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Paramahansa Yogananda, Founder
|Purpose||Educational, Philanthropic, Religious studies, Spirituality|
|Headquarters||Los Angeles, California, United States |
|Affiliations||Yogoda Satsanga Society of India|
Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) is a worldwide spiritual organization founded by Paramahansa Yogananda in 1920 and legally incorporated as a non-profit religious organization in 1935, to serve as Yogananda’s instrument for the preservation and worldwide dissemination of his writings and teachings, including Kriya Yoga. Yogananda wrote in God Talks With Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita that the science of Kriya Yoga was given to Manu, the original Adam, and through him to Janaka and other royal sages.
Self-Realization Fellowship continues to disseminate Paramahansa Yogananda's teachings following his stated Aims and Ideals. SRF publishes Yogananda teachings of home-study lessons, writings including Autobiography of a Yogi, lectures, and recorded talks; oversees temples, retreats, meditation centers, and monastic communities bearing the name Self-Realization Order. It also coordinates the Worldwide Prayer Circle, which it describes as a network of groups and individuals who pray for those in need of physical, mental, or spiritual aid, and who also pray for world peace and harmony.
SRF is based at Mount Washington in Los Angeles, California, which is the international headquarters for SRF and for Yogoda Satsanga Society of India (YSS). YSS was founded by Yogananda in 1917 before he came to America. In countries outside the Indian subcontinent the organization is known as Self-Realization Fellowship.
Paramahansa Yogananda founded SRF/YSS in 1920 and served as head until his death in March 1952.
Daya Mata was the next head and president of Self Realization Fellowship/YSS from 1955 until her death on November 30, 2010. According to Linda Johnsen in Today's Woman in World Religions, the new wave today is women, as many major Indian gurus have passed on their spiritual mantle to women, such as Yogananda to the American born Daya Mata and then to Mrinalini Mata.
In 2010, Mrinalini Mata became the next president of SRF/YSS, with an official announcement on January 9, 2011, holding this position until her death on August 3, 2017. She was "one of the close disciples of Paramahansa Yogananda personally chosen and trained by him to help guide his society after his passing." Mrinalini Mata had held the position of SRF/YSS vice-president from 1966 until she became president in 2011.
Yogananda's mission for his organization, SRF/YSS, was to reach out to the worldwide community. The society means to foster a spirit of greater understanding and goodwill among the diverse people and nations of the global family and help those of all cultures and creeds to realize and express more fully in their lives the beauty, nobility, and divinity of the human spirit, which mission it intends to fulfill through worldwide service. From the Autobiography of a Yogi regarding Yogananda's teachings:
Central to Paramahansa Yogananda's teachings, which embody a complete philosophy and way of life, are scientific techniques of concentration and meditation that lead to the direct personal experience of God. These yoga methods quiet body and mind, and make it possible to withdraw one's energy and attention from the usual turbulence of thoughts, emotions, and sensory perceptions. In the clarity of that inner stillness, one comes to experience a deepening interior peace and awareness of God's presence.
Yogananda's Aims and Ideals for his organization SRF/YSS:
- To disseminate among the nations a knowledge of definite scientific techniques for attaining direct personal experience of God.
- To teach that the purpose of life is the evolution, through self-effort, of man’s limited mortal consciousness into God Consciousness; and to this end to establish Self-Realization Fellowship temples for God-communion throughout the world, and to encourage the establishment of individual temples of God in the homes and in the hearts of men.
- To reveal the complete harmony and basic oneness of original Christianity as taught by Jesus Christ and original Yoga as taught by Bhagavan Krishna; and to show that these principles of truth are the common scientific foundation of all true religions.
- To point out the one divine highway to which all paths of true religious beliefs eventually lead: the highway of daily, scientific, devotional meditation on God.
- To liberate man from his threefold suffering: physical disease, mental inharmonies, and spiritual ignorance.
- To encourage “plain living and high thinking”; and to spread a spirit of brotherhood among all peoples by teaching the eternal basis of their unity: kinship with God.
- To demonstrate the superiority of mind over body, of soul over mind.
- To overcome evil by good, sorrow by joy, cruelty by kindness, ignorance by wisdom.
- To unite science and religion through realization of the unity of their underlying principles.
- To advocate cultural and spiritual understanding between East and West, and the exchange of their finest distinctive features.
- To serve mankind as one’s larger Self.
Self-Realization Fellowship has over 500 temples, retreats, ashrams, centers, and meditation circles around the world. In the U.S., there are seven temples in California: Berkeley, Glendale, Hollywood, Fullerton, Encinitas, Pacific Palisades, and San Diego. In Arizona there is a temple in Phoenix. Retreat centers are located in Pacific Palisades, CA (Lake Shrine), Encinitas, CA, Valley Center, CA (Hidden Valley Ashram, for men only), Greenfield, VA (Front Royal). In Europe, there is a retreat center in Bermersbach, Germany. There is also a retreat in Armação, Brazil. There are meditation centers and circles located in 54 countries. SRF also has a sister organization in India called Yogoda Satsanga Society of India, founded by Yogananda in 1917, and headquartered in Dakshineswar (near Calcutta). YSS oversees 200 kendras, mandalis, retreats, and ashrams throughout India and Nepal, including meditation centers, 21 educational institutions, and a variety of charitable facilities.
Encinitas. After his return from India in 1936, Paramahansa Yogananda took up residence at the SRF hermitage in Encinitas, California which was a surprise gift from his disciple Rajarsi Janakananda. It was while at this hermitage that Yogananda wrote his famous Autobiography of a Yogi and other writings plus creating an "enduring foundation for the spiritual and humanitarian work of Self‑Realization Fellowship/Yogoda Satsanga Society of India." This property now includes an ashram and a retreat center. A main temple and an overflow temple are nearby on Second St.
Hollywood. In 1942 Yogananda formally opened the SRF Hollywood Temple on Sunset Blvd., Hollywood, California which is the oldest SRF temple in America. Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex's parents, Doria Ragland and Thomas Markle, Sr. were married by Brother Bhaktananda at Paramahansa Yogananda's Self-Realization Fellowship temple in Hollywood, California on December 23, 1979.
San Diego. Paramahansa Yogananda established an oasis of peace in San Diego on September 5, 1943, during the conflict of World War II. Located in San Diego’s Bankers Hill neighborhood, the Self-Realization Fellowship San Diego Temple is just minutes from downtown. The thriving cypress trees lining the front walkway of the temple were planted by Yogananda himself. He dedicated the Temple as a Church of All Religions with the following prayer:
“Heavenly Father, may this church be blessed with the vibrations of Self-perception of Thy presence, and when we discuss theology and philosophy, may we not get sidetracked by the pitfalls of intellectual egotism and blind emotion, but travel straight to the highway of Self-Realization and truth which leads to Thee.”
Pacific Palisades. The Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine lies a few blocks from the Pacific Ocean, on Sunset Boulevard in Pacific Palisades, California. It was dedicated by Yogananda, on 20 August 1950  The site has lush gardens, a large, natural spring-fed lake which is framed by natural hillsides, and is home to a variety of flora and fauna, including swans, ducks, koi, water turtles, and lotus flowers. The entire property is a natural amphitheater. Many thousands of visitors come each year to enjoy the scenic beauty and serenity of this spiritual sanctuary. One noticeable landmark, visible from all parts of the grounds, is the huge golden lotus archway, painted white topped with enormous gold lotus blossoms. The archway frames the Mahatma Gandhi World Peace Memorial, an outdoor shrine where an authentic 1,000-year-old Chinese stone sarcophagus holds a portion of the ashes of Mahatma Gandhi himself.
Twentynine Palms. Yogananda spent most of the last four years of his life in seclusion at his desert ashram in Twentynine Palms, California with some of his inner circle of disciples. There he completed his legacy of writings, including the revisions of his books, articles and lessons written previously.
The Self-Realization Fellowship Order is the monastic order associated with Self-Realization Fellowship. Monks and Nuns of the Self-Realization Fellowship Order work in the ashrams and temples of the Self-Realization Fellowship, and teach others about the Fellowship and about Kriya Yoga:
Monks and nuns of the SRF monastic order serve the society’s worldwide spiritual and humanitarian work in many capacities — from publishing the writings and recordings of Paramahansaji and his direct disciples, providing spiritual counsel, and conducting temple services, retreats, and lecture tours, to maintaining the buildings, meditation gardens, and ashrams; overseeing the distribution of the SRF Lessons and books; and fulfilling many administrative, office, and other duties.
The SRF renunciant’s daily schedule may vary depending on the particular ashram center and area of work to which he or she is assigned, but it always includes a balanced spiritual life: meditation and prayer, service, spiritual study and introspection, exercise and recreation, and time for solitude and silence. There are four stages of monastic life in the Self-Realization Fellowship monastic order, representing a gradual deepening commitment to the renunciant life and the monastic vows: postulancy, novitiate, brahmacarya, and sannyas. Monks and nuns of the Self-Realization Fellowship Order who take their final renunciant vows are members of the Swami Order, which traces its spiritual lineage back to Adi Shankara. Paramahansa Yogananda established the SRF monastic order in the early 1930s.
In 2014 Counterpoint Films presented the film Awake: The Life of Yogananda, an unconventional biography about Paramahansa Yogananda. It was filmed for over three years with the participation of 30 countries around the world. The documentary examines the world of yoga, modern and ancient, east and west and explores why millions today have turned their attention inwards, bucking the limitations of the material world in pursuit of self-realization. "Using a seamless mix of re-creations and fascinating true footage, this very even-tempered documentary takes its audience all the way through a saint's life, from his first sensations in the womb to that moment in 1952 when, having recited a poem to a large crowd at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, he exited his body just like that... In between those events he changed the Western world."  It is still being show in theaters in the U.S. and around the world  and is now available on DVD, on Netflix and as digital rental. Self-Realization Fellowship owns the copyrights of this film.
India released a commemorative stamp in honor of Paramahansa Yogannada in 1977. "Department of Post issued a commemorative postage stamp on the occasion of the twenty‑fifth anniversary of Yogananda's passing in honor of his far‑reaching contributions to the spiritual upliftment of humanity. “The ideal of love for God and service to humanity found full expression in the life of Paramahansa Yogananda. Though the major part of his life was spent outside India, still he takes his place among our great saints. His work continues to grow and shine ever more brightly, drawing people everywhere on the path of the pilgrimage of the Spirit.”
On March 7, 2017, the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi released the commemorative postage stamp honoring the 100th anniversary of the Yogoda Satsanga Society of India, founded by Yogananda. Prime Minister Modi on Tuesday at Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi appreciated Paramahansa Yogananda for spreading the message of India's spirituality in foreign shores. He said that though Paramahansa Yogananda left the shores of India to spread his message, he always remained connected with India.
According to Straight Arrow Press, in the United States the "proceeds from the January 14, 2002 reissue of George Harrison's 1970 song My Sweet Lord will go to the Self-Realization Fellowship, a California organization that promotes the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda. Yogananda, who established the fellowship in 1920 spread his philosophy of yoga and meditation, is best known for his Autobiography of a Yogi. He was frequently cited by Harrison as an important spiritual influence."
Ravi Shankar had met the Self-Realization Fellowship founder Yogananda in the 1930s and gave his first U.S. concert at the SRF Encinitas Retreat, Encinitas, California in 1957. On visits to Los Angeles, George Harrison would spend time at the SRF retreat in Encinitas, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, which was only three miles from Ravi Shankar's home. The SRF organization strictly honored its members' privacy which Harrison appreciated.
Elvis Presley often visited the Self-Realization Fellowship in the late 1960s, commenting to Brother Paramananda, a monk who had left an acting career to devote his life to the fellowship, "Man, you made the right choice. People don't know my life or that I sometimes cry myself to sleep because I don't know God."
Philip Goldberg, author of the book American Veda, wrote that hundreds of thousands of seekers have taken to Yogananda's teachings because they have improved their lives.
SRF filed suit against James Donald Walters (aka Kriyananda) and Walter's (then called) Church of Self-Realization regarding Ananda changing its name to Church of Self-Realization and on issues regarding specific writings, photographs and recordings of Paramahansa Yogananda. The litigation lasted for around twelve years (1990–2002) and in 2002 the final jury trial was held in the US District Court for the Eastern District of California. Jurors ultimately agreed with Self-Realization Fellowship's argument that Yogananda had repeatedly made his intentions clear before dying – he wanted the Fellowship to maintain copyrights to his works.
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