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Swami Sri Yukteswar: Guru of Paramahansa Yogananda

Updated on January 22, 2018
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

Eastern & Western religious philosophy is one of my areas of interest about which I write essays exploring the nature of reality and being.

Swami Sri Yukteswar


Jnanavatar: Incarnation of Wisdom

Sri Yukteswar is the author of The Holy Science, a useful comparison of the Judeo-Christian Bible and Hindu scriptures.

Sri Yukteswar was born in Serampore, India, May 10, 1855. His name at birth was Priya Nath Karar. He became a disciple of Lahiri Mahasaya, who was also the guru of the parents of Paramahansa Yogananda.

Through his one-pointed devotion to Kriya Yoga as taught by Lahiri Mahasaya, Priya Nath Kara became Swami Sri Yukteswar, a Jnanavatar or incarnation of wisdom. At age seventeen Mukunda Lal Ghosh, who would become Paramahansa Yogananda, met his guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar.

Mukunda spent as much time as possible in the ashram of his guru, perfecting himself for God-union also through the practice of Kriya Yoga. The swami attracted many other disciples to his ashram, but only the most devoted could stand the strict discipline that the swami administered.

Premavatar: Incarnation of Love

While Paramahansa Yogananda is a premavatar or incarnation of love and one whose personality guides by love, Sri Yukteswar was more matter-of-fact and a stickler for details.

Although the swami also had deep love in his heart, his nature was guided by attention to right action as he disciplined in a more severe way than his disciple Yogananda. The swami once told Yoganandaji that he (Yoganandaji) would be less harsh in his discipline than the swami as he trained his future disciples.

But Paramahansa Yogananda made it clear that he would not have traded the discipline administered by his guru for all the less harsh discipline in the world. Paramahansaji realized that his guru knew exactly the kind of discipline he needed to reach his goal of self-realization.

The Cauliflower Story

Paramahansaji tells a little story in his Autobiography about an incident with six large cauliflowers that he had himself planted and cultivated to perfection. He presents the cauliflowers to his guru with great pride of accomplishment.

Sri Yukteswar tells Mukunda to keep them in his room and that he would need them later for a special dinner. Then the guru along with Mukunda and several other disciples go out for a walk.

As they march along, Sri Yukteswar asks Mukunda if he remembered to lock the back door. Mukunda says he thinks he did, but the guru says no I don't think so and tells Mukunda such laxity must be punished.

As they start back to the ashram, the little group halts to observe a man walking in front of the ashram, flailing his arms like a madman. Sri Yukteswar then remarks that this man would be the instrument of Mukunda's punishment.

So the guru puts the thought into the crazed man's mind that a cauliflower is easily within his reach. As they watch, sure enough, the man enters the ashram by the backdoor, thus confirming that Mukunda had, indeed, forgotten to lock it.

A moment later, the man emerges with one cauliflower. Mukunda is astonished and starts to run after the man to retrieve his vegetable, but Sri Yukteswar stops him saying, "The poor crazy man has been longing for a cauliflower. I thought it would be a good idea if he got one of yours, so ill-guarded!"

It was mostly through little lessons such as "The Cauliflower Robbery" that Mukunda learned his many valuable lessons; this one taught him the efficacy of locking doors!

Sri Yukteswar's Importance to SRF Devotees

For devotees of Self-Realization Fellowship and the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda, Swami Sri Yukteswar remains a treasure as the guru of our guru Paramahansa Yogananda.

The swami entered mahasamadhi (the conscious exit of the soul from the body) on March 9, 1936.

My Favorite Quotation by Swami Sri Yukteswar

The following quotation is one of my favorites for the profound comfort it affords me as I strive to improve my behavior, thoughts, and tendencies:

Forget the past. The vanished lives of all men are dark with many shames. Human conduct is ever unreliable until man is anchored in the Divine. Everything in future will improve if you are making a spiritual effort now.

Those words of wisdom appear in Paramahansa Yogananda's classic work, Autobiography of a Yogi, where I was first introduced to Swami Sri Yukteswar, guru of Paramahansa Yogananda.

(Note: Readers who are interested in learning more about the teachings of Sri Yukteswar may find this collection useful: The Holy Science.)

Bio Sketch and Publications of Paramahansa Yogananda

The great guru/poet Paramahansa Yogananda was born on January 5, 1893, in Gorakhpur, India. His name at birth was Mukunda Lal Ghosh. Always a spiritually advanced child, at age 17, he met his guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar, under whose guidance he flourished and became the spiritual giant and sacred engine that leads souls back to their eternal abode in the arms of the Divine Creator.

Paramahansa Yogananda came to the United States in 1920 to speak in Boston at the International Congress of Religious Liberals. His speech was so well received that he quickly gathered a following. By 1925, his organization, Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF), was well established with the purpose of disseminating and maintaining the purity of his teachings of yoga. He has come to be known as the “Father of Yoga in the West.”

The following is an excerpt from the introduction to Paramahansa Yogananda’s biography on the Self-Realization Fellowship Web site:

In the hundred years since the birth of Paramahansa Yogananda, this beloved world teacher has come to be recognized as one of the greatest emissaries to the West of India’s ancient wisdom. His life and teachings continue to be a source of light and inspiration to people of all races, cultures and creeds.

Publications of Paramahansa Yogananda

Paramahansa Yogananda's in-depth work, Autobiography of a Yogi, has become a spiritual classic worldwide. Many devotees have been drawn to the teachings of this yogi through that autobiography, and many of their stories about how they came to find that work include some of the most inspiring "miracles" of modern American culture.

Such world-renowned figures as Dennis Weaver, Steve Jobs, George Harrison, and Elvis Presley were influenced by the Autobiography of a Yogi and the teachings of the great guru. Weaver even became a lay minister and spoke often at many of the SRF temples in California.

In addition to the autobiography, the great guru has published many collections of his talks, in both written and oral forms. His audio collector's series of ten of his informal talks includes the following titles:

1. Beholding the One in All

2. Awake in the Cosmic Dream

3. Be a Smile Millionaire

4. The Great Light of God

5. To Make Heaven on Earth

6. One Life Versus Reincarnation

7. Removing All Sorrow and Suffering

8. In the Glory of the Spirit

9. Follow the Path of Christ, Krishna, and the Masters

10. Self-Realization: The Inner and the Outer Path

These inspirational talks reveal much information about the great guru that appeals to his devoted followers. Just listening to a God-realized voice offers an uplifting spiritual experience.

The Poetry of Paramahansa Yogananda

For my commentaries on the poems of the great guru, I rely on his marvelous collection titled, Songs of the Soul, the version published in 1983 with its most current printing 2014. Two additional collections of his poems are extant, Whispers From Eternity and Metaphysical Meditations.

Because the "poems" of this great guru function on levels that ordinary poems do not, they are often used in devotional services held by groups of devotees of the SRF teachings throughout the world in the Readings Services as well as their Special Commemorative Services.

Paramahansa Yogananda's poems are more akin to prayers than to the poetry of ordinary poets, whose subject matter often dramatizes only human emotion in its relationship with creation and other human beings, instead of with the Creator; the great guru's poems always invoke the Creator's presence whether directly or indirectly.

Other Publications

The great guru's organization, SRF, also continues to publish collections of his works. Many of his talks have appeared in the series of essays that include Man's Eternal Quest, The Divine Romance, and Journey to Self-realization.

Corrective Translations

The guru has also bestowed on the literary world three important translations of extant perennial works that have been grossly misunderstood in some cases for centuries. His new translations along with his explanatory commentaries are correcting that misunderstanding.

In Wine of the Mystic: The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam — A Spiritual Interpretation, he shows how that poet's God-realized effusions put on display a man in love with his Creator and not the wine sopped Epicurean that has been misapplied to the work.

In the guru's in-depth translation and commentaries on the ancient Bhagavad Gita, titled God Talks With Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita — A New Translation and Commentary, the great spiritual leader offers not only the poetic translation of the work but also the relevance for humankind of the psychological and spiritual instruction offered in the ancient poem.

Most importantly for Western culture, Paramahansa Yogananda has offered a full explanation of the phenomenon known as the "Second Coming." Titled The Second Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of the Christ Within You — A revelatory commentary on the original teachings of Jesus, the work explains the true meaning of many of Jesus' words long misunderstood and mischaracterized, such as "The Kingdom of God is within you" and "I and my Father are one."

The Lessons

Of all the publications offered by SRF and the great guru, it is the Lessons that remain most vital. One could dispense with all of the other books, audio tapes, poetry, and other commentaries if one possesses those lessons.

The Lessons begin by offering physical exercises that prepare the physical encasement to sit quietly and still while performing the more advanced exercises that lead to Kriya Yoga practice.

The Lessons contains six steps that can be completed in three years, but each student is free to progress at his/her own pace. The Lessons include instruction in the following techniques: 1. Energization Exercises. 2. Hong-Sau Technique of Concentration, and 3. Aum Technique of Meditation.

After completing the first two steps, the devotee may apply for the Kriya Yoga technique.

Kriya Yoga Initiations

The Kriya Yoga technique features four initiations for a total of twenty lessons. The First Initiation, featuring lessons K1-9, includes the technique of Kriya proper, on which all of the other initiations are based. The Second Initiation contains four lessons, K10-14, and the Third and Fourth include the remaining lessons K15-20.

All of the Lessons, including the Kriya Yoga Initiations, include many explanations based of science, as well as on the life experience of Paramahansa Yogananda. These marvelous works are presented in such way to hold the student-devotees' interest with little stories, poems, affirmations, and prayers that enhance the purpose of each lesson.

Complete Works

In addition to all of the works mentioned above, Paramahansa Yogananda has published many others, including his Cosmic Chants, which offers musical notations as well as the lyric for each chant.

An annotated list of the works of the great guru is offered on the Self-Realization Fellowship Web site under the title, "The Complete Works of Paramahansa Yogananda."

© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes


Submit a Comment
  • Maya Shedd Temple profile imageAUTHOR

    Linda Sue Grimes 

    18 months ago from U.S.A.

    Thank you for your comment, Readmikenow!

    Yes, Sri Yukteswar was, indeed, "a very significant figure with sharing yoga with the world," primarily through his chela/disciple/student, Paramahansa Yogananda.

    And my guess is that the estimate of "5 and 10 thousand years old" is on the low side. But then it is difficult to estimate the length of existence of practices that were in effect before recording keeping began.

    Have a blessed day!

  • Readmikenow profile image


    18 months ago

    Good article. I enjoyed reading it. I recently had to do some research for a client about the history of yoga. It is estimated to be between 5 and 10 thousand years old. Older than Judaism or Christianity combined. Swami Sri Yukteswar was a very significant figure with sharing yoga with the world.


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