Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Autobiography of a Yogi, by Paramahansa Yogananda

Autobiography of a Yogi, a book that changes people's lives, is a classic among the spiritual books of the world. It's one of those books that you can read again and again and always discover something new.

Every spiritual seeker, regardless of their path, seems to have at one point or another come across this book.

The first time that I read this book I was fascinated.  All those incredible stories of Indian yogis and their mystic powers were more than inspiring.  Everything in this book resonated with me. So enlightening.

While reading this book, together with Yoganandaji, I traveled back in time to the India of more than 100 years back.  What a beautiful spiritual journey that was.

This book was my introduction to the life of the Indian yogis and it's probably one of the reasons why I decided to follow this path.

It awoke in me a deep connection, probably from past lives.

I dreamed of traveling to India.  I wanted to see it with my own eyes. I dreamed about learning yoga from the masters and to have an ashram life experience.

Eventually, all my dreams became true.

It all started in 2005 with a story that I've shared here in my blog: How I Ended up in India After Quitting My First Job.

But let me first tell you about this book.

The Life of a Real Indian Yogi

Autobiography of a Yogi is the life story of a real Indian yogi, Paramahansa Yogananda. Yogananda tells us about many events in his life (1893-1952), from his early childhood and even from his past life.

Yogananda's life story is the story about his search for self-realization, his search for deep spiritual experiences and for a true master.

“Clear recollections came to me of a distant life, a yogi amidst the Himalayan snows. These glimpses of the past, by some dimensionless link, also afforded me a glimpse of the future.”

He tells incredible and almost unbelievable stories of the many different yogis that he met in India.

He talks about their different powers or spiritual achieves, like the swami who fought tigers with his bare hands, the yogi that materialized food from the ether or the sleepless saint.

“The body is literally manufactured and sustained by mind. Through pressure of instincts from past lives, strengths or weaknesses percolate gradually into human consciousness. They express as habits, which in turn manifests as a desirable or an undesirable body.” The Tiger Swami

Yogananda tells us about his own spiritual experiences and about his many failed attempts to reach the Himalayas to meditate with the Himalayan yogis.

He talks about the magic encounter with his guru Swami Sri Yukteswar and the beautiful years that he spent with him in his ashram to receive his instruction.

Eventually, Yukteswar transformed him, Mukunda Lal Gosh into a real yogi and swami, Swami Paramahansa Yogananda.

One evening, after Paramahansa Yogananda restrained himself from killing a mosquito, motivated by Patanjali's moral rule ahimsa or non-violence, Sri Yukteswar commented:

“Why didn’t you finish the job?” “Master! Do you advocate taking life?” “No; but the deathblow already had been struck in your mind.” “I don’t understand.” “Patanjali’s meaning was the removal of desire to kill.” Sri Yukteswar had found my mental processes an open book.

Yoganandaji even learned to interpret the teachings of the Bible thanks to his guru discerning wisdom.

“..Genesis is deeply symbolic, and cannot be grasped by a literal interpretation - he [Sri Yukteswar] explained... The 'serpent' represents the coiled up spinal energy that stimulate the sex nerves. 'Adam' is reason, and 'Eve' is feeling. When the emotion or Eve-consciousness in any human being is overpowered by the sex impulse, his reason or Adam also succumbs.”

Paramahansa Yogananda not only takes us on a spiritual journey but also on a spiritual pilgrimage all around India, visiting the most remarkable Indian sages of his time and holy sites.

After reading this book I felt that somehow I had visited India and that I had had the privilege to get to know the best of it, its spiritual greatness.

Many years later I had the opportunity to visit many of the places that Yogananda talks about in his book. If you ever plan to visit India then this book should be for sure in your reading list.

“YOU ARE THE FIRST Westerner, Dick, ever to enter that shrine. Many others have tried in vain.” At my words Mr. Wright looked startled, then pleased. We had just left the beautiful Chamundi Temple in the hills overlooking Mysore in southern India.

Introducing Yoga to the West

Yogananda's intention to write this book was to introduce the path of yoga to the western world.  He wanted to motivate those who were truly interested in meditation to learn the meditation techniques and kriya yoga techniques that he taught through bi-weekly lessons.

These lessons are delivered by post, by the school that he founded in the US, Self Realization Fellowship, and in India, Yogoda Satsanga Society of India.

Through these bi-weekly lessons Yogananda disciples learn basic and advanced meditation practices, yoga philosophy and many principles to achieve a fulfilling life in all aspects: material, mental and spiritual.

If you are interested in following these lessons I would recommend first to read Autobiography of a Yogi and find out if you feel aligned or inspired by Paramahansa Yogananda and/or his gurus.

If you want to get a taste of what the life of a real Indian yogi is like, if you want to get inspired by the example of a real guru-disciple relationship, if you want to read about the miraculous powers of these yogis then I can strongly recommend you to read this book.

You can find more about this book on You can also listen to it for free if you try With your subscription, you'll get two free audible books

Following the Steps of Paramahansa Yogananda in India

During two different visits to India, I had the opportunity to follow the steps of Guruji, visiting many of the places he mentions in his autobiography.

In 2011, after spending some time in an ashram in Rishikesh, I traveled up north, near Ranikhet.

I visited the Yogoda Satsanga Sakha Ashram in Dwarahat and the cave of Mahavatar Babaji.

In 2016, I decided to visit Yogoda Satsanga Math, guruji's ashram in Kolkata, the Dakshineswar Kali Temple, Serampore and his house in 4 Garpar Road.

If you are a Kriyaban and a follower of Yoganandaji I can definitely recommend you to do the same pilgrimage.

You can follow the links to find more information so that you can plan your own trip.

Don’t forget to also visit my top 10 Yoga Philosophy Books That Will Change Your Life for more book recommendations like this one.  I’m sure you’ll find books that you never heard about before.

Also, don't forget to visit my detailed packing list for India. It includes everything you could possibly need when traveling to India.

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