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14 January, 2014

Sri Paramahansa Yogananda

Paramahansa Yogananda's Biography

      In the year 1919 Swami Shriyukteshwar was residing in 'Ranamahal' on the banks of the holy Ganga in Kashi.  One day as he was passing through a small street in the 'Bengal tolla' area he saw a young man on the other side of the street steadfastly looking at him.  Their eyes met and the look of Shriyukteshwar touched the heart of the youth as though it was known to him before.  He felt very exhilarated and recognized him as his guide and prostrated before this divine embodiment with complete surrender.  Shriyukteswar also hugged him as though he was receiving a cherished one after a long interval and took the youth with him to 'Ranamahal' where he was staying.

Yogananda at the age of 6

       This young man was no ordinary young man.  Mukundalal was the son of Bhagawati Charan Ghosh and Prabhavati Devi who were advanced disciples of Shri Lahiri Baba.  Mukundlal first learnt about and was introduced to Kriya Yoga by his tutor who happened to be Hamsa Swami Kebalanandaji, also noted disciple of Shri Lahiri Baba.

Yogananda's father Bhagawati Charan Ghosh

Yogananda's mother Prabhavati Devi


       After passing his entrance examination Mukundlal joined a university but his heart was more in spirituality than the college curriculum.  He was paying only minimum attention to his studies and spending more time in deep spiritual practice in seclusion. 

       He eventually left his studies, prompted by his inner quest for spirituality and came to Kashi.  In Kashi, he stayed in 'Bharat Dharma Mahamandala', one of the ashrams founded for the spread of Sanatana Dharma.  Here he engaged himself in strict spiritual practices and also had some duties such as shopping for the supplies for the ashram.

       With the meeting with Shriyukteshwar his search for master ended.  Mukundalal lost himself in deep contemplation oblivious to all his worldly duties.  He surrendered himself absolutely at the feet of his divine master, accepting him as his spiritual guide.

Sri Yukteshwar Giri

       When Swami Shriyukteshwar met Babaji Maharaj for the first time, Babaji directed him to spread the technique of Kriya Yoga in the Western Hemisphere also.  When Shriyukteshwar expressed his inability Babaji Maharaj said, "At the right time I will send you able and efficient disciples to whom you would impart this great technique of Kriya Yoga and send them to western countries for the propagation of this ancient yoga.  This would greatly benefit mankind in all aspects of their life".  Mukundalal was the first such disciple that was sent by Babaji to Shriyukteshwar.

       The parents of Mukundalal were direct disciples of Lahiri Baba.  When they took Mukundalal as a baby for the blessings of Shri Lahiri Baba, he predicted the future of this baby saying, "This baby when he grows up will enlighten the whole universe with his divine wisdom and will guide many spiritual aspirants on the path of Kriya Yoga".

       The worlds of Babaji Maharaj and the predication of Shri Lahiri Baba both came to be realized with the meeting of Mukundalal and Shriyukteshwar.  Through simple talk Shriyukteshwar began teaching his disciple.  Every talk of the master resulted in divine vibrations in the mind and heart of young Mukundalal.  Company with the master was full of bliss and ecstasy.  Sometimes Mukundalal became stunned and thought-free and in that thoughtless stage he realized that Swami Shriyukteshwar was a manifested embodiment of the divine, firmly anchored in spirituality and the only 'Sadguru' (the master prophet) of all devotees.

       After some time Shriyukteshwar asked Mukundalal to return home.  But Mukundalal was reluctant to do so.  He wanted to remain with Master.  Shriyukteshwar then firmly told him "If you do not listen to me and return home then I will never accept you as a disciple" and bidding him good-bye added "Remember to meet me in Serampore Ashram within a month."

       Mukundalal left Kashi recluctantly, but did not return back to Calcutta.  During the period he visited Agra, Brindavan, a holy city dedicated to Lord Krishna and other places with his friend Jitin Majumdar.  But all the time he was longing to go back to Serampore and his mind was very restless.  He returned to Calcutta for a brief visit with his family and immediately left for Serampore Ashram to meet his master and only on meeting him Mukundalal could be free of anxiety and was relieved.  Guru is the only guide in the spiritual life of any aspirant.  The great master Shriyukteshwar accepted his loving disciple and also all the responsibilities for his spiritual progress.  

College Education

        Directed by his master, Mukundalal had to again join the university for further education.  Serampore was 40 kilometers from Calcutta.  Mukundalal was managing to spend most of the time in the ashram and practiced Kriya techniques for extended periods of time with strong determination.  Shriyukteshwar was teaching him many hidden truths of spirituality and took maximum care to ensure the quick spiritual growth of this loving disciple.

       After completing the intermediate course, Mukundalal joined the Serampore College for his graduation courses in Bachelor of Arts.  This gave him more free time to be with the master, as he did not have to travel.  Although he was residing at the college hostel on the banks of river Ganga most of the time he remained at the ashram which accounted for many absences to the classes.  His intense desire and regular practice took him to great new heights on the Kriya path.  By the grace of the master he could also successfully graduate from the college.

Yogananda and his Guru Sri Yukteshwar Giri

       In 1915, after getting the degree of Bachelor of Arts from the university, Shriyukteshwar formally initiated Mukundalal into 'Sanyas' (entering monkhood of the Swami Order) with the proper ritual and ceremony.  Mukundalal became Swami Yogananda Giri and Serampore became a place of pilgrimage to him, as it was the land where his spiritual transformation was complete.  During this time, a group of young people under the leadership of Yogananda were inspired to the spiritual path and seeing their enthusiasm Shriyukteshwar offered them the responsibility of the 'Satsanga Sabha' of Calcutta.  All the young people dedicated themselves for this job of God and Guru.

Yogananda Abroad

       In 1916 Yogananda had an opportunity to visit Japan by sea.  He did not consult his master about his voyage but Shriyukteshwar having heard about it personally came to the port to see him.  He did not wholeheartedly approve of this trip.  Yogananda's Japan visit was not very successful and he came back to the motherland after a short stay.

Main building at the Mount Washington Estate in Los Angels, established in 1925 as 
American headquarters for the Self-Realization Fellowship.

       In 1920 he left for America to attend a seminar of world religions in Boston organized by Congress of Religious Liberals, as a representative from India.  Blessed by the infinite compassion of his master he affirmed the glory of India in the Congress.  After his talk thousands of Americans took Kriya initiation from him and were blessed by his holy company.  He established an organization called 'Self Realisation Fellowship' (SRF) in California and after a stay of sixteen years in the States returned to India.  Another organization named 'Shyamacharan Mission' was set-up in India in addition to the YSS (Yogada Satsanga Society) in Ranchi, which was established in 1917.

Add Self-Realization Church of All Religions, Hollywood, California

Yogananda's return to India

       By the grace of God and Gurus, Swami Yogananda was well established in America in spreading the ancient message of spirituality of Indian rishis in the Western Hemisphere.  It was 1935, fifteen years had already gone by since he left his motherland and his master.  During these fifteen years Shriyukteshwar had requested him several times to return to India but without success as Yogananda was under pressure with completing his projects in America.  For the last time Shriyukteshwar sent this message.

Last Solsstice Festival celebrated by Sri Yukteswar, December 1935,
 My Guru is seated in the center; I am at his right, in the large courtyard of his hermitage in Serampore.

       "You must come back to India with a return ticket at least for a few days leaving your activities there however important they may be,." 

       This time Swami Yogananda could not neglect then call of his master.  He made all arrangements to return to India to see his master.  Some disciples requested him to postpone his journey to another date giving various reasons.  But Yogananda answered, "The sun may rise in the west but my journey cannot be postponed.  My master's call has to be answered."  In the month of August Swami Yogananda for the first and last time returned to India from America.  His countrymen received him with great joy on his arrival.


       His guru Shri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa did not see Swami Vivekananda's success and spiritual glory in the world.  Thinking of this Swami Vivekananda shed tears many times.  But Serampore witnessed the great reunion of the disciple and the master.  A worthy realized disciple met his worthy realized master. Shriyukteshwar embraced his loving disciple Yogananda with tears of joy and felicitations.  It looked as though the two hearts and souls were merging into one.  Overwhelmed with deep gratitude Shri Yogananda prostrated with great love and regard at the lotus feet of his master.  This meeting of the embodiment of wisdom and embodiment of love was a day to be remembered not only in the history of Kriya Yoga but also in the spiritual history of India.

       Swami Yogananda left Serampore for a tour of Ranchi and South India.  That year winter solstice was observed on 22nd December in Serampore Ashram.  Many devotee and disciples including Swami Yogananda attended that function with Shriyukteshwar.  Yogananda had to return to Calcutta the same night. Shriyukteshwar asked him to return the next day and Swami Yogananda arrived at the ashram in the afternoon the following day.  Shriyukteshwar blessing his disciple declared, "Today I declare you to be a Paramahansa".  From that day onwards, Swmi Yogananda came to be known as Paramahansa Yogananda.

End of the Epoch of Shri Yukteshwar Giri

      It was the second day of the dark fortnight of Phalguna (February/March).  The Mahayogi left his bodily abode to enter the eternal abode of bliss consciously as river flows to merge in the endless ocean. Tears rolled down the faces of the disciples present and the Ashram atmosphere became mournful.

       Aboard the train on his way to Puri, Paramahansa Yogananda, could intuitively feel that his master might be no more.  He arrived in Puri the next morning and prostrated at the feet of his master's body.  After bathing in the sea he buried the master's mortal body at the northern corner of Karar Ashram.  Afterwards a thatched hut was built over the place.

       Shri Yogananda remained for some time at the Karar Ashram after the demise of Shriyukteshwar.  The news of Shriyukteshwar's mahasadhi reached to all parts of the world.  Many mourned his death.  Swami Yogananda organized a huge Bhandara,[special function dedicated to the departed monk when monks of different orders are invited.  They would be fed and given gifts like new clothes, umbrellas and money in memory of the departed] in honour of his master according to the custom of the Dasanami Sanyyasa order [Monks of 10 different orders. Giri, Puri, Parvata, Bana, Sagara, Tirtha, Bharati, Sarasvati, Ashram and Aranya].  Many monks of different orders came together in Karar Ashram to attend this function and paid their final tribute to the departed soul.

Yogananda enjoy a quite lunch with India’s political saint at his hermitage in Wardha, August, 1935.

Teachings of Yogananda -
Science of Kriya Yoga

The Sanskrit root of Kriya is kri, to do, to act and react; the same root is found in the word karma, the natural principle of cause and effect. Kriya Yoga is thus “union (yoga) with the Infinite through a certain action or rite.” A yogi who faithfully follows its technique is gradually freed from karma or the universal chain of causation.

Kriya Yoga is a simple, psychophysiological method by which the human blood is decarbonized and recharged with oxygen. The atoms of this extra oxygen are transmuted into life current to rejuvenate the brain and spinal centers.  By stopping the accumulation of venous blood, the yogi is able to lessen or prevent the decay of tissues; the advanced yogi transmutes his cells into pure energy. Elijah, Jesus, Kabir and other prophets were past masters in the use of Kriya or a similar technique, by which they caused their bodies to dematerialize at will.

Disciple of Babaji and Guru of Sri Yukteshwar

Kriya is an ancient science. Lahiri Mahasaya received it from his guru, Babaji, who rediscovered and clarified the technique after it had been lost in the Dark Ages.

Yogananda  helped an artist to draw a true likeness of the great Yogi-Christ of modern India.

“The Kriya Yoga which I am giving to the world through you in this nineteenth century,” Babaji told Lahiri Mahasaya, “is a revival of the same science which Krishna gave, millenniums ago, to Arjuna, and which was later known to Patanjali, and to Christ, St. John, St. Paul, and other disciples.”

Kriya Yoga is referred to by Krishna, India’s greatest prophet, in a stanza of the Bhagavad Gita: “Offering inhaling breath into the outgoing breath, and offering the outgoing breath into the inhaling breath, the yogi neutralizes both these breaths; he thus releases the life force from the heart and brings it under his control.”  The interpretation is: “The yogi arrests decay in the body by an addition of life force, and arrests the mutations of growth in the body by apan (eliminating current). Thus neutralizing decay and growth, by quieting the heart, the yogi learns life control.”

Krishna also relates that it was he, in a former incarnation, who communicated the indestructible yoga to an ancient illuminato, Vivasvat, who gave it to Manu, the great legislator. He, in turn, instructed Ikshwaku, the father of India’s solar warrior dynasty. Passing thus from one to another, the royal yoga was guarded by the rishis until the coming of the materialistic ages. Then, due to priestly secrecy and man’s indifference, the sacred knowledge gradually became inaccessible.

Kriya Yoga is mentioned twice by the ancient sage Patanjali, foremost exponent of yoga, who wrote: “Kriya Yoga consists of body discipline, mental control, and meditating on Aum.” Patanjali speaks of God as the actual Cosmic Sound of Aum heard in meditation Aum is the Creative Word the sound of the Vibratory Motor. Even the yoga-beginner soon inwardly hears the wondrous sound of Aum. Receiving this blissful spiritual encouragement, the devotee becomes assured that he is in actual touch with divine realms.

Patanjali refers a second time to the life-control or Kriya technique thus: “Liberation can be accomplished by that pranayama which is attained by disjoining the course of inspiration and expiration.” 

St. Paul knew Kriya Yoga, or a technique very similar to it, by which he could switch life currents to and from the senses. He was therefore able to say: “Verily, I protest by our rejoicing which I have in Christ, I die daily.” By daily withdrawing his bodily life force, he united it by yoga union with the rejoicing (eternal bliss) of the Christ consciousness. In that felicitous state, he was consciously aware of being dead to the delusive sensory world of maya.

In the initial states of God-contact (sabikalpa samadhi) the devotee’s consciousness merges with the Cosmic Spirit; his life force is withdrawn from the body, which appears “dead,” or motionless and rigid. The yogi is fully aware of his bodily condition of suspended animation. As he progresses to higher spiritual states (nirbikalpa samadhi), however, he communes with God without bodily fixation, and in his ordinary waking consciousness, even in the midst of exacting worldly duties.

Meditating Yogananda

Kriya Yoga is an instrument through which human evolution can be quickened,” Sri Yukteswar explained to his students. “The ancient yogis discovered that the secret of cosmic consciousness is intimately linked with breath mastery. This is India’s unique and deathless contribution to the world’s treasury of knowledge. The life force, which is ordinarily absorbed in maintaining the heart-pump, must be freed for higher activities by a method of calming and stilling the ceaseless demands of the breath.”

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.

The astral system of a human being, with six (twelve by polarity) inner constellations revolving around the sun of the omniscient spiritual eye, is interrelated with the physical sun and the twelve zodiacal signs. All men are thus affected by an inner and an outer universe. The ancient rishis discovered that man’s earthly and heavenly environment, in twelve-year cycles, push him forward on his natural path. The scriptures aver that man requires a million years of normal, diseaseless evolution to perfect his human brain sufficiently to express cosmic consciousness.

One thousand Kriya practiced in eight hours gives the yogi, in one day, the equivalent of one thousand years of natural evolution: 365,000 years of evolution in one year. In three years, a Kriya Yogi can thus accomplish by intelligent self-effort the same result which nature brings to pass in a million years. The Kriya short cut, of course, can be taken only by deeply developed yogis. With the guidance of a guru, such yogis have carefully prepared their bodies and brains to receive the power created by intensive practice.

The Kriya beginner employs his yogic exercise only fourteen to twenty-eight times, twice daily. A number of yogis achieve emancipation in six or twelve or twenty-four or forty-eight years. A yogi who dies before achieving full realization carries with him the good karma of his past Kriya effort; in his new life he is harmoniously propelled toward his Infinite Goal.

The body of the average man is like a fifty-watt lamp, which cannot accommodate the billion watts of power roused by an excessive practice of Kriya. Through gradual and regular increase of the simple and “foolproof” methods of Kriya, man’s body becomes astrally transformed day by day, and is finally fitted to express the infinite potentials of cosmic energy—the first materially active expression of Spirit.

Kriya Yoga has nothing in common with the unscientific breathing exercises taught by a number of misguided zealots. Their attempts to forcibly hold breath in the lungs is not only unnatural but decidedly unpleasant. Kriya, on the other hand, is accompanied from the very beginning by an accession of peace, and by soothing sensations of regenerative effect in the spine.

The ancient yogic technique converts the breath into mind. By spiritual advancement, one is able to cognize the breath as an act of mind—a dream-breath.

One of the caves occupied by Babaji in the Drongiri Mountains near Ranikhet in the Himalayas. 
A grandson of Lahiri Mahasya, Ananda Mohan Lahiri (second from right in white), and three other devotees are visiting the sacred sport.

Many illustrations could be given of the mathematical relationship between man’s respiratory rate and the variations in his states of consciousness. A person whose attention is wholly engrossed, as in following some closely knit intellectual argument, or in attempting some delicate or difficult physical feat, automatically breathes very slowly. Fixity of attention depends on slow breathing; quick or uneven breaths are an inevitable accompaniment of harmful emotional states: fear, lust, anger. The restless monkey breathes at the rate of 32 times a minute, in contrast to man’s average of 18 times. The elephant, tortoise, snake and other animals noted for their longevity have a respiratory rate which is less than man’s. The tortoise, for instance, who may attain the age of 300 years breathes only 4 times per minute.

The rejuvenating effects of sleep are due to man’s temporary unawareness of body and breathing. The sleeping man becomes a yogi; each night he unconsciously performs the yogic rite of releasing himself from bodily identification, and of merging the life force with healing currents in the main brain region and the six sub-dynamos of his spinal centers. The sleeper thus dips unknowingly into the reservoir of cosmic energy which sustains all life.

The voluntary yogi performs a simple, natural process consciously, not unconsciously like the slow-paced sleeper. The Kriya Yogi uses his technique to saturate and feed all his physical cells with undecaying light and keep them in a magnetized state. He scientifically makes breath unnecessary, without producing the states of subconscious sleep or unconsciousness.

By Kriya, the outgoing life force is not wasted and abused in the senses, but constrained to reunite with subtler spinal energies. By such reinforcement of life, the yogi’s body and brain cells are electrified with the spiritual elixir. Thus he removes himself from studied observance of natural laws, which can only take him—by circuitous means as given by proper food, sunlight, and harmonious thoughts—to a million-year Goal. It needs twelve years of normal healthful living to effect even slight perceptible change in brain structure, and a million solar returns are exacted to sufficiently refine the cerebral tenement for manifestation of cosmic consciousness.

Untying the cord of breath which binds the soul to the body, Kriya serves to prolong life and enlarge the consciousness to infinity. The yoga method overcomes the tug of war between the mind and the matter-bound senses, and frees the devotee to reinherit his eternal kingdom. He knows his real nature is bound neither by physical encasement nor by breath, symbol of the mortal enslavement to air, to nature’s elemental compulsions.

Introspection, or “sitting in the silence,” is an unscientific way of trying to force apart the mind and senses, tied together by the life force. The contemplative mind, attempting its return to divinity, is constantly dragged back toward the senses by the life currents. Kriya, controlling the mind directly through the life force, is the easiest, most effective, and most scientific avenue of approach to the Infinite. In contrast to the slow, uncertain “bullock cart” theological path to God, Kriya may justly be called the “airplane” route.

The yogic science is based on an empirical consideration of all forms of concentration and meditation exercises. Yoga enables the devotee to switch off or on, at will, life current from the five sense telephones of sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. Attaining this power of sense-disconnection, the yogi finds it simple to unite his mind at will with divine realms or with the world of matter. No longer is he unwillingly brought back by the life force to the mundane sphere of rowdy sensations and restless thoughts. Master of his body and mind, the Kriya Yogi ultimately achieves victory over the “last enemy,” death.

So shalt thou feed on Death, that feeds on men:
and Death once dead, there’s no more dying then.

The life of an advanced Kriya Yogi is influenced, not by effects of past actions, but solely by directions from the soul. The devotee thus avoids the slow, evolutionary monitors of egoistic actions, good and bad, of common life, cumbrous and snail-like to the eagle hearts.

Referring to yoga’s sure and methodical efficacy, Lord Krishna praises the technological yogi in the following words: “The yogi is greater than body-disciplining ascetics, greater even than the followers of the path of wisdom (Jnana Yoga), or of the path of action (Karma Yoga); be thou, O disciple Arjuna, a yogi!”

The actual technique must be learned from a Kriyaban or Kriya Yogi; of Yogoda Satsanga Society/Self-Realization Fellowship.  Here a broad reference must suffice.

Yogananda's last smile
[1]Excerpts from the book on "SWAI SHRIYUKTESHWAR Incarnation of Wisdom by Paramahamsa Prajnanananda
[2] Photos from the book on "Autobigraphy of a Yogi".

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