Book Review: Autobiography of a Yogi – A Story of Mysticism and Spirituality

Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahamsa Yogananda

Reading through the pages of the book “Autobiography of a Yogi” by Swami Paramahansa Yogananda is like a magical journey through times past, present and uknown! A journey that describes the pursuit of a yogi towards God realization and the adventure he embarks upon in a mystical India that is relatively diminishing over time.
The yogi’s tale is a very engaging account of how the science of Kriya yoga was initiated by a God saint “Babaji” (and originally by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita) and passed on to his mortal disciples who in turn carried on the tradition of passing this art to the following generations, in turn becoming masters in their own right.
The biggest challenge with anything that the human senses cannot easily perceive becomes unscientific as per the modern world. Walking along this trend, it is very difficult to ascertain the “truth” or “reality” of the various superhuman and God-like saints Swami Yogananda talks about. Nevertheless, it is very comforting to know that there have always been people on this earth renouncing materialistic gains and seeking unison with their spiritual self.
The book as such however meanders into areas that makes one doubt the seriousness of the Kriya yoga initiative. The Self Realization Fellowship (SRF) founded by the Yogi in the US is described in grand details- materialistic acquisition of property the exotic locations of the Pacific West. Sometimes, the book seems more like a sales pitch for Christians to join the SRF. However, I liked the subtle references to Christ’s sayings in the Bible, the yogi’s interpretation of them, and how all spiritual teachings were meant to be the same for the entire people of the World.
No matter what mistakes a skeptical human mind can come up with, there were unique perceptions of the yogi on some topics that were a delight to read. He laments on how the true form and value of education embedded in the ancient guru-shishya form is lost in today’s world. Education by rote has become the order of the day and there is no genuine pursuit of knowledge and wisdom. His comments on India’s misinterpreted history and true wealth (spiritual superiority) also delves into how misguided Historians created an Aryan invasion “theory” to discredit its unique past.
The yogi also studies the power of human beings in achieving superhuman capabilities for non-materialistic purposes. His explanation of some of the abilities of yogis to materialize objects out of thin air is fascinating. The base theory that objects are made of atoms, packed into matter and emanating energy is used as a basis for explaining how certain highly trained yogis (who control prana) could recreate the same objects from thin air by rearranging those atoms. He also delves into the Law of Miracles by explaining how certain yogis can materialize themselves in different places at the same time and as and when they wanted.
Quoting straight from the book, “Einstein proved that energy in any particle of matter is equal to its mass or weight multiplied by the square of the velocity of light. The release of atomic energies is brought through annihilation of these material particles. The velocity of light is 186000 miles/sec. Only a material body whose mass is infinite can equal the velocity of light! Great yogis achieve materialization and de-materialization by utilizing this concept of light to manifest themselves in any form they want – their mass is infinite.” All this has supposedly been explained in the acient texts of the vedas. According to the yogi, “The Law of Miracles is operable by any man who has realized that the essence of creation is light”!
Yogi Paramhansa Yogananda has indeed opened up a new insight into a forgotten history and lost cause. I’m not sure how the Self Realization Foundation is truly working today to help people use Kriya yoga (never explained anywhere in detail) as a path to human upliftment, but the yogi’s biography is worth knowing about. It is definitely delightful to read the life account of people who came and left the Earth with a unique purpose in mind.