“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
New Delhi, India
December 27, 2003
by Swami Kriyananda
An ex-monk of Yogoda Satsanga Society (India’s sister organization to Self-Realization Fellowship in the West) posed me the question yesterday, “Is it true, as we’ve heard, that Paramhansa Yogananda predicted every future SRF president would be Self-realized?” When that monk heard my answer he urged me, for the sake of many others, to make it widely available. I was, I said, reluctant to do so, because I didn’t want my gurubhais thinking I was attacking them. He, however, pointed out that many people are confused on this point, and have suffered because of the doubts it raised in their minds. I realized then that I owed it to those who suffer from such doubts to state my own knowledge of the facts, since it appears I am the only one in a position, in this case, to state them unequivocally.
It has never been my way to fight against things or people, but only for the things I believe in. Reflecting on my friend’s request, however, I realized that he was pleading for others as well as for himself. In fact, his question lies at the core of the problems that Ananda, too, has had for many years with SRF.
My answer to that friend went beyond pointing out the obvious, which is that institutions often make self-serving claims of this sort—claims which ought for that very reason to be viewed skeptically. Most of them, indeed, prove on inspection to be logically untenable.
Swami Sri Yukteswar, in The Holy Science, announced that the world is now in what Indian tradition calls Dwapara Yuga. We left the preceding dark age, Kali Yuga, in the year 1,700, when the earth entered Dwapara Yuga. Although the present age is higher than its predecessor, it is still basically an age of materialism. In all, there are four ages. Even during the highest of them, called Satya (or Krita) Yuga, it would be extraordinary for the presidency of a religious corporation—assuming such corporations even exist then—to be filled in every generation by Self-realized masters. Few masters, surely, would even accept that position! (They would, I imagine, prefer to be hermits.)
The answer I gave my young friend was this: For the ten years after Master’s mahasamadhi, I was at the very heart of things in SRF/YSS. In 1960, I was made the first vice president of both organizations, and was elected to both their boards of directors. I certainly was aware of any important statements our Guru made—among which this one would most certainly have ranked as of major importance. It would have been common knowledge, moreover, almost from the day it was made. It is unthinkable for it to have been kept secret during all the years I was in SRF. I therefore have no hesitation at all in asserting that Master never made such a statement.
In 1956 or 1957 I was present when Tara Mata, a close disciple of the Master and his chief editor, made a statement that I imagine gave rise to that widely promulgated prediction. It was during a speech she gave to the nuns, after their Christmas banquet. The monks on that day were having their own banquet in Encinitas, a hundred miles to the south. I had been unable to join them there, owing to my duties as the minister of SRF’s Church in Hollywood, which is part of Los Angeles.
What Tara said went something like this: “Master prophesied that all future SRF presidents would be faithful to his ideals.” That is far from saying they’d be Self-realized. She didn’t say to whom those words had been addressed, and I couldn’t actually believe that Master had said them to anybody. For I knew that Tara tended to embellish the truth, if it meant bringing it in line with organizational convenience.
My first thought when the rumor regarding presidential enlightenment reached me was, “Shades of Catholic ‘papal infallibility’!” The Catholic Church, however, took nineteen hundred years to arrive at this dogma, whereas SRF has reached theirs within actual memory of our Guru’s lifetime.
Daya Mata was appointed to the presidency by the SRF Board of Directors. Our Guru didn’t place her there. Nor was she elected because of any mandate he’d given anyone. Indeed, there was some question, at first, as to who should fill that position after Rajarsi Janakananda left his body. Some people—those more on the periphery of things—believed that Dr. Lewis, as Master’s first disciple in America, would be the next president. Others thought Durga Mata, the first nun, would be elected. Durga Mata states in her book that she was even offered that position, out of courtesy. Those of us, however, who were “in the know” knew that Daya Mata would be chosen.
What has happened since then is that an institutional myth has been born, on the strength of Tara’s Christmas declaration. The myth may have been created by SRF monks who, probably, never knew the Master, and who never heard Tara’s statement directly. Another explanation, however, has been suggested by an SRF center leader: that Daya Mata herself has stated that our Guru made this prediction. If so, this important “revelation” was never shared with anyone else during his lifetime; it “surfaced” only in relatively recent years. I deeply hope, for SRF’s sake, that this is not the case, for if it actually came from Daya it raises the question: Has Daya herself distorted Tara’s statement?
Too many attitudes have emanated from above in that organization that make one wonder whether there is not something seriously wrong, somewhere. So many statements by Daya herself seem designed only to disempower others. Often I have heard her say, “How can you know? You weren’t with Master from 1931, as I was. What right have you to speak of such things?” It is disturbing to find impartial reasoning so seldom offered, or even considered. The particular statement, however, that all future presidents will be Self-realized is not only erroneous, but dangerous.
A legal arbitrator was appointed by the judge years ago to try to bring about a settlement between SRF and Ananda in their twelve-year lawsuit against us. The arbitrator announced at the beginning of the proceedings, “My record is very good for bringing about harmony between two groups that saw no way of reaching a compromise.” At last he had to accept that Daya Mata was immovable in her opposition to me, especially. In his final sequestered meeting with us, he said to me, “We must have compassion.” Compassion—from a lawyer!
As I say, I hope this reputed prediction didn’t initiate with Daya Mata. If it did, it raises the question: “Is she capable of self-deception?”
The myth also forces another question: Is Daya Mata herself Self-realized? That possibility was not even remotely considered at the time she was made president.
I had an opportunity to visit Sri Rama Yogi, a highly advanced disciple of Ramana Maharshi, in 1960 in his little village of Buchireddipalayam, Andhra Pradesh, India. Master had spoken very highly to me of this saint in 1950. He told me that Sri Rama Yogi was the only person he’d ever met, outside of our own line of Gurus and two of Lahiri Mahasaya’s disciples, who had attained final liberation.
During my four-day visit, Sri Rama Yogi told me he’d received several letters from Daya Mata. He asked me what her duties entailed. When I told him, he commented, “My, what a burden!”
“Are you saying,” I inquired somewhat cheekily, “that it was bad karma that qualified her for the presidency?” He smiled at my slightly impudent question, then replied, “That wasn’t my meaning! It was good karma, of course, that raised her to that position, for it enables her to work out that karma more quickly. For other people, however, it wouldn’t be good karma; they wouldn’t have that particular karma to work out. There is no correspondence between a person’s position in life and his inner, spiritual realization.”
Our Guru was discussing with a few of us monks one day the spiritual states that certain close disciples had attained. He mentioned certain ones specifically: Rajarsi Janakananda, Yogacharya Oliver Black, Sister Gyanamata, and to a lesser degree a few others. When he seemed to have finished, the thought came to me, as I imagine it did to others there: “What about Faye [Daya]?” Faye was in charge at Mt. Washington. The Master responded to this thought, “And Faye—well, she still has her life to live.” I never again heard him speak on the subject of her spiritual development.
Once he said to one of the nuns, “Do as Faye tells you.” The nun was Marca Brown, sister to Mrinalini Mata. Miss Brown then asked Guruji, “What if I think she’s wrong?” His reply was, “Follow her anyway. The most important thing is harmony.” Miss Brown tended to hold strong opinions. Was the Master merely trying to curb this tendency in her? This statement was later given sweeping importance. Since my departure from SRF, it has even been suggested that he addressed those words to me.
The truth is, he never said anything of the sort to me, though he’d placed me in charge of the monks, in which capacity I had to work closely with Daya Mata. What he stressed to me, rather, was the need to follow his will, as I myself understood it. He even hesitated to give me his consent one day, when I asked him if I might occasionally go to Faye for spiritual counseling. Certainly, her statement to me many years later, “You well remember that Master told you to come to me for counseling,” is not at all what he said to me.
Daya Mata has stated, “At the moment when Master left his body, I felt his spiritual mantle pass from him to me.” The Master himself, however, stated publicly on several occasions, “I have bestowed my mantle on Saint Lynn [Rajarsi Janakananda].” Rajarsi lived for two years after the Master’s mahasamadhi. In mystical tradition it is known that a master may pass his “mantle” on to one highly advanced disciple. I have never heard of anyone, however, passing his mantle to more than one disciple.
Sri Ramakrishna once stated that the close disciples of a master sometimes receive some kind of spiritual upliftment at the moment of his leaving his physical body. I imagine Daya Mata did experience some such upliftment at that moment. She can only, however, have failed to understand the full import of what she experienced. There is no possible reason for believing that this upliftment signified that he’d transferred his spiritual power to her, particularly in light of his own statement that he’d bestowed his mantle already on his chief disciple, Rajarsi.
Brother Vishwananda, who I understand has been designated Daya Mata’s successor, told me in the Fall of 2001 that he had seen Daya Mata in a state of samadhi. He gave this as the reason he was convinced of her infallibility. I didn’t challenge him, but expressed only respect for his belief. However, the truth is that samadhi itself is in no way a sign of final enlightenment. Final enlightenment is achieved only, as Master himself told me, when the devotee reaches the highest state, nirbikalpa samadhi.
Sometimes, he told me, even saints, after reaching the lower state of sabikalpa samadhi, have actually fallen spiritually. He warned me, “You will not be safe until you’ve attained nirbikalpa samadhi.”
Daya Mata may or may not have experienced some degree of samadhi. To have done so, however, would not mean that she has attained nirbikalpa samadhi.
She doesn’t even show complete attunement with our Guru’s wishes. In this lack she is repeating a mistake she admitted to me she made in a former incarnation, when she resisted his will for motives she considered spiritual.
Our Guru was sent to the West to start a work of world importance. Daya Mata (if certain monks in SRF are to be believed) has told them that Master came to the West to found a monastery. Can a mission designed to uplift the whole of society be focused entirely on developing a monastery? This is not what our Guru himself stated. (Indeed, he devoted only “overflow energy” to organizing our monastic life. It was I myself, under his supervision, who actually organized our way of life.)
Here is an example of Daya’s tendency to bend his intentions, publicly stated, to correspond with her own concepts:
The Master frequently—indeed, fervently—urged people at public gatherings to create “world brotherhood colonies.” This was his term for spiritual communities. Such communities were his solution to a problem many devotees face who must otherwise live in worldly surroundings. Daya Mata’s interest was only in monastic communities. I asked her once—this was in 1958—when SRF would begin to create such communities. Her reply was, “Frankly, I’m not interested.” Are we to conclude from that statement that, in this matter at least, it wasn’t our Guru’s will she was interested in? As the president of SRF, was it not her duty to encourage anyone who showed such an interest? Years after I’d founded the first Ananda community, she warned me that I was on the brink of spiritual disaster for disobeying his will. What she seems, rather, to have found threatening was the thought that I was going against her will.
Muddying these waters still more, she and Tara so drastically changed Master’s “Aims and Ideals” as to remove, by distortion, his colony concept.
A photograph of Daya Mata shows her, according to the caption, in a state of samadhi. In fact, the photograph does seem to suggest an uplifted state of consciousness. Nevertheless, what it shows is not someone in samadhi, but only in a state of devotional upliftment. The photo gives manifest evidence, in fact, of bodily awareness. She is expressing joy through her body. In the samadhi state, there is a cessation of outward awareness. What this photograph shows, rather, is a sweet expression of heartfelt devotion, not deep immersion in superconsciousness.
Further proof of her lack of understanding of higher states of consciousness is that she would allow that caption to stand.
There was something she told me many years ago that reveals in her a surprising ignorance of the deeper teachings. Master, in fact, did not give her the responsibility of sharing the teachings with others.
Her very understanding of many aspects of his teachings seems surprisingly personal. Once, when I was new on the path, I asked her to explain a point in Master’s teachings that had been puzzling me. What I asked was, “What is Christ consciousness?”
“Christ consciousness,” she replied, “is when you see all human beings as your brothers and sisters.” This explanation suggests a relationship of separate egos, and not the consciousness of oneness with everything and everyone. It is this oneness, as I was to learn in time, that is the essence of Christ consciousness.
Paramhansa Yogananda taught that, in high states of consciousness, a master awakens to his inner identity with God. It is from a level of omnipresence that he perceives everything and everyone. As our Guru put it, “The yogi becomes the atom; he doesn’t merely observe it from without.” Because a master is conscious of his oneness with others, he experiences their feelings from within, and doesn’t merely perceive them outwardly, as is the norm for unenlightened people.
During my years of close association with her I found that her understanding of everything I asked her tended, to a surprising extent, to be an outward projection of her own, often very personal, point of view. It was never, as in our Guru’s case, a projection into my perception of things. Quite often in fact, she didn’t understand my reason for asking a question. In more recent years, moreover, since I have had to work apart from SRF, I’ve found her often deliberately twisting what I say—even to the extent of stating with conviction, but incorrectly, a different meaning altogether. Sometimes she has even stated as a matter of fact something that was contrary to fact.
Once I asked our Guru, “What is a master?” He replied, “One is a master when he has attained Christ consciousness.” That exalted state cannot but produce universal love. Self-realization makes one incapable of actually wishing harm to anyone. Daya Mata, by contrast, seems willing not only to harm others, but also to wish them harm. She has shown herself willing to do so even by telling untruths.
Here is another outward sign of Self-realization: A true master is incapable of being untruthful. Daya however, with no other purpose than to win a lawsuit she herself had instigated, actually supported under oath a claim SRF had submitted to the law courts, to the effect that our Guru wrote all his books as a paid employee of Self-Realization Fellowship, and under SRF’s direct supervision and control. Later on, in order to strengthen this claim still further, SRF claimed—again, with the support of Daya’s sworn testimony—that Yogananda’s writings were a committee effort, and were therefore not solely authored by him. When these claims failed in the lower courts, SRF appealed them to the highest court in the land: the U.S. Supreme Court. Fortunately, their attempt was a failure. It should be added, furthermore, that all these charges are a matter of public record.
Daya made personal statements under oath about me that had no basis in fact, and no other intention than to prejudice the courts against me. Indeed, in my experience she has shown herself willing to distort truth in order to make it coincide with her own agenda.
Thus, she asked me years ago not to tell people I had been dismissed from SRF; she wanted me, instead, to state publicly, “I resigned.”
“That isn’t true,” I replied, deeply distressed, “and you know it isn’t true!” Thereupon she replied in exasperation, “Well, you should have resigned!”
It is not my purpose here to “do a hatchet job” on Daya Mata. I know her well. She is a good person—indeed, in some ways a saintly person. I feel it imperative, however, to settle an issue that I consider deeply important to the future of our Guru’s work, lest a dangerous dogma be perpetuated into the future. Let me reiterate what I have said:
First, Master never predicted that all future SRF presidents would be Self-realized. He certainly never stated that they’d be infallible.
Second, Daya Mata does not herself justify those supposed predictions. While her spiritual life is a matter between herself and God, it does not show outwardly the “infallibility” that people have attributed to her, in their belief that she is Self-realized.
At the same time I should point out that, although I deny those claims, I am not trying in any way to belittle her as a human being. I have stated only—but with conviction—that her supposed “infallibility” is a myth. That myth has been created solely for an institutional convenience.
I am also pleading for the reintroduction of sound reason into any debate on matters of dogma. If, in the name of blind obedience to authority, we allow unreason to rule, we encourage the very thing that has brought mockery upon religion as an aid to mankind in the search for truth.