Swami Chidananda Succeeds Sri Mrinalini Mata As Spiritual Leader of Paramahansa Yogananda’s Society

LOS ANGELES, September 5, 2017—The Board of Directors of Self-Realization Fellowship, the international non-profit spiritual organization founded by Paramahansa Yogananda in 1920, has just announced the election of Swami Chidananda  to the position of president of Self-Realization Fellowship/Yogoda Satsanga Society of India (SRF/YSS), effective immediately.  He succeeds Sri Mrinalini Mata, who served in this position from January 2011 until her passing last month. His appointment was made by a unanimous vote of the SRF Board of Directors on Wednesday, August 30, 2017.

Born Christopher Bagley in Annapolis, Maryland in 1953, Swami Chidananda, whose name means “bliss (ananda) through the infinite Divine Consciousness (chit),” has been a monk of SRF for forty years, and a member of the SRF and YSS Boards of Directors for the last eight years.

In his remarks to the worldwide SRF/YSS community, Swami Chidananda said,

“It is with humility and a sense of sacred responsibility that I look forward to serving this great work in the years ahead, trusting in the help, prayers, goodwill, and divine friendship of you all. I am humbly grateful for the opportunity to serve you all, as are all of the monks and nuns in the SRF/YSS ashrams. As a worldwide band of God-seeking souls – whether on the lay disciple or monastic path – let us unite in gratitude for the spiritual blessings of these teachings and in the resolve to deepen our own inner communion with God and the Great Ones and serve humankind as our larger Self.”

In his new position, Swami Chidananda is responsible for the overall guidance of the society’s monastic order; the operations of its more than 800 temples, meditation centers, and retreats around the world; its publications division; and the many spiritual and humanitarian activities and services the society implements each year.  He also holds the responsibility of editor-in-chief of SRF Publications.

Prior to his election to the presidency, Swami Chidananda served as senior editor of SRF Publications, working directly with Mrinalini Mata, who, in addition to being president of SRF/YSS, also held the position of editor-in-chief for many decades. He has been a member of the SRF/YSS Boards of Directors since 2009, and has also served for many years as a member of the management committee that oversees SRF’s myriad activities and operations under the guidance of the society’s president.

Swami Chidananda first encountered the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda in Encinitas in the early 1970s when he was a student of sociology and philosophy at the University of California, San Diego. Drawn by a long-felt interest in India’s spirituality, Swami Chidananda visited the SRF Ashram Center in Encinitas, just north of the university campus, which was a familiar landmark for many of the students living in the adjacent coastal communities.

Some months later, he happened upon a copy of Autobiography of a Yogi. He was instantly captivated by it, and during his last year at the university, enrolled for the Self-Realization Fellowship Lessons and began attending SRF services in Encinitas. It was not long thereafter that he realized the deep desire to devote his life completely to seeking God and serving the work of Paramahansa Yogananda as a monastic disciple.

On November 19, 1977, following completion of his university studies, Swami Chidananda entered the monks’ postulant ashram of SRF in Encinitas. After a year-and-a-half of initial monastic training, he was transferred to the SRF International Headquarters in Los Angeles, where he was immediately assigned to editorial work in the Publications Department, serving under Mrinalini Mata, one of Paramahansa Yogananda’s foremost disciples who had been personally trained by him to guide the work of his society and to edit his writings and talks for future publication after his passing.

Later, Swami Chidananda was appointed to the SRF/YSS International Publica­tions Council, serving with Sri Daya Mata (who was president of SRF/YSS from 1955 until her passing in 2010) and Sri Mrinalini Mata. He assisted these two senior direct disciples with the preparation and publication of many works, including Paramahansaji’s voluminous scriptural commentaries (God Talks With Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita and The Second Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of the Christ Within You) as well as all other SRF publications released from 1980 to the present. After years of progressively deeper training from Daya Mata and Mrinalini Mata, he was designated by Mrinalini Mata to succeed her as editor-in-chief of SRF/YSS publications after her passing.

Swami Chidananda was given the final vows of renunciation (sannyas) in India’s ancient monastic Swami Order by Sri Daya Mata in 1997. An ordained minister of Self-Realization Fellowship, he has shared Paramahansa Yogananda’s teachings during lecture tours and retreat programs in the United States, Canada, Europe, and India – as well as at the annual SRF World Convocations in Los Angeles. A number of his talks are available in audio and video format as well as in the society’s quarterly magazine, Self-Realization.

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