Interview with Srimati Nerode [The identity of the interviewer is unknown; internal reference dates suggest a time near the 1990’s.]
I spoke with SN [Srimata Nerode] for the first time. We talked over two hours.
(Notes from this meeting were transcribed a few days later.]
She told me that Y had his girls and that Faye Wright’s mother knew consciously what she was doing in giving over her girls to Y. (The idea was that because of her own experience with polygamy Mrs. Wright may not have have been so adverse a "loose arrangement” with BY which Mrs. Wright could have used later to her advantage.]
She said the first time that S. Premananda learned about it that he had the Nerodes pull the car over and vomited on the side of the road. After that he didn’t have much to do with P.Y. anymore. She said S.P. didn’t dissociate himself formerly from Yogananda; but that he just didn’t have as much to do with him anymore. She estimated this was about 1935.
Tara Mata (Laurie Pratt) had a daughter by Y. Srimata Nerode said she would document that.
She confirmed that Durga Ma (Darling) had once been on top in the organization and that she had been in charge of the two Wright girls. So Srimata was not surprised that the Wright girls had turned the tables on her.
Srimati is evidently a free thinker and she told a story from her childhood, “Where is the gold?” She looked for it in the ground just like Joseph Smith. Her mother said she was being sacrilegious.
She seemed familiar with the story that Yogananda was William the Conqueror and that the girls he had around him were his wives in a previous incarnation.
She told a story about the many times that P.Y. had asked her to invite a college professor to dinner. Then P.Y. would speak, sometimes repeating the same thing over and over again, for 1-
She said P.Y. teased Sri about his getting married. When asked by Sri why he himself also didn’t get married, P.Y. became angry.
SN told a story about when Y had someone capture a hummingbird. He held it in his hand and cupped it, trying to get it to remain still. Because it would not remain still, he began saying to it over and over again, “Be still.”
Srimata said she saw him crush the bird in his own hands “because it would not bend its will to his own.”
To SN tills was not accident, but something she herself witnessed first hand.
She regards Y not as someone holy, or as a saint, but rather as someone who was a promoter. She saw that he stripped numerous people he came in contact with of all the funds they had. This happened several times.
One of the chants he would chant with someone knew was “Father Mother have I none.” This was done in order to brainwash the newcomer, or to bend the newcomer to his will.
She said that the Wright sisters sent someone to her to threaten her with a lawsuit if she ever published anything. She said she didn’t care. Let them sue! [At a later time, she said she had documents that she would release after her death as she thought her family would not be sued if they were released as part of a diary. So being sued was also a concern.]
She had a letter from one of the young girls who was there in the early days requesting help from the Ns to get her out of there.
She talked about marriage as 90-
She talked about Krishnamurti and Annie Besant. She talked about Buitenen’s efforts to translate the Mahabharata. Buitenen died in his mid ’50’s. Perhaps 55-
She lamented what has happened to Indian Philosophy in this country. And what Shirley MacClaine has done to reincarnation. MacClaine made a lot of money which is what she set out to do.
She told me about her three sons. Her husband was a scholar. He was
Bengali, a Brahmin like S.D. S.D. wrote two books which later had Yogananda’s name on it. Y wanted his name on it and he badger ed S.D. until he relented. That was the source of some of the difficulty between them. She referred to S.Y. as a sudra [in spite of his actual caste], a businessman, and a promoter. She said that Y had a thing for pretty young girls.
She said that the JJLynn had given his cafeterias over to the order. $10k of the money for the hermitage was supposed to be given to Sri. Y found out about it and got JJ to give the money instead to him. Sri intended to build a temple in Miami.
She said that S.D. had written two books later picked up by S.Y. She said that a lot of things in the A.Y. were not true, a fiction being made up . . .
I met with SN for four hours from 10am-
I asked one question, then another. She told me again about three times in
her life: 1) digging for Gold like Joseph Smith -
2) After she had learned (as a teenager) all the required parts of the Book of Morman, she received a $100. Then she was asked whether she believed, and she said, “No.” There was nothing her mother or anyone else could do.
She really paints an entirely different picture of Yogananda than the traditional SRF one.
The one question I asked her was, “How do you really know that Yogananda had his harem, his girls as you referred to them last week?” I explained that I wanted to know and to know that I know.
I also ask about the girl who wanted to get away, referred to our conversation of the previous week, whether she might not have just been an adolescent trying to get away from parental authority. She told then that (Betty Jo) moved to the headquarters with her and Sri’s help. “Yogananda could have had any of twenty or more people help her to move.” “Betty Jo’s mother was with her, but I don’t know whether she also moved or not.” “If I have ever seen anyone have the hots for anyone else, it was Yogananda after this girl. Sri and I helped her move.”
Srimata then explained how she was the driver, because she could drive, and Sri was not a good driver.
At one point the girl wrote Srimata she had to get away.
Srimati explained that this girl was a virgin and did not grow up in a more
“loose way.” She was also extremely attractive. Many of Yogananda’s young women were not so attractive like the Wright sisters. This girl had been attracted to the movie cinema.
Then Srimati explained about the spatial arrangement of the rooms occupied by Yogananda. Srimati said that Yogananda was all over her on the ground on the pillars that used to be on the sofa. [A later week when 1 asked how her, “how do you that occurred?” Srimati told me the girl told her this herself.] The girl did not want that so she asked to leave.
Sri and Srimati then helped her to move out. “I can’t tell you the number of young women I helped to leave by calling their parents and telling them I was putting them on the bus.”
Then she told me about Fiorina Darling (Fr. Canadian) who later became known as Durga Ma. Fiorina was quite uneducated, illiterate. One time in the dining room Srimati said she saw Fiorina and Yogananda “rubbing hips.” She said that was the first time she became aware that anything was going on between them.
She would often have cause to go into Yogananda’s quarters to get some paperwork or something. On numerous occasions she saw Fiorina scrubbing Yogananda’s back. Srimati’s comment about that was “no matter how you see it, it was still inappropriate.”
She explained how the partitions that were erected outside of Yogananda’s doors, and that many times there was a young woman, perhaps one of the
Wright sisters, sleeping there on the floor.
She indicated that Fiorina was Yogananda’s favorite. Fiorina’s husband thought they were coining just for a while. At one point the husband went to Sri and asked if there was anything he could do to get his wife back, as increasingly she was lost to Yogananda. “She was in love with Yogananda.”
Eventually he left.
Then Srimati told me the story about how she and Sri left the work. One week a young man came to them and told them that he knew that he wasn’t supposed to tell them, but he felt that he just had to tell them because it was just, and that they seemed like good people, but that the next week at the Jewish Temple where Sri gave services every week, after that was over they were planning on defrocking him publicly and throwing him out of the order.
When the next week rolled around, they drove to the temple, but parked down the street. Srimati went up to the temple and saw the Wright sisters and their brother Richard (Dick). There was another brother, but what happened to him? Yogananda ran him off. Srimati could not understand how Mrs. Wright could allow her son to be run off. Newspaper people were all around and so the Ns decided not to go to the service.
Now what was the reason for their being treated this way?
Srimati explained a time that Yogananda wanted to get all of their money. They were supposed to receive $10,000 from JJLynn to start a temple in Miami. When Yogananda heard about it, he had them stay at Mount Washington so they had a place to stay, but then he talked JJ into giving him the $10k. The only income the Ns had was from the service where he lectured each week, about $2.50/week. The other monies they collected, they would regularly send onto the Swami.
Srimati felt that the Wright sisters were behind the Swami’s request to them to give him the $2.50 each week. Once in Encinitas, Swami tried six times to get Srimati to relent. Each time he would pretend like nothing happened, but the conversation would come around to again to her giving up the money. Finally the Swami cried.
She said, “No” once again. Then he laughed and said, “OK, you win.” The point was that he had tried ever subterfuge that he knew possible. Srimati said that that money was all they had to live on and that her son was being malnourished. At. an earlier time they lived on 17 cents a day and her son became malnourished as a result. [Swami had tried to argue with her rather than Sri because she was the more difficult of the two for him to deal with.]
Now she explained the reason she was so difficult was that she had seen him at Mount Washington gloating over the goldfish that he had, and that back then goldfish were very expensive. Why should the Swami have luxuries, when she had a broken-
She explained another time that there was a rich woman who came to stay at Mount Washington. She brought all her furniture which remained stacked up, because they wouldn’t give her any additional space.
Swami wanted to get her money, but they had some difficulty getting it.
At any rate, at some point the rich woman told Srimati that she had a sewing machine that she was not going to be using anymore and so Srimati could have it.
A few days later, Mrs. Wright knocked on the door and demanded the sewing machine. Srimati said that the lady had given it to her. Mrs. Wright said that the Swami had promised it to her, and that she could have it, and so she wanted it. Srimati gave her the sewing machine.
She said on numerous occasions, there would be a knock at the door and around 10pm, the Swami would come by to eat out of her refrigerator. He would eat all the meat she had in the refrigerator. Sometimes he would suck all the juice from the lamb she had and then would say that he wasn’t really eating the lamb. She cooked bacon, and had a doctor’s order to feed her son bacon. Swami then told everyone that there were bad people there eating meat [as the aroma of bacon must have carried through the hermitage].
Srimati found this to be just plain hypocrisy; because as she said, “Y ate meat on many occasions.”
He told everyone that they were some relation of his, e.g., wife of William the Conqueror, etc and so that they had to do what he said in this life. He was Richard the Lion Hearted, Napolean.
[Srimati would mention on occasion that SY said he was Napolean. This is not a story that I ever heard elsewhere. [There are other stories [like SY was Henry the VIII or SY was William the Conqueror] that I find more believable about who he said he was, but Srimati repeated this on other occasions.]
The Wright sisters have an empire, as Srimati put it; she felt that Faye and Virginia didn’t care anything about anyone else other than themselves.
They wanted Sri out of the order so they would have total control; that was what they were after. Apparently S.Y. changed a great deal through the Wrights. To her it appeared more like S.Y. was controlled by them, rather than he was in control.
Srimati said it was “an interesting study in character development.” Y told
Srimati, at a time later on, that “He was God” so that everything he said, she had to do. She found that notion totally unacceptable. Period.
Srimati came to the order because she was a college student, unattached (her parents lived out of the state) and so she lived at the headquarters. She did not come with the devotion that the others came with.
She described one time when some famous person came through and tried to put the make on her, and as she wasn’t that way, she refused to drive him anymore. There was nothing Y could do to make her either. The famous person soon left; he didn’t have money, just name.
Srimati describes how she got married. It was against the law at that time in California for a Caucasian to marry someone of oriental or dark color so they drove to Arizona. In Arizona they were refused a marriage license so they drove to New Mexico. When they returned, there were newspaper reporters everywhere. For 2-
He married them with a big ceremony even though he was unhappy they got married. (The newspaper reporter in town gave the press release when they returned from New Mexico. They were afraid what the Herst papers might do with it, if they got the story first. [I think the newspaper reporter was the same one in the Lake Shrine film.]
Someone gave them a cottage for a week in La Jolla. When S.Y. heard about it he was upset. Why didn’t that person give him the cottage? why did he give it to the Ns? Anyway, the Ns went away for a week.
When they arrived at the cottage, there was a skunk there. Srimati managed to chase it out of the bedroom, and living room into the outdoors without its spraying the furniture.
At 3am in the morning, three cars drove up. There were only 2 bedrooms.
Swami Yogananda announced that he was coming for a week’s vacation. Srimati and Sri decided to spend their honeymoon week back at Mount Washington.
This was the way it was. Swami Yogananda did not want anyone else to have anything other than himself. He wanted to have all control, all power, all money, all everything. Period. Think about the crushed hummingbird which didn’t correspond to his will.
She mentioned Rashid, and Hamid Bey. [The guy who buried himself.] She also mentioned that J.J. in Kansas city was very disillusioned with the Swami and that he was about the leave. But it was first S.D., and then Sri, who got him to stay on in the order.
The strange thing is how many times, I get the feeling, that S.Y. took everyone’s money over and over again.
If people who came were not good workers, he threw them out like the 17 yr boy who lost his arm in the railroad car. He was the son of the lady who helped with the first A.Y.
Sri felt that much of the things in the A.Y. were probably lifted from somewhere else. [One can see some of the roots of that, but not all of it.]
Srimati said that Yogananda sheltered people when he was milking them. The Lewises were isolated and thus were protected. Thus Doctor would not have been on the inside for a lot of things.
The Swami liked testimonials. She said that they brought a legal suit against Y. At court they [SRF] produced a document that Sri had signed saying he would not bring suit against them for financial reasons.
Srimati said she didn’t realize it at the time, but that earlier on she had seen a stunt like that pulled by Laurie Pratt where a rich man was made to sign a testimonial. He wouldn’t sign what they wanted him to sign, and so they wrote up what they wanted him to sign. They got him to sign, but he didn’t
realize that he was actually signing another piece of paper below the one he was looking at. She felt this is what happened to Sri.
Y liked testimonials especially from rich, famous, and powerful people.
She said that Sri probably would have gone into the last service at the temple [she couldn’t find the temple anymore when she revisited LA as it is no longer there] had she not been there. He just couldn’t bring himself to believe the reality of things.
A few other things added Monday morning.
1) I asked Srimati specifically about the books SD had written. She had told me the previous week that SD had written two (2!) books which later had SY’s name. I knew about the Science of Religion because earlier versions had a word of thanks to SD. But I really questioned Srimati about the second book. She said it was Songs of the Soul. She affirmed that SY had written Whispers. [Maybe I was leading her on. See the sixth week for a different thought.]
She regretted not knowing enough about Hindu literature to be able to to point to all the origins of the various materials which appeared under SY’s name. But she did say that Sri felt that some portion of it was lifted (copied) from various places. [Swami Satyeswarananda shows a few places where SY
lifted interpretations of the Gita from his guru Swami Sri Yukteswar without attribution.]
2) She told me that SY had written to India for permission to call himself Paramhansa and that permission had been granted. She said the answer came on a ‘postcard’ and that Sri had been upset because of this. Sri felt that one couldn’t properly make such a request, and that such a request could not be granted by postcard because being a Parmahansa was not something that could or should be trivialized. Srimati told me this several times (at least 4) during the conversation. I asked her when this occurred, and she thought it during the mid 1930’s.
[It was not when Y was in India that permission for Y to be called 'Paramhansa’ was first granted, according to Srimati. If this postcard came from Sri Yukteswar, it must have been granted just prior to SY’s visit to India, as Sri Yukteswar’s mahasamadi took place when Y was in India. There probably was also a small ceremony in India where Sri Yukteswar gave him the title of paramahansa, after already telling him by post (mail) that he would permit it. At least this is one way to make sense of the sequence of events both from Srimati’s story and what people say happened in India.]
Srimati mentioned the name of someone on whose money Swami went to
India. [Probably Eddie Blech mentioned later.]
3) Some people have said that Yogananda said he was Shakespeare. Srimati’s comment was that SY was not an intellectual.
SY didn’t talk more about LM [Lahiri Mahashaya] and the early roots of the teaching. [What he was teaching was different, was his own thing.] Srimati said that references to LM were a later addition.
5) Srimati thought it was an interesting character study how the Swami had seemed to change over the years from a more normal human being to one who seemed to have to seek all power and control. She was offended when he told her he was God and that she had to do what he said because “he was God.” Sri. of course, didn’t go for that either. Swamiji was managed, and a good portion has managed to remain hidden.
Added two days later at 4:20pm.
Srimati mentioned with some bitterness how they had to live on 17 cents per day and how her son did not have the sufficient nutrients. She attributed this to the sop, bread and water, they were fed. In the early days, the Swami did not allow them to have any pets either — perhaps for economic reasons.
She said that SY would have lost Mount Washington had it not been for SD and SN who helped support. [I wondered if this was not so much by money that they contributed, as by cosigning or helping the payments.
She mentioned once that she [Srimati] was driving them back (SY, the Wright sisters, their mother, FD) from somewhere and from the conversation you would not have known they were not stock brokers or some other financial wizards. [The implication was that the conversation was not spiritual.] Fiorina Darling had red-
Christmas was not so much to celebrate Christ birth as an opportunity to exchange presents which was very important to the Swami. He very much wanted to receive everyone’s present.
She also told me about the time that the room was dark with draperies and everyone thought the police were going to raid it because the Swami had a harem going on. She laughed and said that wasn’t true then.
I met with Srimati again for about 3hrs 15min, some of which she had me doing some hatha exercises which came from Sri.
She mentioned again how JJ had doubts about Yogananda and how Sri had saved JJ for Yogananda; she said Sri later had regretted he had done so.
She mentioned that previous to her husband’s being defrocked by the Church, that for several days that week that Yogananda had led the Wrights and perhaps a few others on a march from the Pepper tree to the gates(?), around and around chanting that they were about to excise the evil influence around them
(referring to the Ns.)
She said that Sri had not been present when she came home from the hospital. When Yogananda would not allow her to stay at Mt. Washington she had to stay a few days longer in the hospital. Her sister then helped her to find a place when she was in the hospital. Her sister helped Yogananda for a while.
She said that perhaps because Sri hadn’t been there then, that he did not have his eyes open as much she did. She said that all through Sri’s life that he didn’t want to see people gullible, that he had been, and he had known it.
She told me that S.D.’s name was Bagchi, SD’s wife name was Gladys who had been a friend of hers. She said that SD left before they did, about 1932-
not been treated very as badly... not sure of the direction and intent of this sentence.]
She said that Hamid Bey actually came from the circus where Yogananda had met him, that he was not Egyptian, but Italian, that Hamid Bey made things up, and that he and Yogananda learned from each other.
Yogananda made Sri travel with Hamid Bey. Sri was ashamed because he felt that these tricks were low yoga, but Yogananda was a promoter. She said that there was nothing spiritual about Hamid Bey, that he was as interested in the bottom line as any one you would meet, may more so, and that his wife was even more interested in money than him. Hamid left after perhaps a year or so when he realized that he would never get any money out of this; if there was any money to be gotten, SY would have gotten it all.
She said that Hamid was able to be buried by putting his thumbs on his carotid arteries and by having the blood stop flowing, that he could only do it for 2 hours or so, and this his wife would really begin to get worried, and that when he was dug up, that someone had to move his arms, his thumbs so that blood could begin to flow, so that he would once again be normal again.
Hamid used to stick knitting needles in his throat. He knew exactly where to put them so their would not be much blood; and he also knew how to control the blood flow.
She said that Hamid was a nice person as far as it went.
This occurred in the year during which Lindberg’s child was kidnapped. She remembers be somewhere with the Bey’s and being carted off to jail where it was determined that their children were their children, indeed. At this time, Srimati had a little boy perhaps just tall enough to stand up because she remembers he dropped crumbs down her back as she was driving somewhere with him.
She said that Yogananda was really after JJ, that those people were really treated differently (because of their money). The rest of the people were workers, and if they didn’t produce, they were thrown out, regardless of their age.
She said that S.G’s husband (Besent])[iBets was Dean of the Law School at [University of] Washington, that he often brought home young girls home to live with him in the house. He wife knew all about it, overlooked it for years.
SG was used to overlooking things, and although as she got older, she didn’t have anywhere else to go, she overlooked SY’s shenanigans.
She mentioned that Sri was really upset by SY’s lack of celibacy; she did not like his hypocrisy, on the one hand talking about vegetarianism, and on the other hand, sneaking up to her refrigerator, to eat the rest of her chicken, or even bits of bacon which she had for her son, his strong emphasis on celibacy, and then his. . .
She wondered how JJ could get along with SY when JJ would be upset if you sent him a letter which had an airmail stamp on it instead of regular mail, and Yoganda’s l]cis[uxuries, because he loved luxuries.
She said that the energization exercises were not called that in those days ... (at least as she could recall).
She mentioned that the temple where Sri was on was on 17th street in LA. She said that the only reason that they came back to LA was that when SY found out about the $10k that JJ was going to give Sri, that he had Sri come back to LA so he didn’t need it any more, and so the money could be given to Yogananda. He used that to build part of the Golden Temple.
She mentioned again had shrewd she thought the Wrights were, especially
Faye and her mother.
SY didn’t care who got the sewing machine, it was Mrs. Wright who cared. Mrs. Wright would tell Yogananda what she wanted, and then she would say that was what Yogananda wanted.
She indicated Virginia was more restless [my word], but that eventually being a good Morman girl, learned to do what she was told. Srimati said what an interesting character study it was how Yogananda changed over time. At first she thought he was all right, only later believing the things that the Wrights had told him. [The meaning and intend of this sentence is not clear.]
Interestingly enough, the writings that one could attribute to SY, come mostly from the dictation taken down by Faye. When it has been transcribed, it has been transcribed the way she wanted to; it is mostly in her words. Faye was not, according to Srimati, very original, (perhaps that also means bright?)
She said that she thought that Fiorina had really loved Y and that Y really loved her as capable as he was of loving any ONE person. Sri thought it was really a travesty of the concept of reincarnation for Y to tell each of the girls he was with that they had to do what he said because in the past they had such-
She said again that Y was a sudra and that her husband, and SD were Brahmins, and Sri that Y’s behavior was just like a sudra.
Again she mentioned how SY’s permission to be a Paramhansa came on a postcard and did not come while he was in India.
It’s 4:08pm and we started at 10am. It’s a long day, but the last 4 hours were probably talking with Kiron about his business.
Betty was the girl whom Y was all over. It was she who told the Ns about it.
SY had a habit of cat napping and he would do it at any moment. He slept only a few hours a day, but he could drop into sleep at any moment. (This was
the first time she told me about this.)
“It was really the last conversation we had with Y. A fairly nice conversation. Y said that he was really sorry, he still had feeling for Sri, but that his hands were tied (referring to the Wrights).
Y asked Sri again whether he would not back off of his suggestion that he
(SY) get married. Sri wouldn’t back off. Srimati said that she knew Y knew she knew and he knew she knew too. They all knew; make no mistake about.
At that point she knew the end was coming.
Eddie Blanchard (sp?) would have told you all the things I said and more. She went with him (financed him) on his trip to India. He took her money too.
She told me about one time that she slapped Laurie Pratt who was always taunting her about her marriage to Sri. Laurie had a habit of being nasty and knew how to put a knife it you and twist it around.
Laurie had a child probably when she was in NY and Y knew her then. That child is probably a grandmother by now.
“I wonder what happened to the younger Wright brother that Y ran off?” Srimati wonders.
She said that the Indian who came after he went to India (prob Swami Binayananda was not allowed to meet them. When Sri asked Y whether he could meet him, Y said that the time was not right. Y did not want the Ns to meet either the Lewises or another Bengali.
She told me again about how she often saw FD scrubbing PY’s back. She even wiped him. That was common knowledge. Why a grown man would not want to do that for himself is beyond me. “I just can’t understand it.” she said.
[Brenda later confirmed they treated him like a baby.]
She mentioned again how she thought FD was the only one who truly loved him for himself. All the rest just wanted him for something else he had.
We mentioned again the $2.50 SY asked her to give up and how Y wanted complete loyalty to him. Period. SY even offered her eldest son, 50cents if he would kiss his shoes.
She mentioned how at the end when she left she took the car which was in her name. They had everything else. That was the only thing she had left. And so she wouldn’t give up the car.
She said Sri was just too naive, a patsy, too believing and he couldn’t just believe Y was that way. Like receiving permission for PY on a postcard.
She said Y knew she didn’t come with all devotion just believing everything and that was one thing about her he didn’t like.
She suggested looking up the Wright name in Virginia City just to prove that they came from a polygamous family. I guess that is something I haven’t been able to put down in writing, yet; nevertheless, Srimati talked to me about in at least 3 times now. The [W]rights were polygamous, and their mother knew exactly what she was doing in giving her daughters to P.Y.
P.Y. continued to say, even in church, how he would have been proud to have been born in Mrs. Wright’s womb. Srimati just couldn’t understand how
he could have repeated that over and over and over and over again. How about his own mother? This Srimati also told me on several occasions
5:39pm I just remember something that Brenda told me. She mentioned one time about tape recorders at Mount Washington and how if she went alone, she was afraid that they would tape everything she said secretly. She said, “I know how they do it.”
I’m also wondering about the woman who has FD’s documents. They will claim those documents belong to the Fellowship and that she stole them. They will put in a court order to take, seize, stop desist, etc... whatever it takes.
She needs to make backup copies.
We met from 10am until 1:30pm. She told me essentially many of the same stories as I had previously heard. She repeated the name Eddie Blanchard to me as the person on whose money SY went to India. Eddie had a strange laugh, and she used to say that the Master can smell money.
It was Fiorina and SY with the two Ns (with Agnes driving) after they returned from a Chinese Restaurant (SY used to take them to Chinese restaurants). The conversation centered on the bottom line — acquiring more property and money. She seemed to think it was after the Wrights came that SY became even more interested in property.
We tallied about the daughter of Laurie Pratt as being SY’s daughter. I told her that I had seen pictures of the daughter and that neither one appeared nonwestern or Indian. She, being a westerner and her three sons being descendants of an Indian and a westerner, she pointed out that it was not that easy always to tell -
She told a story of how she and Sri would argue about whether Gandhi was celibate when he slept naked between two Indian women. Sri finally conceited that perhaps Gandhi was not celibate, and that he was human, after all he had seen SY.
The end of the 3rd floor rooms near SY’s room was blocked off with a partition (or did she say door? ) so that people could not just knock on his door or come right in. She said that the girls slept there on mats. I mentioned to her the idea of sleeping with the Guru as a special privilege and honor. She laughed as if to say she knew what kind of honor that had been for them.
She said that they used to talk among themselves a lot about who each one of them was one of his wives in a previous incarnation, about what a privilege that had been for them. Sri thought that was a travesty of the concept of reincarnation.
She argued with SY at one time about the date listed for the founding of SRF (or was that Mt. Washington? ). SY wanted to use an earlier date, and she wanted to stick with the date the property was purchased. In fact, she said it was her idea that they use that date in promoting some thing of SRF. She mentioned eleven years and said that it had some history and a beginning and that she felt that was enough. SY wanted it to be longer.
She said that Sri saved JJ for SY in Kansas City; otherwise, Mr. Lynn had had very many doubts.
She said that Faye and Virginia did not want to be there at first — that it was through their mother that they were there because they didn’t have much money. And a number of times she mentioned the mother, in her mind’s eye. as being behind everything. And it was her desire that her daughters inherit everything.
She told about how Virginia met Jimmy, the son of James Warnock (?) the newspaper reporter. Virginia liked him, and he liked her, and the Warnock family liked her but SY broke it off.
She said that if anything should ever happen to her that I should contact her son Robin who is a professor of English at Stoney Brook (earlier he had been at Cornell) and that he would have some manuscripts for me...? When she told me that she had tears in her eyes and was on the verge of crying. I am reminded of the several times she would tell me things and almost be in tears so moved was she.
I remember a previous time when she told me about a “mystical experience”
— more an experience she felt at oneness as a young girl on a farm out in nature on a horse. She didn’t claim anything about her experience other than it helped her to feel closer to God and to her true self.
She mentioned the two boys SY ran off: one was the younger brother of Faye -
We talked about the books SY did or did not write. I showed her the sheet from the Library of Congress about Swami Dhirananda and the two books he had as joint authorship with SY. I wondered whether Yogoda was not one we spoke of earlier; in other words, earlier she had said there were two books they had in common. We mentioned The Science of Religion and The Songs of the Soul. I wondered whether Yogoda was not the book instead of Songs of the Soul. She said “No, Songs of the Soul was one of the books.
She mentioned to me again how SY had to have everything for himself. What you had was his and what he had was also his. SY and her, according to her own testimony, had something of a love-
When she came first in, probably 1927, or early 1928 there were only 3-
One day she was near the college, (UC) and a car of two girls stopped by whom she knew from Mount Washington. They invited her to dinner and since she had been eating out and she knew this other cook cooked for them and so she would get a good meal. She said yes, but they had to go first to hear a lecture at Mount Washington. She went and Sri was there. After the lecture they introduced her. Sri asked her three things. She couldn’t or wouldn’t do the first two and feeling badly she offered to do the third which was to introduce him to some professor at UC.
He drove a car out to meet her. She thought that he was just a strange driver not realizing that he had just learned three days before. Sri told her he had a headache and could he put off their appointment for one week. She did so and he drove her along the beach and then back. The same thing happened the following week. The next week he tried to pull the same stunt; she asked him what was going on and said she could not cancel the professor again.
He told her he just wanted to go out with her again and didn’t know how else to do it.
We just talked — no yoga postures this day.
We also talked about how one person would be played off against another so they were all separate. He went to X about Y and Y about X.
Again she mentioned the rather sad, pathetic stories of how little food they had to eat and how while some folk were living on 17 cents per day the swami was eating very very well.
We met from about 10 to 1:30pm—no exercises, just talking. This was one of the most significant meetings so far.
When I asked her about who Yogananda said he was in a previous life naming a few names commonly repeated by SRF devotees, Srimati said, “I don’t know how many times, Yogananda told us he was Henry VIII; I don’t ever remember
anything about Shakespeare, but I do remember his telling us he was Henry VIII.” She also mentioned Napoleon; of course, I find that so difficult to believe, as some people say Napoleon later became Churchhill. She says SY said he was all these people. [She also mentioned Napolean on other occasions as well.]
She told another story I had never heard. This story she said she had just written it down the day before, and she wasn’t certain she should put it down, but people tell about a lot worse things. Once they went on a picnic in the very early years. I believe she said Eddie Blechard was there along with Mrs. Pickering (who had given her the Honeymoon Cottage that was later taken away by SY). The picnic grounds was surrounded by a grove of trees. She said SY was upset and disturbed by something. He was walking around looking up at the sky seemingly unhappy. At one point she said she saw him rubbing himself up against a tree for a long tune (she said 10-
I believe she said that they were married in January 1930 (I forget the exact date) and that Sri was born in September 1897. They were married twice: once in [Arizona] and once in the fire ceremony at Mount Washington.
She retold an earlier story about one tune they were all afraid the place was going to be raided. This was no hanky-
For a week they went over to Mrs. Fielding’s house. (Sounds like the lady who donated money for the first issue of the magazine.) Then everything blew over. We talked about how the Hersts ran the Newspapers. At that time the newspaper reporters were paid quite well; and the newspaper didn’t pay much for Reuters, or AP service, but reports just dug up their own stories.
After the Nerodes had returned from just being married, she was continually besieged by one of Herst’s reporters. She wouldn’t talk with him. Finally he found her backstage at one talk, and she told him she would answer his question (Just tell me, how did you happen to marry a Hindu?) if he would answer one of hers. He consented, and she asked him, “Tell me, just how did you happen to marry your wife?” When he said he fell in love, she said, “S o __ ” And so the reporter never bothered her again.
She thought that if SY had been black-
She said that SY had given Fiorina Darling a string of rubys that she would wear sometimes with her sari. Fiorina had really loved SY, and she went after what she wanted. If there was anyone who ever deserved to come into what was left, it was Fiorina. I mention how it seemed odd that SY would give her a string of rubys when money was so scarce. Srimati nodded and told me that for her wedding present that SY had given her a piece of crystal and an ostrich feather (and the crystal had a piece missing from the time when she received it).
[Joan Wight (later longtime disciple of Fiorina) does not recall ever hearing anything about rubies so they must have been disposed of.]
She said that Sri had written much about SY and his girls. [This was the first tune I had heard about this.]
She said that SD also had a hand in the Whispers. This throws doubt on all the writings of PY. (They were all written by someone else.) I mentioned to, for further clarification, that we had discussed previously how SD had a hand in the The Science of Religion, and Songs of the Soul, that there were two books which SD had ghost-
"hand in” does not mean that he wrote it all; but I’m still not certain about the extend of SD’s authorship in PYs writing, although the influence of his presence is undeniable.]
She said that Eddie Blechard was perhaps (my loss of words here)... not very intelligent, a moron, imbecile, ah “mentally retarded” were the words she used, and that she had a high pitched laugh, but even still she would have been able to confirm the truth about the books.
Adelaide Wayland (some name which started with an A?) was the man who took her out, a man with title but no money, who wanted her to dance with him in some hotel, and who later made a pass at her. She mentioned how SY didn’t care what she did with him, that he thought “marriage was an inconvenience.”
This, of course, ties back in with the Mormans. Srimati asked me whether I had ever thought about SY and Brigam Young. She told me a story about when she went back to Utah and saw the house of BY, and how the current story led you to believe he had only one wife and not many. She told me how he gave chits to his wives to buy things (so no one could afford everything), and how he would leave his shoes at the door of the wife whose room he was sleeping in that night, how impartial he was. Anyway that was (IS) something to think about BY and PY. Srimati came from a Morman background, the three Wrights, two male Wrights, Laurie Pratt..., the role of Salt Lake City.
She mentioned Faye Wright’s picture on the book Only Love and how SY would have been very upset with her for having her picture on the book. The guru only wanted his picture on everything. His philosophy was, “You shall have no other Gods before Me.” She reminded me about the lectures and how he would keep people in their seats for hours, sometimes repeating the same things he had already told them.
She said Rashid was a nice person; very dignified, well to do. He did not agree with some of SY’s notions about promoting himself, and felt SY was being unethical and so he left. Mrs. Rashid was the first one to work on the AY, and
she was the "Mrs. Ann Landers” of that time, answering all the correspondence. She said that she (Srimati) finally got SY to get someone else to work on the AY who had a better command of English; an English Professor from the University was procured (UofCalif), and “you could hear this professor and Y yelling at each other, as she could not agree with his style."
She mentioned that Sri Khagen married a German woman. Sri Khagen took advantage of women and would come to her house (after she and Sri had moved out) and mooch (my word) off them; he would expect her to iron his clothes. She refused. He said she was not a good Hindu wife, to which she replied she wasn’t a Hindu wife, she was an American wife! Sri Khagen had a daughter through this women, and in later years he had quite a bit of money he wanted to leave to her, but his wife and their family would not allow him to have contact with his daughter. He spent a lot of money trying to find her, but he never did find her.
Srimati did not remember Starr Daily, but wondered if he was the writer who lived nearby. There was someone who got into trouble with law, perhaps robbery, and who later felt pangs of regret, but wanted to be very careful not to get into negative situations. She wondered whether that wasn’t Starr Daily.
(This sounds like Starr Daily whose books can be found in Library of Congress.]
[Previous to this meeting I had found in the old magazines a few advertisements for Wings of Bliss. I had been under the impression that there was also another book. I was unable to find a previous reference to that in my notes. ]
I asked Srimati about Wings of Bliss. She indicated that it and the other book were written by Sri. She said that she had a copy of that somewhere.
“Eddie Blech was the previous name I heard. She told me that the attractive woman whom PY had been after, and who had written the note requesting help from Sri[mati? ] in getting out of SRF was Betty Miller.
Betty stayed months; ostensibly she was working on sculpture. She produced several pieces -
Again Srimati said several times in essentially the same words, “If I had ever seen anyone after a young girl, lusting after a woman, a swain in pursuit, it was
SY after this young girl. ” [I think she repeated this sentence three time. ]
SY did not want his Mexican driver to pick this girl up; he had been afraid that the girl would not come if someone did not go pick her up and help her move; once they arrived at Mt. Washington, the Swami quickly disappeared, and the Nerodes helped her move in.
Srimati told me about the many, [large?] cushions which SY had in his room, about the partition and how each night a different girl would sleep on a mat on the floor guarding the Swami’s sanctuary. I asked her was that girl then associated with the Swami, and she said “No, that there would have been another one inside.”
Along the same time that SY was interested in Betty, he was also interested in a blond. SY was attracted to a whole contingent of pretty young girls.
Srimati who was embarrassed to tell me this, said SY would get Betty down on the cushions, massage her and get her excited, but that Betty did not want to go all the way with him, that Betty knew he had other girls, and did not want to be one of them.
Betty and her mother came from Maine?, and her mother was most ambitious for Betty to become a star in Hollywood. Her mother received some support from her husband back east and apparently the husband wanted them to come back. Betty and her mother hoped she would be able to make and keep up contact with the Hollywood folk who would occasionally come up the hill: it also provided a place to stay, room and board so that they could stay in California a longer time and not have to return back east. Srimati in some embarrassment indicated with gestures that SY mounted Betty and rubbed himself on her.
She also repeated a story of how Sri had had a running battle with SY about SY’s girls, Sri suggesting that the Swami should get married. SY would get angry and jump up at Sri's suggestion. I asked her, again, directly, whether it was clear from their discussion that Swami and Sri knew that Sri’s suggestion was aimed at the Swami’s girls, and not just an impression that Sri had gathered. She said SY’s interest in the girls was not platonic.
After the Wrights came, shortly thereafter within a week or so, came Dick Wright, his wife, and his mother-
She said that the Wrights when they came were very poor, all thin, the mother included. Srimati wondered about the history of polygamy, because “Mrs. Wright had said there was polygamy in the Wright family.” Srimati found the later story I mentioned interesting about Y making Faye Wright eat
chocolate, considering how poor they had been.
Later when I mentioned that Dick Wright had left the organization in later years, and I wondered outloud whether he hadn’t found out something about SY in India, Srimati scoffed and said that he would have known all about the girls.
Hazael Salter, Swedish, seemed to have come before the Wrights. She was the “Ann Landers” of her time taking care of the correspondence course. Srimati said she turned her eye to what was going on, she didn’t have any other place to go, but later she married a De Vorss who had a house, published occult things and lived on Olive. She stayed on simply because she didn’t have any money.
Srimati said that Yogananda had apparently separated Lynn from his wife.
Her husband had been privy to much conversation with Lynn, and around
[1936?], Lynn full of doubts was considering leaving, but Sri convinced him to stay. Lynn’s wife did not like his relationship with Yogananda, as apparently Lynn gave most of his cafeterias to Yogananda.
She said that Lynn like most men who get around [40?] and who don’t have children wonder whether they have missed anything or not. but that Y was of course, not interested. I pointed out earlier to her that the book Wings of Bliss was not advertised after 1932, and she pointed out that was the year Aneal ]w[lAin as born.
When she was in the Hospital with Aneal, Sri was in S.F. with Hamid Bey, and SY came to visit her. He put a SlO gold coin in Aneal’s hand, but then he told Srimati that she could not return to Mt. Washington with the baby. As a result, Srimati had to stay in the hospital a few days longer while her sister hunted her a place to live. After that time, the Ns traveled around the country, and they did not return to Mount Washington until SY decided to bring them back so that the could have the $10,000 which JJ had promised to give the Ns for a temple in Miami.
Apparently, the Ns faced considerable opposition for their marriage, as Sri mati lost her “citizenship” and had to be repatriated, taking an exam, and was subject to considerable harassment.
I asked her when SRF had sent someone to her house to threaten her, wondering whether this was not five years or so ago. She said “no” — that it had been around 1950.
Srimati made a most interesting suggestion. She told me that she was ninety percent certain that Omar, of Omar’s Astrology colunm in the Newspapers, was the same Omar Guerrison who had written for the magazine in the early days. She suggested that I write Omar, send him a page or two of his old articles, and tell him that I am interested in learning about the era of SY, and would be grateful for anything which he would share with me.
Omar had a brother; she took both of them to a ship so they could sale to
Mexico. She recalls the parking ticket she received for parking while leaving them at the ship. She said both of them swore quite a lot, and indicated that they were quite rowdy. She thought Omar was younger than herself, and so might be in his 70’s.
She told me a story about Mormonism, once again. This one concerns the house of BY which one can visit. She said that if you visited the house today, that you would not gain any idea that BY had all these wives. The only clue you might get would be from visiting the store house [? is that the right word], where the ladies would offer their chits for bolts of cloth. That was the system
BY used for keeping them in line.
She also told me about how in the early Morman church, it was taught that if a woman had nine children that she would be preternaturally blessed by being able to sit on the right hand of the father, and and she would receive a crown. She described one lady she knew from childhood, that had been doubly crowned — and who had eighteen children.
The swami was interested in people only if they either had money, or they were able to be workers. She found it interesting how in later times pets were allowed, since in the early days they lived on seventeen cents a day.
She mentioned one of the cooks who was there who went off the deep end mentally.
We met from 10am -
SN also suggested that if I would meet with Jimmy Warnock, it might prove very interesting and rewarding.
She mentioned now several times how much PY would have been upset with Faye Wright’s having her own picture on Only Love. Yogananda was always interested in fame, name and more fame, she said.
SY said repeatedly how happy he would have been to have been born in
Mrs. Wrights womb. And Mrs. Wright repeatedly declared how they were not working for what they were then receiving, but for what they would receive in the future. She let SY know that she and the girls were not properly being rewarded. SY knew that; and knew that they would proclaim his name.
The Wright girls worked out of a Mormon sense of duty, not like Fiorina did, out of true love.
SY sent the Wrights and Fiorina to night school as they were illiterate. Mrs. Bisset was the most educated of all the people SY attracted.
It was after/ Sri and Srimati did not appear at the Church that they returned to Mt. Washington a few days later to pack.1
She also mentioned how after the Wrights came that the Swami had each of them tell him what was going on with the others. They were all sworn to secrecy not to disclose their conversation with him to any one of the others. In other words, they could talk with him about what was going on with the others, but they were not to speak with the others directly.
While they were packing for a few days, as it took a few days, SY let an entire group in the mornings around the Tennis Courts, the Garden, back and forth on the sidewalk chanting to excise the Nerodes. Srimati said Yogananda
1Previously, I had thought this occurred before the event where they didn't appear at the church.
Srimati also told me that the young man had told Sri what was going to happen. 1 had thought that he had told her, but the young man had told Sri. She mentioned in this connection also “No father, no mother have I... ’’ and how this chant was used to break the newcomer s attachment for home and family. Srimati said this young man had not been yet thoroughly brainwashed and, “he still had some conscience.”
must have been really frightened as Sri had threatened to sue him. She said an unemotional [detached?] person would not have responded that way.
She said that Yogananda would jump up and down when angry just like many Jewish women she had seen. She again mentioned how Yogananda invited them down to Encinitas so he could ask her for the $2.50 or so she received each week. After he cried and made a fuss, and she still said “no” , then he gave up and laughed. It had all been a game. SY was an expert at playing to people’s emotions. He did it frequently and he would get a newcomer to tell their family secrets, or whatever was private to them, and then he would later hold that over them.
She said that not long after Mrs. Bisset came to Mount Washington, that she told them that her husband would bring home young girls to live with them. There were a whole string of girls, one after the other, that Mr. Bisset took some pity on and invited them to live with him. Mrs. Bisset, while it was clear that she didn’t like it, tolerated it and treated the girls as guests. Srimati told me that there was one girl in particular that liked Mrs. Bisset, that most of the girls were not particularly close, and that she came on a number of occasions to Mount Washington. At first, Srimati thought Mrs. Bisset’s visitor was a daughter.
Srimati said it was not clear what Mr. Bisset’s relationship was with all the girls. She remarked how few wives would have put up with their husband’s bringing home a woman to live with them. Mrs. Bisset helped Srimati, because soon after they (the Nerodes) were married, Mrs. Bisset told her that part of her husband belonged to the public and was not hers, the other part was, of course, hers. Since Sri was in the public eye and giving public lectures, she found that advice particularly helpful, especially at that time.
I was particularly interested in Srimati's attitude on this subject. She did not say that Mr. Bisset was directly having affairs with all the girls, yet she did imply that it was unnatural. She did not know, nor did Srimati claim to know.2
At one point, Srimati referred to what was “commonly known as Swami’s harem”. I asked her to elaborate on “commonly known”. She replied Sri, Khagen, Sri Das. She said that in arguments with Sri that Yogananda had never said he wanted to remain unmarried because he felt celibacy was important, but because he was afraid that he would not be attractive to his women followers. Srimati explained that at that time in Hollywood, the private life of the Hollywood actor and actresses was kept secret. For the same reason, SY wanted to remain unmarried so he would retain his attractiveness for women. He very much used his sex, the male-
2Somehow I had previously gathered the impression that Srimati thought Mr. Bisset was having affairs with all these girls. Whether he was or not, from this conversation with Srimati, I realized she was not so decided upon the answer.
She mentioned how Mrs. Hamid Bey used to refer, in her Italian voice, to the teachings as “those dumb teachings”. This shows how much she was interested in them. Hamid Bey knew how to publicize things because he was in the circus, but he learned how to lead a religious group from SY. She said in another connection, that SY could not demonstrate some of the things which Hamid Bey did and so SY got him to perform.
Jimmy Warnock always felt his father outshown him, because his father could tell you jokes for hours on end. At first she played with Jimmy and it took Jimmy a year or so to realize that she was older. Srimati was one of nine children and was used to playing with her brothers. Jimmy was an only child so he was lacking in companionship and wanted to play. He originally would have been about 10 years old, but when he was dating Virginia, he would have been about 17 or so.
She said that SY when he found out about Virginia’s seeing of Jimmy, absolutely forbid it. Jimmy and Virginia had seen each other perhaps three times or so. SY and Mrs. Wright watched Virginia to see that she didn’t try to go out with Jimmy. Virginia just cried, she was heartbroken. SY absolutely forbid it even at the expense of his losing James Warnock as his friend and loyal supporter.
We also talked about the incongruity of a Swami’s having a beauty parlor. One way to understand this, as I mentioned to Srimati, is that the Guru always wanted everyone to dress up, look nice. He was very much aware of impressions which people gave. For that reason he had Mrs. Bisset meet many people who came to Mount Washington, because she was respectable. Srimati just looked at me like “Do you really believe that?” At another level way of understanding this is that the Guru employed everyone no matter what, as long as they could make themselves useful.
The flip side of the coin is what happened to Indian philosophy in all this “looking good” and adoption of yoga for Westerners.
Srimati as I was leaving mentioned how much Y did not want his words changed, how he would argue with those whose were making changes in his words, even though the English was correct, those were “his” words and he didn’t want them changed.
About 6pm this evening, Srimati called me to say that she had remembered that at Encinitas, it was Mrs. Darling who choose the carpeting, drapes, gold fixtures in the bathrooms(?). Mrs. Wright had been responsible for choosing the drapes and beautifying Mount Washington. Srimati said that Mrs. Wright had some resentment about Mrs Darling’s setting up of Encinitas. [Recall that JJLynn “hatched” a plot for the Encinitas hermitage while the Guru was in India, and that Fiorina and JJLynn were close.]
She also mentioned that the Wrights had been able to control pretty well SY’s coming and goings, who could see him at Mount Washington, and that Encinitas was designed as get-
We talked for three hours today, and like the previous week we didn’t get around to the physical excises which SN taught. Perhaps the next week or so.
Like so many of the other meetings, this was also important. I corrected of my mistaken impressions gathered in earlier meetings with Srimati.
SN showed me pictures of her second wedding at Mt. Washington. In it I saw the N’s, SY, Hamid Bey, Hamid Bey’s wife, two drivers (one was a Filpino, and a few other people. They made an attractive couple. I remarked how they looked happy enough in the picture; and she said that SY did it solely for the publicity that went out in all the papers all over the country. They were already legally married; “the swami didn’t do it out of generosity, because he was interested in us, but simply to get his name in the papers.”
For one things, we talked about M. Gandhi again. Srimati said that she could believe and accept that Gandhi slept naked between two women without having sex with them. At first I had told her, referring to our earlier conversation on the matter, that I found it easier to believe that MG had been celibate with these women than I had for SY to be celibate. She said she accepted that because MG was trying to test himself; however, she did say that if he were a greater saint he would not have needed to have tested himself in such a way. “He knew he had a weakness, but it was not that way with SY.”
She mentioned the house car which SY had had built. It was basically a truck made into a camper. SY used to go out to Lake Elsanor and other places with Faye, Virginia, Fiorina, and some a few other women for a few days at a time. SN had no idea how they slept because the camper was small enough for two people, but no more. Fiorina's job was to empty the basin each day that SY used for a toilet — since there wasn’t any around and SY would not go into a filling station, etc.
That housecar was wrecked when the N’s were returned from Miami to Mount Washington. That $10k which was promised to them by Mr. Lynn would not have been their personal money, but would have been enough to start a temple in Miami like the one Bramachari Jotin (Swami Premananda) had in Washington. SY told Mr. Lynn that they no longer needed the money since their home was at Mount Washington, and he was recalling them home to Mount Washington. As soon as they came back to Mount Washington, the Wrights started making their lives difficult. The house car was wrecked in Texas. It was totaled, it had been raining. The visibility was poor, and Sri was driving.
SN told me in a lowered voice.
Srimati told me how she had gotten a 4-
Salome Marckwardt, the Managing Editor of Inner Culture at one time, wanted to be a teacher for Swami, but when that didn’t seem to materialize, she opened a health food store in Highland Park? Those advertisements in Inner Culture refer to her store. While she probably wasn’t paid for being an editor, she probably did receive some business through the ads. In passing, SN said, “she (meaning Mrs. Marckwardt) wanted to take over everything.”
The Wrights said the movie actress Loretta Young was their cousin, but Loretta Young didn’t seem to have anything to do with her.
She told me again about the rubys which SY gave to Fiorina. It wasn’t just a few, but an entire set. At first Fiorina showed them around, but they were so ostentatious. SY gave them to Fiorina not long after Fiorina came to Mt. Washington with her husband.
Srimati again told me that Fiorina’s husband had come to Sri asking Sri’s helping in getting his wife back. But by then it was too late. Fiorina had been Sri’s student in Detroit. Fiorina was French Canadian and she also had a brother and a sister. The family name was Dufour, and Srimati thought that two couples had come to Los Angeles with Fiorina.
Of course, she mentioned how Mrs. Wright would repeat that they were not working for what we have today, but for what we will get tomorrow.
She told me also again about the Goldfish episode. After the Nerodes had returned from Miami, one day SY called her into his room — the one she had previously described which had all the pillows. Besides driving the car, she had had the job of publicizing SY, making contacts with newspaper people, etc. He called her into his room. While she was there, she saw him with his hands around a goldfish bowl which contained very expensive goldfish. In those days goldfish (carp?) costs much more comparatively than they do now. SY with his hands around the bowl was gloating over what was his. He wanted everything for himself.
It was because of this that Srimati had the attitude, “Damn him!” “Here he has expensive goldfish and we are living on seventeen cents a day.” Her son was malnourished and the Swami was eating imported food from India because he was the leader. He didn’t eat with the others. Also why should she go without an iron? Y would be going down to her refrigerator at night and eating her lamb, chicken, and fish, and at the same time he would be telling people in the church that there were bad people living there who were eating meat.
One thing I learned new about this was that this event above occurred after the N’s returned from Miami.
She also mentioned how Sri and SY would have fights about SY’s not getting
married. Sri gave him examples of numerous saints in India who were married and had a family — gurus and how that was also part of the tradition. SY told Sri that in this country (the US) that things were different; and that if he got married, that women would no longer be attracted to him. Srimati again repeated how in Hollywood at that time, the private lives of actor and actresses were kept fairly secret.
Ah! she told me another story about how when they just come back to
Mount Washington (from Miami) that SY had given her son Aneal a fifty cent piece to kiss his shoes. Sri who never ever used force on his children, told Aneal that if he ever did that to any man again that he would beat him. She said that Sri was very angry about that.
She said that she found it much easier to forgive SY for not allowing her to stay at Mount Washington after Aneal was bom (and she had not been notified of this until after Aneal was born!) than it was to forgive him for stealing their honeymoon. She referred again to his coming in the middle of the night with at least two carloads of people and driving them out. The Swami was upset that Mrs. Pickering hadn’t offered her house to him. He said that it should have been offered to him, and that they had no right.
Srimati joked and said the Swami’s saying was, “There shall have no other Gods before me.”
In speaking of the $10k which went to SY, she referred to Eddie Blech who said in a high voice, “The Swami, hee hee, can smell money.” And again she
said, “I told you before that Eddie was not all there.”
Srimati told me that Upadeshak Punditji had a center in Saint Louis, and that he was not all that taken with SY. She said that he was very meditative, and would have several meditations each day. She also said that he invited guests up into some hotel, and that he had a woman cook for him. She would wash dishes in the bathtub and they would get away with it. Upadeshak did not mind if his students heard SY’s lectures, but SY did not want his students going to visit Upadeshak. She thought Swami Yogananda was afraid that Upadeshak would try to take him over.
She told me about Rev. A. Porter, mentioned in the December 36 issue of Inner Culture in the “News from London” section. The Rev was married to a woman (Amy Porter) who he said only allowed him to have sex with her for procreative purposes. They had four sons. This person (the Rev) would go around telling everyone about it; finally he got divorced, and he remarried. Then he told everyone how “good” his wife was. Srimati joked and said he was a “hundred" years ahead of him time — I think meaning that people are more likely to be open now.
Srimati was taught India cooking by Kola Chandra. Kola Chandra had a son who was involved with the movie industry. He graduated from Univ of Southern California in about ‘36 or ‘37.
There was a dentist whose name was Harish Balia (Bhala?) -
Bhagabat Thind was a Shikkh][Siwho had 2 boys (boy and a sister). He lived in Santa Rosen or Santa Barbara. You also might might be able to find him.
The Swami was throughly selfish, she said. She told me about growing up with 8 (?9) siblings and how she learned to share everything, not because she was a do-
She told me that if she had any motive for telling me this at all, for writing anything about this, it is because she felt the injustice of everything that happened.
!Ah she told me another story about the temple on 17th street. That temple was in a poor, ghetto section of town. Srimati would help put on charity events around Christmas. She said that she put on such an event on Thanksgiving, and that the Swami was very upset with her. She said that he told her, “I don’t have any desire to help poor people.” That’s a paraphrase, but essentially the gist of it. She said that it wasn’t the Swami’s money involved here, because the people of the temple donated their own money, it was their own money they were contributing to the local people. It was just that the Swami didn’t want her to be helping the local people — [as that was not his goal.]
She told me that her best guess, and she thought it was a pretty good guess, based on the fact that the Wrights had said they came from a polygamous family, that Mr. Wright had other wives, and that was the reason the Wrights seldom spoke of their father. She said that when the Wrights came to Mount Washington that they were malnourished; to her that was one of the principal reasons for their coming, and that Mrs. Wright knew from the very beginning what it was that she wanted to control.
[The idea not stated here -
Srimati told me, too, about how many times that she would make sacrifices for her husband, great sacrifices, because of what he was into. At times she would work all day, and then stay up late in the night doing mailings so that it would arrive in the people’s mail boxes the next day. In those days, she said, you have [real mail] service. It was after that point that she told me about PY’s gloating, and the deprivations she experienced.
Srimati, from what I can gather, has a real sense of justice. She remembers injustices done to people, and takes to her heart their injustices, standing up for them. She told me a story about a catholic priest who shot a horse outside his garden in one of the midwest states. She has the adjoining property and will not sell it to the church because the priest to her mind defamed the property nearby by killing a horse who was merely in his garden plot in the middle of the night. If you wanted to protect your garden from farm animals, then you built a fence. Srimati’s life was once saved by a horse when she would have frozen had it not been for her horse going back home to fetch her father. So Srimati remembered that.
Well, she remembered a lot of injustices done all around. I think she just didn’t like seeing anyone mistreated no matter what the circumstances were.
Re: the Golden Lotus temple. Srimati told me that on the right side in each of the stories was a basin on each floor. She said that it seemed out of place and that she never could understand what it was for. When I threw out the possibility of a baptismal fount for babies, she remarked how little SY liked to have anything do with children.
She also mentioned that even the drivers would wonder what SY did up on the tower, on the third floor, with the women he took up there (probably the Wrights, Fiorina, etc), because from the ground floor one could not see what was going on the third floor. [Among devotees, the usual assumption would be that they spent hours meditating in this newly constructed temple.]
She also pointed out how the lotus leafs used real gold and that was the principal reason the temple costs so much to build.
Srimati indicated that it was after they returned from Miami that they were traveling one evening down Los Feliz Boulevard in LA with a car full of Hindus. Swami Premananda was there. When the Nerodes told them about SY’s relations with the women, Swami Premananda had them pull the car over to the side. He vomited several times. The other Hindus understood what was said, but it was Swami Premananda who got sick. After that she indicated SP didn’t have as much to do with SY.
She indicated, referring to SP’s not signing over his property to SRF, that SP knew what was going on and that was why he didn’t sign his property over.
When I later said that that SP could have been later evicted from his place in Washington had he signed over his property, Srimati added, “you can bet he would have been.”
Mrs. Royston was supposed to help the Swami with his writings and to edit the books, but she was so overwhelmed by the Swami that she wasn’t much good for that purpose.
We talked from 10am to 1pm today at a pretty relaxed pace. I showed Srimati the record of Durga Ma’s chants; she read the back of the record cover. Srimati was somewhat surprised how it described Fiorina Darhling’s coming to SRF.
FD originally came with her husband, her brother, her sister-
FD’s brother had to get a job outside the ashram. They were an illiterate group, she said, at least in English and SY sent many of them (meaning the ladies: FD, Wrights,. . . ) to school.
When SN originally came, there was only SD, Mrs. Becker who was attracted to a congressman lived nearby, Mrs. Bugby (the cook who later went berserk and had a breakdown when she realized Mr. Thin was not coming for her, and Mrs. Markowitz (sp?) convinced that Mr. Right was not coming (realistically) and then she had a mental breakdown.), Leroy? the driver, and Sri. That was it; and there wasn’t anyone else at the time. SY was traveling around.
She mentioned how SY would not keep anyone who would not work, and produce for him (like the brother). FD’s husband had a square face and had the appearance of one who worked in a factory or was rather otherwise indistinguishable from many other working class people. She again told how FD’s husband had come to Sri because he had known him in Detroit and begged him to help him regain his wife. Sri had liked the man, but had told him that there was nothing he could do. The man left shortly thereafter.
SN told me a number of times how SY would come between a husband and a wife, how he wanted complete loyalty to him alone, and how he would tell each one not to be intimate with the other. She indicated that SY tried to come between them, but that they were not that way (meaning their loyalty was to each other first). SY came to her at one time trying to get her to talk with her husband, but she refused to be used that way.
She said that Sri had several letters written by PY in Bengali. They had not been translated.
SY was a promoter; he did not care much what happened to people or their lives. When he took money from them, or changed their marriages, it made no difference to him. PY obviously had the ability to mesmerize people. To make them give him their loyalty.
She said that the geography of the place was such that once you got on the hill, you couldn’t get off without PY’s knowing about it. Things would have been very different had PY been downtown. There he would not have been able to control people to such an extent. As it was, you had to have his permission to leave the grounds. Everyone did. SY kept up with what everyone was doing.
It was a full-
He also cat-
SY could without any doubt give the most convincing performance with tears and everything. He was an expert at playing one person off against another.
When the Wrights came they were poor, absolutely without anything. Their clothes were even as a poor person. SN was willing to wage her two cents that the husband of Mrs. Wright had other wives.
She told me how S Premananda had asked about SY’s womanizing, how he had seen and had asked, and how he had them pull the car over so he could vomit twice.
We met today from 10am until about 1pm. Srimati called me this morning asking to delay our meeting by an hour. Her washing machine had broken down and she had had the repairman there.
[Not transcribed here are the few stories that SN told about her attentiveness to detail, and how her detective like skills. I don’t recall enough details to write
them down, but wish I had.]
Srimati said that Sidney Omarr’s book made her think that he might be Garisson (sp?). She suggested the idea of writing to the University of Guadalajara and asking whether they didn’t have an Omar Garisson (and his brother) registered there about 1936-
Srimati said that SY never talked about theosophy in public; it was as if they didn’t exists, but in private he was concerned that his movement would last as long as theirs.
She again said that in keeping people for 3-
She remembered that FD’s brother’s name was Earnest Dufour (or Doufour).
She showed me a pamphlet entitled, “Seeking God Together” dated last 1986. She said, “Do you think Y wrote that pamphlet?” I didn’t; it doesn’t sound anything like him at all.
I asked her if she ever saw SY perform any miracles. She said no. She reminded me of something I had not previously written down, and that she had told me. Once SY had a cold and during the church service he had to use a handkerchief to blow his nose. He told them that it was a result of the orange juice he had for breakfast.
Srimati said humorously that perhaps that was a miracle. From her point of view, the idea that orange juice was changed to mucus was absurd. I thought she took his statement literally. [This OJ idea is like the nutritional ideas of George Osawa or someone like that.] In earnest, she then said that if there was any miracle, it was how he was able to strip people of everything they had.
I mentioned to her the story about how SY caused a storm to stop in the early years, perhaps 33-
She said there was no doubt the Swami was charismatic; otherwise, she and I would not be talking about him. Everybody he took in, he stripped them of everything they had. She said that Faye and Virginia were jealous that SY gave the ruby necklace to FD. What he gave Srimati for a wedding gift was a chipped piece of crystal and an ostrich feather. T hat’s what he thought of her. He would not have given one of his girls a chipped piece of crystal.
We talked about bangles; she didn’t recall anything ever being said about bangles. She recalled something about SY wearing some that was made of hair around his arm.
We talked some about how he was jealous, and desirous of name and fame. She said that SY never talked much about astrology.
She didn’t think he was any more holy that a Jim or Tammy Baker; she mentioned Mother Teresa as being holy [perhaps because she knew I had met
Srimati told me that her mother was a believing Mormon, but that her father was not, and that some of his people had been killed by Mormons. She told me a story about her father and how he stopped attending church when the minister who gave the Sunday sermon tried to kill someone on a following Monday. So in this regard she obviously took more after her father, and not her mother.
SY at least knew where he stood with her; she worked, but he wasn’t able to get her to do everything he wanted like he could with some people. Sometimes he would get people to do things even against their will.
On stage at times he would chant, roll his eyes back, and stay in a state like that for hours like on a Christmas meditation. To srimati that was just sitting in a chair. She said it affected many of the young ones, especially in the beginning. (Sri and Srimati would go to the park and Sri would meditate after his exercises -
PY would tell people they had to do something (which he wanted them to do) or else there would be negative consequences.
|Interview Notes #2|