvikalpa samadhi state in which one transcends delusion even while engaged in material activities. The metaphor given by Jesus applies to any and all of these ways to experience the end of the world, and to the condition of man pertinent to each.
"In consequence, the above parable can also be explained as follows: The devotee who sows the good seeds of wisdom in his consciousness and in his bodily activities becomes a good example in the world, and all his children of good tendencies are saturated with the blissful state of the soul's intrinsic contact with Cosmic Consciousness. And the tares or weeds are those mental tendencies of selfishness, greed, lust that spring up as children of wicked ignorance born of sense contact with Satan's delusive temptations; they arise in the consciousness of man without his participation in creating them, only in succumbing to them. In creating these evils, Satan fights God everywhere, in man and in nature, resisting and marring God's perfection and harmony at every opportunity. At the end of worldly consciousness, the devotee will gather in his divine harvest through his reapers of angelic intuition, Self-realization and wisdom. He will burn in the newly kindled fire of his wisdom the tares or weeds of accumulated karmic effects of his past evil actions.
"The God-saturated son of man, the devotee, will send his angels of intuitive perceptions deep into the subconscious and superconscious minds to gather all hidden offending and sinning tendencies of past lives and these will be burned in the flames of the devotee's fiery wisdom spread throughout his conscious and subconscious and superconscious minds. His evil inner tendencies will wail and rebel at being consumed in the fire of wisdom. Then the pure righteousness of the devotee will come out from behind the clouds of all past evil karma and shine forth as the sun of cosmic wisdom, ablaze with pure transcendental consciousness in the kingdom of God the Father, felt in the union of the body, mind, and soul with Christ Intelligence in creation and Cosmic Consciousness beyond creation." Those who have spiritual ears, let them hear and absorb into their consciousness through direct experience the truth of these words.# (Yogananda 2004, Vol 1, p. 709-12)
This takes us to several of the ways to deal with or explain away bible passages that fail to come true.
The stand that is next to the last above may hit Yogananda's commentary hard, like it or not, but to the degree it is the teaching of Jesus he talks about it sits. But is he really commenting Jesus, or does he use him to promote his own teachings? Is Yogananda once again putting teachings into the mouth of Jesus that were alien to Jesus the Jew and his Jewish listeners? Decide for yourself, but first add up all the Jesus-alien concepts Yogananda resorts to.
Seek better ways of regulating your life than the locked yokeful and slavery-infested ones to improve your lot. There is much to learn from India. Buddhist core teachings as to who are your real friends, for example, and Hindu teachings about life goals too. [Teachings to compare with]
The good Christian - not misled
But for clever Christians the edited and sometimes forged gospels that in time came to be of service to the church, may be dispensed with - they are only for Jewish followers and were not part of the early community as far as we know. All the apostles and the Holy Ghost showed they are not essential for the good Christian (Acts 15; confirmed in 21:25).
This Apostolic Decree is the basic Christianity. Not one word of Jesus is mentioned there. Q.e.d. The gospels were not written at that time either, most likely. They were added later, and four of them selected to serve the church still later on. They are later-edited selections, and sayings ascribed to Jesus in them are in part forged. There is no verbatim quotation of Jesus in the gospels.
Abstain from teachings of Jesus and get it much better
It comes down to this: Jesus came for Jews, taught Jews only, and died to help them. But the vast majority of Jews did not want his teachings, and did not think he was the Messiah they were hoping for. He was rejected. He died in vain one day. If he later changed his plans, there is absolutely no good evidence of it. The Missionary Command is a later-added forgery [The forgery].
Only after his mission failed and he was dead, the apostles were told to go to Gentiles too. A new turn! The Apostolic Decree (Acts 15:28-29) was borne out of this dramatic change of plans after Jesus had died, and seemingly in vain.
It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell. [Acts 15:28-29]
The apostles preached Jesus the Jew as they went abroad, but not any "Christ" in the later-adde, heavenly expanded and glorified Christianity-added sense of it. Accordingly, there is no real need to be burdened with any sayings and commands of Jesus. Just abstain from blood food, and strangled chicken, and you fulfill half of the First and Foremost Deal for non-Jewish followers. You also need the Spirit onboard to fulfil the requirment of being saved (put right with the God of Jews) in a Christian way. The right Spirit, capable of so much.
According to the first five books of the New Testament the right Spirit is a teacher of truth, reminded, faithful witness - one that makes people talk in tongues and perform greater works than Jesus (John 14:12) who healed others, but ended up on a cross after a failed mission for Jews alone. According to gospels he had talked for the power of prayers - saying they could be granted - but events proved him woefully wrong again: his own prayers on the cross were not granted.
The martyrs - a horde of them thought the end of time was near and not just the end of themselves - were victims of the later-added gospel teachings of Jesus. He had taught the end of the world was near, really near. In gospels he was credited with saying what Jewish followers could do in the right Spirit, or by granted prayers. The millions of martyrs who were killed for Roman entertainment, did not use their granted powers to survive. We can say that much.
It is also a point that there are no verbatim quotations of Jesus in the Bible - he did not write any. His alleged sayings is a questionable mass, so it may be futile to get to the actual words of his. Some are added many generations after he died, and some forged, such as the Missionary Command.
You may wonder why the guru Yogananda did not say that Jesus is not essential for the Christian (!). But after five years in the States he took to embracing Christianity and Jesus, adding him to the gurus of SRF against Jesus' sayings that his teachings were for Jews alone, and the many warnings against false Christs - and much else.
Yogananda talked much and reverently about "Lord Jesus" and interpreted gospel sayings as it suited his books. Jesus and his sayings became grist to his mill. But did the guru speak in tongues and thereby manifest the Spirit that fell on the apostles and the disciples of the early Church? One may discern between facade and ceremonial goings on the one hand, and true grit on the other. The outward garb of Jesuanism goes so poorly along with an upheld SRF belief against many teachings Jesus in the gospels also.
I suggest you read the best books of bible criticism before you conform to wrong views and get insolent afterwards. After such fact-finding one may assess how widely or deeply Yogananda threw away silver heirlooms of India for the sake of tinsel alignments with American Christians.
THE END . . . SO FAR
Baron, Robert A., and Nyla R. Branscombe. Social Psychology. 13th ed. London: Pearson, 2012, chap 11.
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. (36 pages) Online.
Dillon, Jane Robinson. "The Social Significance of a Western Belief in Reincarnation: A Qualitative Study of the Self-Realization Fellowship." Ph.D. Dissertation. Department of Sociology. University of California, San Diego, 1998. (Available from UMI Dissertation Services, Ann Arbor, MI)
Kriyananda, Swami. Rescuing Yogananda. Nevada City, CA: Crystal Clarity, 2010. Online.
Mata, Daya. "Only Love". Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1976.
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.
Russell, Ron. "A Mountain of Discontent." New Times Los Angeles, 1 June 2000.
Satyananda Saraswati, Swami. Kundalini Tantra. 8th ed. Munger: Yoga Publications Trust, 2001.
⸻. A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga and Kriya. Munger: Yoga Publications Trust, 1981.
Sjølund, Arne. Gruppepsykologi. Oslo: Fabritius, 1974.
Smith, Eliot R., and Diane M. Mackie. Social Psychology. 2nd ed. Hove: Psychology Press, 2000, chap. 5 etc.
Vermes, Geza. The Authentic Gospel of Jesus. London: Penguin, 2005.
⸻. "From Jewish to Gentile: How the Jesus Movement Became Christianity." Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR) 38:06, Nov/Dec 2012.
⸻. The Real Jesus: Then and Now. Minneapolis, MI: Fortress Press, 2010.
Williamson, Lola. Transcendent in America: Hindu-Inspired Meditation
Movements as New Religion. London: New York University Press, 2010. ⍽▢⍽ The book's exposition is a wake-up call, as it bring cultural perspectives of guru-following as a "'non-institutional institution" (85) and HIMMs [Hindu-Inspired Meditation Movements] with their raging controversies. The book is suited to scholars and adherents of meditation movements in an American religion and subculture. It offers intimate glimpse into motivations and experiences of long-time practitioners, and combines insider and outsider perspectives. The result is a sympathetic account of the three movements she focuses on, while not shying away from their controversies.
Yogananda, Paramahansa. The Divine Romance. 2nd ed. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 2002.
⸻. Man's Eternal Quest. 2nd ed. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1982.
⸻. The Master Said. Los Angeles, CA: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1952.
⸻. Sayings of Paramahansa Yogananda. 4th ed. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1980 (1952).
⸻. The Science of Religion. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1953.
Harvesting the hay
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