Even Yogananda Faced Lies About His Character

The following is an excerpt from attorney Jon Parsons’ entertaining book about the SRF and Bertolucci cases, A Fight For Religious Freedom: A Lawyer’s Personal Account of Copyrights, Karma and Dharmic Litigation. Parsons presents numerous stories interspersed through the book of Yogananda’s struggles, during his early years in America, against racial and religious prejudice, lawsuits by former students, and the “yellow journalism” of the day. It seems that few towering spiritual figures can escape similar slanders — even Padre Pio, the widely venerated Christian saint of modern Italy, faced false accusations of sexual misconduct from jealous individuals.

Yogananda knew the sting of words and a scurrilous press. He finished up 1927 with a series of lectures throughout the snowy North, including several stops in Michi­gan. By January 14, 1928, he was finally in sunny Miami, beginning two weeks of lectures at the Scottish Rites Temple. These would be followed by Yogoda classes to be conducted through February at the Anglers’ Club. Free lectures were scheduled at Cen­tral High School, and posters had been placed all around town. These plans were cut short, however, when Miami Police Chief H. Leslie Quigg abruptly ordered Yoganan­da out of town. The local press reported how “Swami Yogananda, East Indian love cult leader” had “his life threatened by a delegation of indignant citizens” who burst into a class. Under the pretense of avoiding a disturbance, Quigg then ordered Yogananda to move along or face arrest. For a while Yogananda kept to his “hotel . . . determined to stay in Miami ‘and fight it out’.” But he wisely moved on to his next campaign. Two months after this incident Quigg was arrested for the murder of a couple black men while in police custody. The evidence was good enough for the grand jury and Quigg had to step down as police chief. But this was Roaring Twenties Florida, and Quigg walked free. By 1937 he was back as chief. Sometimes you need to take a licking and keep on moving.