Paramahansa Yogananda was born on January 5, 1893, in Gorakhpur, India. His birth name was Mukunda Lal Ghosh. He came from a devout Bengali family.
He was always interested in spiritual matters. At age 17 (1910) after some searching he met and became a disciple of the revered Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri. He spent the next ten years in his master’s hermitage under his tutelage.
Master Sri Yukteswar wanted Yogananda to finish his studies, so he continued and graduated in 1915 from Calcutta University. After graduation Mukunda took formal vows as a monk, in the monastic Swami Order, at which time he received the name Yogananda.
In 1917 he established a school for boys (yoga and spiritual studies) and in 1920 set out for Calcutta to fulfill his destiny of bringing Eastern spiritual values and disciplines to the West.
After arriving in Boston (Massachusetts) in 1920 he presented “The Science of Religion,” at the International Congress of Religious Liberals. He then established the Self Realization Fellowship whose purpose is to disseminate knowledge of yoga and meditation world wide. In 1925 the international headquarters of the Fellowship was established on Mt. Washington, near Los Angeles (California).
He continued to travel and lecture (1924 – 1935). In 30 years he taught more that 100,000 men and women the techniques of Kriya Yoga.
In 1935 Yogananda returned to India to be with his guru. Sri Yukteswar passed over on March 9, 1936.
In late 1936 he returned to the United States where he remained for the rest of his life.
The teaching lineage of Kriya Yoga goes back to Jesus Christ, Bhagavan Krishna, Mahavatar Babaji, Lahiri Mahasaya, Swami Sri Yukteswar, and Yogananda.
His successors are Rajarsi Janakananda (James J. Lynn), who met the Guru in Kansas City in 1932; and Sri Daya Mata who had attended his classes in Salt Lake City in 1931.
Sri Daya Mata has recently left her mortal frame, on November 30, 2010.
First published in 1946, and revised later, “Autobiography of a Yogi” is a fascinating and beautiful tale about the life of Yogananda. Although he has written many books, this will always stand out as a landmark composition.
From, “Autobiography of a Yogi”
Among his many adventures were time spent with the Saint with Two Bodies (Swami Pranabananda), the Perfume Saint (Gandha Baba), the Tiger Swami (Raja Begum), and the Levitating Saint (Nagendra Nath Bhaduri).
His experience of cosmic consciousness is wonderfully portrayed in the book …
“Poor boy, mountains cannot give you what you want.” Master spoke caressingly, comfortingly. His calm gaze was unfathomable. “Your heart desire shall be fulfilled.” Sri Yukteswar seldom indulged in riddles; I was bewildered. He struck gently on my chest above the heart.
My body became immovable rooted; breath was drawn out of my lungs as if by some huge magnet. Soul and mind instantly lost their physical bondage and streamed out like a fluid piercing light from my every pore. The flesh was as though dead; yet in my intense awareness I knew that never before had I been fully alive. My sense of identity was no longer narrowly confined to a body but embraced the circumambient atoms. People on distant streets seemed to be moving gently over my own remote periphery. The roots of plants and trees appeared through a dim transparency of the soil; I discerned the inward flow of their sap…
An oceanic joy broke upon calm endless shores of my soul. The Spirit of God, I realized, is exhaustless Bliss; His body is countless tissues of light. A swelling glory within me began to envelop towns, continents, the earth, solar and stellar systems, tenuous nebulae, and floating universes. The entire cosmos, gently luminous, like a city seem afar at night, glimmered within the infinitude of my being. …”
From, “Man’s Eternal Quest”
You will also understand how the invisible man is “tied” to the physical body – by attachments, the mental and emotional chords of desires for certain experiences on the physical plane. When by deeper meditation you can untie those cords, he will be free and you will know that you are a real image of God. Seek out the invisible man who is help captive in the jungle of physical sensations and matter…
Don’t be sensitive about the body and material concerns, nor let anyone hurt you. Keep your consciousness aloof. Give goodwill to all, but develop a state of consciousness wherein nobody can ruffle you. Try to make others happy every day. Share your wisdom with others. Do not permit yourself to lose interest in life. Learn everything about one thing, and something about everything. Realize that the more you seek, the more you will find; the realms of thought are infinite. The moment you think you have attained everything, you have circumscribed yourself. Search on and on, continuously, and in the valley of your humbleness will gather the ocean of God’s wisdom…
Man is sunk in a dream of ignorance, imagining that he is suffering with illness and sorrow and poverty. Once when King Janaka, a great Indian saint, was deep in prayer, he suddenly exclaimed, “Who is in my temple today? I thought it was myself, but I see the Eternal is there. And the little self, this body-bundle of bones, is not I. It is the Infinite that is in my body. I bow to Myself. I offer flowers to Myself.” Someday that realization will come to you, and you will no longer think that you are mortal, a man or a woman, you will know that you are a soul, made in the divine image, “and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you…”
The man of cosmic consciousness is a happy man. He doesn’t limit his love to a few, excluding everyone else. So should you make the whole world your own family. Will you remember? This consciousness is with me every moment. I have no cast, no country – I feel that all are mine. Love all men as your brothers, love all women as your sisters, and all older people as your parents. Love all human beings as your friends…”
Man can change his outer and inner nature by concentration. A person of strong mind can be whatever he wants to be. The limited human personality can be greatly expanded by meditation. When you close your eyes and feel the vastness of the soul within you, and when you can make that consciousness enduring, then you will have the personality that God intended you should have. The experience of the wakeful state has become predominant in your consciousness. But at the time of deep sleep, when man is granted freedom from the limitations of flesh, you are in touch with Truth, with your real personality. Your attitude changes with the subconscious and super conscious realization: “I am infinite. I am a part of everything…”
Millions of people never analyze themselves. Mentally they are mechanical products of the factory of their environment, preoccupied with breakfast, lunch and dinner, working and sleeping, and going here and there to be entertained. They don’t know what or why they are seeking, nor why they never realize complete happiness and lasting satisfaction. By evading self-analysis, people go on being robots, conditioned by their environment. True self-analysis is the greatest art of progress …”
The only difference between consciousness and matter, mind and body, is rate of vibration. Vibration is the motion of energy. How did this motion originate from the Cosmic Intelligence? All the vibrations in the ether are manifestations of the Intelligence-guided cosmic energy. Spirit as the unmanifested Absolute is without vibration of motion. Spirit manifested as the Creator is God the Father. The Creator first stirred His still Spirit with the motion of thoughts; thus God the Father’s first projection of creation was cosmic intelligence motion, or vibration of thought…”
This quote from Yogananda needs further explanation:
Paramahansa Yogananda, “The man form is higher than the angel form; of all forms it is the highest. Man is the highest being in creation, because he aspires to freedom.”
Human beings have a unique opportunity to realize and attain Enlightenment. Although living the absolute value of life on the individual level is available to other beings, those that reside in the higher worlds (Devas, Maruts, Vasus, Angels, etc.) are so enthralled by it’s beauty and splendor (very much more so than the earth’s) that they cannot bring themselves to leave it, under any circumstances. So they do not strive for Enlightenment.
So the message to us is – use this precious time wisely and meditate every day.
Other quotes by Paramahansa Yogananda:
Let my soul smile through my heart and my heart smile through my eyes, that I may scatter rich smiles in sad hearts.
Remain calm, serene, always in command of yourself. You will then find out how easy it is to get along.
Success should be measured by the yardstick of happiness; by your ability to remain in peaceful harmony with cosmic laws.
The things you need in life are those that will help you to fulfill your dominant purpose. Things you may want but not need may lead you aside from that purpose. It is only by making everything serve your main objective that success is attained.
If you possess happiness you possess everything: to be happy is to be in tune with God.
Release for constructive purposes the power you already have, and more will come. Move on your path with unflinching determination, using all the attributes of success. Tune yourself with the creative power of spirit.
Build your inner environment. Practice Silence! I remember the wonderful discipline of the Great Ones. When we used to talk and chatter, they would say: “Go back into your inner castle.” It was very hard to comprehend then, but now I understand the way of peace.
No matter what you are doing, keep the undercurrent of happiness. Learn to be secretly happy within your heart in spite of all circumstances.
I will be calmly active, actively calm. I am a prince of peace, sitting on the throne of poise, directing the kingdom of my activity.
Giving love to all, feeling the love of God, seeing His presence in everyone… that is the way to live in this world.
All are waves on the same, one ocean, composed, as ocean water is, of the same substance: Spirit. Some of the waves are higher then others. Some waves don’t even want to distance themselves from the ocean. All waves, no matter how high, are in essence one and the same. The difference between the Guru and the disciples, then, lies only in their respective closeness to the ocean: in how conscious each one is of his essential reality. The greater the sense of ego, the taller the wave, and the greater, in consequence, the ignorance. The greater one’s awareness of the ocean as one’s soul reality, the smaller the wave, and also the less his sense of having a separate individuality.
The Spirit of God, I realized, is exhaustless Bliss; His body is countless tissues of light.
No action is ever an isolated event. Always, it invites from the universe a reaction that corresponds exactly to the type and the force of energy behind the deed.
Those who are unconquered in spirit are the real successes in life. If you can so train or condition your mind that you are content regardless of what you have or do not have, and if you can stand the challenge of all your trials and remain calm-that is true happiness.
The sun shines equally on diamond and charcoal, but the former has developed qualities that enable it to reflect the sunlight brilliantly, while the latter is unable to reflect the sunlight. Emulate the diamond in your dealings with people. Brightly reflect the light of God’s love.
Paramahansa Yogananda, a Yogi in Life and in Death:
Mr. Harry T. Rowe, Los Angeles Mortuary Director, Forest Lawn Memorial Park (in which the body of the great master is temporarily placed), sent Self Realization Fellowship a notarized letter from which the following extracts were taken:
“The absence of any physical sign of decay in the dead body of Paramahansa Yogananda offer 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 the skin, and no visible desiccation (drying up) took place in the bodily tissues. This state of perfect preservation of the body is, so far as we know from mortuary annuls, an unparalleled one …
Aims and Ideals of the Self Realization Fellowship:
To disseminate among the nations a knowledge of definite scientific techniques for attaining direct personal experience of God
To teach that the purpose of life is evolution, through self effort, of man’s limited mortal consciousness into God Consciousness; and to this end to establish Self Realization Fellowship temples for God-communion throughout the world, and to encourage the establishment of individual temples of God in the homes and in the hearts of men.
To reveal the complete harmony and basic oneness of original Christianity as taught by Jesus Christ and original Yoga as taught by Bhagavan Krishna; and to show that these principles of truth are the common scientific foundation of all true religions.
To point out the one divine highway to which all paths of true religious beliefs eventually lead; the highway of daily, scientific, devotional meditation of God.
To liberate man from the three fold suffering; physical disease, mental inharmonies, and spiritual ignorance.
To encourage “plain living and high thinking:” and to spread a spirit of brotherhood among all peoples by teaching the eternal basis of their unity: kinship with God.
To demonstrate the superiority of mind over body, of soul over mind.
To overcome evil by good, sorrow by joy, cruelty by kindness, ignorance by wisdom.
To unit science and religion through realization of the unity of their underlying principles.
To advocate cultural and spiritual understanding between East and West, and the exchange of their finest distinctive features.
To serve mankind as one’s larger Self.
Paramahansa Yogananda dedicated his life to teaching the wisdom of yoga and meditation to Western audiences. Many beautiful souls continue to bless this world thanks to his tireless efforts.