Rating Self-Realization Fellowship & Its Paranormal Claims

Church service and altar at SRF Hollywood Temple
Church service and altar, SRF Hollywood Temple

Ross and Carrie, in their podcast ‘Oh No!’, investigate the SRF (Self-Realization Fellowship) and rated the SRF on creepiness, dangerousness, and paranormal claims. They both studied the SRF Lessons and attended church services and the World Convocation.

“The stories [of Paramahansa Yogananda told by SRF monks at Convocation] were about how incredibly patronizing the guru was of his devotees.” – Carrie

Oh No, Ross and Carrie! is a podcast about Ross and Carrie’s travels through the world of paranormal claims, fringe science, and spirituality. Their website says “We show up, so you don’t have to”.

Oh No, Ross and Carrie!–The Self-Realization Fellowship (Part 1): Meditate, Meditate, Meditate:

Ross and Carrie immerse themselves in the Self Realization Fellowship, Paramahansa Yogananda’s eastern-inspired religion that urges little eating, little sleeping, and lots of meditation. Can Carrie and Ross survive in a group where “restlessness of mind” is a cardinal sin?

Oh No, Ross and Carrie!–The Self-Realization Fellowship (Part 2): Overpaying For Silence

After months of anticipation, Ross and Carrie attend the Self Realization Fellowship Convocation, where thousands of SRF devotees gather together. They learn to meditate better, chant for hours at a time, and try to get surly strangers to smile.

In conclusion, Ross and Carrie rated the SRF on a scale of 0 – 10 (0 = none or lowest, 10 = max or highest).

Ross’ and Carrie’s RATINGS

Supernatural/Pseudoscientific = 7.5

Reason: Many extraordinary claims, including that the brain can do fantastical things, read others’ minds, control heart/breath, dying at will, etc

Wallet Draining = 8

Reason: Money is portrayed as evil, give SRF church your money, Lessons are inexpensive, accessories and Convocations are expensive.

Creepiness = 2.5

Reason: Ross and Carrie both thought the people they met at SRF church services and properties seemed normal. [Frankly, I was both creeped-out and intrigued when I first attended SRF church meditation services. My creepy intrigue came from the dimly lit altar with golden-framed images of the six SRF gurus, the trance-like chanting of devotees swaying in their meditation seats, and the smoke and smell of exotic incenses that created a hazy, dream-like atmosphere in the meditation temple.]

Dangerous = 1

Reason: Eating and sleeping is portrayed by SRF and Yogananda as for mortals, some breatharian ideas, notion of asking God before you go see a doctor, etc. [In posts and discussions on this website, I examine the evidence I’ve accumulated and in my opinion SRF is more dangerous than the level rated by Ross and Carrie].

SRF World Convocation 2015, Los Angeles
SRF World Convocation 2015, Los Angeles

Visit and listen to Oh No, Ross and Carrie!for the full podcasts Parts 1 & 2 on The Self-Realization Fellowship

6 comments

  1. SkepticMeditations

    Hi Brad: You are replying to what was said by Ross and Carrie, hosts of “Oh No!” Podcast.

    Here’s what I have to say about your comments–

    Six hours of sleep?
    The National Sleep Foundation points out that healthy adults need 7-9 hours of sleep.
    See Recommended Sleep Times Chart
    https://sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need
    (Ah, I can hear the yogic rationalizations. But adepts at yogi meditation can cut back on sleep, even go sleepless. Yeah, right!)

    SRF teachings promote meditation practice and Yogananda is the example of not sleeping to commune with god in meditation. See for example the idealizing of meditation over sleep. Autobiography of a Yoga, Chapter 13 “Sleepless Saint”

    “A person can attend for decades and never be asked for a penny”
    What you mean by “asked” I guess has a different context than what Ross and Carrie meant.

    Here’s my understanding of SRF “asking” for money based on my two decades of participation in the SRF church.

    • At SRF Temples pass the offering/donations hat to all participants at all temple services, this is common in other religions/churches in U.S.
    • A church participant may feel “peer” pressured into giving money.

    • SRF mailed hundreds of thousands of requests for donations, see Voluntary League Appeal Newsletters.

    Money appears to not be evil when its a donation to SRF.

    “SRF believes in seeing a Western or Eastern doctor”

    Is that SRF believe in seeing an Western and Eastern “witch” doctors? and visits to psychics, homeopathic dietitians, and faith healers?

    I recommend disciples of the gurus consider carefully, think critically what they are being lead by SRF to believe.
    Thanks

  2. Brad Hallston

    SRF does not say that “money is evil” and also prescribes sleeping around 6 hours a night, which is not “little.” A person can attend for decades and never be asked for a penny. The lessons cost the price of the postage stamps used to mail them, and if a person said they could not afford that, would be furnished free of charge. SRF also believes in seeing a doctor, be that western or eastern, as normal.

  3. SkepticMeditations

    @David: No offense taken. Frankly, I’m not sure what you are referring to. While I’m not a historian nor scholar, your assumptions about what I know or don’t know are quite harmless. Please feel free to directly engage with what I specifically wrote in posts and feel free to back up any of your claims with sources and substance–if you care to.

    I’m fine if you want to follow your gurus, dream about your mythical tales of yogis and saints regardless of religious label: Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, whatever. Critical-thinking is what I’m interested in. Not pat answers.

  4. SkepticMeditations

    Not sure what’s confusing for you, Sabio. Would you like to elaborate? The ratings are scale of 0 lowest and 10 highest. I’m a huge fan of yours and respect your input. I would’ve like to had more time each week to write about my opinions and commentary. The last few months I started teaching four nights a week, in addition to running my own business during the day. I’m happy and open to content ideas and critique. Thanks

  5. david

    Scott, no offence but I think if you had read anything about historical and mythical India, with regards to the anthropology and philosophical developments, it would be impossible for you to maintain an atheist perspective, since pagan gods are the basis of demonic entities, therefore Hindu gurus like Yogananda were demon possessed, which accounts for all so called paranormal psychic phenomena, including “abnormal” conditions like catalepsy with absence of heartbeat, pulse and breathing, neurosis, being buried alive, hypnotically reproduced physiological correlates to that, and mediumistic channeling, catholic “raptus” (samadhi trance), séance-like conditions of self induced “surrender” by emptying the mind, auto-writing, auto speaking etc etc. I think you would have a better understanding of Christianity and the Bible; because all those things go against the Bible. You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (Eventually, hopefully).

  6. Sabio Lantz

    I am guessing (without going to their site) that 1 and 10 is high — with all those traits mentioned being undesirable? Confusing.

    Also, again, I see no agreement or disagreement by you. No analysis by you of their evaluations.

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