Author: Kat Zimmer
Paramahamsa Yogananda is a shining example of a yogi for all- not simply for all of the great works he’s accomplished or because he followed the traditional yoga path- it is because he embodied the yogic spirit through his perception of the world around him. What I have learned from reading Paramahamsa Yogananda’s autobiography is that miracles are created only when one chooses to see them; it is a mind frame. Swami’s life in his autobiography appears so miraculous because of his perspective on life was always in one form or another connection to the divine.
Paramahamsa Yogananda was born in Gorakhpur, northeast India as Mukunda Lal Ghosh on January 5, 1893 to parents Gyana Prabha Ghosh and Bhagabati Charan Ghosh. Shortly after Mukunda was born, Gyana took him to the residence of their guru- Sri Lahiri Mahasaya. While sitting in meditation, she was praying for a blessing for her new born son from Lahiri Mahasaya. Sure enough, the crowd of disciples cleared a path for her, leading to Lahiri Mahasaya. He bestowed a blessing on him, informing her that her son was to become a yogi that will carry many souls to God’s kingdom. This blessing rang true as Mukunda carried on his life path.
Having memories of being a helpless infant, he told of occurrences of his childhood where his faith even at that age could not be shattered. One example is his story of his sister Uma and two kites that flew his way. Uma asked Mukunda why he was so happy. He replied by saying how wonderful it was that Divine Mother gives him whatever he asks. He sarcastically remarked that Divine Mother would give him the two kites that the neighbor kids were playing with. As the neighbor kids played, one kite broke loose and became tangled in a cactus tree, forming a perfect loop within Mukunda’s grasp. Uma, convinced it was a coincidence, was amazed when the second one also flew his way.
Meeting his guru, Sri Yukteswar, at a young age, only furthered the depths of his love for God. Living at his hermitage in Serampora, he learned by Sri Yukteswar’s living example on how to live in the world while being constantly embraced by the divine. On one occasion, Mukunda raised his hand to kill a mosquito. After hesitating with his hand in the air, he decided not to slap the insect. The guru asked him why he didn’t finish the job. Mukunda, confused, inquired about the question. Sri Yukteswar replied kindly with a little lesson of Ahimsa, reminding Mukunda that Ahimsa is the principle of non-violence, even in thought or intention.
Years passed, and many miracles were experienced. Only a few short days after receiving his university degree, he was initiated into the Swami Order. This meant that Mukunda was to carry on the same path as his guru throughout his life. Sri Yukteswar performed a rather informal initiation ceremony, allowing Mukunda to pick his own Swami name. His guru’s decision to initiate him informally is yet another indication of his deep faith. In other words, the ceremony didn’t matter, because he was already living the life as a Swami in his heart.
His initiation into the Swami Order also meant his initiation into kriya yoga by his guru, which was passed on by his paramaguru Babaji, who began the kriya yoga tradition. Yogananda’s initiation into kriya yoga [union with the divine through a certain action or rite (kriya)], meant the initiation of millions. Little did he know at that time he would spread his tradition worldwide.
Yogananda started the Self-Realization Fellowship, a.k.a. Yogoda Satsanga society in 1925, first in the west, in Los Angeles, and then established a headquarters near Calcutta in 1939. There, millions of sinyasies and sadhakas to this day are getting initiated into the kriya tradition.
These establishments and kriya yoga initiations are only a few of Yogananda’s accomplishments. It wasn’t until after a small conversation with his guru that changed his mind about selfless service and started him on the path of karma yoga. Sri Yukteswar asked Yogananda why he was so against organizational work. Yogananda, surprised at the question, replied, “No matter what the leader of the organization does, he is criticized.” Sri Yukteswar responded “Do you want the whole divine channa for you alone? God is the money; organizations are the hives full of spiritual nectar.” This statement moved Yogananda so deeply, it inspired him to open a yoga school for boys in Ranchi, Bihar called Yogada Satsanga Brahmacharya Vidyalaya. It held classes outdoors with a variety of subjects. The school also involved yogic techniques such as meditation and kriya.
Perhaps one of the greatest and most influential accomplishments was bringing Eastern Spirituality to the west. Long after a panoramic view of America in a vision he’d had once before, he first went to the United States to speak about yoga at the International Congress of Religious Liberals in Boston. With his father’s blessing and another vision for the divine (Babaji), assuring him he was to spread the teachings of kriya yoga to the west, he was on his way.
He spent 32 years total in the west, initiating more than 100,000 students in kriya yoga. He spread the world of yoga through public lectures, teaching classes at colleges, churches, and groups of every denomination. Some classes were so large they had tens of thousands of people. He also started a transcontinental tour in 1924 to further spread knowledge of the yoga tradition. It was the following year that his headquarters in L.A. was established.
Parahamsa Yogananda’s life was extraordinary- one miraculous event after another. But was it so different than yours or mine? I don’t think so. His life to him was miraculous because he held that perspective- the kind of perspective one would expect from a true yogi, one who sees the world and all life’s events as a chance to unite with God in his miraculous kingdom called life.
The views expressed are solely those of the author. Yogapoint.com may or may not agree with all statements.v>The Miraculous Life of Paramahamsa Yogananda
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