After 75 Years, Autobiography Still InspiresOct 01, 2021 06:00AM ● By Rev. Ryan Strong
Editor’s Note: In this article, the word “yoga” refers to the spiritual science and not just the physical practice.
In the winter of 1946, at the age of 53, a sage named Paramahansa Yogananda released a book that would ultimately spark a global spiritual movement and transform the lives of millions of people. He had come to the U.S. to bring Kriya Yoga teachings to the West, and with the publication of his book, Autobiography of a Yogi, he did that and much more.
Although it was published 75 years ago, Autobiography still uplifts, enlightens and inspires the hearts of truth seekers across the globe today. It remains an international bestseller and has been translated into 50 languages, with well over four million copies in print. Many modern famous spiritual teachers, artists and innovators credit their inspiration and guidance to Yogananda’s teachings and his book. Autobiography of a Yogi popularized meditation in America, made vegetarianism more accepted, helped initiate the consciousness explosion of the 1960s and 70s, and ignited the yoga and wellness industry in America.
Yogananda’s work sparked a renewed interest in yoga around the world and spurred a renaissance of yoga in India that continues to this day. The book’s popularity hasn’t waned in part because it addresses timeless and inevitable questions: “What is life?” and “What is life for?” I believe his writings kindle our innate desire to know and experience the truth of our being.
The name “Yogananda,” meaning “bliss through yoga,” was a monastic name given to him by his spiritual teacher. Yogananda taught that one of the most important aspects of Kriya Yoga is the practice of Bhakti Yoga, which is a devotional and reverential approach to realizing the reality of God. That profound goal is accomplished by acknowledging the innate, divine nature of every one and every thing and by renouncing the illusional sense of an independent self. He taught that all souls are equal and that every person can attain God-realization. It is a powerful message for truth seekers: Spiritual enlightenment isn’t just for the “special” few. All souls are equally divine, and awakening to our divine nature is natural and inevitable. Yogananda taught that every person’s destiny is to be spiritually awake, and whether they know it or not, each and every person is on a spiritual path.
While Yogananda received tremendous fame and admiration when he was alive, he was earnestly humble and treated every person as an equal. Some spiritual teachers are placed on a pedestal, and their students touch their feet, but a true teacher washes the feet of their students. Yogananda worked tirelessly for his students and the world, serving individuals and large groups of people. Yogananda inspired others to see beyond the external in order to know and experience the truth of reality. His ceaseless devotion to serving others culminated in the life-affirming, life-inspiring message of his book.
I find Autobiography to be soul-stirring; it magnetizes the minds and hearts of readers toward spiritual evolution, and it guides and empowers readers toward authentic spiritual growth through Kriya Yoga. ❧
Ryan Phillip Strong is the Senior Minister at Center for Spiritual Awareness in Lakemont, Georgia. He was a longtime disciple of the author and spiritual teacher, Roy Eugene Davis, who was a direct disciple of Paramahansa Yogananda and founder of Center for Spiritual Awareness. Strong leads retreats and classes at Center for Spiritual Awareness. For more information, visit [email protected] or CSA-Davis.org.