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Birth Anniversary Of Paramahansa Yogananda, Father Of Yoga In The West

Press Release

January 5, 2022 marks the 129th birth anniversary of one of the key figures of Yoga in the West, Paramahansa Yogananda, author of the spiritual classic Autobiography of a Yogi. A worldwide best seller since its release in 1946, the spiritual classic is now translated into over 50 languages, including 14 Indian languages from Bengali to Telugu.

Widely recognized as one of the preeminent spiritual figures of our time, Sri Yogananda made an indelible impression on the spiritual landscape of the United States and the world, contributing to a far greater awareness and appreciation of India’s timeless science of yoga meditation through his public lectures, writings and the nonprofit spiritual organization he founded, Self-Realization Fellowship/Yogoda Satsanga Society of India (SRF/YSS). SRF/YSS includes 800 temples, meditation centers, and retreats around the world.

At the heart of Sri Yogananda’s teachings is the sacred science of Kriya Yoga, a form of Raja Yoga, which serves to quiet both body and mind, making it possible to withdraw one’s energy and attention from the usual turbulence of thoughts, emotions, and sensory perceptions. In the clarity of that inner stillness, one comes to experience a deepening interior peace and attunement with one’s true self.

Sri Yogananda’s life story, Autobiography of a Yogi—which has introduced millions of readers to the philosophy and practice of yoga meditation―remains one of the most important, and most readable, works on yoga and Eastern spiritual thought. His highly acclaimed interpretations of the Bhagavad Gita (God Talks With Arjuna), the four Gospels (The Second Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of the Christ Within You), and the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (Wine of the Mystic: A Spiritual Interpretation), provide groundbreaking insight into the underlying unity of the religious beliefs of East and West.

Paramahansa Yogananda first arrived in America from India in 1920, as a delegate to an International Congress of Religious Liberals convening in Boston. That same year he founded Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) to disseminate his teachings on India's ancient philosophy of Yoga and the science of meditation.

In 1925, Sri Yogananda took up residence in Los Angeles where he established an international headquarters for his organization. Over the next decade he traveled and lectured extensively, speaking to capacity audiences in major cities throughout North America and Europe. To the tens of thousands of Westerners who attended his lectures, his discourses on the unity of “the original teachings of Jesus Christ and the original Yoga taught by Bhagavan Krishna” were a revelation. Growing public acclaim prompted President Calvin Coolidge to invite Sri Yogananda for a personal meeting at the White House in January 1927, making him the first swami to meet with a U.S. President.

Many prominent figures in science, business, and the arts became his students, including horticulturist Luther Burbank, operatic soprano Amelita Galli-Curci, George Eastman (inventor of the Kodak camera), poet Edwin Markham, and symphony conductor Leopold Stokowski. Later, Beatle George Harrison, folk singer Judy Collins and pop superstar Madonna each publicly acknowledged Sri Yogananda’s influence on their lives. Late Apple founder Steve Jobs brought attention to
 Autobiography of a Yogi posthumously in 2011 when he arranged for copies of the book to be given to attendees at his memorial service.

Paramahansa Yogananda was born Mukunda Lal Ghosh on January 5, 1893, in Gorakhpur, India, into a prosperous and devout Bengali family.  From his earliest years it was evident to those around him that his awareness and experience of the spiritual was far beyond the ordinary.  As a youth he sought out many of India's saints and philosophers, hoping to find an illumined teacher to guide him in his spiritual quest.

In 1910, at the age of 17, he met the revered Indian sage Swami Sri Yukteswar, in whose hermitage he spent the better part of the next ten years.  After graduating from Calcutta University in 1915, he became a monk of India's venerable monastic Swami Order, at which time he received the name Yogananda (signifying bliss, ananda, through divine union, yoga).

Yogananda began his life's work with the founding, in 1917, of a “how-to-live” school where modern educational methods were combined with yoga training and instruction in spiritual ideals.  Visiting the school in 1925, Mahatma Gandhi wrote: “This institution has greatly impressed my mind.”

Mahatma Gandhi and Paramahansa Yogananda met a decade afterwards when the latter made a re­turn visit to India in 1935–36.  At the Mahatma's re­quest, Yogananda in­structed him and several of his followers in the spiritual science of Kriya Yoga.

During the 1930s, Sri Yogananda began to withdraw somewhat from extensive public lecturing in order to devote himself more to his writings, to establishing Self-Realization Fellowship temples and meditation centers, and founding an SRF monastic order, and to building a firm foun­da­tion for the future of his spiritual and humanitarian work.  Under his dir­ec­tion, the personal guidance and instruction that he had given to students of his classes was arranged into a comprehensive series of SRF Lessons for home study.

Today, Self-Realization Fellowship, under the direction of its president, Brother Chidananda, publishes the writings, lectures, and informal talks of Paramahansa Yogananda, and of his close disciples; produces audio and video recordings on Sri Yogananda’s teachings; oversees its temples, meditation centers, retreats, and youth programs; conducts annual lecture and class series in cities throughout the U.S. and abroad; and coordinates the Worldwide Prayer Circle, a network of groups and individuals dedicated to praying for those in need of physical, mental, or spiritual aid, and for global peace and harmony.

Paramahansa Yogananda passed away on March 7, 1952, in Los Angeles, following his delivery of a speech at a banquet honoring Dr. Binay R. Sen, India's Ambassador to the United States.  His passing received widespread coverage in the press, including in the
 New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and Time magazine. 

The Government of India has paid tribute to Paramahansa Yogananda on three occasions.  It released a special commemorative coin in the amount of 
₹125 to commemorate the 125th birth anniversary of Paramahansa Yogananda on October 29, 2019 by India Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman at the Central Secretariat in New Delhi. During the official release, the Finance Minister acknowledged Paramahansa Yogananda’s universal message of world harmony among all humankind, and said, “India feels strongly about this great son of the universe who brought harmony to all our hearts and minds.”

In March of 2017, a commemorative stamp was issued by the Indian Government, acknowledging the centenary of Yogoda Satsanga Society of India (the  organization that Yogananda founded in 1917), and citing the outstanding spiritual achievements of the society.  In 1977, on the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of Paramahansa Yogananda's passing, the Government of India formally recognized his outstanding contributions to the spiritual upliftment of humanity, by issuing a commemorative stamp in his honor.

An award-winning documentary film about his life and teachings, Awake: The Life of Yogananda, was released in 2014.

Dedicated throughout his life to bridging East and West and fostering peace through cultivating one’s connection with Spirit, Sri Yogananda said in his Autobiography of a Yogi, “‘World brotherhood’ is a large term, but man must enlarge his sympathies, considering himself in the light of a world citizen. He who truly understands that ‘it is my America, my India, my Philippines, my Europe, my Africa’ and so on, will never lack scope for a useful and happy life.”

For more information about Paramahansa Yogananda and Self-Realization Fellowship, visit https://yogananda.org.

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