THE GREAT novelist Leo Tolstoy wrote a delightful story, The Three Hermits. His friend Nicholas Roerich  has summarized the tale as follows:
"On an island there lived three old hermits. They were so simple that the only prayer they used was: 'We are three; you are threehave mercy on us!' Great miracles were manifested during this naive prayer.
"The local bishop  came to hear about the three hermits and their inadmissible prayer, and decided to visit them in order to teach them the canonical invocations. He arrived on the island, told the hermits that their heavenly petition was undignified, and taught them many of the customary prayers. The bishop then left on a boat. He saw, following the ship, a radiant light. As it approached, he discerned the three hermits, who were holding hands and running on the waves in an effort to overtake the vessel.
"'We have forgotten the prayers you taught us,' they cried as they reached the bishop, 'and have hastened to ask you to repeat them.' The awed bishop shook his head.
"'Dear ones,' he replied humbly, 'continue to live with your old prayer!'"
How did the three saints walk on the water?
How did Christ resurrect his crucified body?
How did Lahiri Mahasaya and Sri Yukteswar perform their miracles?
Modern science has, as yet, no answer; though with the advent of the atomic bomb and the wonders of radar, the scope of the world-mind has been abruptly enlarged. The word "impossible" is becoming less prominent in the scientific vocabulary.
The ancient Vedic scriptures declare that the physical world operates under one fundamental law of maya, the principle of relativity and duality. God, the sole life, is an absolute unity; He cannot appear as the separate and diverse manifestations of a creation except under a false or unreal veil. That cosmic illusion is maya. Every great scientific discovery of modern times has served as a confirmation of this simple pronouncement of the rishis.
Newton's Law of Motion is a law of maya: "To every action there is always an equal and contrary reaction; the mutual actions of any two bodies are always equal and oppositely directed." Action and reaction are thus exactly equal. "To have a single force is impossible. There must be, and always is, a pair of forces equal and opposite."
Fundamental natural activities all betray their mayic origin. Electricity, for example, is a phenomenon of repulsion and attraction; its electrons and protons are electrical opposites. Another example: the atom or final particle of matter is, like the earth itself, a magnet with positive and negative poles. The entire phenomenal world is under the inexorable sway of polarity; no law of physics, chemistry, or any other science is ever found free from inherent opposite or contrasted principles.
Physical science, then, cannot formulate laws outside of maya, the very texture and structure of creation. Nature herself is maya; natural science must perforce deal with her ineluctable quiddity. In her own domain, she's eternal and inexhaustible; future scientists can do no more than probe one aspect after another of her varied infinitude. Science thus remains in a perpetual flux, unable to reach finality; fit indeed to formulate the laws of an already existing and functioning cosmos, but powerless to detect the law Framer and sole Operator. The majestic manifestations of gravitation and electricity have become known, but what gravitation and electricity are, no mortal knows. 
To surmount maya was the task assigned to the human race by the millennial prophets. To rise above the duality of creation and perceive the unity of the Creator was conceived of as man's highest goal. Those who cling to the cosmic illusion must accept its essential law of polarity: flow and ebb, rise and fall, day and night, pleasure and pain, good and evil, birth and death. This cyclic pattern assumes a certain anguishing monotony, after man has gone through a few thousand human births; he begins to cast a hopeful eye beyond the compulsions of maya.
To tear the veil of maya is to pierce the secret of creation. The yogi who thus denudes the universe is the only true monotheist. All others are worshipping heathen images. So long as man remains subject to the dualistic delusions of nature, the Janus-faced maya is his goddess; he cannot know the one true God.
The world illusion, maya, is individually called avidya, literally, "not-knowledge," ignorance, delusion. Maya or avidya can never be destroyed through intellectual conviction or analysis, but solely through attaining the interior state of nirbikalpa samadhi. The Old Testament prophets, and seers of all lands and ages, spoke from that state of consciousness. Ezekiel says (43:1-2): "Afterwards he brought me to the gate, even the gate that looks toward the east: and, behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east: and his voice was like a noise of many waters: and the earth shone with his glory." Through the divine eye in the forehead (east), the yogi sails his consciousness into omnipresence, hearing the Word or Om, divine sound of many waters or vibrations which is the sole reality of creation.
Among the trillion mysteries of the cosmos, the most phenomenal is light. Unlike sound-waves, whose transmission requires air or other material media, light-waves pass freely through the vacuum of interstellar space. Even the hypothetical ether, held as the interplanetary medium of light in the undulatory theory, can be discarded on the Einsteinian grounds that the geometrical properties of space render the theory of ether unnecessary. Under either hypothesis, light remains the most subtle, the freest from material dependence, of any natural manifestation.
In the gigantic conceptions of Einstein, the velocity of light186,000 miles per seconddominates the whole Theory of Relativity. He proves mathematically that the velocity of light is, so far as man's finite mind is concerned, the only constant in a universe of unstayable flux. On the sole absolute of light-velocity depend all human standards of time and space. Not abstractly eternal as hitherto considered, time and space are relative and finite factors, deriving their measurement validity only in reference to the yardstick of light-velocity. In joining space as a dimensional relativity, time has surrendered age-old claims to a changeless value. Time is now stripped to its rightful naturea simple essence of ambiguity! With a few equational strokes of his pen, Einstein has banished from the cosmos every fixed reality except that of light.
In a later development, his Unified Field Theory, the great physicist embodies in one mathematical formula the laws of gravitation and of electromagnetism. Reducing the cosmic structure to variations on a single law, Einstein  reaches across the ages to the rishis who proclaimed a sole texture of creationthat of a protean maya.
On the epochal Theory of Relativity have arisen the mathematical possibilities of exploring the ultimate atom. Great scientists are now boldly asserting not only that the atom is energy rather than matter, but that atomic energy is essentially mind-stuff.
"The frank realisation that physical science is concerned with a world of shadows is one of the most significant advances," Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington writes in The Nature of the Physical World. "In the world of physics we watch a shadowgraph performance of the drama of familiar life. The shadow of my elbow rests on the shadow table as the shadow ink flows over the shadow paper. It is all symbolic, and as a symbol the physicist leaves it. Then comes the alchemist Mind who transmutes the symbols. ... To put the conclusion crudely, the stuff of the world is mind-stuff. ... The realistic matter and fields of force of former physical theory are altogether irrelevant except in so far as the mind-stuff has itself spun these imaginings. ... The external world has thus become a world of shadows. In removing our illusions we have removed the substance, for indeed we have seen that substance is one of the greatest of our illusions."
With the recent discovery of the electron microscope came definite proof of the light-essence of atoms and of the inescapable duality of nature. The New York Times gave the following report of a 1937 demonstration of the electron microscope before a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science:
"The crystalline structure of tungsten, hitherto known only indirectly by means of X-rays, stood outlined boldly on a fluorescent screen, showing nine atoms in their correct positions in the space lattice, a cube, with one atom in each corner and one in the centre. The atoms in the crystal lattice of the tungsten appeared on the fluorescent screen as points of light, arranged in geometric pattern. Against this crystal cube of light the bombarding molecules of air could be observed as dancing points of light, similar to points of sunlight shimmering on moving waters. . . .
"The principle of the electron microscope was first discovered in 1927 by Drs. Clinton J. Davisson and Lester H. Germer of the Bell Telephone Laboratories, New York City, who found that the electron had a dual personality partaking of the characteristic of both a particle and a wave. The wave quality gave the electron the characteristic of light, and a search was begun to devise means for 'focusing' electrons in a manner similar to the focusing of light by means of a lens.
"For his discovery of the Jekyll-Hyde quality of the electron, which corroborated the prediction made in 1924 by De Broglie, French Nobel Prize winning physicist, and showed that the entire realm of physical nature had a dual personality, Dr. Davisson also received the Nobel Prize in physics."
"The stream of knowledge," Sir James Jeans writes in The Mysterious Universe, "is heading towards a non-mechanical reality; the universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine." Twentieth-century science is thus sounding like a page from the hoary Vedas.
From science, then, if it must be so, let man learn the philosophic truth that there is no material universe; its warp and woof is maya, illusion. Its mirages of reality all break down under analysis. As one by one the reassuring props of a physical cosmos crash beneath him, man dimly perceives his idolatrous reliance, his past transgression of the divine command: "You shall have no other gods before me."
In his famous equation outlining the equivalence of mass and energy, Einstein proved that the energy in any particle of matter is equal to its mass or weight multiplied by the square of the velocity of light. The release of the atomic energies is brought about through the annihilation of the material particles. The "death" of matter has been the "birth" of an Atomic Age.
Light-velocity is a mathematical standard or constant not because there is an absolute value in 186,000 miles a second, but because no material body, whose mass increases with its velocity, can ever attain the velocity of light. Stated another way: only a material body whose mass is infinite could equal the velocity of light.
This conception brings us to the law of miracles.
The masters who are able to materialise and dematerialise their bodies or any other object, and to move with the velocity of light, and to utilise the creative light-rays in bringing into instant visibility any physical manifestation, have fulfilled the necessary Einsteinian condition: their mass is infinite.
The consciousness of a perfected yogi is effortlessly identified, not with a narrow body, but with the universal structure. Gravitation, whether the "force" of Newton or the Einsteinian "manifestation of inertia," is powerless to compel a master to exhibit the property of "weight" which is the distinguishing gravitational condition of all material objects. He who knows himself as the omnipresent Spirit is subject no longer to the rigidities of a body in time and space. Their imprisoning "rings-pass-not" have yielded to the solvent: "I am he."
"Fiat lux! And there was light." God's first command to his ordered creation (Genesis 1:3) brought into being the only atomic reality: light. On the beams of this immaterial medium occur all divine manifestations. Devotees of every age testify to the appearance of God as flame and light. "The king of kings, and lord of lords; who only has immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach to." 
A yogi who through perfect meditation has merged his consciousness with the Creator perceives the cosmic essence as light; to him there is no difference between the light rays composing water and the light rays composing land. Free from matter-consciousness, free from the three dimensions of space and the fourth dimension of time, a master transfers his body of light with equal ease over the light rays of earth, water, fire, or air. Long concentration on the liberating spiritual eye has enabled the yogi to destroy all delusions concerning matter and its gravitational weight; thenceforth he sees the universe as an essentially undifferentiated mass of light.
"Optical images," Dr. L. T. Troland of Harvard tells us, "are built up on the same principle as the ordinary 'half-tone' engravings; that is, they are made up of minute dottings or stripplings far too small to be detected by the eye. ... The sensitiveness of the retina is so great that a visual sensation can be produced by relatively few Quanta of the right kind of light." Through a master's divine knowledge of light phenomena, he can instantly project into perceptible manifestation the ubiquitous light atoms. The actual form of the projectionwhether it be a tree, a medicine, a human bodyis in conformance with a yogi's powers of will and of visualisation.
In man's dream-consciousness, where he has loosened in sleep his clutch on the egoistic limitations that daily hem him round, the omnipotence of his mind has a nightly demonstration. Lo! there in the dream stand the long-dead friends, the remotest continents, the resurrected scenes of his childhood. With that free and unconditioned consciousness, known to all men in the phenomena of dreams, the God-tuned master has forged a never-severed link. Innocent of all personal motives, and employing the creative will bestowed on him by the Creator, a yogi rearranges the light atoms of the universe to satisfy any sincere prayer of a devotee. For this purpose were man and creation made: that he should rise up as master of maya, knowing his dominion over the cosmos.
"And God said, Let's make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the fowl of the air, over the cattle, over all the earth, over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." 
In 1915, shortly after I had entered the swami order, I witnessed a vision of violent contrasts. In it the relativity of human consciousness was vividly established; I clearly perceived the unity of the eternal light behind the painful dualities of maya. The vision descended on me as I sat one morning in my little attic room in Father's Gurpar Road home. For months World War I had been raging in Europe; I reflected sadly on the vast toll of death.
As I closed my eyes in meditation, my consciousness was suddenly transferred to the body of a captain in command of a battleship. The thunder of guns split the air as shots were exchanged between shore batteries and the ship's cannons. A huge shell hit the powder magazine and tore my ship asunder. I jumped into the water, together with the few sailors who had survived the explosion.
Heart pounding, I reached the shore safely. But alas! a stray bullet ended its furious flight in my chest. I fell groaning to the ground. My whole body was paralysed, yet I was aware of possessing it as one is conscious of a leg gone to sleep.
"At last the mysterious footstep of death has caught up with me," I thought. With a final sigh, I was about to sink into unconsciousness when lo! I found myself seated in the lotus posture in my Gurpar Road room.
Hysterical tears poured forth as I joyfully stroked and pinched my regained possessiona body free from any bullet hole in the breast. I rocked to and fro, inhaling and exhaling to assure myself that I was alive. Amidst these self-congratulations, again I found my consciousness transferred to the captain's dead body by the gory shore. Utter confusion of mind came on me.
"Lord," I prayed, "am I dead or alive?"
A dazzling play of light filled the whole horizon. A soft rumbling vibration formed itself into words:
"What has life or death to do with light? In the image of my light I have made you. The relativities of life and death belong to the cosmic dream. Behold your dreamless being! Awake, my child, awake!"
As steps in man's awakening, the Lord inspires scientists to discover, at the right time and place, the secrets of his creation. Many modern discoveries help men to apprehend the cosmos as a varied expression of one powerlight, guided by divine intelligence. The wonders of the motion picture, of radio, of television, of radar, of the photo-electric cellthe all-seeing "electric eye," of atomic energies, are all based on the electromagnetic phenomenon of light.
The motion picture art can portray any miracle. From the impressive visual standpoint, no marvel is barred to trick photography. A man's transparent astral body can be seen rising from his gross physical form, he can walk on the water, resurrect the dead, reverse the natural sequence of developments, and play havoc with time and space. Assembling the light images as he pleases, the photographer achieves optical wonders which a true master produces with actual light rays.
The lifelike images of the motion picture illustrate many truths concerning creation. The cosmic director has written his own plays, and assembled the tremendous casts for the pageant of the centuries. From the dark booth of eternity, he pours his creative beam through the films of successive ages, and the pictures are thrown on the screen of space. Just as the motion-picture images appear to be real, but are only combinations of light and shade, so is the universal variety a delusive seeming. The planetary spheres, with their countless forms of life, are naught but figures in a cosmic motion picture, temporarily true to five sense perceptions as the scenes are cast on the screen of man's consciousness by the infinite creative beam.
A cinema audience can look up and see that all screen images are appearing through the instrumentality of one imageless beam of light. The colourful universal drama is similarly issuing from the single white light of a cosmic source. With inconceivable ingenuity God is staging an entertainment for his human children, making them actors as well as audience in his planetary theatre.
One day I entered a motion picture house to view a newsreel of the European battlefields. World War I was still being waged in the West; the newsreel recorded the carnage with such realism that I left the theatre with a troubled heart.
"Lord," I prayed, "why do you permit such suffering?"
To my intense surprise, an instant answer came in the form of a vision of the actual European battlefields. The horror of the struggle, filled with the dead and dying, far surpassed in ferocity any representation of the newsreel.
"Look intently!" A gentle voice spoke to my inner consciousness. "You willl see that these scenes now being enacted in France are nothing but a play of chiaroscuro. They are the cosmic motion picture, as real and as unreal as the theatre newsreel you have just seena play within a play."
My heart was still not comforted. The divine voice went on: "Creation is light and shadow both, else no picture is possible. The good and evil of maya must ever alternate in supremacy. If joy were ceaseless here in this world, would man ever seek another? Without suffering he scarcely cares to recall that he has forsaken his eternal home. Pain is a prod to remembrance. The way of escape is through wisdom! The tragedy of death is unreal; those who shudder at it are like an ignorant actor who dies of fright on the stage when nothing more is fired at him than a blank cartridge. My sons are the children of light; they will not sleep forever in delusion."
Although I had read scriptural accounts of maya, they had not given me the deep insight that came with the personal visions and their accompanying words of consolation. One's values are profoundly changed when he's finally convinced that creation is only a vast motion picture, and that not in it, but beyond it, lies his own reality.
As I finished writing this chapter, I sat on my bed in the lotus posture. My room was dimly lit by two shaded lamps. Lifting my gaze, I noticed that the ceiling was dotted with small mustard-coloured lights, scintillating and quivering with a radiumlike lustre. Myriads of pencilled rays, like sheets of rain, gathered into a transparent shaft and poured silently on me.
At once my physical body lost its grossness and became metamorphosed into astral texture. I felt a floating sensation as, barely touching the bed, the weightless body shifted slightly and alternately to left and right. I looked around the room; the furniture and walls were as usual, but the little mass of light had so multiplied that the ceiling was invisible. I was wonder-struck.
"This is the cosmic motion picture mechanism." A voice spoke as though from within the light. "Shedding its beam on the white screen of your bed sheets, it is producing the picture of your body. Behold, your form is nothing but light!"
I gazed at my arms and moved them back and forth, yet could not feel their weight. An ecstatic joy overwhelmed me. This cosmic stem of light, blossoming as my body, seemed a divine replica of the light beams streaming out of the projection booth in a cinema house and manifesting as pictures on the screen.
For a long time I experienced this motion picture of my body in the dimly lighted theatre of my own bedroom. Despite the many visions I have had, none was ever more singular. As my illusion of a solid body was completely dissipated, and my realisation deepened that the essence of all objects is light, I looked up to the throbbing stream of lifetrons and spoke entreatingly.
"Divine light, please withdraw this, my humble bodily picture, into yourself, even as Elijah was drawn up to heaven by a flame."
This prayer was evidently startling; the beam disappeared. My body resumed its normal weight and sank on the bed; the swarm of dazzling ceiling lights flickered and vanished. My time to leave this earth had apparently not arrived.
"Besides," I thought philosophically, "the prophet Elijah might well be displeased at my presumption!"
"REVEREND mother, I was baptised in infancy by your prophet-husband. He was the guru of my parents and of my own guru Sri Yukteswarji. Will you therefore give me the privilege of hearing a few incidents in your sacred life?"
I was addressing Srimati Kashi Moni, the life-companion of Lahiri Mahasaya. Finding myself in Varanasi for a short period, I was fulfilling a long-felt desire to visit the venerable lady. She received me graciously at the old Lahiri homestead in the Garudeswar Mohulla section of Varanasi. Although aged, she was blooming like a lotus, silently emanating a spiritual fragrance. She was of medium build, with a slender neck and fair skin. Large, lustrous eyes softened her motherly face.
"Son, you are welcome here. Come upstairs."
Kashi Moni led the way to a very small room where, for a time, she had lived with her husband. I felt honoured to witness the shrine in which the peerless master had condescended to play the human drama of matrimony. The gentle lady motioned me to a pillow seat by her side.
"It was years before I came to realise the divine stature of my husband," she began. "One night, in this very room, I had a vivid dream. Glorious angels floated in unimaginable grace above me. So realistic was the sight that I awoke at once; the room was strangely enveloped in dazzling light.
"My husband, in lotus posture, was levitated in the centre of the room, surrounded by angels who were worshipping him with the supplicating dignity of palm-folded hands. Astonished beyond measure, I was convinced that I was still dreaming.
"'Woman,' Lahiri Mahasaya said, 'you are not dreaming. Forsake your sleep forever and forever.' As he slowly descended to the floor, I prostrated myself at his feet.
"'Master,' I cried, 'again and again I bow before you! Will you pardon me for having considered you as my husband? I die with shame to realise that I have remained asleep in ignorance by the side of one who's divinely awakened. From this night, you are no longer my husband, but my guru. Will you accept my insignificant self as your disciple?' 
"The master touched me gently. 'Sacred soul, arise. You are accepted.' He motioned toward the angels. 'Please bow in turn to each of these holy saints.'
"When I had finished my humble genuflections, the angelic voices sounded together, like a chorus from an ancient scripture.
"'Consort of the divine one, you are blessed. We salute you.' They bowed at my feet and lo! their refulgent forms vanished. The room darkened.
"My guru asked me to receive initiation into kriya yoga.
"'Of course,' I responded. 'I am sorry not to have had its blessing earlier in my life.'
"'The time was not ripe.' Lahiri Mahasaya smiled consolingly. 'Much of your karma I have silently helped you to work out. Now you are willing and ready.'
"He touched my forehead. Masses of whirling light appeared; the radiance gradually formed itself into the opal-blue spiritual eye, ringed in gold and centred with a white pentagonal star.
"'Penetrate your consciousness through the star into the kingdom of the infinite.' My guru's voice had a new note, soft like distant music.
"Vision after vision broke as oceanic surf on the shores of my soul. The panoramic spheres finally melted in a sea of bliss. I lost myself in ever-surging blessedness. When I returned hours later to awareness of this world, the master gave me the technique of kriya yoga.
"From that night on, Lahiri Mahasaya never slept in my room again. Nor did he ever sleep after that. He remained in the front room downstairs, in the company of his disciples both by day and by night."
The illustrious lady fell into silence. Realising the uniqueness of her relationship with the sublime yogi, I finally ventured to ask for further reminiscences.
"Son, you are greedy. Nevertheless you shall have one more story." She smiled shyly. "I will confess a sin which I committed against my guru-husband. Some months after my initiation, I began to feel forlorn and neglected. One morning Lahiri Mahasaya entered this little room to fetch an article; I quickly followed him. Overcome by violent delusion, I addressed him scathingly.
"'You spend all your time with the disciples. What about your responsibilities for your wife and children? I regret that you do not interest yourself in providing more money for the family.'
"The master glanced at me for a moment, then lo! he was gone. Awed and frightened, I heard a voice resounding from every part of the room:
"'It is all nothing, do not you see? How could a nothing like me produce riches for you?'
"'Guruji,' I cried, 'I implore pardon a million times! My sinful eyes can see you no more; please appear in your sacred form.'
"'I am here.' This reply came from above me. I looked up and saw the master materialise in the air, his head touching the ceiling. His eyes were like blinding flames. Beside myself with fear, I lay sobbing at his feet after he had quietly descended to the floor.
"'Woman,' he said, 'seek divine wealth, not the paltry tinsel of earth. After acquiring inward treasure, you willl find that outward supply is always forthcoming.' He added, 'One of my spiritual sons will make provision for you.'
"My guru's words naturally came true; a disciple did leave a considerable sum for our family."
I thanked Kashi Moni for sharing with me her wondrous experiences.  On the following day I returned to her home and enjoyed several hours of philosophical discussion with Tincouri and Ducouri Lahiri. These two saintly sons of India's great yogi followed closely in his ideal footsteps. Both men were fair, tall, stalwart, and heavily bearded, with soft voices and an old-fashioned charm of manner.
His wife was not the only woman disciple of Lahiri Mahasaya; there were hundreds of others, including my mother. A woman chela once asked the guru for his photograph. He handed her a print, remarking, "If you deem it a protection, then it is so; otherwise it is only a picture."
A few days later this woman and Lahiri Mahasaya's daughter-in-law happened to be studying the Bhagavad Gita at a table behind which hung the guru's photograph. An electrical storm broke out with great fury.
"Lahiri Mahasaya, protect us!" The women bowed before the picture. Lightning struck the book which they had been reading, but the two devotees were unhurt.
"I felt as though a sheet of ice had been placed around me to ward off the scorching heat," the chela explained.
Lahiri Mahasaya performed two miracles in connection with a woman disciple, Abhoya. She and her husband, a Calcutta lawyer, started one day for Varanasi to visit the guru. Their carriage was delayed by heavy traffic; they reached the Howrah main station only to hear the Varanasi train whistling for departure.
Abhoya, near the ticket office, stood quietly.
"Lahiri Mahasaya, I beseech you to stop the train!" she silently prayed. "I cannot suffer the pangs of delay in waiting another day to see you."
The wheels of the snorting train continued to move round and round, but there was no onward progress. The engineer and passengers descended to the platform to view the phenomenon. An English railroad guard approached Abhoya and her husband. Contrary to all precedent, he volunteered his services.
"Babu," he said, "give me the money. I will buy your tickets while you get aboard."
As soon as the couple was seated and had received the tickets, the train slowly moved forward. In panic, the engineer and passengers clambered again to their places, knowing neither how the train started, nor why it had stopped in the first place.
Arriving at the home of Lahiri Mahasaya in Varanasi, Abhoya silently prostrated herself before the master, and tried to touch his feet.
"Compose yourself, Abhoya," he remarked. "How you love to bother me! As if you could not have come here by the next train!"
Abhoya visited Lahiri Mahasaya on another memorable occasion. This time she wanted his intercession, not with a train, but with the stork.
"I pray you to bless me that my ninth child may live," she said. "Eight babies have been born to me; all died soon after birth."
The master smiled sympathetically. "Your coming child will live. Please follow my instructions carefully. The baby, a girl, will be born at night. See that the oil lamp is kept burning till dawn. Do not fall asleep and thus allow the light to become extinguished."
Abhoya's child was a daughter, born at night, exactly as foreseen by the omniscient guru. The mother instructed her nurse to keep the lamp filled with oil. Both women kept the urgent vigil far into the early morning hours, but finally fell asleep. The lamp oil was almost gone; the light flickered feebly.
The bedroom door unlatched and flew open with a violent sound. The startled women awoke. Their astonished eyes beheld the form of Lahiri Mahasaya.
"Abhoya, behold, the light is almost gone!" He pointed to the lamp, which the nurse hastened to refill. As soon as it burned again brightly, the master vanished. The door closed; the latch was affixed without visible agency.
Abhoya's ninth child survived; in 1935, when I made inquiry, she was still living.
One of Lahiri Mahasaya's disciples, the venerable Kali Kumar Roy, related to me many fascinating details of his life with the master.
"I was often a guest at his Varanasi home for weeks at a time," Roy told me. "I observed that many saintly figures, danda  swamis, arrived in the quiet of night to sit at the guru's feet. Sometimes they would engage in discussion of meditational and philosophical points. At dawn the exalted guests would depart. I found during my visits that Lahiri Mahasaya did not once lie down to sleep.
"During an early period of my association with the master, I had to contend with the opposition of my employer," Roy went on. "He was steeped in materialism.
"'I do not want religious fanatics on my staff,' he would sneer. 'If I ever meet your charlatan guru, I shall give him some words to remember.'
"This alarming threat failed to interrupt my regular program; I spent nearly every evening in my guru's presence. One night my employer followed me and rushed rudely into the parlour. He was doubtless fully bent on uttering the pulverising remarks he had promised. No sooner had the man seated himself than Lahiri Mahasaya addressed the little group of about twelve disciples.
"'Would you all like to see a picture?'
"When we nodded, he asked us to darken the room. 'Sit behind one another in a circle,' he said, 'and place your hands over the eyes of the man in front of you.'
"I was not surprised to see that my employer also was following, albeit unwillingly, the master's directions. In a few minutes Lahiri Mahasaya asked us what we were seeing.
"'Sir,' I replied, 'a beautiful woman appears. She wears a red-bordered sari, and stands near an elephant-ear plant.' All the other disciples gave the same description. The master turned to my employer. 'Do you recognise that woman?'
"'Yes.' The man was evidently struggling with emotions new to his nature. 'I have been foolishly spending my money on her, though I have a good wife. I am ashamed of the motives which brought me here. Will you forgive me, and receive me as a disciple?'
"'If you lead a good moral life for six months, I shall accept you.' The master enigmatically added, 'Otherwise I will not have to initiate you.'
"For three months my employer refrained from temptation; then he resumed his former relationship with the woman. Two months later he died. Thus I came to understand my guru's veiled prophecy about the improbability of the man's initiation."
Lahiri Mahasaya had a very famous friend, Swami Trailanga, who was reputed to be over three hundred years old. The two yogis often sat together in meditation. Trailanga's fame is so widespread that few Hindus would deny the possibility of truth in any story of his astounding miracles. If Christ returned to earth and walked the streets of New York, displaying his divine powers, it would cause the same excitement that was created by Trailanga decades ago as he passed through the crowded lanes of Varanasi.
On many occasions the swami was seen to drink, with no ill effect, the most deadly poisons. Thousands of people, including a few who are still living, have seen Trailanga floating on the Ganges. For days together he would sit on top of the water, or remain hidden for very long periods under the waves. A common sight at the Varanasi bathing ghats was the swami's motionless body on the blistering stone slabs, wholly exposed to the merciless Indian sun. By these feats Trailanga sought to teach men that a yogi's life does not depend on oxygen or ordinary conditions and precautions. Whether he were above water or under it, and whether or not his body lay exposed to the fierce solar rays, the master proved that he lived by divine consciousness: death could not touch him.
The yogi was great not only spiritually, but physically. His weight exceeded three hundred pounds: a pound for each year of his life! As he ate very seldom, the mystery is increased. A master, however, easily ignores all usual rules of health, when he desires to do so for some special reason, often a subtle one known only to himself. Great saints who have awakened from the cosmic mayic dream and realised this world as an idea in the divine Mind, can do as they wish with the body, knowing it to be only a manipulatable form of condensed or frozen energy. Though physical scientists now understand that matter is nothing but congealed energy, fully-illumined masters have long passed from theory to practice in the field of matter-control.
Trailanga always remained completely nude. The harassed police of Varanasi came to regard him as a baffling problem child. The natural swami, like the early Adam in the garden of Eden, was utterly unconscious of his nakedness. The police were quite conscious of it, however, and unceremoniously committed him to jail. General embarrassment ensued; the enormous body of Trailanga was soon seen, in its usual entirety, on the prison roof. His cell, still securely locked, offered no clue to his mode of escape.
The discouraged officers of the law once more performed their duty. This time a guard was posted before the swami's cell. Might again retired before right. Trailanga was soon observed in his nonchalant stroll over the roof. Justice is blind; the outwitted police decided to follow her example.
The great yogi preserved a habitual silence.  In spite of his round face and huge, barrel-like stomach, Trailanga ate only occasionally. After weeks without food, he would break his fast with potfuls of clabbered milk offered to him by devotees. A sceptic once determined to expose Trailanga as a charlatan. A large bucket of calcium-lime mixture, used in whitewashing walls, was placed before the swami.
"Master," the materialist said, in mock reverence, "I have brought you some clabbered milk. Please drink it."
Trailanga unhesitatingly drained, to the last drop, the containerful of burning lime. In a few minutes the evildoer fell to the ground in agony.
"Help, swami, help!" he cried. "I am on fire! Forgive my wicked test!"
The great yogi broke his habitual silence. "Scoffer," he said, "you did not realise when you offered me poison that my life is one with your own. Except for my knowledge that God is present in my stomach, as in every atom of creation, the lime would have killed me. Now that you know the divine meaning of boomerang, never again play tricks on anyone."
The well-purged sinner, healed by Trailanga's words, slunk feebly away.
The reversal of pain was not due to any volition of the master, but came about through unerring application of the law of justice which upholds creation's farthest swinging orb. Men of God-realisation like Trailanga allow the divine law to operate instantaneously; they have banished forever all thwarting crosscurrents of ego.
The automatic adjustments of righteousness, often paid in an unexpected coin as in the case of Trailanga and his would be murderer, assuage our hasty indignance at human injustice. "Vengeance is mine; I will repay, says the Lord."  What need for man's brief resources? the universe duly conspires for retribution. Dull minds discredit the possibility of divine justice, love, omniscience, immortality. "Airy scriptural conjectures!" This insensitive viewpoint, aweless before the cosmic spectacle, arouses a train of events which brings its own awakening.
The omnipotence of spiritual law was referred to by Christ on the occasion of his triumphant entry into Jerusalem. As the disciples and the multitude shouted for joy, and cried, "Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest," certain Pharisees complained of the undignified spectacle. "Master," they protested, "rebuke your disciples."
"I tell you," Jesus replied, "that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would at once cry out." 
In this reprimand to the Pharisees, Christ was pointing out that divine justice is no figurative abstraction, and that a man of peace, though his tongue be torn from its roots, will yet find his speech and his defence in the bedrock of creation, the universal order itself.
"Think you," Jesus was saying, "to silence men of peace? As well may you hope to throttle the voice of God, whose very stones sing His glory and His omnipresence. Will you demand that men not celebrate in honour of the peace in heaven, but should only gather together in multitudes to shout for war on earth? Then make your preparations, Pharisees, to overtopple the foundations of the world; for it is not gentle men alone, but stones or earth, and water and fire and air that will rise up against you, to bear witness of His ordered harmony."
The grace of the Christlike yogi, Trailanga, was once bestowed on my sajo mama (maternal uncle). One morning Uncle saw the master surrounded by a crowd of devotees at a Varanasi ghat. He managed to edge his way close to Trailanga, whose feet he touched humbly. Uncle was astonished to find himself instantly freed from a painful chronic disease. 
The only known living disciple of the great yogi is a woman, Shankari Mai Jiew. Daughter of one of Trailanga's disciples, she received the swami's training from her early childhood. She lived for forty years in a series of lonely Himalayan caves near Badrinath, Kedarnath, Amarnath, and Pasupatinath. The brahmacharini (woman ascetic), born in 1826, is now well over the century mark. Not aged in appearance, however, she has retained her black hair, sparkling teeth, and amazing energy. She comes out of her seclusion every few years to attend the periodical melas or religious fairs.
This woman saint often visited Lahiri Mahasaya. She has related that one day, in the Barackpur section near Calcutta, while she was sitting by Lahiri Mahasaya's side, his great guru Babaji quietly entered the room and held converse with them both.
On one occasion her master Trailanga, forsaking his usual silence, honoured Lahiri Mahasaya very pointedly in public. A Varanasi disciple objected.
"Sir," he said, "why do you, a swami and a renunciate, show such respect to a householder?"
"My son," Trailanga replied, "Lahiri Mahasaya is like a divine kitten, remaining wherever the cosmic mother has placed him. While dutifully playing the part of a worldly man, he has received that perfect self-realisation for which I have renounced even my loincloth!"
"NOW A certain man was sick, named Lazarus. ... When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not to death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified by it.'" 
Sri Yukteswar was expounding the Christian scriptures one sunny morning on the balcony of his Serampore hermitage. Besides a few of Master's other disciples, I was present with a small group of my Ranchi students.
"In this passage Jesus calls himself the son of God. Though he was truly united with God, his reference here has a deep impersonal significance," my guru explained. "The son of God is the christ or divine consciousness in man. No mortal can glorify God. The only honour that man can pay his Creator is to seek him; man cannot glorify an abstraction that he does not know. The 'glory' or nimbus around the head of the saints is a symbolic witness of their capacity to render divine homage."
Sri Yukteswar went on to read the marvellous story of Lazarus' resurrection. At its conclusion Master fell into a long silence, the sacred book open on his knee.
"I too was privileged to behold a similar miracle." My guru finally spoke with solemn unction. "Lahiri Mahasaya resurrected one of my friends from the dead."
The young lads at my side smiled with keen interest. There was enough of the boy in me, too, to enjoy not only the philosophy but, in particular, any story I could get Sri Yukteswar to relate about his wondrous experiences with his guru.
"My friend Rama and I were inseparable," Master began. "Because he was shy and reclusive, he chose to visit our guru Lahiri Mahasaya only during the hours of midnight and dawn, when the crowd of daytime disciples was absent. As Rama's closest friend, I served as a spiritual vent through which he let out the wealth of his spiritual perceptions. I found inspiration in his ideal companionship." My guru's face softened with memories.
"Rama was suddenly put to a severe test," Sri Yukteswar continued. "He contracted the disease of Asiatic cholera. As our master never objected to the services of physicians at times of serious illness, two specialists were summoned. Amidst the frantic rush of ministering to the stricken man, I was deeply praying to Lahiri Mahasaya for help. I hurried to his home and sobbed out the story.
"'The doctors are seeing Rama. He willl be well.' My guru smiled jovially.
"I returned with a light heart to my friend's bedside, only to find him in a dying state.
"'He cannot last more than one or two hours,' one of the physicians told me with a gesture of despair. Once more I hastened to Lahiri Mahasaya.
"'The doctors are conscientious men. I am sure Rama will be well.' The master dismissed me blithely.
"At Rama's place I found both doctors gone. One had left me a note: 'We have done our best, but his case is hopeless.'
"My friend was indeed the picture of a dying man. I did not understand how Lahiri Mahasaya's words could fail to come true, yet the sight of Rama's rapidly ebbing life kept suggesting to my mind: 'All is over now.' Tossing thus on the seas of faith and apprehensive doubt, I ministered to my friend as best I could. He roused himself to cry out:
"'Yukteswar, run to Master and tell him I am gone. Ask him to bless my body before its last rites.' With these words Rama sighed heavily and gave up the ghost. 
"I wept for an hour by his beloved form. Always a lover of quiet, now he had attained the utter stillness of death. Another disciple came in; I asked him to remain in the house till I returned. Half-dazed, I trudged back to my guru.
"'How is Rama now?' Lahiri Mahasaya's face was wreathed in smiles.
"'Sir, you willl soon see how he is,' I blurted out emotionally. 'In a few hours you willl see his body, before it is carried to the crematory grounds.' I broke down and moaned openly.
"'Yukteswar, control yourself. Sit calmly and meditate.' My guru retired into samadhi. The afternoon and night passed in unbroken silence; I struggled unsuccessfully to regain an inner composure.
"At dawn Lahiri Mahasaya glanced at me consolingly. 'I see you are still disturbed. Why did not you explain yesterday that you expected me to give Rama tangible aid in the form of some medicine?' The master pointed to a cup-shaped lamp containing crude castor oil. 'Fill a little bottle from the lamp; put seven drops into Rama's mouth.'
"'Sir,' I remonstrated, 'he's been dead since yesterday noon. Of what use is the oil now?'
"'Never mind; just do as I ask.' Lahiri Mahasaya's cheerful mood was incomprehensible; I was still in the unassuaged agony of bereavement. Pouring out a small amount of oil, I departed for Rama's house.
"I found my friend's body rigid in the death-clasp. Paying no attention to his ghastly condition, I opened his lips with my right finger and managed with my left hand and the help of the cork to put the oil drop by drop over his clenched teeth.
"As the seventh drop touched his cold lips, Rama shivered violently. His muscles vibrated from head to foot as he sat up wonderingly.
"'I saw Lahiri Mahasaya in a blaze of light,' he cried. 'He shone like the sun. "Arise; forsake your sleep," he commanded me. "Come with Yukteswar to see me."'
"I could scarcely believe my eyes when Rama dressed himself and was strong enough after that fatal sickness to walk to the home of our guru. There he prostrated himself before Lahiri Mahasaya with tears of gratitude.
"The master was beside himself with mirth. His eyes twinkled at me mischievously.
"'Yukteswar,' he said, 'surely from now on you will not fail to carry with you a bottle of castor oil! Whenever you see a corpse, just administer the oil! Why, seven drops of lamp oil must surely foil the power of Yama!' 
"'Guruji, you are ridiculing me. I do not understand; please point out the nature of my error.'
"'I told you twice that Rama would be well; yet you could not fully believe me,' Lahiri Mahasaya explained. 'I did not mean the doctors would be able to cure him; I remarked only that they were in attendance. There was no causal connection between my two statements. I did not want to interfere with the physicians; they have to live, too.' In a voice resounding with joy, my guru added, 'Always know that the inexhaustible paramatman  can heal anyone, doctor or no doctor.'
"'I see my mistake,' I acknowledged remorsefully. 'I know now that your simple word is binding on the whole cosmos.'"
As Sri Yukteswar finished the awesome story, one of the spellbound listeners ventured a question that, from a child, was doubly understandable.
"Sir," he said, "why did your guru use castor oil?"
"Child, giving the oil had no meaning except that I expected something material and Lahiri Mahasaya chose the near-by oil as an objective symbol for awakening my greater faith. The master allowed Rama to die, because I had partially doubted. But the divine guru knew that inasmuch as he had said the disciple would be well, the healing must take place, even though he had to cure Rama of death, a disease usually final!"
Sri Yukteswar dismissed the little group, and motioned me to a blanket seat at his feet.
"Yogananda," he said with unusual gravity, "you have been surrounded from birth by direct disciples of Lahiri Mahasaya. The great master lived his sublime life in partial seclusion, and steadfastly refused to permit his followers to build any organisation around his teachings. He made, nevertheless, a significant prediction.
"'About fifty years after my passing,' he said, 'my life will be written because of a deep interest in yoga which the West will manifest. The yogic message will encircle the globe, and aid in establishing that brotherhood of man which results from direct perception of the one Father.'
"My son Yogananda," Sri Yukteswar went on, "you must do your part in spreading that message, and in writing that sacred life."
Fifty years after Lahiri Mahasaya's passing in 1895 culminated in 1945, the year of completion of this present book. I cannot but be struck by the coincidence that the year 1945 has also ushered in a new agethe era of revolutionary atomic energies. All thoughtful minds turn as never before to the urgent problems of peace and brotherhood, lest the continued use of physical force banish all men along with the problems.
Though the human race and its works disappear tracelessly by time or bomb, the sun does not falter in its course; the stars keep their invariable vigil. Cosmic law cannot be stayed or changed, and man would do well to put himself in harmony with it. If the cosmos is against might, if the sun wars not with the planets but retires at dueful time to give the stars their little sway, what avails our mailed fist? Shall any peace indeed come out of it? Not cruelty but good will arms the universal sinews; a humanity at peace will know the endless fruits of victory, sweeter to the taste than any nurtured on the soil of blood.
The effective League of Nations will be a natural, nameless league of human hearts. The broad sympathies and discerning insight needed for the healing of earthly woes cannot flow from a mere intellectual consideration of man's diversities, but from knowledge of man's sole unityhis kinship with God. Toward realisation of the world's highest idealpeace through brotherhoodmay yoga, the science of personal contact with the divine, spread in time to all men in all lands.
Though India's civilisation is ancient above any other, few historians have noted that her feat of national survival is by no means an accident, but a logical incident in the devotion to eternal verities which India has offered through her best men in every generation. By sheer continuity of being, by intransitivity before the agescan dusty scholars truly tell us how many?India has given the worthiest answer of any people to the challenge of time.
The Biblical story  of Abraham's plea to the Lord that the city of Sodom be spared if ten righteous men could be found therein, and the divine reply: "I will not destroy it for ten's sake," gains new meaning in the light of India's escape from the oblivion of Babylon, Egypt and other mighty nations who were once her contemporaries. The Lord's answer clearly shows that a land lives, not by its material achievements, but in its masterpieces of man.
Let the divine words be heard again, in this twentieth century, twice dyed in blood ere half over: No nation that can produce ten men, great in the eyes of the unbribable judge, shall know extinction. Heeding such persuasions, India has proved herself not witless against the thousand cunnings of time. Self-realised masters in every century have hallowed her soil; modern christlike sages, like Lahiri Mahasaya and his disciple Sri Yukteswar, rise up to proclaim that the science of yoga is more vital than any material advances to man's happiness and to a nation's longevity.
Very scanty information about the life of Lahiri Mahasaya and his universal doctrine has ever appeared in print. For three decades in India, America, and Europe, I have found a deep and sincere interest in his message of liberating yoga; a written account of the master's life, even as he foretold, is now needed in the West, where lives of the great modern yogis are little known.
Nothing but one or two small pamphlets in English has been written on the guru's life. One biography in Bengali, Sri Sri  Shyama Charan Lahiri Mahasaya, appeared in 1941. It was written by my disciple, Swami Satyananda, who for many years has been the acharya (spiritual preceptor) at our Vidyalaya in Ranchi. I have translated a few passages from his book and have incorporated them into this section devoted to Lahiri Mahasaya.
It was into a pious Brahmin family of ancient lineage that Lahiri Mahasaya was born September 30, 1828. His birthplace was the village of Ghurni in the Nadia district near Krishnagar, Bengal. He was the youngest son of Muktakashi, the second wife of the esteemed Gaur Mohan Lahiri. (His first wife, after the birth of three sons, had died during a pilgrimage.) The boy's mother passed away during his childhood; little about her is known except the revealing fact that she was an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva,  scripturally designated as the "King of yogis."
The boy Lahiri, whose given name was Shyama Charan, spent his early years in the ancestral home at Nadia. At the age of three or four he was often observed sitting under the sands in the posture of a yogi, his body completely hidden except for the head.
The Lahiri estate was destroyed in the winter of 1833, when the near-by Jalangi River changed its course and disappeared into the depths of the Ganges. One of the Shiva temples founded by the Lahiris went into the river along with the family home. A devotee rescued the stone image of Lord Shiva from the swirling waters and placed it in a new temple, now well-known as the Ghurni Shiva Site.
Gaur Mohan Lahiri and his family left Nadia and became residents of Varanasi, where the father at once erected a Shiva temple. He conducted his household along the lines of Vedic discipline, with regular observance of ceremonial worship, acts of charity, and scriptural study. Just and open-minded, however, he did not ignore the beneficial current of modern ideas.
The boy Lahiri took lessons in Hindi and Urdu in Varanasi study-groups. He attended a school conducted by Joy Narayan Ghosal, receiving instruction in Sanskrit, Bengali, French, and English. Applying himself to a close study of the Vedas, the young yogi listened eagerly to scriptural discussions by learned Brahmins, including a Marhatta pundit named Nag-Bhatta.
Shyama Charan was a kind, gentle, and courageous youth, loved by all his companions. With a well-proportioned, bright, and powerful body, he excelled in swimming and in many skilful activities.
In 1846 Shyama Charan Lahiri was married to Srimati Kashi Moni, daughter of Sri Debnarayan Sanyal. A model Indian housewife, Kashi Moni cheerfully carried on her home duties and the traditional householder's obligation to serve guests and the poor. Two saintly sons, Tincouri and Ducouri, blessed the union.
At the age of 23, in 1851, Lahiri Mahasaya took the post of accountant in the Military Engineering Department of the English government. He received many promotions during the time of his service. Thus not only was he a master before God's eyes, but also a success in the little human drama where he played his given role as an office worker in the world.
As the offices of the Army Department were shifted, Lahiri Mahasaya was transferred to Gazipur, Mirjapur, Danapur, Naini Tal, Varanasi, and other localities. After the death of his father, Lahiri had to assume the entire responsibility of his family, for whom he bought a quiet residence in the Garudeswar Mohulla neighbourhood of Varanasi.
It was in his thirty-third year that Lahiri Mahasaya saw fulfilment of the purpose for which he had been reincarnated on earth. The ash-hidden flame, long smouldering, received its opportunity to burst into flame. A divine decree, resting beyond the gaze of human beings, works mysteriously to bring all things into outer manifestation at the proper time. He met his great guru, Babaji, near Ranikhet, and was initiated by him into kriya yoga.
This auspicious event did not happen to him alone; it was a fortunate moment for all the human race, many of whom were later privileged to receive the soul-awakening gift of kriya. The lost, or long-vanished, highest art of yoga was again being brought to light. Many spiritually thirsty men and women eventually found their way to the cool waters of kriya yoga. Just as in the Hindu legend, where mother Ganges offers her divine draught to the parched devotee Bhagirath, so the celestial flood of kriya rolled from the secret fastnesses of the Himalayas into the dusty haunts of men.
THE NORTHERN Himalayan crags near Badrinarayan are still blessed by the living presence of Babaji, guru of Lahiri Mahasaya. The secluded master has retained his physical form for centuries, perhaps for millenniums. The deathless Babaji is an avatara. This Sanskrit word means "descent"; its roots are ava, "down," and tri, "to pass." In the Hindu scriptures, avatara signifies the descent of Divinity into flesh.
"Babaji's spiritual state is beyond human comprehension," Sri Yukteswar explained to me. "The dwarfed vision of men cannot pierce to his transcendental star. One attempts in vain even to picture the avatar's attainment. It is inconceivable."
The Upanishads have minutely classified every stage of spiritual advancement. A siddha ("perfected being") has progressed from the state of a jivanmukta ("freed while living") to that of a paramukta ("supremely free"full power over death); the latter has completely escaped from the mayic thraldom and its reincarnational round. The paramukta therefore seldom returns to a physical body; if he does, he is an avatar, a divinely appointed medium of supernal blessings on the world.
An avatar is not subject to the universal economy; his pure body, visible as a light image, is free from any debt to nature. The casual gaze may see nothing extraordinary in an avatar's form but it casts no shadow nor makes any footprint on the ground. These are outward symbolic proofs of an inward lack of darkness and material bondage. Such a God-man alone knows the Truth behind the relativities of life and death. Omar Khayyam, so grossly misunderstood, sang of this liberated man in his immortal scripture, the Rubaiyat:
"Ah, Moon of my Delight who know'st no wane,
The "Moon of Delight" is God, eternal Polaris, anachronous never. The "Moon of Heav'n" is the outward cosmos, fettered to the law of periodic recurrence. Its chains had been dissolved forever by the Persian seer through his self-realisation. "How oft hereafter rising shall she look . . . after mein vain!" What frustration of search by a frantic universe for an absolute omission!
Christ expressed his freedom in another way: "And a certain scribe came, and said to him, master, I will follow you wherever you go. And Jesus said to him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the son of man has nowhere to lay his head." 
Spacious with omnipresence, could Christ indeed be followed except in the overarching Spirit?
Krishna, Rama, Buddha, and Patanjali were among the ancient Indian avatars. A considerable poetic literature in Tamil has grown up around Agastya, a South Indian avatar. He worked many miracles during the centuries preceding and following the Christian era, and is credited with retaining his physical form even to this day.
Babaji's mission in India has been to assist prophets in carrying out their special dispensations. He thus qualifies for the scriptural classification of Mahavatar (Great Avatar). He has stated that he gave yoga initiation to Shankara, ancient founder of the swami order, and to Kabir, famous medieval saint. His chief nineteenth-century disciple was, as we know, Lahiri Mahasaya, revivalist of the lost Kriya art.
The Mahavatar is in constant communion with Christ; together they send out vibrations of redemption, and have planned the spiritual technique of salvation for this age. The work of these two fully-illumined mastersone with the body, and one without itis to inspire the nations to forsake suicidal wars, race hatreds, religious sectarianism, and the boomerang-evils of materialism. Babaji is well aware of the trend of modern times, especially of the influence and complexities of Western civilisation, and realises the necessity of spreading the self-liberations of yoga equally in the West and in the East.
That there is no historical reference to Babaji need not surprise us. The great guru has never openly appeared in any century; the misinterpreting glare of publicity has no place in his millennial plans. Like the Creator, the sole but silent Power, Babaji works in a humble obscurity.
Great prophets like Christ and Krishna come to earth for a specific and spectacular purpose; they depart as soon as it is accomplished. Other avatars, like Babaji, undertake work which is concerned more with the slow evolutionary progress of man during the centuries than with any one outstanding event of history. Such masters always veil themselves from the gross public gaze, and have the power to become invisible at will. For these reasons, and because they generally instruct their disciples to maintain silence about them, a number of towering spiritual figures remain world-unknown. I give in these pages on Babaji merely a hint of his lifeonly a few facts which he deems it fit and helpful to be publicly imparted.
No limiting facts about Babaji's family or birthplace, dear to the annalist's heart, have ever been discovered. His speech is generally in Hindi, but he converses easily in any language. He has adopted the simple name of Babaji (revered father); other titles of respect given him by Lahiri Mahasaya's disciples are Mahamuni Babaji Maharaj (supreme ecstatic saint), Maha Yogi (greatest of yogis), Trambak Baba and Shiva Baba (titles of avatars of Shiva). Does it matter that we know not the patronymic of an earth-released master?
"Whenever anyone utters with reverence the name of Babaji," Lahiri Mahasaya said, "that devotee attracts an instant spiritual blessing."
The deathless guru bears no marks of age on his body; he appears to be no more than a youth of twenty-five. Fair-skinned, of medium build and height, Babaji's beautiful, strong body radiates a perceptible glow. His eyes are dark, calm, and tender; his long, lustrous hair is copper-coloured. A very strange fact is that Babaji bears an extraordinarily exact resemblance to his disciple Lahiri Mahasaya. The similarity is so striking that, in his later years, Lahiri Mahasaya might have passed as the father of the youthful-looking Babaji.
Swami Kebalananda, my saintly Sanskrit tutor, spent some time with Babaji in the Himalayas.
"The peerless master moves with his group from place to place in the mountains," Kebalananda told me. "His small band contains two highly advanced American disciples. After Babaji has been in one locality for some time, he says: 'Dera danda uthao.' ('Let's lift our camp and staff.') He carries a symbolic danda (bamboo staff). His words are the signal for moving with his group instantaneously to another place. He does not always employ this method of astral travel; sometimes he goes on foot from peak to peak.
"Babaji can be seen or recognised by others only when he so desires. He is known to have appeared in many slightly different forms to various devoteessometimes without beard and moustache, and sometimes with them. As his undecaying body requires no food, the master seldom eats. As a social courtesy to visiting disciples, he occasionally accepts fruits, or rice cooked in milk and clarified butter.
"Two amazing incidents of Babaji's life are known to me," Kebalananda went on. "His disciples were sitting one night around a huge fire which was blazing for a sacred Vedic ceremony. The master suddenly seized a burning log and lightly struck the bare shoulder of a chela who was close to the fire.
"'Sir, how cruel!' Lahiri Mahasaya, who was present, made this remonstrance.
"'Would you rather have seen him burned to ashes before your eyes, according to the decree of his past karma?'
"With these words Babaji placed his healing hand on the chela's disfigured shoulder. 'I have freed you tonight from painful death. The karmic law has been satisfied through your slight suffering by fire.'
"On another occasion Babaji's sacred circle was disturbed by the arrival of a stranger. He had climbed with astonishing skill to the nearly inaccessible ledge near the camp of the master.
"'Sir, you must be the great Babaji.' The man's face was lit with inexpressible reverence. 'For months I have pursued a ceaseless search for you among these forbidding crags. I implore you to accept me as a disciple.'
"When the great guru made no response, the man pointed to the rocky chasm at his feet.
"'If you refuse me, I will jump from this mountain. Life has no further value if I cannot win your guidance to the divine.'
"'Jump then,' Babaji said unemotionally. 'I cannot accept you in your present state of development.'
"The man at once hurled himself over the cliff. Babaji instructed the shocked disciples to fetch the stranger's body. When they returned with the mangled form, the master placed his divine hand on the dead man. Lo! he opened his eyes and prostrated himself humbly before the omnipotent one.
"'You are now ready for discipleship.' Babaji beamed lovingly on his resurrected chela. 'You have courageously passed a difficult test. Death shall not touch you again; now you are one of our immortal flock.' Then he spoke his usual words of departure, 'Dera danda uthao'; the whole group vanished from the mountain."
An avatar lives in the omnipresent Spirit; for him there is no distance inverse to the square. Only one reason, therefore, can motivate Babaji in maintaining his physical form from century to century: the desire to furnish humanity with a concrete example of its own possibilities. Were man never vouchsafed a glimpse of Divinity in the flesh, he would remain oppressed by the heavy mayic delusion that he cannot transcend his mortality.
Jesus knew from the beginning the sequence of his life; he passed through each event not for himself, not from any karmic compulsion, but solely for the upliftment of reflective human beings. His four reporter-disciplesMatthew, Mark, Luke, and Johnrecorded the ineffable drama for the benefit of later generations.
For Babaji, also, there is no relativity of past, present, future; from the beginning he has known all phases of his life. Yet, accommodating himself to the limited understanding of men, he has played many acts of his divine life in the presence of one or more witnesses. Thus it came about that a disciple of Lahiri Mahasaya was present when Babaji deemed the time to be ripe for him to proclaim the possibility of bodily immortality. He uttered this promise before Ram Gopal Muzumdar, that it might finally become known for the inspiration of other seeking hearts. The great ones speak their words and participate in the seemingly natural course of events, solely for the good of man, even as Christ said: "Father . . . I knew that you hear me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that you have sent me." 
During my visit at Ranbajpur with Ram Gopal, "the sleepless saint,"  he related the wondrous story of his first meeting with Babaji.
"I sometimes left my isolated cave to sit at Lahiri Mahasaya's feet in Varanasi," Ram Gopal told me. "One midnight as I was silently meditating in a group of his disciples, the master made a surprising request.
"'Ram Gopal,' he said, 'go at once to the Dasasamedh bathing ghat.'
"I soon reached the secluded spot. The night was bright with moonlight and the glittering stars. After I had sat in patient silence for awhile, my attention was drawn to a huge stone slab near my feet. It rose gradually, revealing an underground cave. As the stone remained balanced in some unknown manner, the draped form of a young and surpassingly lovely woman was levitated from the cave high into the air. Surrounded by a soft halo, she slowly descended in front of me and stood motionless, steeped in an inner state of ecstasy. She finally stirred, and spoke gently.
"'I am Mataji,  the sister of Babaji. I have asked him and also Lahiri Mahasaya to come to my cave tonight to discuss a matter of great importance.'
"A nebulous light was rapidly floating over the Ganges; the strange luminescence was reflected in the opaque waters. It approached nearer and nearer till, with a blinding flash, it appeared by the side of Mataji and condensed itself instantly into the human form of Lahiri Mahasaya. He bowed humbly at the feet of the woman saint.
"Before I had recovered from my bewilderment, I was further wonder-struck to behold a circling mass of mystical light travelling in the sky. Descending swiftly, the flaming whirlpool neared our group and materialised itself into the body of a beautiful youth who, I understood at once, was Babaji. He looked like Lahiri Mahasaya, the only difference being that Babaji appeared much younger, and had long, bright hair.
"Lahiri Mahasaya, Mataji, and myself knelt at the guru's feet. An ethereal sensation of beatific glory thrilled every fibre of my being as I touched his divine flesh.
"'Blessed sister,' Babaji said, 'I am intending to shed my form and plunge into the infinite Current.'
"'I have already glimpsed your plan, beloved Master. I wanted to discuss it with you tonight. Why should you leave your body?' The glorious woman looked at him beseechingly.
"'What is the difference if I wear a visible or invisible wave on the ocean of my Spirit?'
"Mataji replied with a quaint flash of wit. 'Deathless guru, if it makes no difference, then please do not ever relinquish your form.' 
"'Be it so,' Babaji said solemnly. 'I will never leave my physical body. It will always remain visible to at least a small number of people on this earth. The Lord has spoken His own wish through your lips.'
"As I listened in awe to the conversation between these exalted beings, the great guru turned to me with a benign gesture.
"'Fear not, Ram Gopal,' he said, 'you are blessed to be a witness at the scene of this immortal promise.'
"As the sweet melody of Babaji's voice faded away, his form and that of Lahiri Mahasaya slowly levitated and moved backward over the Ganges. An aureole of dazzling light templed their bodies as they vanished into the night sky. Mataji's form floated to the cave and descended; the stone slab closed of itself, as if working on an invisible leverage.
"Infinitely inspired, I wended my way back to Lahiri Mahasaya's place. As I bowed before him in the early dawn, my guru smiled at me understandingly.
"'I am happy for you, Ram Gopal,' he said. 'The desire of meeting Babaji and Mataji, which you have often expressed to me, has found at last a sacred fulfilment.'
"My fellow disciples informed me that Lahiri Mahasaya had not moved from his dais since early the preceding evening.
"'He gave a wonderful discourse on immortality after you had left for the Dasasamedh ghat,' one of the chelas told me. For the first time I fully realised the truth in the scriptural verses which state that a man of self-realisation can appear at different places in two or more bodies at the same time.
"Lahiri Mahasaya later explained to me many metaphysical points concerning the hidden divine plan for this earth," Ram Gopal concluded. "Babaji has been chosen by God to remain in his body for the duration of this particular world cycle. Ages shall come and gostill the deathless master,  beholding the drama of the centuries, shall be present on this stage terrestrial."
"Babaji's first meeting with Lahiri Mahasaya is an enthralling story, and one of the few which gives us a detailed glimpse of the deathless guru."
These words were Swami Kebalananda's preamble to a wondrous tale. The first time he recounted it I was literally spellbound. On many other occasions I coaxed my gentle Sanskrit tutor to repeat the story, which was later told me in substantially the same words by Sri Yukteswar. Both these Lahiri Mahasaya disciples had heard the awesome tale direct from the lips of their guru.
"My first meeting with Babaji took place in my thirty-third year," Lahiri Mahasaya had said. "In the autumn of 1861 I was stationed in Danapur as a government accountant in the Military Engineering Department. One morning the office manager summoned me.
"'Lahiri,' he said, 'a telegram has just come from our main office. You are to be transferred to Ranikhet, where an army post  is now being established.'
"With one servant, I set out on the 500-mile trip. Travelling by horse and buggy, we arrived in thirty days at the Himalayan site of Ranikhet. 
"My office duties were not onerous; I was able to spend many hours roaming in the magnificent hills. A rumour reached me that great saints blessed the region with their presence; I felt a strong desire to see them. During a ramble one early afternoon, I was astounded to hear a distant voice calling my name. I continued my vigorous upward climb on Drongiri Mountain. A slight uneasiness beset me at the thought that I might not be able to retrace my steps before darkness had descended over the jungle.
"I finally reached a small clearing whose sides were dotted with caves. On one of the rocky ledges stood a smiling young man, extending his hand in welcome. I noticed with astonishment that, except for his copper-coloured hair, he bore a remarkable resemblance to myself.
"'Lahiri, you have come!' The saint addressed me affectionately in Hindi. 'Rest here in this cave. It was I who called you.'
"I entered a neat little grotto which contained several woollen blankets and a few kamandulus (begging bowls).
"'Lahiri, do you remember that seat?' The yogi pointed to a folded blanket in one corner.
"'No, sir.' Somewhat dazed at the strangeness of my adventure, I added, 'I must leave now, before nightfall. I have business in the morning at my office.'
"The mysterious saint replied in English, 'The office was brought for you, and not you for the office.'
"I was dumbfounded that this forest ascetic should not only speak English but also paraphrase the words of Christ. 
"'I see my telegram took effect.' The yogi's remark was incomprehensible to me; I inquired his meaning.
"'I refer to the telegram that summoned you to these isolated parts. It was I who silently suggested to the mind of your superior officer that you be transferred to Ranikhet. When one feels his unity with mankind, all minds become transmitting stations through which he can work at will.' He added gently, 'Lahiri, surely this cave seems familiar to you?'
"As I maintained a bewildered silence, the saint approached and struck me gently on the forehead. At his magnetic touch, a wondrous current swept through my brain, releasing the sweet seed-memories of my previous life.
"'I remember!' My voice was half-choked with joyous sobs. 'You are my guru Babaji, who has belonged to me always! Scenes of the past arise vividly in my mind; here in this cave I spent many years of my last incarnation!' As ineffable recollections overwhelmed me, I tearfully embraced my master's feet.
"'For more than three decades I have waited for you herewaited for you to return to me!' Babaji's voice rang with celestial love. 'You slipped away and vanished into the tumultuous waves of the life beyond death. The magic wand of your karma touched you, and you were gone! Though you lost sight of me, never did I lose sight of you! I pursued you over the luminescent astral sea where the glorious angels sail. Through gloom, storm, upheaval, and light I followed you, like a mother bird guarding her young. As you lived out your human term of womb-life, and emerged a babe, my eye was ever on you. When you covered your tiny form in the lotus posture under the Nadia sands in your childhood, I was invisibly present! Patiently, month after month, year after year, I have watched over you, waiting for this perfect day. Now you are with me! Lo, here is your cave, loved of yore! I have kept it ever clean and ready for you. Here is your hallowed asana-blanket, where you daily sat to fill your expanding heart with God! Behold there your bowl, from which you often drank the nectar prepared by me! See how I have kept the brass cup brightly polished, that you might drink again therefrom! My own, do you now understand?'
"'My guru, what can I say?' I murmured brokenly. 'Where has one ever heard of such deathless love?' I gazed long and ecstatically on my eternal treasure, my guru in life and death.
"'Lahiri, you need purification. Drink the oil in this bowl and lie down by the river.' Babaji's practical wisdom, I reflected with a quick, reminiscent smile, was ever to the fore.
"I obeyed his directions. Though the icy Himalayan night was descending, a comforting warmth, an inner radiation, began to pulsate in every cell of my body. I marvelled. Was the unknown oil endued with a cosmic heat?
"Bitter winds whipped around me in the darkness, shrieking a fierce challenge. The chill wavelets of the Gogash River lapped now and then over my body, outstretched on the rocky bank. Tigers howled near-by, but my heart was free of fear; the radiant force newly generated within me conveyed an assurance of unassailable protection. Several hours passed swiftly; faded memories of another life wove themselves into the present brilliant pattern of reunion with my divine guru.
"My solitary musings were interrupted by the sound of approaching footsteps. In the darkness, a man's hand gently helped me to my feet, and gave me some dry clothing.
"'Come, brother,' my companion said. 'The master awaits you.'
"He led the way through the forest. The sombre night was suddenly lit by a steady luminosity in the distance.
"'Can that be the sunrise?' I inquired. 'Surely the whole night has not passed?'
"'The hour is midnight.' My guide laughed softly. 'Yonder light is the glow of a golden palace, materialised here tonight by the peerless Babaji. In the dim past, you once expressed a desire to enjoy the beauties of a palace. Our master is now satisfying your wish, thus freeing you from the bonds of karma.'  He added, 'The magnificent palace will be the scene of your initiation tonight into kriya yoga. All your brothers here join in a paean of welcome, rejoicing at the end of your long exile. Behold!'
"A vast palace of dazzling gold stood before us. Studded with countless jewels, and set amidst landscaped gardens, it presented a spectacle of unparalleled grandeur. Saints of angelic countenance were stationed by resplendent gates, half-reddened by the glitter of rubies. Diamonds, pearls, sapphires, and emeralds of great size and lustre were imbedded in the decorative arches.
"I followed my companion into a spacious reception hall. The odour of incense and of roses wafted through the air; dim lamps shed a multicoloured glow. Small groups of devotees, some fair, some dark-skinned, chanted musically, or sat in the meditative posture, immersed in an inner peace. A vibrant joy pervaded the atmosphere.
"'Feast your eyes; enjoy the artistic splendours of this palace, for it has been brought into being solely in your honour.' My guide smiled sympathetically as I uttered a few ejaculations of wonderment.
"'Brother,' I said, 'the beauty of this structure surpasses the bounds of human imagination. Please tell me the mystery of its origin.'
"'I will gladly enlighten you.' My companion's dark eyes sparkled with wisdom. 'In reality there is nothing inexplicable about this materialisation. The whole cosmos is a materialised thought of the Creator. This heavy, earthly clod, floating in space, is a dream of God. He made all things out of His consciousness, even as man in his dream consciousness reproduces and vivifies a creation with its creatures.
"'God first created the earth as an idea. Then He quickened it; energy atoms came into being. He co-ordinated the atoms into this solid sphere. All its molecules are held together by the will of God. When He withdraws His will, the earth again will disintegrate into energy. Energy will dissolve into consciousness; the earth-idea will disappear from objectivity.
"'The substance of a dream is held in materialisation by the subconscious thought of the dreamer. When that cohesive thought is withdrawn in wakefulness, the dream and its elements dissolve. A man closes his eyes and erects a dream-creation which, on awakening, he effortlessly dematerialises. He follows the divine archetypal pattern. Similarly, when he awakens in cosmic consciousness, he will effortlessly dematerialise the illusions of the cosmic dream.
"'Being one with the infinite all-accomplishing Will, Babaji can summon the elemental atoms to combine and manifest themselves in any form. This golden palace, instantaneously created, is real, even as this earth is real. Babaji created this palatial mansion out of his mind and is holding its atoms together by the power of his will, even as God created this earth and is maintaining it intact.' He added, 'When this structure has served its purpose, Babaji will dematerialise it.'
"As I remained silent in awe, my guide made a sweeping gesture. 'This shimmering palace, superbly embellished with jewels, has not been built by human effort or with laboriously mined gold and gems. It stands solidly, a monumental challenge to man.  Whoever realises himself as a son of God, even as Babaji has done, can reach any goal by the infinite powers hidden within him. A common stone locks within itself the secret of stupendous atomic energy;  even so, a mortal is yet a powerhouse of divinity.'
"The sage picked up from a near-by table a graceful vase whose handle was blazing with diamonds. 'Our great guru created this palace by solidifying myriads of free cosmic rays,' he went on. 'Touch this vase and its diamonds; they will satisfy all the tests of sensory experience.'
"I examined the vase, and passed my hand over the smooth room-walls, thick with glistening gold. Each of the jewels scattered lavishly about was worthy of a king's collection. Deep satisfaction spread over my mind. A submerged desire, hidden in my subconsciousness from lives now gone, seemed simultaneously gratified and extinguished.
"My stately companion led me through ornate arches and corridors into a series of chambers richly furnished in the style of an emperor's palace. We entered an immense hall. In the centre stood a golden throne, encrusted with jewels shedding a dazzling medley of colours. There, in lotus posture, sat the supreme Babaji. I knelt on the shining floor at his feet.
"'Lahiri, are you still feasting on your dream desires for a golden palace?' My guru's eyes were twinkling like his own sapphires. 'Wake! All your earthly thirsts are about to be quenched forever.' He murmured some mystic words of blessing. 'My son, arise. Receive your initiation into the kingdom of God through kriya yoga.'
"Babaji stretched out his hand; a homa (sacrificial) fire appeared, surrounded by fruits and flowers. I received the liberating yogic technique before this flaming altar.
"The rites were completed in the early dawn. I felt no need for sleep in my ecstatic state, and wandered around the palace, filled on all sides with treasures and priceless objets d'art. Descending to the gorgeous gardens, I noticed, near-by, the same caves and barren mountain ledges which yesterday had boasted no adjacency to palace or flowered terrace.
"Re-entering the palace, fabulously glistening in the cold Himalayan sunlight, I sought the presence of my master. He was still enthroned, surrounded by many quiet disciples.
"'Lahiri, you are hungry.' Babaji added, 'Close your eyes.'
"When I reopened them, the enchanting palace and its picturesque gardens had disappeared. My own body and the forms of Babaji and the cluster of chelas were all now seated on the bare ground at the exact site of the vanished palace, not far from the sunlit entrances of the rocky grottoes. I recalled that my guide had remarked that the palace would be dematerialised, its captive atoms released into the thought-essence from which it had sprung. Although stunned, I looked trustingly at my guru. I knew not what to expect next on this day of miracles.
"'The purpose for which the palace was created has now been served,' Babaji explained. He lifted an earthen vessel from the ground. 'Put your hand there and receive whatever food you desire.'
"As soon as I touched the broad, empty bowl, it became heaped with hot butter-fried luchis, curry, and rare sweetmeats. I helped myself, observing that the vessel was ever-filled. At the end of my meal I looked around for water. My guru pointed to the bowl before me. Lo! the food had vanished; in its place was water, clear as from a mountain stream.
"'Few mortals know that the kingdom of God includes the kingdom of mundane fulfilments,' Babaji observed. 'The divine realm extends to the earthly, but the latter, being illusory, cannot include the essence of reality.'
"'Beloved guru, last night you demonstrated for me the link of beauty in heaven and earth!' I smiled at memories of the vanished palace; surely no simple yogi had ever received initiation into the august mysteries of Spirit amidst surroundings of more impressive luxury! I gazed tranquilly at the stark contrast of the present scene. The gaunt ground, the skyey roof, the caves offering primitive shelterall seemed a gracious natural setting for the seraphic saints around me.
"I sat that afternoon on my blanket, hallowed by associations of past-life realisations. My divine guru approached and passed his hand over my head. I entered the nirbikalpa samadhi state, remaining unbrokenly in its bliss for seven days. Crossing the successive strata of self-knowledge, I penetrated the deathless realms of reality. All delusive limitations dropped away; my soul was fully established on the eternal altar of the Cosmic Spirit. On the eighth day I fell at my guru's feet and implored him to keep me always near him in this sacred wilderness.
"'My son,' Babaji said, embracing me, 'your role in this incarnation must be played on an outward stage. Prenatally blessed by many lives of lonely meditation, you must now mingle in the world of men.
"'A deep purpose underlay the fact that you did not meet me this time till you were already a married man, with modest business responsibilities. You must put aside your thoughts of joining our secret band in the Himalayas; your life lies in the crowded marts, serving as an example of the ideal yogi-householder.
"'The cries of many bewildered worldly men and women have not fallen unheard on the ears of the Great Ones,' he went on. 'You have been chosen to bring spiritual solace through kriya yoga to numerous earnest seekers. The millions who are encumbered by family ties and heavy worldly duties will take new heart from you, a householder like themselves. You must guide them to see that the highest yogic attainments are not barred to the family man. Even in the world, the yogi who faithfully discharges his responsibilities, without personal motive or attachment, treads the sure path of enlightenment.
"'No necessity compels you to leave the world, for inwardly you have already sundered its every karmic tie. Not of this world, you must yet be in it. Many years still remain during which you must conscientiously fulfil your family, business, civic, and spiritual duties. A sweet new breath of divine hope will penetrate the arid hearts of worldly men. From your balanced life, they will understand that liberation is dependent on inner, rather than outer, renunciations.'
"How remote seemed my family, the office, the world, as I listened to my guru in the high Himalayan solitudes. Yet adamantine truth rang in his words; I submissively agreed to leave this blessed haven of peace. Babaji instructed me in the ancient rigid rules which govern the transmission of the yogic art from guru to disciple.
"'Bestow the kriya key only on qualified chelas,' Babaji said. 'He who vows to sacrifice all in the quest of the divine is fit to unravel the final mysteries of life through the science of meditation.'
"'Angelic guru, as you have already favoured mankind by resurrecting the lost Kriya art, will you not increase that benefit by relaxing the strict requirements for discipleship?' I gazed beseechingly at Babaji. 'I pray that you permit me to communicate Kriya to all seekers, even though at first they cannot vow themselves to complete inner renunciation. The tortured men and women of the world, pursued by the threefold suffering,  need special encouragement. They may never attempt the road to freedom if Kriya initiation be withheld from them.'
"'Be it so. The divine wish has been expressed through you.' With these simple words, the merciful guru banished the rigorous safeguards that for ages had hidden Kriya from the world. 'Give Kriya freely to all who humbly ask for help.'
"After a silence, Babaji added, 'Repeat to each of your disciples this majestic promise from the Bhagavad Gita: "Swalpamasya dharmasya, trayata mahato bhoyat""Even a little bit of the practice of this religion will save you from dire fears and colossal sufferings."' 
"As I knelt the next morning at my guru's feet for his farewell blessing, he sensed my deep reluctance to leave him.
"'There is no separation for us, my beloved child.' He touched my shoulder affectionately. 'Wherever you are, whenever you call me, I shall be with you instantly.'
"Consoled by his wondrous promise, and rich with the newly found gold of God-wisdom, I wended my way down the mountain. At the office I was welcomed by my fellow employees, who for ten days had thought me lost in the Himalayan jungles. A letter soon arrived from the head office.
"'Lahiri should return to the Danapur  office,' it read. 'His transfer to Ranikhet occurred by error. Another man should have been sent to assume the Ranikhet duties.'
"I smiled, reflecting on the hidden crosscurrents in the events which had led me to this furthermost spot of India.
"Before returning to Danapur, I spent a few days with a Bengali family at Moradabad. A party of six friends gathered to greet me. As I turned the conversation to spiritual subjects, my host observed gloomily:
"'Oh, in these days India is destitute of saints!'
"'Babu,' I protested warmly, 'of course there are still great masters in this land!'
"In a mood of exalted fervour, I felt impelled to relate my miraculous experiences in the Himalayas. The little company was politely incredulous.
"'Lahiri,' one man said soothingly, 'your mind has been under a strain in those rarefied mountain airs. This is some daydream you have recounted.'
"Burning with the enthusiasm of truth, I spoke without due thought. 'If I call him, my guru will appear right in this house.'
"Interest gleamed in every eye; it was no wonder that the group was eager to behold a saint materialised in such a strange way. Half-reluctantly, I asked for a quiet room and two new woollen blankets.
"'The master will materialise from the ether,' I said. 'Remain silently outside the door; I shall soon call you.'
"I sank into the meditative state, humbly summoning my guru. The darkened room soon filled with a dim aural moonlight; the luminous figure of Babaji emerged.
"'Lahiri, do you call me for a trifle?' The master's gaze was stern. 'Truth is for earnest seekers, not for those of idle curiosity. It is easy to believe when one sees; there is nothing then to deny. Supersensual truth is deserved and discovered by those who overcome their natural materialistic scepticism.' He added gravely, 'Let me go!'
"I fell entreatingly at his feet. 'Holy guru, I realise my serious error; I humbly ask pardon. It was to create faith in these spiritually blinded minds that I ventured to call you. Because you have graciously appeared at my prayer, please do not depart without bestowing a blessing on my friends. Unbelievers though they be, at least they were willing to investigate the truth of my strange assertions.'
"'Very well; I will stay awhile. I do not wish your word discredited before your friends.' Babaji's face had softened, but he added gently, 'Henceforth, my son, I shall come when you need me, and not always when you call me. '
"Tense silence reigned in the little group when I opened the door. As if mistrusting their senses, my friends stared at the lustrous figure on the blanket seat.
"'This is mass-hypnotism!' One man laughed blatantly. 'No one could possibly have entered this room without our knowledge!'
"Babaji advanced smilingly and motioned to each one to touch the warm, solid flesh of his body. Doubts dispelled, my friends prostrated themselves on the floor in awed repentance.
"'Let halua  be prepared.' Babaji made this request, I knew, to further assure the group of his physical reality. While the porridge was boiling, the divine guru chatted affably. Great was the metamorphosis of these doubting Thomases into devout St. Pauls. After we had eaten, Babaji blessed each of us in turn. There was a sudden flash; we witnessed the instantaneous dechemicalisation of the electronic elements of Babaji's body into a spreading vaporous light. The God-tuned will power of the master had loosened its grasp of the ether atoms held together as his body; forthwith the trillions of tiny lifetronic sparks faded into the infinite reservoir.
"'With my own eyes I have seen the conqueror of death.' Maitra,  one of the group, spoke reverently. His face was transfigured with the joy of his recent awakening. 'The supreme guru played with time and space, as a child plays with bubbles. I have beheld one with the keys of heaven and earth.'
"I soon returned to Danapur. Firmly anchored in the Spirit, again I assumed the manifold business and family obligations of a householder."
Lahiri Mahasaya also related to Swami Kebalananda and Sri Yukteswar the story of another meeting with Babaji, under circumstances which recalled the guru's promise: "I shall come whenever you need me."
"The scene was a Kumbha Mela at Allahabad," Lahiri Mahasaya told his disciples. "I had gone there during a short vacation from my office duties. As I wandered amidst the throng of monks and sadhus who had come from great distances to attend the holy festival, I noticed an ash-smeared ascetic who was holding a begging bowl. The thought arose in my mind that the man was hypocritical, wearing the outward symbols of renunciation without a corresponding inward grace.
"No sooner had I passed the ascetic than my astounded eye fell on Babaji. He was kneeling in front of a matted-haired anchorite.
"'Guruji!' I hastened to his side. 'Sir, what are you doing here?'
"'I am washing the feet of this renunciate, and then I shall clean his cooking utensils.' Babaji smiled at me like a little child; I knew he was intimating that he wanted me to criticise no one, but to see the Lord as residing equally in all body-temples, whether of superior or inferior men. The great guru added, 'By serving wise and ignorant sadhus, I am learning the greatest of virtues, pleasing to God above all othershumility.'"
 This famous Russian artist and philosopher has been living for many years in India near the Himalayas. "From the peaks comes revelation," he has written. "In caves and upon the summits lived the rishis. Over the snowy peaks of the Himalayas burns a bright glow, brighter than stars and the fantastic flashes of lightning."
 The story may have a historical basis; an editorial note informs us that the bishop met the three monks while he was sailing from Archangel to the Slovetsky Monastery, at the mouth of the Dvina River.
 Marconi, the great inventor, made the following admission of scientific inadequacy before the finalities: "The inability of science to solve life is absolute. This fact would be truly frightening were it not for faith. The mystery of life is certainly the most persistent problem ever placed before the thought of man."
 A clue to the direction taken by Einstein's genius is given by the fact that he is a lifelong disciple of the great philosopher Spinoza, whose best - known work is Ethics Demonstrated in Geometrical Order.
 I Timothy 6:15 - 16.
 Genesis 1:26.
 One is reminded here of Milton's line: "He for God only, she for God in him."
 The venerable mother passed on at Benares in 1930.
 Staff, symbolizing the spinal cord, carried ritually by certain orders of monks.
 He was a muni, a monk who observes mauna, spiritual silence. The Sanskrit root muni is akin to Greek monos, "alone, single," from which are derived the English words monk, monism, etc.
 Romans 12:19.
 Luke 19:37 - 40.
 The lives of Trailanga and other great masters remind us of Jesus' words: "And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name (the Christ consciousness) they shall cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover." - Mark 16:17 - 18.
 John 11:1 - 4.
 A cholera victim is often rational and fully conscious right up to the moment of death.
 The god of death.
 Literally, "Supreme soul."
 Genesis 18:23 - 32.
 Sri, a prefix meaning "holy," is attached (generally twice or thrice) to names of great Indian teachers.
 One of the trinity of Godhead - Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva - whose universal work is, respectively, that of creation, preservation, and dissolution - restoration. Shiva (sometimes spelled Siva), represented in mythology as the Lord of Renunciates, appears in visions to His devotees under various aspects, such as Mahadeva, the matted - haired Ascetic, and Nataraja, the Cosmic Dancer.
 Matthew 8:19 - 20.
 John 11:41 - 42.
 The omnipresent yogi who observed that I failed to bow before the Tarakeswar shrine (chapter 13).
 "Holy Mother." Mataji also has lived through the centuries; she is almost as far advanced spiritually as her brother. She remains in ecstasy in a hidden underground cave near the Dasasamedh ghat.
 This incident reminds one of Thales. The great Greek philosopher taught that there was no difference between life and death. "Why, then," inquired a critic, "do you not die?" "Because," answered Thales, "it makes no difference."
 "Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying (remain unbrokenly in the Christ Consciousness), he shall never see death." - John 8:51.
 Now a military sanatorium. By 1861 the British Government had already established certain telegraphic communciations.
 Ranikhet, in the Almora district of United Provinces, is situated at the foot of Nanda Devi, the highest Himalayan peak (25,661 feet) in British India.
 "The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath." - - Mark 2:27.
 The karmic law requires that every human wish find ultimate fulfillment. Desire is thus the chain which binds man to the reincarnational wheel.
 "What is a miracle? - 'Tis a reproach,
 The theory of the atomic structure of matter was expounded in the ancient Indian Vaisesika and Nyaya treatises. "There are vast worlds all placed away within the hollows of each atom, multifarious as the motes in a sunbeam." - - Yoga Vasishtha.
 Physical, mental, and spiritual suffering; manifested, respectively, in disease, in psychological inadequacies or "complexes," and in soul - ignorance.
 Chapter II:40.
 A town near Benares.
 In the path to the Infinite, even illumined masters like Lahiri Mahasaya may suffer from an excess of zeal, and be subject to discipline. In the Bhagavad Gita, we read many passages where the divine guru Krishna gives chastisement to the prince of devotees, Arjuna.
 A porridge made of cream of wheat fried in butter, and boiled with milk.
 The man, Maitra, to whom Lahiri Mahasaya is here referring, afterward became highly advanced in self-realization. I met Maitra shortly after my graduation from high school; he visited the Mahamandal hermitage in Benares while I was a resident. He told me then of Babaji's materialization before the group in Moradabad. "As a result of the miracle," Maitra explained to me, "I became a lifelong disciple of Lahiri Mahasaya."
Ak: Yogananda, Pa.: Man's Eternal Quest. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1975.
Ay: Yogananda, Paramahansa. Autobiography of a Yogi. 1st ed. New York: Philosophical Library, 1946.
Ebu: Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica 2009 Ultimate Reference Suite DVD. London: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2009.
Ma: Pargiter, Frederick Eden, trans. Markandeya Purana. Calcutta: The Asiatic Society, 1904.
Pa: Yogananda, Pa.: Autobiography of a Yogi. 11th ed. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1971.
Say: Yogananda, Pa. Sayings of Yogananda. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1958.
So: Deussen, Paul, trans. Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, Vols 1-2. Varanasi: Banarsidass, 1980.
Tas: Ramakrishna. Tales and Parables of Sri Ramakrishna. 5th ed. Madras: Ramakrishna Math, 1974.
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