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Date Posted: 13:08
Author: ketch - 24 Oct 2001
Subject: In Praise of Fundamentalism

The terms Fundamentalist and Fundamentalism have been used quite promiscuously on this board and in the media in recent weeks. It must be clear to most people that these terms are being used in a derogatory sense, however such a meaning is not entirely justified. Fundamentalism is often associated with intolerance and bigotry. In recent weeks the term “Islamic Fundamentalism” has even been associated with terrorism, although the motives of Islamic terrorists are probably political rather than sectarian. The question arises of whether Fundamentalism should be looked upon in such a negative way.

Fundamentalism was the term applied originally applied to a Protestant movement, predominantly in America in the 19th century. The movement started largely as a reaction to the evolutionary theories of the time. A series of conferences known as the “Biblical Conferences of Conservative Protestants” were held in America. The 1895 conference of Niagara issued a statement containing what became known as the “Five Points of Fundamentalism” as follows.

1. The verbal inerrancy of scripture.
2. The divinity of Jesus Christ.
3. The Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ.
4. A substitutionary theory of the Atonement.
5. The physical resurrection and bodily return of Christ.

Most Protestant churches in the first half of the 20th century had their Fundamentalist and Modernist wings. The use of the term Fundamentalist to describe the followers of other religions is probably not entirely accurate, however the term has generally come to be used as meaning the conservative elements within a particular religion.

What can this term mean within the context of Kriya Yoga? The term probably best applies to those who would like to preserve the purity of the techniques and teachings of Lahiri Mahasaya and his saint disciples, as opposed to those who believe it is acceptable to make various changes in response to modern, or cultural conditions.

Yoganandaji was very clearly not a Fundamentalist in this sense. He made many innovations and changes to suit the abilities and temperaments of the people he taught, and to turn Kriya into a mass movement. Among his Liberal, Modernist changes might be included the teaching of Kriya by correspondence, allowing yogi’s to practice Kriya seated in a chair, the addition of energisation exercises and other preliminary techniques, and a number of modifications to Kriya Yoga, in particular with regard to the higher Kriya techniques. Modern day Fundamentalists would probably include Swami Satyeswarananda who has been very critical of the modifications introduced by Yoganandaji. The group of Kriya Yogi’s loosely associated with the Yoga Niketan website could probably be considered Fundamentalists as they desire to preserve what they believe to be the original teachings of Kriya.

Although the Paramahansa himself was very liberal, is it possible for his followers to be Fundamentalist? I would suggest that it is possible, and that Yogananda’s Fundamentalist followers are those who wish to preserve the integrity of his teachings, as opposed to those who would like to introduce their own innovations. An example of one of his Liberal, Modernist followers would be Norman Paulsen, who has formed his own organisation and introduced a large number of New Age concepts into his teaching. In addition Mr Paulsen has greatly modified the Kriya Techniques into his “Rainbow Technique” which he claims was received directly from Christ. The Fundamentalist would not agree with such changes.

As a purely personal opinion I would suggest that someone of Yoganandaji’s spiritual stature probably had the insight and realisation necessary to be able to make Modernist changes to the original teachings of Kriya Yoga without the system losing it’s integrity or effectiveness. Whether or not some of those who followed him and introduced their own innovations have the same degree of realisation everyone must decide for themselves.

It seems to me that Fundamentalism can be a desirable quality in the path of Kriya Yoga and should not be used as a term of abuse.

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