Testimony from Former Member of the Self-Realization Fellowship

Paramahansa Yogananda (1893-1952)

We recently received a very candid testimony from a former member of the Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF), which is supposedly about acquiring self-realization through yogic control of the mind and body, but members say it’s more like a cult. Thankfully, Our Lord rescued this member from the SRF through faith in the promises of the Miraculous Medal.

For those who are unfamiliar with the SRF, it was founded by Paramhansa Yogananda (1893-1952), author of the best-selling Autobiography of a Yogi. He defines the organization as ” the knowing in all parts of body, mind, and soul that you are now in possession of the kingdom of God; that you do not have to pray that it come to you; that God’s omnipresence is your omnipresence; and that all that you need to do is improve your knowing.”

He advocated the acquisition of this self-realization through yogic control of the mind and body which he called a science. “The goal of yoga science is to calm the mind, that without distortion it may hear the infallible counsel of the Inner Voice.”

His teachings are disseminated to this day through the organization he established shortly after arriving in the U.S. in 1930. Called the Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF), it counts as one of its aims: “To teach that the purpose of life is the evolution, through self-effort, of man’s limited mortal consciousness into God Consciousness; and to this end to establish Self-Realization Fellowship temples for God-communion throughout the world, and to encourage the establishment of individual temples of God in the homes and in the hearts of men.”

The SRF also strives to “reveal the complete harmony and basic oneness of original Christianity as taught by Jesus Christ and original Yoga as taught by Bhagavan Krishna; and to show that these principles of truth are the common scientific foundation of all true religions.”

Access to the SRF Gardens of the Community on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles

This might sound wonderful, but the SRF appears to have major problems associated with members who have left and claim the organization operates like a cult. The contents of their materials are top-secret, they use bizarre behavior and thought control tactics to control members, and demand a god-like devotion to gurus to which a disciple “must always be loyal throughout his lifetime and through future incarnations until he finds redemption.”

According to CH, who shared her experience with us, she was involved with this cult because it was quiet and the music was soothing, but she felt as if it lulled a person into a robotic state.

“What makes me sad is that early on, in my 20s, I was at a ‘meditation group’ of SRF, and an inner voice said ‘Thou shalt have no gods before me.’ I thought, wow, this was not the right direction to go,” she writes. “But I was sadly raised Catholic by a Catholic father and a nonCatholic mother, and had gotten a very distorted upbringing.”

And so she drifted into the SRF. “They had beautiful gardens…right on the ocean. At Pacific Palisades in Los Angeles they had a big lake with all the religions around the lake, making them all equal paths to God. The techniques are not secret, but you are asked not to teach them, and to have people sign up directly. So it was not secretive, just careful.”

She explained that the “self” in self-realization might sound self-centered to a westerner, “but the East thinks of God as an ‘Over Self’ and so realizing one’s self, one realizes one’s unity with God. It mixed the great teachings of the saints of the Catholic Church, to ‘reel’ us in. It was a potpourri of all the world religions, something from everybody and something for everybody,” she said.

“I ‘hid’ there for many years and it gave me a ‘family.’ I think people who were fringe and had no strong family connections are vulnerable to these types of cults.”

Gradually, she began to see through the lies and deception of the Fellowship, such as how one of Yogananda’s gurus from India became a 33rd degree Freemason, but who was later “airbrushed” out of the history of the organization.

“They also said they did not have an ashram in India for women, because women in India were not interested in this spiritual lifestyle,” CH writes. “Mother Theresa found that not to be true!”

She continued: “The lies began to percolate out. Yogananda was to lead people to God, but he could not keep his weight down, and he built a chapel on a sandy bluff that one day caved into the ocean, chapel and all.”

The SRF is a cult, she says, “And very sadly misleading.”

“I tried to leave SRF, but when I went to a Carmelite convent, it had dropped the cloister, and was a mixed group, and I just could not find my home in the Catholic Church, as much as I longed to belong there,” she said.

“The BIG miracle for me is that as life continued, I kept on the fringe of SRF, because I needed a ‘family’ and to be part of something. I even wanted to become a ‘nun’ in their order and tried to ignore that ‘voice’ warning me against worshiping other gods.”

And then one day she discovered the Miraculous Medal and the story behind this powerful sacramental.

“I sent it to my brother who was in a mess, and all sorts of help popped up around him. I thought, wow, I needed one of these! I always loved Mary, no matter how crazy my path was. I put the medal on and in TWO WEEKS, I was in the Catholic Church going to Confession and Holy Communion. I had been praying and longing to be able to do that since I was age seven. It was UNBELIEVABLE. It happened on Holy Thursday at the Last Supper Mass. The MEDAL WORKS!! I love to share it with others.”

She generously allowed us to share her story with you. “Thanks for letting me know you think my experience might protect others,” she wrote. “I am so glad you want to share it. People need to know.”

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