Laurie Pratt, who later took the monastic name Tara Mata, worked closely with Yogananda on his autobiography. He expressed his gratitude for her tireless and insightful work in his letter of appreciation at the beginning of that book.
Pratt was a senior disciple, having come to Yogananda in the 1924. Her work on Yogananda’s autobiography is evident, especially in the footnotes, but not obtrusive. As the years passed, however, her editing began to take on a life of its own, not always in tune with Yogananda’s wishes.
She seems to have taken a proprietary interest in the Autobiography, adding to and subtracting from it at will. The vast number of changes to this book reflect her attitudes and her prejudices, and not Yogananda’s teachings.
Yogananda himself completely edited his own first edition of Whispers from Eternity. He published this revision in 1949. Pratt had little to do with this book during Yogananda’s lifetime. Although she tried her hand at some changes, Yogananda was not in agreement with them, as you will see later in this article. Her ear was not attuned to the nuances of sound and rhythm, and her hand was heavy with ponderous words.
She was also strongly opinionated, and in her editing she sometimes eliminated ideas, concepts and phrases that Yogananda had written that were not to her liking or understanding.
Tara’s changes to The Holy Science
In editing Sri Yukteswar’s The Holy Science, which will appear in its original form on this site in the near future, she showed this same tendency. For example, Sri Yukteswar had written:
“As the object of this book is to harmonize the different religions of the world and to bind them together, it will create a real brotherhood among all the followers of all religions.”
In the SRF editions published in 1958, 1963 and 1972, all of which reflect Pratt’s editing efforts, the last part of the above sentence has been eliminated. We might justifiably ask, On what possible authority could she presume to change Sri Yukteswar’s prediction that his book would “create a real brotherhood among all the followers of all religions”?
That she was not interested or skilled in human relations is verified by the fact that Yogananda had her living apart from the other monastics. He said to Faye Wright, who later became Daya Mata, “Keep her away from people.” Her personal disinterest in brotherhood might well have influenced her decision to remove this reference from Sri Yuktewar’s book. Understandable from a psychological perspective, perhaps, but quite unjustifiable both from a spiritual perspective that values such attitudes as attunement and discipleship, and from a professional point of view as well. It is not the responsibility of an editor to change the author’s thoughts; her responsibility is to make them more clear, but not by gratuitously eliminating them. Other examples of the changes she made in The Holy Science will be included soon on this site.
Tara delays publication of the Bhagavad Gita against Yogananda’s wishes
Yogananda finished his commentaries on the Bhagavad Gita shortly before his passing. He was extremely keen that they be published in his lifetime. He even included the publication announcement of the Gita commentaries in his 1951 edition of the Autobiography, giving the price and ordering information. Here is a first-hand account of the tension that existed between Pratt and Yogananda concerning this publishing project. These notes are taken from an interview with Swami Kriyananda, who was with Yogananda at that time:
“While we were staying at the desert retreat near 29 Palms, Yogananda expressed to me his enthusiasm that his commentaries on the Bhagavad Gita would be published as a book by Christmas of that year (1951). When I mentioned this to Laurie Pratt, she said quite definitely that the book couldn’t possibly be ready by then. When I reported this to Master, he was quite frustrated and remarked: “Always delays. I’m going to write her.”
“He did so and asked me to deliver the letter to Laurie. Thinking that it contained a scolding by Yogananda for which I had in part been responsible, when I handed her the letter I said: “I’m sorry; it’s my fault.” The letter, in fact, did not address this issue at all; but Laurie understood what had happened. Her delay in publishing the Gita created friction between her and Yogananda.”
With Whispers she went too far
The edition of Whispers from Eternity that is credited to Tara’s editing is clearly her own book. It bears almost no relationship either to the words or the spirit of Yogananda’s original editions. Yogananda’s introduction to the prayers and how to use them has been drastically reduced and altered. What was lost under the scalpel of Tara’s pen has been recuperated and is available here. Tara’s edition is a massive reorganization of the poems, giving many of them new names and altering their beauty, rhythm, and often their meaning. Hardly one phrase is left inviolate.
This instance of spiritual arrogance and presumption is so extraordinary, obvious, and heavy-handed that we encourage you to see it for yourself. SRF sells both the 1949 and the ninth edition. Get a copy of both books and make your own comparison.