Om Namah Shivaya

Om Namah Shivaya

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Dec 7, 2010

THE READER: The Autobiography Of A Yogi

I was suggested to read this book “Autobiography of A Yogi” written by yogi Paramhamsa Yogananda, in my early teens and at that time; it all seemed a mystic and entertaining story of a Yogi’s spiritual life. Though I felt proud to read this book (First published in 1946, translated into 14 languages), as it was one of the few books, that brought Yoga to Western world, I was not able to grasp the subtle and powerful thoughts within.

Self-Realization Fellowship
As it happened, this book again, reached me after almost a decade. This was the time when I was beginning to start my journey to experiment with spirituality and it became my first stepping stone towards understanding spirituality, my self and the supreme consciousness.

Its one of the great books written by the great yogi, who demonstrated the value of yoga not only in life but in death too.

The director of the Mortuary of Forest Lawn Memorial park (where Yogi’s body was kept in glass case till 20 days after the death) Mr. Harry T Rowe wrote ‘The absence of any visual signs of decay in the dead body of Paramahamsa Yogananda offers the most extraordinary case in our experience…’

This book gives the glimpse of yogic life in India most beautifully. In my view, it’s the first stepping stone to understanding Indian spirituality.

Below, I give some of the great insights and excerpts from the book that has touched me specifically. It’s a must read book for people interested in knowledge, spirituality, Yoga and philosophy.

Chapter 1: My Parents & Early life
But if prophets down the millenniums spake with truth, man is essentially of incorporeal nature. The persistent core of human egoity is only temporarily allied with sense perception.

A yogic technique whereby the sensory tumult is stilled, permitting man to achieve an ever-increasing identity with cosmic consciousness.

The infinite potencies of sound derive from the Creative Word, Aum, the cosmic vibratory power behind all atomic energies. Any word spoken with clear realization and deep concentration has a materializing value…  the secret lies in the stepping-up of the mind's vibratory rate. 

Chapter 4: My Interrupted Flight Towards Himalayas
Krishna's immortal words rose to my lips in reply: "'Even he with the worst of karma who ceaselessly meditates on Me quickly loses the effects of his past bad actions. Becoming a high-soul-ed being, he soon attains perennial peace. Arjuna, know this for certain: the devotee who puts his trust in Me never perishes!'"

"The master never counseled slavish belief.’Words are only shells,' he said.’Win conviction of God's presence through your own joyous contact in meditation.'

Chapter 5: A Perfumed Saint Displays his Wonders
"God is simple. Everything else is complex. Do not seek absolute values in the relative world of nature."

"I have long exercised an honest introspection, the exquisitely painful approach to wisdom. Self-scrutiny, relentless observance of one's thoughts, is a stark and shattering experience. It pulverizes the stoutest ego. But true self-analysis mathematically operates to produce seers.

"Man can understand no eternal verity until he has freed himself from pretensions. The human mind, bared to a centuried slime, is teeming with repulsive life of countless world-delusions. …Thoughtless is the man who buries his ideals, surrendering to the common fate. Can he seem other than impotent, wooden, ignominious?"

"Bricks and mortar sing us no audible tune; the heart opens only to the human chant of being."

Cosmic illusion: literally, "the measurer." Maya is the magical power in creation by which limitations and divisions are apparently present in the Immeasurable and Inseparable.

Shri Yukteshwar Ji - Guru of Paramhamsa
Chapter 10: I Meet My Master, Sri Yukteswar
"Ordinary love is selfish, darkly rooted in desires and satisfactions. Divine love is without condition, without boundary, without change. The flux of the human heart is gone forever at the transfixing touch of pure love." 

The dual scales of Maya that balance every joy with a grief! My young heart was not yet malleable to the transforming fingers of my guru. 

Chapter 12: Years in My Master's Hermitage
Look fear in the face and it will cease to trouble you.

Attachment is blinding; it lends an imaginary halo of attractiveness to the object of desire.

Good and positive suggestions should instruct the sensitive ears of children. Their early ideas long remain sharply etched."

A yogi must be able to pass into, and continue in, the Superconsciousness, regardless of multitudinous distractions never absent from this earth.

"… man's body is precious. It has the highest evolutionary value because of unique brain and spinal centers. These enable the advanced devotee to fully grasp and express the loftiest aspects of divinity. ... But the Vedas teach that wanton loss of a human body is a serious transgression against the karmic law."

The human mind is a spark of the almighty consciousness of God. I could show you that whatever your powerful mind believes very intensely would instantly come to pass.'

"The body is a treacherous friend. Give it its due; no more," he said. "Pain and pleasure are transitory; endure all dualities with calmness, while trying at the same time to remove their hold."

"Good manners without sincerity are like a beautiful dead lady," he remarked on suitable occasion. "Straightforwardness without civility is like a surgeon's knife, effective but unpleasant. Candor with courtesy is helpful and admirable."

"Those who are too good for this world are adorning some other," Sri Yukteswar remarked. "So long as you breathe the free air of earth, you are under obligation to render grateful service. He alone who has fully mastered the breathless state is freed from cosmic imperatives.

Enjoyment of wine and sex are rooted in the natural man, and require no delicacies of perception for their appreciation. Sense wiles are comparable to the evergreen oleander, fragrant with its multicolored flowers: every part of the plant is poisonous. The land of healing lies within, radiant with that happiness blindly sought in a thousand misdirection.

"Just as the purpose of eating is to satisfy hunger, not greed, so the sex instinct is designed for the propagation of the species according to natural law, never for the kindling of insatiable longings," he said. "Destroy wrong desires now; otherwise they will follow you after the astral body is torn from its physical casing. Even when the flesh is weak, the mind should be constantly resistant. If temptation assails you with cruel force, overcome it by impersonal analysis and indomitable will. Every natural passion can be mastered.

"Conserve your powers. .. The forceful activating impulse of wrong desire is the greatest enemy to the happiness of man. Roam in the world as a lion of self-control; see that the frogs of weakness don't kick you around."

Chapter 14: An Experience in Cosmic Consciousness
Maha Avatar Baba Ji
Image from FaceBookPage
Autobiography of A Yogi
A master bestows the divine experience of cosmic consciousness when his disciple, by meditation, has strengthened his mind to a degree where the vast vistas would not overwhelm him. The experience can never be given through one's mere intellectual willingness or open-mindedness. Only adequate enlargement by yoga practice and devotional bhakti can prepare the mind to absorb the liberating shock of omnipresence

"Ever-new Joy is God. He is inexhaustible; as you continue your meditations during the years, He will beguile you with an infinite ingenuity. Devotees like yourself who have found the way to God never dream of exchanging Him for any other happiness; He is seductive beyond thought of competition.

"Human life is beset with sorrow until we know how to tune in with the Divine Will, whose 'right course' is often baffling to the egoistic intelligence. God bears the burden of the cosmos; He alone can give unerring counsel."

Chapter 15: The Cauliflower Robbery
Intuition is soul guidance, appearing naturally in man during those instants when his mind is calm. Nearly everyone has had the experience of an inexplicably correct "hunch," or has transferred his thoughts effectively to another person.

The goal of yoga science is to calm the mind, that without distortion it may mirror the divine vision in the universe.

The sankirtans or musical gatherings are an effective form of yoga or spiritual discipline, necessitating deep concentration, intense absorption in the seed thought and sound. Because man himself is an expression of the Creative Word, sound has the most potent and immediate effect on him, offering a way to remembrance of his divine origin.

Chapter 16: Outwitting the Stars

"Astrology is the study of man's response to planetary stimuli. The stars have no conscious benevolence or animosity; they merely send forth positive and negative radiations. Of themselves, these do not help or harm humanity, but offer a lawful channel for the outward operation of cause-effect equilibriums which each man has set into motion in the past.

"Genesis is deeply symbolic, and cannot be grasped by a literal interpretation," he explained. "Its 'tree of life' is the human body. The spinal cord is like an upturned tree, with man's hair as its roots, and afferent and efferent nerves as branches. The tree of the nervous system bears many enjoyable fruits, or sensations of sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. In these, man may rightfully indulge; but he was forbidden the experience of sex, the 'apple' at the center of the bodily garden.

"The 'serpent' represents the coiled-up spinal energy which stimulates 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.

Chapter 24: I Become a Monk of the Swami Order
Lahiri Mahasaya often said: 'If you don't invite God to be your summer Guest, He won't come in the winter of your life.'"

The bibidisa or elaborate initiation into swamiship includes a fire ceremony, during which symbolical funeral rites are performed. The physical body of the disciple is represented as dead, cremated in the flame of wisdom. The newly-made swami is then given a chant, such as: "This Atman is Brahma or "Thou art That" or "I am He." 

Sri Yukteswar was both a swami and a yogi. A swami, formally a monk by virtue of his connection with the ancient order, is not always a yogi. Anyone who practices a scientific technique of God-contact is a yogi; he may be either married or unmarried, either a worldly man or one of formal religious ties. A swami may conceivably follow only the path of dry reasoning, of cold renunciation; but a yogi engages himself in a definite, step-by-step procedure by which the body and mind are disciplined, and the soul liberated. Taking nothing for granted on emotional grounds, or by faith, a yogi practices a thoroughly tested series of exercises which were first mapped out by the early rishis. Yoga has produced, in every age of India, men who became truly free, truly Yogi-Christ’s.

Yoga is a method for restraining the natural turbulence of thoughts, which otherwise impartially prevent all men, of all lands, from glimpsing their true nature of Spirit.

So long as man possesses a mind with its restless thoughts, so long will there be a universal need for yoga or control.

"In the East, where these ideas and practices have developed, and where for several thousand years an unbroken tradition has created the necessary spiritual foundations, Yoga is, as I can readily believe, the perfect and appropriate method of fusing body and mind together so that they form a unity which is scarcely to be questioned.

This unity creates a psychological disposition which makes possible intuitions that transcend consciousness."

The Western day is indeed nearing when the inner science of self-control will be found as necessary as the outer conquest of nature.

Chapter 26: The Science of Kriya Yoga
The Sanskrit root of Kriya is kri, to do, to act and react; the same root is found in the word karma, the natural principle of cause and effect. Kriya Yoga is thus "union (yoga) with the Infinite through a certain action or rite."

A yogi who faithfully follows its technique is gradually freed from karma or the universal chain of causation.

Kriya Yoga is referred to by Krishna, India's greatest prophet, in a stanza of the Bhagawad Gita: "Offering inhaling breath into the outgoing breath, and offering the outgoing breath into the inhaling breath, the yogi neutralizes both these breaths; he thus releases the life force from the heart and brings it under his control."  The interpretation is: "The yogi arrests decay in the body by an addition of life force, and arrests the mutations of growth in the body by apan (eliminating current). Thus neutralizing decay and growth, by quieting the heart, the yogi learns life control."

Referring to yoga's sure and methodical efficacy, Lord Krishna praises the technological yogi in the following words: "The yogi is greater than body-disciplining ascetics, greater even than the followers of the path of wisdom (Jnana Yoga), or of the path of action (Karma Yoga); be thou, O disciple Arjuna, a yogi!"

Chapter 30: The Law of Miracles
The divine voice went on: "Creation is light and shadow both, else no picture is possible. The good and evil of Maya must ever alternate in supremacy. If joy were ceaseless here in this world, would man ever seek another? Without suffering he scarcely cares to recall that he has forsaken his eternal home. Pain is a prod to remembrance. The way of escape is through wisdom! The tragedy of death is unreal; those who shudder at it are like an ignorant actor who dies of fright on the stage when nothing more is fired at him than a blank cartridge. My sons are the children of light; they will not sleep forever in delusion."

Although I had read scriptural accounts of Maya, they had not given me the deep insight that came with the personal visions and their accompanying words of consolation. One's values are profoundly changed when he is finally convinced that creation is only a vast motion picture, and that not in it, but beyond it, lies his own reality.

To read the full book online at Crystal Clarity Publisher : Click here

Related Feature: Patanjali's Yoga Sutra                   HOME                       PREV

ॐ नमः शिवाय
Om Namah Shivaya


  1. A whole new world (old world?) for me is opening up here this morning...and I have you to thank. I like, and shall return!

  2. For so long I have persued a spiritual path. Yet, though I had this book, I never read it. I no longer have it, but will order it today and finally relish in its wisdom.

    Thanks for bringing it up today.

  3. I am glad that you have enjoyed it. hope to you see you again. I firmly believe in the idea that the right books comes to a person at the right time.. so may be this is the opening for you...
    You should also read patanjali's yoga sutra and also "from mind to super mind" featured at my blog here..
    ॐ नमः शिवाय
    Om Namah Shivaya

  4. Dear Myrna

    You can actually read the book online at the link give above... If you like. Though I hate reading books online.. it does not give me the feeling of connection, bond if I can not feel it in my hands.. or touch and feel it.

    As mentioned to Carlo, above, the books appear at the right time... so there you are ...

    ॐ नमः शिवाय
    Om Namah Shivaya

  5. I recently reread it too- and likewise it came to
    me as a teenager. Very remarkable story and a feast for people who are looking for answers!
    Thanks for sharing.

  6. Thank you for the fascinating look into the life of a yogi.

    Appreciate your taking the time to share this with One Shot

    Moonie smiles

  7. So glad I stoped by here tonight. I am at a low point spiritaully and trying to mend pieces of my heart and this books has me asking more questions.. good questions, which means I still have much to learn..
    Thank you for this wonderful post!!

  8. A good book to read for those who want to go deeper yet

  9. One of the best spiritual reading adventures ever.

  10. nice to see this book featured! like you, i picked up this book at 12-13 years old, could not understand it at all, put it down and did not pick it up until I was 17. It all made sense then. Nice post and summaries of the chapters. You make me feel like rereading it now!

  11. This is my favorite book for exactly the reasons you state here. I too read it as a teenager (perhaps older than you were when you read it) and it expanded my awareness and reminded me of what I already knew. I think you will understand what I mean by this, Shashi. Yogananda's experiences brought spirituality into clear focus for me and set me on a path of discovery that I continue today. I look at him as one of my first, important teachers. My oldest brother has been a devotee of Master Yogananda for probably 40 years or so. I have a beautiful, hard-bound copy of "Autobiography of a Yogi" gifted to me by him. It is a cherished book and one of which I have read and re-read. I have recommended this book to so many people but like you said, when the time is right for it to be picked up and read, it will show up at the perfect time. What a wonderful review you have given this amazing text, Shashi. I just happened to see your reference to the book with your archives and had to investigate. Thank you.



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