Makunda Lal Ghosh was born on 5 January 1893, in Gorakhpur. He is better known as Yogananda, ‘bliss through divine union’, the name with which he was invested by his guru. Swami Yogananda, later Paramahansa or ‘master of spiritual discrimination’ Yogananda was the first Indian guru to establish himself in America. Through his yoga classes and his autobiography he did more than anyone to establish the fashion for Eastern mysticism in the West. Even now it is common enough to find young Westerners travelling in India with a copy of Autobiography of a Yogi tucked into their rucksacks. It is a pleasant enough book. Yogananda emerges as an amiable man, high-spirited, pleased with himself and well-enough pleased with the rest of us. His plump, smiling, somewhat epicene face beams from the book’s photographs with a complacent innocence that ought, one would have thought, to disarm criticism. But I was not much surprised by the snort of angry derision that was an Indian friend’s only comment when he saw what I was reading. For all his affability, Yogananda strikes one as a rather vulgar, feeble-minded man, and my friend was as outraged by the notion that such a man might be thought to typify the religious life of India as I would be were I to find someone educating himself in the religious life of England by studying the works of Doris Stokes. All the same, it is an interesting book.
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Notes and References
- 1.See Robert Payne: The Life and Death of Mahatma Gandhi (The Bodley Head, 1969), p. 234.Google Scholar
- 2.See V.S. Naipaul, An Area of Darkness (Andre Deutsch, 1964), pp. 76-81.Google Scholar
- 3.A Royal Commission headed by Sir John Simon was appointed by the British Parliament in 1927 to investigate the workings of the 1920 Constitution for India, but its true purpose was, it was believed by the Indian Congress, to furnish evidence that could be used to justify the continuance of the Raj.Google Scholar
- 4.The five are Daddyji (1972), Mamaji (1979), Vedi (1982), The Ledge Between the Streams (1984), and Sound-Shadows of the New World (1986).Google Scholar