Paramahansa Yogananda

Average: 4 (311 votes)
Fast Facts
Other Names and Nicknames: 
Mukunda Lal Ghosh, Swami Yogananda Giri
Kriya Yoga, Hinduism
Main Countries of Activity: 
India, USA
Date of Birth: 
January 5, 1893
Place of Birth: 
Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, India
In His/Her Body ("alive"): 
Date Left His/Her Body: 
March 7, 1952
Other Related Gurus: 
Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri - his guru. Ancestors in the lineage: Lahiri Mahasaya, Mahavatar Babaji


Early Life

Yogananda was born in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, India into a devout Bengali family. From early age, his awareness and experience of the spiritual was far beyond the ordinary.

In his youth he sought out many of India's Hindu sages and saints, hoping to find an illuminated teacher to guide him in his spiritual quest.

Meeting his master, Sri Yukteswar

Yogananda's seeking after various saints mostly ended when he met his guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri, in 1910, at the age of 17. He describes his first meeting with Yukteswar as a rekindling of a relationship that had lasted for many lifetimes.

Sri Yukteswar was a disciple of Lahiri Mahasaya of Varanasi and a member of the Giri branch of the swami order. Sri Yukteswar was the disciple of Mahavatar Babaji. Babaji rediscovered the Kriya Yoga system and the lineage starting in him preserved the system and initiated the following generation in the technique.

Yogananda himself met Lahiri Mahasaya and Mahavatar Babaji.

Studies, Monastic Life, and Early Activity

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. This allowed him to spend time at Yukteswar's ashram in Serampore.

In 1915, he took formal vows into the monastic Swami Order and became 'Swami Yogananda Giri'.

In 1917, Yogananda founded a school for boys in Dihika, West Bengal that combined modern educational techniques with yoga training and spiritual ideals. A year later, the school relocated to Ranchi. This school would later become Yogoda Satsanga Society of India, the Indian branch of Yogananda's American organization.

Move to America

In 1920, he went to the United States aboard the ship "City of Sparta", as India's delegate to an International Congress of Religious Liberals convening in Boston. That same year he founded the Self-Realization Fellowship to spread worldwide his teachings on India's ancient practices and philosophy of Yoga and its tradition of meditation.

For the next several years, he lectured and taught on the East coast and in 1924 embarked on a cross-continental speaking tour. Thousands came to his lectures.

The following year, he established in Los Angeles, California, an international headquarters for Self-Realization Fellowship, which became the spiritual and administrative heart of his growing work. Yogananda was the first Hindu teacher of yoga to make his permanent home in America, living there from 1920-1952.

Visit to India, 1935-1936

In 1935, he returned to India to visit his master Yukteswar and to help establish his Yogoda Satsanga work in India. During this visit he met with Mahatma Gandhi, the Bengali female saint Anandamoyi Ma, Nobel winning physicist Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman, and several disciples of Yukteswar's Guru Lahiri Mahasaya.

While in India, Yukteswar gave Yogananda the monastic title of Paramhansa (the spelling was later changed to 'Paramahansa'). Paramahansa means "supreme swan" and is a title indicating the highest spiritual attainment.

In 1936, while Yogananda was visiting Kolkata, Yukteswar died in the town of Puri.


After returning to America, he continued to lecture, write, and establish churches in Southern California.

In the days leading up to his death, he began hinting that it was time for him to leave the world.

On March 7, 1952, he attended a dinner for the visiting Indian Ambassador to the U.S., Binay Ranjan Sen and his wife at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles. At the conclusion of the banquet Yogananda spoke of India and America, their contributions to world peace and human progress, and their future cooperation, expressing his hope for a "United World" that would combine the best qualities of "efficient America" and "spiritual India."

According to two eyewitnesses — long-time disciples Swami Kriyananda and Daya Mata — as Yogananda ended his speech, he read from his poem My India, concluding with the words "Where Ganges, woods, Himalayan caves, and men dream God—I am hallowed; my body touched that sod". At the very last words, he slid to the floor, dead from a heart attack. Kriyananda wrote that Yogananda had once stated in a lecture, "A heart attack is the easiest way to die. That is how I choose to die."

No body decay even after 20 days

As reported in Time Magazine on August 4, 1952, Harry T. Rowe, Los Angeles Mortuary Director of the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California where Yogananda's body was embalmed, 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.

Autobiography of a Yogi

In 1946, Yogananda published his life story, Autobiography of a Yogi. It has since been translated into twenty-five languages. In 1999, it was designated one of the "100 Most Important Spiritual Books of the 20th Century" by a panel of spiritual authors convened by HarperCollins publishers.

After Yogananda's death, his unfortunately corrupted followers at the Self Realization Fellowship (SRF) allowed themselves to bluntly change over and over the book content that was originally written by Yogananda. As for example they changed sentences of Yogananda that could jeopardize their monopoly of initiation in Kriya Yoga (this is yet another terrible example of how followers of a saint can distort and falsify their guru's words out of disloyalty and ego, other examples are Jusus followers and Osho followers).

But it appears that the universe or Yogananda's soul made sure to punish the corrupted followers: Due to a stupid technical error, the original first edition of the book has no copyrights whatsoever!

Make sure you read the first edition of 1946 if you want to read Yogananda's original words (see the books tab of the profile). You can also download the eBook version from here (see atachements below).


Yogananda's teachings stress the need for direct experience of truth, as opposed to blind belief:

The true basis of religion is not belief, but intuitive experience. Intuition is the soul’s power of knowing God. To know what religion is really all about, one must know God.

Echoing traditional Hindu teachings, he taught that the entire universe is God's cosmic motion picture, and that individuals are merely actors in the divine play who change roles through reincarnation. He taught that mankind's deep suffering is rooted in identifying too closely with one's current role, rather than with the movie's director, God.

Yogananda taught Kriya Yoga and other meditation practices to help people achieve self-realization:

Self-realization is the knowing in all parts of body, mind, and soul that you are now in possession of the kingdom of God; that you do not have to pray that it come to you; that God’s omnipresence is your omnipresence; and that all that you need to do is improve your knowing.

Kriya Yoga

Kriya Yoga is the airplane method to God.

-- Yogananda

Kriya Yoga is a set of yoga techniques that are the main discipline of Yogananda's meditation teachings.

Kriya Yoga was passed down through Yogananda's guru lineage — Mahavatar Babaji taught Kriya Yoga to Lahiri Mahasaya, who taught it to his disciple Yukteswar, Yogananda's Guru. Because of ancient yogic injunctions, "the actual technique must be learned from a Kriyaban or Kriya Yogi", according to Yogananda.

Yogananda gave a general description of Kriya Yoga in his Autobiography:

The Kriya Yogi mentally directs his life energy to revolve, upward and downward, around the six spinal centers (medullary, cervical, dorsal, lumbar, sacral, and coccygeal plexuses) which correspond to the twelve astral signs of the zodiac, the symbolic Cosmic Man. One-half minute of revolution of energy around the sensitive spinal cord of man effects subtle progress in his evolution; that half-minute of Kriya equals one year of natural spiritual unfoldment.



Yogoda Satsanga Math in Kolkata

A center founded by Yogananda himself dedicated to his legacy. Activities and daily meditations are taking place there every day.

Yogoda Satsanga Math
21, U. N. Mukherjee Road, Dakshineswar,
KolKata, West Bengal 700 076, India
(033) 25645931, 25646208
Attractions, activities, and more to see: 

Devotees are welcome for both individual and conducted spiritual retreats. Advance booking is essential. Devotees coming to Kolkata for personal business are advised to stay outside the Ashram but are welcome to visit or stay on personal retreat after completing their business.

Maps and Pictures of Location: 

View Video

Books & Media

Recommended Books: 
Cover image

Journey to Self-Realization: Collected Talks and Essays - Volume 3 (Self-Realization Fellowship)

by Paramahansa Yogananda


Paramahansa Yogananda\'s Collected Talks and Essays, which includes, Man\'s Eternal Quest and The Divine Romance, present in-depth discussions of the sweeping range of inspiring and universal truths that have captivated millions in his Autobiography of a Yogi. Readers will find these talks alive with the unique blend of all-embracing wisdom, practical encouragement, and love for humanity that have made the author one of our era\'s most revered and trusted guides to the spiritual life.

In this anthology, Journey to Self-Realization, Paramahansa Yogananda shows us how we can experience the Divine Presence within us and in all life - not just as a passing inspiration but as a constant inner realization. Through this expanded awareness, we receive the gifts of the soul: peace, divine love, ever new joy, intuitive guidance for every question and crossroads we encounter in the amazing adventure of human life.

Topics include:
Remolding Your Life
Acquiring Attunement with the Source of Success
Renewing and Transforming Your Body, Mind, and Spirit
The Wisdom Way to Overcome Karma
How to Quicken Your Spiritual Progress
How to Express Everlasting Youthfulness
Receiving God s Answers to Your Prayers
The True Signs of Progress in Meditation.

Cover image

Autobiography of a Yogi

by Paramhansa Yogananda


Designated One of the 100 Most Important Spiritual Books of the 20th century, here is a verbatim reprinting of the 1946 first edition, with all its inherent power intact.Read about real-life saints and masters, how yogis perform miracles, the science of kriya yoga, and much more.

Pro Opinions

Wondrous Joy

Leelo11's picture

Just reading his book, "Autobiography of a Yogi" brings joy.
So much of what's in it is outlandish and fantastic, but somehow you utterly believe it. A great, great figure.

santthosh kumaar's picture

Re: Wondrous Joy

Hi Leelo11,
Yogaananda is a greatest Master. Not only his book brings joy, but he is real inspiration to the people, who are in yogic- path. His teachings, which comes in 185 lessons covers vast subjects, from science, metaphysics,psychology. To know all about yoga ,YOGANANDA'S teachings are best in the world.

Since, religion, yoga and spirituality are different subjects, but unfortunately everything is mixed, and it becomes difficult to bifurcate, spirituality from religion and yoga. Thus it is necessary to know the guru's from their respective field.

For yogic practitioners Yoganand's teachings of Kriya-yoga is the best in the world.
With respect and regards

santthosh kumaar | Mon, 07/28/2008 - 16:21

My Spiritual Journey Started - Through "Autobiography of a Yogi"

archana.anchal's picture

Autobiography of a Yogi, is the book which can awaken the eternal quest.........i am living example of that.......

i am Grateful of Shri Yogananda, for being so kind to write the book......

Thank you Swami Yogananda

believerofgod's picture

Thank you, guruji for your divine book and for your blessings always! Your book is the reason I am alive with joy! Jai Guru!

Ignorance, Choosen,

earthling's picture

Another Ignorance.

Choose to Help others too.

Thanks to His collection of Wisdom.

His autobiography has explained about Hinduism, but Ignorant Mind again putting him in Religion Category.

Deep in Spiritual Ocean


His autobiography is a marvelous piece of wisdom in the form of a book which gives us glimpses of subtle universe and this universe of subtlety was demonstrated by him even through vibration.

The greatest

Brahman's picture

The greatest spiritual giant who has ever lived!

Con Opinions

Too much into sidhis

Luz76's picture

I found "Biography of a Yogi" too sidhis-oriented and less a spiritual development book.

Brahman's picture

You have Missed the Point!

Unless you have pored over His autobiography, I can say it with an absolute certainty that you have thoroughly missed the whole point about the work.

Brahman | Wed, 06/02/2010 - 23:48
Nathyogi's picture

Re: Too much into sidhis

Yes, you are right. I too studied his autobiography when I was novice to spirituality. It did arouse curiosity about Mahavatar Babaji and other saints he mentioned in it along with his experiences and other miracles etc.
Now I personally feel this book cannot help a sincere seeker in the advancement of search for truth.

Nathyogi | Mon, 11/10/2014 - 10:54
eBook Autobiography of a Yogi by Yogananda2.85 MB