Two Paragraphs

The book, The Essence of Self-Realization: The Wisdom of Paramhansa Yogananda, is composed entirely of Master’s words as Swamiji recorded them during the years he lived with his guru. The book is dedicated, “With love and humility to all his [Master’s] disciples.”

It was published in 1990, more than 25 years after Swamiji had been expelled from SRF. In all that time, the SRF leaders had never softened in their condemnation of him. Still, Swamiji hoped that SRF members and its leaders would be inspired by this book, and that inspiration would soften their attitude, perhaps even leading to a reconciliation.

I couldn’t understand why Swamiji was so determined to bring the two organizations together. Three times since Ananda was founded, he had offered to give it to SRF. Daya Mata, the SRF president, refused even to consider the possibility. Once Swamiji even suggested to Daya that all Kriya Initiations at Ananda should be given by monks from SRF. I was profoundly relieved when Daya Mata unequivocally rejected that proposal.

“Why do you keep reaching out to SRF when you know you will only be insulted and rebuffed?” I asked Swamiji. “They don’t respect you and we don’t need them.”

“It doesn’t matter how they treat me,” Swamiji replied. “I am not thinking of the present. I am thinking of Master’s mission for centuries to come. Look at all the blood that has been spilled because of the split in Christianity, and that didn’t happen until hundreds of years after Christ died. If a schism develops in the first generation of Master’s work, just think how the antagonism will grow over time. I owe it to Master to do what I can to keep that from happening.”

* * *

Whatever he did, Swamiji always took into account how it might affect SRF. For years, he focused Ananda on those aspects of Master’s work that SRF was not serving, such as spiritual communities. Gradually, however, he began to feel that Master no longer wanted him to “stoop over,” as Swamiji put it, so that SRF would appear taller. Still, Swamiji moved slowly and carefully.

Master had spelled his name “Paramhansa.” A few years after Master died, however, some Sanskrit scholars in India convinced Daya Mata that the proper way to spell it was with the extra “a” in the middle: “Paramahansa.” Swamiji, who was still part of SRF at that time, spoke strongly against changing it. His argument was simple common sense.

“First of all,” he said, “not all the scholars agree. Many feel ‘Paramhansa’ is equally correct. In any case, why look to the scholars? Master is our Guru. Besides, he is Indian. He knew what he was doing. It is a transliteration, and the pronunciation is more accurate without that ‘a’.”

Swamiji was overruled and SRF began spelling it the way those scholars had recommended. And after Swamiji was expelled, out of respect for SRF, he continued to spell it the way they did.

When it came time to publish Essence, however, Swamiji felt he had to be true to what Master had done. He wrote a simple “Editorial Note” for the beginning of the book explaining what appeared to be the “new” spelling, “Paramhansa.”

In the Editorial Note, Swamiji explains the origin of the word and its importance as the highest spiritual title in the Hindu tradition, conferred only on those who have attained Self-realization. He speaks of the differing points of view among the scholars about how to write it and his decision to go with the spelling that most closely resembles the way the word is pronounced.

And that is where the note ends. Since SRF had long since obliterated all traces of Master’s original spelling, even altering his signature by copying an “a” from elsewhere in the word and inserting it between the “m” and the “h”, the reader will naturally draw the conclusion that it is Swamiji who is going against Master’s way of doing things.

In fact, when Swamiji first wrote the Editorial Note, it had two additional paragraphs explaining that SRF had changed the spelling after Master died and that Swamiji was restoring it.

As is his habit when writing a book, Swamiji shared his work-in-progress with his secretary and a few other friends.

When his secretary read the Editorial Note with the paragraphs about SRF, he spoke frankly to Swamiji. “This is a beautiful book of universal teachings,” he said, “and now it begins with a squabble between disciples. People won’t understand and it may cause them to lose faith in Master. ‘He can’t be much of a spiritual teacher,’ they’ll think, ‘if his followers can’t even get along.’”

“You are right,” Swamiji said. He picked up a pen and deleted the offending paragraphs. Of course, without that explanation, the blame falls on Swamiji. To him, however, that was preferable to the risk of hurting the faith of any devotee who might otherwise be inspired to read the book.

In 1990, the same year that Essence was published, SRF filed a massive lawsuit against Swamiji and Ananda. Swamiji knew the lawsuit was coming. Six months earlier, while he was still writing Essence, he had received a threatening letter from their lawyers. Still, he chose to delete those paragraphs for the sake of the devotees.

As the years passed, and the lawsuit went on and on—it took twelve years to resolve—it became obvious from the way SRF was conducting the lawsuit, that the organization and its leaders had drifted far from the path of dharma Master had set for them.

Finally, in the hope of helping SRF to see itself more clearly and embrace the path of dharma once again, Swamiji felt inwardly guided by Master to speak more frankly about SRF than he had ever done before.

“It hurts me to do so,” he said, “more than you will ever know. I know those people,” meaning Daya Mata and the other leaders of SRF, “in a way no one else at Ananda does. I know their hearts and their devotion to Master. I would do anything to help them, if they would only let me.”

He went on to say, “I see now, though, that it had to be this way. Master was behind it from the start. Ananda has its own mission. It is Master’s will that the two organizations work separately.”

* * *

Thinking of the centuries, though, Swamiji has done what he can to ensure future harmony. In two paragraphs of the document he called “The Last Will, Testament, and Spiritual Legacy of Swami Kriyananda,” he wrote:
“Regardless of anyone’s treatment of us, we must work steadfastly for universal spiritual harmony and unity. Schism, even if forced upon us, must never be initiated by Ananda itself, nor recognized as desirable. Ananda must work for the well-being of all, and never give greater importance to its own perceived well-being and prosperity in any circumstance in which these ends must be obtained at the cost of the needs and well-being of anyone else.
“Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) must always be considered part of Ananda’s broader spiritual family. If at any time the occasion should arise that might permit the two organizations to work cooperatively, Ananda ought to make every reasonable effort to do so. For SRF is the organization founded by our guru, and must be given full respect, for his sake. Although certain Ananda members have expressed a feeling (admittedly with some reason) of resentment over the treatment I myself have received from them, my earnest request is that they, too, behave always kindly and respectfully toward SRF, regardless of any provocation from them – as indeed I myself have always tried to behave. Our attitude toward them should be one of forgiveness and love. I ask this not out of ordinary human consideration, but out of love for our mutual guru, who came on earth to inspire people with divine love, and not to infuse in them a spirit of sectarian rivalry.”

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