We came into the world just weeks apart, Autobiography of a Yogi and I, born together in December 1946. Both of us were riding on waves of human hope: I was part of the “baby boomer” generation that emerged after millions of American servicemen returned from World War II. Hoping to leave the horrors of war behind, the soldiers wanted nothing more than to create a secure, prosperous life for their children.
And the Autobiography was published at the same time, when people were still reeling from the destruction that had been unleashed during the war. Many had lost faith, and in the war’s aftermath were desperately hoping for answers: Is there any meaning in life? Is it possible for mankind to live in peace? Is there a God? Does He hear our prayers?
Paramhansa Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi and I both turn seventy this year. In the span of our shared lifetime many hopes have been fulfilled, but new challenges have arisen. Nevertheless, we have lived through this time together, and I’d like share with you our journey.
I first saw the Autobiography, with the picture of Yogananda on its cover, when I was about four years old. It was in a magazine advertisement for the book, and though I couldn’t yet read, I remember staring at the photo of his face for a long time. “Is this a man or woman?” I wondered. His face and especially his eyes long remained impressed on my mind.
When I was eighteen, I read A Passage to India by E.M. Forster, which depicts the frustration and anguish of Indians and Westerners trying to understand and befriend each other. When I finished reading the book, I lay on my bed and cried for almost an hour. Though I didn’t understand why at the time, I felt an overwhelming sadness that Easterners and Westerners couldn’t find a way to come together.
Four years later, as a college student in Madison, Wisconsin, I was handed a copy of the Autobiography. As with most important events in my life, it took me a while to recognize the impact and significance that it would have for me over time. On my first attempt to read it, in May 1969, I bogged down: My mind was distracted and preoccupied with upcoming final exams, college graduation, and the question of what next to do with my life.
At the same time, a friend handed me a one-page flyer about Ananda Meditation Retreat in Northern California. It said that Ananda had been founded by a Swami Kriyananda, a direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda. “Aha,” I thought as I read the flyer, “this could solve two of my problems.” I could go to Ananda, take time to read the Autobiography, and sort out what I wanted to do next.
After finishing my last final I traveled to California, with a copy of the Autobiography as my only companion, to find the remote meditation retreat I’d read about in the flyer. Shortly after arriving on July 4,1969 (coincidentally the birthday of Ananda Village), I met Swami Kriyananda, who was to be my spiritual teacher, guide, and friend until his passing in 2013.
Coming to Ananda and meeting Kriyananda were, for me, the missing links that forged a living connection with the Autobiography. Through its pages I began to hear an inner voice that was deeply familiar and beloved—a voice that spoke of truths that I remembered and longed to know again.
This voice, rich with wisdom, subtlety, and humor, spoke of the need for uniting East and West, and for knowing God. It whispered in my soul, “If you want to feel my presence more deeply, get to know me in meditation.” And this I did, beginning at that time a lifelong daily practice of meditation. Each time over the years when I’ve reread the Autobiography, this voice is at once familiar and somehow different, revealing ever more of its spiritual wisdom and beauty with each reading.
For years I have used this book as an oracle. Whenever I am faced with a problem in my life, I open the Autobiography three times at random. With amazing accuracy and in direct response to my question, the answer invariably appears in one of the three passages upon which my eyes fall.
Autobiography of a Yogi has been a living reality for me, always beckoning towards the summit where my soul longs to go. Nearly fifty years have passed since my first encounter, and I feel like I’m just beginning to know the book and its author.
And yet my journey doesn’t end there. As my husband and I travel around the world sharing Yogananda’s teachings, we meet literally thousands of people who have received inspiration and hope from this book.
I realize increasingly that we are all on the same journey with the Autobiography, and that the voice that first spoke in my heart so long ago speaks in the hearts of all who read it and want to listen. The book concludes with the sentence, “Lord, Thou hast given this monk a large family.” Yogananda, in turn, has given that family to each of his devoted readers.
In Master’s joy,
View the Autobiography of a Yogi Spiritual Renewal Week 2016 talk with Nayaswami Jyotish and Nayaswami Devi here.
Guru ji first takes you to Autobiography, then lessons and then communicates with you in meditation. Then miracles start happening in your life! Then slowly you depend on him and surrender even without knowing! And the cup of joy of the devotee is full and overflowing! A current of joy and bliss constantly flows inside you, though you may not even be aware of it but others will definitely notice that you have become different than others! Devotees ate definitely different than others! This is the life of fullfilment! JAI GURU!
Thanks for Sharing your Journy with Autobiography of a Yogi.
We at Ananda as Students after going through all that is taught to us ,Started feeling how blessed , we are to have Great Acharyas there in Ananda like You Joytish Ji and His Team of Acharyas, sharing their Life long learning to Guide us.
It’s an honor to hear your awakening and how deeply connected it has been the Master’s Autobiography. Thank you for this beautiful and inspiring story. In Gratitude, Prem-Shanti
Thanks, Nayaswami Devi, for sharing your personal and intimate journey with “Autobiography of a Yogi”!…Using it as a source of inspiration and encouragement at challenging times is very wise and trusting… I think I will try your intuitive technique…
That old saying, ‘better late than never’, certainly applies to me.
After many years of working in careers I disliked immensely, all for the money and rising up in the business world, attached with credentials, I I knew I had reached a point of finding something, anything to change my life and help me find whatever it was I needed and was seeking for an internal, happier life.
I had just had breast cancer surgery, and while healing, a friend showed me a book, ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’. I read it. As I was reading, I felt such a surge of energy, power, grace, humility and such an excitement I had never felt before.
My life changed that day.
I wanted to meet this man!!!!! Even now I still wish I could have known him, while he was walking on this planet.
I read it at least two times a year or more. I am so thankful for reading this book, a book that gave me the chance to create a new life and perspective for myself.
My life on the outside looks basic and normal. Yet, the inside of me is nothing of what it was. I am so filled with Yogananda’s grace, power and love to be within me each and every single day.
I too, am a baby boomer and just turned 70 in August. I am filled with so many emotions that have taken on a new meaning for myself and others. I can’t tell you how many people have asked me ‘what happened to you’.
They have seen my change over these last 15 years and know something good is going on.
I just smile and say, ‘ better late than never’.
Thank you for sharing your experiences with the Autobiography and inspiring us all!
I got the book during my college years as well, during a time that i was becoming agnostic. As i read the chapters my life was filled with miracles that Master bestowed to renew and increase my faith in God and Guru. This is indeed the most important book on the planet.
Om Guru. It is a deep honor to share this journey with you and Jyothisji.
Thank you for your wonderful story. It brought tears of joy and hope. Thank you
Thank you for warmly sharing such priceless experience of yours of reading and re-reading Autobiography of a Yogi.
I was given a copy of the book, by what design I don’t know, when I was 43 by someone I knew (and was later told that he was a serious yoga practioner). While handing it over, he told me’ I know you will like it’. Sadly, it wasn’t until I was almost 72, in last year, that I read it once and immediately fell in love with it. I happened to read it at a point of time when I down in my life in many ways. Subtle changes started happening. It’s Yoganandajis messages and accompanying vibrations (what else?) that started making difference in my life.
Beautiful Devi, I felt Divine Mother’s love in every word.
Super! As they say there are no coincidences in life, everything is pre-planned. Greater the devotee greater his ‘coincidences’ or ‘miracles’.
Thank you dear Devi for sharing, you are a Saint and I could almost hear you say it while I was reading the article.
so beautiful. thank you for sharing your awesome journey. i just finished re-reading the Autobiography after some time. i thought I knew every page but found so much that was new to me and also every page was new in a way.
So many blessings and peace
Thanks so much for that delicious little peek into your life, and soul, Devi.
I loved it.
Dear Nayaswami Devi Ji,
Thank you for the blog : ) How sweet it is know that AY & you were born in the same year :))
As you had mentioned, Master’s eye had a message for me – it took 3 years for me to start reading the book.
This is the most precious gift that we have had in our life time and we are willing to share this gift and his teachings to all
Very beautiful . Yes, The Autobiography of a Yogi is that link for all of us. It’s magical the way we all were brought together. God bless Swamiji, for listening to Master’s guidance in the creation of Ananda. Otherwise, who knows where we would be. Have a blessed 70th year in God, dear Devi. Love, Mary
Feel truly blessed reading this and various other articles by Devi as well as by Jyotish. I practise Kriya Yoga after initiation by another Guru though i have assiduously followed the happenings in Ananda during my stay in USA and after relocation to India. I consider Yogananda ji as my param Guru and respect the same lineage of Gurus that Ananda does including our dear departed Swamiji.
Thank you Devi, so beautiful. On the wings of Guru’s blessings, you are bringing East and West together in Divine Fulfillment.
Dear Deviji, so beautifully expressed, thank you for the blessings of your work for Master.
AUM AUM AUM
I have the exact same experience, glancing into random pages of the autobiography to still the wandering mind and finding guidance instantly in those passages.
When I first starting reading the book “Autobiography of a Yogi” I was fascinated by the miracles mentioned wondering if such things were really possible. The second and third time I wanted to underline the lines I thought were “important” or “interesting”. On subsequent readings I realized that if I were to underline the “key” lines I would end up underlying the whole book!!! And that is how He came in to my life and now I am in HIS safe custody!!! Jai Guruji
God and Guru bless you!
Thank you for being our “mother”!
and for being the receptive, willing, strong
and inspiring woman you are!