Paramahansa Yogananda, born Mukunda Lal Ghosh, showed signs of spiritual awareness even as a young child. His quest to find a great guru to guide him in his spiritual path led him to Swami Yukteswar Giri, who molded the young man who was to become a great spiritual force. After his college graduation in 1915, he took formal vows and was from that time on called Swami Yogananda Giri. Then in 1935, when he returned to India to visit his guru, Swami Yukteswar Giri bestowed upon him the title of Paramahansa. The "supreme swan," of which this title is named after, is a mythological bird that can separate water from milk and drink the milk. Referring to a spiritual leader as Paramahansa is to refer to his/her ability to intake pure and positive vibrations and energy among all energies present, thereby experiencing spiritualism in its fullest form.
The teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda centered on creating spiritual awareness in people. His lectures highlighted the importance of meditation, which leads the mind to liberation. He taught Kriya yoga, an ancient yoga system, to his followers. Kriya yoga is an advanced pranayama technique, which revitalizes the life force in the brain and spine. Practicing Kriya yoga elevates the state of mind to achieve spiritual goals and feel oneness with Universe. One of the aims of the Self-Realization Fellowship is to make Kriya yoga teachings available to the whole world.
Paramahansa Yogananda believed that all religions shared the same values. His lectures and writings made elaborate presentations on the unity of all religions. As such, one of the other aims of the Self-Realization Fellowship is to create awareness and a sense of oneness among all people, crossing all barriers that exist in the name of race, religion and country.