(Last Updated on : 25-01-2014)
Paramhansa Yogananda was born on January 5,1893 in Gorakhpur, India in a pious and well-to-do Bengali family. His name was Mukunda Lal Ghosh. From his young age he showed a depth of awareness, experience and wisdom, which was evidently different from the ordinary children. In his youth he sought out many of India's saints and sages in order to find out an illuminated teacher to guide him in his spiritual quest.
In the year 1910, at the age of 17, he met Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri. He immediately revered him and became his disciple. In the hermitage of Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri he spent his next ten years of life. His Guru was strict but lovingly showed him the spiritual discipline. After he graduated from Calcutta University in 1915, he took formal vow as a monk and received the name Yogananda (that means bliss or 'ananda' through divine unionor 'yoga'). The ardent desire of Paramhansa Yogananda to sacrifice his life for the love and service of God was thus fulfilled.
Yogananda began his life's work with the foundation of a 'how-to-live' school for boys in the year 1917. Here modern educational methods were combined with Yoga training and instruction in spiritual ideals. Mahatma Gandhi visited the school a few years later and was deeply impressed.
In the year 1920, Swami Yogananda was invited to serve as India's delegate to an International Congress of religious leaders convention held in Boston. He delivered a speech to the Congress on 'The Science of Religion' that was received with great enthusiasm. The same year he founded 'Self-Realization fellowship' to propagate his teachings on India's ancient science and philosophy of yoga and tradition of meditation.
In the following years he lectured and taught on the East coast. In 1924, he embarked on a cross-continental speaking tour. The following year he established an international headquarters in Los Angeles for Self -Realization Fellowship, that became the heart of his administrative work.
Over the next decade, Yogananda traveled and lectured widely-from New York's Carnegie Hall to the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The Los Angeles Times reported: "The Philharmonic Auditorium presents the extraordinary spectacle of thousands....being turned away an hour before the advertised opening of a lecture with the 3000-seat hall filled to its utmost capacity."
Yogananda emphasized the underlying unity of the world's great religions and taught the universal method for attaining direct personal experience of God. To his serious students Paramhansa Yogananda explained the sole-awakening techniques of Kriya Yoga, a sacred spiritual science that originated in the ancient India many years ago, which was lost during medieval periods and revived in modern times by the endless effort of enlightened masters.
Paramahansa Yogananda's students were many prominent personalities in science, business and the arts. The list included horticulturist Luther Burbank, operatic soprano Amelita Galli-Curci, George Eastman (inventor of the Kodak camera), poet Edwin Markham, and symphony conductor Leopold Stokowski. In the year 1927, Yogananda was received at the White House by President Calvin Coolidge as the president was interested about him after reading about his activities in the newspapers.
In the year 1935, Paramhansa Yogananda began an eighteen-month tour to Europe and India. During his yearlong return to his motherland Yogananda delivered speech in different cities of the country. He also met with Mahatma Gandhi, who requested him to initiate Kriya Yoga. He also came across Nobel-Prize winning Physicist and some of India's renowned spiritual figures, including Shri ramana Maharshi and Anandamoyi Ma. It was the same year when his guru swami Sri Yukteswar bestowed him with India's highest spiritual title, the 'Paramhansa'. The word Paramhansa literally means the supreme swan and spiritually means one who manifests the supreme state of unbroken union with God.
During the 1930s, Paramhansa Yogananda began to withdraw himself from the nationwide public lecturing so as to devote himself to his writings, that would carry his message to the future generation and could build an enduring foundation for the spiritual and humanitarian work of 'Self-Realization Fellowship' (known in India as Yogoda Satsanga Society of India).
ParamhansaYogananda wrote his autobiography named 'Autobiography of a Yogi'. Which was published on 1946 and was added and expanded by him in the subsequent editions. The book was among the bestsellers and has its continuous publication since its first appearance. It has been translated into eighteen languages. The book is regarded as a modern spiritual classic.
On March 7, 1952 Paramahansa Yogananda underwent mahasamadhi, which is a God-illuminated Master's conscious exit from the physical body at the time of physical death. The Passing of Yogananda was a memorable phenomenon. A statement was signed by the Director of Forest Lawn Memorial Park, that testified: "No physical disintegration was visible in his body even twenty days after death.... This state of perfect preservation of a body is, so far as we know from mortuary annals, an unparalleled one....Yogananda's body was apparently in a phenomenal state of immutability."
On the occasion of Twenty-fifth anniversary of passing away of Paramhansa Yogananda, the Government of India formally recognized his contribution for the upliftment of human spirituality and issued a commemorative stamp in his honor, together with a tribute that stated in part: "The ideal of love for God and service to humanity found full expression in the life of Paramahansa Yogananda.... Though the major part of his life was spent outside India, still he takes his place among our great saints. His work continues to grow and shine ever more brightly, drawing people everywhere on the path of the pilgrimage of the Spirit."
Paramhansa Yogananda traveled in the United States of America, Europe and India and delivered speech for the uplift