Inside the mind of a guru

“The Autobiography of a Yogi” by Paramahansa Yogananda

This is a rare book about life as a guru, from the first-person vantage point in a form of an autobiography. It tells the tale of Paramahansa Yogananda’s life, from childhood, to his apprenticeship, his many teachers, to becoming a monk of the Swami order, to eventually establishing his own teaching of Kriya Yoga meditation.

The book is raw and unfiltered, which is part of the appeal as well as the downside. Here we can see clearly the honest human side of an often deified guru, the everyday scenes at the ashram, even some mystical aspects that will render us with disbelieve. But sometimes the rawness of the stories can be a little bit bland and uneventful.

But nevertheless, through the pages and the many stories, The Master shares the wonders that he saw and the wisdom that he gained, where he emphasizes a life of self-respect, self-realisation, calmness, mindfulness, the power of intiatives, frugality and minimalism, even a simple diet and the importance of exercise.

But most importantly, as the master of Kriya Yoga, Yogananda provides an in depth explanation about the practice, including the science part and the astral system behind it. And perhaps also important for the American readers was the 15 years that Yogananda spent in the US to be one of the firsts (or indeed the pioneer) that teaches people about spiritualism and Yoga.

It is no wonder that it becomes Steve Jobs’ favourite spiritual book, which he read over and over again many times. And it is said that before he passed away Steve Jobs requested that this sole book to be handed out to those who attended his funeral. Because at the end of the day, after we strip out all the worldly material things, all we have left is arguably the most important aspect of our lives: our spirituality.