“When I came to Mount Washington in 1931, Paramahansaji had already begun to work on the Autobiography. Once when I was in his study attending to some secretarial duties, I was privileged to see one of the first chapters he wrote — it was on ‘The Tiger Swami.’ He asked me to save it, and explained that it would be going into a book he was writing. Most of the book was composed later, between 1937 and 1945.”
From June 1935 through October 1936, Sri Yogananda had made a return trip to India…for a last visit with his guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar…“I had never forgotten Sri Yukteswar’s request that I write the life of Lahiri Mahasaya,” he later wrote. “During my stay in India I was taking every opportunity to contact direct disciples and relatives of the Yogavatar. Recording their conversations in voluminous notes, I verified facts and dates, and collected photographs, old letters, and documents.”
Upon his return to the United States at the end of 1936, he began to spend much of his time at the hermitage that had been built for him in his absence, in Encinitas on the southern California coast. It proved to be an ideal place to concentrate on completing the book he had begun years before.
“Still vivid in my memory are the days spent in that peaceful seaside hermitage,” recounts Sri Daya Mata. “He had so many other responsibilities and commitments that he was not able to work on the Autobiography every day; but in general he devoted the evenings to it, and whatever free time he could spare. Beginning around 1939 or ’40, he was able to concentrate full time on the book. And full time it was — from early morning until early morning! A small group of us disciples — Tara Mata; my sister, Ananda Mata; Sraddha Mata; and myself — were present to assist him. After each part was typed, he would give it to Tara Mata, who served as his editor.
“What treasured memories! As he wrote he relived inwardly the sacred experiences he was recording. His divine intent was to share the joy and revelations encountered in the company of saints and great masters and in one’s own personal realization of the Divine. Often he would pause for a time, his gaze uplifted and his body motionless, rapt in the samadhi state of deep communion with God. The whole room would be filled with a tremendously powerful aura of divine love. For us disciples, merely to be present at such times was to be lifted into a higher state of consciousness.
“Finally, in 1945, came the jubilant day of the book’s completion. Paramahansaji wrote the last words, ‘Lord, Thou hast given this monk a large family’; then laid down his pen and joyously exclaimed:
“ ‘All done; it is finished. This book will change the lives of millions. It will be my messenger when I am gone.’ ”
It then became Tara Mata‘s responsibility to find a publisher. Paramahansa Yogananda had met Tara Mata while conducting a series of lectures and classes in San Francisco in 1924. Possessed of rare spiritual insight, she became one of the small circle of his most advanced disciples. He held her editorial abilities in highest esteem, and used to say that she had one of the most brilliant minds of anyone he had ever met. He appreciated her vast knowledge and understanding of India’s scriptural wisdom, and remarked on one occasion: “Excepting my great guru, Sri Yukteswarji, there is no one with whom I have more enjoyed talking of Indian philosophy.”
Tara Mata took the manuscript to New York City. But finding a publisher was not an easy task. As can often be observed, the true stature of a great work may not at first be recognized by those of a more conventional cast of mind. Despite the newly born atomic age having enlarged the collective consciousness of humanity with a growing understanding of the subtle unity of matter, energy, and thought, the publishers of the day were hardly ready for such chapters as “Materializing a Palace in the Himalayas” and “The Saint With Two Bodies”!
For a year, Tara Mata lived in a sparsely furnished, unheated cold-water flat while making the rounds of publishing houses. At last she was able to write with news of success. The Philosophical Library, a respected New York publisher, had accepted the Autobiography for publication. “What [she] has done for this book I cannot begin to describe…,” Sri Yogananda said. “But for her, the book would never have gone through.”
Shortly before Christmas 1946, the long-awaited books reached Mount Washington.
Excerpts from The Making of a Spiritual Classic, SRF Link