Top critical review
22 people found this helpful
Great stories, questionable propaganda
on November 10, 2008
When I first read the Autobiography of a Yogi in Danish translation it made me enter Self-Realization Fellowship and ignore the hooks in the book. They include:
* Romantic idealisations of things Indian.
* Great and glorious claims that are not really backed up, but wrapped in by "the scriptures aver", the ancient rishis (seers) found" etc. He has never specified which scriptures says man needs a million years to reach cosmic consciousness, and which rishis found that gold, silver, other metals and gems can protect against planetary influences, to my knowing.
* Hiding that the author made changes in the kriya methods - left out parts that are claimed to be essential by others in the kriya tradition, simplifying other things, and leaving out that his own guru gave much less positive prospects for those who learn it - 144 times less, I saw.
A Yogananda biography, *Paramhansa Swami Yogananda: Life-portrait and Reminiscences* (Portland: Yoga Niketan, 2006), by an Indian kriya yogi who knew Yogananda well, throws added light on Yogananda's writings too. It appears that Yogananda many times hid unpleasant things, including tense quarrels with his guru (p. 85) . The biographer even questions that Yogananda's guru bestowed on him the title Paramhansa. Quote:
"[One] day, Ananda-da -- Ananda Mohan Lahiri -- was with us. It was almost nightfall. Maharaj ji [Yogananda's guru Yukteswar] was standing on the upstairs veranda and someone was standing next to him. Ananda-da and the writer [Dasgupta] were downstairs. Before going upstairs, Yoganandaji went to a drainage spot, a bit apart from the area, and began to urinate into the drainage passage. This caught Gurudev's [Yukteswar's] attention and he cryptically joked, "Yogananda has become a 'paramhansa' [great swan, or great soul]!" After urinating, Yoganandaji saw Ananda-da standing at the front door and quietly said, "Ananda-da! Did you hear? Swamiji [Sriyukteshvarji] called me a 'paramhansa!'" Later, Ananda-da laughed and said to the writer, "You'll see. Yogananda will one day use this title!" (p. 84)
The Autobiography is filled with stories of the miraculous. However, the Yogananda biographer questions some of the tales. "When examined with an investigative eye, many of the accounts could have been caused by ordinary means, nevertheless, in Swamiji's perception, all happened supernaturally. (p. 101)"
And with reference to an alleged meeting of Yogananda and a secretive yogi called Babaji, the biographer writes:
"Yoganandaji was a man who lived in the world of imagination and spiritual feelings. He saw some things directly and some things with the eyes of his feelings. Towards the end, he often did not perceive a difference between the two (p. 99)."
It would be well to keep these points in mind throughout the book, so as not to be enamoured by, frankly, Yogananda propaganda.
Another problem with the SRF editions of the Autobiography after Yogananda's passing, is the heavy editing. There appears to be over a thousand changes in it. Some of them are minor and non-essential, whereas others reflect the drift of Yogananda's fellowship sectwards with the years.
FROM A WIDER SCENARIO
DISHEARTENING, GLOWING REVIEWS. There are many who sincerely advocate the Autobiography at Amazon. However, some mar the review service by proselytising rather than bringing mature views.
Some have got the suspicion that Amazon reviews of A Yogi's Autobiography are dominated by Yogananda cultists. Now the Autobiography is a book that is edited as by bandits, published by a cult, SRF, and much hailed by persons who have a will to gore those who disagree with them.
It was disheartening to me to see that some of the things advocated by Yogananda in his earlier autobiography, were left out by editors in later editions. This means the text is not a reliable document of the author - you cannot always trust that the sentence or footnote you read, are the "real deal". At least you should not trust the thousand changes that are edited into it after the author's death. Wikipedia shows some of the omissions and changes that are made, and others have documented them far more extensively as well.
Proselytes mar serious reviews they dislike, in order to champion the cult SRF and its founder, by spawning comments "the cult way". Not all of Yogananda's teaching is "overwhelming" - far from it. He contradicts himself a lot.
To someone who has been among the glowing proselytes, who has "been there, done that" and have seen through a bit, conform lavish praise of the author, his book, and his cult are sickening - at least it suggesst very little adequate background knowledge of the book itself.
A CULT AT THE REAR OF THE AUTHOR. The publisher of the book, Self-Realization Fellowship, is recognised as a cult, for example by SermonIndex and Watchman Fellowship. And the now dead and gone editor-in-chief in SRF, Tara Mata (Laurie Pratt), is cited to say, "We *are* a sect." [Kriyananda. A Place Called Ananda, ch. 14] What is more, the publishers has edited Yogananda autobiography extensively after his death. Quote:
"SRF has never stopped editing this book. They have made changes to the text, as well as adding, deleting, and editing photographs, captions, end pages, footnotes, and publisher's notes. These include . . . changes altering the history of events in Yogananda's life as he told them, changes to direct quotations as he gave them, and insertions of statements of institutional authority which directly contradict Yogananda's own statement of his vision for the spread of his teachings . . . and his name was given a new spelling seven years after his death."
[Ananda Sangha India, "Why Read the First Edition . . ."]
KRIYA YOGA, A COSTLY PLEDGE. Much of the content of the autobiography promotes kriya yoga, which go greatly unresearched by SRF, despite the hype about it. Some changes in the book from the earliest editions promote the church of SRF by monopolising the transmission of kriya yoga. And to learn the Yogananda's simplified kriya yoga through Self-Realization Fellowship, you have to swear an oath that demands unconditional submission to six unmet gurus on your part, and with no good regret buttons. If you want to stick to freedom from authoritarian submission, there are other societies that teach kriya yoga without such strings attached. In Satyananda's Yoga Kriya Yoga may be learnt in courses or from books, for example.
CONFUSION INTO THE BARGAIN. Also, the publishers, SRF, teaches that the teachings of the six gurus - Krishna and Jesus are among them - are in complete harmony [13th ed. p 432]. They are not. A few examples will do: Jesus teaches the soul can be destroyed [Matthew 10:28; Luke 12:4-6; Matthew 5:29], whereas Yogananda and Krishna teach it is immortal [eg in Yogananda. Sayings of Paramahansa Yogananda, p. 25; Bhagavad Gita 2:19] However, Krishna also says some are fit for gaining immortality [Bhagavad Gita 2:15; 13:13; 14:20], so his teachings are not clear-cut.
Yogananda and two more of the Indian gurus teach the world is illusory, as "There is no material universe; its warp and woof is . . . illusion." [Autobiograpy, ch. 30], whereas Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita 16:7-8 says those who say so, are demoniac It is too hard for me to see the complete harmony of such divergent teachings.
HINDUISATION OF KEY CHRISTIAN CONCEPTS. In the Yogananda universe there is Hinduisation of Christian concepts as well. Yogananda says things about God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit that are not substantiated in the gospels. Also, he drops many hallmarks of the triune Christian godhead too in his theology - which has been charged with being heretic by the Catholic Father, Matheo. I do not go into these matters as a Christian, and I do not hide them as a follower of the guru either.
ONLY JESUS OR JESUS AND OTHERS? Lastly how do Yogananda's claims that Jesus is one of the gurus behind his fellowship (cult), when Jesus of the Bible warns beforehand against having other masters than himself?
Such undermining tricks and topics have to be dealt with too, since they affect one's living if seriously, fervently adhered to.
I DISLIKE DICTATORSHIP AND MENTALITIES THAT CONFORM TO IT. WHAT ABOUT YOU? It would be better if Yogananda adherents study the facts and get away from attempts at denigrations of what does not suit their guru-clinging. I find fervent, bombastic attempts at glorifications and hailings of a guru who in his time hailed dictatorship in writing [SRF's East-West Magazine, No. 6, 1933], to be quite curious.
Adding to some ignored sides to Yogananda, the biographer Dasgupta also reveals that the adult Yogananda, afraid of ghosts for years, bluffed a generous maharaja into giving him the means for having a school at Ranchi. Such vital parts of his "CV" are omitted from the autobiography too.