September 19, 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the arrival in the West of Paramahansa Yogananda, regarded by many as the father of Yoga in the West. He was the founder of his own international society, Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF), which aimed to disseminate India’s ancient science of yoga meditation.
Today, that philosophy and practice is as relevant as ever today, especially during these times, says the Self Realization Fellowship in a press release Sept. 8. Yoga, it notes, “provides simple tools for building lasting inner peace, clarity, and strength regardless of outward conditions.” The SRF has scheduled a special online Centennial Commemoration event on September 19, the exact day of Yogananda’s arrival in America to serve as India’s delegate to an International Congress of Religious Liberals convening in Boston.
The online event will include a commemorative ceremony livestreamed from Boston, MA, and a special address livestreamed from SRF Headquarters by SRF President Brother Chidananda. For details visit https://yogananda.org/srfcentennial.
“What Paramahansa Yogananda brought to the West is perhaps one of the greatest gifts to humankind—India’s ancient science of Yoga, the science of knowing the Self, of realizing and experiencing who we truly are, divine souls with unlimited potential,” Chidananda is quoted saying in the press release.
The SRF estimates today more than 36 million Americans practice yoga and 18 million meditate, in large part because of Paramahansa Yogananda’s pioneering efforts.
“Yogananda put yoga on the map in America,” says Harvard scholar Diana Eck, quoted in the press release.
His best-selling classic, Autobiography of a Yogi, continues to be the definitive introduction to yoga meditation for millions of seekers around the globe, according to SRF. Among those influenced by his writing are Nobel Laureate Thomas Mann, Apple founder Steve Jobs (the Autobiography of a Yogi was the only book he kept on his iPad, and he had arranged for it to be gifted to all his family and friends at his memorial), and Beatle George Harrison.
Yogananda, in his maiden speech on the science of religion, at the International Congress of Religious Liberals, would later be described by the Congress organizers as “forcible” and “impressive.”
His subsequent talks on the universality of religion and the efficacy of yoga meditation would receive media coverage in all the major newspapers in the U.S. and attract thousands to the largest auditoriums, the press release said.
Yogananda founded SRF the same year as his arrival, and in his more than 30 years in the U.S., he made America his adopted home.
His other writings include commentaries on the Bhagavad Gita, God Talks With Arjuna, and the four Gospels, The Second Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of the Christ Within You; and the three-volume series of Collected Talks and Essays on Realizing God in Daily Life.
Today, SRF, along with its sister organization Yogoda Satsanga Society of India (which Yogananda founded three years earlier in 1917), has grown to include more than 800 temples, ashrams, retreats, and meditation centers in more than 60 countries around the globe.
An annual World Convocation is held each summer in Los Angeles, attracting upwards of 4,000 participants each year. This year, SRF held its first fully online convocation with nearly 35,000 registering for the event, organizers said in the press release. In addition, SRF/YSS annually contributes to many local, national, and international charitable causes.
The Government of India has paid tribute to the life and work of Paramahansa Yogananda on three occasions, most recently in October of 2019 when it issued a special commemorative coin to commemorate Yogananda’s 125th birth anniversary.