AWAKE the Film: Life of Paramahansa Yogananda

By Bianca Alexander

“A beautifully crafted film and a powerful story a spiritual genius.” – Russell Simmons

This week, a groundbreaking spiritual film debuts in theaters across the country: AWAKE: The Life of Yogananda. This unconventional biography documents the life of Paramahansa Yogananda, the Hindu Swami who brought yoga and meditation to the West from India in the 1920s. Paramahansa authored the spiritual classic “Autobiography of a Yogi,” a bestseller which has sold millions of copies worldwide and is a go-to book for seekers, philosophers and yoga enthusiasts today. Allegedly, it was the only book that Steve Jobs had on his iPad, and his last gift to friends and employees on his deathbed.

By personalizing his own quest for enlightenment and sharing his struggles along the path, Yogananda made ancient Vedic teachings accessible to a modern audience, attracting many followers and inspiring the millions who practice yoga today.

Filmed over three years with the participation of 30 countries around the world, the documentary was produced by award-winning production company Counterpoint Films, and examines the world of yoga, modern and ancient, east and west and explores why millions today have turned their attention inwards, bucking the limitations of the material world in pursuit of Self-Realization.

Archival material from the life of Yogananda (who died in 1952) creates a spine for the narrative, but the film stretches the dimensions of a standard biography. The footage includes stylized interviews, metaphoric imagery and recreations, taking us from holy pilgrimages in India to Harvard’s Divinity School and its cutting-edge physics labs, from the Center for Science and Spirituality at the University of Pennsylvania to the Chopra Center in Carlsbad, California. By evoking the journey of the soul as it pushes its way through the oppression of the human ego and delusion of the material world, the film creates an experiential immersion into realms unseen. AWAKE is ultimately the story of humanity itself: the universal struggle of all beings to free themselves from suffering and to seek lasting happiness.

The film, which screened initially at select venues and film festivals, has already received critical acclaim, including awards for “Best Film” and “Spirit In Cinema” at the Illuminate and Maui Film Festivals, respectively. Here’s what a few people have to say about the film:  

“Yogananda was truly one of the great spiritual masters. He shone a light that continues to bless millions of us living on the earth today.” — Marianne Williamson

“Enlightening! Fascinating! Profound! It will nourish you heart, mind and soul!” –NYC Movie Guru

“Using a seamless mix of re-creations and fascinating true footage, this very even-tempered documentary takes its audience all the way through a saint’s life, from his first sensations in the womb to that moment in 1952 when, having recited a poem to a large crowd at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, he exited his body just like that….In between those events he changed the Western world.” — Maui Film Festival

For more information about the film, including a list of screening dates and times across the country, visit the film website.
To learn more about the Self-Realization Fellowship, or to receive their weekly lessons, visit



More from Bianca Alexander

Video: The Greenest Spa in NYC

Spend a day at the eco-friendly Green Spa and Wellness Center in...
Read More


What do you think?