"Make the best out of it." You can sort out fair teachings for a medley of many sorts of teacings, including sluggard teachings. It is not wholly unlike gutting and cleaning fish and then fillet and preserve the most valuable parts, in short.
Here is something the famous guru Yogananda (1893–1952) says,
You won't find false Yogananda flattery on these pages, but altogether such aims as he often talked for, like rational handling. That is good to know about.
Be greatly selective when it comes to Yogananda
"Go for the best, leave the rest" with variations. Paramahansa Yogananda (1893-1952) was trained by Yukteswar (1855-1936) (picture). In his autobiography, Yogananda cites the guru called Babaji (revered father) of his line:
For the faults of the many, judge not the whole. Everything on earth is of mixed character, like a mingling of sand and sugar. Be like the wise ant which seizes only the sugar, and leaves the sand untouched. [Chapter 36, emphasis added]
Everything? If you buy sand for your driveway and get sand, only sand, you get what you bought. And if you buy a bag of sugar at the grocist's, it may not be mixed with anything else. If you buy electricity for your home, electricity it is, unmixed. Let us at least be careful, for the meanings of a saying also depend on what one takes it to mean. Nuances and options may be many.
As for the quotation, if you buy 'everything', 'much' could be better." What is meant is quite well caught in: "Go for the best, leave the rest." Or simply, "Make the best out of it." Or better, "Choose what profits you."
If you inspect the Babaji quotation with an eye on the world, you may think, "Not everything that is sweet is sugar, or good for health." That may be markedly helpful, for both sugary and sugar-coated demagoguery teachings may fail. Besides, the natural sweetener stevia is much better for your health, especially if you are heading toward diabetes 2, which many are. The stevia sweetener is extracted from the South American plant Stevia rebaudiana. Many a wise human nowadays seizes stevia and leaves much sugar untouched. Yes, stevia is a formidable sweetener choice (Wikipedia, "Stevia"). And times are changing.
Select "what is best", may be inferred. So develop your discrimination, as Yogananda says repeatedly. "With the power of discrimination, study and apply truth . . . [Jse 62]." Such an approach is fit for dealing with Yogananda's outpourings too, as will be explained shortly.
Being selective, or eclectic, as Babaji calls for, has many sides to it. The Greek eklektikos means choosing the best. In philosophy we are eclectic if we select statements that seem most reasonable, or what seem best, simply. We may combine selections from a wide range of sources if we think it fit. It is also good to integrate our titbits into a unified system somehow, or towards such an end.
How most of Yogananda's teachings came about
After Yogananda first came by boat to Boston on 19 September 1920, he stayed in the United States for about thirty years, lecturing and gathering disciples in America. In 1925 he established his headquarters on a hilltop in Los Angeles, and in 1935 he registered his fellowship as a church. Among the monastics he personally trained were a few Europeans, such as Anandamoy and Turyananda, both from Switzerland. Most of his trainees were Americans.
When Yogananda died, the leadership was shouldered by Raja(r)si Janakananda, who was born James Jesse Lynn (1892-1955). He was a self-made millionaire when he met Yogananda in 1932. Yogananda gave Lynn the spiritual title Rajasi Janakananda, from raja, royal, and rishi, seer, sage. Janaka was a king in ancient India,, and ananda means joy or bliss. SRF later meddled with the name, adding an 'r' as the third last letter in it. They also decided that Paramhansa did not know how to best write his own monk's title, and even forged his signature to Paramahansa. "By their deeds your shall know them," is at least partially suitable, and "Forewarned is forearmed" too, added to "See what they do." [More]
When Janakananda passed on, Daya Mata (Faye Wright, 1914-2010) became the president of the fellowship. Wright was born into a Mormon family. As a monastic disciple she recorded stenographically his public lectures and classes, and guidance he gave informally too, as well as personal counsel. The fellowship publishes these words in Yogananda's collected talks and essays - a trilogy so far - and other books. Best known among Yogananda's books is his autobiography. SRF has also published Yogananda's translation and commentary on the Bhagavad Gita, and his commentary to the Rubaiyat by Fitzgerald (not so much Omar Khayyam, really), and several other works, including recordings.
In January 2011, Self-Realization Fellowship announced that Mrinalini Mata (born Merna Loy Brown in 1931) was its new president. In 1945 or 1946, fourteen or fifteen years old, she entered SRF to become a nun. She shared a Mormon background with others on the SRF Board of Directors, including Daya Mata (Faye Wright) and Daya's sister. She spent much time editing. After she died in early August 2017, Swami Chidananda (Christopher Bagley, born in 1953 in Annapolis, Maryland) became the next SRF president, in late August 2017. He entered SRF in 1977. After 1979 he assisted Daya Mata and Mrinalini Mata with preparing and publishing voluminous Yogananda works. He became a swami in 1997, and has lectured too. He is now (2018) the editor-in-chief of SRF. [Wikibin, s.v. "Mrinalini Mata"; "Swami Chidananda"; ◦SRF News Archive]
Editors come, editors go. It also applies to SRF presidents.
Things Yogananda's SRF teaches - and others
The fellowship teaches meditation methods along with the "Self-Realization Fellowship Lessons". They present various yoga and meditation methods as taught by Yogananda, in part incorporated in the kriya yoga he made known. After a preliminary period where one may learn the Hamsa variant of ajapa japa (thinking a mantra along with the ingoing and outgoing breath), one may apply for kriya yoga. If the application is granted, one becomes bound to the guru for a lifetime and longer, is the teaching. There are severe downsides to such a deal. There was a downside to Ty's putting his arm into the mouth of the big bad wolf Fenrir of Norse mythology, hoping the wolf would not bite off the arm.
The methods are interspersed in lesson mishmash - concoctions based on various Yogananda outputs at different times, in different settings - without clarifying all of it. Most of the content, apart from the methods, are available in books by Yogananda today. And the methods may be learnt from another line, where you are not getting bound for lifetimes and may preserve more freedom. As Yogananda too says:
No one can free you unless you make the effort to free yourself. Yogananda [Jse 237]
He himself was knocked into it, however, in a chapter of the Autobiography of a Yogi, "An experience in Cosmic Consciousness." Words and deeds, do they match? Also worth noting is that the guru says kriya is the best method, but according to research, Transcendental Meditation is in many ways. It is mantra meditation. Yet, the kriya yoga research by Das and Gastaut (1957)  looks good too. EEG measurement of brain waves of kriya practitioners are not unlike those of TM meditators, as investigated by J. P. Banquet (1973) . It is not specified which sort of kriya yoga was studied by Das and Gastaut, though. [More]
Go for the best methods, and stay clear of binding agreements too.
From the research on Transcendental Meditation
In 1955, Das and Gastaut recorded that fast frequencies (intense beta brain waves) were synchronously produced in kriya yoga practice. J. P. Banquet researched changes of EEG during Transcendental Meditation sittings. His findings support those of Das and Gastaut.
From measured brain waves and their patterns, Banquet discerned between three phases of meditation.
The three phases were progressive, in that one led into the next. Further, advanced meditators maintained alpha waves after coming out of meditation too - correlated with relaxation.
Banquet suggests that his findings could be interpreted as meaning that even though the subject is aware of internal and external stimuli during meditation, he does not react. At the same time it appears there is a simultaneous persistence of an alert state of consciousness allowing the subject to memorise and answer questions.
[This section is based on articles in two research journals [1, 2], a book that summarises research on yoga and meditation until 1978 [Meb 24-25; 36-37], and an article on the synchronised brain in the Yoga Magazine . There is more detail in the literature, and in ◦updated research findings on TM here.]
Yogananda does not ask for belief, he teaches that belief is provisional, and he accords with Buddha's great teachings in the Kalama Sutta by it. [Link]. Test and select teachings to live up to, very carefully and skilfully, for the sake of wealth and spiritual development. It hardly has to be any either-or if the both-and works fine. You normally do well in not giving up your freedom, for freedom, moksha, is one of the four main life goals in Hinduism. Instead of trying to barter it for told and retold future benefits, stick to it and improve the freedom degrees you already have attained. And try to get wealth (artha) too; it is another of those four life goals. As Yogananda says, "It is all right to enjoy the good things of this world [Jse 141]."
Buddha also says that one is allowed to doubt his teachings fairly. Provisional faith in Buddha's teaching is not forbidden, for it can serve as a pivot point of an evolving process, a waking-up process. As it is pointed out by Narada: "A Buddhist [does not] sacrifice his freedom of thought by becoming a follower of the Buddha. He is at full liberty to exercise his own free-will and develop his knowledge even to the extent of attaining Buddhahood himself." [Bht 283]
Implied in Yogananda's words above, the same would apply to his own teachings - all of them. And the teachings of his guru, Yukteswar. That is what they teach.
I wanted never to be so dogmatic that I would stop using my reason and common sense. When I met my guru . . . he said: "Many teachers will tell you to believe; then they put out your eyes of reason and instruct you to follow only their logic. But I want you to keep your eyes of reason open; in addition, I will open in you . . . wisdom." . . .
There you have it again. And again:
Science and religion should go hand in hand. All the results of scientific investigation are definite and are connected by reason, whereas religion is often dogmatic. When Jesus urged his disciples to have faith, he didn't mean blind belief. It breaks my heart when I see blind dogmatism. - Yogananda [Ak 48]
You do well not to believe Yogananda totally as to "All the results of scientific investigation are definite and are connected by reason." It is not so. Some results are inconclusive, some biased, and so on. Thus, it helps to add at least two pinches of salt to that. Darrell Huff felt called to show why it is wise to know a bit about statistics - not to cheat others with it, but to know how others do it. "The crooks already know these tricks; honest men must learn them in self-defense." (Hls 9)
Averages and relationships and trends and graphs are not always what they seem. There may be more in them than meets the eye, and there may be a good deal less. . . .
The last line, "the result can only be semantic nonsense", is Huff's little inaccuracy: In some cases the results are not only semantic nonsense.
Develop yourself rather than succumbing to religious chatter
We should try not to believe Yukteswar and Yogananda blindly, also when both of them talk for reason above blind faith - but reflect calmly on things Yogananda seeks to persuade us into, or convince us to and why not think twice if the present lifestyle is at stake. In that way you live up to the great German proverb, "Lass dich nicht verblüffen - Do not get bluffed." Alterative translations include "Do not get stupefied." For, as Yogananda says, "Injudicious beliefs achieve little more than bitter experiences [Jse 305]."
Yogananda taught both valuable yoga teachings and less valuable teachings impromptu. At times his sayings conflict and contradict one another. There are many examples of it, also in vital matters. For example, will you develop yourself (egohood) or attempt to kill it? Yogananda and SRF teaches both, but you cannot have it both ways. You should not kill the ego instance, but seek to develop it. Rational handling depends on it, according to psychoanalysis. I tell you this against possible grave disillusionment later. For Yogananda's fellowship has claimed they find his guidelines to be without flaw. It is a cultish attitude, and it dominates in the fellowship too. You should see better than that, for your own good.
Yogananda Often Talked for the Norms Given Here
"The gudeman's awa'." Yogananda died in 1952 during a banquet. SRF holds he is a gate to heaven to them all the same, the last guru of a parampara, a succession of gurus (teachers) and disciples. Swami Satyeswarananda behind the Sanskrit Classics in San Diego writes,
The relationship between the Master and the disciple originates at a personal meeting and actual initiation by the Master.
Faced with two such contrastive views, be ware that in SRF there is not any flesh-and-blood meeting with Yogananda. He also said somewhere he would not appear in visions to anyone after his death. Regardless of that, the former SRF president, Daya Mata (Faye Wright), says that once she did not know what to do in fellowship matters, he appeared, and right then she knew what to do, she tells.
The mature sceptic adds, "At least she got a vivid dreamy picture while meditation, and the Wright or wrong idea of knowing things - or thinking she knew them. As "the proof of the pudding is in the eating," as a proverb says, this is added: a few decades later, one third of all SRF monastics left the SRF premises. The fact that Daya Mata by than had lived for about thirty years away from them without their knowing (!) may have influenced the decisions of some of them to get away from close encounters in SRF, they too. You never know.
Satyeswarananda tells how Yogananda's work differs from what he was to bring to Westerners. He tells how little an organisation is worth for transmitting kriya yoga, and describes changes that Yogananda made to kriya yoga and the old ways of transmitting it too. It is safe to say that Swami Satyeswarananda (of a kriya yoga lineage too) does not approve of everything that Yogananda did and that his fellowship upholds to this day. Far from it.
Now, one may deviate from the old and common norms or ways of doing things and still behave sensibly. There is a lot to take into account. Yogananda delivered fine points about that (below), among other guidelines. He tried to accommodate to the West.
From "Practicing Religion Scientifically" and "Doubt, Belief and Faith" by Yogananda
To prop up the stance of rational inquiry, selectivity, and playing your cards to your ability (skilfully), here are some capsules from Yogananda's trilogy - a set of three books of talks and lectures by him. He legitimates and throws light on that approach to Yogananda I suggest is wholesome and welcome to rational minds and others altogether.
"Test things out well": Believe, doubt, apply and reason, says Yogananda.
An erroneous belief, if held to without scrutiny, develops into tenacious dogmatism [Yogananda, Dr 305]
Doubt is dynamic energy that should be properly harnessed to move us to progressive actions. If by constructive doubt we destroy some of our cherished theories, even that is better than just blindly and dumbly following others - "the blind leading the blind." Constructive doubt in regard to divine matters will move us toward truth more quickly than will dogmatic belief. The latter makes us lack the clarity of mind necessary to perceive correctly the truth already given to us . . .
The great masters ask us to believe, but they do not say we should not use constructive doubt to question [Yogananda, Dr 302]
Investigative belief . . . always keeps its eyes and ears open, ever ready to inquire about anything to which it has been attracted by persuasion or interest [Yogananda, Dr 306]
If you can apply the truths I have told you, there is nothing you cannot accomplish in life [Yogananda, Dr 43, abr].
Calm impartial reason can . . . lead to intuition. Use common sense [Yogananda, Dr 310] ◇
Belief in a deceitful person, a failing business, or a false doctrine seems to be a sheer wastage of man's good energy [Yogananda, Dr 304]
Uncover with an open mind, believe provisionally if you cannot let it be, says early Yogananda
Yogananda asks us to believe that beliefs waste precious reason. (3)
True scientists reason and uncover.
Injudicious beliefs achieve little more than bitter experiences [Yogananda, Dr 305] ◇
A belief, whether false or true, is provisional. It can only be temporary, for it is subsequently metamorphosed either into dogmatism or unbelief, or into faith [Yogananda, Dr 305]
The true scientist is openminded. Working from a little data, he experiments until he uncovers verifiable principles [Yogananda, Dr 33].
Doubt constructively, says Yogananda. It should be good for your health too
Reject the destructive element in doubt and belief, and apply the constructive element. . . . This is the way of development [Yogananda, Dr 310] (5)
Contempt for anything, without investigation, is the sign of a deluded man who will come to grief. [Jse 176] ✪
Constructive doubt without fit investigations may also come to grief. (It is a formidable dilemma and challenge for the researcher).*
Doubt decides a hypothesis. Scientists take such a theorem and investigate it along with their ever present examiner, Mr. Doubt. Nothing is taken for granted. The proposition is carried to a conclusion to see whether it works or not. If it doesn't, it is set aside or restructured. If scientists remained satisfied with the status quo of knowledge, there would be no furtherance of civilization. There is a great lesson therein.
In regard to religion, scientists should employ the same openness of the constructive element of doubt [Yogananda, Dr 301-02]. (7)
Without willingness one cannot believe [Yogananda, Dr 304]
It is . . . right to apply the laws of reason [Yogananda, Dr 301].
What is needed is investigative belief with sincerity and reverence, followed up with persistence in true beliefs, or at least in those beliefs that constantly manifest convincing results [Yogananda, Dr 306].
You can experience Self-realization by practicing scientific techniques [of yoga and meditation] [Yogananda, Dr 35]. (8)
Truth is exact correspondence with Reality. Truth is always wholesome; fact can sometimes be harmful [Yogananda, Dr 37, 38].
[NOTE: Truths and facts are much the same in that facts are truths and truths surely are founded on facts. Truth can be harmful too, if it cannot be handled adequately, is a message of Rollo May. Whether a truth helps health or not, depends on how apt it is, and whether the receiver(s) are up to it, so they may handle it well to make life good.
Test things and uncover so that things work out well for your health. Great doubt is often underrated in fellowships of fools, but not by Yogananda, not in Zen, and not in research either. Buddha talks for skilled handling too: [Kalama Sutta]
Endorsed by Buddha
Do not believe something just because it has been passed along and retold for many generations. Do not believe something merely because it has become a traditional practice. Do not be led by hearsay or common opinion. Do not believe something just because it is cited in a text. Do not believe something solely on the grounds of logical reasoning, mere deduction or inference. [Logics differ.] Do not be led by preconceived notions. Do not believe something because the speaker seems trustworthy. [Do not be led by what seems acceptable; do not be led by what some seeming believable one says.] Do not believe something thinking, "This is what our teacher says".
Kalamas, when you yourselves directly know, "This is [these things are] unwholesome, this is blameworthy, this is condemned or censured by the wise, these things when accepted and practised lead to poverty and harm and suffering," then you should give them up.
Kalamas, when you yourselves directly know, "These things are wholesome, blameless, praised by the wise; when adopted and carried out they lead to well-being, prosperity and happiness," then you should accept and practise them."
- Gautama Buddha, Kesaputti Sutta, 5th sutta (sutra) in the Book of Threes (Mahavagga) in the Gradual Sayings (Tika Nipata). The above is a selection.
Endorsed by Gurus
"Go for the best and leave the rest" has many variants. One is "Sugar and sand may be mixed together, but the ant rejects the sand and goes off with the sugar grain; so pious men lift the good from the bad." [Ramakrishna]
To be eclective (selective) has its price - if you have to run away or get ill for it.
Since they always control their words
To avoid harm from the fragmented teachings of a rattler, we may go for the top ten percent of them, roughly, and form key words and key phrases from it. It is similar to sound study methods in that it makes us focus on the most telling ten percent of the study material in order to handle it better. We may find these general tips and much else of interest in Buzan's Study Skills (Buzan 2011, 140-44 etc.), for example.
Yogananda is often quoted to say in SRF circles, that if you do just one tenth of the methods Yogananda taught, you will get liberated. On his word, the ninety percent you do not need, but would otherwise consume time, may well be discarded. Therefore, learn to choose the best and discard the rest without looking back.
Also note that in this light and other lights too, most of Yogananda's teachings may be merely second-class at best. To find it verified, take a mature look into his alleged Khayyam Commentary and learn a lesson for life if you can.
Then ask, "What are the eight percent of his teachings that are the most convenient to adhere to?" That is a good question. First, drop the most harmful ones, such as crying all night for Divine Mother. It is a foolish teaching by and large for most persons.
And then try to detect the sanity-helping ones in the typical mishmash that is served by his fellowship. Just how true is the Yogananda claim that we do not actually need about ninety percent of his teachings? Even better: sort out which eight or ten percent loom up among the rest? How to sort it out is given below.
You may think that a rational Yogananda goes against the papal-sounding SRF, the fellowship he started and one day regretted he had started, but you get the sources here, fair and square. The "Alternative Yogananda" is merely Yogananda through different selections of points from his many public lectures. They are, further, published by SRF.
You may also notice that the "Alternative Yogananda" solves many things for SRF if they rise above drivel about religion and science and learn to appy basic research methodology - and thus honor science a lot better than by parroting or paying lip service and by notorious drivel aainst rational procedures. Yogananda allegedly was for being rational, allegedly was for science. And science acts on doubt in proper forms, for the so-called alternative hypthesis and the procedures from it, stem for calculated doubts put into system.
The approach of doubting well is nothing new. Buddha teaches it in the Kalama Sutta, for one thing, so getting benefits from doubts has its place. Moreover, In some forms of Zen, "the doubt sensation" is used to get higher. Garma Chang tells from the Ch'an (Zen) way: "It's here that you should penetrate into the 'sensation of doubt,' and . . . the gospel of Non-doing is studied. . . . take up [the thing] right at this very moment without using any words at all. . . . realize that the self-mind is Buddha." (Prz 79) ([Get the edge of doubts and benefits of doubting well if you can]
As already said, doubting with skill is frequently used in basic research and in many disciplines. And Yogananda goes for it too (see quotations). The "alternative Yogananda" is indeed Yogananda; that SRF's halting dogmatism is not the only Yogananda; and that by church-favouring selections a dogmatic strain sets in. That is not a feature of SRF alone. It is found in churches "all over the world". I would try to avoid it as well as can be.
We should learn to improve our lives by learning to study and bring it to bear on very helpful things, and not just books. (Cf. Herrigel 1989)
What could be the good Yogananda's teachings? You could lend an ear to experienced ones as you go ahead. That is a part of Buddha's general counsel, at any rate. [Kalama Sutta]
Here we go:
By such priorities and in these way you may get skilled in sorting out what is good for you and get it better than slavish guru believers who admit they don't doubt! But you may succeed to get the best out of Yogananda and the medley that is published by his society. Yogananda himself allows for it. And how much of his teachings may be put aside as less valuable for those individuals who prefer to focus on the best methods and teachings from him? Maybe nine tenths, give or take. You may come across SRF members who present just that estimate on the word of Yogananda. It is an approximation, I think. The best estimate could be "between 5 and 8 percent" too, depending on who you are.
So be like the wise ant: select and practice just the very best, and go for incorporating that stuff into your daily habits too - that "valuable Yogananda" [see Ak 416].
However, some things are considered valuable when we get them, but the creative fellow can find good use of an empty whisky bottle also. In other words, some things are what you make of them. For example water freezing into ice. In the north of Sweden there is a hotel made of ice, advertised at IKEA, for example [see Dr 379].
To recap and enlarge on the sound advice - and mind the helping do's and don'ts tend to mean "avoid" and "refrain from" as a rule:
Instead of sect conformism and duping, your identity
To sum up even more: To live well and try to get the "best" out of your life with the least pain and efforts, keep attuned to the highest you can find there is, and select what are the very best attunements to it, and stay accurate too. Remain alert to the danger of non-healthful conformism as well. It may in part be brought on by duping. Instead, go for your identity:
Think constantly of your connection with Eternal Life, and you shall know your identity with the Supreme Eternal One. - Yogananda [Dr 310]
What is first-class should not be given up. Some Yogananda dictums are of that sort, but then there is a whole lot of other dictums of varying value. Good attunement inwards is far more than just thinking about it, though. It is the heart-feeling, and also having a good or bad conscience: The ideal is to establish a way of living that incorporates delicate elements in a balanced way for you, and advance. You do well to refrain from less valuable elements, among other reasons because it is not full well to spend lots of time and energy on what is less than optimal. What are they? Mean and insistent demands, freak religiousness, non-effective chanting, fervour, freaking out and folly. It is not words that will save you, but nearing the Source and staying attuned to it by such hints as I have given above and here and there in other places.
There is no need for unreliable Yogananda teachings - vital parts can be learnt from sources that aim to help you and not enroll you beneath clergy or whatever, not maim you into durable sect conformism - or falling down while thanking for it.
Do not succumb to religious goading either; it is inferior
As further help: Goading is seldom the best way to educate others, and so is spreading yourself thin. When Yogananda says that love is not the highest, happiness is, and later goes on exhorting, "Love God" for many years. "Love God", "love all nations", and so on, the latter part - of exhorting, imploring and bothering people - seem to be inferior goadings as long as he does not teach you effective ways to do it. He might have focused more on his teachings of "know yourself" by going deep in meditation towards the source of happiness instead, as that would have been a first-class teaching, in accord with the methods he was sent to the West to teach scientifically minded persons. That was supposed to be part of his original mission.
Since Yogananda has taught many different things, make the wisest choices: Prefer the highest or better teachings of Yogananda at any point, and many troubles might dissolve as by themselves, thanks to rational handling. It may be developed.
Such an approach is related to his teaching about worshipping the mightiest god. He tells a story to illustrate how a man stepwise discarded worshipping things and other beings, including his wife, finally to go for himself -
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Sparham, Gareth, tr. The Tibetan Dhammapada: Sayings of the Buddha. Rev ed. London: Wisdom Publications, 1986.
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Yc: Sinha, Phulgenda. Yogic Cure for Common Diseases. Rev. and enlarged ed. Delhi: Orient Paperbacks, 1980.
Harvesting the hay
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