Yogananda, Paramahansa (1893–1952)(religion, spiritualism, and occult)
Paramahansa Yoganada was born Mukunda Lal Ghosh on January 5, 1893, in Gorakhpur, India, into an affluent and devout Bengali family. As a child he exhibited psychic powers and sought out many of India’s sages, looking for a teacher who could guide him on what he felt was his spiritual quest. In 1910, he met Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri, a revered master, and became a disciple of his, entering Yukteswar’s ashram. He took his final vows as a monk of the Swami Order in 1915, and also graduated from Calcutta University at that time. With his final vows, he took the name Yogananda, which means “bliss through divine union.”
In 1917, Yogananda founded a school for boys where modern educational methods were combined with yoga training and instruction in spiritual ideals. It was headquartered in Dakshineswar, near Calcutta. Mahatma Ghandi said of the school, “This institution has deeply impressed my mind.” By the 1930s, it had expanded to oversee 90 meditation centers, 21 educational institutions, and a variety of charitable facilities.
In 1920, Yogananda was invited to serve as India’s delegate at an international congress of religious leaders to be held in Boston. That same year he founded the Self-Realization Fellowship, to disseminate his teachings on the science and philosophy of Yoga and meditation. In India it was known as Yogoda Satsanga Society. He lectured and taught on the East Coast of America, and in 1924 made a cross-country speaking tour. In 1925, he established the international headquarters for his Fellowship in Los Angeles, California. He continued to travel and lecture to capacity crowds, emphasizing the underlying unity of the world’s great religions. He introduced Kriya Yoga, a “sacred spiritual science originating millennia ago in India, which had been lost in the Dark Ages and revived in modern times by his lineage of enlightened masters.” According to Nandor Fodor, this yoga was based on the classic text Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, a form of kundalini yoga.
In 1935, Yogananda returned to India for an 18-month tour, speaking in cities throughout the subcontinent and meeting with such notables as Mahatma Ghandi, who requested initiation into Kriya Yoga. During this time, his guru Yukteswar bestowed on him India’s highest spiritual title, paramahansa (meaning “swan"—a symbol of spiritual discrimination). In the late 1930s, he did less lecturing and concentrated instead on writing and on building and establishing his Fellowship. In 1946, his Autobiography of a Yogi was published and became a perennial bestseller. He died on March 7, 1952. It was said that his body remained free of decay for twenty days after his death.