The Yogi Who Brought Yoga to the West


Paramhansa Yogananda (1893-1952, often mis-spelled ‘Paramahansa’ in the West) was the first yoga master of India to take up permanent residence in the West.

Yogananda arrived in America in 1920, and traveled throughout the United States on what he called his ‘spiritual campaigns’. His enthusiastic audiences filled the largest halls in America. Hundreds of thousands came to see the yogi from India. Yogananda continued to lecture and write up to his passing in 1952.

Click here to read an article on how yoga first came to America.

His teachings were fresh, entertaining, and filled with deep insight. This combination made him extremely popular in a land ready for a new perspective of its ancient spiritual heritage, and for a practical approach to knowing God. Most importantly, his message was entirely nonsectarian and universal.

The Los Angeles Times wrote of him during one of his early lecture tours:

“The Philharmonic Auditorium presents the extraordinary spectacle of thousands being turned away an hour before the advertised opening of a lecture, with the 3000-seat hall filled to its utmost capacity. Swami Yogananda is the attraction. A Hindu invading the United States to bring God in the midst of a Christian community, preaching the essence of Christian doctrine.”

Yogananda’s initial impact was truly impressive. But his lasting impact has been even greater. Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi, first published in 1946, helped launch a spiritual revolution in the West. Autobiography of a Yogi has sold millions of copies and is published in 19 languages worldwide, making it perhaps the best-selling spiritual autobiography of all time. It is also used in colleges as a textbook in Yoga and Indian philosophy.

Read about the hidden history of Autobiography of a Yogi here.

A Path of Self-Realization

Yogananda brought to the West the path of Self-Realization. He said that “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.”

Self-Realization, Yogananda taught, can mostly quickly be achieved through the science of Kriya Yoga. The path of Kriya Yoga, which Yogananda called the ‘jet-airplane’ route to God, consists of ancient yoga techniques to hasten the spiritual evolution of the student. Yogananda’s techniques can be learned through the Kriya Yoga program at Ananda Los Angeles.

“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, Essence of Self-Realization

Ananda: Fulfilling Yogananda’s Vision

Swami Kriyananda, a direct disciple of Yogananda, founded Ananda Village in 1968 to fulfill Yogananda’s vision of ‘World Brotherhood Colonies’, or spiritual cooperative communities—and to help make the teachings and spiritual practices of Yogananda readily available to all. 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. Yogananda intended for his teachings to help as many people as possible, encouraging us to apply them to all facets of our lives: business, schools, relationships, healing, and much more.

Ananda Worldwide now includes World Brotherhood Colonies in five American cities plus Assisi, Italy, and two locations in India, Gurgaon and Pune. Additionally, Ananda has over 100 teachings centers and meditation groups worldwide, where people dedicated to learning and practicing the teachings of Yogananda can come together. Ananda is headquartered at Ananda Village in Nevada City, CA where about 300 adults and children live together in a spirit of friendship and coorperation.