Paramahansa Yogananda's Book, "Autobiography of a Yogi" - Owlcation - Education
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Paramahansa Yogananda's Book, "Autobiography of a Yogi"

Paramahansa Yogananda's books are based on his yogic teachings. They offer special guidance as they inspire and uplight the mind and heart.

Paramahansa Yogananda

A Spiritual Classic

The opening statement from Autobiography of a Yogi: "The characteristic features of Indian culture have long been a search for ultimate verities and the concomitant disciple-guru relationship."

The final statement from Autobiography of a Yogi: "Lord, Thou hast given this monk a large family!"

Between these two statements the great guru, Paramahansa Yogananda, narrates his lifetime of spiritual searching that led to his amazing, life-changing teachings that, through his organization, Self-Realization Fellowship, he has disseminated world-wide to the delight and upliftment of thousands of grateful students.

The great guru's students, in fact, remain more than ordinary students; they are devotees as they practice the techniques that promise more than a moral life. They promise the one goal that every soul is craving, self-realization or soul-realization, which is nothing less than union with the Divine Creator.

Born Mukunda Lal Ghosh

Mukunda Lal Ghosh was born in Gorakhpur, India, January 5, 1893. He was one of eight children, the second son and fourth child, of Gyana Phabha Ghosh and Bhagabati Charan Ghosh. As an infant, he was aware of being unable to make his body move as he wished; even before he had learned to walk, he felt confused that he could not walk.

Mukunda remembered making sounds of languages that were not the Bengali language into which he had been born. That this is an unusual child becomes clear as we read about this aspiring yogi.

Very early in his life, the lad Mukunda wanted to know God; his parents were devout Hindus, but he knew that he did not want to follow the ways of the householder; he did not know want to marry and raise children. He discovered that his vocation was to be a monastic and serve God and to pass knowledge of God on to others.

A Strange Spiritual Journey

The following passage offers a glimpse of a strange journey through this autobiography, and the reader has not left the first page yet:

I find my earliest memories covering the anachronistic features of a previous incarnation. Clear recollections came to me of a distant life in which I had been a yogi amid the Himalayan snows.

These glimpses of the past, by some dimensionless link, also afforded me a glimpse of the future.

The great guru continues to explain his seemingly bizarre experiences:

My far-reaching memories are not unique. Many yogis are known to have retained their self-consciousness without interruption by the dramatic transition to and from life and death. If man be solely a body, its loss indeed ends his identity. But if the prophets down the millenniums spake the truth, man is essentially a soul, incorporeal and omnipresent.


Of course, the guru is referring to the concept of reincarnation. He does not even use the term yet, but by easing readers into the idea with his specific examples from his own memories, he is showing that the phenomenon is real. Most people meeting the concept of reincarnation for the first time either reject it or misunderstand it; for example, you've probably heard people say if they come back, they'd like to be a bird. But Yogananda explains that reincarnation is part of an evolutionary progress; therefore, coming back as a bird would be devolution, or going backward. Humans seldom come back as animals, unless they have lived an especially animalistic existence and need to learn a specific lesson by returning as a non-human animal in the animal kingdom.

Returning to earth in a body is an important concept in this yoga philosophy, and it works in concert with karma, which is similar to the biblical concept of sowing and reaping. Yogananda's explanation of these concepts is superb. He helps his readers understand why they are born on this earth, what their true goal is, and how they can achieve it.

Swami Yogananda

This yogi's life story naturally unfolds all the concepts and ideas in such a gentle way; readers never feel that they are being scolded or reprimanded. He writes with such love, compassion, and intelligence. He informs us with a wonderful clarity about the great mysteries of life.

Mukunda Lal Ghosh became Swami Yogananda in 1914, when he joined the swami order, after studying with his guru, Sri Yukteswar; then in 1935 his guru Sri Yukteswar bestowed on him the monastic title Paramahansa meaning highest swan in Sanskrit, so he became Paramahansa Yogananda.

Coming to America

Paramahansa Yogananda came to America in 1920 and in 1925 established Self-Realization Fellowship to disseminate his teachings. He had traveled and lectured widely in the United States during those five years, and his teachings had attracted many followers. Through the devotion and loyal support of his followers, he was able to establish Self-Realization Fellowship, which today continues to grow world-wide. The great spiritual leader remained in America for the rest of his life, traveling abroad only occasionally.

Paramahansa Yogananda

Life Sketch of Paramahansa Yogananda

The great guru/poet Paramahansa Yogananda was born on January 5, 1893, in Gorakhpur, India. His name at birth was Mukunda Lal Ghosh. Always a spiritually advanced child, at age 17, he met his guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar, under whose guidance he flourished and became the spiritual giant and sacred engine that leads souls back to their eternal abode in the arms of the Divine Creator.

Paramahansa Yogananda came to the United States in 1920 to speak in Boston at the International Congress of Religious Liberals. His speech was so well received that he quickly gathered a following. By 1925, his organization, Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF), was well established with the purpose of disseminating and maintaining the purity of his teachings of yoga. He has come to be known as the “Father of Yoga in the West.”

The following is an excerpt from the introduction to Paramahansa Yogananda’s biography on the Self-Realization Fellowship Web site:

In the hundred years since the birth of Paramahansa Yogananda, this beloved world teacher has come to be recognized as one of the greatest emissaries to the West of India’s ancient wisdom. His life and teachings continue to be a source of light and inspiration to people of all races, cultures and creeds.

Publications of Paramahansa Yogananda

Paramahansa Yogananda's in-depth work, Autobiography of a Yogi, has become a spiritual classic worldwide. Many devotees have been drawn to the teachings of this yogi through that autobiography, and many of their stories about how they came to find that work include some of the most inspiring "miracles" of modern American culture.

Such world-renowned figures as Dennis Weaver, Steve Jobs, George Harrison, and Elvis Presley were influenced by the Autobiography of a Yogi and the teachings of the great guru. Weaver even became a lay minister and spoke often at many of the SRF temples in California.

In addition to the autobiography, the great guru has published many collections of his talks, in both written and oral forms. His audio collector's series of ten of his informal talks includes the following titles:

1. Beholding the One in All
2. Awake in the Cosmic Dream
3. Be a Smile Millionaire
4. The Great Light of God
5. To Make Heaven on Earth
6. One Life Versus Reincarnation
7. Removing All Sorrow and Suffering
8. In the Glory of the Spirit
9. Follow the Path of Christ, Krishna, and the Masters
10. Self-Realization: The Inner and the Outer Path

These inspirational talks reveal much information about the great guru that appeals to his devoted followers. Just listening to a God-realized voice offers an uplifting spiritual experience.

The Poetry of Paramahansa Yogananda

For my commentaries on the poems of the great guru, I rely on his marvelous collection titled, Songs of the Soul, the version published in 1983 with its most current printing 2014. Two additional collections of his poems are extant, Whispers From Eternity and Metaphysical Meditations.

Because the "poems" of this great guru function on levels that ordinary poems do not, they are often used in devotional services held by groups of devotees of the SRF teachings throughout the world in the Readings Services as well as their Special Commemorative Services.

Paramahansa Yogananda's poems are more akin to prayers than to the poetry of ordinary poets, whose subject matter often dramatizes only human emotion in its relationship with creation and other human beings, instead of with the Creator; the great guru's poems always invoke the Creator's presence whether directly or indirectly.

Other Publications

The great guru's organization, SRF, also continues to publish collections of his works. Many of his talks have appeared in the series of essays that include Man's Eternal Quest, The Divine Romance, and Journey to Self-realization.

Corrective Translations

The guru has also bestowed on the literary world three important translations of extant perennial works that have been grossly misunderstood in some cases for centuries. His new translations along with his explanatory commentaries are correcting that misunderstanding.

In Wine of the Mystic: The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam — A Spiritual Interpretation, he shows how that poet's God-realized effusions put on display a man in love with his Creator and not the wine sopped Epicurean that has been misapplied to the work.

In the guru's in-depth translation and commentaries on the ancient Bhagavad Gita, titled God Talks With Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita — A New Translation and Commentary, the great spiritual leader offers not only the poetic translation of the work but also the relevance for humankind of the psychological and spiritual instruction offered in the ancient poem.

Most importantly for Western culture, Paramahansa Yogananda has offered a full explanation of the phenomenon known as the "Second Coming." Titled The Second Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of the Christ Within You — A revelatory commentary on the original teachings of Jesus, the work explains the true meaning of many of Jesus' words long misunderstood and mischaracterized, such as "The Kingdom of God is within you" and "I and my Father are one."

The Lessons

Of all the publications offered by SRF and the great guru, it is the Lessons that remain most vital. One could dispense with all of the other books, audio tapes, poetry, and other commentaries if one possesses those lessons.

The Lessons begin by offering physical exercises that prepare the physical encasement to sit quietly and still while performing the more advanced exercises that lead to Kriya Yoga practice.

The Lessons contains six steps that can be completed in three years, but each student is free to progress at his/her own pace. The Lessons include instruction in the following techniques: 1. Energization Exercises. 2. Hong-Sau Technique of Concentration, and 3. Aum Technique of Meditation.

After completing the first two steps, the devotee may apply for the Kriya Yoga technique.

Kriya Yoga Initiations

The Kriya Yoga technique features four initiations for a total of twenty lessons. The First Initiation, featuring lessons K1-9, includes the technique of Kriya proper, on which all of the other initiations are based. The Second Initiation contains four lessons, K10-14, and the Third and Fourth include the remaining lessons K15-20.

All of the Lessons, including the Kriya Yoga Initiations, include many explanations based of science, as well as on the life experience of Paramahansa Yogananda. These marvelous works are presented in such way to hold the student-devotees' interest with little stories, poems, affirmations, and prayers that enhance the purpose of each lesson.

Complete Works

In addition to all of the works mentioned above, Paramahansa Yogananda has published many others, including his Cosmic Chants, which offers musical notations as well as the lyric for each chant.

An annotated list of the works of the great guru is offered on the Self-Realization Fellowship Web site under the title, "The Complete Works of Paramahansa Yogananda."

Questions & Answers

Question: When was Autobiography of Yogi published?

Answer: In 1946.

© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes