The number of changes SRF has made in Master’s autobiography since his passing is astounding. Here are a few outstanding examples:
a) At least twenty-eight significant alterations were made in the actual meaning of the text relating to Yogananda’s life and teachings.
b) There have also been at least the same number of significant deletions of text.
c) Insertions have been made of SRF’s name, in ways that change the meaning of the text significantly. Sometimes these changes have introduced entirely new discussions, of which the purpose was simply to promote the organization.
d) There are one hundred and nineteen mentions of Self-Realization Fellowship, as an organization, that were not in the original edition.
e) Over a thousand new lines have been added, sometimes in footnotes, most of them with the clear intention of promoting SRF as an organization, or (in footnotes) of giving the impression that these, too, were written by Yogananda himself—even though they were in fact written by others, and reflected points of view that were not his at all.
f) Very few of the more-than-five-hundred changes since the first edition of the autobiography were made by the Master himself. Most of them—some appearing many years later—were made by SRF, not as editorial refinements, but with the very different purpose of aligning his printed statements with policies the organization formulated since his passing. The following examples should suffice here:
g) In the first edition of Autobiography of a Yogi, and also in the final edition to appear before Master left his body, the text states, “To fulfill one’s earthly responsibilities is indeed the higher path [italics mine], provided the yogi, maintaining a mental uninvolvement with egotistical desires, plays his part as a willing instrument of God.” This statement that the married state could indeed be the “higher path,” as a fulfillment of one’s earthly responsibilities, seemed unconscionable for the renunciates of SRF.
In the editions released since his passing, the above-quoted lines were changed to: “Fulfilling one’s earthly responsibilities need not separate man from God [again, italics mine], provided he maintains mental uninvolvement. . . .” The point in making this alteration was to place the renunciates, who “ran the show,” in a position of higher spiritual authority than that of “worldly” people—indignant center leaders, for example, and other “riff-raff.” The change, as I happen to know because I was at the center of things at the time and was in charge of the center department, was made because certain SRF center leaders were challenging the right of SRF’s leaders to make certain sweeping changes in Master’s teachings, his organization, and his writings.
Difficulties arise, however, whenever spiritual laws are ignored. In this case, the renunciates, being only human, developed the superiority complex of being “special”—a race apart from “ordinary householders.” This complex can become a loss of all hope, if ever one fails in his or her outward dedication.
Incidentally, these new versions of the autobiography are not called “editions.” As I wrote earlier, they are designated as “reprints.” The reason for this word choice is obvious: The editors want to suggest that no actual changes have been made.
h) Despite the above emphasis on renunciation as the higher path (in contradiction to what is written in the first edition), almost all the Master’s highly advanced disciples were, or had been, married. These individuals included Rajarshi Janakananda, Sister Gyanamata, Dr. Lewis, and Yogacharya Black. Three of these persons were also described by Master as his most highly advanced disciples. Of course, every reader of Autobiography of a Yogi knows also that Lahiri Mahasaya was married, and that Sri Yukteswar had been married. Both men produced children. (Interestingly, when Babaji made Sri Yukteswar a swami, the younger man was still married.)
i) Fourteen lines of Master’s great poem, “Samadhi”—very important to the meaning of the whole poem—were deleted from later editions of the book. Among the excisions was this inspiring statement (essential for attaining this high state): “By deeper, longer, thirsty, guru-given meditation comes this celestial samadhi.”
j) The first edition of Autobiography of a Yogi states: “The actual technique [of Kriya Yoga] must be learned from a Kriyaban or Kriya Yogi.” This sentence was rewritten in later so-called “reprints” to read: “The actual technique [of Kriya Yoga] should be learned from an authorized Kriyaban (Kriya Yogi) of Self-Realization Fellowship (Yogoda Satsanga Society of India).”
One wonders whether the disciples of other lines of descent from our gurus (Lahiri Mahasaya and Sri Yukteswar spring to mind) were thereby deprived of God’s former blessings on their own initiations!
k) SRF has constrained not only those who give Kriya initiation, but those also who receive it, to be members of Self-Realization Fellowship. Kriya applicants must first sign a pledge renouncing any tie with other spiritual organizations. Master himself never imposed such a condition; nor did Lahiri Mahasaya. On the contrary, both masters gave Kriya initiation freely to sincere seekers of all paths. Master did indeed, toward the end of his life, ask people to become SRF members before receiving Kriya, but this was only to ensure their sincerity.
Otherwise, I was myself present on one occasion when he gave Kriya initiation to a large group that included the leader of another spiritual organization (Mrs. Clarence Gasque, head of the “Mazdaznans”). At that event, he affirmed publicly that he was doing so because “Kriya is for everybody.” At this initiation he also told a story (recounted in my book, The Essence of Self-Realization), concerning one man, a follower of another path, who had been seeking God by that path for twenty years. Master said to him, “It isn’t so important what path you follow, outwardly. Your problem is only that you’ve been trying to get out of the room through the walls. Kriya will show you where to locate the door.” The man received Kriya initiation, and within one week had the experience of God that he’d sought for so many years.
l) Tara so drastically changed Master’s inspiring book of prayer-poems, Whispers from Eternity, that it became a different book altogether. Removed from her version is every bit of its poetic beauty. She published a letter (as I stated in the Introduction) at the beginning of the book that purported to have been written by Paramhansa Yogananda himself. It was, however, composed entirely by her. The letter expressed Master’s “gratitude” to her for this new edition. I objected strongly to this act of forgery, for I knew that Master had never written that letter. Indeed, what had actually happened (as Tara herself told me after Master’s passing) was that she had once said to him she would love to work on editing this book. And all he had answered at that time was, “Oh, would you?” I even wonder—considering how many lies she told—whether he ever said even that much to her. In any case, her own words prove to me that he’d never approved, for he’d never actually seen, that later edition.
m) Photos, too, have been “sanitized” to reflect SRF’s ideas of propriety. The Christian crosses (I mentioned this in the Introduction) which both Master and Rajarshi wore (see the present cover) were later airbrushed out of both their photographs.
n) Even more shockingly, the miraculous photo of Lahiri Mahasaya was replaced, in the 1954 “reprint,” by a painting which shows him “decently” clothed, with a white chuddar (shawl) covering his bare chest. The original photo was restored to the book only in 1998. SRF claimed, in the meantime, that Master himself had requested that that master’s bare chest be covered in consideration of Western sensibilities. I cannot but believe that this claim is only one more lie, and that the change was due entirely to the sensibilities—not of those nameless “Westerners”—but of the over-sensitive nuns who commissioned the change.
o) Sri Yukteswar was the fourth in our line of gurus; Yogananda, the fifth. On the altar, Yogananda gave Sri Yukteswar the more central position. Those positions have since been reversed.
p) Originally also, Sri Yukteswar was shown looking outward from the center of the altar. In the new version, the same picture shows him facing inward. This change of direction alters not only the photograph itself, but also its vibration, for the left side of a person’s face is different from the right side. Reversing their orientation changes the impression of their very personalities.
q) People sometimes ask Ananda, “Why have you removed Krishna from your altars?” The truth is that SRF, since Master’s passing, has introduced Krishna onto their altars! Of course Krishna is revered also at Ananda—particularly so because Master stated that Krishna was a former incarnation of Babaji. Master, once he’d made this fact known, used to lead us in prayer to “Babaji-Krishna.” But Krishna was not actually in our direct lineage of Masters, except through Babaji. The reason Master put Jesus Christ on the altar was that it was Jesus himself who had requested that Yogananda be sent to the West as his spiritual representative. The non-inclusion of Krishna is due simply to the fact that Krishna is not in our direct line of gurus. He is our guru through Babaji, as (Yogananda told us) his present incarnation.
r) In the original Autobiography, Master ends with a stirring appeal to the reader to take his idea for “world brotherhood colonies,” or cooperative communities, seriously. That entire appeal, and all other references to communities, have been removed entirely from Autobiography of a Yogi and from all SRF literature.
s) In many other ways also, Master’s words and work have been changed—both outwardly and in spirit—to reflect a determination on SRF’s part to achieve full control over his legacy; to impose their own tastes on every aspect of his mission; and to narrow the scope of that mission to spreading and promoting—not his teachings—but Self-Realization Fellowship as a religious power in the world.
An SRF member in Italy, Contessa Renata Arlini, remonstrated a few years ago to a visiting SRF monk, “SRF is becoming just like the Catholic Church, with Daya Mata the pope.”
“Oh, you’re so right!” the monk replied proudly. “That’s exactly what it is.”