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I just finished Autobiography of a Yogi.  It's my first real re-read since I was a young man, probably when I was 20, when I first encountered that very trademark orange spined thick little book.  So pretty much on two decades ago.  A lot has happened since then!

When I read it originally (and even as a I read it now), I am struck by how much it speaks to a mythology.  One rooted in Indian Traditions and Culture; the notions of family, devotion, and tutelege.  All informed by the British Influence of course!  That is ubiquitous.  The language of the writer is thoroughly infused by decorum, and the cultured means of articulation.  

But when I say it is a mythology, I mean that not only does it come from a different culture, with different traditions, specialised lingo, and religious practices, but it also comes from a different period in History: that of the first half of the 20th century, although the tail end of Yogananda's life passed World War 2 as well.

But in truth, as modern beings, the world took on a new 'face' after that worldwide conflict.  Ra themselves said that the first real concrete expressions ("first harbingers") of the increasing 4d photon started appearing in 1936 or so.  Times of change indeed!

But post world war 2, it was a different reality.  Monarchies finally tumbled in many many countries; the power base shifted from Britain and the Crown to the Americas ("capitalists") vs the Russians ("communists").  China became as we know of it today, India gained it's independence, at the same time as Pakistan splitting off as it's own sovereign nation, whereas Muslims and Hindus had co-existed throughout the lands for so long previous.

It's a different world indeed; and Yogananda lived in that time before television became popularised (he died in 1952).

And yet - I can still appreciate this book of his as a spiritual classic.  The man definitely met a gazillion people during his travels, and spread the roots of awakening in America.  His book can be found on bookshelves in a vast number of places.  Along with such keystone landmarks in popularisation as Linda Goodman's Sun Signs, Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and mind-benders like Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time.  This was a period when 'bestsellers' really were 'bestsellers': it became part of the cultural lexicon, because so many millions of people had saturated themselves in a common narrative and experience.

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And so it is with this book.  70 years after it's first publication, it is still impressing minds, and challenging what is 'possible'.

And that's very much how I've regarded this book: a challenge to the notions of how one conceives of one's reality.  Where the boundaries are, what are the limits of consciousness and energy.  

And it should very much be taken as a challenge, and not a doctrine.  The autobiography is exactly that: a claimed earnest narrative.  But it cannot in any way be accepted as proof; either for oneself, or for another.  All that the book is is a collection of concepts spun out as a narrative of intersecting lives.  It becomes 're-enlivened' through each individual's reading.  And shapes (ie challenges) their existing conceptual structures.

How much of this is really possible, in other words?

I've done this re-read over about 3-4 weeks; quite leisurely at my pace.  Maybe ten pages, a good twenty while waiting for an evening meal.  Enjoyed the pacing and the development.

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And then we have the mysterious 'Kriya Yoga' which informs Yogananda's training and mission.  He taught it to many many people that he met.  He even initiated Gandhi.  He spread it to the lay folk, after having it passed down from Lahiri Mayasaya, to his student, Sri Yukeswar, who in turn was the teacher of Yogananda.  

But Kriya Yoga spread in many ways: both in the east, and the west.

It's not something that I practice myself, or have been initiated into.  

I don't really have a clear sense of what it is; despite it running like a thread throughout this Book; having informed his life and purpose (his message to the world).

But I'm truly overjoyed if it works, and is efficacious on a deep level.  I'm a big believer in some sort of applied discipline to help direct and sharpen the mind/body, so that the work of the spirit may more easily inform one's conscious experience.

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So all in all, I have to say that this book holds up as a spiritual catalyst.  It goes to so many places (geographically, as well as the inner emotional landscape), it has a crisp transparent style that doesn't get bogged down, yet offers a lot of bang-for-the-buck in each sentence and paragraph.  The chapters are easily assimilated, and it covers the whole gamut of spiritual endeavour: from training, through youthful pigheadedness, through the meeting of one's teachers.

Yogananda, it seems, never worked a day in his life; not in the way that we consider work as drudgery, being in a set place for a fixed number of hours for a wage.  He spent (it seems), a lifetime meeting the most interesting people on this planet, teaching, lecturing, and personally initiating folks into Kriya Yoga, founded schools and other endeavours.  

It's just such a wondrous lifestyle - almost unimaginably foreign to someone like myself who lives in a world where we don't even need to speak face-to-face (like we are here), but can conduct our interactions almost like strangers.  

That said: that world in which he lived was a most limited one; and one in which the precious few who had opportunities, had them magnified a gazillion fold.  I tend to hold the view that things are so much more egalitarian now; even though, of course, there are many counter-instances of ongoing abuse and disrespect in this world: many, many such counter-examples.

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anyway --- those are just some thoughts that surfaced after having had this Experience!
Very much what my thoughts are too about this book and how lovely a life he had too... Wink

What I really like in fact today is reading some of his lectures, or essays, which are about three to five page about one subject in particular. I always come out with a feeling of very simple inner peace when I finish one subject. I had about six years ago an initiation at a small local meditation center. I fear, in my case, initiation is too big a word, it just felt a simple way to prepare to meditate, but it was lovely anyway, I am sure I am not the strong adept of Kriya as many others may be... lol because I just viewed it as something natural.

My main thing is that I love Earth, i feel Earth is a soul with this incredible love so there is something of that in Yogananda which I am very attracted to.
Thanks for the thoughts, Plenum. I recently read this for the first time a few months ago. I did enjoy it thoroughly, though must admit I found myself a bit confused about why exactly it has become such a massive spiritual influence. It's said that this book is what led John Lennon on his path of spirituality, and that Steve Jobs would give it to people.

The parts I found most inspiring were the parts where meditation and spirituality were spoken of in a direct sense, which was not very often. Another aspect I found compelling was the cultural insight that you highlighted. The concept of Indian spirituality is rather foreign to my own path. It was great to read about this man who, from boyhood, was introduced to deep concepts of yoga and spirituality and always had a burning flame for seeking. Then the concept of gurus and masters, clandestine techniques and truths passed from teacher to student - it gave me insight into a type of spirituality that I hadn't appreciated previously.

The book as a whole is a good story and a compelling read. He's a great writer. But I did have some quibbles - particularly the heavy emphasis on miraculous events and, as you pointed out, Kriya Yoga. It felt as though he was using his first-hand accounts with paranormal phenomenon to justify the spiritual path. I didn't understand exactly why he would recount in such detail these sorts of abilities and experiences which seemed to have little influence on his own spirituality. Certainly some of them did, but it seemed to be a constant focus, where each leg of the journey of his life was built around some miraculous or paranormal ability he witnesses (especially in the early parts of his life).

And I'm interested in Kriya Yoga, but for being such a central theme in the book, it seems unnecessarily veiled. Just a little bit more about what exactly it is and why exactly it works (and works so much better than basically any other spiritual system, according to him).

But they are relatively minor quibbles with what I thought was an all-around enjoyable and inspirational book. I walked away from it feeling I had grown my concept of spirituality and the Creator and gained an appreciation for a different flavor of spirituality than I had previously been exposed to.
It is one of my favorite books; reading it brought me great joy.  I can certainly see why it has had great impact, and think we should urge all people to read it.

I think chapter 43 of that book is one of the greatest and most revelatory works of the modern age.