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. 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. In 1920, he went to the United States as India's delegate to an International Congress of Religious Liberals convening in Boston. In the same year he founded the Self-Realization Fellowship or SRF, headquartered in Los Angeles, California to disseminate his teachings on India's ancient science and philosophy of yoga. After twenty years of his services in the West, Sri Yukteswar conferred upon him the title paramahansa, which means "supreme swan." (During his lifetime he used the spelling paramhansa, but the traditional Sanskrit spelling has been preferred by SRF since shortly after his death; its modification of his signature to interpolate the extra A has drawn some criticism).
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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.
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.
- Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) website
- Ananda Articles, Photos, Video of Yogananda
- Yogoda Satsanga Society of India (YSS) Official Website
- Yogananda's Autobiography of a Yogi – SRF online catalog
- Yogananda's Autobiography of a Yogi – Crystal Clarity Publishers; public domain version of the 1946 first edition
- Yogananda's Whispers from Eternity – complete online edition of Yogananda's Prayer-Poems
- Yogananda Biography and Poems – Poems from Songs of The Soul
- God Teacher – an intro to the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda
- Autobiography of a Yogi Interactive
- Yogananda SRF Devotee Message Board
- A Place for Paramahansa Yogananda Devotees