God in Organizations: God in Our Souls
Later that same year, 1961, Dayama returned to India with Mrinalini Mata and Ananda Mata, both of them members of the SRF board of directors. (Kriyananda had already returned a year earlier after an absence in America of seven months.) Dayama was very happy to see me, and I too was overjoyed. At the same time, I was anxious to discuss with her a certain problem we were encountering in our YSS work in India.
Many Indian saints through the centuries, including not a few of those mentioned in this book, have spoken a little disparagingly of spiritual organizations. Their disaffection is understandable. For one thing, as saints I have known have said repeatedly, meditation is the right and true way to know God. Meditation, however, is also a personal and private practice. It cannot be improved by institutional control.
Anandamoyee Ma, about whom I have written repeatedly in these pages, never associated herself mentally with the organization that her disciples had lovingly built in her name. Even when disciples came to consult her about some article that had appeared in their magazine, she replied, “It is your magazine!”
Yet much good also has been done by spiritual organizations. For example, they provide Satsanga (good company), which all the scriptures highly recommend. They can assist in spreading the spiritual teachings. And they offer to those who want to live spiritually dedicated lives a means also of serving God. The negative aspects of organizations lie not so much in their outer form as in the focus they provide for various human weaknesses — frailties that are already present in the human heart, but that sometimes gain strength in group settings.
Organizations, moreover, are not an abstraction: They consist of people. Although their purpose is to help those people, the people themselves often misuse them in order to increase, rather than eliminate, their own ego-bondage. Thus, difficulties arise, and, like ripples spreading outward on a lake when a stone has been flung into it, move outward and affect everyone concerned. Thus, organizations sometimes end up becoming mere free-for-alls of competing egos!
This situation is all the more insidious because the people concerned usually disclaim any semblance of desiring power, while making an outward show of humility.
Paramhansa Yogananda accomplished a wonderful thing in founding SRF/YSS. Without it, the message of Kriya would not have been heard in the West, except possibly as a whisper. He himself was sadly aware, however, of the dangers involved in organizational work and throughout his life spoke wistfully of the simple life in the ashrams of India. He was obedient to the will of God, however, and God and his own line of gurus had told him to create an institution in America. Perhaps his very disinclination for the role of organizer helped to insure that his organization would blend the best of Western and Indian values. His fears, however, as well as his hopes have been amply realized over the years. Fortunately, because his mission was divinely ordained, the fulfillment of his hopes has greatly outweighed what the years have brought in justification for his fears.
An important question remains: Are spiritual organizations, of the Western type at least, truly beneficial for India? Swami Vivekananda thought so, but that swami’s emphasis was on India’s social upliftment, which was greatly needed after centuries of foreign rule — and misrule! Vivekananda was seeking a corrective for India’s present condition; it was not his purpose to replace our ancient spiritual traditions. For social upliftment, moreover, Western-style organization offers indeed an excellent model to follow.
Yet India’s spiritual strength has always largely been due to the fact that its genius is for personal spiritual growth, not for the efficiency of a well-run institution. Indeed, when it comes to organizing, India may well be described as the land of dis unity. What has always been emphasized in this country is inner soul-development. This emphasis, Swami Kriyananda has interestingly remarked, is evident in the emphasis in Indian music on melody, rather than harmony, and the inability Indian musicians have displayed so far to match the subtleties of Western harmony.(1)
An appreciation for harmony, Kriyananda says, develops when people’s thinking goes toward group activities. For group thinking to lead toward outward progress, harmony in musical expression can help to generate spiritual attitudes. On the other hand, where pleasing harmony is lacking in chord progressions, cacophony and discord result not only in the music, but in those people who expose themselves to the music. India, though it lacks the “genius” for cooperative effort (and therefore for musical harmony), has produced an extraordinary number of individual spiritual geniuses. Moreover, he says, it is individual aspiration that provides the soil in which true genius flowers.
The West has tried to ensure the purity of its spiritual teachings by organizing and controlling them. In India, however, the most refined essence of spiritual truth has been preserved. India, far more than Western civilization, has ever recognized that it is the life in a plant which produces the plant, not the plant which brings life into existence. These reflections of Kriyananda’s may give a clue as to India’s talent for spiritual genius, but lack of talent for spiritual organization.
It may be that our Master’s work was not meant to develop in India, at least as a Western-style organization. His life mission lay in the West. Had it been in India, perhaps he would have approached it very differently — as, in fact, his paramguru Lahiri Mahasaya did, who asked that Kriya Yoga be spread with as little emphasis on organization as possible. On the other hand, it may be that another kind of spiritual organization altogether is destined for India’s future, and that no institution would develop such as Westerners understand the word, with its corporation presidents, vice presidents, secretaries, boards of directors, and offices filled with efficient workers.
At any rate, Dayama once asked Master how his work should be developed in India. His reply to her was, “They will organize themselves.”
YSS’s history in India to date forces the question: “Has the Western model, even if workable in America, proved helpful in India?” The only possible answer is, “Not yet, at any rate.”
Dayama found in Binay Dubey a “super-organization man” who fitted her own experience and understanding of organizations. It was natural that she should pin her hopes on him for the development of Master’s work in India. Master had said to her, regarding the work in India, “They will organize themselves.” Well, she must have thought, here was an Indian who could organize everything according to her own understanding of the way organizations needed to be run. This could not but strike her as an ideal way to follow her own guru’s instructions. Now, the Indian work could be organized by an Indian, as Master had said, and at the same time follow the lines that she herself knew and could relate to.
Binayendra Nath Dubey was already the founder-director of Niramoy, a famous hospital in West Bengal. His organizational talents were considerable. Moreover, Dubey expressed the fullest confidence in those methods, and also in himself as a leader within that system. He was, at heart, a bureaucrat.
Swami Virajananda, a leading and life-long disciple of Anandamoyee Ma, once said to Swami Kriyananda, “At first, Dubey impressed me. Gradually, however, I’ve discovered that his motives are political, not spiritual. Since that time, I have kept away from him.” Dubey, however, was able by his Westernized skills at organization to win Dayama’s confidence.
It is unseemly to speak ill of the dead. Nevertheless, the fact must be stated that Dubey cannot have been destined for the responsibility Dayama placed on his shoulders, for he did not live to implement any of it. He visited America, where she made him a swami and gave him full authority to develop YSS according to the methods he championed. Very soon, however, after his return to India from the United States he developed cancer and not long afterward died. One naturally asks, Could his death possibly have been a divine sign that Dayama was mistaken in placing confidence in him? In fact, his death ended for the time being all of Dayama’s hopes for Master’s Indian work to be developed from America.
Paramhansa Yogananda knew that the true genius of India is different from America’s. Each of these countries has something important to give to the other. The genius of India, particularly, lies in its dedication to inner spiritual development; of America, in outer cooperation. If a spiritual organization is ever to succeed in India, it cannot but be in an inward, not an outward, direction.
India will, I believe, concentrate on perfecting above all the inner relationship of devotee and guru. It will shrink back, as if from a cobra, at any suggestion of giving spiritual obedience to some mere official of an institution.
It is interesting, in this context, to note the very first words in Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi. “The characteristic features of Indian culture,” he wrote, “have long been a search for ultimate verities and the concomitant disciple-guru relationship.”
It has been stated truly by wise men and women of India that this country has fallen, of recent times, too much under the sway of “gurudom.” This development is probably due to the shock of foreign, and particularly of modern, influences. At the present time, too many reputed “gurus,” themselves insufficiently enlightened, have been swayed by the quest for social and political upliftment in the name of serving God, but not by the hope of inspiring people to commune more deeply with Him. This phenomenon cannot but be temporary, however. The very stones of India are permeated with a different vibration. Time surely will bring a change. The need of the devotee, however, for a true guru will never change.
I include these reflections here, not with the purpose of ending my book on a note of negative speculation, but only as a loving caution to those who, in future, recognize the advantages of spiritual organizations, but are anxious to avoid their disadvantages. From the standpoint of Master’s work in India, Dayama’s confidence in Dubey was — and this conclusion can hardly be avoided — unfortunate.
Dubey used his power to control people. Thus, he made many lives — my own included — miserable. I am sad for what has happened to a great and noble work, which might have brought — and which, with God’s grace, could still bring — inspiration and guidance to millions, had its focus only been on love, rather than on power and on controlling others.
Anyone who wants to found an organization must keep firmly in mind that, far more important than any outward position, is the spirit of those who serve in that position. Efficiency is a minor matter compared to the spirit of love. Those doing spiritual service should love God first; then love Him in others. Nor can any organization replace the need for an enlightened guru, or at any rate a spiritually advanced teacher whose vision of truth inspires others deeply.
Dubey pretended faithfulness to the Guru. He was also, in his way, devoted to Dayama. Yet it was always devotion and loyalty according to his own understanding and definition, which he filtered through his own worldly institutionalism. He was one of those people who, by their very exuberance, get others to nod in tentative agreement with them, then draw from him professions of love and loyalty for their astuteness. Few people have the common sense to resist any snare set with such a bait, and Dubey often said of Americans that they are like “babes in the woods” — no match for the subtle cunning of the Indian mind. What this means of course is that people like Dubey themselves look on life as a contest.
Dubey had been born a zemindar (landowner). His attitudes strongly reflected his upbringing. It was basic to his personality to be forceful, authoritarian, and inconsiderate of others except where astute policy dictated kindness. He treated lightly such worldly usages as drinking spiritous liquors — a habit strictly forbidden to aspiring yogis. Lacking attunement with the Guru, which Yogananda is still to all who follow him, and feeling a surge of energy that came as a result of controlling others, he quickly lost the friendship and respect of all of us, an esteem which, at first, we naturally gave him.
Dayama listened to my criticisms of his actions on her return to India in 1961. It was soon evident, however, that her mind was made up. She placed Dubey on the Board of Directors of SRF/YSS, and immediately thereafter we Indians were told that we had to obey him in everything. It confused me, I confess, to see a man in charge of our organization who, not only in my opinion but in that of all those I knew, was so obviously worldly, not spiritual. Dubey’s direction included managing the lives and the spiritual service of us renunciates. Our personal interest was the attainment of God-realization; we were not interested in self-aggrandizement. To him, however, we were no better than “employees” — pawns on a chessboard.
I have asked myself many times since then, Might it be that I was mistaken? Time, thus far, has not endorsed that doubt. In all fairness, however, I must also admit that forty years is a short time in the history of a work that is destined for the ages. Indeed, I should like to be wrong, for I believe in Master’s mission, and in Dayama’s faithfulness to Master as his disciple.
Needless to say, I have touched here only lightly on the events that actually occurred. Those events were painful to me. To you, the reader, they might appear merely interesting. Or — and this is my real concern — you might be discouraged by them, rather than take them as the cautionary lesson I have tried to convey.
There are many devotees, however, who have been deeply hurt. My hope is that, in writing about these things, I might turn that hurt to good effect by encouraging people’s faith in spiritual, rather than in institutional, ways of seeking God. For in the case of YSS, the teachings themselves are wonderful. They need only to be offered in a way that is natural to India: whether within or outside of institutions, but always with love first for God, and for all of God’s children.
For the Indian mind is subtle, yes, but in true devotees it is never so in the cunning way that Dubey described except, which is what happens, when cunning is directed toward self-aggrandizement. With the addition of ego-motivation, subtlety becomes its own undoing. In essence, however, the subtle perceptions for which the Indian mind is so notably gifted reveal the Divine Hand in everything, and open the heart in childlike wonder to the Divine Presence everywhere. Once this understanding flowers in the mind, the Kriya Yoga teachings will be able to bring hope and inspiration to millions, whether within or outside of any institution.
Kriyananda has, as part of his service to Master, composed some 400 pieces of music, and has achieved some renown in this field. Hence his interest in comparing Indian and Western music.
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