The History and Legacy of Paramahansa Yogananda


Paramahansa Yogananda

The Minneapolis Meditation Group of Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) hosted a special Open House on June 11, 2010 featuring a talk entitled Kriya Yoga: Spiritual Science for an Awakening Age. The talk was presented by Brother Nakulananda, a longtime monk of SRF, which was founded in 1920 by Paramahansa Yogananda, author of the spiritual classic , Autobiography of a Yogi.

Click here to visit the website of the Minneapolis Meditation Group.

For more information about SRF or the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda, click here to visit the official website of Self-Realization Fellowship.


The SRF Minneapolis Meditation Group's center at 112 West 43rd Street

Here is the flyer for Brother Nakulananda’s talk. Click on the flyer to enlarge it.


In an earlier post, I wrote about how reading Autobiography of a Yogi changed my life.


The SRF Encinitas Temple

I also shared my profoundly memorable experiences while visiting Self-Realization Fellowship’s hermitage and temple in Encinitas, California.

Here is an insightful article about the history of the Minneapolis Meditation Group from attorney Jerry Blackwell, a longtime member.


It was September 1927, and Paramahansa Yogananda was electrifying Twin Cities audiences with a novel but soul-rousing message. With long hair and golden brown skin, and always clad in an orange robe, he lectured nightly to sold out auditoriums of thousands on the body and soul benefits of meditation and inner communion, almost a century before modern medicine and pop culture would make these practices synonymous with enlightened wellness.

Yogananda had first arrived in America in 1920 at the age of 27. He traveled from India as his native country’s delegate to an international congress of religious leaders convening in Boston. Over the next three decades, he traversed the country preaching the benefits of meditation and Kriya Yoga, a sacred technique of meditation which stills the body and the mind, serving to withdraw the energy from the turbulence of one’s thoughts, emotions and sensory perceptions so that it is possible to go within and commune with God), authoring volumes of spiritual texts, and founding the organization that would oversee his spiritual legacy and teachings, Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF), headquartered in Los Angeles.

Swami Yogananda touched many hearts and minds during his month-long stay in Minnesota. Beginning on September 18, 1927, he lectured at the Lyceum Theatre in Minneapolis, Macalaster College of St. Paul, and other Twin Cities venues. He gave classes on subjects ranging from “Great Revelation for Beautifying Body and Mind” to “Vibratory Healing by Christ Power, Holy Ghost, Yogic Chants.”


Paramahansa Yogananda, standing, speaks to a full house at the downtown Minneapolis Radisson Hotel in the fall of 1927

Yogananda captured the imaginations of both ordinary citizens and dignitaries, including Minnesota Governor Theodore Christianson, St. Paul Mayor Laurence Hodgson, and Thomas Walker, founder of the Walker Art Galleries. Mrs. Simon Kruse, owner of the downtown Minneapolis Radisson Hotel, separately played host to this renowned pioneer of meditation and yoga in America.

Attendees inspired by his lectures and teachings on meditation formed the Minneapolis Meditation Group of Self-Realization Fellowship. Today, eighty-five years later, the Minneapolis Meditation Group of SRF conducts meditation and inspirational services at its center in south Minneapolis, where members from the Twin Cities region come together each week for meditation and fellowship.

Paramahansa Yogananda’s teaching struck a holistic chord, improving the body, mind and soul at once. A Roosevelt High School teacher in Minneapolis attending his lectures commented at the time: “His message is teaching us to unfold our inner spiritual faculties, as well as aiding in our development of physical and mental powers.”

What was true then is still true today, says Elizabeth Werner, the one-time coordinator of the Minneapolis Meditation Group. Werner, who is now eight-six, attributes her youthful vigor to the practice of the meditation and wellness techniques Yogananda taught. “Paramahansa Yogananda gave us scientific techniques for health, vigor and having a direct experience of God,” she says. “Regular, sincere meditation brings the peace that comes from God-communion. The practice is non-denominational and doesn’t require anyone to give up their own faith.”


Yogananda sought to demonstrate that all great religions are founded on the same universal truths. The Washington Post reported on Yogananda’s methods in 1927 that “the Yogoda message is nonsectarian, humanitarian and capable of fusing together in unity the different religious factions, though not in any way causing them to lose their individuality.”

Paramahansa Yogananda in 1924 (Courtesy of Self-Realization Fellowship, Los Angeles, California)

A medical doctor who attended his 1927 lectures remarked, “There is no conflict between the Swami’s teachings and the Christian religion, as shown by his reverence, faith and eloquent utterances concerning the majesty and glory of the Christian Bible and Jesus Christ.”

The doctor also spoke of the positive benefits of meditation: “This course of instruction has brought to our minds a world of knowledge not hitherto known to us, making our lives longer and more useful, our minds clearer to receive wisdom, our health more radiant, giving us brighter glimpses of eternity and things of God.”

Today, Self-Realization Fellowship has more than 500 temples, retreats, and meditation centers in nearly 60 countries. SRF members have included composer George Liebling, opera star Amelita Galli-Curci, actor Dennis Weaver and botanist Luther Burbank.

Yogananda was the first yoga master from India to be invited to the White House, meeting with President Calvin Coolidge at the White House in 1927. He also met with many other prominent world figures, including Mahatma Gandhi, with whom he shared many similar beliefs, and instructed Gandhi, at the Mahatma’s request, in Kriya Yoga. After Gandhi was assassinated, Yogananda was provided with the only portion of his ashes to be found outside of India. (Yogananda had them enshrined in an ancient sarcophagus at the Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine near Los Angeles, where they remain to this day.)

Yogananda consciously left his body at the conclusion of a public speech on March 7, 1952. According to the mortuary director at Forest Lawn cemetery in Los Angeles, Yogananda’s “other worldliness” was evident even in his lifeless body: “Yogananda’s body was apparently in a phenomenal state of immutability…. He looked on March 27th as fresh and as unravaged by decay as he had looked on the night of his death. On March 27th there was no reason to say that his body had suffered any visible physical disintegration at all. For these reasons we state again that the case of Paramahansa Yogananda is unique in our experience.”

Yogananda’s remarkable life journey, detailed in his book Autobiography of a Yogi, remains a best-selling spiritual classic and is a curriculum staple in many colleges and universities. In 1999, it was selected by a panel commissioned by publisher Harper Collins San Francisco as one of the 100 most influential spiritual books of the 20th century.

And here is a brief biography of Paramahansa Yogananda, courtesy of Self-Realization Fellowship headquarters in Los Angeles.


Paramahansa Yogananda, author of the modern spiritual classic AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A YOGI and widely revered as one of the preeminent spiritual figures of our time, contributed in far-reaching ways to a greater awareness and appreciation in the West of the spiritual wisdom of the East. Regarded as the father of Yoga in the West, Yogananda made an indelible impression on the spiritual landscape of the United States and the world.

AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A YOGI, Yogananda’s life story, was published in 1946 and expanded by him in subsequent editions. Recognized from the beginning as a landmark work in its field, the book has been in print continuously since its initial publication more than sixty years ago. Honored as one of the 100 best spiritual books of the 20th century, it remains one of the most important, and most readable, works on Yoga and Eastern spiritual thought.second-coming-of-christ-yogananda

His long-awaited interpretation of the four Gospels – THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST – which was released in September 2004, is a profoundly enriching journey into the deeper meaning of Jesus’ universal teachings.

Among Yogananda’s other writings are acclaimed interpretations of the Bhagavad Gita (GOD TALKS WITH ARJUNA) and the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (WINE OF THE MYSTIC: A Spiritual Interpretation), a three-volume anthology series (Collected Talks and Essays on Realizing God in Daily Life), two collections of poetry and prayer, and numerous volumes of spiritual counsel.

Paramahansa Yogananda’s arrival in America from India in 1920, when he was invited to serve as a delegate to the International Congress of Religious Liberals convening in Boston, marked the beginning of an upsurge in the West of interest in the spiritual wisdom of the East. That same year he founded Self-Realization Fellowship to disseminate worldwide his teachings on India’s ancient philosophy of Yoga and its time-honored science of meditation.


Paramahansa Yogananda

In 1925, he took up residence in Los Angeles where he established an international headquarters for his society. Over the next decade he traveled and lectured extensively, speaking to capacity audiences in major cities throughout North America and Europe. To the tens of thousands of Westerners who attended his lectures, his discourses on the unity of “the original teachings of Jesus Christ and the original Yoga taught by Bhagavan Krishna” were a revelation.

During his 32 years of public ministry in America and abroad, Yogananda devoted himself to fostering greater harmony and cooperation among all religions, races, and nationalities; and to helping people realize and express more fully in their lives the beauty, nobility, and divinity of the human spirit. He brought a knowledge of Yoga and meditation to millions of men and women, not only through his public lectures and classes, but also through his writings and the centers he established in countries around the world.

Many prominent figures in science, business, and the arts became his students, including horticulturist Luther Burbank, operatic soprano Amelita Galli-Curci, George Eastman (inventor of the Kodak camera), poet Edwin Markham, and symphony conductor Leopold Stokowski. In 1927, Yogananda was officially received at the White House by President Calvin Coolidge, who had become interested in the newspaper accounts of his activities.

Paramahansa Yogananda was born Mukunda Lal Ghosh on January 5, 1893, in Gorakhpur, India, into a prosperous and devout Bengali family. From his earliest years it was evident to those around him that his awareness and experience of the spiritual was far beyond the ordinary. As a youth he sought out many of India’s saints and philosophers, hoping to find an illumined teacher to guide him in his spiritual quest.


Swami Sri Yukteswar, guru of Paramahansa Yogananda

In 1910, at the age of 17, he met the revered Indian sage Swami Sri Yukteswar, in whose hermitage he spent the better part of the next ten years. After graduating from Calcutta University in 1915, he became a monk of India’s venerable monastic Swami Order, at which time he received the name Yogananda (signifying bliss, ananda, through divine union, yoga).

Yogananda began his life’s work with the founding, in 1917, of a “how-to-live” school, where modern educational methods were combined with yoga training and instruction in spiritual ideals. Visiting the school in 1925, Mahatma Gandhi wrote: “This institution has greatly impressed my mind.”

Paramahansa Yogananda with his guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar, during Yogananda’s 1935-36 trip to India

Gandhi and Yogananda met a decade afterwards when the latter made a return visit to India in 1935–36, after first touring parts of Europe and the Middle East. At the Mahatma’s request, Yogananda instructed him and several of his followers in the spiritual science of Kriya Yoga.


During the 1930s, Yogananda began to withdraw somewhat from extensive public lecturing in order to devote himself more to his writings, to establishing Self-Realization Fellowship temples and meditation centers, and to building a firm foundation for the future of his spiritual and humanitarian work. Under his directtion, the personal guidance and instruction that he had given to students of his classes was arranged into a comprehensive series of lessons for home study.

Paramahansa Yogananda passed away on March 7, 1952, in Los Angeles, following his delivery of a speech at a banquet honoring Dr. Binay R. Sen, India’s Ambassador to the U.S. His passing received widespread coverage in the press, including in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and Time magazine. In 1977, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of Yogananda’s passing, the Government of India formally recognized his outstanding contributions to the spiritual upliftment of humanity, by issuing a commemorative stamp in his honor.

Click here to view all my posts about Paramahansa Yogananda and Self-Realization Fellowship.

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12 Responses to “The History and Legacy of Paramahansa Yogananda”

  1. Axel Says:

    Thanks for sharing this sweet space of a great Master – Paramahansa Yogananda!

  2. Phil Bolsta Says:

    It is my great pleasure, Axel. Thank you!

  3. paul from Reiki Attunements Says:

    I really enjoy reading your blog!!! Very informative and inciteful. Excellent!!! I have added you to my google newsreader and my favourites Folder!

  4. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Thanks so much, Paul! Welcome aboard!

  5. Keweenaw North Says:

    Phil, I heard the ‘Mini-apple’ word in your intro. We’re way up north near Copper Harbor, MI…you know, the place where it never stops snowing.

    I’ve been reading about Master’s lectures in the US and synchronistically came to your blog and it was a lovely discovery and gift for the new year.

    May we all be One……….

  6. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Glad you found this post, Keweenaw North! May your new year be filled with Master’s blessings!

  7. Pankaj Jodha Says:

    I liked yr work
    In Master,
    Pankaj Jodha
    (My India)

  8. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Thank you, Pankaj. You are blessed to live in India.

  9. Tejaswini Watkar Says:

    R u A member of SRF?the org. formed by guruji..guruji bless us all

  10. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Yes, Tejaswini. That’s why I moved to Encinitas.

  11. Sherry Says:

    Thank you for your beautiful homage to Yogananda. His “The Second Coming of Christ” work took all of the fear from my bible-based upbringing and brought me into a sacred and accurate understanding of Christ. I adore Master and his work!

  12. Phil Bolsta Says:

    You’re very welcome, Sherry. “The Second Coming of Christ” is a must-read for anyone who . . . well . . . for anyone at all!

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