- Self-Realization Fellowship
- (est. 1935)The Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) is an inter-national religious organization founded in 1935 by Paramahansa YOGANANDA (1893–1952) to introduce people of all races, cultures, and creeds to the ancient science and philosophy of YOGA and MEDITATION. Through its worldwide service, the society seeks to foster a spirit of greater har-mony and goodwill among the diverse people and nations of the world, and a deeper understanding of the underlying unity of all religions.SRF traces its beginning to 1861 and the work of the legendary mahavatar BABAJI, who is said by Yogananda to have revived the ancient science of KRIYA YOGA. According to Yogananda, Babaji chose him to take the teachings to the West. In 1917, Yogananda founded the Yogoda Satsanga Society (YSS) of India, headquartered in Dakshineswar (near Calcutta [Kolkata]). Today the YSS has more than 20 educational and medical facilities, including a college of liberal arts and business, a medical college, several schools for boys and girls, and both allopathic and homeopathic hos-pitals and clinics. In 1920 Yogananda traveled to the United States to attend the tercentenary anniversary of the International Congress of Reli-gious Liberals convening in Boston. One of the last Indians to enter America before the change in immigration laws limited Asian immigration, he decided to stay in the United States. He formed a center of the Yogoda Satsang in Boston, Mas-sachusetts, and traveled widely in the eastern United States.In 1924, Yogananda made his first trip across the country and founded the headquarters for his work at Mt. Washington in Los Angeles, California. He lectured in the principal cities of the United States, wrote inspirational works, and worked on a home study course on kriya yoga. After the founding of SRF in 1935, other centers were opened in California at Encinitas, San Diego, Hollywood, Long Beach, and Pacific Palisades, with smaller groups in other cities in the United States.During Yogananda’s years in the United States, he initiated thousands of men and women into the teachings and methods of yoga and medita-tion. Central to his teaching and that of SRF is a yogic way to bliss (ANANDA) or SELF-REALIZATION, or God realization. The way to bliss is through scientific methods of concentration, including an advanced technique called kriya yoga as taught and passed down by the yogi Babaji. This technique is a system of awakening and energizing the psychic centers or CHAKRAS located along the spinal column. Through deep regular meditation, spiritual cosmic energies are focused and direct perception of the divine is experienced. The blood is decarbonized and recharged with oxygen, the atoms of which are transmuted into “life current” to rejuvenate the brain and spinal centers. The practice makes it possible to withdraw one’s energy and attention from the usual turbulence of thoughts, emotions, and sensory perceptions. In the stillness that is dis-covered, one is able to experience peace and attun-ement with God. The term “Self-realization” as used by Yogananda, signifies realization of one’s true Self, or soul—the individualized expression of the one universal spirit that animates and informs all life.SRF also emphasizes the essential unity of Eastern and Western religious teachings. Services in SRF organizations include interpretations of parallel scriptural passages from the BHAGAVAD GITA and Christian scripture, especially the New Testament.Yogananda was succeeded by Swami Rajasi Janakananda (James J. Lynn), who died in 1955 and was succeeded by Sri DAYA MATA (b. 1914), the current head of the fellowship.SRF is coordinated by members of its monastic order. These monks and nuns serve Yogananda’s vision through worldwide spiritual and humani-tarian work, including over 100 meditation cen-ters, retreats, youth programs, publishing and translating programs, temple services, and coordi-nation of the Worldwide Prayer Circle, a network of groups and individuals dedicated to praying for those in need.Entrance to the Self-Realization Fellowship Head-quarters in Encinitas, California (Institute for the Study of American Religion, Santa Barbara, California)Under the direction of Sri Daya Mata SRF publishes the writings, lectures, and informal talks of Paramahansa Yogananda and of his close disciples. SRF also distributes audio and video recordings of Yogananda’s teachings. SRF has a temple or center in 49 states in America and 49 countries in the world. The Yogoda Satsang Soci-ety of India has 32 centers and operates a variety of charitable facilities.Further reading: Sri Daya Mata, Only Love (Los Ange-les: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1976); Paramahansa Yogananda, Autobiography of a Yogi (Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1971); ———, Descriptive Outlines of Yogoda (Los Angeles: Yogoda Satsang Society, 1928); ———, Man’s Eternal Quest (Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1975); ———, Self-Realization Highlights (Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1980); ———, Whispers from Eternity (Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1986).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.