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Paramahansa Yogananda
Date of Birth January 5, 1893(1893-01-05)
Place of birth Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, India
Birth Mukunda Lal Ghosh
Date of death 7 March 1952 (aged 59)
Place of death Los Angeles, California, U.S
Guru/Teacher Sri Yukteswar Giri

Paramahansa Yogananda (Bengali: পরমহংস যোগানন্দ Pôromohôngsho Joganondo, Sanskrit: परमहंस योगानं‍द Paramahaṃsa Yogānaṃda; January 5, 1893–March 7, 1952), born Mukunda Lal Ghosh (Bengali: মুকুন্দ লাল ঘোষ Mukundo Lal Ghosh), was an Indian yogi and guru who introduced many westerners to the teachings of meditation and Kriya Yoga through his book, Autobiography of a Yogi.[1]





Yogananda at age six

Yogananda was born in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, India into a devout Bengali kshatriya family.[2] According to his younger brother, Sananda,[3] from his earliest years young Mukunda's awareness and experience of the spiritual was far beyond the ordinary. In his youth he sought out many of India's Hindu sages and saints, hoping to find an illuminated teacher to guide him in his spiritual quest.[4]

Yogananda's seeking after various saints mostly ended when he met his guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri, in 1910, at the age of 17. He describes his first meeting with Yukteswar as a rekindling of a relationship that had lasted for many lifetimes:

We entered a oneness of silence; words seemed the rankest superfluities. Eloquence flowed in soundless chant from heart of master to disciple. With an antenna of irrefragable insight I sensed that my guru knew God, and would lead me to Him. The obscuration of this life disappeared in a fragile dawn of prenatal memories. Dramatic time! Past, present, and future are its cycling scenes. This was not the first sun to find me at these holy feet![5][6]

Later on Sri Yukteswar informed Yogananda that he had been sent to him by Mahavatar Babaji for a special purpose.[7]

After passing his Intermediate Examination in Arts from the Scottish Church College, Calcutta, in June 1915, he graduated with a degree similar to a current day "Bachelor of Arts" or B.A. (which at the time was referred to as an A.B.), from the Serampore College, a constituent college of the University of Calcutta. This allowed him to spend time at Yukteswar's ashram in Serampore. In 1915, he took formal vows into the monastic Swami Order and became 'Swami Yogananda Giri'.[8] In 1917, Yogananda founded a school for boys in Dihika, West Bengal that combined modern educational techniques with yoga training and spiritual ideals. A year later, the school relocated to Ranchi.[9] This school would later become Yogoda Satsanga Society of India, the Indian branch of Yogananda's American organization.

Move to America

In 1920, he went to the United States aboard the ship City of Sparta, as India's delegate to an International Congress of Religious Liberals convening in Boston. That same year he founded the Self-Realization Fellowship to disseminate worldwide his teachings on India's ancient practices and philosophy of Yoga and its tradition of meditation. For the next several years, he lectured and taught on the East coast and in 1924 embarked on a cross-continental speaking tour. Thousands came to his lectures.[10] The following year, he established in Los Angeles, California, an international headquarters for Self-Realization Fellowship, which became the spiritual and administrative heart of his growing work. Yogananda was the first Hindu teacher of yoga to make his permanent home in America, living there from 1920—1952, with the exception of his trip abroad in 1935–1936.[11]

Visit to India, 1935-6

Swami Kriyananda offering sweetmeats to Yogananda.

In 1935, he returned to India to visit Yukteswar and to help establish his Yogoda Satsanga work in India. During this visit, as told in his autobiography, he met with Mahatma Gandhi, the Bengali saint Anandamoyi Ma, Nobel-winning physicist Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman, and several disciples of Yukteswar's Guru Lahiri Mahasaya.[12] While in India, Yukteswar gave Yogananda the monastic title of Paramhansa (the spelling was later changed to "Paramahansa").[13] Paramahansa means "supreme swan" and is a title indicating the highest spiritual attainment.[14][15] In 1936, while Yogananda was visiting Kolkata, Sri Yukteswar died in the town of Puri.


After returning to America, he continued to lecture, write, and establish churches in southern California. In the days leading up to his death, he began hinting that it was time for him to leave the world.[16] On March 7, 1952, he attended a dinner for the visiting Indian Ambassador to the U.S., Binay Ranjan Sen, and his wife at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles. At the conclusion of the banquet Yogananda spoke of India and America, their contributions to world peace and human progress, and their future cooperation,[17 ] expressing his hope for a "United World" that would combine the best qualities of "efficient America" and "spiritual India."[18] According to two eyewitnesses—long-time disciples Swami Kriyananda and Daya Mata—as Yogananda ended his speech, he read from his poem My India, concluding with the words "Where Ganges, woods, Himalayan caves, and men dream God—I am hallowed; my body touched that sod".[17 ][19] At the very last words, he slid to the floor,[17 ] dead from a heart attack.[20] Kriyananda wrote that Yogananda had once stated in a lecture, "A heart attack is the easiest way to die. That is how I choose to die."[17 ] Yogananda is buried at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.


Paramahansa Yogananda at a yoga class in Washington, D.C.

Yogananda taught his students the need for direct experience of truth, as opposed to blind belief. He said that “The true basis of religion is not belief, but intuitive experience. Intuition is the soul’s power of knowing God. To know what religion is really all about, one must know God.”[21]

Echoing traditional Hindu teachings, he taught that the entire universe is God's cosmic motion picture, and that individuals are merely actors in the divine play who change roles through reincarnation. He taught that mankind's deep suffering is rooted in identifying too closely with one's current role, rather than with the movie's director, or God.[22]

He taught Kriya Yoga and other meditation practices to help people achieve that understanding, which he called Self-realization:

Self-realization is the knowing in all parts of body, mind, and soul that you are now in possession of the kingdom of God; that you do not have to pray that it come to you; that God’s omnipresence is your omnipresence; and that all that you need to do is improve your knowing.[23]

Kriya Yoga

Kriya Yoga is a set of yoga techniques that are the main discipline of Yogananda's meditation teachings. Kriya Yoga was passed down through Yogananda's guru lineage — Mahavatar Babaji taught Kriya Yoga to Lahiri Mahasaya, who taught it to his disciple Yukteswar, Yogananda's Guru. Because of ancient yogic injunctions, "the actual technique must be learned from a Kriyaban or Kriya Yogi", according to Yogananda.[24] He gave a general description of Kriya Yoga in his Autobiography:

The Kriya Yogi mentally directs his life energy to revolve, upward and downward, around the six spinal centers (medullary, cervical, dorsal, lumbar, sacral, and coccygeal plexuses) which correspond to the twelve astral signs of the zodiac, the symbolic Cosmic Man. One-half minute of revolution of energy around the sensitive spinal cord of man effects subtle progress in his evolution; that half-minute of Kriya equals one year of natural spiritual unfoldment.[25]

Autobiography of a Yogi

In 1946, Yogananda published his life story, Autobiography of a Yogi. It has since been translated into twenty-five languages. In 1999, it was designated one of the "100 Most Important Spiritual Books of the 20th Century" by a panel of spiritual authors convened by Philip Zaleski and HarperCollins publishers.[26]

Autobiography of a Yogi describes Yogananda's spiritual search for enlightenment, in addition to encounters with notable spiritual figures such as Therese Neumann, Anandamoyi Ma, Mohandas Gandhi, Nobel laureate in literature Rabindranath Tagore, noted plant scientist Luther Burbank (the book is 'Dedicated to the Memory of Luther Burbank, An American Saint'), famous Indian scientist Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose and Nobel Prize-winning physicist Sir C. V. Raman. One notable chapter of this book is "The Law of Miracles", where he gives scientific explanations for seemingly miraculous feats. He writes "the word 'impossible' is becoming less prominent in man's vocabulary"[27]

Bodily incorruptibility

As reported in Time Magazine on August 4, 1952, Harry T. Rowe, Los Angeles Mortuary Director of the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California where Yogananda's body was embalmed,[28][29] stated in a notarized letter:

The absence of any visual signs of decay in the dead body of Paramahansa Yogananda offers the most extraordinary case in our experience.... No physical disintegration was visible in his body even twenty days after death.... No indication of mold was visible on his skin, and no visible drying up took place in the bodily tissues. This state of perfect preservation of a body is, so far as we know from mortuary annals, an unparalleled one.... No odor of decay emanated from his body at any time....

Organizational legacy

Yogananda's work is continued by several of his disciples and organizations. Self-Realization Fellowship, which he founded, is headquartered in Los Angeles and has meditation centers and temples across the world, including the Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine. The current head is Daya Mata, a direct disciple of Yogananda. [30]

Ananda Village, near Nevada City, California, was founded by Swami Kriyananda, a direct disciple of Yogananda. Ananda expresses an aspect of Yogananda's vision for World Brotherhood Colonies, an idea for spiritual intentional communities that Yogananda often recommended to his students. At Ananda's Expanding Light Yoga & Meditation Retreat, [31] courses are offered in meditation, spiritual topics, healthy lifestyle and Ananda yoga, a style of hatha yoga based on Yogananda's teachings as developed by Kriyananda. Ananda also has centers and meditation groups throughout the world including: Palo Alto, California; Sacramento, California; Portland, Oregon; Seattle, Washington; Assisi, Italy and Pune, India. [32]

Song of the Morning Retreat Center, near Vanderbilt, Michigan, was founded by Yogacharya Oliver Black, a direct disciple of Yogananda. The retreat center offers classes on yoga and meditation and hosts programs featuring visiting spiritual teachers.[33]

The Center for Spiritual Awareness (CSA), located in Lakemont, Georgia, was founded by Roy Eugene Davis, a direct disciple of Yogananda. The CSA publishes books and audio cassettes and offers meditation seminars at its retreat center headquarters on a voluntary donation basis.[34 ]

Noted disciples

The members of this list were drawn from Yogananda's book "Journey to Self-Realization", unless otherwise noted.[35]


  1. ^ Bowden, p. 629
  2. ^ Ghosh, p. 3
  3. ^ Ghosh, p. 23
  4. ^ Yogananda, p. 59
  5. ^ Yogananda (2005), p. 90
  6. ^ Yogananda (2005), Chapter 10: I Meet my Master, Sri Yukteswar
  7. ^ Yogananda (2005), Chapter 36, Babaji's Interest in the West
  8. ^ Yogananda, p. 217
  9. ^ Yogananda, p. 240
  10. ^ Yogananda, p. 341
  11. ^ "S.L. Group Will Celebrate the Anniversary of Yogi's Birth," The Desert News, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2 January 1993
  12. ^ Yogananda, all pages
  13. ^ "The next afternoon, with a few simple words of blessing, Yukteswar bestowed on me the further monastic title of Paramhansa." Yogananda (2005), p. 383
  14. ^ "Paramahansa means "supreme swan" and is a title indicating the highest spiritual attainment." Miller, p. 188.
  15. ^ Kriyananda (2003), p. xiii
  16. ^ Kriyananda (1977), p. 399.
  17. ^ a b c d Kriyananda (1977), p. 400
  18. ^ Miller, p. 179.
  19. ^ Mata, Daya (Spring 2002), "My Spirit Shall Live On: The Final Days of Paramahansa Yogananda", Self-Realization Magazine  
  20. ^ "Guru's Exit - TIME".,9171,822420,00.html. Retrieved 2008-01-17.  
  21. ^ Kriyananda (2003), p. 31
  22. ^ Yogananda, p. 269-270
  23. ^ Kriyananda (2003), p. 197
  24. ^ Yogananda, p. 231
  25. ^ Yogananda, p. 234
  26. ^ 100 Best Spiritual Books of the Century
  27. ^ Note: The 1946 ed. of Autobiography of a Yogi is in the Public Domain: "Project Gutenberg Titles by Paramahansa Yogananda (Yogananda, Paramahansa, 1893-1952)". Retrieved 2008-01-16.  
  28. ^ "Guru's Exit" Time, 4 August 1952 "At Forest Lawn Cemetery, where Paramhansa's body was embalmed"
  29. ^ "INCORRUPTIBILITY: Miracle or Myth?" by Harry Edwards, Investigator 45, November 1995 "Professor Angel ... obtained a copy of Yogananda’s death certificate from the Los Angeles Department of Vital Statistics ... bore the ... 'Signature of embalmer.'"
  30. ^ "About SRF: Leadership of the Society". Retrieved 2008-02-09.  
  31. ^ [(]
  32. ^ "Ananda: Source for the Teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda – Meditation, Kriya Yoga, and more, including talks from Swami Kriyananda". Retrieved 2008-01-16.  
  33. ^ "Golden Lotus". Retrieved 2008-01-16.  
  34. ^ "Center for Spiritual Awareness". Retrieved 2008-01-16.  
  35. ^ [Book: Journey to Self Realization original list in footnotes]
  36. ^ Book: The Flawless Mirror
  37. ^ Coptic Fellowship
  38. ^ Yogananda ordained as a swami in 1941
  39. ^ Yogacharya Oliver Site
  40. ^ 70 years of discipleship
  41. ^ Le Yoga des Pharaons, El Yoga de la plegaria
  42. ^ Interview
  43. ^ Book: Christ Consciousness
  44. ^ Kriyananda (1977).
  45. ^ Book: Paramahansa Yogananda as I knew him
  46. ^ Date is when he became ordained
  47. ^ Date is when she met PY in Seattle


  • Bowden, Henry Warner (1993). Dictionary of American Religious Biography. Greenwood Press. ISBN 0313278253.  
  • Ghosh, Sananda Lal (1980). Mejda: The Family and the Early Life of Paramahansa Yogananda. Self-Realization Fellowship Publishers. ISBN 978-0876122655.  
  • Kriyananda, Swami (2003). The Essence of Self-Realization: The Wisdom of Paramhansa Yogananda. Crystal Clarity Publishers. ISBN 978-0916124298.  
  • Kriyananda, Swami (1977). The Path: Autobiography of a Western Yogi. Crystal Clarity Publishers. ISBN 978-0916124113.  
  • Miller, Timothy (1995). America's Alternative Religions. SUNY Press. ISBN 0791423972.  
  • Yogananda, Paramhansa (2005). Autobiography of a Yogi. Crystal Clarity Publishers. ISBN 978-1565892125.   Reprint of 1946 first edition published by Philosophical Library, New York.
  • Yogananda, Paramahansa (1979). Metaphysical Meditations. Los Angeles, Calif.: Self-Realization Fellowship. ISBN 978-0876120415.  
  • Yogananda, Paramahansa (1996). Divine Romance. Los Angeles, CA: Self-Realization Fellowship. ISBN 978-0876122419.  

See also

External links


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