From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From the Publisher
Editions past the third have been prepared since the author's passing in 1952. In 1953, Self-Realization Fellowship, acquired the rights to "Autobiography of a Yogi" from Philosophical Library; it has been the publisher of all subsequent editions, until this original reprint put out by Crystal Clarity, Publishers. In order to be faithful to the original edition, we have not corrected errors of spelling, grammar, or punctuation.
From the Author
Jesus College, Oxford; Author of The Tibetan Book of the Dead, Tibet's Great Yogi Milarepa, Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines, etc.
The value of Yogananda's Autobiography is greatly enhanced by the fact that it is one of the few books in English about the wise men of India which has been written, not by a journalist or foreigner, but by one of their own race and training--in short, a book about yogis by a yogi. As an eyewitness recountal of the extraordinary lives and powers of modern Hindu saints, the book has importance both timely and timeless. To its illustrious author, whom I have had the pleasure of knowing both in India and America, may every reader render due appreciation and gratitude. His unusual life-document is certainly one of the most revealing of the depths of the Hindu mind and heart, and of the spiritual wealth of India, ever to be published in the West.
It has been my privilege to have met one of the sages whose life-history is herein narrated-Sri Yukteswar Giri. A likeness of the venerable saint appeared as part of the frontispiece of my Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines*(1). It was at Puri, in Orissa, on the Bay of Bengal, that I encountered Sri Yukteswar. He was then the head of a quiet ashrama near the seashore there, and was chiefly occupied in the spiritual training of a group of youthful disciples. He expressed keen interest in the welfare of the people of the United States and of all the Americas, and of England, too, and questioned me concerning the distant activities, particularly those in California, of his chief disciple, Paramhansa Yogananda, whom he dearly loved, and whom he had sent, in 1920, as his emissary to the West.
Sri Yukteswar was of gentle mien and voice, of pleasing presence, and worthy of the veneration which his followers spontaneously accorded to him. Every person who knew him, whether of his own community or not, held him in the highest esteem. I vividly recall his tall, straight, ascetic figure, garbed in the saffron-colored garb of one who has renounced worldly quests, as he stood at the entrance of the hermitage to give me welcome. His hair was long and somewhat curly, and his face bearded. His body was muscularly firm, but slender and well-formed, and his step energetic. He had chosen as his place of earthly abode the holy city of Puri, whither multitudes of pious Hindus, representative of every province of India, come daily on pilgrimage to the famed Temple of Jagannath, "Lord of the World." It was at Puri that Sri Yukteswar closed his mortal eyes, in 1936, to the scenes of this transitory state of being and passed on, knowing that his incarnation had been carried to a triumphant completion.
I am glad, indeed, to be able to record this testimony to the high character and holiness of Sri Yukteswar. Content to remain afar from the multitude, he gave himself unreservedly and in tranquillity to that ideal life which Paramhansa Yogananda, his disciple, has now described for the ages W. Y. EVANS-WENTZ
*(1) Oxford University Press, 1935.
Copyright © 1946 Paramhansa Yogananda --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
From the Inside Flap
There are colorful chapters on the author's visits to Mahatma Gandhi, Sir Jagadis Chandra Bose, and Rabindranath Tagore. The section dealing with Yogananda'sWestern experiences includes a chapter on his great friend, Luther Burbank, and an account of the author's pilgrimage to Bavaria in 1935 to meet Therese Neumann, the amazing Catholic stigmatist.
After establishing a high school with yoga training at Ranchi, India, Yogananda came to America in 1920 as the Indian delegate to the International Congress of Religious Liberals. He has lectured extensively in the United States and abroad, and is the founder of a Yoga Institute at Encinitas, California.
Yogananda is a graduate of Calcutta University; he writes not only with unforgettable sincerity but with an incisive wit. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
From the Back Cover
Paramhansa Yogananda was the first yoga master of India whose mission it was to live and teach in the West. In the 1920s, enthusiastic audiences filled the largest halls in America to hear him speak. His initial impact was truly impressive. But his lasting influence is greater still. This book, first published in 1946, helped launch, and continues to inspire, a spiritual revolution in the West.
Only rarely does a sage of Paramhansa Yogananda's stature write a firsthand account of his life experiences. Followers of many religious traditions have come to recognize Autobiography of a Yogi as a masterpiece of spiritual literature. Yet, for all its depth, it is full of gentle humor, lively stories, and practical common sense. This is a verbatim reprinting of the original edition, nowalso with previously unreleased bonus materials. This is the only available edition that contains: *The original, unedited text, as written by Yogananda himself, free from posthumous changes introduced by others *The final chapter, written five years after this edition was first published, presented free from all changes made afterYogananda's death *An all-new foreword and afterword, written by Swami Kriyananda, one of Yogananda's best-known direct disciples --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
About the Author
Yogananda's initial impact was truly impressive. But his lasting impact has been even greater. Yogananda's "Autobiography of a Yogi", first published in 1946, helped launch a spiritual revolution throughout the world. His message was nonsectarian and universal. Yogananda's Guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar, sent him to the West with the admonition, "The West is high in material attainments, but lacking in spiritual understanding. It is God's will that you play a role in teaching mankind the value of balancing the material with an inner, spiritual life."
Yogananda brought clarity to hundreds of thousands of people regarding the ancient teachings of India - previously shrouded in the cultural assumptions and terminology of an era long past. These teachings include the path of Kriya Yoga, which Yogananda called the 'jet-airplane' route to God, consisting of ancient yoga techniques to hasten the spiritual evolution of the student.
"The true basis of religion is not belief, but intuitive experience. Intuition is the soul's power of knowing God. To know what religion is really all about, one must know God," said Paramhansa Yogananda in the book "The Essence of Self-Realization". He further wrote that "Self- Realization is the knowing in all parts of body, mind, and soul that you are now in possession of the kingdom of God; that you do not have to pray that it come to you; that God's omnipresence is your omnipresence; and that all that you need to do is improve your knowing." --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Because of certain ancient yogic injunctions, I cannot give a full explanation of Kriya Yoga in the pages of a book intended for the general public. The actual technique must be learned from a Kriyaban or Kriya Yogi; here a broad reference must suffice.
Kriya Yoga is a simple, psychophysiological method by which the human blood is decarbonized and recharged with oxygen. The atoms of this extra oxygen are transmuted into life current to rejuvenate the brain and spinal centers. By stopping the accumulation of venous blood, the yogi is able to lessen or prevent the decay of tissues; the advanced yogi transmutes his cells into pure energy. Elijah, Jesus, Kabir and other prophets were past masters in the use of Kriya or a similar technique, by which they caused their bodies to dematerialize at will.
Kriya is an ancient science. Lahiri Mahasaya received it from his guru, Babaji, who rediscovered and clarified the technique after it had been lost in the Dark Ages.
"The Kriya Yoga which I am giving to the world through you in this nineteenth century," Babaji told Lahiri Mahasaya, "is a revival of the same science which Krishna gave, millenniums ago, to Arjuna, and which was later known to Patanjali, and to Christ, St. John, St. Paul, and other disciples."
Kriya Yoga is referred to by Krishna, India's greatest prophet, in a stanza of the Bhagavad 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."
Krishna also relates that it was he, in a former incarnation, who communicated the indestructible yoga to an ancient illuminato, Vivasvat, who gave it to Manu, the great legislator. He, in turn, instructed Ikshwaku, the father of India's solar warrior dynasty. Passing thus from one to another, the royal yoga was guarded by the rishis until the coming of the materialistic ages. Then, due to priestly secrecy and man's indifference, the sacred knowledge gradually became inaccessible.
Kriya Yoga is mentioned twice by the ancient sage Patanjali, foremost exponent of yoga, who wrote: "Kriya Yoga consists of body discipline, mental control, and meditating on Aum." Patanjali speaks of God as the actual Cosmic Sound of Aum heard in meditation. Aum is the Creative Word, the sound of the Vibratory Motor. Even the yoga-beginner soon inwardly hears the wondrous sound of Aum. Receiving this blissful spiritual encouragement, the devotee becomes assured that he is in actual touch with divine realms.
Patanjali refers a second time to the life-control or Kriya technique thus: "Liberation can be accomplished by that pranayama which is attained by disjoining the course of inspiration and expiration."
St. Paul knew Kriya Yoga, or a technique very similar to it, by which he could switch life currents to and from the senses. He was therefore able to say: "Verily, I protest by our rejoicing which I have in Christ, I die daily." By daily withdrawing his bodily life force, he united it by yoga union with the rejoicing (eternal bliss) of the Christ consciousness. In that felicitous state, he was consciously aware of being dead to the delusive sensory world of maya.
In the initial states of God-contact (sabikalpa samadhi) the devotee's consciousness merges with the Cosmic Spirit; his life force is withdrawn from the body, which appears "dead," or motionless and rigid. The yogi is fully aware of his bodily condition of suspended animation. As he progresses to higher spiritual states (nirbikalpa samadhi), however, he communes with God without bodily fixation, and in his ordinary waking consciousness, even in the midst of exacting worldly duties.
"Kriya Yoga is an instrument through which human evolution can be quickened," Sri Yukteswar explained to his students. "The ancient yogis discovered that the secret of cosmic consciousness is intimately linked with breath mastery. This is India's unique and deathless contribution to the world's treasury of knowledge. The life force, which is ordinarily absorbed in maintaining the heart-pump, must be freed for higher activities by a method of calming and stilling the ceaseless demands of the breath."
The Kriya Yogi mentally directs his life energy to revolve, upward and downward, around the six spinal centers (medullary, cervical, dorsal, lumbar, sacral, and coccygeal plexuses) which correspond to the twelve astral signs of the zodiac, the symbolic Cosmic Man. One-half minute of revolution of energy around the sensitive spinal cord of man effects subtle progress in his evolution; that half-minute of Kriya equals one year of natural spiritual unfoldment.
The astral system of a human being, with six (twelve by polarity) inner constellations revolving around the sun of the omniscient spiritual eye, is interrelated with the physical sun and the twelve zodiacal signs. All men are thus affected by an inner and an outer universe. The ancient rishis discovered that man's earthly and heavenly environment, in twelve-year cycles, push him forward on his natural path. The scriptures aver that man requires a million years of normal, diseaseless evolution to perfect his human brain sufficiently to express cosmic consciousness.