By Dharmaraj Iyer, M.S. Computer Science, M.I.T
In 1946, the great Indian master, Paramhansa Yogananda, published his famous Autobiography of a Yogi. His book has sold over a million copies, has been named one of the top 100 spiritual books of the last century, and has become the most widely read spiritual autobiography of all time. Yogananda’s story has inspired many millions of readers to seek God and divine joy within themselves.
The New Path: My Life with Paramhansa Yogananda, written by his close disciple, Swami Kriyananda, is a much-needed sequel to Autobiography of a Yogi. It is really the only account ever written by someone who lived with the Master, whom the Master commissioned personally to share with the public his words, teachings, and message.
The reader of Autobiography of a Yogi is likely, after finishing that inspiring book, to wonder what it was like to live with its author. For Yogananda wrote much less about himself than about the great saints he had met. Though his book is an autobiography, he manages to give the impression that he was only a humble devotee seeking wisdom at the feet of those great saints. The truth is, however, that he was born already fully enlightened, and was wiser than most of the saints about whom he wrote. In his last years he told his disciple Kriyananda, “I went to those saints for guidance, but they kept looking for answers to me!” Such, evidently, was his life-role. It was similar in this respect to that of Arjuna, the already-enlightened soul who played the role of humble seeker of truth from Lord Krishna, in the Bhagavad Gita.
What, the reader is left wondering also, was Yogananda’s experience of America? What was his mission to the West? How did he present the ancient yoga science to modern audiences? How did he train his disciples? And finally, a burning question for the reader who has been deeply moved by his life story: What was it like to live with him?
Two or three other disciples of Yogananda have written sweet and uplifting accounts about him. Their books lack the insight, however, born of many years’ experience with the public: while describing how Yogananda affected them, personally, they tell little about the vast scope, and omit the countless subtle details of the Master’s life and mission. The reader, after finishing those books, is left thinking only, “How lucky the authors were to have known Yogananda!”
In The New Path, Swami Kriyananda addresses the many questions that naturally occur to anyone who has read Yogananda’s autobiography. Indeed, this book gives the reader a feeling that he has actually lived with the Master. The New Path tells from the point of view of every disciple what it was like — and what it would have been like for the reader — to have lived with the Master. This book shares Yogananda’s teachings directly, in the Master’s own words. And it serves as a handbook for every truth-seeker, by addressing the common problems everyone faces on the spiritual path. Full of fascinating stories, humor, and insight, The New Path conveys high teachings and deep, but simply stated, truths with illustration after illustration.
As one reader exclaimed, “After reading this book I felt as if I too had lived with Yogananda!”
Kriyananda has written here a true masterpiece, captivating in its depth, power, and clarity. Yet one of the charms of his book is that he does not presume to “explain” Yogananda, nor to “reveal” his guru’s inner nature. He writes, “The task that Infinity places squarely on the shoulders of every human being is just this: ‘Understand thyself — know thyself.’” He adds that wise discrimination leads one “to study the life of a master with the purpose, not of understanding him, but of obtaining deeper insight into one’s own true nature, and into one’s own potential for divine unfoldment.”
The New Path differs from The Path, its predecessor, primarily by offering an additional thirty years of reflection on the nuances of meaning in the Guru’s life.
A final comment regarding the book’s title. The New Path is of course a revision of the previous edition, The Path. That edition sold widely, and was translated into seven languages. This new version, however, is like a new book: it contains thousands of changes, and many new stories. There is a deeper meaning to the title also, indicated at the end of Chapter 39, where Kriyananda writes, of Yogananda’s teachings: “And though I always say that what I want most deeply is to convert you to your own highest Self, I don’t hesitate to add that, if you are still seeking your own path to truth, it may well be worth your while to explore the possibilities offered by this new dispensation, which is, truly, a new path to God.”