Paramhansa Yogananda

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Paramahansa Yogananda circa 1920.

Paramhansa Yogananda (1893–1952) was one of the first Indian spiritual teachers to reside permanently in the West and to teach yoga to Americans. He moved from India to the United States in 1920 and eventually founded the Self-Realization Fellowship in Los Angeles. He published his own life story in a book called Autobiography of a Yogi, first published in 1946. In his Autobiography, Yogananda provided some details of his personal life, an introduction to yoga, meditation, and philosophy, and accounts of his meetings with a wide variety of personalities, including Mohandas K. Gandhi, Luther Burbank, and Jagadis C. Bose. In this memoir, he claimed to have been given to know the time when he would die in advance.

Paramhamsa, also spelled Paramahamsa, is a Sanskrit title used for Hindu spiritual teachers who have become enlightened. The title of Paramhansa originates from the legend of the swan. The swan (hansa) is said to have a mythical ability to only sip the milk from a water and milk mixture, separating out the more watery part. The spiritual master is likewise said to be able to live in a world like a supreme (param) swan, and only see the divine, instead of all the evil mixed in there too, which the worldly person sees.