After more than a month and a half at sea, the City of Sparta, the first ship to leave India after World War I, docked in Boston Harbor. On board was a twenty-seven-year-old Indian, Mukunda Lal Ghosh. To the immigration officials who were checking the papers of the passengers that day, he probably looked rather unremarkable: not very tall or imposing physically, with only $500 in his pocket, and no friends in America.

It was a pleasant fall day as he made his way to a room at the YMCA. He was so unfamiliar with American practices that when he first ate in a self-serve cafeteria, he had to watch the other residents to discover that no waiter would come to his table. Getting up to fetch his own food from the cafeteria line was a novel experience for him.

Yogananda in Boston addressing international congress of religious liberals 100 years ago

Paramhansa Yogananda [center] in his early years addressing the Congress of Religious Liberals.

Except for his address at the Congress of Religious Liberals on “The Science of Religion” two weeks after his arrival, his first months in America were also relatively unremarkable considering the back story. This was the great soul who had been chosen by Christ and Babaji, trained in the highest practices and teachings of yoga, and destined to be the forerunner of the new age of Dwapara Yuga.

Like a train gathering momentum, his unremarkable veneer began to change, and his destiny began to gather speed. Sporadic invitations to give talks started to come in, and the sizes of the audiences continued to grow, until, within a few years, he would be one of the most popular speakers in the entire country. He also began to give classes, often a free lecture followed by a series of twelve classes covering many of the same basic techniques that Ananda continues to teach one hundred years later.

Those early years were filled with struggle. “I experienced troubles of every kind and went through periods of greatest poverty,” he would say later. But gradually his cross-country tours became well known, and he was received with standing-room-only crowds. By 1925 he was able to acquire a permanent home, Mt. Washington Estates in Los Angeles.

But his popularity was secondary to his real mission and his true power, which only a few could recognize. He was a channel for the Divine. In previous incarnations he had ceased to have any individual, ego-driven will. As he put it, “I killed Yogananda long ago. No one dwells in this body temple now but God.” It was this divine power, attuned to the will of God, that was destined to change the West.

celebration of paramhansa yogananda 100 years

This year marks the Centennial Anniversary of Paramhansa Yogananda’s arrival in the West.

His magnetism attracted sincere disciples, who made it possible to spread the teachings of ancient India to the potential saints in America that he had seen in a vision while in India many years earlier. Perhaps the apex of his mission came with the publishing of Autobiography of a Yogi in 1946. This book has reached many millions and changed countless lives, including mine, and perhaps yours too, dear reader.

What can we see now, looking back over the past century since Yogananda arrived? Now, his is a household name, known by virtually all students of yoga. Millions meditate daily and practice the teachings he introduced. Not only do medical experts accept meditation as valid, but a recent Harvard University study proves that measurable positive brain changes come quickly, within six weeks of beginning to meditate.

Most importantly, millions of people around the world have found a new way to connect personally with God through the teachings of Yogananda and his Kriya Yoga path. In the hundred years since his arrival in Boston, Yogananda has generated a revolution which will have effects that are, perhaps, both broader and more lasting than the American Revolution of 1776. He is truly the way shower for a New Age.

In profound gratitude to my Guru,

Nayaswami Jyotish

P.S. Some years ago I wrote a Touch of Light called Seven Revolutionary Teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda, which gives a deeper insight into his teachings.

Subscribe to the Touch of Light podcast. Download the audio recording of this week’s blog by right-clicking here. Or listen to it here (6:13):

11 Comments

  1. What a beautiful soul touching capture of our beloved Gurudev’s early years in US. Thank you for the 7 points from your earlier blog Ji. Esp #5 and #7. Thank you beloved Swamiji for bringing us to Master.

  2. Your story – your words, bring me closer to the path, the teachings and to the simple and remarkable spirit of this fascinating life story that began in India and ended here in America. Yogananda – filled with God. Mahalo Joytish.

  3. The human race as a whole seek Ananda by any means. The life of swamiji is a tremendous inspiration to all in the path of ANANDA seekers. I hsve a true aspirations towards the path of Swamiji and like follow him in my further remaining life.
    Love,regards
    Chandran
    Po. Anandasrama
    India 671531

  4. Thank you. Thank goodness for this story. Being drawn to Yogananda late in life makes me so grateful for he was sent here to help us.

  5. HAPPY 100, everyone! And thanks, as always, Jyotish!
    With air quality finally improving in the Portland area (though not “healthy” here yet), we’re probably lucky that so much of the activity around the Ananda world is happening online this weekend.

  6. Thank you Jotish for a most inspiring story of Master’s ordinary beginnings , a YMCA of all places. Helping us to feel ever closer on the path. “I stand ready to obey Thy least command”

  7. Thank you Jyotish, as always, inspiring and heart touching.

    Tomorrow, 100 years ago, our beloved Guru stepped onto American soil. The advances humanity has made in that span of time boggles the mind. The vast, destructive wars have ceased. We can travel to India in a day, and we’ve walked on the moon. We can connect to any part of the planet within seconds via telecommunications Yet mankind still struggles. Poverty, sickness, prejudice and ecological destruction accelerate. Our planet is showing signs of illness because of our disregard for her delicacy. We cry out, WHAT IS THE ANSWER?

    Yogananda shared that with whoever would listen, and put into practice the experiential science of Kriya Yoga. The gains seen from seeking the Sacred within us is starting to overwhelm the medical community. The initial ripples sent out by Master have become a storm surge of awakening.

    His influence has set in motion hundreds of spin-off practices that seek to lift humanity out of the tumult of ego entrapment. On YouTube for example, searching for a subject like “healing sound frequencies,” results in many many contributions by various artists and groups that have been viewed by millions! And that’s just one example

    We stand on the verge of planetary change, the human race longs for a deeper purpose and healthier approach to living. Ananda, lays out the blueprint, and we’re part of an evolutionary shift, which will eventually, bring, Peace on Earth!

  8. Dear Nayaswami Jyotish Ji,
    Thank you for this wonderful blog! It brings such a joy reading this blog and to visualise those scenes.
    How blessed are we to have Master as our Guru and to follow the great teachings.
    Sincere Gratitude to Swamiji for bringing us to Master’s teachings.
    Our life has totally changed after the touch of our Guru!

    At Master’s service and at His feet
    …. Prem

  9. It is true, when you love someone, you want to really get to know them. Coming to America at 27 years, having a room at the YMCA, eating in a cafeteria. Alone, after WWI. I’m bewildered with this account and my heart deeply moved with this profound share. Yogananda has been my inner trustworthy friend for so long. I did not meet him, I do not practice kriya yoga. I just love HIM. I love all the masters in his line. It is a strange karma. Likely many others feel as I do. Thank you for a beautiful share.

  10. Whenever I read of Swami Yogananda’s life story I never cease to be amazed.
    I am a 68 year old South African Indian who has been gradually transformed into a devotee.
    It is difficult to describe the emotions experienced just by looking at his photograph.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.