The Editor, Tara Mata

Laurie Pratt, who later took the monastic name Tara Mata, worked closely with Yogananda on his autobiography. He expressed his gratitude for her tireless and insightful work in his letter of appreciation at the beginning of that book.

Pratt was a senior disciple, having come to Yogananda in the 1924. Her work on Yogananda’s autobiography is evident, especially in the footnotes, but not obtrusive. As the years passed, however, her editing began to take on a life of its own, not always in tune with Yogananda’s wishes.

She seems to have taken a proprietary interest in the Autobiography, adding to and subtracting from it at will. The vast number of changes to this book reflect her attitudes and her prejudices, and not Yogananda’s teachings.

Yogananda himself completely edited his own first edition of Whispers from Eternity. He published this revision in 1949. Pratt had little to do with this book during Yogananda’s lifetime. Although she tried her hand at some changes, Yogananda was not in agreement with them, as you will see later in this article. Her ear was not attuned to the nuances of sound and rhythm, and her hand was heavy with ponderous words.

She was also strongly opinionated, and in her editing she sometimes eliminated ideas, concepts and phrases that Yogananda had written that were not to her liking or understanding.

Tara’s changes to The Holy Science

In editing Sri Yukteswar’s The Holy Science, which will appear in its original form on this site in the near future, she showed this same tendency. For example, Sri Yukteswar had written:

“As the object of this book is to harmonize the different religions of the world and to bind them together, it will create a real brotherhood among all the followers of all religions.”

In the SRF editions published in 1958, 1963 and 1972, all of which reflect Pratt’s editing efforts, the last part of the above sentence has been eliminated. We might justifiably ask, On what possible authority could she presume to change Sri Yukteswar’s prediction that his book would “create a real brotherhood among all the followers of all religions”?

That she was not interested or skilled in human relations is verified by the fact that Yogananda had her living apart from the other monastics. He said to Faye Wright, who later became Daya Mata, “Keep her away from people.” Her personal disinterest in brotherhood might well have influenced her decision to remove this reference from Sri Yuktewar’s book. Understandable from a psychological perspective, perhaps, but quite unjustifiable both from a spiritual perspective that values such attitudes as attunement and discipleship, and from a professional point of view as well. It is not the responsibility of an editor to change the author’s thoughts; her responsibility is to make them more clear, but not by gratuitously eliminating them. Other examples of the changes she made in The Holy Science will be included soon on this site.

Tara delays publication of the Bhagavad Gita against Yogananda’s wishes

Yogananda finished his commentaries on the Bhagavad Gita shortly before his passing. He was extremely keen that they be published in his lifetime. He even included the publication announcement of the Gita commentaries in his 1951 edition of the Autobiography, giving the price and ordering information. Here is a first-hand account of the tension that existed between Pratt and Yogananda concerning this publishing project. These notes are taken from an interview with Swami Kriyananda, who was with Yogananda at that time:

“While we were staying at the desert retreat near 29 Palms, Yogananda expressed to me his enthusiasm that his commentaries on the Bhagavad Gita would be published as a book by Christmas of that year (1951). When I mentioned this to Laurie Pratt, she said quite definitely that the book couldn’t possibly be ready by then. When I reported this to Master, he was quite frustrated and remarked: “Always delays. I’m going to write her.”

“He did so and asked me to deliver the letter to Laurie. Thinking that it contained a scolding by Yogananda for which I had in part been responsible, when I handed her the letter I said: “I’m sorry; it’s my fault.” The letter, in fact, did not address this issue at all; but Laurie understood what had happened. Her delay in publishing the Gita created friction between her and Yogananda.”

With Whispers she went too far

The edition of Whispers from Eternity that is credited to Tara’s editing is clearly her own book. It bears almost no relationship either to the words or the spirit of Yogananda’s original editions. Yogananda’s introduction to the prayers and how to use them has been drastically reduced and altered. What was lost under the scalpel of Tara’s pen has been recuperated and is available here. Tara’s edition is a massive reorganization of the poems, giving many of them new names and altering their beauty, rhythm, and often their meaning. Hardly one phrase is left inviolate.

This instance of spiritual arrogance and presumption is so extraordinary, obvious, and heavy-handed that we encourage you to see it for yourself. SRF sells both the 1949 and the ninth edition. Get a copy of both books and make your own comparison.

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1 thought on “The Editor, Tara Mata”

  1. I am promotely stupefied by the actions of Tara and Daya Mata along with the other women who did nothing ti end their ridicule of the great master Pramhansa Yogananda.
    I was told about the book Autobiography of a Yogi by Nikki Sixx, the exceptional and highly articulate founder and bass player of Motley Crue, Sixx:AM and a three time New York Times Best Selling Author.
    After reading the book I’ve been drenched in learning more about Yogananda and Kriya yoga. I began by reading the Second Coming of Christ and by the second chapter my eyes widened with angry consternation. It’s quite obvious that the text was heedlessly edited by someone who most definitely wasn’t Pramhansa Yogananda. I could only make it through a couple chapters before I ended the torture. The paragraphs appeared to be repetitive, as if they were ‘copy and pasted’ snippets of Yogananda’s real writings that have been dramatically altered and pillaged with a mockery of embellishments.

    A true travesty to this glorious man’s legacy. I view this as fraud since the purchaser of these books believe this to be the true word of Pramhansa Yogananda. Only to be turned off by the text when finding nothing but a garbled mess of sadness. How are they getting away with such indignities? Going forward, I will not have anything to do with the Self Realization Fellowship as they’ve proven to be untrustworthy and have denied the wishes of the Lord Jesus Christ to extend kriya yoga to everyone of all religious groups in the west. And they’ve failed to uphold the wishes of Paramhansa Yogananda to create schools and colonies that would spread the word to as many people as possible.
    Daya Mata and Tara Mata are no longer around to ostracize Yogananda, Swami Kriyananda, and all others that got in their way. As for how the group is being managed today? I can see they still spell his name incorrectly and continues to reprint damaging rewritten books—a sign that nothing has changed. Many seeking the truth will fall unknowingly into a sea of the fraudulently edited and rewritten books sold as ‘reprinted’ by the Self Realization Fellowship and the Fellowship itself believing they will be reading and practicing the word of Paramhansa Yogananda. When in actuality they’re being scammed by those that are only in it for themselves and most certainly aren’t on a path to be one with God.
    I am seeking the path to God and was led here by Swami Kriyananda. Why I’ve received such a calling to him, I am not sure but I wish I could thank him personally. Perhaps, in another lifetime.
    I would like to assist with spreading the word and teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda, just as he and Swami Kriyananda would want. If you have any openings for writers, editors, SEO, customer or technical support, you name it, etc. I have many years experience working remotely and would be honored to apply my skills for the Ananda movement. I am unable to speak higher than the whisper of a tiny mouse, due to a medical condition but fear not, my dedication is undeniably true and equal to the task. God bless -Robin

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