From the dawn of human civilization, India has always been a place of contemplation on God, spiritual philosophy, and the virtuous land of God-realized saints. These saints and great men did not keep these ultimate verities to themselves, rather made a herculean effort to share the knowledge and wisdom with the whole world. History is witness to the fact that whenever the world was in desperate need of spiritual guidance, some great man appeared on the world stage to show the right path to the wandering human beings.
A 100 years ago, a young swami, with a divine resolve in his mind for the welfare of the world, went out with the blessings of his guru, to spread throughout the world the liberating message of Raja Yoga and especially Kriya Yoga. His name is Paramahansa Yogananda, who is famous all over the world as the author of the well-known spiritual classic, Autobiography of a Yogi. Also known as the Father of Yoga in the West, he is recognized for his contribution to the spread of yoga in America and other European countries.
Kriya Yoga, based on Maharishi Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga or Raja Yoga, consists of advanced techniques of meditation whose devoted practice leads to the realization of God and liberation of the soul from all forms of bondage. It is the royal or supreme technique of yoga, divine union.
With the universal message of Kriya Yoga, Yoganandaji went to America and on September 19, 1920, his feet first touched the American soil. Even a few months before this incident, Paramahansa Yoganandaji did not even have an idea that he would have to go to America soon. He started a residential school for children in Ranchi in 1917. (This school later became the Yogoda Satsanga Society of India, which today propagates the teachings of Yoganandaji throughout India and Indian subcontinent.) One day, while meditating at the Ranchi School, Yoganandaji had a divine experience from which he realized that the time had come to start his work in the West. He immediately left for Kolkata, where the following day he was invited as the delegate from India at an International Congress of Religious Liberals which was to convene that year in Boston. His guru, Swami Sri Yukteswarji, conferred that it was the right time for him to go to the West. He added: “All doors are open for you.”
Shortly before his departure, Yoganandaji was visited by Mahavatar Babaji, the deathless master who revived in this age the ancient science of Kriya Yoga. “You are the one I have chosen to spread the message of Kriya Yoga in the West,” Babaji said to Yoganandaji. “Long ago I met your guru Yukteswar at a Kumbha Mela; I told him then I would send you to him for training. Kriya Yoga, the scientific technique of God-realization, will ultimately spread in all lands, and aid in harmonizing the nations through man's personal, transcendental perception of the Infinite Father.”
Swami Ishwarananda Giri is Senior monk of Yogoda Satsanga Society of India.