Chapter 7

Householder Swamis: Babaji’s Historical Gesture

Paramhansa Yogananda: History, Life, Mission


Here is quite a “juicy” question which might find formidable resistance amongst more orthodox devotees: “Does the Kriya Yoga tradition allow for a married person, a householder, to become a swami, even while he is still living with his wife or husband?”

“WHAT? NOOO WAY!” thunders with indignation the chorus of Indian orthodoxy. Their Western counterparts would not react differently: orthodox Catholics vehemently oppose the idea of a married man becoming a priest. It’s an unacceptable offence to their ancient tradition.

Yet, in the Autobiography of a Yogi we read about a historic event at the Kumbha Mela where Babaji made Sri Yukteswar a Swami. This happened during Lahiri Mahasaya’s lifetime: in January 1894, according to The Holy Science.

We also read in the Autobiography that Sri Yukteswar was later formally and officially initiated in Bodh Gaya: “After my wife died, I joined the Swami Order and received the new name of Sri Yukteswar Giri.” That event happened after Lahiri Mahasaya’s lifetime (after September 1895), as Yogananda explains in a footnote: ‘Yukteswar’ was his monastic name, which was “not received by my guru during Lahiri Mahasaya’s lifetime.”

(Swami Prajnanananda wrote a book on Sri Yukteswar, and describes this formal event: “Swami Shriyukteshwarji was initiated into sannyas, monastic life, by Swami Krishna Dayal Gir of Bodhagaya, on Guru Purnima, fullmoonday, of July in 1906.”)

Looking clearly at Yogananda’s quotes, we realize: when Babaji made Sri Yukteswar a Swami at the Kumbha Mela, his wife was still alive. He was a married man. Babaji, then, made Sri Yukteswar a “married Swami.” Sri Yukteswar back then fittingly called himself “Priya Nath Swami,” as one reads in his The Holy Science. Priya Nath was his family name. He was a pioneering “family Swami.”

But there’s still more to come:

Yogananda made Rajarsi Janakananda a Swami, giving him the orange robe and a Swami-name in 1951, complete with vow and ceremony, while he was a married man. His wife Frieda died after him. She, according to Durga Ma’s book, was the reason why Rajarsi ended up being buried in Kansas, not in Los Angeles, next to his Master. Yogananda, then, made Rajarsi too a “married Swami.”

Is the Kriya-path after all not a highly orthodox one? Maybe because it is designed for Dwapara Yuga? Good bye, oh ye old stiff boxes. See you next Kali Yuga!

Swami Kriyananda, seeing the need to redefine the ancient Swami-order for this new age, founded an innovative Nayaswami Order (“naya” meaning new), which allows for married Swamis. It might take a long time to get widely accepted. But even Sri Yukteswar got (and still gets) heavily attacked for his teaching that we are not in Kali Yuga anymore. Fortunately time is slowly moving ahead, changing people’s consciousness.