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Re: Self-Realization Fellowship
Posted by: Scott ()
Date: October 16, 2016 09:38AM

@Tormod: I agree with your "Second thought". There are precious few critiques of SRF that are easy to find. Sites or resources that use critical thinking to assess that many extraordinary claims of SRF as a group and Yogananda as a guru-god man.

Readers may visit Critiques of Self-Realization Fellowship at Skeptic Meditations. Full disclosure: This is a site I started in 2014, more than a decade after fleeing the SRF ashram, where I spent 14 years of my life as an ordained SRF monk. There are many wonderful people psychologically trapped inside the SRF closed-system of ashrams, temples, and groups. I am grateful to have escaped physically and psychologically the system of beliefs that kept me trapped.

Obviously, this Cult Education forum is a useful online resource for those willing to critically examine SRF and other cult-like groups.

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Re: Self-Realization Fellowship
Posted by: grainne uaile ()
Date: October 17, 2016 05:11AM

SRFBlacklist is another forum that exposes SRF. [] It even has the old SRFWalrus posts on it.

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Re: Self-Realization Fellowship
Posted by: grainne uaile ()
Date: October 17, 2016 05:20AM

TheGlassOnion was taken down by its owner because the SRFBlacklist was there for all to read and make posts to. Everything that was on SRFGlassOnion is also on SRFBlacklist, and as I said, SRFWalrus is also on the SRFBlacklist.

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Possible connection between childhood trauma and the genesis of SRF
Posted by: uwsboi14 ()
Date: January 14, 2017 01:39AM

When I was 10 years old, I had a traumatic experience which frightened me so much that I turned to the Bible for answers. The trauma was caused by a certain kind of abandonment, loss, and isolation. So, for a year I became a Christian fundamentalist. I turned to my culture’s particular religion, Christianity. In it I found paradoxically both justification for and an escape from my overwhelming emotions. Luckily, the fanaticism wore off after a year and I returned to my usual self, with a few remaining scars.

Unfortunately, I had developed a tendency towards black and white thinking. With that in mind, I hope the following "thesis" does not use black and white concepts also. My goal is to try and explain the origins of Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) in humanistic terms. I’ve also hesitated to come to conclusions as well, which is why I've put things in the form of questions. Because of my 19 years of involvement with SRF, I have spent most of my life trying to arrive at the ultimate truth, that happy harbor of assured safety and have found instead that I had closed my mind and feelings in the process.

When Yogananda was 11 years old, his dearly loved mother died without him being by her side. In his inconsolable grief, he turned to his particular culture’s belief in the power of meditation. There he experienced a vision and the voice of “Divine Mother”. This powerful spiritual experience became the foundation of his own spiritual path. 16 years later he would start a religious organization in the US, Self-Realization Fellowship, which promotes the concept of a feminine God, simply named Divine Mother. The devotee of this path is exhorted to call upon the presence of Divine Mother in meditation, for according to Yogananda, "the mother is closer than the father". This feminine deity is described as both benevolent and punishing depending on how the devotee/child needs to learn his life lessons. Yogananda's word as the guru is considered by his followers to be the voice of Divine Mother herself. Therefore, he is infallible in his judgements and instructions to perfect the devotee/child. All methods employed by the guru, from loving to humiliating punishment, are acceptable and seen as blessings from the divine.

Considering again Yogananda's early spiritual experience, one could easily see his seeking solace in meditation as a child’s escape into fantasy rather than a real resolution. Surely, if a child has no one from whom he can receive consolation in his overwhelming grief and loss, escape is the only way to survive. Yogananda was brought up on meditation and a belief in gurus, divine powers, divine beings, mother Kali, etc. His spiritual experience is in keeping with the beliefs of his culture. Driven by heightened inner pain, he found what he was looking for: a mother who would never die and who would never abandon him again. Is there anything morally wrong in that? No, of course not. But, when one turns their spiritual experiences into a religious path for all people, I begin to wonder if there are unconscious motives at work:

1) Is the leader’s spiritual formula in fact a dysfunctional coping mechanism which can only breed more dysfunction and confusion?

2) What happened to the original feelings of anger, grief, and disillusionment? Were they completely resolved or have they persisted unconsciously and have found new expression in the act of changing and dominating others?

I could never understand why Yogananda praised Hitler and Mussolini. But, if my explanation of the genesis of SRF is accurate, it makes sense that he would be impressed by these dictators' ability to dominate and control whole nations. Yogananda also had a well known ferocious temper.

1) Is there really such a thing as a benevolent dictator?

2) Can there be any true moral justification for someone demanding absolute allegiance from another person?

3) When the devotee sees his/her absolute allegiance to a guru as spiritual, does it make it so, or is the devotee only justifying self abandonment and escape tactics, escape tactics not dissimilar to the child Yogananda’s running away into meditation?

4) Because of the unresolved trauma from his own childhood, has the guru unconsciously placed his own followers in the same isolated state of loneliness and abandonment where the only place to turn for solace is Divine Mother/guru?

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Re: Possible connection between childhood trauma and the genesis of SRF
Posted by: uwsboi14 ()
Date: January 14, 2017 04:41AM

> 4) Because of the unresolved trauma from his own
> childhood, has the guru unconsciously placed his
> own followers in the same isolated state of
> loneliness and abandonment where the only place to
> turn for solace is Divine Mother/guru?

I'd like to change #4 to:

In conclusion, it's seems very likely that because of the unresolved trauma from his own childhood, the guru has unconsciously placed his own followers in the same isolated state of loneliness and abandonment so that their only place to turn for solace is Divine Mother/guru.

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Re: Possible connection between childhood trauma and the genesis of SRF
Posted by: Scott ()
Date: January 14, 2017 12:32PM

@uwsboi14: I think you thesis needs more work, but you may be onto something.

You probably are aware of some or all of this--

Yogananda's surrender and devotion to a Divine Mother god are part of his Bengali-mystic tradition of worship of Mother Kali, and his growing up in Bengal and exposure to tales and devotees of the Bengali god-man Ramakrishna Paramahansa, who also apparently had a dysfunctional childhood--in addition to adulthood. But who hasn't had dysfunctional family or upbringing to one degree or another? Hence when we see another "superior" god-man who suffered losses that we identify with then many of us humans want to follow this teacher who we hope can show us how to "rise above" and solve all our problems.

Nothing wrong with the desire to solve all our problems. Where I think we go wrong is in seeking solutions to our problems through "higher" authorities: politicians, saints, or saviors.

Narasingha P. Sil, in Ramakrishna Revisited: A New Biography (University Press of America, 1998) examines the pathology of the god-man, Ramakrishna. And also his chief disciples, such as "M"(Master Mahasaya), who Yogananda was a disciple of before he met Sri Yukteswar. These men all seemed to exhibit feminine qualities and to devote themselves to a Cosmic Mother, like a kitten limp in the mother's jaws.

After reading Sil's historical and psychological analysis of Ramakrishna it's clear to me that Ramakrishna and his ilk of fanatical Divine-Mother-lovers are a pathological breed. We'll not know for sure if they were epileptics or psychotics, but there seems to be evidence of something "strange" physically and psychologically. What others might label "spiritual" or ecstasy for the divine, others label madness and hallucinations.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I hope my initial comments give you some feedback onyour thesis and you continue asking provocative questions.

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Re: Possible connection between childhood trauma and the genesis of SRF
Posted by: uwsboi14 ()
Date: January 15, 2017 02:17AM


Thanks for your comments. As much as I appreciate the effort you took to give a critique, and I do, it looks like we disagree on whether childhood trauma can create narcissism or other disorders. (Please let me know if I misunderstood you) Without agreeing on this fundamental crux of my argument, I'm afraid it would be very difficult for us to have a meaningful discussion. And yet, I'm sure you would agree that Y was a supreme narcissist who needed absolute control of himself and others in order to function normally. This character assessment can made without considering his cultural background. In other words, an asshole is an asshole the world round.

My sincere hope is that some struggling SRF member will, by reading my post, draw the same paralells that I have drawn. To be able to see the guru's teachings as having sprung from a psychological dysfunction may be enough to shake the cage of belief and maybe even open a door to freedom. To be honest, I'm not concerned with whether I am absolutely correct. I am more interested in touching those wounds in others, which when reawakened, can erode the rigid thought patterns implanted by the cult. It is in fact more of an emotional experience than one of pure reason - I'm trying to fight fire with fire.

Thanks again for giving my ideas consideration. I value your support, as always.

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Re: Possible connection between childhood trauma and the genesis of SRF
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: January 15, 2017 04:26AM

This article might be of interest

The Dark Side of Enlightenment
Sadomasochistic Aspects of the Quest for Perfection



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"Clack clack"
Posted by: uwsboi14 ()
Date: January 17, 2017 04:37AM

Sri Sailendra Dasgupta in his book "Paramhansa Swami Yogananda, Life-Potrait and Reminiscences".

"From here they traveled to many parts of Europe, such as France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland etc. Hitler had begun to rise in Germany at that time and the scenes in that land at that time brought up feelings of great admiration in Yoganandaji. He used to say that the entire German nation was alive and together with the "clack, clack" sounds of their boots resonating in unison. Little did he know that this so-called "beautifully arranged garden" would be obliterated to dust within a decade and fall into the horrific annals of history. "(Chapter 4 Changes; Return to India - "On the way Back to India with His Companions and Traveling in Different Countries")

So, it really seems like Yogananda could not perceive in the roar of the crowds the insanity of mass collective hysteria and emotional intoxication. He interprets it as aliveness, as being awake. He contradicted his own teachings. I find it incredible that he could not see what many people could already see and envisage. The argument that many people were also fooled by Hitler doesn't stand up, in my opinion. A "world guru" is supposed to be able to penetrate to the truth. How come there were many who did see the horror coming and yet Yogananda did not? Because he was not at all who he believed himself to be.

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How the SRF experience holds our thinking hostage
Posted by: uwsboi14 ()
Date: January 18, 2017 11:13PM

From the online discussion board, SRF Walrus, posted by Raja Begum (10/17/01 3:04 am)

I'm itching to get to the central nervous system of the problem. I don't think we'll go far if we content ourselves with nebulous criticisms and flatulent bursts of name calling ("bad ladies") [reference to the Matas in leadership positions]. If we can move our dialogue past collective tantrums towards more objective analysis, we might discover a valuable set of principles which could help us for life. Realistananda --- who is much more of a moderate than I am -- had the idea when he brought to our attention that all organizations are intrinsically flawed. My first posting was entitled "Sleepers Awake." It urged us to take responsibility for the enslavement of our intellects. Life demands discretion on all levels. Hence, what we learn here, we can apply everywhere.

Personally, I think the SRF experience --- that is, the way one undergoes it --- is constructed of fascistic elements. I mean this interpretively. Please put all thoughts of Naziism out of your mind. We are discussing a universal psycho-physiological effect in which the mind and imagination of an individual are held hostage through the continuous use of spectacle and regimentation, while at the same time the ability to critique and make discriminative judgments about the system is discouraged.

I present the term "fascism" as it appears in two distinctly different mediums. The first is from a political glossary; the second is an aesthetic interpretation from a film critic:

FASCISM: a very strong form of statism*, a corporatist economy, modernization, regimentation, and strong central leadership. Citizens' purpose is to serve the state. Often includes appeals to a "glorious" past or pseudo-religious ideal, thus combining several facets of liberalism, conservatism and socialism into an organic vision of society.

(* Statist: Favoring a strong central government, especially with regard to finding solutions for societal problems. Can apply to both right and left. )

Fascist aesthetics flow from and justify a preoccupation with situations of control, submissive behavior, and extravagant effort; they exalt two seemingly opposite states: egomania and servitude. the relations of domination and enslavement take the form of a characteristic pageantry: the massing of groups of people, the turning of people into things, the multiplication of things and grouping of people / things around an all powerful, hypnotic leader, figure or force. The fascist dramaturgy centers on the orgiastic transaction between mighty forces and their puppets. Its choreography alternates between ceaseless motion and a congealed, static, "virile" posing. Fascist art glorifies surrender, it exalts mindlessness, it glorifies death.

We are familiar with the first definition but probably not with the second. You would be surprised to know that Steven Spielberg's films are considered fascistic by serious film critics, not because of "Schindler's List" nor because Spielberg is a Jew, but mostly because his style of filmmaking barrages the viewer continuously with fantastical images and narrative to a point wherein the viewer relinquishes the power of critical analysis and, unable to evaluate what is happening to him in the moment, is plunged into the narrative spectacle until the movie is over. If you analyze most of Spielberg's early films, precious little is happening in terms of theme. But he has always been a master at getting you to forget your opinions and suscribe to his reality while you are in his domain: the theater. This is fascism on an aesthetic level.

I want to make the boldest assertion I've ever made that the SRF experience is fundamentally fascistic because, much like a good Spielberg movie, it keeps directing us precisely where it wants us to go at all times. The pieces by themselves don't amount to anything convincing, but if you take the SRF experience as a whole you can't help marveling how all the parts keep moving us around the same corral path. An extensive analysis would be too exhausting for me to do right now. However, if this idea appeals to enough people, I'd be very willing to attempt an in-depth analysis. Consider the following impressions....all of them revolving around the concept of either our eyes, body, or mind being guided or directed from something outside ourselves.

You enter a parking lot and are greeted by an usher. No problem. Actually very helpful. Then you get out of your car and find your way in. The ushers are helpful and show you to your seat. The first experiment you must do is to sit anywhere but where the usher points. He is ready to greet you with his regulation open-palmed gesture and super smile, but if you spurn his help, his smile will quickly dissolve to a frown of disapproval. You pronam to the altar the way everyone else does. I used to pronam at movie screens. Standing before any proscenium arch, my body would do it reflexively. When faced to the altar, try bowing your head next time and see if you get any looks. You sit. It is a normal church going day. Same as in any church. The minister comes out and you stand again. You say the same prayer that you always say each Sunday: "Heavenly Father, Divine Mother, Friend Beloved God......Om Peace Amen." Then you sit and are guided into a meditation by way of a chant. Then the announcements. Then the so-called "inspirational talk" follows, which is only inspirational if you happen to be visiting SRF for the first time. The ministers all seem to come from the midwest even when they aren't. They have a certain cadence and vocal tone which is signature SRF. After a while, you find yourself talking like that too. Pausing as they do. Making measured hand gestures as they do. All SRF speakers sound like wood flutes. You've been guided through the routine a thousand times (routine is a big word in SRF); you know exactly when the donation is going to be collected even before the moment arrives. You've got your dollar bill in your hand and , before you know it, you're singing "Glory, Glory Hallelujah" or one of the Cosmic Chants. The doors swing open, and you fall into rank past the perennially pronamming minister who blesses you down the spiritual conveyer belt. You land amidst your friends who always have the same idea and the same restaurants in their heads year after year. What a life!

You never think once how that whole hour was scripted like a ride in a theme park. You never wonder why your conversations always center around the urban legends of Mother Center, the monastics, or something you read about in the Autobiography of a Yogi. It's to be expected when you're fresh on the path. But 20 plus years down the road, there's a world out there needing your help and you're still smiling that vacuous smile of a spiritual happy face. No wonder Karl Marx called religion the opium of the masses.

You go home. The color scheme of your apartment is gold, blue and white. Very original indeed! Master's pictures are everywhere, even in the bathroom, though its grievous why you'd want to subject Master to watching you take a dump. You put on some music, the only kind you have: some East Indian ragas or "The Divine Gypsy." Your furniture is mostly wood and brass objects you bought from an Encinitas import shop. You bought a harmonium. You're living plainly. You do alright but you don't make a ton of money because you either work for SRF or live in the world as if you work for SRF. If an anthropologist were ever to visit your dwelling, he or she could never guess what dreams lay buried in your heart. Long ago, you whitewashed them...and added touches of gold and blue.

Monastic life is a tenser, wound-up and boxed-up version of the above.

Television, that's a fascistic medium, deemed so because it renders the mind passive. Why do I always feel as if I'm in the passenger seat with SRF? I'm always in the audience, the important things are happening in front of me, to me, at me. Why can't we all sit in circles or huddles, like the knights a King Arthur's Court? Or the Los Angeles Lakers before the playoffs? Or just place a lay-disciple on the stage once-in-awhile and have him or her address the monastics --- just to confound expectations and invert the programming. (yeah right!)

Consider the spectacle of an SRF Convocation. Notice the large groups, the lines, the ushers, and finally the appearance of a minister on that lonely podium next to Master's picture. Especially the closing banquet where a long table is set on a stage, high above the crowd, and ministers are seated to the left and right of Master's picture in a formation reminiscent of Leonardo da Vinci's "Last Supper." I'm not saying it’s all bad. In fact, its, if nothing else, a quite pleasant distraction. But when does the mind have a chance to be on its own? SRF loves schedules, procedures, guidelines and techniques. If chickens are bred for the meat cutter, I sometimes feel I'm being groomed for obsequiousness.

Guidelines are never more insidious than at Meditation Centers and by virtue of those infamous recipes called Service Readings. SRF must be ruled under the sign of niggling Virgo. Activities are scheduled and quantized down to the minute, jobs are micromanaged, decisions must be approved from above. The lectures, tapes, and videos let you know who you're gonna love. And it ain't necessarily God, apparently. For example, a number of people on this board have commented on Mrinalini’s new video. As you watch her emote, as elements of her family background and early days at Mt. Washington surface, as she talks fervently about Master, as her voice quavers and the tears sprout out of her eyes, watch how you subtly begin to assent to her way of thinking. The SRF communiques rob us of the space in our minds for judicious review of what's being presented to us. I'm not saying there is evil intent in the SRF leaders, but I am saying that, no matter what their reasons are -- even if they are good -- No! especially if they are good --- such thoughtless assent to authority is exactly the kind of surrender every great thinker in the world cautions us to avoid. God is what is left when the residue of other business has been wiped away.

What I've presented thus far is one member's recollection of the outside shell of the SRF experience. Just a few whimsical impressions. As we probe deep down into the inner circle and back rooms of the SRF leadership, we are bound to find more strikingly overt examples of fascistic control which are not as innocent and easy to dismiss as the examples I gave above. In no way does this mean SRF is run by a bunch of Rasputins. But it could suggest that, motivated by fear, these Matas may be unwittingly permitting a form of soft fascism to underscore the SRF experience. This would make sense, since authoritative hierarchies tend to be the least complex and most expedient ways of managing people. But anyone can stand on a hilltop and be a dictator or an oligarch. A leader who empowers others is something else entirely. That demands a certain optimistic belief in one's fellow man; it requires trust and an amazing amount of benevolence.

I'd now like to ask my ex-monastic friends to consider if any of the following elements exist in the SRF organization:

A strong leaning towards property, capital investments, and a reliance on the legal system and government protections.

Continuous building. expanding, touring, promoting, and using technology to further its goals. Wanting to keep up with the Joneses. A refusal to appear behind the times (at least materially and technologically).

Micromanagement. A policy for everything. Making Sparta look like a Club Med Resort, monasticism, dictating a way of life and a routine.

The secretive Board of Directors, SRF President

The utilization of a lot of able and willing bodies who will work for low pay or no pay and are expected to have the right attitude about service -- basically unquestioning loyalty and devotion to Mother Center.

Senior monastics still living in the heydays of the 1940's and '50's. "You can only imagine what it was like" underscores everything they say. Keeping things quaint and provincial, the way they were in Master's time..."Those were the days." A high hope that those standards will return and the young monks and members will get a dose of reality the way it was when Master was around...etc.

Mostly with regard to the way the Matas would have us reverence them. Mystification of people in leadership roles.

I wrote somewhere else: "In truth, SRF is a disorienting hodgepodge of models sorely in need of integration."

Glorifies surrender to the way of life, to the Matas, to your supervisor, to ushers, to the "right attitude" (whatever that is!).

Critical discussion or inquiry is not allowed, "just live the life" which means follow the routine and don't analyze with the mind.

"Kill" the ego. I once heard a monastic tell me that the only way he would leave the monastery would be "in a pinewood box." I asked him where he got such a romantic notion, and he said Brother Premamoy. The feudal Samurais also had a code of death before dishonor. Personally, I think its all a bunch of prepubescent hogwash...but to each their own.

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