But like many western readers, the stories of the sadhus and the teachers left me wondering how much of it was fiction and how much was actually true.
This included stories of Yogananda’s guru, Sri Yukteswar, who was a disciple of the Lahiri Mahasaya, the nineteenth century saint who was a householder in Varanisi who inspired multiple lineages of Kriya Yoga.
Lahiri was a postal worker near the Himalayas when he met the seemingly immortal (and always young) mahavatar Babaji, who wandered around the Himalayas and materialized and dematerialized at will. Speaking of the Beatles, a picture of this Babaji was included on the cover of Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Were the tales of these (and many other) holy men and women just fables and mythology, or did they really happen?
One of my favorite stories in the autobiography (one of many favorites, I might add, since the book is chock full of these kinds of stories), had its own lesson about greed and miracles. Since Yogananda did not witness it himself, it’s possible it was just a made up story to prove a point that was passed down in the oral tradition. But given the number of these types of stories that Yogananda (and others in the books mentioned below) actually did witness, we can’t be so sure, nor do I believe we can dismiss these stories out of hand.
In this particular story, there was a Muslim fakir, who was given control by as Yogi of a spirit (or jinn), Hazrat, and he could make objects disappear and then re-appear by asking Hazrat to “take the object”. He abused the power by getting greedy to steal objects from people, a fact that was found out by the old Yogi who had taught him. The Old Yogi was disappointed and decided to take away the power completely, and Hazrat no longer obeyed his commands.
Like Steve Jobs, I found myself re-reading The Autobiography every few years, paying attention more and more to its spiritual message, and less and less to the miraculous stories of healing and siddhis and gurus that had originally attracted me to the book. - Riz Virk