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From Swami Yogananda: "How to Keep the Church Steadfast"

Rooted in Swami Yogananda: "How to Keep the Church Steadfast". East West, Vol 5-11, September, 1933.

Backdrop 1

A religion may be understood as a cult grown big. Authoritarianism is presumably at the root of many cults that do not leave you much of a say, even privately.

There are ugly cults. They pose limitations on members. Otherwise they would not be cults. If you have a good direction to turn to, one that brings rich harvests, or if you are well paired with someone, it could help not to enter a cult.

If the cult gives you nudges and guidelines toward genuine success, and does not unfairly call your creative genius unworthy, unbecoming and so on, and offers time for rest, it might not be so bad - for a while. But if there is corruption into it somewhere, for example so that children are hindered in maturing, and hindered in maturing their achievements, clarity is called for. "What is wrong?" is the good question in that it may open up for some insights.

Enthusiasts that grow tepid in time, confronted with facts of living, may yet remain in the garb of good and loyal members - Still, see why mature persons find it fit to leave. They have, possibly, many different reasons.

Backdrop 2

Swami Yogananda (1893-1952) grew very fond of a temple he was given on the brink of the Pacific Ocean in San Diego county, in the town called Encinitas. Then one day the temple slid into the sea, and his swimming pool nearby was destroyed too. Yogananda could perhaps have avoided the calamity. In an old SRF magazine from the fifties or so he tells that Divine Mother told him to find her in some valley in California. He took that to mean that she wanted him to get an ashram (community) there. But when he returned from India to America in 1936, he was given a temple to his taste at the brink of the ocean, and seemed to forget that mother guidance. Irrigation on the given lands could have contributed to what happened some years later: the bluff collapsed and his dear temple slid into the sea. Building on bluffs - a problem?

In 1933, when "How to Keep the Church Steadfast" was published, the guru was without any registered church of his own, which was established only in 1935. So he could talk with "maverick feeling" about "threats of religious teachers", and would rather have psychology in churches, and went clearly against entertaining the congregation - but see what happened in time, after he got a church of his own: In Sayings of Yogananda [Say] the guru gives instructions in how to lecture well to the church members, for example.

While the earlier Yogananda advocated noise-proof rooms for those who would contemplate in good company, the later Yogananda warned against leaving the guru, and talked a lot for a kind of religion - his own brand of religion. His California-based church - today it is thought to be a cult by some - lost one third of its disgruntled monastics between 2000 and 2005 - about one third of all its monastics. A number of others that Yogananda had permitted to teach kriya yoga to others, had left SRF before them, notably after the late Daya Mata took over in 1955. There might be more than one reason for leaving. Dr Lola Williamson discusses the issue in a fair book: [Quotations etc.]

In early years in America Yogananda talked against thriving on crowd psychology, while the later Yogananda - now a church founder - said things that continue to intimidate and scare some members and confuse them too, for example that dire sufferings for lifetimes were in store for those who left the guru. Better try to remain calm and silent till maturity. That is free advice against marring inconsistencies in several talks.

The earlier Yogananda said he wanted people to do their own thinking instead of being told (off), the latter-days Yogananda told folks a lot that is quite "without handles" in that it is not easily researched, and next to impossible to get verified or documented in nice and solid ways. An example: In the book of talks and sermons called Man's Eternal Quest, there is a sermon called "Understanding the Unreality of Matter". In it he says that belief in the nonexistence of matter should be based on scientific investigation and exact understanding. [Ak 55].

Apply logic if you can, for Yogananda also said, "The age or reason is here . . ." Those who postulate that the world is unreal, are in the world, they too. And so are their teachings and their church. "Unreal teachings - phew!"

How to investigate something that isn't there - as claimed from "the big sack of the unreal" - is a formidable task, to say the least. Today's physicists have not verified that matter does not exist. Pinch your leg - try it out you too. Or kick a stone, as Dr. Samuel Johnson did. His biographer James Boswell writes in the ◦Life of Johnson:

After we came out of the church, we stood talking for some time together of Bishop Berkeley's ingenious sophistry to prove the nonexistence of matter, and that every thing in the universe is merely ideal. I observed, that though we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it is impossible to refute it. I never shall forget the alacrity with which Johnson answered, striking his foot with mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded from it -- "I refute it thus."

One of the hot topics is rather to understand the connection between elementary "particles" such as photons, and solid matter.

Don't take my word for anything. - Yogananda. (Overriding proposition)

The guru often teaches that our world of phenomena is transitory and illusive. That makes the guru illusive too, his church and teachings and dogmas, to put it bluntly. [Ak 57]. Thus, it behoves us to consider the guru's wisdom: whether there is any or not. The same goes for his guidelines. They are only illusorily infallible if he teaches truth in his world of illusions.

Against higher wisdom and common sense, many guru-devoted followers find it to be a way for them to let him serve as a dogma giver. Two such stands are found in a letter by a monastic writing on behalf of the SRF Headquarters:

They do not find fault with Yogananda's guidelines, and have the nerve to claim his wisdom is flawless.

Such messaging is a hallmark of a cult, the Vatican would perhaps state . . . The Vatican reserves the right of infallibility for the pope in council. "In Catholic theology, papal infallibility is the dogma that, by action of the Holy Spirit, the Pope is preserved from even the possibility of error when he solemnly declares or promulgates to the Church a dogmatic teaching on faith or morals as being contained in divine revelation, or at least being intimately connected to divine revelation," says the Wikipedia among other things in the matter. That Yogananda is at odds with the Catholic Church doctrine on a surface level too, is shown here: [Link]

Be that as it may, Yogananda's guidance is not always fulfilling, and often goes against common church doctrine too, if that point matters. And what is called his wisdom, is quite often nebulous.

Disciples today are much served SRF-sanitized selections of Yogananda. They are not helped to find the guru's earlier hailing of Mussolini and dictatorship, for example, but such guru stands from former times - published in his East-West magasine (February 1934, p. 3, 25) - do exist. Rather, "cloister inmates" that govern the fellowship from above, have had the sense to glorify slapdash utterances that help and reinforce being a monastic and its many sordid standards against self-reliance too. Monky business - Conforming to what serves monastics may not work well in the long run; there may not be any well maturing children for it -

If you have normal sex drives, it might serve you not to enter the SRF cult in the first place, is the advice.

The claimed guru infallibility has to be confronted with older attitudes, statements, views, and the like - and awkward inconsistency in things that matter. If you click on 'Set' on top or at bottom of the page, you may find some pages that go into those things.

There is a Norwegian expression, literally, "meet oneself in the doorway". Its core is "being confronted with one's previous ... (fill in)." Well, there are many things Yogananda should have stuck to instead of furnishing "skeletons in the cupboard". Below are some such things; enjoy the sayings. They are verbatim Yogananda quotations. All of them may not be pleasing to all, and all gurus. It could have been expected.

On 16 September 1935 or the next day, the English-language newspaper The Statesman in Calcutta printed an essay by Yogananda. In certain places in it he pointed critically toward dark sides of American life.

Dasgupta had as one of his duties at the time to inform Yogananda's guru, Yukteswar, about his spiritual son Yogananda's goings. He read the article for him in the hope of cheering him up, for a few days earlier the old guru of Yogananda had become disappointed with Yogananda's companions, newly arrived from America.

Happily, Dasgupta started to read for the aged guru. At a certain place Yukteswar asked him, "Read it to me again, will you – what he's written."

When Dasgupta read that section to him once more, Yukteswar stared at him with a strange and questioning look and asked, "You're saying that Yogananda wrote all this?" He repeated, "You're saying that Yogananda wrote all this? Shame, shame!" Saying this, he listlessly sank back into his easy chair again.

Dasgupta was shocked. [Psy 71]

Guru followers could have to shield themselves from seeing that Yukteswar did not approve of all sorts of output from his disciple Yogananda. And Yogananda used to talk big of Yukteswar . . . And what is more, in 1935 Yogananda registered his own church in California, with monastics and developing sectarianism "and all". Lesson: See what a guru sets in motions and what he goes for, for it often rides above not a few of his words, also decent and non-crazy words. "Actions speak louder than words."

Guru Tidings

Science and Religion

Religions are stationary. [Yogananda]

Religions are stagnant because they are based on untested beliefs. [Yogananda]

How ridiculously futile it would be for scientists to try to receive inventions and knowledge of Nature's new secrets just by shutting themselves in a church and praying for this knowledge . . . [Yogananda]

Religious groups and individual ministers should become more scientifically minded. They should turn to experimental psychology and test[s] . . . in the laboratory of their churches. [Yogananda]

How Church Members Are Held Together

The usual method of most churches has been to hold their people by virtue of inbred church-going religious habits, or by holy threats, or by lecture, and musical, or festive entertainments. [Yogananda]

Dogmatic church members succumb to the influence of parental religious habits, or to a sense of religious fear, or festive religious entertainments, or to a repetition of the same grand theoretical sermons over and over again. [Yogananda]

Huge sums of money are tied up in church edifices just to impress people with the grandeur of architecture, but that is all - scarcely anything more is accomplished. [Yogananda]

Architectural appeal of comfortable church pews, or sermons of spiritual victrolas, or big advertising campaigns for drawing large crowds to church festivities, are not producing permanent results . . . [Yogananda]

What is the use of making the church members believe in untested dogmas which the minister does not know to be true? [Yogananda]

People naturally are attracted to good movies because they are interesting. [Yogananda]

The church cannot compete with professional entertainment and cannot long hold its members by the parroting of the same untested statements in sermons . . .[Yogananda]

Churches Should Cooperate To Find the Universal Art of Living

The churches, instead of . . . spending money in decorating the temples, should . . . find the real meaning of life. [Yogananda]

The churches . . . should try to . . . discover the universal standard of the art of living, which can really daily uplift and help their people. [Yogananda]

Churches Should Become Universities Of Experimental Psychology

Instead of . . . urging people to believe, the church should convert its premises into universities of experimental psychology. [Yogananda]

Real spiritual teachers, who live the life, are experimenting with the worth-while effect of spiritual laws on the lives of true seekers . . . [Yogananda]

Get together and concentrate upon the universal practical religious principles and urge their application in the reorganized universities of [various] faiths. [Yogananda]

Religious leaders should nourish young minds with introspective, stimulating truths of universal wisdom. [Yogananda]

The church members should be reorganized to do their own thinking and meditating. [Yogananda]

The Practical Program Of Universal Church Reformation

All churches should have a universal name: "Temple of Truth," "Church of Wisdom," "Church of New Awakening," "Church of Scientific Religion," or "Church of God." Different names, no matter how universal they are, have done the greatest mischief in keeping people divided, superstitious, and narrow-minded. [Yogananda]

All churches should be turned into spiritual universities, with a daily routine of study, and with regular hours. They should have daily evening services for business people. [Yogananda]

Each church . . . should advocate the study of experimental psychology and theology of all religions. [Yogananda]

The church university should discuss critically and teach all the views of different religions. [Yogananda]

The efficacy of prayer, the technique of concentration and meditation, and breathing exercises as discovered by the Master Minds of India and other religious teachers, should be experimented upon paying students who attend regularly, and in secluded, sound-proof rooms. [Yogananda]

Weekly, monthly, and yearly examinations of the students as to their powers of concentration should be given regularly. [Yogananda]

In this way the churches . . . would be places of universal utility, attracting real truth-seeking people to them. [Yogananda]

Only saints who live the life . . . should be elected from all races to be professors of such organized church universities.

Churches Should be Truth Universities

If churches were made into Truth Universities, they would be attended everywhere by Christians, Hindus, Jews, and other religious followers alike. All churches would then stand for all beliefs. [Yogananda - how unrealistic!]

[One should train oneself to] reverse the searchlight of consciousness from without to within. [Yogananda]

How to Hold Church Students Together

Churches, . . . in order to be of real service they must be universities of spiritual discipline and must offer a real practical spiritual training to all people. [Yogananda]

It is the paramount duty of all real ministers to improve themselves by daily, deep, scientific meditation and to reform their churches by using [Yogananda's] practical program. [Yogananda]

Why Group Meditation Should be Started

I prefer a real God-loving Soul to a crowd of shallow, emotional Souls, but I love crowds of real Souls. [Yogananda]

I like to organize mass meetings, not to gather big crowds of soulless Beings, but in order to pick out from the crowds the patient, Truth-seeking Souls. [Yogananda]

Crowd or no crowd, we must learn to love Souls and not empty-minded masses. [Yogananda]

All new spiritual organizations must profit by the mistakes of most of the big hives of churches, which are without the honey of God. [Yogananda]

Most churches thrive upon the crowd psychology, and hold people by advertisements, music, and entertaining lectures. This should be changed. [Yogananda]

Instead of lectures [in] costly [SRF?] temples, small groups should be organized in noise-proof rooms in private homes. Such groups should not spend their time in listening to each other give their ideas and imaginations about Truth, but they should get together to meditate according to a system of constantly progressive technique, and should contact God and listen to His sermons of peace and wisdom within. [Yogananda]

Where many, not only get together in the name of God, but also try to invoke His Presence in the Temple of Meditation, they are truly blessed by the Presence of God. [Yogananda]

Never mind who comes or goes in a group as long as they are sincere. [Yogananda]

Meditation groups should be organized . . . with the express and only purpose of knowing God by the power of united concentration and meditation. [Yogananda]

One should contemplate in good company to get proof against the influence of the wrong or material environment. [Abstract]

Religious teachers should cease to be sect-makers, money seekers, and dogma builders. [Yogananda]

Religious teachers . . . should be . . . Self Realization developers, and universal Truth builders. [Yogananda]


Meat on the Bones

Fine-sounding phrases may deceive you when what they lead you into is a sect. Many actions speak louder than gilded phrases.

Yogananda's direct disciple Kriyananda and once SRF's vice-president writes in Yogananda for the World (2012) of changes that SRF has imposed on Yogananda's message and mission since his passing. Extracts from chap 6 follow:


SRF has institutionalized both Yogananda [Hmm!] and his teachings. "SRF has become, since his passing, almost 'more papal than the pope.'" - Kriyananda

SRF has declared that Yogananda's written lessons have become the guru. However, according to Kriyananda, "He told me personally, 'No scripture can be the guru.' - Kriyananda

When Daya Mata went to India in 1958, she came to claim that Yogananda had declared that the lessons would, after his passing, become the guru.

As for the SRF Lessons, Yogananda told Kriyananda that he himself had not even written the SRF lessons. They were compiled, and not always well compiled from his articles and lectures and classes.

Kriyananda further swears that Yogananda told him, "There must be at least one physical contact with the guru in the disciple's present lifetime." - Kriyananda

Kriyananda find a plethora of actual or potential contradictions in SRF's explanation of Yogananda's continued position in the work, and asks how any late-comer to his path can claim Yogananda as his guru. He suggests solutions.

SRF has changed Yogananda's definition of loyalty. Yogananda didn't necessarily include, in that word, loyalty to his organization. Neither, on the other hand, did he equate loyalty to him with loyalty to SRF. He often said, "Loyalty is the first law of God," but the loyalty of which he spoke was a feeling of heartfelt dedication to God alone, above all. [Self, that is]

SRF, while demanding loyalty of others, gives none to them. "I myself was thrown out without even a hearing . . . Many others have been treated somewhat similarly." - Kriyananda

"In an organization, no one except the members of the Board of Directors has a right even to think!" (SRF's Tara Mata (born Laurie Pratt, 1900–71) - Kriyananda tells. Further: "I find this blatant disregard for the individual's free will simply an outrage . . ." - Kriyananda

People need ongoing help. One of SRF's greatest mistakes has been to disclaim any spiritual responsibility for its members, writes Kriyananda.


Paramahansa Yogananda religion talks, Yogananda sayings on religion, Kriyananda for the world, Literature  

Kriyananda, Swami. Yogananda for the World: Freeing His Legacy from Sectarianism. 3rd, rev. ed. Nevada City, CA: Crystal Clarity Publishers, 2012.

Ak: Yogananda, Paramahansa. Man's Eternal Quest. New ed. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1982.

Psy: Dasgupta, Sailendra. Paramhansa Swami Yogananda: Life-portrait and Reminiscences. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, 2006. Pdf: and at Google Books, partial view.

Say: Yogananda, Paramahansa. Sayings of Yogananda. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1958.

Harvesting the hay

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

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