Paramahansa Yogananda

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Paramahansa Yogananda
Paramahansa Yogananda

Paramahansa Yogananda परमहंस योगानन्‍द (January 5, 1893March 7, 1952), was an Indian yogi and guru. He was instrumental in bringing Kriya Yoga to the West.



Yogananda was born Mukunda Lal Ghosh in Gorakhpur, West Bengal, India into a devout Bengali family. From his earliest years, his awareness and experience of the spiritual was far beyond the ordinary as can be seen from his autobiography. In his youth he sought out many of India's Hindu sages and saints, hoping to find an illumined teacher to guide him in his spiritual quest.

Yogananda met his guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri, in 1910, at the age of 17. After passing his Intermediate Examination in Arts from the Scottish Church College, Calcutta, he did his graduation in religious studies from the Serampore College, a constituent college of the University of Calcutta and in 1915, he took formal vows into the monastic Swami Order and became Swami Yogananda. In 1917, Yogananda began his life's mission with founding and running a school for boys in Ranchi, India that combined modern educational techniques with yoga training and spiritual ideals.

Missing image
A Yoga Class in Washington, D.C.

In 1920, he went to the United States as India's delegate to an International Congress of Religious Liberals convening in Boston. That same year he founded Self-Realization Fellowship to disseminate worldwide his teachings on India's ancient science and philosophy of Yoga and its tradition of meditation. For the next several years, he lectured and taught on the East coast and in 1924 embarked on a cross-continental speaking tour. The following year, he established in Los Angeles an international headquarters for Self-Realization Fellowship, which became the spiritual and administrative heart of his growing work.

After twenty years of his services in the West, Sri Yukteswar conferred upon him the title Paramahansa, which means "supreme swan."


Yogananda's work is continued by the Self-Realization Fellowship, which is headquartered in Los Angeles and has meditation centers and temples across the world. The current head is Sri Daya Mata, a direct disciple of Yogananda. His Kriya Yoga and meditation teachings are also disseminated by Ananda (, founded by Swami Kriyananda, a direct disciple of Yogananda.

The Puri, India, ashram of Yogananda's guru Sri Yukteswar Giri continues to this day.

Kriya Yoga

Yogananda's guru lineage was responsible for providing him with a central discipline of his teachings. Sri Yukteswar was the disciple of Lahiri Mahasaya, in turn the disciple of the mythical guru Mahavatar Babaji, who had revived and through his disciples begun the spread of Kriya Yoga, described as a "spiritual science of Self realization." It was through Yogananda that Kriya Yoga was brought to the West.

Autobiography of a Yogi

In 1946, Yogananda published his life story, Autobiography of a Yogi (, which was instrumental in introducing vedic philosophy to the West. It has since been translated into eighteen languages and remains a best seller. It includes Yogananda's and Sri Yukteswar's attempts to explain certain verses and events of the Bible such as the Garden of Eden story, and descriptions of Yogananda's encounters with leading spiritual figures such as Therese Neumann, the Hindu saint Sri Anandamoyi Ma, Mohandas Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore, and Nobel Prize winning physicist Sir C. V. Raman.

Note: The 1946 ed. of Autobiography of a Yogi is in the Public Domain and can be downloaded from: Gutenberg (

Claims of bodily incorruptibility

Some of Yogananda's followers have made claims of his bodily incorruptibility. As reported in Time Magazine on August 4, 1952, Harry T. Rowe, Los Angeles Mortuary Director of the Forest Lawn Memorial-Park, stated in a notarized letter:

The absence of any visual signs of decay in the dead body of Paramahansa Yogananda offers the most extraordinary case in our experience.... No physical disintegration was visible in his body even twenty days after death.... No indication of mold was visible on his skin, and no visible drying up took place in the bodily tissues. This state of perfect preservation of a body is, so far as we know from mortuary annals, an unparalleled one.... No odor of decay emanated from his body at any time....

Skeptics point to Yogananda's death certificate, which indicates his body was embalmed. They claim the full text of Rowe's letter, as included in a memorial booklet put out by the SRF, indicates his surprise at the described effect was based merely on the lack of use of special creams in addition to the embalming fluid.

See Also

Related links

Topics in Hinduism
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Smriti (other texts): Tantras | Sutras | Puranas | Brahma Sutras | Hatha Yoga Pradipika | Smritis | Tirukural | Yoga Sutra
Concepts: Avatar | Brahman | Dharma | Karma | Moksha | Maya | Ishta-Deva | Murti | Reincarnation | Samsara | Trimurti | Turiya
Schools & Systems: Schools of Hinduism | Early Hinduism | Samkhya | Nyaya | Vaisheshika | Yoga | Mimamsa | Vedanta | Tantra | Bhakti
Traditional Practices: Jyotish | Ayurveda
Rituals: Aarti | Bhajans | Darshan | Diksha | Mantras | Puja | Satsang | Stotras | Yajna
Gurus and Saints: Shankara | Ramanuja | Madhvacharya | Ramakrishna | Vivekananda | Sree Narayana Guru | Aurobindo | Ramana Maharshi | Sivananda | Chinmayananda | Sivaya Subramuniyaswami | Swaminarayan | A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Denominations: List of Hindu denominations
Vaishnavism | Saivism | Shaktism | Smartism | Agama Hindu Dharma | Contemporary Hindu movements | Survey of Hindu organisations
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