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Biography of Paramahansa Yogananda ‘Yogi’

Paramahansa Yogananda also called “yogi” was born in “Mukunda Lal Ghosh ” on January 5,  1893. He was known as “Yogi”, “Guru” or Indian monk.

Paramahansa Yogananda

Paramahansa Yogananda also called “yogi” was born in “Mukunda Lal Ghosh ” on January 5,  1893. He was known as “Yogi”, “Guru” or Indian monk. He started an organization named “Self-Realization Fellowship” (SRF) and also introduced the teaching of meditation and “Kriya Yoga”. He is also known as “Father of Yoga”  due to his long influence in American yoga movement. 

“Yogi” published his book of autobiography named “Autobiography of a Yogi” in 1946. This book broke records and sold over 4 million times. Steve Jobs (Apple CEO) has ordered more than 500 copies to be given to his guests. A documentary film is also published on this book and this documentary won multiple awards in film festivals around the world.

He showed the way to transcend barriers to the liberation souls through his character and skillful transmission of wisdom.

Youth and discipleship

Yogi was born in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh (India). He belongs to a Hindu family. His father named “Bhagabati Charan Ghosh”  was Vice-President of Bengal Railway. Due to traveling job nature they moved in several cities (including Lahore, Kolkata, Bareilly) during Jogi’s childhood. Yogi wrote in his book that He was 11 year old when his mother passed away just before the birth of his eldest brother “Ananta”. She left behind Mukunda a sacred amulet (She got it from a holy man). The holy man told her that Mukhaunda will vanish after some years from which it came. 

In Yogi’s youth times he visited many hindu sages and saints such as Soham Swami, Gandha baba and Mahendranath Gupta for the purpose of finding an illumined teacher to Teach him in spiritual quest.

Yogi left his home and joined Mahamandal Hermitage after finishing his high school studies in Varanasi. Soon he felt dissatisfied with his organizational work and he began praying for guidance. In 1910 at the age of 17 Yogi met with “Guru Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri”. At this time the amulet suddenly vanished, having served its spiritual purpose. According to Yogi’s autobiography book he has his first meeting with Sri Yukteswar as a rekindling of a relationship which remains for lifetimes He wrote in his book that: 

“ We entered a oneness of silence; words seemed the rankest superfluities. Eloquence flowed in soundless chant from the 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!”.

He got training from Sri Yukteswar for ten years (1910 — 1920). Sri Yukteswar told yogi that he had been sent by the great guru of the lineage “Mahavatar Babaji” for a special purpose of yoga dissemination. 

 In 1914 Yogi passed his Bachelor exams in Arts from Serampore college Clacutta. After compilation of his graduation Yogi formally vows the monastic Swami Sri Yukteswar. Sri Yukteswar allowed him to choose his name as Swami Yogananda Giri. Yogi started a school for boys in Dihika in 1917 and with the modern educational system he also started training of yoga and spiritual ideals. After some time school was relocated to Ranchi. His youngest brother Bishnu Charan Gosh learnt yoga asanas from yogi and taught to Bikram Choudhary. The school became the Yogoda Satsanga Society of India.

Teaching in America

One day in 1920s Yogi received a vision while meditation: He saw the faces of Americans with his mind’s eye and intimate him to go to America Soon. He handed over the charge of school to its faculty member and his younger brother Swami Satyananda he left for Calcutta. In these days he continuously received an invitation from American Unitarian Association to serve as Indian delegate to an international congress of religious liberals in Boston. On Yogi’s Guru’s advice Yogi started deep prayer alone in a room and he surprisingly received a visit from Mahavatar Babaji.  Babaji told him that he was chosen as Master to spread Kriya Yoga to the west. After that Yogi accepted the offer to go to Boston. 

Yogi left for the United States in  August 1920 on a two month voyage. This voyage landed near Boston in late September 1920. In early October Yogi Spoke with the International Congress Committee and was well received there. After an year spending in International Congress he founded the Self Realization Fellowship (SRF) to teach world wide the practices and philosophy of yoga and meditation.

Yogananda as a teacher

Yogananda spent four years in Boston teaching  on the East coast and in 1924 on cross-continental speaking tour about thousands came to listen to his lecture. Soon he was attracted by a number of celebrity followers such as Amelita Galli-Curci, tenor vladimir and Clara Clemens Gabrilowitsch the daughter of Mark Twain. In 1925 Yogananda started an international center in Los Angeles  for a Self-Realization Fellowship. Later on this center became the spiritual and administrative center of his work. Yogananda was the first hindu teacher in America; he lived in the United States from 1920 to 1952. He developed various Kriva yoga centers around the Globe.

Due to the growing independence movement in India Yogananda was put under government watch list and kept under surveillance by FBI and other British authorities. In 1926 to 1937 a secret confidential file ws also kept on him. The main concern of this file was his religious and moral practices. Yogananda was against America’s worst defects such as religious bigotry, paternalism, sexual anxiety and brazen racism.

Yoganada got unfavourable publicity in Miami and prohibited from holding any event in 1928. Miami’s police chief “Leslie Quigg” explained that it is not due to a personal grudge but in the interest of public order and yogananda’s own safety. Quigg said that he has received multiple threats against Yogananda.  According to one of their consulate officer “Chief Quigg recognized that Swami was a british subject and apparently and educated person but he was considered as coloured man”

Visit to India, 1935–1936

In 1935 Yogi returned to India along with his two Westren students to meet his guru “Sri Yukteswar Giri” and ask for help to establish Yoga Satsanga work in India. He decided to travel via ocean liner but while travelling his ship detoured in Europe and Middle East areas. He undertook visits to western saints such as  The Catholic, Stigmatist of Konnersreuth and Therese Neumann. Also he visited places of spiritual significance like Athenian temple of Greece, Prison cell of Socrates, The Holy land of Palestine and The Ministry of Jesus.

In August 1935  he arrived in India at the port of Mumbai. At that time he was very famous around the world. And he was met with journalists and photographers as he arrived on Port. He took a short stay at Taj Mahal Hotel and started his journey towards Kolkata. He met with his brother “Bishnu Charan Gosh” and Maharaja of Kasimbazar. In visit of Serampore he had a very emotional meeting with his guru Sri Yukteswar ‘Noted by westren student’. During his Indian visit he also went to his school “Ranchi Boys”, Taj mahal in Agra, Chamundeshwari Temple in Mysore, Allahabad of the Kumbh Mela, exalted disciple of Lahiri Mahasaya and Swami Keshabananda. 

He also met with many other people of his interest such as Mahatma Gandhi, Anandamayi Ma (woman saint), Giri Bala and many more. He got the title of Paramahansa meaning “Supreme Swan” by Sri Yukteswar. This formally superseded his previous title “Swami”. In 1936 Sri Yukteswar passed away (according to yogic tradition “Mahasamadhi”) at his hermitage in Puri. After conducting his guru’s  funeral rites Yogananda continued teaching and meeting with friends for some months before moving to United states in mid of 1936

In his autobiography he wrote that in June 1936 after having Krishna’s vision, He had an encounter with the spirit of his guru “Sri Yukteswar” when he was in a room of the Regent hotel in Mumbai. During this experience Yogananda Physically grasped and held onto his guru’s solid form. Sri yukteswar told that he now served as a spiritual guide on a high astral planet.

Yogananda and his fellow westren students left India in october 1936 and after a stay for several weeks in England they reached the United States via ocean liner.

Return to America, 1936

In 1936 Yogananda and his fellow students arrived in New York. passing the Statue of Liberty he and his companions back to his mount washington california headquarters. He rejoined his American disciples and continued to lecture, writing in southern california. 

In 1946 Yogananda took of immigration laws and applied for citizenship for the United states. Soon his application was approved and in 1949 he became a United state citizen. 

Yogi’s Death

Before the last days leading to his death Yogananda started predicting to his followers that soon he will leave the world. On March 7, 1952 Yohananda attended a dinner party for indian Ambassador to the United States “Binary Ranjan Sen” and his wife at Miltmore (Hotel in Los Angeles). At the end of the party Yogananda delivered a speech and hoped for the united world that would combine the best of “efficient America” and “spiritual India”. “Daya Mata” an eyewitness and disciple of Yogananda says that Yogananda concluded his speech with these words of his poem “My India” 

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, and his body slumped to the floor.” His followers said that he entered mahasamadhi; the cause of death was heart failure. His funeral service, with hundreds attending, was held at the SRF headquarters atop Mt. Washington in Los Angeles. Rajarsi Janakananda, who Yogananda chose to succeed him as the new president of the Self-Realization Fellowship, “performed a sacred ritual releasing the body to God”  

Three weeks afterwards Yogananda’s body did not decay. People working with Yogananda’s mortuation process say that “This is the most extraordinary case in our life experience. It is the state of perfect preservation of a body. For these reasons we state again that the case of Paramhansa Yogananda is our unique experience”. 

Yogananda’s remains are buried at forest lawn memorial park in the great Mausoleum (normally close for visitors but tomb of Yogananda is accessible in Glendale, California) 

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