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Why Read the First Edition of Autobiography of a Yogi?


Preparation of the Book

Autobiography of a Yogi During Yogananda's Lifetime

Editions After Yogananda's Passing

Examples of Changes in 1956 Edition

Examples of Changes in 1959 Edition

After 1959

Editions After Yogananda's Passing

SRF states that Yogananda made "further revisions" after the publication of the 3rd edition, and instructed that these be included in a subsequent edition. But could these "further revisions" have numbered well over 1000?

What happened? When? How? Why? A careful look at the next editions of Autobiography of a Yogi after his death will hopefully be helpful in clarifying the mystery:

1952, 4th edition

The 4th (1952) edition was also published by Philosophical Library in New York. Its wording is identical with the 3rd, 1951 edition.

In those days, as one reads in a later publisher's note, the retypesetting of a book was costly and difficult. For this reason, SRF explains, the New York publishing house did not include the revisions which Yogananda had desired before his death. In fact, the only change one can find is the addition of an account of Yogananda's mahasamadhi. That page had been left blank in the 3rd edition.

1954, 5th edition

In late 1953 SRF bought the publishing rights to Autobiography of a Yogi, and from that time on has published and sold the book. In this 5th edition one finds only a few changes. Since these changes are the first ones published after Sri Yogananda's passing, one would assume that any changes which he had specified would be made in this edition. Surprisingly, one finds (comparison by hand, not computer) only four text changes, all regarding footnotes (two deleted and two added). They concern yoga postures, Yogananda's school, and information about the Bhagavad Gita.

Publisher's note

The 5th edition carries a new publisher's note. It mentions that SRF bought the rights to Yogananda's autobiography; the passing of Yogananda and his phenomenal after-death state; his founding of SRF/YSS to spread Kriya Yoga worldwide; and Rajarsi Janakananda as the new SRF/YSS president.

In Memoriam

A text, "In Memoriam," which had appeared in the 4thÝ edition, is deleted.


One finds 27 illustration changes: photos cropped, deleted and added, put in different places of the book. Lahiri Mahasaya now appears dressed (a painting, even though Yogananda writes that his "photograph" is reproduced in this book).

1955, 6th edition

In the 6th edition one finds that the changes are increasing. As an observation, some editions of Autobiography of a Yogi mention their changes in the publisher's note, while others do not. The 3rd and 7th editions contain such references, and the 5th, 6th, and 8th do not.

So, without mention by the publisher, about 31 text and footnote changes were made in the 6th edition. The last chapter has been quite condensed, reducing 4‡ pages to 1‡ pages (mostly the description of Lake Shrine, "India Hall," and Yogananda's varied activities).

Yoga Asanas

During the opening ceremonies of Lake Shrine, in 1951, "the audience then witnessed a remarkable demonstration of SRF boys of scientific asanas (postures) for health of body and mind." Mention of these asanas is deleted in this edition.


Two of Yoganandaji's poems were deleted from this edition: "God, God, God," and "The Soundless Roar." These poems-considered by many to be among his most powerful and inspirin-are now gone without explanation.

Publisher's note

A new publisher's note was printed. It adds the death of Rajarsi Janakananda, and mentions the new president, Sister Daya.


Twenty-eight photo changes were made (deleting, adding, cropping, moving, etc.). In this edition, Sister Daya's photo appears, as the new SRF president. So does Rajarsi Janakananda's photo.

The SRF "Aims and Ideals" appear for the first time in this edition. Some interesting changes are made to these in later editions.

The line of Gurus of Self-Realization Fellowship

The line of Gurus now appears at the end of the book, with an explanation of how to pronounce their names. It is interesting to note that the guru-line is presented as including five gurus (without specific mention of Krishna), just as Yogananda had taught. During his lifetime, he had explained that Krishna was an earlier incarnation of Babaji, and in his discourses addressed them together, as Krishna-Babaji. Editions 6-11 of Autobiography of a Yogi describethe line as consisting of these five gurus. Then, suddenly, many years after the author's death, changes were made, increasing this original five to six, including Krishna. The first Autobiography of a Yogi to mention Krishna as part of the guru-line is the 12th edition, which was published in 1988.

1956, 7th edition

At this point one has to take a deep yogic breath. The flood of changes in this 7th edition is quite impressive. One finds over 850 paragraphs and footnotes with thousands of words now changed. The types of revisions include grammatical changes, text additions, text deletions, word changes and rearrangements-with many of these revisions resulting in major changes to spiritual concepts presented during Yogananda's lifetime and in earlier editions of the book. Hardly a page is left untouched.

The reader finds two explanations in the publisher's note:

1) It first states that this 7th edition contains revisions made by Paramhansa Yogananda in 1949 for the London (Rider) edition. The truth that our study reveals is that of those 495 "Rider changes," only 127 are included in this 7th edition. The natural question is: Why were only a small percentage of the changes included in this edition? Yogananda had already included a handful of these "Rider changes" in his 3rd American edition in 1951 (24 of 495). And, interestingly, one of these Rider changes had already been included in both the 5th and 6th editions. One might be led to believe by the blanket statement of the publisher's note that all the changes from Rider are included in this edition, which would explain over half of the major changes. An actual comparison reveals that such is not the case.

2) The publisher's note states that Yogananda's later revisions, made in 1951, had not been incorporated into the 5th and 6th editions, because during those years other duties prevented the SRF editorial department from undertaking the formidable task of incorporating the author's revisions on the electrotype plates, and that the work had now been accomplished in time for this 7th edition.

Having seen the earlier editions, one naturally asks, why were other editorial changes made in the 5th and 6th editions, while Yogananda's "intended changes" were not incorporated into these editions? Were the changes made to these editions not Yogananda's? Does this mean that the editor chose to make her own changes instead of Yogananda's? If Yogananda had made changes in 1951, why wouldn't the editor have included them right away, as soon as she started making any changes in the book? Why this trickle of unimportant changes first?

Why were the changes in the 5th and 6th editions not mentioned anywhere? Was it because the earlier changes would make it hard for the readers to believe that the changes in the 7th edition were really Yogananda's?

If we carefully consider Yogananda's past "revising-behavior," we observe that for the 1949 Rider-edition (as he wrote) he added material to the last chapter, and otherwise added footnotes. Similarly, for the 3rd American edition he added a new chapter, but otherwise he basically only added footnotes. Is it at all plausible that he later created this flood of changes, on almost every page?

"That he requested more than a handful of these changes is a myth," Swami Kriyananda states. "SRF has effective control over his material, and can make changes in it with impunity, with the claim that he authorized them. I was there at the time myself, however, and was actively involved in editorial activities. I know that the greater part of those changes were not authorized by Master."

Now the big question: When one finds important changes in content among a flood of grammatical changes, are they really Yogananda's creation, or the work of an ambitious editor? Certain of these changes especially do not reflect Yogananda's generous and universal spirit which one enjoys in the earlier editions.

The editorial explanation that the changes in the 7th edition were made by the author does not explain the obvious new direction which the book now takes.

It is significant that the later the edition of this universal book one reads, the more restrictive its language becomes, and the more magnified the importance of the organization. Some have suggested that editorial institutional emphasis was not possible under Rajarsi Janakananda's presidency (1952-1955), since he so greatly valued the universal spirit of Yogananda's teachings.

Next: Examples of Changes in 1956 Edition

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