This book was first intended to be a slightly polished version of Paramhansa Yogananda’s first literary offering, The Science of Religion, which he published in 1920 before coming to America from his native land, India. Instead, it has become a new book. The message, though expanded upon, is the same, though I don’t suppose a sentence of the original remains. I have written it as though it had been penned by Yogananda himself. This method has often been employed by disciples of a great master. In Paramhansa Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi we are told that his guru’s guru, Lahiri Mahasaya, would sometimes tell a disciple, “Please expound the holy [scripture] stanzas as the meaning occurs to you… I will guide your thoughts, that the right interpretation be uttered.”(1) In this way Yogananda continued, many of Lahiri Mahasaya’s perceptions were recorded and published.
Though all my books represent a conscious attempt to be an instrument for his teaching, it must be said that this one has been more so. It was a sincere effort to rewrite his book for him — as a ghostwriter if you like, though he isn’t physically here to check my efforts. I present it as his book because all the ideas are, deliberately on my part, his own. This present version will, I hope, be easier to comprehend and more enjoyable to read. For although the first edition contained wonderful teachings, it stated them so weightily that many a daunted reader has not remained with it to the end.
The Science of Religion has never sold well, a particularly unfortunate fact in light of Yogananda’s clear intention, through this book, of reaching a broad audience. That tens of thousands in America later attended his lectures, and that many of them became his students, makes it all the more important that the message he expressed in this book be disseminated, now, as widely as possible.
In 1955 I was discussing editorial matters by telephone with Laurie Pratt, Paramhansa Yogananda’s chief editor. Today, Miss Pratt is better known by her monastic name, Tara Mata. I knew her then as Laurie. She lived a quasi-hermit’s life, and rarely communicated except by phone.
During our discussion she remarked, “I’m thinking of dropping the publication of The Science of Religion.”
“Why on earth?” I cried in dismay. “Its message is central to Master’s(2) teachings!”
“Master never actually wrote it,” she replied. “It doesn’t even have his vibrations.”
This book had always been a favorite of mine — not for its style, perhaps, but certainly for its contents. “Who did write it, then?” I demanded.
“Swami Dhirananda,” she answered. This monk had been summoned to America by our Guru during the 1920s to help him with the spread of his work. Dhirananda had departed the scene, however, long before my own entrance onto it as a disciple in 1948. His name was only dimly familiar to me.
“The very writing style,” Laurie continued, “is Dhirananda’s, not Master’s. It is heavy and pedantic, and betrays the pride he felt in possessing a master’s degree. Even his choice of words projected none of Master’s charm and simplicity. The Science of Religion reads more like a scholarly dissertation than as a work of deep inspiration!”
“But in its ideas, at least,” I protested, “it has to be Master’s! For that reason alone, surely, it would be a pity simply to drop it!”
Perhaps my dismay influenced her. At any rate, the book continued in print. Her comments also, however, remained firmly etched in my memory.
I learned a little more about Dhirananda’s role in authoring The Science of Religion during four years that I spent in India in the early 1960s. There I had occasion to speak with Swami Satyananda, another of the Master’s early companions. Satyananda told me, “After Yoganandaji’s return from his visit to Japan, which he describes in Autobiography of a Yogi, he was inspired with insight on how to reach a worldwide public with the message God had given him. Accordingly, he wrote an outline of those ideas in Bengali. He didn’t yet feel capable of writing them in English, however, so he asked Swami Dhirananda, a member of our little group, to write them in English as a booklet.”
Dhirananda, in other words, was the ghostwriter; the truths expressed were all Yogananda’s. A human being is not the clothes he wears, but the living person inside them. The inspiration for The Science of Religion, similarly, was Yogananda’s; Dhirananda only tailored the suit.
English usage has changed over the past eighty years. Dhirananda’s somewhat cumbersome style is now outmoded. Nor was it ever elegant, and the suit he tailored was always a poor fit. The coat, moreover, with its excessive repetitions of concepts, had become frayed at the elbows, rather like a professor’s old jacket at the twilight of his career.
In fairness, I must add that Daya Mata, the president of Self-Realization Fellowship, has disputed my claim that Paramhansa Yogananda did not actively author this book. Dhirananda, she insists, was its editor, not a ghostwriter basing his work on Master’s notes. I can only say in reply that I have expressed my own very clear memory of both Laurie Pratt’s and Swami Satyananda’s comments. I have no wish to argue this point, so will leave it to the reader to decide which version he prefers.
In May of 1950, Paramhansa Yogananda gave me instructions for my own future service to his mission. “Your work,” he said, “will be lecturing, writing, and editing.”
I hesitated over that second item. “Sir,” I said, “haven’t you already written everything that needs to be said about your teachings?”
“Don’t say that!” he exclaimed, surprised at my obtuseness. “Much more is needed!”
Since that time I have devoted my life to carrying out those instructions. My books, which at present number more than eighty, have been written primarily to interest people in his teachings. I have tried also to show that his insights lead irresistibly to ever-broader conclusions. My efforts have been rewarded in that they have, so far, reached millions of readers — not only in English, but (as of this writing) in twenty-seven other languages. I have also edited a book of conversations that I and others had with our Guru, which were published under the title, The Essence of Self-Realization. Finally, I have edited what, to me, is a veritable scripture: Yogananda’s Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam Explained, on which task he got me started a few months before our conversation quoted above. My earnest prayer has always been to reach a wide audience with his teachings, and to demonstrate in addition their immense practical value in people’s daily lives.
I was recently again reading The Science of Religion, when the thought came to me, “Laurie was right! The ideas expressed here are wonderful, but they don’t touch the heart.” I then thought, “Would it be presumptuous of me to attempt to rewrite this work?” I prayed inwardly for guidance.
The present edition is the result of that prayer. This is still my Guru’s work, though it has been extensively rewritten. Even though thoughts have been expressed in new words, and stories added to illustrate the points made, I’ve tried conscientiously to express only his ideas. Most of the stories were ones he himself often related — to everyone’s delight, for even when imparting deep wisdom he could be marvelously entertaining! I’ve done my best to present his concepts as he himself might have done, with the fluency he later achieved in English. And I’ve tried to convey some of the inspiration that we, who heard him, invariably felt when he spoke.
I encountered more difficulties with this project, however, than I’d expected. I’ve always been comfortable with editing his words, so rich with wisdom. Indeed, they have become my whole way of life. I found it a challenge, however, to separate his ideas from interpolations added by Dhirananda.
Eventually I found it necessary to go through the text with a view not only to improving its style, but to clarifying its concepts. I’ve replaced whatever lack of clarity I found in Dhirananda’s version with Yogananda’s actual teachings as I understand them from years of study and experience, and from my numerous conversations with him.
It might help the reader if I explained further why Laurie would have even considered dropping the publication of this book. The sad truth is, Dhirananda, some years after arriving in America, betrayed his guru. Ambition, and consequent envy, are unfortunately not unheard of among the disciples of great masters. (Consider Judas Iscariot’s historic betrayal of Jesus Christ.) When a disciple gives precedence to his ego over his discipleship, he sometimes attacks his guru as if saying, “All that I’ve gained has been by my efforts. I alone, therefore, deserve all the credit.” The enlightened teacher meanwhile, himself free from all ego-prompted desires, views ingratitude even in its extremest form of treachery as a spiritual disease, which he must eventually cure in his erring disciples.
Dhirananda went so far as to try to encompass Yogananda’s financial ruin. That our Guru continued to keep this book in print is, to my mind, an example of the extraordinary magnanimity I always beheld in him.
It has been my utter joy to work on this book — renamed now, God Is for Everyone. The concepts it expresses deserve the best possible treatment. I prayed constantly that my Guru guide my thoughts during the months I labored on this project. Now that it is finished, I pray deeply that my humble efforts have pleased him.
With heartfelt sincerity,
J. Donald Walters (Swami Kriyananda)
Ananda Village, Nevada City, California