Title: Autobiography of a Yogi; Author: Paramhansa Yogananda; Publisher: Penguin-Ananda; Pages: 511; Prices: Rs.225
This is not a new book. Indeed, in 2016, the “Autobiography of a Yogi” will mark 70 years of its publication. The Gorakhpur-born Paramhansa Yogananda (born Mukunda Lal Ghosh) came out with the book in 1946 in the US where he had lived since 1920 spreading Kriya Yoga and meditation to tens of thousands. When it was published, it was recognized as one of the 10 best spiritual classics of the 20th century. Almost seven decades later, the book has lost none of its spiritual appeal. It may not be an exaggeration to say that the “Autobiography” is among the most widely read spiritual books in India, and has proved to be a life changer to spiritually hungry millions.
While India has been home to countless saints and ‘rishis’, few – if any – have written how they took to the spiritual path although biographies exist in abundance. Yogananda was an exception. The “Autobiography” is an enthralling read of how he progressed on the path of spirituality, from his younger days and how he, over time, became a self-realized master under the watchful eyes of his guru, Sri Yukeshwar Giri. Giri was a student of the Varanasi-based Lahiri Mahasaya, one of the greatest yoga masters India ever produced.
Unlike spiritual books that can be heavy, one reason for this one’s extraordinary success has been its simple style, the many miracles recounted in its pages, and the way Yogananda demystified ancient traditions.
I have read the “Autobiography” countless times, and I return to it again and again, in parts and in full, when I can. Each chapter is a gem.
The Yogoda Satsanga Society or YSS, an organization founded by Yogananda, first published the book. Ananda Sangha, founded by one of his disciples, Swami Kriyananda, came out with its edition later. Now Penguin has joined the list. It doesn’t matter which edition you read; this book must be a must read for every Indian, more so if you have an inclination for spirituality or even if you only want to understand life better.
(M.R. Narayan Swamy can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org)