Was It Yogananda’s Wish to Sell His Teachings to the Public?


Was it Yogananda’s intention or wish to sell his books and meditation techniques to the public?

—Kate, United States of America


Dear Kate,

In his life story, Autobiography of a Yogi, Paramhansa Yogananda describes how his guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar revealed to him that he, Yogananda, was being prepared and trained to go to the West to share the liberating technique of Kriya Yoga and to demonstrate the essential unity between the original teachings of Krishna (yoga) and Jesus Christ.

When he arrived in America, Yogananda was to quickly discover that, unlike Indian culture, he would have to support his followers not the other way around! (In traditional India, a spiritual teacher and/or guru (one with high spiritual realization) once recognized by others receives spontaneously the material support needed to honor that role. (An ashram may be constructed; a temple; a meditation hall; lodging for visitors or students, etc.). Thus to establish his work in America and to be able to train those who came to him (and wanted to stay for both training and to serve) he had to find the means to have an ashram etc. The purchase of Mt. Washington in Los Angeles is a fascinating story of faith tested and rewarded with divine support.

Yogananda also quickly learned that in our culture, one’s value or the value of one’s service or product was measured by monetary means. Even today, “free” spiritual teachings are looked upon with a certain disfavor or wariness. We find in our center that we have to charge a modest fee for classes lest they be devalued in the eyes of the public.

In India, one who comes to a spiritual teacher (probably any teacher, I would suspect) must first prove his worthiness and second must give to the teacher “dakshina” (payment). Lahiri Mahasaya charged some amount of rupees for kriya — not because he needed it, but because the student/disciple needed to tangibly demonstrate his commitment and the value he places upon the training received.

But, nonetheless, America is a large country and interest in his teachings was overwhelming. Crisscrossing America, thousands would attend his nightly lectures. To serve these souls, he had to turn to the printing press (just as the internet is now used in place of brick and mortar). Without a substantial endowment, he had to charge a fee for his lessons. An organization was required to publish, advertise, and disseminate his writings. During the 1930’s Depression, the disciples grew tomatoes and other vegetables at Mt. Washington in order to have food to eat. Yogananda was under constant pressure to raise funds for his growing family and for his high level of service and teaching. In time, Divine Mother sent to him one particular disciple, James J. Lynn who, as the years went by, increasingly was the one who funded the organization but for decades it was day-to-day survival.

In short, however, yes: it is in the rightness and fitness of things that Yogananda charged for his classes and his writings.

On another note, it is distinctly and truly his “mission” to bring these teachings to the public and not just to direct disciples in person. He stated this repeatedly during his life and in his autobiography.

It is true that this was NOT Lahiri Mahasaya’s particular role, though in time he allowed Panchanon Battacharya to establish an organization for the dissemination of his teachings. Swami Sri Yukteswar was extremely active in teaching and writing though we are only generally aware of his one book, The Holy Science. Babaji himself confirmed to Yogananda upon the eve of Yogananda’s departure to America that he, Yogananda, was the one Babaji sent to Sri Yukteswar for training in order to go to the West. It was for this purpose that Babaji asked Sri Yukteswar to write the Holy Science (showing the underlying unity between Christianity and Sanaatan Dharma, the original name of Hinduisim). Okay?

Blessings to you!

Nayaswami Hriman
Seattle WA USA