The Autobiography of a Spiritual Guru

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He was called the father of yoga in the west, Steve Jobs ordered copies of his bestselling book ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’ to be given to everyone who attended his funeral, and he is regarded today as one of the most important Hindu monks of the 20th century. Who was Paramhansa Yogananda?

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Yogananda Paramhansa was born Mukunda Lal Ghosh to a Bengali family in Uttar Pradesh. 

Mukunda’s parents were followers of Lahiri Mahasaya and noticed that their son had an affinity towards spirituality from the very beginning. As his father was Vice President of Bengal-Nagpur Railway, he was able to sponsor many trips for his son and his friends, who chose to visit gurus and swamis all across the country from a very young age!

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Having finished high school, Mukunda decided it was time to go out into the world alone.

Mukunda joined a Mahamandal hermitage in Varanasi but soon tired of the stark difference between what he wished to do and what he was actually doing. He did not wish to invest time in menial organisational work that took time away from meditation and mental peace. After looking for a new guru for a long time, he found Swami Shri Yukteshwar Giri, who he said he had known for many lifetimes. 

The Mysterious Amulet 

Mukunda’s mother died early in his life and she left him a special amulet which was given to her by a holy man, stating that Mukunda must wear this constantly until it disappeared. He did wear it for a long time, and the amulet eventually mysteriously disappeared when he met Swami Yukteshwar!

He completed his education and oversaw hermitages

As Swami Yukteshwar’s disciple, Yogananda, a name he gave himself upon being initiated, studied BA in the Scottish Church College in Kolkata and supervised ashrams in Serampore and Puri. He then founded a school in Dihika, shifted it to Ranchi and even taught the man who would teach Bikram Choudhury!

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Moving to the West

Yogananda saw a vision while meditating one day – he saw American faces, seemingly signaling to a future in the West. So, he handed over the responsibility of the school and flew to Boston as India’s delegate to the International Congress of Religious Liberals. He would even go on to finance the Self Realization Fellowship which focussed on the spread of the tradition of Yoga and its history. As his fame grew, so did his perceived notoriety – he was on a watchlist of FBI and British authorities, who feared his influence and the growing independence movement in India. 

‘The Autobiography of A Yogi’ has sold millions of copies since its first print run 70 years ago. Having been translated into 5 languages and considered to be one of the 100 Most Important Spiritual Books of the 20th Century by HarperCollins Publishers, it is a definite must for lovers of spirituality. Read the serialised version here!

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