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Blunt Disagreements

- between Paramahansa Yogananda's Teachings and Catholic "Father Mateo"

REMBRANDT. BELSAZARS GJESTEBUD. 1630. Slightly modified main part.
"You are weighed . . ." Rembrandt detail.

Two issues on this page:

 Views of Self-Realization Fellowship differ from some of the Catholic Church
 Catholic views on who is the Son of God and on the human nature of Jesus.

Aims and ideals, are they good enough?

HO "[I find] your writing well-done." - JW

Paramahansa Yogananda charged with heresy The guru Paramahansa Yogananda (1893-1952) was a Hindu emissary to the West. He founded the Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) in 1920, and it has developed into a yoga church. Headquartered in Los Angeles, it is headed by swami nuns and monks. SRF states in their "Aims and Ideals" that their purpose is:

To teach that the purpose of life is the evolution, through self-effort of man's limited mortal consciousness into God Consciousness.

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.

To point out the one divine highway to which all paths of true religious beliefs eventually lead . . . [Link]

First, "these principles of truth" in the SRF aims and ideals is a grossly unclear reference on the surface. That is bad. Worse, there is no utter harmony between "original Christianity" and Krishna's Yoga, for:

  • There was no original Christianity of Jesus: Jesus had only Jewish followers and said his teachings were for Jews only (Geza Vermes 2010:37-41; Matthew 15:24 etc.). Catholicism seems by and large to ignore those gospel parts that say so. It was accomplished by including some much later-added paragaphs to the end of the gospel of Matthew, but those "missionary command" passages are forgeries, Joseph Wheless finds, and explains it too.

  • Christianity came into being only after Jesus was buried, without including anything particular Jesus had said for Jews. There are only four requirements, and no to blood food (black pudding is blood food) is included. – Look up in Acts 15 to see how Christianity started by an apostolic decree around the year 50 CE.

  • As for comparisons, a little will do: SRF and Krishna teach the soul is immortal, whereas Jesus says it can be destroyed. Is that an example of "complete harmony"? Bah!

The Christianity of SRF - founded by a Hindu swami and headed by Hindu swamis also - is veneer-like. At bottom what we are dealing with seems to be a hybrid sect and its fraud. Christianity has lots of issues on its own, but why not leave them aside here for now? Some sects may be bad, but why propagate a cult under false colours? Why go for general acceptance by menial and distorted viewpoints and outlooks? One answer: They did not know the most authentic teachings of Jesus, as the Bible scholar Geza Vermes found (2005), and how fraud and distortions eventually could backfire on them, and even blow up in their face.

There are many good things in the SRF teachings too, not just mediocre and worse and wrong attempts at alignments. Still, it should be good to be alerted to flagrantly false teachings in it, so as not to be taken in all too often. I let Catholicism speak for itself. Now, if we do not denounce fraud in our path, what are we then? Accomplices, either silent fools or active ones.

I am no Catholic, I think Abraham Maslow's pyramid and thinking is of much help, at least for most part, although his pyramid figure is not all-inclusive. And I have come across that "Father Mateo", a Catholic professor of Scripture and classical languages, has denounced some parts of the doctrines of the Hindu swami Yogananda. Self-Realization Fellowship now upholds such doctrines.

The Catholic Father brings three charges that could be alarming to some, and good for others, as the case may be:

  • [Yogananda's] theology cannot be squared with Roman Catholic doctrine. He teaches indifferentism (see below).
  • He also seems to teach the Pelagian heresy of salvation by human effort alone.
  • He misunderstands and even implicitly denies the Christian doctrine of Incarnation.

The summary is taken from mail where the Father answered questions till he died on July 18, 1996.

Letter to Mateo, and His Answer to It

I have a Catholic friend who recently has been spending a lot of time investigating Eastern philosophies and religions.

One group she is interested in now is the Self-Realization Fellowship founded by Paramahansa Yogananda in California. She says this group proposes a science of yoga and mediation that is not in conflict with Catholic/Christian teachings. I'm not so sure.

What can you tell me about SRF and what does the church teach concerning it. Is it a science or a religion (and why)? . . .

Father Mateo:

To answer you letter, I borrowed and partly read Yogananda's autobiography and his book of spiritual thoughts: "Whispers from Eternity". Also, I read his obituary in Time magazine, August 4, 1952.

His theology cannot be squared with Roman Catholic doctrine. He teaches indifferentism (all religions are equally true). In the dedication of "Whispers from Eternity", he writes: " . . . all churches, mosques, viharas, tabernacles, pagodas, and temples of the world, wherein the One Father dwells impartially . . ."

He also seems to teach the Pelagian heresy of salvation by human effort alone. He writes in the Introduction to "Whispers from Eternity": "Our inner assertion of spiritual identity is sufficient to operate the law for fulfillment of prayers." This is a denial of our need of God's free grace. In the same Introduction, he misunderstands and even implicitly denies the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation: "Down the ages He (God) has materialized Himself before the gaze of His devotees in whatever forms they hold most dear. A Christian sees Jesus, a Moslem sees Mohammed, a Hindu sees Krishna or Rama, and so on." Implicit here is a denial of the unique mediatorship of Jesus Christ, "the only Name under heaven whereby we must be saved."

If your friend is hungry for a deeper spirituality, perhaps you can interest her in going with you to make a retreat on a weekend in a nearby retreat house. Your parish priest can give you information about retreat centers near you.

God bless both of you,

Father Mateo [pen name]

Why not ask yourself before you go on: "What is a pope without his staff and robes and ceremonies apparently lifted over from pagan religions of old, aimed at herding flocks and masses of bleating humans? What is the bird without his beak, feathers and talons? What is a pope without clothes?" - I think "Nude" is a good answer, but somewhat inconclusive anyway.


What Is a Cult?

This chapter consists of gist atop a work by Rabbi Dr. Jacob Immanuel Schochet: The Mystical Tradition.

Watch out for the Theological Debris

"CULTS" stick to forms of faith or belief that are based on unfounded commitments. The narrow believer may be sincere. The doctrines the leaders espoused may appear noble. The goals may be many and have an idealistic veneer at times. Some strive to make them look commendable.

Nonetheless, if the commitment is devoid of rational foundations and with ample lack of valid "reasons for the belief", then those who like to live on their own terms may feel justified to condemn such things - the tragic commitment and false reasoning that many cult leaders live on top of. So what you choose to believe and how you choose to believe and stick to it further, may get charged with consequences; for some easily submit to some "members way" of life and practices - a foolish way also.

If the basic stance of handling beliefs seems logical, it points to how justifications of bottom beliefs are founded. Such "bottom beliefs" are of paradigms, "basic stances". However, if the premises and conclusions considered are blatantly untrue and the teachings are inconsistent, there is something false going on too.

Instead of Naivete and Gullibility: Rational Thinking and Handling against Humbug

Beware if some Great Leader repeatedly teaches seemingly whimsical elements of the faith, as he or she may do it to self-serving ends, perhaps with plays on devotionalism, which may be of human id (libido) to a great extent, and which may be hard to deal with unless straight and natural enough. The oddly gross and ill-behaved teacher:

  • Is not reasoning neatly, but rationalising.
  • Is not really pursuing truth as much as odd self-justification.
  • He relies on vileness rather than Sachlichkeit (being factual), when it comes to bottom issues too.
Your Country thanks you when you try to live up to the best truth found, the ultimate truth, and the other top important things in life. Therefore everybody should get seriously involved with Sachlichkeit (being rational) above some not-too-important, transient creature comforts too in the on-going here-and-now.

Hope to be able to investigate what is needed on an even keel in a practical, pragmatic way; do what it takes to get the training. Think carefully of the stakes before you spend and surrender much of your resources, time, money, and other valuable assets on anything. Substantial sums of money and freedom degrees may be at stake in the long run for those who are engulfed and become members that go out of their way to protect their common group of reference and belonging - the cult, eventually. Many members give up their property for the cult, and thereby allow it to grow and spread. Alas.

Rational people, on the other hand, make efforts to understand, to investigate, to evaluate, to consider with care who is a reliable and conscientious authority. The guru should be no life-threatening, whim-led narcissist behind the curtains.

Above cult dictates and guidelines an individual has to guard his main assets - they include social standing, well-being and all-round comfort. They include making good use of the time and opportunities too.

It should indeed pay to be trained to be rational, careful, critical and investigative, even in matters of salvation, the beyond, or Eternal Being (God). Good yoga allows for it. Science and scholarship too: endure scholarship!

Sanity is needed to combat blunt self-contradictions in the cult or sect, but hardly blind commitments in gullibility or credulity. Seduction that wants to save all - stay away from it altogether. Never let your so-called rebirth start a path to a suicide. Do not rely on the utter charm and whimsical promises and presentations of the salesman (emissary). You must not be called to make vain promises and ignore faulty premises just because of sluggard fervour mentality, emotional Führer magnetism, and the promised dreams of something.

All who feel drawn to the cult side of life should have read horror-stories of youngsters (and elderly) involved with the cults around, and note how cult people approach issues by dramatic overdoing, blatantly allying themselves or Great Leaders with the Highest around, or get seduced and brainwashed by stealth or otherwise to benefit leaders.

Seek to mould and shape both your Sachlichkeit (rationality, being matter-of-fact, neutral, etc.) and moral stands instead of being pampered out of it. In a Californian murder case one of the defendants addressed the jury before sentencing: "What I did came from the heart, from love. Whatever comes from the heart and flows out of love cannot be evil. You cannot stand in judgment over me . . .!" Odd drivel or self-serving blunderbuss talk and obsession with ideas that are not first-class but run contrary to it, is a sign of a cultist, one of the crudest fellows of all. Your Country fists for enough matter-of-factness (Sachlichkeit) from you too.

Your Country is the kingdom that is found in your insides: Don't be too narrow in your concepts, as "the kingdom of God is within you." [Luke 17:21]


Difficult Words of Catholicism

Below are easy summaries of what Father Matheo might have meant above by his unexplained theological concepts; especially "indifferentism", "Pelagianism" and "the incarnation". They are all defined in Catholic theology. We have got no negative feedback on the summaries that follow.

Religious indifferentism - a summary

Indifferentism is not religious indifference. This is how Catholics classify these things:

  1. Absolute indifferentism consists of philosophic systems that reject man's acknowledgment of his dependence on a personal creator, whom he is bound to reverence, obey, and love.
  2. Restricted indifferentism: In distinction from this absolute Indifferentism, a restricted form admits religion to have some salutary influence on human life. But it holds that all religions are equally worthy and profitable to man. Such hopers, like Rousseau, hold that God looks only to the sincerity of intention, and that everybody can serve Him by remaining in the religion in which he has been brought up, or by changing it at will for any other that pleases him more (Emile, III). That "all religions are equally good" comes to mean, at bottom, that religion is good for nothing.
  3. Liberal indifferentism: The third indifferentism acknowledges the unique divine origin and character of Christianity, and its consequent immeasurable superiority over all rival religions. But it further holds that what particular Christian Church or sect one belongs to is an indifferent matter; all forms of Christianity are on the same footing, all are equally pleasing to God and serviceable to man. Rationalistic speculation has culminated in the prevalent materialistic, monistic, and agnostic philosophies of today, where liberals may try to regulate their lives as true followers of Christ, holding that Christ taught no dogmatic doctrine, His teaching was purely ethical, and its only permanent and valuable content is summed up in the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. When this point is reached the Indifferentism that arose in belief joins hands with the Indifferentism of infidelity (the two first forms above). The latter substitutes for religion, the former advocates as the only essential of religion, the broad fundamental principles of natural morality, such as justice, veracity, and benevolence that takes concrete form. The Vatican Council teaches that reason can, by its own native powers, reach with certitude the truths that suffice to form the basis of a natural religion.
Source: The Catholic Encyclopedia.
Pelagianism: See Britannica Online and The Catholic Encyclopedia.


The self is not revealed either by the scriptures or by the instructions of a preceptor . . . It is only when the scriptural knowledge, instructions of a preceptor and true discipleship come together that self-knowledge is attained. [Yoga Vasistha, Yv 302]
Sailing under a false flag is not quite appropriate in times of peace and shared plenty.


Catholic Heresy Charges against Paramahansa Yogananda teachings, Literature  

Agj: Vermes, Geza. The Authentic Gospel of Jesus. London: Penguin, 2005.

Ay: Yogananda, Paramahansa. Autobiography of a Yogi. 1st ed. New York: Philosophical Library, 1946. Online.

Ha: Yogananda, Paramahansa. Autobiography of a Yogi. 12th ed. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF), 1981.

Mtj: Schochet, Rabbi Dr. Jacob Immanuel. The Mystical Tradition - Jewish Mysticism - The Meaning and Relevance. New York: Kehot Publication Society, 1990.

Pa: Yogananda, Paramahansa. Autobiography of a Yogi. 11th ed. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF), 1971.

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

Trj: Vermes, Geza. The Real Jesus: Then and Now. Minneapolis, MI: Fortress Press, 2010.

Yv: Venkatesananda, Swami, tr. The Concise Yoga Vasistha. Albany: State University of New York, 1984.

Harvesting the hay

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

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