About Paramahansa Yogananda
Paramahansa Yogananda was born Mukunda Lal Ghosh on January 5, 1893 – March 7, 1952. He was an Indian Hindu monk, yogi and guru who introduced millions to the teachings of meditation. And Kriya Yoga through his organization Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) / Yogoda Satsanga Society (YSS) of India, and who lived his last 32 years in America.
Also a chief disciple of the Bengali yoga guru Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri, he got send by his lineage to spread the teachings of yoga to the West. So to prove the unity between Eastern and Western religions and to preach a balance between Western material growth and Indian spirituality. His long-standing influence in the American yoga movement. And especially the yoga culture of Los Angeles, lead him to be consider by yoga experts as the “Father of Yoga in the West.”
Yogananda is the first major Indian teacher to settle in America. And the first prominent Indian to get host in the White House (by President Calvin Coolidge in 1927). His early acclaim lead to him being dubbed “the 20th century’s first superstar guru,” by the Los Angeles Times. Arriving in Boston in 1920, he embark on a successful transcontinental speaking tour before settling in Los Angeles in 1925.
Paramahansa Yogananda’s early years
For the next two and a half decades, he gained local fame as well as expanded his influence worldwide: he created a monastic order and trained disciples, went on teaching tours, bought properties for his organization in various California locales, and initiated thousands into Kriya Yoga. By 1952, SRF had over 100 centres in both India and the US; today, they have groups in nearly every major American city. His “plain living and high thinking” principles attracted people from all backgrounds among his followers.
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He published his book, Autobiography of a Yogi, in 1946, to critical and commercial acclaim. Since its first publishing, it has sold over four million copies. With HarperSan Francisco listing it as one of the “100 best spiritual books of the 20th Century”. Former Apple CEO Steve Jobs has order 500 copies of the book for his own memorial, for each guest to have a copy. The book has been regularly reprinting and is known as “the book that changed the lives of millions.”
A 2014 documentary, Awake: The Life of Yogananda, won multiple awards at film festivals around the world. His continued legacy around the world, remaining a leading figure in Western spirituality to the current day. Led authors such as Philip Goldberg to consider him “the best known and most beloved of all Indian spiritual teachers. Who has come to the West through the strength of his character and his skilful transmission of perennial wisdom? He showed the way for millions to transcend barriers to the liberation of the soul.”
Youth and discipleship
Yogananda was born in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, India, to a Hindu Bengali Kayastha family. He was the fourth of the eight children, and second of the four sons, of Bhagabati Charan Ghosh. The Vice President of Bengal-Nagpur Railway, and Gyanprabha Devi. According to his younger brother, Sananda, from his earliest years. Young Mukunda’s awareness and experience of the spiritual was far beyond the ordinary.
Since his father was a Vice-President of the Bengal Nagpur Railway. The travelling nature of his job would move his family to several cities during Yogananda’s childhood. Including Lahore, Bareilly, and Kolkata. According to Autobiography of a Yogi, when he was eleven years old, his mother died. Just before the betrothal of his eldest brother Ananta; she left behind for Mukunda a sacred amulet. Given to her by a holy man, who told her that Mukunda was to possess it for some years. After which it would vanish into the ether from which it came.
Throughout his childhood, his father would fund train passes for his many sight-seeing trips to distant cities and pilgrimage spots, which he would often take with friends. In his youth he sought out many of India’s Hindu sages and saints, including the Soham “Tiger” Swami, Gandha Baba, and Mahendranath Gupta, hoping to find an illumined teacher to guide him in his spiritual quest.
Teaching in America
In 1920, while in meditation one day at his Ranchi school, Yogananda received a vision – faces of a multitude of Americans passed before his mind’s eye, intimating to him that he would soon go to America. After giving charge of the school over to its faculty (and eventually to his brother disciple Swami Satyananda), he left for Calcutta; the following day he received an invitation from the American Unitarian Association to serve as India’s delegate to an International Congress of Religious Liberals convening that year in Boston. Yogananda soon afterwards accepted the offer to go to Boston.
In August 1920, he left for the United States aboard the ship “The City of Sparta,” on a two-month voyage that landed near Boston by late September. He spoke at the International Congress in early October, and was well-received; later that year he founded the Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) to disseminate worldwide his teachings on India’s ancient practices and philosophy of Yoga and its tradition of meditation. Yogananda spent the next four years in Boston; in the interim, he lectured and taught on the East Coast and in 1924 embarked on a cross-continental speaking tour.
In 1925, he established an international centre for Self-Realization Fellowship in Los Angeles, California. Which became the spiritual and administrative heart of his growing work. Yogananda was the first Hindu teacher of yoga to spend a major portion of his life in America. He lived in the United States from 1920 to 1952, interrupted by an extended trip abroad in 1935–1936, and through his disciples, he developed various Kriya Yoga centers around the world.