Swami Yogananda

An introduction | The life story

An introduction

Monastic Name: Swami Yogananda

Pre-Monastic Name: Yogindra Nath Choudhury

March 1861
Born on 30th March to an aristocratic family from Dakshineshwar. His father spent long periods of time in spiritual pursuits.

Sometime in 1884
Married against his wishes. Feeling that life was ruined and he would not be able to realize God, he wanted to give up his life. Despite the marriage (which was pure), the Master enabled him to realize the monastic ideal.

After leaving his home
Came to live with the Master. Tested whether the Master practiced what he preached – his renunciation, and only then accepted him as his guru.

1886 – 1891
Went on pilgrimages with Holy Mother and her party after the passing away of the Master, and was formally initiated by the Holy Mother.

1892 onwards
Returned to the monastery and then to Holy Mother’s house in Bosepara Lane, and became Holy Mother’s attendant and caretaker until his death.

28 March 1899
Passed away at Kolkata.

His devotion to Holy Mother was exemplary. When he passed away she said, “My Jogin has left me – who will now look after me?” Because Yogananda was the first disciple of the Master to die, Mother remarked with a deep sigh: “A brick has slipped from the structure; now the whole thing will come down.”

Compiled from various sources

The life story

At the time when Sri Ramakrishna was attracting devotees – old and young – to the temple-garden at Dakshineshwar, a young man in his teens, belonging to a neighbouring, family, used to visit the garden of Rani Rasmani. He had read of Sri Ramakrishna in the literature of the Brahmo Samaj; but his aristocracy and rural prejudice stood in the way of any personal acquaintance. One day he had a desire for a flower. A man was passing by. The boy took him for a gardener and asked him to pluck the flower for him. The man obliged. Another day the boy saw many people seated in a room in front of that gardener and listening to his discourse. Was this then the Ramakrishna of whom Keshab wrote so eloquently? The boy went nearer but stood outside. At this time the Master asked someone to bring all those who were outside within the room. The man found only a boy and brought him inside and offered him a seat. When the conversation ended and all went away, the Master came to the boy and very lovingly made inquiries about him.

The name of the boy was Yogindra Nath Chaudhary.

To the people of Dakshineshwar Sri Ramakrishna was known as an “eccentric Brahmin”. They had no idea that the “eccentricity” in his behaviour was due to his God-realisation and disregard for this world. The orthodox section looked upon him with suspicion because of his seeming regard for strict caste rules etc. Therefore, Yogin did not dare to come to him freely and openly, for he was afraid there would be objections from his parents if they knew about it. So he visited the Master stealthily.

But love like murder will out. Soon it was known that Yogin was very much devoted to Sri Ramakrishna and spent most of his time with him. Yogin’s friends and companions began to taunt and ridicule him for this. Of a quiet nature as he was, he met all opposition with a silent smile. His parents were perturbed to see him indifferent to his studies and so much under the influence of Sri Ramakrishna. But they did not like to interfere with him directly as they thought it would be of no avail.

Is there something more here?

When the news of all that had happened with regard to his beloved Yogin reached the Master, he sent information again and again to Yogin to come and see him.

Sri Ramakrishna was seated on his cot with his loin cloth on his lap when Yogin came to see him. Putting his cloth under his arm, he ran like a child to receive Yogin as soon as he saw him. Beside himself with joy at the coming of Yogin, the first thing that the Master said to him was: “What harm if you married? Marriage will never be an obstacle to your spiritual life. Hundreds of marriages will never interfere with your spiritual progress if God is gracious. One day bring your wife here. I shall so change her mind that instead of an obstacle she will be a great help to you.”

Though Yogin trusted a man easily and had the simplicity of a child, he was not a simpleton. Rather he had a keen discriminating mind and was critical in his outlook. But his critical attitude once led him into a quandary. One night he slept in the same room with the Master, but when he woke up in the dead of night he missed him and saw that the door was open. At first he felt curious, then he became suspicious as to where he could have gone at such an unearthly hour. He came outside, but Sri Ramakrishna could not be seen. Did he then go to his wife who was staying at the concert house just opposite? Yogin thought that Sri Ramakrishna was not what he himself professed to be! He wanted to probe into the mystery, and stood near the concert-house to see if he came out of the room.

After some time Sri Ramakrishna came from the Panchavati side and was surprised to see Yogin standing near the concert house. Yogin was stupefied and felt ashamed of himself for his suspicion. A more sinful act could never be conceived of: to suspect even in thought the purity of a saint like Sri Ramakrishna! The Master understood the whole situation and said encouragingly, “Yes, one should observe a Sadhu by day as well as at night.” With these words he returned to his room, followed mutely by Yogin. In spite of these sweet words, Yogin had no sleep throughout the rest of the night, and later throughout his whole life he did not forgive himself for what he considered to be an extremely sinful act.

When the Ramakrishna Mission Society was actually started, Swami Yogananda became its Vice-president.

Swami Yogananda commanded respect for his sterling saintly qualities. But what distinguished him among the disciples of the Master was his devoted service to the Holy Mother. He was one of the earliest monks who discovered the extraordinary spiritual greatness of the Holy Mother, hidden under her rural simplicity of manners. The conviction led to an unquestioning dedication to her cause. He looked to her comfort in every way. If by chance a few coins were offered to him by somebody, he preserved these for the Mother’s use. He considered no sacrifice too great for her.

Outwardly the life of Swami Yogananda was uneventful. It is very difficult to give or find out details through which one can see his personality. Only those who moved with him closely could see something of his spiritual eminence. One of the youngest members of the Math at that time wrote with regard to him: “He was such a great saint that it fills one with awe to belong, even as the youngest member, to the Order that contained him.” Swami Yogananda commanded great love and respect from all the lay and monastic disciples of the Ramakrishna Order. He was one of those whom the Master spotted out as “Ishwarakotis” or “Eternally perfect” – one of the souls which are never in bondage but now and then come to this world

Compiled and Edited by Swami Gambhirananada
The Apostles of Sri Ramakrishna
Advaita Ashrama; Mayavati; June 199