CULT 008 SELF REALIZATION FELLOWSHIP Self Realization Fellowship was founded by Swami Para

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CULT 008 SELF REALIZATION FELLOWSHIP Self Realization Fellowship was founded by Swami Paramahansa Yogananda and was brought to America in l920. International headquarters for SRF is in Los Angeles on Mt. Washington. Yogananda was a Hindu Yogi and mystic of the early twentieth century. He emphasized that union wit God is the chief end of man. By submitting to the necessary Hindu training, he earned the title of "Swami", and through his teachings gained a following in the United States, where he as aided by the enthusiastic support of horticulturist Luther Burbank. His followers are convinced that he as a Prem-Avatar; that is, an incarnation of the love of God. Yogananda was a devout, well educated, personable man, who was acquainted with many dignitaries in his native India, including Mahatma Gandi. The basic tenets of SRF are summarized as follows: l) They hold pantheism, (the belief that ultimately, God is the only reality: everything is a part of God, and all things find their true identity in God) as a primary supposition in their view of things. 2) They teach that the basic ills of man's spirit, soul, and body may be overcome by becoming one with the "cosmic consciousness"; i.e., by realizing that one's true self is not his finite, temporal ego, but that one eternal Self that exists within each of us. 3) They believe that this goal may be reached through disciplined observance of certain practices. These include physical yoga (hatha and kriya), with an emphasis on breathing exercises, meditation (preferably upon God rather than a word or object), living a good, moral life and abstaining from all vices, restricting one's diet to health foods, and reading holy writings, such as the BIBLE, the BHAGAVAD GITA (Hinduism's most popular Scriptures), and Yogananda's AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A YOGI. 4) They emphasize the unity of all religions, teaching that Hinduism and Christianity, as they were originally taught, are in perfect harmony. 5) They laud Jesus as a great prophet, and quote the Bible profusely. 6) They consider mystical experiences important as a means of realizing one's union with God. Yoganda's life was replete with supernatural signs and miracles, according to his autobiography. The faithful are encouraged that when they reach a certain point of spiritual growth they too will experience contact with the spiritual world in such manifestations as trances, or visions of departed masters. 7) They also hold the classical Hindu doctrine of reincarnation. Although SRF's attempts to promote unity between Hinduism and Christianity appear commendable, such a goal can only be realized by subtly glossing over significant, irreconcilable differences between the two. The end result finds Hinduism unscathed by the transaction, while Christianity becomes stripped of its essential and distinguishing characteristics. The characters and terminology of Christianity are retained, but their historic meaning and significance are traded for the esoteric pantheism of Hindu theology. Let's examine some of the reasons why Christianity, in its original form, can not be harmonized with Hinduism, or any other religion. The God of the Bible is distinctly an infinite, personal Being, whose essence is Spirit (2 Chronicles 6:18. Jeremiah 10:10. Exodus 3:14,15. John 4:24.) He created the world out of nothing, not out of Himself (Genesis 1:1. The Hebrew word for "create" is "bara", which indicates something coming out of nothing). Thus the universe essentially is not God, although His infinite Spirit is present in all parts of it. God created man as an entity distinct from Himself, to exist into eternity as a finite reflection of His own image; spiritual, personal, and moral (Genesis 1:26,27, Psalms 94:9, Numbers 23:19, 1 Corinthians 2:11, 1 Peter 1:16.). His purpose for creating man was so that He and man might experience a personal, intimate fellowship for all eternity (John 17:3, 1 Cor. 1:9, 1 John 1:3). The Christian goal of union with God is not to lose one's identity through absorption into the Divine Self. Man does not need to be freed from his own personal, finite identity; it is a gift from God, created in His image. For the Christian, to be united with God is to enter into a unity of will and devotion with that distinct Person who is the Absolute. Earthly marriage speaks to us of this union in that two persons become intimately united without losing their individual identities. Self realization then is realizing one's own dignified identity as a being created in God's own image, and going on from there by faith in Christ to become a child of God (Jn. 1:12), in order to find our ultimate fulfillment; eternal fellowship with God. It is not realizing that our true Self is God, for such thinking is the very thing that has always led man away from the true God (Genesis 3:4,5, Isaiah 47:8-10, Ezekiel 28:2). This brings us to the question of how one reaches this union with God. SRF's approach will only lead one into contact with fallen spirits posing as God, or departed masters: it can never lead one into contact with the true God. This failure is due to an ignorance of the true nature and cause of man's separation from God. Man is not separated from God because he is ignorant of his true union, as SRF affirms. Man is separated from God because he is guilty of breaking the moral laws which God established in the universe for the good of His creation. This disobedience originated with Adam, and has spread throughout the entire human race (Romans 5:12). According to the Bible, even the most moral, disciplined man is still a sinner (Romans 3:23), and thus incapable of reaching God through his own efforts, for God will not overlook his sin, or its just penalty. With man incapable of bridging the gap, it was up to God to do something about it, which He did by sending His Son, in the form of a man, sinless, to pay man's penalty through his sacrificial death. For those who recognize that through their own efforts they can not please God, and are willing to accept that through Christ's finished work in the cross all that was necessary for their salvation was done, God, in response to their faith, will reinstate them into union with Himself. This true form of enlightenment brings one into awareness of a living, loving, personal God who transcends the universe, not an impersonal cosmic consciousness who is the universe. Such experience as cosmic consciousness is counterfeit and dangerous, because of the demonic element, and even more, because of the eternal loss such deception can lead one to. Hindus would be better off totally rejecting Christianity than trying to unify it with Hinduism. Jesus Himself made it all too clear. "JESUS SAID TO HIM; "I AM THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE; NO ONE COMES TO THE FATHER BUT THROUGH ME." (John 14:6). "JESUS THEREFORE SAID TO THEM AGAIN, "TRULY, TRULY, I SAY TO YOU, I AM THE DOOR OF THE SHEEP. ALL WHO CAME BEFORE ME ARE THIEVES AND ROBBERS; BUT THE SHEEP DID NOT HEAR THEM. I AM THE DOOR; IF ANYONE ENTERS THROUGH ME, HE SHALL BE SAVED, AND SHALL GO IN AND OUT, AND FIND PASTURE. THE THIEF COMES ONLY TO STEAL, AND KILL, AND DESTROY; I AM THE GOOD SHEPHERD; THE GOOD SHEPHERD LAYS DOWN HIS LIFE FOR THE SHEEP." (Jn. 10:7-11)> If they want to consider Jesus a prophet, then to be consistent with the definition of the term "prophet", they must acknowledge that the words He spoke were the true words of God. These are only two of many passages in the New Testament that demonstrate the exclusiveness of Christianity. We must recognize that Christianity springs directly from Judaism, and in the Hebrew Scriptures one truth is continually hammered home: "FOR ALL THE GODS OF THE PEOPLES ARE IDOLS, BUT YAHWEH MADE THE HEAVENS." Psalms 96:5). The personal God who, for the ultimate benefit of the entire human race, revealed Himself in a unique way to the nation Israel, is sharply distinguished from the gods of the other nations, including the gods that were and still are worshipped in India. Rather than teaching reincarnation, the Bible tells us that is is appointed unto all men to die once, and afterwards to be judged (Hebrews 9:27). It would be easy and tempting for a member of SRF to simply close his eyes to the exclusive claims of Jesus Christ. Many seek to appease their consciences by giving honor to Christ, and yet they refuse to make the absolute surrender to Jesus alone that He so clearly demands (Matthew 10:32-39). Truly, it is acknowledged everywhere, even among Hindus, that no man in history has deserved more honor than Jesus Christ. Yet, if one truly honors Christ, the wisdom of giving serious consideration to the things He said, in the context in which He spoke them, should be self- evident. To take His words out of context, and attempt to conform them to a foreign theology, is to risk facing the above mentioned judgement unprepared. Prepared by Elliot Miller, Research Consultant. Copyright l979 by Christian Research Institute, Inc.

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