How “Autobiography of a Yogi” Changed My Life

Autobiography of a Yogi changed my life. Really, it did. There is a power in that book that is far beyond the ordinary. Paramhansa Yogananda said to Swami Kriyananda on their first meeting, “I put my vibrations into it.”

I read it when I was at one of the natural transition points in life, the changeover from school to adulthood. My studies had been a dry hole, never quite giving me the answers I was looking for. From my teens I was interested in the nature of consciousness, and as I grew older I studied psychology, hoping to find something that would show me the far horizon of human potential. I probably couldn’t have articulated it at the time, but I was looking to unravel one of man’s deepest questions: What is the purpose of life? I soon realized that what I was looking for lay far beyond the scope of school or psychology—that barren landscape (for me, at least) of lab rats, mental illness, and shallow sociological conclusions.
So, the day after my last college exam, I left Minneapolis for San Francisco, where I hoped to find a more supportive environment. My quest for expanded consciousness did not lie down the psychedelic streets of the hippie movement, but rather with the budding spiritual milieu. When   in October 1966 I was “by chance” given a copy of Autobiography of a Yogi, it was a life-changing event for me. As I began reading, it seemed at first to be just one more in a long line of thought-provoking books. But as page after page resolved the very questions I had so long been asking, the book ascended from mere literature to scripture.

There were many things that I had a hard time accepting during that first reading, many things my doubting mind had to put on a shelf. But I had a deep underlying certainty that what Paramhansa Yogananda wrote was absolutely truthful. This was not someone teaching boring theories or secondhand concepts. What was written on those pages came from his personal experience and actual realization. Above all, it was Yogananda’s transparent goodness and love that changed me. I wanted to experience what he wrote about, and he held out not only a vague hope, but the promise that someday I could. He showed how I could be a scientist conducting experiments in consciousness, and that my mind would be the laboratory. This I could relate to. This I could try. And so I have.

When I say that book changed my life, I mean it literally. Here are a few of the most important changes:

I moved from despair to hope, from someone with no clear direction in life to someone who now had a goal. Yogananda had showed me a pathway that I yearned to follow.

I changed from being an agnostic to someone who accepted that a Divine Intelligence was guiding everything.

I came to accept many things that my education, environment, and youthful cynicism had believed impossible. That book expanded not only the limits of human consciousness, but more importantly, my potential. Since that first reading I have found many saints and yogis who have had the same experiences. If they can, so can I. So can you.

Yogananda opened my heart, which until then had been dry and aching.

Most important of all, the book led me to Swami Kriyananda, my lifelong guide, mentor, friend, and supporter. He gave my life a spiritual and practical direction that started the day I met him, just a few months after Autobiography of a Yogi had shaken me awake. Swamiji’s guiding hand continues to this day. I am grateful beyond the power of mere words to express.
I have long known that my experience is not unique, and that thousands of others have also had their lives changed by Autobiography of a Yogi. Is this also true for you, dear reader?

In deep gratitude,
Nayaswami Jyotish