Chapter 6

A Historical Question on Kriya Yoga Authority

Paramhansa Yogananda: History, Life, Mission

Yogananda Meditating at Ranchi

This chapter might create some dispute, as it has done in the past. Let’s go slowly then, breathing deeply!

It was prompted by a letter by SRF to its members, dated November 1995, which discusses their viewpoint of many controversial topics, among them a crucial one: “Who is authorized to give Kriya Initiation?” Their position is that only SRF monastics have such authority, not householders, since that was the Guru’s wish.

For a moment let us remember Jesus and the apostles. He rebuked them, great though they were, for not understanding. After he had left his body, St. Peter was convinced that his message was only for circumscribed Jews. Hadn’t Jesus said so? Wasn’t he “the King of the Jews?” It was St. Paul, an outsider, who understood better: Jesus’ message was for the whole world.

It seems, similarly, that history places a calm question mark behind SRF’s Kriya claim. And if that question mark proves valid, it would be a pity if a misunderstanding, based on personal disposition (we all hear what we are ready to hear), would prevail over what Babaji has brought. It would be a true pity if householders would accept in their hearts that they are “second-class citizens” in the Kriya-world, never able to give Kriya, and if monastics felt superior to them. It would be a pity if our precious Kriya history got weakened in that way.

Here is what the letter says:
“Owing to a shortage of monastics in the early years, Paramahansaji gave permission to a few householder disciples to give Kriya under the auspices of Self-Realization-Fellowship. But as his life drew to a close,… he stipulated that Kriya was to be given only by monastics of the SRF order from then on.”

Let’s look at what history has to say about their statement, which was certainly made with good intentions:

These “few householder disciples” whom Yogananda gave permission to give Kriya because of “a shortage of monastics” were in truth not momentary hole-fillers, but some of Yogananda’s greatest and most important disciples.

And was it really a matter of “the early years?” Not quite, if one looks closely. Up to the end of Yogananda’s life, and even long afterwards, married disciples gave the sacred Kriya diksha, within SRF. Does that mean SRF was disobedient toward their Guru’s wish (since “he stipulated that Kriya be given only by SRF monastics”)? One wouldn’t think so. SRF was simply doing the right thing: letting these married disciples continue to give Kriya, since they had their authority directly from Yogananda himself. Here they are:

Dr. Lewis, the first American Kriya yogi, was a married man, not a monastic. He was authorized by Yogananda to give Kriya, including the higher initiations. His authority as a married Kriya minister was never questioned until his death in 1960.

Yogacharya Oliver Black was highly advanced, was married, lived in the spiritual community he had founded (not SRF), and was until his death a recognized Kriya-minister. His name was included in SRF magazines (until 1986 or later), in the lists of ministers authorized to give Kriya Yoga.

Rajarsi Janakananda was a married man too. His wife Frieda died after him (see Durga Ma’s book). Of course Rajarsi, as Yogananda’s successor, was authorized to initiate disciples into Kriya Yoga. Nobody would have asked him: “But are you a monastic?” It seems the wrong question.

Prabhas Ghose, the Indian YSS vice-president (the American SRF president is also the YSS president) until 1975, was a married man. He was Yogananda’s cousin and married, as Yogananda writes in his Autobiography, “one of the girls whom my family selected as a possible bride for me.” Prabhas became the married vice-president in YSS- giving Kriya Yoga.

Peggy Deitz left the monastic life, following Yogananda’s guidance. After that, in a letter in early 1952, Yogananda wrote her and her mother lovingly: “You two are most wonderful among my richest gifts of all-time friends and followers of SRF… So glad Peggy is such a good soul-minister of Self-Realization.” In Yogananda’s mind, Peggy was simply a non-monastic minister, and he asked her to give Kriya initiation out there, to whomever she felt guided to give it. That was at the very end of his life.

Kamala Silva was married to Edward Silva upon Yogananda’s request. Yogananda authorized Kamala to bestow the sacred Kriya initiation. She writes that in 1950 during a Kriya ceremony Yogananda blessed her, prayed silently, and then told her: “God bless you. I am giving my blessing to you for the thousands you will initiate into Kriya Yoga.” It seems clear that Yogananda gave her a life-long Kriya-responsibility, as a married woman. (You may listen to her beautiful voice recordings on www.kamalasilva.org).

This is why the claim is followed by a notable question mark.

Could we strengthen that question mark, giving it some further substance? Maybe. Let’s look at our bigger Kriya history. Wouldn’t Yogananda continue his Guru’s and Paramgurus example? Probably (though not necessarily so). At any rate, what example did the Masters of our Kriya line give? None of them drew the line between monastics and householders when deciding whom to give the authority to bestow Kriya initiation.

Mahavatar Babaji as we read in Yogananda’s Autobiography chose a householder, Lahiri Mahasaya, as an instrument for disseminating Kriya Yoga to the world, stating that it was for “a deep purpose.” He had a householder give Kriya initiation day and night, bringing back to society that lost ancient art. Normal people “will take new heart from you, a householder like themselves,” Babaji told Lahiri. Should we scratch his directive for our modern age?

Lahiri Mahasaya, called the “Father of Kriya Yoga,” authorized both householder disciples and swamis to give Kriya initiation. Panchanon Battacharya was a householder, while Swami Pranabananda was a sannyasin. Most Lahiri-lines actually claim that householders should play the dominant role in spreading Kriya Yoga.

Sri Yukteswar was a householder with wife and daughter, for most of the time when Lahiri Mahasaya was alive. He became a Swami only when he met Babaji, which was shortly before Lahiri’s passing. Sri Yukteswar too authorized both householders and swamis to give the sacred Kriya initiation- a householder example is Motilal Mukkherjee, who is described in the original Autobiography of a Yogi as a “highly advanced disciple.”

Paramhansa Yogananda, following his Master’s lead, authorized both householders and monastics to give Kriya, all life long.

Doesn’t their example give value to our question mark? And since we are at it: could we make it even a bit more solid?

Lets look far back into our ancient Kriya history: we read that Bhagavan Krishna was married, as was the “Father of yoga,” Patanjali. Both were married Kriya masters, according to Yogananda. Of course there was balance: historic examples of monastic Kriyacharyas (Kriya-teachers) would be Adi Shankaracharya and Lord Jesus (both teaching Kriya or a similar technique, according to Yogananda).

The SRF letter goes on to say that Yogananda originated a policy that “only the president, as the channel of Paramahansa Yogananda, has the authority to initiate in the Kriya Yoga,” and that he/she designates yearly ordained ministers to conduct the Kriya ceremonies.

That statement too might not pass without our calm question mark.

SRF says that this policy was originated by Yogananda. Could it possibly be that they misunderstood? Other disciples state that this policy was installed only years after the Master’s passing. Well, let us not quarrel here, but simply maintain this fair-minded question mark:

Did Yogananda really break away from the Indian Guru-disciple tradition, which authorizes the disciple? Did he really limit worldwide Kriya-authority not only to his organization, but to one single person (currently Mrinalini Mata)? What kind of energy does such a policy generate? Don’t the Kriyacharyas automatically get de-authorized, weakened? Is that Babaji’s way to spread Kriya to all lands?

There exist a letter of Yogananda, written four months before his passing (Nov.13,1951), to an Indian householder, K.S. Bylani in Poona. Yogananda tells him: “Please give Kriya Yoga only to those members of your family who are deeply interested and whom you feel will daily use it. God bless you and your family. My prayers will be with each of you.”

Here’s a funny and interesting conversation between Yogananda and Peggy Deitz (from Thank You, Master). “He told me to feel free to give Kriya or any part of his teachings to whomever I thought I should. I exploded, ‘Master, I can’t do that. Your office would have a fit!’ He said, ‘You divine nincompoop, whom are you following, the office or me?’”

SRF is a great and wonderful organization, doing much good, attracting marvelous souls. But in some matters it seems best to consider a question mark.