Lineage and Leadership


Spiritual Lineage

The teachings of Self-Realization Fellowship (Yogoda Satsanga Society of India) are founded upon the original Christianity of Jesus Christ and the original Yoga of Bhagavan Krishna. The spiritual lineage of SRF/YSS consists of these two great avatars and a line of exalted masters of contemporary times: Mahavatar Babaji, Lahiri Mahasaya, Swami Sri Yukteswar, and Paramahansa Yogananda (last in the line of SRF/YSS Gurus).


Each of these Great Ones played a role in Self-Realization Fellow­ship's mission of bringing to the modern world the spiritual science of Kriya Yoga. (Click on the photos to read more.)

All members of Self-Realization Fellowship (monastics as well as lay members) who have taken the sacred initiation in Kriya Yoga are disciples of Paramahansa Yogananda. He is given respect and devotion as their personal guru, and his lineage of Gurus is likewise venerated by SRF disciples. Read more about the guru-disciple relationship.

Guru-parampara — the passing of a guru's spiritual mantle

The passing of a guru's spiritual mantle to a disciple designated to carry on the lineage to which that guru belongs is termed guru-parampara. Thus, Paramahansa Yogananda's direct lineage of gurus is Mahavatar Babaji, Lahiri Mahasaya, and Swami Sri Yukteswar.

Before his passing, Paramahansa Yogananda stated that it was God's wish that he be the last in the SRF line of Gurus. No succeeding disciple or leader in his society will ever assume the title of guru. (This divine ordinance is not unique in religious history. After the passing of Guru Nanak, the great saint who founded the Sikh religion in India, there was the usual succession of gurus. The tenth guru in the line announced he was to be the last of that line of gurus, and henceforth the teachings were to be considered the guru.)

Paramahansaji gave the assurance that, after his passing, he would continue to work through the society he founded, Self-Realization Fellowship/Yogoda Satsanga Society of India. He stated, "When I am gone the teachings will be the guru….Through the teachings you will be in tune with me and the great Gurus who sent me."

When questioned about the succession of SRF/YSS leadership, he answered, "There will always be at the head of this organization men and women of realization. They are already known to God and the Gurus. They shall serve as my spiritual successor and representative in all spiritual and organizational matters."

The Guru's Successors

Rajarsi Janakananda

Paramahansa Yogananda bestowing the vow of sannyas on Rajarsi JanakanandaRajarsi Janakananda succeeded Paramahansa Yogananda to the presidency of SRF/YSS in 1952. He was born James J. Lynn on May 5, 1892, in Archibald, Louisiana; and met Paramahansa Yogananda during the guru's lecture series in Kansas City in 1932.

Because of his rapid advancement in Kriya Yoga, Paramahansaji lovingly referred to him as "Saint Lynn." In 1951 Yogananda bestowed on him the monastic title of Rajarsi Janakananda (after the spiritually illustrious King Janaka of ancient India) and turned over to him the responsibility of guiding the SRF/YSS work.

Read more about Rajarsi Janakananda.

The exemplary life of Rajarsi Janakananda, a great Western yogi, came to an end on February 20, 1955.

Sri Daya Mata
Sri Daya Mata succeeded Rajarsi Janakananda to the SRF/YSS presidency in 1955.

Born in Salt Lake City on January 31, 1914 as Faye Wright, she met Paramahansa Yogananda when he came to give lectures and classes there Paramahansa Yogananda and Daya Matain 1931. Shortly thereafter, she entered his ashram as a nun.

For more than twenty years, Sri Daya Mata was part of the small circle of his closest disciples, who were with him almost constantly. As the years passed, he assigned more and more responsibility to her, personally appointing her as an officer on the SRF Board of Directors in the 1930s when she was still a young woman. In the closing period of his life, Yogananda placed her in charge of the SRF International Headquarters and began to speak openly to the disciples of the worldwide role she was destined to play. Shortly before his passing, he told her: "Now my work is finished; your work begins." Read more about Sri Daya Mata.

Paramahansaji's choice of Sri Daya Mata as the future leader of his worldwide society was confirmed by Mahavatar Babaji in an encounter Daya Mata had with the Mahavatar during a pilgrimage in India in 1962.

Sri Daya Mata passed on November 30, 2010, after more than 55 years as SRF/YSS president.

Sri Mrinalini Mata

Mrinalini Mata

Sri Mrinalini Mata became the fourth president of SRF/YSS on January 7, 2011 and served in this role until her passing on August 3, 2017.

Born in 1931 in Wichita, Kansas, Mrinalini Mata met Paramahansa Yogananda in December 1945 at the age of fourteen and shortly afterwards entered the Guru’s ashram in Encinitas, California, to dedicate herself to a life of service as a nun.

From the very beginning of Mrinalini Mata’s life in the ashram, Paramahansaji spoke to her and the other disciples about the role he envisioned for her—especially her future responsibility as editor of his Self-Realization Fellowship Lessons, writings, and talks. “She was destined for this work,” he said in a handwritten letter to Rajarsi Janakananda in 1950. “God showed it to me when I first saw her spirit.”

In addition to serving for decades as editor-in-chief of SRF/YSS publications, Sri Mrinalini Mata also served as SRF vice president for forty-five years, closely assisting Sri Daya Mata in the overall guidance of the SRF/YSS monastic order and overseeing the numerous activities and services of the society worldwide.

Learn more about Sri Mrinalini Mata.

Brother Chidananda

Brother Chidananda

On August 30, 2017, Brother Chidananda succeeded Sri Mrinalini Mata as the fifth president of SRF/YSS.

Brother Chidananda has been a monk of Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) for forty years, and a member of the SRF and YSS Boards of Directors since 2009. Almost from the start of his monastic life, he worked closely with Sri Mrinalini Mata, receiving her wisdom-permeated, Guru-attuned training as he assisted her in the editing and publishing of the works of Paramahansa Yogananda and other SRF publications. After Mrinalini Mata’s passing, he was elected president by the SRF Board of Directors, in accord with the stated wishes of Sri Daya Mata and Sri Mrinalini Mata. In addition to his role as president of the society, he was assigned by Mrinalini Mata to serve as Editor-in-Chief of Self-Realization Fellowship publications after her passing.

Learn more about Brother Chidananda.

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