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Finding God through YogaParamahansa Yogananda and Modern American Religion in a Global Age$
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David J. Neumann

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781469648637

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469648637.001.0001

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The Death of an Immortal Guru

The Death of an Immortal Guru

Charisma, Succession, and Paramahansa Yogananda’s Legacy, 1946–1952

(p.201) Five The Death of an Immortal Guru
Finding God through Yoga

David J. Neumann

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter explores discipleship and conversion in SRF, Yogananda’s dramatic death, and the transfer of authority that transpired afterward. The chapter explores profiles of more than fifteen Yogananda disciples, employing a model of conversion to offer insight into common patterns of the spiritual seekers who chose to join a new religious movement, following a guru who claimed powers like clairvoyance and hinted at his own deity. The circumstances surrounding Yogananda’s death and his followers’ efforts to cope with the tragedy are considered next. Yogananda’s death produced a crisis in leadership. Max Weber’s model of the routinization of charisma, modified by subsequent scholars, offers insight into the common challenge faced by organizations led by charismatic individuals, particularly after their death. Yogananda spiritualized his own leadership by indicating that his writings were to become the “guru” after his departure, but this did not fully solve the problem of human leadership. After the short tenure of one leader, long-term female disciple Faye Wright was appointed. Her half-century tenure at SRF stabilized the organization and routinized its publications by and about Yogananda.

Keywords:   immortality, charisma, succession, legacy of spiritual leaders, discipleship, conversion, spiritual seekers, new religious movements, guru, clairvoyance, deification

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