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Autobiography of a Yogi | 75 Years On

To those who were personally acquainted with Paramahansa Yogananda, his own life and being were convincing testimony to the power and authenticity of the ancient wisdom he presented to the world. Since 1946, countless readers of his autobiography have attested to the presence in its pages of that same light of spiritual authority that radiated from his person. Hailed as a masterpiece when it first appeared in print seventy-five years ago, the book sets forth not only the story of a life of unmistakable greatness but a fascinating introduction to the spiritual thought of the East—especially its unique science of direct personal communion with God—opening up to the Western public a realm of knowledge hitherto accessible only to a few.

Today Autobiography of a Yogi is recognized around the world as a classic of spiritual literature.


In the chapter “Years in My Master’s Hermitage” from the spiritual classic Autobiography of a Yogi, which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, Paramahansa Yogananda describes the masterful qualities of his guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar, which he observed during the 10 years of training at his guru’s ashram. 

Paramahansa Yogananda was instructed by his line of gurus to travel to the West to spread the science of Kriya Yoga, an ancient science of the soul to which millions have been introduced through Autobiography of a Yogi. Kriya Yoga offers powerful methods for awakening higher spiritual consciousness and the inner bliss of divine realization. Yogananda arrived in the United States in 1920 and established Self-Realization Fellowship that same year to disseminate his Kriya Yoga teachings. Today the society continues his spiritual and humanitarian work from its international headquarters in Los Angeles, California.

Swami Sri Yukteswar and Paramahansa Yogananda, Calcutta, 1935 | Photo courtesy of Self-Realization Fellowship, Los Angeles, Calif.

“Making a Spiritual Effort Now” 
An Excerpt from Chapter 12, “Years in My Master’s Hermitage”
from Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda

Sri Yukteswar was reserved and matter-of-fact in demeanor. There was naught of the vague or daft visionary about him. His feet were firm on the earth, his head in the haven of heaven. Practical people aroused his admiration. “Saintliness is not dumbness! Divine perceptions are not incapacitating!” he would say. “The active expression of virtue gives rise to the keenest intelligence.”

My guru was reluctant to discuss the superphysical realms. His only “marvelous” aura was that of perfect simplicity. In conversation he avoided startling references; in action he was freely expressive. Many teachers talked of miracles but could manifest nothing; Sri Yukteswar seldom mentioned the subtle laws but secretly operated them at will.

“A man of realization does not perform any miracle until he receives an inward sanction,” Master explained. “God does not wish the secrets of His creation revealed promiscuously. Also, every individual in the world has an inalienable right to his free will. A saint will not encroach on that independence.”

The silence habitual to Sri Yukteswar was caused by his deep perceptions of the Infinite. No time remained for the interminable “revelations” that occupy the days of teachers without Self-realization. A saying from the Hindu scriptures is: “In shallow men the fish of little thoughts cause much commotion. In oceanic minds the whales of inspiration make hardly a ruffle.”

Because of my guru’s unspectacular guise, only a few of his contemporaries recognized him as a superman. The adage: “He is a fool that cannot conceal his wisdom,” could never be applied to my profound and quiet master.

Though born a mortal like all others, Sri Yukteswar achieved identity with the Ruler of time and space. Master found no insuperable obstacle to the mergence of human and Divine. No such barrier exists, I came to understand, save in man’s spiritual unadventurousness.

I always thrilled at the touch of Sri Yukteswar’s holy feet. A disciple is spiritually magnetized by reverent contact with a master; a subtle current is generated. The devotee’s undesirable habit-mechanisms in the brain are often as if cauterized; the grooves of his worldly tendencies are beneficially disturbed. Momentarily at least he may find the secret veils of maya lifting, and glimpse the reality of bliss. My whole body responded with a liberating glow whenever I knelt in the Indian fashion before my guru.

“Even when Lahiri Mahasaya was silent,” Master told me, “or when he conversed on other than strictly religious topics, I discovered that nonetheless he had transmitted to me ineffable knowledge.”

Sri Yukteswar affected me similarly. If I entered the hermitage in a worried or indifferent frame of mind, my attitude imperceptibly changed. A healing calm descended at the mere sight of my guru. Each day with him was a new experience in joy, peace, and wisdom. Never did I find him deluded or emotionally intoxicated with greed, anger, or human attachment.

“The darkness of maya is silently approaching. Let us hie homeward within.” With these cautionary words Master constantly reminded his disciples of their need for Kriya Yoga. A new student occasionally expressed doubts regarding his own worthiness to engage in yoga practice.

“Forget the past,” Sri Yukteswar would console him. “The vanished lives of all men are dark with many shames. Human conduct is ever unreliable until man is anchored in the Divine. Everything in future will improve if you are making a spiritual effort now.”

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Self-Realization Fellowship, Los Angeles, California, All rights reserved.

These photos, courtesy of Self-Realization Fellowship, Los Angeles, Calif., can be found in the new deluxe edition of the book, which will be released in October.

About Paramahansa Yogananda

In the hundred years since the birth of Paramahansa Yogananda, this beloved world teacher has come to be recognized as one of the greatest emissaries to the West of India’s ancient wisdom. His life and teachings continue to be a source of light and inspiration to people of all races, cultures and creeds. Autobiography of a Yogi is his spiritual gift to the world.

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