Autobiography of a Yogi — Concise Chapter Summary

Concise Summary of Autibiography of a Yogi By Paramahansa YogaNanda

Chapter 01

The author describes the early experiences and influences that shaped their spiritual path in India. They emphasize the importance of a guru-disciple relationship, detailing encounters with a Christlike sage, their connection to Lahiri Mahasaya, and a vision of Himalayan yogis. The narrative highlights the power of words, illustrated by a healing through a photograph, and the manifestation of desires in a kite-flying incident. Their spiritual journey, marked by devotion, encounters with great masters, and profound experiences, underscores the quest for ultimate truths and the importance of inner connection.

In the early years of my life, my family and I were blessed to meet Lahiri Mahasaya, a Christlike sage, who had a significant influence on us. We were a loving and harmonious family, and both my parents had saintly natures. My father was a mathematician and logician, guided by intellect, while my mother was a queen of hearts, teaching us through love.

We moved from Gorakhpur to Lahore, where I acquired a picture of the Divine Mother, the Goddess Kali. It sanctified a shrine on our balcony. I experienced remarkable healing through Lahiri Mahasaya’s picture during a severe illness. This strengthened my devotion to him.

Once, my sister and I were sitting under a neem tree, and I proclaimed that Divine Mother granted my prayers. I even prayed for a kite that was entangled in a nearby cactus plant. Remarkably, both kites, including the one from my skeptical sister, ended up in my hands, leaving her in awe.

Throughout my life, I experienced various spiritual visions, including a profound moment of communion with the Himalayan yogis, which left a lasting impact on me. The power of words and concentrated prayer became evident, as did the divine presence in my life.

Lahiri Mahasaya, my spiritual guide, remains a luminous figure in my heart. His teachings and blessings transformed my perspective and inspired me to seek God with a fervent spirit.

My name, once Mukunda Lal Ghosh, changed to Yogananda when I entered the monastic Swami Order. My guru bestowed upon me the religious title of Paramhansa, signifying a deep spiritual connection.

Chapter 02

My mother’s greatest desire was the marriage of my elder brother. She had strong Indian sentiment for family continuity. Mother was in Calcutta supervising the wedding preparations while Father and I remained in Bareilly. Ananta, my elder brother, was the eldest son, and the wedding plans were elaborate. Everything was ready, but an ominous vision came to me. I saw my mother, and she whispered to me to rush to Calcutta immediately. We left but arrived only to face the mystery of her death. The pain was immense. Later, I had a vision of the Divine Mother who comforted me.

After her passing, I longed for God and felt drawn to the Himalayas. My plan to run away was ridiculed, but my brother gave me Mother’s final message. She had known my path from my infancy and a sage had predicted her death, giving her a silver amulet. She left it in my brother’s keeping, and it vanished when the time was right. The amulet was a link to past lives and my spiritual journey.

Years passed, and the rent left by Mother’s death was irreparable. Father never remarried, and he became more tender and practiced Kriya Yoga in solitude. Mother’s message guided my path, and the amulet was a source of strength, even as I faced challenges.

Chapter 03

“Father, if I promise to return home without coercion, may I take a sightseeing trip to Benares?” Travel was seldom an issue for me; Father allowed me, even as a young boy, to explore many places. Accompanied by friends, I used Father’s first-class passes. His railroad position facilitated our wanderings.

After considering my request, Father handed me a round-trip pass to Benares, rupee notes, and two letters. One of the letters was meant for a friend, Kedar Nath Babu, whose address Father had lost. However, he believed that I could deliver it through Swami Pranabananda, a brother disciple who was spiritually advanced.

When I reached Benares, I visited Swami Pranabananda. He greeted me warmly and seemed to know me before reading Father’s letter. He assured me he would help find Kedar Nath Babu. It became clear that he possessed remarkable insights.

Suddenly, Kedar Nath Babu arrived, even though he had not been in contact with anyone else. We were astounded by this mysterious connection and how Swami Pranabananda had orchestrated our meeting.

The swami explained his abilities, including astral communication. Despite my awe, his revelations left me uneasy. Though he offered to teach me, my heart was set on another guru, Sri Yukteswar.

The swami conveyed the significance of his guru, Lahiri Mahasaya, who had helped him attain spiritual heights. He narrated an incident where Lahiri Mahasaya intervened in his life, securing a pension through divine guidance.

Swami Pranabananda then retired into silence. As I left, he blessed me, predicting that my life path was one of renunciation and yoga.

Walking with Kedar Nath Babu, I delivered Father’s letter, which revealed his desire for Kedar Nath Babu to work at his Calcutta office. Kedar Nath Babu wished to accept but could not leave Benares. He mused on the phenomenon of having two bodies.

Note: This short version maintains the core storyline and instances from the original story while condensing the details and eliminating some repetitions. The essential teachings, encounters, and messages from Swami Pranabananda are retained.

Chapter 04

In my pursuit of the Himalayas and my spiritual quest, I faced numerous challenges, encounters, and remarkable moments. Ananta, my high school friend, and I planned to escape from my home in Calcutta to seek the Himalayan master whom I often saw in visions. We made elaborate plans, including changing into European clothes to deceive my brother, Jatinda, and my departure almost came to a halt when Jatinda disappeared at a crucial moment. After a series of adventures, including interactions with railway officials and the police, we arrived in Benares, where my life took a significant turn.

There, I met Swami Kebalananda, my Sanskrit tutor, who turned out to be an exalted disciple of Lahiri Mahasaya, a great yogi. Kebalananda shared the miraculous events he had witnessed in the presence of his guru, including the healing of a blind disciple and the profound spiritual insights Lahiri Mahasaya provided. I realized that Kriya Yoga, the technique taught by Lahiri Mahasaya, was the most effective way to experience the divine presence. My interactions with Kebalananda transformed my understanding of spirituality, as he became a divine guide, leading me on a path to realization.

Throughout my journey, I was confronted with challenges, but my determination to seek the truth and my encounters with remarkable individuals like Lahiri Mahasaya and Swami Kebalananda propelled me forward. My experiences illuminated the power of devotion, surrender, and the infinite potential of the human spirit.

Chapter 05

“To everything, there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”

In my search for a destined guru, my path crossed many sages, including the “Perfume Saint” and the “Tiger Swami.” But it was two years after my journey to the Himalayas that Sri Yukteswar entered my life. One day, while visiting the Kalighat Temple in Calcutta, I met the “Perfume Saint.” He shared wisdom about the duality of good and evil in the world and the importance of self-scrutiny. Our conversation led to a discussion about the challenges of compassion and humility in the face of suffering.

The sage emphasized that self-analysis leads to true wisdom, while mere self-expression creates egotism. He spoke of the struggle to overcome inward enemies and the necessity of turning to the Creator. As we wandered in the sunshine, he conveyed the idea that the heart opens to human experiences rather than material things.

Later, I encountered the Perfume Saint again at a gathering where he demonstrated his ability to infuse scents into objects. He shared that his power was based on harnessing cosmic forces to manipulate vibrations, rather than hypnotism or mere suggestion. While intrigued, I realized such displays were only distractions on the spiritual path.

I also learned about the teachings of Gandha Baba, a yogi who could materialize objects from thin air. He once produced tangerines out of season to amaze his followers. However, I recognized that such miracles were trivial and not spiritually meaningful.

In my journey, I met many who possessed extraordinary powers, but I understood that these displays didn’t lead to true spiritual realization. Instead, I longed for a guru who exemplified righteousness and humility. The true essence of a saint, I realized, lies not in performing miracles, but in living a life of virtue, compassion, and devotion to God.

Chapter 06

My high school friend Chandi and I decided to visit the Tiger Swami, a saint known for his remarkable feats, including fighting tigers with his bare hands. The swami was a formidable figure, with a powerful physique, and he shared his philosophy with us. He emphasized the importance of the mind in controlling the body’s strength and described his own transformation from a weak individual to a tiger tamer. He also recounted an intense encounter with a royal Bengal tiger, where he was injured but ultimately triumphed, leading him to a realization that he should focus on the inner battle against the passions of the mind. This experience marked the beginning of his spiritual journey.

Chapter 07

Last night, my friend Upendra Mohun Chowdhury excitedly shared that he had witnessed a yogi hovering above the ground at a group meeting. I recognized the yogi as Bhaduri Mahasaya, a resident of my neighborhood. Bhaduri Mahasaya’s remarkable feats, including mastery of ancient yoga techniques, left a lasting impression on me. Despite his reclusive nature, he occasionally ventured outside during festivals to help the less fortunate. I frequently attended his evening gatherings, where he shared profound wisdom with a touch of humor, and I cherished the insights he offered.

One day, as I passed by Bhaduri Mahasaya’s abode, I decided to visit him. His disciple guarded his privacy, but the sage himself welcomed me, emphasizing that his seclusion was for the benefit of others who might find his candor discomforting. We discussed yoga, and he shared his thoughts on its importance, especially as a practice for both the East and the West. Bhaduri Mahasaya believed that disciplined yoga was essential for human flourishing, and he saw his disciples as living volumes carrying India’s teachings forward.

During our conversation, Bhaduri Mahasaya mentioned receiving letters from societies in America interested in yoga. He was glad to help them, viewing the spreading of yoga knowledge as akin to the ungarnishable daylight. I suggested that he write a book on yoga for the world, but he felt that his disciples and their students would be living proof of the teachings, resistant to the disintegrations of time and critics’ misinterpretations.

I spent time alone with the yogi, absorbing his wisdom, and later, his disciples gathered for a discourse. That evening, he shared insights into the life of Mirabai, a princess who left her worldly life to seek the company of Sadhus. Her spiritual devotion and poetic compositions were inspiring. The students offered financial gifts, indicating their gratitude. Bhaduri Mahasaya’s view on renunciation was thought-provoking, considering those who cling to material possessions as the true renunciates, and he emphasized the divine order’s provision for His devotees.

Bhaduri Mahasaya’s teachings continued to guide me as I visited his new hermitage. Before leaving for the West, I sought his farewell blessing, and he encouraged me to carry India’s dignity to America. His belief in my success and the reception I’d receive resonated deeply.

Bhaduri Mahasaya’s wisdom, his deep understanding of yoga, and his compassion for others left a lasting impact on my life, shaping my journey as I embraced his teachings and prepared to share them with the world.

Chapter 08

In the realm of scientific discussions, I encountered a group of professors discussing the wireless inventions of Jagadis Chandra Bose and Marconi. Intrigued, I inquired further, seeking to understand Bose’s contributions. The professor explained that Bose’s wireless coherer and electric wave refraction instrument predated Marconi’s work. However, Bose’s focus shifted to the organic world and plant physiology, leading to groundbreaking discoveries in that field.

Inspired by his insights, I visited Bose at his home. He was a distinguished man with a deep scientific passion. Bose’s inventions, including the crescograph, revealed the interconnectedness of all life. He considered his work a bridge between Eastern introspection and Western empirical verification. His laboratory, the Bose Institute, was a testament to this fusion, reflecting Indian values and spirituality.

Bose’s dedication speech emphasized the unity of science and spirituality. He emphasized the importance of patience and the pursuit of truth, encouraging India to contribute to science’s global development. His instruments, like the Resonant Cardiograph, delved into the mysteries of life’s pulse in plants and animals. His research on plants revealed astonishing pharmacological potential.

As time passed, Bose’s genius continued to flourish. He demonstrated that plants’ responses closely mirrored those of animals, which later found support in scientific circles. His discoveries extended to the realm of electrical impulses in nerves, using the nitella plant as a model.

The profound connection between scientific exploration and India’s cultural depth stirred me. Bose’s work symbolized a synthesis of East and West, science and spirituality, and the eternal patience inherent to India. His legacy, and his Bose Institute, were poised to make lasting contributions to the world of science.

Chapter 09

I visited Master Mahasaya, a saintly figure whose devotion to the Divine Mother was evident. His aura, with a white beard and compassionate eyes, made me feel humbled in his presence. I interrupted his prayers, desperate for his intercession, as I felt a painful separation from the Divine Mother. He assured me he would ask on my behalf.

Filled with anticipation, I returned the next day, but he remained mysterious about the message. However, he reminded me that I had already received the Divine Mother’s love in my heart. The saint was a simple man, running a small school, and spreading wisdom through spiritual contagion.

Our visits included a pilgrimage to a temple, where he taught me about the sweetness of God in the aspect of Mother, a concept he found more appealing than Divine Justice. He displayed a childlike devotion, and his influence led me to deeper experiences of the Divine.

Master Mahasaya had a unique connection with the Divine, orchestrating events like a darkened lecture hall to ensure our comfort. He opened my spiritual vision on a few occasions, revealing the world in a new light, only to bring me back to reality afterward.

Though my ecstatic experiences were fleeting, the memory of Master Mahasaya’s grace and teachings stayed with me. He and other saints shaped my spiritual journey, a journey that would take me to a Western land, writing about their lives as divine devotees, forever grateful for their presence in my life.

Chapter 10

In the bustling city of Calcutta, a young student named Mukunda found himself facing an approaching high school examination. Despite his promise to his father, Mukunda spent more time by the bathing ghats and contemplative crematory grounds than in the classroom. His unconventional study habits led to a surprising encounter with a fellow student, Nantu, who offered to help him prepare for the exams.

Nantu’s guidance proved invaluable, except for the subject of Sanskrit. Mukunda’s desperation led him to a mysterious encounter with a lost piece of Sanskrit verse, which, with the help of a pundit, enabled him to pass the Sanskrit examination.

Filled with gratitude, Mukunda shared his success with his father and then made a bold decision to leave home and join a hermitage in Benares. There, he met the young head swami, Dyananda, and faced challenges with his fellow ashram members. In his pursuit of a direct perception of God, he encountered a divine womanly voice guiding him to his true guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri.

Under Swami Sri Yukteswar’s guidance, Mukunda’s life transformed. Sri Yukteswar, a Christlike figure, shared profound wisdom and awakened in Mukunda an understanding of divine love and the insignificance of material attachments. Their meeting was destined, and Sri Yukteswar’s words had a profound impact on Mukunda, leading him to surrender fully to the guru’s teachings.

Despite initial misunderstandings and challenges, Mukunda’s faith remained unwavering. A mysterious loss and his guru’s stern instructions prompted Mukunda to leave the hermitage, setting out on a journey to Serampore, where he would reunite with Swami Sri Yukteswar.

This encounter marked a turning point in Mukunda’s life, as he prepared to deepen his spiritual practice and follow the strict discipline of his beloved guru. The story highlights the importance of divine guidance, unwavering faith, and the transformative power of true spiritual masters on the path to self-realization.

Chapter 11

“It would serve you right if Father disinherited you, Mukunda! How foolishly you are throwing away your life!” An elder-brother sermon was assaulting my ears.

Jitendra and I, dusty from our train journey, had just arrived at Ananta’s home in Agra. He criticized my quest for spiritual inheritance over material wealth, and we debated. Ananta, a supervising accountant for the Bengal-Nagpur Railway, was skeptical of my path.

“You well know, Ananta, I seek my inheritance from the Heavenly Father.”

“Money first; God can come later! Who knows? Life may be too long.”

“God first; money is His slave! Who can tell? Life may be too short.”

My retort held no presentiment. Yet the leaves of time unfolded; Ananta’s life ended early. A few years later, he entered the land where bank notes avail neither first nor last.

“Wisdom from the hermitage, I suppose! But I see you have left Benares.” Ananta’s eyes gleamed with satisfaction; he yet hoped to secure my allegiance.

“My sojourn in Benares was not in vain! You may be sure it was not your pundit or his son!”

Ananta and I laughed, acknowledging his previous misjudgment.

“What are your plans, my wandering brother?”

“Jitendra persuaded me to Agra. We shall view the Taj Mahal here,” I explained. “Then we are going to my newly-found guru, who has a hermitage in Serampore.”

Ananta arranged our stay, but a challenge arose over breakfast. He proposed we journey to Brindaban without money, not begging, eating regularly, and returning by midnight. If we succeeded, he’d be astonished.

“I accept the challenge.” No hesitation was in my words or heart. Memories of divine help fortified me.

The challenge began; we were penniless. Our train companions led us to an ashram in Brindaban. Hospitality surprised us. Gauri Ma, the ashram hostess, treated us to a feast, reminding us of God’s care. A young man, Pratap, guided us around Brindaban, connecting us to Kriya Yoga initiation.

We returned, defying the challenge. Ananta was amazed. The lesson was clear; my trust in divine provision remained strong. My brother sought initiation, and my Kriya family expanded.

The next day, Jitendra and I visited the Taj Mahal before my journey to Serampore. Time had passed since my last meeting with my guru, and I stood at his hermitage once more, ready for years of spiritual learning.

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