There are some books which entertain, some which educate and some which make you emotional. But there are certain others which prove to be life changers and you dare not even think of reviewing such books because you are too small, insignificant and incompetent to do that. It takes more than luck to come across even one such book in a lifetime.
Eight years back I had arranged a Training Program in office. The faculty was not the usual stern speaker who confined himself to Management tools and techniques. At the end of the day’s session he suggested a few books which had inspired him in many ways. One of them caught my attention because of its strange title – “Autobiography Of A Yogi”!
A few months later I came across the book in Oxford Book Store. However, looking at the price I decided to wait for a version which would not be so heavy on my pocket. And a few years later, the same book arrived by courier at home absolutely free – a gift from one of my co-bloggers! It reinforced my belief that the book had breezed into my life for a specific purpose. And how correct was I.
I am a slow reader but I finished this book soon enough and then there was no looking back. In what ways did this book change my life? To this my answer would to a certain extent be censored because I am not at liberty to disclose full facts of the case. But of course! The book intrigued me. It did give a perspective to my till then aimless life. And it certainly made me aware of the vastness of the Universe and the immense possibilities that our limited span on earth hold.
Well, there are certain chapters in this book which are a little taxing to human intellect because of the very fact that our knowledge is confined to what is perceptible and tangible to our five senses. But there is a world out there which is not visible yet existent, incomprehensible and incredible, at the same time.
Till I came across this book, my idea of renunciation was that it came easily to some and was not so for others. I belonged to the latter category, obviously! However, after going through this book I realized that renunciation is a process…a journey…..a vow to one’s own self. And that there are hurdles in this path which are beyond the imagination of mere mortals. Like all other laborious tasks, you have to be at it, give your hundred percent to it and yet fail to make it, at times.
Swami Paramhansa Yoganandaji describes in fluid, mellifluously lyrical language his trajectory from life in a middle class family to which he was born to life as a yogi – the entire spectrum dotted with subliminal encounters and exchanges with various yogis and rishis of higher stature and how his intense desire to follow the spiritual path was inspired and influenced by them.
Memorable (though the others are no less significant) amongst these are experiences with Lahiri Mahasayaji, who had to voluntarily resign from his job in the Railways because his divine calling aroused in him such intense detachment that he was unable to continue with his day to day routines of material existence, Swami Pranabanandaji, the saint with two bodies, the legendary Babaji who is believed to be ageless and deathless and above all Tiger Swamy, the body-builder-turned-yogi who had the physical strength of a giant and played with and could easily subjugate fearsome tigers!!
The most novel thing about this book is that it inspires you to give it a try – here I mean that even the laziest, the most apathetic, skeptical and indulgent of souls, on reading this book, can feel an urge to be a spiritual seeker.
Another remarkability of the narrative is how lucidly Swamiji has explained the most complex nuances of spiritualism that it becomes easily comprehensible (?), though am not sure I should use this word…graspable (read does not seem so confounding) will, I guess, be better!!!
As I have said earlier, one can rave and rant about this book but evaluating it is definitely not a lay person’s cup of tea… I shall quote, therefore, at random, a few of the paragraphs and portions of this book for readers’ appreciation, however, for me the book in its entirety is quotable: 🙂
Just as cinematic images appear to be real but are only combinations of light and shade, so is the universal variety a delusive seeming. The planetary spheres with their countless forms of life, are naught but figures in a cosmic motion picture. Temporarily true to man’s five sense perceptions, the transitory scenes are cast on the screen of human consciousness by the infinite creative beam.
In the concluding chapter, Swamiji writes :
The wisdom garnered by India, the eldest brother among the nations, is a heritage of all mankind. Vedic truth, as all truth, belongs to the Lord and not to India. The rishis, whose minds were pure receptacles to receive the divine profundities of the Vedas, were members of the human race, born on this earth, rather than on some other, to serve humanity as a whole. Distinctions by race or nation are meaningless in the realm of truth, where the only qualification is spiritual fitness to receive.
What more secular a view could be!!
The beauty of this book lies not only in its spiritual quotient but also in its literary content:
The tropical darkness had fallen. The light of a small kerosene lamp flickered fitfully over the heads of many villagers squatting silently in the shadows. The darting glowworms and distant oil lanterns of the hut wove bright eerie patterns into the velvet night. It was the painful hour of parting; a slow, tedious journey lay before our little party.
To this, I would add my experience of visiting the Yogada Ashram, (run by Yogada Satsang Society founded by Swamiji in the year 1917), in NOIDA. There is a Delhi Centre too but it is not as sprawling as the former. The Ashram is a haven of peace, to say the least. It has a big book-room-cum-library and a huge Meditation Centre where in pin-drop silence you can ‘find’ yourself. If tranquility can be enticing it is here and here alone where you can sit endless hours and recoil into your inner most sanctum sanctorum to seek your own self far away from the ‘madding crowd’. During lunch time, the Ashram canteen serves simple food for free for the residents as well as the daily visitors. Attached to the Ashram building is a well tended garden where you can spend hours in a meditative trance. But of course, its the Meditation Centre – the choicest and the most captivating part of all the Ashrams (so far visited Delhi and NOIDA)! It does not take time to realize how well-oiled the entire machinery of the organization is. Once in such serene environment, one does not feel like leaving. But alas! Return to the every day mundane time table is the karmic fate of us mortal men. So, we did, but of course, with a more peaceful mind, rejuvenated body and attuned soul.