Paramahansa Yogananda was born Mukunda Lal Ghosh on January 5, 1893, in Gorakhpur, India, into a devout and well-to-do Bengali family. From his earliest years, it was evident to those around him that the depth of his awareness and experience of the spiritual was far beyond the ordinary.
Both his parents were disciples of Lahiri Mahasaya, the renowned master who was instrumental in reintroducing Kriya Yoga in modern India. When Yogananda was an infant in his mother’s arms, 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.”
In his youth Mukunda sought out many of India's sages and saints, hoping to find an illumined teacher to guide him in his spiritual quest. It was in 1910, at the age of seventeen, that he met and became a disciple of the revered Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri (right). In the hermitage of this great master of yoga he spent the better part of the next ten years, receiving Sri Yukteswar’s strict but loving spiritual discipline.
At their very first meeting, and on many occasions thereafter, Sri Yukteswar told the young disciple that he had been chosen as the one to disseminate the ancient science of Kriya Yoga in America and worldwide.
After graduating from Calcutta University in 1915, Mukunda took formal vows as a monk of India's venerable monastic Swami Order, at which time he received the name Yogananda (signifying bliss, ananda, through divine union, yoga). His ardent desire to consecrate his life to the love and service of God thus found fulfillment.
Beginning of a World Mission
Yogananda began his life's work with the founding, in 1917, of a “how-to-live” school for boys, where modern educational methods were combined with yoga training and instruction in spiritual ideals. The Maharajah of Kasimbazar made available his summer palace at Ranchi (about 250 miles from Calcutta) as the site for the school. Visiting the school a few years later, Mahatma Gandhi wrote: “This institution has deeply impressed my mind.”
Paramahansa Yogananda is considered one of the preeminent spiritual figures of modern times.
Author of the best-selling spiritual classic Autobiography of a Yogi, this beloved world teacher came to America in 1920 from his native India, and was the first great master of yoga to live and teach in the West for an extended period (more than 30 years). He is now widely recognized as the Father of Yoga in the West. He founded Self-Realization Fellowship (1920) and Yogoda Satsanga Society of India (1917), which continue to carry on his spiritual legacy worldwide under the leadership of Brother Chidananda.