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International Yoga Day: The man who made yoga popular in the West

Narendra Modi might have got International Yoga Day recognised by the United Nations but it was Paramhansa Yogananda, who should be given actual credit for imbibing yoga and meditation culture to the people in The US.

Who was Yogananda?
>> Yogananda was born into a spiritually inclined family on January 5, 1893 in Gorakhpur (Uttar Pradesh) as Mukunda Lal Ghosh. He was the fourth of eight children and showed an early inclination for the self-realization path. His guru, Yukteswar Giri, goaded him to graduate and later ordained him as Yogananda.

>> Three years after founding the Yogada Satsanga Society of India (YSS) in Ranchi in 1917, the young Yogananda sailed to Boston to take part in the International Congress of Religions. His mission was to unite the East and West by spiritual understanding, to show the underlying unity of all religions. He travelled extensively in the US and captivated millions with his talks on yoga and meditation -- thus laying the foundations of yoga in the West that has today catapulted into the International Yoga Day.

>> It was in 1946 that Yogananda published his path-breaking "Autobiography of a Yogi". In no time, it was recognised as one of the 10 best spiritual classics of the 20th century. No other book perhaps has done more to propagate yoga and spirituality. It has been translated into 21 languages and sold millions of copies.

>> Yogananda returned to India on a short visit just once - when he taught Kriya Yoga to Mahatma Gandhi at Wardha. He went back to the US at the urging of his guru, passing away there in 1952 under unique circumstances.

>> In March 7, 1952, at an event at Biltmore Hotel at Los Angeles attended by India's ambassador to the US, Yogananda gave what turned out to be his last talk - and hugely memorable.

>> Yogananda was not ritualistic. He spoke secular language and never imposed his ideas on others. In the US, he underlined the spiritual and cultural heritage of India and held classes on balanced living -- using yoga as a medium. Finally, however, it was the 'Autobiography of a Yogi' that put Yogananda on a spiritual pedestal where he remains even today.

-with agency inputs

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