The Life and Times of Yogananda

Author: Philip Goldberg Category: Biography & Memoir, New Releases ISBN: 9789386832528 Binding: Paperback Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 inch Number of Pages: 360

He was called “the 20th century’s first superstar guru” (Los Angeles Times), and today, nearly a century after he arrived in the United States, he’s still the best known and most beloved of all the Indian spiritual teachers who have come to the West. Now, finally, Paramahansa Yogananda has the authoritative biography he deserves.

Yogananda, considered by many to be the father of modern yoga, has had an unsurpassed global impact thanks to the durability of his teachings, the institutions he created or inspired, and especially his iconic memoir, Autobiography of a Yogi.

Since its publication in 1946, that book has sold millions of copies and changed millions of lives. But it doesn’t tell the whole story.

Much of Yogananda’s seminal text is devoted to tales about other people, and it largely overlooks the three vital decades he spent living, working, and teaching in America. Huge chunks of his life—challenges, controversies, and crises; triumphs, relationships, and formative experiences—remain unknown to even his most ardent devotees. In this captivating biography, scholar and teacher Philip Goldberg fills the gaps, charting a journey that spanned six decades, two hemispheres, two world wars, and unprecedented social changes. The result is an objective, thoroughly researched account of Yogananda’s remarkable life in all its detail, nuance, and complex humanity.

But this is more than a compelling life story. “Yogananda would, I believe, want any book about him to not only inform but transform,” Goldberg writes. “It is my hope that readers will be enriched, expanded, and deepened by this humble offering.” That is sure to be the case for both Yogananda enthusiasts and those who discover him for the first time in these illuminating pages.




“Philip Goldberg sheds new light on the incredible story and illuminates the forces that made Yogananda a spiritual teacher and role model for the ages.”

— Deepak Chopra, M.D., author of The Healing Self


The Life of Yogananda is a profound and exquisitely written account of the life of one of the most renowned spiritual masters of our time, and is essential reading for anyone on a spiritual path. My experience is that, in a mysterious but unmistakable way, this book pulsates with the very presence, blessing, and transmission of Yogananda’s limitless wisdom and grace. With insight, clarity, and his own depth of consciousness, Philip Goldberg takes you on a virtual pilgrimage that will uplift you, inspire you, and illuminate your own journey of awakening.”

— Dr. Barbara De Angelis, #1 New York Times best-selling author of Soul Shifts and The Choice for Love


“The long sought and much anticipated synthesis of East and West has yet to fully materialize, although there have been some very profound moves in that direction. It is therefore entirely appropriate that Philip Goldberg delivers a thoroughly readable biography of perhaps the first, and to date the most influential, integrator of Eastern and Western philosophical traditions, the remarkable Yogananda, in The Life of Yogananda: The Story of the Yogi Who Became the First Modern Guru. With any attempt at summarizing the life of a stunningly great person, the endeavor itself is fraught with difficulties, but Goldberg takes a very common-sense approach, including aspects of Yogananda’s life that seemed truly divine and deeply inspired, as well as those that were all too human. The result is a brilliant account of what history will recognize as one of the most significant lives of the 20th century. The question is, when Yogananda himself had already written the wildly popular and very widely read Autobiography of a Yogi, do we really need this new book? Does it justify itself? I believe that it does, very much so. Sympathetic yet critical, the book brings to light an enormous number of facets of Yogananda’s life, times, spiritual realization, culture clashes, and personal dimensions, all of which shed a huge amount of information not only about Yogananda and his own spiritual search, but also about the deeper synthesis of East and West that is still lying in humanity’s future. I highly recommend you read this book, and get a profound reminder of what the spiritual search is all about.”

— Ken Wilber, author of The Religion of Tomorrow


“In this intensely researched book, Phil Goldberg describes the deep commitment and tireless effort of Paramahansa Yogananda to bring the spiritual teachings of India to the West. He reveals the many obstacles that Yogananda had to overcome in order to bring a light into the darkness.”

— Krishna Das, Chantmaster and author of Chants of a Lifetime


The Life of Yogananda is a precious dive into the life and times of America’s most famous yogi, Paramahansa Yogananda. Anyone who has read the classic Autobiography of a Yogi, written in 1946, will thrill to the untold story of Yogananda’s life written in this graceful, insightful biography. It is a worthy companion to Yogananda’s masterwork, informed both by Philip Goldberg’s scholarship and by his deep spiritual practice.”

— Joan Borysenko, Ph.D., author of Minding the Body, Mending the Mind and Seven Paths to God


“With spiritual elegance and integrity, Goldberg provides an intimate portrait of the life of Yogananda, the trailblazing guru of North American yoga’s influential early years. Through engaging stories and unique perspectives, Paramahansaji shines through this biography as an enlightened master and creator of a great spiritual legacy.”

— Michael Bernard Beckwith, founder of Agape International Spiritual Center and author of Spiritual Liberation


“Paramahansa Yogananda is probably the dominant figure behind the Western Yoga movement and its spiritual roots, the veritable father of Yoga in the Western world, living and teaching in America for more than three decades. Philip Goldberg presents a detailed and informative biography of the great master.”

— Dr. David Frawley, D. Litt., director of American Institute of Vedic Studies and author of Yoga and Ayurveda


“This exceptionally written, wise, profound biography of one of the 20th century’s greatest spiritual pioneers is essential reading for all those who want to understand deeply the growing marriage between Eastern and Western spirituality. I am so moved by and grateful for Phil Goldberg’s humble mastery of tone and truth in this marvelous book.”

— Andrew Harvey, author of The Hope and co-author of Savage Grace


“In his latest book, The Life of Yogananda, Philip Goldberg has masterfully assembled for us a colorful tapestry of stories detailing the intricacies and complexities that comprise the life of Paramahansa Yogananda. Goldberg’s work enables us to understand Yogananda as both mundanely human and extraordinary, while providing us with a detailed inside understanding of this remarkable human being and spiritual leader who has, and will continue to, inspire generations of spiritual seekers. This is a must-read for all who have read Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi and wish to better understand the story behind one of the world’s most remarkable human beings.”

— Richard Miller, Ph.D., author of Yoga Nidra and the CD iRest Meditation: Restorative Practices for Health, Resiliency, and Well-Being


The Life of Yogananda is a tremendous gift: a chance to meet from the ‘outside’ the spiritual genius we met on the ‘inside’ in Autobiography of a Yogi. The Autobiography shared what was important to Yogananda; Phil Goldberg’s biography shares why Yogananda is important to you. If you’ve read the Autobiography, you must read the biography. If you haven’t read either, you must read them both.”

— Rabbi Rami Shapiro, author of Holy Rascals


“Yogananda was more than just a popular guru who brought Indian spirituality to the United States. He was also a spiritual genius in the art of living, and his impact and legacy transcend the traditional divides of race, ethnicity, nationality, politics, and religion. In The Life of Yogananda, Philip Goldberg meticulously peels back the mystical layers in order to reveal the man behind the myth. By doing so, Goldberg continues his extraordinary work as our foremost chronicler of Hinduism in the United States.’’

— Varun Soni, Ph.D., Dean of Religious Life and Vice Provost for Campus Wellness and Crisis Intervention, University of Southern California


“When I was 15, Ram Dass gave me a copy of Autobiography of a Yogi and the gates of the universe opened. Yogananda’s account of his spiritual journey emboldened me to commence mine. Now, all these years later, Phil Goldberg has compiled the stories behind the stories! What a treasure.”

— Mirabai Starr, author of God of Love and Caravan of No Despair


“This book is a gift for anyone interested in the yogic journey. Deeply informed by Phil Goldberg’s years of practice and study, it explores the life of one of the great spiritual masters of the 20th century. Yogananda’s work has had enormous influence on the development of yoga and spirituality in the West, and continues to influence us to this day. In this new biography, Phil offers us a full portrait of an extraordinary man. Merging Yogananda’s own autobiographical accounts of his life with the accounts of his friends and students, this gives us a delightfully written, juicy, and inspiring portrait that takes us right into the heart of the yogic experience.”

— Sally Kempton, author of Meditation for the Love of It and Awakening Shakti


“Learning who Yogananda was historically can help us to understand who he is spiritually. As with all great spiritual masters, understanding who Yogananda is spiritually helps us to understand who we deep down really are and are called to be—namaste! For me personally, the significance of this book’s account of Yogananda seeding the ancient wisdom of yoga into our Western culture and religious traditions reminds me of my experience of being with Thomas Merton at Gethsemani in the 1960s. Merton told me he practiced yoga. He showed me some yoga postures and gave me a copy of Dechanet’s Christian yoga, which helped me to integrate yoga into my own spiritual practices. When I was in the monastery with Merton, the Benedictine monk Bede Griffith was living as a sanyasi in his ashram in India, as was his teacher, the Benedictine monk Abashiktananda, whose book The Hidden Christ of Hinduism deepened my own understanding of the underlying unity that permeates all the world’s great religions.”

— James Finley, Ph.D., core teacher at the Center for Action and Contemplation, author of Merton’s Palace of Nowhere and Christian Meditation


“With The Life of Yogananda, Philip Goldberg has placed himself as a premier historian of American yoga. First he gave us American Veda, tracing the complete trajectory of India’s influence on the American mind, and now, in this excellent biography of Paramahansa Yogananda, he brings into sharp focus the complex life of America’s first guru. This is an important book and I couldn’t put it down.”

— Dana Sawyer, professor emeritus of religion and philosophy, Maine College of Art; author of Aldous Huxley: A Biography and Huston Smith: Wisdomkeeper


“The story of experiential, meditative, ‘Eastern’ spirituality in the West just doesn’t exist without Yogananda; yet the story of Yogananda, in anything like a full telling, hasn’t existed till now. Philip Goldberg, with the clear eyes of the diligent scholar and the open heart of the passionate, lifelong spiritual voyager, is the right person to tell it.”

— Dean Sluyter, author of Fear Less and Natural Meditation


“When I was informed about the author’s intention to write this book, I knew that gathering information from reliable sources almost seven decades after the subject’s passing would be a major endeavor. The result is satisfying. It is enjoyable to read, presented in a clear, forthright manner, and is fair and honest.”

— Roy Eugene Davis, direct disciple of Paramahansa Yogananda and founder of Center for Spiritual Awareness


The Life of YoganandaThe Story of the Yogi Who Became the First Modern Guru is the book admirers of Yogananda and scholars of Yoga alike have been waiting for. It is a fascinating and inspiring account of the trials and tribulations, successes and indomitable spirit of this remarkable yogi. His achievements are such that religious culture, across nations and traditions, continues to be informed and influenced by his unique vision—whether acknowledged or not. This book tells the story of how he accomplished the extraordinary and, thereby, transformed millions of mundane lives into ones worth living.”

— Rita D. Sherma, Ph.D., director and associate professor, Shingal Center for Dharma Studies at Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley


“Among its many virtues, this book fleshes out many parts of Yogananda’s life that have not been previously revealed. It is especially illuminating on the detail and nuance of Yogananda’s years in America. Most remarkably, Goldberg manages to convey with clear eyes Yogananda’s human quirks and foibles while simultaneously maintaining respect for the mysteries and depth of his spiritual powers.”

— Danny Goldberg, author of In Search of the Lost Chord:1967 and the Hippie Idea


“Paramhansa Yogananda had become one of the most popular and important spiritual figures of modern times by the time of his passing in 1952, and yet this is the first comprehensive biography of his astounding life. There is something here for everyone. Long-time devotees will find abundant new information and get a sense of the flow and scope of his surprisingly challenging life. Spiritual seekers will find inspiration, and nonbelievers will find a compelling biography of a great person. Written in an engaging, journalistic style, Phil Goldberg’s The Life of Yogananda is a must-read.”

— Nayaswamis Jyotish and Devi, co-spiritual directors of Ananda Sangha Worldwide


“With this clear and engaging biography, Philip Goldberg has brought back to life–as he did in his acclaimedAmerican Veda—a period of intense spiritual seeking in American history: the first half of the 20th century. It was not only the ’60s generation that was drawn to Indian philosophy and yogic practice. The way for the famous gurus of the ’60 and ’70s had first been paved by two towering figures: Swami Vivekananda and Paramahansa Yogananda. The prejudice which these figures faced also comes to life in this book: the resistance to new and ‘foreign’ ideas which is the other side of the coin of American openness and curiosity. Yogananda’s many difficult years of struggle after coming to America—his tragedies and triumphs—are amply covered in this work, which will soon undoubtedly become an indispensable book for all of us who are interested in the transmission of Hindu thought and practice to America, and in the transformation of global society through yogic principles.”

— Jeffery D. Long, professor of religion and Asian studies, Elizabethtown College


“Every yoga teacher and yoga student owes an enormous debt to Paramahansa Yogananda. Now Phil Goldberg has done a great service with this engaging book, adding vital details to what the iconic Autobiography of a Yogirevealed about Yogananda’s fascinating life.”

— Larry Payne, Ph.D., co-author of Yoga for Dummies and founder of Yoga Therapy Rx and Prime of Life Yoga


“With a rare combination of solid research and spiritual inspiration, Phil Goldberg, author of the seminal bookAmerican Veda, now brings us The Life of Yogananda, a timely biography of the yoga master whose life has inspired millions. The book is a fresh and timely look into the life of Paramahansa Yogananda as an organizational leader, spiritual master, and modern-day saint. Goldberg shines a light on Yogananda’s humanity and his divinity, making the book a compelling and inspiring and read. It’s a much-needed gift of hope for our times—a real look at Yogananda’s life with its soul stirring and inspiring message for humanity. I couldn’t put it down.”

— Yogacharya Ellen Grace O’Brian, Spiritual Director, Center for Spiritual Enlightenment, and author of The Jewel of Abundance


“Phil Goldberg provides a much-needed and utterly fascinating link to the understanding of one of the greatest spiritual leaders of our time. He has done his homework and we are all the beneficiaries! The Life of Yoganandahas been exhaustively researched and painstakingly presented by a man uniquely qualified with a deep understanding of east and west cultures, spiritual traditions, psychology, and historical relevance. Goldberg weaves together all available and relevant sources to create a rich tapestry of storytelling, understanding, and inspiration. Through Yogananda’s life, we enter a world of wonder and spirit and adventure. The book is filled with information, but more importantly with insight. It weaves the life of this global emissary with the lessons Yogananda learned and the wisdom we can all take away. There are nuggets on every page of this inspirational, unbiased, 360-degree panorama.”

— Joseph Deitch, chairman of Commonwealth Financial Network and author of Elevate


“This remarkable book sheds new light on the life of a very human and very spiritual person. Paramahamsa Yogananda, from the time of childhood, exhibited remarkable qualities: charisma, stubbornness, deep devotion, and a willingness to sacrifice in quest of a higher meaning. Through this work, one gains a sense of what guided Yogananda toward greatness: the many cities that shaped his youth, including Gorakhnath, the birthplace of Hatha Yoga, Varanasi, India’s spiritual center, and Serampore, the home of Christian missionaries who taught Yogananda about Jesus. His success in building schools and meditation centers as well his adept adaptation of new learning technologies all receive fuller treatment here than in any earlier resources. This book is a must-read for all who follow the many paths of Yoga and for all persons interested in American religious history.”

— Christopher Key Chapple, Doshi Professor and Director, Master of Arts in Yoga Studies, Loyola Marymount University


“In The Life of Yogananda, Philip Goldberg applies his thoughtful scholarship to tell the compelling life story of the author of Autobiography of a Yogi. This entertaining and insightful book is a must-read addition to the library of the modern yoga enthusiast.”

— Felicia Tomasko, Editor-in-Chief, LA YOGA Magazine


The Life of Yogananda is a thrilling read and a definitive sourcebook for this great master’s life. Anyone interested in Yogananda will find this book a grand discovery for its little-known stories and details about his eventful life. With great care, integrity, devotion, and excellent research, Phil Goldberg has given us a revealing and accurate look into what has made Yogananda so well loved by millions of spiritual seekers.”

— Joseph Bharat Cornell, author of Deep Nature Play and AUM: The Melody of Love


“In The Life of Yogananda, Philip Goldberg has taken on a daunting challenge—writing a biography of a yogi who has already written the most famous yogi autobiography in history! It turns out he is more than up to the task. Goldberg’s love and knowledge of the Vedas, matched with his keen perception of American history and culture make him the perfect one to tell the story of the individual who, more than anyone else, brought yoga to the West. In writing about a beloved and sometimes controversial figure, Goldberg never falls into either hero worship or innuendo. I guarantee you will enjoy reading this book as much as he obviously enjoyed writing it.”

— Steve Bhaerman, aka cosmic comic Swami Beyondananda, co-author with Bruce Lipton of Spontaneous Evolution


“In making Awake, we discovered what a monumental task it is to represent a spiritual giant like Yogananda in all the many layers and facets of his life and personality. Philip Goldberg has done a terrific job of capturing the complexities of such a world teacher. His contribution will be a valued source for anyone interested in the life of this extraordinary individual.”

– Paola di Florio, Lisa Leeman, and Peter Rader, filmmakers of Awake: The Life of Yogananda 

Philip Goldberg

Philip Goldberg grew up in Brooklyn and now lives in Los Angeles. A professional writer for more than 40 years, he is author or co-author of some 25 books published in more than a dozen languages. He is also a skilled public speaker, a workshop leader, a spiritual counselor, and the co-host of the popular podcast Spirit Matters. He blogs at Huffington Post and Spirituality & Health, and contributes to other publications. His most recent book prior to this one—American Vedachronicles the impact of India's spiritual teachings on the West; it was named by Huffington Post and Library Journal as one of the top 10 Religion books of 2010. Website:

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