Why has the travel diary of Mr. C. Richard Wright, the personal secretary of Paramhansa Yogananda, never been published?
—Sukhmandeep Singh, India
Dear Sukhmandeep Singh,
This is a good question. When Mr. Wright (1911-2002) accompanied Yogananda to India in 1935/36, he kept what Yogananda described in his Autobiography of a Yogi as a “sparkling travel diary,” praising Mr. Wright for his “vivid gift of description.”
How highly Yogananda thought of Mr. Wrights travel diary can also be seen by the amount of material which he included in his Autobiography, which are the following incidents:
– The meeting with his Master, Sri Yukteswar
– Their visit to the sadhus at the Kumbha Mela
– Their visit to Mysore
– Their visit to Giri Bala
When visiting Mahatma Gandhi, Mr. Wright’s travel diary received a unique blessing. We read in the Autobiography of a Yogi:
“Observing Mr. Wright’s travel diary, Mr. Desai opened a page and wrote on it a list of Satyagraha vows taken by all the Mahatma’s strict followers (satyagrahis): ‘Nonviolence; Truth; Non-Stealing; Celibacy; Non-Possession; Body-Labor; Control of the Palate; Fearlessness; Equal Respect for all Religions; Swadeshi (use of home manufactures); Freedom from Untouchability. These eleven should be observed as vows in a spirit of humility.’ (Gandhi himself signed this page on the following day, giving the date also – August 27, 1935.)”
So Mr. Wright’s precious travel diary even contains Gandhi’s personal signature.
Of course his travel diary must contain many more interesting stories, facts, and observations. Swami Kriyananda writes for example in his book, The New Path: “In 1935 Master visited Stonehenge in England. To his secretary, Richard Wright (Daya Mata’s brother), he remarked quietly, ‘I lived here myself thirty-five hundred years ago.’”
Richard Wright also took many photos, for example the one we know of of Giri Bala.
And more! In his Autobiography Yogananda says: “Please, Ananda Moyi Ma,’ I said, ‘come with me to the garden. Mr. Wright will take some pictures.’”
In fact there is a lovely picture of Ananda Moyi Ma leaning on Yogananda’s shoulder, thanks to Richard Wright.
He also took videos! Yogananda writes in his Autobiography: “Mr. Wright also took moving pictures of Sri Yukteswar during his last Winter Solstice Festival in Serampore.” And: “Meekly [Giri Bala] approached and silently assented to our snapping a number of pictures with our ‘still’ and ‘movie’ cameras.”
In other words, apart from the videos which SRF has published, various other unpublished films exist, for example of Giri Bala and of the Serampore Festival.
In short: some parts of Mr. Wright’s extensive travel diary, photos, and videos have been published by SRF, while others haven’t. Why? Their choice, it seems, is to publish only the very best material, in order to shed a uniformly bright light on Yogananda. Other material, which might not be quite as brilliant, has been safely stored away. Hopefully future generations of SRF leaders will share more of it.
As a sidelight: Richard Wright was the brother of Daya Mata and Ananda Mata, and the son of Shyama Mata: all three were nuns at Mount Washington, living with Yogananda. His younger brother Dale lived there too. When Yogananda incorporated SRF as a Church in 1935, he entrusted Richard with a key position, more important even than that of Daya Mata. The directors of the Church were: Yogananda (president); Gyanamata (Vice-president); Richard Wright (Secretary); Durga Mata (Treasurer); Karla Schramm.
It therefore seems that Richard Wright would have played a central role in SRF after Yogananda’s passing, had he stayed. In a personal letter to Richard Wright, Yogananda wrote: “So happy, at last I found a little band of youngsters — your family — who have given me more happiness and confidence than anyone else in being the foundation of this work for which I have bled for years and sacrificed everything. I hope you realize how much I think of you all; and while I am living, and more when my lips will be silent forever, you will have a chance to prove that you will live and die for this great work. That alone can be the best token of you and your sisters’ loyalty. You all must be one with me.”
But Swami Kriyananda recounts in his book The New Path how Richard unfortunately erred, leaving Yogananda “to buy a wedding ring.” It wasn’t a happy decision, as Yogananda commented. This happened in January 1941, after eight years (he joined in late 1932) of being a close assistant of Yogananda. At times they even slept in the same room when touring, as Yogananda tells in one of his discourses.
Whatever the case, we can only be grateful for what Mr. Wright has done with his pen, his photo camera, and videocamera. It is his special gift to us all. Hopefully the future will reveal more of his precious gems.