Paramhansa Yogananda – The pioneer of Yoga in the west

In our series on great Yoga Teachers from India who had a profound impact in the west and around the world, here we look at the life and teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda. With millions of followers around the world; with the likes of Henry Ford, Steve Jobs and Greorge Harrison; Yoganand’s teachings have reached far and wide. He was also the founder of  Yogoda Satsanga Society of India in 1917 and Self-Realization Fellowship in 1920.

Paramhansa Yogananda: Who laid yoga's foundation in West

Born in 1893, Paramhansa Yogananda was named Mukunda Lal Ghosh, and was the fourth of eight children. While growing up, Yogananda would often attempt to run away to the Himalayas to devote himself completely to God. One day, Yogananda had a vision of a large crowd of Americans. His guru had previously hinted that he was destined to go to America, and now he knew it was time. His spiritual teacher, Swami Yukteswar, instructed him – 

” The West is high in material attainments, but lacking in spiritual understanding. It is God’s will that you play a role in teaching mankind the value of balancing the material with an inner, spiritual life.”

Autobiography of a Yogi (Self-Realization Fellowship): Paramahansa  Yogananda: 9780876120798: Amazon.com: Books

He decided to leave the very next day. When he arrived in Boston in 1920, he spoke at the International Congress for Religious Liberals, and soon had many followers. Yogananda was the first spiritual master to take up permanent residence in the west. He travelled across the country giving lectures and also founded Kriya Yoga Meditation, teaching how to find inner balance and the unity of mind, body and soul for holistic wellbeing. Kriya Yoga “combines the practice of advanced yogic techniques with spirituality in daily life”. 

To commune daily with God in deep meditation, and to carry His love and guidance with you into all your dutiful activities, is the way that leads to permanent peace and happiness.
– Paramahansa Yogananda

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Yogananda’s seminal work – Autobiography of a Yogi carries forward his legacy till date. The book has been translated into a dozen languages and is considered a spiritual classic. Yogananda spread the message of universal, non-sectarian spiritual path towards self-realisation. He laid emphasis on an individual’s own intuitive experience and finding God through one’s own inner journey. 

“ …you realize that all along there was something tremendous within you, and you did not know it. ” — Paramahansa Yogananda

In the later years of his life, Yogananda spent more time in seclusion. Yogananda left his body on March 7, 1952. Soon after his passing, the Self-Realization Fellowship received a letter from the funeral home where Yogananda’s body was being kept. They said that, although a month had passed, Yogananda’s body was still in perfect condition. They had never seen anything like it before and were amazed. Such was his divine nature.