Paramhansa Yogananda was a spiritual Guru and and Indian Hindu monk , who popularized the teachings of Kriya yoga and meditation in the west (especially in Los Angeles).He is the founder of two major organizations – Self Realization Fellowship(SRF) and Yogoda Satsang Society of India (YSS).He was a disciple of famous Guru Yukteshwar Giri and was born to preach the teachings of Yoga to the west.
He taught people to create a balance between the materialistic and spiritual growth .
He remains a leading figure in Western spirituality till the present day. He is probably the best known and beloved of all spiritual gurus who preached in the west. He is also known for his writings , out of which ‘The Autobiography of An Yogi’ and ‘ God Talks With Arjuna- commentary on Bhagvadgita’ are some of his most renowned works.
Birth and Early Life
Yogananda was born in a Hindu Bengali Kayastha family in Gorakhpur ,Uttar Pradesh, India on 5 January ,1893.His real name was Mukund Lal Ghosh. He was the fourth eldest among the eight siblings.His father was the vice president of Bengal-Nagpur Railway.
Right from his childhood he displayed extraordinary spiritual awareness .
Yogananda had a sacred amulet(an object that protects its possessor) given to him by his mother before she died. The amulet was supposed to vanish into ether after it has served its purpose. This actually happened when Yogananda met his guru Swami Shri AYukteshwar Giri at the age of 17. The amulet mysteriously vanished having had served its purpose.
Because of his father’s railway job ,Yogananda got chance to travel to various parts of the country and he visited many spiritual masters and pilgrim sites as a child.
After getting trained for ten years by Yukteshwar Giri at his Ashram in Serampore(West Bengal),he was informed that he had been specifically sent to Yukteshwar Giri by Mahavatar Babaji( a great Himalayan saint), to fulfill a special purpose of transferring yogic knowledge to the west.
In July 1915 ,he was given the name Swami Yogananda Giri, by his master. In 1917 , he founded a school in West Bengal ,that combined the modern teaching methodology with the teachings of Yoga and spiritual ideals. This school later became the ‘ Yogoda Satsang Society of India’.
“As a bright light shining in the midst of darkness, so was Yogananda’s presence in this world. Such a great soul comes on earth only rarely, when there is a real need among men.”—His Holiness the Shankaracharya of Kanchipuram (1894–1994),
revered spiritual leader of millions in India
Journey To America
In the year 1920, while he was meditating Yogananda saw a vision of multiple Americans passing before his mind’s eyes, symbolizing his journey to America. He left for Calcutta ,and just one day after leaving ,he received an invitation to serve as India’s delegate to an International Congress of Religious Liberals convening in Boston. His address to the Congress, on “The Science of Religion,” was enthusiastically received. He also founded the Self Realization Fellowship , in the same year.
For the next several years , he lectured and taught on the east coast and in 1924 started a cross continental speaking tour. His teachings were followed by many famous personalities and celebrities.
Philosophy and his views about Education
The words of Yogananda were a revealation to the people who attended his speeches on India’s timeless wisdom. He emphasized the means to attain direct personal experience of God, and taught the underlying unity of the world’s great religions—in particular that
of “the original teachings of Jesus Christ and the original Yoga taught by Bhagavan Krishna.”
While steadfast in the ancient principles of his profound faith, he had the gift of generous adaptability. With his quick wit and great spirit he was well fitted to promote reconciliation and truth among the religious seekers of the world. He brought peace and joy to multitudes.
Paramahansa Yogananda reached the precipice of spiritualism from his boyhood. He had no deep regard for the formal education.
"The ideal of right education for youth had always been very close to my heart. I saw clearly the arid results of ordinary instruction, aimed at the development of body and intellect only. Moral and spiritual values, without whose appreciation no man can approach happiness, were yet lacking in the formal curriculum. I determined to found a school where young boys could develop to the full stature of manhood." - Paramhansa Yogananda
He acknowledged that the real fault lied in the base of conventional education which could not provide the education of real life encompassed. So his first work was to provide the proper education to children.
” I decided to establish such an education in which tender boys and girls can be molded in the idealism of humanity.”- said Yogananda. Later in 1925, he established the headquarter of SRF in Los Angeles to disseminate his teachings on the ancient science and
philosophy of Yoga and its time-honored Raja Yoga methods of meditation.
Paramhansa Return to India
In 1935, he returned India after an eighteen months long trip ,during which he also visited other western saints ,he also traveled
through Europe and gave classes and lectures in London, as well as all over India.
When he visited Serampore , at the ashram of his guru ,he had an emotional reunion with him. During his stay in India he enjoyed meetings with Mahatma Gandhi (who requested initiation in Kriya Yoga from him), Nobel physicist Sir C.V. Raman, and some of India’s renowned saints, including Sri Ramana Maharshi and Anandamayi Ma.
He was given the title of ‘Paramhansa’ meaning the supreme swan – which is a symbol of enlightenment by his guru, Yukteshwar Giri ,who attained Mahasamadhi(left the mortal body) ,shortly after this.
Last four Years of his Life
At the end of 1936, he returned to America and delivered a few lectures , and became a permanent resident of U.S. After returning to America from India , he began to withdraw somewhat from his nationwide public lecturing so as to devote himself to building an enduring foundation for his worldwide work and to the writings that would carry his message to future generations. His life story, Autobiography of a Yogi, was published in 1946 and substantially expanded by him in 1951.
During the last four years of his life , he delivered very few lectures and remained in seclusion with his prominent disciples . His main focus was to write his learnings, revising and rewriting his prewritten articles and books. He said that he could do much more by his pen ,than by delivering lectures at that time.
Paramahansa Yogananda entered mahasamadhi (a yogi’s final conscious exit from the body) in Los Angeles, California, on March 7, 1952, after concluding his speech at a banquet held in honor of H.E. Binay R. Sen, Ambassador of India. The great world teacher demonstrated the value of yoga (scientific techniques for God-realization) not only in life but in death. Weeks after his departure his unchanged face shone with the divine luster of incorruptibility.
” The ideal of love for God and service to humanity found full expression in the
life of Paramahansa Yogananda….Though the major part of his life was spent
outside of India, still he takes his place among our great saints. His work continues
to grow and shine ever more brightly, drawing people everywhere on the path of
the pilgrimage of the Spirit.”
– A leaflet from the stamp of Paramhansa Yogananda published by Govt. of India in 1977.