James Donald Walters was an American student in search of spiritual knowledge and wisdom. From his childhood, Walters seemed to be spiritually inclined. He sums it up very interestingly- While scientists (and other people) asked ‘How?’, he was always inclined to ask ‘Why?’. As he moved with his family to various countries he seemed to be a misfit. In college he found a few like-minded people and developed his interest in literature, but he was still restless and eager to find a spiritual goal. College left him unsatisfied with the choices he was given. He came across Paramhansa Yogananda's 'Autobiography of a Yogi' and immediately left his regular life in search of Yogananda who was in California. The book then talks about the various lessons the student learns from his Guru. Walters describes in much detail the work undertaken by Paramhansa Yogananda, the Self Realization Foundation and in lesser detail his own spiritual growth. Miracles, prophesies and words of wisdom form the bulk of the book’s content. It concludes with a description of various works undertaken by Walters, later called Swami Kriyananda, after the demise of his Guru, Paramhansa Yogananda and a few pages on his spiritual understanding.
The book is a good introduction to the Self-Realization Foundation and the works of Paramhansa Yogananda. It is not a book on practices in yoga, just a description of the author's days spent with his Master and his own work. The author also describes how regular people around him in the 40’s had their eyes only on the same dream – a job with good money and promotions, a house, a car, a wife and many kids, and found it impossible to understand an individual who thought differently.
The language is very simple, precise and honest. It is meant to be thought-provoking and inspiring; it does have occasional grammatical errors, but the meaning is very clear and obvious. It has some 75 relevant pictures of the author, the SRF, Yogananda and his line of Gurus. The book’s middle, lacking a definitive chronology, is filled with numerous anecdotes, incidents, dialogues, and certainly a large number of monologues by Yogananda himself.
The book is a good companion to 'Autobiography of a Yogi'. The author speaks much of his Guru and other disciples in the middle of the book. His personal spiritual growth is mentioned only sparsely. The miracles and prophesies seem unbelievable, but lack of knowledge prevents me from commenting on the same. The author is hardly impressive, but the book does generate an interest in Paramhansa Yogananda and his own autobiography. The author’s spiritual undertaking, in times where misfits were kept at a distance by everyone, involved a lot of courage, patience and understanding, something the author has been very humble about. Sometimes the author’s story gives a feeling that destiny worked out everything for him; but that I believe is a lack of insight on the part of the reader.
Book Reviewed by Karan Mehta
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