Paramhansa Yogananda (sometimes spelled Paramahansa Yogananda), 1893 – 1952, was the first yoga master of India to take up permanent residence in the West.
Yogananda's initial impact on the western culture was truly impressive. But his lasting spiritual legacy has been even greater. His Autobiography of a Yogi, first published in 1946, helped launch a spiritual revolution in the West. Translated into more than a dozen languages, it remains a best-selling spiritual classic to this day.
Yogananda arrived in America in 1920, and proceeded to travel throughout the United States on what he called his "spiritual campaigns."
Hundreds of thousands filled the largest halls in major American cities to see the yoga master from India. Yogananda continued to lecture and write up to his passing in 1952.
Yogananda's message was nonsectarian and universal. Before embarking on his mission to the West, he received this admonition from his teacher, Swami Sri Yukteswar:
"The West is high in material attainments, but lacking in spiritual understanding. It is God's will that you play a role in teaching mankind the value of balancing the material with an inner, spiritual life."
Yogananda brought the science of kriya yoga to the west:
"One-half minute of revolution of energy around the sensitive spinal cord of man effects subtle progress in his evolution; that half-minute of Kriya equals one year of natural spiritual unfoldment."