Daya Mata’s Role

“How you all will change the work after I am gone! If I came back a hundred years from now, I just wonder if I would even recognize it.”
—Paramhansa Yogananda to Daya Mata,
A Place Called Ananda

When SRF members discover that Swami Kriyananda is sharing Yogananda’s teachings without the “official sanction of SRF,” they sometimes ask him the question: “How can you presume to hold views of Master’s work that are different from Daya Mata’s? Don’t you know that Master transferred his spiritual mantle to her at his death? And don’t you respect the fact that she is God-realized?”


Swami Kriyananda responds:

New article written in December 2003 by Swami Kriyananda: Paramhansa Yogananda’s Predictions for the SRF Presidency (relevant to the information presented below).

To whom did Yogananda transfer his spiritual mantle?

We arrive here, friends, at a sticky point. I know Daya Mata claims that Master, at his death—an event at which I too was present—transferred his mantle to her. Master himself, however, on several occasions declared, “I’ve transferred my mantle to St. Lynn (Rajarsi Janakananda).” This transferal is consonant with a deep mystical tradition, which singles out only one disciple.

Indeed, I wonder whether Master didn’t make this declaration so often out of anticipation that others might later claim his mantle for themselves. Rajarsi was alive at the time of Master’s death. Daya’s presidency was not even made by appointment: She was elected to it after Rajarsi’s death. Moreover, this position was first offered to Durga Mata, even if only as a courtesy in recognition of her years of seniority. There could be no question here, then, of a second mantle having been bestowed.

Daya may, for all that, be expressing her own understanding of the event, for it is quite possible she received a deep blessing on that occasion. It’s normal for the disciples to be specially blessed at their guru’s passing.

Is Daya Mata God-realized?

A tradition has developed in SRF that Master foretold that every SRF president in future would be God-realized. To this tradition I can only reply that it is new, and apocryphal. I lived in the SRF monasteries for ten years after his passing. I was far more an insider than most of the monks and nuns. During all that time I never once heard Master quoted as having made this prediction. Had he made it, I would certainly have known the fact. What he actually said was quoted first by Tara Mata at a Christmas banquet during the 1950s, several years after his passing. And I am not confident of her quote, for she showed herself in several ways willing to make his words serve institutional policy. Her quote, then, may be approximated as follows: “No future SRF president will fall from my ideals.”

It would be absurd, of course, to think that election to the presidency automatically elevates one to the state of divine realization. This, to my mind, is another of those “organizational myths” which so conveniently sprout up within every institution.

Has Daya Mata fallen from his ideals? No, certainly not, though in my opinion she has drifted from some of his intentions for the work. Were she God-realized, however, she would have shown insight into things beyond the normal human capacity to perceive them. In my long years of experience with her, she has not shown such insight. Rather, I’ve been astonished sometimes at certain misconstructions she has placed on my own thoughts and actions, and at things she has averred to be facts that never occurred at all and that could not have occurred. In plain truth, she has even lied for motives she equated with the protection of the organization. Would a God-realized being have been able to do so? Surely not!

People bring up the question of a photograph of Daya Mata depicting her, supposedly, in a state of samadhi. That photo reveals tension in her body. There would have been no such tension had she actually been in samadhi. In that lofty state the soul absents itself from the body. What that photograph shows, rather, is an exalted emotion; certainly not samadhi.

I do not consider Daya Mata to be spiritually enlightened, or even necessarily wise. Her actions don’t show it. Astute, yes. But everything she says has the deeper purpose of buttressing the organization she leads. It is also turned, to an astonishing degree, toward buttressing her own position in the organization.

These are not statements to be tossed off lightly. Many people consider her enlightened, and therefore by definition wise. I do not want to attack their faith. At the same time, if faith is not supported by clear reason it may be that blind faith which leads to lack of clarity regarding what the spiritual path is all about.

Does Daya Mata express deep wisdom?

Let me give a few points that have influenced my thinking on this subject. Many years ago, a young man lived at Mt. Washington named Walter Dennis. Walter was inwardly torn between the life of a monk and a worldly life of marriage and family. He worked in the garden, and was a hard worker. One day Walter said to me, “I don’t know what to do with myself when I’m not working.” I reported his words to Daya Mata, in the hope that she might give me a few words of advice on how I might inspire him to balance hard work with God-remembrance. Instead, she astonished me by replying with a sigh, seemingly blissful, “Ah, what wonderful spirit!” Walter Dennis served the organization tirelessly: This, to her, was his “wonderful spirit.” In fact, however, he left the monastery soon thereafter, and also disassociated himself from the organization. Wisdom on Daya’s part, surely, would have led her to consider his inner life, not his physical work. It was to develop that inner life that he had come to Mt. Washington.

Another example is taken from years later. I was having a little difficulty with another of the monks, and mentioned this fact to Daya in order to get her advice on how to handle the situation. Instead, she replied brusquely, “Well, he’ll have to go!”

What was she saying? Did she mean that this monk, who had devoted years of his life to serving Master’s work, should be dismissed for the mere reason that he’d had a run-in with me? I don’t think she really intended that anything so callous be actually done. I think she spoke in that way only to please me. I’d been newly made a director and first vice president of SRF, and she wanted me to feel that I had her full backing. That she could think, however, that I’d be pleased with a support that could be ruthless toward others seemed, to me, doubly offensive.

I prefer not to give more details on a matter that, after all, involves her own spiritual life. The point here is that in many ways Daya fails to express wisdom, as Master exemplified the word. Wisdom sees God centered in everything and everybody. It tries to bring out the divine presence in all. Daya Mata, by contrast, sees God centered primarily in herself, and in her own position of institutional authority.

Daya Mata’s visit to India leaves many disciples deeply hurt

In 1961, Daya Mata visited India. I was in trouble with my fellow directors for having, in their opinion, exceeded my authority in my work in India. (These facts are presented in my book, A Place Called Ananda.)

I’d formed a center in New Delhi, which was attracting hundreds of people. A large number of us got eagerly together to prepare for Daya’s arrival. Rani Bhan and her son Indu guided this activity, taking responsibility for everything that was done. I’d received word from Tara Mata of the board’s displeasure with me, but I didn’t want to dampen all these co-workers’ enthusiasm over Daya’s coming by relating my grief at Tara’s condemnation. I assumed, too, that Daya would be gracious at least in her appreciation for what had been done in preparation for her visit. The strain that had sprung up between Daya and me could be discussed by us privately. And the disappointment at having to abandon our “Delhi project”—if such was Daya’s decision after she’d seen the property—could be laid on the members’ shoulders following that discussion. I myself could hardly dare to present them with this discouraging news. My own hurt was too deep at having been—as I’m still convinced—so wrongfully condemned.

Thus, as our train pulled into the Delhi station (I was traveling with Daya Mata and her party), enthusiasm among our New Delhi members was at fever pitch. Rani Bhan and Indu ran alongside the compartment until our train stopped. Hundreds of people behind them were smiling, waving, and chanting in joyful welcome. Rani held up a flower mala, or lei, with which I believe she succeeded in garlanding Daya as she stood in the doorway. “Welcome, Mother!” Rani cried.

I say I believe Rani was able to garland Daya, for in fact Daya ignored her completely, while looking out over her and Indu’s heads to greet the crowd. Rani, as far as Daya seemed concerned, didn’t exist.

Crowds flocked later to Brigadier Ghasi Ram’s home, where Rani had arranged for the party to stay. Throughout her visit Daya treated the acclaim she received as though it were only natural, and nothing less than her due—not, in other words, an event carefully prepared in her honor. It was me whom the people knew, not Daya Mata. It was Master they were honoring, and Daya Mata only as his representative. That I, too, was subsequently snubbed by her was something, at least, that wasn’t incomprehensible to me personally, but to those who had come to Master through my efforts it must have been something of a shock.

The whole thing was so intensely embarrassing for those who had worked hard to make the occasion a joyful one that it has been hardly possible for me even to speak of it again. Even today, Rani and Indu refer to their deep hurt at the way Daya behaved toward them, and toward me. (Rani Bhan’s Story shares her version of what happened). Rani spoke to me years later about that encounter at the train station: “I did not feel attracted to that woman,” she said. Pride, indeed, and insensitivity to the feelings of others, are not attractive qualities. I could not prepare Rani and Indu for the ice bath they received. I hadn’t expected it myself.

After my dismissal from SRF by Tara Mata, I simply dropped out of circulation. Tara had ordered me not to contact anyone, and I myself was too deeply pained to want to involve anyone in my suffering. Later, I learned with sadness of the deep grief people in India had felt over my total silence. But what could I have done?

A personal hurt that I have borne for many years has been Daya’s inability to give quarter on anything; her determination to see no virtue in any person or idea that doesn’t support her own position. She opposed me adamantly, once she’d accepted my position as no longer part of her domain.

Yet in 1970 she admitted to me, “I never accepted Tara’s charges against you.” She, who once had said to me, “There isn’t a crooked bone in your body,” has been willing to denounce me as dishonest, untruthful, deceitful, and a Judas for, as she claims, betraying my Guru. The hurt I feel is due more than anything else to her betrayal of me.

SRF’s concern: what is best for the organization

In her service to our Guru, Daya Mata exalts the organization, and her own position in it, to the level of a principle. No mere thing or person, however, can ever be a principle! She shares this delusion with numerous orthodox churchmen, past and present: Whatever advances her religion is right and virtuous, and whatever threatens the organization, at least in her eyes, is wrong, and indeed, evil. To a thoughtful person, however, this “threat” may not seem threatening at all. Her philosophy in these matters seems no different from that of all those committed to rigid orthodoxy. Daya Mata appears to equate SRF with God Himself. The very fixity of her belief, however, is contradicted by the fact that divine consciousness is fluid and, in material manifestation, ever-changing.

Above all, the good of a spiritual organization should never be allowed to take precedence over a person’s devotion to God, and over one’s liberty to express that devotion according to the heart’s feelings.

No room for discussion

Daya’s way of answering a statement like this is simply to imply it is not worthy of comment. “We respect people’s devotion,” she’ll tell you, if you make this statement. She’ll then gaze dismissively out the window, ignoring altogether the challenge your question poses. End of conversation; no reasons given: only aloofness. To her, and to those who have learned this suppressive technique from her, the statement doesn’t deserve the dignity of a reply.

Daya cries fervently, “Master! Master’s will! Master’s organization!” I cannot help feeling, however, that what really moves her is pride in her own position, and attachment to the power she wields. She treats condescendingly anyone whose views don’t coincide with her own.

What did Yogananda actually say about Daya Mata?

Did Master himself speak of Daya in the same glowing terms as he used in speaking of Rajarsi? Not in my hearing. To the monks one day, after referring to some of his highly advanced disciples, he added (I suppose the thought had arisen in someone’s mind), “And Faye [Daya Mata]? Well, she still has her life to live.”

These are strong words, I realize. The fact is, I could make them stronger. I do not like to attack her, for we are both, to the best of our own ability and understanding, serving God and our guru. We have always been spiritually close to one another. Daya, however, now forces me openly to defend myself and this work Master has given me to do, for her and SRF’s attacks on me have become lately more hostile and open than ever.

The responsibility of a disciple to the guru

SRF members sometimes say, “What right have you to speak on behalf of your Guru, when what you say contradicts certain things that are said by his disciples of many years?”

Doesn’t any disciple have the right—indeed, the divine duty—to quote what he heard from his guru?

There is a further aspect to this matter: Yogananda himself told me to speak on his behalf. He appointed me. He said, “You have a great work to do, Walter.” (That was the name he called me.) If Daya Mata denies that he ever told me any such thing—in fact, she does do so—I can only reply, “She wasn’t there.” I explain these matters in detail in my book A Place Called Ananda. Please do read it.

Daya emphasizes her seniority over me as a disciple. What does that mean? She was with him seventeen years longer than I. Is that so very significant? Fifty-three years have passed, now, since I met him. I’ve devoted all this time to trying to understand him and his teachings on ever deeper levels. It has been my job—one, moreover, that he gave me himself—to teach on his behalf.

Would one consider Einstein’s wife more knowledgeable in his scientific theories than the physicists who endorsed his discoveries, merely because she’d known him longer and been physically closer to him than they? Long familiarity with Master on a daily basis, without having to explain his teachings to others, may also, as I’ve already suggested, have been a disadvantage in presenting his teachings later on. It could easily bias one’s understanding in favor of his human personality, if one’s own experience was so focused on that personality. Therefore Ramakrishna often said that a light (of the kind they used in those days) shines at a distance, but creates a shadow around its base.

Master’s way of teaching each disciple was highly individual. The way he spoke to the monks was particular to us, also, as a group. With us, he placed more emphasis on the impersonal aspect of God. With the nuns, he gave more emphasis to God’s personal aspect.

A monk once asked him in my presence (only the three of us were present), “Who was that saint who appeared to you in Encinitas?”

Master said he didn’t know to whom the young man was referring. So many had appeared! The disciple was astonished by these words, whereupon Master replied, “Why be surprised? Wherever God is, there His saints come.” I recorded this verbal exchange, and later submitted it to the editorial department for inclusion in a new book, The Master Said. Tara Mata, the editor, changed Master’s answer to read, “Wherever a devotee of God is, there His saints come” (italics added). The Master’s words, however, had been far more impersonal. They carried no suggestion of the humble devotee seeking union with his Creator. Master’s reply, in Tara’s edited rendition, had no real meaning. (Isn’t it common, after all, for saints to come to devotees of God, and bless them?) As he actually phrased it, he was saying that the Lord Himself was manifested in that form. The significance of this statement was very deep.

Nothing I’ve done is presumptuous. Master said to me several times, “You have a great work to do, Walter.” At Christmas, 1949, during the all-day meditation, he said in front of everyone present, “Walter, you must try hard, for God will bless you very much.”

Was I, as SRF today likes to think, a “Johnny-come-lately”? The above facts, and many others besides, contradict that self- serving belief.

Daya Mata’s job has never been to teach on our Guru’s behalf. She ran many aspects of the organization while he was alive, as office manager. Later, after she was made president, she did of course speak publicly on his behalf. To teach, however, means to explain: This has not been her role, nor has it even been her interest. An example of this disinterest may be seen in a reply she gave me some fifty-two years ago, to a request for clarification of the meaning of Christ Consciousness. Anyone desirous of giving a well-thought-out answer would have been more careful. Daya simply said, “It’s when you see all humanity as your brothers and sisters.” Her reply was correct, as far as it went, but it hardly scratched the surface of Master’s teachings on the subject.

SRF replaces the guru

What Daya has done is put out the dogma that, now that Master is no longer physically with us, SRF is the guru. A person’s relationship to the organization cannot be a principle. The guru-disciple relationship, however, is a principle; it concerns no particular guru or disciple, but is centered universally in the soul’s search for God, and in the need to receive divine grace through special divine intercession. The true guru-disciple relationship is an inner thing, having to do entirely with attunement. No outer affiliation can take the place of this relationship. Rightly understood, of course, outer affiliation may enhance that attunement. Yet it cannot guarantee, nor can it take the place of, that attunement.

Rani Bhan’s story

A lifelong devotee recalls Daya Mata’s callousness during her 1962 visit to India, hosted by Swami Kriyananda and many loyal members and friends of SRF. Her story is from a letter written recently to Swami Kriyananda.

From Rani Bhan
New Delhi

27th June, 2001


Revered Swamiji:


About two years back, you casually mentioned to me during your visit to us in Delhi that SRF has filed frivolous cases against Ananda. I took it as being like a frustrated child kicking his own boots.

Papers sent by you a few days ago containing your answers to questions raised [against you] by SRF took me back to the day when I had the first “darshan” at Delhi Railway Station of a so-called great saint from the West, Her Holiness Daya Mata, so promoted by you and reproduced by all the daily newspapers in full page write-ups about SRF and Daya Mata. I had a garland in my hand. My heart asked whether she deserved this huge public reverence, which you organized. Our culture prevailed, and I did what my heart refused. We did everything properly, but never accepted her as a saint. To us she was purely a worldly woman.

You know Swamiji we have been very fortunate to have had the blessings of almost all the great saints in India. Either they came, or we were called to them. With God’s grace this home has been a spiritual retreat for many saints and scholars. You have blessed us by staying here, off and on, for nearly three years. Swami Mirtunjaya, a great scholar with lots of sidhis, came into our fold at the age of 19 and remained with us like my son till the end of his journey on the physical plane at the age of 38. As he said, he was sent to me by his guru Maharishi Sachidanandaji Maharaj, pradan acharya of Kamakhyaya Tantra Peet (Assam). A few years later, when I met that Maharishiji, I asked him, “How was it that you considered me fit to guide such a born saint?” He just touched me, and I went into Samadhi, wherein he revealed a “glorious calmness” beneath the thin coating of my left-over karmas. I felt deeply blessed.

As you know, Delhi gave a memorable reception and audience to Daya Mata for three days. Every meeting was presided over by a Cabinet Minister. This was all because of the spade work you had done. Getting land allotted behind Birla Mandir in a reserved forest area, land which had already been allotted to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, directly under the orders of the then Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru, was no small miracle achieved by you. Panditji was dead set against the prevailing hypocrisy in the name of religion, though he was himself a deeply religious man. With your blessings and of the great Gurus, Ma Saraswati gave me strength to speak bluntly to Panditji also [during our interview with him] in his office, “Give a chance to people to reform. This I have learned from you, Bapuji.” He was so happy with this reply that he got up, embraced me, and said, “You will get it. I want to see your experiment [tried].” Daya Mata was invited to bless the Herculean effort you’d made. Instead, her ego took over, and she blasted the whole project with concocted charges against you. Everyone was shocked, and deeply hurt. She could not stomach your popularity and achievements. She felt small before you, and became jealous. Instead, she, as a worthy disciple of a great Guru, should have extended her hand to you.

I was embarrassed personally by Panditji [Nehru] on three occasions at Kashmiri get-togethers. [Rani is, like Nehru, a Kashmiri brahmin.] Once in the home of my elder brother, who was then Chief Justice of India, Nehru said to me, “Rani, what happened to your experiment?” I had no answer for him except to hang my head in shame. This became a joke on his part. He said to me, “Rani, you are too simple for politics in the garb of religion!”

Questions raised, personal insinuations made against you, and a conspiracy to assassinate your character on the part of SRF (prompted by its so-called God-realized mother) are so petty that one can only pity the mind behind all of this. This is, in fact, like working against the Gurus who wanted their message to go all over the globe, irrespective of the medium. Anyone who has known you will just laugh at those attempts. Your conduct during your stay in India at that young age was such a great inspiration to everyone who came in contact with you. Your every movement reflected mercy, love, kindness, forgiveness, and deep devotion to God and Gurus.

Daya Mata does not even justify her name. She is neither Daya (mercy) nor Mata (a mother). Yogananda may be satisfied that she has done a fairly good job of administrating the organization he founded, but he must be rethinking the name he gave her. [Note: He didn’t. She selected it for herself.] Even a worldly person, in her position, would have sent us a letter of thanks for the reception she and her party received in Delhi. She did not even show that minimal courtesy. I wrote to her instead, apologizing for any shortcomings in making her stay in Delhi comfortable and fruitful, but she never acknowledge my letter.

To me, the essence of life is not arrogance and power, but humility and Love.

I have always remembered meeting your mother and father when they came to visit us and saw where you stayed when you were here. Your mother was so loving, so divine. Only such a mother could have given birth to a saintly child like you.

“Forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

I do not like to say all this, but I was deeply hurt when I learned of the behavior of some of the disciples of such a great Guru as Paramhansa Yogananda. Forgive me, if I am wrong in anything.

May God bless you and everybody at Ananda. Indu sends you and everyone at Ananda his love and pronams.

Yours in Divine friendship,

Rani Bhan



1 thought on “Daya Mata’s Role”

  1. It is really unfortunate that our saints or saints-in-the making find fault with one another. How can they guide us on the path of spirituality- the path of love and compassion?


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