Paramahansa Yogananda – Father of Yoga in the West
We will be happy to commemorate with you on this day the second ever United Nations-sanctioned International Day of Yoga, first proposed by India Prime Minister Narendra Modi. We have no doubt that Paramahansa Yogananda would be very pleased to learn that the world will now be paying homage annually to India’s ancient science of God-realization as our Guru’s life was dedicated to introducing all truth seekers to the time-honored techniques of yoga meditation. A recent report in an online Indian journal stated: “If India's idea of an International Yoga Day has found easy acceptance in the UN, much of the credit must go to Paramahansa Yogananda, India's first yoga guru in the US…he played a huge role in laying the foundation for yoga in the United States a century ago.”
First recorded in the Bhagavad Gita long before the Christian era, the science of yoga was lost during the dark ages and then reintroduced, as Kriya Yoga, by Mahavatar Babaji, whose disciple Lahiri Mahasaya was the first to teach it openly in our era. Later, Babaji asked Lahiri Mahasaya's disciple, Swami Sri Yukteswar, to train his disciple, Paramahansa Yogananda, and send him to the West to give this soul-revealing technique to the world. In fulfilling that mission at the request of his guru and Babaji, Paramahansaji founded his society, Self-Realization Fellowship, which he referred to as "the organizational hive to hold the divine honey for all hungry seekers of Truth."
As our Guru states in his commentary on the Bhagavad Gita, God Talks With Arjuna:
“The word yoga signifies the perfect poise or mental evenness that is the result of communion of the mind with Spirit. Yoga indicates also the spiritual technique of meditation through which one attains union with Spirit. Yoga signifies, further, any act that leads to this divine union.
“Mental evenness is the native state of the soul. The ordinary man, by identifying himself with the world, divorces his consciousness from union with Spirit. The remedy for this all-too often-disastrous disassociation lies in performing one’s actions while inwardly united with the joy of Spirit. God’s consciousness is perpetually in the state of yoga or everlasting evenness that remains unaffected by the incessant changes of creation. Man also, made in God’s image, should learn to manifest that divine equilibrium by which he can live and act in this world without being victimized by its dualities.”
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi presented the idea for an International Day of Yoga to the United Nations in September 2014, saying: “Yoga is an invaluable gift of India's ancient tradition. It embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfillment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well-being.” Following his proposal, the U.N. adopted the resolution with a record 175 countries co-sponsoring the initiative – the highest number of supporters in the organization’s history.
Since Guruji’s arrival in the U.S. nearly a century ago, hundreds of thousands have received instruction in his Kriya Yoga teachings and today he is widely revered as the Father of Yoga in the West. So let us begin our service embracing this invaluable gift of our Guru’s native land by practicing a period of Yoga meditation, focusing the attention on God and Guru, and feeling the presence of His peace.