Book Review: Autobiography of a Yogi. Biography

Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda

Since its first publication in 1944 “Autobiography of a Yogi” has become widely regarded as a spiritual classic, inspiring countless seekers around the world and giving a unique insight into the life of a Yogi.

‘An Autobiography of a Yogi’ begins in Calcutta, India during Yogananda’s childhood. Even from an early age, the young Mukunda was fascinated with meeting other yogis and yearned to experience the presence of God for himself. In the opening chapters, we are introduced to a variety of fascinating Saints such as; Master Mahasaya (author of the Gospel of Ramakrishna), the levitating Saint and the “Tiger Swami”. These spiritual encounters offer a unique insight into the spiritual heart of India, there seemed to be no shortage of saints to inspire the young Yogananda.

After an aborted flight to the Himalayas, Yogananda eventually meets his Guru, Sri Yukteswar near to his hometown. The mutual love and concern between disciple and master are clearly expressed as Yogananda portrays the trials and tribulations of being a spiritual seeker with a strict but loving Master.

“My guru was standing motionless before me; I started to drop at his holy feet in gratitude for the experience in cosmic consciousness which I had long passionately sought. He held me upright, and spoke calmly, unpretentiously.

“You must not get overdrunk with ecstasy. Much work yet remains for you in the world. Come; let us sweep the balcony floor; then we shall walk by the Ganges.” (1)

Throughout the book, Yogananda seeks to explain the science behind the mysterious world of Yoga. He frequently makes reference to both the Bible and the Bhagavad Gita, showing the underlying unity of the 2 great religions. A notable feature of the book is the universal approach that Yogananda takes to religion and spirituality. He expresses the deepest admiration and gratitude to the saints and sages of different religious traditions. These great saints and sages include: Therese Neumann, the Hindu saint Sri Anandamoyi Ma, Mohandas Gandhi, and Rabindranath Tagore. Yogananda is a shining example of the Saint who sees not outer differences but sees the underlying unity of the universe. Whilst explaining the science of yoga one never gets the impression Yogananda is preaching or trying to convert. Instead, we feel a sincere attempt to share the life of a Yogi.

The most remarkable thing about Autobiography of a Yogi is the consciousness which the book expresses. We can tangibly feel the spiritual inspiration and spiritual experiences which Yogananda expresses. It is no easy feat to write about Spiritual Masters and states of Samadhi, but Yogananda manages to express these lofty spiritual experiences with an effortless ease. For example, in chapter 14 Yogananda attempts to put into words his experience of the Cosmic Consciousness.

“An oceanic joy broke upon calm endless shores of my soul. The Spirit of God, I realized, is exhaustless Bliss; His body is countless tissues of light.”

It is hard to read these passages without being moved by the spiritual revelation Yogananda manages to convey. A timeless book, rightly treasured by all God lovers and truth seekers.

Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan. “Review of Autobiography of a Yogi”, Oxford, UK., Published 1st Feb 2009. Last updated 30th January 2017.

(1) (2) Chapter 14 – An experience in Cosmic Consciousness