Paramhansa Yogananda (1893-1952) is ALL about self-realization, which he defines as " 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."
He advocated the acquisition of this self-realization through yogic control of the mind and body which he called a science. "The goal of yoga science is to calm the mind, that without distortion it may hear the infallible counsel of the Inner Voice."
His teachings are disseminated to this day through the organization he established shortly after arriving in the U.S. in 1930. Called the Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF), it counts as one of its aims:
" To teach that the purpose of life is the evolution, through self-effort, of man’s limited mortal consciousness into God Consciousness; and to this end to establish Self-Realization Fellowship temples for God-communion throughout the world, and to encourage the establishment of individual temples of God in the homes and in the hearts of men."
The SRF also strives to "reveal the complete harmony and basic oneness of original Christianity as taught by Jesus Christ and original Yoga as taught by Bhagavan Krishna; and to show that these principles of truth are the common scientific foundation of all true religions."
This might sound wonderful, but the SRF appears to have major problems associated with members who have left and claim the organization operates like a cult. The contents of their materials are top-secret, they use bizarre behavior and thought control tactics to control members, and demand a god-like devotion for gurus to which a disciple "must always be loyal throughout his lifetime and through future incarnations until he finds redemption."
This blog provides extensive detail into the problems with SRF which fully explained to me why I was able to find so many websites dedicated to discussions of the problems associated with the group or to helping members adjust after they have left.
But the group swears allegiance to the teachings of Yogananda, who wrote the best-selling Autobiography of a Yogi in 1946.
Born Mukunda Lal Ghosh in Gorakhpur, India in 1893, he was the fourth of eight children who was considered to be an average student. His parents were disciples of Lahiri Mahasaya, an Indian yogi, who was considered a legend in his time and is frequently referred to as a "saint". Mukunda very much wanted to become a sannyasi (renunciate) even though his family disapproved. They forced him to go to college, but that did not stop his spiritual pursuits.
He began to study under Sri Yukteswar, a guru of the Swami order, who was said to possess a yogic power that enabled him to read thoughts and/or to plant thoughts in others' minds.
Mukunda eventually changed his name to Yogananda, which means "bliss" (ananda) through divine union (yoga). He founded a "how-to-life" school for boys which combined conventional learning with yoga and vedic philosophy.
One day, while meditating at the school, he had a vision of America and saw this as a sign that he was to go there. Borrowing money from his father to make the trip and survive, he left India in 1920 and would not return for 15 years.
Shortly after his arrival, he spoke at an international religious congress in Boston and this became the first of hundreds of speeches which would lead to increasing the awareness of Hinduism and yoga in the United States. He founded the Self-Realization Fellowship in the same year to disseminate his teachings and by 1925, was well on his way to becoming a celebrity.
He returned to India in 1935 when his former guru, Sri Yukteswar bestowed upon him the title paramahansa ( “supreme swan”) which denotes someone who has achieved the ultimate state of union with God.
He returned to America in 1936 where he remained for the rest of his life.
It was here that he wrote the autobiography of his life in 1946, amending it once before his death in 1952.
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