I think SRF should be investigated further before joining it. This blog is full of information: http://downthecrookedpath-meditation-gurus.blogspot.com/2011/08/guru-never-leaves-you.html
Some of his teachings are cultish and just wrong. For example this post:
You Must Never Leave Your Guru?
"There is only one guru uniquely the devotee's own. But if you turn away from the emissary of God, He silently asks: 'What is wrong with you . . .?' . . . He who cannot learn through the wisdom and love of his God-ordained guru will not find God in this life. Several incarnations at least must pass before he will have another such opportunity." - Paramahansa Yogananda, SRF magazine, spring 1974, p 6. From a talk at Mother Centre, 8/17/39
This has kept some, if not, many people from leaving Self Realization Fellowship, and if it didn't keep them from leaving, they left with much guilt. I know I did, and I know others who have. Comments like this are often used by gurus to keep their disciples. At least the Vedanta Society never used these ploys. My suggestion is that anyone that has these fears should read:
The Guru Papers—Masks of Authoritarian Power.
Loyalty to Yogananda also causes one to not question and to not have any negative thoughts about the guru, and especially not reading anything that is negative. I remember reading Swami Satyeswarananda’s book, Kriya: Finding the True Path, and being upset with things I learned about Yogananda, just to feel guilty because I had read it. Then I called Mother Center (headquarters of SRF) to ask questions that he caused to arise in my mind, but of course my questions were not answered, instead Mukitmata said to, “Stick a knife though the book and throw it in the garbage.” I threw it in the garbage.
WhileYogananda wasn’t even loyal to his own guru, he expected us to be. Here is a comment from Swami Satyeswarananda's website:
“In the case filed by Anne-Marie Bertolucci against the Ananda Church of Self Realization and Kriyananda in San Mateo County, California, Case No. 390 230, filed January 9, 1996, it is recorded in a deposition that Yogananda’s organization, Self Realization Fellowship Church, has a rule that to be a renunciate, one has to take “final” vows, such as:
poverty, 2. chastity, 3. loyalty, and 4. obedience.
His organization requires one to sign a “pledge” for absolute loyalty to Yogananda to join their organization. Let us see how Yogananda was loyal to his Guru, Sriyukteswar:
“Not sensing Sri Yutkteswar’s reluctance to have me leave him, I went on, “Once you beheld the blessed sight of Babaji at an Allahavad Kumbha. Perhaps this time I shall be fortunate enough to see him.”
“I [Sriyukteswar] do not think you will meet him [Mahamuni Babaji] there.” Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda, page 461, Eleventh edition, paperback
Sriyukteswar tried his best to prevent Yogananda from going, but seeing Mahamuni Babaji at least once in his lifetime was so intense in Yogananda’s mind that Sriyukteswar’s attempts to stop him failed. In spite of Sriyukteswar’s unequivocal, explicit advice not to go to Kumbhamela, Yogananda attended just to learn from Brahmachari Kesavananda (disciple of Lahiri Mahasay) that Babaji had not attended Kumbhamela that year as Sriyukteswar had told him before. He could not afford to lose the unique opportunity of a lifetime to have Babaji’s darsan.”
When I went to the Vedanta Society I was never asked to be loyal to any guru or organization, nor was I told that I would be lost for many lifetimes if I did leave; not every guru demands loyalty, nor do they threaten you with grave consequences if you do leave.
As for loyalty, I don’t believe that anyone should ever demand loyalty. Loyalty is something that has to grow, and it grows when you love and trust someone, but it can just as easily be broken if you find out that they are not what you thought they were.
And if you want to leave because you feel that you are not learning enough, you can leave as Gita says:
The wise spiritual teacher disapproves the idea of blind personal service, or the guru cult, which is so common in India, and is being imported abroad. A Self-realized master says that God only is the only guru, and all are His disciples. A disciple should be like a bee seeking honey from flowers. If the bee does not get honey from one flower, it immediately goes to another flower and stays at that flower as long as it gets the nectar. Idolization and blind worship of a human guru become stumbling block in the spiritual progress of both the disciple and the guru and bring downfall of Hinduism.
I also learned how much of a trap it is when a guru or an organization causes you to fear leaving. It seems like many religions do this to one degree or another, but it is done mostly by cults. If a religion does this, my suggestion is to run. Here is some information from another website:
"Cults employ tactics to create feelings of fear and guilt. For example, "I don’t think you’re serving God the way He wants you to, brother.” By requiring blind obedience and loyalty, cult leaders keep their members in darkness..,
A total submission to authority was required in order to remain in the group. In such an institution of legalistic mentality, gossip was an effective form of social control, especially when the authorities of the church got wind of it and would call the members to render an account. The pastor of a certain church was an important figure, even the object of veneration, due to his charismatic authority. "It’s amazing to see the attention and the reverence which the people give the pastor" wrote one observer. "They do everything for him. That the pastor controls everything should be emphasized. Nothing happens without his consent."
In the above, how often have you noticed that you have to have consent to do anything in SRF? I had to ask for consent to make cookies out of an organic sugar instead of honey because I knew they would taste better. I asked a Brother if I could use a certain sugar, and he just walked away. I did it anyway, and people ate my cookies before going to the real healthy ones. I noticed that people were constantly having to ask Mother Center or a Brother for permission for the most mundane things.
I remember we used to have a rope in front of the altar to keep people from going up to it. I finally asked why. I was told that hippies used to go up and put flowers on the altar, and so they wanted to stop that. Here we were in the 90s and there was a rope because no one thought to ask. And I think how silly it was to have one in the first place. Not very inviting. It was finally taken down, but not without permission.
But back to cult behavior. There is a great book titled: Combating Cult Mind Control, by Steven Hassan. [See disclaimer regarding Steve Hassan below]
This is another book I highly recommend.
Some Characteristics of a Cult
* authoritarian in their power structure
* totalitarian in their control of the behaviour of members
* a pyramid in structure and infrastructure
* the use of deception in recruiting or fund raising
* promotes dependence of the members
* totalitarian in their world view
* uses mind altering techniques such as chanting, devotional singing, meditation, hypnosis and various forms of repetitive actions to stop normal critical thinking
* appear exclusive and innovative
* has charismatic or messianic leader who is self-appointed and has a special mission in life
* instills a fear of leaving the group.--from Carol Giambalvo's Cult Information and Recovery.
"Fear of leaving - In most cults, members are quickly taught that there will be serious repercussions if they were to leave. When negative images about leaving the group are combined with suppressed logical critical thinking, guilt and fear is created in the member's mind. They start to think, "I don't want that to happen to me. I can't quit." In fact, today's cults know how to effectively implant vivid negative images deep within members' subconscious minds, making it impossible for the member to even conceive of ever being happy and successful outside of the group. Unknown to the members in the cult, this fear is completely irrational, no disasters will happen if the member were to leave the group."Disclaimer regarding Steve Hassan
The Ross Institute of New Jersey/May 2013
The inclusion of news articles within the Ross Institute of New Jersey (RI) archives, which mention and/or quote Steven Hassan, in no way suggests that RI recommends Mr. Hassan or recognizes him in any way.
News articles that mention Steve Hassan have been archived for historical purposes only due to the information they contain about controversial groups, movements and/or leaders.
RI does not recommend Steven Hassan.
RI has received serious complaints about Steve Hassan concerning his fees. Mr. Hassan does not publicly disclose his fee schedule, but according to complaints Steve Hassan has charged fees varying from $250.00 per hour or $2,500.00 per day to $500.00 per hour or $5,000.00 per day. This does not include Mr. Hassan's expenses, which according to complaints can be quite substantial.
Steven Hassan has charged families tens of thousands of dollars and provided questionable results. One recent complaint cited total fees of almost $50,000.00. But this very expensive intervention effort ended in failure.
Dr. Cathleen Mann, who holds a doctorate in psychology and has been a licensed counselor in the state of Colorado since 1994 points out, "Nowhere does Hassan provide a base rate and/or any type or accepted statistical method defining his results..."
Steve Hassan has at times suggested to potential clients that they purchase a preliminary report based upon what he calls his "BITE" model. These "BITE reports" can potentially cost thousands of dollars.
Steve Hassan runs a for-profit corporation called "Freedom of Mind." Mr. Hassan is listed as the corporate agent for that business as well as its president and treasurer.
RI does not recommend "Freedom of Mind" as a resource.
RI also does not list or recommend Steve Hassan's books.
To better understand why Mr. Hassan's books are not recommended by RI read this detailed review of his most recently self-published book titled "Freedom of Mind."
Steve Hassan's cult intervention methodology has historically raised concerns since its inception. The book "Recovery from Cults" (W.W. Norton & Co. pp. 174-175) edited by Dr. Michael Langone states the following:
"Calling his approach 'strategic intervention [sic] therapy,' Hassan (1988) stresses that, although he too tries to communicate a body of information to cultists and to help them think independently, he also does formal counseling. As with many humanistic counseling approaches, Hassan’s runs the risk of imposing clarity, however subtly, on the framework’s foundational ambiguity and thereby manipulating the client."
RI has also learned that Mr. Hassan has had dual-relationships with his counseling clients. That is, clients seeing Mr. Hassan for counseling may also do professional cult intervention work with him.
Professionals in the field of cultic studies have also expressed concerns regarding Steven Hassan's use of hypnosis and Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP).
Based upon complaints and the concerns expressed about Mr. Hassan RI does not recommend Steve Hassan for counseling, intervention work or any other form of professional consultation.
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/10/2013 09:17PM by rrmoderator.