Yogananda was born Mukunda Lal Ghosh in Gorakhpur, India, to a Bengali family. From a young age, Mukunda exhibited extraordinary awareness of the spiritual. He met several Hindu saints, trying to find an ideal guru. Mukunda met Sri Yukteswar Giri at the age of 17 and accepted him as his guru.
Young Mukunda’s education
Mukunda passed his Intermediate Examination in Arts and went on to graduate with a degree from the Serampore College, affiliated to the University of Calcutta. In 1915, he formally became a monk and took the title ‘Swami Yogananda Giri’.
Move to America
Yogananda went to the U.S. in 1920 to attend a religious congress in Boston. He founded an organization, the Self-Realization Fellowship, in the same year, to spread yoga and meditation worldwide. He spent the next few years lecturing and teaching across the U.S. Yogananda established the international headquarters of his organization in Los Angeles, California. He lived in America from 1920 to 1952, except for a trip overseas in 1935-36.
Yogananda’s Work in the U.S.
Till his death in 1952, Yogananda continued to write, lecture and set up churches in California. He sought to combine the qualities of “spiritual India” and “efficient America”. He had an inkling of his death and gave hints that he was about to leave his mortal coil. After a speech at a banquet hosted by the Indian Ambassador to the U.S., Yogananda left this world, suffering a heart attack. His body is buried in Glendale, California at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park.
Yoganda taught that one should not have faith in blind belief, but should emphasize on learning the truth through direct experience. He said the basis of religion is intuitive experience and to know religion, a person must know god. He echoed Hindu teachings when he taught that creation is god’s play and that humans are mere actors in the divine play. After death, a man or woman only changes his or her roles. To identify with the creator, he taught a meditation practice called Kriya Yoga.