Paramahansa Yogananda was born Mukunda Lal Ghosh on January 5, 1893, in Gorakhpur, India, into a devout and well-to-do Bengali family. Brother to Bikram Choudhury’s Guru, Bishnu Gosh, Yogananda had a great influence on the direction of his younger brother, and directly Bikram Choudhury himself.
In 1910, at the age of seventeen, that he met and became a disciple of the revered Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri. The next ten years he received Sri Yukteswar’s strict but loving spiritual discipline. Sri Yukteswar many times told Makunda that he was chosen to bring and teach the ancient science of Kriya Yoga in America and worldwide.
In 1915, after graduating from Calcutta University Mukunda took vows as a monk of India’s venerable monastic Swami Order, at that time he was named, Yogananda (meaning bliss, ananda, through divine union, yoga).
In 1917, Yogananda founded the “how-to-live” school for boys, he combined modern educational methods with yoga training and instruction in spiritual ideals. Mahatma Gandhi after visiting the school wrote: “This institution has deeply impressed my mind.”
One day in 1920 Yogananda departed for Calcutta, and shortly after was invited to serve as India’s delegate to an international congress of religious leaders convening later that year in Boston. Sri Yukteswar approved the trip, saying: “All doors are open for you. It is now or never.”
In Boston September 1920, Yogananda was well received after his first speech, made to the International Congress of Religious Liberals. The speech was on “The Science of Religion”. Also that year Yogananda founded Self-Realization Fellowship to disseminate worldwide his teachings on India’s ancient science and philosophy of Yoga and its time-honored tradition of meditation.
A long tour through out North America ended 1925, in California where Yoganada founded the International headquarters for Self-Realization Fellowship, located on Mt. Washington.
To serious students of his teachings he taught the soul-awakening techniques of Kriya Yoga, initiating more than 100,000 men and women during his thirty years in the West.
By the mid-1930s, Paramahansaji had also met quite a few of the early disciples who would help him build the Self-Realization Fellowship work and carry the Kriya Yoga mission forward after his own lifetime.
Thus, for many years after Yogananda’s passing, and continuing to this day, Self-Realization Fellowship has been guided by disciples who received Paramahansa Yogananda’s personal spiritual training.
In 1935, Yogananda returned to India for a last visit with his guru Sri Yukteswar.
It was during this year that Sri Yukteswar bestowed on him India’s highest spiritual title, paramahansa. Literally “supreme swan” (a symbol of spiritual distinction), the title signifies one who is established in the ultimate state of union with God.
While in India, Yogananda secured the permanent foundation for his work there, Yogoda Satsanga Society of India. From its headquarters in Dakshineswar and the original ashram in Ranchi, the society continues to thrive to this day — with schools, ashrams, meditation centers, and charitable works throughout the subcontinent.
In late 1936 he returned to America, where he remained for the rest of his life.
Yogananda’s life story, Autobiography of a Yogi, was published in 1946. A best seller, the book has been in continuous publication since it first appeared and has been translated into many languages. It is widely regarded as a modern spiritual classic.
In 1950, Paramahansaji held the first Self-Realization Fellowship World Convocation at the international headquarters in Los Angeles — a weeklong event that today attracts thousands each year from all around the world. He also dedicated the beautiful SRF Lake Shrine in Pacific Palisades, enshrining a portion of Mahatma Gandhi’s ashes in the ten-acre lakeside meditation gardens that has since become one of California’s most prominent spiritual landmarks.