Our Guru Paramhansa Yogananda
Our Guru, Sri Paramhansa Yogananda, was born on January 5, 1893 in Gorakhpur, United Provinces, in the erstwhile British dominion of India (make it UP, India). He is one of the first Indian Gurus who made America his home. His primary mission was the sharing of Kriya Yoga with the many spiritually thirsty populace of the West. He was instrumental in bridging the gap between Hindu scriptures and the Bible, both of which spoke of the one Cosmic Consciousness which pervades all creation and how to connect with it. In his own words he described his mission as, “Uniting the original teachings of Jesus with the original teachings of Krishna.”
The powerful Kriya Yoga was taught by Mahavatar Babaji to Lahiri Mahasaya. Lahiri Mahasaya initiated his disciple, Swami Sri Yukteswar, who then gave the sacred technique to Paramhansa Yogananda.
Early Life of Paramhansa Yogananda
Since the early age of 8, Paramhansa Yogananda was seeking God.He was brought up in a spiritually charged environment as both his parents were disciples of Lahiri Mahasaya and Kirya initiates. In his spare time, Paramhansa Yogananda would keep the company of saints instead of playing with his friends. Soon he announced his intentions of becoming a monk – to the utter dismay of his family. His father insisted that he finish his education and then if he still felt strongly about the path, he could follow it. After high school Paramhansa Yogananda went to Benaras to live in an ashram.
Meets Swami Sri Yukteshwar
However, he was unhappy there, and prayed to God to send him his Guru. Soon enough, Swami Sri Yukteswar, met him and Paramhansa knew that he had met his Guru. After spending many years under his Guru’s tutelage and upon completing his graduation he had decided to dedicate his life to God. In July 1914, at the age of 21, he was initiated as a monk of the Swami Order by Swami Sri Yukteswar. It was his Guru’s wish for him to spread Kriya Yoga to the West. The aim of this spiritual mission was to show that the religions of the west and east were at one with each other.He was blessed with a vision of Mahavtar Babaji who said that this was a divine decree that Paramhansa Yogananda would accomplish. At the age of 27, Paramhansa Yogananda set sail for the United States of America, to fulfil Babaji’s mission to him.
Master in America
Paramhansa Yogananda lived in the United States of America for 32 years and established ashrams for those who were keen on finding God. He established his first Ashram at Mount Washington, California, subsequently his followers established other ashrams such as SRF Hermitage at Encinitas (by Rajarshi Janakananda, one of the advanced disciples and later the first president of SRF) and a desert Ashram in Twentynine Palms. He travelled extensively in the USA, lecturing about Yoga, God and Spirituality. He also attracted many disciples who took on the work of establishing his organization and furthering his work.
Establishing Organizations for Self-Realization
During his lifetime, Paramhansa Yogananda worked relentlessly to share his message of Yoga, meditation and kriya. He established the Self Realization Fellowship(SRF) and Yogoda Satsang Society (YSS) of India to teach yoga, meditation and kriya. Through his organization he initiated many into kriya yoga. During his years in India he started a school for young boys in Dihika, West Bengal teaching the principles of Yoga, spiritual ideals and modern education to the children.
In 1935 he took a trip back to India, during which he even toured India and then Europe returning only in 1936 to America. The month of March,1936 also marks the passing away of Swami Sri Yukteswar. Paramhansa Yogananda was present for his burial rites as well as management of his estates.
His Legacy – Autobiography of a Yogi
It was during this time 1935-1936 that Paramhansa Yogananda wrote his book, the Autobiography of a Yogi. Published in the year 1946, the book ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’ has been and continues to be a beacon of light and hope for those seeking God, everywhere. In it, Paramhansa Yogananda describes his life story and pens down the stories of MANY Indian saints and details of spiritual philosophies.
Harper Collins named it as one of the ‘100 Best Spiritual Books of the Century’ and has sold millions of copies around the world in at least 40 languages. Paramhansa Yogananda wrote other books namely Man’s Eternal Quest, Scientific Healing Affirmations, The Divine Romance, The Second Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of the Christ Within You, The Yoga of the Bhagavad Gita, Whispers from Eternity among many other spiritual books.
He has silently influenced people through his books and teachings. James Lynn, Steve Jobs, Elvis Presley and many famous personalities have read his book and continue to encounter spiritual truths.
Paramhansa Yogananda left the earthly abode and attained mahasamadhi on March 7, 1952.
“When I am gone, only Love can take my place.”