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The Guru Disciple Yogananda and His Teachings

Yogananda Disciples make all the trouble and differences. They begin to create narrowness and bigotry. The pure Message becomes diluted with ignorance. - Swami Yogananda, "Oriental Christ", East-West, March-April 1930.

"They doctrinate you at every corner," is a fit warning in cult country. Here is another: "The cow forgets she once was a calf" (Proverb). Yogananda - according to himself, that is - was a disciple once, and in the end created narrowness and bigotry, he implies. He also diluted the pure kriya yoga message through his ignorance, according to himself (above).

Either you trust him and think that the fellowship he founded has deteriorated a long time, or you don't trust him. Maybe you should inspect a little, as fairly and proficiently as you are up to. It is at any rate sound counsel to try to study good evidence and clear teachings before being victimised by some loony faker. [◦Yogananda's Modified Kriya (article)]

If Yogananda had got it right about "the disciple things" in his own line of gurus that line seems to get more and more bigoted, narrower and narrower, with lots of troubles added as time goes by. A good parampara, succession of gurus and disciples, however, is not like that.

Now for an example. Yogananda wanted to travel to America in 1920. A little before the ship pulled away from the port, Yogananda suddenly saw his guru, Yukteswar, walking up the steps to board it. It made Yogananda in part beset with regret and prostrate on the ship's deck, for he had forgotten to tell his guru that he was to go to America - However, Yukteswar picked up his repentant disciple, carried a copy of a book he had written, and told his disciple to base his teachings on it. (Dasgupta 1998, chap. 1; (2006, 46)

In the USA, however, Yogananda partly drowned that output in oratories - sermons, lectures, and so on - as time went by. Some have been published as books, and others as instalments in the Self-Realization magazine. Besides, he changed the kriya yoga he was supposed to make known, leaving out what was thought to be key parts. Sailendra Dasgupta tells how Yogananda adopted several variations to the original methods.

One indispensable part of yoga sadhana [yogic practice] is "asana" [sitting posture], and in Kriya Yoga, another element is indispensable regarding higher levels of the practice – Khechari Mudra, upon which all of the advanced levels of Kriya are based. . . . Yogananda adopted a few different methods . . . however, it is not possible through these new methods to fully attain that which is spoken of in the scriptures in terms of Kriya Yoga . . . .

Because of Yoganandaji's method of initiating many people at once, or because of having to learn the teachings from the [mailed] Precepta Lessons, quite a few misunderstandings can come about. [And] one is only fit to practice the higher Kriyas after one accomplishes Khechari Mudra. . . . Yogananda gave instructions for higher Kriyas even without Khechari. In the perspective of pure Kriya practice, this is not proper; and furthermore, the purpose of practicing higher Kriyas cannot be brought to fruition without Khechari. . . . From the second Kriya onward, all of the higher Kriyas must be performed with Khechari Mudra. Without Khechari, neither "Thokar" Kriya nor "Omkar" Kriya can be performed; if anyone says otherwise, then he is not speaking about Kriya Yoga. (Dasgupta 2006, 109-10)

That is what a kriya yogi who also served as Yogananda's secretary, says. Some words are explained in the site glossary. However, as far as I have been able to ascertain, Sanskrit scriptures say nothing about kriya yoga, they only speak of 'kriya', which seems to mean just "work". [The evidence of what seems like a scripture hoax]

He surely made a difference. His society is said to be cultish today - by ex monastics from it. They wrote about many sad experiences on the SRF Walrus discussion board.

Advaita Vedanta has many old lineages connected with Adi Shankara. "The better teachings, the more beneficient gurus, the better meditation methods, the better disciples too." Watch out, there are some who get fooled a lot.

Yogananda's disciples, how awfully disappointing

✑ During a Christmas meditation, 1948. [Tragedy]

✑ A Yogananda to his disciple, Swami Kriyananda: "Apart from [James J.] Lynn . . . every man has disappointed me." With intensity then, he added, "And you MUSTN'T disappoint me!" (Novak 2005, Chap. 6)"

✑ It could be all right to disappoint a dictatorship hailer a whole lot, though. Yogananda publicly hailed dictatorship in his forties, in 1934.

Then, did Yogananda do a honorable thing and show enough foresight when he set up Self-Realization Fellowship in 1935? Did he form a matrix with foresight enough to avoid ensnaring others to become later disappointments? He backed out, much disinterested in the organisation, which remains. Once he wrote a letter of grave disappointments with the whole fellowship he had started:

"I have done such a horrible act like eating feces by starting an organization."
"I have performed an absolutely foolish act by starting an organization."
"I have committed a great blunder by starting an organization."

Some who say they are disappointed with their students, could have benefitted from studying themselves better by sound introspection - a method advocated by Yogananda among others. Now, being disappointed with - say - 150.000 American kriya disciples, could it be a nudge that we should have been less unrealistic in the first place, not seeing others for what they truly are deep inside? What else did Yogananda have to learn? you may come to wonder.

As for parents, if they seek to help their children develop into decent, fair persons so that they can help themselves in time, then the parents may not have to be so disappointed with them for not walking in parent's shoes - ties and all. The result could be that parents will not wail over how disappointed they feel, to say the least.

Yogananda, a former disciple

Yogananda started out as a disciple and remained so for years. He should know about the trouble he caused. Or did he? And was the dictatorship-fond guru disappointed with himself? Maybe he was blind on that eye? If so, we have an example of "The cow forgets she once was a calf (Proverbial)".

But study the case: In his forties, Yogananda hailed fascism and dictatorship. May I suggest it turned out to be a flop, as he sent disciples into World War II to combat a dictator he had previously told well of - Hitler.

If you want to go well against a dictator, why not go against dictatorship in the first place.? Yogananda evidently failed in that.


Now, how did Yogananda's guru think of Yogananda? In a Yogananda biography, we read: "'You're saying that Yogananda wrote all this? Shame, shame!' Saying this, [Yogananda's aged guru] listlessly sank back into his easy chair." [Dasgupta 2006:71]


We also read that Yogananda's guru, Yukteswar, wished to leave his home, an ashram and savings to an institution directed by Yogananda. They decided to form a legal deed which would connect their branches of India and America under one institution. The responsibility of preparing the paperwork was given to an attorney. The organization was to have Yukteswar as its founder and Swami Yogananda as its president.

On the day the deed was to be witnessed and signed, they went to the attorney's office. Many witnesses were present. At the time of signing, Yogananda said: "I was really the one who did everything . . ."

Yukteswar was shocked, marched out of the attorney's office and went back home by car, saying, "That is not self-will; that is unlawful conduct." Yukteswar's had desired to leave all his belongings to Yogananda, but that was never carried out after this grave disappointment, no matter what blurring impression Yogananda's autobiography might give in the matter. On the day the deal was off, Yukteswar gave up all hope of a future for his institution, we read. [Dasgupta 2006:85]


We also read panegyric statements by Yogananda about Yukteswar, that he had foresight, a marked will, that his guidance was unerring, and obliged the cosmos, and the like. Yet Yogananda caused him lots of trouble, even shocked him.

Yogananda all the same tells that Yukteswar was of "unerring spiritual insight" [Yukteswar 1972:v], was Divine Wisdom Incarnated [Autobiography of a Yogi, 1971:499-501], a master in every way [Yogananda 1982:99], one whose words obliged the cosmos [Autobiography of a Yogi, ch. 17 etc.].

There is a human side to us too. Hold on to the good a lot.

A Trust Game Goes On

Loco trust teachings may be seen to benefit the publishers of them, or a church or more. Ask "Cui bono? (Who benefits)" and "Where does the money go?" for finding out lots of things in many matters.

A good leader is less interested in blaming others than in making good of things.

Blaming decline, decay, decadence and one's own inconsistencies and quirks only on the disciples, can that be fair and solid? In some cases it may be so, but in many cases it stands out that "It takes two to tango."

A good guru does not blame most of his disciples like a schmuck. Yogananda instigated the "Cry for Divine Mother and She will come" practice, which could make neurotics out of good folks. He also talked too big on many occasions, apart from contradicting himself, and hailing dictatorship too.

Don't be eager to trust Yogananda. Some digging brings evidence that it is not worth the fits. For example, Marshall Govindan writes:

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]

Beware that selling good teachings short or cheating for a welcome may backfire eventually. Better aim for realistic, overall fair goings. [More]

Better check "Who tells (s)he is disappointed with whom, along what channels, with what possible purposes, and with what effects? And who gets the money?" It is an adaption of a communication formula by Harold Lasswell. Solid background checking may take the brunt off many guru sayings. Discernment helps too. The Likert scale is fit for developing that again.

The Likert Scale

I like the Likert scale (from Rensis Likert). It is widely used in statistics too. You may use it to sort out your feelings and attitudes in difficult matters. You can use the fingers on your hand to sort things out by it. Better still, write down your responses:

  1. "strong no",
  2. "no",
  3. "neutral/maybe/don't know/unsettled",
  4. "yes"
  5. "strong yes" (thumb up)

A thumb up marking could mean "strong yes", for example, and 5 be used as the number for it. You may next sort and weigh many responses too. This scale is not difficult to work with. Use it to sort your likings and responses to many things.

Some respond by "yes" without verifying. "It is easier to believe than to doubt [American proverb, in Mieder et al, 1996:166]." Others respond "no" without knowing enough. None of these responses are professional. Compare, "Twin fools: one doubts nothing, the other everything [American proverb, in Mieder et al., 1996:166]." The best may stick to a cultivated or cultivable "maybe" and next decide whether and how far they would like to inspect things for themselves or their next of kin. In this way many get some measure of progress and may thrive too. "When in doubt, find out – Knowledge may grow with skilled doubts [Cf. American proverb, in Mieder et al., 1996:165]."

It is not enough just to be hard-headed. One is supposed to be rational and fair in encounters too.

Estimate figures


An 'estimate figure' is tentative. It suggests - maybe your most favourable responses: (a) in private; (b) among friends; (c) fit for the public. These may differ, for it generally pays to be more guarded in the public sphere than among friends, for example.

In the public sphere, being sceptical and not settled may pay well, in time. "Not settled" may be translated into "I haven't made up my mind on that yet" - it often suffices in public. What you do otherwise in your private life and among good friends is your own business. Official statements need to be very careful and well enough guarded, or jarring may set in. And a practical, all right truth may be a rare find. Some are found in textbooks, though.

Another figure:


Not a few men and women think that truth has something about it that is credible. With sectarians it may be opposite, though. Besides, unwelcome truths may be disliked and easily discarded. Hence, in bad quarters a solid and applied truth may be as rare as an unappreciated gem. Compare Kurt Lewin's "There is nothing so practical as a good theory" [Smith and Mackie 2000:11].

Something accepted as true, may be the result of social bargains. Moreover, we may not have to express ourselves further (in public) than to a "very, very credible" level.

Knowledge comes within certain limits.

Stick tentatively to some 'middling course', quite as an Indian professor suggests with reference to the life of Shyama Charan Lahiri, Lahiri Baba. For all that, a fair approach may differ from the unsure guy's "middling" responses over and over.

It was at Ranikhet ... that he received the Blessed touch of his Master under whose benign influence he became the greatest exponent of the Yoga Cult in modern times.

There are different and conflicting accounts regarding the meeting of the Yogiraj with his Master ... and his initiation. The conflict seems to be between the spirit which claims to start from a rational and scientific basis and rejects all improbable incidents as entirely unbelievable, and that which blindly accepts everything—facts and legends, however improbable and fantastic—as gospel truth the validity of which cannot simply be questioned. The truth seems to stand midway between these two extremes". [Professor Jogesh Chandra Bhattacharya, in the book Shri Shri Gurabe Namah Yogiraj Shri Shri Lahiri Mahasha, chapter 3.]

Express soundly if you can and be on your guard

Majestic-looking guys do not always seem to talk along modest and sensible lines. that is their business, but it does not have to be yours. Fairly often blunderbuss talking serves them. It may be good to go for careful, nuanced precision instead.

Also, to neglect sound testing is not a work of wisdom. Yogananda tells that yoga is testable, and not detestable. And as for Yogananda, many succumb to romantic tales and intrigues of his making, as Marshall Govindan suggests.

One has to be prepared for emotionally tinged biases, tense build-ups, intense situations and yearnings, guesswork that "folks agree on" and old rigmarole that just might get the better of some people. Still, some guru followers might want to explore some of the tidings that come up unless bigwigs and group agreements erect blocks in the way - they do.

Common sense is not as common as many think. Therefore there is quite a need to examine inspirations and ideas well. If there is enough backbone (truth) in an axiom, it stands being put to the test in good ways.

One of the hallmarks of general science is yes to examination (deep study) of tenets, not refusal of investigating them in adequate, fair ways.

Rational coping is worth striving for. It does not exclude modest tentativeness. See if the main line of an argument is fit, if it is convincing, if the parts "marry" each one another fairly well. Intrinsic consistency is a good asset.

Also see whether the tenets match your main experiences or some of those of your forefathers, and try to gauge how far you might be able to make good use of them in time, in case, and what the cost might be. Much is up to you.

It also pays to be prepared for unpleasant encounters, even academically.

A Venture

Before embarking on a venture into the unknown, one should learn about it indirectly. There may be statistics that may be dug up, research findings from that area, and explorers who have returned and may tell a tale or four or more. It is a good idea to prepare oneself for a task so as to lessen the risks for failing in the all too common ways.

An individual's life is a sort of venture too. Some play it very safe, and others do not. In many cases, however, sound, fit and also elevated thinking processes can be harnessed to improve a life. Budding or growing mental independence may be helped on and up through certain well-prepared and well-timed tales too.

A mother, father, brother, and sister should support one another for very good and tall reasons. A family nest is fit for most persons:

If a bird will not come to its nest but flies higher and higher, it eventually falls into the hunter's net. - I Ching, hexagram 62.

Hexagram 62 speaks for being aligned with the natural set-up, and against going too far, where unknown, unseen dangers often are.

A climb, a journey, an adventure

Perhaps Richard Wilhelm's hexagram comment comes true once or twice, and corresponds just a little bit to happen to those who try to climb Mount Everest. Not everyone of them fall into any net up there. In October 2003 there had been 1,924 ascents of Mount Everest (more than 1,300 different climbers), and 179 people had died, says "Mount Everest news - Mount Everest by climbers".

About fourteen out of a hundred die in their attempts to get high - should such averaged figures suggest the odds for one single climber? Hardly, for expertise, very good geer and helpers tend to give much better odds. Conversely, if you are alone, with no friends to support and help you, and no basic knowledge on climbing heigh, it is wise to think you risk to fail in your climb, and your odds of success look meagre. However, a few exceptions may be found too, and word may get around about them, in case.

There are some who profit from climbers. Some sell instruction material, equipment, and some lord it over others in wrong ways as well, making you pore over little helpful material for years. Many are those who get governed in that way, all their days.

Climbers beware: Bones. First they fire you a burning zeal to learn the best climbing technique. Then they say you must swear not to give it away. Then you get bound to the "seller" of the climbing technique and the equipment by an oath, and stay bound even for life-times after that.

You may think no-no to this, but alas, here is meat on the bones along with good wishes for avoiding a hobbit-like life in fear of wizards: [A given loyalty oath]


Paramahansa Yogananda on disciples, Literature  

Dasgupta, Sailendra. Paramhansa Swami Yogananda: Life-portrait and Reminiscences. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, 2006. (Also: Google Books, partial view.)

Dasgupta, Sailendra B. Kriya Yoga and Sri Yukteshvar. Portland, MN: Yoganiketan, 1998. On-line: [].

EB: Encyclopaedia Britannica = Britannica Online.

Mieder, Wolfgang (main ed.), Stewart A. Kingsbury, and Kelsie E. Harder: A Dictionary of American Proverbs. (Paperback ed.) New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Novak, Devi. Faith is My Armor: The Life of Swami Kriyananda. Nevada City, CA: Crystal Clarity, 2005.

Satyanananda, Swami. Yogiraj Shyama Charan Lahiri Mahasaya. A Biography. Tr Amitava Chaterjee. Portland, Mn: Sevayatan and Yoganiketan, 2001.

Smith, Eliot R., and Diane M. Mackie. Social Psychology. 2nd ed. Hove: Psychology Press, 2000.

Yogananda, Paramahansa [and others]. Autobiography of a Yogi. 11th ed. Los Angeles: SRF, 1971.

Yogananda, Paramahansa. Man's Eternal Quest. 2nd ed. Los Angeles: SRF, 1982.

Yukteswar, Swami: The Holy Science. 7th ed. Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF), Los Angeles, 1972.

Harvesting the hay

Symbols, brackets, signs and text icons explained: (1) Text markers(2) Digesting.

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