Paramhansa Yogananda (sometimes spelled Paramahansa Yogananda), 1893?–?1952, was the first yoga master of India to take up permanent residence in the West.
Yogananda arrived in America in 1920, and proceeded to travel throughout the United States on what he called his “spiritual campaigns.” Hundreds of thousands filled the largest halls in major American cities to see the yoga master from India. Yogananda continued to lecture and write up to his passing in 1952.
Yogananda’s initial impact on the western culture was truly impressive. But his lasting spiritual legacy has been even greater. His Autobiography of a Yogi, first published in 1946, helped launch a spiritual revolution in the West. Translated into more than a dozen languages, it remains a best-selling spiritual classic to this day.
Yogananda’s message was nonsectarian and universal. Before embarking on his mission to the West, he received this admonition from his teacher, Swami Sri Yukteswar:
The West is high in material attainments, but lacking in spiritual understanding. It is God’s will that you play a role in teaching mankind the value of balancing the material with an inner, spiritual life.
The Path of Self-Realization
The true basis of religion is not belief, but intuitive experience. Intuition is the soul’s power of knowing God. To know what religion is really all about, one must know God.
—Paramhansa Yogananda from The Essence of Self-Realization
The lasting contribution brought by Yogananda to the West is the non-sectarian, universal spiritual path of Self-Realization.
Yogananda gave this definition to the term Self-Realization:
Self-Realization is the knowing in all parts of body, mind, and soul that you are now in possession of the kingdom of God; that you do not have to pray that it come to you; that God’s omnipresence is your omnipresence; and that all that you need to do is improve your knowing.
As the means of attaining this exalted spiritual state Yogananda initiated his followers into the ancient technique of Kriya Yoga, which he called the “jet-airplane route to God.”mThe path of Kriya Yoga, which combines the practice of advanced yogic techniques with spirituality in daily life, can be learned at Ananda Centres.
Ananda: Fulfilling Yogananda’s Vision
Swami Kriyananda, a direct disciple of Yogananda, founded Ananda Village outside Nevada City, California in 1968 to fulfill Yogananda’s vision of “world brotherhood colonies”, or spiritual cooperative communities. Yogananda envisioned a place where all people, not just monastics, could devote themselves to living a divine life, dedicated to practicing the teachings of yoga in every aspect of their daily life.
Ananda Village has over 300 adult members and children. Ananda Worldwide now includes world brotherhood colonies in four American cities, and in Assisi, Italy. All residents practice Yogananda’s teachings of meditation and apply his principles to all facets of life in this world: business, schools, relationships, healing, and much more. Ananda’s Expanding Light retreat has been sharing these principles for over 25 years.