Paramahansa Yogananda(5 January 1893 – 7 March 1952), was an Indian yogi and guru who introduced millions of westerners to the teachings of meditation and Kriya Yoga through his book, Autobiography of a Yogi. Sri Yukteswar Giri was the guru of Satyananda Giri and Paramahansa Yogananda. Sri Yukteswar was a Kriya yogi, a Jyotisha (Vedic astrologer), a scholar of the Bhagavad Gita and the Bible, an educator and an astronomer. He was a disciple of Lahiri Mahasaya of Varanasi and a member of the Giri branch of the swami order.
Sri Yukteswar, while attending the Kumbha Mela in Allahabad, met the Guru of Lahiri Mahasaya, Mahavatar Babaji, who asked Sri Yukteswar to write a book comparing Hindu scriptures and the Christian bible. Mahavatar Babaji also bestowed on Sri Yukteswar the title of ‘Swami’ at that meeting.
In 1946, Yogananda published his life story, Autobiography of a Yogi. It has since been translated into 42 languages. In 1999, it was designated one of the “100 Most Important Spiritual Books of the 20th Century” by a panel of spiritual authors convened by Philip Zaleski and HarperCollins publishers.
In his book the Autobiography of a Yogi, Paramahamsa Yogananda describes many Yogis of the Mahanirvani Akhada exhibiting amazing yogic and mystical powers including living without food (Ma Giri Bala), living with multiple bodies and so on.
The science of Kriya Yoga is the foundation of Yogananda’s teachings. Kriya Yoga is “union (yoga) with the Infinite through a certain action or rite (kriya). The Sanskrit root of kriya is kri, to do, to act and react.” Kriya Yoga was passed down through Yogananda’s guru lineage – Mahavatar Babaji taught Kriya Yoga to Lahiri Mahasaya, who taught it to his disciple, Yukteswar Giri, Yogananda’s Guru.
Paramahansa Yogananda’s dissemination of his teachings is continued through the organization he founded – the Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF)/Yogoda Satsanga Society of India (YSS). SRF/YSS is headquartered in Los Angeles and has grown to include more than 500 temples and centers around the world and has members in over 175 countries including the Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine. In India and surrounding countries, Paramahansa Yogananda’s teachings are disseminated by YSS which has more than 100 centers, retreats, and ashrams