Book Review: Autobiography of a Yogi

The inner title page of this book quotes John 4:48: “Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe.” This is fair warning. Autobiography of a Yogi includes some stories that seem like dream-fantasy, unbelievable, like maybe Yogananda’s hallucinated most of his life. But John 4:48 is like Picasso, saying, beautifully, “Everything you can imagine is real.” My perception of reality does not validate Yogananda’s; just because I’ve never seen some of the Spiritual miracles Yogananda has experienced, doesn’t mean they aren’t reality.

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I embrace my minute existence, here in a mysterious universe. Technologies are impossible until they’re not—spiritual wonders are surely just the same. To appreciate this book, to perceive holiness in general, one must be curious and not judgmental (my sweet Walt Whitman!).

This book describes Kriya Yogic lessons for spiritual liberation from maya (duality, an illusion that things are opposite when everything is a unified expression of God), and karma (past transgressions one must pay for). One who practices attains velvet and undying bliss.

It’s also a collection of saints.

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“Mahavatar Babaji” from Wikimedia Commons

One saint mentioned is “The Perfume Saint” who can materialize any scent by guiding prana (atoms subtler than protons and electrons) vibrations to organize deliberately. Other saints can project their bodies to any location by willful meditation, send and receive thoughts with their “radio” minds, live without food or drink (subsisting by the means of light energy), and experience intimacy with God. There are many interpretations of Christianity per Hindu scripture, and, to appeal even more to the West, Yoga is a defined as a meditative science (gone is Hatha for flat abs).

Autobiography of a Yogi is 547 pages of intricate wisdom. Yogananda writes soberly and ecstatically, lovingly, with a sort of plain poetry. His work opens and builds one’s mind and soul; it’s an invitation that influenced Steve Jobs and George Harrison. But what made it truly great was the total love expressed by every major character, always for God, guru, and humanity. It moved me to tears.

When Yogananda meets his guru: “O my own, you have come to me!” My guru uttered the words again and again in Bengali, his voice tremulous with joy…overlooking the Ganges he said affectionately: “I give you my unconditional love” (p. 103).

When Lahiri Mahasaya meets his guru, Babaji: “For more than three decades I have waited for you to return to me…You slipped away… Though you lost sight of me, never did I lose sight of you. I pursued you over the…sea where the glorious angels sail…Patiently, month after month, year after year …Now you are with me!…There is no separation for us, my beloved child…Wherever you are, whenever you call me, I shall be with you instantly” (344-52).

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(“Gandhi smiling”, 1946. Author unknown. from Wikimedia Commons)

Then the Mahatma Gandhi chapter when Gandhi falls, dying, and turns to his assassin with the traditional Hindu gesture of greeting, with high love and forgiveness—oh! No comment: I’m still overwhelmed.

Don’t get discouraged if the stories seem tall. Let the possibility of a Yogi overwhelm you.

Yogananda, Paramahansa. Autobiography of a Yogi. 13th ed. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 2015. Print.

 

 

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