Category Archives: R. Hinduism and the West

The Divine Life Society

THE DIVINE LIFE SOCIETY

According to its mission statement, the Divine Life Society, founded in in 1936 by Swami Sri Sivananda, caters to the cultural and spiritual needs of all people irrespective of class, credo, nationality, or gender (Chidananda et al 15). The monastic and lay movement of Sivanada’s teachings are known throughout India and in many parts of the world (Miller 342). Seeking to achieve the noble mission of its founder, the Society strives to generate a spiritual transformation in humankind, to eradicate the animalistic behaviours of the human race and unfold the Divinity within each atman (inner-soul, or self) to perfection (Chidananda et al 30). The objectives of the Divine Life Society are accomplished through the publication of books, pamphlets and magazines which convey Sivananda’s beliefs concerning yoga (physical, mental, and spiritual discipline originating in ancient India) and Vedanta (ancient religious philosophy, translated directly as ‘the goal of knowledge’), the concept of universal religion and spiritual philosophy, and ancient medicinal practices (Chidananda et al 30). The Society also develops training centres for the practice of yoga and the revival of spiritualism and true culture (Chidananda et al 30). The Divine Life Society maintains the central objective of the dissemination of spiritual knowledge to all people of the world (Eilers and Eilers).

Sivananda Ashram, the Headquarters of the Divine Life Society, is located in Shivanandanagar, on the right back of the river Ganga. The ashram is three kilometres outside of Rishikesh town, twenty-four kilometres from the great pilgrimage centre of Haridwar, and serves as the ideal retreat for spiritual rejuvenation, wherein one may renew and refresh his or her Self physically, mentally, morally, and spiritually. At the ashram, a group of renunciates (Sannyasins) and spiritual practitioners (Sadhakas) strive to work with dedication to the service of all humanity, learning to practice the Yoga of Synthesis and to actively operate as centres of ideal spirituality (Chidananda et al 30). Visitors to the ashram are received at any time, although those intending a prolonged visit are obliged to make a written request and receive permission from the General Secretary of the Divine Life Society (Chidananda et al 31).

Membership with the Divine Life Society is open to all people of the world. A devotee must uphold the ideals of truth, non-violence, purity of atman and spiritualism (Chidananda et al 32). The Society is non-sectarian and embodies principles of all world religions and ways of spiritual life. Within the Society, there is no distinction between or disruption of varying traditions and religious affiliations (Chidananda et al 32). Ideally, the Divine Life Society endeavours to impart the mystery of spiritual action within the knowledge of the true Self and the effacement and transcendence of human ego; the primary teaching of Sivananda is that each soul maintains the potential to be divine and that the goal of every human being is to strive for the manifestation of Divinity within by “being good and doing good” (Chidananda et al 32).

The Divine Life Society aims to popularize the values of health, culture, and physical fitness as taught and established by Sri Swami Sivananda, through the daily practices of yoga asanas (postures) and surya-namaskara (sun salutation). The focus on health-building has set the Divine Life Society apart from most institutions devoted to spiritualism. From its inception, the Society has focused on the world-wide yoga practice of founder Sivananda, one of the earliest movements in the modern direction of yogic practice embedded in the heart of achieving Divinity. The spiritual teachers of The Divine Life Society have been welcomed internationally as cultural and spiritual ambassadors, whose dedication to service and authenticity in the field of yoga has enticed followers throughout the world. (Chidananda et al 32). Sri Swami Sivananda composed several texts on yoga, which have been translated into various international languages and propagate the dissemination of one of the most precious aspects of Indian spiritual heritage (Chidananda et al 33) [Sri Swami Sivananda composed hundreds of books on the practice of yoga and its relation to spirituality, culture, and religion. The most popular among these books is a collection of volumes named The Science of Yoga].

According to Sri Swami Sivananda and the Divine Life Society, daily meditation sessions are vital to the reconstruction of human spirituality (Chidananda et al 25). They permit the mind and soul of an individual to work toward the ultimate goal of Divinity within the atman (Chidananda et al 37). In the story of his attainment of spirituality and the Divine Life, Sivananda denied himself all food, company, and talk, dove deeper into Samadhi (superconscious state), wherein he remained behind closed doors for several days without relaxation from his devotion to meditation (The Divine Life Society 8). He renounced all contact with the outside world and stripped away all elements of duality in severe meditation (Miller 360). This piety resulted in his merging with the Divine, freed from all limitations and chains of materialistic life (The Divine Life Society 8). Dedication to meditation is important to Sivananda, who throughout his life meditated for eight to sixteen hours per day with great commitment (The Divine Life Society 10). The ideal of meditation is to aid the human mind in concentrating its energy, turning it within itself, and focusing it upon the Divinity that resides within the atman. It is through deep and devoted meditation that the human mind may realize the truth of Divinity: that he is and always has been God Himself, in the reality of the world (Chidananda et al 18).

In his teachings, Sivananda maintains that meditation and yoga practice, and devotion to the Divine Life may lead an individual to the discovery of true religion. His stress is upon the unity of all religions (The Divine Life Society 12). According to Sivananda, religion is the practical aspect of philosophy while philosophy acts as the rational aspect present in religious practice (Sivananda 315). His Divine Life establishes that religion is not merely speaking or displaying the beliefs of the individual, but living by the truths expounded by those beliefs. The religious affiliation one follows, the prophet one adores, the language or nation of the individual, or age and gender are not considered a part of true religion. With devotion to tapas (any form of self-control), one may be considered religious (Chidananda et al 2). Since real religion is deemed to be the religion of one’s heart, purification of the heart is viewed as the primary goal of seekers of the Divine Life. To discover the basis of true religion, one should strive to live a life of truth, love, and purity; demonstrating control over dishonourable or immoral behaviours, conquering and controlling the mind, and serving all of humanity in goodwill and fellowship (Chidananda et al 3). The discovery of true religion occurs within the heart.

Sri Swami Sivananda teaches his students that living in spiritual attainment is the highest goal of human life. Spiritual living constitutes the continual eradication of the animalistic nature within the human mind and heart, refining and purifying the education of the human nature so that consciousness begins a vertical movement toward the Divine (Eilers and Eilers). Considering that spiritual life is the elimination of the animalistic tendencies and awakening of the Divine, all spiritual practices such as brahmacharya (celibacy) become natural aspects of the achievement of true Divine Life. If the human heart and mind are consumed with the realization of pleasure and sense satisfaction, it is difficult to attain true Divinity within (Eilers and Eilers). Sivananda declares that spiritual realization must be achieved with committed and genuine prayer (sadhana), a vital endeavour for all of humankind. Through sadhana, the human mind achieves a realm above the baser instincts of animals and maintains the power of understanding and reasoning, which aids in distinguishing between such dichotomies as good and bad, true and false, right and wrong (Chidananda et al 10). In the eyes of the Divine Life Society members, Swami Sri Sivananda is a guru who envisions all of humanity as one in the Vedantic sense of unity and spiritual attainment (Miller 354). Sivananda teaches that through prayer and the striving for this realization, one may achieve Divinity within the soul. Spirituality transcends the worship of deities within temples, ritual performances, codes of behaviour and conduct, and the practices of any regular cult, creed, or religion. It is, rather, the comprehension of true values by which unity may be recognized within the self, the atman (Chidananda et al 29)

The Divine Life Society advances these spiritual teachings of Sivananda among its students and members by conducting classes on yoga, Vedanta and the traditions of Indian Culture including lessons in the Sanskrit language, music, and physical culture (Chidananda et al 34). The Society has developed intense training camps for its devotees in which participants are educated on yoga asanas, pranayama (extension of the breath), and meditation (Chidananda et al 35). Courses in yoga are offered throughout India, outside the ashram, and in other institutions and organizations, and remain inspirational to students, members, officials, and the general population. The Society carries the principles of Sivananda’s yoga through its instructors as they travel across the nation to conduct courses and maintain the practice of yoga among the people. The Divine Life Conferences, held regularly in varying locations throughout India, have become effective means of summoning the moral and cultural forces of people and gathering them for the sole purpose of achieving both individual and social harmony through meditation and seeking after The Divine (Chidananda et al 36).

The Society endeavours to live by Sivananda’s perpetual philosophy that “goodness is the face of Godliness” (Chidananda et al 3), and therefore induces the unity of all religions and goodwill among communities, promoting harmony and peaceful relationships throughout Indian society (Chidananda et al 32). At the ashram, no being that arrives in distress is turned away without aid; no hungry person is refused a meal; no homeless individual is denied shelter for at least one night (Chidananda 34). To endorse charity and goodwill among humankind, The Divine Life Society has created several sects within the institution which strive to serve Indian society and aid the poor, the derelict, the sick, and those lacking in spiritual practice. The founding of the humanitarian Social Welfare Project has assisted in the development of charitable sections within The Society (Chidananda 33). The Society provides assistance to government programs and national funds, such as the Small Savings Fund, the National Savings Certificates, Defence Bonds, and other collection drives such as relief funds for natural disasters, famine, and health epidemics (Chidananda et al 34).

As taught by Sivananda, education is a vital part of personal development and a means of attaining Divinity within the individual.  He propounds that education and culture are necessary elements to allow one to sufficiently grasp his or her position in the world, to allow the ideal and the real to live in close proximity within consciousness (Chidananda et al 4). Education of the jiva (empirical self) allows the human mind to recognize the notion of the self in reality and realize that although the self exists within the world, it is not actually of this world. It is this acknowledgement that allows the human mind to transcend consciousness and ultimately achieve unity with the Divine through devout prayer, meditation, and yoga practices (Chidananda 10). Education allows the individual to develop personality, knowledge of the physical world, an adjustment of the self within society, and a realization of true and permanent values (Chidananda et al 11).

Trained as a doctor prior to his induction into the Sankarachya order, Sri Swami Sivananda consistently extolled the benefits of providing medical assistance to the poor and sick of India. The Divine Life Society offers free medical services year-round through the hospital at the ashram, including Eye Camps for free surgical and medical treatment of the public, annual Women and Children’s Medical Treatment Camps, First Aid Training Courses, and Child and Maternity Welfare Camps (Chidananda et al 33). To provide further medical relief to the public, the Society also runs three specific sections within the ashram hospital: the Allopathic Section, the Ayurvedic Section, and the Leprosy Relief Section (Chidananda et al 35). The Allopathic Section is equipped with a clinical laboratory, x-ray machine, physiotherapy facilities, and twenty hospital beds. The hospital at the ashram treats more than 30,000 patients annually. The Ayurvedic Section offers care according to the science of Ayurveda (a medicinal practice native to India), in keeping with its injunctions. The medicines prepared in the Ayurvedic Section are manufactured from pure Himalayan herbs and distributed free of charge from the ashram dispensary to patients seeking treatment (Chidananda et al 35). The Leprosy Relief Section, through its work, is regarded as indicative of the love and charity extended by the Divine Life Society. Two hundred or more leprosy patients are rehabilitated and cared for at the ashram (Chidananda et al 37). Just as with membership within the Divine Life Society, all services of the ashram hospital are free to patients irrespective of caste, race, or wealth.

The Yoga-Vedanta Forest Academy of The Divine Life Society trains those who seek greater knowledge of Indian culture and the practice of yoga as the discipline by which personal integration and human welfare may be maintained. The Forest Academy prints cultural and spiritual books, journals, and other literature of the Society, disseminating spiritual and cultural knowledge to the masses, which are then distributed by the Free Literature Section (Chidananda et al 36). The intentions of the printing and publication sections of the Divine Life Society are to carry out the educational programme of the Society and its teachings, and to propagate knowledge of Divinity and the importance of spirituality within each individual soul by contacting man through literary discourse on various topics: metaphysics, ethics, religion, mysticism, psychology, parables, stories, catechism, yoga, prayer, and ritual (Chidananda et al 13).

Within the ashram, there are several additional distinct sections that assist in the charitable efforts of the Divine Life Society. The Annapurna Annakshetra, the common kitchen of the ashram, feeds its 250 permanent residents, sannyasins and sadhakas, as well as visiting sadhakas and varying numbers of other guests and pilgrims to Rishikesh (Chidananda et al 36). The Guest House fulfils the needs of those who visit the ashram for spiritual guidance and training in the physical practice of yoga. Temples of Worship accommodate prayer services for world peace, conduct worship and the recitation of the Divine Name throughout the twenty-four hours of every day. The Library holds hundreds of volumes of the most precious and important books in yoga philosophy and practice, and Indian culture. The Correspondence Section of the ashram replies to the innumerable queries and requests from people throughout the world (Chidananda et al 36). The Social Service Wing of the ashram organizes the services of medical and financial aid to the poor and needy, relief works of India, and abundant gestures of charity by the Divine Life Society to ease the sufferings of all people from poverty, disease, and ignorance of spiritual realization (Chidananda et al 37).

The Divine Life Society continues to service the citizens of India and the world through the dissemination of its literature and propagation of the routes to achieving spiritual life and unity of the atman with Divinity. The Society maintains that the human is at once a physical embodiment, mental phenomenon, and spiritual entity which strives to attain Divinity and liberation from the material and animalistic world and achieve divine love based on proper understanding of the world (Chidananda et al 14). Divine Life is a system of religious life which is beneficial and suitable to all people, from all walks of life. It is practiced by the office-goer and the recluse alike, in all stages and phases of life (Chidananda et al 3). The mission of humankind is to realize that all people are the immortal Spirit, Divinity, in mortal form. The mind and intellect of the human being function in light of the Divine Spark dwelling within each individual (Chidananda 17). [For a listing of characteristics defining the Divine Life as taught by Sri Swami Sivananda, see Swami Sivananda and the Divine Life Society, pp. 16 – 19]. Since its inception, the Divine Life Society has endeavoured to maintain itself as a physical location for training of suitable devotees striving for the acquisition of higher knowledge of human life (Chidananda et al 30). The fundamental aims and objects of The Divine Life Society remain purely spiritual and cultural, non-sectarian, universally applicable, and flawlessly tolerant (Chidananda et al 37).

REFERENCES AND FURTHER RECOMMENDED READING

Chidananda, Krishnananda, Sivananda, Venkatesananda (2000) Swami Sivananda and The Divine Life Society. Shivanandanagar: The Divine Life Society. E-Book.

Eilers, Bill and Eilers, Susan (1998) “The Divine Life: An Interview with Swami Chidananda”. In Enlightenment Magazine. Cohen, Andrew (ed.). EnlightenNext, Inc.

Miller, David (1997) “The Spiritual Descent of the Divine: The Life Story of Swami Sivananda”. In Hindu Spirituality Volume II. Sundararajan and Mukerji (ed.). Delhi: The Crossroad Publishing Company. Print.

Sivananda, Swami (1981) Science of Yoga. Shivanandanagar: The Divine Life Society. Print.

The Divine Life Society (2000) Swami Sivananda: A Modern Sage. Shivanandanagar: The Divine Life Society. E-Book.

Related Topics for Further Investigation

Atman

Yoga

Vedanta

Sivananda Ashram

Sri Swami Sivananda

Shivanandanagar

Rishikesh

Haridwar

Yoga of Synthesis

Samadhi

Tapas

Sadhana

Sankarachya Order

Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic

www.enlightennext.org/magazine/

www.dlshq.org

www.swami-krishnananda.org

www.yrf.org

www.vedanta.org

Article written by Krista Conrad (Spring 2012), who is solely responsible for its content.

Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (Osho)

Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh was born Chandra Mohan on December 11 1931 in Kuchwada, a village in the province of Madhya Pradesh (Gordon 21). He was the eldest of eleven children, and as a result of the death of his parents, he was raised by his grandparents (Urban 171). During his youth, Rajneesh suffered from both smallpox and asthma, which nearly resulted in his death (Gordon 22). When Rajneesh was five, his younger sister died (Gordon 22). This affected Rajneesh greatly causing him to refuse to eat as well as dress as a Jain monk and carry a begging bowl (Gordon 22). Rajneesh was described as a spoiled child by some, and as gifted by others (Gordon 22). Rajneesh’s grandfather slowly died of a stroke when Rajneesh was seven (Gordon 22). As a result of his grandfather’s death, Rajneesh attempted to protect himself from being hurt again by a death by becoming distant from others (Gordon 22). Rajneesh described his grandfather’s death as “the death to all attachments” (Gordon 22). During his teen years, Rajneesh’s girlfriend Sashi died, which affected him greatly (Gordon 23). Rajneesh would mock religion even though he searched through Christian, Buddhist, and Jain scriptures (Gordon 23). When he was nineteen years old, Rajneesh went to college in Jabalpur (Gordon 24). While at college he would frequently challenge his professors and began to, according to himself, run sixteen miles day and would lay on the floor for days at a time (Gordon 24). This resulted in Rajneesh being taken to an Ayurvedic physician known as a Vaidiya, who believed that his symptoms were resultant of “divine intoxication” (Gordon 24). Rajneesh suffered from depression and anorexia while he was at college and once attempted suicide (Urban 171). While in university, it was proclaimed by Rajneesh that on March 21, 1953 that he became enlightened (Gordon 24).

Rajneesh received his M.A. in philosophy in 1957 and taught at Raipur Sanskrit College and the University of Jabalpur (Gordon 25). He studied the work of George Gurdjieff and Peter Ouspensky (Gordon 25). Rajneesh continued to teach philosophy for nine years before he decided to leave the University of Jabalpur in 1967 in order to teach spiritual life (Urban 172). He took on a few disciples and the group met in an apartment in Bombay (Gordon 30). In Bombay, Rajneesh would comment upon scriptures from many different religions, and used these scriptures in order to reinvigorate people’s belief in these religions (Gordon 30-31). He became very controversial in India because of his teachings (Urban 172). For instance, he referred to Mahatma Gandhi as a masochist, a chauvinist and a pervert. (Urban 172). Rajneesh was introduced to westerners as a “sex guru” who was not against drugs (Gordon 38). This brought crowds of hippies to see him (Gordon 38). In 1971, Rajneesh began to refer to himself as Bhagwan, which means “the Blessed One” (Gordon 38), and in 1974, he created an ashram in Poona (Gordon 42).

Rajneesh’s ashram in Poona was created after he had sent many of his followers to work on a farm in Bapuji, with which his godfather was associated (Gordon 42). Rajneesh also sent some of his followers to work on another farm in Kailash, which Rajneesh’s family owned (Gordon 42). The ashram in Poona raised revenue largely from Westerners travelling to be with Rajneesh (Gordon 43). This money was used to purchase a large home in a wealthy neighborhood in Poona for Rajneesh to live in instead of his apartment in Bombay (Gordon 43). In 1981 the search for a new location for Rajneesh’s commune had become a major concern, and the search ultimately lead Rajneesh to the United States of America (Gordon 93). As Rajneesh’s health was deteriorating, his secretary Sheela, who had recently become responsible for finding a new location for the commune, had chosen America because of Rajneesh’s health (Gordon 93). The Indian government forced Rajneesh and his followers from his ashram and out of India by removing the tax-exempt status of the Rajneesh Foundation, and attempted to collect about four million dollars in income tax as well as taxes on sales, imports, exports, and property (Gordon 94).  This debt and the rumored impending arrest of Rajneesh for “inciting religious rioting” also influenced the move of Rajneesh’s ashram to the United States (Gordon 94). Rajneesh prepared for the move by sending followers to the United States to find large portions of land that could serve as the location for the new commune (Gordon 94).

When Rajneesh went to the United States he spent some time in a mansion in New Jersey (Urban 172).  Soon after, Rajneeshpuram, meaning Rajneesh’s town, was established with the purchase of a sixty-four thousand acre ranch in Oregon (Urban 172). The purpose of this new commune in the United States was to transform the Earth, as opposed to the goal of the commune in Poona, which was to transform individuals through meditation and other techniques (Gordon 99). This commune in Oregon was used by the members, known as sannyasins, to use work as meditation and as the sannyasins worked together they would be productive and be in harmony both with each other and with nature (Gordon 99). Though it was originally meant only to be a communal farm, Rajneeshpuram was gradually becoming a city of its own (Gordon 100). In the fall of 1982, the local government of the nearby town of Antelope was taken over by the sannyasins through them holding all but one seat on the city council (Gordon 123). In 1983, the sannyasins had total control over the school in Antelope, causing a large number of Antelope residents to take their children out of that school and send them to school in the town of Madras, which was about forty-five minutes away (Gordon 125). The sannyasin led town government would not reimburse the Antelope residents the cost of busing their children to school in Madras (Gordon 125). At the peak of Rajneesh’s popularity, he claimed around twenty-five thousand followers in the United States, India and Europe (Urban 172). The Rajneeshpuram, under the control of Rajneesh’s secretary Sheela, adopted a rigid hierarchy, as seen in the Rajneeshpuram’s Peace Force (Urban 172). The Peace Force had colored armbands to distinguish the different levels in the hierarchy (Urban 172). As time went on, Rajneeshpuram began to start lawsuits against a number of different people on the basis of discrimination (Carter 229). The defendants in these lawsuits included, the Attorney Generals of the United States and the state of Oregon, the United States Secretary of State, the Director of Immigration and Naturalization Services, and the Governor of Oregon (Carter 229). These lawsuits were seen as an attempt to put off the anticipated arrest of Rajneesh (Carter 229). Eventually Rajneeshpuram came under federal investigation, which found a vast network of phone taps and hidden recording devices all over the commune (Carter 231). By October 23 1985 there was enough evidence collected to justify charges of “conspiring to fraud the United States and with ordering others to make false statements to the Immigration and Naturalization Service in order to hide sham marriages” (Carter 231). Rajneesh and several associates were arrested while making an attempt to leave the country, though charges related to this were not pursued (Carter 233). Rajneesh was charged with conspiracy and making false statements, to which he pleaded guilty and received a “$400, 000 fine and a ten-year suspended sentence, “allowed” to depart from the country voluntarily, and was placed on probation for five years” (Carter 237).

Upon his return to India, Rajneesh took on the name of Osho, as he felt that it were better than referring to himself as Bhagwan (Urban 181). In 1990, after having been back in India for only a few years, Osho died (Urban 182). After his death the popularity of his books experienced an increase (Urban 182). The commune that Rajneesh had established in Poona still functions as a resort for spiritual meditation, though it now operates under the name the “Osho Commune International” (Urban 182). “Osho Commune International” uses Rajneesh’s idea of a “religionless religion” and combines it with a number of other “generic New Age ideals” in order to market these ideas to the world (Urban 182).

Bibliography

Carter, Lewis F. (1990) Charisma and control in Rajneeshpuram. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Gordon, James S. (1987) The Golden Guru: The Strange Journey of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. Lexington: The Stephen Greene Press.

Urban, Hugh B. (2005) “Osho, From Sex Guru to Guru of the Rich: The Spiritual Logic of Late Capitalism.” Gurus in America. Ed. Thomas A. Forsthoefel and Cynthia Ann Humes. Albany: State University of New York Press. 169-192.

Related Topics

Gurdjieff, George

Ouspensky, Peter

Rajneeshpuram

Tantra

Websites Related to the Topic

http://www.osho.com

Article Written by: Tom Samoil (March 2010) who is solely responsible for its content.

Swami Sivananda Radha

Swami Sivananda Radha was the first western woman who became a sannyasin, a spiritual leader who placed great emphasis in the belief of one’s self and one’s surroundings to enhance one’s life. She had become a great yogi who taught for more than 25 years (Swami Sivananda, xxiii). Radha had been quoted as saying, “The main thing I try to do is have my students bring quality into their lives,]…[ to me, people are not spiritual if this quality is not there in their lives-even if they meditate six hours a day. By quality I mean that which comes from deep inside and shows up in their actions, their treatment of others and the way they do their jobs”(Himalayan Academy, 1988).

Swami Radha’s original name was Ursula Sylvia Hellman. Once she became a sannyasin her guru, Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh, gave her the name Swami Sivananda Radha. She would not be called this until later in life. She was born on March 20, 1911 in Berlin, Germany ( Biography). She came from a well to do family and was very interested in the arts. In her early life she became a creative writer, photographer and a professional solo concert dancer (Biography). She made history by being the first woman admitted into the Berlin School of Advertising in 1939 but unfortunately her career was ended as World War II started (Radha, 1990: xxiii). Radha was married twice, first to Wolfgang who was killed in the Second World War by the Nazis in the Gestapo for helping Jewish people escape Germany. Her second marriage only lasted one year; she was married to Albert Hellman who was a violinist and a composer. Albert composed many pieces of music that Radha danced to. He unfortunately died suddenly in Radha’s arms (Biography). When the Second World War ended Radha immigrated to Canada and lived in Montreal (Radha, 1990: xxiii).

Radha was not brought up in a religious house and questioned the meaning of life even from an early age. According to Radha’s own account, she took up the practise of meditation and while meditating she had a vision of a sage. Taking this as an important sign Radha sought out to find where this sage was and began writing letters to him; where in a letter he eventually “told her to “come home” to his ashram in Rishihesh, in the Himalayan Foothills” (Radha,1990: xxiii). She traveled to India in search for her sage and her life’s calling. She found what she was looking for in the guru Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh. Swami Sivananda took Radha under his wing and taught her the teachings of eastern living and religious practices. “He challenged her to remember who she was and to think deeply about the purpose of life. His message was that truth can be found in a balanced life and to use discipline to avoid extremes” (Biography).  The Hindu religion believes that Karma yoga and selfless actions can assist towards making one divine; this became the most important teachings of Swami Radha’s work. She lived in a spiritual community where she was constantly surrounded by many spiritual students both beginners and advanced who collectively were masters of “various spiritual disciplines” (Radha,1990: xxiii). In the beginning of Radha’s schooling she was at first apprehensive as to how she would cope with the conditions and a new way of life. She had another student from another sannyasin tell her quite a few times that her sannyasin (Swami Sivananda) was not what she should be looking for in a spiritual leader. The first few months were the hardest for Radha but she persisted and learned a great deal from Sivananda. Swami Sivananda also taught her the Prayer Dance which she fully embraced with her dancing background. She taught her students this dance “as a means of safely directing emotional; and physical; energies into devotion” (Himalayan Academy, 1988).

After completing her spiritual education in less than a year Swami Sivananda told her to go back to Canada to spread the teachings she had learned to the Western people. She was extremely hesitant and nervous at first because she was worried as to where to begin when she arrived back in Canada. Who would accept her, and how would she come about finding the funds to establish an Ashram (Radha, 1990: xxiv)? According to one of Radha’s devotees, Barbra Huston, “Swami Radha came back to Montreal, with almost no money, and with the instruction not to take employment or speech lessons to moderate her German accent.  She was to “live on faith” and “speak from the heart”.  Though they were difficult years she was always provided for.  Bags of groceries would unexpectedly be delivered, [and] clothing would be offered”.

Radha had developed many unique and creative innovative approaches for psychological spiritual development. She created the Life Seal which is a very powerful form of self exploration through the development of one’s own mandala, using drawn symbols that represent different levels of personality (Radha, 1990: xxiv). Radha also created something called the Straight Walk which was adapted from an ancient Buddhist practice designed to purify and clarify thinking and perception of one’s thoughts (Radha,1990: xxiv). Her Ideals Workshop is said to be very still very sought after by her students; this is a type of training in dream understanding.

In 1962 Radha founded (Himalayan Academy, 1988) Yasodhara Ashram which is located in Kootenay Bay, British Columbia, Canada. This Ashram is her legacy.  This site is considered by her followers as the best of the east and west because it incorporates real eastern teachings with a slight modified twist so that western people will be able to understand the teachings and apply them to one’s own everyday life (Swami Sivananda, xxiv). Yasodhara Ashram is still in the Kootenay Bay area and it is still taking new students who are interested in learning the art of eastern practices. Radha passed away on November 30, 1995(Biography) and the Ashram has been taken over by Radha’s student Swami Radhananda who has been the Ashram’s head spiritual director since 1995. Radha also created a printing company called Timeless Books (located at her Yasodhara Ashram) and through this printing company she has written quite a number of books, a lot of them deal with different teachings and spiritual practises she has learned like “Kundalini Yoga for the West,” “Hatha Yoga: The Hidden Language,” “The Divine Light Invocation,” and “Mantras: Words of Power.” She has written books about her personal experiences such as “Radha: Diary of a Woman’s Search,” and “In the Company of the Wise” these are just a few of the book she has written. “These books are popular and distinctive because they clarify the sometimes enigmatic Eastern teachings in a way that can be understood and applied in western daily life” (Biography). She also had contributed a few articles to new age medical journals and gave many speeches around Canada and the US about what she did and believed in.

 

REFERENCES AND FURTHER RECOMMENDED READING

Biography; Swami Sivananda Radha. Retrieved February 17, 2010, from Swami Sivananda Radha

Biography website: http://www.yasodhara.org/wp-content/themes/naked/swamiradha_bio.htm

Himalayan Academy. Swami Radha; Canadian-Based Teacher/Author Brings Sivananda’s Mission to Western Shores. (1988,

January). Retrieved February 17, 2010, from Hinduism Today website: http://www.hinduismtoday.com/modules/smartsection/item.php?itemid=478

Swami Sivananda Radha (1990) Radha Diary of a Woman’s Search. Palo Alto, CA: Timeless Books

Swami Sivananda Radha (1991) In the Company of the Wise: Remembering My Teachers, Reflecting The Light. Palo Alto, CA: Timeless Books

Interviewed Barbra Huston, a student from the Yasodhara Ashram

Related Topics for Further Investigation

Ashram

Guru

Ideals Workshop

Karma Yoga

Life Seal

Mandala

Sanyasin

Straight walk

Swami Radhananda

Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh

Yasodhara Ashram

Yoga

Yogis

Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic

http:www.yasodhara.org/wp-content/themes/naked/swamiradha_bio.html

http:www.hinduismtoday.com

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swami_Sivananda_Radha

http://www.banyen.com/INFOCUS/RADHA.HTM

http://www.yasodhara.org

Article written by: Justine Morgan (April 2010) who is solely responsible for its content.

 

 

Sri Swami Sivananda Saraswati

 


 

A doctor, a pharmacist, a healer of body and soul. Swami Sivananda Saraswati had always been destined for greatness, ever since a young age where he excelled and others marveled at his intelligence. Though he has moved on to another life, his legacy of kindness and spiritual guidance still remains fresh in the minds and hearts of many across the globe.

Though there are many very similar biographies of different qualities published as David Miller notes, the material from them stems from two main sources, the auto-biography of Swami Sivananda as well as Swami Venkatsenanda’s biography of Sivananda. (Miller 2003:343) The material in this article which pertains to Swami Venkatesenanda’s biography of Swami Sivananda is solely the commentary of David Miller’s.

Sri Swami Sivananda Saraswati was born in the village of Pattamadai in Southern India, to a pair of devotees of the god Siva. They named their son Kuppuswamy. His father P.S. Vengu Iyer was a revenue officer and his mother Srimati Parvati Ammal was a stay at home mother/wife who birthed three boys, Kuppuswamy being the youngest. According to biographers, he was a mischievous young boy who showed some signs of a renouncer at a young age. Kuppuswamy loved helping those less fortunate and dedicated much of his own rewards or delights to others rather than simply enjoying them himself. He later went on to the Rajah’s High School in Ettayapuram, where he excelled, receiving many commendations for his good grades and hard work. Once he completed his Matriculation examination he moved on to the S.P.G. College in Tiruchirapalli. At the college in Tiruchirapalli he dabbled in debate and theatre even taking part in a staging of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. It is here that his medical career began, commencing with his education at a medical school in Tanjore. There Kuppuswamy enjoyed a thorough education, being at the top of his class in all subjects. He spent much of his vacation time at the hospital observing and studying as much as possible.

After completing his medical education he began a medical journal named The Ambrosia while practicing medicine in Tiruchi. This medical journal lasted approximately three or four years until Kuppuswamy tired of his simple work as a journal writer. Craving a broader window for his journal and also his life, he managed to set himself down in Malaysia at an Estate Hospital in or near Seremban. The hospital to which he would be the new manager and head physician was in a state of disarray Kuppuswamy arrived. His employer Mr. A. G. Robins was a very headstrong man and refused to let Kuppuswamy resign when he was bestruck with misfortune or when he felt that he could not manage any longer: Robins was fully aware of Kuppuswamy’s importance at the hospital as well as in the community. Kuppuswamy had established himself as a caring individual as well as a capable doctor, and his aid extended beyond simple medical help. At times Kuppuswamy would give entire paychecks or pawn his own property to help those in need around him. However, it seems that as Kuppuswamy became more comfortable in his career, he began to realize that spirituality and his hunger for cosmic understanding were burgeoning. This caused Kuppuswamy great unease at his job in Malaysia and eventually he returned to India, where he began a new life as a renouncer. David Miller suggests that in his last years as a doctor in Malaysia that Kuppuswamy had begun to read the Upanisads and the Bhagavad Gita prompting him to question much of the world; which in his experience as a doctor, he believed that life for many ended in pain, suffering and sorrow (Miller:355). It is likely that in witnessing some of the most fragile states endured by people in the hospital which he managed led him to seek deeper meanings to the world which science and medicine failed to answer.

Leaving all his worldly possessions in Malaysia 1923, Kuppuswamy renounced the life of ease and became a sramana. Wandering around India Kuppuswamy visited various sites of religious worship. At the end of his search for a guru he rested in Rishikesh. Here he received his initiation into an ascetic life by Paramahamsa Visvananda Saraswati on. Swami Vishnudevanandaji Maharaj performed the Viraj Homa ceremonies and later named Kuppuswamy, Swami Sivananda Saraswati. For a while he opened and operated a free dispensary, helping travelers on their pilgrimages or attending wholeheartedly to those who were ill or injured. Although his service to the sick and the poor continued during his Sadhana, Sivananda knew that his own truths lay in the attainment of self-realization.

During the years 1925-1930 Swami Sivananda ventured out on a pilgrimage to Kedarnath and Badrinath, in the mountains north of Rishikesh. Sivananda writes very little about this experience in his auto-biography and even his dedicated sevak (servant) Swami Venkatesananda wrote very little about what transpired in those years. Venkatesananda’s only accounts were that Sivananda ate only bread and drank Ganges water, observed intense meditation daily with little time for rest and relaxation. Sivananda’s realization, the goal of his Sadhana, occurred sometime between 1929 – 1930, the exact date Sivananda kept to himself. It is common for many Hindu ascetics to do just that, as well as keeping their realization and its details private. After his Sadhana Sivananda became social once again. He attended many religious conferences, performed rituals and still attended to people’s medical needs. Unlike before his pilgrimage, Sivananda now had deeper understanding of what his purpose was and he did not question himself at the foot of the masses. Instead he basked in the love they gave him and attempted to repay them with whatever service he could.

Many people followed Swami Sivananda’s life and work. Sivananda published many works, ranging anywhere from commentary on the Vendantas to a ten part publication on the Science of Yoga. His commentary on the Vedantas is truly one of the most important works Swami Sivananda has published. These works have gone on to inspire people all over the world to more profoundly analyze the sources of their knowledge. His nearly 300 publications, which vary in subject, are only the begging of the influence to which Sivananda exerts on modern Hindus today. Much of his following started when he began the Divine Life Society in a small cow shed on the bank of the Ganges in Rishikesh 1936. The society grew exponentially, and is currently operating in dozens of countries across the world. Through the practice of yoga as well as monastic asceticism he captured the attention of much of India as well as the western world.

 

 

References and Further Resources

Miller, David (2003)“The spiritual descent of the Divine: The Life Story of Swami Sivananda” :In Hindu Spirituality:Postclassical and Modern edited by R.Sundararajan and B. Mukerji. (2003) Delhi: Crossroad Publishing Company.

No author. His holiness Sri Swami Sivananda Sarawatswi Maharaj. (Updated Oct. 2004) www.dlshq.org/saints/siva.htm: The Divine Life Society.

Sivananda, Sri Swami.Science of Yoga; Volume Eight. (undated) Tehri-Gharwal: The Divine Life Trust Society.

Sivananda, Swami. Autobiography of Swami Sivananda(World Wide Web edition 2000). http://www.dlshq.org/download/autobio.htm : The Divine Life Society.

www.sivananda.org

www.dlshq.org

Related Topics for Further Investigation

Durga Puja

Sivananda

Vedantas

Sadhana

Sivananda

Rishikesh

Kuppuswamy

Sevak

Yoga

Viraj Homa

Article written by: Daniel Meller (April 2010) who is solely responsible for its content.

Swami Vivekananda

Narendranath Datta was born on July 12, 1863 in Calcutta, India. His father was Vishwanath Datta, who was an attorney in the Calcutta High Court, while his mother Bhuwaneshwari Devi, was an intelligent and pious woman. His biographers tend to portray him in superlatives; according to these accounts, his early education began from home and had him learning Bengali, English and Sanskrit before he joined the Metropolitan Institution at the age of 7 (Arora 2). There he began to develop into a genius while still finding time to pursue other hobbies such as rowing, swimming and classical Indian music (Sil 29). As he grew so did his exceptional thirst for knowledge and it propelled him to the post-secondary institutions of Presidency College and the General Assembly’s Institution, where he originally had his sights set on becoming a barrister (Gokhale 36).  But in 1881 Naren’s life would change forever as he joined the Brahmo Samaj Society and met Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa.

The Brahmo Samaj was a movement of universalism that supported the religion of humanity and attempted to synthesize ideas from the East and West. It also protested against aspects within Hinduism, such as the caste system, polytheism and idol worship (Arora 4). Once a part of this group Naren met Ramakrishna for the first time where they began a close relationship. Naren became Ramakrishna’s favourite disciple which drew him into a world of religion as opposed to a world of law. This movement into religious thought had Naren by Ramakrishna’s side until his death in 1886, where he then took it upon himself to act in the name of the late Ramakrishna and spread his philosophies to a wider audience (Schneiderman 64). This was a challenging task considering just two years prior Naren’s father died suddenly of heart disease and left the family in extreme debt (Arora 6). But Naren progressed.

He continued to devote himself to the order of monks that were assembled by Ramakrishna before his death. Datta, their leader, encouraged an inner spiritual life but an external program of humanitarian and cultural activities (Arora 9).  It would later be the basis for the Ramakrishna order. But before the Order was assembled Naren and his supporters moved to Baranagore to live in an alleged “haunted house” where they could practice their ascetic way of life (Sil 47). The dilapidated building was one of the few places that they could afford after the death of their famous teacher. But Narendra was only there for a brief period of time, as he would soon take up renunciation and roam through all of India, and eventually most of the world.  He began a now renowned two-year journey throughout India in February of 1891, spanning from Varanasi and Mumbai to the Himalayas. Along his journies Narendra changed his name on several occasions before settling on his final monastic name of Swami Vivekananda in the city of Khetri (Arora 12).  Although he went by a new alias, Vivekananda continued to promote acceptance of the Vedanta, the spread of patriotism, and the acceptance of a harmony among different religious affiliations (Sil 52). He planned to carry on these teachings after his two-year trip by attending the Parliament of Religions meeting in Chicago in the fall of 1893.

While travelling to the United States, Vivekananda chose to pursue new experiences in countries like Japan, China, and Canada. Once he arrived he ran into the obstacle of not being registered as a delegate to take part in the Parliament, but with his charismatic personality and overt intelligence he befriended professors on the committee who chose the delegates (Arora13). In a short time he was recommended to be a speaker. When Vivekananda spoke he was not representing any specific religion or sect, he was representing India (Arora 14).  In the words of some bibliographers he was able to take all of the scholars and religious men to a place they had never been, where his words connected all religions and articulated the “oneness” of God and creed.

“if there is ever to be a universal religion, it must be one which will have no location in place or time, which will be infinite like the God it will preach . . . which will not be Brahmanic, the Buddhistic, Christian or Mohammedan, but the sum total of all these and still have infinite space for development.” (Teelucksingh 412).

Vivekananda’s words of wisdom evidently captivated many people, and he was asked, and agreed, to speak all across the United States and England. After three years of touring he finally returned to India in 1897, where he received a grand reception. Upon his arrival he called together his many disciples to complete the creation of a philanthropic association called the Ramakrishna Order, named after his main mentor (Gokhale 37). It is the combination of twin groups called the Ramakrishna Math and Mission which were initially established to combat the major issues in India, such as illiteracy, inequality among classes, female education, the economy, and cultural synthesis (Arora 19). The Math began in Barangore when the disciples of the dead Ramakrishna started their own monastic group before Narendranath Datta became the well-renowned Swami Vivekananda. But in 1897 the Mission was formed and eventually merged to create one great organization. Presently extensions of the group can be found all across the world; their main objectives continue to exist and are now present in more than the just Indian culture.

In 1899 Vivekananda left for the West again but was only gone for approximately a year, and upon his return he was stricken with illness that lasted for almost two years. Then suddenly in July of 1902 he passed away at the very young age of 39 (Miller 121). His life was short but focused, so he managed to express his and Ramakrishna’s views of the world. He continues to be recognized for his love of knowledge and religion. This enabled him to immerse himself in the sruti [divinely heard or revealed] literature of the Vedas and Upanisads, while still mastering other things such as Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita. The lectures he gave in India and around the world about Vedanta and Yoga stressed concepts that were absent in the modern world and helped to change preconceived notions of India that were held in the West (Teelucksingh 415). Vivekananda’s philosophies were used by future figureheads in India such as Gandhi and allowed them to act as ambassadors of India. Therefore, it can be assumed that his teachings played a significant role in India’s struggle for independence, and that it received an improved appraisal from the rest of the globe (Teelucksingh 417).

References and Recommended Readings

Arora, V.K. (1968) The Social and Political Philosophy of Swami Vivekananda. Calcutta: ……….. …………Punthi Pustak.

Gokhale, B.G. (1964) “Swami Vivekananda and Indian Nationalism.” Journal of Bible and …………Religion, 32(1), 35-42.

Miller, David (1999) “Modernity in Hindu Monasticism: Swami Vivekananda and the …………Ramakrishna Movement.” Journal of Asian & African Studies, 34(1), 111-126.

Nikhilananda, Swami (1953) Vivekananda: The Yogas and Other Works. New York: …………Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center.

Schneiderman, Leo (1969) “Ramakrishna: Personality and Social Factors in the Growth of …………Religious Movement.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 8(1), 60-71.

Sil, Narasingha Prosad (1997) Swami Vivekananda: A Reassessment. London, ON: Associated …………University Presses.

Teelucksingh, Jerome (2006) “The Legacy of Swami Vivekananda.” Peace Profile, 18(3), 411-…………417.

Vivekananda, Swami (1956) The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda 6th ed. Calcutta: Advaita ………….Ashrama.

Related Research Topics

  • Ramakrishna Order
  • Brahmo Samaj
  • Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa
  • Parliament of World Religions
  • Vedanta
  • Yoga Sutras
  • Bhagavad Gita
  • Patanjali

Notable Websites

Article written by: Terra Kaskiw (April 2010) who is solely responsible for its content.

Jiddu Krishnamurti

Jiddu Krishnamurti was an influential Indian spiritual leader with worldwide devotion to his unique combination of Indian religious philosophy and mysticism (Shringy 353; Holroyd 10). Krishnamurti’s path as a spiritual leader began after he was brought under the care of the Theosophical Society, which was a group intent on preparing him to be a great world teacher and the physical vehicle for Maitreya Buddha, which is the Buddha’s next incarnation (Martin 8). In 1929, after approximately 20 years with the organization, Krishnamurti left Theosophy, and dissolved the Order of the Star, which was an organization formed to carry out his work (Shringy 31-32). When dissolving the order, Krishnamurti asserted that “Truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect.” For “Truth, being limitless, unconditioned, unapproachable by any path whatsoever, cannot be organized; nor should any organization be formed to lead or coerce people along a particular path.” (Shiringy 31-31) Any belief that becomes organized “becomes dead.” Krishnamurti instead desired “those, who seek to understand me, to be free, not to follow me, not to make out of me a cage which will become a religion, a sect” (Lutyens 272).

A successful summary of Krishnamurti’s ideas should start by saying he would likely find any attempt to provide an accurate account of his philosophy uninteresting (Martin 3). In fact, he would probably be averse to the label of philosopher, for he was not well versed in philosophy and was opposed to philosophical theories (Holroyd 9; Martin 3). Instead of being labeled a philosopher, he might be called a teacher; however, that label would also be inadequate, for he was only a teacher insofar as he led people to discover that nothing of importance can be taught (Holroyd 10). Krishnamurti thought truth must be discovered for oneself. However, despite rejecting philosophizing, he inevitably did talk and write about issues pertinent to philosophy (Martin 3). It is these contributions that will be considered here.

Krishnamurti encouraged people to push past the limitations of language, dogma, religious ritual, and even knowledge because these are claimed to prevent the mind from understanding the workings of itself (Jayakar 197; Rodrigues 71). His teachings consistently encourage audiences to become engaged in a journey inside their own minds. Krishnamurti’s view of the mind is central to understanding this journey; in Krishnamurti’s opinion, there is no dichotomy between unconscious and conscious states. He maintained that human consciousness includes what is normally considered to be the unconscious, and that the deeper levels of the mind are largely free of the conditioning by which the surface levels are bound. Krishnamurti claimed that because they lack conditioning, the deeper levels of consciousness can be explored and become a source of new things (Holroyd 50).

Krishnamurti thought that the mind was conditioned by reason and the expectations of our society, culture, and personal needs (Holroyd 50). He held that having a conditioned mind is an obstacle that needs to be overcome through insight in order for an individual to move to a higher state of consciousness (Rodrigues 67). Krishnamurti talked in multiple ways about the conditioned mind. One of these ways is through the analogy of the pendulum. He used this analogy to show that normal consciousness swings from past to future, and then reverses. Humans are always in one of the two states, either the past which consists of memories, or the future which consists of expectations. Krishnamurti claimed that at the center of the pendulum swing, the present exists, and it is at this infinitesimal moment when a preconscious state of mind can be cultivated (Holroyd 52). By training the mind to “live” in the present, it can be emptied of all content in order to facilitate a true awareness of what is (Holroyd 53). Awareness of what is comes through insight and signifies the development of the religious mind (Rodrigues 123).

Knowledge was thought by Krishnamurti to be an impediment to perception of what is. His explanation of why this is forms his epistemology, or theory of knowledge. Krishnamurti’s goal was not for individuals to erase all of their knowledge, for some knowledge is clearly necessary for survival (Rodrigues 122). He rather placed his emphasis on knowledge that relates to values. This is the knowledge that informs people’s expectations or inhibitions, and is suspect because it acts as a barrier to the way people experience the world. If this knowledge informs someone’s expectations, then it prevents them from experiencing anything new (Holroyd 58-59). Having insight depends on shedding knowledge that biases experience of the world because it causes a distorted picture to be seen instead of reality. Religious dogma comes under this category of knowledge because it shapes an individual’s values, and thus their experience of the world (Holroyd 61).

Another impediment to true awareness of what is, according to Krishnamurti, is the self (Shringy 221-222). Like knowledge, the view of the self is also made up of the past; it is a collection of perceptions and memories to which people give substance. This collection of perceptions and memories is seen as the entity, or the “I,” that has agency in actions; it is through this misconception that people become more tied to the past, and further from the present where true awareness of what is exists (Holroyd 54). Krishnamurti claims to have eliminated the “I” from his experience, though the path to this elimination comes about not by any specific or concentrated effort, but by indirect means (Shringy 223). The elimination of the “I” is thought to accompany insight and is a hallmark of the religious mind. Through an acute awareness it becomes possible to dissolve the barrier between the self and its experiences (Rodrigues 109). This acute awareness is also the path to what Krishnamurti thought to be true intelligence. He said that a “sensitive awareness of the totality of life” is intelligence (Krishnamurti 122), without being caught up in the particulars, such as life’s “problems, contradictions, miseries, [and] joys” (Krishnamurti 121). It is necessary to have a choice-less awareness, or freedom from interpreting and evaluating each aspect of life, in order to see what is as it is (Shringy 223).

The mind that is free of thought that is capable of perception, and this is insight (Rodrigues 108). True insight into what is frees the conditioned mind. However, the movement from the conditioned to the religious mind cannot be experienced in any way because through insight the self is dissolved, and is no longer the separate agent necessary for experience to occur (Rodrigues 115). True insight into what is- is the movement to the religious mind, and according to Krishnamurti, religion becomes the activity of the free mind. The religious mind sees its connections with the whole of reality. Krishnamurti emphasizes that to understand the whole of reality is to understand oneself because they are one and the same (Rodrigues 124).

Revelation of what is- is a permanent and instant occurrence that ends conditioned thinking and induces Mind, which is a transformed state of consciousness (Shringy 147). The Mind in meditation is the religious mind, and this state is Truth. Truth is holistic in Krishnamurti’s view, for the heightened reality is both induced by Truth, and a manifestation of Truth; Truth to the religious mind is reality (Rodrigues 198; Shringy 74).

Bibliography and Related Readings

Holroyd, Stuart (2002) The Quest of the Quiet Mind: The Philosophy of Krishnamurti. Wellinborough: Aquarian Press

Jayakar, Pupul (1986) J. Krishnamurti: A Biography. Penguin Books

Krishnamurti, Jiddu (2003) Krishnamurti’s Notebook. California: Krishnamurti Publications of America

Lutyens, Mary (1975) Krishnamurti:The Years of Awakening. Boston: Shanmbala Productions Inc.

Martin, Raymond (2003) On Krishnamurti Belmont: Thompson/Wadsworth

Rodrigues, Hillary Peter (1990) Insight and Religious Mind: An Analysis of Krishnamurti’s Thought New York: Peter Lang Publishing

Shringy, Ravindra Kumar (1976) Philosophy of J. Krishnamurti: A Systematic Study New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers

Related Research Topics

Theosophical Society

The Order of the Star

Matraiya

Mysticism

Meditation

Ultimate Reality

Philosophy of Mind

Philosophy of Self

Philosophy of Truth

Samnyasin

Moksa

Nirvana

Buddhism

Nityananada

Related Websites

www.beyondthemind.net/index.html

www.kfa.org

www.kfionline.org

www.kfoundation.org

www.jkrishnamurti.org

www.jiddu-krishnamurti.net

www.krishnamurti-canada.ca

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jiddu_Krishnamurti

Written by Cam Koerselman (Spring 2009), who is solely responsible for its content.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi can be considered one of the most well-known practitioners of yoga not only in the eastern world, but in the west as well. Having studied under a Hindu guru in the 1950s, he has now come to represent an industry that is estimated to be worth over $3 billion (Economist 95). Some have come to know him as a “modern Vedic scholar and educator” (Riedesel 332). [The Vedas are the prominent set of texts found within the Hindu tradition, and are said to be divinely revealed; for more information about these scriptures see Rodrigues(2006)]. In 1959 his influence in the west became apparent when he immigrated to the United States and founded an “impressive” number of associations dealing with meditation (Aravamudan 33). Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s status rose when he received a two-month visit from the famous band, the Beatles, in 1968 at one of his sites in Rishikesh, India (Platoff 242). Perhaps one of the reasons why he has gained recognition in the west is a result of his fusion between eastern philosophy and western science. In 1972 the yogi aimed to take his views worldwide through the establishment of the World Plan Executive Council (Aravamudan 35). Here, the issues of politics, the economy, and existing social situations would be addressed on a global scale (Aravamudan 35).

Yoga is considered by Hindu philosophy as a darsana or an “event of ‘seeing’”(Burley 1). Basically, it is understood as a method for discovering the true reality of the universe. The term yoga is derived from the Sanskrit word yuj, which can be translated as “to yoke or harness” (Whicher 7). Some say that this unification is between the self (Atman) and the universe (Brahman) (Wilson 304). Nevertheless, there have been numerous philosophers and publications attempting to provide insight within this broad philosophy, one of which is known as the Yogasutra. Written between the third and fourth century, it is classified as a set of teachings aiming to provide followers a release from “sin, pain, and ignorance” (Burley 4). Complier of the text, Patanjali, uses the term yogas cittavrttinirodhah to say that in order to achieve this union with Brahman, we must first end the misidentification of our thoughts with our mind (Whicher 1).[For more information on the philosophic literature of yoga, see Burley(2007) and Whicher(2000)]. Many people, including Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, have applied the practice of mediation to cease this confusion. Nevertheless, just as extensive as the concept of yoga is the phrase yogi. This word is the nominative term for the term yogin, which is used to describe a student of yoga (Whicher 31). Therefore, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi has come to represent a practitioner under the vast Indian philosophy of yoga.

One of Maharishi’s main innovations is the Transcendental Meditation technique. This form of meditation is intended to be practiced twice a day for fifteen to twenty minutes while in a comfortable, closed-eyed position (Riedesel 333). The yogi describes this activity as “turning the attention inwards towards the subtler levels of a thought until the mind transcends the experience of the subtlest state of the thought and arrives at the source of the thought” (Wallace 1752). What the yogi means by this is the ability to concentrate on a single feature that will eventually lead a higher realization or state of consciousness, and thus connect back to who we are as a person. This process is explored further through the concept of the four states of consciousness (which are expressed within the Maharishi Vedic Science): Transcendental Consciousness or Turiya Chetana, Cosmic Consciousness or Turiyatit Chetana, God Consciousness or Bhagavad Chetana, and Unity Consciousness or Brahmi Chetana (Nidich, Nidich and Alexander 143). From a cosmic standpoint, it is said that the purpose of these higher states of awareness are to merge the person with the universe. In the first state, Transcendental Consciousness, the awareness of the “unbound self” appears (Nidich, Nidich and Alexander 143). It is here where the body’s stress is “naturally dissolved” and the instability of emotion is stabilized (Riedesel 333). This first state is the main level that is achieved in Transcendental Meditation, and has been noted by Mahesh that through regular experience of this awareness, the conflicts that arise in life do not inflict on the “eternal freedom” of the self, or in other words, “Life is not lost to itself” (Nidich, Nidich and Alexander 143). [For more information on the states of consciousness see Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (1969)].

Along with the spiritual components of Transcendental Meditation, there is said to be physiological effects that accompany the practice. Studies have indicated it has the ability to decrease tension both mentally and physically (Wallace 1754). Furthermore, biomedical researchers assert that the ability to relieve certain nervous and cardiovascular conditions such as hypertension, asthma, epilepsy, and hypertension looks promising (Holden 1176). The type of relaxation produced by this technique is different from what is found while sleeping, being awake, or under hypnosis (Wallace 1754). [For information on specific EEG readings see Wallace (1970)]. In fact, Maharishi points out that it is a pulsation between deep rest and activity within the entire nervous system; one he says that mimics the natural “expansion and contraction in the physical universe” (Holden 1177). Due to its ease of use and the ability for beginners to achieve this relaxation quickly, there are currently over half a million Americans practicing Transcendental Meditation, and over three million worldwide (Holden 1176 and Aravamudan 34). With the physiological research in place, it has even been implemented in prisons and rehabilitation centres since the 1970s, with the aim of helping at-risk people realize the possibility of voluntary control over the automatic nervous system (Holden 1176). Although there are traces of Hinduism behind the philosophy of Transcendental Meditation, the yogi is compelled to make it compatible with all faiths, and even takes this notion one step further by attempting to establish an alliance between religion and science (Aravamudan 33).

Transcendental Meditation is housed under Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s objectively philosophic framework of the Science of Creative Intelligence (SCI). With the purpose of attaining world peace, the yogi has fused together the conceptual ideas of religion including “ancient Indian Vedic wisdom,” with pragmatic elements of science such as psychology, in order to create this system (Holden 1176). The basis behind SCI is the ability to demonstrate how a set of fundamental principles- creativity and intelligence- permeate the biological world, which in turn, are reflected within the mind (Holden 1177). He describes creativity as the reason why change occurs, and it is constantly being reflected within the universe (Riedesel 332). Intelligence on the other hand, is the essential quality of our existence. It is a part of creativity since it is here that intelligence becomes illustrated. Both of these are what Maharishi Mahesh Yogi combines to form a science in the sense that they have ability to be verified through experimentation (Riedesel 332).

Within the Science of Creative Intelligence lie a few basic hypotheses. First, is the belief that every individual contains an “unlimited reservoir” of creative intelligence which is expressed through the human nervous system (Riedesel 332). However, Maharishi Mahesh feels that this expression is inhibited when a person is under stress. In other words, the physiological effects we feel when we are under pressure obstruct our ability to connect with the true and beneficial qualities of the universe. However, he proposes a solution to this obstruction through the practice of Transcendental Meditation. SCI purports that creative intelligence is experienced in this technique because it takes a person to the higher levels of consciousness, eliminating the stress, and as a result, allowing his or her “biomachinery” to function properly again (Riedesel 333). The yogi goes on to state that the aim is to maintain this increased level of awareness in order to establish “greater achievement and fulfillment in life;” to him, it is here where an individual has attained enlightenment. In the final hypotheses, we see that the influence of science in his philosophy has been fully integrated in his claim that these enlightened qualities are not only definable, but able to be scientifically investigated (Riedesel 333).

The contributions Maharishi Mahesh Yogi has made towards spirituality positions him as one of the most globally recognized yogic practitioners. Through the development of Transcendental Meditation and the Science of Creative Intelligence, he has been able to bridge subjective philosophy with objective science. Although Transcendental Meditation explores the deeper levels of consciousness and connection with the universe, it is also seen as a practical aid in decreasing stress and creating positive physiological responses (Wallace 1754). As result, he has attracted both the spiritual seekers and the worldly dwellers alike. The Science of Creative Intelligence fuses this bridge stronger by making breaking down what can be considered a highly metaphysical process, enlightenment, into scientifically observable traits (Riedesel 333). With his appeal to both eastern philosophy and western science, there is no question as to why Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s insights have become so successful.

REFERENCES AND FURTHER RECOMMENDED READING

Aravamudan, Srinivas (2001) “Guru English.” Social Text 66 19 no.1. 19-44.

Burley, Mikel (2007) Classical Samkhya and Yoga. New York, N.Y.: Routledge.

Holden, Constance (1975) “Maharishi University International: ‘Science of Creative Intelligence’.” Science, New Series 187 no. 4182. 1176-1180.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (1969) Maharishi Mahesh Yogi on the Bhagavad Gita: A New Translation and Commentary. Baltimore, Maryland: Penguin.

______ (2008) “Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.” Economist 386. 8567. 95.

Nidich, Randi J., Nidich, Sandford I., & Alexander, Charles N (2005) “Moral Development and Natural Law.” Journal of Social Behaviour and Personality.17. 137-149.

Platoff, John (2005) “John Lennon, ‘Revolution,’ and the Politics of Muscial Reception.” The Journal of Musicology 22 no.2. 19-44.

Riedesel, Brian C. (1979) “Toward Full Development of the Person.” Personnel & Guidance Journal, 57. 7. 332-338.

Rodrigues, Hillary (2006) Hinduism–The Ebook. Journal of Buddhist Ethics Online Books, Ltd.

Snider, Robert H. (2005) “New HealthRelated Applications of Maharishi Vedic Science.” Journal of Social Behaviour and Personality. 17. 547-551.

Wallace, Robert K. (1970) “Physiological Effects of Transcendental Meditation.” Science, New Series 167 no. 3926. 1751-1754.

Whicher, Ian (2000) The Integrity of the Yoga Darsana: A Reconsideration of Classical Yoga. Bali Nagar, New Delhi: D.K. Printworld (P) Ltd.

Wilson, Stephen R. (1984) “Becoming a Yogi: Resocialization and Deconditioning as Conversion Processes.” Sociological Analysis 45 no. 4. 301-314.

Related Topics for Further Investigation

Darsana

The Eight Limbs of Yoga

Patanjali

Raja Yoga

Sankhya

Vedic Science

Yoga

Yogasutra

Yogi

Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic

http://www.maharishi.org/

http://maharishi-programmes.globalgoodnews.com/publications/books.html

http://www.mou.org/

http://www.mum.edu/

http://www.tm.org/maharishi/

Article written by: Mandi Jones (March 2008) who is solely responsible for its content.

Krishnamurti (Jiddu)

Legacy

Born into a Brahmin family in 1895, Jiddu Krishnamurti was an important man. His words capture many readers and listeners like that of a modern day God-man or Messiah. Numerous parallels to Hinduism and Buddhism are evident in his life even though he does not follow the religious values they have set in place. An example of these parallels can be seen in his renunciation of all statuses given to him by different people over his 91 years of life. The term samnyasin refers to the final stage in one’s life where a renunciation of all things occurs (Rodrigues 2006:357). This notion of samnyasin is akin to what Krishnamurti embodied. Furthermore, even though he would eventually renounce all religions (and even systems of learning) his Hindu background laid the seed of the life he was to lead. When Krishnamurti (or K as he and many others called him) was just one day old, a local astrologer, Kumara Shrowthulu, told K’s father that his new son would be a great man – encountering many obstacles on his way to becoming a great Teacher (Jayakar 16). His importance was, prophetically speaking, imminent.

Most of the books he has written are taken from oral lectures he gave throughout the world. The body of work he left behind is enormous with tremendous amounts of audio and visual materials available on the internet. A quick internet search reveals much of his body of work. Many different books can be obtained from any major retailer and many of the audio/visual resources available come from institutions bearing his name [an international website that offers audio recordings from 1966 to 1985 and a catalogue of video resources dating as far back as 1968 can be found at www.jkrishnamurti.org]. Along with the plethora of web-resources, many Krishnamurti foundations are still in existence. Foundations representing K are located in Spain, England, the United States, and Britain. In addition, Krishnamurti schools are also open in India, the United States, and Britain. Separately there are 42 countries worldwide that have autonomous committees in place sharing resources, transcribing books, and lecturing on audio/visual presentations they prepare with materials from Krishnamurti [see www.jkrishnamurti.org]. But to reaffirm, the background he was born into is seemingly causal towards the path he chose to lead his life.

Biography

Born in Madanapelle, South India, Jiddu Krishnamurti was the eighth child born to Jiddu Narianiah (father) and Sanjeevamma (mother). At 12:30 am on May 12, 1895 Krishnamurti was born in the puja room of his parent’s home. This room is an unusual place to birth a child as the room was to be pure and unpolluted in order to worship the household gods (gryha devatas) (Jayakar 16). The room was made auspicious by implementing Puspa (fresh flowers) and Dhupa (incense) and it could only be entered after a ritual bath and changing into clean clothes (Jayakar 16). Pupul Jayakar (1986) also states that birth, death, and the menstrual cycle are all ways of obtaining ritual pollution, thus, it is worthy to note that having a child born in the puja room is a strange occurrence. It is believed his mother, who was thought of as psychic, knew of K’s impending future through visions she had, otherwise she would not “have challenged the gods” by having her baby in this room (Jayakar 16).

As a child K was constantly sick, suffering frequent episodes of malaria which at one point kept him away from school for one year and when at school his “vagueness, few words, lack of interest in worldly affairs, and eyes that glazed out at the world, seeing beyond horizons” were thought of as some form of mental retardation by his teacher (Jayakar 18). Additionally, Mary Lutyens (2003) wrote in the original foreword of Krishnamurti’s Notebook about a “spiritual experience” K went through in 1922 that was followed by years of constant spine and head pain. Krishnamurti’s teacher felt he had some sort of a handicap. However, Charles Webster Leadbeater didn’t quite see the same thing. When he saw K playing with the other children he saw the boy who was to become a great spiritual teacher (Jayakar 24). Leadbeater met K four years after the death of his mother Sanjeevamma and what struck him about Krishnamurti was his kindness, or the unselfishness he exhumed when playing with the other children (Rodrigues 1990:9). Charles Webster Leadbeater was a European man in the Theosophical Society who would bring K to meet Annie Besant (the newly appointed president of the Society) by the end of 1909 (Jayakar 29).

The Theosophical Society was: “Based on the tenets of a universal brotherhood of humanity which sought to study ancient wisdom and to explore the hidden mysteries of nature and the latent powers of man. It established an occult hierarchy drawing from the Hindu and Buddhist traditions, in particular the Tibetan tantric texts and teachings” (Jayakar 21). Coincidentally the co-founder of the Theosophical Society (TS), Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, wrote before her death in 1891 that the real purpose of the TS was to prepare for the coming of the World Teacher (Jayakar 21). Charles Leadbeater arranged a meeting between Krishnamurti and Besant which took place in late 1909 and by the end of 1909 Krishnamurti had entered the Esoteric section of the TS.

The transition that took place at this time is looked at as the time when K was “stripped of all his Indianness” (Jayakar 27). K and his brother, Nitya, were adopted by Annie Besant. They were told only to speak English, were only allowed to wear Western clothes, and they were “taught to bathe the British way” (Jayakar 27). Essentially, they were encouraged to grow up as young British gentlemen. The boys were also kept distant from their father to limit his influence. However, Narianiah (the boys’ father), felt that Annie Besant had misled him and he filed suit to regain custody. Annie Besant lost the case in both the local and High Court of Madras but she did win her appeal to the Privy Council. With the victory, the boys continued their schooling and would not see India from 1912 to 1922 (Jayakar 37). At this time, while in England, Krishnamurti developed a close relationship with Lady Emily Lutyens and her daughter Mary; feeling as though Emily Lutyens was like his foster mother (Rodrigues 1990:11). It was Lutyens who introduced K to all things a British aristocrat would encounter. Her daughter Mary was regarded as a friend and biographer who penned books about his life [see The Role of a Flower].

In 1911, the Order of the Rising Sun (to be renamed the Order of the Star in the East) was created with the purpose of preparation for the arrival of the World Teacher (Rodrigues 1990:10). This period would mark the first acknowledgments of his status as the “vehicle for the World Teacher.” His father Narianiah’s concern for his son’s well-being had come true (which led to the eventual lawsuit). In 1929, as leader of the Order of the Star, K gave a shocking speech in Ommen, Holland where he rejected organized religion and dissolved the Order of the Star. In the film, The Role of a Flower, Mary Lutyens talks of how the Theosophical Society was a very rich organization and Krishnamurti, in his renunciation, gave everything back to the owner and divested himself of all property. In this, the example of samnyasin rings true. He did not want to be followed; in fact, he never expected people to follow him in the first place (Rodrigues 1990:42). He didn’t want his talks held for enjoyment. His lectures were not for entertainment, though he did want people to pay attention. His attitudes also reflect the notion of moksa, which is “freedom from the bondage of ignorance into the liberation that comes with knowledge of the Self or Absolute Reality” (Rodrigues 2006:52). At this point in his life, K was being regarded as a secular philosopher that was hostile towards religion with representatives of the TS saying that the coming of the World Teacher had become corrupt and incorrect (Jayakar 80).

The rest of his life, up to his death from cancer on February 17, 1986 was a tremendous journey that led him all over the world. He spent his time talking with great world figures, scholars, and mass assembly audiences. He spoke an estimated 175 times per year, whether it was to 50 people or 8,000 audience members [see Rodrigues 1990:22 and www.kfa.org] and many of these dialogues are transcriptions that became the books available today. Although sometimes difficult to read [see Insight and Religious Mind: An Analysis of Krishnamurti’s Thought], his lectures have topics that are important to vast amounts of people. Fear, love, insight, truth, intelligence, freedom, religion, conditioning, desire, death and sorrow are all themes recurrent in Krishnamurti’s talks with important messages obtained from each topic. He also helped open schools across the globe that represented his ideals towards education and knowledge. Over his 91 years, Jiddu Krishnamurti showed incredible will in wanting to help set man free (Rodrigues 1990:19). With the ideas he has left behind, to say he strove to set humanity free seems more appropriate.


REFERENCES AND FURTHER RECOMMENDED READINGS

Collins, Bob, & Jay, Sue (producers) (1986) The Role of a Flower [documentary]. Great Britain: Television South

Jayakar, Pupul (1986) J. Krishnamurti: A Biography. Penguin Books

Krishnamurti, Jiddu (2003) Krishnamurti’s Notebook. California: Krishnamurti Publications of America

Krishnamurti, Jiddu (1973) The Awakening of Intelligence. New York: Harper and Row Publishers

Krishnamurti, Jiddu, Rajagopal, D (Ed.) (1964) Think on These Things. New York: Harper and Row Publishers

Rodrigues, Hillary Peter (1990) Insight and Religious Mind: An Analysis of Krishnamurti’s Thought. New York: Peter Lang Publishing

Rodrigues, Hillary Peter (2006) Introducing Hinduism. New York: Routledge Publishing

Related Topics for Further Investigation

World Teacher

Nitya (brother)

Annie Besant

Lady Emily Lutyens

Mary Lutyens

Theosophical Society

Charles Webster Leadbeater

Helena Petrovna Blavatsky

The Order of the Rising Sun (The Order of the Star to the East)

The Role of a Flower

Brahmin caste

Samnyasin

Moksa

Puja

Puspa

Dhupa

Gryha devatas

Buddhism

Rishi Valley School

Brockwood Park School

Oak Grove School

Links Related to the Topic

www.kfa.org

www.kfionline.org

www.kfoundation.org

www.jkrishnamurti.org

www.oakgroveschool.com

www.rishivalley.org

www.brockwood.org.uk

www.theschoolkfi.org

www.krishnamurti-canada.ca

Article written by Chad Eggebrecht (March 2008) who is solely responsible for its content.

The Hare Krsna Controversy

This article shall discuss the persecution of the Hare Krsna movement in the United States during the mid 1960s through to the late 1970s. In order to fully understand the persecution of this group, one must first know its history as well as the socio-political climate of the United States during this time.

Overview of the Hare Krsnas

The International Society for Krsna Consciousness (ISKCON) was founded by Swami Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada. He was born in Calcutta and studied under Sri Srimad Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Gosvami Maharaja who instructed him to spread Krsna consciousness to the western world (Daner 15, 16). Swami Bhaktivedanta traveled to the United States and arrived in New York City – which along with San Francisco was a haven for members of the counter-culture – in 1965 (Daner 17). He taught in Manhattan’s Lower East Side and gained several followers who became known as “Hare Krsnas” due to their Mahamantra [Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare (Daner 112)] (Daner 17-22). Swami Bhaktivedanta eventually traveled to San Francisco where he taught several icons of the counter-culture such as Timothy Leary [A professor of Psychology at Harvard University (1959-1963) Dr. Leary preformed experiments dealing with the usefulness of mind altering drugs (such as LSD) using himself and several of his graduate students as test subjects, which ultimately cost him his position. After he was dismissed from Harvard Leary became an influential member of the counter-culture and a champion for the legalization of psychedelic drugs. He died on May 31, 1996 and is commonly remembered for his controversial statement, “Tune in. Turn on. Drop out.” (Wuergler 274-276) ] and the rock band the Grateful Dead (Daner 17). ISKCON was officially formed in July 1966.

The Counter-Culture

With the assassination of the American president John F. Kennedy in 1963 much of the optimism that America had in the 1950s was lost. As a result many young people began to feel alienated from mainstream American culture and began to rebel against society’s traditional values. They held demonstrations for equal rights, protested the war in Vietnam and the abuse of the environment. Many began to search for inner meaning through Eastern philosophy and by taking narcotics (Stuessy 175-176). These youth embodied what has come to be known as the counter-culture. It was here that ISKCON found many of its followers. ISKCON was opposed to the accumulation of wealth. It encouraged non-violence [While ISKCON did not encourage violence it was not pacifistic. Unlike Gandhi, Swami Bhaktivedanta taught that violence is acceptable, and even necessary, so long as it is in defense. This view is based on Krsna’s speech (known as the Bhagavad-Gita) to Arjuna on the eve of Battle between the Pandavas and the Kauravas as told in the Mahabharata (Judah 117)], felt that the United States government needed to be reformed, and that the education system needed to be over-hauled as it devoted too much time teaching students how to acquire wealth (Judah 112-124), all of which appealed to the counter-culture.

The Mainstream

Throughout much of the Cold War the Western World feared everything communist, which included most everything foreign (McCloud 38-39) and were constantly watchful for any infiltrating communist ideology, including religious cults. Starting in the mid-1950s periodicals such as Time, Newsweek, and Life began publishing articles warning people of “fringe,” “offbeat” religions and “California Cults.” An article in the April 12, 1965 Time even described joining a “fringe” religion as a form of neurosis (McCloud 25-45). These articles continued through the 1970s. Another article published in Time (in 1975) accused The Unification Church [The Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity was founded by Reverend Sun Myung Moon in Korea in 1954. The group’s beliefs are based upon Christianity as well as Moon’s biblical interpretations. Due to the group’s strict communal living, group weddings, aggressive style of proselytizing and foreign origins it was a popular target for the American anticult movement. Members of the Unification Church are often referred to as “Moonies,” a derogatory name referencing the group’s founder. (McCloud 127-129)] of “psychological abuse” and “brainwashing” members (McCloud 127) which encouraged and elevated parents’ fears that their children could be involved with a dangerous group. Eventually most every new religious movement was considered a dangerous cult which employed coercion and brainwashing on its members (McCloud 127-159). During this time the Hare Krsnas took a large amount of criticism. Members were visibly different from the average American (they shaved their heads and wore saffron robes) and they took vows of poverty and lived communally, practices in direct opposition to the American Dream. The Hare Krsnas were also considered to be promiscuous, sexual deviants, attitudes derived solely from the label that they were a “cult” (McCloud 173) and not grounded at all on the groups teachings, for ISKCON was and is opposed to premarital sex (Judah 124-125).

Brainwashing and Deprogramming

As with virtually all new religious movements of that period the Hare Krsnas were accused of using brainwashing to convert people. The notion of brainwash permeated almost all of the 1970s’ culture; from the news to Saturday morning cartoons, brainwashing was everywhere. As with most organizations a number of members who had joined up earlier did leave ISKCON, for not all members of the counter-culture agreed with the group’s communal nature, feeling that it hampered their individuality (Judah 13). According to Larry D. Shinn, some of these former members may have provided “proof” of brainwashing as it is easier to say that they were coerced into joining the group than it is to admit that they chose to join (Gelberg 89-90). To “rescue” members from these cults a process called “Deprogramming” was employed. The modus operandi of the deprogrammer was to kidnap a member of a new religious movement and convince them that their beliefs were wrong (McCloud 137), essentially brainwashing the brainwashed. Interestingly, the media and mainstream religions that accused new religious movements of brainwashing converts did point out that deprogramming violated the right to freedom of religion. Although this may have been on account of the fact that many of Ted Patrick’s [News magazines such as Newsweek originally recommended Ted Patrick as a deprogrammer as he “removed hundreds of young converts from new religions”] (one of the most prominent deprogrammers of the 1970s) patients were members of small, Christian based groups that were similar to American mainstream religions (McCloud 138-141).

Before his death in 1977, Swami Bhaktivedanta appointed eleven disciples as his successors and instructed them to spread Krsna consciousness throughout the world. By the early 1980s they had established 130 temples outside the United States (Shinn 267).

REFERENCES AND FURTHER RECOMMENDED READING

Daner, Francine Jeanne (1974) The American Children of Krsna: A Study of the Hare Krsna Movement. Dallas, Holt, Rinehart and Winston

Gelberg, Steven J. (ed.) (1983) Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna: Five Distinguished Scholars on the Krishna Movement in the West. New York: Grove Press.

Judah, J. Stillson (1974) Hare Krishna and the Counterculture. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

McCloud, Sean (2004) Making the American Religious Fringe: Exotics, Subversives and Journalists, 1955-1993. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press

Patrick, John J. and Gerald P. Long (eds.) (1999) Constitutional Debates on Freedom of Religion: Documentary History. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press

Shinn, Larry D. (1987) “International Society for Krishna Consciousness” in The Encyclopedia of Religion. Edited by Mircea Eliade. New York: MacMillan Publishing Company

Stuessy, Joe and Scott Lipscomb (2006) Rock and Roll: It’s History and Stylistic Development. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Wuergler, Brad (1999) “Leary, Timothy” in Historical Dictionary of the 1960s. Edited by James S. Olson. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press

Related Topics for Further Investigation

A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

Bhagavad-Gita

Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura Prabhupada

International Society for Krsna Consciousness (Hare Krsna)

Krsna

Mahabarta

Vaisnava

Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic

www.iskcon.com

http://www.krishna.com/ The official Bhaktivedanta Book Trust web site containing information on Vaisnava philosophy and beliefs.

http://www.krishna.org/Articles/2000/08/00066.html An interview with George Harrison about his experiences with ISKCON.

http://religion-cults.com/Cults/Eastern/E-CULTS.htm#hare A modern day argument against ISKCON which is very similar to those put forth by the anti-cult movement in the 1970s.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hare_Krishna_Mantra

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISKCON

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A._C._Bhaktivedanta_Swami_Prabhupada

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vaisnavism

Written by Greg Gedrasik (Spring 206) who is solely responsible for its content.