Paramahansa Yogananda was born Mukunda Lal Ghosh on January 5, 1893, in Gorakhpur, India, into a devout Bengali family. As a young boy, his deep desire for God prompted him to seek out many of India’s great saints and sages in the hope he would meet a God-realized master who would one day guide his spiritual search. At seventeen, he met and became a disciple of the great Jnanavatar(“incarnation of wisdom”) Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri, and spent the next seven years in Sri Yukteswar’s ashrams in Serampore and Puri, India. In 1915, after graduating from Calcutta University, Mukunda took formal vows as a monk of the ancient Swami Order and was given the name Yogananda—bliss, ananda, through divine union, yoga.
In 1920, the young swami set sail for America to serve as India’s delegate to an international congress of religious leaders convening in Boston. His speech, The Science of Religion, was so well received he remained in Boston and began lecturing and teaching on the East Coast. In 1924, he embarked on the first of several lecture tours he made across the United States, speaking to capacity audiences in the largest assembly halls of the day on the science of Kriya Yoga. In 1925 Yogananda established the international headquarters of Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) in Los Angeles, California, the non-profit spiritual organization that disseminates his teachings throughout the world. During his thirty years in the West, he personally initiated more than 100,000 students into Kriya Yoga.
The photograph by which Yogananda is best known to spiritual seekers around the world was taken at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco in 1924 by Hugo Schreiber, hotel staff photographer.
During the following years, Yogananda lectured extensively throughout the United States and met many of the disciples who would help him build his work for the ages, including Rajarsi Janakananda, Sri Daya Mata, Sri Mrinalini Mata, Dr. and Mrs. M. W. Lewis, and Sister Gyanamata. After Sri Daya Mata entered his ashram in 1931, she began recording Yogananda’s lectures, classes, and informal talks to preserve his teachings for generations to come.
But for one brief return to his homeland in 1935-36, Paramahansa Yogananda spent the remainder of his life in the United States building his work—lecturing, teaching, and writing. He also compiled the Self-Realization Fellowship Lessons , a home-study course of his teachings. Today, many of his books—including Autobiography of a Yogi , God Talks With Arjuna , his interpretation of the Bhagavad Gita, The Second Coming of Christ , his interpretation of the Bible, and Scientific Healing Affirmations —are acknowledged classics of spiritual literature and used as texts in many colleges and universities.
Paramahansa Yogananda passed away on March 7, 1952. The spiritual and humanitarian work he founded in the West almost 100 years ago has been guided since his passing by disciples who directly received his spiritual training: Rajarsi Janakananda (1952 – 1955), Sri Daya Mata (1955 – 2010), and currently, Sri Mrinalini Mata. Monks and nuns of the SRF Order serve in the Fellowship’s ashram centers and Temples; conduct lectures, classes, and retreats around the world; and provide spiritual counsel to SRF students and members. Today, Self-Realization Fellowship has more than 600 temples, retreats, ashrams, and meditation centers worldwide.
To learn more about Paramahansa Yogananda and the work of Self-Realization Fellowship, please visit the SRF website.