Autobiography of a Yogi
Cover of the 1946 first edition
|Publisher||The Philosophical Library|
|Media type||Print (Hardback)|
Autobiography of a Yogi is an autobiography of Paramahansa Yogananda (January 5, 1893–March 7, 1952) first published in 1946. Yogananda was born Mukunda Lal Ghosh in Gorakhpur, India, into a Bengali family.
Autobiography of a Yogi introduces the reader to the life of Paramahansa Yogananda and his encounters with spiritual figures of both the East and West. The book begins with his childhood family life, to finding his guru, to becoming a monk and establishing his teachings of Kriya Yoga meditation. The book continues in 1920 when Yogananda accepts an invitation to speak in a religious congress in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. He then travels across America lecturing and establishing his teachings in Los Angeles, California. In 1935 he returns to India for a yearlong visit. When he returns to America, he continues to establish his teachings, including writing this book.
The book is an introduction to the methods of attaining God-realization and to the spiritual thought of the East, which had only been available to a few in 1946. The author claims that the writing of the book was prophesied long ago by the nineteenth-century master Lahiri Mahasaya.
It has been in print for seventy years and translated into forty-five languages by Self-Realization Fellowship. It has been highly acclaimed as a spiritual classic including being designated by Philip Zaleski, while he was under the auspices of HarperCollins Publishers, as one of the "100 Most Important Spiritual Books of the 20th Century." It is included in the book 50 Spiritual Classics: Timeless Wisdom from 50 Great Books of Inner Discovery, Enlightenment and Purpose by Tom Butler-Bowdon. According to Project Gutenberg, the first edition is in public domain and at least five publishers are reprinting it and four post it free for online reading.
The Autobiography of a Yogi takes the reader on a journey into the spiritual adventures of Paramahansa Yogananda. The book begins by describing Yogananda's childhood family life to his search for his guru, Yukteswar Giri, to the establishment of his first school, Yogoda Satsanga Brahmacharya Vidyalaya to his journey to America where he lectured to thousands, established Self-Realization Fellowship and visited with Luther Burbank, a renowned botanist to whom this book is dedicated. The book then takes you on Yogananda's return visit to India in 1935 where he encountered leading spiritual figures such as Therese Neumann in Bavaria, the Hindu saint Ananda Moyi Ma, Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Sir C. V. Raman, and Giri Bala, "the woman yogi who never eats." The reader then returns to the West with Yogananda where he continues to establish his teachings in America including writing this book.
The preface was written by Walter Evans-Wentz, an Oxford scholar of anthropology, a writer who was a pioneer in the study of Tibetan Buddhism and an author of The Tibetan Book of the Dead and Tibet's Great Yogi Milarepa. In the preface he wrote, "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."
Yukteswar Giri, Yogananda's guru, told him about a significant prediction made by Lahiri Mahasaya, Yukteswar's guru. Yukteswar heard him say, "About fifty years after my passing," he said, "my life will be written because of a deep interest in yoga which the West will manifest. The yogic message will encircle the globe, and aid in establishing that brotherhood of man which results from direct perception of the One Father." In 1945 fifty years after Lahiri Mahasaya's passing in 1895, the Autobiography was complete and ready for publication.
Autobiography of a Yogi is the most popular of Yogananda's books. According to Philip Goldberg, who wrote American Veda, "... the Self-Realization Fellowship which represents Yogananda's Legacy, is justified in using the slogan, "The Book that Changed the Lives of Millions." It has sold more than four million copies and counting ..." and it has published the book into 34 languages. In 1999, it was designated as one of the "100 Most Important Spiritual Books of the 20th Century" by a panel of theologians and luminaries convened by HarperCollins publishers.
According to biographer Henry Warner Bowden, the Autobiography introduced meditation and yoga to many Westerners. It has inspired people, such as Steve Jobs, co-founder, chairman, and CEO of Apple Inc. Walter Isaacson, a biographer, records that Jobs "first read [it] as a teenager, then re-read [it] in India and had read [it] once a year ever since." Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com, told his story of attending Steve Jobs' memorial service, where the attendees were handed a small brown box on their way out. "This is going to be good," he thought. "I knew that this was a decision he made, and whatever it was, it was the last thing he wanted us all to think about." The box contained a copy of the book.
George Harrison, lead guitarist of The Beatles, received his first copy of Autobiography of a Yogi from Ravi Shankar in 1966 and, according to John O'Mahony, "that was where his interest in Vedic culture and Indian-ness began." Gary Wright, who wrote the song Dream Weaver, wrote: "In 1972, my friend George Harrison invited me to accompany him on a trip to India. A few days before we left, he gave me a copy of the book Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda. Needless to say the book inspired me deeply, and I became totally fascinated with Indian culture and philosophy. My trip was an experience I will never forget."
The actress Mariel Hemingway says that she was introduced to the Autobiography of a Yogi by Peter Evans, a direct disciple of Yogananda. She was "mesmerized by the Autobiography of a Yogi and loved the whole great Hindu tradition of spiritual seeking ..."
The actor Dennis Weaver gave a copy of the book to Linda Evans, saying that it had changed his life. Evans says that "Because of Dennis I took the first step in what would become a life long spiritual journey."
Andrew Weil, director of the program in Integrative Medicine at University of Arizona, wrote the book Eating Well for Optimum Health. He mentioned reading the Autobiography of a Yogi which he said, "awakened in me an interest in yoga and Indian religious philosophies." He continued, "It is filled with wondrous tales from an exotic land, none more amazing than that of Giri Bala, 'a woman yogi who never eats.'"
The work has also attracted less favourable comments. Srinivas Aravamudan has described its contents as "miracle-infested territory" whose "single most memorable feature ... is a repetitive insistence on collocating the miraculous and the quotidian. ... The autobiography is an eclectic directory of sorts that might be dubbed a hitchhiker's guide to the paranormal galaxy". Aravamudan notes the "aggressive marketing" of the Yogoda Satsang and Self-Realization Fellowship, that Yogananda himself "worked the mass media" and used a technique described as "Guru English". He notes that Yogananda was the collator of the testimonials that purport to validate the miracles described, which appear at a rate of around one per page.
According to Chris Welch and the liner notes on the album, Tales From Topographic Oceans, a concept album recorded by Yes, the progressive rock group, was inspired by "a lengthy footnote on page 83" of Autobiography of a Yogi. The footnote describes four Shastric scriptures that cover religion, art, social life, medicine, music and architecture.
James Dudley, in his book Library Journal: Autobiography of a Yogi, wrote: "Yogananda's masterly storytelling epitomizes the Indian oral tradition with its wit, charm, and compassionate wisdom.
Today, reading Autobiography of a Yogi has become an unofficial prerequisite for prospective students of the Self-Realization Fellowship's "Lessons for Home Study," a set of lessons, reflections, and assignments that one may read and apply before being initiated into Kriya Yoga.
The Autobiography of a Yogi was first printed in December 1946 by Philosophical Library who printed it until 1953. In October 1953 Self-Realization Fellowship, Yogananda's organization, acquired the rights to the book and have been printing the book ever since including translating it into 45 languages. According to Project Gutenberg, the first edition of Autobiography of a Yogi is in the public domain in the USA.
Many editions of Autobiography of a Yogi have been printed, including the following.
- Philosophical Library
The first four editions in the United States were published by the Philosophical Library.
- Autobiography of a Yogi (1st ed.). New York: The Philosophical Library. 1946. 498 pages. LCCN 47000544.
- Autobiography of a Yogi (2nd ed.). New York: The Philosophical Library. 1949.
- Autobiography of a Yogi (3rd, enlarged ed.). New York: The Philosophical Library. 1951. OCLC 6847023.
- Autobiography of a Yogi (4th ed.). New York: The Philosophical Library. 1952. OCLC 7102414.
British editions have been published by Rider since 1949.
- Autobiography of a Yogi (1st London ed.). London, New York: Rider. 1949. 403 pages. OCLC 788538289.
- Autobiography of a Yogi. London, New York: Rider. 1950. 403 pages. LCCN 58018867. OCLC 7060654.
- Autobiography of a Yogi (2nd ed.). London: Rider. 1952. 403 pages. ISBN 978-0-09-021052-7. OCLC 62434213.
- Autobiography of a Yogi (3rd ed.). London: Rider. 1953. 403 pages. OCLC 500094560.
- Autobiography of a Yogi (4th ed.). London: Rider. 1955. 403 pages. OCLC 504109437.
- Autobiography of a Yogi (5th ed.). London: Rider. 1958. 403 pages. OCLC 271700247.
- Autobiography of a Yogi (6th ed.). London: Rider.
- Autobiography of a Yogi (7th ed.). London: Rider.
- Autobiography of a Yogi (New ed.). London: Rider. 1969. 403 pages. ISBN 0-09-021052-2. LCCN 73385771.
- Autobiography of a Yogi. London: Rider. 1969. ISBN 0-09-021051-4.
- Autobiography of a Yogi. London: Rider. 1973. 403 pages. OCLC 481614957.
- Autobiography of a Yogi (New ed.). London: Rider. 1996. 591 pages. ISBN 978-0-7126-7238-2. OCLC 36084750.
- Self-Realization Fellowship / Yogoda Satsanga Society of India
Self-Realization Fellowship has published the book in the United States since the 1954 fifth edition.
- Autobiography of a Yogi (5th ed.). Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship. 1954. 501 pages. OCLC 271420169.
- Autobiography of a Yogi (6th ed.). Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship. 1955. 514 pages. OCLC 546634.
- Autobiography of a Yogi (7th ed.). Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship. 1956. 514 pages. OCLC 459188400.
- Autobiography of a Yogi (8th ed.). Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship. 1959. 514 pages. LCCN 68039787.
- Autobiography of a Yogi (9th ed.). Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship. 1968. 514 pages. LCCN 68017564.
- Autobiography of a Yogi (10th ed.). Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship. 1969. 514 pages. LCCN 69011377.
- Autobiography of a Yogi (11th ed.). Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship. 1971. 516 pages. ISBN 0-87612-075-3. LCCN 78151319.
- Autobiography of a Yogi (12th ed.). Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship. 1981. 499 pages. ISBN 0-87612-080-X. LCCN 80052927.
- Autobiography of a Yogi (Anniversary ed.). Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship. 1997. 588 pages. ISBN 0-87612-086-9. LCCN 00265526.
- Autobiography of a Yogi (13th ed.). Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship. 1998. 594 pages. ISBN 0-87612-082-6. LCCN 80052927.
- Autobiography of a Yogi. India: Yogoda Satsanga Society of India. 2001. 566 pages. ISBN 978-81-7224-121-6.
- Autobiography of a Yogi (Collector's ed.). India: Yogoda Satsanga Society of India. 530 pages. ISBN 978-81-89955-20-5.
An Indian edition has been published by Jaico.
- Reprints of the first edition
The first edition, which is in the public domain according to Project Gutenberg, has more recently been reprinted by a number of publishers.
- Autobiography of a Yogi. Nevada City, CA: Crystal Clarity Publishers. 1995 . 481 pages. ISBN 1-56589-108-2. LCCN 99165624.
- Autobiography of a Yogi. Mumbai: Jaico. 1997 . 498 pages. ISBN 978-81-7224-660-0. OCLC 796041504.
- Autobiography of a Yogi. Gardners Books. 2003 . ISBN 978-81-207-2524-9. OCLC 221178768.
- Autobiography of a Yogi. New Delhi, India: Sterling Publishers. 2003 . ISBN 978-81-207-2524-9.
- Autobiography of a Yogi. Whitefish, MT: Kessinger. 2004 . 452 pages. ISBN 978-1-4191-0843-3. OCLC 752308536.
- Autobiography of a Yogi. Lexington, KY: Empire Books. 2012 . 301 pages. ISBN 978-1-61949-125-0. OCLC 775010799.
Adaptations and translations
The Autobiography is now available in a Kindle edition. An unabridged audio book (15 CDs) version narrated by Ben Kingsley and published by Self-Realization Fellowship (2004) is available in English and German (ISBN 0-87612-095-8). It is also offered as a download from iTunes.
Self-Realization Fellowship has translated the book into 45 languages.
- "Catalog entry 4700544". U.S. Library of Congress.
- "HarperCollins 100 Best Spiritual Books of the Century".
- Butler-Bowdon, Tom (2005). 50 Spiritual Classics: Timeless Wisdom from 50 Great Books of Inner Discovery, Enlightenment and Purpose. Nicholas Brealey Publishing. ISBN 978-1857883497.
- Chapter 10 – I Meet my Master, Sri Yukteswar
- Chapter 27 – Founding of a Yoga School at Ranchi
- "End of Series". The Washington Post. February 20, 1927. p. F4.
- Chapter 37 - I Go to America
- Chapter 38 – Luther Burbank, A Saint Amidst the Roses
- Chapter 39 – The Catholic Stigmatist of Bavaria
- Chapter 45 – The Bengali "Joy-Permeated Mother"
- Chapter 44 – With Mahatma Gandhi at Wardha
- Chapter 29 – Rabindranath Tagore and I Compare Schools
- Chapter 41 - An Idyl in South India
- Chapter 46 - Giri Bala - The woman Yogi Who Never Eats
- Evans-Wentz, W. Y. Preface
- Chapter 32 – Rama is Raised from the Dead
- Goldberg, Philip (2012). The Autobiography of a Yogi: A Tribute to Yogananda. Huff Post Religion.
- Goldberg, Philip (2012). American Veda. Harmony; 1 edition (November 2, 2010): 109.
- Bowden, Henry Warner (1993). Dictionary of American Religious Biography. Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-27825-3. p. 629.
- Isaacson, Walter (2001). Steve Jobs: A Biography. Simon & Schuster. p. 527. ISBN 978-1-4516-4853-9.
- Farber, Dan (September 10, 2013). "Marc Benioff explains Steve Jobs' spirituality and chides Apple". San Francisco: CNET News.
- O'Mahony, John (June 3, 2008). "A Hodgepodge of Hash, Yoga and LSD — Interview with Sitar giant Ravi Shankir". New York: The Guardian.
- "In Memory of George Harrison".
- Hemmingway, Mariel (2003). Finding My Balance. Simon & Schuster ISBN 978-0-7432-6432-7.
- Evans, Linda (2011). Recipes for Life: My Memories. Vanguard Press ISBN 978-1-59315-648-0 Page 205.
- Weil, Dr. Andrew (2000). Eating Well for Optimum Health. Random House Large Print ISBN 0-375-40978-5.
- Aravamudan, Srinivas (2005). Guru English: South Asian Religion in a Cosmopolitan Language. Princeton University Press. pp. 60–61, 246. ISBN 978-0-691-11828-4.
- Welch, Chris (2008). Close to the Edge: The Story of Yes. Omnibus Press. p. 141. ISBN 978-0-7119-9509-3.
- Dudley, James (1997). Library Journal: Autobiography of a Yogi. Cahners Magazine Division of Reed Publishing.
- "Paramahansa Yogananda's SRF Lessons for Home Study". www.yogananda-srf.org. Retrieved 2016-09-20.
- "Autobiography of a Yogi, Yogananda's Wishes for Later Editions (scroll down to Affidavit)". October 2016.
- "Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda". Gutenberg.org. Project Gutenberg. February 1, 2005. (see "Bibrec" tab)
- "Search Results for "Autobiography of a Yogi" -- 1 - 23 of 23 from the Library of Congress". U.S. Library of Congress.
- "Autobiography of a Yogi (Complete Edition) [Kindle Edition]".
- "Translations Around the World".
- Kriyananda (2010). Rescuing Yogananda. Nevada City, CA: Crystal Clarity Publishers. ISBN 978-1-56589-260-6.
- Self-Realization Fellowship. "Yogananda's Wishes for Later Editions". Yogananda-srf.org. Self-Realization Fellowship.
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- Yogoda Satsanga of India. "The Extraordinary History Behind Autobiography of a Yogi" Includes history of the editions through 1956