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This image of Paramahansa Yogananda appears in many of his publications. It was very probably taken at approximately the time Yogananda arrived in the USA, in 1920. Wikimedia Commons

By- Khushi Bisht

Mukunda Lal Ghosh widely known as Paramhansa Yogananda was a prominent yoga guru. He was born into a devoted and prosperous Bengali family on January 5th, 1893 in Gorakhpur, India. His parents were the followers of Shyama Charan Lahiri or Lahiri Mahasaya, the respected Indian yogi and guru who reintroduced the Kriya Yoga in contemporary India.


His spiritual knowledge and perception were well beyond the normal from the time he was a small child, as many around him could see. When he was little, Lahiri Mahasaya predicted that he would grow up to be a renowned spiritual master. Trying to find an enlightened master to educate and help him on his spiritual path, Yogananda looked for many gurus and monks.

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At the age of seventeen, he finally became a disciple of Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri, a great yoga master. He spent 10 years in Sri Yukteswar’s ashram, learning and experiencing the tough yet compassionate spiritual practices. Sri Yukteswar told Yogananda several times that he had been destined to promote the discipline of Kriya Yoga throughout America and all around the globe.


Paramhansa Yogananda meditating, 1910. Wikimedia Commons

In 1915, Mukunda became a monk of India’s historic monastic Swami Order and was given the name Yogananda at that time. In 1917, Yogananda founded a ‘How To Live’ school for boys, combining contemporary learning approaches with yoga practice and spiritual values teachings.

In 1920, on a routine day, Yogananda was meditating when he received a heavenly vision telling him that now he was ready to initiate his mission in the West. In September of 1920, he landed in Boston, Massachusetts, and delivered his first address about “The Science of Religion” at the “International Congress of Religious Liberals.” His speech was well-appreciated and the audience erupted in applause after that.

Yogananda’s teaching reflected old Vedic beliefs. He always said, our purpose is to discover our actual Self, our soul. As a result, his core teachings were based on Self-realization. Yogananda encouraged the audience to contemplate and directly experience reality, saying that God is omnipresent and he is in the hearts of all living creatures.

In the same year, he established Self-Realization Fellowship to propagate his lectures on Yoga around the world. White racists were extremely irritated by his obvious, boundless grandeur. Religious people were displeased with his mission of togetherness, which exposed the flaws in their doctrines. Considering these factors, his enormous popularity and influence on Western culture were nothing short of a miracle. In such an unfriendly, violent, culture, Yogananda, with his bright charisma and spiritual might, launched his mission to propagate Yoga in the West. His goal was to have a significant effect on American culture.


Yogananda giving a class in Washington, D.C. Wikimedia Commons

Hundreds and thousands of people attended Yogananda’s talks. A spiritual master attracting such enormous crowds was formerly unheard of. In 1924, his talks drew such enormous crowds that they were able to fill America’s greatest venues, including Carnegie Hall in New York, and a Denver auditorium, and the Philharmonic Theater in LA. In a Washington, D.C. auditorium, he spoke to a gathering of 5000 people.

ALSO READ: Introduction To Sri Ramana’s Life And Teachings

His talks and mission piqued the interest of many famous personalities as well. President Coolidge of the United States welcomed him to the White House in 1927. This demonstrates his colossal and far-reaching ambitions. Yogananda’s speeches piqued the interest of prominent American CEOs, scientists, and professors including Steve Jobs, Henry Ford, and Lurthur Burbank.

Yogananda arrived in America bearing ancient India’s most eminent truths and knowledge. He also brought the Western world to the notion of a holy guru-disciple (master-disciple) connection, which had hitherto been unheard of. He introduced meditation to westerners. And today it has exploded in popularity, with millions of Westerners now practicing it.

Yogananda taught universal truths, he emphasized the fundamental interconnectedness of the world’s great faiths. What makes him so extraordinary is that he established an exceedingly high threshold for spirituality and successfully propagated it.


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