It then became Sri 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 recognised 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 "Materialising 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 send a cable 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."
The book was greeted by readers and by the world press with an outpouring of appreciative praise. "There has been nothing before, written in English or in any other language, like this presentation of Yoga," wrote Columbia University Press in its Review of Religions. The New York Times proclaimed it "a rare account." Newsweek reported, "Yogananda's book is rather an autobiography of the soul than of the body....It is a fascinating and clearly annotated study of a religious way of life, ingenuously described in the lush style of the Orient."
A second edition was quickly prepared, and in 1951 a third. In addition to revising and updating portions of the text, and deleting some passages describing organisational activities and plans that were no longer current, Paramahansa Yogananda added a final chapter—one of the longest in the book — covering the years 1940–1951. In a footnote to the new chapter, he wrote, "Much new material in Chapter 49 has been added to the third edition of this book (1951). In response to requests made by a number of readers of the first two editions, I have answered, in this chapter, various questions about India, yoga, and Vedic philosophy."
Additional revisions made by Paramahansa Yogananda were included in the seventh edition (1956), as described in a Publisher's Note to this edition. All of Yogoda Satsanga Society of India/Self-Realization Fellowship's current editions incorporate Yogananda's wishes for the final text of the book.
"I have been intensely moved," Sri Yogananda wrote in an Author's Note to the 1951 edition, "to receive letters from thousands of readers. Their comments, and the fact that the book has been translated into many languages, encourages me to believe that the West has found in these pages an affirmative answer to the question: 'Has the ancient science of yoga any worthwhile place in the life of the modern man?'"
With the passing years "thousands of readers" became millions, and the enduring and universal appeal of Autobiography of a Yogi has become increasingly apparent. It is still appearing on spiritual and inspirational best-seller lists sixty years after it was first published — a rare phenomenon! Available in many translations, it is now being used in colleges and universities all over the world in courses ranging from Eastern philosophy and religion to English literature, psychology, sociology, anthropology, history, and even business management. As predicted more than a century ago by Lahiri Mahasaya, the message of yoga and its ancient tradition of meditation has indeed encircled the globe.
In the book's final chapter, Paramahansa Yogananda writes of the profound assurance which has been affirmed by saints and sages of all the world's religions down through the ages:
"God is Love; His plan for creation can be rooted only in love. Does not that simple thought, rather than erudite reasonings, offer solace to the human heart? Every saint who has penetrated to the core of Reality has testified that a divine universal plan exists and that it is beautiful and full of joy." As Autobiography of a Yogi continues in its second half-century, it is our hope that all readers of this inspiring work — those who are encountering it for the first time as well as those for whom it has become a long-cherished companion on life's path — will find their own souls opening to a deeper faith in the transcendent truth that lies at the heart of life's seeming mysteries.