Ancient Wisdom in a Modern Era
Paramhansa Yogananda
Autobiography, Kriya Yoga, Writings
Sacred Vibration of Aum
Paramhansa Yogananda
Spiritual Biography
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that it come to you; that God’s omnipresence is your omnipresence; and that all that you need to do is improve your knowing.” Therefore knowing yourself is the key to understanding God because God is within.

Yogananda's work is continued by several of his disciples and organizations. Self-Realization Fellowship, which he founded, is headquartered in Los Angeles and has meditation centers and temples across the world. The current head is Sri Daya Mata, a direct disciple of Yogananda.

Ananda, near Nevada City, California, was founded by Swami Kriyananda, a direct disciple of Yogananda. Ananda is unique in that it expresses an aspect of Yogananda's vision for World Brotherhood Colonies, an idea for spiritual intentional communities that Yogananda often recommended to his students. Ananda Village is located in Nevada City, California, with six other Ananda World Brotherhood Colonies worldwide. Ananda also has centers
Paramahansa Yogananda (January 5, 1893–March 7, 1952), was an Indian yogi and guru. He was instrumental in bringing the teachings of meditation and Kriya Yoga to the West. His book, Autobiography of a Yogi, has introduced several generations of readers to the teachings of yoga and Hinduism.

    Life of Paramahansa Yogananda    

Yogananda was born Mukunda Lal Ghosh in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, India into a devout Bengali family. According to his younger brother, Sananda, from his earliest years young Mukunda's awareness and experience of the spiritual was far beyond the ordinary. In his youth he sought out many of India's Hindu sages and saints, hoping to find an illuminated teacher to guide him in his spiritual quest.

In Yogananda's Autobiography of a Yogi, he relates numerous stories of saints, scientists, and miracle workers that he visited as a youth, including the renowned scientist Jagdish Chandra Bose, his personal tutor Mahendranath Gupta (biographer of Ramakrishna), the Nobel winning Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore, the 'Tiger Swami', the 'Perfume Saint', the 'Saint with Two
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Move to America
In 1920, he went to the United States as India's delegate to an International Congress of Religious Liberals convening in Boston. That same year he founded Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) to disseminate worldwide his teachings on India's ancient practices and philosophy of Yoga and its tradition of meditation. For the next several years, he lectured and taught on the East coast and in 1924 embarked on a cross-continental speaking tour. Thousands came to his lectures. The following year, he established in Los
Angeles an international headquarters for Self-Realization Fellowship, which became the spiritual and administrative heart of his growing work. Yogananda was the first Hindu teacher of yoga to make his permanent home in America, living there from 1920-1952.

Visit to India, 1935-6
In 1935, he returned to India to visit Sri Yukteswar and to help establish his Yogoda Satsanga work in India. During this visit, as told in his autobiography, he met with Mahatma Gandhi, the Bengali saint Sri Anandamoyi Ma,
Bodies', the 'Levitating Saint', and others.

Yogananda's seeking after various saints mostly ended when he met his guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri, in 1910, at the age of 17. He describes his first meeting with Sri Yukteswar as a rekindling of a relationship that had lasted for many lifetimes:

We entered a oneness of silence; words seemed the rankest superfluities. Eloquence flowed in soundless chant from heart of master to disciple. With an antenna of irrefragable insight I sensed that my guru knew God, and would lead me to Him. The obscuration of this life disappeared in a fragile dawn of prenatal memories. Dramatic time! Past, present, and future are its cycling scenes. This was not the first sun to find me at these holy feet!

After passing his Intermediate Examination in Arts from the Scottish Church College, Calcutta, he did his graduation in religious studies from the Serampore College, a constituent college of the University of Calcutta. This allowed him to spend time at Sri Yukteswar's ashram in Serampore. In 1915, he took formal vows into the monastic Swami Order and became 'Swami Yogananda Giri'. In 1917, Yogananda began his life's mission with the founding and running of a school for boys in a remote hamlet of Bengal, called Dihika, by the side of river Damodar, that combined modern educational techniques with yoga training and spiritual ideals. A year later, the school relocated to Ranchi. This school would later become Yogoda Satsanga Society of India, the Indian branch of Yogananda's American organization.
Nobel winning physicist Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman, and several disciples of Sri Yukteswar's Guru Lahiri Mahasaya. While in India, Sri Yukteswar conferred upon him the title Paramhansa, which means "supreme swan." In 1936, while visiting Calcutta, Yogananda lost his Guru, Sri Yukteswar, who died in the town of Puri.

Back in America
After returning to America, he continued to lecture, write, and establish churches in Southern California. On March 7, 1952, he attained mahasamadhi while attending a dinner for the visiting Indian Ambassador at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles.


Paramahansa Yogananda during a yoga class in Washington, D.C.Yogananda taught his students the need for direct experience of truth, as opposed to blind belief. He said that “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.”

Echoing traditional Hindu teachings, he taught that the entire universe is God's cosmic "movie show", and that individuals are merely actors in the "divine play" who change "roles" through reincarnation. Any harm that would befall an innocent person would therefore be the result of karma from a past life. Yogananda advised against taking this "divine delusion" any more seriously than a movie theater or television presentation because life is secondary to our own understanding. He taught that mankind's deep suffering is rooted in identifying too closely with one's current 'role', rather than with the movie's 'director', or God. This could also be a result of karma and therefore not identifying with the 'director.'

To that end, he taught certain yoga techniques that help people achieve self-realization. He said 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
and meditation groups throughout the world.

Song of the Morning Retreat Center, near Vanderbilt, Michigan, was founded by Yogacharya Oliver Black, a direct disciple of Yogananda. As of September 2004 work is continuing on building the Clear Light Community on the 800 acre (3 km²) retreat property. The retreat center offers classes on yoga and meditation and hosts programs featuring visiting spiritual teachers.

The Center for Spiritual Awareness, located in Lakemont, Georgia, was founded by Roy Eugene Davis, a direct disciple of Yogananda. The CSA publishes books and audio cassettes, and offers meditation seminars at its retreat center headquarters on a voluntary donation basis.

The Puri, India, ashram of Yogananda's guru Sri Yukteswar Giri continues to this day.

George Harrison of the Beatles was a devotee of Yogananda, and Yogananda's image appears on the cover of the album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Mahavatar Babaji, Lahiri Mahasaya and Swami Sri Yukteswar, other gurus in Yogananda's lineage, are also on the album cover.

In the liner notes of the album Tales from Topographic Oceans by the British rock group Yes, main lyricist and singer Jon Anderson refers to a footnote in Yogananda's autobiography as the main source of inspiration for said record.

Kriya Yoga

Kriya Yoga is a very specific system of Yoga that was revived in modern times by Lahiri Mahasaya, c 1861. Paramahansa Yogananda brought it into widespread public awareness through his book Autobiography of a Yogi. The system consists of a number of yogic techniques that are believed to hasten the practitioner's spiritual development and to help to bring about a profound state of tranquility and God-communion.

Yogananda writes that, "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."

History of Kriya Yoga

Ancient and medieval history
Yogananda says that Krishna refers to Kriya Yoga in 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."

Also, that Krishna was referring to Kriya Yoga when "Lord Krishna … 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."

Yogananda says that Patanjali was referring to Kriya Yoga when he wrote "Kriya Yoga consists of body discipline, mental control, and meditating on Aum." And again when he says,"Liberation can be accomplished by that pranayama which is attained by disjoining the course of inspiration and expiration."

Yogananda also wrote (see Sri Yukteswar Giri in The Holy Science) that Arjuna, Adi Shankara, Jesus, Paul of Tarsus, John the Evangelist and Kabir had been initiated into Kriya Yoga (or similar techniques).

Recent history
According to Yogananda, Kriya Yoga was well-known in ancient India, but was eventually lost, due to "priestly secrecy and man’s indifference." The story of Lahiri Mahasaya receiving initiation into Kriya Yoga by the immortal yogi Mahavatar Babaji in 1861 is recounted in Autobiography of a Yogi.[6] At that meeting, Yogananda wrote that Mahavatar Babaji told Lahiri Mahasaya, "The Kriya Yoga that I am giving to the world through you in this nineteenth century, is a revival of the same science that Krishna gave milleniums ago to Arjuna; and was later known to Patanjali and Christ."

Through Lahiri Mahasaya, Kriya Yoga soon spread throughout India. Yogananda, a disciple of Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri who was himself a disciple of Lahiri Mahasaya, then brought Kriya Yoga to the United States and Europe during the 20th century. Since that time it has spread throughout the world through various Guru lineages, most of which claim descent from Lahiri Mahasaya.
Lahiri Mahasaya's most well-known disciples were Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri, Sri Panchanon Bhattacharya, Swami Pranabananda, Swami Kebalananda, Swami Keshabananda, and Bhupendranath Sanyal (Sanyal Mahasaya).

Kriya Yoga lineages

There are numerous organizations and teachers that present themselves as teaching the Kriya Yoga that Lahiri Mahasaya brought to the world. Following are some of them, arranged by the Guru lineage from which they descended.

That trace their source to Lahiri Mahasaya, through various branches
Aryya Mission Institution, founded by Panchanon Bhattacharya, disciple of Lahiri Mahasaya.
Kriya Yoga Institute, founded by Paramahamsa Hariharananda, a direct disciple of Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri.
Kriya Yoga Foundation (various practice groups in most European countries, Russia and India), founded by Swami Shankarananda Giri, a direct disciple of Swami Narayana Giri (Prabhujee) who in turn was one of the closest disciples of Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri.
The filial lineage of Lahiri Mahasaya continues in the person of Shibendu Lahiri, the great-grandson of Lahiri Mahasaya.
Yogacharya Dr.Ashoke Kumar Chatterjee is a disciple of Satya Charan Lahiri Mahasaya, grandson of Lahiri Mahasaya.
Sri Shailendra Sharma is a disciple of Shree Satya Charan Lahiri Mahasaya, one of the grandsons of Lahiri Mahasaya.
Yogi Prakash Shankar Vyas is a disciple of Satya Charan Lahiri Mahasaya, grandson of Lahiri Mahasaya.
Swami Satyeswarananda Giri is a disciple of Swami Satyananda Giri, a direct disciple of Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri.
Hariharananda Mission West, founded by Swami Sarveshwarananda Giri, a direct disciple of Paramahamsa Hariharananda.
Kriyayoga Research Institute founded by Swami Shree Yogi Satyam.

That trace their source to Lahiri Mahasaya through Paramahansa Yogananda
Self-Realization Fellowship, founded by Paramahansa Yogananda.
Yogoda Satsanga Society of India founded by Paramahansa Yogananda
Ananda, founded by Swami Kriyananda, a direct disciple of Paramahansa Yogananda.
Center for Spiritual Awareness, founded by Roy Eugene Davis, a direct disciple of Paramahansa Yogananda.
Self-Revelation Church of Absolute Monism, founded by Swami Premananda, a direct disciple of Paramahansa Yogananda.
Cross and Lotus organization, founded by Yogacharya Mildred Hamilton, a direct disciple of Paramahansa Yogananda.
Song of the Morning Retreat Center, Founded by Yogacharya Oliver Black, a direct disciple of Yogananda.
Temple of Kriya Yoga, founded by Goswami Kriyananda, Disciple of Shri Shelliji, direct Disciple of Yogananda.
Center for Spiritual Enlightenment, founded by Rev. Ellen Grace O'Brian, a direct disciple of Roy Eugene Davis.

Samadhi (poem)

Paramahansa Yogananda's poem Samadhi is one of the most vivid and poetic descriptions of the superconscious samadhi state achieved by advanced yogis. The following version is from the first edition (1946) of Yogananda's Autobiography of a Yogi.

Vanished the veils of light and shade,
Lifted every vapor of sorrow,
Sailed away all dawns of fleeting joy,
Gone the dim sensory mirage.
Love, hate, health, disease, life, death,
Perished these false shadows on the screen of duality.
Waves of laughter, scyllas of sarcasm, melancholic whirlpools,
Melting in the vast sea of bliss.
The storm of maya stilled
By magic wand of intuition deep.
The universe, forgotten dream, subconsciously lurks,
Ready to invade my newly-wakened memory divine.
I live without the cosmic shadow,
But it is not, bereft of me;
As the sea exists without the waves,
But they breathe not without the sea.
Dreams, wakings, states of deep turia sleep,
Present, past, future, no more for me,
But ever-present, all-flowing I, I, everywhere.
Planets, stars, stardust, earth,
Volcanic bursts of doomsday cataclysms,
Creation’s molding furnace,
Glaciers of silent x-rays, burning electron floods,
Thoughts of all men, past, present, to come,
Every blade of grass, myself, mankind,
Each particle of universal dust,
Anger, greed, good, bad, salvation, lust,
I swallowed, transmuted all
Into a vast ocean of blood of my own one Being!
Smoldering joy, oft-puffed by meditation
Blinding my tearful eyes,
Burst into immortal flames of bliss,
Consumed my tears, my frame, my all.
Thou art I, I am Thou,
Knowing, Knower, Known, as One!
Tranquilled, unbroken thrill, eternally living, ever-new peace!
Enjoyable beyond imagination of expectancy, samadhi bliss!
Not an unconscious state
Or mental chloroform without wilful return,
Samadhi but extends my conscious realm
Beyond limits of the mortal frame
To farthest boundary of eternity
Where I, the Cosmic Sea,
Watch the little ego floating in Me.
The sparrow, each grain of sand, fall not without My sight.
All space floats like an iceberg in My mental sea.
Colossal Container, I, of all things made.
By deeper, longer, thirsty, guru-given meditation
Comes this celestial samadhi.
Mobile murmurs of atoms are heard,
The dark earth, mountains, vales, lo! molten liquid!
Flowing seas change into vapors of nebulae!
Aum blows upon vapors, opening wondrously their veils,
Oceans stand revealed, shining electrons,
Till, at last sound of the cosmic drum,
Vanish the grosser lights into eternal rays
Of all-pervading bliss.
From joy I came, for joy I live, in sacred joy I melt.
Ocean of mind, I drink all creation’s waves.
Four veils of solid, liquid, vapor, light,
Lift aright.
Myself, in everything, enters the Great Myself.
Gone forever, fitful, flickering shadows of mortal memory.
Spotless is my mental sky, below, ahead, and high above.
Eternity and I, one united ray.
A tiny bubble of laughter, I
Am become the Sea of Mirth Itself.

Samadhi, by Paramhansa Yogananda

Autobiography of a Yogi

In 1946, Paramahansa Yogananda (January 5, 1893 – March 7, 1952), published his life story, Autobiography of a Yogi, which was instrumental in introducing the ancient science of yoga and meditation to the West.

It has since been translated into eighteen languages and remains a bestseller. It includes Yogananda's and Sri Yukteswar's explanations of various verses and events of the Bible, such as the Garden of Eden story. Further, it provides descriptions of Yogananda's encounters with leading spiritual figures such as Therese Neumann, the Hindu saint Sri Anandamoyi Ma, Mohandas Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore, Nobel Prize winning physicist Sir C. V. Raman, and noted American plant scientist Luther Burbank, to whom it is dedicated.

Amelita Galli-Curci, one of the most famous opera singers of the early twentieth century, said about the book:
"Amazing, true stories of saints and masters of India, blended with priceless superphysical information–much needed to balance the Western material efficiency with Eastern spiritual efficiency–come from the vigorous pen of Paramhansa Yogananda, whose teachings my husband and myself have had the pleasure of studying for twenty years."

Some of Yogananda's followers have made claims of his bodily incorruptibility. As reported in Time Magazine on August 4, 1952, Harry T. Rowe, Los Angeles Mortuary Director of the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California where he is interred, stated in a notarized letter:

The absence of any visual signs of decay in the dead body of Paramahansa Yogananda offers the most extraordinary case in our experience.... No physical disintegration was visible in his body even twenty days after death.... No indication of mold was visible on his skin, and no visible drying up took place in the bodily tissues. This state of perfect preservation of a body is, so far as we know from mortuary annals, an unparalleled one.... No odor of decay emanated from his body at any time....


Paramahansa Yogananda as depicted on the cover of Autobiography of a YogiAutobiography of a Yogi is still the most well known and widely distributed of all of Yogananda’s writings. Its impact on the West regarding Western conceptions of Yoga and understanding of the religious heritage of India is considerable. It has been adopted for course use in numerous colleges and universities. In 1999, it was designated one of the "100 Most Important Spiritual Books of the 20th Century" by a panel of theologians and luminaries convened by HarperCollins publishers.

One of the notable aspects of Yogananda’s life story is how young he was at the time he met many of India’s greatest sages. The book Mejda: The Family and Early Life of Paramahansa Yogananda, written by his younger brother Sananda Lal Ghosh, sheds much light on the depth of his spiritual attainment well before his graduation from high school and his training with his guru, Sri Yukteswar.

Yogananda takes the reader on a personal journey most would have thought to be possible only in India's ancient past. An authoritative text on the spiritual science of yoga (not merely the Hatha Yoga postures so familiar in the West), the book is not so much a year by year chronicle of Yogananda's life, as it is a tribute to Yoga, India and all of the saints who had a profound influence on his life.

The story of Yogananda's relationship to his Guru, Sri Yukteswar, is the most compelling story in the book. The importance of the guru-disciple relationship is a thread that runs throughout the book. The chapter "Years in My Master's Hermitage" is the longest in the book. The importance that Yogananda gave to that relationship is made clear by the very first paragraph of his autobiography:

The characteristic features of Indian culture have long been a search for ultimate verities and the concomitant disciple-guru relationship. My own path led me to a Christlike sage whose beautiful life was chiseled for the ages. He was one of the great masters who are India’s sole remaining wealth. Emerging in every generation, they have bulwarked their land against the fate of Babylon and Egypt.

Spiritual quest begins in childhood

Yogananda at age six, from Autobiography of a YogiYogananda writes openly about his intense desire, even in childhood, to know what lay behind all the experiences of life and death. As a child he asked, "What is behind the darkness of closed eyes?" The death of his Mother when he was 11, to whom he was deeply devoted, greatly intensified his personal search for God. He states "I loved Mother as my dearest friend on earth. Her solacing black eyes had been my refuge in the trifling tragedies of childhood." Later Yogananda states that in a spiritual vision God, in the aspect of Divine Mother, told him, "It is I who have watched over thee, life after life, in the tenderness of many mothers. See in My gaze the two black eyes, the lost beautiful eyes, thou seekest!"

While still a student in high school, Yogananda longed to dedicate his life to God. With three friends he attempted to run away from home and find his long sought guru amid the Himalayan mountains. But it was not until after his graduation from high school, which he had promised his father he would finish, that Yogananda was to meet the great sage Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri.

Spiritual lineage and influences

Before the age of 17 when Yogananda finally met his guru, Sri Yukteswar, one person stands out as having a profound influence on his early life. That was Lahiri Mahasaya of Varanasi. Lahiri Mahasaya was the guru of Yogananda's parents and also the guru of Sri Yukteswar, Yogananda's Guru. As early as the first chapter we learn that at around the age of 8, Yogananda was instantly healed of cholera after his Mother's insistence that he pray to Lahiri Mahasaya. Beginning with chapter 31 of his autobiography, Yogananda spends the next five chapters interweaving the life of Lahiri Mahasaya with that of Lahiri Mahasaya's guru, Mahavatar Babaji. Using the stories and biographical facts collected on his return trip to India in 1935 from various disciples of Lahiri Mahasaya (including the wife of Lahiri Mahasaya) as well as Yogananda's own personal testimony, he pays tribute to the three individuals whose lives and collective influence became inseparable from his own life and teachings: Mahavatar Babaji, his chief disciple Lahiri Mahasaya, and his own guru Sri Yukteswar.

The guru-disciple relationship

Sri Yukteswar, from Autobiography of a YogiYogananda's lifelong search for his Guru ended when he met Swami Sri Yukteswar. Even though Yogananda described many saints and miracle workers in his book, his relationship with Sri Yukteswar was unique. Yogananda spent several years being trained by Sri Yukteswar for the ultimate mission of spreading the science of yoga to the west. The profound wisdom of Sri Yukteswar, and the many spiritual lessons that Yogananda learned at his Guru's feet are described in the chapter Years in My Master's Hermitage. His Guru also bestowed on Yogananda the experience of samadhi, the ultimate goal of the yogi, as described in the chapter My Experience in Cosmic Consciousness.

The most poignant moment in the book occurs when Yogananda meets Sri Yukteswar for the first time. His words describe the importance of this relationship, and the eternal bond between Guru and disciple:

Retracing my steps as though wing-shod, I reached the narrow lane. My quick glance revealed the quiet figure, steadily gazing in my direction. A few eager steps and I was at his feet.

“Gurudeva!” The divine face was none other than he of my thousand visions. These halcyon eyes, in leonine head with pointed beard and flowing locks, had oft peered through gloom of my nocturnal reveries, holding a promise I had not fully understood.

“O my own, you have come to me!” My guru uttered the words again and again in Bengali, his voice tremulous with joy. “How many years I have waited for you!”

We entered a oneness of silence; words seemed the rankest superfluities. Eloquence flowed in soundless chant from heart of master to disciple. With an antenna of irrefragable insight I sensed that my guru knew God, and would lead me to Him. The obscuration of this life disappeared in a fragile dawn of prenatal memories. Dramatic time! Past, present, and future are its cycling scenes. This was not the first sun to find me at these holy feet!

Sri Yukteswar and YoganandaYogananda then spent the better part of ten years under his guru's strict discipline. Excerpts from Chapter 12: Years in My Master's Hermitage:

Discipline had not been unknown to me: at home Father was strict, Ananta often severe. But Sri Yukteswar’s training cannot be described as other than drastic. A perfectionist, my guru was hypercritical of his disciples, whether in matters of moment or in the subtle nuances of behavior.

“If you don’t like my words, you are at liberty to leave at any time,” Master assured me. “I want nothing from you but your own improvement. Stay only if you feel benefited.”

“I am hard on those who come for my training,” he admitted to me. “That is my way; take it or leave it. I will never compromise. But you will be much kinder to your disciples; that is your way. I try to purify only in the fires of severity, searing beyond the average toleration. The gentle approach of love is also transfiguring. The inflexible and the yielding methods are equally effective if applied with wisdom. You will go to foreign lands, where blunt assaults on the ego are not appreciated. A teacher could not spread India’s message in the West without an ample fund of accommodative patience and forbearance.” I refuse to state the amount of truth I later came to find in Master’s words!

In Master’s life I fully discovered the cleavage between spiritual realism and the obscure mysticism that spuriously passes as a counterpart. My guru was reluctant to discuss the superphysical realms. His only “marvelous” aura was one of perfect simplicity. In conversation he avoided startling references; in action he was freely expressive. Others talked of miracles but could manifest nothing; Sri Yukteswar seldom mentioned the subtle laws but secretly operated them at will.

The science of Kriya Yoga

Kriya Yoga is a specific technique of meditation that is referred to throughout Yogananda's autobiography. Yogananda writes in Chapter 26: "Kriya is an ancient science. Lahiri Mahasaya received it from his great guru, Babaji, who rediscovered and clarified the technique after it had been lost in the Dark Ages." In Chapter 4 Lahiri Mahasaya is quoted in regards to Kriya saying, "This technique cannot be bound, filed, and forgotten, in the manner of theoretical inspirations. Continue ceaselessly on your path to liberation through Kriya, whose power lies in practice."

Yogananda goes on to say in Chapter 26:
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.”

God, miracles, religion and science

The miraculous events recounted in his autobiography comprise a body of work unprecedented in Western literature. Some twenty chapters of Yogananda's autobiography are expressly written about one or more miracles. Chapter thirty entitled "The Law of Miracles" attempts to explain a "rational" understanding of the miraculous powers of saints, and the eternal relationship between God, human life, religion and science.

Referring to the natural fascination with miracles, and those who possess miraculous power, Yogananda at the end of chapter 35 quotes Lahiri Mahasaya:

In reference to miracles, Lahiri Mahasaya often said, “The operation of subtle laws which are unknown to people in general should not be publicly discussed or published without due discrimination.” If in these pages I have appeared to flout his cautionary words, it is because he has given me an inward reassurance. Also, in recording the lives of Babaji, Lahiri Mahasaya, and Sri Yukteswar, I have thought it advisable to omit many true miraculous stories, which could hardly have been included without writing, also, an explanatory volume of abstruse philosophy.

Founding a school & going to America

Yogananda attending religious congress in 1920, upon arrival in America, from Autobiography of a YogiIn 1915 Yogananda became a monk of the Giri branch of the swami order. In 1917 heeding the counsel of his guru, "Remember that he who rejects the usual worldly duties can justify himself only by assuming some kind of responsibility for a much larger family", Yogananda founded a boys' school in Dihika with just seven children, that was moved to Ranchi in 1918. About education he said,

"The ideal of right education for youth had always been very close to my heart. I saw clearly the arid results of ordinary instruction, aimed at the development of body and intellect only."

In chapter 37 "I Go to America", Yogananda describes a vision that occurred in which he realized "the Lord is calling me to America." He quickly assembled the faculty of the school and gave them the news that he was going to America. Within a few hours he was on a train to Calcutta.

"Tears stood in my eyes as I cast a last look at the little boys and the sunny acres of Ranchi. A definite epoch in my life had now closed, I knew; henceforth I would dwell in far lands."

When an invitation to serve as the delegate from India to a religious conference being held in Boston suddenly arrived, Yogananda sought out his guru to ask if he should go. His reply was simply, "All doors are open for you. It is now or never." Yogananda received financing for the trip from his father who said "I give you this money not in my role as a father but as a faithful disciple of Lahiri Mahasaya. Go then to that far Western land; spread there the creedless teachings of Kriya Yoga."

Yogananda was 27 years old when he left India on The City of Sparta, which docked near Boston on October 6th 1920. It was the first passenger boat to America after the close of World War I. He continued to live in the United States until briefly returning to India during a year long trip through Europe and the Holy Land in 1935-1936.

Changes to Autobiography of a Yogi over the years

Three editions of Autobiography of a Yogi were published during Yogananda's lifetime: two in 1946, and one in 1951. The later editions, beginning in 1956, four years after Yogananda died, are a point of contention. The controversy has arisen over two issues: Yogananda's signature was changed in the 1958 edition, and there were thousands of editorial changes made between 1951 and 1958. There are two prevailing views regarding the changes. The publisher, Self-Realization Fellowship, claims that Yogananda authorized the changes. Others point out that there is no written record that Yogananda approved the changes.

Self-Realization Fellowship's view

According to "Author's Revisions and Wishes for Later Editions of Autobiography of a Yogi" available at the Self Realization Fellowship website honoring the 60th year of the books publication:

"Three editions of Paramahansaji's autobiography appeared during his lifetime. In the third edition, published in 1951, he made significant changes-revising the text thoroughly, deleting material, amplifying various points, and adding a new final chapter, "The Years 1940-1951" (one of the longest in the book).Some further revisions made by him after the third edition could not be incorporated until the publication of the seventh edition, which was released in 1956."

Additionally, the following Publisher's Note was printed in the seventh edition:
"This 1956 American edition contains revisions made by Paramahansa Yogananda in 1949 for the London, England, edition; and additional revisions made by the author in 1951. In a 'Note to the London Edition,' dated October 25, 1949, Paramahansa Yogananda wrote":

"'The arrangement for a London edition of this book has given me an opportunity to revise, and slightly to enlarge, the text. Besides new material in the last chapter, I have added a number of footnotes in which I have answered questions sent me by readers of the American edition."

Also from the same Publisher's note:
"Later revisions, made by the author in 1951, were intended to appear in the fourth (1952) American edition. At that time the rights in Autobiography of a Yogi were vested in a New York publishing house. In 1946 in New York each page of the book had been made into an electrotype plate. Consequently, to add even a comma requires that the metal plate of an entire page be cut apart and resoldered with a new line containing the desired comma. Because of the expense involved in resoldering many plates, the New York publisher did not include in the fourth edition the author’s 1951 revisions."

"In late 1953 Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) bought from the New York publisher all rights in Autobiography of a Yogi. SRF reprinted the book in 1954 and 1955 (fifth and sixth editions); but during those two years other duties prevented the SRF editorial department from undertaking the formidable task of incorporating the author's revisions on the electrotype plates. The work, however, has been accomplished in time for the seventh edition."

Critical View of Changes

Some of the changes made over the years include: significant edits to Yogananda's poem Samadhi, the removal of two poems ("God, God, God," and "The Soundless Roar"), the addition of numerous footnotes, and the editing of countless passages, including direct quotes. Yogananda wrote a note announcing his editing changes for the 1951 edition, the last published during his lifetime. There was no note from Yogananda in later editions to confirm that he wanted changes made to his Autobiography after his death.

A representative sample of changes made in Autobiography of a Yogi between the 1951 and post-1956 editions 1951 Edition (the last edition edited by Yogananda) Editions after 1956:

"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." "Because of certain ancient yogic injunctions, I may not give a full explanation of Kriya Yoga in a book intended for the general public. The actual technique should be learned from an authorized Kriyaban (Kriya Yogi) of Self-Realization Fellowship (Yogoda Satsanga Society of India). Here a broad reference must suffice."

In response to the question 'which is greater, a swami or a yogi?':
"To fulfill one's earthly responsibilities is indeed the higher path, provided the yogi, maintaining a mental uninvolvement with egotistical desires, plays his part as a willing instrument of God." "Fulfilling one's earthly responsibilities need not separate man from God, providing he maintains mental uninvolvement with egotistical desires and plays his part in life as a willing instrument of the Divine."

"An urgent need on this war-torn earth is the founding, on a spiritual basis, of numerous world-brotherhood colonies." (This passage was deleted entirely)

"...Sri Yukteswar bestowed on me the further monastic title of Paramhansa." "...Sri Yukteswar bestowed on me the further monastic title of Paramahansa."

Among the many changes made long after Yogananda's death were significant editing changes to his poem Samadhi. Yogananda told people that he originally wrote the poem while in the superconscious samadhi state. The original unedited poem can be read at Wikisource. Fourteen lines were removed for the 1956 edition, including the significant lines:

"By deeper, longer, thirsty, guru-given meditation
Comes this celestial samadhi."

Change in the spelling of 'Paramahansa'

The change in spelling of Yogananda's title from 'Paramhansa' to 'Paramahansa', with the insertion of an extra 'a' is the subject of controversy. During his lifetime, Yogananda always signed his name with the spelling 'Paramhansa', without the extra 'a'. That was the title and spelling as it was given to him by his Guru, Sri Yukteswar, in 1936. In the 1959 edition of the Autobiography of a Yogi, seven years after Yogananda died, the publishers altered the signature by copying and pasting an extra 'a' from a different part of the signature.

In Indian tradition, both spellings are widely used. This is common with Sanskrit words that have been transliterated into the more restricted Roman alphabet. In this case, opponents of the extra 'a' point out that the 'a' is not pronounced when 'Paramahansa' is spoken, and therefore 'Paramhansa' is the proper spelling. Proponents claim that the missing 'a' changes the meaning of the word. However, Sanskrit has a number of Romanization schemes, which is why there is wide acceptance of both spellings, along with yet another version, 'Paramahamsa', with an 'm' rather than 'n' near the end of the word.

Putting aside the issue of scholarship, the spelling in current editions published by Self-Realization Fellowship is not the version used by Yogananda himself. Nor is it the version given to him by his Guru, Sri Yukteswar, who was conversant in Sanskrit (his book, The Holy Science, includes English translations of Sanskrit slokas).

Editions Currently Available

There are three versions of Autobiography of a Yogi recently published.

1. The version published by Self-Realization Fellowship. ISBN 0-87612-079-6

2. A reprint of the first edition published by Crystal Clarity Publishers in the late '90's. ISBN 1-56589-212-7

3. An additional version published by Crystal Clarity in 2005 that includes the extra chapter added by Yogananda in 1951.
ISBN 1-56589-734-X

Chapter listing
(As titled in the 1997 Anniversary Edition)

1. My Parents and Early Life
2. My Mother's Death and the Mystic Amulet
3. The Saint with Two Bodies (Swami Pranabananda)
4. My Interrupted Flight Toward the Himalayas
5. A "Perfume Saint" Displays His Wonders
6. The Tiger Swami
7. The Levitating Saint (Nagendra Nath Bhaduri)
8. India's Great Scientist, J. C. Bose
9. The Blissful Devotee and his Cosmic Romance (Master Mahasaya)
10. I Meet my Master, Sri Yukteswar
11. Two Penniless Boys in Brindaban
12. Years in my Master's Hermitage
13. The Sleepless Saint (Ram Gopal Muzumdar)
14. An Experience in Cosmic Consciousness
15. The Cauliflower Robbery
16. Outwitting the Stars
17. Sasi and the Three Sapphires
18. A Mohammedan Wonder-Worker (Afzal Khan)
19. My Master, in Calcutta, Appears in Serampore
20. We Do Not Visit Kashmir
21. We Visit Kashmir
22. The Heart of a Stone Image
23. I Receive My University Degree
24. I Become a Monk of the Swami Order
25. Brother Ananta and Sister Nalini
26. The Science of Kriya Yoga
27. Founding a Yoga School in Ranchi
28. Kashi, Reborn and Discovered
29. Rabindranath Tagore and I Compare Schools
30. The Law of Miracles
31. An Interview with the Sacred Mother (Kashi Moni Lahiri)
32. Rama is Raised from the Dead
33. Babaji, Yogi-Christ of Modern India
34. Materializing a Palace in the Himalayas
35. The Christlike Life of Lahiri Mahasaya
36. Babaji's Interest in the West
37. I Go to America
38. Luther Burbank – A Saint Amid the Roses
39. Therese Neumann, the Catholic Stigmatist
40. I Return to India
41. An Idyl in South India
42. Last Days With My Guru
43. The Resurrection of Sri Yukteswar
44. With Mahatma Gandhi at Wardha
45. The Bengali "Joy-Permeated Mother" (Ananda Moyi Ma)
46. The Woman Yogi Who Never Eats (Giri Bala)
47. I Return to the West
48. At Encinitas in California
49. The Years 1940-1951