Paramahansa Yogananda was born on 5 January 1893, in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, India. His birth name was Mukund Lal Ghosh. The only testimonial about his childhood is from his younger brother Sananda. According to Sananda, Yogananda’s awareness and experience of the spirituality was far from ordinary.
Paramahansa Yogananda sought a guru in his early youth. He visited many sages, saints and monks to get help in his quest for spiritual development. His search for his guru ended at last when he met, Swami Yukteswar Giri, in 1910 , at the age of 17.
This is what he had to say about Swami Yukteswar Giri:
“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!“
Later on in his life, Swami Yukteswar Giri told him that, he was sent to Yogananda for a special purpose on command of Mahavatar Babaji.
Schooling and Further Education:
He studied Arts from Scottish Church School, Calcutta, which is one of the oldest organisations. After that, he completed his graduation from Serampore College in West Bengal , Calcutta. As the Yukteswar Giri’s ashram was in Serampore city, it gave Yogananda flexibility in terms of going to the ashram frequently.
Monastic Vow and the name Yogananda:
In 1915, at the age of 22, Yogananda took formal vows into monastic Swami order. As part of this process, he was given name Swami Yogananda Giri.
Yogoda Satsang Society of India:
After two years of his formal monastic life, in 1917, he founded a school for boys in Dihika, West Bengal, India. The purpose was to integrate Yoga and Spiritual training with modern academics.
In 1918, the school shifted from Dihika, West Bengal to Ranchi, Jharkhand. This school has now become one of the center of Yogoda Satsang Society of India. YSS is Indian counterpart of Self-realization fellowship which works in western countries.
America and Self-Realization Fellowship: 1920- 1935
It is said that Paramhansa Yogananda is first Yoga teacher who spent a major portion of his life in America. From 1920 to his death in 1952, he stayed in America with just 2 years of exception.
Yogananda traveled to America by aboarding a ship named City of Sparta. He went there as a delegate to Congress of Religious Liberals convening in Boston.
In the same year, he founded Self-Realization Fellowship (SFF), an organisation to disseminate the teachings of Yoga (Kriya Yoga in particular), its philosophy and practices. Next years, he traveled throughout the world to expand SFF while give lectures and meeting people. Thousands came to attend him.
As his followers gew, he set up an international centre of Self-Realization Fellowship in Los Angeles, California. It is the headquarter of SFF till now.
Visit To India and the title Paramahansa : 1935, 1936
The main purpose for the visit is said to be his meeting with his guru, Sri Yukteswar Giri. For the two years. he undertook the task of expanding Yogoda Satsang Society.
During this duration, he met several westeners saints like Therese Neumann and initiated some of the high profile people like Mahatma Gandhi, Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman. The initiations also included of several disciple of Lahiri mahasaya.
Yukteswar Giri gave the title of Paramahansa (Supreme Swan), to Yogananda. Hence the name Paramahansa Yogananda from now. After some time from this, in 1936, Yukteswar Giri took mahasamadhi in Puri, Orrisa, India. At that time, Paramahansa Yogananda was in Calcutta.
Back to America: 1936 – Till Death
After returning to America, Yogananda stayed at the SRF hermitage in Encinitas, California. This hermitage was a surprise gist from his disciple Rajarsi Janakananda (Original name: James J. Lynn). During this time while staying at the hermitage, Yogananda wrote his most popular work, Autobiography of a Yogi.
In the later years of his life, he spent most of his time in a close circle in his ashram in Twentynine Palms, California. The time was devoted to writing and revision of his work till now.
On the point of relative seclusion in his life, he said:
“I can do much more now to reach others with my pen.“
On 7 March 1952, he was at Biltmore Hotel in LA, California. The occasion was the dinner invitation by Binay ranjan Sharma, An Indian Ambassador to U.S.
First, he gave his speach on India and America and integration of best qualities of both words. The “Efficient America” and “Spiritual India”. Then, he read his poem My India.
The last words were:
“Where Ganges, woods, Himalayan caves, and men dream God—I am hallowed; my body touched that sod.“
“As he uttered these words, he lifted his eyes to the Kutastha center (the Ajna Chakra), and his body slumped to the floor.” – According to Daya Mata, an eye witness to the whole scene.
His funeral service was attended by hundreds of people atop Mount Washington in LA, California. Yogananda’s tomb is at Forest Lawan Memorial Park in Glendale, California.
His tomb is accessible to the visitors.
Celebrity followers of Paramahansa Yogananda:
- Mahatma Gandhi
- Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman
- Amelita Galli-Curci
- Tenor Vladimir Rosing
- Clara Clemens Gabrilowitsch