Paramahansa Yogananda, the Father of Yoga in the West
This book explores Paramahansa Yogananda’s ministry as an Indian, an American, and the founder of a global religious organization. As a figure often associated with the origins of yoga in the United States, he has been curiously neglected in the scholarly literature. Yogananda’s ministry was fueled by a religious nationalism that led him to conclude that Hinduism could uniquely fill the spiritual void in “the West.” Rejecting both exclusivism and pluralism, he embraced an inclusivism that viewed Hinduism as the ultimate expression of truth. He illuminates the nature of religious entrepreneurialism as he invented a variety of products to keep his ministry financially viable. His ministry reveals how missionary Hinduism’s success hinged on a deep understanding of Christian belief and practice; apart from his famed Autobiography, Yogananda’s longest text was a commentary on the New Testament Gospels, which explained how Jesus was a yogi. Yogananda’s life story demonstrates the connectedness of spirituality and place. He began to gain traction in his ministry only after he found Southern California. Yogananda “reenchanted” the modern world through his instruction and his claims to divine authority.
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