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Self-Realization Fellowship inspected
Many Self-Realization Fellowship monastics are left. One third left.

Proficient Caution Called For

In much unknown waters, keep a good lookout. Proficiency counts too.

This essay collection offers glimpses into Self-Realization Fellowship. It is led by monastics. One third of them - about fifty - left the SRF premises between 2000 and 2005 (Cf. Williamson, 2010:76; Parsons 2012:170).

Here are examples of what has taken place in and around the fellowship after one third of its monastics left. They were disgruntled, and many realised SRF was a cult. This stands out on the discussion board where they shared tens of thousands of posts.

One trouble with cults is that there are so many of them. Another: the bigger they get, the more esteem they seem to hanker after in their societies. The estimate of Margaret Singer is that in the United States there were about 5,000 cults there some fifteen years ago, and she does not say "Not one too many." (2003, 4)

On the Way to Transcendence

In Tibetan Buddhism, an attitude of critical skepticism is encouraged to promote analytic abilities in meditation and otherwise. Tibetans say one should test also the Buddha's words as one would the quality of gold.

Do not accept my Dharma [teachings, etc.] merely out of respect for me, but analyse and check it the way a goldsmith analyses gold, by rubbing, cutting and melting it. [Buddha, The Sutra on (Pure Realms) Spread Out in Dense Array]

Up to a point or level words carry ideas that may help: on finer levels one relinquishes fixation on words and letters, one transcends them. The Kunjed Gyalpo Tantra (The All-Creating King), a scripture of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism, emphasises how Truth lies beyond the range of thought. "The mind of perfect purity . . . is beyond thinking and inexplicable." (Neumaier-Dargyay 1992, 111)

Some Buddhist schools discourage doctrinal study, but most regard it as having a place, at least for some people at some stages. What is helpful may in part depend on one's level of understanding.

In earnest

One is told to scrutinise a prospective guru first, and accept him or her later if nothing alarming turns up. (WP "Tibetan Buddhism"; "Buddhist philosophy") [◦Berzin Archives]

Uncritical faith has it limits and prospective dangers. For one thing, it may hinder or oust out better studies and better thinking and maybe block the Way. It is not enough just to invoke charmer words like "scientific" and "science". Actions had better follow suit. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi encouraged research on Transcendental Meditation, TM, in earnest. Research he got. [◦TM Findings]

Becoming bound for life and possible, future lifetimes through SRF kriya pledge may be worth considering before being sworn in as Yogananda's underling. For example, will Yogananda drag you down with him next time he falls, and will he be reborn as a vicious, ferocious dog after having mutilated and killed hundreds and thousands as William the Conqueror - such horrible karma? You don't know what would be your lot then. Better safe than sorry; better not be sworn in in the name of Jesus who insisted, "Swear not", for example. Safety first; you could keep sanity and freedom enough by that solid measure.

Prepare for the worst so that it may not happen. That is a lot. Yogananda's decrees about the guru-disciple relationship with him as the guru go against Human Rights laws in many countries, and is more severe than almost any other guru-disciple relationships - stricter by far than similar and corresponding guru-disciple deals of India. He himself was told by his guru at a time that he was free to come and go.

So being sworn in as Yogananda's underling is a special arrangement; not a guru-disciple rule. And some could perhaps like it in SRF if they have much less sex drives than average, like to sleep less than average, work hard for little pay on earth, and do not mind obeying much - submitting to many hundred don'ts, for example. Some might fit in! Further, authoritarian minds might follow a dictatorship-fond Yogananda foolishly. Don'ts are teeming in three books of Yogananda talks and other SRF works too. Compare the 613 mitzvot. These ancient commandments tell what to do and what not to do. Example: "Not to commit incest with one's sister," "Not to commit incest with one's father's brothers wife" and "Not to commit incest with one's wife's sister."[Mitzvot list]

How much outer-directed fellows are helped onwards and upwards in SRF, is wise to look into before being induced to enter. The Sanskrit Classic site contains a rather interesting page on Yogananda's "Modified Kriya". There is documentation that Yogananda one day came to admit it was a big blunder to start SRF. [◦Find some revised evidence here]

"Yogananda's "great blunder" (his organisation, SRF, as he writes), will it be fit for others, and how fit, if so? Could taking up jogging be more worthwhile, far more worthwhile or even better? There could be several opinions about that. In any case one may benefit from trying to get many relevant cards on the table. In advance. Before entering and leaving and wasting lots of years and opportunities, if not more.


Now, these counsels of Tibet's great yogi Milarepa reveal the good attitude:

The worthiest one is engaged in turning a blessed human life to the best account [cf Evans-Wentz 1969, 225].

One should not be over-anxious and hasty in setting out to serve others, but have the one resolve to attain Buddhahood. [Tm 271]

Opposed to it, there are many kinds of sacrifice, but there is something menial in them, one can ascertain from the wonderful Apannaka Sutta, where Buddha reveals that the highest do not sacrifice themselves or others.


Caution and proficiency, Self-Realization Fellowship, SRF gurus, Yogananda, Literature  

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

Evans-Wentz, Walter Y., ed. 1969. Tibet's Great Yogi Milarepa. 2nd ed. London: Oxford University Press.

Neumaier-Dargyay, Eva K. 1992. The Sovereign All-Creating Mind - The Motherly Buddha: A Translation of Kun Byed Rgyal Po'I Mdo. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Parsons, Jon. A Fight For Religious Freedom: A Lawyer's Personal Account of Copyrights, Karma and Dharmic Litigation. Nevada City, CA: Crystal Clarity, 2012.

Singer, Margaret Thaler. Cults in Our Midst: The Continuing Fight Against Their Hidden Menace. Rev. ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003.

Williamson, Lola. Transcendent in America: Hindu-Inspired Meditation Movements as New Religion. London: New York University Press, 2010.

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

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