I have finished reading the new biography of Paramhansa Yogananda, written by one of the Guruji’s most cherished disciples, Swami Kriyananda. I am sure that Kriyananda’s devotion to his guru is pure and true. And I don’t feel that he exaggerates the relationship he had with Yoganandaji. But there were numerous segments of the book where Kriyananda went into long digressions on the spiritual shortcomings of other devotees who were a part of Self-Realization Fellowship during the period that the author was part of the organization. I will not go into why Kriyananda left as I am uncertain about what the truth is. But that is just the point. Though the material in the book related to Yogananda’s teachings are priceless to me, I felt like other parts of the book were opportunities to air out old feuds. Clearly the people he disparages in the book are the very people that were involved in his departure from SRF, and he has a valid gripe with them. But he criticizes other members of SRF for not being enlightened and all the while he is demonstrating his dangerous ego-consciousness himself. He laments toward the end that all spiritual movements’ original message eventually gets distorted or watered down, but what he seems not to understand that this type of book, while passing along the key points of Yogananda’s mission, does that very thing he lamented about. He demotes the Self-Realization Fellowship to a mere melodrama.
Even so, I would recommend this book, because Kriyananda clearly loves Yogananda and Yogananda loved Kriyananda, and the episodes in Yogananda’s life that the book details are each little life lessons that one can take in a bit at a time, and carry with you throughout your day. Yogananda’s life is Scripture. His deeds are lessons in dharma. Some of Kriyananda’s digressions are there for a reason because they are his way of sharing insights he learned from his time as a disciple of the Yogavatar. They are meditations on a life beyond mere words. I just felt disturbed when ever the subject left Yogananda’s message altogether and drifted into the realm of the back room drama of Self-Realization Fellowship. And one segment, a couple of pages worth, seemed like an advertisement for Kriyananda’s spin-off organization “Ananda.” In the end, organizations don’t matter. It’s the message of Yogananda that is the most important thing, and this book loses some of its spiritual depth in the presence of these diversions.