I can’t find enough words to express my thanks and appreciation for the classes and spiritual support offered by VLD programs. To be part of the lay disciple order has really changed my life and strengthened my spiritual effort, giving me a tangible help in maintaining an inner perspective and focus toward the goal of my existence. I feel blessed to have had such a chance in this life. Thank you from my heart!
R. R., Italy
As Brother Chidananda, president and spiritual head of Self-Realization Fellowship/Yogoda Satsanga Society of India (SRF/YSS) conveys in his message welcoming readers to the Voluntary League of Disciples Handbook, Paramahansa Yogananda “devoted much time during the final years of his life to the formation of a vehicle or structure through which Kriyaban members of SRF and YSS worldwide could actively participate in the growth and progress of his work. Now that dream has come to fruition with the formal inauguration of the SRF and YSS Voluntary League of Disciples.”
Since that inauguration, in June of 2021, there have been many exciting new opportunities for members of this lay disciple order to offer service — and learn more about deepening their discipleship on the path. In this post we are happy to share with you some of those ongoing developments.
But first, here is some background about how being a Kriya Yogi in Self-Realization Fellowship relates to the question of whether someone also chooses to become a member of the Voluntary League of Disciples (VLD):
On this spiritual path, when one receives initiation into the technique of Kriya Yoga, he or she enters into the guru-disciple relationship — that most revered tradition of sincere spiritual seeking known in India for millennia — with Paramahansa Yogananda, and becomes a Kriyaban member of SRF or YSS (YSS being the name by which Paramahansaji’s work is known in India and several surrounding countries).
At that time of receiving the sacred Kriya initiation, Kriyabans take a spiritual pledge of discipleship. After being a Kriyaban for at least a year, if one wishes one can choose to join the VLD as well, taking an additional pledge of spiritual commitment to living a self-disciplined life according to the principles emphasized by Paramahansa Yogananda, and to regular service (seva) to SRF/YSS as an expression of devotion to the guru and desire to aid his work.
VLD has been for me the single most important connection to Guruji besides sadhana, through seva and through divine fellowship with attuned, mature devotees. It is an answer to prayer for a more God-centered life in service to Him who has given to us so freely and lovingly.
T. K., Oregon
The Unique Support and Approach of VLD Classes
In an online satsanga held for SRF/YSS Kriyabans shortly after the inauguration, Brother Chidananda highlighted that “The Voluntary League of Disciples, first and foremost, is about discipleship, and then about serving the work with that consciousness — from that attitude, from that inner alignment with and dedication to Guru….This is the Voluntary League in a nutshell: Kriyaban disciples, of SRF and YSS, who make a commitment to living the life and serving the work.”
Regular VLD classes and discipleship events provide the spiritual backbone and support for lay disciple order members as they devotedly serve Paramahansa Yogananda’s work as a worldwide spiritual community.
Inspired by feedback from VLD members, this year a creative new approach to VLD events has been designed — to support members in fulfilling the pledge they have taken and to help them absorb the principles of Paramahansaji’s teachings more deeply into their consciousness.
The classes often include interactive activities such as questions sent ahead of time for personal reflection to prepare for the class topic; periods of meditation and reflection during the event, to apply the principles discussed; or introspective journaling on the class theme. Some of the themes of these classes have been “The Purpose of a Spiritual Pledge,” “Deepening Your Life as a Disciple,” “Fulfilling Your Divine Purpose,” and “Keeping Our Spiritual Striving Fresh and Ever New.”
The VLD classes are a Godsend for me. No words can convey how much my heart is on fire to love God and be Master’s disciple. I have the VLD to thank for keeping me anchored and even growing new roots to blossom more fully.
D. L., Washington
I have really enjoyed and appreciated the depth, quality and personal sharing of the monastics in the VLD classes so far. They have been deeply inspiring and encouraging for me and connect to the core of my spiritual aspirations and reignite the flame of long held spiritual longing which I felt from my earliest childhood.
S. L., Ireland
The class was amazing! I loved the format: study, reflect, talk, reflect, meditate. Deep and effective!
A. D., Hawaii
Uniting East and West
Reflecting the global nature of the lay disciple order, which has members from more than 55 countries, some VLD events this year have been co-led by an SRF monastic livestreaming from the United States and a YSS monastic livestreaming from India. These events have been a wonderful showcasing of the universal nature of Paramahansaji’s teachings and have created a tangible experience of the unified worldwide community of lay disciples.
I felt great joy seeing the two monks — east and west — side-by-side on my screen talking to each other and then sharing their guidance with us. I especially enjoyed seeing them communicating and sharing with each other, like a discussion between the two of them.
R. F., Oregon
First VLD Member Retreat
Another new addition was the first-ever VLD member retreat in April 2023, a full-day event held in person at the SRF temple in Encinitas, California, and livestreamed to VLD members around the world.
In addition to inspirational talks, meditation, and chanting, the day featured unique interactive elements including guided introspection and journaling as well as a panel of lay members sharing their experiences on the topics of “how to live a balanced life” and “what it means to be a VLD member.”
I am grateful for this first in-person VLD retreat event. Even though I attended the event remotely from Japan, I felt something inside me was changed.
K. I., Japan
The panel discussion featuring VLD members was so inspiring as I was able to relate to many of the stories of the disciples who have made the commitment and are on the divine journey.
L. V., California
Serving the Guru’s Work
While the VLD is first and foremost about deepening one’s discipleship and sadhana, an important element of the VLD pledge is the commitment to serving the work of SRF/YSS. VLD members contribute to Paramahansaji’s work in many ways: by serving at temples, centers, groups, and circles; by contributing financially; through employment with SRF or YSS; by participating in the Worldwide Prayer Circle; and by volunteering to serve in an ever-growing number of online programs and projects through remote work.
I am very grateful for these [VLD] talks, and hope that all devotees are aware of this beautiful opportunity to serve, to learn, and to deepen our spiritual practice, made available through the VLD.
G. G., Minnesota
As the Voluntary League of Disciples enters its third year, we are filled with reverent gratitude and look forward to seeing how Paramahansaji’s vision for this lay disciple order will continue to blossom and unfold in the lives of current VLD members and to the great benefit of all those worldwide who feel drawn to this opportunity for discipleship and divine service.
To Learn More
To learn more about the Voluntary League of Disciples, please visit the VLD website. One of the helpful things you will find there is a short video clip from a talk given by SRF/YSS President Brother Chidananda, where he explains the purpose of the VLD.
If you have an SRF Member Portal account, you can also log in there to find the Voluntary League of Disciples Handbook, which includes a comprehensive presentation of the history and purpose of the VLD as well as the VLD pledge. The Handbook can also be accessed by SRF/YSS Kriyabans through the SRF/YSS app.