India issues stamp to honour Paramahansa Yogananda’s work

Paramahansa Yogananda

Postage stamp celebrates 100th anniversary of Yogoda Satsanga Society of India

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid tribute to Paramahansa Yogananda—on the 65th anniversary of his passing on 7 March 1952 by issuing a commemorative postage stamp in honour of the 100th anniversary of Yogoda Satsanga Society of India (YSS), the non-profit spiritual organisation he founded on 22 March 1917. Three years later, in 1920, Sri Yogananda traveled to the West and established the Self-Realisation Fellowship (SRF). Today, SRF and YSS together have more than 800 temples, centers, and ashrams around the world.

Paramahansa Yogananda—the author of the best-selling classic Autobiography of a Yogi and the subject of the award-winning documentary Awake: The Life of Yogananda—is widely regarded as the father of yoga in the West.

On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of Paramahansaji’s passing in 1977, the Government of India had issued a commemorative stamp in his honour, and stated: “Though the major part of his life was spent outside India, still Paramahansa Yogananda takes his place among our great saints. His work continues to grow and shine ever more brightly, drawing people everywhere on the path of the pilgrimage of Spirit.

India PM Narendra Modi releases a commemorative stamp to honour YSS Centenary
India PM Narendra Modi releases a commemorative stamp to honour YSS Centenary

Citing the outstanding spiritual achievements of YSS Mr Modi stated during the official postal stamp release function on 7 March at the Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi that “looking at Paramahansa Yogananda’s life, it is evident that he does not merely stress the ways to outer freedom, but focuses on the inner journey”. “Removing rigid dogma, he made spirituality so approachable and tangible that in these 100 years since he started it, his work has become a world-wide movement, a perennial resource of spiritual understanding,” said the Prime Minister.

Swami Smaranananda, General Secretary of YSS, spoke about some of the contributions that the organisation has made over the century, and said, “In faithfully safeguarding and carrying forward the 100-year-old legacy of Paramahansa Yoganandaji, YSS is dedicated to continuing to bring peace and light into the lives of millions struggling with the challenges of the modern world, thus serving mankind as our larger Self.”

A message from SRF/YSS President and Sanghamata Sri Mrinalini Mata was presented by Swami Vishwananda, a member of the SRF/YSS Board of Directors based at the international headquarters in Los Angeles, which included the following closing words: “Paramahansa Yoganandaji predicted that an ideal world civilisation will emerge by combining the spirituality of India with the material efficiency of western nations. India therefore has an important and necessary role to play in helping elevate human consciousness in its upward evolutionary cycle. It is my ardent prayer that through the practice of the unity-bestowing spiritual teachings exemplified by Sri Sri Yoganandaji and other great masters of India we may move toward an era of global peace, divine harmony, and prosperity for every member of our human family.”

YSS stamp
A new special commemorative stamp released on 8 March, 2017 by the Indian Govt to honour the 100th anniversary of Paramahansa Yogananda’s life work

Early history of YSS in India

Inaugurated on 22 March 1917 as the Yogoda Satsanga Brahmacharya Vidyalala, Yogoda Satsanga Society began as a one-story school in the West Bengal town of Dihika, India, with only a few teachers and seven students at its inception. Yogoda, a word coined by Sri Yogananda, is derived from Yoga, union, harmony, equilibrium; and da, “that which imparts.” “Satsanga” is composed of Sat, truth and Sanga, fellowship.

The founding of this school marked the beginning of Paramahansa Yogananda’s lifelong work and world mission, which has as one of its aims to foster a spirit of greater understanding and goodwill among the diverse peoples and religions of the world, and to help those of all cultures and nationalities to realise and express more fully in their lives the beauty, nobility, and divinity of the human spirit.

Initially reluctant to formally establish an organisation, Sri Yogananda was prodded by his guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar, from whom he received 10 years of spiritual training, to create a spiritual society that would serve mankind.

In 1920, Sri Yogananda traveled to the U.S. as the invited delegate representing India to an International Congress of Religious Liberals convening in Boston, where he delivered a speech on “The Science of Religion,” and established Self-Realisation Fellowship that same year, the first Hindu teacher of yoga to make America his permanent home (from 1920 until his passing in 1952).

YSS in 1917, Dihika, Bengal on the Damodar River. Photo: Self-Realization Fellowship, Los Angeles, California
YSS in 1917, Dihika, Bengal on the Damodar River. Photo: Self-Realization Fellowship, Los Angeles, California

After spending several years on the East Coast, Sri Yogananda realised that expansion of his work was meant to develop from another part of the country, and, thus, he set off for California. When in 1925 he reached Los Angeles, which he often described as the “Banaras of the West” (Banaras being India’s holiest city), he was enthusiastically received.

With the help of generous students, he established that same year the SRF/YSS International Headquarters atop Mount Washington, overlooking downtown Los Angeles, which continues to serve as the worldwide headquarters for the society today.

During the 1920s and ’30s, Sri Yogananda undertook numerous transcontinental journeys throughout the U.S., giving lectures on the science of yoga and inspiring thousands of western spiritual seekers with teachings that included underlying truths between the original Christianity of Jesus Christ and the original Yoga of Bhagavan Krishna. In 1927, he became the first Hindu swami to be received at the White House, meeting with President Calvin Coolidge. During his one return trip to India in 1935, he met with Mahatma Gandhi, at whose request Sri Yogananda initiated into Kriya. Upon reuniting there with his guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar, Sri Yogananda received the highest spiritual title of Paramahansa, superceding his former title of swami.


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