During SRF’s lawsuit against Ananda (about which I’ll write later), I said to Daya Mata (the president of SRF), “Master said ‘Self-realization’ would someday become the religion of the entire world. He can’t possibly have meant, ‘Self-Realization, Inc.’!”
“That,” Daya replied, “is your opinion.” Obviously, she believed that Self-Realization Fellowship would evolve in time to become a sort of super Roman Catholic Church, with a massive hierarchy and all the trappings of orthodox Churchianity.
This, to my mind, has constituted SRF’s greatest betrayal of Yogananda’s true legacy, which he had intended to change the way people approached everything — schooling, family life, business, politics—indeed, the entire structure of society!
Joseph Selbie and David Steinmetz are the authors of a book that expands upon a short volume by Sri Yukteswar, The Holy Science, in which that great master explained the world’s present position in its evolution through recurring 24,000-year cycles of expanding and contracting awareness.
In The Yugas: Keys to Understanding our Hidden Past, Emerging Energy Age, and Enlightened Future, Selbie and Steinmetz explain that the world at present has recently emerged from an age in which matter was universally held to be the sole reality, and that we have now entered an age of energy-awareness.
In the Age of Energy (“Dwapara Yuga”), religion will undergo drastic changes. It will move away from an emphasis on rigid forms, to a concern for the spiritual needs of the individual.
Swami Kriyananda’s reason for writing Yogananda for the World was not, as some SRF leaders have claimed, in any way to harm that organization, but to “bring it to its senses.” His purpose was to urge the SRF leadership to cease defining the Master’s work in terms more suited to the Age of Materialism. Yogananda for the World serves as a warning that, if SRF fails to adapt to the spirit of the times – the spirit that Paramhansa Yogananda intended – it will be left behind, and will be seen as a quaint relic of an older, antiquated materialistic age.
An SRF leader who, more than any other, defined the present directions of the organization was Tara Mata. In Yogananda for the World, Swami Kriyananda writes:
One of the policies she [Tara] foisted on the organization was stated by her in these words: “We need a basic guideline for the work. In every decision before us, we must ask ourselves, “What is best for the work?’” This dictum might have worked, had her definition of “the work” been focused on the spiritual needs and well-being of its members. In her eyes, however, and therefore in the influence she exercised over others, it did not.
Again, Tara once said to me, “In an organization, no one has a right even to think except the members of the Board of Directors.” This concept also can be justified under certain circumstances-in army maneuvers, for instance, once the troops have been committed to a line of action. Even in armies, however, if they are run competently, initiative is encouraged.
By stressing unthinking obedience, Tara managed, over time, to direct SRF’s policies toward a spirit of contraction and control, and away from that expansive, charitable spirit which one normally expects from any spiritual organization, and especially from Master’s work. Paramhansa Yogananda, after all, had dedicated his life to expanding people’s hearts and consciousness.
The following passages, adapted from Chapter 6 of The Yugas (“Ascending Dwapara Yuga – The Future”) explain how religion in the Energy Age will move away from an emphasis on the welfare of religious institutions, to a concern primarily with the needs of the individual truth-seeker.
In the age of materialism, which ancient Sanskrit texts called “Kali Yuga,” and which, according to Sri Yukteswar, extended from approximately 700 BC to 1700 AD, religion reflected the rigid, matter-bound consciousness of the times.
The religions of Kali Yuga were highly codified, with an emphasis on beliefs approved by tradition, and priestly authority.
True to the matter-bound consciousness of Kali Yuga, the religions of the time were form–bound. To be a true follower meant practicing specific rituals – prayers, offerings, confession, etc., which were rigidly codified and formulaic. The required number of prayer repetitions, the proper offerings performed in the proper manner at the proper time, going to confession regularly, etc., were believed to bring the boons of priestly and divine approval.
Those who performed the prescribed rituals, whether or not they understood their deeper meaning, and whether they were sincerely inspired in their hearts, were assured that they would gain divine blessings and protection.
Church members in Kali Yuga were expected to obey the prevailing dogmas unquestioningly. Understanding the dogmas and rituals wasn’t important. In India, the chants and prayers offered by Brahmin priests were in the Sanskrit language. In Europe, the Mass, prayers, and Holy Bible were in Latin. Only near the end of ascending Kali Yuga, in the 1500s, could Martin Luther instigate a rebellion that resulted in the Bible being translated into contemporary languages that all could understand.
Of course, many souls gained solace, inner peace, and spiritual upliftment through the Kali Yuga practices, and even transcendence. Saints arise in every age. In Kali Yuga, however, the saints could pass on the deeper religious truths only in the protected environs of monasteries and ashrams.
Religious organizations in the age of materialism excluded viewpoints outside their own, to the point of persecuting “non-believers.” The Christian Crusades against the Moslems, the Moslem “conversion by the sword” of millions in India, and the Spanish Inquisition are but three examples of the extreme intolerance spawned by the rigid consciousness of Kali Yuga.
The rigidity and intolerance of Kali Yuga no longer sit well with people whose minds have been opened by the fresh currents of energy-awareness at the dawning of an age of energy. In the spirit of modern science, people now want to discover religious truth for themselves, through their own direct, individual experience, using scientific methods.
In the last three centuries, atheism and agnosticism have increased, in reaction against the unscientific demand for blind belief, and unreasonable dogmas such as the creation myth, which states that God created the cosmos in seven days, or the orthodox belief that the world is just four thousand years old. These claims are exposed as primitive superstition, by the scientific discovery that the universe is at least thirteen billion years old and contains over 100 billion galaxies.
As the new awareness of energy has grown, older religious forms and practices have faded, although new approaches to religion have not yet widely established themselves.
The three hallmark trends of Dwapara Yuga are: self-interest, awakened intellect, and energy-awareness. Motivated by these trends, people have become interested in the spiritual practices of the preceding Dwapara Yuga (3100-700 BC), which range from energy-based disciplines such as hatha yoga, tai chi, and yogic pranayama (“energy-control”) breathing exercises.
These practices satisfy the Dwapara Yuga concern with personal self-interest. Meditation and the martial arts enable us to conduct our own spiritual explorations, without a need for religious authority. Unlike the form-based religions of Kali Yuga, the newly rediscovered practices of Dwapara enable us to have direct experiences of the Divine.
Meditators report an expansion of personal consciousness into an awareness of a greater Self. Paramhansa Yogananda referred to this experience as Self-realization – the realization that the larger Self is our true reality. Yogananda predicted that Self-realization would become the religion of Dwapara Yuga.
The new-old energy-based spiritual practices satisfy the awakened intellect, another hallmark of Dwapara Yuga. Many recent books have explored the parallels between ancient Dwapara spiritual teachings and the findings of modern science; for example, that matter has no separate reality but is made of energy. The Dwapara teachings explain that the energy that underlies matter is, in fact, an expression of an even subtler level of reality – a divine consciousness that creates and sustains the cosmos.
Finally, the energy-based spiritual practices satisfy the energy-awareness of Dwapara Yuga. Practitioners who learn to withdraw energy from their physical body and senses discover that the energy that gives life to the body is, in fact, an expression of a blissful sea of divine energy within.