70th Anniversary Stories

The year was 1979. I was living in Israel and had just begun meditating (Transcendental Meditation) and a fellow TM meditator and friend lent me Autobiography of a Yogi that had been lent to her by a teacher of the Transcendental Meditation technique. 

I put it away for a few months and, at the beginning of November of 1979, I went on a weekend TM meditation retreat. Shortly after I got back from the retreat I started reading the book. I was shaken to the very core of my being and at various places in the book …found myself…sobbing uncontrollably. I was not only absolutely convinced that every single word in this book was true but that it was “bringing to my remembrance” truths that I had once known but long forgotten.  – Nathen G.

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This book should rank in the very highest strata of world literature. If anyone has the slightest interest in what the possibilities for human achievement and fulfillment are this is a handbook and a catalogue for such a one. And witnessing up close what one man’s very rich experience was in capturing the essence and completeness of life is at the same time educational, fascinating, humorous, uplifting, inspirational and enlightening. It was all of these things to me. It set my feet firmly on a path to finding out about myself and the universe. I cannot recommend Autobiography of a Yogi highly enough. Go get it. It is a classic. – Lowry C.

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I have read Autobiography of A Yogi three times and found it the most inspirational book I have ever read. The insights, knowledge and wisdom contained in the book are enlightening and allow the reader to truly understand the meaning of our lives, and I recommend the book to anyone who has an interest in learning about what it is possible to achieve through meditation. Timeless and Brilliant.  ‒ Anthony A.

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In 1968 I was experimenting with psychedelic drugs and trying to find an answer to what life was really all about. A friend had the Autobiography on a shelf and I saw Gurudeva’s picture. I had an immediate sensation of recognition and took the book and read it. That ended the cycles of psychedelic ups and downs. I took the lessons and I have been meditating daily since then. I do not think I could have gotten through my life (I am now 75 and healthy and alert) and enjoyed the successes and love I have found without daily meditation and the constant living presence of our guru. I took Kriya initiation about 20 years ago and practice my Kriya daily. Thank God and Guru for sticking with me and being a constant presence in my life for almost 50 years.  – Steven W.

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I read Autobiography of a Yogi about 20 years ago, having somehow not heard of it beforehand. At the time as I read further into the book, I would feel a great sense of peace coming over me simply by reading the words. This sensation continued up through the final pages. I believe the book is “vibrationalized,” for the reader who is open to receive. – Jude A. 

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Yes I have read and REREAD Autobiography of a Yogi and have given the book to many people from all walks of life! I tell them it is the best book you will ever read. It Changed My Life! I have always been a person of deep faith and love of meditation (Catholic) and the love and mystical gifts of our dear Yogananda transcends people of all walks, beliefs, stages in life. – Suzy G.

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The Autobiography of a Yogi changed my life. It took three readings over the course of 20 years, however, for me to become ready to be initiated into Kriya Yoga, the meditation regime that Paramahansa Yogananda taught. Kriya Yoga has changed my life in so many ways: strengthened my faith, brought me tranquility and humility and made me hopeful. I am utterly grateful to this great Guru and the whole line of Kriya masters. – Estalyn W.

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For the past 47 years, the Autobiography of a Yogi has been a rich source of inspiration for me. I must have read it about 50 times and never seem to have enough of it as I continue to read it and discover new treasures scattered on every page. Over the years, I have collected many editions and gave away many copies of the Autobiography to interested individuals. – Mike M.

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Someone I had never met before gave me a copy of the Autobiography, which I read with enthusiasm for the richness of the story and have read again and refer to often. It really ‘Awoke’ me to a higher level of consciousness that I had never experienced before and will be ever grateful for! – Christopher L.

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For many years, before reading the Autobiography, I had asked myself many questions related to spirituality without finding the answers. I also questioned many priests most of whom had eagerly attempted to answer my questions. Their answers led to more pressing questions. I have a scientific mind and expected clear and rational answers. My numerous Q&A sessions with priests invariably ended with statements such as “You are asking too much” or “You have to believe.” I did not mind believing, but believing in what. I was back to square one, pining with my unanswered questions and eventually giving up hope that some day, someone would be able to provide coherent and convincing answers. That was until I read the Autobiography of a Yogi

The book answered clearly and systematically most of the questions I had and gave me clear directions to deal with the unanswered ones. It also answered many fundamental questions that I had never asked myself. The Autobiography, and all SRF literature alike, is imbued with coherence. Most important of all to the scientific mind, the reader in not enjoined to believe blindly what s/he reads but is encouraged to test through various exercises and techniques the veracity of what is expounded. Reading the Autobiography brought great relief in my life and a newly found sense of purpose. My life clearly has a ‘before Autobiography of a Yogi’ period and one ‘after.’ – Guy-Marie. M.

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I grew up as a Lutheran Christian, but after I graduated from college in 1967 I spent 2 years in the Peace Corps which gave me a chance to get away from my own culture for awhile. I heard about yoga and when I came back to the USA I wanted to find out more about it. I searched the library for books on yoga and came across the Autobiography of a Yogi, and I thought, “What better way to learn about yoga than through a yogi.” Little did I suspect then that it would be a major turning point in my life. My thought was "Wow, this man towers way above any professor or pastor I ever heard speak or read the writing of.” I immediately had to read the book again because it was just too much to take in at once. Fortunately I lived in San Diego, which has [an SRF] temple I could attend and learn more, and I also signed up for the weekly Lessons right away. Paramahansaji has been my spiritual guide ever since, and I suspect that he has been my guide for a long time before I ever realized it. – Cliff M.

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When I was 20 years old, I rented my own apartment for the first time. I had shared space with housemates but had never had a place to myself. I took over a beautiful tiny apartment when a friend moved out. My days had been busy, and one afternoon when I found myself with nowhere I needed to go and nothing I needed to do, I suddenly realized that it had been quite a long time since I’d enjoyed sitting and reading a good book — one of my favorite activities, forgotten in the busyness of life. 

Although I knew I had no books of the reading-for-enjoyment variety, I walked through the apartment and looked around. The place was so small  that this was pretty much an instantaneous process. Also, having moved there so recently and being so happy to have my very own little domain, I had placed everything with care and knew where each thing was. So I was very surprised to see a paperback book, one I’d never seen anywhere before, on a shelf in plain sight. It was the Autobiography of a Yogi

I’m 72 now and have practiced Kriya for nearly 45 years. The little miracle of finding my guru’s book that day is a marker in my memory showing that my real life began in that quiet, unexpected moment, so long ago that I had no idea how much I would rely on and rejoice in the divine gift I had received, through the pageant and the challenge of the years. I have met many who, like me, are lifelong members of SRF, and also many who were guided to other paths but consider reading the Autobiography to have been the beginning of their spiritual lives. 

I should say, just to complete the story, that the person who lived in the apartment before me had never seen or heard of the book. – J. Lalah S.

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Living in Queens, New York in my late teens (circa early 1960’s) the book Autobiography of a Yogi was one of the first non-Christian teachings I ever read. While reading and loving the book, I kept saying “This can’t be true” but then I would add, “But I believe the person writing it is telling the truth. I just know he’s not making this up.” Finally I asked myself, “How can both of these statements be true?” Even today it still amazes me that I came to the conclusion that the author was telling the truth and that some of the important things I believed about the reality of the world were not true! When I finished the book, I turned to the first page and read it again. Of course, it changed my life, as after that experience, I began to read everything I could about ‘mystical’ philosophy and thought whether it contradicted western scientific thinking or not. Yogananda’s teaching opened my mind from its confined western thinking to the broader scope of unconfined truth. For me, there is no greater gift to receive. – Kay C.

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Which book would you bring to a desert island? Which book has had the most positive, life-changing impact on you? Which book can you never get tired of rereading? Which book should be the first on the shelves of a future library on Mars? Which book could you imagine being the only one taught from in schools? For me, the answer to all these questions is Paramahansa Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi. It satisfies every uncertainty that ever troubled my mind. It is simultaneously enlightening and comforting. It’s wise, mesmerizing, exciting, moving, funny, poetic, and soul-stirring. “Autobiography of a Yogi” is a true scripture – an encyclopedia on life, death and eternity. – Martin M.

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My friend gave me a copy of the Autobiography of a Yogi in 2008. It sat on my shelf for two years, untouched. In 2010 I felt an emptiness and a lack of drive, questioning the purpose of life. Standing in line a grocery store, I picked up a copy of YOGA magazine. In the back section, with all of the smaller ads, was an even smaller one offering a free Yoga course in Hawaii. I emailed the creator, curious about this retreat. He explained the premise and said that the only requirement for attendance was that I had to read the Autobiography of a Yogi and to write questions for each chapter. I picked the book up off my shelf and devoured it. It changed my perception of the world one page at a time and by the by the end of the book, while reading the chapter about “Encinitas”, I started to weep. I was living on Third Street in Encinitas at the time, about 100 feet from where Paramahansa Yogananda wrote this famed book. I felt like someone was reaching out to me with a warm, loving hug, telling me that everything was going to be OK and that I had found my path. I walked across the street, one block to the temple and have been going every since. This book helped me to find truth in this life, providing purpose and happiness that I had never known. – Kali. S.

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I read Autobiography of a Yogi in 1975 and my life changed forever. On the book cover, Yogananda’s eyes looked deeply into my soul. In turn I could see deeply into His. His eyes communicated Truth and Love like I’d never before experienced. His eyes were windows into a pool of Wisdom beyond time and place. For years, I sat and looked into those eyes. I do so still. Beyond the cover, the words on the pages spoke to my heart. I’d already stopped attending the Protestant church of my childhood because the literal words of the Bible no longer served me and the God who punished with unspeakable violence, the God of fear and retribution, was not my God. Still, I longed for my connection to Jesus, the man of love in action whose works and words inspired me. What to do? Where was my spiritual home? I was lost. Imagine my reaction, then, when this man from India, this Yogi, spoke lovingly of the Bible as a metaphor and who loved Jesus as a Master Teacher! Yogananda’s own teacher said, “Genesis [the first book of the Bible] is deeply symbolic and cannot be grasped by a literal interpretation.” Until I read these words, a literal interpretation was the only one I knew. Yogananda’s respect for the Bible alongside his respect for other sacred texts opened my eyes… -- Rev. Linda M.

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The Autobiography is fascinating treasure trove of information for any truth seeker. Every aspect of the spiritual life is addressed not directly but embedded in the stories within it. Unknown to the reader it awakens the Intuitive understanding of God’s Omnipresence, His unconditional love.…Forty years later it still draws me and my wife daily to leaf through and revisit to find some answer to some spiritual query raised by someone else or just for re-reflection! And so many copies have been passed on. It is a light that has not dimmed but shines on bright and true banishing the darkness in an otherwise daunting world! – Sreeram I.

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In 1972 I was a college student visiting an Indian friend in Ahmadabad. This friend took my husband, then traveling companion, and I to Gandhi’s ashram at dusk on a rainy night in the beginning of the monsoon season. We were struck then by how yoga philosophy was so deeply embedded in the colors, scents and sounds of India. At our next stop in New Delhi I purchased a copy of Autobiography of a Yoga and read it on the trains and buses we rode from Delhi to Kashmir to the Mandi Kuli valley in the foothills of the Himalayas. This book became my dearest friend, helping me put India’s way of life into a framework I could acknowledge and accept gratefully. I needed Yogananda’s insights of this very foriegn land to help me understand and reconcile my European Christian traditions. On our return I met and was initiated by another Himalayan yoga master. This accomplished One told me to teach and continue in the tradition. I’ve been teaching and studying yoga ever since, and will never forget the Paramahansa’s extraordinary gift and introduction to a new life through yoga. – Anna R.

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After years of internal struggle and spiritual search, I started reading Autobiography of a Yogui after a hatha yoga teacher training. I loved it, and read it with deep attention and slowly. About a chapter a month. It answered many spiritual questions I was having and I could relate to many of Yogananda's internal struggles and experiences. Things that I felt no one could understand or relate. It touched me very deeply, I could feel his wisdom and omnipresence guiding me, and my heart and soul were ready to listen. I am now receiving the Lessons and preparing for Kriya. – Natalia A.F.

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I am on my second or third read! I was looking for a biography on Gandhi and found this book instead. It piqued my curiosity because my yoga teacher had a photo of Yogananda in her studio, plus his eyes were very intriguing. The first read it felt as though Yogananda was sitting across from me telling me his story in person. I also was relieved there were others who had the same beliefs as me. – Cassandra D. J.

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I read the AY after I started going to Lake Shrine….Yogananda’s experiences touch the heart and we gain strength from his challenges that he overcame and inspiration from his goals that he reached.…I am happier and more at peace from having read the AY.  – Mei Ling M.

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I read the Autobiography of a Yogi when I was seventeen years old, handed to me a few months after my mother had passed away from excessive drug use. I was extremely depressed at the time, heavily obese, and found life to be a painful, worthless thing I was ready to give up on. When I read the Autobiography, wave after wave of chills went through me, slowly waking me up to an inner reality I had never perceived, a feeling in my heart that had been covered over with thick, stone-like apathy and pain for many years. My sadhana [spiritual journey] had begun, and a quest for a new and profound reason for being alive on planet earth with it. That was twenty years ago, and fifteen of them have been spent as a disciple of Yogananda, practicing Kriya Yoga daily and striving to serve humanity. The Kriya techniques have created a depth of stillness and peace within me that grows deeper and deeper every year I practice. Yogananda saved my life and gave meaning to it, and I’ll always be grateful to the Autobiography of a Yogi for that. – Cory M.

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On receiving my first [SRF] meditation lessons, a quotation was printed at the top of the welcoming letter. It read, “Wherever a saint has been, his vibration remains there forever.” Walking around a gallery of black & white photographs of Yogananda’s life, I came to one of a packed auditorium, [Yogananda] standing on the apron of a stage, opera boxes festooned with patriotic bunting. My knees buckled. I instantly KNEW where that was! I had given a dance recital at 9 years old on that same stage where he had stood a quarter of a century earlier. After discovering the Autobiography of a Yogi and listening to it dozens of times, I realized that his guiding, loving, protecting energy had risen up through the soles of my tap shoes!!  Autobiography of a Yogi revealed to me the constant omnipresent guru patiently watching and beckoning to me throughout my whole life. – Stephanie H.

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In 1984 I had never heard of Paramahansa Yogananda. I was raised in the Baptist church and was even President of the Youth when I was seventeen years old. In 1984 I was traveling with my cousin, a TulaneUniversity graduate in Philosophy, and it was going to be a long trip. We stopped and he bought me Autobiography of a Yogi. What a revelation I had while reading this wonderful book. Yogananda answered every question I ever had about religion, beliefs and what life really is. I was astounded and inspired. I continued reading all of Yogananda’s books and do to this day. I have studied Self-Realization Fellowship lessons and hope to advance my level to the point I can ask for initiation into Kriya Yoga at some point. I love the teachings and relish the Second Coming and its profound message. AWKAE, the movie, is well done and I have led many to watch it, even though they have not read the books. I am blessed by Paramahansa and consider finding him one of the greatest moments in my life. – Frederick B.

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My story began many years ago at the Santa Monica, CA public library. I had separated from my husband, had a persistent knot in my stomach, and was feeling lonely. I had gone to the library to find something to read to pass the time. Having nothing specific in mind, I found myself at once in the “Y” section of the card catalog (not consciously choosing to go there), and saw the name, “Yogananda, Paramahansa, Autobiography of a Yogi.” I had no particular or compelling thought about it, but checked the book out anyway. I began to read it immediately and, having always lived in a somewhat plastic world, I doubted some of what I was reading, however, I couldn’t stop reading it and found I didn’t want it to end, as though it were a lifeline I had to hold onto. Having read about Lake Shrine in the book, which was only a few miles from my home, and knowing instinctively I needed to somehow get the lessons spoken of in the book, I immediately went to Lake Shrine, asked for an application and applied for the Lessons. The day I found the AY is the day my life changed completely, and I am happy to say I have been a member of the Master’s church for 43 years and looking forward to many more years with my guru. – Adele S.

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What most spoke to me from Autobiography of a Yogi is the manner in which Yogananda demonstrates the unity of all spirituality and its connection to understanding the Divine Nature. As he recognized, spirituality is an interconnecting stream that leads all ultimately back to the same source. This should be an instructive tenet that all can apply in their lives and utilize towards the creation of a society of peace and unity. – Nathan R.

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My wife, Leslie, invited me to go on a spiritual path with her five years ago. I must admit that sounded very strange and mysterious. She looked me in the eye and handed me a copy of the Autobiography of a Yogi and did not have to say another word. I got the message. Reluctantly, I picked up the book and started reading. Much to my surprise doing so has opened up a wonderful new chapter of my life that I did not know was possible. I have read this book six times now and look forward to reading it once more. The joy and peace I now experience in my daily life can be traced to the wisdom I received by accepting my wife’s request. – Dr. Jim K.

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I grew up in a very strict, evangelical Christian family and although deep down I questioned so much of what I was taught, I carried those beliefs throughout my life. I moved to Los Angeles in 2005 and within one year of living there I had at least four separate instances where Autobiography of A Yogi came into my awareness. I had never heard of it but I was inexplicably drawn to it so I bought it. As I read each page, my world was turned upside down. I started to question everything I believed and my heart and mind started to open for the first time in my life. By the time I finished the book, I knew my life would never be the same. I joined SRF and from the book I realized I was in close proximity to many of the U.S. locations. Over the next nine years that I lived in L.A., I traveled to India twice, was initiated into Kriya Yoga and visited either the Lake Shrine or the SRF Headquarters every week that I was in town. Autobiography of a Yogi was the beginning of my journey into deep inner peace. My life was changed from the moment I started the book and it has continued to evolve in the most incredible ways ever since. – Jean W.

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People told me for years I should read the Autobiography, and once I did I felt I had always known the author. It touched me deeply, and suddenly so many previously unknown truths about life started to emerge. It laid the scientific foundation for a direct experience of God. Suddenly I didn't feel any guilt or shame that came from pundits telling me how to live. There was only the (deep) inspiration to practice. To live, and experience my own truth as an extension of The Divine. – KC C.

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I was given this book by another college student in 1971 and it completely changed my life. I moved away from the traditional teachings of the MethodistChurch and embraced an entirely different mindset that has stayed with me all these years. I was 20 years old then, I'm 65 now! The spiritual growth I've made is entirely due to the concepts contained in this enlightening book. I am so glad that it was put in my path all those years ago! – Martha H.B.

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Like many, [Autobiography of a Yogi] changed my life….[Yogananda’s] knowledge has taught me how to be a better person while learning to love others. He is my boatman! – Aditi C.

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It was a complete change in our lives as husband and wife for over 40 years of marriage. I will encourage every couple to read and meditate after each story at least five minutes. See the changes that can operate in your relationship. – Hilvar V.

 

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A visit I made to an intentional faith community in Assisi, Italy at the end of 1988 was notable for various reasons, principally a fortuitous discovery made partway through a period of silence one evening. I was passing the time browsing a collection of books in a room that doubled as a common room and library. People read or relaxed in there undisturbed. One particular tome bore a cover familiar to me from past random browsings in theosophical bookshops in and around Melbourne. Interestingly enough, given my interest in Eastern spirituality, I had never leafed through the book….Several months would pass before I read Autobiography of a Yogi from cover to cover, but the experience added weight to that first impact. The book posited truths on every page. I never doubted that for a second. And yet it was anything but a humorless, stodgy read. How timely this encounter at the stage I had reached on a spiritual quest that had gone on for years.

In due course I read more of the writings of Paramahansa Yogananda. A burgeoning interest in his life and work gained headway in North America. I attended meetings offering a précis of his life and teachings in New York City and on a blue-sky Los Angeles Sunday months later explored the transcendent Lake Shrine Temple at Pacific Palisades. No longer could I ignore what my intuition had been telling me since bringing the book down from the shelf in Assisi: that, if I dared follow, with Yogananda’s guidance I would one day find my way home. – Lindsay B.

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I read Autobiography of a Yogi about 9 years ago and it has made the greatest impact on my life. What drew me to the book was the look of Yogananda’s eyes when I looked at the the book. I was instantly drawn to it and when I started to read it I could hardly put it down. I have learned so much about myself and I look at the world and people so differently and with love that I did not have before…. I feel so blessed to have been drawn to the book. It is life changing! – Cathy N.

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Since reading the book, my life has changed dramatically....The cumulative impact has left no part of my being untouched. A path has re-appeared in my life that has led me to more peace, joy and harmony as I continue to refine my actions and subsequent consequences. I was intrigued by Paramahansa Yogananda’s claim that anyone who followed the path of Kriya Yoga would find direct evidence of the existence of God. – Gary S.

 

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I read Autobiography of a Yogi as an 18-year-old in 1967, in NYC. It opened me into a world of totally believable magic. I felt connected to every chapter, every word. I felt an ancient longing fulfilled with the account of this miraculous world. I fell in love with Paramahansa Yogananda, and his teacher Sri Yukteswar. I drank in the stories of all the saints that I was introduced to, and I felt mixed love and awe that I cannot adequately articulate— of Babaji, whose presence I could have sworn that I felt. I had not been so excited and enchanted by a book since the stories of my childhood—and this book held the greatest dimensions I had ever encountered. – Ava Wolf.


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