Life of the master
Yogoda satsang society was founded by the one and only Paramahamsa Yogananda, who is famously known as the yogi-writer of the book “Autobiography of a Yogi”.
Yogananda was born as Mukunda Lal Ghosh, in 1893 to a traditional Bengali Kshatriya family, in Gorakhpur, UP. His father Bhagabati Charan Ghosh, was the Vice-President of the Bengal-Nagpur Railway. It was a really spiritual environment he was born into. His father and mother both were disciples of a kriya yoga master Lahiri Mahasaya, of Varanasi.
After he was born, Lahiri Mahasaya blessed him and foretold: “Little mother, thy son will be a yogi. As a spiritual engine, he will carry many souls to God’s kingdom.”
From childhood it was known by those around him that his depth of awareness and experience of the spiritual was far beyond the ordinary.
At the age of 8, he was struck with Asiatic cholera and doctors had given up on him. At the request of his mother, he prayed to the picture of Lahiri mahasaya and was instantly healed from the disease. To show his esoteric abilities, once boy Mukunda told his sister Uma that he would have a boil in his right arm the next day and applied ointment on the hand. The next day the boil appeared at the same spot where he had applied the ointment.
He had an intense spiritual thirst since childhood and he went looking for the right master who could guide him. In that journey he met many Hindu saints like Soham swami, Gandha baba, Mahendranath Gupta etc, and had many fascinating experiences with them which is detailed in his autobiography.
His search for guru ended when he met Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri in 1910.
He had a traditional schooling and he passed the Bachelor of Arts(BA) examination in 1915, after which, he was formally initiated into the monastic order by Yukteswar. His name in the order was Swami Yogananda Giri.
In 1917, he began his life’s mission by opening a boys yoga school in Dihika, West Bengal(with 7 students), where modern education was imparted along with yoga and philosophy. The king of Kasimbazar, Ranchi donated his palace, to which Yogananda shifted this school, in 1918. Modelled after the educational ideals of rishis, he named this school as Brahmacharya vidyalaya, which still stands today. The institution became known as the Yogoda satsang society of India.
His youngest brother Bishnu Charan Ghosh joined the school and later on became a prominent physical culturist in Bengal. Bikram choudhury, the founder of Bikram Yoga, claimed to have been studied under him.
In 1920, while in meditation in Ranchi, he had a vision that he needed to go to the West to spread kriya yoga. He gave the responsibility of the school to the staff and left for United States in the same year.
He founded the Self Realisation Fellowship (SRF) in 1920, and spent the next 32 years in the US. He found many kriya yoga centers all over the world during his life. He was the first hindu yoga teacher who lived a major portion of his life in America.
Although Vivekananda was the first yoga teacher who went to the west, Yogananda was the first yoga teacher who went to the west and spent a lot of time there. He is considered as the “Father of Yoga in the West” by many yoga experts of US.
In 1935 he returned once to India where he met his guru, and was given the title Paramahamsa Yogananda by Yukteswar.
He returned back to US in 1936, and wrote the now famous book “Autobiography of a Yogi” while in a SRF hermitage in California.
He attained mahasamadhi on March 7, 1952 at the end of the dinner for the visiting indian ambassador to the US, just as he finished uttering the words of the poem “My India”.
A movie was made in his life “Awake” and released in 2014.
India released a commemorative stamp in honor of Yogananda in 1977. On March 7, 2017, the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi released another commemorative postage stamp honoring the 100th anniversary of the Yogoda Satsanga Society of India.
In 1917, he founded the Brahmacharya Vidyalaya in Ranchi, also known as Yogoda Satsang Society of India (YSS). In 1920, he founded Self realisation fellowship (SRF) in US, which was the extension of the same institute in India.
Self-Realization Fellowship has over 500 temples, retreats, ashrams, centers, and meditation circles around the world.There are meditation centers and circles located in 54 countries.
YSS oversees 200 kendras, mandalis, retreats, and ashrams throughout India and Nepal, including meditation centers, 21 educational institutions, and a variety of charitable facilities.
The core of their teachings is Kriya yoga. A beginner is initiated into simple Kriya yoga practices, and is given advanced practices with time and progress. The beginner has to complete a series of 18 lessons in home , which are mailed to his home every two weeks. It takes approx 8 months to complete and covers instructions on 3 techniques – Hong sau method, Energization exercise and Aum technique. Once the student completes the home study then he is eligible to apply for formal initiation to be a part of the lineage.