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.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.
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,
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.