5th January marked the 120th Birth Anniversary of the great spiritual guru and the author of the book that shaped and inspired many into spirituality, Autobiography of a Yogi. His disciple Swami Kriyananda recently held a workshop teaching Kriya Yoga that he learnt from his master. The Punekar writes a small biography about the great man.
Yogananda was born in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh on January 5, 1893. He was named Mukunda and was born to a Kshatriya Bengali family. His father Bhagabati Charan Ghosh and mother were disciples of Guru Lahiri Mahasaya. When Mukunda was very ill and all medication failed, his mother prayed frivolously to the great Guru. Yogananda writes that once night, mysteriously, rays of light came out from the Guru’s eyes whose portrait was hanging on the wall. The light flooded the room and mysteriously disappeared. The next day he began recovering and got healthy in a few days. This was his first spiritual experience. He had many spiritual experiences. While he and his father were away for an official trip, his mother got very sick and one night, Mukunda saw her spirit telling him she would die and to inform his father to come see her. Mukunda awakened his father and told him about the same, but his father dismissed it. On going back to Calcutta, he realised that his wife had died a day after the incident.
Mukunda always had a fascination for spirituality, and this intrigued his father who worked in the Indian Railway as a senior officer. Mukunda has once tried running away to the Himalayas, but his older brother caught him in the act. It did not deter him though, and he ran away again. On his way to the station, he met Swami Yukteshwar Giri, disciple of Lahiri Mahasaya. It was instantly when they both knew that they were going to be companions in their spiritual journey. Yukateshwar told Mukunda to go back home and finish his schooling. Yogananda writes that he said this and left even before he could say a word. It is unknown how Yukteshwar Giri knew about him running away.
Later on, Yukateshwar informed that he had been sent by Mahavtar Babaji for special purpose. After passing his intermediate exam in Arts from Scottish Church College, Calcutta he started learning Bachelor in Arts at Serampore College. Yukateshwar Giri allowed him to stay at his ashram but stressed on him completing his education. Yogananda completed his education and learnt Kriya Yoga under his Guru’s tutelage. His Guru named him Paramhansa Yogananda when he attained enlightenment and his teaching was completed. Yukateshwarji and Paramhansaji would have a strong bond and would converse in an astral dimension as explained in the book.
He founded a school in Ranchi, but later in 1920, he went to US as India’s delegate to an International Congress of Religious Liberals convention in Boston. He founded the Self Realization Fellowship there to spread his teachings worldwide. His lecture got many to become his disciples and he opened another centre in California. He was one of the first Guru’s to take Indian teachings to the western world and the first to open an Ashram abroad. He entered mahasamadhi after reciting a poem “My India” and left the world on 7th March 1952. His funeral was held atop Mount Washington, Los Angeles, California and was overseen by Rajarsi Janakanda, the new President of SRF.
Paramhansa Yogananda is an inspiration to many, and his book has enlightened millions about the world of Yogis which was majorly unknown to many. His book is still a best seller and a must read for any spiritual seekers.