Self-Realization Fellowship’s editions, and none others, incorporate all of the author’s wishes for the final text of Autobiography of a Yogi — personally conveyed by him to the editor he worked with from 1924 until his passing in 1952, and to whom he entrusted all matters pertaining to the publication of his works.
Readers of Autobiography of a Yogi sometimes inquire about the differences between the current edition and the first edition published in 1946. Three editions of Paramahansaji’s autobiography appeared during his lifetime. In the third edition, published in 1951, he made significant changes — revising the text thoroughly, deleting material, amplifying various points, and adding a new final chapter, “The Years 1940 – 1951” (one of the longest in the book). Some further revisions made by him after the third edition could not be incorporated until the publication of the seventh edition, which was released in 1956. The following Publisher’s Note was printed in the seventh edition of Autobiography of a Yogi, giving the history of the author’s wishes for the book:
“This 1956 American edition contains revisions made by Paramahansa Yogananda in 1949 for the London, England, edition; and additional revisions made by the author in 1951. In a ‘Note to the London Edition,’ dated October 25, 1949, Paramahansa Yogananda wrote: ‘The arrangement for a London edition of this book has given me an opportunity to revise, and slightly to enlarge, the text. Besides new material in the last chapter, I have added a number of footnotes in which I have answered questions sent me by readers of the American edition.’
“Later revisions, made by the author in 1951, were intended to appear in the fourth (1952) American edition. At that time the rights in Autobiography of a Yogi were vested in a New York publishing house. In 1946 in New York each page of the book had been made into an electrotype plate. Consequently, to add even a comma requires that the metal plate of an entire page be cut apart and resoldered with a new line containing the desired comma. Because of the expense involved in resoldering many plates, the New York publisher did not include in the fourth edition the author’s 1951 revisions.
“In late 1953 Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) bought from the New York publisher all rights in Autobiography of a Yogi. SRF reprinted the book in 1954 and 1955 (fifth and sixth editions); but during those two years other duties prevented the SRF editorial department from undertaking the formidable task of incorporating the author’s revisions on the electrotype plates. The work, however, has been accomplished in time for the seventh edition.”
All of the changes, deletions, and additions between 1946 and 1956 were made at Paramahansaji’s request. Other editorial revisions — which were in all cases quite minor — were made later, according to guidance given by him before his passing to his longtime editor, Tara Mata, who had worked closely with him for over 25 years and in whom he placed his full trust for the posthumous publication of his writings in accord with his instructions.
Because Paramahansaji clearly foresaw that this book would continue to reach wider and wider audiences as the years went by, he instructed his editors to add — in the way of incidental footnotes, pictures, captions, etc. — whatever might be necessary in order to keep the book up to date.
Changes made since 1956 have consisted of what any publisher would normally do in the way of editorial adjustments in subsequent editions of a book that has remained continually in print for many decades (e.g., updating the list of other books by the author; addition of footnotes deemed of use to current readers – clearly marked as being added by the publisher, not the author; additional photos of the author and his activities; necessary changes to front and back matter, etc.).
Early editions of Autobiography of a Yogi gave the author’s title as “Paramhansa,” reflecting the common Bengali practice of omitting silent or near-silent a’s in spelling. To ensure that the sacred significance of this Veda-based title would be conveyed, in later editions the standard Sanskrit transliteration has been used: “Paramahansa,” from parama, “highest or supreme” and hansa, “swan” — signifying one who has attained highest realization of his true divine Self, and of the unity of that Self with Spirit.
Compared to the 1946 First Edition, Self-Realization Fellowship’s current editions of the Autobiography include an additional 20 pages of photos of Paramahansa Yogananda and other subjects discussed in the book, drawn from the organization’s archives to provide a fuller glimpse of the author and his activities for interested readers.