- Yogananda, Paramahansa
- (1893–1952)kriya yoga teacher and founder of Self-Realization FellowshipThe founder of the influential SELF-REALIZATION FELLOWSHIP (SRF), Paramahansa Yogananda was one of the most successful missionaries for yoga in the West.Born Mukunda Lal Ghosh on January 5, 1893, into an affluent Bengali family in Gorakhpur, K 512 Yogananda, ParamahansaParamahansa Yogananda learned Hindu spiritual-ity early in life. His father, a railway executive, was a disciple of LAHIRI MAHASAYA, one of those who revived KRIYA YOGA in the 20th century. Mukunda relates that, as a child, he was healed by a photo-graph of Lahiri. After high school, Mukunda joined a hermitage in BENARES (Varanasi), the Sri Bharat Charma Mahamandal, where he met Sri YUKESWAR Giri. Sri Yukeswar gave him the vows of SANNYAS (renunciation) in the Shankaracharya Order, Giri branch, in 1914 and he became Yogananda, mean-ing the “bliss that comes from yoga.”In 1916 he discovered the techniques of Yogoda, a system of life-energy control for physi-cal and spiritual development, which, combined with traditional yoga, became the central concern of his teachings. Yogananda expressed a sustained interest in education. He attended Scottish Church College and later transferred to Serampore Col-lege to be near Yukteswar. In 1917, he founded a school for boys, Yogoda San-Sanga Brahmacharya Vidyalaya, at Dihik, Bengal, and in 1918 moved the school to Ranchi. His school included high school subjects as well as yoga and MEDITATION.In 1920 Yogananda went to the United States to speak at the International Congress of Reli-gious Liberals in Boston, where he remained to teach for three years. In 1924 he conducted a lecture tour of the United States that resulted in the establishment of several centers in his name. An American headquarters for these centers was set up at Mount Washington in Los Angeles. His personality was extremely effective in relaying his message and the ancient wisdom of India to a Western audience. Yogananda taught kriya yoga, which he describes as a scientific technique for God-real-ization. The practice is conveyed in an initiation ceremony and involves meditation and visualiza-tion. His approach to kriya yoga is presented as a form of raja yoga but also includes concepts and exercises similar to those of KUNDALINI YOGA.Yogananda originally called his work the Yogoda Satsang Society, but, in 1935, he incorpo-rated his organization as the Self-Realization Fel-lowship. His lectures were collected into a home correspondence course for students to study in any location. Also in 1935, he visited India for the last time and was given the title Paramahansa, meaning “great swan,” because his guru recog-nized that Yogananda had reached the state of nirvikalpa samadhi (irrevocable God-union).Once back in the United States, Yogananda wrote his most famous book, Autobiography of a Yogi, perhaps the most widely read account of a Hindu teacher, published in 1946. His account is an absorbing story of a search for truth, interwoven with explanations of the subtle laws by which yogis perform miracles and attain self-mastery. He describes his years of training in India under Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri and his meetings with exceptional persons of the Paramahansa Yogananda (1893–1952), master of kriya yoga and founder of Self-Realization Fellowship, including Mohandas Karamchand GANDHI, Luther Burbank, Therese Neumann, and Rabin-dranath TAGORE. In 1942 he opened the Church of All Religions in Hollywood and later the Self-Realization Lake Shrine and Mahatma Gandhi World Peace Memorial in Pacific Palisades, Cali-fornia. Self-Realization Fellowship is currently headed by Sri Daya MATA at Mount Washington, California.His death on March 7, 1952, was noted by his disciples as an extraordinary event because of the “absence of any visual signs of decay in the dead body of Paramahansa Yogananda . . . even twenty days after his death, according to a notarized tes-timony from Forest Lawn Mortuary in Glendale, California.”Further reading: Paramahansa Yogananda, Autobiogra-phy of a Yogi (Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1971); ———, Whispers from Eternity (Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1958); ———, Yogoda (Boston: Yogoda Satsang Society, 1924); Paramahansa Yogananda, in Memoriam (Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1958).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.