From his boyhood Yogananda seemed destined for this life, and he was from an early age in search of his master, his guru. In this he was fairly much supported by his mother and his father.
While those in the West might find it hard to understand parents supporting this type of religious life, one that is often lived in poverty and sometimes a hermit like existence, it was not at all unusual in his time. In fact, those who otherwise lead secular lives often had gurus that they visited regularly, and the practice of various yogi meditations was common to a rather large swath of the population.
This book is simply delightful for the joy and excitement of the boy never changes as he grows into a man and continues his pursuit of God. Along the way he finds his own guru, one Yukteswar Giri, establishes his own school in India, and eventually travels to America where his real destiny is in bringing the techniques of meditation to the Western world.
This book was first published in 1946 and has I think never been out of print. It remains an introduction to the meditation to this day.
What is so wonderful about it to me is the fact that there is such bounding joy throughout. No obstacle, no set back is seen as a sad thing for long in this world where God moves at all times. Here is a world (India) where there is a definite blur between the world of concrete reality and the realm of the infinite metaphysical. To speak to God and to ancestors, to see them suddenly “out of thin air” is natural. It is not a shock, but it is the ordinary.
As we read, we stop being astounded too. We take it for granted that the great yogis can materialize and dematerialize at will, that they can cure disease simply by willing it away, that they can foresee the future. It is the way things are, and although there are those who don’t believe, usually one experience is enough to convert the most adamant naysayer.
When Yogananda came to America, he was met with enthusiasm. This was a different time, back in the 20’s and 30’s, when radio was new and television yet to be. People often went to lectures as a means of both entertainment and education. Yogananda was a hit, and met many a wealthy patron who helped him develop and support his growing meditation teaching centers.
Along the way, we meet Gandhi where Yogananda spent a few days. The portrait painted of the great peace advocate and worker for human rights, was one of a gentle, sweet, happy man who perfectly lived out his beliefs up to the moment of his death. There are others, great yogis that Yogananda meets, some are reincarnate of earlier Yogis others, timeless entities who “never die” but can join this plane from time to time to instruct a particular individual.
It introduces you to a world very unlike our own, and certainly it makes one yearn for a life that gives so much peace and joy. If you are the least bit interested in the practice of meditation, this is a great way to begin that journey. It has been the starting place for many people and will undoubtedly remain so in the future.
In whatever guise Yogananda finds himself today, no doubt he is most pleased at what his life’s work has wrought.