India’s First Yoga Guru In West

INDIA, November 30, 2019 (Telangana Today): It is a tribute to all that he did and achieved, so painstakingly and with such great devotion, that New Delhi has for a third time honored an Indian who did perhaps more than anyone else to lay the foundation for yoga in the West. The tragedy is that despite his stellar contribution to the spread of yoga in the United States and beyond, Paramhansa Yogananda remains a much lesser-known persona. Yoga may have become universally popular and even fashionable today but none outside of India had any inkling as to what it was all about when a young Yogananda sailed to the United States in 1920 at the urging of his guru. Barring a single visit he made to India in between, Yogananda lived there until his death in 1952, preaching kriya yoga, meditation, karma, reincarnation, mantras and chakras to tens of thousands of Americans. What he achieved as India’s first spiritual NRI was as spectacular as the way he died.

The Gorakhpur-born Yogananda, originally Mukunda Lal Ghosh, was India’s maiden yoga guru in the West. Yet, whatever popularity he has is mainly because of his iconic and mesmerizing book, Autobiography of a Yogi, and not due to the way he slogged in the United States. The Indian government first released a postage stamp to honor him in 1977. This was followed by another stamp in 2017, marking 100 years of the ashram he set up in Ranchi. And in October 2019, the government announced it would release a commemorative coin of Rs 125 (US$1.75) denomination to mark his 125th birth anniversary. “Here was a yogi who took the (yoga) message which was universal – not based on one school of thought or religion and made it so acceptable for the whole world,” declared Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. “India feels strongly about this great son of the universe who brought in harmony to all our hearts and minds.”