The Journey Home is a Flaccid Study in Compromise


Part Three of a series.

The Journey Home, the adventures of the American Swami and ISKCON guru Radhanatha, is a leftover stew of limp noodles mixed with one rancid compromise after another. For any genuine Vaishnava such a foul goulash that stinks to high heaven is a repulsive repast.

On page 131 we find our hero promoting a book—one that is similar to his—insofar as it contains the same homogenized concessions and yogic sell-outs—Autobiography of a Yogi by "Paramhamsa" Yogananda. Radhanatha has the temerity in his text to call that book a "classic," and his Autobiography of an American Swami is suspiciously reminiscent of Yogananda's tome of self praise. The lesson learned is that saints don't need to write autobiographies to convince others of their own saintliness. For anyone with a teaspoon of common sense such spiritual grandstanding raises quite a number of red flags.

But what did Shrila Prabhupada think of this self-designated "supreme swan's" classic nonsense?

In a letter to Christopher dated 13 July 1968, Shrila Prabhupada mentioned Yogananda by name:

"I can understand that you are mixing with a crowd of hodge-podge men but none of them will ever get the real thing by such hodge-podge philosophy. We are following a standard philosophy, acknowledged by standard acaryas, namely,

harer nama harer nama hare namaiva kevalam
kalau nasty eva nasty eva nasty eva gatir anyatha
(Cc. Ādi 17.21)

"The people of this age are of short duration of life, they are very slow in the matter of seriously understanding spiritual importance of life, and even some of them are inclined, like yourself, by misfortune they associate with hodge-podge men like those you have mentioned in your letter—namely, Yogananda, Alan Watts, Maharishi, Leary, etc.—because they are unfortunate and severely disturbed in mind on account of various frustrations and desires."

In a subsequent letter to Kris, this one dated 13 November 1968, Shrila Prabhupada described his own visit to Yogananda's "ashram" in Los Angeles:

"Regarding your question about Yogananda, you write to say that you 'received the impression from his autobiography that he was a genuine saint who dedicated his life to serving God.' But the thing is that you do not actually know what is a genuine saint, and what can you understand about saintly life from reading his autobiography.

"I may inform you that just recently I visited his so-called asrama retreat, and it was simply a hodge-podge of all nonsense. There was a Buddha statue, a Christ statue, a Gandhi's memorium labeled as 'World Peace Memorium''—and what world peace he has brought? None. And what does Gandhi have to do with spiritual realization anyway?

"Gandhi was simply interested to get the Britishers out of India—what has this to do with self-realization, the prime goal of life? And here and there, there were signs of all sorts, like 'Be still and realize I am God'—what is this, by becoming silent and still one becomes God?! The stone is silent for millions of years, does that mean it has become God? This is all conglomeration of nonsense ideas. Practically, this Yogananda has no philosophy or authority, he simply drags in Buddha, Jesus Christ, Gandhi, and whoever else he can think to put, so that whatever you like it is in his shop. He is just a good shop keeper."

The Mahatma Gandhi World Peace Memorial, Yogananda "Ashram," Los Angeles

"Krishna says—Give up all nonsense engagements and come here and surrender unto Me!—that is real philosophy. Krishna says that anyone who is worshiping any demigod, it is all nonsense, and just give it up and come to me. Our philosophy is to worship Radha and Krishna. We don't make any hodge-podge or any compromise. If you like you can accept it, and if you are fortunate you will accept, and be happy, but this hodge-podge nonsense will never help you.

"Just like we prescribe certain rules and restrictions for our disciples so that they can make real advancement in spiritual life. This Yogananda gives no restrictions or regulative principles to his disciples, and thereby collects all nonsense class of men. But if you put restrictions then not so many men will come, but sincere ones will come, those who are actually sincerely searching after real spiritual life. This Yogananda accepts everything as bona fide, because he simply doesn't know what is bona fide and what is nonsense. So there is no need to waste your time.

"I can understand you are planning to go on world tour, but I think there is no need for wasting your time on such world tour. Better you chant Hare Krishna sitting in one place, that is far better. What for you want to go on world tour—people everywhere are doing the same thing, eating, sleeping, mating, and defending—each in some slightly different way, but same substance is there. There are the same streets, same people, same cars, same trees, etc. everywhere, somewhere a hill, somewhere sandy, somewhere some water—but what is the profit of seeing so much scenery? It is better if you want to travel, you can travel to preach and spread this Krishna Consciousness to the suffering humanity at large. You can travel with our Sankirtana party if you like."

Shrila Prabhupada confirmed that his technique of dealing with such so-called "yogis" was in line with the methodology taught by his own Guru Maharaja, His Divine Grace Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura. In a letter to Karandhara dated 27 July 1973, Shrila Prabhupada wrote:

"You are to be congratulated—you have defeated the rascal scientist Mr. Roger Reville from the Big University. Actually, it is not a very difficult task, they have no definite ideas, everything they put forward is doubtful, even they say—'I think',' 'perhaps,' 'it may be', 'theoretically speaking,' and like that.

Vedic knowledge is definite. Take for example Padma Purāṇa, there it is said there are 8,400,000 species of life: two million trees, one million insects, four hundred thousand humans. Nowhere do we find about so and so many, but exactly the number is given. Or we see the description of Kali Yuga, and we are experiencing it. 'People of this age will keep big bundles of hair and thus think themselves very beautiful.' So this is going on. 'For want of bathing the population of this age will appear like Pisacas'—hippies. Everything is given in Vedas exactly. Why should we go to such men for knowledge? They pose themselves as big leaders, philosophers. But we have to accept our leader according to the standard symptoms—or qualifications. The standard text books for civilized administration are Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam. A leader must be peaceful, self-controlled austere, pure, tolerant, honest, wise learned and religious.

Not like your President Nixon—a rogue and thief—such men cannot do any good to society, only those who are trained up in the Ultimate Goal of human life, they can lead—because human life is meant for going back to Godhead. Therefore our society is serving the whole world by supplying the missing part for perfect advancement of human civilization, we are supplying the head. Although all parts, such as legs are necessary, the whole thing is useful only when there is a head. So, everything is already there but it is now mixed up, we want to bring the whole world in to order by giving the right directions to all classes of men. Right direction means, to deliver the instructions of Krishna, and because Krishna is perfect, if you present this knowledge anywhere it will automatically defeat all the existing concocted hodge-podge ideas congesting the feeble brains of so-called scientist, philosophers or anyone.

When my Guru Maharaja was present even big, big scholars were afraid to talk with His beginning students. My Guru Maharaja was called a 'Living Encyclopedia," he could talk with anyone on any subject. He was so learned—so we should be like that as far as possible. No compromise—Ramakrishna, avataras, yogis, everyone was an enemy to Guru Maharaja—he never compromised. Some God-brothers complained that this preaching was chopping technique and it would not be successful. But we have seen that those who criticized, they fell down. For my part I have taken up the policy of my Guru Maharaja—no compromise. All these so called scholars, scientists, philosophers who do not accept Krsna are nothing more than rascals, fools lowest of mankind etc. So you go on with your work, it is very encouraging to me. Thank you."

After the death of Yogananda many whisperings arose within the ranks of his followers that he did not exactly follow his own teachings of yoga. The respected ladies journal Elle carried one such report by Rebecca Moss, dated 15 May 2013 (Elle Report).

"Paramahansa Yogananda founded the Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF)—a religious organization rooted in yoga, meditation, and celibacy—and wrote Autobiography of a Yogi, which is widely considered the foremost yogic text in America. For many years, there had been speculation that the guru had fathered several children, including Mona Pratt, the daughter of one of the most prominent SRF nuns, Tara Mata. Before his death in 1952, Yogananda was also accused of holding a harem of young women in a dorm next to his room."

Shrila Prabhupada's admonition to Kris bears repeating: "But the thing is that you do not actually know what is a genuine saint, and what can you understand about saintly life from reading his autobiography."

In other words, if I write a book about what a saint I am, are you the reader so stupid that you'll believe it?