The Old Guard

Telling the Truth

Recognizing Mahatmas

Yogis with Ego

Spiritual Leaders’ Powers

Old & New Devotees

Silent Teaching

Swamiji Doesn’t Forget

A Yogi’s Dramas

Associations with the Famous

Guru Brothers & Sisters

Gurus, Obedience & Ashrams

Bhava Samadhi

Explaining Swamiji’s
Use of Spiritual Experiences

The book Swamiji recommended

Perspectives on the Mission Today

About this Writer’s Corner


news about Swamiji & devotees




For more information, contact


  Telling the Truth
—  Yogis Don't Spin the Truth

  Recognizing Mahatmas
—  Get to Know Them

  Yogis with Ego 
—  Not Everyone Who Completes Tapas Is without Ego

  Spiritual Leaders’ Powers 
—  Not All that Glitters Is Gold

  Old & New Devotees 
—  Making Way for the New

  Silent Teaching 
—  Swamiji Discouraged Using Words to Teach Meditation or Describe Spiritual Experiences

  Swamiji Doesn’t Forget  —  Remembering His Devotees

  A Yogi’s Dramas  —  The Shiva in Shivabalayogi

  Associations with the Famous  —  If Swamiji is famous, it is because he has done twelve years of tapas

  Guru Brothers & Sisters  —  It Makes Sense Only If You Add It All Up

  Gurus, Obedience & Ashrams  —  A true yogi doesn’t tell others what to do; ashrams are for devotees.

Not All that Glitters Is Gold

Swamiji used the words “spiritual leader” to describe someone who was not Self realized.  You can read about what he said about the difference between yogis and spiritual leaders.

Many spiritual leaders are great saints.  Many more inspire devotion, exude powers, and teach great wisdom.  But spiritual experiences, powers, and teachings by themselves do not define a yogi or a saint without ego.

Saints may have spiritual powers because of their own efforts, or because the powers were passed to them.  When Swamiji was asked about Sathya Sai Baba’s miracles, he responded that there are many people in India who could perform such miracles.  One only has to know the mantra.  If Swamiji were to reveal the proper mantra, he said, then after a few hours anyone could perform the miracle.  Swamiji explained that Sai Baba’s powers derived from Shirdi Sai Baba who is the yogi who completed tapas.

When Swamiji was asked why people like Mahesh Yogi, or Bhagwan Rajneesh, or Gurumayi had so many followers and he had relatively few, he said, “It’s not them.  It’s the blessing that they got from their guru.  People are foolish.”  Then Swamiji explained how spiritual business works.  See The Business of Religion and Meditation Retreats.

When people asked about how Rajneesh (Osho) got so much power, Swamiji said, “It’s not power.  It’s what you people have done.  It is you who gave him that power.  He was just a professor from the college.  He tells you that because he knew the language well, he started giving you lectures and you fell for his lectures.  . . .  So the professor Rajneesh has become Bhagwan Rajneesh.”  In psychological terms, we project our own powers onto the teacher.

Muktananda, a disciple of the great Nityananda of Ganeshpuri, came to this country and founded the Siddha Yoga organization which Gurumayi took over after Muktananda’s death.  I know many people who had profound experiences through both.

Shivabalayogi was being interviewed for a Santa Fe radio program when he was asked about yogis.  “A yogi is one who has actually performed a penance.  Whereas a spiritual leader is one who reads books and gets knowledge from the books.  That’s the difference.”  Swamiji noticed a set of three photographs and used it to illustrate.

“There is an example in this very house.  You can know very easily the difference between a yogi and a spiritual leader.  He is going to show you the three photographs and he is going to show you the difference between those three.”

“ ‘Yogi.’  [first picture, Nityananda]  This [second picture, Muktananda] is a spiritual leader.  This [third picture, Gurumayi] is a devotee of the devotee of the yogi.  So you can see the difference in these three photographs.  ‘Understand?  Full house.’ ”

An Opinion: Muktananda Had More Power than Shivabalayogi

Shivabalayogi morning meditation, Portland 1988

After the morning meditation in Portland, January 1988

In 1988, early on during Swamiji’s tours of the United States, morning meditations with Swamiji were organized in Seattle and Portland.  I remember attending my first one in Portland.  After the meditation, devotees asked questions of Swamiji.

That was the occasion one man asked about gurus.  He explained that he had written books on many spiritual masters, but he did not know which one to honor with pada puja, worship of the feet, a ritual that honors the true guru.  Swamiji simply responded, “Do puja to them all at once."  I.e., there was no need to chose.  I remember the man blushing.

After Swamiji retired and we remained talking, someone said that AE had been in the room.  AE was a famous self-help seminar guru.  He had started several self-help organizations which he turned over to his students.  They are still operating and well known today.  In fact, some of us who had become Swamiji’s devotees had attended AE seminars, which is why he was recognized.

AE had come late, some time during the meditation, and sat in back to check Swamiji out.  He left early.  But not before letting people in the back know that he did not think much of Swamiji.  AE said that he had met Muktananda and this Swamiji had nowhere near the power of Muktananda.

So people do get powers from spiritual leaders, and we are often blind to what treasure lies before our eyes.