Yogananda was born in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, India into a devout Bengali kshatriya family. According to his younger brother, Sananda from his earliest years young Mukunda's awareness and experience of the spiritual was far beyond the ordinary. In his youth he sought out many of India's Hindu sages and saints, hoping to find an illuminated teacher to guide him in his spiritual quest.
Yogananda taught his students the need for direct experience of truth, as opposed to blind belief. He said that “The true basis of religion is not belief, but intuitive experience. Intuition is the soul’s power of knowing God. To know what religion is really all about, one must know God.