Yogananda was an Indian spiritual guru who is credited with spreading meditative techniques and yoga, specifically Kriya Yoga, to the West. His experiences recorded in his autobiography “Autobiography of a Yogi” reveal the journey of his life and the powerful spiritual experiences that accompanied his progression from a youth desiring oneness with God to becoming Yogananda, one of the great modern day saints.
Yogananda was born in 1893 in Gorakhpur, India and passed away in 1952 at Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, California. His mother, a spiritually inclined person, influenced him greatly. In fact, his mother’s spiritual teacher had prophesied that Yogananda, then known as Mukunda Lal Ghosh, would grow up to be a great Yogi.
Paramhansa Yogananda’s autobiography mentions many incidents of a miraculous nature; and indeed they are miracles that practitioners of advanced Yoga and those that follow the path of Bhakti or devotion can bring about.
His thirst for a guru drove Yogananda to the Himalayas where he roamed, visited hermitages, and engaged in spiritual practices. But it was not till he was 17 years old that he found his guru, Shri Yukteshwar Giri.
Yogananda was a firm devotee of the Divine Mother, whose manifestation as Goddess Kali he revered.
The experiences of Yogananda where he talks about his consciousness being awakened by a mere touch of his guru or by the benediction of the Divine Mother are not of a saint from a distant past. They are events in the life of a person whose videos can be seen on YouTube. These are recent events that tell us about the powers within us that are dormant and can be awakened through spiritual practice.
Yogananda chose the path of Kriya Yoga to achieve spiritual bliss. This yogic technique finds mention in the Bhagvad Gita or the Song Celestial, in which Lord Shir Krishn says “Offering inhaling breath into the outgoing breath, and offering the outgoing breath into the inhaling breath, the yogi neutralizes both these breaths; he thus releases the life force from the heart and brings it under his control.” While this may puzzle the lay reader and may sound esoteric, it is an established technique alluded to by the saints of India time and again. It utilizes principles of Pranayam to help the practitioner unlock his spiritual potential.
Yogananda took this technique with him to the West when he visited the United States for the first time in 1920. He founded the Center for Self-Realization Fellowship in Los Angeles, California. Today, this center has a global presence in cities across the world. It conducts workshops on Kriya Yoga and helps individuals progress spiritually.
According to Yogananda, the principles of Kriya Yoga were known to Jesus Christ and he shared them with his disciples.
Yogananda left his mortal coil on 7th March, 1952. During the days preceding his death, he had given hints to his followers that his work on Earth was done and that it was time for him to move forward. Those present at the dinner where Paramhansa Yogananda bid adieu to the world later said that he delivered a short speech and then focused on what is known as the Agna Chakra and slumped to the floor. Yogananda’s remains were interred at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.