Paramahansa Yogananda


By Jeanne Ricci  |  

Paramahansa Yogananda, author of the spiritual classic, Autobiography of a Yogi, was born Mukunda Lal Ghosh on January 5, 1893 in Gorakhpur, India. He became a disciple of Swami Shri Yukteswar while still a teenager. After he graduated from Calcutta University in 1915, he took formal vows in India’s monastic Swami Order, at which time he received the name Yogananda, meaning bliss (ananda) through divine union (yoga). In 1920, he arrived in the United States to attend a religious conference and stayed, establishing the international headquarters of the Self-Realization Fellowship in Los Angeles in 1925. He wrote that between 1920 and 1930 his yoga classes were attended by “tens of thousands of Americans.” Central to Yogananda’s teachings, which embody a complete philosophy and way of life, is a unique system of asanas, breathing, chanting, and an advanced method of meditation called kriya yoga. Yogananda claimed that “continued and long practice [of kriya yoga] will bring about a state of conscious bliss.” After several years of claiming his death was imminent, Yogananda suffered a fatal heart attack on March 7, 1952 at a public dinner in Los Angeles honoring the ambassador of India. Today, there are nearly 500 Self-Realization meditation centers located in 54 countries, a testament to the appeal of his teachings.