PLACEMENT OF THE GURU IN THE ALTAR PICTURES ARRANGEMENT
The reasons for this change were discussed in an SRF Center Bulletin in 1970: “The honored Indian tradition of respect to the guru is expressed, in one way, by the central placement of the guru’s image on one’s altar. This was observed by Paramahansa Yogananda when, in his devotion and humility, he gave the more central position, in the horizontal SRF altar arrangement, to the photo of his guru, Swami Sri Yukteswarji, and asked that his own photo, placed on the altar by his disciples, be positioned at the end of the altar. As Paramahansa Yogananda is our guru, and his guru is our paramguru, it is fitting that we, the disciples of Paramahansa Yogananda, show to him the same respect he gave to his guru. [Therefore] the photograph of Paramahansa Yogananda has been more centrally placed.”
INCLUSION OF BHAGAVAN KRISHNA
From Paramahansaji’s very earliest years in Boston, he included Bhagavan Krishna in the invocation to our line of Gurus. An example is the initiation pledge that the Master asked all his students to sign. The pledge used during the Boston years (1920-23) begins:
“In the presence of God, Jesus Christ, Lord Krishna, your holy preceptors: Babaji, Lahiri Mahasaya, Sriyukteswar Giriji, and you my spiritual guide, promise and take a solemn oath….”
When our Guru built his Golden Lotus Temple in Encinitas in 1939, he placed on the altar likenesses of Krishna, Jesus Christ, and his own Gurus. That expressed his intention in this regard, for one of the aims of SRF is, “To reveal the complete harmony and basic oneness of original Christianity as taught by Jesus Christ and original Yoga as taught by Bhagavan Krishna; and to show that these principles of truth are the common scientific foundation of all true religions.”
Paramahansaji knew that to most Westerners at that time, Lord Krishna was not understood as a God-illumined avatar. Paramahansaji’s mission was to teach the universal essence of religion. He therefore concentrated on the teachings of Krishna, to educate the West in the highest principles of religion that he taught. It is true that for a period of time during Paramahansaji’s life the image of Krishna was not included on SRF altars. However, it was the Guru’s express wish that the Board reinstate Krishna’s picture when the time was right.
In the 1950’s, not knowing the private guidance given to the Board by Paramahansaji on this matter, certain SRF representatives erroneously assumed that the altar arrangement without Krishna was to be a permanent policy, and consequently communicated this on occasion to our centers and groups. This misunderstanding was later corrected.
When in later years there was a deeper appreciation of the ancient teachings of India (owing in no small part to the influence of our Guru’s teachings in Western countries), our Board of Directors determined the time was right for us to do what Paramahansaji originally did when he built his first temple, and what he intended to resume doing: to place the likeness of Sri Krishna on all our altars, along with that of Christ and the other Gurus of this path.