James J. Lynn was born to an itinerant farming family near Louisiana in the southern United States. He lived his early years in relative poverty. After leaving school at age 14, Lynn went on to study law and accounting at night classes, eventually being admitted to the bar before even graduating from law school. He became a highly successful businessman in Kansas City, working in insurance underwriting, oil and railroad investment.
When Lynn met Yogananda in 1932, however, he was reportedly suffering from dissatisfaction, short temper and nervousness. He had an instant spiritual experience, finding inner peace and happiness in Yogananda’s presence, and realized that he had found his guru. Lynn became a disciple of Yogananda’s and the pair developed a life-long spiritual relationship. Yogananda later stated that the pair had “twin karma” and had meditated together in previous lives.
Lynn’s spiritual progress, like his academic and business progress, was exceptionally swift, achieving samadhi just five years after his initial meeting with Yogananda. In 1951, his guru gave him the monastic title, Rajarsi Janakananda, meaning "King of the Saints." From Sanskrit, raja means "king"; rsi (or rishi) means "saint"; Janaka is the name of an honored king and Self-realized master in ancient India; and ananda means "bliss."