Yogananda with close disciple Swami Kriyananda
Many of us have read the “authorized” version of An Autobiography of a Yogi, by the great Indian spiritual teacher Paramhansa Yogananda.
Few of us, however, realize that the “authorized” version has been posthumously altered — some would say sanitized — and that the organization founded by Yogananda to carry on his legacy has systematically sanitized the founder’s teaching over the years.
Thankfully, one of his closest followers, Swami Kriyananda (J. Donald Walters) has maintained a “parallel” organization called Ananda, which has sought to offer Yogananda’s undiluted teachings, in letter and in spirit.
From a website, Yogananda Rediscovered, dedicated to this task:
We offer this website to you as fellow truthseekers and devotees of Paramhansa Yogananda. It contains many facts not commonly known about Yogananda, his teachings, and the organization he founded, Self-Realization Fellowship.
For a long time we have hesitated to speak out. But difficult circumstances and a sense of responsibility require that we come forward now. Many people do not know that in 1990 SRF filed a massive lawsuit against Ananda. Their goal is to gain a monopoly on Yogananda’s teachings.
Ananda is an autonomous network of spiritual communities and churches, founded by Swami Kriyananda, a direct disciple of Yogananda. Ananda has specialized in building world brotherhood colonies, the ideal lifestyle Yogananda recommended for householder devotees. Though Ananda has won nearly every issue in court, SRF continues its litigation unabated. Millions of dollars that could have been spent serving Yogananda’s work is being spent instead on this courtroom battle.
But we would not be writing if the issues affected only us, personally. What is happening now will affect Yogananda’s mission for centuries to come. Certain attitudes and actions by SRF are causing that mission, we believe, to drift from what Yogananda himself intended. (The attack on Ananda has also taken a very personal turn, with charges that Swami Kriyananda is a spiritual charlatan, and Ananda is an abusive cult. For the other side of that story, see www.AnandaAnswers.com)
Changes to Yogananda’s teachings after his passing
In the past fifty years, significant changes have been made to Yogananda’s books, teachings, ideals, and to his image—changes which emphasize SRF as an institution and limit how Yogananda is presented to the world. Kriya initiation, discipleship, Autobiography of a Yogi, and even Yogananda’s own signature have been altered. Edited versions of many of his writings have been greatly changed. All references to colonies have been removed from Autobiography of a Yogi. Even a cross Yogananda wore around his neck at the dedication of the Lake Shrine has been airbrushed out of that photo. Devotees have no access to the movies, recordings, photos, and writings of Yogananda still stored in SRF archives.
Lifelong disciples have shared heart-breaking stories of unkindness by SRF. Of grave concern is SRF’s increasing assertion of itself as a required intermediary between the disciples and their own master. This is what the Catholic Church did to the teachings of Christ centuries ago.
We hope, after reading this website, that you will share our concern about the issues raised here. Only a handful of direct disciples still remain alive. The mantle of responsibility is about to pass to the next generation. The guidance and legacy of “those who were with him” will long endure, but we will also be called upon to use our own judgment. Let it be an informed judgment. All of us as Yogananda’s devotees hold the future of his work in our hands.
As a confirmed iconoclast, spiritual rebel and anti-authoritarian (contrary to what those feisty rascals who’ve been banned from commenting on this site may say), I’ve had a warm spot in my heart for Swami Kriyananda for years now. Through his organization, Ananda, he’s been working ceaselessly toward a better life for all, building intentional communities around the world that are based on spiritual practice and attainment. He understands the Divine nature of this particular reality, and has harnessed the laws of creation in order to build his vision into a unique global movement that will gain in importance as the structure of society continues its race to oblivion.
In short, he is an essential model for me during this lifetime, and I offer his example to you, no matter what tradition you do or don’t follow, no matter how jaded you may have become toward the tradition through which you may or may not have been raised. He’s all about possitivity, all about the power of prayer, all about meditation, all about loving one’s fellow humans and the world we’ve been given.
Swami Kriyananda represents a particularly beautiful solution to the world’s problems, and we absolutely should give his ideas the attention they deserve.